Sponsored by Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Warmer days are here, and as we shed our winter clothes for shorts and swimsuits, many of us would like to shed a few pounds, too. But slimming down for summer doesn’t mean we have to jump on board with the latest fad diets and spend all our free time at the gym. Real change comes from taking small steps—slight shifts in your perspective and behaviors. How do we do that? We went straight to the world-renowned researchers for this: Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Here are their workable tips for making positive changes and creating lasting habits for a fit and healthy life.
First, give yourself grace. The last couple of years have been difficult, and most people have developed unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms. While it’s entirely understandable, it’s important to start making better choices and get your body back on track.
But suddenly outlawing all sweets, demanding long workouts and enforcing restrictions to achieve better health is a strategy that will only backfire and set you up for failure. Start with the simplest changes — ones that you can adopt and feel good about. Here, Pennington Biomedical shares 4 small shifts we can all make to get fit, look great, and live better.
1. FOOD IS FUEL
Shift your perspective and start a new relationship with food. It’s important to see food not as a reward, but as necessary as gas in the car. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet is one of the best changes you can make in your diet to not only boost your heath, but also help manage your weight. They supply tons of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber with very few calories. Start by adding one new veggie to your weekly grocery list, and eventually add a vegetable to your dinner five to seven days per week. Studies show that people with produce-rich diets are at lower risk of health problems like dementia, depression, digestive problems, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
2. STAY HYDRATED
Getting enough water every day is important for your health. Changing to water can cut down on calories as you drink less of other beverages. Giving up that morning mocha latte or sweet tea isn’t always easy, so Pennington Biomedical recommends replacing just one beverage per day with water, then expanding to water comprising half of your daily drinks and eventually most of them. Research has shown that drinking water before, during, and after a meal will help your body break down the food you eat more easily. This helps you digest food more effectively and get the most nutrients out of your meals. You can get some fluids through the foods that you eat—especially foods high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables.
3. GET MORE SHUT-EYE
Like eating and drinking, sleep is an essential function that your body needs to survive and function properly. This is why not getting enough sleep can be damaging to both your mental and physical health. Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of appetite hormones that make you feel hungry and full. Not getting enough of it is likely to make you feel hungrier and eat more throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can also increase cravings for less healthy foods, further making weight management more challenging. How do you get there? Pennington Biomedical recommends creating a bedtime routine for yourself and turning off your devices to eliminate the distraction.
4. MOVE MORE
It’s more than just tracking steps. Taking regular walks can improve your physical and mental health. Routines are easy to stick to when you have support. A walk with family or friends will get everyone away from the screens and allow some bonding time. Walking regularly can also help decrease the risk of developing conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, colon cancer and obesity. Pennington Biomedical recommends beginning with 20 minutes per day and gradually increasing it to 60 minutes per day.
Participate in a study! Pennington Biomedical can help to establish healthy, easy-to-maintain routines for you and your family. With research studies available for participants of all ages, you can get the tools and support you need to make meaningful changes and keep them for life. Visit pbrc.edu to stay informed on the latest health and nutrition findings from the researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.