Is It 'Worth it' To Eat Healthy?
Please forgive my very, very stupid question. I'm a reasonably fit, middle aged guy. I've followed various diets and I've ranged from 'chubby' to 'rippling abs'; largely as a direct result of what I eat.
Through all of my dietary changes though, I've never 'felt' better. The only changes I've been able to see or feel is having more or less bodyfat and more or less strength when lifting weights.
When I Google the benefits of nutrition I typically see things like:
Heart health (risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol)
Type 2 diabetes
Strong bones and teeth
And then, yes, if you include random people's blogs then the right organic vegetable will cure cancer. But I'm ignoring that. Of the things that the medical community seem to agree on....I'm left wondering if it's worth my time?
Weight (which affects type 2 diabetes, heart health and weight control) can be objectively measured and maintained regardless of your diet. Blood pressure and cholesterol can be objectively measured. If I'm already at a healthy weight level, have good blood pressure and great cholesterol levels....is there any objective benefit I can expect from swapping out my diet?
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This is an excellent question!
First, weight and health are not the same thing. Studies show us that there are individuals who lead healthy lifestyles (by exercising and eating a balanced diet) that are "obese", yet are metabolically healthy with no overt health issues. I've also worked in hospitals and health centres where individuals at a "healthy" or "low" BMI are very, very ill as a result of their health behaviours.
Generally speaking, excessive weight can increase an individual's risk for disease, provided there is also an underlying genetic or environmental (in the case of cancer) risk. It would be somewhat unlikely for an individual to develop diabetes, for example, without there being a predisposition for the disease.
And it's helpful to remember that many people with "normal" blood lipids controlled through medication still have heart attacks; cholesterol is just one of the risk factors we see in cardiac disease.
Lastly, some health benefits can't be measured or seen until they become a problem, such as with cancer and dementia.
So, even though you may not feel the difference and everything is showing up as healthy in your bloodwork, maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is beneficial for longevity and keeping your risk of disease low.
Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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