Welles: Want to be the biggest fed loser?

Try the 119 small steps that one federal agency recommends for shedding unhealthy weight

More than 1 million federal workers are overweight or obese, if you apply the national average to the federal employee population. Obesity is a nationwide epidemic, and something must be done. The holidays might not be the best time to lose weight, but they are a good time to start making resolutions. If you want to be the biggest fed loser — of weight, that is — an amazing amount of information is available to help you get started.

The Department of Health and Human Services calls obesity a major health problem. The department and its health-related agencies fund a range of activities, such as obesity research and regulation of trans fat labeling. They offer a variety of Web sites that document the trends and health consequences of obesity. 

One useful government Web site is www.smallstep.gov, which tells people that they can make small changes in their lives and see big results. The site points out the challenges we all face when we try to lose weight. Is it better to eat a low-carb diet or a balanced diet?  Should we be physically active three times a week or five times a week? The site lists 119 small steps that federal employees can take to trim down. It offers sample recipes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidelines, research reports and information about weight control and maintenance at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/resources.htm.

But it would be helpful if federal Web sites did a better job of integrating government information about healthy weight loss. For example, the Office of Personnel Management offers activity and nutrition information directed to federal employees at HealthierFeds.gov. The site also includes tips for people who have been inactive for a while. OPM could improve its site by adding links to HHS’ and other health agencies’ Web sites.

If you are looking for other fitness activity ideas, check out the HealthierFeds Physical Activity Challenge, which is scheduled to start in late January 2007. You can choose from nearly 100 activities to earn points. At the conclusion, OPM and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness will recognize department achievements. Last year, the agencies with the most federal employees completing the program were HHS and the Agriculture, Commerce and Interior departments. 

HealthierUS.gov, another online health site, lists useful government sources such as Nutrition.gov. Healthfinder.gov links to information from other government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Another useful site, WomensHealth.gov, includes an interactive menu planner among its health tools.

Each of those Web sites provides useful information and tips. But often the simplest advice is the best advice: People who need to lose weight should do so gradually. That is CDC’s advice, as is the suggestion that the safest and most effective way to drop pounds is to reduce food portions and increase physical activity. And don’t forget a brisk walk after a holiday meal.
Welles is a retired federal employee who has worked in the public and private sectors. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

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