Achieving a healthy body weight is an important part of our overall health and wellness. Carrying too much weight increases our risk of developing several chronic health issues - including hypertension (high blood pressure), Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Unfortunately, in today's world of hectic schedules, processed foods, and super-sized portions, it can be a challenge to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.
Below are some useful considerations that can help you begin the process of healthy weight loss through improved nutrition, calorie awareness, and exercise/activity.
Talk to your Primary Care Provider
If you are wanting to lose more than a few pounds, it's a good idea to talk to your primary care provider - your personal physician or qualified nurse practitioner - before you begin. He or she will be able help you monitor and track success and be sure that your dietary changes and/or exercise activities are appropriate for your overall health.
More than counting numbers, managing calories includes an overall nutritional strategy - from meal preparation to portion sizing to liquid consumption (beverages).
Helpful tips from Amanda Corbin (Registered Dietitian) ...
- Keep a Journal of what you eat and drink - feel free to add your feelings and moods to help you understand and track emotional eating. Develop a plan to avoid "eating your emotions" when you are tired, frustrated, stressed, or disappointed.
- Track portion sizes - Reducing how much you eat is one of the easiest ways to trim calories. Most portions of meat (for example) should be about the size of your fist. Follow the suggested serving size guidelines outlined on food labels.
- Focus on nutrient-rich foods - focus on quality calories; there is a big difference between 100 calories of broccoli and a 100-calorie cookie. Many vegetables (carrots, celery, etc.) make great snacks. Apples and other whole fruits are a good source of nutrition and add fiber to your diet.
- Drink plenty of water - plan on drinking about 64 ounces per day; that translates to eight, 8-ounce servings. One cup is eight ounces, so a tall glass of water might be two cups. Water has zero calories, can help you feel full (before meals), and helps keep you hydrated.
- Avoid drinking your calories - sugary drinks such as sodas, sweet tea, lemonade, and yes, even many types of coffee beverages, can quickly add calories to your daily total. Be cautious of juices; after a half-cup (4 ounces) you will have consumed all of the vitamins you need; the remainder is just empty calories.
- Choose lean proteins - lean cuts of meats such as chicken, turkey, fish and even certain cuts of beef (sirloin steak for example) provide an excellent course of protein with less fat and calories.
- Be stingy with empty carbohydrates - whole grains are your best source for carbohydrates; items such as oatmeal, whole grain bread or whole grain rice. Be cautious with what we call the "C's" - items such as cookies, crackers, chips and candy. Those items are carbohydrate heavy and offer little, if any, nutritional value.
- Avoid snacking while bored or watching TV - it's easy to munch on something when you are bored or watching television. Often, we eat more than planned, adding significant calories without realizing it.
- Embrace technology - many free apps are available to help you track calories and even offer healthy recipe ideas.
Making exercise a priority
Simply put, we lose weight by burning more calories than we consume. Exercise not only helps us burn more calories, it helps us improve our overall cardiovascular health and increase our energy level.
Helpful tips from Heather Foy (Wellness Coordinator) ...
- Write out your exercise activities - planning exercise activities and writing them down makes you more accountable and helps make your plans a priority. Using an activity tracker such as a Fit Bit (or something similar) can also help you track exercise activities.
- Plan some type of activity every day - on a busy day your activity might be a short 10-to-20 minute power walk. Other days you might visit the gym, ride a bike or even take a hike. When you put exercise on your to-do list, you can feel good about checking it off.
- Develop inside and outside options - sometimes the weather makes it difficult to exercise outside. Have a plan for indoor activities when needed - it could be a trip to the gym, joining an exercise class or even using an exercise video in your living room.
- Keep a pair of workout shoes with you - whether in your car or at your place of work, having a pair of workout shoes available makes it easier to take a walk at lunch or even a run after your day is over.
- Choose activities you enjoy - it's easier to succeed when you choose an exercise activity that you enjoy. Choosing an activity that you don't like will make it easier to find excuses.
- Choose an accountability partner - having a workout buddy or someone to exercise with you makes your activities more fun and also helps you keep going.
- Motivational quotes - reading an inspirational message of encouragement can make a big difference. Exercise isn't always easy. Supportive messages can improve your mood and inspire you keep working toward your goals.
Ultimately, significant improvements to nutrition and exercise requires some type of lifestyle change. We have to want to eat better and exercise more. We have to make it a priority. Talk to your healthcare provider about options that work best for you.