Ten Tips for Healthy Weight Management
We talk so much about dieting and weight loss, yet the worldwide obesity rate has nearly doubled since 1980. Diets don't work. Let's shift our focus to small lifestyle changes to promote healthy weight management. Here are 10 tips to help you get started:
Eat breakfast within about one hour of waking up. Breakfast really may be the most important meal of the day, as studies show eating breakfast seems to support a healthy metabolism, as well as improved blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure. According to Harvard, "the downward trend in breakfast consumption over the last 40 years has coincided with the surge in obesity rates over the same period. In contrast, breakfast eaters are about a third less likely to be overweight or obese, and tend to be more successful in maintaining weight loss after dieting. They also show greater restraint when it comes to impulse snacking and overeating at other meals."
Fuel your body with smaller, more frequent meals. This will support a healthy metabolism, provide your body with needed nutrients throughout the day, help blood sugars stay more level, and boost your energy and performance. After eating breakfast, plan to eat about every three to four hours during the day for a total of about 5 small meals.
Include carbs, proteins, and healthy fats and oils with each meal. Our bodies need a variety of foods for optimal health. Consider using the guidelines of a Mediterranean style food plan, with a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and fish.
Opt for whole foods over processed foods...especially highly processed or ultra processed foods. Processed foods often include several artificial ingredients and preservatives, while also offering minimal nutritional value. Take time to read labels, experiment with learning to cook, and find pleasure in the many colors, tastes and textures of whole foods vs. processed foods.
Avoid added sugar. According to the American Heart Association, the average American adult eats somewhere between 22 and 30 teaspoons worth of added sugar in a day. Women and children should only be eating about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar a day; men’s intake should only be slightly higher, at 9 teaspoons (36 grams). Nine teaspoons of sugar may sound like a lot (and it is), but it’s also what you’ll drink in an average 12-ounce can of soda. The Cleveland Clinic supports decreasing our sugar intake, stating that, "It can help with digestive issues like irritable bowel and acid reflux, but that’s not all. Eating less sugar can also improve anxiety and stress, reduce fatigue, ease joint pain, and cut down on headaches and migraines."
Find ways to incorporate movement throughout your day. Thinking about exercise may bring up some very negative thoughts or emotions for you, yet shift your focus to small, simple ways you can increase how much you move your body in a day. For example, walking to the mailbox rather than stopping by in your car on the way home.
Be curious about where stress and anxiety are showing up in your life, and explore ways to better manage them. Stress is directly linked to unhealthy weight gain. Consider working with a mental health counselor or a coach to explore the stress in your life, how that stress is impacting you mentally and emotionally as well as physically, and learn a variety of techniques to reduce your stress and anxiety.
Get adequate sleep each night. According to the Sleep Foundation, "not only does sleep loss lead to weight gain, but being overweight also causes sleep issues, which can, in turn, worsen biological processes that contribute to weight gain." The amount of sleep we need varies based on several factors, yet a very general guideline for healthy adults is at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Learn to listen to body cues. We tend to forget that our bodies are really quite miraculous, and they give us cues all of the time about how healthy we are. Take time to listen to what your body is telling you. How is your energy? Are you having pain? How is your focus through the day? Our bodies also give us clues about what they need to feel better and function better, such as hunger and fullness cues. Being more in touch with your body, listening to what it's telling you and honoring it will propel you toward improving your personal health and wellness mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Give your body a fighting chance to heal itself and chances are pretty good it will.
What is your why? Why is being healthy important to you? What would you do if you felt better and had more energy? Being clear on why it's important to you to make healthier lifestyle choices will help motivate you to get started and stick with it!
~Nicole Hutchison, PT, CSCS, Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach