Published by: Len Panchuk – Owner, Breathe Fitness
5 ‘Sustainable’ Habits for Improved Health!
Losing weight can often feel like an uphill battle, but with the right strategies in place, the journey can become more manageable – and even enjoyable. Incorporating these five key elements into your routine can help simplify the process and set you on the path to success.
Here are 5 lifestyle choices which can be implemented without delay to avoid trendy gimmicks and the latest lose-weight-quick diet. Keep things simple – stay consistent.
1. Build Balanced Meals: Planning both ‘what’ and ‘when’ you eat will help you stay on track with your calorie intake, while focussing on maintaining a balanced diet rich in nutrients. Prioritize whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats while limiting processed and high-calorie foods.
2. Proper Sleep: Ensure you get adequate sleep each night, as it plays a crucial role in weight management. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep to support your body’s metabolism and overall well-being.
3. Hydration: Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Adequate hydration not only aids in weight loss but also supports various bodily functions and can help curb unnecessary snacking.
4. Time-Restricted Eating (TRE): Implement a time-restricted eating window, such as intermittent fasting, to regulate calorie intake within a specific period. This approach can assist in controlling overall daily calorie consumption.
5. Exercise Routine: Incorporate both cardio exercises and strength training into your routine. Engaging in cardio workouts after fasting can maximize fat burning, while strength training helps build lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism.
1. Building Balanced Meals – Calories Count
The Canada Food Guide doesn’t provide specific serving sizes in terms of measurements but offers visual cues and proportions to guide portion sizes. Here’s a simplified breakdown:
Vegetables and Fruits: Aim to fill half your plate with a variety of colourful vegetables and fruits. A portion size is approximately the size of your fist.
Whole Grains: About a quarter of your plate should consist of whole grain foods like brown rice, whole grain pasta, or quinoa. A portion size is roughly the size of your palm.
Protein Foods: Allocate the other quarter of your plate to protein foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds. A portion size is similar to the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.
Dairy or Alternatives: Incorporate milk, yogurt, or cheeses (or fortified plant-based alternatives) into your diet. A portion size is approximately 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 50 grams of cheese, which is about the size of two thumbs together.
Healthy Fats: Use healthier fats like those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils like olive oil, but in moderate amounts. A portion size is about the size of your thumb or one tablespoon.
These portion estimations serve as a general guideline for creating balanced meals based on the Canada Food Guide’s recommendations. Adjustments to portions can be made according to individual needs and dietary preferences.
2. Getting Proper Sleep
Proper sleep and circadian rhythms are vital for overall health and well-being. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, influencing various biological processes over approximately a 24-hour period. Here are some key points about proper sleep and maintaining healthy circadian rhythms:
Consistent Sleep Schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet, and dark. Limit exposure to bright lights, including screens, before bedtime.
Limit Stimulants and Screen Time: Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime. Reduce exposure to electronic devices with blue light, as they can disrupt your body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it can be stimulating.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation methods such as meditation, deep breathing, or gentle yoga to calm the mind before bedtime.
Avoid Long Daytime Naps: While short power naps can be beneficial, excessive daytime sleeping can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Light Exposure: Exposure to natural light during the day can help regulate your internal clock. Spend time outside during daylight hours, especially in the morning.
Be Mindful of Shift Work and Jet Lag: If you work night shifts or experience jet lag from traveling across time zones, try to adjust your schedule gradually and use light exposure to help reset your internal clock.
Balanced and consistent sleep patterns, aligned with your body’s natural circadian rhythms, contribute significantly to better physical health, mental clarity, mood stability, and overall well-being. If you struggle with persistent sleep issues, consider consulting a healthcare professional for guidance and support.
The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda, PhD (2020) is a great compendium of the current knowledge and research into how aligning your sleep and meal timing can positively influence weight loss, while boosting your energy levels through improved sleep quality.
3. Why Water Matters
Drinking plenty of water is often recommended as part of a weight loss plan for several reasons:
Appetite Control: Drinking water before meals can help reduce appetite and promote a feeling of fullness. This may lead to consuming fewer calories during meals, aiding in weight management.
Boosts Metabolism: Drinking water can temporarily increase the body’s resting energy expenditure, or the number of calories burned at rest. This effect, although modest, may contribute to a slight boost in metabolism.
Hydration and Fat Metabolism: Staying hydrated is crucial for various bodily functions, including efficient metabolism. Proper hydration supports the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates, enabling the body to utilize stored energy more effectively.
Substitution for High-Calorie Beverages: Choosing water over high-calorie beverages like sugary sodas, sweetened drinks, or high-calorie coffee beverages can significantly reduce overall calorie intake.
Improved Workout Performance: Adequate hydration supports exercise performance. When you exercise effectively, it can aid in burning calories and improving fitness, contributing to weight loss goals.
Reduction in Water Retention: Contrary to common belief, drinking sufficient water can actually help reduce water retention and bloating, leading to a slimmer appearance.
While drinking water is beneficial for weight loss, it’s important to note that water alone is not a magic solution for shedding pounds. It’s part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and good sleep habits.
The amount of water needed varies among individuals, but aiming for around 8 cups (64 ounces) a day is a general guideline. Canada’s Food Guide outlines the reasons why making healthy drink choices is as important as your food choices. Always consult a healthcare professional or nutritionist for personalized recommendations regarding water intake and weight loss strategies.
4. You Are ‘When’ You Eat
Time-restricted eating (TRE), specifically the 16:8 method, is a form of intermittent fasting that involves restricting the daily eating window to a specific timeframe, typically 8 hours, and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day.
Here’s how the 16:8 time-restricted eating pattern works as outlined on Healthline.com – Time-Restricted Eating: A Beginner’s Guide:
**Eating Window:** During the 8-hour eating window, individuals consume their meals and caloric intake for the day. For example, someone following the 16:8 method might eat between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm (an 8-hour window) and fast from 6:00 pm until 10:00 am the next day.
**Fasting Period:** Throughout the 16-hour fasting period, no calories are consumed. Water, herbal tea, and black coffee without sugar or cream are usually allowed during the fasting window.
Benefits of the 16:8 time-restricted eating method may include:
Calorie Restriction: Limiting the eating window often leads to a natural reduction in overall caloric intake, which can aid in weight management.
Improved Metabolic Health: Some studies suggest that time-restricted eating methods might improve markers of metabolic health, such as insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation.
Simplicity and Convenience: It’s relatively easy to follow, as it doesn’t require specific meal plans or calorie counting. Instead, it focuses on when to eat rather than what to eat.
Potential for Autophagy: Extended fasting periods may trigger cellular repair processes like autophagy, where cells remove dysfunctional components, potentially benefiting overall health.
However, time-restricted eating might not suit everyone. It’s essential to consider individual lifestyle, health conditions, and personal preferences before adopting this eating pattern. Some people may experience initial difficulties adjusting to the fasting period, and others may find it challenging to fit their meals into the restricted time frame.
As with any dietary change, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to ensure that time-restricted eating aligns with your health goals and individual needs.
5. Exercise & Weight Loss
As of January 2022, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults aged 18-64 recommend the following:
Aerobic Exercise/Cardio: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week. This can be achieved in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Alternatively, engage in 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity.
Strength Training: Incorporate muscle and bone-strengthening activities at least two days per week. This may involve exercises targeting major muscle groups, such as lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, resistance band workouts, or activities like yoga that involve lifting your own body weight.
Sedentary Behaviour: Reduce sedentary time. Adults are advised to break up long periods of sitting with light physical activity to decrease the health risks associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour.
These guidelines aim to promote overall health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers), improve mental well-being, and enhance quality of life through regular physical activity.
Always consider individual health conditions, fitness levels, and personal goals when engaging in physical activity and consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert if needed. For the most recent and detailed recommendations, it’s best to refer directly to Health Canada’s resources or the ParticipACTION website.
The Canada Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda, PhD (2020): https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/592260/the-circadian-code-by-satchin-panda-phd/
The Canada Food Guide: Make Water Your Drink of Choice
Healthine.com – Time-Restricted Eating: A Beginner’s Guide
ParticipACTION: Canada’s Guide to Physical Activity