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Oprah's weight gain also my issue

Oprah Winfrey confesses to us in the January issue of her magazine that she has regained 40 pounds of the weight she lost two years ago.

Oprah has mansions, money and influence. She has a chef, a personal trainer and probably some of the best gym equipment made. Most of us who struggle to avoid our doctor's wrath about our weight don't have anything approaching that.

Still, Oprah relapsed.

And if all of us who have lost weight and regained it were to raise our hands, we could block out the sun.

So what is it? Why is it so hard for some of us to lose weight and keep it off?

Karen Bryla McNees of the University of Kentucky Health & Wellness Program, said it could be because we tend to lose weight at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons.

"Some people just don't know about nutrition," she said. "Once they learn, things work out fine.

"But based on my experience," she said, "most of the problem is mental."

McNees said some of the people who come to the wellness center can tell her the caloric count for all the foods they eat. They are chronic dieters who have an ongoing battle with weight loss.

"They don't need nutritional education. They come for the support and the accountability" group meetings and weigh-ins, she said.

But there also has to be another component.

Our decision to lose weight cannot be pegged to an event or a time of year. We should not lose weight because it is the New Year, because we have a reunion around the corner or because it is swimsuit time.

"Once that comes and goes, where are you?" McNees said.

We need to sit down with ourselves and figure out what exactly we need to do to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

For me, I get comfortable with my weight-loss victory and then hedge a little more every day. For example, I'll tell myself I can skip exercising or that I can have a piece of pie two days in a row. Or I'll get distracted by life, by my job, by my family and lose focus.

That, McNees said, is a major obstacle that trips up many of us.

"The economy is stressful," she said. "Stress levels are high in this country anyway, and we deal with it with food.

"People need to ask themselves how they are coping with other things in their lives," she said. "Are they coping with food?

"The way Oprah talks, that is the issue for her. It doesn't matter how much money you have. We are turning to food for comfort."

With the way Oprah talks, that is her issue. In other words, Oprah might be larger than life, but she's also human.

McNees said to counter that we need to find a better support system. It could be meetings or our family and friends. It will be trial and error until we figure it out.

We use the word relapse in weight management just as we do with some addictions.

"It's part of the process," said McNees who is a registered dietitian with a doctorate in health promotion. "We fall back into old habits and bad habits. We need to cut it (the relapse) short and keep the positive thoughts. That takes practice."

When we can finally have an honest dialog with ourselves, we will succeed in changing our lifestyles and maintaining the weight loss.

Oprah fell off the wagon before and Bob Greene, her fitness expert and friend, told her there are two sets of weight loss rules.

"There's one set for just making the scale move," he said. "That just follows the laws of physics—you have to do x, y and z, and if you do them, the scale moves. But then there's the other thing ... what's going to keep you doing those things for the rest of your life? That's where it gets complicated."

McNees said we need to ask ourselves what motivates us for the long haul. We can lose that motivation when the reason we start isn't important anymore. The motivation could be that we need to lose weight because of a health problem or a desire to play with grandkids without getting winded.

McNees said we should set our goals low, with small changes that are maintainable. Otherwise we will get distracted and stray, she said.

"Doing it for the New Year makes me nervous," she said. "It becomes all or nothing. I discourage that. There will always be something that gets in the way."

We should recommit ourselves to healthier lifestyles now as well as January, she said, by taking the focus off the scales and putting it on ourselves.

"We see people who are thin but that doesn't mean they are healthy or will live longer," she said. "You can be a few pounds overweight and still be fit. People should feel good about doing the right thing."

That is what Oprah said she will focus on in a series of shows starting in January. The first week she'll feature Greene and Dr. Mehmet Oz on her show.

Maybe we should refocus, too.