According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) 1 in 3 adults (over the age of 20) in the US are considered obese. They rate people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30+ as obese. This can occur in a person who is only 10-15% overweight. And, obesity has been linked to hypertension (high blood pressure), type II diabetes and even some forms of cancer.
Knowing these facts makes it very important to focus on controlling our weight. But, with estimates of 74% of US men and 69% of US women overweight, it’s clear that being overweight has become an epidemic. That epidemic has grown significantly in the last decade and now is affecting a majority of children as well.
An effective weight loss program includes a combination of healthy eating and increased physical activity. For many obese people, this may be a complete change of lifestyle. A sedentary existence can be directly linked to obesity. The NIDDK found that many factors can lead to obesity including genes, eating habits, how and where people live, attitudes and emotions, life habits, and income. Dietary changes in obese people may come very slowly.
Healthy eating starts with food choices. A daily intake of 2,000 calories from pizza, fast food, etc. can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health. Compare that to 2,000 calories from fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat all prepared in a healthy manner which would be a factor in losing and controlling weight. Defining “prepared in a healthy manner” means items are baked, grilled, broiled and with many vegetables, eaten raw. Condiments such as salad dressing and ketchup might negate healthy preparation with added sugar and fat and should be avoided or consumed sparingly.
Food choices should include fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits (some are lower calorie and lower in sugars than others) and lean cuts of poultry and fish. Red meat can be an element of a healthy meal plan if the meat is a leaner cut and is an occasional part of the meal plan. Of course, foods dense with sugars and fats should be avoided in order to obtain fat loss and support weight control.
Vegetables provide nutrients and fiber that can’t be found in other foods. In addition, some vegetables such as beans are also a good source of protein. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends simply to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” Daily recommendations are 2-3 cups of vegetables. The USDA goes on to specify:
• Dark Green
• Beans/Peas and
• Starchy Vegetable groups
all of which should be part of a daily healthy meal plan.
Fruit choices are simpler. Berries and seasonal fruits such as peaches, apples and melons are considered your best choice. Sweeter fruits such as oranges, tangerines, mangoes and ripe bananas should be consumed in more limited quantities. Those fruits are higher in sugars and pack more calories. For example, the more ripe a banana gets, the more sugars it contains.
Increased physical activity is key to losing weight. For someone who is sedentary such as someone with a job that keeps them confined to a desk and, after work they sit in front of the TV, that increase might mean starting out with a 30-minute walk every day. For people who are on their feet throughout day, they could increase their activity by adding resistance (weight) training. Adding enough activity to burn an extra 500 calories per day can mean a one-pound loss per week. Combine that with a carefully executed meal plan and you might experience another one-pound loss per week. That’s a significant accomplishment and, those results can be long-lasting. For any increase in activity, the introduction of new activities should be done slowly.
For the typical adult, recommendations are to have weight training sessions 2-3 days per week, vigorous cardiovascular training 2-3 days per week. According to the OPT model from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), weight training should consist of two different exercises on each of the major muscle groups including:
• Chest and
Additionally, there should be three “core” exercises. Of course all exercise should be predicated with thorough stretching of shoulders, back, quadriceps, hamstrings and claves. This can prevent an injury as thorough stretching is a form of a warm-up.
Adherence to a healthy eating plan and frequent exercise is recognized by health and fitness professionals worldwide as the way to reduce fat and maintain healthy body weight. Additionally, you’ll reduce the risk of some diseases, be more physically able to perform tasks and have the endurance to go for that hike, or some other more demanding activity which requires you to be more fit.
Getting started is simple. Set a start date and determine your goal (i.e., 20 pounds lost by XX-XX date). Then, clean out your kitchen of tempting items that won’t help you get there. If they are unopened packages, consider donating those items to a local food bank. Go shopping along the perimeter of your grocery store where everything (produce, dairy, meats) are all fresh and not processed foods. These should be what you use to stock your kitchen.
Now, begin your exercise program. Increase your vigorous activity by 20-30 minutes the first week or two. As you begin to feel that these workouts are less of a challenge, add time per workouts and/or change the type of exercise to continue to challenge your body.
Don’t forget to start with beginning measurements and weight. Chart your workouts on a calendar and take new measurements weekly to track your progress. Remember a 1-2 pound weight loss is ideal. During the first couple of weeks of your new lifestyle you may experience greater weight loss but, that level is not sustainable over time. Expect 1-2 pounds on average over the journey to your goals.