Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in America, with more than one-third of adults and nearly one-fifth of children classified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Excess weight is associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Therefore, losing weight should be a primary health goal for the overweight and obese. Successful weight loss involves a 3-pronged approach: nutrition, activity and behavior modification.
It Starts With Food
Good nutrition is the foundation of any weight loss program. The first step in good nutrition is choosing whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Processed foods are often high in sugar, fat, salt and calories but low in nutrients. Whole foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs and lean meats are nutrient dense, which means they fill you up and meet your body’s requirements for good health. To lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories than you expend, so it is important to be aware of calories and portion sizes.
Next Comes Activity
Once you’ve made improvements to your diet, it’s time to increase your daily activity. Choose an activity that you enjoy and can do regularly. It should be something that can fit easily into your daily routine. Walking is a good place to start for many people. A 30-minute walk burns around 100 calories, on average. If walking isn’t the right activity for you, find one that is -- biking, swimming, rowing or whatever you enjoy and can accomplish most days.
Now Change Your Thoughts
If you are overweight, chances are this is not your first attempt at losing weight. Maybe you've lost a significant amount of weight in the past only to regain it. That's not uncommon among people who struggle with excess weight. According to the American Psychological Association, understanding and modifying the behaviors and emotions related to weight management are essential to successful weight loss. It's important to leave the past where it belongs -- in the past. Believe in your success and surround yourself with people who boost your self-esteem and support your weight loss efforts.
Take the Long View
The Weight-control Information Network, or WIN, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, recommends a gradual approach to weight loss. Aim for 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Rather than going on a very restrictive diet, strive for lasting lifestyle changes that support modest, steady weight loss. And don't expect perfection. When you falter, just get back on track at your next opportunity. Focus on making long-term, lasting changes and you will reach a healthy weight.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevalence of Obesity Among U.S. Adults -- 2011-12
- Trust for America's Health: F as in Fat -- How Obesity Threatens America's Future
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Overweight and Obesity
- HealthFinder.gov: Watch Your Weight -- The Basics
- American Psychological Association: Poll of Psychologists Cites Emotions as Top Obstacle to Weight Loss
- Weight-control Information Network: Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-loss Program