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Be sensible - eat right now, stay fit forever

Common sense yields healthy benefits forever

Common sense yields healthy benefits forever

December 18, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

If you follow nutrition news, you probably feel completely confused. Every day seems to bring a contradictory new study - and new debates among the experts.

Does eating fat make us fat? Or is it the carbs? Are there good fats? Bad fats? To lose weight, should I eat more protein or become a vegetarian? Opinions about weight loss are a dime a dozen these days.

This is a confusing time for consumers. Public health officials are trying to figure out the best approach to the obesity epidemic; USDA is re-evaluating the Food Guide Pyramid; all the diet gurus are pushing their books; and ads for weight loss gimmicks are everywhere.

Amid all the uncertainty, there are three basic principles that can help anyone move toward a healthy weight:

First, miracle weight loss products are a waste of time, money and health. Nothing will melt fat while you sleep or, as the ad says, give you a "slim, sexy body without strenuous exercise."

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Second, short-term diets never work. The answer lies in a life-long commitment to healthy habits. The best way to achieve - and maintain - a healthy weight is to make small changes that you are willing to do forever.

The third principle is that nutrition and physical activity go hand-in-hand. There's no doubt that Americans need to be more active. Don't get hung up on the best exercise or the exact number of minutes. Just set down the remote, get off the couch and get moving.

While any amount of activity is better than none, experts suggest a total of 30 to 60 minutes per day. The ideal combination is a variety of activities to build aerobic capacity, strength and flexibility.

By eating smart and moving more, you can skip any holiday weight gain this year - and start 2003 in great shape. There's no magic answer here. The keys to a healthy weight are to forget the fads and make a few simple changes forever. The bottom line is that small steps can make a big difference!

Lynn F. Little is the Extension Educator with Family & Consumer Sciences, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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