The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1999-2002 survey) determined that approximately 65% of the U.S. adult population was either obese or overweight. This survey also indicated that an estimated 16% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 years are overweight. And, there is no doubt that obesity is on the rise in our country!
Why the upwards trend in obesity? As most of us are aware, Americans have fallen prey to high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie diets (common in fast food restaurants). We’re typically eating way-y-y more calories each day than we need for our lifestyles! (But, oh! Those ‘comfort’ foods sure taste good and temporarily soothe our psyches, don’t they?!)
Let’s face it, though! If we constantly consume more calories than we burn, most likely we’ll eventually put on some extra weight!
Ironically, Americans often go through spurts of trying one fad diet after another or starting an exercise regimen, only to get bored with it and quit after only a few weeks or so. We refer to a ‘fitness craze.’ Do we call it a ‘craze’ because we get so hyped up about it one minute, pour all our efforts into losing weight and getting into shape…yet, soon, throw our hands up in the air in defeat?
The U.S. has become a sedentary society…and, that’s a big contributor to the weight problems many of us have. When you combine the common American diet with sitting around endlessly on our derrieres, it’s no wonder that obesity is on the rise!
Unfortunately, Americans want a quick fix for everything that seems to be wrong in our lives. Being overweight is no exception. We want to find some miracle diet or supplement that will make those extra pounds magically fall off overnight! But, face it! That is NOT going to happen—at least, not anytime soon! So, for now, we must accept our own responsibility for doing what it takes to lose weight and get in shape!
Fad diets may help you initially drop some pounds in a short period of time. However, most of that is just water weight and is usually gained back (and, then some) just as quickly! If you’re serious about losing FAT and keeping it off, then you need to make some serious lifestyle changes!
I recommend a common sense approach to weight loss:
# Consult with your healthcare professional before beginning any exercise or weight loss program
# Set realistic goals
# Develop a healthy plan to help you achieve your goals (i.e. focus on eating a balanced, healthy diet and getting some sort of regular exercise)
# Get started and stick with it!
Note: if you fall behind on your workouts or blow your diet occasionally, do NOT get disheartened! Merely refocus and start over again the next day!
What should you eat? What kind of workouts should you do?
First of all, I encourage you to plan your diet based on the USDA’s Food Pyramid. The human body needs foods from every food group! I DO, however, suggest that you keep your intake of processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and saturated fats to a minimum.
Simple carbohydrates include sucrose, lactose, maltose, glucose, and fructose sugars. These are nutritionally lacking and full of ‘empty calories.’ If you wish to avoid carbohydrates, these are the carbohydrates to stay away from!
DO eat plenty of complex carbohydrates—those carbs found in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and cereals. These are good carbohydrates, and they provide nutrients that are essential for good health. Complex carbohydrates have been associated with a low incidence of lung, colon, esophagus, and stomach cancer. They may also decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes mellitus, diverticulosis, hypertension, and gallstones.
Despite what you may have heard about including fat in your diet, we actually NEED certain fats to keep our bodies functioning properly. Just remember that it is the saturated fats—fats that come primarily from animals (red meats, eggs, and dairy products), as well as from certain plants (such as coconut and palm oils)—that should be eaten in moderation.
Eating excessive amounts of saturated fats over a period of time has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer of the breast, prostate, and colon.
On the other hand, unsaturated fats are thought to be less likely associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are primarily vegetable derivatives. Included among these fats are peanut oil, canola oil, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats include some fats from vegetable sources, as well as fats derived from fish. Among polyunsaturated fats are safflower and corn oils. These provide Omega-6 fats. We get Omega-3 fats from fish sources.
Some fat in your diet is necessary for optimal health. Unsaturated fats are believed to protect the body against certain types of cancer, as well as heart disease. These fats may also aid in memory function, protect against other diseases, and help keep the metabolism functioning properly.
The point I’d like to stress is that you should never completely eliminate any food group from your diet! To do so could have dire consequences, such as the development of anemia or osteoporosis. Include foods in your daily diet from each food group, but keep an eye on those portion sizes! To lose weight, you need to cut back on calories.
In addition to eating properly, a regular exercise program can greatly help you shed those extra pounds and is essential to good overall fitness. Exercise improves your metabolism and increases the number of calories your body burns each day, which is necessary for weight loss. And, regular exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness, your flexibility, your endurance, and your balance.
The type of exercise you do is up to you. If you get the ‘go ahead’ from your doctor or nurse practitioner, you should begin slowly and work up to a minimum of 20-minute cardiovascular workouts, three times per week. Strength training and flexibility exercises are important, too. Try out different exercises to find those you enjoy the most. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll more likely continue doing it on a regular basis.