We get it: making changes to your health habits can feel really overwhelming, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s true, there are a lot of components to managing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle: proper nutrition, regular exercise, stress management, treating underlying conditions, and staying motivated. While all of these components are important to bring to the table if you want to sustain a healthy lifestyle in the long run, there are plenty of ways you can start small and ease yourself into it.
Since nutrition is one of the most important elements of your health, it’s the best area to focus on taking small steps that will help you adopt positive long-term habits.
Dr. Karrie Hohn, functional medicine physician at PALM Health and lead doctor in our Balanced Living weight management program, shares five helpful and easy-to-implement nutrition tips to get you started.
1. Get your carb fix in the morning to beat the fat synthesis. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glycogen, which is a sugar that is used as a source of your energy throughout the day. However, your body only uses a certain amount of that glycogen as energy, and once you max out that amount, any excess glycogen you take in from carbs has to be stored somewhere else. So where does it go? You guessed it — fat tissue. Excess glycogen is converted into fat and stored in your adipose tissue.
So, if you eat carbs throughout the entire day, you’ll quickly fill up your glycogen stores and surpass them, forcing your body to synthesize more fat to store the excess. If you shift your carb-eating to the earlier part of the day, you’ll have just enough carbohydrates to fill your energy store for the day before your body starts making fat.
2. Follow a regular eating schedule to reduce weight gain. When you eat your meals around the same times every day, your body finds a routine for processing the nutrients and sugars from your food. But, if your eating schedule is more erratic, your body becomes confused and you’re more susceptible to blood sugar spikes. When your blood sugar (the amount of glucose that is absorbed into your bloodstream after eating a meal) vacillates irregularly like this, it can cause weight gain because excess sugar is converted into fat.
3. Always have a protein with breakfast to curb later cravings. Protein works to reduce those hormonal signals that make you feel hungry throughout the day, so if you eat a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs, you can set yourself up to avoid afternoon cravings that may prompt you to eat snacks, particularly unhealthy snacks. But that’s not all protein can do for you — it also helps you build and maintain muscle mass. More muscle mass = a higher resting metabolic rate. A higher resting metabolic rate = more calories burned throughout the day.
4. Keep nuts on hand for an emergency snack that won’t add pounds. It can be hard to socialize with others who may be eating some of the unhealthy or inflammatory foods you’re trying to stay away from, especially if you’re hungry. Try keeping healthier snack options, such as nuts, with you so you always have something to munch on in those social situations or when you’re feeling like you just need an extra boost without spiking your blood sugar. As a bonus, nuts are more filling than many other snacky foods.
5. Add things into your diet before taking things out for an easier start. It’s not easy to suddenly cut out all of the foods you’re used to eating right off the bat on your path to weight management. The good news is, you can start off smaller. According to Dr. Hohn, “One recent study showed an average of a 10% weight loss in patients over the course of 6 months when the only diet change was the addition of fruits and vegetables.” So, if you’re looking for more of a baby step, try adding in healthier foods before you try cutting out all the inflammatory foods. For example, make a goal to eat five servings of vegetables per day.
It’s important to feel ready for the steps you are taking on the road to healthy, balanced living, so starting small is a good way to set yourself up for long-term success. These five simple lifestyle changes can help you begin to get your nutrition on track, and when combined with regular exercise, proper stress management, and treatment of any underlying medical conditions, they’ll help yield the results you need.
Need more guidance? Learn more about our Balanced Living Program for a deeper dive into how your lifestyle choices can affect your body and what more you can do to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
PALM Health is an innovative, whole-person medical and wellness company that helps people reach and maintain well-being. Our experts in medicine and wellness empower people to transform their health, become more resilient, and feel their personal best in mind and body.