We are nearing the end of our first annual Biggest Loser Contest, and we are seeing great results from our contestants. One contestant in particular is on pace to lose almost 25 pounds! We’re obviously proud of all of our clients’ progress, as weight loss is not an easy endeavor and several factors contribute to how hard or easy it is to drop off pounds. But what are these highly successful contestants doing differently than everyone else? Believe it or not, it’s making simple yet powerful choices that become new healthy habits. It doesn’t take fancy juice cleanses, trendy diets, or magic supplements to lose weight. The habits we see in our successful weight loss clients are: drinking water, moving more, and practicing mindful eating.
We’ve already discussed the power of drinking water for weight loss in our first blog in this series, but it’s so important we’ll touch on it again here. As simple as it may sound, drinking adequate water is a difficult task for many people. Some studies reveal that up to 75% of Americans may actually be living in a chronic state of dehydration. If someone is not getting enough water on a daily basis it can have serious consequences to an individual’s health. Our organs do not work at optimal levels, blood pressure can go up, and recovery from activity and exercise can become more difficult. In extreme cases, a person can suffer from extreme head and body aches, GI issues, hospitalization and even death. When our bodies are not in an optimal state it becomes difficult to do other things, including healthy weight loss.
So how do we increase our intake of water? For many people, drinking water is hard because they dislike the lack of flavor or they don’t keep it readily accessible. In order to work around this we simply recommend adding natural flavors to your water, like lime, lemon, mint or cucumber. This is an easy fix, and can even have added health benefits as important vitamins and minerals from these fruits and vegetables leach into the water. We also recommend carrying a water bottle with you as much as possible, so that water is within arm’s reach.
If you are starting to increase your water intake start slow, and work towards creating a sustainable habit. Start by adding a glass of water to one meal for a week, and increase to 2 meals the second week, and 3 meals the third week. Continue adding a glass of water during and around meals until you are consistently drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day.
While weight loss can be achieved without regular exercise and increased activity, it is much easier to achieve, and much more successful when diet and exercise are partnered together. Physical activity and exercise increases blood flow, heart rate, muscle and bone strength, metabolism and even helps to regulate hormone levels. Much like drinking water, most people do not achieve the minimal recommended amounts of activity for increased health benefits.
The minimal recommendations are at least 150 minutes/week of low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, and strength activities two days/week.
Again, just like increasing water intake, adding more exercise to your daily routine should be slow and methodical. Instead of jumping right in to the full 150 minutes/week (about 30 minutes 5 days/week) start with 90 minutes and add more minutes or work days every week until you are consistently achieve at least 150 minutes. If someone has never done strength training it can also be confusing and hard to learn. Schedule an appointment with a personal trainer in order to learn some of the machines and exercises. Most will even set you up on a simple routine you can follow on your own.
Activity outside the gym counts too. Take an evening walk on the beach, park farther away from your workplace, or reorganize the garage just for the heck of it. Finding ways to increase your daily activity on a regular basis can be just as beneficial as an hour in the gym.
Starting a new diet can be the hardest part of beginning a healthier lifestyle, but even the best meal plans can fail if individuals do not practice mindful eating. No matter what diet you follow (Atkins, Vegan/vegetarian, Ketogenic, Paleo, Mediterranean etc.) they all work on the same premises when it comes to weight loss, caloric restriction and appetite restriction. To lose weight our bodies need to use more calories than they bring in. While this sounds easy enough, calorie counting is actually much more difficult in practice than in theory. This is why taking a mindful approach to eating is so important.
Mindful eating is simply taking the time to listen to our bodies hunger cues while eating. Our bodies are actually really good at telling us when to stop eating, but because we are also really good at making food irresistible we oftentimes ignore these cues and overeat at most meals. We also overeat because we eat in a hurry, instead of taking the time to enjoy our food.
To begin mindful eating, again take a conservative approach. Start with the meal that you think you can take the most time to eat, for some this may be dinner, breakfast, or even a snack in between meals. Remove anything that would be a distraction from enjoying the meal (cell phones, newspapers, TV etc.) and eat slowly. Take time with each bite, chew more than normal, and pause briefly between each bite. Finally, finish eating when you feel full or almost full (for weight loss clients we recommend stopping at 80% full).
Once you master eating one meal with a mindful approach, tackle another meal. Mindful eating might not work for every meal of the day, but if you can get to where the majority of your meals are eaten thoughtfully you’ll see dramatic health improvements.
We at La Mision Fitness & Yoga have seen these strategies used successfully time and time again with our weight loss clients. The power of these strategies is that they develop healthy habits that can be repeated continually for a lifetime, and easily adjusted for each individual’s goals. We’ll be announcing the results of our Biggest Loser contest in the days to come, and watch out for more weight loss resources still to come.
-Corey Evans, CSCS, CISSN