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Enlightened Talk About Weight Loss


Consider this irony: The same culture that prizes slender figures bombards us with advertising images of high-calorie, high-fat indulgences. It's no wonder women have such a love-hate relationship with food; we love the intense flavors and bountiful choices, but we hate what they do to our waistlines.

With all the mixed messages, it can be hard to focus on the real problem: what to do about the health risks associated with excess weight.

So how can you regain a healthy perspective? The first step is to decide to make friends with your body. It's the only one you have, and it deserves your kindness and care. Then you can begin making daily choices to walk (or run or swim or bike) away from a lifestyle that keeps you chained to those extra pounds. When you begin to include more physical activity and healthier foods in your every-day life, you'll soon find that you're carrying a lighter load, both mentally and physically.

The Tyranny of the Supermodels

Before you decide you're too heavy, though, take a realistic look at your expectations. If you're trying to achieve the rail-thin look of the supermodels, but you come from a genetically heavyset family, you may be setting yourself up for frustration. Mother Nature makes women in different sizes and shapes. Weight, like height, is largely under genetic control.

This doesn't mean you should resign yourself to obesity, however; it just means you should try to find your body's natural weight. Keep in mind, too, that women are supposed to have some body fat. Set your sights on having a healthy and fit body that is full of vitality, rather than on conforming to someone else's idea of beauty. The important thing is to feel good about yourself.

Treat Yourself to Exercise Rewards

Exercise, combined with good nutrition, is the key to lasting weight loss. Though it may seem difficult to begin exercising if you are out of shape, the rewards are well worth the effort. (It's a good idea to check with your doctor before starting.)

Walking is not only the most accessible form of exercise for most people but one of the best activities for losing weight and gaining fitness. The trick to successful exercise is to implement changes you can manage. Start with small changes—from walking around the living room between TV programs, to walking around the block, to walking to the store, to going on daily walks. For weight loss, the ultimate goal is 60 minutes of walking or other comfortable exercise every day. But start with whatever you can comfortably achieve.

As you become more active, you might want to look into community exercise programs. Your local YWCA is a good place to start. Or see if there's a health club in your area that offers weight-loss programs or a shopping mall that has a walking program. You might also try exercising with a partner to help keep you motivated.

And remember that the benefits of exercise extend beyond weight control and added fitness. Regular physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also boost self-control, self-confidence, and well-being, and decrease stress and depression.

What's on Your Grocery List?

Eating well is the other cornerstone of effective weight loss. You need to eat nutritious food even if you are trying to lose weight. Crash diets are not only dangerous, they just don't work. Most people quickly regain the weight they lose on such diets.

Instead, eat nutritious, low-fat foods in moderation, and limit your intake of high-fat foods. You don't need to swear off high-fat favorites forever, but reserve them for special occasions and then savor them in small portions.

Here are more strategies to help you maintain better control:

  • Learn to pay attention to your body's cues and eat only when you're physically hungry. Many people eat when they're bored, tired, depressed, or upset. Start noticing the feelings or situations that make you want to overeat.
  • Be on fat patrol when you're in the kitchen. Trim the fat from meat and poultry before cooking, and bake, broil, boil, or steam foods instead of frying them. Replace high-fat foods, such as whole milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, and salad dressings, with low-fat or nonfat versions.
  • Stock your kitchen with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables instead of sweets and chips. Take healthy snacks to work, such as grapes, bananas, or nonfat yogurt.

Choose a Sound Pace

Remember: When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Be patient with yourself and the changes you're making in your life. You've gained weight over the course of years, so give yourself time to lose it.

And don't be too hard on yourself when you eat too much or exercise too little. Instead of fretting about how much ice cream you ate yesterday or whether you'll lose 10 pounds in time for your class reunion, focus on the healthy choices you can make now.



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