Between spending more time at home during this Covid-19 pandemic, to the upcoming holidays ahead, many people are finding it more difficult to balance healthy nutrition habits and maintain a healthy weight. Given the change in most individuals day-to-day routines during this pandemic, many people are working from home and are finding themselves snacking too frequently or following nutrition habits outside of their normal routine. Although we know holiday family gatherings may look a little different this year, we’re all too familiar with the abundance of sweet treats, hefty portion sizes and delicious food that tends to accompany this time of year! While many wait until New Years to kick start their goals for weight loss and healthy nutrition/exercise regimens, why not start early and review ways we can utilize our time left in 2020 and transition smoothly into a healthy lifestyle before 2021 arrives! Let’s start with the basics regarding maintaining a healthy weight, risks associated with obesity, statistics regarding obesity in the U.S. and conclude with advice on how we can make changes to achieve our health and wellness goals:
- BMI: Body Mass Index- this is a tool used to help determine the degree of being overweight. BMI is widely used because it is easy to measure, reliable and correlated with percentage of body fat to the body fat mass. It provides an estimate of total body fat rather than body weight alone. Considerations to be taken into account when calculating your BMI include muscle mass or in loss of muscle mass (such can be the case with aging)- both can skew results.
- How to calculate: There are several online BMI calculators. Here is an attached link for you to enter your height and weight for calculation:
- BMI < 18.5 is considered underweight
- BMI >18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight
- BMI 25-29.9 is considered overweight
- BMI 30 or > is considered obesity
Obesity- let’s take a look at the statistics:
- The CDC reports the prevalence of obesity to be 42% in 2017-2018, this was an increase from 30% from 1999-2000! In other words, on average, 4 in 10 people are obese in the U.S and this percentage continues to rise.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion dollars in 2008. The medical cost for individuals who are obese was estimated to be $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Health effects of being overweight/obese:
- Increased risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension), Hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol values), type 2 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis, sleep apnea, mental illness such as clinical depression/anxiety and generalized body pain.
- Did you know that nearly 9 out of 10 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are overweight? Weight loss could help lower this risk of developing diabetes and preventing this disease process.
- You can decrease your risk of developing any of these health related conditions by changing nutrition habits and incorporating some exercise to help achieve a healthy weight goal! Let’s focus on some manageable ways to get your nutrition plan started…
Diet fads- good or bad?
- Losing weight takes time and commitment, but doesn’t require extreme dieting, rapid weight loss or significant caloric and nutrient restriction. The goal for weight loss and a healthy nutrition plan involves choosing a plan that will work for you in the long term. Not for 30 days or 3 months, but for life!
- Whether you’ve tried the keto diet, intermittent fasting, paleo, whole 30, atkins, dietary supplements etc, you may notice initial weight loss secondary to caloric restriction or a shift in metabolism, but these diet fads aren’t typically sustainable long term and most initial weight loss will likely reverse once you return to your “normal” routine and dietary habits.
- Therefore, no particular “diet” is recommended, but rather a lifestyle change that focuses on maintaining caloric balance over time in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Food components- what you need to know about Macronutrients “Macros”:
- CARBOHYDRATES “carbs”: should make up 45-65% of your total caloric intake. Quantity and type of carbohydrate matters- suggestions for healthy carbs include whole grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, vegetables, and fruits. Carbs give us energy, they aren’t the enemy!
- PROTEIN: should make up 10-35% of your total caloric intake. Examples: lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds. Helps boost energy, supports mood and cognitive function.
- FAT: should make up 20-35% of total caloric intake. Healthy fats are vital to our physical and emotional health.
How to incorporate healthy nutrition habits and get started:
- Meal prep- preparing meals ahead of time helps prevent last minute hunger decisions such as snacking, eating fast food or over-eating/not watching portion sizes
- Read labels- it is important to know what is in your food and how much of your daily percentage in terms of macros you’re consuming!
- How do you feel after eating? Experiencing less bloating, fatigue, stomach upset after eating a healthy clean/lean meal can help reinforce good nutrition habits
- Drink plenty of water! Water helps flush your system of waste products.
- Eat in moderation. It sounds simple because it truly is that simple- only eat what your body needs. Food is a source of fuel for our bodies, not a treat or reward. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed or miserable.
- Don’t completely eliminate “off limit” foods- this only makes you want them more! If donuts are your go-to-food for breakfast on a daily basis, try eating a ½ of a donut on a weekend morning and substitute a bowl of oatmeal and fruit on the other mornings. Everything in moderation!
- Try shopping on the periphery of the grocery store (primarily healthy/fresh ingredients such as produce, grains, meat).
- Always have color on your plate- the more color, likely the more nutritious!
- Watch your portion sizes- it seems restaurant portion sizes continue to grow each year and this isn’t helping our increasing obesity epidemic. Try ordering a starter/appetizer instead of an entrée if portion sizes are large or split a meal with a spouse or friend.
- Be mindful of your weaknesses in regards to food. If chips are your weakness and in a moment of boredom or hunger, you have several bags of chips in your pantry, you’re naturally going to resort to that bag of chips. Don’t keep snacks or trigger foods in your house or easily accessible to help avoid temptation.
- Timing: Eat breakfast in the AM to “kick-start” your metabolism and avoid eating late in the evening when metabolism has slowed.
Food exchange scenarios & helpful tracking tips:
- Having spaghetti for dinner: instead of pasta, try spaghetti squash for “noodles” and a lean meat marinara sauce
- Instead of chips for a mid-day snack: try carrots, peppers, celery etc with hummus
- Instead of a sugary cereal for breakfast: try oatmeal with berries in the AM
- If you dislike broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower etc- experiment with seasonings and try various ways of cooking them- roasting, pan searing, grilling etc.
- Set a goal for weight loss or a weight to maintain, it helps to hold yourself accountable!
- Accountability is very beneficial, whether via an app on your phone or a friend/family member. Popular apps include NOOM and My Fitness Pal. These are great tools to help track caloric intake. Knowledge is power!
- Did you know, inactivity or lack of physical activity is a component of decreased life expectancy?
- Regular physical activity reduces the risk of weight gain as well as cardiovascular disease.
- Recommendation for physical activity is to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
- Set small goals during the work day- spending less time sitting can also be helpful- try a standing desk when able, or get up each hour and walk for 5 minutes.
- Ease into your 150 minute per week goal- start with walking. American Heart Association suggests anyone who doesn’t routinely exercise to start with walking- it is free, easy and can be done anywhere.
- Benefits of exercise: decreases risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimers and several types of cancer. It can help in improved sleep and improved cognition/attention. It has even been proven to help individuals experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. It of course also decreases risk of weight gain or obesity.
In conclusion, the majority of our practice as health care providers involves measures to help promote health and wellness and ensure we do everything we can to prevent some of the above mentioned disease processes. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t remind you of the importance of healthy nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. I hope this information regarding nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight has been helpful, and you are able to apply it to your nutrition plan in order to positively impact your mental, emotional and physical health. Stay healthy and blessings to you and your families – Lauren James FNP-C