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America's weight concerns appear to be well-founded. Latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics show that two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. "People are now hearing what health authorities have been saying for years – Americans are too heavy," says James Hill, PhD, Executive Director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Health & Wellness Center and co-founder of America On The Move, a national program with a mission to improve health and quality of life by promoting healthful eating and active living among individuals, families, communities and society. "Although America has a serious weight problem, the good news is that more and more people are trying to address it."
Of course, the bad news is that many cannot maintain their initial weight loss success. The top obstacles to achieving a healthy weight, according to the national survey, are: not enough exercise (69%), metabolism slowing (62%) and too much snacking (52%). Some of the reasons given were more gender specific: Women often eat for emotional reasons (50%) while men find themselves overeating at mealtimes (44%).
"Many have taken the first step – admitting they want to lose weight for overall better health," says Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council. In fact, 50 percent of American adults now say they need to lose at least 10 pounds, up from 40 percent in 2004. To succeed, health experts agree it takes a lifestyle change – permanent changes in eating and exercise habits to reach and maintain a healthier weight. "It's all about calories in and calories out. For healthy weight loss, reduce calories while eating a balanced diet, and burn calories through physical activity."
Overall, among methods weight-conscious Americans are using to improve their eating habits, cutting back on foods high in sugar was mentioned most often (by 86 percent of those trying to lose weight). Other popular methods include eating smaller portion sizes (85%) and consuming low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages (78%). At the other end of the scale, dieters do realize that short-term approaches will not result in lasting success – only 17 percent skip meals to diet, 13 percent use diet pills, and 8 percent follow restrictive weight loss diets.
For the do-over dieters, what can they do to change the pattern? "A good way to start is by stopping any further weight gain by making small lifestyle changes," Hill notes. "Just cutting 100 calories a day can prevent the gradual weight gain experienced by most Americans. Continuing to increase regular exercise and eating smarter by reducing portions, and limiting fat and sugar intake will help in both losing weight and maintaining it. It is important to realize that these healthy changes need to be ones that can be maintained for life."
The Calorie Control Council website offers help in incorporating healthy diet changes including online tools such as a Food Calorie Calculator, BMI Calculator, Online Food Diary, Diet Assessment Calculator and a Get Moving Calculator – available on the Healthy Weight Tool Kit page at www.caloriecontrol.org.