It seems at least half of what we hear these days involves how to lose weight.  There are pills, exercise equipment, wraps, belts, unlimited gimmicks and even a vaccination in the works that promise weight loss.   Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars are spent on short cuts to make us skinny, as our collective weight increases year by year.

            In spite of all the hoopla about weight in recent years, lack of any significant improvement makes the 2013 statistics frightening.  According to the Center for Disease Control, 69 percent of adults age 20 and older are overweight.  That includes the 35.1 percent who are obese. Adolescents, age 12 to 19 years are 18.4 percent obese.  Of those children 6 to 11 years old 18 percent are obese.  Even 2 to 5 year olds have 12.1 percent rate of obesity.

            Weight is big news.  BusinessWeek headlines “Childhood Obesity Might be Linked to a Strain of Cold Virus.”  NBC is not to be outdone as it claims: “Nothing to sneeze at; Common cold virus may make kids fat.”  Never mind that obese kids probably eat the most junk food which weakens their immune system and that makes them more susceptible to sickness of all kinds. 

            Mainstream wisdom advocates counting calories and exercise for weight loss.  Others declare that calories don’t count and quality of food is the important thing.

            A “balloon pill” is being developed.  It is inserted by a doctor, blown up in the stomach to make the person feel full.  It is a 90 day program and other balloon pills can be added during the treatment.

            There are programs like Nutrisystem where people lose weight by eating foods like pizza, pasta, cake, burgers, etc that are especially prepared by the program and delivered to your door.  You are able to eat the foods you are used to eating but they are especially formulated by the company.

            The high protein diet advocated by Dr. Atkins and others was so deprived of carbohydrates that cravings became overwhelming and the participant was likely to over indulge in carbohydrates after a while and gain more weight than ever.

            Remember the high carbohydrate craze?  The thing here was to cut out the fat.  This seems to have been a temporary fix as now it is being said that fats are not the culprit but refined carbohydrates—sugar, white flour, and processed fast foods. 

            There is a big problem with most of these special weight loss programs—you cannot stay on them for life; you have not changed your attitude toward food; and you have not learned a new healthful lifestyle.  Most of them work-- for a while.

            We are individuals and we may need different amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  One thing I am sure of is that sugary, fast, and processed foods will not improve your health and they are responsible for much overweight.  However, would you like to try a simple experiment that cannot harm you in any way and will actually save you money?  You won’t have to give up a food or do special exercises.  Read the story below and decide for yourself.

            A reader/friend told me that about a year ago he visited with a woman who was complaining about her weight, as she drank a soft drink.  He was moved to challenge her to do just one thing—give up soft drinks and drink only water.  That was the only dietary change he suggested.  Until recently, he had thought no more about it when a woman approached him and even though she remembered him, he was embarrassed because he didn’t recognize her.  He apologized and said he had seen many people since he saw her and he just couldn’t place her.  She reminded him of their conversation of a year ago and said she decided to take his suggestion.  She had drunk only water since that day and she had lost a whopping 35 pounds which made a significant difference in her five foot frame.   That was the only change she had made.

            From the amount of soft drinks that are stocked in supermarkets and the numbers of vending machines that find their way into every conceivable location; even fitness centers, hospitals, and churches; it is easy to believe they are creating poor health and obesity.  Can you give them up and drink only water?

            Drinking water instead of sugary or diet soft drinks may be the one most important thing you can do for your weight and your health.  Why not give it a try for at least a month?  If you don’t drink soft drinks like Cokes, Pepsi, etc, you may drink other sugared or artificially sweetened drinks.  Fruit juices are also loaded with sugar and calories that slide down the throat easily.  Drink only water and see what happens.  Surprise yourself!           

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at