Fight Back Against Fat

During the past 20 years, obesity has continued to be an escalating health problem in the United States.

According to the CDC, over 70 percent of American adults are either overweight (defined as having a body mass index of greater than 25), or obese (defined as having a body mass index of greater than 30), 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. (To find your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Divide that answer by your height in inches. Divide that answer by your height in inches, again. The resulting number is your BMI). If we know so much, why do we continue to battle the bulge?

The stress of multitasking and overscheduling often leads many people to eat for comfort and to eat at their desks and in their cars. They don't have or make the time to prepare healthy, low-fat meals or exercise regularly.

Our health is the price we're paying. Obesity increases the risk for many chronic, life-threatening medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer.

To avoid becoming an obesity statistic, here are some suggestions that may help.   

Exercise your options

Make a commitment to yourself 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. Another strategy is to work on a treadmill while watching TV. 

To give yourself credit for every step you take and to boost your motivation, use a pedometer. In terms of regular exercise for adults, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week plus muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Muscle strengthening should include activities that work all major muscle groups, for example, hips, legs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

It is also helpful to include physical activities into your vacation and leisure time.

Eat in more often

Eating out and consuming large portions also contribute to weight gain. Portion sizes have increased over the last decade and studies show that people eat more when they are confronted with larger portion sizes.

Americans now consume over an average of four commercially prepared meals a week, with lunch being the most frequent. While that doesn't sound like much, restaurant meals tend to be much higher in fat, sodium, and calories than meals made at home.

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, and then succumbing to the vending machine or eating out.

In addition, minimize your meat intake, and use low-fat dairy products and complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (including rice, oats, whole-grain bread), as the foundation for your diet. One strategy is to divide your 9-inch plate (not a 12-inch plate) into quarters. Fill 2 quarters--or half of your plate--with vegetables and fruit (1/2 to 1-cup each). Fill the other 2 quarters with a serving of lean protein (about 4 ounces), and the other with one serving of whole grains (about 1/2 the size of a baseball).

Keep tabs on calories

Whether you eat out or at home, be aware of portion sizes and keep your calorie intake reasonable. When calculating calories, be certain to include liquid calories from such things as fruit juice and soft drinks, too. But remember, many fruit juices and nondiet soft drinks are high in calories, so you would do best to avoid them.