For most, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight involves lifestyle modifications of healthy eating, physical activity, and behavior changes such as managing stress and getting enough sleep.
Fad diets may seemingly offer fast weight loss results with less work; however, they typically fail in the long run and are often unhealthy. While the right “formula” for weight management is often unique for each individual, balancing the number of calories your body uses for your basic bodily functions plus exercise will lead to weight maintenance. Learn more about how to maintain energy balance here.
Being overweight or obese can lead to multiple medical complications including sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. It can also have physical impacts on daily living with an increased risk of arthritis pain and other muscle and joint issues from carrying extra weight. Being overweight is also related to lost productivity at work. Burning more calories than are being consumed leads to weight loss. A weight loss rate of 1-2 lbs. per week with a goal of up to 10 percent from baseline is realistic, achievable, and sustainable goal (2).
Halting Weight Gain
Affectionately known as the “freshman 15” from new college students gaining weight during their freshman year, this phenomenon can also plague professionals in work settings with ever-increasing availability of foods. Changes in your environment such as all-you-care-to-eat dining halls, mid-day or late night snacking, an abundance of free office snacks, or simply leading a more sedentary lifestyle from sitting in a cubicle or in the library all day can lead to unwanted weight gain. Take control of your food choices by implementing the following strategies:.
Eat regular meals (including breakfast): With a hectic schedule it’s easy to skip meals, especially breakfast. Instead of saving calories, this pattern leads to fatigue and overeating later in the day. Aim to eat every 3-5 hours during the day even if it’s a quick snack between meals. Keep healthy breakfast and snack options in your dorm room or at your desk so that on those days when you sleep through the breakfast hours at the dining hall or are rushing out the door to beat the traffic, you won’t be left hungry.
- Aim for balance: Aim to include a source of of protein, produce, and a little healthy fat at each eating occasion.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: With so many choices in your Bon Appétit café, it’s easy to go overboard. Just remember, you don’t have to try everything today!
- Keep healthy snacks on hand: Be prepared for moments of hunger with a healthy snack consisting of fresh produce + protein rather than going for the vending machine candy bar.
- Keep alcohol calories in check: Alcohol provides a dense source of calories as well as increases appetite, making it a double whammy when it comes to your weight.
- Avoid eating while you work or study: This pattern often becomes “mindless” eating. You don’t enjoy the food and tend to overeat or it becomes out of habit or boredom. Instead, opt for a short break for a snack when you need and energy boost.
- Build an active lifestyle: Walk or bike to class or work, join a local or campus sports team or athletic group, or grab a friend to hit the gym.
- Get enough sleep: Recent studies suggest getting 7-8 hrs of sleep each night can help maintain a healthy weight. Sleep is also a great way to manage the stress that can prompt overeating. (3)
- If you can’t get a handle on your weight, consult the pros: You may need to seek help from a trained health professional especially if you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy patterns of eating disorders or fad diets. The wellness or student health staff on your campus or Bon Appétit’s registered dietitian can be helpful in answering your individual nutrition questions.
- Freshman 15, Fact or Fiction. Morrow et al. Obesity. 2006;14:1438-1443.
- Preventing Weight Gain. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/prevention/index.html
- Changes in body weight and fat mass of men and women in first year of college. Hoffman et al. J Am Coll Health. 2006 Jul-Aug; 55(1):41-45.
- Beating the Freshman 15. http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/freshman-15.html# Accessed March 2016.
This information is not intended to take the place of advice from a healthcare professional. Check with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. In addition, while all efforts have been made to ensure the information included in this material is correct, new research is released frequently and may invalidate certain pieces of data. March 2016