One of the hardest things about changing your lifestyle to a healthy one is taking that first step.  But it’s that first step that is so important if you’re wanting to decrease your risks that accompany obesity.  Here’s something that might not seem as scary or hard a first step:  use substitutions for those less than healthy foods you know you shouldn’t be having. 

Need some suggestions?  Instead of ice cream, try frozen yogurt or sorbet.  Use marinara sauce on your pasta instead of alfredo.  Opt for the lean meat when you’re grocery shopping.  Instead of regular cake, buy angel food cake.  Try snacking on popcorn instead of nuts the next time you get munchies.  And my personal favorite, if you get a hankering for some sweet foods late at night, instead of chocolate try frozen fruits.  It sounds simple, but these substitutions can make huge changes in your diet.

For more substitution ideas check out A Healthier You and Food Substitutions.


Stop and Think

It’s hard.  Living a healthy lifestyle, that is.  Healthy food is expensive.  Finding time to exercise is difficult.  Summoning the motivation to do better is hard.  Something that helps me is to stop and think.  Before I reach for that donut, before I hit the snooze instead of working out, I always try to stop and think this mantra:  is what I am about to do right now worth the problems it will bring in the future.  Never sacrafice what you want most for what you want right now.  It may sound far-fretched, but it’s true.  Plus, most of the time it works!


If we really just stop and think about what we’re doing to our bodies, there’s reason enough to want to make a change.  Obesity increases the risk of developing a plethora of diseases.  Heart disease, diabetes type II, and according to a recent Chicago Sun Times’ article disability during old age.  Is that twinkie really worth the couple of years in your life you could lose as a result of it?  Is choosing to watch a movie instead of exercise worth getting to the point where you can’t even play outside with your kids or grandkids?  Really stop and think through the possibilities that may lie ahead as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.  Is it really worth it??

Not convinced?  Here are more health risks that are increased as a result of being obese.

Less Stress

StressDid you know that stress has a huge effect on whether or not you lose or gain weight?  It’s true!  High levels of stress often result in the release of a hormone called cortisol which can cause excessive increases in weight gain.  Take a good look at your day-to-day life and find those things that are stressing you out.

Stress can come from various sources.  It could come from losing a job, or family member.  It could come from worrying about impressing friends or doing well in school.  And stress doesn’t always have to be from negative things.  It could come from having to get ready for a marriage or a new baby.  It can even come from smaller things that add up.

Take time each day to look at the things that are going well in your life.  Take a deep breath, and realize that you’re only human and there’s only so much one person can do.  Stress is bad enough without the fact that it can cause weight gain!

For more info on stress’s relation to obesity, check out Insulite Laboraties’ article.  For information on how to reduce stress, read up on about.com’s article on stress management.

Other Options

In increasingly more and more cases, people struggle with every single diet imaginable and still aren’t able to lose and keep off weight.  If you fall under the label of morbidly obese, it’s important to realize what other options you have.  The many complications and diseases that regularly accompany obesity are reason enough to not give up on your options. 

Various weight loss surgeries include lapband’s, metabolic, and bariatric surgery.  You should note that though these surgeries help significantly decrease an individual’s weight, in order to remain at that healthier weight a person needs to make significant changes in their lifestyle.  These surgeries are simply a way of helping the body lose weight.  You need to make your own changes by eating healthier and less food, and exercising more regularly. 


As a public health major, I can’t stress enough how important prevention is.  We are in control of our lives and the choices that we make regarding our health.  When you get to a point where you know you’re living unhealthily, you usually have no one else to blame but yourself.  In the same breath, YOU are the only one that can turn your life around and make necessary changes.  For some people, there are no other options besides surgery.  But for others, there is no excuse.  Start today.  Make those changes.  Be the healthy individual that you know you can be!

For more information on surgeries for obesity, check out WebMD and Obesity Treatment.

Get Your Sleep!

SleepIt amazes me how common sleep deprivation is our society.  It’s almost accepted as a norm.  People regularly brag about how they are functioning on six or four or two hours of sleep and still making it through the day.  The effects of sleep deprivation are nothing to brag about.  One detrimental effect is potential for weight gain.  According to sleep-deprivation.com, when an individual experiences a lack of sleep, levels of Grehlin (a hormone that increases appetite) increases causing greater appetite, and levels of Leptin (a hormone that suppresses appetite) decrease. Regardless of diet and exercise, it’s possible that some obesity is caused, or made worse, by sleep deprivation.

Another problem is sleep apnea, a disorder in which an individual stops breathing while sleeping due to blockage in the airways.  Although many view this simply as a snoring problem, individuals with sleep apnea sometimes don’t ever reach those stages of deep sleep which can consequently prohibit them from rejuvenating and potentially losing those few extra pounds.

So take the time to treat your body well.  Get in those recommended eight hours of sleep each night.  Don’t skimp on catching a few Z’s, or it may come back to haunt in the form of weight gain.  For more information, read up on this interesting article USA Today posted about obesity and sleep loss.

Tired of Running?

It’s important to remember the two major components integral to living healthy:  eating right and exercising regularly.  If you really want to see results and changes in your life, you can’t have one  without the other.  There’s always the typical excuse:  “But I’m not a runner…”  There are a plethora of means by which you can get your exercise in.  According to the American Heart Association “all healthy adults ages 18–65 should be getting at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five days of the week.”  What may seem like a lofty goal can actually be easily achieved by exercising in various ways besides running.

Find a local indoor or outdoor pool (depending on the season) and swim a few laps.  Change up the stroke style with each lap.  To make things fun, get some friends and participate in a game of water polo!

Try biking.  Change the speed and intensity with which you bike to mix things up.  Or give yourself your own mini work out by selecting your favorite upbeat songs and biking along with the faster tempo.


You can even “trick” yourself into exercising by making games or activities to do with friends or family!  Play a round of flag football after your big Thanksgiving dinner.  Or jump on the trampoline for fun with your nieces and nephews.  You can even play some old school games like capture the flag, red rover, or tag.

My personal favorite way of exercising is putting my favorite music on, blasting it at full volume, and dancing with everything I have.  I usually make sure no one is around before starting this.

There are lots of ways besides running by which you can exercise!  For more ideas, check out the CDC’s website about exercising.

The Los Angeles Times recently posted an article on the correlation that obesity may have with victims of the H1N1 flu.  It was found that about a quarter of the people in California that were hospitalized for the swine flu were morbidly obese (even though less than 5% of the population fits under this category).  When those that were simply obese were included with the morbidly obese, they account for 34% of the population, yet 58% of the hospitalized victims of the H1N1 flu.


So, if you’ve been needing one more reason to fight off those pounds, you got your wish.  Everyone should make sure to follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC, but especially those that are obese.  A large reason behind the deaths and complications of the swine flu is that it compromises your immune system.  Once you acquire the disease, if you aren’t careful, other diseases can be contracted resulting in dangerous consequences.  Most obese people already have a compromised immune system, so this puts them at greater risk.  So, do what you can to stay clear of situations in which you might contract the swine flu.  Wash your hands regularly and avoid shaking hands.  Don’t let yourself get put at risk.