Hi there! How are you doing? How is that New Year's resolution you made months ago coming along?
If you're like the majority, you wished for better health. And when it comes to health, losing weight tops the list.
If you wanted to lose weight, you're probably very frustrated, because you either could not lose it, or lost some but gained it all back and some more. Join the club, and blame the thrifty gene. Can we, really?
Obesity is the No. 2 cause of all preventable deaths in the United States (No.1 being smoking, as I reported in a column last month). Unfortunately, the obesity rate keeps going up, trying to compete for the No. 1 spot. Forty percent of U.S. women, 35 percent of men and about 20 percent of adolescents are considered obese (with a body mass index of more than 30). You can double these numbers if you consider everyone who is overweight (BMI of 25 to 30).
There are hundreds of diets and books to teach you how to lose weight, even though there are only three main categories of foods — fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Whatever category of food you consume in excess of your need will be converted to fat for storage in and around the body. Belly fat is the worst for your health, as it produces many bad chemicals. Also there is no way to hide it, as many of you no doubt have found out. The more you eat, the more you like it and the more you want it. That gives birth to addiction.
The war between fats and carbohydrates will continue to rage, as long as the bank accounts of the promoters keep getting fatter. Contradicting official guidelines from government agencies and scientific societies can also confuse and frustrate you enough to make failure a guarantee.
Your preference for a particular food or food group is imprinted in your brain at a very early age, depending on what your parents fed you, which depended on what was available and affordable. Trying to change that at a later stage in life will make you more miserable psychologically, as if being physically unhealthy is not enough. Of course, you have no choice if you have medical conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol.
To lose weight, consume fewer calories and burn more calories. Liposuction won't cut it. If you have to have a special diet to follow, follow the "ELF" diet (Eat Less Food). It is less expensive and more effective. Crash diets not only don't work, but can also be dangerous. Losing 1 pound a week is ideal. Permanent therapeutic lifestyle changes is the answer. Medications are bad; meditation for self control is far better, cheaper and safer. Stomach surgery may help, if you waited long enough to become morbidly obese (a BMI greater than 40). The benefits of surgery may not be permanent, while the complications usually are.
Consume fewer calories: Share the meal and eat smaller portions. Avoid fast foods and sugary drinks. Don't go out food shopping when you are hungry. Don't keep food around in the car or at your workplace. Avoid snacks between meals and while watching TV. Sleep eight hours a day.
Eat healthy: Lean meats; high fiber; less fat, salt and sugars. More vegetables, fruits, whole grains and tree nuts. More fish and less frying.
Exercise when you are upset, instead of eating. Burn off that anger while burning off some calories. Regular exercise (walking, bicycling, swimming) is the best medicine, not only to lose weight and feel better, but also to prevent heart disease, a stroke, some cancers, depression and Alzheimer's. You have to exercise only on the days you eat — 10,000 steps a day is good. Don't eat more just because you are exercising. For a 154-pound, 30-year-old woman to burn off a blueberry muffin (360 calories), she has to bicycle at a regular pace for 77 minutes or jog at 5 mph for 33 minutes.
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When it comes to losing weight, today is not too late and tomorrow is not too early to start — again. Waiting for holidays is a bad strategy.
Count the calories, as they count. And start running, for your life.
In other words, eat less and move more.
Dr. Rao Musunuru is a practicing cardiologist in Hudson and is the recipient of American Heart Association's 2005 National Physician of the Year award.