In America today, more people are becoming worried about how they look compared to what society portrays as “in shape” and healthy. On television and in the magazines, there are always headlines like, “lose twenty pounds in two weeks” or there is a picture of a person that is 132 pounds that is being called fat. Many people feel the pressure to be thin and in shape.
It is widely known with many women that they feel that they need to be skinnier, have a flatter stomach, and be able to wear clothing that a flag pole cannot even fit in. Though, men feel the pressure as well. They feel the need to be as muscular as possible to compare to the societal view on good-looking men. This continuous feeling of not having the “perfect” body makes people feel uncomfortable in their own skin and those feelings plant a seed that makes those people try to get into shape. Though there are plenty of ways to make the weight come off and the muscles to start growing, most people do not want to take the time to do it in a healthy matter. Those people that feel they need to lose the weight right away turn to yo-yo dieting instead of just learning the correct way to eat and exercise. The healthy way to lose weight, keep it off, and build muscle is by maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly, not following dangerous diet habits.
There are many ways that people feel pressured to make sure that they are a certain weight and pant size. Many magazines and television shows have brought to our attention that most of America is obese. This has a lot of people stressing about how much they weigh compared to the celebrities seen on most magazines and in the television screen. That is how a lot of magazines sell their issues; they put something about how to lose weight quickly. Even though these magazines, like Prevention, Weight Loss, Glamour, ect, say that it is perfectly healthy to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain time, if it is done incorrectly it is not healthy. Those get skinny quick articles have people losing mostly water weight and that weight can be gained back just as quickly as it was lost. There is a huge amount of celebrities that are critiqued about how much they weigh and whatever flaws they have that makes many of the normal, average people feel self conscience. This makes those people look for a way out of being obese and many of those people find comfort in bad dieting and diet pills.
The first thing many people do when they decide to lose weight is try to find something, a magazine, a book, or go online, to help with the get skinny quick schemes. Many people for many years have made a lot of money through selling to people wanting to lose weight quickly. Suzanne Sommers, Anna Nicole Smith, Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Jorge Cruise, along with many magazines and online sites that have articles about losing weight are just a few of the many people and organizations that make money off of people wanting to lose weight. The problem that quite a few people run into is that they do not know how to diet appropriately and keep a balanced diet.
To understand how to diet in a healthy way and keep away from the fad diets, one needs to understand what a diet is and how the diet works. According to “The World Book Encyclopedia”, the word diet means “the food and drink that a person takes regularly day after day” (Picciano 5: 199). It also explains that the word diet is referred to as “the amounts or kinds of food needed under special circumstances, such as losing or gaining weight” (Picciano 5: 200). There are many reasons that people believe that dieting means to stop eating or to really limit what is eaten. Also, many people associate the word diet with losing weight. As “The World Book Encyclopedia” has explained, diet is not a restriction specifically for losing weight. Dieting is a way of living. Being able to watch what is eaten and how much is eaten is a better way to live than to try and diet by means of being unhealthy. With many people trying to lose weight fast, they do not stop to think about the fact that being on a diet is about changing a lifestyle, and not just for a week or two.
Many people do not realize that dieting is not just a weekly or bi weekly activity. There are a lot of crash, or yo-yo, diets out in books, magazines, and television, just to name a few. Those “diets” are not healthy and can cause many more problems than if a person was to just change the lifestyle in which they live by. According to the WomenFitness.net article, “The Outcomes of Yo-Yo Dieting”, yo-yo dieting is “strict dieting followed by a rebound in weight” (2; Para. 5). Throughout the article, it explains the outcomes of bad dieting and then explains how to better the dieting experience by changing the lifestyle of food and exercise. There are many credible sources that have examples and suggestions, as well as important facts, about dieting and fitness.
Yo-yo dieting is just as dangerous as being obese and is not a healthy life style. According to the article on Womensfitness.net, yo-yo dieting causes many healthy problems that can worsen body weight every time a person’s weight goes up and down. When a person loses weight, the weight is lost in a mixture of fat and muscle. When that person stops the diet after a short amount of time and gains the previous weight back, the weight comes back as more fat than muscle previously lost. When this fat comes back, it tends to grow around the stomach area, which is one of the hardest places to lose the weight once it is there (1; Para 1). When someone has many repeat attempts at yo-yo dieting, it has a psychological toll. The person that “fails” a “diet”, may feel as though they are a failure at losing weight and many of those people begin to lose their good self-esteem and some even slip into depression (1; Para 3). There are quite a few people in America that are, or feel, like they are overweight. Those people tend to have a hard time feeling comfortable in public, or even in private, about how they look. This causes those people to not be comfortable in their own skin, which is a huge self-esteem breaker. Though self-esteem can normally be fixed with the appropriate action, whether it is counseling or losing the weight the healthy way for long term, yo-yo dieting can create more problems that cannot be as easily fixed.
Having an up and down in weight also affects the immune system. According to the article, “Women who have tried losing weight more than five times will have about a third lower natural-killer-cell function. In contrast, women who maintain the same weight for five or more years have 40 percent greater natural-killer-cell activity as those who do not have a steady weight” (1; Para 4). This shows how bad it can be to have fluctuating weight compared to having a stable weight, even if it happens to be a little overweight. Of course, it is not recommended to not have a good diet. Even more than having a weaker immune system, yo-yo dieting can increase the chance for other health problems as well. This list includes, but is not limited to, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease (1; Para 5). In order to stay healthy, the best bet is to not rely on quick fixes and instead diet the correct way first, or to fix the problem as soon as it is realized and determined to be a problem.
When deciding that it is time to lose weight, the healthy way, and keep it off, the most important thing to know is that it will not be easy, but can be done. The American Heart Association came out with a book in 2005 called “No-Fad Diet”. Throughout this book, it explains how to live while dieting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of the first things that this book explains is that losing weight without a little help can be really hard, especially if losing weight does not work the first time or two. The opening paragraph states, “There’s no point in feeling bad about yourself, because the truth is, losing weight is not easy. No magic formula will trim away extra pounds and keeping them off” (Introduction xi). One of the best ways to start losing weight is to be in the right frame of mind. That is a key point to happily lose weight and keep ahead of the stress to come. Have you ever been out at dinner and eaten way more than you should have and then mentally beaten yourself up for it? This is the time to think smart and not mentally kill yourself over a handful of extra food that should not have been eaten. Smart thinking is about finding ways to deal with thoughts that lead you away from your goals. The American Heart Association makes it a point of explaining how to think smart. That dinner that you have over eaten may make you react a number of different ways. It could be thinking something like, “I give up! I am horrible at losing weight,” or something like, “I might as well eat two desserts! Then I’ll get back on track on Monday” (3). This is not the way to act when you let yourself get off track for a meal. The best thing to do would be to pick up right there at that moment and believe that you will succeed. Once you have it set in your mind that you can and will succeed, the only place to go from there is upwards. One really good way to start getting into a habit for losing weight is making a schedule.
According to the American Heart Association, it is “good planning, not sheer willpower, is the key to losing weight for good” (2). As previously explained, the first step to becoming a healthy person is to get your mind in the right spot. The second would be to set goals. The American Heart Association makes it a point to people to set goals that are “reasonable and realistic” so you do not set yourself up for failure (5). Create short-term milestones that will allow you to feel as though you are getting somewhere during the beginning of this new lifestyle. These milestones will make the first days or maybe even weeks feel worthwhile since it may be a week or two before any weight results are seen. Also, create long-term goals. These goals are the ones that will be the goals that you have to work at pretty hard and consistently, which means creating a schedule for workouts or physical activities and meals may be considered a good idea. “You won’t become proficient unless you put the words into action on a daily basis,” is how the American Heart Association believes that habits are built. Good habits allow for fewer lapses away from the right track and helps keep a good outlook on the progress made and the progress that is still wanted to be made. When a diet is considered healthy and consistent it is considered a balanced diet.
“The World Book Encyclopedia” states that a balanced diet “contains all the food elements needed to keep healthy” (Picciano 5:199). A balanced diet is normally based off of the food pyramid. The food pyramid explains what group of food should have what amount of servings. The “American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide” written by Roberta Duyft, has a food pyramid that breaks down the categories and serving sizes.
This is the food pyramid from Duyft’s book. The base of the pyramid is bread, cereal, rice and pasta group. There is a serving size of six to eleven servings. The best thing to do with the base would be to “choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains” (11). According to Duyft, the reason that the grain products are at the base of the pyramid is because of “their complex carbohydrates should supply most of your food energy” (11). These are important because in order for a person to have physical activity, they need energy which comes a lot in part by eating carbohydrates. The next part of the pyramid includes the vegetable and fruit groups. The vegetable group should be three to five servings where as the fruit group should be two to four servings (11). The next two groups are milk, yogurt, and cheese group, as well as the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group. The serving size for the milk group is two to three servings. The meat group should have two to three servings as well (11). Most people grow up with at least seeing the pyramid even if they did not fully understand it. This is one of the best ways to make sure that you keep on track with a diet. The balanced diet is based off of the food pyramid. If the food pyramid is followed, along with some regular exercise, weight should be easier to lose and keep it lost as long as this new lifestyle stays around.
Exercise, as well as eating right, is a key in the success to being at a healthy weight. Jorge Cruise has a book out, “The 3-Hour Diet”, and even though his book is about another “quick fix” and should not be taken seriously, his ideas on exercise is really smart. He brings up the point that exercising allows the calories that are in a person’s system to be used which stops those calories from turning into fat (213). He makes a point of saying that even something as simple as walking is a smart idea when other activities are not able to be done. Cruise also brings up the fact that a lot of physical activities that use to be done on a daily basis have been replaced by modern day technology. Walking, running, and bicycling have been replaced by driving or riding in a vehicle. Stairs have been replaced by elevators. Playing sports have been replaced by television and playing games (223). The main thing to remember is eat healthy and with some exercise, becoming the size and being healthy is right around the corner.
According to Crawford and Peeke, who wrote “Body For Life For Women”, the goal should be to “shoot for progress and not perfection” (189). Yo-yo dieting is not the answer to wanting to be in shape and healthy. Eating right and exercising is the best lifestyle to becoming healthy. Also, the key to success is not just in actually losing weight, but also in the building of self-esteem and self-confidence. That is truly the key to succeeding at being healthy.
Crawford, Cindy, and Pam Peeke. Body For Life For Women. NY: Rodale Pr, 2005.
Cruise, Jorge. The 3-Hour Diet. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2005.
Duyft, Roberta Larson. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Son’s, Inc. 2002.
No-Fad Diet. 1st ed. NY: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2005.
Outcomes of Yo-Yo Dieting. June 2008. June 21, 2009.
Picciano, Mary Frances. “Diet”. The World Book Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. 2009.