As if we didn’t all have enough to worry about lately, now we’ve got a new problem: We stepped on the bathroom scale for the first time in months and gave ourselves a huge shock.
All that stress eating has really added up. And when combined with our sporadic, erratic exercise efforts during quarantine, our bodies have taken on a whole new shape. It’s not what we wanted to see.
So it’s time for a refresher in all we know about weight loss management—with bonuses in reducing risks for cancer. These are the healthy diet tips recommended by physical therapists and other medical professionals:
It’s not necessarily about weight loss
The end goal should never be about reaching a certain number on a scale. The end goal is always about improving health and fitness. It would be best to be more concerned about a high visceral body fat than about a high-scale number. However, in most cases, that high-scale number is a pretty good indicator of a lack of fitness. But when you focus only on losing weight, you often see progress when there is none—loss of water weight, for example—and you see defeat when progress is being made.
It’s still a good idea to weigh yourself occasionally to monitor changes and catch troubling trends early, but don’t define your success or failure by that number. Pay more attention to how your clothes fit and how you feel. Pay attention to getting healthy, not losing twenty pounds.
It’s all about the diet … but don’t go on a diet
There are two ways we talk about diet. The first is simply as a way to describe the foods we eat. The second is that we “go on” when we’re trying to lose weight, often through extreme changes in eating habits and short—or long periods of extreme calorie deprivation.
The type of diet you want is the kind that you follow for the rest of your life. It’s nutritious, and it’s tasty. It’s something you enjoy. It’s not about short-term weight loss. It’s about long-term health and stability. It’s about getting the fuel you need to do the things you want to do, without bingeing or purging or extreme swings up and down.
If you’re asking yourself, is the keto diet worth it? Well, no, probably—not unless you have diabetes and you’re following the advice of your doctor. This is a perfect example of the type of extreme, temporary diet change we’re trying to avoid. On the other end, we’ve got poor overall diet choices—finding lunch in a bag of chips and other highly processed foods, for example. These diets that stimulate chronic inflammation may increase cancer risk, and they’re terrible for overall health and weight control.
Your best bet is to follow the Mediterranean or DASH-style diet.
It’s not about exercise … but you need to exercise
More and more, we’re coming to understand that exercise alone is not enough for weight loss. The most efficient way to lose weight is to watch what you eat. Trying to burn it all away through exercise only leads to inevitable overcompensation in the kitchen (or the drive-thru).
Exercise is crucial to health. Even if exercise doesn’t help with weight loss, remember that weight loss isn’t the goal. The goal is health and fitness. Exercise for heart health, exercise for lung health, brain health exercise, exercise for bone health, exercise for muscle health, exercise for joint health. Just exercise.
So those are the big three diet tips. Are there more?
There’s always more. When it comes to diet and weight loss, you could spend days reading and researching tips and advice. But here are some of the better ones:
- Choose water over sugary drinks — Added sugars, especially in drinks, are a sneaky source of extra calories that provide nothing in the way of nutrition. If the pounds are creeping up on you, these drinks are a likely suspect.
- Processed foods are the enemy — As with sugary drinks, ultra-processed foods are low in nutritional value and high in all the things you’re trying to avoid. You’re trading convenience and the illusion of satisfaction for something that’s designed in a laboratory to trick you into wanting more. Always remember how ultra-processed foods increase the risk for cancer and weight gain, then take that little extra time and effort it takes to focus on whole fruits, vegetables, and grains instead.
- Cut back on the alcohol — A little alcohol has actually been shown to be good for you, although a “little” is probably less than you would think and less than you would like. But as alcohol consumption increases, so do the risk of a range of negative health effects, weight gain included.
- Cook at home — There’s no better way to control what you’re eating than to cook it yourself—and not just from some add-water-and-stir package. Cooking from home means cutting your own vegetables, measuring all the individual ingredients, and limiting your portions to appropriate sizes. Eating out means you never really know what you’re getting, but you can be pretty sure you’re getting more than you need.
- Practice meal prep — This goes hand in hand with cooking at home. You’ll find it much more convenient, healthy, inexpensive, and efficient to plan and prep your meals ahead of time—even doing several days or a week’s worth all at once. Spend one night a week doing this, and you won’t have to worry every other day about what’s for dinner, and you’ll reduce the temptation to make poor choices.
- Slow down — Don’t just shovel the food into your mouth. Take the time to savor each bite. Here’s why you should slow down to eat less.
- Sleep — Getting a good night’s rest can help eliminate food cravings and reduce stress. You’ll have better impulse control after a good eight hours of rest.
- Talk about your goals — Put it out there into the world. It will make you accountable to yourself and—if you’ve got the right friends—give you a support system that will help you get there. Understand how weight gain can be influenced by friends, for better or worse.
Stick with PrePak for a healthy lifestyle
At PrePak, we encourage a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. Our physical therapy background means we know what it takes to live your best life, and these healthy diet tips will put you on the right track. Follow our blog and instructional videos to get the most out of your diet and fitness journey.