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Best way to lose weight: Gradually: Diet, exercise play key roles in weight loss and healthy lifestyle

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services -- Unrestricted


Chances are many of us will wake up bleary eyed Thursday after a night of New Year's Eve revelry and resolve to do better in 2009.

One of the main targets for improvement: our waistlines, with good reason.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 percent of American adults are obese, a condition that increases the risk for a variety of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.

So how can you lose weight effectively? A dietitian and an exercise physiologist agree that much like any other long-term goal, the answer is a little bit at a time, not all at once.

"All the lifestyle changes we talk about, the question we tell people to ask is, 'Can I do this long term?' We try to teach lifestyle changes versus diet," said Pam Ward, a dietitian with Western Baptist Hospital. "You're much more likely to make long-term changes gradually as opposed to taking a gung ho approach."

Kyle Miller, an exercise physiologist with Lourdes cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, said the key is simply doing something.

"I've been doing this since 1979, and I've heard all the excuses not to exercise, but I have yet to hear a reason not to exercise," Miller said. "A lot of patients will say, 'I'm active,' or 'I lead an active lifestyle.' Well, exercise is an activity, but activity is not exercise."

Both diet and exercise play key roles in weight loss and, more generally, a healthy lifestyle. Both Ward and Miller said jumping into an unsustainable program does little good because people will slide back into bad habits. Instead start small and build up to bigger goals.

"The old adage of no pain, no gain does not apply," Miller said. "The goal is losing weight, and you can do so with moderate levels of activity. Moderation is key. Even a machine can't handle extremes over a long period of time. It's going to break down. The human body is the same way."

Ward said even small changes in our perceptions of food can pay big dividends.

"The first thing I tell people is to gradually add more fruits," she said. "They're high in fiber and low in fat, so you'll be more full and make fewer poor choices. Eat a variety of colors; the bigger the variety of colors you have, the more balanced it will be."

Ward also suggested splitting meals at restaurants, or getting a to-go box for half of the increasingly oversized restaurant meals.

"If you'll notice, the silverware has gotten bigger, the plates have gotten bigger, all to stay in proportion," she said. "With chips and salsa and bread, a lot of those meals can easily be 1,500 to 2,000 calories."

That's basically a full day's worth for those seeking to lose weight, she said. Ward suggested men target 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day to start, while women should shoot for between 1,300 and 1,500 calories a day. Going below 1,200 calories a day should be avoided, she said: "It becomes very difficult to get vitamins and minerals you need."

A variety of small lifestyle changes can pay off in the long run, both said, but it's crucial to realize there's no quick fix.

"Everybody wants to lose 30 pounds, 40 pounds, 50 pounds," Miller said. "Nobody sees monumental success in losing two or three pounds. But if you do that, and you lose another two or three pounds, and another two or three pounds, in due time you will have lost that 30 or 50 pounds."

C.D. Bradley can be contacted at 575-8617.



--Add more fruits and vegetables to your routine, aiming for a variety of colors.

--Drink diet soda rather than regular, and also plenty of water.

--Watch portion sizes; many restaurant meals are enough for two.

--Make healthier choices: low-fat dairy products, the vegetable of the day rather than a loaded baked potato, grilled rather than fried.

Pam Ward, Western

Baptist Hospital dietitian


--Some is better than none, even if you start small: walking five to 10 minutes three times a week.

--Gradually add to your routine, extending exercise to 15 minutes, then 20, then 30; then add a fourth day each week, then a fifth.

--Find someone to exercise with: the camaraderie offers encouragement and provides accountability.

--Choose an activity you enjoy: walking, cycling, swimming.

--Aim for a moderate level of activity: on a scale of 1 to 10, an effort between 3 and 5 can produce results.

Kyle Miller, Lourdes

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