Food for Thought: Weigh to go!

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier District Extension Agent

Body weight! Like most people, I weigh more than I should or would like to weigh. It’s not that I don’t know how to lose weight; balancing physical activity and food intake is the golden rule everyone knows about. In my lifetime, I have probably lost more than the weight of three adult persons! Many Americans are in the same situation I am – we can lose weight, we can’t maintain our weight loss.

foodforthoughtThe real issue with weight loss is keeping the weight off! In the 90s, Extension taught Eating Slim, a weight loss program written by Missouri Extension specialists. Lots of folks taking the class lost weight; very few were able to keep the weight off.

Weight loss is more than a competition, or eight weeks of Walk Kansas; it is learning about you as a person. Examples: Do you purchase unhealthy foods at the grocery store and bring them home? Do you eat in front of the television? Do you eat most of the bag of chips in front of the television from the chip bag? Are you active enough to “make up” for the high fat and salt you overate? Why do you over eat? Is it from stress, depression, or because you bought them in the first place?

One place to start a weight loss effort is to keep a food diary. No one likes to do this but knowing how much you eat and what you eat can start you down the right path. Before you choose to eat, you first must write it down in your food diary. Writing down the food you eat is a clue for you to think “do I really want this food, is it healthy?”

Be careful of restricting calories too much. Our bodies are made to survive. An example I use are the sad World War II American prisoners of war. With substandard amounts of food, many of them lived. Cut the calories too much and our body (from caveman time) says it’s going to be a famine, start conserving the fat!

A safe weight loss program does not advise consuming less than 1,200 calories per day unless under a medical doctor’s supervision. Slow and steady weight loss is best, no more than 1 to 2 pounds weight loss per week. Why go slowly when we want the weight off now? Losing weight is a stressor to our body, similar to other emotional or traumatic events in our lives.

Best foods to eat for weight loss: low fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and lean protein foods from plants and animals. Highly effective weight loss techniques involve following a healthy eating pattern or lifestyle. An example is the healthy eating pattern known as the DASH Eating Plan.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a flexible and balanced eating plan that is based on research studies sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). These studies showed that DASH lowers high blood pressure and improves levels of blood lipids (fats in the bloodstream), which reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. You can find information, sample diet plans, and healthy heart recipes also at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash.

And lastly there is the lack of or limited physical activity that makes up our lifestyles. We should be doing three to five 30-minute sessions of moderate exercise per week with strengthening exercises two days a week. If weight loss is your goal, as you build endurance you need to increase the number of times per week you do moderate exercise and lengthen the amount of time spent on doing the exercise.

Finally, to be successful in weight loss, you must continue eating and exercising the same amount and time that it took to lose the weight. Weight loss maintenance means you will always continue watching the foods you eat and exercising. That is a shock to many people who “think” once the weight is lost they can go back to eating like before the weight came off. Weight loss is a healthy lifestyle change for the rest of your life.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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