Every year, people make a New Year's resolution to lose weight. It's no wonder, considering statistics show that more than half of all Americans are considered overweight or obese.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Missourians are collectively getting fatter each year.
- Missouri is among the 12 most overweight states in the nation, with an obesity rate of more than 30 percent, according to the CDC. In the past 20 years, that number has increased by more than 10 percent.
- This is in part due to poor eating habits, but also due to the fact that sedentary lifestyles are more common than ever, thanks to ever-evolving technology and an increase in desk jobs as a result of it.
- The CDC reports that 24.3 percent of adults in St. Louis County are “physically inactive.”
- In St. Charles County, the number is a similar: 23.1 percent.
The voice of experience
St. Louis County resident Sandy York said she lost 50 pounds over two years, going from 198 to 146.
“I know it sounds trite, but I just exercised and watched what I ate,” York said. “I found out after the fact that stairs are not only good cardio, but will also help stabilize your core, leading to a flatter stomach.”
York said she occasionally does push-ups and sit-ups on a stability ball, and she tries to focus on eating low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruit at every meal.
“I count calories, but not fat grams. Fat helps suppress your appetite, so unless you have heart problems there is no reason to limit it,” she said. “I am still putting Slim Fast in my coffee instead of creamer, but I only drink a cup in the morning to get me going.”
York tries to avoid eating too much starch, and she doesn’t drink soda of any kind—though she does drink a lot of unsweetened tea.
“I try to weigh myself every day,” she said. “Over the two-year period I lost the weight, I kept telling myself that it was not a diet, but a permanent lifestyle change.”
York said she found that losing the weight was only the beginning, and that keeping it off is the real challenge.
“Every time I made another small change to break a plateau, I tried to make a sustainable change,” she said. “It had to be something I could handle doing, or not doing, for the rest of my life.”
Expert tips for success
Terri Canis is the founder and CEO of STLExercise.com, a website and organization dedicated to promoting fitness and well-being.
“Try out a new group exercise class,” Canis said. “Incorporate a mix of cardio and strength training to your routine."
Canis suggests choosing from the many innovative tools and activities you can do at home or your local gym or health club:
- Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance fitness program
- piloxing, a combination of Pilates and boxing
- pole dancing
- hip hop
Canis said that you can eliminate workout fatigue by including one or more classes into your schedule, rather than only focusing on the machines at the gym.
“Whether you are taking a class or creating your own routine, ensure that you maximize your workout with ‘interval training’, a balance of high and low intensity,” she said. “Fitness experts agree that by changing your speed between slow and fast while cycling, swimming, walking, running or even using a machine like the Elliptical, you will continue burning calories even after the workout.”
Canis said that classes such as Pilates and yoga teach relaxation, balance and core strengthening techniques, skills which can then be interwoven into your daily life.
Canis said that many people can be motivated by something as simple as their own wardrobes, and that just purchasing a new piece of workout clothing can help dieters stick to the plan.
Another way you can sustain motivation, Canis said, is to give to your favorite charity by supporting an exercise fundraiser.
“Consider fun runs for the kids, or form a team with co-workers and support research,” she said. “Get into your groove with your family by participating in a Zumbathon or spinning competition to help those in need.”
Additionally, she said, you could enter yourself in a weight loss challenge at your local gym. Besides the support you’ll get from your fellow participants, you’ll have the chance to experiment with new classes and routines.
Tips to get moving
- Make it simple. Doing housework, washing your car and gardening can count toward your daily exercise goal.
- Walk more. For example, park further away from the businesses you’re patronizing, get off the bus a few stops earlier, hike to the mall or take the stairs rather than the elevator when possible.
- Go green. When possible, park the car and use a bike to get around.
- Do the commercial shuffle. When you watch television, make a point of getting up off the couch when the commercials come on. You can stretch, run in place, do pushups, sit-ups or even lift light weights.
- Train for a marathon. If you’re feeling really ambitious, consider signing up for a marathon such as the one GO! St. Louis is holding in April.
- Use your resources. There are a number of free resources available online for those who want to get in shape. For example, check out Active at Any Size, a guide that offers tips and ideas on how to get moving regardless of your current fitness level.
According to the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), an information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, obesity comes with more consequences than just the obvious social and psychological issues.
Obesity has been linked to:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- certain types of cancer
- gallbladder disease and gallstones
- fatty liver disease
- gastroespohageal reflux (GERD)
- breathing problems
- reproductive issues in women
Those who have a family history of certain chronic diseases or have pre-existing medical conditions are most at risk for these complications, reports WIN.
People with a large waist circumference (40 inches for men, 35 for women) are most at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dyslipidemia (abnormal amounts of fat in the blood).
WIN reports that a weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of a person’s initial body weight can improve health by lowering blood pressure and other risk factors for obesity-related diseases.
Dropping as little as 5 to 7 percent of body weight can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.
“Eating healthier foods and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week have important health benefits,” reports WIN. “Sixty minutes of physical activity a day may be required to prevent gradual weight gain in adulthood.”
York has successfully kept the weight off for nearly a year now, and she said she expects to stay on track.
“But God, I miss Pepsi,” she said.