It is an unseasonably warm and sunny day as I write this. It feels great to be outside in short sleeves, and the feel of the sun on my skin is just plain delicious.
So there WILL be a Spring. We may wait a few more weeks for the real deal, but I know that already, many people are saying, “Oh, it will be warm soon. I must lose this excess weight!” True story? It’s true enough for me and many of the people I coach. In fact, almost all of the people that sign on with me for a health coaching program state that one of their goals is to lose unwanted weight. They want to look more attractive and have more energy. They know that they will be healthier at a lower weight, and that with improved physical health, there will also be gains in confidence as well as in emotional and spiritual health. It’s a total person deal. Looking better is only the beginning of the benefits to losing weight. And you can see more about health coaching right here
People carrying extra pounds face a higher-than-average risk of a whopping 50 different health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and musculoskeletal problems, among others. Compared with people at a healthy weight, those carrying extra pounds have a harder time walking a quarter-mile, lifting10 pounds, and rising from an armless chair. Naturally, all these issues become compounded the older we get. This does not mean that they are not preventable and reversible – an important point.
We can’t do much about our genetic makeup. We can, however, do plenty to reduce fat by eating a good diet and leading an otherwise healthy lifestyle which includes exercise, adequate rest, and supportive relationships. We can do plenty to help ourselves.
The diet that is best for optimum health is one rich in whole foods, plant-strong, and balanced. Michael Pollan, author of many books on diet and sustainable agriculture coined the phrase, “Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.” So simple. When health occurs, weight normalizes.
1- Eat raw vegetables at every meal. They have a high water content, fiber, many phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals to help fill the stomach with low calories. Have fewer steamed, starchy vegetables, and let them help you feel full and curb cravings. When your body has the nutrients it needs to perform well, it won’t be craving “quick-fixes.”
2- Lose the processed foods, especially trans fat and fried, fatty foods, and sweet foods. The fewer of these you eat, the less you will crave them. Cravings will disappear if processed and sugary foods are not part of the food equation.
3- Avoid snacking. Try to eat 3 meals a day, well-spaced apart. If you can eat lighter in the evening, your sleep may improve. Eating many smaller meals has been shown to cause blood sugar to remain elevated and raise the insulin level, keeping them raised instead of returning after eating to a normal metabolic level.
4- Get plenty of sleep. This is an under-estimated item needed for weight loss and good health in general. Lack of sleep raises the cortisol level in the blood, encourages fat storage, and prevents fat-burning hormones from doing their job. Researchers have found that women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more), and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study.
4- Move that body. Many experts recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise on most days. Regular exercise naturally lowers cortisol levels and helps to maintain good blood sugar regulation. The good news is that it need not be done all at once. In fact, shorter, more intense spurts three times a day may be more beneficial than one long workout. In any case, it’s good to incorporate some “interval” work, such as some sprint running or swimming, jumping jacks, or fast stair-climbing. Intervals help to burn extra glucose and fat and improve insulin sensitivity. And if starting out at 60 minutes is too much, start with 15 minutes, or 20. Just start!
5- Be gentle with yourself. Losing weight can mean a roller coaster of emotions. It’s best to think of new practices not as deprivations but as investments into a happier healthier life. Embrace the challenge of it. Be kind and patient with yourself. Express some gratitude every day for your body and all that it has done for you, right where it is, and change will happen. Spend some time every day reminding yourself that you are worth the effort. Positive, encouraging thinking will help you to meet your goals.
6- Stop dieting. A lot of caloric restrictions are not the answer to long-term weight loss and better health. We have all known people who lose some weight, then return to the habits that put on the extra weight in the first place, and thus gain the weight back. Improving nutrition is the path to real and lasting progress. Eating more raw and living foods makes shedding pounds easy and effortless. It’s just different – that’s what takes getting used to. It’s not just another diet, but a healthful and delicious way of eating that keeps you full, satisfied, and energized. It’s a sustainable change that results – one that can keep you happy for a lifetime.
7- Get support. Losing weight – either 5 or 15 or 45 pounds or more – takes commitment and dedication to your well-being. It is much easier if you have a support system of friends and family cheering you on. It sometimes works well to have a health coach. The benefits of working with someone who can provide support, accountability, as well as some knowledge and creativity have been shown in studies to be helpful. The experts found that coaching long-distance by phone can be as helpful as regular face-to-face methods. For some entertaining and very worthwhile online support, join our Better Health at Any Age Facebook Page. It’s an opportunity for supportive conversation, company on the journey to better health, an audience for sharing minor and major victories.