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I’m going on a diet.” How often have you casually tossed around these five words? You’ve probably said them so often that their meaning doesn’t fully register with you anymore. Shun high-fat foods, eat bushels of fruits and vegetables and drink enough water to send any extra weight on a one-way cruise down the drain: follow this regimen, and you’ll end up in pretty good shape, huh? Not necessarily.
The number of obese Americans has grown by nearly 50% in the past decade. And it’s no secret that a disproportionate number of African Americans are overweight compared to the general population. Despite the billion-dollar diet industry, 95% of those who lose weight will eventually gain it back. Why?
“Dieting should not be a means to an end but an ongoing, life-shaping experience,” says Danielle M. Thomas, president of Divine Life Inc., a nutritional consulting company in East Orange, New Jersey. She offers four critical steps that must be undertaken to achieve optimal health:
- Step #1: Make a quality decision. Eliminate thoughts of failure; they may cripple your progress. Make a quality decision to change your eating habits, knowing that your desires are well within your reach if you are willing to stretch forth your hands to receive them.
- Step #2: Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Change the quality and amount of your food intake. Understand that food’s primary purpose is to sustain life by providing the proper amount of nutrients and energy to get you through the day. Begin eating more low-fat, whole foods and cut out exces-sive quantities of sugar, fat and processed foods.
- Step #3: Take your vitamins. Vitamins supplement your body with nutrients lost from an unhealthy diet. In addition, herbs (visit www.onhealth .com and www.WebMD.com) should be coupled with a normal vitamin intake because they serve to boost your immune system and cleanse your body. (For more on vitamins, see “Slump No More,” Motivation, May 2000.)
- Step #4: Exercise. Regular aerobic conditioning and strength training are essential. When you diet without exercising, you lose fat. But you also lose about 30% of lean muscle tissue. On the flip side, when you exercise, you increase your lean body mass by as much as 5% and lose even more fat than by dieting alone.