Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Being overweight can cause a wide range of health problems, from type 2 diabetes and gallstones to coronary disease and strokes.
Despite the onslaught of weight-loss fads and headlines, the only real way to achieve and maintain an ideal weight is to turn healthful eating into a lifelong, enjoyable habit. Following are some tips to get started.
• Eat fresh, local produce. Farmers’ markets are a great source of local fruits and vegetables, which offer better nutritional value than produce picked two weeks ago and shipped from another country. Seasonal produce also tastes better than watery fruits and vegetables forced to ripen out of season.
• Enjoy healthful eating with friends and family. Trade good-for-you recipes with friends and family members or host meals and ask others to bring a nutritious dish to share. Plan a cooking challenge where everyone brings one healthful ingredient.
• Take small steps. If you want to lose weight, focus on dropping one pound a week or less. When you lose weight too fast, you can lose lean muscle mass and cause your body to enter survival mode, hanging onto body fat. Once you’ve met your small goal, you can set a new one.
• Plan ahead for meals at home. Make shopping lists and plan meals in advance so that you always have fresh, healthful foods available. Eating at home is more healthful than eating out. Restaurant meals generally have twice the number of calories you need. If you eat out, try asking for a take-out box when your meal arrives, and put half of it aside before you even begin eating.
• Take your time. Eat slowly. As you digest food, your stomach sends a signal to your brain to tell it that you’re satisfied, but it can take up to 20 minutes for that signal to arrive.
• Make yourself accountable. It can help if you share your goal with a registered dietitian or a respected family member or friend. If you fall off the wagon, you can work together to get back on track.
• Be kind to yourself. An isolated slip-up doesn’t mean failure. As with anything else, there will be good days and bad days. When you have a bad day or don’t accomplish a goal, try to understand it so that you do better next time.
Many Americans need to lose weight, but the newest diet trends are never the answer. A regular habit of nutritious eating can help you achieve your weight-loss goal and lead to a healthier life.
Dr. Erica Framsted is a dietitian at the Palo Alto Center of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.