Resolving to shed those extra pounds
Although Americans typically resolve each January to lose weight, the extra pounds have been "weighing" on people's minds throughout the year. In fact, a recent survey from the Calorie Control Council indicates that for 95 million Americans, dieting is a constant concern. In lieu of the latest fad diet, trends for 2008 will focus on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight through sensible choices and simple substitutions. Overall, the Council has high hopes for consumers in 2008 when it comes to practical weight loss. "Making small changes such as being more physically active throughout the day, cutting back on calories by reducing portions and using reduced-calorie products and avoiding fad diets are all key to weight loss success," says Beth Hubrich, R.D., executive director. When it comes to dieting, weight loss and obesity, the Council predicts the following five trends for 2008: Convenience is key -- The schedules of Americans today are busier than ever and people are constantly on the go. Consumers will increasingly prefer convenient, healthy food options over meals that require a lengthy preparation time. When consumers were asked why they would choose to make a particular dish for a meal the top reasons were "it required little or no effort" (53 percent) and "took little or no planning" (50 percent), according to the NPD Group's 21st Annual Eating Patterns in America Report. Food options that can be eaten on the go will also prove popular with consumers, as many products can now be eaten directly out of the container and fit in a cup holder. Exercise will become a family affair -- Families will focus on activities that allow them to interact while being more active. Finding activities that are fun for everyone and making the activities a part of the regular schedule will become a top priority in 2008. Such activities may include running/walking in the park, a friendly game of softball or soccer and going to the gym as a family. Food companies will help promote healthy messages -- As part of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, 10 major food companies in the U.S. have pledged to voluntarily include healthier messages in marketing to children, including incorporating "healthy lifestyle messages" into interactive online games. Consumers will learn to "budget" calories -- Consumers will better understand the role of reducing calories to lose weight. By incorporating low-calorie foods such as diet sodas, light juices, and light yogurts, consumers can control their calories while still enjoying their favorite foods. In fact, 86 percent of Americans (194 million) are using low-calorie, sugar-free products, according to the Council's consumer survey. In addition, foods with a lower energy density, such as fruits, vegetables and broth-based soups, will be incorporated into a reduced-calorie eating plan. Fad diets will be overshadowed by sensibility -- Although numerous diet books on the latest quick fix to lose weight will continue to be published, Americans will grow wary and instead opt for sensible, lifestyle choices. The Council's consumer survey indicates that only six percent of dieters follow restrictive weight loss plans as a means to control weight. That sounds logical, but I prefer the latest diet plan, the Flat Belly Diet from Prevention magazine editors Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass, for those of us who really like fats. "For countless reasons, the belly starts letting us down around age 40," says Vaccariello. "The belly pooches, puffs, and starts spilling over our waistbands." Combining the latest research showing that eating a diet rich in MUFA's (monounsaturated fatty acids) can actually help prevent weight gain in your belly, Sass, MPH, RD developed a belly-reduction eating plan starting with a four-day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart and four weeks of eating three 400-calorie meals and one 400-calorie snack pack a day, all containing the right amount of MUFA's, in the form of oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and dark chocolate. Now that's a plan I can live with. I look forward to being able to see my toes again.