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Today is August 13, 2022

Smart eating, activity battle extra pounds

By Bonnie A. Coblentz

Smart eating, activity battle extra pounds

For every reason to eat excessively, someone is pushing a diet plan to reverse the scales, but there’s more to a healthy weight than consuming fewer calories and burning more energy.

Weight gain can be brought on by the holiday season, the “freshman 15,” or the first year of marriage. In recent months, many have struggled with COVID-19 weight gain brought on by mental health struggles and isolation.

David Buys, state health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said there is a clear connection between stress and weight gain. Millions of people have been stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a lot of ways, our struggle to stay physically healthy is connected to our mental health and well-being,” Buys said.

He said living through the pandemic has caused nearly everyone to experience a loss of some kind, and those losses bring a heavy toll.

“There’s been loss of routine, income, health, and friends and loved ones,” Buys said. “It’s upended our confidence and led many people to experience unusual levels of stress, anxiety, or depression.

“When that happens, some of us turn to comfort foods or just more convenient ways of eating that are not as nutritionally robust. In other cases, we may have a loss of appetite or will to be active,” he said.

Qula Madkin, MSU Extension instructor and registered dietitian at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, said people sometimes get caught in an unhealthy loop that leads to weight gain, and they need to take positive action.

“Health is wealth, and I would like everyone to focus on their health — both gaining health and maintaining good health — rather than emphasizing weight loss,” Madkin said.

Getting healthier requires an individual approach, she said, but being active whenever possible is a great starting place.

“I encourage people to go outside more often and do more activity outdoors,” Madkin said. Rather than recommending that people follow restrictive diets, Madkin suggests making lifestyle changes one small step at a time, focusing more on personal longevity and quality of life.

“In my opinion, people should really think less about weight loss and more about their health,” Madkin said. “My goal is for people to be healthier. If I can help someone understand what that looks like for them, it can lead to weight loss, but weight loss does not necessarily equal health.”

Madkin defined health as being physically active, drinking more water, eating more vegetables and fruits, and consuming less sugar and processed foods. It also includes self-care and having a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being.

When trying to set a weight loss goal, Madkin urged people to try for 5-10% of their body weight. For a 160-pound person, that would mean a goal of losing 8 to 16 pounds over a month or two.

“That is an excellent place to start,” she said. “Set doable, relatable, and reachable goals. Make sure they are goals that you can meet, and then you can push yourself to meet another goal after you have succeeded in your first goal.”

In addition to healthy eating choices, good physical exercise is the next necessary component to losing weight and keeping it off.

“Find physical activity and movement opportunities that work for you,” Madkin said. “Remember, you’ve been through a pandemic, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back and make health happen for you.”


Bonnie A. Coblentz is a writer/editor for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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