If you are like many community members and are experiencing a large upheaval in your life due to the global pandemic, you might have noticed your clothes are not fitting as comfortably as they did a year ago. While crash diets can give the illusion of being smart weight management tools, once “off program” the weight often comes back quickly and can unfortunately even land at a level higher than before.
To truly manage your weight, it is important to notice how your behavior patterns influence weight gain and adjust these habits to support healthy weight loss and weight maintenance. The core areas to analyze include food habits, activity habits, stress levels, and sleep quality.
Tracking, including the use of apps, smart watches, or even old fashioned paper and pencil, is the first step to identify areas for improvement. Before making any changes, observe your current habits and track them.
While some people may need to overhaul their patterns, for most, small adjustments will yield excellent results.
- To improve food habits, ensure you are fueling your body throughout the day. Often we eat too little early in the day, which sets us up for overeating in the evening when we are the least active.
- Make eating a mindful activity. Multitasking by eating while in front of a screen or behind the wheel is a bad habit, which can lead to weight gain and poor digestion.
- Avoid drinking your calories. Our bodies do not recognize fluids as food so we will eat the same volume of solids on top of liquid calories.
- Stay hydrated! Keep water near you at all times to sip throughout the day, whether in your car cup holder or near your armchair. People sometimes think they are hungry when their body is just asking for hydration!
- To improve activity habits, aim to reduce sedentary time. Notice when you are sitting for long stretches of time and take breaks to stand up and move your body.
- Track your steps for a week and set goals for stepwise increase.
- Initiate or rededicate yourself to a daily physical activity routine. It is important to build and maintain lean muscle to support your metabolism.
STRESS AND SLEEP
Stress and sleep quality influence weight management because they act as barriers to healthy eating and regular, planned activity. When stressed and sleep deprived, we often choose movie marathons with candy and chips over a hike in the forest lands. Prioritize sufficient, quality sleep and learn to develop positive coping mechanisms for stress.
For successful, long-term weight management, focus less on strict meal plans and focus more on those patterns that initially led to the accumulation of excess weight. By recognizing and adjusting our patterns of behavior as necessary, we can integrate healthy weight management into our daily lives.
Amber Phillips, MS, RD is a registered dietitian at Island Hospital. She has a Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA and a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. Phillips has a keen interest in community education. “Nutrition advice can be confusing and sometimes conflicting,” says Phillips. “My role as a dietitian is to follow the latest research and make it easy to understand for my patients and the public.” To schedule an appointment with Phillips, call (360) 299-1300 x2567.