Nutrition, fitness effective against obesity

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

According to a new report by Trust for America’s Health, approximately 119 million Americans are overweight or obese. Virginia ranks 22nd in the country in the highest rate of adult obesity at 22.9 percent, and 30th in America in rate of obese and overweight adults combined at 58.8 percent.

That’s why people like Karen Newton and Shannon Newbill are offering more and more ways to help Virginians shrink – because losing weight isn’t just about looking good anymore.

Being overweight, said Newton, a registered dietician, can lead to Type 2 diabetes, in which the body’s weight keeps it from utilizing its insulin supply. It can cause hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, in which the body converts saturated fat to cholesterol and stores it in the arteries, raising the risk of a heart attack. The gall bladder and the respiratory system can be damaged by excess body weight.

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&uot;A lot of (the increases in weight) has been due to increasing our portion size when we eat, and eating out a lot more,&uot; Newton said. &uot;People often aren’t thinking about calories when they eat out, and then they go back to work and sit down (instead of exercising).&uot;

But even those who are thinking about what they eat might be getting things wrong, Newton said. A Taco Bell salad with a shell, for example, might look appealing simply because people feel that salads are naturally healthy. But this meal carries roughly 800 calories by itself, which is roughly one-third of a person’s recommended daily intake.

Sodas are just as harmful, Newton continues.

&uot;One 12 ounce can of soda carries about 11 teaspoons of sugar,&uot; she said, &uot;and drinks served in restaurants are often more than 12 ounces. Caffeine also aggravates acid reflux disease.&uot;

She recommends lessening one’s soda intake, and eating out less.

&uot;I tell people to pack their lunches,&uot; Newton said.

At the Suffolk YMCA, Newbill heads up the Health and Wellness programs.

&uot;If a person’s goal is weight loss,&uot; she said. &uot;I recommend 40 to 60 minutes a day, four to six days a week, of cardio work.&uot;

Activities like cycling and swimming are helpful, and the Y offers many classes in aerobics and stepping, both of whom are good for losing weight. Classes on weight-loss-oriented lifestyle, behavior and nutrition are coming soon.

&uot;In a group setting,&uot; Newbill said, &uot;(participants) are more likely to stick to classes. They make friends and they form a relationship with their instructors. You can’t form a relationship with a machine!&uot;

For more information, contact Newton and 686-8696 or the Y at 934-9622.