If you’ve been trying to get to, and STAY AT, a healthier body-weight, but have had limited success, you probably already know that DIETS DON’T WORK!
The problem with going on a diet to lose weight is that it tends to be a temporary measure. And an unpleasant one at that. If you want to lose weight, and keep it off, permanently, the best way to make that happen is to adopt healthy lifestyle changes, permanently.
These are five lifestyle changes that can kick-start your new healthy-for-life lifestyle, and will product rapid improvements in physical condition.
1) Get enough sleep
Sleep is important. Research has shown a strong correlation between obesity and getting insufficient sleep. There are various reasons for this, both physiological and behavioral. Physiologically, the metabolism slows down and glucose tolerance decreases (this is an early symptom of diabetes). Behaviorally, you are less likely to exercise, and less likely to prepare and consume healthy meals.
Make a point of going to bed at least 8 hours before you need to wake up. Start preparing to go to sleep half an hour earlier – get everything together that you need for work the next morning, and spend a little time relaxing, to relieve the stress of the day – have a cup of herbal tea, read a book, listen to pleasant music…
2) Get twenty minutes of vigorous, sweat-inducing exercise in the morning, before breakfast
There are all sorts of reasons why this is a good thing. First, getting exercise out of the way at the beginning of the day means you don’t have the next eight hours to come up with reasons not to exercise. Second, your metabolic rate is raised during vigorous exercise, and remains elevated for hours afterward. Third, vigorous exercise will suppress hunger for a few hours, which means you can have breakfast somewhat later, which means you won’t be as hungry in the hours leading up to lunch, which may mean that you’ll make a more conscious decision about what to eat for lunch.
3) Replace your current breakfast with a Green Smoothy
One of the reasons that many people are overweight is a tendency to snacking. A typical cause of snacking is as a response to messages from the body saying “I want something”.
The body may be sending this message because of a lack of nutrition. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t always make it clear exactly what it is that it needs. Our response may be something like “Hmm, I think I’ll have a chocolate bar”. Half an hour later, when the next message arrives from the body, we try “Maybe I didn’t want sweets – maybe some salty potato chips are what I’m craving”. And so on. When really the body wanted specific vitamins and/or minerals that are missing from our diets.
The solution – a green smoothy is a fantastic way to take in most of the day’s required nutrients, all in one serving. No more cryptic messages from the body about something missing.
Here’s my Green smoothy recipe.
Prepare your smoothy the night before, so that it will be ready to drink when you start to get hungry.
4) Drink water – lots of it!
Roughly 60% of your body is made up of water. If we don’t take in enough water to replace the water we lose every day (through respiration, perspiration, and body waste) dehydration results. When we are dehydrated, our metabolism slows down. We are also more apt to feel hungry (once again, our body is sending us a message – “I need water” – that we misinterpret as”I need food”).
Standard recommendations are to drink approximately 8 cups of water each day (pop, coffee, and tea don’t count; neither does beer). In the winter, you may need to drink even more, since the air in heated buildings tends to have extremely low humidity.
Consider bringing a one quart bottle to work – fill it in the morning, and make sure you’ve finished it before lunch, when you fill it again to drink in the afternoon.
5) Replace one meal (lunch or supper) with a nutrition-packed salad
Food guidelines tend to recommend that we eat 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. For most people, we’d be hard pressed to meet the lower limit of 5 servings. Replacing one meal with a main-course salad can easily provide four or five servings of vegetables in a single meal. Your salad should contain: dark leafy greens, colorful fresh vegetables, some kind of healthy fat, and some protein.
If you’re so inspired, you can start all of these steps tomorrow, but I recommend that you may find it easier to stay with it if you start with one (Sleep!), and after a week or so add the next one (whichever one you think you will have the least resistance to), and so on. As you feel better rested, and better nourished, and more energetic, you should find that the temptation to fall back into your previous habits is either absent, or easy to resist.