Guest Column: 5 things to remember on your weight loss journey
By Emily Schmidt
Albert Lea resident Emily Schmidt is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She enjoys writing, cooking and spending time with her son and family.
Are you working on losing weight? Whether you’re struggling with healthy lifestyle changes or it has been smooth sailing for you, here are some tips to keep in mind as you’re working on decreasing your body weight. Remember there is such a thing as unhealthy weight loss, and although making sure you’re still nourishing your body can be a struggle, it’s very important in preventing weight re-gain and ensuring optimal health in the long run.
1. Don’t forget your fiber. Foods that are high in fiber can be beneficial for weight loss for multiple reasons. They promote satiety (meaning you can feel full longer), aid in digestion and keep you regular and can even give a boost to your metabolism. Fiber, the roughage of plant foods, does not contain calories, and your body actually burns more calories slightly while digesting fiber. To increase your intake of this nutrient, make sure you’re getting a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds.
2. Water is still ultimately your best beverage. There is a lot of debate on beverages when it comes to health and weight loss. When it comes down to it, however, nothing beats water. Every single cell in your body must have adequate water to function best at all times. Most of the time you can skip the fancy sports drinks (unless you’re exercising hard for at least an hour and won’t be replenishing with water and food immediately), and don’t even think about hydrating with soda, sweet tea, lemonade or any other sugary beverages; they are very poor sources for true hydration. If you’re not a huge fan of water, figure out how you can get yourself to drink it — make sure it’s ice cold, add or infuse with flavor (lemon, lime, berries, cucumber, mint or any other fruits, veggies or herbs), and carry a water bottle around with you. Avoiding drinking water is definitely not an option.
3. There is no ideal meal schedule — what works for you and matches your hunger/satiety levels is best (within reason). It’s not true that everyone must eat “small, frequent meals up to six times per day” to lose weight. Truly, the best meal schedule is what works for you, and it should be consistent on a regular basis. For some people, this may be just three balanced meals daily; for others, it might mean two meals and three snacks. However, avoid going so long without eating that you end up starving and overeating later on. Match eating to your hunger levels — on a scale from 1 to 10, if 1 is uncomfortably full and 10 is starving, try to stay within the 4 to 7 range. Stop eating before you become uncomfortable or very full, and don’t allow yourself to get so hungry that you overeat or binge to compensate.
4. Stay moving, no matter what. Sometimes there are seemingly endless barriers to increasing physical activity. However, even if you have multiple obstacles — pain, disability, time, motivation and so on — commit to yourself to anything that will increase your body’s movement. From dancing in the living room to parking farther away at stores, or from using small hand weights or a resistance band while watching TV to walking in place in your kitchen, it’s very important that you increase activity in some way. Ideally 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is the minimum, but there is nothing wrong with starting small and working your way up to that as your endurance improves.
5. Making mistakes or less healthy choices does not define your self-worth or ability to lose weight. You will likely not be perfect on your weight loss journey. Accept that it’s OK to have slip-ups, and that if you do stray from your goals, it does not mean you’re a bad person. It’s too easy in our society to associate messing up eating healthy with being a failure, but that’s far from true. Look at each mistake as a learning experience and ask yourself how — without beating yourself up — you can handle things differently in the future. In fact, it’s more strange to not have slip-ups!
If you need additional help with weight loss or feel stuck, reach out to your primary care provider and ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. Sometimes it takes a little strategizing and planning with a health care professional to get on the right track, and that’s OK too!