The following was submitted by the American Heart Association:
It’s the holidays and for most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. With more than 60 percent of Americans being overweight and obese, weight loss is very often the most common New Year’s Resolution.
But unfortunately, people also very commonly fail at maintaining their healthy New Year’s Resolution. The American Heart Association offers simple lifestyle tips for jumpstarting your goals for the New Year and achieving optimum heart health.
Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity. The key to mindful eating is awareness. Just by paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.
When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:
- Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
- Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available.
- Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer.
- Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
- Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
- Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Use your smartphone and other electronic devices to help you manage your calorie intake. There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.
- Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. Ready to get started? Download this food diary.
The American Heart Association recommends exercising 30 minutes at least five days a week. Feeling crunched for time? Get your 30 minutes of activity in at work or at home.
- Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it,
- Work in the garden or mow the grass. Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
- Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving.
- Stand up while talking on the telephone.
- Walk the dog.
- Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance.
- Brainstorm project ideas with a coworker while taking a walk.
- Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone.
- Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.
- Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during lunch.
Finally, be specific about your goals and how you will achieve them. Vague, non-specific New Year’s resolutions are likely to fail. Simply put “joining a gym” doesn’t make you go. Make it a specific routine such as, “I will get up one hour early three days a week and go to the gym.”
If your goal is to reduce your cholesterol, make the changes specific. “I will use low-fat or non-fat sour cream, dressings and cheese. “I will eat tuna for lunch twice a week and cook fish for dinner once a week. I will eat whole grain bread. I will choose only lean red meat and eat it only on weekends.”
More than 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. Eating right and taking small steps such as walking for 30 minutes daily are two of the easiest ways you can achieve your goal to getting healthy. Learn more at www.heart.org/gettinghealthy.