Normal BMI is less than 25. Overweight is 25-30. Obese is greater than 30. The United States has the highest percent of obesity in the world. Sixty-four percent of Americans are overweight and 36 percent are obese. This is even a greater problem in firefighters and emergency response personnel.
Obesity is a combination of poor diet and inactivity. Today we will focus on diet.
Healthy Dietary Guidelines
- Keep a written food and physical activity journal. Download an App for easy accountability. An example of a free App is MyFitnessPal to set your caloric and nutritional goals.
- Weigh yourself once per week at the same time of day, with the same amount of clothing and on the same scale.
- Eat breakfast every day and do not skip meals. Skipping meals can lead to extreme hunger, overeating and poor food choices. Eat two to three healthy snacks per day between meals.
- Plan your meals and eat around the same time every day. Pick an eating area at home and/or work. Turn off the TV and/or computer during meals and snacks.
- Eat slowly. Take 30 minutes for a meal. It takes 20 minutes before you to feel full. So, wait 20 minutes after your first serving before taking a second serving.
- Eat protein foods first to help you feel full sooner. For weight loss, women more than 75 grams of protein and men more than 100 grams.
- Read food labels to help control portions of food. Eat more fiber including fresh fruits/vegetables, beans and whole grains. The typical American eats 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day. The goal should be 20-25 grams.
- Don’t keep problem foods around the house and/or at work. A problem food is a food that you are likely to eat too much of or too often if readily available.
- Drink at least eight cups (64 ounces) of liquids per day. Focus on calorie-free, caffeine-free beverages.
If weight loss is your goal you should eat fewer calories than you burn. Do not go on very low-calorie diets. You will lose weight but you will also lose lean weight. In addition, it is not sustainable and the majority of people gain it back. Always eat at least 1200 kcals/day (women) or 1400 kcals/day (men). Increasing physical activity while limiting your calories will increase your rate of weight loss.
- Use low fat cooking methods such as baking, grilling, boiling, poaching, broiling, roasting, steaming or microwaving without additional fat.
- Avoid or limit frying.
- Place meat on a rack so the fat will drain off during cooking.
- Remove skin from poultry before cooking.
- Trim all visible fat from food (i.e. poultry and meat) before cooking.
- Use non-stick cookware or cooking sprays.
- Use egg whites or egg substitute in place of whole eggs.
- Season food with spices, butter flavoring (such as Butter Buds), lemon or low-fat dressings.
- Limit high-fat sauces or gravies such as sour cream, regular salad dressings, full-fat gravy and cream or cheese sauces — such as Hollandaise or Alfredo sauce.
- Use a sugar substitute in place of sugar. Replace sugar in recipes with a sugar substitute that can be used in baking or cooking.
- Limit appetizers, bread with butter and chips.
- Select a salad with light dressing on the side or broth-based soup as your first course.
- Choose foods prepared using low fat cooking methods.
- Place a portion of your meal in a take-home container before you start eating.
- Request sauces and dressing on the side. Instead of pouring on the dish, try dipping. You will eat less.
- Share an entree with a friend.
- Use MyFitnessPal or other App to help make healthier choices at the table. Check quickly before ordering.
How to Read Food Labels
By learning how to read a label you will make better choices at the point of purchase.
Serving size: The nutrition facts are for one serving
Servings per container: Pay attention to how many servingsyou are eating.
The % Daily Value is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Discuss appropriate calorie levels with your dietitian.
Limit calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Choose foods that are high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
- 5 percent or less is low
- 20 percent or more is high
Compare food labels for the lowest calories, fat, and sugar:
- Limit TOTAL FAT to three grams or less per serving
- Limit SUGAR to five grams or less per serving
- In milk and yogurt products, limit SUGAR to 12 grams or less per serving
- Choose starches with DIETARY FIBER three grams or more per serving
Hopefully you learned something after reading this article. Now it is time to hold yourself accountable and make small changes that will become a lifestyle the more you practice it. Let’s change the statistic of obesity that plagues our firefighters and emergency response personnel. That begins with each individual empowering themselves to make changes and save their own lives.