Create a healthful lifestyle in 2007

January 10, 2007|by LYNN F. LITTLE

If you have started 2007 with an extra 10 pounds and the resolve to get your weight under control, you're not alone. Newspapers, magazines, TV and radio are filled with weight-loss ads. Sales for weight-control products always peak in January and February, with more than $33 billion spent each year on weight-control products that seem to have no effect on weight loss.

The key to a healthy weight is not another diet. The real solution is to make healthful eating and physical activity a way of life. The key to a healthy weight is to ignore those misleading weight-loss ads and focus on taking permanent steps toward a healthy lifestyle.

Set realistic goals. Don't set yourself up for failure. Break your efforts into manageable steps. Concentrate on changing habits, rather than on reducing pounds.

Follow a sensible eating plan. Don't succumb to the latest diet miracle plan. There is nothing magical about weight control. A good plan to start with is MyPyramid at By typing in your age and selecting your gender and level of physical activity, you are provided with a semi-customized eating plan. To make this a weight-loss plan, cut calories 250 to 300 per day by trimming an ounce or half-cup from each of the main food categories and keeping fatty sauces, spreads and toppings to a minimum.


Get a move on. Don't live by food alone. Only 20 percent of all Americans get enough exercise to improve health and maintain healthy weight. The MyPyramid plan recommends that adults engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day to maintain a healthy weight. The more energy you burn through exercise, the more fat you'll liberate. Plus, you feel better when you're active.

Expect slow progress. Don't lose patience. The safest and longest-lasting weight loss is achieved gradually, at the rate of 1 pound to 1 1/2 pounds per week. Gradual weight loss allows your body to adjust physically and mentally to the new you.

Fight boredom with variety. Don't eat the same foods every day. Go for flavor with spices rather than fat. Tantalize your taste buds with garlic and onions. Try salsa on baked potatoes in place of sour cream.

Remember: There are no forbidden foods. Don't classify foods as good and bad. Deprivation leads to obsession, the "mother" of bingeing. Allow all foods on your OK list. Just remember, the key words are moderation and variety.

Recognize emotional triggers. Don't ignore the stresses that push your buttons and make you want to find solace in food. Once you recognize and accept these triggers, find nonfood ways to sooth your emotions. A brisk walk or bubble bath can do wonders for frazzled nerves.

Celebrate! But don't make food the reward. Celebrate yourself, your family and friends, your work, your life. Plan rewards for weight maintenance, as well as weight loss.

Commit to yourself -don't diet for approval. Dieting to please someone else sets you up for failure, especially when their applause isn't as loud as you'd hoped.

Forget the fads. Diet fads come and go without offering a permanent solution. When you hear about the latest diet, always ask yourself: Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?

Forgive yourself. Healthy eating does not have to be perfect eating. If you make a mistake or miss a few days of healthy eating, get back on track ASAP!

Congratulate yourself. Changing your eating habits can be tough. Just think how long you have had your current habits. Give yourself a pat on the back for any healthy changes!

Stick with it. Making drastic changes can be a recipe for failure. Small changes can make a big difference, if they last. Pick one change, like walking more and make it a habit. Research suggests that it takes about 21 days for a behavior to become habit.

Everyone can adopt a healthy lifestyle. Let your friends and family know what you are doing and ask for their support. Long-term success is more likely with supportive family and friends. They can encourage healthy eating and regular physical activity. They might even join you!

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

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