Small Changes, Big Difference

Carrying around excess weight increases your chances of diabetes, stroke, joint disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Upper body fat puts people at higher risk. And, too much fat around the abdomen significantly increases the risk of heart disease. This information is nothing new. The dilemma, of course, is that while many people want to lose weight, few are successful at it, especially for the long term. But, medical professionals who specialize in weight issues say that losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of disease, even if you remain overweight. Small losses can make a big difference to your health. The New England Journal of Medicine research found that obese participants who lost just 7 percent of their body weight reduced their chances of developing Type-II diabetes by 58 percent. Other studies show that losses of 5 to 10 percent reduce blood pressure.

What’s the best way to lose those kilos and maintain your weight? Self-monitoring, say the experts. Monitor your weight, your intake, your exercise. Research shows that the weeks that you self-monitor are the weeks you are most likely to lose weight.

To begin with, look at your physical activity as exercise is the single best predictor of long-term weight control. A sedentary lifestyle is a lifestyle that creates problems. The trick is to find a routine that you can live with and enjoy. Some people find that they need a regimen – the same activity at the same time of day. Others need variety – different activities at different times of the day.

You don’t need to do aerobics classes or hit the gym five times a week. Small changes over time make a difference, such as adding a 10-minute walk to your day, or walking up one flight of stairs and then taking the elevator, instead of getting on it on the ground floor. Little chunks of physical activity – I’m talking about minutes a day – that can be integrated easily into your busy life. The goal is simple: You need to get more than you do now; and the more you get, the better off you’ll be.

Also, monitor your weight. Weigh yourself at least once a month so you’re not surprised by a 5 kilo gain in one year. If you do gain weight or regain weight you’ve lost, take action quickly. Intervene at a one-to-two kilo weight gain; don’t let it get to 5, 8 or 10 kilos. The sooner you take action, the better shape you will be in.

As for food intake, you can’t go wrong by starting with the recommended five to six servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking of specific foods as either “good” or “bad.” It’s often better to put healthy foods into your diet than focus on getting junk food out. If you tell yourself that you may never, ever, for the rest of your life have whatever your favourite food is, you may end up preoccupied with it and experience cravings, which could lead to overeating.

Another pitfall is letting yourself get too hungry. Too many hours between meals will make you ravenous and you may find it difficult to control your intake. Instead, eat small snacks every 2-3 hours to keep your hunger in control.

Overall, keep in mind that small changes make a big difference.  If every day you take in just 100 calories more than you burn – the equivalent of a small can of Pepsi or Coke – over a year you will be the owner of about 5 kilos of new body fat.

The good news is that this works in the opposite direction as well – by burning 100 calories more than you take in each day, perhaps by walking 20 minutes more, you could easily lose those extra 5 kilos in a year!


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