For individuals trying to stay healthy, lose and maintain weight loss, it's no surprise that nutritious eating and exercise are essential for success. Set short-term, realistic goals that provide for forgiveness over failure.
Even though we’ve heard this time and time again, a new report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Sciences (NCHA) in 2018 showed that less than a quarter of Americans meet the national physical activity guidelines. Current guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, with a minimum of 2 days per week for muscle strength and conditioning. After five years of collecting data from the Health Interview Survey, only 23% of adults hit both those benchmarks, and almost 45% didn’t hit either one!
Further statistics from the Boston Medical Center report that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and often require medical care to treat their condition. Other reports indicate the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels for calories, solid fats, added sugars, processed grains, sodium, and saturated fats. Most Americans also eat less than the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and “good” fats. For children, empty calories from added sugars, solid fats, soda, fruit drinks, desserts, pizza, and whole milk accounted for 40% of total daily caloric intake.
The good news is that a healthy lifestyle can be achieved and maintained if you are willing to make gradual changes by following three, fine-tuning techniques and interventions that can improve the quality of your life, health and happiness (Len Kravitz, Ph.D.).
- Dietary Interventions
- Behavioral Techniques
- Weight Loss and Maintenance with Physical Activity.
If you are one of the millions of people who have been on a "diet" or exercise regime that doesn't fit your lifestyle and current level of fitness, you're likely going to rely on willpower to push you through. Many individuals set immediate, yet un-realistic goals then establish an internal reward system based on metrics - numbers on the scale, over improved health and well-being. If pounds are coming off, the initial sense of accomplishment (internal reward) becomes an inspiration to keep going. Unfortunately, most people eventually reach a plateau and the numbers on the scale won't budge. The reward mechanism transitions into personal failure and punishment. As punishment, some may push themselves to extremes with greater food restrictions and increased levels of exercise, or think of themselves as being weak or lacking willpower, then either quit or continue with additional restrictions. If they choose additional restrictions, people find themselves getting hungrier (obviously due to lack of food), cravings set in (deprivation), physical stress and levels of fatigue increase, and exercise starts to become an annoyance. If you don't want this to happen to you, it's time to start implementing fine tuning techniques.
- Begin to self-monitor dietary intake and eating patterns or habits with a personal food journal (visual analysis).
- Maintain awareness of the amount and quality of food being consumed each day (pay attention to portion sizes).
- Look for high-risk situations that trigger overeating or eating "empty calorie" junk foods (parties, snacking while watching TV, eating for comfort or looking at dessert menus).
- Incorporate nutritious whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits and high-quality proteins in your meal plan.
- Choose non-fat, skim and 1% dairy products or dairy substitutes (almond, soy, coconut, etc.) over whole milk, high-fat dairy items.
- Begin to limit, then eventually cut out sugared sodas and other sweetened beverages. This means eliminating anything that has "high fructose corn syrup" added to the product.
- Stock your pantry with healthy food selections; get rid of the candy, chips, cookies, and binge eating foods (out of sight, out of mind).
- Avoid negative self-talk and self-criticism ("I'm fat", "lazy", "unattractive", " weak", unsuccessful").
- Start each day with positive, self-dialogue affirmations about yourself (these include: your attitude, confidence, abilities, appearance, self-esteem and general well-being).
- Approach the journey to healthy living one day at a time. At the end of a week, review your successes and note areas you can improve. Be patient with yourself - journeys don't happen overnight!
- Move beyond numbers on the scale, suggests Jennifer McGurk, RDN, while shifting your thoughts and feelings into celebrations of accomplishments made with healthy lifestyle behaviors.
- Do not to shame yourself with the words of being "obese" or "overweight". Respect and accept your body, knowing that you are taking steps to improve your metabolic machinery, weight, and health.
- Engage in the principle of intuitive eating: observe the way certain foods make you feel; tune into satiety cues (internal sense of being hungry or feeling stuffed); notice increased energy levels associated with healthy food choices; identify your selection of comfort foods - they may provide temporary comfort and emotional relief, but are not a long-term solution for healthy living).
- Successful weight loss and maintenance require regular, physical activity. This should be programmed into your lifestyle and managed on a weekly basis.
- If you have medical concerns, consult your physician prior to starting any fitness program.
- To jump-start weight loss, start with a goal of accumulating 200-280 minutes/week of cardiovascular activity. This can be broken into several small bouts of exercise throughout the day or accumulated in longer sessions.
- Include 2-3 sessions/week of strength training for all major muscle groups. This can be incorporated into a cardiovascular workout with the use of interval or circuit training.
- Be sure to stretch after each exercise session. Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds without bouncing (static stretching), or add dynamic stretching with select yoga routines.
- For weight loss, research suggests the use of "Lactate Threshold Training" for each exercise session (Len Kravitz, Ph.D.). Perform 80% of the activity with high volume / high intensity, 10% at steady state (steady, comfortable pace) and 10% with intervals (intensity levels vary up and down).
- Intensity can be monitored with a heart rate tracking device or with a rating of perceived exertion. On a scale of 1 to 10, a rating of 1 would be very, very easy, and a rating of 10 would be extremely hard (cannot talk and out of breath). Depending on your current level of fitness, start with a rating that is doable for your body. Gradually increase the intensity to a rating of somewhat hard to hard as your body shows adapt to levels of improved fitness.