Advice From the Nutrition Coach
Georgia Kostas has helped more than 50,000 patients use diets for disease recovery, prevention and weight control. She was also a consultant to the 1996 U.S. Olympic team.
I look at myself as a nutrition coach," says Georgia Kostas. "My goal is to have people leave my office and say, 'This is easy. I can do it.'"
She's the founder of one of the most high-profile nutrition programs in the country, at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, but Georgia Kostas takes a soft line on chocolate, steak dinners and ice cream.
In fact, Ms. Kostas celebrates the food no-nos shunned by the diet-obsessed -- up to a point. And the point is this: The only way to eat sensibly for life is to make sure you don't feel deprived of your favorite goodies. And that, she'll cheerfully inform you, means allowing yourself the occasional piece of cherry cheesecake or the infrequent plate of fettuccini alfredo.
The trick is to dilute the high-fat, high-calorie foods with lots of fruits, vegetables, grains and low-fat foods. Toss in a consistent, but low-intensity exercise schedule and you've got the formula.
"In my life, I've always had that moderation. For exercise, I've walked with friends or gone to aerobics classes for the fun of it," she says. "I've always mixed in plenty of fat-free foods, never cutting out chocolate and ice cream. Only now is the American public learning that that style is the way to go."
She started at the Cooper Center in 1979. Those were the days when most nutritionists were women planning cafeteria lunch menus. Now her colleagues are increasingly male and their influence can be seen from the salad bars at fast-food restaurants to the locker rooms of the NFL.
Thoughts, tips and some surprising facts about diet and exercise from Georgia Kostas:
People think that fat-free eating is calorie-free eating. Not so. Many people make the mistake of increasing their overall calories when they cut back on fat-laden foods. "I can't tell you how many people eat a large, fat-free frozen yogurt every day, and then they can't understand why they're not losing weight. Well, that's 500 extra calories a day, or about a pound a week."
If you cut your normal food intake by more than 1,000 calories a day, your body will go into a starvation mode, ratcheting down your metabolism to conserve energy. You're also more likely to binge later. You'll actually lose weight faster by reducing calories moderately.
No gain in pain
The idea that exercise has to be laborious drudgery is flat wrong. Even small changes in a couch potato lifestyle -- like taking the stairs or spending extra time in the garden -- have a positive effect on health. And regular aerobic exercise like walking 30 minutes three to four times a week can lead to fitness. "If people push themselves too much, they get so burned out they don't stick with it over the long haul."
What athletes have taught us
Their exercise tends to regulate their appetite. They may not always eat the right things, but athletes seem to know how much to eat to maintain their weight. "When you exercise regularly, your appetite mechanism seems to work automatically. If you're sedentary, it gets thrown off."
Sugar is sugar
Your body processes nearly all carbohydrates you eat, including white sugar and more complex, natural sugars like honey, syrup and molasses, into the same thing, glucose--which is a form the body's cells can use for energy.
"I was in the health food store the other day trying to buy some cereal for a diabetic friend. All the labels said 'sugar-free,' but they were all full of honey and molasses. You have to read the labels."
The big lie about starch
The myth that "starches" -- complex carbohydrates like pasta, bread, potatoes -- are diet killers has hung on despite the best efforts of nutrition evangelists. "I have patients who will eat the big roll of meat on a sandwich but refuse to eat the bread. They think they are cutting calories. It's just the opposite. Most of us eat too much protein, which is usually also high in fat and cholesterol."