OK, so you've decided that it's finally time to lose that freshman 15 – 20 years after you were a freshman. You know you need to start eating healthier and being more active. Having the right mind-set will make committing to these lifestyle changes a breeze. And we're here to help with tips that work – whether you're a new graduate or an empty nester.
How do you stay in shape? Share weight loss successes and secrets with other readers in the comments section on the next page!
• Believe you can do it. "People who believe that they can reach a healthier weight through healthy eating and active living set relevant goals that they perceive to be important for the desired change," write Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung in their book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.
• Write it down. In Savor, Hanh and Cheung encourage people to write a healthy-weight mission statement and post it in a place where they will read it often. Set concrete, achievable goals, which you can revise as you progress. Here are a couple of their examples:
"Through being more mindful and paying better attention to my health and well-being, I will lose 25 pounds by (insert date) and keep it off over the following year and beyond."
"I will walk at least 5,000 steps (measured by a pedometer) or half an hour every day, and slowly increase this each week until I reach 10,000 steps or one hour per day."
• Hold yourself accountable. Let a friend or family member in on your weight-loss goals. By putting your plan out there, you're making a commitment not only to yourself but also to that other person, who will likely be asking you how it's going, says Pamela Mazzuca Prebeg, a fitness columnist for Canadian Living, an athletic therapist and personal training specialist in Toronto.
Page 1 of 3 – Discover where you can find helpful support when preparing to lose weight on page 2.
• Create a support group. It's tough to make changes, such as eating less and exercising more (the two biggest keys to weight loss), on your own. That's why experts encourage you to build a support group of people who will cheer you on and help you get over the rough patches. In his book, Move a Little, Lose a Lot (Three Rivers, 2009), James A. Levine, an international expert on obesity who works with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, says your support system "can be made up of people you meet with in person or online. Think of all the people you come in contact with in your life. Which can be your potential allies, offering you support in myriad small daily actions?"
And bring your hubby on board: Researchers at Stanford University, in California, found that adults who start a wellness program with their partners are much more likely to stick to it than those who go it alone.
• Use technology to boost your efforts. Announce your weight-loss goals on your Facebook page and your friends can provide instant feedback and encouragement, suggests Kathy Maier, owner and wellness director of Only Women's Fitness in Lethbridge, Alta. You can find free healthy recipes online, as well as fun exercises to try at the gym or home, local fitness classes and weight-loss tips. And think about adding a couple of nutrition apps to your smartphone; whether you're a 26-year-old with a toddler or a 46-year-old with a couple of teenagers, you can search and instantly find healthy restaurants the whole family will enjoy.
Here's another way you can make technology your weight-loss ally:
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has introduced the Heart and Stroke Healthy Weight Action Plan – a free, personalized, 12-session online resource – to help you get to, and stay at, a healthy weight. The program includes a web-based counsellor.
• Make small, lasting changes. These can include eating breakfast every morning, walking 20 minutes a few times a week and saying no to dessert. If you think these efforts won't help you lose all the weight you want, think again: The authors of Savor say that even if you change only one unhealthy habit each week, that's 26 changes in six months – and 52 changes in one year.
Page 2 of 3 – Discover why adeqate sleep can help you reach our weight loss goals on page 3.• Get enough sleep. The Nurses' Health Study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, followed 70,000 women for 16 years. The study found that women who get less than five hours of sleep each night are 15 per cent more likely to become obese than those who get seven hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep decreases the amount of leptin (a hormone that's secreted by your fat cells and regulates your appetite) in your body. "If your leptin levels are low, your body thinks it needs more food and you tend to eat more, or even overeat," says Dr. David Posen, a physician in Oakville, Ont., specializing in stress management and author of The Little Book of Stress Relief. Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a family physician in Belleville, Ont., adds that if you're tired, you're less likely to get up in the morning and hit the gym before work. "If you're able to get eight hours of sleep a night, you'll find you'll have more energy for your workouts," says Kerr. Sleep also helps you maintain a healthy metabolism and gives your muscles time to regenerate and regain strength after a workout.
• Watch less TV. The Nurses' Health Study also found that for every additional two hours of television women watch each day, their risk of becoming obese increases by 23 per cent. Surprisingly, getting a lot of physical activity doesn't offset the effects of TV watching. Even among the most active women, those who watch more than 20 hours of television per week have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who watch less than six hours of television per week.
• Give away your "fat" clothes. In his book, Levine says, "When my clients start gaining weight, the first thing many do is slip into their baggy clothes. That's a mistake, because too-large clothes send your brain the message that your weight is A-OK. In fact, since your clothes are so loose, your brain actually thinks you can probably afford to eat more if you like." While it may not be comfortable, Levine says wearing clothes that are slightly snug sends a cue to your mind and your muscles to get up and move, and makes you think twice about the foods you choose.
• Don't let setbacks get you down. If you have a bad day at work and decide to skip your exercise class and just go home, grab a spoon and sit down with a tub of ice cream, don't beat yourself up and abandon your goals: we all have days when things go off the rails. Just remind yourself of the progress you're making.
Page 3 of 3