This time of year, many people choose to make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and become healthier. Unfortunately, many start with diets or health club memberships, but do not realize the results they were hoping for. The diets may be too difficult to continue daily, or time is not set aside to work out. Finally, the decision is made to try tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. This year, the week of January 18-24 is Healthy Weight Week, focusing on healthy lifestyle habits that last a lifetime and prevent weight and eating problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), during the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9%) and approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are considered obese. This increase in obesity puts many at risk for health issues and chronic health problems, including elevated blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. The good news is that those with current chronic health conditions can improve these conditions, and lessen or stop the side effects of the conditions by improving weight.
Start with a Plan
For those overweight or obese, having a plan with both diet and exercise is the first and most important step to attaining a healthy weight. See your health care provider to determine what a healthy goal is for you. Having weight and BMI checked is a guide to help you find your target weight. However, remember that if you are athletic, your BMI may overestimate body fat. Your health care provider can also check a waist measurement to check your health risk. Once an ideal weight is determined, you can work with your provider to plan a diet and exercise program to reach your goal.
Before you adjust your diet, you need to know what you are eating and drinking. A great tool is a food diary—a recording of what you eat each day. This simple step can play an important role in creating a healthy meal plan by giving you better perspective on what you are consuming.
- Are you eating larger portions than you thought?
- Are you eating unhealthy snacks or eating out frequently?
- Do you eat fruits and vegetables?
- Do you add cream to coffee or drink several sodas a day?
- Do you drink alcohol regularly?
- Are you drinking enough water?
Since there are many diets available, consider what it involves. Are the foods you need to eat for the diet costly? Does it require eating foods you do not like and will not eat? How long do you think you can stick with that particular type of diet? Examples of diets include Atkins, The Zone, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and Jenny Craig.
Remember that many people can lose weight on a diet, but often they do not learn how to eat healthy for the long term. Ultimately, they need to stay on the diet, or they gain back the weight when they stop. The best way to diet is to make healthy food choices and incorporate them into your lifestyle—fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, fat free/low fat dairy, and drink water. Limit refined carbohydrate (sugar), saturated fats, trans fat, fried foods, processed meats and alcohol.
Remember that fat is produced in your body when you take in more calories that you use in a day. Exercise is a very important part of weight loss because it uses energy and helps to burn calories, improves circulation and improves or builds muscle tone. An exercise program should become a normal part of your lifestyle and can be done at home, in the community, or in a gym.
When starting a program, consider what motivates you to move in a way that improves your weight and add exercises that you enjoy. If you like to walk start with distance you are comfortable with and increase distance with time. It is best to exercise as many days as you can, but okay to start with three days a week, then add more days as time goes on. Work out for 30 to 60 minutes and make sure it increases your heart rate and maintains that rate for 20 minutes.
Even if you are active at work, you may not be getting benefits because you are not moving in a way that increases your heart rate or builds muscle. Many people need to plan separate exercise from work. Be sure to discuss your exercise program with your health provider before beginning to prevent injuries.
Let’s make this NEW YEAR a NEW LIFESTYLE that improves your health and lowers your risk for chronic disease. Check with your provider for recommendations for a health coach, dietitian, trainer, or other help you may need to reach your goals. Learn how many calories you need to eat in a day and how much activity you need to participate in a day. And, remember ANY weight loss plan should include a healthy diet and physical activity.