A variety of factors affect maintaining a healthy weight, including sleep
People will sometimes approach Madison Suber, Health Educator in the Wellness Center at St. Joseph’s/Candler, with a—shall we say—ambitious goal.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks,’” she says. “I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I want to help people set realistic goals. Even if you came close to losing that much weight that fast, it’s not maintainable.”
The smart way to lose weight, and maintain your goal weight once it’s reached, is to think in terms of a lifestyle change.
“We want this to be a routine,” Suber says. “So we need to attack this in the proper way.”
The importance of exercise is obvious, but not everyone realizes what kinds of exercise they should do when.
“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes of cardio, or aerobic exercise, most days of the week,” Suber says. “For me personally, most means five.”
Cardio includes activities like running or jogging, cycling, swimming, and walking. Suber encourages people to try a variety of these exercises.
“Variety is good for two reasons,” she says. “You want to keep your body and muscles guessing. But also, you don’t want to get bored. I tell people, ‘If you don’t like to run, don’t make yourself run.’ But find something that you are going to do.”
A second factor in exercise that people can’t ignore is resistance training (sometimes referred to as strength training). This type of exercise includes lifting weights or using your own body weight to increase muscle mass.
“Cardio alone won’t do it,” Suber says. “You have to do resistance training as well, about 2-3 times a week. Because the more muscle you have, the more calories you are burning. Muscles burn more calories than fat at rest.”
Calories are where it counts, according to Suber.
“Weight loss is about calories in, calories out,” she says. “People do realize the importance of diet, but it can often be the most challenging part.”
Fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins provide vitamins, minerals, and other fuel for your body to operate, and feel, as best as it possibly can. Healthy fats such as those found in almonds, avocados, and plant oils should also be a part of your diet.
Processed food such as white pasta is often loaded with empty calories, putting you at a disadvantage in the calories in, calories out equation. This is even more true with baked goods and sodas, which have little to no nutritional value and often have added sugar (even more empty calories).
Comfort food—usually high in calories and unhealthy fats—is often what people crave when they are stressed out. This is an overlapping benefit of exercise. Since working out can help reduce stress, it can help those who struggle with stress-eating to make smarter choices.
Another factor that affects your weight, which may be a surprise to some, is sleep.
“Sleep is a component that many people probably don’t think of, or don’t see its importance,” Suber says. “There are a variety of reasons why a person might not be getting enough sleep. But whatever the reason, it needs to be addressed because less than six hours a night is too little.”
Along with fatigue and mental fogginess, lack of sleep is correlated with weight gain.
“Sleep affects hormones that regulate your appetite,” Suber explains. “People who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more high-calorie foods. Too little sleep has also been linked to weight gain because it can lead to decreased calorie burning and increased fat storage.”
People struggling with fatigue may tend to be less active as well, affecting their exercise routine.
“When you sleep, everything is re-setting,” Suber says. “If you don’t let your body do that, your day is already starting off all wrong.”
Plan Your Attack
Suber also stresses the importance of hydration throughout the day.
“All the body systems work best when you’re hydrated,” she says. “And sometimes if you think you’re hungry, you might actually be thirsty. By the way, sweet teas or Cokes are not going to hydrate you.”
Hydration, variety of exercise (cardio and resistance), diet, and sleep—it may seem like the balance of all of these factors might take up a good part of your life. But Suber says that is part of the point.
“We can help you plan your attack for a lifestyle change,” Suber says. “Sometimes people lose the weight, but without those changes it comes back. We don’t want to see people go through that loop. To live a longer and healthier life, there is no quick fix.”
To learn more about the classes or individualized programs at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Wellness Center, call 912-819-8800 or visit us here.