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The Weigh to Eat Right

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  Diet changes can actually be more challenging than adding an exercise routine. (Changing your diet requires changing an old habit, rather than adding to existing activities.)

  The best way to establish a new diet is to focus on the long-term goal (weight loss, adding or toning muscle, etc.).

  Cutting calories is the first step for losing weight. The number of calories that somebody can eat per day varies based on factors like age, gender, family background and who one asks. We strongly suggest consulting with a professional trainer or nutritionist before making significant changes to your diet.

  However, there are general rules about changes that most people can safely make. Remove high-fat and highly processed foods. Adding protein (particularly lean protein, such as chicken, fish or plants) and vegetables can help to reduce hunger (and off-schedule eating).

  The diet for toning (but not adding) muscle is similar for weight loss, but with more emphasis on lean protein and requires exercise. (The specific exercises will be detailed in a future column.)

  Building muscle requires significant amounts of protein before and after a workout. Adding calories obligates a disciplined workout routine. If the calories (even the right sort of calories) are not used to recover/build muscle, those calories will become fat.

  It is also important to read and understand the labels on food. In addition to the total number of calories per serving, consider the breakdown of calories (from fat, protein, carbohydrates). Words like “organic” or “fresh” are less significant than labels often imply. “Organic” means that the food includes basic carbon (the most common element known to exist). Similarly, fresh means that the product was never frozen. (In some cases, the adjectives only apply to specific ingredients, rather than the product as a whole.)

  Finally, avoid eating after dinner, particularly less than two to three hours before going to sleep.

  Improving diet and nutrition requires long-term focus and attention to the details of what you are eating and how you exercise. (There is no shortcut.)

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