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FOR RELEASE: January 23, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Adopt a Losing Resolution This Year, For Better Health

For many Americans, the top New Year’s resolution on their list was to lose weight. Health club memberships increase significantly during the month of January and huge numbers of fad diets circulate like wild fire. But by February, health club attendance slows and interest in fad diets begins to wane. Good intentions have yielded to old habits.

Since about 64 percent of the adult population is overweight, with about 34 percent of those being obese, “losing weight” would seem to be a reasonable and commendable resolution. Yet the incidence of overweight and obesity continues to climb at alarming rates. Even overweight in children has tripled since the early 1980s. Higher body weights mean higher than normal incidences of health problems like heart disease, stroke, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high cholesterol, and gall bladder disease, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Since most Americans know they need to maintain a healthy weight and stay fit, why are they becoming fatter?

“Changing our concept from weight loss to weight management and optimal fitness with regard to things like blood pressure control, cardiovascular fitness and blood sugar regulation might make more sense than trying to attain a weight that many of us have not been at for years,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Dieters often set unrealistic goals for weight loss that lead to failure. Statistically, only five percent achieve and maintain their desired weight loss.”

Experts agree that aiming for a weight loss of five to ten percent of starting weight is not only attainable, but probably optimal. Weight loss should be relatively slow. In most cases, expect a loss of about one to two pounds per week and the loss should occur over a period of about six months. Fad diets promising quick weight loss can be harmful and should be avoided. These types of diets are often hard to follow for any length of time, and so, the lost weight is regained.

The bottom line for weight loss is eating fewer calories. Our concept of what a normal serving size is has become distorted. Serving sizes at restaurants have more than tripled over the last few years. We have become accustomed to seeing more food on our plates and more calorie-laden soft drinks in our cups. What was considered a super-sized order of French fries in 1998 is now listed as only a large order. The serving size for a soft drink used to be six ounces. Today, 44-ounce soft drinks, or even larger ones, are more the norm.

Attention must also be given to exercise and long-term behavior eating changes, as well. Though we may have heard for years that exercise will cause weight loss, weight that is lost through exercise alone will be very small. Exercising for fitness, however, is a must. “Cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength can improve blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, reduce blood sugar and improve other risk factors for disease,” said Beitsch.

Recent national studies recommended that Americans exercise for one hour per day, which can seem a daunting task for many, especially those with very busy schedules. Studies show, however, that several short bouts of exercise, 10 to 15 minutes each, several times a day, can be as effective as exercising for a whole hour at once.

In addition to lowering calories and exercising, changing to healthier eating habits can maintain weight loss. The following tips can help potential dieters increase their chances of being successful:

Tips to Identify Sound Weight Loss Diets

  • Food selection includes a wide variety of low-fat food choices and plenty of fluids (8 cups per day) and is not restricted to only a few.
  • The promise of weight loss should be slow, about one to two pounds per week.
  • The plan should offer 1200 to 1500 calories per day. Plans that offer less promote hunger and fatigue, are hard to stay with, and must be accompanied by fortified foods or a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement.
  • The plan should contain common foods that the whole family can enjoy.
  • The plan should fit into any social situation. Attending parties and eating at restaurants are an important part of daily living.
  • The diet should encourage the development of good eating habits for weight maintenance after the weight is lost.
  • The diet should encourage physical exercise. Healthy living includes diet, exercise, stress reduction, and proper rest.
  • The plan should insist that the person see their doctor or health care provider before starting the diet.

“Long-term changes in lifestyle are the only safe and effective treatments for overweight and obesity. Although the best treatment for obesity is prevention, a sound dietary plan can help committed individuals to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce their risk of chronic disease,” Beitsch said.

For more information, contact a nutritionist in your local county health department.

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