As the weather begins to cool, and sunlight becomes more scarce, trees must prepare for the cold months, and leaves are abandoned to preserve energy. We are reminded that nature is constantly transforming with various cues from the ecosystem calling the shots.
Like the trees surrounding us, our bodies are perpetually conforming to our environment. As we go about our daily lives, we receive a ton of information – from the sounds we hear to food we eat – that our bodies must sort through and decide how to act upon. While we are aware of many decisions we voluntarily make from day to day, our bodies are also making many involuntary decisions that affect us psychologically. As the effects of COVID-19 continue to cause abundant changes in our lives, and the environment surrounding us, many of us have entered survival mode – doing our best to cope with unforeseen circumstances.
Being under immense amounts of stress can lead to difficulties with managing weight and maintaining a healthy relationship with your body. If you find that this has been the case for you over the past few months, consider incorporating some of the following recommendations into your lifestyle:
● Exercise. We all know that exercise is an essential ingredient for weight loss, but how much exercise is needed to lose weight, and what kinds of exercise should we do?
○ 180 minutes of moderate-high intensity aerobic exercise weekly. Your heart rate and breathing should increase, but not to a point where it would be difficult for you to hold a conversation while active.
● Sleep. Adequate sleep is needed for weight management because it provides us with the energy our bodies need to perform necessary functions throughout the day. Without adequate sleep we tend to crave foods that are sources of “quick energy” like foods with refined carbs, processed foods, and foods high in sugar and calories.
○ Goal for sleep: At least 6 hours, ideally 8 hours, of uninterrupted sleep that leads to feeling rested upon waking.
● Whole foods and fiber. The “quick energy” foods mentioned above have several health-demoting properties, including being pro-inflammatory, suppressing immune function, and dysregulation of blood sugar levels. Swapping out these items in your diet with whole foods will increase your overall nutrient profile, thus improving digestion and improving your energy. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet will help you to feel full more quickly and improves digestion and lipid levels.
○ Try implementing a balanced plate at each meal. Each plate should contain 50% fruits/veggies, 25% protein (plant or animal source), and 25% whole grains or complete carbs.
○ For snacks, consider fruits that are high in fiber like pears or apples, healthy fats like nuts/nut butters and avocado, and fermented foods like pickles or kimchi.
● Listen to your body. Americans tend to overeat due to our portion sizes and the frequency with which we have meals and snacks. As a result, many Americans are not in tune with their body’s signals for hunger and being full. Try to pay attention to these signals as best you can. Eat only when you feel hungry and stop eating when you are full (regardless if there is food left on your plate).
● Self-compassion. The way we relate to food – that is the feelings we have surrounding the choices we make for food, the way we feel when we eat, and the way we perceive our body type – can have a large impact on our weight. We may make unhealthy food choices when coping with negative emotions, we may over-restrict food if we are unhappy with our body type, or we may eat when we are not hungry to fill a void. Take some time to explore your emotions around nutrition and eating. Try to make connections that allow you to see how your emotions impact your eating habits and vice versa. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to better understand your relationship with food, weight, and wellness.
Weight management can be a long journey, but one that is worth it to fortify your overall health and wellness. Maintaining a weight that is healthy for you can improve cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune system function.
As we continue to deal with the pandemic, it is even more important to focus on cultivating a healthy weight. Research shows that a BMI greater than 28 increases the risk of developing a serious case of COVID by six-fold; the average American has a BMI of 29! Please consider checking your BMI at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm, and seeking support with making necessary changes.
And remember, do your best to focus on regular exercise, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and getting in tune with your feelings and emotions to help you shift into the next phase of weight management.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The purpose of the Lyons Recorder website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topic, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.