Statistics show that over 20% of the global population around 70% of the North American and Canadian populations fall into the category of overweight or obese! Chances are, statistically speaking, you fall into that category. But before you feel overwhelmed...read on!
There are actually 5 very simple, concrete steps that can help keep weight in check and lower the risk of many chronic diseases....
Are you aware of these frightening facts about obesity?
Since 1980, global obesity has more than doubled
In the middle east there has been a 100% increase in obesity since 1990
Since 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults over the age of 20 are overweight! (That’s about 20% of the global population)
And perhaps the scariest statistic of them all:
More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010!
So what is going on and how can we change the trends?
For one, lifestyle has changed dramatically. We are spending more time driving in our cars; more time coped up in offices; and more time in front of computer and television screens. This technological boom has moved us away from our natural inclination of being outside towards a sedentary lifestyle.
And perhaps the second greatest change has been dietary. The amount of processed foods we eat is on the rise. These foods are loaded with sugar, salt and addictive chemicals that our bodies do not recognize nor know what to do with them.
One more factory to consider: stress! Our first world lives put us in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ which wrecks havoc on the adrenals and hormonal systems of our bodies.
The center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2010 that almost 70% of North Americans and Canadians falls into the overweight and obese category! Chances are, you already fall within that category, so what can you do to become healthy?
With the daily crush of media coverage about obesity, weight, and health, it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed. The problems can seem so monumental and the fixes so insurmountable, it’s easy to lose sight that there are actually some very simple, concrete steps that can help keep weight in check and lower the risk of many chronic diseases.
1. Eat Well
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” - Michael Pollan
This doesn’t need to be a complicated process of calorie counting and dieting and restriction. Instead what matters most is the type of foods you eat. Choose minimally processed, whole foods such as: whole grains (whole wheat, steel cut oats, brown rice and quinoa), fresh vegetables (the entire spectrum of colors), whole fruits ( as opposed to fruit juices which are loaded with natural and added sugars), nuts, seeds, beans, healthy sources of protein (like wild-caught fish) and healthy plant oils (like olive and coconut).
Reduce or eliminate refined grains (anything ‘white’ like white bread, white rice, white pasta), cut out the sweets, replace potatoes for sweet potatoes, limit the consumption of red meat and processed meats, and eliminate other highly processed foods such as fast food.
Instead of sugar sweetened beverages (like soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks), drink water and other beverages that are naturally calorie and sugar free.
A couple other tips in regards to eating:
Make sure you eat breakfast! If you skip breakfast you are more likely to binge later in the day when the hunger comes raging back mid-day. Also make sure you have a protein source with your breakfast to help you feel fuller longer.
Eat at home. Most foods prepared outside of the home have larger portions, more calories and are less nutritious than the foods we cook at home for ourselves.
Choose small portions and eat slowly. This helps you avoid overeating and gives your brain time to tell your stomach that it has had enough food. Enjoy your meal and concentrate on the food alone - turn off the TV, the smart phone and the computer. This is also referred to as ‘mindful eating.’ Take time to think about why and what you are actually eating.
2. Stay Active
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” - John F. Kennedy
Regardless of your weight, one MUST be physically active on a daily basis in order to be healthy. There is no way around it. Physical exercise is part of being healthy. And it usually leads to a trim physique. How much activity is recommended depends on whether you’re a child or an adult. For good health, adults should get 30 minutes a day of moderate activity or about half of that of vigorous activity (like running, biking, or climbing stairs at a fast pace). If you’re trying to lose weight or control your weight, double those numbers above.
For kids, they need at least an hour a day of physical activity in addition to muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.
In addition to staying active, minimize your sedentary time, especially the time spent in front of the television and computer.
Just remember - choose the activities that are fun for you (or your kids). Think of exercise as a freeing process to move your body and feel great, as opposed to ‘work’ that you must do.
3. Limit screen time
Unglue yourself from the screen! Interact with those real humans that are sitting around you! Not only do computers and televisions and xboxes promote a sedentary lifestyle, but you’re bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food and drinks. As a parent, make sure you limit the screen time for your kids and keep the TV and computer out of their bedrooms. Another suggestion, turn off the TV during meals and enjoy each other’s company in addition to enjoying the food. Even take your meals outside when the weather allows!
4. Get Enough ZZZ’s
"I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” - Henry David Thoreau
There’s plenty of evidence out there to show that a good night’s sleep (7 to 8 hours a night for adults and between 9 and 12 a night for kids between 5 and 18 years old) is important to good health and also to weight maintenance.
I find that when I have trouble sleeping it’s because there are a lot of items on my mind. To help my mind quiet, I journal before I sleep and write down everything that is still running around in my mind. I also keep that journal near my bed so if I wake up and my mind is still on overdrive, I can write down those thoughts and quiet my mind.
Another good practice to to meditate before bed. There are plenty of guided meditations available that you can follow if you are new to meditating. Deep breathing exercises relax the body and mind in addition to gentle yoga. All these practices help prepare the body for sleep.
5. Relax “Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” - Hans Selye
“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.” - George Burns
The greatest cause of disease in our nation is stress!! Today’s world is full of daily stresses and today more than ever! One of the best ways to combat stress is also one of the best ways to promote health and avoid weight gain: regular physical activity. In addition, practicing breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are all great ways to help your body relax. In my recent article, 7 Ways to Get Rid of Belly Fat, I go into more detail how stress causes the body to gain weight.
A healthy lifestyle really isn’t that hard to follow. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget what it means to be healthy. For that reason, maybe hiring a health coach is for you!?
Regardless, if you follow these 5 suggestions, you will be healthier. Everyone that looks fit isn’t healthy and not everyone that is healthy looks fit. Health is a combination of factors that include: diet, exercise, a healthy frame of mind, and supportive and nurturing relationships!
Erin Schumacher is a Certified Natural Health and Holistic Nutrition Practitioner (CNHP; CHNP) She specializes in detoxification programs, internal cleanses, and helping clients build strong immune systems. She also travels internationally to do raw food workshops, yoga retreats, and personal coaching. In addition, Erin is a Certified Power Yoga Instructor and a Certified Raw Food Chef from the SunKitchen. For more information, visit PureRadiantSelf.com.