Weight Management is Calorie Management



Simply put, weight management is all about burning more calories than you store, or increasing physical activity while decreasing the number of calories eaten.

By now most people realize that fad diets and get-thin quick schemes don't last. Weight management is all about exercise and wise food choices.

It took most of us years to get to the healthy or unhealthy state we are at today, and we need to understand to become the healthy, fit person we want to be in will not happen in an instant. Only long-term change can do that.

When exercise becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth and when thinking about what's on your plate becomes as automatic as looking both ways to cross the street, you will be well on your way to a lasting healthy change.

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Eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is one of the best methods for weight management and also one of the best ways to prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Statistics show that only about 30% of adults meet that goal, with the percentage lower in children, even though the immediate health benefits of having more energy, looking and feeling better and losing weight can be experienced by eating your fruit and vegetables.

A serving is any of the following:

  • A half cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables. (A cup-sized serving is about the size of your fist)
  • A medium sized piece of fruit, like an apple or an orange.
  • A half cup of canned or frozen fruit.
  • A quarter cup of dried fruit, like raisins.
  • A three-quarter cup of juice, or six ounces.

Body image can be very important to some people in today's society putting an extreme pressure on some to meet weight and size limits put on them through peer pressure.

The lack of good long term weight management can lead to other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, and adult or child obesity.

Following these healthy eating guidelines will help with your weight management:

  • Add fruit and vegetables to every meal. Add raisins, bananas, or strawberries to your cereal or eat cantaloupe for breakfast. Drink real fruit juice such as orange juice, grape juice, apple juice or a vegetable blend like V8. Try to eat one vegetable for lunch and two at dinner. Don't forget; you can consume vegetables in soups, mixed dishes and salads.
  • Snack on fruit and vegetables. The options are limitless. Apples, pears, grapes and cherries are easy to haul around. Celery and carrots are classic snacks.
  • Make small additions to your diet> If you make a burrito, add a few more onions and tomatoes. If you have a cup of soup, toss in 1/2 cup of frozen peas. Even if you're having ice cream, put strawberries on top. Pizza is a perfect place for broccoli, mushrooms and more. Also try adding vegetables to spaghetti sauce.
  • Use (almost) any form of fruits and vegetables. Canned, frozen, dried or fresh - they all count except for things like fruit jelly, fruit-flavored beverages that aren't 100% fruit juice, fruit-containing cookies, banana chips, maraschino cherries, french-fries, potato chips, onion rings and ketchup.
  • Ignore the myth that it costs more to eat healthy. Fruits and vegetables give you the most nutrition for the money. And if you cut back on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables, you'll save money on your grocery bill.
  • Nutritional supplements are just that - supplements. While vitamins may give you a few protective compounds and add some micro and macro nutrients to your lacking diet, they are not a substitute for healthy eating.
  • Help your kids get their "five a day," too. Kids don't dislike vegetables just because they are kids. In countries where fruit and vegetables are a natural part of the diet, kids eat lots of vegetables.

If you follow the tips here, your kids will eat more fruits and vegetables because kids tend to eat what parents eat.

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Today we are eating fewer fatty meats, whole dairy products and other foods rich in saturated fat-the kind that significantly raise cholesterol, clog arteries and contribute to increased rates of the heart disease that claims one American every 33 seconds.

In fact, Americans are consuming a noticeable 18 percent fewer calories from fat than we did 20 years ago, but as a nation, we're actually getting fatter and eating more calories than ever before.

One reason might be our reliance on "low-fat" and "fat-free" labels. Today nine in ten Americans regularly buy lower-fat versions of food products, which sometimes actually contain more calories (albeit fewer fat calories) than the original versions.

Problem 1: Less fat can mean more calories, read the whole label. Many people consume larger quantities of low-fat foods, believing that they are "healthier". But a 10 or 15 calorie difference per cookie can tip the scales in an unfavorable direction if you overindulge.

Problem 2: Watch for saturated fats. Lower-fat versions may contain oils that undergo a chemical process known as "hydrogenation", in which a liquid vegetable oil that's naturally high in unsaturated fatty acids (and therefore heart-healthier) is transformed to a more solid and unhealthy saturated form.

Besides checking for calorie count, looking at the whole list of ingredients on snack foods and other goods will help your weight management goals.

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Even with the current dieting phase 60% of Americans are still overweight. Even in the best medically supervised programs, nearly two-thirds of participants are back where they started within three years and 80 to 90 percent within five years. Many people manage to lose weight, they usually don't keep it off.

Some of the difficulties with weight management are:
  • Biology: The body's metabolism, programmed for survival in times of food shortage, works against dieters. As you diet your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and then after you eat your body doesn't expend as many calories as before doing the same things, so you have to reduce calories even more.
  • Environment: There are much more incentives to eat more and move less today than there was even 20 years ago as our working conditions have changed from physical labor to office type work. The cheapest foods are often the unhealthiest. Sit-down entertainment such as television, computers and play stations have also added to our lack of physical activity.
  • Life pressures: Weight management takes a lot of hard work. If life gets in the way - a spouse gets ill or if your child is going through behavioral problems, the disposable energy that you have for any project, including weight control gets diverted. So you go back to old habits and regain your weight.

"Without exercise, the other efforts are simply temporary," says Harold Solomon, M.D., director of the Weight Loss and Lifestyle Enhancement program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "There are very few people who can lose weight and keep it off without changing the amount of energy they expend."

People in the weight-control registry, on average burn up about 2,700 calories a week in physical activity. That's equal to about one hour of moderately intense activity every day - for example, five miles of walking.

It is not clear if people who lose smaller amounts of weight or who may have a different body mass index need to exercise this much. Still, a large body of research indicates that exercise is essential in counteracting the body's tendency to regain weight. (See Physical Fitness for more information on exercise.)

Keys to keeping the weight off:

  • People lose weight using a variety of dieting programs and the vast majority kept the weight off by following a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
  • New research does indicate that low-carbohydrate regimes such as the Atkins diet can produce significant weight loss.
  • Successful weight control happens once a permanent change has been made in your mindset about what kinds of foods you eat and portion size of the foods.
  • People who permanently lose weight often say they don't do anything special to keep it off because they have made a permanent change in how they think about food.
  • Spread out the calories you take in by eating breakfast. You must eat at least three or four times a day.
  • Get outside help. This could include contact with a health provider or support group.

Weight management is about long-term success and will hopefully last a lifetime. People who lose weight quickly by "crash" dieting or other extreme measures usually gain it all back or gain even more of the pounds that they lost because they haven't changed their eating habits.

The best weight management strategies are those that you can maintain for a lifetime. And remember, before starting any diet program be sure to check with your personal health care provider.

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