Dr. Alison L. Bailey, Published in the Herald-Leader on Nov. 22
Q: Losing weight seems to be so hard for me. I’ve been working out and feel better, but I am not really seeing much change on the scale. What can I do?
A: Losing weight is theoretically a simple equation: Use more calories than you consume. This can be done in a variety of ways, but cutting calories is the most effective. Physical activity does many wonderful things for our health and definitely contributes to weight loss, but if you think parking farther away at work or taking the stairs is going to contribute to any significant weight loss, then you’re misinformed. For example, if you increase your physical activity to walking 30 minutes daily, you will burn about 100-150 calories daily, depending on your weight. However, if you choose not to eat out, or skip dessert, you can easily remove 500 calories daily. I think we have false expectations about physical activity without really addressing the root problem, which is an excess of unhealthy food. Healthy diet and exercise should go hand-in-hand.
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Q: Is it really a big deal to weigh more?
A: Yes. Two out of every three adults in this country are overweight, and one out of every three is obese. Even more alarming: one in six children is overweight in the United States. Overweight children have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults—and an 80 percent chance if at least one parent is overweight. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for many chronic health problems, including heart failure, increased risk of heart attack, abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, liver failure, arthritis and depression.
Q: How do you decide if someone is overweight or obese?
A: Whether someone is considered overweight or obese depends on the individual’s body mass index or BMI. A BMI of 25 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is obese. To find your BMI, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. There are many free online tools to calculate your BMI.
Q: Help me do the math. I am a 36-year-old woman. How many calories do I need to cut out in order to lose weight and still be healthy, and what should I eat?
A: To lose one pound, you need to take in 3500 calories less than you use. Over a week’s time, that would mean reducing your calorie consumption by 500 calories a day. In general, women need about 1200-1500 calories daily and men about 1500-1800 calories daily. This should come mostly from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. We tend to get overwhelmed by many “diet” options. What works for me is trying to eat as close to nature as possible at every meal, by avoiding processed foods and eating food the way it was grown. This is not only healthy but also lower in calories and very filling.
Combined with watching your total calories, you need to incorporate 30-60 minutes of daily exercise. The more exercise you get, the more calories you burn. Decreasing food intake and increasing activity to consume less calories than you use will work, and is the only way to lose weight. Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to make at least some small change in your lifestyle and help halt this obesity epidemic.
Dr. Alison L. Bailey is a cardiologist at the Gill Heart Institute at the University of Kentucky and director of the UK HealthCare Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.