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January 2, 2007 > Washington Hospital Advertorial Section

Washington Hospital Advertorial Section

Celebrate the New Year with a Healthy and Maintainable Diet

There is no magic about the first of the year. Every day offers opportunities to make healthy food choices and/or increase activity to help achieve and maintain the proper weight for you. However, many people choose to mark the New Year with a resolution to go on a diet. It is such a popular resolution that January 1-7 is National Diet Resolution Week. If you plan to ring in 2007 with a new and healthy diet, set yourself up for success by choosing a plan that you can maintain year in and year out.

"Be realistic about weight goals," advises Anna Mazzei, a clinical dietitian at Washington Hospital. "If possible, aim for 10 percent overall weight loss, at a rate of one to two pounds a week."

Although Mazzei says it might take up to six months to reach that 10 percent goal, by dieting wisely and sensibly, you are more likely to be able to maintain the weight loss instead of sliding back or giving up. You have to determine what changes you can live with in the long run.

Extra calories may be coming from high fat foods and/or large portions. A food diary will help you identify where the excess comes from. You may be consuming unnecessary calories from sodas, juices or specialty coffees, or downing M & M's after a stressful meeting.

To lose a pound by the end of the week, you must take in about 500 calories less per day. That usually means 1000-1500 calories/day for women and 1500-2000 for men, depending on their age and activity level.

Mazzei suggests you ask yourself, "What form of exercise would you consider?" Options can range from using exercise equipment in your home or at the gym, doing aerobics classes, exercising along with a video, walking or biking on your own. Throughout the day, every little bit of extra activity you do can add up. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park the car far away from the building you plan to enter or get up from the chair to change the television channel instead of using a remote control.

The foods you eat should be dense with nutrients from the basic food groups. A healthy diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts should be included in a good diet. And foods in a healthy diet should be low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, added sugars and alcohol. Mazzei suggests a multivitamin for anyone who is altering his or her regular diet to ensure they get the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.

These days, many of us eat up to one-third of our meals in restaurants. Make sure you always know what you are eating and how the food is prepared. If the menu doesn't describe the preparation, ask the waiter. Avoid foods that are described as "fried," "breaded" or "crispy." You want to eat food that has been baked or broiled. To control your portion size, ask your server to bring only half of the order and pack up the other half for you to take home.

Mazzei emphasizes that a dieting person should not skip meals, since people eat more when they are too hungry. Some people find that using meal replacement options like SlimFast helps give them a break from having to think a lot about every single meal. The meal replacement option takes away the burden of over-thinking every once and a while.

Successful dieting comes from lifestyle changes in what you eat and how much physical activity you get. The successful solution is different for every person depending on what they decide to change to achieve the weight loss goal.

"You need to ask yourself, 'What changes can I make permanently to lose weight and keep it off?'" Mazzei says.

Although a diet may be spurred on by an interest in looking our best, there are overall health benefits to maintaining a healthy weight and eating well.

"Our focus is always on looks, but a five to ten percent weight loss is all you need to make a significant health difference in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol," Mazzei says.

Those with a medical condition may benefit from a physician referral for medical nutrition therapy. Dietitians work one on one with patients to specifically individualize a meal plan and an exercise regimen that fits into their lives.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that if you want to find a weight-loss program to help you, look for one that is based on regular physical activity and an eating plan that is balanced, healthy, and easy to follow. A good weight-loss program should encourage healthy behaviors that you can stick with every day. Safe and effective weight-loss programs should include:

* Eating plans that reduce calories but do not forbid specific foods or food groups.
* Tips to increase moderate-intensity physical activity.
* Slow and steady weight loss.
* A plan to keep the weight off after you have lost it.

For more information on healthy dieting, visit the Web site for the National Institutes of Health, http://win.niddk.nih.gov/

For more information about taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle, visit the America On The Move Web site at http://www.americaonthemove.org/

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