Balanced Ways to Attain a Healthy Weight

According to the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the CDC, which used heights and weights, nearly 70 percent 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, nutrition experts say that the focus is too often on severely restrictive diets and unrealistic goals or expectations of weight loss. 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 just losing weight. That involves adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy 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. Fortunately, most people can learn to eat healthier by making only 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 healthy weight for you, not necessarily the lowest weight you can reach or an 'ideal' weight from a chart, the ADA says.

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

  • Being more physically active. People who are physically active are more successful at losing and keeping off extra pounds. In addition, a physically active lifestyle offers many rewards in addition to weight management, such as a reduced risk for 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, incorporating both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. If you cannot set aside time to get that much exercise all at once, you can break up your exercise time into 10-minute chunks through the day. If you haven't been physically active, you should build up gradually. Focus on increasing daily physical activity rather than setting unrealistic exercise goals. Try to avoid an all-or-nothing mentality--remember that even short bursts of activity help. Be sure to talk with your health care provider 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 this plan allow me to eat my favorite foods in moderation?

  • Does this plan include a variety of foods from all 5 major groups plus oils as outlined in the plan found at from the USDA?

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

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

  • Does this plan 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 in weight management, healthy eating, and improved health and well-being.