How much should Canadians eat?
Thats the question I ask of myself when I look at my girth in the mirror. Or stare at my bathroom scale six feet away from my eyes.
The other day, I took my last dress pants to a seamstress to make room for my ever-increasing girth. She says, Dr. B, do some exercise!
I thought I did enough exercise each week. May be I am eating too much! I did not think so. I thought I did both – ate less and did regular exercise. So what am I doing wrong? Why am I not losing weight?
I am not the only one asking this question. Million of Canadians and others in the world are asking the same question. What are we doing wrong?
Dr. C. Laird Birmingham, Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia and Dr. Peter J. Jones, Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition, McGill University, have published an article in the recent Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) titled: How much should Canadians eat?
The professors believe that the current methods for assessing energy intake are flawed. These methods underestimate actual energy intake. Does that mean we are eating more than we think? The article also reviews new methods for measuring the energy content of foods and address the problem of energy expenditure in obese people.
Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat. The body mass index (BMI) of over 30 is considered to be obese. BMI is measured by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters. Currently, about 20 to 30 percent of North American adults have BMI of 30 or more. These people roughly have 50 to 100 percent higher mortality rate than those with BMI of below about 25.
How do people become obese? When the amount of energy absorbed exceeds expenditure the net gain of energy ends up as body fat. The authors say that the current wave of obesity epidemic are due to shifting perceptions about what constitutes a normal portion size, the increased availability to pre-prepared foods and the more sedentary couch potato lifestyles of individuals within developed societies.
The Canada Food Guide provides guidelines for food intake in Canada. Nutritionists follow these guidelines to advice individuals who want to lose weight. Unfortunately, says the CMAJ article, the existing values contained in these guidelines are out of date. They provide estimates of energy requirement that are erroneously low.
There are also biases in the methods used to measure expenditure of energy. Until these methods (for energy intake and expenditure) have been revised and updated, the energy intake should be individualized based on observation of outcomes based on BMI, blood lipids, and waist measurement, says the CMAJ article.
The most reliable indicator of energy balance or imbalance is individuals weight. If a person is not losing weight then he is eating more than what he needs and he is not exercising enough income is more than expenditure!
Whatever methods we use for measuring energy intake and output, one problem will always be there obese people always underestimate their energy intake.
So, how much should Canadians eat? Is there an ultimate diet plan? Yes, listen to your weighing scale and measure your waist, if it aint going down then you are eating too much! And the best exercise you and I can do is to push ourselves away from the table. That is called will power! Your girth and weighing scale will tell you how much you should eat.
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