MAINTAINING A HEALTHY WEIGHT:
Why should you be concerned about your weight, especially as you get older? Well, we know that weight gain, particularly after menopause, is a risk factor for developing breast cancer.[ii] In younger women, 50% of African American women are obese by the age of 30.[iii] Approximately, 35% or more of all cancers are related to excess fats contributing to estrogen receptor negative tumors.[iv] Younger women with excess weight also have larger, denser breast sizes, creating additional obstacles in diagnosing breast cancer through mammography, CBEs, or BSE.[v] In addition to excess weight being a risk factor for breast cancer, it is also a risk factor for:[vi]
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Liver and Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
- Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
- Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
For some people, genetics play a role in their weight gain. If this is your case, you should speak with your physician about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight throughout your lifetime requires healthy eating, regular physical activity, and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses. There are new diets on the shelves of grocery and bookstores weekly, but many of their techniques encourages unhealthy habits or quick fixes. If you are serious about your health, as I know you are, you should take the time to put the hard work into fighting the excess weight by changing your lifestyle to one that promotes healthy eating.
The CDC suggests a three step approach, but you should always consult your physician first:[vii]
1. Assess your weight, learn and understand the consequences of your body mass index (BMI). http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/index.html
2. Assess what is a healthy weight for you (consult your physician for help). To achieve this goal, you must make a lifestyle change in how you eat and burn it off. It is believed that losing small and steady amounts of weight (1 to 2 lbs. per week), is healthier and longer lasting than the quick result diets. Maintaining a healthy weight has to be a conscious choice that you practice daily (except for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. I think you can cheat on those occasions). When you give yourself a treat, don’t feel guilty; just get back at healthy eating and exercising as soon as possible. For more information, see the CDC Healthy Weight page: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
3. Prevent additional weight gain, if you are at a healthy weight or are not ready to lose weight.
a. Choose foods that supply you with the appropriate number of calories to maintain your weight;
b. Add more physical activity to your day to burn calories; and
c. Monitor your weight by weighing yourself on a regular basis.
These are just guidelines, as always, we encourage you to consult with your physician before making any changes to your current health regiment.
Water is an essential part of maintaining good nutrition. You may ask why it is important. It is needed to replace the fluids that are lost during normal activities, including just exhaling. The Centers for Disease Control (2010) lists the following ways water helps our body:
- Keeps the body’s temperature normal
- Lubricates and cushions your joints
- Protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissue
- Gets rid of wastes through elimination and perspiration
It is suggested that you increase your water intake in the following circumstances:
- In hot climates
- When you have increased your physical activity
- When you are running a fever
- When you have diarrhea or vomiting
The CDC cautions against drinking beverages with high sugar volume to fulfill your fluid intake, because of the concerns about weight control. For more information about water, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/water.html
Eating to maintain a balanced diet may be difficult to manage, however, is not impossible to do. Foods are grouped together when they share similar nutritional properties. When trying to understand how much to eat from each food group, you should first refer to a healthy eating plan. A healthy eating plan will show you how much food you need from each food group to stay within your caloric needs and promote good health. Two examples of healthy eating plans are identified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating plan at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/ or for recommendations specific for you, you might choose the My Pyramid Plan by visiting MyPyramid.gov and entering your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/.
Down Home Healthy Cooking
Healthy Latino Recipes: Made with Love
Soulful Recipes: Building Healthy Traditions
Everyday Healthy Meals
[i] Centers for Disease Control: Division of Prevention, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Retrieved July 29, 2010 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html. [ii] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.[iii] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.[iv] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.[v]Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.[vi] Centers for Disease Control: Division of Prevention, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Retrieved July 29, 2010 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html.[vii] Centers for Disease Control: Division of Prevention, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Retrieved July 29, 2010 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html.