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La Prensa: Managing our Weight - We don't want to hear it, but we have to

by Maria Palafox, MD

Over two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The numbers are pretty much the same in the Hispanic community. Gorditos, or overweight, is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29, and bien gorditosor obese, is defined as a BMI of more than 30. BMI is basically your weight divided by you height.

The problem with being gorditos or bien gorditos  is the health problems that it leads to. Being overweight or obese makes us higher risk for a heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, gallbladder disease including gallbladder cancer, congestive heart failure, gout, sleep apnea, colon cancer, prostate cancer, uterine cancer and breast cancer.

Give me a break, right? It sounds like most of us already have one foot in the grave, but it is in our control to do something about this!

The solution is easy and not easy. Lose weight! Two little words that can be so difficult to achieve. If it were easy, we’d all be skinny, right? This can be broken down into something we can manage. Instead of “going on a diet,” let’s make small adjustments in our diet and find an exercise routine that we can actually do and can really help.

Losing as little as 10 to 15 percent of our total body weight will make a big difference and lower our health risks. If we can hold on to these small changes then they become lifetime habits.

To lose weight, we have to burn more calories than we take in. One pound of weight equals

3,500 calories. If you spread that out over a week and get rid of 500 calories a day, you can lose a pound a week. It doesn’t seem like much, but we’re not trying to turn into supermodels, just trying to improve our health.

Personally my biggest problem is the size of my meals. It is difficult for me to look at a smaller plate of food and believe I will not be hungry when I am done with it.

So what I recommend to patients is to make each meal a little smaller—you don’t have to go from Whataburger to a green salad. The truth is, you won’t keep doing it. How about getting medium fries instead of large? Water instead of Coke? These small changes can make a big difference when you add them all up.

The other thing is what you eat. Simple carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels, even if you are not diabetic, and then increase insulin levels, which causes weight gain. We all know and love simple carbohydrates—sugar, fructose, desserts, beer, wine, bread and tortillas. Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, vegetables and raw fruit are better choices.

So now that you’re eating better, let’s burn some calories. What is recommended is 30 minutes of exercise every day, 5-7 days a week. Nobody feels like they have time to do that. So break it down into two or three segments of 10 minutes every day. Not only will you burn some calories but you give yourself a mental break from the daily drama. Why not walk twice around your building, or take the stairs up to the third floor three times? If you’re at home, do 100 jumping jacks.

The bottom line is this: it is much easier to gain weight than to lose it, but we do not have to do a major overhaul of our diet and exercise routine to get health benefits—a little goes a long way. ¡Sí se puede!

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