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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Diet Is Not A Four Letter Word

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist -
Jul 23, 2017 - 7:05:13 AM

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( - Mention diet and most people shudder. They immediately think they will have to endure an extended period of time when they can't eat anything they enjoy. They think they will be relegated to eating tasteless, bland food, tiny portions and unending bowls of grass. Absolutely not true!

Diet by definition is what a person usually eats. Granted, what you usually eat, may have gotten you to where you are right now, weighing too much. But, diet is just a word. I could put you on a diet to gain weight or to manage diabetes or high blood pressure.

What has research told us?

Sometimes research tells us exactly what we think we are going to find out, other times we are in for a big surprise. The biggest surprise over the last 30 years was that as the American public embraced the idea of eating less fat, they got fatter. Sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't. Today, close to 70% of all adults in the US weight too much and, sadly, over 30% of children are too heavy!

If fat wasn't making fat, what was? The answers are portion sizes that grew out of control and an epidemic of inactivity. The original 2-ounce hamburger, introduced by the first hamburger chain in the 1950's, has grown into a whooping triple patty with cheese totaling more than 1,200 calories. Add a colossal-sized order of fries with 500 calories plus unlimited drink refills served in a 16-ounce cup, followed by endless hours texting and searching the Internet. It is no wonder Americans are spreading out in all directions. Only 20% of Americans get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily and it is estimated that one-quarter of adults never exercise. Couple all this with the fact that food is everywhere -- at the gas station, the drugstore, the coffee shop on every block -- you are tempted to eat everywhere you turn.

When Americans removed fat from their diets, instead of adding back more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, they moved toward eating more low fat foods loaded with refined carbs and sugar. This lack of activity, increase in portion sizes, and colossal shift in our fundamental diet happened so quietly over a period of many years that the damage was done before many public health experts realized what was happening. USDA statistics show that we are eating about 300 calories more each day than we did 35 years ago. Multiply that by weeks and months and it can add up to extra pounds quickly.

Overweight and inactivity are costing Americans years off their lives and billions in health care costs. Every day over 5,000 people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Many cases are driven by excess weight. Our inroads against heart disease are eroding and for the first time in 2016 our average expected lifespan decreased for both men and women. Carrying extra pounds robs you of a healthy long life, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even infertility.

Everyone is scrambling to fix the problem, or at the very least, stop it from getting worse. The Federal government, public health organizations, professional associations, and education policy makers have all banded together to wage an all-out assault on the spreading epidemic of obesity. But, policy makers, as well meaning as they might be, move slowly. Like people I talk to every day, you are not willing to wait for government to get effective programs in place. You want to lose weight now!

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be talking about the fundamentals of a good diet, what a healthy person eats to maintain their weight and reduce their risk for disease. Come back to find out more.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.

Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:

Diabetes Counter

Calorie Counter

Protein Counter

Healthy Wholefoods Counter

Complete Food Counter

Fat and Cholesterol Counter

Available in print from Gallery Books:

Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:



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