New Year, New Approach To Weight Management

Armen Hareyan's picture

The start of a new year often coincides with a renewed emphasis on weight management, and experts are urging us to take a new healthier approach in 2008.

The last decade can be defined by the ups and downs of different fad diets -- which seem to go in and out of fashion like shoulder pads and hemlines. Yet, long-term success has been slim. Two out of three Americans remain overweight or obese.

A new campaign launched today to encourage Americans to change their "diet" mindset and elect a new attitude. In this election year, the Campaign for Healthy Weight is attempting to rally the country behind the healthy weight cause, not just the political candidates. Supported by America On The Move, Curves and the Milk Processor Education Program, the new campaign wants Americans to put their focus on "health" instead of simply the number on the scale.

"We need to get past the era of extreme dieting," said renowned obesity expert James O. Hill, Ph.D., co-founder of America On The Move and advocate of the new education campaign. "Too many women are sacrificing their health to reach a number on a scale. Health management needs to be a bigger part of weight management."

The new education campaign will encourage women to forgo fad diets and focus on simple, lifelong changes to maintain health and weight management. Studies indicate that small, specific changes in physical activity and calorie intake can make a big difference.

The rallying cries of the campaign include eat right, move more and milk your diet. Choosing lowfat or fat free milk over nutrient-void, high-calorie beverages is one small change that could have a big impact -- on your health and your weight.


"Sometimes people get overwhelmed when they think they need to make so many drastic changes," said registered dietitian Lisa Drayer, who helped kick off the campaign today. "The key is to make small, sustainable changes that can last a lifetime. Drinking lowfat or fat free milk as a part of your daily routine and walking more every day are two easy adjustments that can go a long way in supporting a healthy weight."

Weighing in on the American Diet

Even though diet books continue to soar to the top of best-seller lists, the tide may be turning. A new report unveiled today called "Weighing in on the American Diet," found that although dieting is at an all-time low, "feeling healthier" is the primary motivator for those beginning a diet. The new study, conducted by The NPD Group in collaboration with the Milk Processor Education Program, looked at the who, what, how and why of dieting in this country -- providing one of the most comprehensive snapshots of weight management practices in America.

The report found that the percentage of adults who say they are on a diet has steadily gone down over the past decade: 29% of women are currently on a diet, 19% of men. The most popular diet today is the one people call their own. A personalized plan was the approach of 34% of dieters; only 9% opted for "extreme diets," including modified fasts, severe calorie restrictions and the elimination of entire food groups.

Instead of dieting strictly to lose weight, most Americans say they are on a diet for their health and their weight; 68% say "feeling healthier" is why they're dieting.

Even so, people who are watching their weight are making less than optimal beverage choices. Coffee, soft drinks, teas and juices are most likely filling their glasses and cups. Milk is the fifth most frequently consumed beverage -- only 14% of all beverage occasions.

Including milk on the menu appears to make a positive difference, though. "Weighing in on the American Diet" found that adult dieters who made drinking lowfat or fat free milk a daily habit were more likely to have a healthy body mass index (BMI) with better quality diets richer in essential nutrients and were less likely to feel deprived compared to dieters who didn't -- findings which are in line with previous scientific studies.

This healthy beverage supplies two nutrients that along with exercise are especially important when cutting calories -- calcium to prevent bone loss and protein to help build muscle mass. Studies suggest that drinking the recommended three glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day can help maintain a healthy weight. Researchers have found that people with higher intakes of milk tend to be leaner and are less likely to gain excess weight than those who drink little to no milk.