New Year...New You!

by Laurel Sterling Prisco, MA, RD

2003 has come and gone, and so have the resolutions. How did you fair? Did you adhere to the promises or were they a passing vow that never fully formed into practice and commitment? Do you now move on to new resolutions or will they, too, fall by the wayside?


More than 64 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES).

While the obesity rate has continued to climb since the 1980s, so have the health risks associated with being overweight. Risks like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as increased risks of gallstones, stroke, heart attack, osteoarthritis, and early death. Excess weight can also cause shortness of breath, back pain, complications in childbirth, and occupational or social discrimination.


Both diet and physical activity play a crucial role in overturning this enormous dilemma many of us face. Weight problems can be attributed to genetics, age, inactivity, high-fat diet, medical issues, medications, or unstable blood sugar levels. While the concept of weight loss is simple, the number of diets and pills propagated by the media makes it challenging to know which approach is best.

It's important to realize that each of us is unique. Therefore, one eating plan and exercise regime will not suit everyone. Unless a diet is incorporated into a healthy and balanced lifestyle, it generally won't last. When you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you usually avoid the "I give up" and binging that often accompanies a diet.

One of the most significant problems involves straying, even a little, from the program. Instead of righting oneself, most people abandon the diet. Studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that one year after dieting, 66 percent regain their weight, and after 5 years, it jumps to 97 percent.

What generally works for most is incorporating a balanced diet, consistent exercise, and intelligent supplementation into their lifestyle. This means getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, using an individualized exercise plan (cardio/weights stretching), drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, practicing relaxation techniques, and simply enjoying life more with a smile! Sound easy?

All too often we want a quick fix. Think about it. Did you gain the extra 40 pounds in two weeks? Did your cholesterol increase overnight, or did your diabetes develop from one month of imbalanced eating? NO! Be realistic and really look at the poor habits and choices that have developed over time, and the reasons why we have not changed them.

Consider the home and work environment, and the emotional connection some of us have with food. Many have become out of touch with hunger cues. Mindless eating is commonplace now, but can be changed. It takes discipline to maintain good health in the fast-paced society of convenience we live in. Americans spend roughly half of their food budget and consume approximately one-third of their daily calorie consumption on meals and drinks outside of the home. This makes it very difficult to track the energy content of foods. These foods are usually higher in fat and lower in micronutrients than homemade meals. Advertisers, fast food companies, and restaurants are not looking out for our best interest. They lack portion control and make calorie-dense items readily available- so we have to take charge ourselves!

It's not an all-or-nothing situation. Long-term success, with any program, needs to encourage sensible lifestyle changes and not rely on quick fixes, because that's all they are—quick and usually impossible to maintain. Slow and steady does really win the race in the long run. Strive to be a long-term weight-loss success story!

Helpful resources include: Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch; The Way to Eat by Katz and Gonzalez.