According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), evidence shows that our risk for many types of cancer is related to diet, physical activity and weight, which is a direct result of diet and physical activity. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to safeguarding your health but getting to a healthy weight is not always easy and can be dangerous if not done the right way.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Weight Loss
Having excess weight and trying to lose it is a source of frustration for many. As a result, people often resort to fad diets with very specific rules and limitations that promise fast and substantial results. These rules and restrictions are difficult to stick to and once the timeframe for the fad diet is over, people most often gain all the weight, or even more, back. While the complex rules of these fad or trend diets makes it seem as though they are scientifically based, they are not; they are based on simple logic: Cut out a big chunk of calories by cutting out entire food groups or by replacing entire meals with low-calorie liquids. But, ultimately, they can actually damage your overall health and do not work because they do not affect a person’s overall lifestyle.
The only form of healthy weight loss and management is a lifestyle change. There are a variety of factors that contribute to successful weight management and the more you can incorporate into your daily life, the better.
Lifestyle Rules for Healthy Weight Management
- It all starts with food. A healthful diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins while low in high-sugar foods, refined grains, and trans and saturated fats is essential.
- It’s not just what you eat, but how much. Portion control isn’t as necessary with low-calorie foods like broccoli and spinach, but for higher-calorie foods, you have to control the portion. Some people do this by weighing their food, but if you’re not ready to control portions THAT much, you can start with a simple rule: just one serving and no seconds for high-calorie foods. Keep an eye on serving sizes for packaged foods too so you don’t unknowingly eat a full package that actually has two or three servings in it.
- Be mindful while eating. This means not eating while distracted (like eating while watching TV or working) and paying attention to what you’re eating, while you’re eating it, savoring the food and thinking about what you like and don’t like about it.
- Don’t rush your meals. Rushing while eating will increase the likelihood of overeating as it doesn’t give your body time to fully respond to what is going in the stomach. Additionally, rushing often results in digestion issues (e.g. indigestion, heartburn, gas) because rushing often means you’re not chewing your food enough. It is important to eat slowly and chew well.
- Set yourself up for success by controlling your food environment. Don’t have junk food in the house and avoid temptations elsewhere, like the office vending machine. It is also helpful to portion out snacks into individual bags or other containers so you’re not eating out of large containers.
- Identify emotional circumstances that often result in overeating, such as feeling stressed, upset, depressed, or angry and come up with enjoyable activities that you can do instead, like gardening, going for a walk, or even meditating.
- Make sure you’re getting enough protein and that there is protein in all your meals. Evidence suggests that protein actually increases satiety more than carbs do. Plus, protein helps limit muscle loss during weight loss. If you are also implementing an exercise plan, getting adequate protein isn’t just advisable, it’s necessary.
- Variety is important to your overall diet, but not necessarily each meal. Having too many choices at one meal may encourage overeating, which is also why it’s best to stay away from buffets.
- Get adequate shut-eye. People often underestimate the role sleep habits play in body weight. The optimal amount of sleep varies a bit per person, but getting too little sleep (one study identified this as less than six hours) has been linked to weight gain.
- Exercise regularly or, at the very least, maintain an active lifestyle. Your body goals would determine the type of exercise plan you commit to. For some people, this may include cardio, weight training, and/or flexibility training, but even if you don’t create an exercise plan, it is important to include physical activity into your lifestyle. Go for a walk in the mornings. Garden in your backyard in the afternoon. Walk to the grocery store if it’s nearby. Take the dog(s) for a walk. The important thing is to move and activate your muscles regularly.