It’s All About the Food has a new column in the Montgomery County News. It is my health and nutrition version of “Dear Abby”, now aptly named “Ask Pat.” Printed below exactly as it appeared in the paper.
Hardly a day passes that I don’t hear questions about my book. Sometimes readers have trouble personalizing information to their own situation and need a little help. And maybe, God forbid, I didn’t make everything perfectly clear. Anyway, whenever I answer a question I suspect someone else will also want to know. So here is my health and nutrition version of “Dear Abby.” Pose your question and I will do my best to answer.
Today’s question was asked in regard to losing weight:
“You said in your book that calories really don’t count. That seems to disagree with everything I have been told. How can that be?”
Actually I said that COUNTING calories isn’t helpful. Calories do indeed count. But when it comes to losing or not gaining weight the source of the calories can be significantly more important than the calorie count. This has to do with sugar and even just the taste of “sweet.”
Starchy and sugar intensive carbohydrate foods in any form (whether they taste sweet or not) cause us to want to eat more – and more – and maybe more. These are particularly commercially processed foods, even true when they include “artificial sweeteners.” The calories sneak up on us.
Lots of folks tell me they don’t much care about “sweets” but they can eat their weight in any kind of chips (no one can eat just one) or pasta or bread. Unfortunately those chips and other products made from flour like pasta and bread contain as much or even more sugar than the “sweets.” Just think about it. What food will draw you to eat “just one more bite”, even when you know you have had enough?
Grain, potatoes, and plain old sugar are the three biggies, almost guaranteed to pile on the pounds. Not because they are higher calorie per se (although they are) but because some of us just can’t stop eating them. We sometimes fill our plate with them instead of eating meat or vegetables with far fewer calories.
The second problem is that sugar disappears from our stomach pretty quickly and then our brain tells us we are hungry. Your brain can’t be trusted when it comes to carbohydrates. So a “snack” usually turns out to be more of something made out of grain, sugar, or potatoes because that stuff comes in a handy sack or package at the grocery store. Are you getting the picture? Hungry, eat. Hungry, eat all day long.
Some of this hunger thing revolves around believing that “low fat” is good. Too many think we should cut back on fat calories to lose weight. But the good protein and fat in your meals slow down sugar digestion and are important to make and keep you full and satisfied. The words “low fat” on a package label usually means that processing has removed the fat and added something else (usually some form of sugar) to make up the difference.
You can lose weight counting calories. And you can gain it back the minute you revert back to hungry, eat all day long. Calories count. We just tend to eat the wrong ones.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,“ a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, president of Ouachita Village, Inc board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), chairman of the Tasty Acre project, and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
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