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This year, strong is the new skinny

January 1, 2018

Body weight is merely your relationship to gravity. It does not define you, nor does it encompass you as a person. This year, focus on being strong over being skinny.

While maintaining a healthy weight is important, and many of us have a few extra pounds to spare, it is more important to focus on weight maintenance than weight loss.

Let's review some of the best ways to maintain your weight:

  • Stop eating when full, which is easier said than done. Most adults have difficulty assessing whether they are full or still hungry. I like to utilize a "partial stop." I stop eating when I think I am full. It's that feeling in my gut when there is some ambiguity as to whether I am full. This becomes easier to assess when I’m not distracted by an electronic device. In short, turning off electronic devices during meal times reduces the number of calories taken in while eating mindlessly.
  • Eat three meals per day with one to two snacks, as long as meals are less than four to six hours apart. Having smaller, more frequent meals can boost metabolic rate by providing the body with a more consistent intake of fuel. It also serves to provide adequate calories, which can be another roadblock regarding weight maintenance. If you are getting too few calories, for instance less than 1,200 calories per day, then you are more likely to gain weight.
  • When possible, slow down your meals. Using utensils, drinking water in between bites, chewing 20 to 30 times per bite, and not taking another bite until you have swallowed are a few ways to increase the duration of the meal. Research indicates that fewer calories are taken in when meals are longer in duration. This may seem counterintuitive, but when eating with your hands and engaging in a quick meal that you wolf down, you are more likely to eat beyond your level of fullness.
  • To keep a food log, you can go to www.myfitnesspal.com or get the app for your smartphone. A food log is a data set that can help you troubleshoot weight loss and weight gain trends. It can also point to possible reasons for them. If you are keeping a food log, consider aiming for 45 percent of your calories from carbohydrates (mostly whole grains), 20 percent from protein (from lean sources), and 35 percent from fat (mostly from unsaturated sources). If you are not keeping a food log, then consider cutting your carbohydrate portions in half and increasing lean protein and vegetable portions at mealtimes. Research indicates large portions of carbs are greater contributors to obesity than fats. Reduce the carbs to burn the fat.
  • Vary your activities, and choose activities that you enjoy. While getting daily activity is important, your body will reap more benefits from a variety, via increased metabolic rate, reduction in boredom and reduction in injury risk. Choosing something you enjoy, such as dancing, kickboxing, swimming or hiking, increases the likelihood of regular activity. Choose something for both indoors and outdoors, to plan for changes in season. If you are trying to figure out what you might enjoy, start by asking yourself what you liked to do when you were younger. Are you still doing this? Why or why not? It's also not a bad idea to try several different types of exercise to see what might click for you.
  • Choose more moderately intense activities. Exercise intensity matters, because the longer you are able to sustain an activity, the more likely your body is going to use body fat as a fuel source. For instance, a four- to five-mile hike that takes you 60 to 90 minutes will burn more body fat than sprinting on a treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes. The sprint will likely use your body's glycogen stores, the carbohydrates in your body for short-term energy, as they are easier to tap into when the body demands energy more quickly. Moderately intense activity is defined as being able to sustain three- to five-word sentences, also called the talk test, during the activity.

In conclusion, your weight is not a reflection of you or your overall health. Think of small changes you can make to your health routine. These changes can have a big impact on body composition, blood pressure, blood sugar and lipid levels, which are objective indicators of wellness. After all, your health is the best gift of all!

Bryan Drain, a medical nutrition therapist, works with patients at Beebe Healthcare. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern University, and a bachelor of nutrition degree and postgraduate certificate in dietetics from Idaho State University. Drain is also a member of the Delaware Air National Guard, specializing in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons response. For more nutrition information, go to www.beebehealthcare.org/blog-posts.

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