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Obesity and overweight are at the core of a tremendous health crisis in the United States today with one-third of Americans being obese and another third overweight. This crisis is particularly concerning for children and young adults as this often leads the way to life-long challenges with weight and poor health. In addition to the toll taken on our health and longevity, the financial concerns of this weighty crisis are devastating and are only getting worse.

As a nutritionally-oriented medical practitioner for 40 years, and struggling with my own weight issues, I offer here my guidelines for weight reduction and health maintenance. Clearly, behavior change surrounding food choices and exercise are part of any solution. Long-term behavior modification shows promise, yet it takes work and consistency. Overweight and obesity tend to run in families and this allows both parents and children to work together to solve their health issues. Personal and psychological support has been shown to help those looking to lose weight and keep it off, which is the biggest challenge.

1. Set a Good Example. As parents, your children will tend to follow in your footsteps and ultimately do what you do rather than what you say. Thus, you are the primary example for what your children learn and do. Your conscious decision to practice a healthy lifestyle will benefit your children greatly as well as your own health.

2. It is all about Daily Choices. Assess your current diet and calories to see where your higher fat and sugar calories come from. Educate yourself and your children about healthy options that support your health.

3. Focus on Fresh Foods, especially vegetables and greens. Grow some of your own and frequent your local farmer’s market to buy fresh seasonal produce. Eating seasonally and locally is one of the first guidelines for healthy nutrition.

4. Get your kids involved in the shopping, planning meals, cooking with you, cleaning the kitchen, and helping wash the dishes. Have them work in your garden or plant vegetable boxes so that they can experience the magic of nature and the taste of really fresh food. Make a healthy lifestyle FUN!

5. Educate yourself about a balanced diet, along with reading food labels and learning about calories, fats and sugar. Share what you learn with your children. Take them shopping and do all of this together to make the best choices for your household.

6. Plan your daily meals and menu ideas for the week. When we create the choices ahead, we are less likely to snack and go astray from our plan. Include all family and household members in this process.

7. Eat simply, slowly and do not overeat. And CHEW WELL! When we take time to eat, relaxing and breathing between bites, we will tend to eat less and enjoy what we eat more and still feel satisfied. Simply means not too many foods at a time.

8. Eat in the light, and not so much at night. This has been my biggest challenge. When we eat less at night, we digest better, we often sleep better, and we tend to accumulate less fat. We then typically take in less calories and are more able to maintain our weight. Waking up hungry and ready for a good breakfast helps our entire day.

9. Embrace the emotional issues about food, cravings and habits. The help of a therapist or nutritionist may help you illicit behaviors and challenges that need to be addressed. Behavior Modification and personal support are both found to offer solutions to weight issues.

10. Exercise and physical activity are essential to weight management and long-term health. As with any diet plan, an exercise program is equally important. Balancing strength training, aerobic activity, and stretching is the ideal fitness plan for most of us. And you know the best exercise, right? It’s the one that you will actually do!

NOTE: See Healthy Tips for Back to School and Work on my website for more ideas about food and health at this time of the year.

Elson M. Haas, MD

Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.

This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. His latest book is Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine which integrates Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.