Make a resolution to get healthy

The Canadian body weight classification system uses the body mass index (BMI) and the waist circumference (WC) to assess the risk of developing health problems associated with overweight or underweight. The BMI is a ratio of weight to height.

Lose weight, get healthy, go on a diet and exercise more are frequent New Year’s resolutions. Recent research is showing that a low carbohydrate, adequate protein diet produces significant weight loss results without the feeling of constant hunger. It can also reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass, both of which are healthy outcomes.

The body requires three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and water to maintain body function and energy for activity. The body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source but it can also use proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates are made up of sugars, starches and fibres. The sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars during digestion, with the fibre aiding digestion. These sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream, where they’re known as blood sugar or glucose.

The glucose enters the body’s cells with the help of insulin. Some glucose is used by the body as energy to fuel physical activities like jogging and breathing. Extra glucose is stored in the liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.

The theory behind a low carb diet is that insulin prevents fat breakdown in the body by allowing sugar to be used for energy. There are fewer carbohydrates so there is a lower insulin level.

As a result, the body calls on the stored fat for energy. The liver works to turn the stored fat into fatty acids, ketonic bodies and glucose.

This process of using the body fats as the primary energy source is called ketosis and results in shedding excess weight.

Many people, including medical professionals, often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening pathological process.

Lean protein is required to maintain muscle and organ health. An adequate amount means the daily recommended amount of protein. If this amount of protein is not included in the diet, the body will break down the muscle to get glucose for energy. When muscle is lost, the metabolism slows and weight regain is more likely, causing a yo-yo diet effect.

Lean protein means well trimmed meats, eggs and fish. A small amount of healthy oil is also included in the diet to provide fat-soluble vitamins and maintain healthy body function. The protein and fat in the diet helps keep the dieter feeling full longer.

To maintain hydration, drinking water is always essential.

Due to the diet not being balanced, it is important to include multivitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin D supplements in the diet.

Research has shown that an adequate level of calcium will allow the fat to be released from the body cells. There is less weight lost if levels are not adequate.

Low carbohydrate diets are only meant to be a diet tool to keep the body fat percentage within the healthy range. Once this goal is achieved, a balanced diet with healthy carbohydrates should be-come the normal eating pattern.

Vegetables are a major carbohydrate source, but only those with a low glycemic factor lessen the insulin response. Complex carbohydrates take time to be processed in the body and enter the blood stream.

Vegetables in a low-carbohydrate diet include such options as alfalfa, asparagus, arugula, dill pickles, endive, fennel and zucchini.

A sample meal in the diet might contain six to eight ounces of lean meat such as pork tenderloin served with two cups (500 mL) of fresh or cooked vegetables. Mashed cauliflower can serve as a potato substitute.

Cauliflower mashed potatoes

  • 1 head fresh cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder 1 mL
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. chicken soup base protein soup mix base 15 mL

Boil or steam the cauliflower until it is soft. Drain the water. Add seasonings and soup mix. Mash well and serve steaming hot. – Adapted from

Helpful diet resources

  • A food diary can keep track of everything that is eaten each day. This will help the dieter and the diet coach tailor the food plan to meet the individual’s needs and likes.
  • Myfitnesspal is a useful app for tracking food.
  • Track body measurements weekly.
  • Visit a diet or fitness clinic that offers body composition analysis scans that will measure changes in body fat and lean mass.
  • is a good nutritional analysis website.

Keys to success on any diet are a commitment by individuals to change their eating patterns, support from family and friends, support and encouragement by a diet support group or diet coach and approval from your doctor.

Most adults with a high BMI (overweight or obese) have a high percentage of body fat. Extra body fat is associated with increased risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease and some forms of cancer.

The Canadian BMI ranges are:

  • underweight BMI less than 18.5
  • normal weight BMIs 18.5 to 24.9
  • overweight BMIs 25 to 29.9
  • obese BMI 30 and over

A low BMI (underweight) is associated with health problems such as osteoporosis, undernutrition and eating disorders.

The WC is an indicator of abdominal fat. Excess fat around the waist and upper body is associated with greater health risk than fat located more in the hip and thigh area.

A WC at or above 102 cm (40 inches) for men, and 88 cm (35 inches) for women, is associated with an increased risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. The cut-off points are approximate, so a WC just below these values should also be taken seriously.

In general, a WC above the cut-off points listed above there is a risk of developing health problems. Even if the BMI is in the “normal weight” range, a high WC indicates some health risk.

Source: Health Canada.

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