Seven (deadly) weight-loss sins...

and how to beat them with the seven healthy habits of successful losers

and how to beat them with the seven healthy habits of successful losers

June 09, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

A year ago, Brian White met with 30 men and women who were on the cusp of retirement. He talked to them about fitness and remaining active.

Many questioned the need to keep fit. White, a health fitness instructor at City Hospital's Wellness Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., asked if they intended to slip into a sedentary lifestyle once life in the workaday world ended.

Of the 30, one took up a fitness routine and stuck with it.

The exchange represents yet another salvo in the ongoing war between fitness and obesity.

Obesity is winning.

"Everybody knows, unless they've been living in a cave, that exercise is good for you," White says. "Usually, something hits home and they say 'Maybe I should do something about it.' And unless that happens, most people are reluctant to."


Big shocker: America is fat, grotesquely so by all estimation.

According to Center for Disease Control statistics, 61 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. National Institutes of Health figures estimate Americans spend $33 billion a year on weight-loss products and services.

Can carrying excess weight prove deadly? Maybe, if you're not careful. Nearly 300,000 deaths each year are linked to obesity, and carrying excessive weight is a risk factor for everything from heart disease to diabetes, stroke to sleep apnea.

Fewer than a quarter of adults get the suggested amount of physical activity - 30 minutes daily. Numbers of overweight and obese children continue to escalate.

And awareness is high. Aye, but here's the rub: Like many problems, recognizing what is wrong is far easier than finding a solution.

"Sometimes, even when you're aware, you can't do anything about it," says Dara Zaidman, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., a nutritionist with Horsham, Pa., based LA Weight Loss Centers.

"People have a hard time doing it on their own because we live with the mentality of 'If I don't do it today, I'll do it tomorrow,'" she continues. "I think the structure is what is important, especially initially. If you're not someone who is very strong willed, you will give in to your laziness."

Like the ubiquitous hair club commercial, Janis Griffith not only owns Chambersburg, Pa., service Weight Wise, she is also a client, having battled with her weight since childhood.

Griffith says it's not at all unusual for her to see people who eat 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, including 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

Normal sodium intake should be less than 2,400 milligrams per day, equivalent to about one teaspoon of salt. According to the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, only about 1/4 teaspoon is needed by healthy adults and children.

Depending on your age and activity, daily caloric intake should range between 1,600 and 2,800.

In her year and a half in business she has seen her client list swell to more than 200 and says there appears to be more recognition that being overweight or obese requires attention.

"We can either give you another high blood pressure pill," Griffith says. "Or you can make a serious effort to take the weight off."

It seems people are opting for the latter.

Tim Higgins, Washington County Health System clinical nutrition manager, says one way to watch the waistline is by not casually treating mealtime as something that will take care of itself.

Too often, time constraints lead to harried dinner plans consisting of pre-processed, sodium rich selections lacking healthful nutrients.

People don't haphazardly decide which car to drive or house to buy. By extension, pre-planning meals can help set the foundation for a healthier lifestyle.

"For example, batch cooking," Higgins says. "Cook once, eat twice. So, when you do cook something, cook it big and utilize the leftovers."

And remember, every little bit helps. Don't think so? Do the math.

Eating 100 calories a day every day for a year equals 36,500 calories, or about 10 pounds. If adding 100 calories a day to the diet is so easy, subtracting at least as much can make a large physical impact over time.

"The margin of error between what we need to take in and what we take in, it's not that big," Higgins says. "If you reverse that process and take in 100 calories per day less, these numbers really make a big difference."


Sin: Looking to others as a model of behavior and health.

Saint: Recognizing that what works for one may not work for you, and your healthy body might not be a perfect 10.

Waifish figures may sell magazines, but that so-called "ideal" shouldn't necessarily be the picture of health people look to when losing weight.

"Everybody can't be thin, but everyone can maintain a healthy lifestyle," Janis Griffith, owner of Weight Wise, says. "Even if a person can bring their weight down by about 20 pounds, they'll start to see an improvement."

Griffith, who has battled with weight herself, says it's important to have reasonable expectations when embarking on a weight-loss program.

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