Well it’s been one month since you made your New Year's Resolutions to lose that extra weight and get back into shape. Have you started exercising more? How's the diet going? If you are like most, you have settled back into your old, familiar patterns that got you here in the first place. I know how hard it is to change, and the fact is only one in eight people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolution. There’s something in our nature that causes us to seek comfort in familiarity. Our daily routines become deeply ingrained in who we are and are very difficult to change. Not all habits are bad. In fact, it is this tendency to habituate that helps some people succeed because good habits lead to healthy and productive lives. It is when habits become self-destructive or are unhealthy that we should try to change our behavior.
According to reports from the Huffington Post, the number one New Year's Resolution is to lose weight. That's not surprising as they also report that about one in every three adults in this country is obese. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the obesity rates among adults has more than doubled in the last 30 years and tripled among adolescents. Incidence of Type II Diabetes has skyrocketed as have other obesity-related ailments such as cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, blindness, amputations, stroke and some forms of cancer.
Amazingly, most people still do not practice healthy behaviors that can prevent obesity. These behaviors are well-known and encompass two primary areas; diet and physical activity. The CDC sites some startling facts about our nation’s eating and exercise habits. They say that only about 25 percent of Americans eat the recommended, five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and over half of our adult population does not get the necessary physical activity to provide health benefits.
The good news is that if you set a New Year’s Resolution you are 10 times more likely to change your life in a positive way. If you are one of the 30 percent who will set a goal to lose some weight this year, then I have some very basic suggestions to help you achieve this goal. It may seem simplified, but the truth is it boils down to three basic behaviors: Eat right, move more, and do this consistently for six to 12 months. Better yet, do it for the rest of your life. The problem for most people is they stick to it for a week or two or maybe a month, but then they gradually fall back into their usual habits. They think, “oh well, maybe I will do it next year?” If this is your year, and you are ready to make a change and lose those extra pounds the following simple strategies could change your life.
First, let’s talk about nutrition. This topic can seem very complicated as there is so much nutrition advice available and so many diets to choose from; it is difficult to make sense of it all. I am going to explain a very simple formula which will work for most people. It involves getting control over three things: what, when and how much to eat. I believe the biggest issue is that we simply eat too much. If you eat more than your body needs you will gain weight. It’s as simple as that. Most people who want to lose some weight can achieve this by just eating less. They may not even have to change what they eat as their problem is about portion size. Try using a smaller plate or bowl, sharing a meal when dining out, or eat more slowly. Eat less and you will lose weight.
Eat more vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meats, whole grains and healthy vegetable oils. Reduce or eliminate fried foods and foods cooked in saturated animal fats. Cut down on desserts, sweets and foods with added salts, sugar and preservatives. Reduce the amount of starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, white rice and chips. Eat small quantities every two to three hours. I usually suggest eating three main meals and adding a mid-morning and mid-afternoon healthy snack. Spreading out your food intake more evenly throughout the day will help keep you energized by stabilizing your blood sugar levels, thus making you feel satisfied all day.
Secondly, you should exercise and move your body as much as you can. I suggest a minimum of three hours a week of moderate to intense exercise. Ideally, one should try to exercise even more as the health benefits are well documented. The more intense the exercise the less frequent you need to do it. If you are unconditioned, do not start with high intensity exercise as your body is not ready for it and you may get injured. Instead start slowly and gradually increase your intensity as you become stronger and more conditioned. Exercise should include a combination of strength, cardiovascular, flexibility, and core training and ideally should be functional in design. Function-based training involves doing exercises that incorporate natural movement patterns that involve the entire body, unlike traditional machine-based training which focuses on isolating and strengthening individual muscles. Functional training, when performed in intervals, will burn more calories and have a greater impact on one’s ability to do their normal daily activities.
Finally, the hardest part; continue these healthy habits for the next 12 months and you will achieve your weight loss goal. Do this the rest of your life and you will live longer. Though this all sounds so simple, I know how challenging losing weight and getting back into shape can be. Get the help and support you need and improve your odds of success by setting a New Year’s Resolution. Make 2019 a great year and start today!
Jim Tucker PT, OCS is the owner of Seascape Village Fitness & Physical Therapy, 15 & 16A Seascape Village, Aptos. SeascapeVillageFitness.com