New year, new resolutions: Misconceptions and tips on switching to healthier lifestyles

The new year can signal a fresh start for some individuals. Yearning to try something new, people might begin looking toward changing something about them. Their quests could range from learning a new skill, like playing the piano, to changing their appearance, by losing weight.

Yet in trying to achieve their goals, hindrances would often disallow these quests from being fully realized. For some, remaining committed to a change in lifestyle would be a challenge.

Jo Sebastian, a registered nutritionist and dietitian, acknowledges these hindrances and misconceptions, saying there is more to eating right than meets the eye. “My goal as a dietician is not just to make you lose weight, but also to help your body function at its most optimal state,” she says.

‘Diet culture’

As a new year dawns, people who hope to lose weight might try out some form of dietary restriction, such as the food combining diet, which involves eating the right combination of food that the body can break down at the same rate. This fad diet claims to result in an efficient way of obtaining nutrients. Though Sebastian says that people are “physiologically the same,” she stresses that every individual intakes nutrients differently.

Factors such as height, weight, age, and sex all play a role in a person’s dietary needs, which Sebastian explains makes it unlikely to have a “specific diet that is perfect for everyone that you can recommend.” 

Individuals also need not cut out certain food groups from their diet, Sebastian argues, though such has been the principle of many prominent diet plans. Sabrina Hizon (AB-CAM, ‘19), for example, opts to follow a pescetarian diet, which heavily relies on seafood as a source of protein. “I’m doing it to lessen my carbon footprint,” she explains.

The popular ketogenic diet—which focuses on a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet—purportedly aims to shift one’s body to rely more on fat instead of carbohydrates for energy, thereby forcing the body to burn fat instead. 

Rami Benabdussalam (VI, CHE) says he achieved just that, sharing how the diet helped him lose body fat, and along with proper exercise, led to muscle gain. Additionally, he claims that after going into the ketogenic diet, he felt even more active, despite having less sleep. But he acknowledges that it is hard to get into the diet, especially in the Philippines where most food served “has carbohydrates or contains sugar.” 

Despite its claimed benefit, Sebastian warns that little research has gone into ketogenic’s long-term effects. Even with science continually investigating different dietary practices, results would sometimes lead to contradictions, as seen for instance in a research article published in the March 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

This study showed that eating eggs daily could increase the risk for heart disease due to the amount of cholesterol found in its yolks. Sparking debate among researchers, it only furthers the need for extensive research regarding food and how individuals process it.

Finding balance

Both Benabdussalam and Hizon are also taking up a form of intermittent fasting, restricting their food consumption to a certain timeframe. Sebastian says that while there are studies pointing to intermittent fasting’s effectiveness in losing weight, some research articles—such as another one published by JAMA back in 2017—claim that one can also obtain similar results through a normal and balanced diet.

Intermittent fasting is also not without its disadvantages; Sebastian cautions that simply eating less does not always mean more calories burned or more weight lost. Expounding on the repercussions, the nutritionist-dietician explains that the body can adapt to these changes in order to function efficiently. Even with a decrease in calorie intake, the body could either try decreasing the amount of energy it uses or stimulating one’s craving for food.

“Your body knows it needs energy and if [you’re] not letting it have that, it’s gonna find another way to make sure that it gets it,” she elaborates.

A person might start craving high-calorie foods—cake, for example—in order to counteract the lack of food intake. With individuals constraining themselves so much just to lose weight, Sebastian stresses that people often forget that their body tries to compensate for the restrictions imposed on it. 

Sebastian believes that some individuals become conditioned to have a “diet culture”, making them concerned with losing weight to achieve a certain look. But being “food-focused” is not all that it should be. Instead, she recommends that people maintain a simple, well-balanced diet that follows the recommendations of the food pyramid. 

Find a “balance that works”, she further advises, and take time to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. “Food shouldn’t be mentally-draining; it’s nurturing. It’s something we all enjoy and need,” she asserts.

Ryan Lim

By Ryan Lim

Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

Contributor of University and Vanguard since TLS 58. Internal Development Manager in TLS 59. Currently designing the new website.

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