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Community Commentary: Move more, eat less is a good mantra to have

September 02, 2011|By Dr. Jane K. Bening

First of two parts.

"Simplify, simplify," — Henry David Thoreau

We have a national epidemic of overweight people and obesity, now affecting two-thirds of adults and one-third of children. For the first time in modern history, life expectancy is projected to shorten, a result of the myriad health problems arising from this unfortunate trend.

Let's not be inured to the bulging of America. It's not just aesthetics; it's survival.

Medical research shows that no matter how much you spend, or what food plan you choose, there are two simple lifestyle changes that result in sustained weight loss: Move more, eat less.

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Funny, the body mass index (BMI) charts, which categorize weight guidelines based on height, have no ages on them. We're not supposed to gain weight throughout life.

In fact, as we inexorably shrink, (have you measured lately?) the range for normal weight drops! As a ballpark reference, upper limits of normal for a woman 5 feet, 5 inches tall is 140 pounds. Add or subtract five pounds for each inch up or down. We should stand up straight with our shoulders back and our tummies tucked. This gives the spine healthy space and helps prevent us from shrinking.

Then, there's the tape measure. The Mayo Women's Health Source recently stated that the maximal acceptable waist circumference for women is 35 inches. For men, it's 40.

We are instructed not to suck in our abdomen and hold our breath, the natural instinct, when measuring our waists. Rather, we are to loosely drape the tape measure at the belly button, relax, exhale and measure.

Try it. I promise, you'll watch the number expand by at least an inch with proper technique. This is an assessment of abdominal fat, the most dangerous kind — and the most common.

So, what to do? We physicians observe people as they return for annual check-ups having gained weight and lost height. In my 20 years as a Newport Beach gynecologist, I have seen the BMI roller coaster over and over. Even big weight losers rarely come back having kept off the excess pounds.

My observation is that those who maintain a healthy weight have developed their own personal, sustainable and unique exercise and food routine. Simple.

Coming Sunday: Dr. Benning offers weight-loss tips.

DR. JANE K. BENING is a board-certified gynecologist practicing in Newport Beach. She lives in Laguna Beach.

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