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January 19-25 is Healthy Weight Week, a time to focus on healthy lifestyles and good habits instead of dieting! Healthy, lifelong habits are much more effective than short-term diets in helping you lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and stay in good health. The best way to stay in shape is to cultivate a lifestyle of balance that includes regular physical activity, getting enough nutrients, and the matching calories you consume with the calories you burn.
An ideal weight is different for everyone based on a multitude of factors that include age, sex, bone structure and density, fat distribution, and muscle mass. Traditionally this has been calculated by the Body Mass Index (BMI), a calculation that compares weight to height, but while this can be a useful screening tool it doesn't take into account most factors that make up your health. Get your weight assessed by a trained healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise regimen or dietary changes.
Studies have shown a consistent association between lack of sleep and increased obesity risk. Poor sleep leads to daytime fatigue and inactivity as well as reduced production of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger. Lack of sleep also causes your body to expend more energy, which increases hunger and causes you to eat more.
The typical American diet exceeds recommended intake guidelines in a number of unhealthy categories, including sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, and calories from both added sugars and solid fats. Americans also don't eat the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and oils. Click here for a guide to the different amounts of each food category you should be eating each day.
Thirst is often misidentified as hunger, so drinking more water is a great way to prevent yourself from overeating. Water also helps with regulating your temperature and getting rid of waste, so make sure you're following the 8x8 Rule: drink the equivalent of 8 glasses of water each day, 8 ounces each glass. This is around 2 liters worth of water.
Many people feel like a serious training regimen is required to lose weight and get healthier. But you don't need to jump into CrossFit to get active! Start small with easier activities done regularly: walking, jogging, yoga, riding your bike. You also don't have to commit all your free time to staying active: The minimum amount of exercise recommended by the American Heart Association is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise. Just 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week would reach this fitness goal!
Switch out foods for lower-calorie alternatives. Choose options with reduced or zero sugar, sodium, and fat. Cut out alcohol or soda. Walk or bike to work. Rather than adopting an entirely new lifestyle, look for places in your current life where simple changes will make a difference. Find specific behaviors or purchases you can change without disrupting the lifestyle you're already leading. This will make it easier to stick to those changes
Stress is a major contributor to weight gain, as it can lead to lack of sleep, stress eating, and a host of health problems. There are plenty of mindfulness exercises you can practice to help reduce it, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation. You should also be careful not to be too critical of yourself during a weight loss journey. Excessive self-criticism undermines weight loss programs.
It's so much easier to stick to a long-term goal if you enjoy what you're doing. Find forms of exercise you like to do rather than ones you feel like you have to: if you hate running, swim or bike instead. Search for recipes for foods you already like with healthy ingredient substitutions. Snack in moderation. Find what works for you.