Balanced ways to attain a healthy weight

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and many are trying to slim down. But in the battle of the bulge, more people are losing than winning these days.

Whether you have tried to lose weight on your own or with the help of a weight-loss program, the focus is too often on severely restrictive diets and unrealistic goals, nutrition experts say. Not being able to reach those goals can set you up for an endless cycle of failure and discouragement.

You can increase your chances for success by focusing on managing your weight instead of losing weight. That involves adopting a lifestyle that includes healthful eating and regular physical activity, says the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Management strategies

The typical American diet consists of too much food with too little nutritional value. But most people can learn to eat more healthfully by making a few changes in how they eat on a daily basis. Some such strategies include:

  • Making health, not appearance, your weight-management priority. A realistic goal is to achieve a healthful weight for you, not necessarily the lowest weight you can reach or an 'ideal' weight from a chart, the ADA says.

  • Focusing on a healthful eating style, not on "dieting." Dieting often lasts for only the short term and rarely produces long-term success, the ADA says. Eating more healthfully over time will result in weight loss without your feeling a sense of deprivation. Eating for good health and eating to control weight are virtually the same. Choose a healthful eating plan that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and fewer high-fat foods.

  • Being more physically active. People who are physically active are more successful at losing and keeping off extra pounds. Plus a physically active lifestyle offers many rewards in addition to weight management, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers. For weight management, experts recommend a combined total of at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most if not all days of the week. If you don't have time to get that much exercise in all at once, you can break up your exercise time into 10 minute chunks through the day. If you haven't been physically active, build up gradually. Focus on increasing daily physical activity, rather than setting unrealistic exercise goals. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Put it all together

To ensure your weight-management plan is safe and effective, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it allow me to eat my favorite foods in moderation?

  • Does the plan include a variety of foods from all five major groups in the Food Guide Pyramid?

  • Does it include appealing foods I'll enjoy eating for the rest of my life, not just for a few weeks or months?

  • Does it include foods available at the supermarket where I usually shop?

  • Does it include regular physical activity?

If you can answer "yes" to all these questions, chances are your weight-loss program will allow you to achieve long-term success.

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