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PHYSICAL ACTIVITY VITAL IN KEEPING THE POUNDS OFF

Update: This week I will conclude the questions and answers about weight control from an interview with the internationally known weight control expert, Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer (from the International Food Information Council's "Food Insight," March-April, 1994).

- What role does physical activity play in keeping weight off? Exercise is extraordinarily important, not so much from the number of calories it expends but because it seems to keep a person focused. Physical activity keeps people motivated to maintain the dietary discipline that's required in weight control. Persons who exercise are much more likely to successfully manage their weight than those who don't.- Should young children and adolescents be put on diets? Pi-Sunyer said he is fairly conservative about weight loss in children and adolescents, since he wants to avoid adversely affecting their growth and development. Generally, the goal is a modest weight loss or at least weight maintenance so that overweight youngsters aged 2 and older do not gain weight as they grow. This can be safely achieved by increased exercise. Kids tend to "lean out" when they significantly increase their activity, so fitness is important in any program for youth.

- How can patients help their children manage their weight? The most important thing for parents is to be a role model where diet and exercise are concerned. The best approach is for the whole family to adopt a low-fat, high-fiber diet that's rich in vegetables, fruits and grains. Parents should also promote exercise as a family activity. Children with sedentary parents can still be encouraged to exercise by enrolling them in after-school activities or other sport events.

- Are men and women motivated differently to lose weight? Generally, men are much harder to motivate. Men usually must have a serious reason for losing weight such as a serious illness. Women, on the other hand, are motivated not only by the risk of disease but also appearance.

Pi-Sunyer gave these tips for successful weight management:

1. Don't try to lose more than a pound or two a week.

2. Design a healthful eating plan based on low-fat grain foods, vegetables and fruits, with moderate amounts of higher-fat foods; avoid diets that prohibit food.

3. Increase your level of physical activity by experimenting with activities you enjoy.

4. Seek out knowledgeable professionals such as a registered dietician and/or an exercise phys-iologist for information about healthful eating and exercise.

5. Even after reaching your goal, continue checking in periodically with a professional to help avoid regaining weight.

Remember, the lifestyle changes you make to lose weight must be the type that you can live the rest of your life.