Monday, April 4, 2011

Peter, I want to get back to a healthy weight and don't know where to begin. Help!

via Peter Pointers [Peter Pointers is LifeLube's gay health educator and is assisted by a group of qualified health specialists who work as a team to answer your health questions. Ask about your sexual health, physical health, mental/emotional and spiritual health.] 


Question:

I have let my physical health slip over the years and want to start getting back into shape.  There is so much information on diet and exercise out there and I’m not sure what to believe.  I want to return to a healthy weight again and have the motivation but need some help!  Any information to get me started is appreciated.


Answer:

Thank you so much for your question.  I am happy to hear you are trying to get educated on getting back into shape and improving your physical health. 

You are correct in that there is A LOT of information, some of it misleading, out there today.There are a lot of weight loss gimmicks that make it difficult to trust anything you hear. I can empathize with your frustration and I want to let you know that you are not alone. Obesity is the number one health risk facing America, and according to the Centers of Disease Control, we are becoming more overweight every year. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death.Obesity and low physical activity are some of the top risk factors associated with heart disease and thankfully those are risk factors we have control over.


There is a lot that goes into living a healthy lifestyle. Having good mental, social, spiritual, and emotional health is critical for overall wellbeing. In regards to your question on weight loss and getting back into good physical shape, I am going to focus on physical health - specifically nutrition and physical activity.  


Physical activity has many benefits besides just losing weight.


Here are some additional benefits of incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. 

•    Boost your mood
Aerobic exercise can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.

•    Increase your stamina
Aerobic exercise may make you tired in the short term. But over the long term, you'll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.

•    Ward off viral illnesses
Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.

•    Reduce your health risks
Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

I highly recommend, if you’re considering starting a new workout and/or dieting routine, to consult a physician before starting. This will ensure your safety in starting new activity by helping you to make decisions that are best for your health.  


Sometimes the hardest part of physical activity is knowing what and how much to do. 

Finding accurate and reliable information can be difficult so one suggestion I have is sticking with well known sources. Examples of this include government websites like the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and scholarly journal articles. Blogs, forums, and other websites can have false or misleading information because they are not regulated or peer reviewed. You can trust me and LifeLube, though :)


For adults, The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week and 2 or more days a week of muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups. At first, 150 minutes can sound like a lot but it does not all have to be done at once and can be broken into increments as small as 10 minutes at a time. 

The important thing to consider is finding activities that you enjoy and can incorporate into your lifestyle. 

Exercising should not be a chore and if it feels this way, then I suggest trying other activities you have not tried before. 

Investing in a gym membership can be a great way to have access to professional staff and a variety of equipment but memberships can be expensive. If money is an issue, there are still hundreds of activities you can do outside or at home.  

Having a support system set up is an extremely important aspect of a person’s weight loss journey.

Support systems are used in order to help meet your fitness goals and to overcome any setbacks by helping you push you through the tough times.Having the support of family, friends, and professionals will help you develop and meet those goals.Talking with your support system in advance will be necessary so they know exactly what you are trying to accomplish.  


Nutrition is the other major component to weight loss that I wanted to address. It will be impossible for me to address everything in this post however I can give you some key tips and referrals to online sources to get you started.

Understanding yourself and how you got to your current physical condition is an important first step. Finding the root of the issue is what will help you overcome any unhealthy behaviors and move towards a healthier lifestyle. Recognizing your current eating habits by identifying any unhealthy habits you have as well as any cues that trigger those habits will be important to understand. Keeping a food log will help you identify what those habits are and will allow you to keep track of your daily calorie intake.

Here is a link from the CDC that will help you identify and start to change some unhealthy habits 


Healthy eating is easier said than done. 

Understanding nutrition is a science and a good amount of research will need to be done for you to get solid grasp of the information. The following are resources to get you started. It is unrealistic to make every change out there immediately. Try incorporating a few at a time and gradually build over time. Doing too much at once can set you up for failure in the future.  

Here is a link to help you get mentally prepared for your weight loss journey.

Here is a link to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is a large document that covers food, nutrients, building healthy eating patterns and balancing calories to maintain weight. It will give you a lot of information on nutrition so you can begin to learn.





Another tip to help you succeed is to write personal goals. 

Goal writing sounds easy but can actually be quite difficult so I encourage you to look at this website to help you get going. Just make sure to develop goals and write them down! Individuals who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them!

I hope this information will get you started. You already have the motivation, so building a support system, identifying behaviors or why you got to your current physical condition,developing goals and slowly incorporating healthier lifestyle choices will be crucial next steps.  


I encourage you to look at those links and try to become as familiar with the information as possible.If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to ask! Good luck on your journey!


Be Well,
Peter
Peter Pointers on LifeLube, E-mail Peter
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