Healthy Weight Loss: Tips and Risks

Common sense prevails: a low-fat, high-fiber diet is the best way to lose weight. Some herbs can help keep you on track.

| January/February 1997

With all of the emphasis on health these days, it seems that the average American adult should be slimmer. However, statistics show that despite nationwide efforts encouraging us to change our eating habits, 33 percent of the population is overweight, compared with 25 percent of the population in 1980—a whopping 32 percent increase in just seventeen years. In fact, according to a recently released report by the National Institutes of Health, the average weight of young American adults has actually increased by ten pounds.

No quick fixes

People don’t like being overweight, if the number of fad diets that regularly come and go is any indication. Most of us have heard about them, if not tried them—the grapefruit diet, the cottage-cheese-and-dry-toast diet, the protein shake diet, and on and on. For short-term weight loss—a few pounds so you can get into that special outfit—they may work fine, but the weight soon creeps back; the next time, the weight is harder to lose than before, and it creeps back a notch higher. Before you know it, you’re caught in a vicious cycle.

Although a quick fix would be wonderful, the proven, healthful key to successful weight loss and management is a long-term, sensible eating plan. By this, I don’t mean dieting and rigorous calorie restrictions. Rather, I mean regulating the quality and type of nutrients you include in your daily regime. Creating a long-term plan to help you manage your weight so that you look and feel good will also help you avoid health risks associated with obesity, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetic complications, and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, ankles).

How much should you weigh?

The following chart provides optimal weights* in pounds for adults aged twenty-five and older wearing light clothing. To determine the size of your frame, wrap your middle finger and thumb around your wrist. If your finger overlaps your thumb, you have a small frame; if it touches your thumb, you have a medium frame. If they don’t meet, you have a large frame.

Simplicity works

It is easy to maintain a healthful diet by following a few simple but crucial guidelines. Although it may initially seem difficult to use because some of the concepts or components may be new to you, the focus of this diet is on simplicity.

• Eat enough calories to live comfortably—don’t starve yourself; pace yourself. Eating between 1,200 and 2,000 calories per day, according to your activity level and build (see the accompanying chart), is a good range to aim for.
• Exclude fried foods and animal fats from your diet, and include high-quality vegetable oils, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, unrefined grains, and carbohydrates.
• Make the majority of your diet vegetarian and use organically raised products; most major supermarkets sell organic fruits and vegetables and provide an organic foods section. Meat should be an occasional treat, and fish and eggs can be eaten sometimes.
• Drink five to eight glasses of filtered or bottled water each day because water helps the body function efficiently, which facilitates weight loss. Avoid stimulating drinks such as coffee, tea, and cola.

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