At first glance, the 1990 revision of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans seems simply to give a positive twist to an old message.
But the text reveals a dramatic change in determining and achieving appropriate weight.
"Maintain Healthy Weight" replaces "Maintain Desirable Weight" to eliminate the "vanity factor" and establish realistic goals.
Height-weight charts are augmented by waist-to-hip ratio calculations (because we know abdominal fat is more risky than hip and thigh fat), and a review of your family health history to determine your risk for weight-related diseases.
The guidelines are published in a booklet, available to the public, which gives simple, step-by-step instructions for assessing your own weight and deciding if you need to lose a few pounds.
The good news: Most people do not need to lose weight if they fall within the generous guidelines (including an increase of 10 to 15 pounds after age 35) and are otherwise healthy.
If you do need to lose, there's more good news: no more starving. A steady loss of 1/2 to one pound per week. Twelve hundred calories (formerly 800) is considered the absolute minimum for moderate weight loss while meeting your nutritional needs.
The idea here is to just cut back a little, plan to eat positively according to the rest of the recommendations, and practice good food habits to last a lifetime, not just until your weight is where you want it.
1990 DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR AMERICANS
1. Eat a variety of foods.
2. Maintain healthy weight.
3. Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol.
4. Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains.
5. Use sugars in moderation.
6. Use salt and sodium in moderation.
7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was established jointly by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and consists of nine nutrition scientists and physicians.
For a single free copy write to: Consumer Information Center, Department 514-X, Pueblo, Colo. 81009.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.