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Nutrition and Weight

Scale ImageMaintaining a healthy weight is important for an overall healthy body. Being overweight or obese can lead to multiple diseases and a premature death. There are plenty of fad diets that exist, but the key to stabilizing your weight is plenty of exercise and eating healthy foods. As our society has become more sedentary, our nation has seen an increase in people who are overweight and obese.

More than one-third of American adults are considered obese and two-thirds are overweight (Yun, 2006). It is estimated that obesity related medical treatment costs the U.S. more than $147 billion per year. These costs include prevention, education, and the majority is for treatment of the disease outcomes. Effects of being overweight and obese are diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers, stroke, sleep disorders, gynecological problems and cardiovascular diseases. Some of the indirect costs of being overweight and obese include absenteeism from work/school and loss of productivity (Centers for Disease Control, 2012).

Often college students are thought to be some of the healthiest young adults; however, about 20% of students in a nationwide survey were considered overweight and 11% were obese (American College Health Association [ACHA], 2009). Unhealthy lifestyles might begin when students are sitting in classes all day, studying in the library, having little time to exercise and not enough money to eat healthy foods.

According to a study conducted by the CSULB Student Health Services in 2010, 61.4% of CSULB students were of normal weight, 20.2% were overweight and 12.9% were obese. About 60% of survey respondents were trying to lose weight. Most of these students were using healthy methods to lose weight, such as eating less food, portion control and exercise (CSULB SHS, 2010).

EXERCISE

Exercise is not only an effective method for boosting weight loss, but it is necessary for everyone to maintain a healthy weight. It also has numerous benefits including preventing chronic diseases, reducing high blood pressure and high blood sugar, decreasing the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and cancers and reducing stress levels.  Exercise also boosts our immunity, increases our mental health stability and our self esteem. The USDA recommends that we exercise vigorously for 30 minutes, 5 days a week (CDC, 2012; USDA, 2010).

Burning calories through vigorous exercise—and through casual daily activity—is the perfect partner to watching what you eat. The options for variety are numerous. There's a lot you can do to increase the amount of calories you burn, even when you're sitting around doing nothing. The key is understanding your metabolic rate.

The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy — calories — the body uses each day. Your total metabolic rate is determined by three factors:

1) The basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the minimum amount of energy required to keep your heart pumping, and brain and organs functioning while you are at rest

2) The energy you burn during physical activity

3) The energy you burn during the digestion of food

By adjusting each of these factors, you can boost your metabolism without making radical alterations to your diet.

WEIGHT LOSS

On any non-medically supervised weight-loss program, women should consume at least 1,200 calories a day and men at least 1,600. Any less and your metabolic system – responding to fear of starvation built in during our evolutionary past – will slow your metabolism, making it more difficult to peel off the pounds.

The only absolute rule for weight loss is to be realistic. Your attitude must be positive if you are to succeed, and you have to accept the fact that permanent weight loss is a slow process. The following guidelines may help:

  1. Set short-term, achievable goals.
  2. Don't go on a crash diet. Increase your activity.
  3. Don't give up.
  4. Give yourself a break.
  5. See your doctor if necessary.
  6. Plan the kinds of food you'll eat and the number of meals and snacks you'll have.
  7. Don't skip whole categories of food. Vary your diet by eating different foods within each group. (Eating a variety of foods is essential to get all the nutrients you need.)
  8. Try to enjoy your food with less salt.

To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in. In other words, you need to run a calorie deficit. To do this, reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day. (Seven days times 500 calories equals 3,500 calories – one pound.) To maintain your ideal weight, weigh yourself once a week. When you're three to five pounds more than what you should be, start eating less or exercising more (or both) until your weight is back down where you want it.

If you lose too much weight, increase your caloric intake primarily by eating foods lower in fat such as grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products with skim milk. Try to stay within five pounds of your best weight. To get all the nutrients your body needs, carefully follow the food plan you selected.

HOW CAN WE MANAGE OUR WEIGHT?

Even though genes may affect an individual's susceptibility to obesity, some people simply eat excess calories. Obesity, which is a problem for about one third of the adult population in America, can contribute to heart disease. Managing your weight requires that you:


Get rid of bad habits

Avoid eating foods that are high in fat, especially saturated fat. These foods add even more calories to your overall diet. Furthermore, most foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood--which can lead to risk for heart disease.

Develop an eating plan for life

Most women can lose an average of one to two pounds a week by consuming 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day; most men can lose this amount by consuming 1500 to 1800 calories a day. One to two pounds a week is the ideal rate of weight loss. Three different nutritionally complete diets are listed below. Your doctor, a registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist can tell you which of the three calorie levels is best for you.

Maintaining your body weight

To maintain your body weight, multiply the number of pounds you weigh now by 15 calories. This number represents the average number of calories used up in one day by a moderately active person of your weight. If you're sedentary or get very little exercise, multiply your weight by 13 instead of 15. Less-active people burn fewer calories.

Losing weight

To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in. In other words, you need to run a calorie deficit. To do this, reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day. (Seven days times 500 calories equals 3,500 calories – one pound.)

To maintain your ideal weight, weigh yourself once a week. When you're three to five pounds more than what you should be, start eating less or exercising more (or both) until your weight is back down where you want it.

If you lose too much weight, increase your caloric intake primarily by eating foods lower in fat such as grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products with skim milk. Try to stay within five pounds of your best weight. To get all the nutrients your body needs, carefully follow the food plan you selected.

Other helpful hints include:

  • Plan the kinds of food you'll eat and the number of meals and snacks you'll have.
  • Don't skip whole categories of food.
  • Vary your diet by eating different foods within each group. (Eating a variety of foods is essential to get all the nutrients you need.)
  • Try to enjoy your food with less salt.

Engage in physical activity as a way of life

To manage your weight, you must use up more calories (energy) than you consume. You can do this in three different ways:

  • Eat a variety of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods.
  • Increase the calories you burn up (for instance, by increasing the amount you exercise).

Food Selection Links

Making smart dietary choices to maintain or lose weight is a challenge, but not impossible. The following links can help you avoid “feast or famine” extremes and prepare you to make lasting change.

Assessing Your Diet

Is your diet giving you what you need — or more than you need?

Fat Matters, But Calories Count

Many people obsess over fat grams while they ignore total calories. That’s a mistake.

Eating Healthy with Ethnic Foods

Whether you like Chinese, Italian or Mexican, you can find lower-fat food choices when dining out or eating in.

Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Learn how to weed through the thickest of menus to find tasty, low-cal meals.

USDA Food Database

Find nutritional information on a variety of foods — just enter the name and click.

 

Exercise Links

Burning calories through vigorous exercise—and through casual daily activity—is the perfect partner to watching what you eat. The options for variety are numerous.

Weight Control

Use exercise to lower your appetite while burning calories.

Physical Activity and Weight Control

Whether trying to lose weight or maintain it, you should understand the important role of physical activity.

"Deskercise"

Take a break during your workday with these easy, fun, simple exercises.

Fit Activity into your Routine

You don't have to train like a marathon runner to benefit from physical activity! Any exercise, even if it's done for just a few minutes a day, is better than nothing at all.

Exercise for Health: Weight Control

You just ran three miles, followed by a mile swim. Can you now “pig out” and not worry about calories?

Seeing a Doctor

First, if you are middle-aged or older, have a medical condition, have not been physically active and plan a relatively vigorous exercise program, your doctor will help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition. It's good to take an exercise tolerance test to determine your present capabilities and identify potential hazards. Besides weight control, exercise may help relieve tension and help control cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

There's a lot you can do to increase the amount of CALORIES you burn, even when you're sitting around doing nothing. The key is understanding your metabolic rate.
The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy — calories — the body uses each day. Your total metabolic rate is determined by three factors:

  • The basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the minimum amount of energy required to keep your heart pumping, and brain and organs functioning while you are at rest
  • The energy you burn during physical activity
  • The energy you burn during the digestion of food

By adjusting each of these factors, you can boost your metabolism without making radical alterations to your diet.

Why "Declare War" on Fad Diets?

  • To inform the public about misleading weight-loss claims. Many of the fad diets in circulation - like last year's infamous Cabbage Soup Diet - can undermine people's health, cause physical discomfort, and lead to disappointment when people regain their weight soon after they lose it.

    Fad diets usually overemphasize one particular food or type of food. They violate the first principle of good nutrition, which is to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. Those able to stay on a fad diet for more than a few weeks may develop nutritional deficiencies, because no one type of food has all the nutrients necessary for good health. The Cabbage Soup Diet is an example. This so-called fat-burning soup is eaten mostly with fruits and vegetables. The diet supposedly helps heart patients lose 10-17 pounds in seven days before surgery.
    • No "superfoods" exist. That's why people should eat moderate amounts from all food groups, not eat large amounts of a few special foods.
    • Fad diets also violate a second important principle of good nutrition: that eating should be enjoyable. Fad diets are so monotonous and boring that it's almost impossible to stay on them for long periods.
    • A liquid protein diet, using digested collagen with little or no essential substances added, became popular several years ago. But in 1977 this diet was blamed for at least 60 deaths.
  • To set the record straight about the American Heart Association's eating plan for healthy adults. Many of these diets falsely purport to be endorsed by or authored by the American Heart Association. The public should be informed that the real American Heart Association eating plan gives recommended servings per day of various food categories, not of specific foods. The real American Heart Association eating plan recommends that healthy Americans get no more than 30 % of their total calories each day from fat, and also recommends eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

    Any diet that gives specific menus or suggests that the diet be followed for a set period of time is not from the American Heart Association. The real American Heart Association diet has been carefully researched and is intended for a lifetime of use. Most important, the real American Heart Association eating plan accommodates the needs of people with diverse food preferences.

    Unlike an incomplete liquid protein diet or other fad diets, a good diet can be eaten for years to maintain desirable body weight and good health. Fad diets fail to provide ways to keep excess weight off.

In what other ways are fad diets flawed?

  • Most do not encourage physical activity - for example walking 30 minutes most days of the week - which is helpful for maintaining weight loss over a long period. Lack of physical activity is also a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Fad diets require drastic changes in eating patterns and dieters can't stay on them for long. Fad dieters don't learn anything about permanently changing their eating patterns.
  • In addition, many fad diets are based on "food folklore," some dating back to the early 19th century. Diets high in protein, for example, are also usually higher in fat and could have serious health risks – like raising cholesterol levels – if undertaken over a long time. Ideas about "fat burning foods" and "food combining" are also classified by the American Heart Association as unsubstantiated myths.

Despite what fad diet books may say, the only sensible way to lose weight permanently is to eat less and maintain or increase physical activity. Some major medical centers prescribe extremely low-calorie, high-protein diets for selected patients carefully monitored by physicians.

References and Resources

These resources can provide you with more information about healthful weight, weight loss and making permanent changes for better living.

NHLBI Health Information Center

P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Phone: (301) 592-8573

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/index.htm

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Phone: (202) 619-0257
Toll Free: (877) 696-6775

http://www.hhs.gov/

Weight-control Information Network (WIN)

1 WIN Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3665
Phone: (202) 828-1025
Toll Free: (877) 946-4627

http://win.niddk.nih.gov/index.htm