Controlling your weight is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It involves watching your calories and eating a nutritious diet.
It also involves getting enough sleep and managing your stress levels. Studies on people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off show that these strategies are key.
Eat a Healthy Diet
There’s a lot of conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, but the basic principles of healthy eating are clear. Choose whole foods over processed food, limit refined sugar and salt, and be sure to eat enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Eating well isn’t about restricting food groups or depriving yourself, but rather about making wise choices that can improve your mood and energy levels. Stock up on healthy foods like fresh produce, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, and water and limit foods that contain empty calories such as chips, sweets and regular soda. Eating well also means treating yourself occasionally to something special.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep gives your body a chance to repair itself and process the events of the day. It also converts short-term memories into long-term ones and helps your brain regulate appetite and satiety hormones. Sleep deprivation can affect the balance of these hormones, stimulating the appetite stimulant ghrelin and decreasing leptin, which inhibits hunger. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.
Manage Your Stress
Studies suggest that stress influences how much food you eat and makes it harder to lose weight. The reason is simple: When you’re stressed, your hormones change. Your body produces a hormone called cortisol that changes appetite and metabolism. When you’re stressed, your hunger increases and you are more likely to overindulge in highly palatable foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt.
Adding stress-reducing habits to your routine can help you stay on track with your healthy lifestyle goals. For example, eating a protein-rich breakfast may reduce your cravings and appetite, and drinking black tea after a stressful day could decrease your cortisol levels. In some cases, your doctor can help you determine why you’re more stressed than usual and create a management plan tailored to your needs. In some cases, that may include psychotherapy to teach you coping skills to cope with your stressors. In other cases, it might include working with a dietitian to develop a meal plan or with a physical therapist to develop an exercise regimen that will help you manage your stress.