Weight control is one of the top concerns of U.S. adults. Whether for reasons of vanity, health, or both, most people are interested in controlling their weight. It is advisable because overweight can introduce health problems. Cases of diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension are more numerous among the overweight than among those of normal weight. Overweight indi-viduals are poor risks for surgery, and their lives are generally shorter than are those of people who are not overweight. They are prone to social and emotional problems because overweight and obesity can reduce self-esteem.
The causes of overweight are not always known, but the most common cause appears to be energy imbalance. In other words, if one is overweight, chances are that more calories have been taken in than were needed for energy.
An intake of 3,500 calories more than the body needs for maintenance and activities will result in a weight gain of 1 pound. An individual who overeats by only 200 calories a day can gain 20 pounds in 1 year. Obviously, when nutrient requirements remain static but calorie requirements decrease, people must select their foods carefully to fulfill their nutrient requirements (Table 14-3). Genetics and, rarely, a hypothyroid condition, can also contribute to overweight.
Individuals who are overweight simply because of energy imbalance can solve the problem by eating less and increasing physical exercise. Exercise will increase the number of calories burned. However, unless the exercise is sufficient to burn more calories than the ingested food contains, exercise alone will not solve the problem. By far the most effective method of weight loss is increased exercise combined with reduced calories. This will help tone the muscles as excess fat is lost. Exercise may also increase lean muscle mass in such a way that weight loss will not be necessarily significant; in this case, a decrease in clothing size may be a better indicator of fat loss.
When weight reduction is to be undertaken, the client should confirm with his or her physician that he or she is in good health. Then, with the help of a registered dietitian, a healthy eating plan should be developed that will fit the dieter’s lifestyle. A healthy eating plan is easiest to follow when it is based on MyPyramid. This plan will aid the dieter in obtaining needed nutrients, will help change previously unsatisfactory eating habits, and will allow him or her to adapt, and thus enjoy, home, party, or restaurant meals. For additional information about weight loss diets.