If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle with obesity, you’re not alone—it is estimated that 160 million Americans are overweight or obese. Working out is a difficult habit to start for most people, but if you are carrying around extra weight from a BMI of 30 or even 40, creating and maintaining a workout routine can feel almost impossible. When faced with such challenges, we often resort to the coping habits that we have established, even if they make the situation worse—like turning to our favorite foods for comfort.
If this situation sounds familiar, there are options and there is hope. You can make slow but powerful changes that establish exercise routines, improve diet, address mental health concerns or even opt for surgical procedures. Here are a few ways to get you started:
- Begin with what you know you like and then branch out. For example, do you love to dance? Sign up for a series of barre classes to up your cardio add HIIT or cardio Barre class. Explore the physical health benefits of barre classes.
- Prep food in advance. Stave off those hunger cravings by preparing as many of your meals in advance as you can. Be sure to stick to lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Keep healthy snacks on your person and in your car so that when hunger—or stress—strikes you aren’t tempted to head off to the nearest fast food spot.
- Eat lots of leafy greens and avoid processed and refined foods packed with sugar. Be sure to eat whole grains and limit starches and sugary beverages.
- While obesity in and of itself is not categorized as a mental illness, it is connected to many emotional and mental health issues. Talking about our traumas can be a very scary thing; it’s no wonder we, as a culture, often turn to food for comfort. Food provides relief and satisfaction, without judging us for our shortcomings. Unfortunately, after turning to food for comfort from depression or anxiety, we often feel guilty or ashamed of our behavior. This becomes a vicious emotional cycle that can significantly impact our mental wellbeing. Combine that with living in a society obsessed with thinness and we have the perfect storm of pressure.
When it comes to your health, getting an understanding of the whole picture is the best way to address both the foreground and background issues around obesity. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to take this journey alone. Reach out to friends, family, healthcare providers, support groups and mental health professionals when you feel overwhelmed.