On May 24, Michele Kuhn, coordinator of health and wellness education at Scottsdale Community College, gave a presentation to Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members on the topic of healthy weight loss. The discussion addressed the risks associated with obesity and key factors associated with healthy weight loss.
According to the American Heart Association, 60 to 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, Kuhn began. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that the average obese person had medical costs that were $1,429 higher than the medical costs for the average person of normal weight.
“Obesity [means a person] is 20 percent or more above his or her ideal body weight,” Kuhn explained.
She said for adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. A BMI lower than 18.5 is considered underweight; a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 indicates healthy weight; a BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicates overweight; and a BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity. Morbid obesity begins when a person’s BMI reaches 40.
Kuhn said the health risks of being overweight include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, increased risk of disease and death, and orthopedic injuries. Obesity is linked to more than 300,000 deaths per year.
Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
“It is a simple formula to figure out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The rate at which your body burns calories is your metabolic rate. Calorie consumption higher than calories burned equals weight gain, and calorie consumption lower than calories burned equals weight loss,” Kuhn explained. That’s why regular exercise plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight.
Kuhn said people looking for a place to start should focus on setting realistic goals, keep a food and exercise diary, eat every three to four hours, and do something active every day. She also recommended 2 to 4 servings of fruits per day, 2 to 5 servings of vegetables per day, and drinking only water with and between meals. Also, choose whole grains, leaner sources of protein and healthier sources of fat; limit alcohol and soda consumption; and limit the amount of processed food you eat.
Eating small, frequent meals is a key to healthy weight loss. Kuhn said this helps to maintain your metabolic rate, improves your maintenance of muscle mass, helps lower body fat with higher calorie intake, better balances your blood sugar (improved glucose tolerance and lower insulin response, thus decreasing fat production and reducing risk for diabetes), lowers stress hormone production, and improves physical performance.
For people who live active lifestyles, Kuhn warned against taking calorie restriction too far. “It will lower your metabolic rate, and also lower your carbohydrate storage, which impedes endurance in high-intensity activities. It is harder to maintain muscle mass, and your nutrient requirements will not be met,” she explained. “Your risk of injury goes up and your muscle recovery decreases, and mental and muscle fatigue set in.”
Recognize Your Obstacles
Kuhn said people face several roadblocks throughout their journey to healthy weight loss. If you get hungry between meals and choose to eat junk food, instead try keeping some low-calorie, healthy snacks on hand. When you go shopping, use a shopping list, and never shop when you are hungry. If portion control is your downfall, Kuhn suggests drinking a full glass of water before you eat and using a smaller plate. She said eating at the table—not in front of the television or computer—is important. Finally, Kuhn said many people fall into the category of being too tired at the end of the day to cook, so they resort to picking something up on the way home. To clear this roadblock, Kuhn recommended planning ahead when you shop and preparing meals in advance.
“Recognizing your obstacles can help you be successful,” she said.
Eating when you are not hungry is a reflection of how you feel, not how hungry you are. Kuhn said emotional eating, binge eating and nighttime eating are often problems for those trying to maintain healthy weight loss.
“In order to keep the weight off, you have to be accountable,” she said. “I think people should keep a food diary, and that way they can actually see what they are eating and how many calories they are consuming in one particular meal. Do not skip breakfast, and most of all live an active lifestyle.”
Upcoming wellness workshops are scheduled on June 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with Kuhn, in the Health Services conference room; and on June 28 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with Kevin Sherman, D.C., of IronCare Sports Therapy, in the Salt River Fitness Center aerobics room. For more information, call (480) 362-7320.