Health Habits Weigh More Than Pounds on the Scale

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Medical research is mounting that drastic fluctuations in weight are potentially more fatal than being obese. When you get right down to it, rather than focus on what the scale says, health habits are the key to longevity and staving off illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Lynn is your typical adult. She has a family reunion next month and wants to lose a lot of weight in a hurry. Twenty pounds later she is thinner but develops some unhealthy eating attitudes and behaviors. She finds that when she does eat, she sometimes can’t stop, especially if it is her favorite "forbidden" food. She obsesses about her weight, day and night, and finds herself spending more time on the scale than with her husband. Worst of all, she feels really depressed, despite having a great job, wonderful family, and an even greater future ahead. But she is so desperate to lose weight, she doesn’t even realize that what she is experiencing is a sign of poor emotional and physical health.    

If commercial diet programs are taken to an extreme, mild symptoms can emerge which mimic the binge eating and severe restriction seen in Bulimia and Anorexia. Commercial diet programs work well, but in order to achieve long term success, you need to concentrate on both sensible and reasonable goals. If you try to lose weight too fast or unnecessarily, your body’s survival instinct can launch you into a cycle of weight loss and gain, referred to as weight cycling. In fact, medical research is mounting that these drastic fluctuations in weight are potentially more fatal than being obese. When you get right down to it, rather than focus on what the scale says, health habits are the key to longevity and staving off illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.    

A publication from the National Center for Health Statistics and Cornell University analyzed over 500,0000 men and women and concluded that weighing up to 50 pounds overweight increases the risk of death only slightly in men and not at all in women. Extremely thin men, however, had a risk of premature death equal to that of men who were extremely overweight. Researchers at the University of Tennessee looked at the coronary angiograms of more than 4,500 men and women and found that that the risk of coronary disease actually decreased as body weight moderately increased. Data on more than 32,000 men and women indicated that the fittest men and women have the lowest death rates, regardless of what they weigh. As you can see, in some cases it is not the extra weight that affects longevity, health habits do.

Due to the risk of weight cycling, researchers are suggesting the possibility that exercise, rather than extreme dieting, is more critical to overall health. Regardless of the amount of weight lost, moderate exercise reduces the death rate from 75% to 20% in morbidly obese individuals. When an overweight person begins to exercise, well before they reach their goal weight, their health improves to the point where they are 55% less likely to die prematurely. As long as weight loss is maintained, even small losses (5-10% of weight) can improve high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.    

In order to learn how to improve your overall health habits and lose weight permanently without developing unhealthy eating attitudes, eating disorder specialist, Dr. Gina Scarano-Osika, has developed a website (http://www.friendlymirrors.com)offering online Question and Answer sessions and chat rooms. For the past two years, Dr. Osika has served as President of the Capital Region Association for Eating Disorders (http://www.craed.org), which is a non-profit organization which provides support and referral information to people with eating disorders. In addition to questions about Anorexia and Bulimia, Dr. Osika’s website offers assistance for overweight folks when they feel stuck in the ups and downs of weight cycling. She is available online each Monday evening at 9:00 pm est. at http://www.friendlymirrors.com. Dr. Osika also provides 24-hour e-mail consultations.    

In addition, the following websites offer useful information about eating disorders so that you can monitor yourself while dieting in order to ensure your emotional and physical health. As cautioned in the May 20th press release, however, be careful when soliciting such advise on the web because some sites discourage healthy habits.

In addition to http://www.friendlymirrors.com and http://www.craed.org, other credible sites are

http://www.something-fishy.org
http://www.anad.org
http://www.raderprograms.com
http://www.bulimia-help.org
http://www.recoveryplaces.com
http://www.renfrewcenter.com
http://www.obesity-help.info
http://www.usmedicalresearch.org
http://www.fastfit4kids.com
http://www.bulimia.com
http://www.aplaceofhope.com
http://www.dietician.com

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Gina Scarano-osika

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