Fight Back Against Fat
During the past 20 years, obesity has continued to be a growing health problem in the United States.
Currently, according to the American Obesity Association (AOA), 64.5 percent of American adults are overweight (defined as having a body mass index of greater than 25), compared with 46 percent in 1980. That's despite the fact that Americans have been bombarded with information on how to lose weight and keep it off. If we know so much, why do we continue to battle the bulge?
"The short answer is we're not doing enough physical activity because more of us work at sedentary jobs, and we're eating too much because food is available, inexpensive and super-sized," says Melinda M. Manore, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition and exercise science at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
She also believes lack of time is at fault. The stress of multitasking and overscheduling leads many people to eat for comfort and eat at their desks and in their cars. They don't have the time to prepare healthy low-fat meals or exercise regularly.
"We've gotten away from the things that make us healthy, such as enjoying balanced meals at home," she says.
Our health is the price we're paying. According to the AOA, obesity increases the risk for illness from 30 serious medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and several types of cancer.
To avoid becoming an obesity statistic, work against the tide. Here's how.
Exercise your options
Make a commitment to get more physical activity each day. That means making time to walk to and from lunch, avoiding the moving sidewalks in airports, parking your car in a distant office lot, pacing when you're talking on the phone, going for a brisk walk before or after dinner, and taking the stairs at every opportunity.
"To maintain weight, do 60 minutes of activity each day," Dr. Manore adds. "But don't think you have to do it in one chunk. It can be a combination of things, which may include working out at the gym."
To give yourself credit for every step you take and boost your motivation, use a pedometer. For weight maintenance, 10,000 steps a day is a good goal for most people.
"But start where you are. If you're at 3,000 steps, aim for 4,000 at first," says Dr. Manore.
She also encourages couples and families to spend their leisure and vacation time together doing something physically active, such as hiking, skiing or swimming, rather than watching TV or lounging on the beach.
Eat in more often
Eating out and consuming large portions also contribute to weight gain.
Indeed, Americans now consume an average of four commercially prepared meals a week. While that doesn't sound like much, restaurant meals can increase your waistline because they tend to be higher in fat and calories than those we make ourselves, says Dr. Manore.
Likewise, consider bringing your lunch to work. When you make it yourself, you can control the fat and calories, and you won't fall prey to skipping lunch, then succumbing to the vending machine.
Make low-fat dairy products and complex carbohydrates -- such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains (including rice, oats, whole-grain bread and corn) -- the mainstay of your diet, with small portions of meat, says Dr. Manore.
Keep tabs on calories
Whether you eat out or at home, be aware of portion sizes and keep your calorie intake reasonable.
"Be sure to monitor liquid calories, too," says Dr. Manore. "Calories from regular soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, especially mixed drinks, can really add up."