When trying to keep weight off, many think about what they must give up — or keep off their plates. What favorite foods will they eat less? What will they deny themselves today? People can maintain a healthy weight without dieting or considering sacrifices.
“Healthy Weight Week” is a nationally-recognized window from Jan. 16-22 meant to bring public awareness to lifestyle habits that help reach and maintain a healthy weight. The focus is sustainable, easy steps that can become beneficial habits rather than fads, food denial or other approaches often linked to ineffective yo-yo dieting, according to the American Society for Nutrition.
A growing problem
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight continues to be a struggle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. In the last two decades, obesity rates jumped from 30.5 percent to 42.4 percent, and the number of people categorized as “severely obese” nearly doubled from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent. People with obesity are more likely to have medical conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers.
What is a healthy weight?
What is healthy for one individual may not be healthy for another — and the internet presents opinions and calculators that can be misleading and harmful. Start by talking with a health care provider to understand your “healthy” weight.
There are ways to maintain a healthy weight without the pressure of dieting. Some easy ways to start:
- Deal with emotional stress. Stress eating is no joke, according to Harvard Medical School. Those who battle chronic stress and anxiety may release more cortisol, a hormone that can increase appetite and spark cravings for foods high in sugar and fat, leading to weight gain. Finding non-food ways to deal with stress — like exercise or meditation — can take food out of the equation.
- Get enough sleep. Research shows that not getting enough sleep could affect metabolism and alter hunger hormones, leading to weight gain. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep but getting enough to feel well-rested is important. Most adults need about seven hours of sleep each night, according to the CDC, but only about one-third of Americans hit that mark.
- Exercise. Integrate cardio and weightlifting workouts into a regular rotation. Move throughout the day — even if it’s parking farther away or taking the stairs. This is a form of self-care and has more multifaceted benefits than dieting. Exercise not only helps to burn calories, but the muscles built during activity help burn even more energy when at rest, making it easier to prevent weight regain. Before starting new exercise regimens, consult a primary care provider.
- Keep a health journal. A diary can be helpful in keeping a healthy weight. It can be a record of healthy actions along with self-reflection about what is and isn’t working. Some things to track include:
- Daily exercise and activities
- Fruits and vegetables
- Water intake
- Non-scale victories
Maintaining a healthy weight is achievable. Try incorporating small, conscious actions into everyday activities to start and see how they pay off.
About the author: Shanthi Appelo is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.