We live in a world where everything seems to happen in an instant. Fast food, 2-day shipping, and other instant gratification methods are all around us, and while some of these modern conveniences have bettered our lives, quick isn’t key when it comes to diet and overall health.
Here in the United States, we have a severe issue with obesity. In fact, in 2020, 42.4% of adults were considered obese, and 9.2% were severely obese. The accessibility, mass production, and marketing of unhealthy food options have created a negative cycle of emotional eating and binging, followed by erratic weight loss methods for many Americans.
There are hundreds of diets out there that are cleverly marketed to target our insecurities and need for immediate results. While this might not be what you want to hear, it is unrealistic and unhealthy to set out on a health journey with a focus on what the scale says.
The only way to lose weight, maintain it, and be the healthiest version of yourself is to make simple yet consistent lifestyle changes.
Step #1: Unlearn poor habits and shift your mindset.
The most critical step to be taken when making any kind of health or lifestyle change is shifting your mindset. So how do you start? Evaluate your intentions. If you only want to lose weight or look a certain way for an event or trip, this can be problematic, damage your body, and cause feelings of defeat and negative self-talk.
It’s scientifically proven that our bodies and minds are connected, so beating yourself up for gaining 2 lbs. or not looking a certain way is counterproductive to losing weight as it may lead to anxiety, depression, and even changes to your gut health (which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.)
Suppose you feel that you might be struggling with an eating disorder or just finding a healthy mindset regarding your weight and relationship with food. In that case, you could benefit from talking to a therapist to address the root of these struggles. There is no shame in wanting to look and feel your best; this starts with our mental well-being. Cultivating self-love and appreciation for the body you’re in is step #1 and possibly the biggest hurdle, but once you align your mind, making sustainable lifestyle changes is possible.
Step #2: Change your life! Lifestyle changes to feel your very best.
Sometimes, the most straightforward solutions are the best solutions. But, unfortunately, it’s human nature to overcomplicate our lives. The fact is that some of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off might sound extremely obvious, but combined with the right intentions and mindset, they can be highly impactful! Here are some lifestyle recommendations and reasons behind them to kickstart your journey to a healthy weight and life:
- A balanced, plant-based diet – The cholesterol, fat, and caloric density levels are higher in animal-based foods than in plant foods. A plant-based diet is full of fiber which many of us do not get enough of, and is critical for weight loss and preventing disease. Whole-grain products, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, are all nutrient-dense and essential food groups for weight loss and proper nutrition. Here is a recent blog post on why I encourage patients to eat plant-based.
- Stay moving – No matter your weight, circumstances, or health journey, staying active in a way that works for you is critical. It could be as simple as chair exercises or a walk, but doing what you can to raise your heart rate and work your muscles is essential. Do you not enjoy working out? Consider finding an active hobby. Making a workout feel more like a social activity or game could motivate you more. Increasing body resistance training can help improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and has many other benefits for overall health, like improving sleep.
- Drink water – We all know it’s essential to stay hydrated, but drinking water uncovers a goldmine of benefits for our bodies! In addition to being a natural appetite suppressant, it helps us burn calories, remove waste from our bodies, burn fat, and support muscles, connective tissues, and joints. One recent study showed that 50 overweight females drank 500 milliliters (mL) of water 30 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner for eight consecutive weeks and were able to lower their weight and overall BMI.
- Eat seasonally – Seasonal fruits and veggies taste better and have more nutritional value! Crops that ripen naturally on their parent plant contain more nutrients which are extremely good for your gut health, and a healthy, flourishing gut can lead to weight loss.
- Meal plan – Food is fuel. It’s critical to stay ahead of the game to nourish your body to avoid intense cravings and hunger pains that could push you to make poor food choices like fast food. By meal planning, you are ensuring a healthy, nutrient-dense meal is ready for you at any given moment. By planning your meals and snacks, you can also map out how you plan to work in servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other essential food groups.
Get proper sleep – Not getting enough sleep (under 7 hours per night) is directly linked to a higher BMI. Sleep is often the missing piece for individuals having trouble losing weight. Limiting caffeine intake during the day and screen time at night and establishing a nighttime routine can significantly affect how you feel and your behavior.
The Bottom Line
All of our bodies and health journeys are different. Finding the combination of lifestyle habits that work best for you is essential, and the recommendations above are a great start. Remember to talk to your doctor about your health and wellness goals and advocate for yourself if you think there might be a more profound health concern that could be inhibiting your weight loss.
Hales, C. M., Carroll, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Ogden, C. L. Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: the United States, 2017-2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated February 27, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db360.htm
Vij VA, Joshi AS. Effect of excessive water intake on body weight, body mass index, body fat, and appetite of overweight female participants. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2014;5(2):340-344. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.136180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121911/