The 7 Successful Habits of Thin People
With the obesity epidemic on the rise and a society always looking for a quick fix, it is plain to see that these two mentalities do not mix well. According to the CDC, overweight is defined as an adult with a BMI between 25 – 29.9, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Alarmingly, the prevalence of overweight adults has increased significantly in the past decade, reaching 70%, an increase from 65% in 2000. Even more eye-opening is the amount of obesity found in the US, rising to 34% from 31% in 2000 (NHANES). So what is the majority of America doing wrong?
The Thin... and Fit?
While most people correlate thin with being fit, it should be clear that this is not always the case. Many thin Americans, in fact, are not always healthy. Due to genetics, metabolism, and other scientifically mysterious factors, some people can appear thin while suffering from diabetes, high lipid levels, hypertension, and more. While more research is being done to figure out this enigma, what is known is that people who aim for health in their daily lives have a higher chance of achieving it.
Fit and Fabulous
What are the 30% of Americans, who have a clean bill of health and ideal weight, doing to keep themselves in tip-top shape? After speaking with athletes, health professionals, and every day “fit” Joes, this is what is tried and true:
1. Minimal Restaurant Attendance
While fast-food consumption is most famously related to obesity rates, regular restaurant visits can be negative variables, as well. It is more likely for someone to finish the 10 oz steak, buttered mashed potatoes, and chunk of chocolate cake, if he knows that he is paying an inflated price for the meal. Also, if we don't see the food being made, then how can we know exactly what is in it? Cooking at home, bringing in lunch to work, and saving restaurant visits for special occasions – these all seem to be part of the equation for success.
2. Steer Clear of Fad Diets
From pills to powders to excessive cleanses, no diet is a good diet – especially when it's a quick fix. The only “diet” that a person can stick to is actually more of a mental change, rather than a change in intake. Even though finding what works best for one's body is a process of trial and error, there are plenty of health professionals who can help. Registered Dietitians (RD) are trained in analyzing the body's response to different foods, and are easily accessible. The healthy and fit are not afraid to ask for help!
3. Fiber Up
Consuming adequate amounts of dietary fiber, found in: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, keeps the pipes clean and prevents heart disease and diabetes (Mayo Clinic). Even better, it increases satiety and keeps everyone regular (and less cranky). According to the USDA, appropriate amounts of dietary fiber range from 22-40 grams per day, based on overall caloric intake. The healthy and fit snack on a portion-controlled amounts of food, which include fiber-rich ones.
4. Don't Skip Meals – You Aren't Fooling Anyone
When meals are skipped, we fool the mechanisms of the body and put them in “survival” mode. Most affected is the digestive system, including metabolism. When the body is deprived of essential nutrients, it reverts into caveman mode: when food was scarce and the next meal uncertain. In turn, our metabolism slows down to conserve energy, and our digestive system enters a “starve” state. Hence, the body holds onto calories, deeming weight loss impossible. That is why the fit and healthy always keep nutritious snacks on hand, and consume 3-5 well-balanced meals/snacks per day.
5. Stay Active & Set Goals
Exercise is different for everyone. While some consider it as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and others see it as a sweat-filled 60-minute spin class, the main goal is to MOVE and increase heart rate. The fit and healthy exercise almost daily, and for at least 60 minutes. By combining weight-bearing exercise and cardiovascular exercise, weight loss and maintenance is even more sustainable.
6. Say No to Salt and Yes to Water
The culprit of puffiness and bloat is salt, and water can help dilute high salt intake. The USDA limits Americans to 2300 mg of sodium per day, which can be hard to achieve considering that 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg. Since most foods are heavy on the salt shaker, it can be a challenge to retrain the taste buds, yet 8 glasses of water per day can help. The healthy and fit are adventurous with their spice rack, are not afraid to discover new flavors, and keep their water bottle handy.
7. Stay Accountable. Write it Down.
Any dietitian will stand by this, as will the healthy and fit: food journaling, or writing down every single thing that one puts in his mouth, is the key to success. Maybe that handful of M&Ms was actually a whole cup, or that tablespoon of peanut butter was more like three tablespoons. “Forgetful” eating often hinders healthy eating, and what can be mistaken as a mini-snack can be packing on the pounds. The healthy and fit keep a journal of consumption, and see it as a contract to their fit and thin goals. Just like any other contract, it is kept honest and cannot be broken.
Every one of us is responsible for our own health, and by taking each day at a time, every one of us can reach our goal of optimal health. Only YOU can make the change, and if you stick to your goals, you will be happy with what you see in the mirror and with your overall health.
written by Catherine Conrad, RD, LDN, CLT(p) 09/2011
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
National Health and Nutrition Survey
United States Department of Agriculture