When trying to keep weight from creeping up, many think about what they must give up – or keep off their plates – in order to maintain the numbers on the scale. What favorite foods will they eat less of? What will they deny themselves of today? But flipping that perspective helps support a healthier mindset. Instead of solely considering sacrifices, there are strategies that can help maintain a healthy weight without dieting.
This topic comes against the backdrop of “Healthy Weight Week,” a nationally recognized window from Jan. 16 to Jan. 22 meant to bring public awareness to good lifestyle habits that help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. First launched nearly 30 years ago, the week’s focus is on sustainable, easy steps that can become beneficial habits; rather than fads, food denial or other approaches often linked to ineffective yo-yo dieting, according to the American Society for Nutrition.
A growing problem
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight continues to be a struggle for many. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40% of U.S. adults are obese. In the last two decades, obesity rates have jumped from 30.5% to 42.4%, and the number of people categorized as “severely obese” has nearly doubled from 4.7% to 9.2%. People with obesity are more likely to have medical conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers.
What is a healthy weight?
What is healthy for one individual may not be healthy for another – and the internet is full of opinions and calculators that can be misleading and harmful. Talking with a health care provider is the best place to start to understand what a “healthy” weight is.
There are several ways to maintain a healthy weight without the pressure of dieting. Here are some easy ways to start:
- Deal with emotional stress: Stress eating is no joke, according to Harvard Medical School. Those who battle chronic stress and anxiety may release more cortisol, a hormone that can increase appetite and even spark cravings for foods high in sugar and fat, leading to weight gain. Recognizing stress and finding non-food ways to deal with it – like exercise or meditation – can get to the root of the problem and take food out of the equation.
- Get enough sleep: Research has shown that not getting enough sleep could affect metabolism and alter hunger hormones, leading to weight gain. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep but getting enough to feel well-rested is important. Most adults need about seven hours of sleep each night, according to the CDC, but only about one-third of Americans are hitting that mark.
- Exercise: Integrate cardio and weightlifting workouts into a regular rotation. Make time to move throughout the day as well – even if it’s parking farther away or taking the stairs. Think of it as a form of self-care, and as something with more multifaceted benefits than dieting. Exercise not only helps to burn calories, but the muscles built during activity help burn even more energy when at rest, making it easier to prevent weight regain. Before starting any new exercise regimen, individuals should consult their primary care provider.
- Keep a health journal: A diary can be helpful in keeping a healthy weight. It can be a record of healthy actions along with self-reflection about what is and isn’t working. Some things to track include:
- Daily exercise and activities
- Fruits and vegetables
- Water intake
- Non-scale victories
Maintaining a healthy weight is achievable. Try incorporating small, conscious actions into everyday activities to start, and see how they pay off.
Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. See more at AHealthierMichigan.org.
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