Weight Loss with HEALTHeME

Weight loss and good health made simple

Monday, November 28, 2011

8 Holiday Weight Loss Tips

The holiday season is a busy, but fun time of year!  From office parties to cookie exchanges and family gatherings, your social calendar is probably packed.  And what happens at most of these festivities?  That’s right, we eat!  Sharing food is part of the holiday season but it is easy to get side-tracked and forget about your weight loss goals.

Some studies suggest that the average adult gains one pound during the holiday season.  That may not sound like a lot but it adds up over the years and contributes to obesity later in life.

 Here are a few ways you can avoid packing on those extra pounds:
  • Monitor what you're eating.  A recent study says that monitoring your calories is the number one way to lose weight over the holidays.  Weight loss programs that focus on tracking calories might help you do this consistently. 

  • Exercise will not only help keep you on track to reach your goals, it will also help keep your stress level in check and strengthen your immune system.  Plan to take a walk, jog, ride a bike, or give yourself a gift and try something new!
  • Sleep is an important way to stay healthy and strong, especially during busy times.  Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Bring a side dish to the party.  It may sound easier to swing by the grocery store on your way and pick something up that is ready-made.  But, by making your own side dish, you can experiment with new recipes and make some substitutions that will be party-pleasers.  Try using applesauce instead of oil to reduce fat and calories.  Also, sprinkle herbs like rosemary and thyme instead of salt to decrease the sodium.
  • Eat before you play!  Eating a healthy, high fiber meal before a holiday party will help you avoid over-indulging on the tempting treats!
  • Holiday beverages: Did you know that the average cup of eggnog packs almost 350 calories and 19 grams of fat?  Try some sugar-free hot apple cider mix or low-fat hot cocoa to enjoy a festive drink that won’t pack on the pounds!
  • Plan ahead!  Take exercise clothes with you when you travel & have workout shoes with you at all times so that you can fit in a walk.  Remember that even 10-minute exercise sessions have huge payoffs!
  • Avoid eating out.  All-day holiday shopping can leave you hungry and tempted to stop by the food court or drive-thru window.  Be sure to have healthy snacks on hand like nuts, bananas, apples, or peanut butter on whole wheat bread.
  • Pencil time for yourself into your calendar.  If you don’t schedule time to exercise and prepare healthy meals, it can be easy to push those things aside.  Plus, exercising and eating right will help boost your energy so you can do all those things on your list!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't let the holidays tip your scale!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you know what that means: food, food, a little post-meal T.V., and more food! According to one classic study, the average person gains one pound each year, usually beginning around the Thanksgiving holiday (eh-ehm). Although a one-pound weight gain doesn’t sound like much, most people don’t lose this extra weight and it contributes to obesity later in life. But, if you are trying to stay on track to reach your weight loss goals and hoping to enjoy some of your family’s holiday traditions, take heart! There are ways to celebrate and lose weight!

The findings of one study suggest that portion control is the single-most important thing you can do to lose weight! Researchers followed 300 overweight or obese adults who were beginning a weight loss program. Study participants followed one of five different weight loss programs: eating more fruits & vegetables, increasing planned exercise, increasing daily physical activity, cutting back on fat, or actively controlling portion sizes. Study participants in the portion control group were most successful and 38% of people in that group lost at least 5% of their body weight! This is a big contrast to people in the other weight loss groups, many of whom gained several pounds. So, you can enjoy delicious foods, as long as you are practicing portion control!

In the classic National Institute of Health study mentioned above, researchers also found that people who reported being more active didn’t gain any weight over the holiday season, and some even lost weight! Try planning some activities that will get you and your family up and moving over the holidays. Plan family walks, bike rides, basketball games, or toss the Frisbee around. You will burn calories and stay on track to reach your weight loss goals!

The bottom line: enjoy your holiday favorites but only in moderation and work towards increasing your exercise. The holidays are a “high-risk” time for weight loss but you can be successful, even in this season of temptation!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Get up & get moving to ward off depression!

Fight depression.  Exercise!
You might think a highly developed nation, like the United States, would be filled with happy people. But, in one recent study, America was found to be the second most-depressed nation (just behind France), and a woman living in America is six-times more likely to be depressed than a man living in China! According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression.

These sad statistics may be partially explained by our nation’s sedentary behaviors! A recent study examined the behaviors of almost 50,000 women. Researchers found that women who exercise 90 minutes or more each day were 20% less likely to be diagnosed with depression than women who exercised 10 minutes or less per day. In addition, time spent watching television was found to increase the study participants’ risk for depression! Women who watched three or more hours of T.V. were 13% more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Researchers were quick to point out that some of the participants may have been experiencing symptoms associated with depression, which may have led to them exercising less frequently. However, this study helps support the notions that exercise can boost your mood and time spent in front of the T.V. doesn’t do any favors for your body or your mental health.

Exercising more and spending less time in front of the T.V. may be especially significant in these shorter, darker fall days. Many people find they feel tired, unmotivated, and experience other symptoms of depression in the fall and winter, related to the decrease in exposure to sunlight. One of the recommendations for people who feel blue in the winter is to spend some time each day outdoors. You can combine efforts by exercising outdoors: taking a walk, doing yard work, biking, hiking, or going for a jog are great ways to get some sunshine and decrease your risk of depression.

If you feel any symptoms associated with depression, you should talk with your healthcare provider. And remember, following a more active, less sedentary lifestyle is an effective way to keep your body and your brain in tip-top shape.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

4 Tips For Healthy Holiday Weight Loss

Beautiful fall foliage, cozy sweaters, turkey dinners, and holiday music. ‘Tis the season for festivities, but it’s also the season for runny, red noses and coughs that keep you up at night! According to statistics, the average adult gets 2-4 colds each year. But, you aren’t doomed to spend your holidays feeling under the weather! There are some things you can do to boost your immune system and have a healthy holiday season.

#1 Get Some Sleep
It is no secret that getting adequate amounts of quality sleep is important. A 2009 study found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep each night are almost three times as likely to catch a cold. If your sleep is interrupted because you wake up during the night or if you have trouble falling asleep, you are more than five times as likely to find yourself in the throes of a cold. Most experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep per night. So, take advantage of the shorter days and head to bed when you feel tired.

Chill out.  Stay healthy.  Lose weight.
#2 Meditate
Meditation has long been touted as a way to manage stress. According to a recent study, a regular meditation practice can also boost your immune system and help you fight off that cold you were probably exposed to while completing your holiday shopping! To reap the benefits, you have to meditate on a regular basis.  Try starting with just 2-5 minutes per session; you will still benefit from just a few minutes of mindful meditation.

#3 Lower Your Cholesterol
It might seem as though cholesterol and your body’s ability to ward off a cold is completely unrelated. However, in a study published earlier this year, researchers found that hormones released when your body’s immune system is stimulated decrease cholesterol levels. Viruses and some bacteria need cholesterol in order to grow. So, it makes sense if we lower the cholesterol in our body, the viruses may not be able to survive. 

#4 Exercise
Exercise and immune function is definitely a situation where more is NOT better! A NY Times article explores the relationship between exercise and immune function, especially as it relates to intensity of exercise. As the article explains, several studies have found that workouts of long duration or high intensity have a negative effect on immunity, as well as weight loss. However, leisurely workouts of short duration and low intensity boost your immune system, so you are more likely to fight off the sniffles. Aim for 20-30 minutes of activity, like a moderate walk, to boost your immune system.  Burning off some holiday treats helps weight loss too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back Pain Relieved with Yoga

Yoga is top back pain treatment.

Spending hours sitting in front of a computer, stress, lots of time driving in traffic, and extra body weight are all contributing factors to one of the most common and costly problems in America: back pain. It’s estimated that about 80% of American people experience back pain. And, sufferers spend nearly $7000 per year on medical costs associated with managing back pain.

A new study may offer a ray of hope for those who are tired of hurting and spending loads of cash to find relief.  Researchers gave study participants, who were sufferers of chronic back pain, one of two treatments: traditional medical treatment or a 12-week yoga program. Those who participated in the yoga program saw greater improvements in function and were able to participate in 30% more activities than those who received standard medical treatment. The yogis also had more confidence in their ability to perform activites in their daily life. By improving function and increasing confidence, people can enjoy an enhanced quality of life, which often suffers when individuals are hindered by chronic pain.

Yoga is a form of mind-body exercise that increases joint mobility, improves flexibility, and builds strength - all of which contribute to a healthier back. Yoga also has many psychological benefits like improved coping skills and stress reduction. One study found that yoga was better than other forms of exercise for managing mood and anxiety. Psychological stress, anxiety, and depression can increase back pain. So, managing your mood with a regular yoga practice may be another key to reducing back pain.

But, don’t expect results overnight.  Yoga is considered a “practice”; and just like anything else, you have to practice regularly to see progress! Here are a few important lessons from yoga that are especially important for those who have experienced any form of pain:
  • Listen to your body & know when to stop.
  • Participate without judgment and competition; this helps keep you from overdoing it.
  • Let go of expectations and accept where you are on that particular day.
  • Try to maintain a calm, steady breath, which you can’t do if you’ve pushed beyond your comfortable limits.
  • Be present in the moment and let go of worries, anxiety, or distracting thoughts.
  • Have fun – it’s one of the best stress (and pain) relievers around.