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Strategies to lose weight safely

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The struggle millions of individuals experience in regard to maintaining a healthy weight has led public health agencies to characterize overweight and obesity as a major public health crisis. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, nearly one in three adults in the United States are overweight, while more than 40 percent are considered obese. Data from Statistics Canada indicates individuals also are struggling with their weight in Canada, where nearly 27 percent of adults can be classified as obese and more than 36 percent are classified as overweight.

With so many adults in North America classified as overweight or obese, it’s no wonder that fad diets and additional programs to lose weight are so easy to find. Individuals who are overweight or obese should aspire to lose weight, as doing so can lower their risk for various conditions, including some which can be deadly, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But it’s vital that individuals lose weight in a safe way that gives them the best chance to keep weight off. In recognition of that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers these tips to lose weight safely.

• Recognize what makes up a healthy weight loss program. Individuals have all sorts of options that promise to help them lose weight, but that doesn’t mean each of those options is safe and/or effective. For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians notes that the typical fad diet is unhealthy and does not result in sustainable weight loss. Some such diets can even be dangerous to your overall health. The USDA describes healthy weight loss programs as those that consist of reasonable and realistic weight loss goals. A reduced-calorie, nutritionally-balanced eating plan is another feature of a healthy weight loss program. Such programs also should encourage routine physical activity and a plan to help people change their behaviors so they can stay on track and meet their goals.

• Know what to expect out of a healthy meal. The USDA notes that calories, portion sizes and nutrition all combine to make a healthy meal. Avoid high-calorie meals by limiting portion sizes. The online health resource Verywell Fit offers a useful breakdown that can help people determine healthy portion sizes:

• 1 palm: a serving of protein

• 1 fist: a serving of vegetables

• 1 thumb: a serving of fats

• 1 cupped hand: a serving of carbs

This breakdown can act as a guideline for individuals, who also can discuss appropriate portion sizes with their physicians or a licensed dietician.

• Change your lifestyle, not just your diet. A successful weight loss strategy will help individuals develop lifestyle habits that help them maintain healthy weights. Fad diets and other quick fixes only provide short-term weight loss, and the USDA urges individuals to avoid programs that they “go on” and “go off” at predetermined intervals. Long-term, healthy weight loss is achieved by changing one’s lifestyle, which requires a permanent commitment to physical activity and healthy eating. 

A significant percentage of adults in both the United States and Canada is considered overweight or obese.When attempting to lose weight, those individuals can look to a comprehensive approach rooted in healthy eating and routine exercise that can help them shed pounds and keep those pounds off for good. 

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