If you’re actively trying to lose weight—or just trying to maintain a healthy weight—you probably already know that fast-food restaurants are not your friends. Well, a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that full-service restaurants may be an even more hostile environment for well-intentioned dieters.
Eating out pretty much means eating more.
The study, analyzing the eating habits of over 12,000 Americans over a period of seven years, found that people who eat in fast-food restaurants consume 194 extra calories per day, and those who eat in full-service restaurants consume an extra 205 calories per day. Given the rates at which people eat in restaurants, this means that the average American consumes an extra 24,000 calories per year while eating out, which results in 6 to 7 pounds of extra weight. The extra calories come primarily from eating larger portions than we would normally eat at home. And it turns out that this is an even bigger problem in full-service restaurants than it is in fast-food restaurants. Plus, restaurant food generally contains far higher levels of saturated fats and salt than food prepared at home.
So how can you enjoy eating out without packing on the pounds?
As a general strategy, diet experts suggest that you assume that all restaurant meals contain two to three times the number of calories that you need in a meal. This means that in most cases the most you should eat is half of the restaurant serving. One easy way to do this, even in a full-service restaurant, is to have the server box up half of it as “take away” before bringing it to the table, so you’re not tempted to eat the whole thing. There are many other great strategies for enjoying your restaurant experience without overdoing it, and we’ll list some of them here:
- If you’re on a diet, choose your restaurants accordingly. American, Mexican, and Italian restaurants are going to serve you twice as much protein, carbs, and calories as you really need. Japanese, Thai, Greek, or salad bar restaurants will be easier on your waistline.
- Learn to ask for low-calorie preparation methods. “Pan-fried,” “crispy,” and “alfredo” are code words for “dishes that are delicious but full of fat and calories.” You can often enjoy the same dishes without the extra calories by asking for them to be broiled or grilled instead of fried.
- Pick leaner cuts of meat, like flank steak or filet mignon in place of a rib-eye steak, or choose chicken breasts (preferably without the skin) instead of fattier chicken thighs. Or order fish, which is usually lower in calories, as long as it’s not fried.
- Start your meal with a low-cal soup (tomato- or broth-based, as opposed to a cream soup), or with a nice salad. Order your salad dressing on the side and don’t use more than two tablespoons of it (the “serving size” most restaurants give you is more like ten tablespoons).
- Consider ordering a couple of items from the appetizer menu rather than ordering a full entrée, or share large entrées with a friend.
- Try to avoid dishes with creamy sauces or gravies, since these can double the total calories in the entrée.
- Order a side of vegetables and ask the server to “Double or triple the amount, please.” You can offer to pay extra, but most restaurants will do this at no extra charge.
- For a beverage, stick to water or low-fat milk rather than sodas, sweetened teas or coffees, or beer and wine.
- Try to avoid “all you can eat” buffets and “special offers” that tempt you to eat more than you really want or need. Remember that the thing most often being “supersized” in these common restaurant promotions is your waist!
- Skip the bread basket. If you need before-meal snacks, order a side of raw vegetables. Obviously, skip the desserts at the end of the meal, too.
Try a few of these strategies next time you eat out. You’ll probably find that they help cut down on calories while you’re eating AND that they help you feel better about your restaurant meal afterwards!
Should you eat like a caveman? Supporters of the Paleo Diet say “Yes!” This popular new diet trend focuses on eating the same types of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived on hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s certainly an intriguing idea, but is it a good one? Read on for a little bit of perspective on the Paleo Diet.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is a food plan that attempts to mimic a paleolithic style of eating. Refined sugars, processed foods, legumes, dairy, and grains are all out. Instead, dieters focus on animal meat and products, vegetables, fruits, raw seeds and nuts, and some added fats like avocado and coconut oil. The theory is that by abstaining from the ingredients most common in the modern diet, you can avoid modern health problems like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Just How Healthy Were Our Ancestors?
A diet rich in lean meats, vegetables, and healthy fats is absolutely a good idea, but is it really necessary to go as far as proponents of the Paleo Diet suggest? Probably not, especially considering that hunter-gatherers were not exactly paragons of health themselves. While our ancestors were unlikely to suffer from obesity or diabetes, they were extremely susceptible to other problems that may have stemmed from nutritional gaps as well as parasites and infectious diseases.
Even more intriguing, a study published in The Lancet found that a very high proportion of hunter-gatherers suffered from atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke). After comparing 137 mummies from civilizations all over the world, the study found that 47 showed evidence of atherosclerosis. That’s more than one in three.
A Diet You Can Stick With
Even though our prehistoric relatives were not as healthy as fans of the Paleo Diet might have you believe, there is no doubt that reducing processed foods and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats is a healthy switch. Where the problem lies, however, is in the restrictions required to follow this diet completely.
There’s a reason why 95% of diets (including Paleo) fail before a goal weight is reached. Placing heavy restrictions on what you can and can’t eat almost sets you up to fail. With an “all or nothing” approach to dieting, one slip-up can make you feel like a failure, and may prompt you to abandon the diet plan altogether. The Paleo Diet (and other diets like it) can be very difficult to stick with, especially over the long term. While you are very likely to lose weight while you stick to this diet, the pounds will probably return as soon as you return to your normal eating patterns.
If you aren’t willing to spend the rest of your life eating like a caveman, that’s okay. Making small adjustments in your eating habits that you can stick with is much more likely to give you the results you want than going all in on a very restrictive diet that doesn’t last a month. If you’re not sure where to start, consult your chiropractor. He or she can help you build a diet plan that is designed with your specific goals in mind and suited to your lifestyle, giving you a much higher chance of success.
So what’s the bottom line? The Paleo diet is not a bad idea, but its high levels of restriction make it extremely difficult for most people to stick with. For many dieters, it is simply not a realistic long-term option.
You probably don’t need much more evidence—or convincing—that men and women view the world a little bit differently, but it might be worth considering how these differences really impact us in terms of our healthcare—and therefore our overall health and longevity.
As a rule, women are more likely than men to seek out and receive preventive healthcare services. However, when it comes to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease, men are the ones who are most likely to need hospitalization. The fact that women are more likely to take a proactive approach to healthcare might actually contribute to the fact that men tend to die at a younger age. Although genetics and lifestyle differences play a role in shortening the average male lifespan, the healthcare choices men make may also help determine the length and quality of their lives.
How Women Can Encourage Men to Be More Conscientious About Healthcare
Jokes about some men being willing to remove their own appendix in the garage before visiting a doctor may inspire laughter; but the impact of not getting appropriate healthcare is no laughing matter. Not only do many men skip life-saving preventive healthcare altogether, but some even ignore symptoms of serious illnesses until their condition has become quite severe and more difficult to treat.
Women, on the other hand, tend to understand the importance of preventive healthcare. Screenings for conditions like breast or colon cancer afford the opportunity to detect and treat serious conditions before they advance and require more aggressive care. When the woman in a man’s life explains her concerns and urges him to look after his own health, he may become more willing to visit the doctor.
Health Conditions Men Should Worry About
There are many illnesses that do occur more frequently in women than in men. However, men are far from immune to serious health conditions, and many of these are far too dangerous to ignore. That’s why doctors recommend a range of health screenings for men, including:
- Prostate Cancer
- Blood Pressure
- Bone Density
- Vitamin D
- Eye Exam
- Testicular Cancer
In some cases, preventive treatment isn’t about saving your life but rather about preserving or improving its quality. For example, regular chiropractic treatments can help you maintain the health of your musculoskeletal and nervous systems so that you can avoid common problems and remain active.
For some men, understanding the kinds of health risks they face and the value of preventive healthcare is enough motivation for them to get regular screenings and be mindful of potential problems. And while the general tendency is for women to take a more active role in their own healthcare, not every woman does. This means that there will always be those men who take steps to remain healthy and those women who avoid going to the doctor whenever they can. But research and clinical experience both tell us that people of both genders and all ages benefit from a proactive approach to health and healthcare.
Neck pain: it’s a real pain in the neck, isn’t it? Bad jokes aside, neck pain is a very common problem. A 2010 study found that in an average year, as many as one in five American adults experience discomfort in this area of the body. In part, this is because the neck is especially susceptible to stress, strain and injury. Knowing the five most common causes of neck tension can help you stay healthy and pain-free.
The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain
- Overuse of Muscle: Your neck is a remarkably easy part of your body to overwork, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk during the day. A poorly designed work area forces your neck to stay in an unnatural position for hours on end, causing unnecessary strain. Over time, this can cause chronic neck pain.
- Injuries: Trauma to the neck muscles can cause pain. One of the most common types of neck trauma chiropractors see is the result of traffic accidents. When your head is suddenly forced in a given direction (as can occur if a car you are sitting in is struck from behind), the following “rebound” motion in the opposition direction (also known as whiplash) injures the tissues in your neck. To help counteract this damage, your neck muscles contract, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable.
- Poor Posture: Do you have perfect posture when reading or watching TV? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. Poor posture might feel comfortable in the short term, but in the long run slouching can cause neck strain and discomfort. If you are obese or have weak abdominal muscles, your neck may bend forward in compensation, causing misalignment and producing pain.
- Diseases: Certain diseases can cause neck discomfort. Degenerative diseases are a particularly common cause of neck pain. Osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that speeds cartilage deterioration, leads to the formation of painful bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease can lead to bulging or herniated discs. Meningitis and some types of cancer can also lead to neck pain, though these conditions are more uncommon.
- Nerve Compression: If the nerves in your neck become compressed, neck pain can follow. Herniated discs and bone spurs are two of the most common causes of nerve compression in the neck. A disorder called spinal stenosis can also lead to narrowed nerve passageways, and therefore painfully trapped nerves.
Treating Neck Pain
Treating chronic neck pain effectively requires understanding the underlying cause of your discomfort. Consult with your chiropractor to find solutions! Depending on the situation, your chiropractor might recommend cervical manipulation, a precise adjustment to the joints in your neck that improves spinal alignment and increases range of motion. Chiropractic care is about more than just manual adjustments, though, and your chiropractor will work with you to identify lifestyle changes that can help you make sure your neck stays pain-free.
Anyone who struggles with being overweight knows that it is more than just a matter of appearance. Being overweight affects the way you feel, how much energy you have, and your overall health. There are several serious health conditions linked to obesity, including heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. The bones and soft tissue that make up the musculoskeletal system are also vulnerable. Joints in particular are compromised when too much body weight places a greater force on them than they’re designed to handle. When the musculoskeletal system is compromised, the body is no longer able to perform as efficiently.
As a result, being overweight can cause an increased risk of musculoskeletal problems such as:
- Joint Failure
- Back Pain
- Lower Limb Pain
- Loss of Mobility
The Impact of Body Weight on Joints
Joint stress is a serious concern for people who suffer from osteoarthritis. The normal wear-and-tear that occurs in the joints diminishes their protective cushioning and leads to pain and loss of range-of-motion and/or mobility. In addition, the pressure caused by excess weight is greater than the actual number of pounds. For example, one pound of excess body weight causes four pounds of stress on knee joints. As a result, people with osteoarthritis of the knee can experience much more severe symptoms just from being a few pounds overweight. On the plus side, losing just a few pounds of weight can have a very positive impact on the condition of your joints.
A Different Perspective for Overweight Patients
People who are obese are not the only ones putting their musculoskeletal system at risk. Any degree of excess body weight will put more stress on the joints and supportive tissues that keep the body in motion. Although being ten pounds overweight may not seem like a big deal, think about the difference in difficulty you have carrying a bag of groceries up the steps or a basket of laundry down the stairs in comparison to walking freely without the load. Only a few pounds can change your posture and biomechanics, making a difference in your ability to go up a step or to walk for a longer distance.
Another way to gain perspective for how a few pounds of body weight can impact your frame is to carry a ten pound weight with you through your normal activities. For people who are obese or highly obese, the amount of excess weight they are carrying might be an amount they are not even able to lift! These pounds are exerting stress on the bones and joints all over your body all the time.
Losing weight is never easy, but it is worth the effort to improve your musculoskeletal health and prevent the pain excess pounds can cause. Talk to your chiropractor about safe, healthy ways to lose weight and see what a difference your efforts can make!