What’s it Gonna Take?

written by Melissa Stevens, MS, RD, LD,
Nutrition Program Coordinator, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitative Services

Being overweight is not what most of us aspire. Yet over 62% of Americans are either overweight or obese, and just like our waistlines this number keeps expanding. Unfortunately overweight and obesity is negatively viewed by our society more for aesthetic reasons (e.g. clothes are too tight, thighs too large) than for health-related reasons. The real reasons we should be concerned are more critical to our society, both economically and socially, as well as our own personal health.

Overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk of the following, to name a few:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis.

Not to mention that it just plain doesn’t feel very comfortable carrying an extra 10, 20 or more pounds around with you.

Who or what is at fault for the epidemic-like proportions of obese and overweight adults (and children) in our society? The answers are uncertain. Many believe it is the “super-size” generation that has evolved. Portions at restaurants, fast food chains, the candy isle, and even the produce section are two or more times the serving size they were a decade ago. This isn’t the only reason, however.

Our former Surgeon General believes lack of physical activity, community accesses to physical activity, and sedentary lifestyles should also be added to the equation. Top those with family, work, and social pressures and you’ve got a bag full of reasons Americans are becoming more and more overweight. But these reasons shouldn’t be excuses because you won’t be able to excuse your way out of coronary artery bypass surgery or diabetes.

So, what’s it gonna take? Read on to find ways you can start to take charge of your life and aim for a healthy weight.

Aim for a Healthy Weight – and for the Right Reasons

Just like you inventory your cupboards before heading out to the grocery store, you must first, above all things, do a personal inventory of yourself before trying to lose weight. Take 10 or more minutes to answer the following questions:

Why is it I want to lose weight?

Is it for health reasons, cosmetic reasons or both? The real reason you should want to lose weight is to reduce your risk for disease such as heart disease or diabetes. Feeling great should be next, for example, walking without pain or moving around more easily. Lastly, looking good is a good goal, but it shouldn’t be your only reason (think of it as a weight-loss perk).

What risk does my weight currently put me at?

Health professionals use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine your risk of being overweight through a calculation using your height and weight (for many athletes the BMI is overestimated due to extra lean body mass – see your healthcare provider for more information on an ideal weight). A BMI of 19 – 25 is considered healthy, 25 – 29.9 indicates overweight and greater than 30 obese. Determine your body mass index.

What is your goal weight (based on the BMI)?

Take into account that the safest weight loss (true fat loss) is achieved when 1 – 2 pounds of weight is lost per week. Aiming for your high school weight would be great, and is ideal for many of us. But with respect to being reasonable, consider your most comfortable, and healthy, adult weight. Was it easily maintained? How were you successful in maintaining that weight? Where did that weight fall on the BMI chart? Keep in mind that a modest 5 – 10% loss of body weight has shown considerable health benefits.

What obstacles keep me from losing weight?

Do your work, family, or social responsibilities inhibit you from losing weight? List the obstacles you feel prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.

How will you overcome these obstacles?

Now that you have them listed, decide how you can change, minimize, alleviate, work around or avoid some of the obstacles in your life. Come on now, there’s got to be a way to work around some of these; remember there’s no more excuses. If you find overcoming these obstacles too difficult to do on your own, consider seeing a psychologist or therapist who can provide you with some effective strategies.

What are my short-term (one to two month) and long-term (six months to a year) goals?

Remember estimate no more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. Do not set yourself up for failure. The weight didn’t come on overnight and it surely won’t go off overnight. Set reasonable short and long-term goals (even if it isn’t your end weight goal) and remember to REWARD yourself once you achieve the goal. Why not reward yourself, who else is going to do it for you? You do deserve it you know!

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