Before jumping right into a weight management program, it is helpful to think about why you’re doing it and whether or not this is a good time to begin. So, if you read the last blog post, what positive changes do you expect to see by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight? If it helps, review the list in part one.
Now that you have those positive changes you’re hoping for in your mind, let’s talk about calories. Much like gasoline is fuel for your car, calories are fuel for your body. Your body uses the calories from food to keep you going. Unlike cars though, your body has the ability to store unused fuel (calories) for future use. Regardless of where calories come from, if they are not used for energy, they are stored as body fat. Each pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories.
You’ve probably heard about (or maybe even tried) diets that promise rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, losing weight too quickly can be dangerous. Research shows that people who do this usually gain the weight back and often even more weight than before!
On the other hand, slow, steady weight loss – at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week – allows you to establish new habits without starving yourself. By making small changes, you’re more likely to develop healthy eating and physical activity patterns that you can stick to. That means keeping the weight off…for good!
Controlling your Calories
Calories are important, but that doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie you eat (though you can if you want to – keeping a food journal can be enlightening). Managing your weight is about making reasonable changes.
You can use a number of strategies to help you eat fewer calories. Here are some examples:
- Identify high-calorie foods you can do without. Giving up one chocolate chip cookie can save you 200 calories.
- Replace high-calorie foods with lower calorie options. Having a 20-ounce diet soda instead of a regular soda will bring your calorie intake down 240 calories.
- Add in healthy foods you really love, like cherries, grapes, or snow peas. Slip those favorite fruits into breakfast and sack lunch; don’t forget to add veggies like zucchini into soups, stews, and sauces. You (and your kids) won’t even taste the healthiness!
- Cut back on portions. Eating one slice of pizza instead of two will cut 250 calories from your diet.
- Drink water before every meal. You won’t be as hungry and you’ll get the water your body needs.
- At a party, hold onto a low calorie drink and keep it there. You won’t be tempted to nibble mindlessly at the buffet or go back for multiple cocktails.
- You can also increase the number of calories you burn by becoming more physically active. For example, the average person burns about 175 calories walking at a rate of 4 miles per hour for 30 minutes.
Research shows that the best approach to managing your weight is through a combination of diet and physical activity. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is a study of U.S. men and women who have successfully lost more than 30 pounds and have maintained the weight loss for at least one year. Research from this study found that 89 percent of participants accomplished their goals by changing both their diet and physical activity habits; only 10 percent used diet alone, and only 1 percent used physical activity alone.
Getting Creative with Exercise
Americans today get less daily physical activity than at any other time in history. A hundred years ago there was no such thing as a treadmill. People got their exercise by walking instead of driving and growing their own food instead of going through a drive-through. And rather than spending hours in front of the television, children played outside with their friends. Automobiles, computers, remote controls, and even vacuum robots have made life easier for us. There isn’t much that requires physical activity anymore, so we have to look for ways to add activity back into our lives.
You don’t have to train for a marathon to be physically active. In fact, you don’t even need a gym membership. You simply have to move more, and every little bit helps! Here are a few ways to get more movement in your daily life:
- Rake leaves or mow the lawn with a push mower.
- Wash and wax your car by hand.
- Start a garden. If you don’t have space, investigate starting a community garden.
- Vacuum (or sweep) all the rooms in your house.
- Play tag with your children.
- Take your dog to the local park.
- Bike to work (bring clothes to change into).
- Meet the girls for a walk rather than for drinks.
- Sign up for charity walks or fun runs.
- Park your car in the back of the parking lot.
- Make snow angels (or sand angels….or leaf angels…)
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Always.
- Do push-ups or crunches during TV commercials.
While some physical activity is better than none, additional benefits occur as the frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activity increase. Make it your goal to do at least five of these every week!