To-dos From a Dietitian

Alison Eastwood, RD is a Nutritionist in San Francisco who has worked with researcher Dean Ornish, MD

Get out the measuring tape.
Many of us have been programmed to worship a number on the bathroom scale, but waist circumference is more important than weight, says Eastwood. A large waist can increase your risk of insulin resistance, the body’s inability to process sugars, which raises your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Women should have no more than a 35-inch waist, and men should measure 40 inches or less. If your waist circumference is more than that, the advice is simple, says Eastwood: “Cut down on food intake, exercise more—or even better, do a combination of the two.”

Stop late-night noshing.
Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, put an end to any post-dinner munching. Eating too much late at night can wreak havoc on your digestive system, disrupt the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle, called the circadian rhythm, and create a vicious cycle that’s hard to break: If you eat late at night, you’re less likely to wake up hungry, more likely to skip breakfast as a result, overeat at lunchtime because you’re starving, eat next to nothing at dinner because you’re still too full from lunch, and then get hungry and eat just before bedtime. When you wake up, the cycle starts again—and it can affect your quality of sleep. To avoid this pattern, Eastwood recommends setting a clear boundary about not eating mindlessly after dinner. If you must have something, drink some herbal tea or have a piece of fruit.

Get a dose of D.
According to research, most Americans lack sufficient vitamin D, and that’s a problem. “Not getting enough D is linked with chronic diseases such as cancer,” says Eastwood. The body creates vitamin D from sunlight. But since few of us live near the equator or spend much time in the sun—at least without lots of sunscreen or protective clothing—we don’t get enough of this crucial vitamin. Eastwood recommends supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily.

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