Q. Please recommend a diet and exercise plan for a 60-year-old male who weighs 325 pounds and who has led a rather inactive lifestyle for the last few years. I am also taking medication for high blood pressure. My doctor has suggested that I become more active along with dieting. -- S.S.

A.

I'm glad to hear that you're under a doctor's care for your high blood pressure. Make sure you stay there. You didn't tell me your height, but even if you're six feet tall, you have a ways to go to trim down your 325-pound frame and start feeling fit. Regularly consulting a doctor who knows your goal weight will prevent you from losing your enthusiasm along the way. Also, you won't be tempted to try any of the so-called "miracle diets" that might actually do more harm than good.

At your present weight, I would discourage you from running, because jogging would put too much pressure on your feet, ankles, and knees. Walking would be a good choice, but with winter coming, why not try indoor swimming?

Swimming doesn't put pressure on your joints, and it's easy to stay motivated if you join a swim club or sign up for a class. You'll want to work up to being able to swim continuously for 20 minutes at least three times a week.

To start, try swimming for five minutes, resting for two minutes. Do the swim-rest cycle three times during each exercise session your first week. Your second week in the water, increase your swimming time to eight minutes and decrease your rest time to one minute. Increase your swim time each week, and before you know it, 20 minutes will be a snap.

Bicycling also would be a good option. It's not jarring on your joints, it's easy and fun, and you can get in shape for springtime outdoor cycling by pedalling a stationary bike. You want to work up to pedaling for 20 minutes but you might want to start off with five. Just do the best you can.

When it comes to your questions about diet, please remember that I am an exercise physiologist, not a registered dietician or a nutritionist. Consulting one of these specialists might be helpful. But I can tell you about some of the guidelines I try to follow at the dinner table.

Watch your fat intake. That means using margarine instead of butter, skim instead of whole milk. I try to avoid sour cream, mayonnaise, heavy sauces.

For dessert, try fresh fruit instead of cake, pie or ice cream.

Try never to eat after 8 p.m. Eating right before bedtime doesn't give your body enough time to burn calories.

Eat three good meals a day, but cut down on the amounts.

Breakfast is very important. I like oatmeal or oat bran with fruit. Some doctors believe oat bran can help reduce cholesterol levels.

Everyone should eat breakfast like a king. Eat lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper.

Q.

I'm a freshman in college, and I've gained 12 pounds since school started just a couple of months ago. I have never had a weight problem. Any suggestions? -- J.F.

A.

I know you are at college to gain knowledge, not pounds. But college life, grade pressure, homesickness and late-night pizza pig-outs can be devastating to any diet, and young women are particularly susceptible.

A recent San Diego State University study shows that first-year college women who live in dormitories gain weight 36 times faster than their peers who live at home or in an off-campus apartment.

Blame those unwanted pounds on starchy dorm cafeteria meals, the overeating that community-style dining encourages, stress of being away from home for the first time, study breaks that usually include munchies and a break from regular exercise.

College men don't gain as much weight as women because they are more likely to play touch football or basketball when they get together. Women are more likely to get together to talk -- and eat, and eat.

You'll be better able to fit into your favorite jeans all semester long if you follow these tips:

Don't get into the habit of ordering a pizza for a study snack. A slice or two with a salad is fine for dinner, but as a snack it has just as many calories as a full meal.

Never eat anything after 8 p.m. Late-night eating is the No. 1 reason why people gain weight. But if you must, have a piece of fruit or a salad topped with lemon juice, not creamy fat-filled dressings.

Stock your dorm room refrigerator with crunchy vegetables and fruit. When you're hungry and mealtime is hours away, pick an apple, not a candy bar from the vending machine.

Be choosy. When you head through the cafeteria line, make sure you're not loading down your tray with too many starches. For example, if you select spaghetti, pass up the garlic bread and potatoes.

Join an intramural sports team. Or start an aerobics class in your dorm. Most high school students have to take physical education to earn their diplomas, but when they go to college, students usually become less active.

Stay on the go. Play a set of tennis with a friend instead of meeting each other at a donut shop. Walk or ride a bike to class instead of hopping on the bus. On Saturday night, go dancing instead of watching a movie.

Stay sober. Limit yourself to one beer at parties. And remember that even light beer has about 100 calories a glass.