More Americans are overweight or obese today than ever before. This upward shift in weight has been triggered across the board by easier access to food and, over the course of the last two decades, a movement toward sedentary jobs. PublicHealth.org also notes that fast food, which makes up more than 10% of the average American’s diet, has played a major role in the obesity epidemic.
Obesity – which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 – can lead to a host of health complications including diabetes, joint and muscle conditions, and premature death. But you don’t have to be a statistic. Doctors and health advocates tend to agree that a combination of lifestyle changes and balanced nutritional intake is an effective and natural way to shed body weight. Here are five tips that can help you lose weight and stay healthy without feeling deprived.
1. Get plenty of rest
While a sedentary lifestyle contributes to weight gain, getting enough sleep can actually help you by allowing your body time to recuperate from workouts and just day-to-day activity. How? Well, muscle helps you burn fat, but adequate sleep is needed to aid in the protein synthesis that makes muscle.
If you aren’t logging enough sleep hours each night, you may even be losing muscle, which heightens your risk for injury. What’s more, when you are tired, you lack motivation and might even hit the snooze button instead of heading to the gym for a sweat session or waking up early to run before work. Sleep also affects two important hormones that control appetite – ghrelin and leptin. When sleep is lacking, the two are off balance and trick your brain into thinking you are hungry, which leads to food cravings and snacking. When it comes to how much sleep you need, most experts suggest between seven and eight hours for healthy adults.
But even adding an extra 30 minutes of shut eye will improve your quality of life. To squeeze in those extra minutes, look for ways you can get to bed earlier or sleep longer. Perhaps you could lay your clothes out for the day the night before, or cut down on the amount of time you spend perusing social media in bed, which you shouldn’t do anyway because it is poor sleep hygiene.
2. Include your furry friend in your fitness routine
Your dog is your biggest champion when it comes to encouraging you on your weight loss journey. An hour walkingthe dog can help you burn more than 200 calories. An afternoon at the dog park or hiking your local nature trail does more than burn calories. Exposure to the outdoors will encourage you to stay in motion and exercise more, which will strengthen your body and enhance your body’s overall cardiovascular function. Your dog will also be a source of motivation, as he is always up for a doggy adventure, and exercising your pooch is a necessary part of dog ownership. If you’re not sure where to get started, consider checking out Rover.com for a list of nearby dog parks.
3. Swap a few foods at a time
One reason fad diets fail is because they require a drastic alteration of your day-to-day dietary habits. Food affects sleep depending on when it is eaten, how much, and what type. Don’t get stuck choosing between foods you hate, and make a few healthy swaps of food you already like – or at least foods that you can learn to love. For instance, instead of a sugary yogurt with your breakfast, opt for Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. EatThis.com is an excellent resource that can help you find healthy alternatives at home and on the go. By gradually altering your diet, you will find that you are better able to stick to it. However, don’t beat yourself up if you cave and eat a treat or two. In fact, a weekly or monthly treat such as frozen yogurt or dark chocolate can be a motivator as long as it is done in moderation. If you find that having treats in the house is too much of a temptation at the beginning, remove it and reward yourself with something other than food such as a blender to make fruit/veggies smoothies, new gym clothes, or enrollment in a cooking class.
4. Focus on your mental health
With obesity comes a range of emotions from anger to depression, and many who are overweight suffer with self-image issues. It is not enough to simply handle the physical aspects of your weight problem; you must also find ways to improve your mental health. Mental health and attitude directly relate to poor sleep. When you are tired, it becomes much more difficult to handle stressful situations. So sleep should definitely mentioned in some way here. Start by making a list of all the things you like about yourself and keep them in the forefront of your mind. The key to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle requires that you change the way you think, and a mindset overhaul begins and ends with good mental health. You can research all the tips and tricks in the world, but without commitment and positive thinking, forward progress will be hard. As you begin this journey, remember that your mind and body are a unit, and they need to be in sync.
5. Get social
Another aspect of mental and physical health are the people you bring into your life. When it comes to battling obesity, your friends and family can help. Find one person to be your accountability partner. This person can not only workout with you, but check in daily, provide support, celebrate your achievements, and help you move forward after a setback. Talk with your friends, cousins, sisters, or coworkers and start a fitness club together. Perhaps the group could try out that new fitness class you were a little nervous about going to on your own. Motivating each other can help you all regain control of your health and overall wellness, and knowing someone is counting on you can be motivation enough to get up and get moving.
While you ideally want to aim for a BMI of 25 or less, losing just 5% of your body weight has significant health benefits that start at a cellular level. ScienceAlert.com explains that that even this small amount of weight – approximately 10 pounds for a 200 pound individual – is an attainable goal for most.
You don’t have to change your entire life or lose half your body weight to reap major health rewards. A few small changes here and there can set you on the path toward a healthy lifestyle which, regardless of the numbers on the scale, is something from which we can all benefit.