Fit Mom, Fit Kids: Slimmer You, Healthier Family (cont.)

Remember this: out of the three macronutrients -- proteins, carbohydrates and fats -- the only macronutrient that repairs and develops muscle tissue is protein. Carbohydrates and fats are merely vehicles and energy sources for the body. It's protein that enables all of the soft tissue in your body to grow.

In particular, when muscle grows -- and I'm talking about tone, lean, sexy muscles on men and women -- your body requires more calories just to sustain its weight. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even sitting in front of your computer terminal.

I always instruct my personal training clients to ask themselves the question, "Where is my protein coming from?" every time they sit down to eat. Once we put the protein in the center of our plates and our meals, provided it's lean protein and not laden with saturated fat, you're already off to a great start in making good food choices.

Some examples of the protein I mean include:

  • Low-fat dairy
  • Boneless and skinless chicken
  • Fish
  • Lean red meats
  • Beans
  • Even protein supplements

These will also improve your energy because your muscles are repairing and you're feeling stronger. This is important whether you're going to work in an office, running errands around town and/or doing chores around the house.

One final note about protein: when you ingest it your body goes into what we call a thermogenic effect, which is the actual heating up of your body by raising your metabolism. And for every 100 calories that come from protein, it takes 25% of those calories just to digest the protein itself, which means you're at a net of 75 calories, and that's a good thing.

MODERATOR: On to carbs and fiber.

SENA: Principle No. 4: The most misunderstood thing about carbohydrates is what makes one good and another bad.

Bad carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, to name a few, are those we recognize as simple sugars. Simple sugars are found in candy, soda, pastries, and a whole slew of other products that show a high amount of sugar on the label.

The good carbohydrates are ones that contain fiber, such as:

  • Brown grains, like brown rice
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Dark grain breads
  • Sweet potatoes

These carbohydrates are known as complex because the fiber that's contained within them slows the absorption of their sugar into your bloodstream, which in essence allows your pancreas to increase insulin in small dosages. That's good.

When you eat a carbohydrate that contains no fiber, like soda or a candy bar, your blood sugar levels go through the roof, your pancreas releases way too much insulin to cap off that sugar rise, and in essence slams it down to the floor and that's when you become tired, stressed, overweight and susceptible to disease.

So everyone out there participating today, hear these words very strongly: Carbohydrates are good and should never be misinterpreted for being omitted from our nutritional plans, but always choose the right carbohydrates for health and weight management.

MEMBER QUESTION: Is it really necessary to count carbs, as seems to be the trend in dieting right now?

SENA: Great question. Please read my lips: never, ever, ever diet!

Dieting or the word diet, in my book, comes from the root word of deprivation. The minute you deprive your body of one of the macronutrients you're setting yourself up for failure 100% of the time.

Don't get me wrong, you can overeat "good food" like complex carbohydrates and protein. However, the low-fat, no-fat, no-carb, low-carb crazes, are just that: crazy.

I'm often very disappointed at my peers who come out with "diet books" which are misleading the people of this country into believing that suddenly changing your eating habits drastically will equal sustained weight loss. There's just one problem there. No one has told the brain that this is the way it works, because our brains control our satiety levels, and when you deprive your body of a much needed nutrient, your brain will never reach satiety and therefore you will always want more.

So please, do your body justice and eat balanced meals all the time, be active, and you will never have a weight problem again.

MODERATOR: What are the "right fats"?

SENA: Principle No. 5: choose the right fats. We know saturated and trans fats are the bad fats which are directly linked to obesity, diabetes, and certain cancers, not to mention how toxic they can make your entire system. The right fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. We find them in foods such as:

  • Canola oil
  • Nuts
  • Avocadoes
  • Sunflower oil and seeds
  • Olive oil

We want to eat as many of those as possible because overall, we know that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower our triglyceride levels, our cholesterol, and improve our blood sugar, which again, stabilizes our hunger.

MODERATOR: While popular diet books have focused on carbs, proteins and fats, they seem to have ignored Principle No. 6: calories still count.

SENA: What we don't recommend in my book is for you to count calories. No one has the time in the day to do such a thing. And in fact, my explanation of this principle is covered on one single page.

We want you just to be aware of the foods you're eating and understand that when you're eating the right balance of nutrients with the right portion sizes, coupled with activity, you will not have to count calories. This is what we want people to know.

Additionally, since 90% of a dollar is spent on processed foods in this country every day, we want people to be aware that when labels say "no fat, no carbs" they still contain calories -- empty calories -- loaded in those products. So you don't have to count calories, just be aware of eating the right foods.

MEMBER QUESTION: What is the general amount of calories for a stay-at-home mom who is semi-active?

SENA: Unfortunately, it's impossible for me to answer that question without knowing your body weight, and exactly how active you are. Everyone is different and everyone has a different percentage of muscle to body fat.