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Ohio Department of Aging Aging Connection - January 2009

January 2009

This New Year, Resolve Not to Diet: 
Move From Dieting to a Healthy Way of Life

According to the New York Times, nearly two-thirds of the United States population is overweight and of that number, a third are obese. These numbers are growing, even though millions of Americans are dieting at any given time, spending more than $33 million each year on weight loss products such as diet foods and drinks, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Is it any wonder that the number one New Year’s resolution on most people’s list is to lose weight?

healthy eating

Older adults face greater challenges when they try to lose weight. Their metabolisms naturally slow down, they tend to be less physically active and they have to pay more attention to get the adequate nutrition they need. Studies also have shown that when a 20 year old and a 60 year old eat the same meal and then participate in the same exercise, the younger person will burn significantly more calories.

While fad diets promise quick weight loss by eating a severely limited diet or eliminating certain food groups from what you are allowed to eat, they are basically unhealthy because they may not provide all of the nutrients a mature body needs. Diets that strictly limit calories or food choices also are hard to follow. Most people quickly get tired of them and regain any lost weight, plus more.

Dieters are also faced with various weight loss program claims. The truth is:

  • No foods, not even grapefruit, celery or cabbage soup, can burn fat and make you lose weight;
  • "All natural" or "herbal" on the label of a weight loss product does not necessarily mean it is safe; and
  • Processed low-fat or nonfat foods can have just as many calories as the full-fat version of the same food because of added sugar, flour or starch thickeners.

Successful, healthy weight loss isn't about tricks or fads or a short term or crash diet. It's about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits. It means eating the foods your body needs in the correct portion sizes, exercising as a regular part of your daily schedule and being able to live with the changes once you have lost the desired weight.

In many diets, a dieter is not eating the way she will eat for the rest of her life. She may be able to stick with it until she reaches her goal, but because she hasn’t made any real changes, such as finding healthier foods she can enjoy in amounts that won't cause weight gain, studies show she will most likely regain the weight, and more, when she goes off the diet and goes back to her old way of eating.

By making slight changes, consumers can make a good start to a more healthy lifestyle and eliminate 500 calories a day, which will lead to losing a pound a week.

By making a small change each week for the next six weeks, consumers will make a significant change in their eating habits. Maybe it is drinking one less can of cola each day or having non-fat milk in their coffee instead of cream. Skipping high calorie beverages such as juices, smoothies and blended coffee drinks can save 250 to 500 calories. Fill up on fiber such as fruits and vegetables and order salad dressing on the side. Remember to have fresh fruit for dessert.

Dieters succeed when they stop being dieters. People don't need to deprive themselves of foods they love, but they can eliminate empty calories and find substitutes that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Remember, it's the small changes we make every day that make a big difference in the long run.