Did you know that the average American gains 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per year after age 25? Do the math. That’s about 10-15 pounds per decade.
Looks aside, the real problem is the rising risk to your health. Things like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many more ailments are directly linked to obesity. Even though this may seem like depressing information, it’s really not. All we have to do is flip it on its head to realize the exciting potential in this equation.
If obesity equals disease, then maintaining a normal weight equals good health! That’s something to get excited about and here’s why: You have the power to control your weight! The average weight gain occurs to people who are not paying attention. If you start paying attention and taking small action steps to establish good habits, you will be able to maintain a healthy weight for your entire life! And most likely it will be a healthy long life too!
The Top 5 Weight Gain Traps and How to Avoid Them!
1. Not Moving Your Body Enough. How does this happen? Easy. It’s called desk job, long work hours, no breaks, TV watching, automobiles, and all the other trappings of modern life that keep us from moving our bodies like were designed to do.
The Solution: The simplest and most effective thing you can do is make a commitment to exercise 30 minutes every day, rain or shine (or snow!). Anything that will get your body moving and your heart rate elevated will do the trick. Walking, running, biking, swimming, and even dancing are great examples. Pick something you enjoy. Remember to check with your doctor whenever starting a new exercise regimen.
2. Not Enough Sleep. There have been several studies recently that point to the serious health risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation, including weight gain! We work too many hours, we engage in too many activities, and how do we fit it all in? We just sleep less. If you think you can handle being tired, think again! Your body is paying a greater price than just feeling like a zombie. Not getting enough sleep will cause your body to pack on weight.
The Solution: Just like exercise, make sleep a top priority in your life. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you feel good upon waking that’s the right amount for you. If you are dragging through the day you probably need a little more. Some tactics to help make this work:
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine after 2pm as caffeine remains active in your system for 9 hours.
- Try to cut back on work time. By shaving 30 minutes per day you could be adding that to your sleep time instead.
- Cut out unnecessary obligations. Only attend events and activities that you really enjoy.
- Establish a bedtime ritual. 30-60 minutes before sleep time each night do things that help you wind down such as reading, meditating, listening to music, etc. Avoid TV during this time if you can because TV is a stimulant.
3. A Few Too Many Calories. This is where the pounds creep up on us. You don’t have to be pigging out on a daily basis for this too happen. Suppose you eat 100 extra calories per day than what your body burns. If you do this for 35 days straight, you will have gained one pound. Unfortunately, over eating by 100 calories per day is an easy thing to do. So, are we doomed to counting calories? No!
The Solution: Here are a few strategies that will help you eat right amount of calories on average which is all you need to do to maintain a healthy weight:
- Commit to making healthy food choices as often as possible. Fruit should be your snack of choice 90% of the time. Fruit smoothies are excellent for breakfast. At lunch and dinner be sure to include twice as many veggies as the main course. Learn to love your fruits and veggies. They equal pure life!
- Don’t let yourself get too hungry. When you do, that’s when overeating and poor food choices occur.
- When eating high fat or rich foods, be sure to eat slowly.
- Eat only until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Eating slowly will help ensure that you can hear your body’s satiation signals.
- Drink water or lemon water instead of juices and sodas.
- Don’t underestimate this change. It takes real mental commitment, but you will be amazed at how the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less you will crave junk food.
4. Chronic Stress. Stress is part of life, but too much stress and poor reactions to stress are what cause problems. Chronic stress causes excess production of a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is designed to boost energy levels during times of need, but when there is too much it causes the body to gain weight. The good news is that you can control your level of stress. Here’s how.
The Solution: To lower stress we need calm rather than panic to be our natural reaction to stress. Here are some great strategies that will produce consistent feelings of well-being!
- Medidate each day for 10-20 minutes. Simply focus on your breathing, a simple word, or gradual muscle relaxation.
- Make conscious choices when stress arrives. Examine your habitual reactions to your most common stressors. Make a plan for reacting in a more calm manner in the future. Practice makes habit. Don’t expect perfection immediately. Be kind to yourself.
- Music. Sing, play, dance or simple enjoy listening to some music every day. It’s natures wonder drug for happiness. Take your daily dose.
- Take breaks. During the day take multiple 5 minute breaks to walk away from what you are working on. Close your eyes, relax, stretch, or take a walk around the block. These little breaks will keep tension from building up during the day.
- Listen to positive self-help tapes to remind you to make positive choices when stress arises.
5. Loss of Muscle Mass. As we age, we gradually lose muscle mass over the years. This makes weight gain easier because when you lose muscle mass, your metabolism declines, meaning you need less calories per day. So eating the same as last year will cause weight gain this year. That is unless you do something about it.
The Solution: It’s simple. Build up your muscles! Does this mean you have to become a body builder? No. But in order to fight the effects of aging, you should do muscle bearing workouts at least 2 times per week. Here are a few ideas:
- Weight Lifting. Check out “The 12 Second Sequence” by Jorge Cruise for a do-it-yourself at-home workout schedule that can fit into two 30-minute workouts.
- Yoga. Strenuous yoga as featured in videos by Shiva Rea or Baron Baptise are a great way to build muscle while also gaining many other benefits such as balance, flexibility, and sense of calm.
- Isometric weight bearing exercises. These exercises build muscles using only the resistance of your own muscles and body weight. A classic in this genre is “The Miracle 7” by John E. Peterson and Wedie Pett.
The Bottom Line
Weight gain is not inevitable. If you want a healthy body for the rest of your life, well into your golden years, follow these steps. The best advice I can give you is to go slow. Work on one step each week. Establish the habit and then build on that success with another healthy habit the next week. If you have a day where you fall off the program, don’t beat yourself up. Just start again tomorrow. Make your health your #1 priority. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey!
How do you maintain your weight? All comments big and small are very welcomed!