If you are like most Americans, your New Year's resolution is to lose weight and eat healthy. And it should: according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States is the most obese and over-weight nation in the world.
The CDC estimates that more than one-third of U.S. adults and almost 17% of youth were obese in 2009 – 2010, and that number continues to increase.
Jessica Bachman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Marywood University, says that if you are trying to lose weight—especially in the post-holiday period—stick to eating fewer calories and avoid fad diets for long-term results.
"Overall, if your goal is to lose weight, the only thing that matters is the amount of calories you are consuming and the amount of calories you are expending," Dr. Bachmann explains. "All of the fad diets out there are just different ways to lower calories."
According to Dr. Bachman, most people gain roughly two pounds during the holidays. Of course, that's on average, so there might be some people who gain no weight and others who gain more.
If you are someone who falls into the latter category and you want to lose weight after the holidays, Dr. Bachman has five simple suggestions:
If healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are washed, prepared and stored in the refrigerator, they will be as convenient to eat as junk food.
In many cases, restaurant portions exceed more than one serving. Although you may be charged the full price, eating smaller portions—thus consuming fewer calories—is a sure way to lose weight.
While eating out, many restaurants provide bread and crackers at the table. Skip these starchy calories and save your appetite for the meal.
If the "more-than-one-serving" is sitting on your plate, chances are that you will eat it. This strategy also saves money because you can keep the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.
Research has shown that if you eat a salad before your meal, you consume fewer calories overall. If you eat high-volume foods—foods rich in water and nutrients such as vegetables—you consume less high-fat, high-calorie junk foods.
Health and weight loss, however, are not affected by caloric intake alone. Caloric expenditure—in other words, exercise—is also important. Dr. Buchman says individuals can engage in a myriad of indoor activities such as yoga, resistance training and Crossfit during these cold, winter months to get their bodies moving and burn calories.
"Avoid any diet or exercise plan that promises a quick fix," she says. "When it comes to diet and exercise, that doesn't work. At this time of year, fad diet books are selling like crazy, and everyone is trying something new."
Television programs such as Dr. Oz and The Biggest Loser can also have a negative impact. According to Dr. Bachman, these programs may not recommend interventions to nutrition or weight loss that are evidence-based.
"People don't stick to dieting very long, maybe a few weeks here or there," she explains. "Everyone seems to want a quick fix, and, unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss and dieting, that doesn't work. Changing your habits and the environment you have at home can really make the difference."
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