Caveat: If you plan to undertake any significant changes in your lifestyle, you should seek the advice of a properly qualified health professional. The information provided here is a perception of current mainstream health and fitness thinking by a fellow RV enthusiast with no special qualification in health or fitness. You should add your own research to make sure you understand reasons or consequences of anything suggested here before changing what you are currently doing.
The current concerns about diabetes, obesity, and hypertension may just be an excuse for fanatics to worry us about health and fitness but it does seem that a bit of explicit attention to fitness may be warranted for many of us. The typical RV'er has suffered a bit of 'middle aged spread' and tends towards a rather relaxed lifestyle. A little bit of attention to diet and exercise in daily habit may well provide returns in general feelings of well-being and ability to enjoy what we are out on the road to enjoy.
Monitor your health. Keep track of trends in weight. If you use a scale, you will get a bit better feedback than if you use belt notches or clothes sizes. If you are at risk for hypertension, keep a log of your blood pressure. If diabetic, keep a log of blood sugar. If you are worried about weight, keep a log of what you eat and how you exercise. Pay attention to the labeling on foods so that you are aware of at least the calorie content of what you eat.
The human body is a complex, rugged, self regulating mechanism.
Humans are omnivorous, resilient, capricious, opinionated, gullible, and creatures of habit.
A pound of weight in fat provides about the same amount of energy as a sedentary human uses in two days or an athlete in rigorous training in one day.
Muscle weighs more than fat on a calorie basis.
Humans should drink about four pounds of water per day.
People are different from each other and they change over time.
Modifications in physique or fitness require modifications in habits.
Fitness should take precedence over weight loss.
Weight loss goals should consider a rate of about ten percent of body weight in six months as a maximum (or about a pound a week).
Attitude is important.
Food is needed for more than just energy.
While much is known, much is also unknown about how diets impact human health. And, since our appearance and well being are important to us, this means that there is a lot of room for folks to take advantage of the gullible. Be a skeptic but not a cynic.
The foundation of any planned diet is always based on numbers. Numbers that are averages of human nutrition and energy requirements are matched to numbers from averages of food analyses to determine content of foods for nutrition and energy. Other numbers considered are those for cost and for quantities. So many numbers! And they are averages so your particular numbers may differ.
Forget about it! Leave all the number crunching and bean counting to the fanatics, diet engineers, and hobbyists. Unless you have a serious medical condition, there is usually no need for you to get deep into food numbers.
But do keep aware of generalities. A handful of food runs about 250 calories and a light diet (as for weight loss) runs 1,000 to 1,500 calories or just four to six handfuls of food per day. A restaurant meal will often run a half a day's rations and a teenager's super sized burger meal can provide enough calories for a more mature citizen to run on for more than a day.
The first requirement of any diet is to provide adequate energy and nutrition to meet your body's needs. These requirements are usually met by keeping your diet from becoming boring. If you have special requirements (e.g. diabetes, allergies) you will likely already know what special considerations to take into account.
In choosing what to eat, there are a few guidelines and suggestions that seem to be a part of any list.
Put an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
Eat a variety of foods.
Make meals a rainbow - choose foods so that there is a variety of color on your plate at each meal (one color to minimize is white, though)
Go for texture and avoid bland foods. Choose foods that you need to chew and that provide a stimulating chewing experience. (then chew thoroughly before swallowing!)
Avoid supplements except maybe a daily mutli-vitamin.
Don't forget plenty of fluid is needed but watch out for heavily sweetened or fortified drinks.
The general advice is that you should obtain all the nutrition you need from your normal diet.
If you are worried about your weight - which usually means too much for those in the 40 to 80 year old regime and too little for those over 80 - you need to transfer your worries to your lifestyle habits instead. Get to know yourself and then make little changes in your routines that will lead to better health and fitness. Look for changes over months and years rather than days and weeks.
The biggest problem you are likely to have with food is the problem of too much. Try to stick to a regular eating schedule. Avoid snacks except as a part of a regular schedule (e.g. tea or happy hour). When eating out, take advantage of 'senior menus' or share a plate. It is time to forget your mother's advice to clean the plate: Don't be afraid to leave part of pre-served portions (take a few plastic bags with you for your own 'doggy' bags) and, if given the choice such as at pot luck dinners or buffets, only take small samples. Take your time at meals and don't hurry. Make water or low calorie drinks a part of your eating.
If you woke up too late and found yourself significantly overweight and in need of significant weight reduction, you have a difficult problem. Most professionals think that a ten percent weight change in six months is as fast as anyone should try to change their weight. For a 200 lb person, this would be 20 lb which is a bit less than a pound a week. This rate of change would require changing your eating and activity habits by 25% or so - this is why weight change is difficult. A 25% lifestyle change is a big deal. And this degree of change does not consider overcoming your body's self regulating mechanisms which fight to prevent change.
Also consider that one pound is barely detectable on decent scales. In addition, you consume thirty pounds or so of water plus twenty five or so of food in a week. So, when watching weight, you cannot depend upon a daily weighing to be very useful by itself. Your systems are too complex and body weight changes too small when compared to daily materials intake and waste. John Walker suggests that you look at trends in moving averages rather than individual weightings. If the trend is going the wrong direction, make changes to bring it into line.
Note that a daily weighing used to calculate running averages is a technique to improve precision. Accuracy is not a concern. What you want is a daily measure that is as consistent as possible (same scales, same time of day, same conditions) in order to be able to detect trends week to week and month to month.
It is also not really necessary to count calories carefully - just know yourself and be aware of what (and when and how) you eat. If your weight does not trend the way you want it to, change your eating and activity to move towards your goals. To loose a pound a week, you would need to reduce your food intake by two days worth of eating out of seven - more than a quarter less food in your eating habits. Since this much of a change is rather drastic, the standard advice is to consult with professionals if you really want to loose weight that fast. More attention will have to be paid towards getting proper nutrition and this means moving towards bean counting.
Exercise is no panacea either. That 250 calorie handful of food is sufficient to provide energy for just a half hour of moderate activity. That means a full seven solid hours of exercise is needed to work off one pound. This is a full hour per day each day for one week. If you decide to add exercise to 'burn off' fat you will likely find that you gain weight because the additional exercise develops muscles and those muscles are more dense (weigh more) than the fat they replace. Exercise for fitness and to contribute to your weight control but keep in mind that patterns in activity are only one part of a lifestyle that you need to modify in order to assure best health.
You can easily make changes that amount to a five or ten percent difference in diet. When coupled with attention to fitness this will make good changes in the months and years ahead so you can better enjoy your RV activities.
Alcohol consumption is something to keep an eye on. A glass of wine with dinner or maybe a drink at happy hour does not seem to be worthy of much concern. Where concern is warranted is when you use a drink to ward off a chill or find yourself imbibing more than a drink or two per day on average. Watch out for this stuff and if you find yourself making excuses to rationalize a drink, take heed and then take appropriate action.
Dehydration should also be a concern. You should pay attention to drinking at least two quarts of water or other beverage every day. Avoid beverages with calories (one reason to avoid alcoholic drinks). A good fluid flow through your body not only helps keep you blood in balance and your kidneys working, it might also contribute to a good liquid to solid balance in your RV black tank.
DASH Diet - http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/ - the current standard for heart health. "Get with the plan that is clinically proven to significantly reduce blood pressure."
How Stuff works . on diets http://home.howstuffworks.com/diet.htm . sections on your body's efficiency, calories, why diets often don't work, exercise, and myths
Anne Collins - many answers, a very good value in a diet plan - http://www.annecollins.com/index.htm see questions and answers at http://www.annecollins.com/weight-loss/calories-per-pound.htm
John Walker: The Hacker's Diet, explains a feedback model and its implementation to improve health and fitness.
Check the ideas of Covert Baily . the ultimate fit or fat (review) -
Overeating and Overweight:Truth and Consequences and How to Gain Control By Robert M. Giambrone MD -
Reviews and information about online diets http://www.diet-i.com/diets.htm . gives you the scoop on what these diets are about, the claims they make, and what this should mean to you.
Black Women's Health offers some good advice at http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/weight_loss_1.htm
Ask the MD - http://www.askthemd.com/weight_loss.htm . be careful to use ideas and not specifics here as Dr. Wiseman is quite left of center.
.The average American eats over 1,400 pounds of food a year! This
breakdowns to about: 370 pounds of fruits and vegetables, 140 pounds
of cereals, 240 pounds of meat and fish, 350 pounds of dairy
products, 350 pounds of other items.'
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