Americans should change their eating habits before dieting

Gabriella Pinos/ Staff Writer

America is self-conscious about its weight, and for good reason.

Between 2015 and 2016, 93 million Americans were affected by obesity, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

While its prevalence is alarming, obesity’s side effects can be deadly, ranging from type two diabetes to cancer, stroke and heart disease.

So, it’s no wonder that diet plans like Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, paleo and many others are advertised every time we plop down on the couch for some TV. There’s something about the “I lost 60 pounds in four months” tagline that makes dieting seem reasonable, especially when we look at our scale.

Determining whether dieting programs are effective, or even if they make us lose weight, is a different story. In reality, it’s not so much about eating less, but more about eating smarter.

In 2013, Americans ate about 3,682 calories worth of food per day, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. When looking at the breakdown of the data, almost 110 grams of protein were eaten daily that year compared to almost 162 grams of fat.

Most American also consume more than the daily recommended amount of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium, according to’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Not surprisingly, three-fourths of us eat low amounts of fruits, vegetables, oils and dairy, leaving us with unhealthy and potentially debilitating eating habits.

Clearly, we don’t need to just reduce our portion sizes or join the hottest diet fad. What we need is an departure from the awful eating habits that drive our appetites.

This is where dieting normally fails us: we’re so accustomed to the unhealthy meals we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that cutting them off from our lifestyle is close to impossible.

In fact, quitting some food items like sugar can lead to withdrawals akin to those of drugs and alcohol, according to U.S. News.

So rather than spend your money on a miracle weight loss program, look at the foods you put in your shopping cart in the first place. Pay attention to the amount of sugar, sodium and fat a product has rather than just calorie count on your next trip to the grocery. Read the serving size at the top of the nutrition fact box and follow it. See if the product you’re buying has any vitamins, minerals or fiber that can give your body an extra health boost.

Like all habits, the hardest part is getting used to the new, less tantalizing food choices on the dinner table. Eating salmon and quinoa instead of Chipotle doesn’t sound appealing, nor is it easy to chew through your first night.

Getting accustomed to less sugar can be even worse. Not only is it highly addictive, but it’s found in foods you’ll find in the supermarket, sometimes disguised as high fructose corn syrup, other times blatantly as “sugar.”

Believe me, though, once you start resisting the urge to eat sugary snacks every day, even the slightest sip of Mountain Dew will make you sick to your stomach.

All this isn’t to say that dieting is obsolete or that it doesn’t encourage its users to lose weight. But diets, especially fads, are akin to putting a Band-Aid on a deep wound America has kept poking at for far too long. We’ve been accustomed to the quick, flavorful marvel that is fast food, but not enough to realize that what we eat may be harming us from the inside. 

The only way to stop that is not just to set aside the junk food for a few months, but to slowly throw them out of our pantries, and our lives, altogether.

Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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