WHAT’S NUMBERS GOT TO DO WITH IT?
“I just got back from my annual insurance physical,” my friend quivered when I answered the phone the other day. “The nurse practitioner told me my BMI1 is 31, my blood work indicates that my cholesterol is too high, and my A1c2 is 5.9. What do all those numbers mean?” She called me, counting on my medical knowledge as a nurse, and I could hear her anxiety. She was desperate to find out what those numbers meant and what she could do to improve them and her health but had no idea where to start.
Maybe you’re in my friend’s shoes: your doctor gave you a list of ominous-sounding numbers with a warning that you are overweight. Perhaps she cautioned you that you have an increased risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease or cancer. If learning how to improve your health has you in a meltdown, don’t throw up your hands in despair!
BUT I’M NOT FAT…
Whether it’s a few pounds or a lot, no need to feel like the Lone Stranger! The CDC’s 2017-18 statistics show that over 42% of US adults are considered obese.3 That’s north of 93 million folks in the US and its territories.
I’ll break that down for you: that’s roughly the 2018 estimated populations of California, Texas, and Florida – our most populated states, PLUS let’s throw in Idaho, Hawaii, and Wyoming for good measure!
And I have to tell you, the first time I saw my numbers associated with terms like “obese,” “pre-diabetic,” and “high-risk,” I prickled!
How dare they call me “obese”? “Chunky,” maybe.
Or “fleshy,” like my Grandma used to call it.
But obese? Not me! I can still fit in all my clothes. Sort of. The extra loose ones, anyway.
I HAVE TO WHAT??!!
So now you have strict instructions to lower your weight and your risks. The office nurse hands you a pile of brochures and pamphlets that throw around all those scary words. For me, all I could think about was my Grandma who had a stroke, my Mom who was diabetic, and my Dad who died from heart disease! Was I next in line?
You pore over the reams of medical mumbo-jumbo that tell you what you have to quit eating and how much exercise you must do. You feel panic creeping up. A million questions bombard your brain, along with a million excuses.
“I thought I was eating healthy. I switched to low-fat ice cream for dessert.”
“What do they mean, ‘Exercise at least 30 minutes 5 times a week’? I walk around in the office every day! That counts, doesn’t it?”
“If I don’t do this, will I have a heart attack?”
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Calm, calm. You didn’t get to this condition overnight, and you won’t 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.
Your first step is to improve your diet. You know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built brick upon brick. Healthy eating habits are the same. You can’t wipe out a lifetime of poor eating habits in a matter of days and start over, but you can use these simple “bricks” to crush bad diet habits and ease into better ones.
1) Replace unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones:
- Switch 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, or sunflower seeds are very good.
- Make your sandwiches and toast with whole-grain bread.
- 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 dietary lifestyle:
- Enjoy a nutritious breakfast every morning; it keeps you from grazing on not-so-healthy snacks, improves your work performance throughout the day, and reduces the temptation to overeat later on.
- 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 in your dish (i.e. one scoop instead of two).
- 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.
- Read the labels; know what’s in your food choices.
3) Substitute with lean once a day:
- Cut your fat intake by exchanging ham, bacon or sausage at breakfast for one or two eggs (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.
- Swap processed meals for home-cooked ones; try this instead of fast foods at least once a week.
- Choose fish over 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.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS
Include these changes in your dietary lifestyle a few at a time over several weeks. As you ease into your new habits, 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 improve.
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 cement truck! Stay tuned.
NOTES: FREE BMI calculator below!
1Body Mass Index (BMI), which categorizes your weight, is a simple calculation and doesn’t differentiate between fat and lean muscle. The BMI calculation is a tool for helping health providers determine a physical condition and the number used to indicate a specific range into which your weight falls.
A BMI of:
- less than 18.5 = underweight
- 18.5 – less than 25 = normal weight
- 25.0 – less than 30 = overweight
- 30.0 and over = obese.
Calculate your BMI with this FREE tool!
2A1c, or Hemoglobin A1c, is a blood test that shows what your blood sugar has been averaging over the past 3 months. You can go here to read more about Hemoglobin A1c.
The CDC’s standards for the A1c test are:
- Normal – less than 5.7%
- Prediabetic – 5.7% to 6.4%
- Diabetic – 6.5% or higher
3Obesity, as defined by the medical community, is a condition of being unhealthily overweight.