Savvy womens Magazine


Women and Weight


Americans are obsessed with both food and dieting. As a nation, we love to eat - eating out more often, where meals are often higher in fat and calories than at home; eating larger portions; and indulging in dozens of delicious "new" food products found on our grocery store shelves every year. But we also spend $33 billion a year on commercial weight loss products and services often hoping for a quick fix. And it's no wonder; with all that eating, about 129.6 million Americans - more than 64 percent of the nation - are either overweight or obese. What's more, dieting is failure-prone, and the statistics are even worse for keeping the weight off.

The answer to this weight loss/weight gain cycle lies in how you manage your weight on a regular, day-in, day-out basis. Your diet - the way you eat - is ingrained into your lifestyle. To change your weight, whether you want to lose a few pounds, or more, and keep them off, or to ensure you don't succumb to the expanding-waistline syndrome, you must permanently adopt a healthy lifestyle. Experts have demonstrated through research that this approach of weight management is more reasonable and promising than traditional dieting strategies.

Unfortunately, it's not just all that tempting food that stands in the way of your efforts to achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight. Technology has altered Americans' lifestyle: most of us, most of the time can be found sitting'in front of a computer or TV, in a car, at a restaurant. Ten percent of adults - and an even greater percentage of women - report they are sedentary and engage in no physical activity during leisure time. After age 44, upward of 30 percent of woman are sedentary, and by age 65, the proportion of active to nonactive women increases to almost 35 percent. And by the time they reach age 75, about 50 percent of all women are sedentary. Despite the fact that it is absolutely essential to weight management and health, less than one-third of American adults engage in regular, sustained physical activity for at least 30 minutes five times a week; and only 15 percent exercise both regularly and vigorously.

Being overweight increases your risk for many diseases. If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death for both men and women in the U.S. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and high cholesterol, which is also a risk factor. Overweight people are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, a major cause of death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and blindness, as people who are not overweight. Several types of cancer are associated with being overweight. In women, these include cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast and colon. Being overweight can also cause problems such as gout - a joint disease caused by excess uric acid; gallbladder disease or gallstones; sleep apnea - interrupted breathing during sleep; and osteoarthritis - wearing away of the joints. Anyone with risk factors for health problems must be concerned about extra weight.

It all seems so simple: eat less, exercise, lose weight. But few people succeed in losing more than a few pounds and fewer still - about five percent of the 50 million Americans on diets every year - are successful at maintaining the weight loss. Many factors other than overeating can play a part: Your genetic makeup, cultural influences and natural hormonal and neurologic regulators can all make it hard to control body fat by diet alone.

Extreme dieting programs can sometimes be harmful and are rarely successful over the long term. Weight loss should not be your only or even your primary goal if you are concerned about your health. The success of your weight management efforts should be evaluated not just by the number of pounds you lose, but by improvements in your chronic disease risk factors - for example, lowered blood pressure or cholesterol - and symptoms like blood sugar levels, as well as by your new healthy lifestyle habits. In fact, some experts believe that weight is not the sole cause of the diseases associated with being overweight, but that the accompanying unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyles also contribute.

On the flip side, some women are underweight, despite having tried to achieve or maintain a "normal" weight. Having a metabolism that burns too many calories can be as dangerous as being overweight. Underweight women are susceptible to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, resulting in a loss of bone density and muscle tissue.

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