The story on a local newscast caught my attention immediately: the latest research by Gallup shows America’s obesity rate at 27.1 percent, the highest it’s ever been. And when the newscaster went on to say Toledo ranks 7th on Forbes’ list of America’s fattest cities with an obesity rate of 34.2 percent, I had to raise my hand. Guilty! Now, you probably wouldn’t look at me and think I’m obese, but I am carrying around about 15 pounds too many, and my body mass index definitely puts me in the overweight category, a place I do NOT want to be.
For about a year I’ve been putting off doing something about my situation because, quite frankly, when I think of everything I have to do to lose the weight and get healthier, it just seems a little overwhelming. But in honor of National Nutrition Month, I have decided to take five small steps to jump-start my weight-loss and put me on the path to better health:
Eat a fresh piece of produce with every meal. I’m going to sneak some blueberries in for breakfast, and eat a nectarine in place of dessert for lunch. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables which provide lots of fiber and nutrients with relatively few calories. Fruits and vegetables also help fill you up and satisfy your sweet tooth, keeping you away from the dessert table!
Increase whole grains and greens in my diet. The last time I had my cholesterol checked, it was too high and the doctor told me one easy way to try to lower it is to eat a bowl of whole grain cereal (Cheerios, for example) or oatmeal every day. I am committed to this, and in fact often have my cereal for dinner! I am also working more greens into my diet, adding spinach and kale to scrambled eggs and other recipes. An added bonus: Greens are great for cancer prevention! (Here are more cancer-preventing foods.)
Pre-pack snacks. This is a biggie for me. I’ll start with good intentions to eat a couple of chips, or a cookie or two if I need a little munchie, but before I know it, I’ve eaten the whole bag! So now, I am pre-packing snacks in little baggies that I can just grab and eat. Baby carrots, grapes, pretzel chips and other snacks are easy to take and eat on the go. I’m hoping this will prevent me from going through the drive-thru and snacking on fries.
Drink more water. This is also a big one for me. I HATE water. I would rather drink anything else. But I have discovered that if I buy the sparkling waters like San Pellegrino or Perrier, I love it. The bubbles make it much more fun for me to drink. I also now keep pitchers of what I call “spa-water” in my fridge infused with cucumber-mint, lemon-lime, or orange. It is so refreshing to drink a glass of ice-cold naturally-flavored water. If you’re not a big water drinker, consider trying those tactics. Drinking eight ounces of water before a meal can help fill you up so you don’t eat as much, and helps with digestion.
Get more sleep. Researchers are just discovering the importance of sleep, and have found a definite link between sleep and health issues like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Experts say seven to eight hours of sleep each night can make a positive impact on your health and helps reduce stress. I’m all in on this one. Check out this infographic on ten tips for better sleep.
These are just five small steps I am trying for the next two months to jump-start my health improvement plan. Exercise will work its way in there as well, but I’m trying not to pressure myself too much with a strict plan and just ease into developing better habits. What are your secrets for good health? Share them with me below. By sharing what works, we can help each other feel a little less overwhelmed and a little better about being on a path to good health.
Chrys Peterson is a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.