GREENEVILLE – Worst fears recently were confirmed when a new federal study asserted that more Americans will soon die of obesity than from smoking, if current trends continue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a poor diet and physical inactivity caused 400,000 deaths in 2000, a whopping 33 percent jump over 1990.
Meanwhile, tobacco-related deaths in the same period climbed by less than 9 percent to 435,000 as the gap between the two narrowed substantially. At this rate, obesity will claim the top spot as the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death, according to the study.
But, what can we do to fight the battle of the bulge? Phyllis Ensor, director of nutritional services at Takoma Adventist Hospital, says we need to start by being committed to losing weight.
“That’s the biggest problem,” Ensor says. “We’re not committed. I think it has to be done in a group setting. You need a support system. Join a weight loss group. A lot of churches have them. I’m partial to Weight Watchers because they have meetings and a great support system.”
Ensor says the study’s results surprised her. “I am very surprised that we’re closing in on smoking,” she says. “But what the study really says is we’re all too fat. We have a sedentary lifestyle and we biggie-size it too much.”
Ensor offers the following tips to lose weight safely:
· Cut back on portion sizes.
· Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat at least five or more servings a day, all year round.
· Eat your grains, legumes, roots, tubers and plantains. In this category, eat more than seven servings a day of grains (breads, pasta, cereals and rice), legumes (dried peas and beans), roots and tubers (potatoes and sweet potatoes), and plantains (bananas).
· Eat less fat. Choose modest amounts of appropriate vegetable oils.
· Watch your sugar and salt amounts. Stay away from refined sugar, and use herbs and spices to season foods instead of salt.
· Cut back on fast-food
· Drink more water.
· Avoid alcohol. If you must drink, limit it to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
· When cooking, bake, broil or grill – don’t fry.
· If you must snack, eat fruit instead of calorie-laden foods. Switch to angel food cake instead of frosting-laden cake.
· Don’t eat meat, or at least eat less of it. Limit intake of red meat to less than three ounces daily. Choose fish or chicken, over red meat.
· And, get moving! Try to exercise an hour a day.
“The most important thing you can do is get moving,” Ensor says. “Walk, do aerobics, whatever. Just get some exercise.”
Spring is the perfect time to start an exercise program, she says. “It’s getting warmer and the daylight hours are increasing,” Ensor says. “You can walk in the morning before work or in the evening after work. Just do it.”
She also suggests eating three balanced meals a day, with two healthy snacks. “Try not to snack at night,” Ensor says.
Set up a reward system – other than food – for when you do lose weight, she says. “Buy a pretty new dress, get a manicure,” Ensor says. “Don’t make food the most important, exciting thing.”
And, for those on a budget, eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, she says. “Fresh fruits and vegetables, in season, aren’t that expensive – especially if you buy them straight from a produce market,” Ensor says. “A lot of people garden around here, too. Fresh food is at their fingertips.”
Frozen food is a good alternative to fresh food, she says. “And if you have to buy canned food, rinse the salt off. When cooking, use light oils. Don’t load it up with butter and fat back. And, don’t add salt.”
Also, look for sales. “Plan menus before going shopping,” she adds. “Stick to your list and you can save money.”