In a world where a McDonald’s cheeseburger is less expensive than an apple and watching a Star Wars marathon is easier than running one, how is anyone supposed to fight diabetes and flat-out obesity? Although we would all — myself included! — love for a magic potion or extraordinary pill to keep us skinny, decades of research and tests have more or less led nowhere. We are still, and probably will still be for another few decades, unable to keep the weight off our waists.
Global trends are showing an increase in average weights in adults as well as in children! While only 15 years ago obesity was just a stereotype Europeans used for North Americans, its presence is an overwhelming reality not only in North America but also in almost all other continents!
An entire industry has been built around selling food: advertisements made to make you hungry at every point in the day, easy access to the worst kinds of junk food everywhere one goes —, food aromas sprayed in coffee shops and restaurants to make you hungrier — Starbucks sprays artificial coffee aroma to make you want to consume and come back! — and even seemingly healthy ‘diet’ foods that are more caloric than regular food — Special K claims that a bowl of cereal is worth x calories, without mentioning that a regular bowl is 3 times the size and the cereal’s sugar content is higher than bread’s. The entire business world is out there trying to get you to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ and ‘eat, eat, eat!’, and then another industry is taking advantage of the global trends of weight increase to make money off your desire to lose that weight! Gyms, diets, surgeries: everything is designed to make you pay them so they can help you lose weight and stay healthy. But as soon as you’ve lost that weight, you gain it back because you ‘feel healthier’ and you’re ‘going to the gym’, and so the vicious cycle goes on.
In this world, is there really any way to truly be healthy? If the entire food industry is designed to make you eat more and you don’t really know what’s in it (can we really know what processed meat and supermarket cookies are made of?), how can anyone make sure not to gain weight, or how can one lose weight and maintain a stable weight afterwards (and not gain it all back afterwards)?
According to Dr. Catherine Atlan, who is specialized in endocrinology and diabetes and has a PhD in nutrition, the key to being healthy is a balanced diet and lots of exercise. Nothing new, not a big secret, but something most people forget. She mentions that despite what most people think, it isn’t necessary to avoid anything as long as the food is natural and you take it in small quantities if it has a high sugar or fat content. For example, she usually takes a piece of chocolate after dinner; she says the key is to limit yourself to one piece a day, because as long as your diet is balanced and healthy and you exercise regularly, a little bit of chocolate or the occasional popcorn at the movies isn’t harmful.
Dr. Atlan is also careful to emphasize that dieting isn’t helpful: low or no-carb diets make you lose weight quickly, but because it is such a drastic change in diet the body is unable to adapt. This is why these diets are often broken and people who do them usually gain back something around twice the weight that was lost! As an expert, she believes the secret is to progressively change the diet into a healthy one, with lots of fruits and vegetables, good protein and carbohydrates, with low sugar, fat and salt contents. She says that a diet of healthy foods in small quantities and less healthy foods in even smaller quantities is the best way to eat healthy. She believes it is important to eat only one serving per meal and not two or more, and be careful to track everything you eat in the day, using a calorie counting application or a food journal, as it keeps you focused on not eating too much (without, of course, obsessing over every calorie consumed!).
Dr. Atlan also mentions that along with a healthy diet, eating at regular hours of the day and not snacking is of great importance. Keeping to a schedule regulates hunger and reduces the desire for foods with high sugar and fat contents at odd hours of the day. She also says that a healthy person’s schedule must absolutely include regular exercise; an average of 1-2 hours of intense exercise maintains the body in shape and keeps you happy! The hormones released during exercise make you less hungry and happier so that you crave food much less. It is also important not to forget that everything is about balance: the food you consume gives you energy, and if you don’t want to gain weight you have to spend all of that energy throughout the day.
Hence, Dr. Catherine Atlan’s advice for a healthy body and mind is a balanced, naturally healthy diet — avoid processed foods and buy organic as much as possible! — with plenty of exercise and a regular schedule in which plenty of sleep is included.
So, truly, there is no secret or magic potion: to be healthy, thin, and comfortable in your own body, you have to fight the food and advertisement industries and make sure to: eat healthy, exercise a lot and stay balanced!