Overweight in America
Weight is measured in terms of body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). Health experts define a healthy weight as a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered to be overweight, while someone with a BMI of 30 or higher is obese.
Researchers estimate 68 percent of American adults are overweight (72.3 percent of men and 64.1 percent of women). Roughly 33.8 percent are obese (32.2 percent of men and 35.5 percent of women). The extra pounds take a toll on the body. The excess weight is associated with a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, gallbladder disease, stroke, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and some types of cancer.
Overweight and obese patients can improve their health risks by losing at least 10 percent of their current body weight. The Calorie Control Council reports that nearly one-third of Americans are trying to lose weight.
Weight loss isn’t an easy task. Many people try, but slip up in their efforts. In some cases, people weigh more than at the beginning of the diet. The dieting yo-yo (on again/off again) can wreak havoc on the body. Starvation doesn’t work either, since the body’s metabolism learns to adapt to the decrease in calories and simply slows down to conserve energy, making it that much harder to lose weight.
To lose weight, a person must take in fewer calories than the body uses. That requires a combination of a healthy diet and increased exercise. A safe weight loss goal is one to two pounds a week. For the average person, that means taking in about 500 to 1000 fewer calories a day. In addition, adults trying to lose weight should aim for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity every day (not necessarily in one shot). Even after weight loss is achieved, health experts say maintaining that healthy weight requires a lifetime commitment to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Targeting the Abs
Sometimes, no matter how much a person diets and exercises, that tummy bulge won’t disappear. Patti Milligan, M.S., R.D., Nutritionist with TIGNUM in Fountain Hills, AZ, says the fat in the abdominal area is different from fat found elsewhere in the body. She adds, certain foods can help “whittle that middle.” Here are her suggestions:
Avocados. Though avocados are high in fat, it’s a healthy fat. They also contain potassium, which provides fuel for the metabolism.
Bananas. They contain potassium and supply other minerals and B vitamins.
Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits contain antioxidants, like vitamin C. Milligan says these compounds act like scrub brushes for the body, helping to eliminate toxins and fat.
Berries. Berries are also high in vitamin C and other antioxidants. They also contain fiber, which fills the tummy, so you eat less.
Whole grains. Whole grains provide fiber and are a source of fuel for the body. Research shows dieters who consume whole grains are more likely to lose more inches around the middle than those who eat refined grains.
Yogurt. Look for yogurt with active cultures, or friendly bacteria that keep the digestive tract healthy. These bacteria reduce the risk for gas and bloating, which can make the tummy bulge appear larger. Milligan recommends Greek yogurt because it has a higher protein content and will satisfy the appetite.
Green tea. Green tea contains healthy compounds, called phytonutrients. Researchers believe these compounds increase the rate at which the body uses energy and promote oxidation of fat.
Chocolate milk. Chocolate lovers will be happy to know their indulgence (in reasonable amounts) may be good for the body. Chocolate contains antioxidants. When added to milk, the beverage also provides protein and carbohydrates that provide energy and keep the body fueled. Choose skim or low fat versions of the drink.
Ginger. Milligan says ginger is a natural appetite suppressant. It also provides minerals that elevate energy levels.
Milligan says many dieters are sabotaged by the hunger urge. To keep hunger pangs at bay, she recommends eating several small meals throughout the day, including at least one of the above foods in each meal. Add a well-planned snack to round out the diet and beat back food cravings. Milligan also advises avoiding foods containing white sugar. These foods cause a spike in insulin levels, forcing the body to store the extra energy as fat.
American Dietetic Association, http://www.eatright.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition
For general information on obesity or weight loss:
The Calorie Control Council, http://www.caloriecontrol.org
/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
The Obesity Society, http://www.obesity.org
Weight Control Information Network, http://win.niddk.nih.gov
Fuhrman, Joel, et al., “Changing Perceptions of Hunger on a High Nutrient Density Diet,” Nutrition Journal, November 7, 2010, Vol. 9, p. 51.
Gilbert, J., et al., “Milk Supplementation Facilitates Control in Obese Women During Weight Loss,” British Journal of Nutrition, January 2011, Vol. 105, No. 1, pp. 133-143.
Hofse, D., et al., “Obesity-related Cardiovascular Risk Factors after Weight Loss,” European Journal of Endocrinology, November 2010, Vol. 163, No 5, pp. 735-745.
Rains, T., et al., “Antiobesity Effects of Green Tea Catechins,” Journal of Nutrition and Biochemistry, January 2011, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 1-7.
Venn, B., et al., “The Effect of Increasing Consumption of Pulses and Wholegrains in Obese People,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, August 2010, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 365-372.