Becoming healthier and dropping excess weight may seem impossible to many who have tried, and failed, in the past. But it really is not as difficult as one might think. What makes us different from our ancestors of only several generations ago (as in pre-World War I), is that we are less active, we tend to eat out at restaurants more, our portion sizes are larger, and our lifestyles tend toward the sedentary. Life one hundred years ago was much more vigorous. There were no computers, power tools, shuttle services, malls, or commercial airplanes. Real physical effort had to put into the most ordinary and mundane activities of everyday life. That is not to say that in an age of convenience, a person cannot have and keep a healthy weight. They absolutely can, but it takes awareness and forethought.
Pre-packaged meals can be lifesavers to the busy working family, but there is little to no real nutritious value in boxed, frozen, or take out foods. Nutrition is traded for ease, additives for flavor, and fats for richness. Why not spend a few hours on the weekend cooking meats, slicing veggies and then portioning them out and stacking them in the fridge? When it is time for dinner, you have only to choose your protein and vegetables in order to make a fresh and delicious (not to mention inexpensive) dinner.
Portion size is also important, so if you are trying to lose weight, take only half of what you think you want. Eat your meal slowly and without distraction, if possible. Give your body and brain time to assess whether or not they are satisfied. Many people zip right past the body’s signal that it is satisfied because they eat so quickly. Eat slowly… Then, if after a half hour or so you find yourself genuinely hungry, take a drink of water. Sometimes thirst is disguised as hunger. If you find that you really do need more, have just a bit. As a society, we have become so accustomed to large portions we’ve forgotten that we really can get by on much less.
Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to fill you up without the excess calories. But be aware of what is motivating you to eat in the first place. Are you bored, stressed, angry, happy, or putting another activity off? As yourself why you want those potato chips, chocolate bar, etc. If you are really being honest with yourself, and you are genuinely hungry, then a chicken dinner would be as appetizing to you as that chocolate bar. That is hunger. Knowing the difference between real hunger and just needing a distraction will go a long way in keeping your weight in check.
Snacks like crackers, cookies, cakes, and various other fat-laden, non-nutritious foods should be used judiciously, if at all. It is far too easy to reach for these snacks, and become used to eating them, if they are in your cupboard. Instead, opt for healthier versions: carrot sticks and peanut butter, cucumber rounds with hummus, turkey or chicken slices and pickles, a handful of almonds, a cup of unshelled edamame, or even a frozen banana that has been blended into a soft serve ice cream.
Our bodies were created to move. They were intended to be able to walk for long stretches if need be, run fast if there was imminent danger, jump over things, and to climb in search of food or to escape. Whatever exercise you choose, whether it is swimming, weightlifting, skiing, or yoga, make it something that you enjoy and something that you will continue to do. Remember to mix things up in your training too. The human body becomes adept at strengthening muscle groups which have been trained regularly, so it is best to choose other exercises that challenge different muscle groups from time to time.
Losing weight and getting healthier can really be effortless if you look at it as simply a lifestyle change. Take one day at a time, one meal at a time, and one session of exercise at a time. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed; that is a surefire way to become discouraged and quit. Take a deep breath. Remember that you are in control of the amount and types of healthy foods you put in your body, the ways you exercise and rest your body, and the way you allow the stressors in your life to affect your body. You can do this!