NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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A Popular New Year's Resolution

A Popular New Year’s Resolution

          With more than 60 percent of Americans currently overweight, losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution.  A multitude of ads for weight loss products and books featuring the latest weight loss diet offer their idea as the one perfect for you.  Despite all the variations of weight loss plans, the most effective way to lose weight and to permanently maintain weight loss over time is to moderate calorie and fat intake, follow a healthy balanced diet and stay active.

          Calorie needs vary from person to person. Age, gender, body size and composition, physical condition, and activity level all play a role in determining how many calories a person needs.  The number of calories required by your body throughout the day to do involuntary tasks, such as breathing, producing body heat, keeping your heart beating, and sending messages to and from the brain, is called your basal metabolic rate or BMR. A person’s BMR actually represents about 60 percent of the body’s daily energy needs. Approximately 30 percent of the body’s daily energy needs is used for movement, including a blink of your eye, walking to get the mail, folding laundry as well as jogging around the block. The remaining 10 percent of the body’s energy requirement is used to digest food and absorb the nutrients from food

          To maintain weight, the number of calories consumed must equal the number of calories the body burns. For people trying to lose weight, the number of calories consumed must be fewer than the number burned each day. The best way to accomplish this is to cut back on calories by decreasing food intake, while increasing physical activity.

          Another key component of a healthy eating plan is a moderate fat intake. At 9 calories per gram, fat contains more than twice the calories of protein and carbohydrates (4 calories/gram each). Limiting your fat intake not only reduces fat and calories, but also reduces a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A healthy goal is 30 percent or less of total calories from fat.

          Watching your fat intake doesn’t mean you must give up your favorite foods. Choose lean meats and dairy products. Use oils and spreads sparingly. Be aware of hidden fats in foods such as bakery products, crackers, nuts and salad dressings. Learn to modify recipes and use substitutions to lower the fat content.

          Keep in mind that a low-fat eating plan is not always low in calories. When selecting low-fat foods, look at the calorie content as well. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and low-fat dairy products tend to be low in fat, refined sugars and calories, yet rich in many vitamins and minerals.

          People are more successful at losing weight when they alter eating habits and stay active. Physical activity burns calories, raises metabolism, and helps you lose body fat. Staying active also promotes a sense of well-being and has beneficial effects on HDL cholesterol.   If you are very overweight or have other health problems, consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Start slowly, and then work up to at least 15 minutes a session, three to five times a week.


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