Baby steps help manage weight as metabolism slows

February 23, 2005|by Lynn Little

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines focus quite a bit on weight control. Three of the nine sets of recommendations in the guidelines are focused on weight and fitness, and one actually is labeled "weight management."

Two key recommendations for weight management encourage Americans to maintain a healthy body weight by balancing calories eaten with calories burned, and to prevent gradual weight gain over time by making small decreases in calories and increasing physical activity.

These issues are important. The prevalence of obesity in the United States has doubled in the past 20 years, with nearly one-third of Americans now classified as obese. Obesity contributes to premature death, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, gall bladder disease, gout, osteoarthritis and some types of cancer. By reducing obesity, we become a healthier nation.

Losing just 10 pounds can be beneficial, reducing hypertension and offering other health benefits. The guidelines encourage focusing on calorie reduction to lose weight - choosing foods that are naturally low in calories (most vegetables, fruits and some soups) and reducing consumption of added sugars, fats and alcohol - all of which provide calories but few or no essential nutrients.


The guidelines also encourage decreasing portion sizes, especially when eating high-calorie foods. If you don't know how much a 1/2 cup (one portion) of ice cream is, measure it the next time you treat yourself to a scoop. That's the only sure way to know what you're eating.

Even if you don't need to lose weight, you should consider increasing physical activity and modestly trimming calories, about 50 to 100 calories a day as you age. That will help you maintain your weight as you get older and your metabolism slows.

When trying to lose weight, the guidelines recommend a diet with 20 to 35 percent calories from fat, 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates, and 10 to 35 percent from protein in order to provide the body with the nutrients it needs. That's good advice even for people who aren't trying to lose weight.

For more details, read the guidelines on the Web at

To receive a copy of key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, send a self-addressed, stamped (37 cents) business-size envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension - Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "guidelines."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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