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Eating for Long-Term Health, Not Just Weight

By Emily Ng

fuel stationAt the start of the new year, many Americans begin to reflect on the past year — the goals we set and whether or not we achieved them.  We also begin to project new goals for the new year, although many times some of the goals are not so “new.”  According to a study completed by the American Dietetic Association on nutrition trends in 2011, 38 percent of Americans surveyed know that a healthy diet and regular exercise are important, but don’t do all they can to eat a healthy diet. On top of that, those with young children are “less apt to say they are doing all they can.”

For a large number of Americans, weight loss is among the top priorities for the new year.  Most people are familiar with the latest trends on rising obesity rates in America, so I’d say weight loss is a good and necessary goal. Remember, that after we complete a workout session, the scale may tip to make you think you weigh more than before you worked out.  Often the numbers on the scale can be skewed, because of our body’s hydration levels, increasing lean body mass, and various other factors. Those numbers can be discouraging if they often don’t do what we want them to (decrease), and sometimes we might just be more prone to give up and lose willpower in our weight loss efforts because of that.

Body image and weight are important because they affect our self-esteem and confidence to a certain degree. However, they cannot be the sole focus and largest propeller of our weight-loss efforts and healthy eating habits. There will always be that one friend that eats fast food every day, never exercises, and somehow stays suspiciously thin.  But is that something really to be envious of?

When I was completing my dietetic rotations (to become an RD) in a Central Austin hospital, I was exposed to the bigger picture of health and wellness and the long-term effects that certain lifestyles can lead to.  If the only thing we hone in on is how many pounds we have lost in a week or if we can fit into our “skinny” jeans, then we have lost sight of health.

Health is about filling your body with the most premium grade of fuel possible — the whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean and varied protein and low-fat dairy. Health is about staving off cancers, heart disease and kidney problems, as well as keeping up bone and joint health, cardiovascular health, and reproductive health, just to name a few.  Eating for health is about making wise choices to keep oneself in the best condition possible to live a most abundant and joyous life.

My point in writing this article was not to bring forth some unknown truth, but to empower you to rethink the heart of your healthy living motivation for 2012. May you have a happy, healthy and radiant New Year!

What does eating for overall health mean to you? Head over to the USA Triathlon Forums to share your best practices for a well-balanced nutrition plan.

Emily Ng, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and recent graduate of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently pursuing a career in sports dietetics and weight loss counseling. Emily enjoys running and playing volleyball, soccer, and flag football in her spare time. You can email Emily at

This article originally appeared on, founded by Olympic gold medalist Garrett Weber-Gale and his family, who believe that good taste and healthy food really can go together.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.