Want to look and feel your best? Follow a plan of good eating habits, skin care treatment and exercise, and your whole body will thank you.

First, eat right

That’s nothing new, really. We all know about the basic food pyramid — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat/protein and dairy products. But does the new pyramid really work to promote a healthy, vibrant appearance?

Local and regional nutritionists and skin care experts agree. It works when followed correctly, but it’s as much about how you eat as it is about what you eat:

Eat intuitively.

Share large portions in restaurants.

Stop eating when you’re full; you don’t have to clean your plate.

Take home leftovers for another meal.

Start off each day eating well.

We’ve heard the most important meal of the day is breakfast. True, according to registered dietitian Lori Jones of Austin. She says, “Breakfast is what gets you going, both physically and mentally.” Jones recommends a balanced portion of protein and carbs (like macaroni and cheese for a change, or peanut butter on an apple) to spark mental alertness and focus. “Breakfast is especially critical for good concentration in kids and adults. It sharpens them up to be ready for the day,” she explains.

Jones also says most families just don’t take time to sit down and eat a properly balanced meal. Instead we opt for fast food or “dashboard dining,” the trend known today. “We’re all running around, overextending at work, rushing kids to activities, sports, music, etc. There’s no time to sit down for a good balanced meal,” she says.

Jones also recommends following the Food Guide Pyramid, a great tool for leading a healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition plays a key role in every stage of growth and development. What you eat affects your physical appearance, personality, health, self-confidence and emotional and cognitive state of mind. The bottom line is eating healthy will make you a more happy and healthy individual, and it will show in your appearance.

Variety, balance and moderation

Variety means eating different foods from the five major food groups of the Food Guide Pyramid. Variety is also about eating different foods within each food group. For example, when we hear mom say, “Eat your broccoli,” it’s because it’s full of important nutrients and phytochemicals. To help protect against some forms of cancer, tomato products offer lycopene. And for good eye health, carrots offer important doses of alpha- and beta-carotene. Pumpkin, butternut squash, mango, apricots and cantaloupe also add to alpha- and beta-carotene intake.

Get out of the eating rut by making a conscious decision to try different foods. There’s such a variety of fruits and vegetables this season — why not try something new every week?

Balance really has to do with mixing and matching types of food to make sure we get enough of the right nutrients, and not too much of the ones we tend to overdo. By using a balanced eating plan, we get just the right amount of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, water and fat that our bodies need.

The hardest component of all, though, is moderation. When we’re constantly confronted with the questions “Would you like to super-size that?” or “Would you like the combo meal?” eating a reasonable amount of food can be challenging. One of the keys to moderation is recognizing the body’s hunger and fullness cues.

Think about how you feel when you’re hungry. When your tummy “growls,” feed it. Then during the meal or snack, ask yourself if the food still tastes good. Do I want more? Am I still hungry? If the answer is yes, keep eating. But when the answer is no, stop. Your body knows how much and what kinds of foods it needs. All you have to do is pay attention. That’s easier said than done, until you’ve had some practice. Learn your hunger and fullness cues, unique to you.

A word about dieting

Fad diets really don’t work. Sure, you can lose weight by following trend diets, but your body must have a balanced intake of the basic food groups in order to truly function properly. People trying to shed excess weight on high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets could be losing more than pounds, according to Jones. On high-protein diets, people consume too few carbohydrates, which can make them sluggish and irritable, she says.

“When people lose weight on high-protein diets, weight loss comes from muscle loss rather than fat loss,” she says. “Losing muscle makes you feel tired and appear less toned and fit.”

Carbohydrates provide energy for the muscle system. “Without enough carbohydrates, the body reverts to breaking down protein for its energy source,” Jones explains. “Protein is used to repair muscle. If the body is using protein as an energy source, it can’t build muscle. While high-protein diets are effective in taking off pounds, weight loss is the result of cutting calories, not food choices. Quick weight loss from restrictive diets leads to rapid weight regain.”

Replace diets with good health habits

Dieting is often harmful and counterproductive to good health. Statistics show that only 5 to 10 percent of those who diet and are able to lose weight are able to maintain the loss for more than a short time. Most dieters quickly regain the lost pounds —plus a few extra, and end up heavier than they started.

Diets promote unhealthy eating habits, often by eliminating nutritious foods. If you ignore signs of hunger, eventually you won’t recognize normal physiological processes, and your body will be confused.

Resolve to make a positive change for good health. Focus on taking one step at a time, as changing behavior and attitudes doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of dieting, adopt normal eating patterns. Normal eating means regular meals and one or two snacks a day to satisfy physical hunger. All foods can be part of healthy eating, in moderation.

Be physically active. Benefits include lower blood cholesterol, lipids, blood pressure and stress. Find enjoyable activities that fit into daily routines, such as walking, dancing, bowling, gardening or playing with the kids.

Get more sleep. Most of us get seven or fewer hours of sleep rather than the eight hours a night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. This may seem like just a small deficit, but effects are cumulative. Chronic sleep deprivation contributes to stress and tension and accidents at home or work and can cause difficulty in coping with life’s everyday annoyances.

Interested in learning more? Consider reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and Women Afraid to Eat by Frances M. Berg. The Web site www.MyPyramid.gov also lets you plan daily meals and snacks for you and your family.

Good skin care makes it all worthwhile

Even when we eat right, stress likely plays a role in our busy lives, showing up on our bodies. Skin care experts from across the city recommend a variety of facials, body wraps and massages as great stress-relievers. This beauty regimen, coupled with good nutrition, truly makes the difference in appearance.

Once you start taking note of what you eat and drink, you can enhance how you look even more when you bring good skin care habits into your daily routine.

No. 1 on skin care experts’ list of must-do recommendations is to drink lots of water. Everyone needs at least eight glasses of water a day to replenish the skin and prevent dehydration. It also helps remove damaging toxins from within the body and helps clear pores. Our skin is the human body’s largest organ, and it requires water for mere survival.

Local dermatologist Dr. Kimberly Finder says it’s never too late to begin practicing good nutrition and skin care habits. “I’m a big proponent of preventive care. Good nutrition, not dieting, helps you manage weight in a healthier, energy-inspired way,” she says. Identify eating patterns and foods that work best for you, and make them your way of life. Seek advice from nutritionists or your family doctor to help redirect eating behavior. “Eat well, be active, and take good care of your body,” recommends Finder.

Some women may turn to liposuction treatment for weight reduction. Dr. Finder explains, “Liposuction is not a treatment to remove fat or pounds. It is, rather, a surgical procedure intended to adjust genetically predisposed fat proportions to a balance.”Finder first counsels patients on taking an overall wellness approach from within. Changing eating habits for a good balance, adding daily activity/exercise, and a variety of skin care treatments all contribute to reducing stress and ultimately improving appearance.

Skin care experts from Smooth Lines Salon and Spa and Jeanette’s Spa agree: Care for your body and not only will you feel better, but you’ll look better too. Elisa Garcia, Smooth Lines Salon and Spa skin care specialist, recommends seaweed or mineral facials and soothing body wraps to release damaging toxins from within the body, and encourage relaxation. Anissa Minica, skin care aesthetician of Jeanette’s Salon and Spa, also supports a regimen of facials coupled with massage therapy to help alleviate stress.

Smooth Lines Salon and Spa is located in the Strand at 11255 Huebner Rd., (210) 690-2244; Jeanette’s Salon and Spa is located at 104 Gallery Circle at Stone Oak, (210) 545-3645. Dr. Kimberly Finder is in private practice at The Liposurgery Clinic, 14855 Blanco Rd., (210) 492-3200.

Author: Nancy Chavana