1. Get mindful!
Get mindful not only about what you are eating, but also about the WHY. We eat for many reasons but mindless/boredom eating and stress eating after often the culprit when it comes to excess calories. Staying up late watching Netflix? Are you munching too? Maybe try turning off the TV to do something else or try sipping on some herbal tea instead. When it comes to stress eating, it’s not really about the food! The food is the comfort in the moment. Could you find other outlets to deal with stress? You don’t have to come last on your to-do list. Make some time daily (10 mins!) to do something for yourself and get mindful about why you might be reaching for certain “feel good” foods.
2. Move for just 10 minutes at a time.
Struggling to finally start that workout routine or trouble finding that 1 hour time block in your busy schedule? Start with 10 minutes. Especially after meals, if you can pace for 10 minutes after 2 meals a day, it not only helps lower blood sugar if you have conditions like prediabetes or diabetes, but you also will clock in 20 minutes a day. That adds up to 140 mins a week!
3. Get enough sleep.
How much you ask? 7-8 hours is the goal! Observational data shows people who sleep less than 6 hours and more than 9 hours a night have a higher BMI. Prioritize getting to bed earlier as a form of self-care in addition to for weight loss. I know it can feel like you never get time for yourself but if you are taking away from quality sleep, it affects hunger and satiety hormones, is correlated with high blood pressure and worsening metabolic health. If you snore and have excess weight, consider talking to your doctor to ensure no signs of sleep apnea, which affects quality of sleep as well as heart and lung health.
4. Eat more fiber.
Everyone thinks about protein. Poor fiber gets forgotten. Why should we remember it? Fiber not only helps keep your bowels moving, but also helps improve diabetes, lower cholesterol and helps fight hunger if you are trying to eat less for weight loss. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. If you eat a variety of high fiber foods, you can get both kinds easily. Some examples of high fiber foods are chia seeds, raspberries, artichokes, pears, avocados, whole grains like oats, whole wheat and barley and beans, lentils and edamame. Which ones can you start getting more of daily? General goal is 25-30 g/day!
5. Cook one additional meal at home this week.
Why you ask? Eating out is fun and it is convenient! It is also expensive and typically heavy on the calories. Not only are portion sizes larger than we need, the foods served also tend to be prepared in a way that is heavy on the fats, sugar, and salt. It is easy to overeat beyond the point of fullness. Sound familiar? I know cooking takes effort and planning, which can be overwhelming. One tip is to prepare a meal and make double- freeze half for dinner another day or keep leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day. Soups, chili and one pot meals as well as “meals in a bowl” are great options for leftovers!
Which of the above lifestyle changes do you think you can work on right now? Remember, a long term weight loss and preventive health plan does not need to come from a place of deprivation. Focus on what you can add, make incremental changes, and do what feels sustainable!
Richa Mittal MD