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4 Lifestyle Changes to Support Weight Management

Updated: Jun 27

By Rena Justine:

America struggles with weight management. Healthline reports that 30.7% of adults in the country are overweight, while 42% are considered obese. Together, that's over two-thirds of all adults in the U.S. This rising prevalence is considered an epidemic because excess weight can do more than just affect your quality of life (such as how easily you sleep and move around); health experts also officially recognize weight conditions as contributing to numerous chronic diseases. 


Though only a few decimal points away from each other on the BMI scale (those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 and above signals obesity), there's a pronounced health difference between overweight and obese individuals. Being overweight comes with greater risks of developing heart disease and diabetes, and being obesity can also lead to osteoarthritis, diseases of the liver and gallbladder, and even certain kinds of cancer. 


If you're looking to better manage your weight, it's vital to seek medical advice. Health professionals can assess your unique situation and recommend scientifically backed weight-loss solutions, which may include prescription medications. They can also suggest simple lifestyle changes that can more effectively boost your efforts and give you longer-lasting results.


Here are four such changes to consider: 


1) Cut Out Processed Foods


Though it's true that your body burns more fat if you consume fewer calories than it needs to function, calorie deficits are just one part of weight management. Fad diets like juice cleanses don't work because they restrict the quality and quantity of the nutrients you consume, further risking your health. Instead of depriving yourself, change what you eat. The best way to do that is by cutting out processed foods such as pastries, cured meats, and canned goods. These contain things like saturated fats and added sugars, making them rich in calories but poor in nutrients. Fructose alone is considered one of the major contributing factors to obesity because it alters your metabolism and makes you crave even more processed foods, leading to weight gain. 


To pull off this pivotal lifestyle change, focus on eating fresh, unprocessed, and nutrient-rich foods. Get complex carbohydrates from whole grains to benefit from longer-lasting energy boosts. Consume more fruits and vegetables, and you'll naturally control your appetite. Prioritize getting your protein from fish, lean meat, and nuts for better metabolism and muscle-building. Depending on how you cook them, these can taste as good as or even better than their processed counterparts—so be sure to take advantage of seasonings and make universal favorites like pizza fresh at home.  



2) Establish a Fitness Habit


Exercise is vital for boosting weight management because it improves your metabolism, increasing the calorie deficits a nutritious diet provides. Of course, doing it regularly is easier said than done. Working out can often feel like a chore, especially if you're starting at a lower fitness level. To make the process easier, try to establish a fitness habit gradually. 


It takes around 66 days to create a habit and change your lifestyle. To build the discipline you need, set smaller, more achievable goals instead of getting overwhelmed by your long-term objectives. Ideally, your end goal should be to hit the recommended amount of exercise—which the CDC establishes is two and a half hours per week. Break this goal up into more manageable chunks. For example, get yourself used to working out regularly by exercising for five minutes a day. You can then move to doing routines three times a week for increasingly longer periods over time. Finding activities you enjoy—whether it be dancing, yoga, or simply biking around your neighborhood—can also make it more enticing to stick to your plans and benefit from regular exercise in the long run. 



3) Improve Your Sleep Hygiene


Though it may seem unlikely, just sleeping better is a lifestyle change that boasts plenty of weight-management benefits. Simply increasing the amount of shuteye you get from six to eight hours means you're asleep for longer, are less likely to eat, and, thus, reduce the number of calories you consume. There are some chemical reasons to back that up. The Sleep Foundation finds that sleep deprivation both worsens your metabolism and imbalances the amount of ghrelin and leptin in the body. These hormones are responsible for controlling your appetite, so if you have poor sleep hygiene, you're more likely to wake up hungrier and with stronger cravings for calorie- and carbohydrate-rich foods. 


Establishing a nighttime routine is the first thing you can do to achieve better sleep quality. Consistently accomplishing tasks like skincare, chores, or even reading a book can help your brain link them to sleep, so you naturally feel tired right before bedtime. Meanwhile, the blue light from the sun affects sleep patterns, which is why we feel sleepier at night. It's also emitted by artificial sources such as LED bulbs and digital screens. That means putting your gadgets away at least 30 minutes before bed and investing in things like blackout curtains can help you get the rest you need to boost your weight-management efforts. 


4) Build a Support System


Though you may be doing what you can to better manage your weight, you might also unfortunately still experience weight stigma in the process. You may face discrimination at school, work, the gym, and even in health-care facilities, which can discourage you from continuing your efforts. That's why the last major lifestyle change you need to make should be one that safeguards your mental health and well-being. The best way to do that is by building a support system. 


Friends and family are a great first place to turn to for support. However, you can go even further by looking to people who can directly relate to what you're going through. Joining a weight loss support group means you can glean insights, advice, and strength from people also struggling with being overweight or obese. Studies even find that these groups can boost your weight-management efforts in the long run and help the results last longer. 


 

Rena Justine

Rena Justine is a teaching consultant who provides guidance to schools across the country. Through her online articles, she hopes to impart her 10 years of experience to help others. She spends most of her free time in the park with her husband and three children.

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