George Mason Dietician Weighs in on Government’s Dietary Guidelines

Posted: March 7, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

Concerned about the new dietary guidelines recently issued by the government suggesting that people cut calories and exercise 90 minutes a day? “Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once” is the advice given by Lois Durant, George Mason’s registered dietician.

“Take it one step at a time,” she says. “If you’re already exercising 30 minutes, add a few more. If you’re not exercising at all, start slowly.” The guidelines also strongly emphasize calorie reduction along with increased physical activity. “This is not news,” says Durant. “Health-care providers have been preaching this message for some time now. So has the government.”

What has changed, she notes, is the strong, proactive language used in the new guidelines. This time around, the federal government used a more rigorous process to develop the guidelines because of the severity of the obesity epidemic in this country. The government estimates nearly one-third of Americans are obese, a number that has doubled in the past two decades. A summary of the dietary guidelines can be found at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web site.

The guidelines come at a time when the Commonwealth of Virginia is also seeking ways to improve the health of its citizens. Last fall, Gov. Mark Warner unveiled the Healthy Virginians initiative, a state-sponsored effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices. Citing the growing health crisis facing Virginia, Healthy Virginians provides tools to assist in counting calories and monitoring daily physical activity.

The university has also gotten into the picture by planning walks on campus for those who need a little teamwork to help meet their fitness goals. The Health and Wellness Center has organized 15-minute-minimum walking groups that depart every weekday, weather permitting, from Student Union Building I. The walkers are encouraged to track their progress and increase their goals over time. The center hopes additional groups will form as they see their co-workers having a good time and losing weight.

Durant is pleased to point to the many resources available at Mason. In addition to counseling, the university offers detailed nutrition information and is constantly looking for ways to add healthy, tasty items to those already available on campus. She invites people to make recommendations by visiting the Dining Services web site, where nutrition and exercise information, tips, and upcoming health and fitness events are also available. One such event is the Health and Fitness Expo, made possible through a grant from Kaiser Permanente and sponsored by the Health and Wellness Center, the College of Nursing and Health Science, Sodexho Dining Services, and University Life. The Expo will be held March 30-31 in the Johnson Center’s Dewberry Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Fairfax Campus. Osteoporosis, cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose screenings will be available, and a variety of food vendors will provide cooking demonstrations.

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