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Spring into weight management with realistic goals

With spring and warm weather knocking on the door, some may feel a renewed energy to better manage their weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Despite ads on television and online promising fast weight loss, a healthy diet combined with physical activity is still the foundation for long-term weight loss success, said Janice HermannOklahoma State University Extension nutrition specialist.

“Before everyone gets too focused on weight loss, a better approach is achieving and maintaining good health,” Hermann said. “Combining that approach with realistic goals is the best way to achieve good health. View weight loss as slow and steady, which can help shift attention from short, drastic changes to a more moderate diet and physical activity level that are more attainable and long-lasting.”

To lose weight, calorie intake from foods and beverages must be less than calories expended from basic body functions and physical activity. Reasonable and healthy weight loss should be about 10% of body weight in a year. For a 250-pound individual, that’s 25 pounds per year, or about one-half pound per week. A 10% weight loss can have many positive health benefits.

“People make drastic changes in their diets by restricting certain foods or only eating certain foods. While this results in rapid weight loss, it simply isn’t sustainable or healthy,” Herrman said. “Losing weight doesn’t have to mean making big dietary changes. Instead, focus on small changes that move toward a healthy eating pattern.”

For example, fill half of the dinner plate with fruits and vegetables. Increase whole grains and shift toward lean protein and low-fat or non-fat dairy choices. In addition, select foods with less added sugar. Hermann also recommends eating slowly.

“You need to give your body time to feel fullness,” she said. “Start with making these small changes and build on those changes over time.”

Physical activity plays an important role in leading a healthier lifestyle. For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensive physical activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.

“You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to increase physical activity. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking further away from the office building or store are just a couple of ways to incorporate additional physical activity,” Hermann said. “It’s never too late to get started on the path to a healthier lifestyle. If you fall short of your goals one day, don’t give up. Tomorrow is a new day.”

A healthcare provider should be consulted before starting a physical activity program.

OSU Extension offers more information about health, nutrition and wellness on its website. In addition, check out the USDA’s MyPlate program for more healthy eating tips.

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