While starting a new diet may be a resolution for some Auburn students and faculty this new year, there are some health considerations to take into account before embarking on a lifestyle change.
Restrictive diets, like low-carb, low-fat, keto, cleanses and detoxes can have unwanted repercussions, according to Abbigail Hickey, registered dietitian nutritionist and coordinator of nutrition services for Health Promotion and Wellness.
“Restrictive dieting can put individuals at risk for harming their bodies,” Hickey said. “In extreme circumstances, an eating disorder or disordered eating can be a result of restrictive dieting and compulsive or over-exercising.”
Hickey said restrictive diets greatly restrict an individual’s intake of nutrients or food groups and can also reduce calorie and energy uptake.
Hickey said the keto diet requires its participants to greatly reduce the amount of carbohydrates that are consumed.
“In my experience, participants tend to cut out fruit and grains,” Hickey said. “However, these food groups have nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber that our body needs to burn energy, protect our immune system and keep our digestive systems healthy and normal.”
If one is not eating enough, this will cause the body to resort to survival mechanisms, which will lower one’s metabolism rate. Hickey said optimal metabolism function and efficient burning of energy occur when we eat every 3–4 hours in adequate amount, making this a reason why individuals who use these dieting tactics often gain back the weight they had lost plus additional weight.
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Hickey urged students to start small and find what works well for them since diet modification is an individualized process, recommending individuals utilize the perspective “what can I add instead of what can I take away.”
She gave the example that if an individual already eats eggs for breakfast, to consider adding vegetables to the eggs or adding a couple slices of whole grain toast on the side. Hickey said this mentality eliminates the “all or nothing” attitude that leaves many feeling disappointed and frustrated while trying to maintain their diets.
“Our bodies are a lot less judgmental of our food choices than we are,” Hickey recalled her mentor, Jessica-Lauren Newby said.
Hickey said she asks her clients to focus on incorporating as many food groups into each meal and snack.
“I recommend eating every 3–4 hours by consuming 3 meals and 2–3 snacks,” Hickey said. “I try to work with clients to get 4–5 food groups in a meal and 2–3 in a snack.”
This provides balance of macronutrients like carbs, fats and proteins as well of micronutrients including vitamins and minerals, she said.
Hickey provided other improvements individuals can make that don’t require counting calories including increasing water intake, increasing fiber intake and adding foods with probiotics, like kefir and kombucha, which aide with gut health.
Gut health can positively influence mental health, Hickey said.
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