Stop obsessing over weight loss — focus on these 4 goals instead

Canadians are constantly trying to trim their waistlines.

In 2017, two out of five went on a diet with “the specific intent of losing weight,” an Insights West survey found. An Ipsos poll conducted for Global News in 2018 found similar results, with 40 per cent saying they followed a particular diet including calorie counting and low-carb.

But weight isn’t the only marker of health, and in some cases, focusing solely on weight loss can be detrimental to overall well-being.

So instead of obsessing over losing weight in 2019, here are four other healthy habits to cultivate this year.

Find an activity you enjoy

Canadian health guidelines recommend that adults get two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week.

But if you’re always dragging yourself to spin class and not enjoying yourself when you’re there, chances are you won’t stick with it.

Instead, find a physical activity that you actually like doing. That way, it will be easier to make exercise part of your regular routine.

“I encourage people to try something new that maybe they’ve always wanted to but never built up to,” said Andy De Santis, a Toronto-based registered dietian who specializes in weight loss.

“Great examples are things like yoga or kickboxing classes which offer very supportive atmospheres for personal growth and fitness development.”

What’s more, research found that when people find a form of exercise “fun,” they’re more likely to make healthier eating choices after their workout, too.

Focus on quality sleep

“[Get] seven to eight hours of sleep for optimal heath. I can’t stress that enough,” De Santis said.

While De Santis said the amount of sleep people need varies from person to person, not getting enough rest has serious health repercussions on all of us.

Studies show that insufficient sleep is linked to weight gain and obesity. People who go to bed at the same time regularly, however, have lower blood sugar and a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Long-term, research found that lack of sleep or fragmented sleep is linked to stroke and cognitive decline in older adults.

Eat well

Nutritionists and dietitians repeatedly say that the key to maintaining weight is through a healthy and balanced diet. Yo-yo dieting doesn’t work, and it isn’t a sustainable means of keeping weight off.

Significantly reducing food intake, cutting out food groups altogether, or skipping meals also aren’t great ideas.

“The reality of the matter is that losing weight is a very challenging and unsustainable task, depending on how it is pursued,” De Santis explained.

“Healthier eating, on the other hand, is a goal that can be worked towards and that you can be sure will help you feel and function better regardless of changes to your weight.”

To make meaningful change, De Santis said that focusing on eating whole, nutritious foods is the way to go.

“It’s important to acknowledge that anyone out there can take small steps towards a healthier, balanced way of eating without being on a ‘diet,’” he said.

“I encourage anyone … to think about some of these key healthy foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat alternatives, [like] lentils and chickpeas, and fish. Incorporating them into major meals could be a gentle first step … that help us towards our goals, rather than restriction or dieting.”

Plus, research shows that modifying your overall diet is key to successful weight loss. In other words, a healthy lifestyle is more beneficial long-term than dieting.

Practice mindfulness

Mindful eating is the practice of using your senses to fully experience food, and actively listening to your body’s hunger cues. It’s the opposite of mindlessly snacking when you’re already full.

Eating mindfully helps combat emotional eating, binge eating, and can better inform food choices. Part of mindful eating is chewing thoroughly and letting your body digest food, which in turn helps prevent overeating.

Studies found that mindful eating can reduce impulse eating and foster healthier food choices.

De Santis said that healthier eating habits should come before worrying about weight loss.

“I always suggest focusing on improving the dietary pattern first, and re-visiting weight at a later time,” he explained.

“In my experience, many people put the horse before the carriage.”

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With a file from Jane Gerster

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