With the new year, we all begin looking for ways to be a better person. Some look inward and some look outward. Both are aspects of our whole person. For some the “outward” might be losing that extra weight that slows us down and raises our blood pressure. For those wanting to lose weight here are seven basics that work; no gimmicks, no sales pitch, nothing to buy.
1. Walk every day. Remember the song, “These Boots Were Made for Walking?” These bodies were made to walk. There are a dozen health benefits associated with walking, one of which is that it burns calories. Set a goal this year to walk 30 minutes every day. Don’t worry about pace or distance. Just walk and in a few weeks you will notice that you are sleeping better, less stressed, thinking more clearly and the pounds are starting to melt. Extended activity like walking more than 20 minutes is the only way to remove fat stored around the belly.
2. Eat less meat. Calories are concentrated in meat. Even lean meats like chicken and fish are often 2-3 times higher in calories than any non-fried vegetable serving. Don’t fall for the low carb myth. Eating a lot of meat always increases your calorie intake. You don’t have to be a vegetarian, but bring meat back into balance in your daily intake. A three-ounce portion once or twice a day is sufficient for most adults to meet our protein and other nutrient needs from the meat group.
3. Limit concentrated sweets. By this I do not mean fruits. It’s very hard to lose weight when we consistently indulge in donuts, cookies, candy, snack cakes, etc. Make your daily sweet a fresh fruit and save the concentrated sources of calories for special occasions. By the way, sweets are not just limited to what we chew. Sugary drinks like soda (7 teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce drink) and power drinks can add up to stored fat around our middle.
4. Limit fried foods. When foods are deep fried, they absorb a lot of oil and that can double or triple the calories in a serving of food. This refers to things like fried chicken, okra, squash, French fries. Sautéing and stir frying in a small amount of oil is a healthy alternative to deep frying without all the clean-up.
5. Replace whole dairy foods with low fat or skim. Remember that fat gives us more than twice the calories of carb or protein. So foods that contain fat like whole milk, cheese and yogurt while healthy and important foods to include are potentially very high calorie. Choose skim or low fat to get the health without the calories.
6. Eat at regular intervals without skipping meals. Some people think they are saving calories by skipping a meal. The problem with this habit is that it brings us to the next meal too hungry and we often overeat. This is not about will power. People who put all of their calories in 1 or 2 meals almost always end up overweight. And the opposite is true. Those who eat frequently are typically appropriate weight for their height. Don’t teach your body that it will not get anything else for several hours. When you are not as hungry at meal time, you are more likely to work your plan and less likely to overeat.
7. Manage serving sizes. Serving sizes vary based on the food. Think of eating moderately. For example, a handful of nuts as a snack; a small apple; a serving of meat the size of a deck of cards. A one-half cup serving of any vegetable would fit in your hand. Imagine one-quarter of your plate being filled with a meat or protein food; one-quarter being a starch and one-half of your plate being vegetables, salad or fruit. Balance not only reduces calories but adds more nutrients that make every system in the body work as it was created to.
This new year is another opportunity to continue the journey of being who I was created to be. Making gradual changes in what and how I eat are steps toward developing healthier habits. Nurturing this physical body that we inhabit not only improves our physical health but it can help us to realize the dreams of our inner self. Here’s a toast for a happy and healthy year to you all.
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with many years’ experience practicing nutrition therapy in local hospitals and clinics, teaching nutrition and developing healthy recipes. He helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health. Memorial Cooking Innovations is produced by St. Luke’s Health and the City of Lufkin. It currently runs in 62 cities and is locally available on Sudden Link cable TV channels and online at http://www.chistlukeshealthmemorial.org.