If your old habits of grabbing fast food at lunch, munching on popcorn at the movies, and drinking soda pop daily are starting to pack pounds onto your body, don't be surprised—you aren't alone. Obesity among young women in the United States is becoming an issue of serious concern.
Obesity can foster poor self-esteem and pave the way for eating disorders. In addition, young women who are losing the battle with the scale are potentially setting themselves up for future health problems down the line, such as heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
You are never too young, too overweight, or too busy to make vital changes in your lifestyle that will help you lose or maintain weight. In addition, positive lifestyle changes can help you live a longer, healthier, more productive life.
Lose Weight the Safe Way
Craig M. Wax, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing in New Jersey, says osteopathic medicine can play an essential role in the fight to lose weight.
"As an osteopathic physician, I focus on my patients' entire well-being-including analyzing any stresses in their lives before placing them on a weight loss program," explains Dr. Wax. "One of the things I ask my patients to do is submit a detailed three-day dietary history. This helps me to work with my patients to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of their current diet and exercise choices."
Dr. Wax recommends that anyone starting a weight loss program should seek the advice of a physician and keep in mind two key elements to healthy weight loss: nutrition and exercise.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 60 percent of young people eat too much fat and that less than 20 percent of them eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day. What does this have to do with weight loss or weight maintenance? Everything! According to Dr. Wax, one of the essential actions to take in creating a healthier diet is to replace simple carbohydrates (such as sugars and simple starches) and fats with complex carbohydrates and fiber. That means eating more foods like wheat bread, bran cereal, oatmeal, and brown rice.
In addition to reducing your intake of simple carbohydrates and fats, you need to make sure you eat a balanced diet. A report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasizes that an important part of healthy eating is getting enough of the five basic food groups in your daily diet.
The recommended number of servings from each of the five basic food groups are found on the Food Guide Pyramid developed by the United States Dietary Association (USDA) and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The pyramid recommends:
Milk, yogurt, and cheese group-2 to 3 servings a day
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts group-2 to 3 servings a day
Fruit group-2 to 4 servings a day
Vegetable group-3 to 5 servings a day
Bread, cereal, rice and pasta group-6 to 11 servings a day
Keep these recommended servings in mind as you choose your foods. But also read labels on food products to determine how much saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, and certain nutrients are found in each serving. Remember to strive for a daily intake of the recommended Daily Value for carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. To obtain the daily recommended values, consult your physician or the Food Guide Pyramid.
You don't have to become a cross-country skier, Olympic swimmer, or a Wimbledon champ to lose weight. But you do need to get up off the couch.
According to Dr. Wax, exercising at least 30 minutes a day-or even every other day-along with proper warm-up and cool-down periods, is an essential part of proper weight loss.
"I suggest my 'Good Sweat Rule' to patients," says Dr. Wax. "If you can work up a good sweat for 30 minutes, and hold a conversation during that time without being out of breath," he explains, "you are giving your body a proper workout for cardiovascular fitness and weight loss."
Try swimming, speed walking, bicycle riding, or jogging. Join a health club and commit yourself to working out no fewer than three days a week. Think you are too busy to set aside time to exercise at a gym? Then get your activity in other ways. Try walking to work instead of taking the bus. Use your lunch hour to take a walk or to make use of an employee fitness room at your job. Take the stairs instead of elbowing your way into the elevator. And when you go shopping, park your car a ways from the store so you can get in a little walking!
Forget About Short Cuts
"I wish there was a short cut to healthy weight loss" exclaims Dr. Wax. "Conventional wisdom holds true. Healthy diet and exercise are the cornerstones of proper weight management. "
Despite the warnings from physicians about taking short cuts to weight loss, many young women choose fad diets, go on starvation diets, skip meals, or take diet pills because they want to obtain the glamorized image of thinness and beauty.
"Most people know that starving themselves or trying fad diets are bad ideas," says Dr. Wax. "But, some young women are being influenced by advertisements for popular diet drugs that promise a 'natural' way to shed pounds quickly."
Many of these diet pills are available over-the-counter and are never reviewed or approved by the FDA. Taking some of these pills can be risky business, cautions Dr. Wax. "You generally will be taking a product that has not been truly tested," warns Dr. Wax. "For one thing, the product might not even work. But worse yet, you have no idea what risky side effects the pill can cause. As a consumer, you need to be aware of the risks and benefits of any medicine or supplement before taking it."
Most diet pills induce weight loss because they produce stimulant, diuretic, or laxative effects. Although they enable the user to shed water weight (which can be unhealthy), they do not assist the body in long-term weight loss, fat loss, or health management. In addition, several diet pills are so full of caffeine they can speed up the heart rate significantly. This can lead to heart palpitations and shortness of breath. And after the effect of the pill begins to wear off, you may experience fatigue.
Weight Loss Takes Time
Whatever kind of exercise and nutrition plans you opt for, do not become discouraged if the pounds refuse to drop off right away. Proper weight loss takes time. If you lose even a few pounds per month, you are losing weight safely. Going for more gradual, safer weight loss also means that you are more likely to keep weight off. People who choose fad diets or dietary aids are more prone to gaining back the weight before long.
"Ultimately, people have to become responsible for their own health by teaching themselves better habits," notes Dr. Wax. "By making healthy nutrition and exercise choices early in life, you may be able to avoid serious health problems when you are older, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity."
Did You Know...?
The estimated annual cost of obesity and overweight in the U.S. is about $117 billion
The percentage of young people who are overweight has doubled in the last 20 years
More than one-third of young people do not regularly engage in vigorous physical activity
Many diseases can be caused and can be worsened by poor diet and lack of exercise. Such diseases account for more than 60% of U. S. medical care expenses yearly.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Shape Up America!