How to Lose Weight, Keep it off
With swimsuit season being in full
swing, many Americans are once again
desperately seeking that quick fix to melt away
extra pounds. Diet pills, fad diets and exercise
gimmicks may resonate well with many consumers,
but are certain to disappoint and disillusion them in
the long run.The truth is to lose weight successfully,
and keep it off, takes time and balancing caloric
intake with exercise.
"With diet, the problem is that people who try to lose weight,
lose a bit of weight in the short run, but in the long run the
weight comes back," says Natalie Digate Muth, a registered dietician and medical student at the University of North Carolina in
Chapel Hill, N.C., "People on diets tend to gain (lost) weight back, or gain even more weight once they go back to their old eating
So, what's a consumer to do?
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S.
Department of Agriculture offer science-based advice that makes it easier for consumers to better their health while lowering the
risk of obesity and chronic disease.
The key to success is to watch daily caloric intake while eating healthier and being physically active. The safest and most
effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to burn more calories than one consumes.
Granted, for many people, that's easier said than done.
But it doesn't have to be daunting. Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week is
enough to reduce the chronic disease risk in adulthood while promising pay-offs of feeling better and having more energy.
Small changes in eating habits can also make a big difference. Consider this: One pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories. If a
person cuts 500 calories a day (one big piece of apple pie or a 3.5-ounce bag of potato chips) for seven days while exercising, he or
she can shed one pound a week. Experts consider a weight loss of one pound to two pounds a week safe for most healthy people.
The first step to eating better is to learn how much food and what types of food to consume and buy. The recommended amounts
of macronutrients, fat, carbohydrate and proteins from total daily calories consumed for average adults are as follows: 20 to 35
percent from fat; 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrate, and 10 to 35 percent from protein.
The best way to learn about these percentages is to check the nutrition facts provided on food labels. Using percentage of Daily
Values (DV), which are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, helps consumers evaluate how a particular food fits into a daily meal plan.
For instance, if a food item has 30 percent of total fats, it would be considered high in fat. Also, not all fats are created equal: The
experts recommend consuming polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat from such food sources as fish, nuts and vegetable oils
instead of saturated fat, (butter), which has been shown to raise total blood cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated fat (margarine or spreads made from healthy oils, such as soybean, canola and sunflower), can also to reduce
the risk of heart disease.
The elimination of trans fat, which are naturally present in meat and dairy products, in foods made by popular fast food chains
and bakeries, is no accident: A popular additive to cookies, pastries and fried foods for taste and freshness, trans fat is known to
raise the risk of heart disease. However, consumers who believe that "all" low-fat or reduced-fat products are good for you, may be
disappointed to learn that they are often loaded with sugar, which adds calories, and provide little or no nutritional value.
Checking the food label for the amount of sugar can offer some quick clues. But added sugar, especially simple sugars, and fat
aren't the only potential health risk factors.
Protein and Carbohydrate
Most Americans, who are not athletes, also are known to consume more protein in their daily diet than necessary. A good way to
ensure an adequate supply of all proteins is to combine legumes and grains. Many people also exceed the recommended
carbohydrate intake (adequate intake for adults is approximately 130g/day). Endurance-trained athletes or intensely trained
athletes far exceed that recommendation.
Increasing the amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk in a daily diet has shown to be a key to
healthier living for most Americans.
Here are the government recommendations of daily intake: Three ounces of grains; half of which should be whole grains. One
slice of whole-wheat bread equals one ounce, so by eating three slices a person already meets the daily requirement ; ½ cup of
brown rice, 5 whole-wheat crackers or ½ cup of oatmeal are all considered a one-ounce serving.
Some easy tips: Buy baked tortilla chips or whole-grain chips instead of fried chips; 100 percent whole-wheat bread instead of
white bread; and brown rice instead of white rice.
Veggies, such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes are all healthy. The experts recommend eating 2.5 cups
(4 servings) a day, which could be two cups of raw, leafy greens. But adding chopped veggies to pasta sauce, eating veggies as
snacks, or shredding carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles and bread are all ways to eat the foods you love, and get your
Similarly, when it comes to fruit, four servings (or two cups) are sufficient to meet your daily needs. One banana and a mango
cover that need. Don't like that idea? How about eating a fruit salad or baked apples and pears for dessert? It's still considered
Mixing dairy products with fruit into a dip or smoothie is another way to cover your basis for healthy living. The USDA
recommends three cups of milk and milk products daily. Use fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water to prepare oatmeal and hot
In addition, the department recommends limiting sodium, which raises the risk for high blood pressure, and eating more fiber,
vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Finally, reducing or eliminating simple sugars such as fruit juice and table sugar from your
daily diet can also pave the way to a slimmer waistline faster.
For more information on daily recommended foods and individualized plans, visit www.mypyramid.gov on the Internet.
Cutting Out Extra Calories
Granted, most people have a tough time turning their bad eating habits around. To cut a few extra calories however, doesn't
have to be difficult. Digate Muth offers the following tips.
"Drinks are a great place to start to cut calories," she says. "As a general rule of thumb, if the drink doesn't provide a lot of
nutrition (like milk) it is empty calories."
Cutting back or cutting out such added foods as mayonnaise, butter, sauces, and high-caloric salad dressings is a simple trick to
cut extra calories.
Most people have a tough time omitting desserts altogether, so skipping it on some days and then eating only half is the way to go.
"That way you can still enjoy a sweet snack, but lose the weight," she says. "Be wary of completely eliminating desserts if you
know you might have a tendency to binge later if you feel deprived," she says.
Finally, getting in touch with one's body and listening to hunger cues is best to make a lasting change in dietary habits.
"Eat when you're hungry, stop before you're full, and keep in mind that it takes 20 minutes to feel full. Try to avoid eating for
comfort, stress-relief, out of boredom, or only because everyone else is eating," she says.
She also stresses that every meal should contain whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps a person feel full and the
nutrients keep the body healthy. Lean proteins are important for a balanced meal.
Well, perhaps this idea for a daily breakfast, lunch and dinner menu can demonstrate that healthy eating can be tasty and
Breakfast could mean two whole grain pancakes topped with strawberries and a teaspoon of honey with a glass of milk and an
orange. Lunch could be a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread loaded with mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and a bowl of fruit, a
glass of iced tea, and carrot sticks. A grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli, brown rice and a side salad and a glass of water
with lime followed by a sorbet or fruit for dessert, and you're on your way to healthier living.
But eating healthy alone is not enough.
Importance of Regular Exercise
To truly achieve a healthier and active lifestyle takes a lifetime commitment.
Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week is an important step to healthier
living. However, the USDA reports that to sustain weight loss in adulthood, individuals should accumulate 60 to 90 minutes of
daily moderate-intensity physical activity while watching their caloric intake. While this may sound like a big time
commitment, it may just save your life. Exercisers can attest to the many benefits associated with being physically active: Lower
stress and anxiety levels, more energy, improved muscle strength and endurance, enhanced flexibility, increased aerobic fitness,
and improved overall health and well-being. The good news it's never too late to start an exercise program. However, people with
certain health conditions, should first consult their physician. Experts have found that people who engage in activities they truly
enjoy have the highest chances for long-term adherence and success. Cycling, running, swimming, participating in a game of
pick-up basketball or playing volleyball are all examples of moderate exercise.
Even normal daily activities, such as washing or waxing your car, cleaning your house, or doing yard work are acceptable forms
of physical activity. The difference between physical activity and exercise is that the former is defined as basic movement while
the latter is planned, structured movement and intended to maintain or improve physical fitness. Hiring a personal trainer is a
great way to get started, stay motivated and adhere to an exercise program.
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