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Eating Concerns Can Go Too Far
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most everyone strives for a slim figure, and some people have enough discipline to maintain good nutrition, but eating concerns can go too far.
Dieting can lose its value as a tool for maintaining health, and it can even be destructive if people continues to lose weight beyond their healthy weight range.
Dr. Barbara McLaurin, extension nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University, said people should consider overall nutrition when starting a weight-loss diet.
"Healthy nutrition in general and a healthy diet should be considered as one and the same, except for the reduction in calories by eating smaller portions when weight loss is the goal," McLaurin said.
A healthy diet consists of the essential nutrients and calories needed to prevent nutritional deficiencies and excesses. It also provides the right balance of carbohydrates, fat and proteins to reduce risks for chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes.
"Good nutrition is obtained from a variety of foods that are available, affordable and enjoyable, including foods from each of the food groups," McLaurin said. "Grain products, vegetables, fruits, low fat milk products, lean meats, fish and poultry are all important to a healthy diet."
Reducing calories is the key to losing weight, but problems can develop when too many calories are cut out of a diet.
"The fewer calories consumed per day, the harder it is to get all of the nutrients needed," McLaurin said. Getting enough vitamins and minerals remains important throughout a diet.
"Increasing physical activity allows dieters to eat enough nutritious foods to get adequate nutrients, but burn the unwanted calories that come with them," McLaurin said.
Diets become destructive when people try to lose weight too rapidly and deprive themselves of enough healthy foods.
"Dieters with excessive concern about weight may develop unhealthy behaviors, such as compulsive exercising, self-induced vomiting, starvation or abuse of laxatives or other medications. Those practices generally worsen concern about weight and form a cycle, often classified as an eating disorder," McLaurin said.
Some dieters are disillusioned and believe that thinness will solve all of their problems.
"Undereating and excessive thinness contribute to health problems just as overeating and obesity do. Consequences of being too thin may include an increased risk for osteoporosis in women and early death in men and women," she said.
McLaurin recommended consulting a physician to assess overall health when starting a diet. Doctors and dietitians can help decide what sort of meal plans are to a dieter's advantage.
"Dieting needs vary according to individuals. Many dieters do not necessarily need to achieve a large amount of weight loss to improve their health," McLaurin said.
"Set realistic healthy goals for weight loss and management. When a goal weight is met, continue to eat healthy foods, adding just enough calories to maintain the weight. And, as always, it is best to balance food with exercise," McLaurin said.