Since the late 1980s, Nebraska and Iowa has seen obesity rates skyrocket from around 10 percent to more than 25 percent* – and we’re not alone. More than one third of all American adults and nearly one fifth of our children are obese.
So how can we fix this growing problem?
Recent headlines would suggest that a new anti-obesity pill is the answer. An FDA advisory panel endorsed the drug last month, citing its efficacy but still questioning the long-term safety on patients’ hearts. The FDA, which typically follows the advice of its panels, will make a final decision by mid-April.
But even with the future of this pill up in the air, doctors across the country stress the fact that there is already a proven – and healthy – means for losing weight. It’s one that Steven Osborn, M.D., a family physician with Alegent Creighton Clinic in Millard, has been prescribing to patients for years.
"When patients come to me for help with weight loss, I emphasize the importance of both exercise as well as diet," he says.
The reason he suggests this method? It’s time-tested and proven to work. Unfortunately, millions of Americans know all-too-well that this is easier said than done. So Dr. Osborn also offers up the following tips to help get you started, with or without the help of medication.
- Don’t skip meals. Starving yourself for any length of time results in a metabolic slowdown that makes it hard to lose those extra pounds. That’s because your body goes into a "starvation" mode and tries to conserve calories. Instead, Dr. Osborn suggests eating three meals a day, with protein snacks in between.
- Choose whole grains. Anything made from processed flour, including bread and pasta, rapidly breaks down into sugar in your system. So opt for brown or Indian basmati rice over white rice. And if you have to have bread, Dr. Osborn says to limit the amount and stick to whole grain products. His general rule of thumb: if it’s white, don’t eat it.
- Follow an actual diet plan. Check out a structured plan, like South Beach, Weight Watchers, or the Alegent Creighton Health Weight Management program to help stay on track.
- Calorie count (the DIY approach to weight loss). If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, Dr. Osborn says plain old calorie counting is a great option. "You can look up maintenance calorie calculators online to figure out what your needs are, then cut out 500 calories a day. That should give you a 3,500 calorie deficit weekly, which equals one pound of weight loss."
- Exercise is a must. Physical activity adds a boost to your metabolism that keeps you burning calories long after you wrap up your workout. Dr. Osborn suggests patients schedule 45 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. "Cardio is good and helps burn calories," he says. "But resistance/weight training is probably better." And don’t forget that even small changes, like taking the stairs rather than the elevator, can really add up.
*obesity statistics from the Centers for Disease Control obesity data and statistics