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A 2007 Consumer Reports survey showed that 41 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. Diets work — but only short term. Our problem comes with maintenance. If we don’t make a lifestyle change and head back to burgers and fries, curl up on the couch and spend endless hours watching TV, then guess what? The weight is coming back. Most people have disappointing experiences in the aftermath of diets, yet usually keep trying new diets, losing and regaining those same 10 pounds over and over again. Don’t try a different diet; try a completely different approach, one that is fad free. In this world of instant gratification, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no quick fix or easy way to reverse the effects of poor eating and inactivity. It takes effort to improve your eating habits and increase your physical activity, and results aren’t seen overnight. Anything worth doing will require effort, but the rewards are always worth it. Weight gain, weight loss — How does it work? No magic — just a simple rule: Weight change equals calories in minus calories out. If you burn as many calories as you take in each day, there’s nothing left over for storage and weight remains the same. Eat more than you burn and you end up adding pounds. Burn more than you eat and lose weight. This equation sounds easy, but how do you put it into action? Stay away from fads Fad diets are short-lived because they’re impossible to keep up. Instead, develop an eating plan for a lifetime of good health. There are many great resources for learning about sensible nutrition. Look for scientifically supported information about nutrition. Unfortunately, for every valid piece of material, there are at least two invalid sources of information. Red flags of junk science If a plan or product sounds too good to be true, then it is. There is no shortcut to healthy eating. If advice is coming from a celebrity, then it probably is not based in science. Companies selling supplements and giving dietary advice are trying to get you to buy their product to make money. Any “magic bullet” product that claims to cure several diseases, reverse aging or help you lose weight drastically will not do what it claims. These products can be dangerous if they prevent you from getting medically supervised treatment for your condition. Look for articles that cite studies that have been published in medical and scientific journals to back up their information and look it up. Don’t trust their Web sites. Ask to see your nutrition counselor’s credentials — being employed by a health club, writing a book or calling himself or herself a nutrition coach is not qualification to give nutritional advice. Find a health professional that studied nutrition at an accredited university. Anyone who is interested in nutrition can set up a business in nutrition, but only a person who has completed the academic requirements and passed a qualifying exam is a registered dietitian. Lessons from losers Since 1993, more than 5,000 people have joined the National Weight Control Registry. Members have lost more than 30 pounds and kept them off for at least a year. The average member has lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for five and a half years. How do they do it?
When you resolve to be healthy, the desire to take charge of your health informs every action and decision you make. It is your choice. When you consistently make healthy choices, a healthy weight should follow. Make gradual and sensible changes, not harsh temporary restrictions required by diets. It might mean that you make some time in your day to do strength training exercises or take a walk on your lunch, or pack a healthy snack to take to work. You eventually do it because you enjoy it and want to be healthy, not because it’s part of a quick-fix diet that you feel forced to do. In 2009, the word “diet” means your lifetime healthy eating plan. To sum it up in just a few words: eat mostly unprocessed, wholesome plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts; choose lean meats, and low-fat dairy products; never eat too much of anything; and move more. Don’t waste your money on fads and get healthy.