The obesity epidemic in America has created huge challenges for our culture and the fitness community of professionals. The good news is that more and more eyes are opening to the problem, the challenge and the long term outcomes. Many of our grandparents were challenged by the thought of “living a good and simple life.” Today, this has been trumped by the issues we face today of “maintaining a healthy life.” Living life, is perhaps a given. However, maintaining a “healthy life” in the process of doing the living is now the real work! So I ask the question, is your life maintenance program fantasy or reality based? Are you doing the things that will prolong a healthy life and lifestyle or fantasizing about the things you want to do in and with your life?

The Mayo Clinic and recently reported that “two-thirds of American adults who are overweight and about one in three American adults is considered to be obese.” That means that for the average American, two out of three adult friends, family or loved ones we know is about 25 pounds overweight and one out of three is 30+ pounds overweight, and therefore defined as obese. To most fitness professional, these numbers are normal, everyday statistics. The reality is, we work regularly with people that have a “desire” to lose 20-25 pounds. Making that “desire,” “dream” or that wish come true for a transformed “healthy” life would take about only 6-10 months of consistent, regular and focused training. Established control of a few key variables is tantamount to making it happen.

True, there are several hereditary factors - age, genetics, medical problems and psychological issues (emotions, stress, etc.) that are somewhat outside of the control of many of us. These contribute to the size, shape and overweight propensity of our bodies. Some things we just plain get “stuck with,” are “borne with” and no matter how hard we try to skate pass the issue, fate deals us the hand to play with. That doesn’t mean they are insurmountable in our quest for health and fitness. It does mean, however, that more work, dedication and sometimes support from professionals (i.e., physicians, therapists, personal assistants and trainers) may/will be required.

However, it is the number of ‘self-controlled’ factors of our daily living that contribute to and/or can reduce our risks of falling into one of the overweight or obese categories. There is no new data here – the list of “controllable factors” needed to create a healthy lifestyle are the same controllable factors necessary for maintaining it so that 20-30 pounds does not creep up and push one into the overweight or obese category. These are our dietary habits, active lifestyle, consciousness to smoking and alcohol consumption and possibly the health and body work we do following pregnancy.

The latter is a special case, yet a controllable one nonetheless. During a normal pregnancy, a woman's weight necessarily increases; 20-25lbs is considered a healthy weight gain for carrying a child. Many women, however, add considerably more weight during the pregnancy cycle and many find they have great difficulty in losing the excess weight after the baby is born. The reports that this particular weight gain may “contribute to the development of obesity in women.”

Controlling the Factors of Weight Gain

Sometimes people dream or fantasize about “being 20-30 pounds smaller.” That is not enough. We need the knowledge and movement toward the steps necessary to create the reality. Often, we look at others and secretly wish we had their body, their genes or their energy. We need to make the plan, work the plan and follow thru – perhaps with assistance from a “kick-ass” personal trainer – to create that reality for ourselves. The controllable factors are reality-based. We can see them, touch them and decide how and what to do about them. For example:

Dietary Controls - Regular consumption of high-calorie, oftentimes, ‘fast foods,’ from establishments such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King and Dunkin Donuts contributes greatly to weight gain. High-fat foods are calorie dense. The refined sugars found in simplex carbohydrates, such as soda, soft drinks, candy and desserts contribute fabulously to the reality of weight gain. Whereas, fresh, wholesome colorful fruits and vegetables (complex carbohydrates) and perhaps home-cooked, simple meals – that allow us to control the dietary intake, ingredients and portions would simultaneously change the dimensions of our pocketbook and our waistlines.

Activity Controls - Sedentary individuals are 10x more likely to gain weight than an active individual because the sedentary person will not burn calories through physical activities. If you don’t use and burn the calories consumed as a result of poor dietary control habits, the challenge of weight gain is exacerbated.

Movement and action of the body and mind is both required and necessary for “reality-based” life maintenance. Non-action results in day-dreaming and stagnation. Sure, as we get older, we tend to become less active and the amount of lean muscle within our bodies naturally tends to decrease without use. If we keep doing everything the way we have always done - although when we were 20-30 years younger - with less activity and a decreased metabolism (due to decreased muscle mass), we end up eating more than we can use or burn and find a huge spare tire has grown around our middle! If you don't decrease your caloric intake as you age, you'll likely gain weight.

Control of Alcohol – the consumption of alcoholic beverages adds calories to our diet. For example, the choice to drink one 12oz bottle of beer has a “cost” of 156 calories. The reality is, if one doesn’t cut back somewhere else, and drinks just one bottle of beer daily, they would contribute to a weight gain, almost 1lb per month. Additionally, excessive drinking has a hidden cost of increasing snacking, reducing control over portion size and, the reality is, at the end of the day the drinker is hit with a double whammy of untold caloric proportions.

Control of Smoking- Smokers tend to gain weight after quitting the habit. This weight gain may be partially attributed to nicotine's ability to raise the rate at which your body burns calories (metabolic rate). When smokers cease the habit, they burn fewer calories. Additionally, the cessation of smoking soon makes food taste and smell better and thus, many former smokers often gain weight because they eat more after they quit the habit. For this reason, smoking cessation must be combined with an increase of physical activity as well as dietary controls.

It all boils down to this fact of reality. Maintenance of a healthy life requires an intimate knowledge of oneself, conscious discipline and active control in each area of consumption. Any other practice is pure fantasy. Take action to Live!

Author's Bio: 

Gina Jackson, MBA, CPT, holds Advanced PFT recognition as a member of the International Association of Fitness Professionals (IDEA); maintains affiliate membership in the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) and is certified as a Power Pilates Teacher and a proud Business Member of the Pilates Method Alliance.

Gina made a conscious career and lifestyle change to fitness in 2000 and assists clients in lifestyle fitness training programs; she is the Fitness Consultant, creator and energy behind which provides fitness resources, tips, articles and MP3 downloads to assist your fitness goals in becoming a reality.