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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

SHAPE UP
Lifestyle crucial to weight loss

By Charles Stuart Platkin

 •  Are you on track to lose weight?

Losing weight is about behavior and lifestyle, more than anything else. In Part 2 of the Ultimate Weight Loss Quiz, find out if how you live will help or hurt your efforts to lose weight permanently.

1. What are your sleeping habits?

  1. I get only five hours. (-3)
  2. I get about six hours a night. (-2)
  3. Eight to nine hours. (+3)
  4. I'm an insomniac. (-4)

Researchers at Columbia University found that people who slept less than four hours a night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who got seven to nine hours. Those who averaged five hours of sleep had a 50 percent greater risk of gaining weight, and those with six hours had 23 percent more risk.

2. When it comes to physical activity:

  1. Who has time? (-5)
  2. I get enough just living. (-4)
  3. I take a long walk a couple of times a week. (+2)
  4. I walk or do other physical activities daily. (+4)
  5. I walk or do other activities at least 60 minutes daily. (+7)

You must increase activity to lose weight (almost all successful weight losers do), and walking works. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 77 percent of successful losers keep weight off by walking.

3. As a child, you were:

  1. Overweight and exercised very little. (-5)
  2. Pretty active and a bit pudgy but not obese. (-1)
  3. Active, in shape and always eating healthful foods. (+3)
  4. Not fat, didn't have much physical activity and didn't eat healthfully. (-2)

Being overweight as a child increases your chances of being overweight as an adult. According to studies in pediatrics, overweight children have a 50 percent to 70 percent likelihood of becoming overweight or obese adults.

4. My significant other is:

  1. Always doing something physical and in decent shape. (+2)
  2. Pigging out with me in the evenings and on weekends. (-3)
  3. Always bringing home fattening foods and never wanting to be active. (-2)
  4. Supportive of my eating healthfully and being active. (+2)

According to research from Cornell University, one criterion we use when selecting a spouse is how he/she eats. If you're a vegetarian or a gourmet, you are more likely to feel comfortable with someone who shares your tastes. Also, eating with another person makes it more fun to consume "sin" foods such as cookies, ice cream and chips.

5. What's it like where you live?

  1. Plenty of parks and scenic areas to walk around. (+4)
  2. Few parks or recreational areas and/or scenic areas. (-3)
  3. The suburbs or rural area. (-2)
  4. A major city. (+3)

The most common environmental barriers to exercise, according to experts, include safety and the lack of availability or cost of parks, beaches, rec centers, pools and gyms. The American Journal of Public Health reports that people walk and cycle more when their neighborhood has connected streets and nearby shops. Other influences on activity include sidewalks, bike paths, traffic and crime.

6. How's your stress level at work and at home?

  1. Very stressful work, like being a 911 operator. (-5)
  2. Moderate stress, such as strict deadlines. (-1)
  3. Light to no stress. (+3)
  4. High stress from a recent major life event (marriage, moving, job loss). (-3)

Stress increases the release of the hormone cortisol in your body, which may increase your appetite and cause you to store more fat. Plus, we tend to turn to high-calorie, high-fat comfort foods in times of stress.

7. Do you eat while doing other activities (such as driving or watching TV)?

  1. No, I eat in a silent place with no distractions. (+5)
  2. Yes, but fewer than two times a week. (-1)
  3. Yes, two to five times a week. (-3)
  4. Yes, more than five times a week. (-5)

Mindless activities induce high-calorie eating.

8. Do you believe you need to lose weight?

  1. I've heard that it's OK to have a few extra pounds. (-4)
  2. My doctor said I'm at high risk for diabetes and heart disease and I need to lose a few. I want to follow his advice, but I haven't done anything yet. (+2)
  3. My spouse bugs me all the time to lose weight. (-2)
  4. I would like to look more attractive. (+2)

Part of being able to change a behavior requires that you have a real desire to do so. Make sure you know the reason why you want to lose weight and that the reason is important to you.

9. Do you think you can lose weight for good?

  1. Not really. (-3)
  2. I have fat genes but with a bit of work, maybe. (+3)
  3. I know that I can eat healthier foods, and ultimately I can control my weight. (+8)
  4. It's possible, but so is winning the lottery. (-4)

Feeling confident or believing that you can change your behavior is the single biggest predictor of being able to shed those pounds.

SCORING:

30 or more: Ph.D. in dieting

15 to 29: Nutritionist

0 to 14: Changes necessary

-15 to -1: Need a game plan

-25 to -16: Overhaul required

-26 or lower: Seek assistance from a professional.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate. Write to info@thedietdetective.com.