7 Doable Strategies for Maintaining a Healthy Weight
"Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues."
- Thomas Fuller
Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Weight:
- Facilitates overall health
- Helps boost your self-esteem
- Makes you feel in control over an important area in your life
- Can add to overall feelings of happiness
- Makes you feel more sociable
- Encourages your children and those around you to develop healthful outlooks toward food
- Aids in prevention of heart disease, cancer and diabetes
Look Good, Feel Good
Maintaining a healthy weight is something that is important for optimal health as well as self-esteem. I am an almost 5’ 4” female and I weigh, at any given time, between 118 and 123 pounds (on a good day, I’m smack in the middle!). I know for myself, that staying in this range of weight makes me feel good about myself and helps me to be just that little bit happier in my life. I am by no means, skin and bones, but I feel I am a healthy individual. If you are one of those people that want to maintain a healthy weight, embracing just a few principles will bring you successfully toward this goal.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no magic bullet. In fact, it is really just a matter of mathematics and knowing your own rhythms. You do need some will power and constant conscientious living, but the rewards of feeling good can outweigh the luxuries of eating whatever you want, all the time.
Principles for Life
The most important principal you need to embrace is that this methodology of staying in a healthy weight range, is a mindset for life. It is something that can be sustained, but of course, it errs on the side of moderation. You can certainly go outside your “rules” for little splurges on special occasions and I encourage you to do so, in fact. But generally, living by the guidelines below, you can achieve a balance of looking good and feeling good, and being healthy.
Tip the Scales Toward Health
1. Cap Your Weight - Set a Magic Number and Stay Under It
I have perhaps been obsessed about weight for most of my life. I am just one of those people that have been plagued by this preoccupation, for whatever reason, from low self-esteem to just compulsive behavior. But as I aged, I have achieved a balance in my life. I know the number on the scale at which I begin to reel out of control. I try not to go over that number.
For me, 123 pounds is the weight I try not to exceed. It is based on my own frame and size, the point at which my clothes become too tight, and is just the top of my range of weights which I feel good at. Your number will be your personal own. What is the number you wish to stay under? It is your top-of-the-scale number. It should not be an unachievable goal. It is just a guideline to help you remain in check.
If one morning, you find that you exceed your number (weigh yourself every few days), you need to kick into a little more strict adherence of your principles, outlined below, until you settle again, into your range of a healthy weight for you. For a reference in helping you decide what your healthy weight range might be, consult this Height and Weight Chart at healthchecksystems.com.
Healthy Menu Suggestion:
Recipe: Chicken Parmesan and Caesar Salad
Coat 6 chicken breast halves with Dijon mustard (1/2 cup in total). Dredge coated breasts in mixture of 1 cup parmesan cheese and 2 cups Italian flavored breadcrumbs. Cook in baking dish at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Serve with a side of your favorite tomato sauce such as Prego Tomato Basil on pasta, such as spaghetti or even a few store-bought frozen cheese ravioli. Add a Dole packaged light Caesar salad mix to round out your meal. Don’t forget some tomatoes, red onion and black olives to amp your salad’s nutritive value!
This menu option is delicious, relatively low-fat and characterized by lots of color, signifying a variety of nutrients.
Calories are Important, But They Are Just One Part of the Equation
2. Don’t Overeat - Have a General Awareness of Caloric Intake
Hello? This seems to be an obvious statement, but really, it is critical principle and should be taken at word. People know that this is the key to weight loss, but they are always looking for some fancy strategy to get around this. This is a maintainable adherence for life. It is mathematical. You can only eat so many calories a day (roughly) if you want to stay in your range, given a certain amount of activity in your life. Remember, as adults, we are not growing. We do not need as much food as of course, our bodies would like to indulge in at times, or as we were able to eat when we were younger and still growing.
I personally, try to stay within 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day (see video below, Why Women Need At Least 1200 Calories a Day). This may not seem like that much. However, if you make your calories count; if you eat things that satisfy you, that satisfy health benefits, and if you allow yourself “treats,” you can live within the parameters of healthy eating. You have to want to maintain your weight though. You have to care more about the reward of feeling good and about yourself than feeding the impulse to taste pleasurable things all the time.
The number of calories recommended for an average size woman is 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day if you are not exercising, as suggested by Harvard Medical School in the article Daily Caloric Intake for Women at healthyeating.org, raising that depending on added activity. For a man, it is between 2,145 – 2,275 if you do not exercise, but depends greatly on size and other factors as further detailed in the article Guidelines for Men’s Daily Caloric Intake at Livestrong.com. This is really not a lot of food! Let that sink in. If you eat more than this number of calories (generally speaking; with a normal amount of personal activity), you will weigh more than your ideal number.
Don’t get angry with me! This is just the truth. If you exercise a lot, you can have more calories. If you get no exercise at all, you can only eat less if you want to maintain your weight. Of course, there are factors that come in at times that can throw off your numbers. They include, hormones, water weight retention, periods of anxiety and stress, being out in the cold for a long period of time (burns more calories), indulging at holidays, being sick, going out with friends, etc….. These timely incidents must be factored into the mix at times and, and you must realize that then, your magic number may be unobtainable for a few days at a time, but this is just something to accept. For every time you will be inexplicably (or explicably) over your number, you will be under it as well. Take these times in stride! And if you overeat for a few days, under-eat the next few to balance things out.
Quality of Eating over Quantity
3. Know When You Are Hungry and Know When You Can Do Without
Everyone is different, but we all have times that we are more hungry than others. Most health experts recommend eating 3 meals a day, as detailed in the article Why Is It Healthy to Eat Three Meals a Day?at Livestrong.com. If this works well for you and keeps you on an even keel as far as controlling hunger goes, great – it is very good for you. However, this does not always work for everyone. For me, I need to have a big dinner. It is my time of indulgence. I want to eat at dinner time and I love dinner foods. It is a reward for my long, hard-worked day. Breakfast and lunch… I have much more control over eating less at these times. Therefore, I go with it. I eat most of my calories at around 4pm; an early dinner. This works for me. I have an indulgent treat at night while watching TV. This is just what keeps me on track. My neighbor is opposite. She likes breakfast. So she goes with that as her main time of indulgence. WebMD in The Many Benefits of Breakfast, agrees that hers is a very healthful strategy for eating as well.
My point is that you need to find a schedule of eating that works for you best. Figure out when your body can go without and when your body (and mind) just want more. In honoring these rhythms, moderating your eating will be easier, as suggested in this Today Show video clip featuring nutrition expert Joy Bauer (pay special attention to the third question posed to her, on not wanting to eat in the morning and how it is ok to go with your body’s natural preferences for intake). It might be difficult at first to find a groove that works for you, but remember, you will repeat this schedule every day. So there will always be a next time to indulge, not that far away. This makes giving up pleasure-eating in the moment, much easier. Of course, allow yourself time periods to go off track – vacations, per se. This will again, make it easier to sustain this general mentality for life.
Snack Smart to Optimize Health and Keep Your Weight in Check
Fast and Nutritive Dinner:
Steak Salad with Oil and Vinegar Dressing and Potato Fries
Choose a relatively thin cut of steak (steak labeled for pan roasting is good) and coat it with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear both sides in a non-stick pan, cooking to desired doneness, or about 4 minutes per side.
Slice steak thinly against the grain and serve over a bed of greens with thinly sliced white onion and wedges of avocado. If you like blue cheese, just a little bit will provide a great boost of flavor. For dressing, mix vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. Dill optional.
Serve with potato fries made by wedging potatoes into thick slices, and tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crispy and fork tender. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan.
Voila! Bon Appetit!
4. Eat What You Love
Another strategy I use is that I always, eat what I love. I have healthy things I love, like turkey subs and I have indulgent food that I love, like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs and even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! If you are always eating things you love, you will be more in control and will have fewer cravings. Remember to eat healthfully, getting as many nutrients as you can when you eat, and also, indulge often with treats. I have a handful of m&m’s almost every day. It keeps me in check. Just get a variety of vitamins and minerals in there (refer again to the video below on calories and other useful information). If you eat pizza all day every day, take a multi-vitamin to supplement those things you don’t get. Cultivate a collection of healthy recipes, such as the chicken parmesan suggestion in the sidebar above, that you personally feel satisfied eating. Remember that sometimes, we have cravings because we are missing some nutrient. If you think your body is craving calcium, have some of your favorite frozen yogurt to satisfy your need. You know your body. Honor your instincts. Just try to combine health and satisfaction at all times. My article Healthy Portable Summer Snacks for the Whole Family provides some snack/small meal options that I find especially satisfying and easy to keep on hand. When preparing the foods you love, use healthful ingredients, like extra virgin olive oil as opposed to vegetable oil, and cut out unneeded fats and processed foods, adding in a variety of whole foods in a variety of different colors when you can.
Don't Forget to Indulge!
5. Make Little Indulgences a Part of Your Life
There are many things you can have instead of eating fatty foods that will satisfy your need for a snack. Mocha lattes with skim milk are not caloric, but satisfy your sweet tooth. Green tea, sipped slowly can be as much an indulgence as a piece of cake. It is the experience of consuming. A handful of your favorite chocolate or candy can give you a boost and if you have that daily, then you will never be starved for it or feel cheated out of anything (see The Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate: 3 Great Reasons to Add it to Your Diet). A Lipton cup-of-soup makes a great snack and is not caloric. Sometimes, you can make tortilla chips with melted cheese and salsa and even some chicken and make that snack your meal. Try a chocolate coconut Luna Bar for your breakfast or lunch. They are indulgent and nutrient-rich.
Make sure you get protein every day; but make it high quality. Cook chicken the way you love it, or have steak on your favorite kind of salad (see steak salad menu suggestion to the right). Make every eating experience optimum.
6. Don’t Drink Your Calories
If you have never cut out calories from drinking before now, you are lucky. You will be able to lose some weight quite easily by just instilling this principal into your eating. Drink seltzer! If you don’t like seltzer, cultivate a love for it! Put a lemon slice in it. Get flavored seltzer (0 calorie). Add a splash of cranberry juice! Learn that drinking your calories is pretty much a waste. An orange is significantly fewer calories than orange juice, which is a lot of sugar as well. Milk in coffee is fine, but as far as drinking a glass of it goes, you can get your dairy through foods instead for perhaps more satisfaction – such as by having cheese or even ice cream. Drinks that have no calories are tea, water, seltzer, coffee, diet soda (can be used as an occasional indulgence), etc. If you are going to consume alcohol, you need to figure these calories into your food intake for the day. But the good news is that wine is filled with nutrients and antioxidants (see my article Four Health Benefits of Red Wine), so if you go for that option, make it red and limit it to no more than two glasses except on rare occasions.
7. Exercise At Least Moderately
In order to maintain a healthy weight, you should be exercising at least three times a week, for 20 minutes. Of course, more exercise than this would be great, but at least this much is important for a healthy lifestyle. Even taking a brisk walk counts, as suggested in my article Incorporating Exercise into your Life: Why Walking for Fitness is a Great Solution. It is doable. I am not asking you to move mountains. Think walking meetings at work, taking the stairs, running around the house cleaning; all these things will help you to be active. If you sit at a desk all day, every day, you have to find a way to incorporate some extra activity into your life. When I became a stay-at-home mom, I dropped a lot of weight. I think it was simply because I ran around all day as opposed to being in an office setting. And remember, the more active you are, the more calories your body can bare while remaining within range.
My light bulb moment for eating in moderation came in college. My science teacher said that the body burns calories just by holding itself together. This made me think, we can even lose weight as we sleep! Our body is always working. Let your body bring itself to a healthy weight. Honor your own habits and preferences by eating what you want, incorporating healthy choices that you like into your diet, and restricting your eating in ways that you personally can handle. The result will make you feel both really good, and in control of your own life (because you are). Good luck!
Why Women Should Have At Least 1200 Calories a Day
What Do You Think?
I feel happier when I am in a healthy weight range.
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