Health professionals are noticing an alarming trend. Americans are increasingly confused about what to eat and how to exercise when it comes to managing their health and weight. Competing weight loss theories and the information superhighway (the internet) make it difficult to identify actionable steps that really matter. Despite this trend, there are easy ways to improve your health and weight. Here are five evidence-based strategies that really work.
No Zero Days
One of the most effective weapons in the fight against weight gain is “daily” physical activity. I call this “No Zero Days” (doing something daily). Scientists have studied the effects of inactivity and concluded that an inactive lifestyle produces abnormal stress on brain chemistry. This kind of stress can contribute to poor decision-making and more overeating. To support better decision-making, try a 15-minute dose of physical activity every day. Over the years, my most successful clients have been those who make a non-negotiable commitment to daily physical activity. Strive for a brisk 15-minute walk (or comparable activity) every day. You will burn calories and improve brain chemistry for better decision-making!
Build Healthy Environments
Throughout history, the environment has been the strongest predictor of what we eat. Therefore, building healthy environments automatically improves our diet. The easiest way to build a healthy environment is to “add in” nutrient-dense (low-calorie, high-nutrition) foods. Given the unsupportive environment we live in, adding in food you can bring with you helps. I have a food bag that goes almost everywhere with me. I take it to work. On the weekend, it’s with me in my car. My food bag is a small insulated zipper bag. It usually contains several servings of a fruit, a nutrition bar, and a variety of other good-for-you snacks. Having my food bag around helps me eat less of the low-nutrition food that is everywhere. Start building healthy environments by adding more nutrient-dense foods to your home, work, and other environments. This will make improving your health and managing your weight much more automatic.
Most people try to lose weight by eating less. While this sounds good on paper, in reality, it almost never works. Eating less only leaves you hungry and potentially malnourished. A much more effective way to cut calories and lose weight is to get full (fill up) on nutritious, lower calorie foods. The only way to achieve this is to actually “eat more” of these foods. While it seems counterintuitive to “eat more,” this approach really works. Evidence supporting an “eat more” approach comes from dozens of studies published over the past 25 years.
A study from Harvard University showed that people who add meal replacement shakes to their diet over a 10-year period weighed, on average, 32 pounds less than people not using meal replacements. In a nutshell, meal replacements are portion and calorie-controlled foods that help you to fill up (stay full) on fewer calories. They work best when combined with whole fruits and vegetables. Meal replacements come in many forms including shakes, puddings, cereal, entrées, and bars. One of the best ways to use meal replacements is to eat them with fruits or vegetables (such as frozen unsweetened fruit added to a meal replacement shake). Adding meal replacements to your diet has been shown to improve weight management outcomes in numerous studies.
Put Your Thinking Cap On
Every year hundreds of new pills, potions, and weight loss books hit the shelves. This is ironic given that more people are gaining weight. My advice, when it comes to the latest weight-loss aids, is to “keep your thinking cap on”. Millions of dollars are wasted every year on weight-loss plans that are completely worthless. Some common sense and discipline could save your wallet and waistline.
Several years ago a company marketing “Exercise in a Bottle” made nearly 100 million dollars before the Federal Trade Commission stepped in to shut it down. Unfortunately, this happens all the time in America. Don’t be duped by the latest high-powered, marketing campaign promising instant weight loss. Start with my real-life strategies and you will be on your way to weight management that works!
Take the 21-Day Challenge
One of the best ways to lose weight and improve your health is to build momentum. The 21-Day Slimdown Challenge gives you access to weekly coaching proven to build momentum. Take the 21-Day Slimdown Challenge to get the weight loss results you want. Enrollment begins Monday, May 2nd. Ask your Fitness Instructor for details.
About the Author. Richard Wolff is the president of MEDFITNESS, a strength training studio specializing in efficient, evidence-based workouts. He is a Guest Faculty in the Graduate School of Nutrition at Northern Illinois University and serves on the Health and Wellness Advisory Board. He is also a member of The True Health Initiative a coalition of scientists and health professionals committed to advancing evidence-based truths of lifestyle as medicine. You can reach Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.