If you’re reading this article then it probably means that you are already a little overweight and know you’re headed for obesity or that you are living a lifestyle that you know will cause you to put on a lot of weight in the near future.
How to Prevent Obesity in Women
The fact that you are here means that you recognize that there is a problem and is looking for solutions. Congratulations! You’ve already made it through the most difficult part of the process. Hectic schedules today means that most women fail to notice that obesity is creeping up on them. Many live in denial that they are overweight at all. The fact that you are aware that there is a potential problem and are willing to work on it is half the battle won. But don’t celebrate just yet. There are several more steps to take before you can proclaim clear victory.
It all starts in your kitchen
What’s in your kitchen? In your cabinets and jars and fridge? Do you stock up on chips, cakes, sodas, microwave meals, processed foods high in sugar and fat? Or are your shelves teeming with nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, lean meats and home-made healthy snacks? Research has shown that those who are around healthier foods are least likely to become obese. If the cookies aren’t around when the munchies grip you, you will reach for an apple or make yourself a healthy snack with the healthy ingredients in your kitchen to curb your hunger pangs. The longer you do this, the more of a habit it will become.
Eventually, you’ll find that no matter how hungry you get it’s the healthy foods you crave. All it takes is some planning when you do your weekly grocery shopping. Ensure that your grocery list includes only healthy food items, as few processed foods as possible. Eat before you shop so that your impulse buys at the department store are not influenced by your grumbling belly. If your home is stocked with the right foods, you are already well on your way to preventing obesity.
Learn what ‘healthy eating’ really means
Ignorance is one of the main reasons that most people do not achieve their weight loss as well as weight maintenance goals.
Do you know what constitutes a balanced, healthy diet? Are you aware of what “low-fat” labels really mean? Do you know exactly which foods to avoid and why if you want to prevent obesity? Without some fundamental knowledge about food you will not make it very far in your obesity prevention journey. Learn what you do not know. Buy a book about food, talk to a nutritionist, read hundreds of thousands of free articles on the internet about it. The sources are unlimited. Education is key to making this work in the long run.
But what about the family?
They say that gender roles are equal today but the fact remains that in most family units, it’s the women who do the cooking (and most of the remaining chores as well). Many married women have to cook for the rest of the family and it can be very difficult to not eat what you’re cooking for the rest of them. You may be keen on preventing obesity but the rest of the family may not need to or want to do the same. If there are small kids in the house, the grocery list may include biscuits or chips or other unhealthy snacks which are easily within reach in your kitchen. After a stressful day, you are more likely to reach for these snacks than to go whip up a salad. This is a common scenario for women and one of the key reasons they cite for being unable to lose weight. It’s completely understandable and no one can deny that it’s harder if you have to cook for kids than if you’re single and have only yourself to worry about. However, this does not mean that you have to bid your weight loss goals goodbye. Instead, create a win-win situation so that you can keep your family happy while at the same time not sabotage your obesity prevention efforts.
The steps to prevent obesity are actually the steps to a healthy lifestyle. This can’t be such a bad thing for the rest of the family to follow. However, there are several stigmas about diets and weight loss which put several people off the whole idea of doing anything related to these things. You will have quite a task getting them to let go of their belief systems.
If that does not work, tell them how important your weight loss goals are to you. Chances are that they will be very supportive and willing to make as many changes as possible to help you make it through the difficult initial months. Do not underestimate the sensitivity of your kids. They may surprise you with their understanding.
However, healthy food does not have to be bland or insipid. Learn to make healthy but tasty recipes which are filling and savory but low in calories. This will satisfy the palate as well as meet your nutritional needs – all without adding to your waistline or your thighs. This will make it easier on the family to support you but will also help you a great deal since the tastier foods will keep cravings and feelings of deprivation at bay.
Make exercise a part of your life
There’s no getting around this one. At some point in your life, eating right will only get you so far. The only way you are going to manage to prevent obesity your whole life is to embrace an exercise plan that works for you.
Now, don’t let that discourage you. This does not mean you have to hit the gym six times a week (unless you want to). Exercise simply means moving around more. A hundred years ago, there was no obesity. That’s because there were no ‘modern’ conveniences that kept the majority of the world sitting on its collective behinds for most of the day. People moved around a lot more and that reflected in the average weight of the day. Although modern life is a wonderful thing, you have to admit that it makes couch potatoes out of most of us.
You can be a couch potato some of the time, but how about incorporating more movement in the rest of your life? Take the stairs whenever possible, even if it’s just one flight. Why not get a bicycle and use that to move around when you only have a short distance to go? Get out in the evening for a walk around the neighborhood instead of mindlessly plopping yourself down in front of the TV.
These are all just a starting point. Eventually, you will notice the change in your energy levels from the extra movement and will want to voluntarily exercise. No kidding. When you’re mentally prepared to start an exercise plan, it is important that you do not set yourself up to fail. This is a common mistake that many of us make in that first burst of enthusiasm when we start on a new fitness plan. We get all crazy and exercise with full gusto for the first few weeks, only to realize that it’s not something we can realistically keep up with in the long haul. This makes many of us give up and just revert to couch-potato habits. This does not have to happen to you.
Be gentle with your body, take your time easing your way into a form of exercise that you enjoy doing. Remember to incorporate both cardio and strength training so that you lose the weight and build muscle to help you burn more calories. We’ll take an in-depth look at exercise for obesity in another post.
Also remember that you are very likely to get bored with exercise. It happens to the best of us so don’t be ashamed – it does not mean you are fickle. We’re conditioned to want newness in our lives, and out boredom with the same exercise stems from that patent dissatisfaction of the human race. Vary your exercise so that your body (and you) are kept entertained. This way, if you are bugged with one type of exercise, you can resort to another. In the initial stages of exercise, you need these little tricks to keep you interested. However, rest assured that there will come a point when you will settle into an exercise plan you really enjoy and it will become as natural and easy to you as breathing. Consistency is the key.
Plan for hunger pangs
Hunger pangs will happen, especially if you are frequently stressed or bored. Even if your eat a balanced meal and are more than full when you are done eating, chances are high that you will crave a little something a couple of hours down the line. Snacking ensues, which is not a bad thing per se. It is only an issue if you use snacking as an excuse to eat rubbish food like fried or sugary items. However, a serious case of the munchies will hamper your efforts only if you do not prepare for it.
You know you’re going to get a bit peckish at some point so why not prepare for it beforehand. Pack a small box with a light salad, trail mix, a brown bread sandwich sans the mayo. Or you could carry around fruit like an apple or banana, anything that travels well. It will be easier to discipline yourself into eating these healthier options if they are easily within reach.
Identify what makes you eat
This may not apply to everyone but it does to most. Obesity can be caused by uncontrollable over-eating which results from a craving for a certain kind of unhealthy, usually fat-filled food in times of emotional turmoil. Often, it is not being able to cope with some emotion that triggers the cravings and the resulting binge. The emotion can be anger, guilt, sadness, fear, hopelessness, self-loathing and even boredom. The eating is an attempt to do two things – give yourself a distraction from your emotions, and numb them down so you don’t have to deal with them.
Often, people do not even realize that this is happening. The emotions come up so often that it is taken for granted that it was always there. The reaction to over-eat is on auto-pilot and the harmful binging ensues.
Identifying what exactly it is that makes you want to stuff your face is the first step here. What is it that you are afraid to face? Why are you unable to cope with it?
- Maintaining a food journal is one of the simplest ways to figure out the answers. Keeping a record of how you feel before and after you binge can help you chart out a pattern of behavior that you will be astonished even exists. This really helps you to take back control of your behavior.
- If you find journaling too difficult because you have too much emotionally to deal with on your own, you may want to resort to counseling for a little while to help you sort things out a bit in your head. Individual and group counseling both offer wonderful benefits.
- Support groups can also help if you are not up to either of the other two options. Listening to other people talk about their triggers may make you have an Aha! moment as you recognize the truth of what they are saying by relating it to your own experiences.
Even if you do not tend to over-eat, you may want to keep a food journal as it helps you to make smarter food choices. The tangible record of your obesity prevention journey is also a source of great encouragement as it allows you to map your progress.
These preventing obesity tips are all simply common sense, but you may find that they are harder to incorporate than you thought they would be. One way to help you stick to your goals is to garner moral support from dependable people like a friend, a colleague or someone from your counseling sessions who you can call when you are having an especially bad day and who you know will give you a great pick-me-up.
You may eventually not go with all of the above options in your bid to prevent obesity. You may choose to stick with one or two over others. Or maybe you have realized that it is only through a combination of all the above methods that you can truly keep obesity at bay. Whatever your game-plan, just make sure you stick with it. As stated before, it’s consistency with anything that assures success.