Nearly one month into the new year, many of our best new year’s resolutions have already given way to old habits. With that in mind, we sat down for a live chat with two of our resident health experts to talk about some easy, simple changes anyone can make for better health in 2019 – no lofty goals required.
Steven K. Malin is Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and lead of the Applied Metabolism and Physiology (AMP) lab. He studies exercise metabolism and human nutrition, especially how they can help prevent and treat obesity-related diseases. Sibylle Kranz is Associate Professor in Kinesiology and the lead for the Diet and Nutrition (DAN) lab. She is a registered dietitian and focuses on improving diet quality, especially in children. Read their top five tips or watch the full conversation below.
1. Be mindful of calories for weight loss
While exercise and proper nutrition both offer all kinds of health benefits, if losing weight is your goal, it’s all about calories.
“How many calories are you expending relative to the number of calories that you’re eating?” said Malin. “Coupling exercise with the proper food intake is going to be important to help with weight loss.”
Malin said that a common mistake is over-estimating how many extra calories you can consume after exercising – a single workout doesn’t necessarily cancel out an extra serving of dessert. He offered a simple benchmark to help you keep track: “For every one mile you walk, that’s about 100 calories.”
2. Choose a smaller plate
Another common challenge with weight loss is managing portion sizes.
“One of the problems that we see in the lab and out there in the real world is people eating a lot bigger portions,” Kranz said. When your portion sizes are out of whack, it can be a surprisingly easy way to overeat. “It kind of just happens,” she said. “It probably doesn’t even register.”
If you’re struggling with proper portion sizes, one trick is to swap out your regular dinner plate for a smaller one. When your plate looks full with the appropriate portion sizes, you’re less likely to overeat.
3. Go for a short walk after every meal
Whether you want to lose weight or not, exercise and movement are vital for a healthy lifestyle. “There’s a multitude of benefits that exercise has on the body,” Malin said.
But, he added, it’s important to remember that being physical active doesn’t have to be lifting weights or going for a run. Taking short breaks throughout the day is a great way to improve your health. “There’s data showing that a break in sedentary behavior, particularly after you eat a meal, has huge impacts on your blood sugars and your blood lipids,” he said.
To help build more movement into your day, Malin recommends going for a short walk after every meal. A 10-15 minute walk is ideal, but even a two-minute stroll around the office is beneficial.
4. Get in touch with your hunger
“How often do you eat without really being hungry?” Kranz said. Often, we eat for many reasons other than hunger – maybe you graze at a social event because it’s there, or use food as comfort after a tough day.
Part of healthy eating is learning to eat only when you’re truly hungry. “Food should be used to nourish your body,” she said. “Exercise and diet both influence cognitive function – memory, attention – the brain needs healthy foods to perform at its best level.”
To get more in touch with your hunger, Kranz suggests taking a brief pause before eating to rate how hungry you are on a scale of 1 – 10. Taking just a moment to check in with your body can help you make more conscious decisions about when, and how much, to eat.
5. Focus on small changes
Overall, both Malin and Kranz advise everyone to focus on making small, incremental changes. With all the fad diets and competing advice out there, they both acknowledged that getting healthy can be challenging. The good news? It doesn’t have to be so complicated. “You don’t have to go on a radical diet to lose weight,” said Kranz. Instead, small adjustments to your everyday diet and routine – eating a little bit less and making slightly healthier choices – can add up to make a big difference.
For Malin, the best advice is the simplest: “Just move! It doesn’t matter when you move, how you move, just get out there and move your bodies to see the benefits, and couple that with good nutrients.”