It's not too early to plan post-holiday fitness

Let's agree that setting and achieving a weight loss goal at the holidays is difficult. And let's also agree that if someone can maintain a relatively balanced holiday food intake and exercise schedule, he or she might make it through the holidays no larger and yet no smaller. That means that when the holidays are over and the party has passed, it's time to assess your health status.

According to the website www.arizonahealthmatters.org, focusing on a healthy weight is important for many reasons. Obesity increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, respiratory problems, and osteoarthritis. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight help to prevent and control these diseases. Being overweight or obese also carries significant economic costs because of increased healthcare spending and lost earnings.

If you are setting a weight loss target, you should consider this from the perspective of not just what your scale says but what your body mass index (BMI) is. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. The Healthy People 2010 national health target is to increase the proportion of adults who are at a healthy weight to 60 percent. A healthy weight is defined as a BMI equal to or greater than 18.5 and less than 25.

So, how do you get there - to a higher level of fitness and a lower weight? One way is to start with the following key actions as outlined in The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation.

Change starts with the individual choices Americans make each day for themselves, their families and those around them. To help achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, Americans of all ages should reduce consumption of sodas and juices with added sugars; eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; drink more water and choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products; limit television time to no more than two hours per day; and be more physically active.

Your waistline did not expand in a matter of days or weeks, so don't expect the pounds to come off overnight. Resolve this coming year to address your weight and fitness challenge if you have one, but approach it in a reasonable, patient way that sets you up for success rather than failure.