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Have you been told by your doctor that your BMI is higher than it should be or you are overweight and need to lose weight? Maybe you were warned that you have an increased risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease or cancer. You might be puzzled about how you got that way, or wonder what a BMI is. If you feel overwhelmed by this news and the daunting task making your diet healthy, don’t throw up your hands in despair.
First, whether it’s a few pounds or a lot, you need to know you’re not alone! According
to 2017-18 statistics collected by the CDC, about 39.8% of adults in the US are considered obese. That’s about 93.3 million people in the 50 United States and its territories. I’ll break it down a little more: that’s roughly equivalent to the entire 2018 estimated populations of California, Texas, Florida, (our most populated states) plus Idaho, Hawaii, and Wyoming!
Obesity, as defined by the medical community, is a condition of being unhealthily overweight. Your weight is categorized by something called a BMI, or Body Mass Index.* Your BMI is the number health providers use to indicate a specific range into which your weight falls:
less than 18.5 = underweight
18.5 – less than 25 = normal weight
25.0 – less than 30 = overweight
30.0 and over = obese.
So, you were instructed to diet and exercise to lower your weight and your risks.
You pore over the brochures and pamphlets handed to you by the office nurse. They throw around those scary words like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer and you start to panic a little. Then they tell you what you have to quit eating to lose the weight, and how much exercise you must do to get healthy.
Are you freaking out yet? There are so many questions bombarding your brain. How do I do all this? Am I going to have to starve myself or do a hundred sit-ups every day? Am I going to have a heart attack or need to start sticking myself with needles to control my blood sugar?
Calm, calm. You didn’t get to this condition overnight, so you aren’t going to be able to remedy it overnight. But you can start doing little things that will, over the next weeks and months, begin to make a difference, not only in your weight, but in your wellness.
Let’s start by addressing the issue of eating healthy. You know the old saying, ’Rome wasn’t built in a day;’ but it was built brick upon brick. Healthy eating habits are the same. Most people can’t just wipe out an entire lifetime of poor eating habits in a matter of days and start over, so here are a few ideas to help you start slow and build.
1) Begin by replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones:
- Replace sugary drinks and sodas with ones that are unsweetened or naturally sweetened (stevia or monk fruit are two alternatives) such as water or green tea; stay away from drinks sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or aspartame
- Substitute your crunchy or salty snacks with nuts and seeds; almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds are very good
- Make your sandwiches and toast with
whole grain breads
- Use healthier cooking oil choices such as olive, sunflower, or coconut
- Choose a piece of fruit instead of a sugary treat or dessert.
2) Incorporate healthy practices in your lifestyle:
- Always eat a nutritious breakfast; it keeps you from grazing on not-so-healthy snacks, improves your work performance throughout the day, and decreases your chance of overeating later in the day
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water through the day; this cleanses your system of toxins, makes you feel full when you are tempted to graze, and makes your skin and tissue clearer
- Eat smaller portions; you can select a smaller plate, halve your portion and put the rest away, share your portion with someone, or just intentionally put half of what you would normally put on your plate (i.e. instead of 2 scoops, just one)
- Chew more slowly, savor your meal; make it last at least 20 minutes to give your brain a chance to catch up and tell you you’re full.
- Become a label reader; know what’s in your food choices.
3) Substitute with lean once a day:
- Cut your fat intake by eating one or two eggs in place of ham, bacon or sausage at breakfast (just don’t cook them in butter!)
- Trade your whole milk, yogurts and cottage cheese for 2%; you get to keep the flavor without the extra fat
- Switch processed meals for home cooked ones; try this instead of eating fast foods at least once a week.
- Eat fish instead of steak; this is a good once-a-week rule, too. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very good for your heart. Salmon, tuna, trout and tilapia are great choices.
Just begin by including a few of these choices in your dietary lifestyle. The changes do become easier over time. Meanwhile, you’ll give your body and mind a chance to accept change and learn to love your new way of eating while you watch the numbers go down.
In the next post we’ll discuss some great options for adding that dirty word (exercise) into your routine without feeling like you have been rolled over by a Mack truck! Stay tuned.
*The BMI calculation is just that – a calculation, and doesn’t differentiate between what is fat and what is lean muscle, so that must be factored in when considering whether a person is actually overweight. BMI is mainly a tool for helping health providers make a determination on a physical condition.