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  Fitness > Weight Loss >  << Previous|Next >>
  Weight Management Issues

According to most surveys, adults generally attempt some sort of diet at least once a year. Even those who manage to lose weight often struggle to keep it off, often because they don't know the answers to successful weight management. There is no shortage of questions, however, and here are some of the most common ones asked of nutrition experts:

How much food should I be eating on a daily basis?
A typical daily food plan tells you how much of each food you can eat, but you may have to measure and weigh all your foods at first until you can recognize a typical portion by sight. For a couple of weeks, use measuring cups and spoons and a food scale to measure out exact quantities of all the food you eat. After a while, you'll know what a half-cup of rice or 3 ounces of meat looks like and you can stop measuring.

Besides portions, where and how you eat are important factors: Do you eat while watching TV or talking on the phone, or every time you pass the vending machine at work? Maybe you eat certain foods just because they're there. Although triggers vary for different people, they usually have more to do with habit than hunger. If you're an overeater, it's important to figure out the cues that trigger problem eating and then take steps to eliminate them. The following is a list of steps you can take to start improving your eating behavior:

- Keep a food diary including when, what, where and why you eat.   The diary will help you identify your eating triggers and patterns.
- Plan and eat regular meals.
- Eat slowly. Put your fork down between mouthfuls, or at least   swallow what's in your mouth before loading up the fork again.
- Have celery and carrots on hand and ready to eat all the time.
- Save foods from regular meals to have as snacks.
- Don't buy "temptation" foods in the first place.
- At home, eat only in one place, in one room.
- Practice saying "no" to seconds and offerings of problem foods.
- Avoid boredom eating by keeping reminders of other activities   visible. Try to keep a list handy of things to do besides eating.

How do I know if I have a good weight-loss program?
The goal of any diet plan should be long-term weight control, with slow weight loss and no risk to your health. Quick weight-loss diets, such as very-low-calorie diets and diets that restrict certain food groups, can be harmful and won't help you keep the weight off in the long run.

A good diet provides all the nutrients you need and enough calories--typically 1,200 to 1,800--to keep you from getting hungry or tired. Daily energy intake will vary with daily activities. The diet should also focus on slow and gradual weight loss--about one pound per week (a reduction of approximately 500 calories per day, unless medically supervised, when faster weight loss may be appropriate). Some form of regular moderate exercise is an integral part of a weight loss program.

To succeed in sticking to your plan, it has to include foods you like to eat and it must allow you to eat comfortably when you're away from home. Otherwise, you'll be discouraged from making the long-term changes that are necessary for permanent weight control. Aerobic exercises, including bicycling, swimming, running, dancing or walking are activities that drain body fat reserves while increasing oxygen uptake; they are an important adjunct to weight management. Benefits include suppressed appetite, reduced body fat, increased energy expenditure, maintenance of lean body mass and possibly a lower set-point (body setting for the amount of body fat.)

Commercial weight-loss programs have sprung up everywhere. In addition to national programs such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Diet Center, smaller, local programs are probably available in your area. But whether these plans deliver depends to some degree on your expectations. Good programs provide support, but be prepared to do your part. Remember, also, that no one plan is right for everybody. Some people need a very strict regimen; others can handle a program that leaves more control in their hands.

Before plunking your money down, go beyond the brochures and ask questions. For example, if payment is required up front, ask about a money-back guarantee for dropouts and check hidden costs. A steep nonrefundable fee for a health assessment or the required purchase of company food can run up the tab far beyond the advertised cost. Ask about the long-term success of their participants in achieving and maintaining weight loss.

Also, a good plan will normally allow you to choose the foods you eat, while encouraging a nutritious balance; not restrict any particular food group or require you to buy special products; incorporate nutrition and behavior modification programs to promote long-term changes in eating habits; and have a professional staff experienced in weight control. (Check credentials. The program should be designed by a qualified health professional, such as a registered dietitian.

What if I need to gain weight?
If you're 15 percent or more below normal weight for your height, you're considered underweight. The first thing you should do is consult a doctor to make sure there's no underlying medical reason for your low weight. The doctor might recommend a weight gain diet and might also suggest cutting down on the amount of your aerobic exercise.

To gain weight, add about 500 to 1,000 calories a day to your regular diet. Add the extra calories gradually, however, so you don't upset your stomach. Plan to have regularly scheduled meals and allow enough to time to eat in a relaxed fashion. Snacking between meals can help. Liquid supplements with or between meals add calories without adding a lot of bulk to your diet. Pasta is a great way to add complex carbs while adding a tremendous amount of low-fat calories to your diet. Weight training is highly recommended to increase muscle mass and accordingly increase your weight.
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