Understanding Diet and Weight Control
Americans are getting fatter. We're putting on the pounds at an alarmingly rapid rate. And we're sacrificing our health for the sake of super-sized portions, biggie drinks, and two-for-one value meals, obesity researchers say.
More than 60 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And about 15 percent of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are overweight.
Poor diet and physical inactivity account for more than 400,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, second only to deaths related to smoking, says the CDC. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, and joint pain caused by excess uric acid (gout). Excess weight can also cause interrupted breathing during sleep (sleep apnea) and wearing away of the joints (osteoarthritis). Carrying extra weight means carrying an extra risk for certain types of cancer, including endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
But there is hope for overweight Americans. They can take small, achievable steps to improve their health and reverse the obesity epidemic. This message is the cornerstone of a national education campaign announced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
As part of HHS' renewed efforts to combat obesity, the Food and Drug Administration's Obesity Working Group released its Calories Count report, highlighting actions that the agency will work toward to help consumers make smart choices about their diet. These actions include strengthening food labeling, educating consumers about maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and encouraging restaurants to provide calorie and nutrition information. Also included are increased enforcement to ensure food labels accurately portray serving size and strengthened scientific research aimed at reducing obesity and developing foods that are healthier and lower in calories.
Setting a Goal
The first step to weight loss is setting a realistic goal. By using a BMI chart and consulting with your health care provider, you can determine what is a healthy weight for you.
Studies show that you can improve your health with just a small amount of weight loss. "We know that physical activity in combination with reduced calorie consumption can lead to the 5 to 10 percent weight loss necessary to achieve remission of the obesity-associated complications," says William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the CDC. "Even these moderate weight losses can improve blood pressure and help control diabetes and high cholesterol in obese or overweight adults."
To reach your goal safely, plan to lose weight gradually. A weight loss of one-half to two pounds a week is usually safe, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This can be achieved by decreasing the calories eaten or increasing the calories used by 250 to 1,000 calories per day, depending on current calorie intake. (Some people with serious health problems due to obesity may lose weight more rapidly under a doctor's supervision.) If you plan to lose more than 15 to 20 pounds, have any health problems, or take medication on a regular basis, see your health care professional before you begin a weight-loss program.
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