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We Are What We Eat

Dr. Drew Werner

Do you skip breakfast? Is your evening meal your largest of the day? Do you ever get so full you feel like a mud slide just occurred in your stomach and all traffic has been halted? Are carbohydrates your three main food groups? Do you “super size”? Is ice cream, cake or pie a breakfast food?

If your answer is “yes,” then you’re not alone. The statistics are amazing.

Thirty-four percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight and an additional 31 percent are obese.



Fifteen percent of youngsters ages 6 to 19, as well as 10 percent of children ages 2 to 5 ,are considered seriously overweight.

In 2000, health care costs related to obesity were about $117 billion.



Americans spend more than $33 billion a year on weight-loss products and services.

Three hundred thousand people die each year due to obesity-related causes, making it the second-leading cause of death after smoking. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

At the same time, according to the Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition:



Chronically undernourished children attain lower scores on standardized achievement tests, especially tests of language ability.

When children are hungry or undernourished, they have difficulty resisting infection and therefore are more likely than other children to become sick, to miss school, and to fall behind in class.

So what are we to do? Besides exercise, which is a story in itself, we need to choose when, what and how much we eat.

The “when” is critical. Think of hopping on I-70 driving to Denver saying, “I’ll wait to check my gas gauge and fill up when I get there.” Skipping breakfast is a trigger to our body to slow down our metabolism for the day. Our level of physical ability and cognitive ability is depressed. That is certainly no way to be our best whether getting our children ready for school, or being successful at whatever we do. The “when” also applies to the end of our day. Eating a full meal late in the day is simply telling our body to store our excess as fat just in case we might need it later. The problem is later never comes, because tomorrow we’ll do the same thing again.

“What” we should eat is very straightforward. Follow the food pyramid, and keep fats less than 30 percent of your daily intake. Balance is good, although carbohydrate restriction for adults may help with weight loss by stimulating fat metabolism. A few good links are: http://www.nal.usda.gov:8001/py/pmap.htm and http://www.nutrition.gov/home/index.php3.

Finally, there is the issue of “how much.” America is the land of plenty. Go ahead super size it. If one is good, two is better, and three is still not enough to share.

A basic rule is we need as many calories as we do ounces of water to drink. That formula again is 1,000 calories a day for our first 22 pounds of weight. Then, add 500 calories for the next 22 pounds and 200 calories for each 22 pounds after that. This formula assumes regular activity and moderate exercise.

We’re all different, though, so don’t get mad at your friend who “eats the same as me” yet weighs 20 pounds less. Metabolism, exercise and, yes, genetics all play a role.

To incorporate all of this nutritional knowledge into your everyday life, here are some strategies:

1. Drink plenty of water.

2. With the exception of skim milk, keep all beverages calorie free.

3. Anything that comes out of a can, box, package or jar should be served in the quantity of one serving as written on the side of the package.

4. When eating lunch and dinner, use a dessert plate. No seconds and no overflowing.

5. If you eat out, order what you like for the main course (skip the bread, appetizers, and dessert) and then eat only half. Ask for a doggy bag and you’ve got lunch for the next day.

Now for the good news: Colorado has the nation’s lowest incidence of obesity! Let us not lose that honorable title. At the same time, let us get our children ready to be at their best. Help them eat healthy, do better at school and stay healthier through their lives.

Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.

Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him c/o Editor, Vail Daily, by e-mail to editor@vaildaily.com or P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.


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