Weighing in the New Year

By Janet Calderwood, RD, CSG, LD/N

2015 is here!  For millions of Americans, weight loss is once again, at the very top of the New Year’s resolution list.  Truthfully, the majority of us can afford to lose some amount.   The other day, I came across a cartoon by Marty Bucella which I found to be rather comical.  Two ladies were sitting inside a restaurant reading the menu. One of the ladies comments  to the other  “I’m just getting a salad. Turns out the five pounds I lost was only misplaced.” Whether someone’s New Year’s goal will bring about weight reduction or any other improved health outcome, it must start with a decision to do so; this is always a step in the right direction.

As a registered dietitian, I get asked a lot of questions by all types of people.  One of the most popular questions goes something like this “how can I drop 10 pounds by Friday? “ Some people just do not like the straight-shooting answer that I give them.  I explain to them that they didn’t just wake up one morning with ten extra pounds attached to their body.  Usually weight gain is gradual and can be related to factors such as increased caloric consumption, decreased physical activity, and age related changes just to name a few.  In fact, if an individual consumes an excess of one hundred calories a day for a year, it can lead to a ten pound weight gain. It doesn’t matter if the source of the additional calories is from foods with little nutritional value like cookies or donuts, or nutrient rich foods like almonds or bananas.  Simply put, too much of any food or beverage is just too much and may contribute to weight gain and associated health risks.

According to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, approximately 70% of all Americans are classified by BMI charts as being either overweight or obese (A body mass index of 25-29.9 is considered overweight, 30 or greater, obese).   Even more shocking, obesity rates among children and teenagers have tripled in the last 30 years. Often, I witness first hand, the improved health patients with modest weight loss experience.   On the flip side, I see the detrimental effect that excess weight has on the human body. It may lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, gall stones, certain cancers, osteoarthritis and breathing problems.

All of us have seen a compelling television ad, magazine headline or internet advertisement for some product promising immediate weight loss with virtually little or no effort.  Just the other day while standing in line at the grocery store I came across a title that went something like this “drop six dress sizes in two weeks”.  My first thought was, I wonder if she is still alive? These claims are amusing but, appalling especially when celebrities we love endorse products with unproven results. UGH! Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t a diet book on The New York Times Best Seller list. Recently I googled the term weight loss products and 95,200,000 results were found. Of course you are familiar with exercise equipment, diet teas and herbal supplements. Have you heard of fat burning creams, weight loss mouth spray, slimming earrings and appetite suppressing eyeglasses?  I ask you with all of “the help” available why is almost 70% of all Americans overweight? When I encounter consumers that fall prey to the hype what began as amusing very quickly turns to annoyance.  Incredibly, the annual revenue of the US weight loss industry is estimated to be 20 billion dollars.

Unrealistic expectations and use of overly restrictive guidelines lead to weight loss derailment. The origin for the word diet comes from the Greek word diaita which means “a way of life, mode of living.” Diets were never intended to be temporary solutions but rather a day-to day lifestyle approach.

There are successful weight loss services, programs and products available to consumers. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.eatright.org is America’s largest organization of food and nutrition experts. The website has an abundance of resources and credible information, a great place for you to find the right answers for food and nutrition questions. There is also a link to find a registered dietitian to call on in your community, to assist with achieving your health goals. A customized and successful approach to permanent weight loss is at your fingertips.

The best advice I can give you is to focus on small changes. Over time, these small changes will lead to big results. Most importantly, set realistic goals, otherwise, what’s the point? I like this quote by Denis Waitley “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept responsibility for changing them.”

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