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It's Never Too Late for a Healthy Weight

It's Never Too Late for a Healthy Weight: Main Image
Yogurt, a food loaded with probiotics, was a super star at preventing weight gain
Nobody would argue that losing weight and keeping it off are easy, and as we age, the battle of the bulge can feel downright discouraging at times. Fortunately, even for baby boomers--those of us born between 1946 and 1964--some practical and unique tips can put us on the path to successful weight management and our personal best health.

Eat right, not less

One study of more than 120,000 men and women who were followed for 20 years found strong links between certain foods and tendency to gain or maintain weight over the years. The results might surprise you:

Pick probiotics. Yogurt, a food loaded with probiotics--the healthy bacteria found in the digestive tract--was a super star at preventing weight gain. Each extra daily serving of yogurt prevented nearly a pound of weight gain every four years. Think of yogurt as your go-to, get slim snack.

Pass up the potato chips. Of the hundreds of foods studied, potato chips were most strongly tied with weight gain. Compared with no chips, each additional potato chip serving eaten per day was linked with nearly two pounds of weight gain every four years, regardless of anything else a person ate.

Choose fresh. Other top offenders for putting people on the weight gain train include sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, red meat, and processed meat such as smoked and cured foods. Skip these processed products; instead pick fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and nuts.

These numbers may not sound impressive . . . a couple of pounds here, a pound there . . . but health experts now realize it's the small everyday choices that add up to keep people at a healthy weight and help them lose those extra pounds when they need to.

Stop reading labels

You read that right. Don't read food labels. If you're reading a lot of food labels, you're already on the wrong track. You don't need a label to tell you apples, broccoli, carrots, cherries, and oats are healthy. You just know they are. If you're constantly scanning labels to count fat grams and compare calorie counts, pick simpler, whole foods instead.

Your goal? Eat no more than one or two foods with a label each day. Try plain oatmeal instead of processed cereal, for example. You can add fresh fruit and nuts to make your oatmeal delicious, and those foods don't have labels either!

Socialize smart

Hang out with like-minded folks to keep pounds in check. Obesity, like the common cold or the flu, can be "contagious." The more overweight friends and family members a person has, the more likely he or she is to be overweight.

This doesn't mean you should ditch your social circle if you have overweight friends. Instead, you need to cultivate the behaviors of "thinner-thinking" peers with your loved ones. Some ways to do this include:

  • Invite friends to join you for a walk, not a meal or dessert. If you stop planning all social outings around food, you'll naturally eat less. If you're the one to start the trend, you may be surprised at how relieved your friends are that you're inviting them to join you for healthy fun.
  • Be a designated driver during social gatherings. We all know alcohol is loaded with empty calories and lowers our willpower against fatty foods, but it's tough to say no to a gracious host. However, the minute you say you're driving, you're off the hook. Sip a non-caloric, non-alcoholic drink instead.
  • Tame TV time. Instead of socializing with your family around the tube, take the dog for a quick walk or play cards or a board game with the kids. It turns out that time sitting in front of the TV is particularly detrimental to our weight loss efforts. Between sitting for long periods and all of the food ads, it's easy to see how this pastime doesn't do our waistlines any favors.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.
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