In the United States, and in many places around the world, obesity rates are on the rise. It’s become increasingly evident in recent years that a lifestyle of convenience foods and sedentary behavior, often adopted in the US, is largely to blame.
Everywhere you look, it seems there is a McDonald’s or other fast-food joint conveniently waiting to serve you a quick and hassle-free lunch on the go. Many of the activities we do for work and recreation involve sitting for extended periods of time. All of this is making us fat.
So, how can you avoid the “fat trap” that this type of lifestyle encourages? As difficult as it may seem, don’t get sucked in!
Here are 13 ways to start changing your habits for the better. These tips will help you decrease your waistline and increase your overall health.
Don’t buy into processed foods
As convenient as they are, processed foods are a health nightmare. It’s not just fast food either — all of those processed meats, salad dressings, sauces and baking mixes (to name just a few) are teeming with color and flavor chemicals, sugars, unhealthy oils and other additives. Always check the product labels.
All of these additives and processing methods are not natural to the body, and they may throw your metabolism out of whack. Specifically, sugar is directly fueling your body’s production of fat.
Just say no to soda
Of all the things you could be drinking, soda is by far the worst. Yet, many people are addicted — and it’s an addiction that must be broken if you want to stay slim.
Not only does soda contain heaps of sugar, or high-fructose corn syrup (sugar’s liver-destroying artificial cousin), it also contains phosphoric acid, which may block the body’s absorption of certain nutrients. Diet soda is no better.
Choose grass-fed meat and dairy
If you eat meat and dairy, choose organic, grass-fed varieties. They may cost a bit more, but they’re worth it. Why? Aside from the horrendous treatment that conventionally raised animals receive, these animals are often pumped full of growth hormones, and are often given GMO feeds (not a natural diet).
For the sake of your overall health, choose grass-fed meat and dairy in moderation, and skip the conventional stuff altogether.
Cook healthy meals in bulk
One of the biggest reasons that people turn to fast-food options and processed foods is because time is something we all need more of. Often there isn’t time to cook at home, and people need a quick meal on the go. The solution is to set aside a few hours one day a week to do some bulk cooking and meal prep.
Make a shopping list, get your healthy ingredients and spend a few hours cooking meals that will last you all week. Then portion the meals, refrigerate or freeze (depending on the food in question) and you’re ready to grab a quick snack or lunch whenever you need one.
If you’re up for making a whole bunch of food at once, you can even have a major bulk cooking day once every two weeks, or once a month, and freeze meals to last you for a long time. Bonus: you’ll save money, too!
Focus on food quality, not quantity
When trying to lose weight, many people get trapped in the calorie-counting hamster wheel, which can just lead to frustration and diet “cheating.” Plus, counting calories doesn’t take into account the quality of the calories consumed.
If you stick to eating fresh, whole, nutritious foods, and fill your plate primarily with veggies, fruits and healthy proteins, you won’t need to worry about how many calories you are eating. The quality of a calorie matters much more.
Keep sugar out of your tea and coffee
Sugar is addictive and is strongly linked to weight gain — not to mention a higher risk of many chronic illnesses. One of the places that people use sugar the most is in morning beverages.
If you like your coffee or tea on the sweet side, try organic coconut crystals or a dab of raw honey instead.
Drink more water
If you feel hungry in the middle of the day — even though you’ve had a healthy meal — try drinking a glass of water before you turn to a snack. Often, thirst is confused for hunger, so when you get the urge to eat, always try drinking some water first.
Besides, drinking eight to 10 glasses of water per day helps keep all of your body’s systems running, including your metabolism.
Double up on the greens
When planning a menu, it’s not a bad idea to double the amount of greens. Dark, leafy greens are incredibly healthy, and they can fill you up while being incredibly light.
Try a salad with spinach, kale, Swiss chard and dandelion greens, with a lean protein of your choice, and some homemade vinaigrette. Yum!
Learn some new veggie recipes
When eating healthy, and watching your weight, your meal should revolve around veggies. Search the Web for some delicious recipes involving your favorites, or invest in a few new cookbooks. The more veggies you put on your plate, the better. These can replace the pasta, rice or other grain components of a meal, as they’re full of healthy carbs.
Skip the sandwich bread
While there’s nothing wrong with homemade, gluten-free sandwich bread, for a lighter lunch, skip the bread altogether. Try making sandwiches or burgers with portobello mushroom caps instead of buns, or go for some tasty kale wraps.
A sedentary lifestyle is a major factor in weight gain. One simple way to get more exercise is to walk more. If you live within reasonable distance, run your errands by foot instead of driving. Take a walk, or jog, through the park. If you must drive, get more exercise by parking your car far from your destination — every step counts!
All of those steps add up. Whenever possible, walk at a brisk pace for even more benefits.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator
If your home or office is a few floors up, take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Not only will you get some walking time in, it’s also a great strength exercise for your legs. It sure beats standing still in an elevator — the more you move, the better.
Make time to unwind
While this may seem counterintuitive, chronic stress has actually been linked to weight gain. Many of us lead super busy lifestyles, and do not get nearly enough “downtime.” A little R&R should be a priority on your calendar.
During your scheduled downtime, spend time doing what you love, anything that makes you happy and stress-free. Yoga and meditation are also great stress-relieving activities.
What other lifestyle habits help you eat right and stay in shape? Please let us know!
Tanya is a writer at The Alternative Daily with a passion for meditation, music, poetry, and overall creative and active living. She has a special interest in exploring traditional Eastern remedies and superfoods from around the globe, and enjoys spending time immersed in nature.