Start by cutting your calories with healthy foods. You can lose about one pound per week by reducing your calorie intake by 500 calories per day. To cut calories, reduce your portion sizes and choose lower-calorie foods. For example, nonfat milk has about 25 percent fewer calories than 2 percent milk. To help yourself feel full, eat plenty of high-fiber whole grains, fruits and vegetables. You also can reduce calorie intake by drinking more water in place of sugary sodas.
Next, make exercise a part of your life. You can gain the greatest benefit by doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week. This includes activities such as walking, biking, jogging or swimming. Also include some form of anaerobic exercise, such as lifting weights, at least two to three times a week. To become more physically fit without straining your body, start at a slower pace.
Choose activities that you enjoy and that you will be more likely to continue doing. Vary your routine from day to day to avoid becoming bored and to exercise different muscle groups. Even short bouts of activity benefit your health, so do yard work or find other reasons to move. An exercise program does not necessarily mean joining a gym: One study found that women who kept exercise equipment at home were more likely to maintain an exercise routine than those who did not.
Regular exercise helps you improve your health beyond controlling your weight. Daily physical activity strengthens your heart muscle; lowers your blood pressure; raises good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL); enhances blood flow and increases your heart’s working capacity. Exercise also reduces body fat, which can help prevent or control type 2 diabetes. As another benefit, regular exercise can help prevent back pain by increasing endurance and muscle strength and by improving posture and flexibility.
Finally, get enough sleep. We need an average of 7.5 hours of sleep per night. A number of studies have found a connection between weight gain and lack of sleep. Sleeping too little actually increases your appetite and lowers your metabolism, so you are less able to burn calories.
When you are deprived of sleep and running on low energy, you are more likely to try to boost your energy with a candy bar or bag of chips. While you might fight off sleepiness, the longer-term result will be weight gain and further lack of sleep.
Being sleep deprived also makes the body produce more of the hormone ghrelin, which tells you to eat, and less of the hormone leptin, which tells you to stop eating. This combination leads to weight gain.
Establish these habits if you have trouble getting to sleep:
• Establish a regular cycle of sleeping and waking by going to bed and rising at the same times every day, even on weekends.
• Avoid physical activity for the three hours before bedtime.
• If you take naps, do so before 3 p.m. and limit the nap to less than one hour.
• Refrain from caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for six to eight hours before sleep.
• Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, listen to soft music or read for 30 minutes.
With these three steps you can instill habits that will benefit your physical and mental well-being all year long. Northern Nevada Medical Group physicians can offer advice and treatment to help you live a more healthy life. To make an appointment, call 352-5300.
Louis Delionback, MD, is a family medicine physician with the Northern Nevada Medical Group. Dr. Delionback has been in private practice in the Sparks area for the past 26 years. He graduated from the University of Alabama, School of Medicine. He did his family medicine residency through Texas Tech University. He is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. Dr. Delionback’s office is located in the Vista Terrace Medical Building at 2345 E. Prater Way, Suite 201, in Sparks. He is accepting new patients and takes most of the area’s major insurance, including Medicare. Call 352-5300.