Good health is like walking on air….

Good health is like walking on air, we don’t value it until we don’t have it. Managing a healthy weight is closely related to overall health but it is one of the hardest goals to achieve in this culture of abundance. Billions of dollars are spent each year on weight loss products and a correspondingly high amount is spent on treatment of health consequences of excess weight. Here are some useful recommendations based on American Psychological Association’s Mind-Body Project:

Behavior & Lifestyle Tips to Reduce and Manage Weight

Identify the unhealthy habits or behaviors contributing to weight gain. Is it simply a matter of not eating right or not getting enough exercise?  Or, are there sources of stress or anxiety in your life that affect how you eat? Do you turn to food for comfort? Do you choose fast food for convenience instead of taking some extra time to prepare a healthy meal?

One of the best tools for weight loss is a “food diary”.  Include the following categories; Time, quantity, feelings before and after eating, and places where you eat (in front of the refrigerator, in the car, at work, sitting with family, etc.). People who keep a record of everything they put into their bodies are not only able to identify what may be contributing to the weight gain but also gain a sense of control over their lives.  The food diary increases self-awareness and it is not uncommon for people to lose weight by just noting down what they are putting into their bodies and why.

Change one thing at a time. Rather than going on a diet, focus on one habit or one thing to change in your environment. Focus on that one thing for a month or six weeks until you get used to doing the new, healthy habit. For example, do you drink too much soda? Try drinking water in place of soda. If you are inactive and never exercise, try going for a 20 minute walk three times a week.

Cut down on portions while eating the same foods. Along with making dieting feel less depriving, you’ll soon find that the smaller portions are just as satisfying.  This will also give you a platform to safely curb your appetite even more.

Balance what you eat with what you do. According to the Surgeon General, reducing your daily calorie intake by 150 calories and participate in moderate activity to your daily schedule could double your weight loss.  That doesn’t sound like very much does it?  And there are many easy ways to do it. You can burn 150 calories with a brisk 30-minute walk, pushing a stroller for a mile and a half, raking leaves for a half-hour, or doing 15 minutes of stair walking.

Don’t obsess over “bad days” when you can’t help eating more. This is often a problem for women who tend to be overly hard on themselves for losing discipline.

Losing weight is always easier when you have the support. Try to enlist the entire household in eating a healthier diet.  You may also find it helpful to ask a friend or family member to be “on-call” for moral support when you’re tempted to stray from your new lifestyle.  Just be sure you’re not competing with this person to lose weight.

If you feel overwhelmed or if the reasons behind unhealthy behaviors are emotional, or related to stress, then consider seeking professional help. Psychologists are trained to deal with lifestyle and behavioral issues that can influence mind/body health. A psychologist can help you identify unhealthy behaviors as well as life stressors and/or emotional issues contributing to weight problems. A psychologist can work with an individual address any emotional issues and to help develop strategies to reduce and manage stress that may influence those unhealthy behaviors.

Healthy Behaviors for kids:

Make sure the child knows that he or she is loved and appreciated regardless of his or her weight. Obese and overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement to safely change their eating and activity habits.

Just like adults, young people need to eat healthy and in moderation. Make sure their diet is balanced and nutritious.  By the same token, you should never use food as a reward or punishment.

Get the family involved. You can do things such as plan meals as a team, making a game out of trying new types of fruits or vegetables, and scheduling family-oriented exercise periods such as walks or sports.  You may also want to keep a daily record of each family member’s eating habits and activities.

Set a good example. As a member of your child’s weight loss support group, parents should do what they can to improve their own eating and activity habits.

Get support. As with adults, children with weight problems, should have a strategy and goals that are approved by a physician.  Depending on your child’s age, it may be appropriate to maintain the current weight while he or she grows normally.  If stress, depression, or other emotional issues are involved, a psychologist who specializes in counseling young people and families, can help address them and suggest ways to implement the lifestyle changes.

One response to “Good health is like walking on air….”

  1. Very nice article, Dr. Bhatia. Diet and exercise are difficult to keep on the top of priorities in stressful times. We are reminded when we get sick.