Everyone’s health goals are unique to the individual. Some might be interested in lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, addressing a specific illness or disease, weight loss, weight gain, or some may just want to increase overall health. Unfortunately, diet culture has done a number on the relationship many of us have with food, so the first step is understanding what a healthy lifestyle looks like, and learning simple steps to start shifting habits.
1. Cook at Home
Cooking at home gives you more control over the ingredients being used in your food, as well as the portion sizes you are consuming. Preparing meals yourself helps ensure you’re eating a high-quality meal that includes the things you want while avoiding the things you don’t. Eating out can be fun and social, but if you eat the majority of your meals out you may be consuming more ingredients that promote weight gain than you should. Experiment cooking a home, take a cooking class, or invite friends over for a meal.
2. Don’t Skip Meals
If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you’re not getting too hungry between meals. When this happens, you’re more likely to eat the foods you’re trying to limit. Not only are you more inclined to make an impulsive food decision, but you may end up eating far more than you normally would. It may help to eat smaller, more frequent meals and incorporate more nutrient-dense snacks. Try planning your largest meal for when you are most hungry during the day.
3. Eat Mindfully
When eating, try to slow down and be present. By eating and chewing mindfully, you may find you’re satisfied by a much smaller portion than when you’re rushed and don’t take time to enjoy the meal. It’s important to recognize that each bite of food is nourishing you. Picture the food entering your body and making you healthier. Taking extra time for eating can also help support good digestion and nutrient absorption.
4. Focus on Whole, Nutrient Dense Food
A well-rounded food plan based on whole foods can naturally help support a healthy weight. Things like healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins provide adequate nutrition while also contributing to fullness. Fiber is especially useful in supporting a healthy weight – it keeps you fuller for longer, meaning you’re less likely to reach for snacks. It also supports gut health, which may have larger implications when it comes to weight.
5. Include Breakfast
One thing that many people who have been successful at losing weight and keeping it off have in common is that they eat a wholesome breakfast every morning. A thoughtful breakfast can help keep you full during your morning and prevent overeating later in the day. Choose a well-rounded breakfast that offers protein, complex carbohydrates, and quality fat sources.
6. Limit Exposure to Additives
Some compounds you’re likely to encounter in your daily environment may contribute to weight gain by affecting the body’s ability to metabolize fat. These chemicals may also be referred to as endocrine disruptors. Some examples include BPA, a compound found in many plastics and cans, perfluorooctanoic acid, a nonstick coating used on pans, pesticides, and phthalates, chemicals found in plastics.
7. Manage Stress
Stress may cause weight to increase in two ways. First, when the body increases its production of stress hormones, it becomes more effective at storing fat. Second, stress tends to cause people to seek emotional comfort, often in the form of food. In fact, the more stressed you are, the more you may be drawn to fatty, sugary foods. So not only are you more drawn to nutrient-poor foods when stressed, but your body is also more efficient at turning them into fat.
8. Move Your Body
Exercising helps relieve stress, burn calories, and gives your metabolism a boost even when you’re not moving. Remember to eat enough nutrient-dense foods to support the extra activity while still allowing weight loss. You may also want to consider a protein-rich snack or meal following a workout to help support muscle repair.
9. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is your body’s time to rest and repair, allowing it to be more effective during the day. Skipping out on sleep can cause disruptions in circadian rhythms, which can increase inflammation in the body and create conditions conducive to weight gain. Poor sleep can compromise gut function and lead to gut dysbiosis. This can affect digestion as well as further contribute to stress, which can affect weight. Sleep deprivation also causes your body to produce more ghrelin, the hormone that signals you to eat. While everyone’s sleep needs vary, most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep per night.
10. Switch Up Your Beverages
Studies show that simply drinking more water throughout the day may contribute to weight loss over time. Replacing soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages with water is especially useful in supporting a healthy weight as these items not only are a source of empty calories, but individuals who consume soft drinks may actually eat more calories during the day. Aim to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces each day. Pure filtered water is often the best choice as it helps support digestion, ridding the body of toxins and waste.
Keep in mind, there is no magic pill or miracle weight loss trick. Following fad diets sets us up for failure, since most people gain the weight right back after “going off” the diet. The best way to make sustainable weight loss shifts is to incorporate healthy habits that can last a life time.
I am not a doctor and this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure illness or medical conditions. Please consult a physician before making any diet, exercise or lifestyle changes.