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‘You want a diet that's going to take you in for the rest of your life.’

Dr. Catherine Peterson.jpg
Sarah Petrowich
/
KBIA

Dr. Catherine Peterson is an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. She spoke about diet culture, and how people can work to find balance in a time where fad diets are all popular.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Dr. Catherine Peterson: You know, there are four basic tenets of good nutrition. There's adequacy, there’s balance, there is variety and there is moderation, and so, I would challenge anyone when they're looking at a diet plan, something that catches their eye, to see if it meets all of those four basic tenets.

Adequate: it has to have all the vitamins, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids that your body needs to optimize its function. Okay, you need it to have that. Adequate.

B. It has to be balanced. That means you've got to have the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, the right balance of minerals, the right balance of vitamins.

"Most of these kinds of quick and dirty diet plans do not include behavior change, and so, it's likely that once you stop that diet, very likely in fact – something like 95% to 98% of people who lose weight will regain it."
Dr. Catherine Peterson

Minerals are kind of divas when it comes to being absorbed. Too much of one, like too much calcium, can throw off iron absorption. So, you could throw yourself into iron deficiency. So, balance is super important in nutrition.

So adequacy, balance, variety — you need to cast a wide net. There's not one food, one supplement that is going to meet all of one's dietary needs.

The only exception to that is during infancy. During infancy, at least the first six months of infancy, human infants can live solely on human milk. Any other time in life, you need to cast a wide net so you can capture all the vitamins, all the minerals, all the proteins, essential fats, etcetera that your body needs to optimally function.

And the final is moderation. Moderation in everything, and people have a hard time with that. We tend to want to go to one extreme or another, and moderation is the key because you can have too much of a good thing, even water, although it's unlikely.

So, any diet that violates any four of those basic tenets, it's likely, at least in the long term, it's going to set you up for some health problems. Short term, the human body can survive just about anything. It's the long game, the long term, that makes a difference.

So, sometimes that's what's hard to convey to people when they see a new diet, or even in the scientific literature, a diet plan that's been studied. Oftentimes these have only been studied, gosh, for maybe 12 weeks at the most; according to a whole lifespan, that's a very short amount of time, and you want a diet that's going to take you in for the rest of your life.

So, that requires behavioral change, and most of these kinds of quick and dirty diet plans do not include behavior change, and so, it's likely that once you stop that diet, very likely in fact – something like 95% to 98% of people who lose weight will regain it.

We can talk a lot about different diets that are out there that are promoted, whether they're low carb or low fat. If you look at the scientific research – they all pretty much work, as long as you are watching the calories that you take in and balancing that with activity, most people will lose weight. There's no special remedy or mixture of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, as long as it's in a healthful range.

Sarah Petrowich studies cross platform editing and producing within journalism, as well as political science at the University of Missouri - Columbia.