Scaling down for the New Year

By Michael Davis

With a few keystrokes and a mouse click, one can find more than 5 million Internet sites under the heading "weight loss."

And for many, that's a No. 1 priority after the holidays.

Whether through New Year's resolutions or to shed excess holiday pounds, many in the Southern Crescent will be looking to slim down in the new year.

The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health reported that in 2002, more than 50 percent of Georgians were classified as either overweight or obese. And being overweight is a risk factor for numerous diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, health officials say.

"Don't think that because you blew it over the holidays, you can't get back on track," said Lynn Leo, a registered dietitian at Henry Medical Center.

Leo said that most people "blow it" at the holidays by eating too much of their favorite foods. She encourages people to "make some choices" about what they eat and go for smaller portions. "You shouldn't eliminate or severely restrict any food group," she said.

She also recommended exercise as a part of any weight-management or maintenance program.

"When you exercise, you tend to eat less," she said. But at the holidays, she added, "people are so busy they don't exercise."

Owner of the Henry County branches of Gold's Gym, James Viar said he sees membership at his gyms slightly increase this time of year.

"Comparable to a normal month, we add 5 percent (in January)," Viar said.

But with more than 10,000 members in Henry County, only 2 percent are there for body-building, he added.

"Fitness has left the old days when the goal was to be big and muscular," he said. "People just want to live a normal life and a healthy life."

Viar says what he sees in his gyms is part of a larger trend away from the bulky, muscular weightlifters and back to more traditional healthy goals.

He said most of his clientele is just trying to stay active and healthy, focusing on cardiovascular programs and moderate strength training.

With simple, healthy goals in mind, he said, people don't have to think too hard about what is best for them.

"You don't have to have any brain loss from trying to do this," he said.

Florrie O'Sullivan, a service manager for Quick Weight Loss Centers in Morrow, said that during the two weeks before Christmas, their clientele traffic slows because of the holiday.

"But the day after Christmas, it starts picking right back up," she said.

She said most of their programs focus more on healthy eating, rather than exercise.

"If you don't get your eating habits on order, you can't exercise enough (to lose weight)," she said.

She said the average client starts thinking about a weight-loss program when they have 30 pounds to lose.

"Once you change the way you think about food, you can change your weight," she added.