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January 11, 2010

My Turn: What's the secret to weight loss?


This week's "My turn" column is by Juliana Hanbridge, registered dietitian and owner of Curves of Cooperstown.

I have a little secret to share with you Daily Star readers. Are you ready? OK, here it is: There is no magic pill or secret potion for weight loss. There is no specific food group or vitamin; no shake mix or exercise product sold on TV that will provide quick and effective results.

I'm sure most of us are aware that an apple is better for our health than a doughnut, so why do we keep getting fatter?

The issue of weight gain can be complex and involve multiple factors such as environment, lifestyle, body composition and physical and emotional health.

I am a registered dietitian and owner of a woman's fitness franchise, but I still struggle with my weight (as I have for most of my adult life). However, there is one basic principle that could help all of us in the battle of the bulge:

Move more and eat less!

1) Educate yourself on good nutrition.

Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and reduce consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods. Find out what your ideal body weight is and how many calories you need each day. Learn the proper portion sizes for many of the foods you like to eat. Check out www.eatright.org for direction from The American Dietetic Association.

2) Prepare the majority of your meals at home.

More Americans eat their meals in restaurants or bring takeout food home than ever before. But the convenience is taking a toll on our health and our weight. Meals prepared away from home are notoriously high in fat, sugar and salt. Cooking at home takes effort and a little bit of pre-planning, but it's worth it.

Start with four or five meals that you and your family like and are easy to prepare, then stock up on the ingredients. A great meal this time of year is a vegetable stew with legumes for protein.

Rediscover that slow cooker: A little preparation in the morning or the night before, and a healthy, delicious dinner can be waiting when you get home. Many people find cooking on the weekend can be helpful and they save meals in the freezer for a busy weeknight.

Thousands of recipes can be found on the Internet for quick, healthy meals for stove-top, oven or slow cooker. And leftovers make great, healthy lunches for a busy workday.

3) Limit your intake of sodas and alcohol.

There are about 150 calories in a can of regular soda and 100 to 150 calories in a can of beer (depending on the brand). It takes a decrease of 500 calories a day to lose one pound of fat in a week.

Eliminating one can of regular soda at lunch and two beers at dinner, along with 30 minutes of daily exercise is all that is standing in the way of permanent weight loss.

4) Find an exercise you like to do and work it into your daily routine.

By preparing the majority of your meals at home, you might find that you now have extra funds for a gym membership. Women need to concentrate not only on aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking or swimming), but strength train, as well. By strengthening your muscles, you can burn more calories all day long even while reading, watching TV or sleeping.

5) A plan for successful weight loss is highly individualized; consider seeking out the knowledgeable dietitians on staff at your local hospital. Some insurance plans even pay for nutrition counseling, especially if your doctor recommends it due to high blood pressure or diabetes.

There's no secret to weight loss, just action. A little tweaking of your everyday life should get you started on a weight-loss goal. Hopefully these tips will help.

Hanbridge lives in Oneonta with her husband and three children. She can be reached at CooperstownCurves@gmail.com.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar.com or 432-1000, ext. 214. More "My Turn" columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/myturn.