The key to losing weight is to expend more calories than you take in. That is, of course, an extremely simplified way of looking at obesity, one of the most prevalent causes of chronic health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and potentially debilitating spinal conditions. It’s one thing to know that it’s not a good idea to collapse in front of the TV after inhaling that fast food value meal; it’s another thing entirely to know exactly how to battle a weight problem.
The obesity epidemic
Losing weight is a population-wide concern in the United States, so much so that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies obesity as an epidemic among Americans. One way that the USDA fights this epidemic is by issuing dietary guidelines every five years to help educate citizens about the importance of “energy balance.” Energy within food takes the form of calories, which are expended through physical activity. Over time, an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended can lead to weight gain – or make maintaining a healthy weight virtually impossible. Included in the USDA’s 2010 dietary guidelines are suggestions to help Americans lose weight:
- Stay active – a regimented energy output (in the form of a daily exercise routine) helps the body regulate metabolism; a 90-minute daily regimen of moderate-intensity exercise is typically recommended for weight-loss programs, which should only be undertaken after consulting a physician
- Reduce caloric intake – eating fewer “empty calories” in your diet such as refined carbohydrates, refined grains and sugar-sweetened drinks often helps to reduce the number of calories taken in by the body
- Reduce certain dietary fats – saturated fats and trans fatty acids are high in calories and contribute to heart disease
- Increase unsaturated fats – omega 3 fatty acids from seafood is ideal because this type of fat is considered healthy, and also because fish is a good source of protein
- Increase dietary fiber – this improves digestion and helps with absorption of other key nutrients
Proper nutrition comes first
Losing weight is important, but it must not be attempted at the expense of proper nutrition. With the preponderance of dietary advice in books and on the Internet, it’s a good idea to consult a licensed nutritionist for guidance before attempting a weight loss program.