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Dr. Nina: Try healthy weight-loss strategies for long-term results
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Dr. Nina: Try healthy weight-loss strategies for long-term results

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Nina Radcliff

If you are one of the 45 million Americans who plans to lose weight this year, know the rewards of a healthy weight are well worth it. Being overweight raises the risk for a number of chronic health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, osteoarthritis and some cancers.

Healthy weight loss and management are a commitment to a healthy lifestyle - eating a balanced diet, remaining physically active, decreasing stress, getting enough sleep and staying mindful. For successful, long-term weight loss, you must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits.

How do you make these vital changes to live a healthier, longer life? During the next few weeks, I will provide strategies for weight-loss success.

Dr. Nina's What You Need To Know about weight-loss strategies, Part 1:

Create realistic goals

Patience is a virtue - and a key component of any weight-loss plan. Most experts recommend a gradual and steady weight loss of ½ to 2 pounds per week. But for those who are 30 pounds overweight, the idea of a 30- to 60-week period before attaining their goal can be daunting, frustrating and defeating.

However, there is good reason for this recommendation. Losing 1 pound of fat requires that we burn 3,500 calories. In a seven-day week, if we burn 500 more calories a day than we consume in food, that would equal a 1-pound weight loss. And if we burn 1,000 more calories than we consume in food, that would equal a 2-pound weight loss. Generally speaking, losing weight faster than that can become dangerous, either from not eating enough or exercising too much.

Exercise isn't enough

Weight is ultimately a result of calories in and calories out. If there is a positive balance, there is weight gain and vice versa. Burning calories with exercise is imperative but cannot overcome bad eating habits.

The number of calories we burn depends on our weight and the type of physical activity.

On average, in one hour of physical activity, a 150-pound adult will burn:

• 200 calories when walking at a moderate pace

• 600 calories running at a moderate pace

• 220 calories ballroom dancing

• 580 calories playing a game of basketball

• 360 calories doing low-impact aerobics

• 402 calories doing water aerobics

The calories that are burned in those 60 minutes of sweating can be wiped out in just minutes with the wrong food.

Steer clear of fad diets

Many of us have sincere hopes that we can lose weight and can be easily tempted by fad diets - weight loss plans that promise dramatic results. However, when it comes to losing pounds fast or other gimmicks, the old saying applies: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Fad diets can include consuming only cayenne pepper and water, grapefruit or even the ever-popular Atkins plan. While these diets can help you drop several pounds quickly, for most humans, they are nearly impossible to maintain for long periods of time. As a result, their effects are short-term and fleeting. And they can be dangerous to our health, as they often fail to provide our body with essential vitamins and nutrients, cause intestinal issues and can dehydrate us.

Build muscle

Muscle has a faster metabolism than fat and, pound for pound, burns more calories, even while we are sleeping. Additionally, when weight is lost via calorie reduction and cardiovascular exercise only, this can lead to a breakdown of muscle tissue. As a result, there is less muscle mass, and our body's metabolic rate decreases - we are burning fewer calories.

Building muscle mass helps make us look stealthy, protects joints and ligaments, makes our bones stronger and improves balance and movement.

Eat breakfast every day

It may seem intuitive that eating fewer calories, for example, by skipping breakfast, can help us lose weight. However, when it comes to "the most important meal of the day," the reality is counterintuitive. Eating breakfast suppresses the release of hunger hormones that would stimulate our appetite and provides a feeling of fullness or satiety. What this translates to is having more willpower when faced with high-calorie, high-fat or sugary options that can increase our waistlines.

Research has shown that dieters who regularly eat breakfast, on average, lose 50 percent more weight than dieters who skip breakfast. And they are more likely to keep it off for at least two years.

Eat more fruit, vegetables

Along with being delicious and nutritious, the vast majority of fruit and veggies do not contain fat or cholesterol. As a result, they are a healthy alternative to salty, fatty, sugary and processed foods and can help maintain or reach a healthy weight. Fruit and vegetables are also chock-full of fiber, which makes our tummies feel full faster. This can help decrease the amount of food, and hence calories, that we consume.

Dropping a few excess pounds can reduce the wear and tear on your body. One study found that every lost pound subtracts 4 pounds of pressure from the knees for each step taken. So losing just 10 pounds means that each knee is subjected to 48,000 fewer pounds of pressure for every mile walked. Beyond that, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can lower your odds of developing heart disease or having a stroke. And when combined with exercising at a moderate level of effort for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, it can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. You can do it. You can gain better health by losing unhealthy pounds.

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Radcliff has used all reasonable care in compiling the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

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