Reducing Obesity

Below are some tips to help you lose weight, maintain weight loss, or just feel better.

Based on the Community Health Assessment, the Wellness Center is helping to advance the priority goals of reducing obesity in the region by focusing on improved nutrition and physical exercise.

Set small, specific and realistic goals.


 Maybe you would like to be the same size you were in high school, but that might mean dropping 50 pounds.  Don’t go there…  yet.  Set a more realistic goal of losing 5-10 percent of your body weight (and remember that it takes most people about 6 months to achieve that goal).

 Avoid generalized goals, such as, “I’ll try to eat less at dinner and exercise more.”  Instead, set specific and short-term (daily or weekly) goals like:

  • I will choose a few healthy dinner recipes and shop for ingredients on Sunday.
  • I will call a friend to exercise with me after work on Monday and Wednesday.
  • I will not buy my “problem foods” (like cookies or chips) and if I have them at home, I’ll keep them out of sight.

Start self-monitoring.

Writing down what you do can help you gain awareness of your behaviors and track changes toward your goals; you can write it down on paper or track it on a smartphone app.  The idea is to pinpoint areas where you can improve.  (Do you eat when you’re tired or depressed, for example?)

After you get started with the food diary, spend time looking back at your patterns.  You will be able to identify circumstances where you are more vulnerable and more likely to give into problem foods.  And you will be able to better plan for those times!

Find a support network.

Find at least one weight-loss buddy (a spouse, your coworker, your friend) to help motivate you and hold you accountable.  Brainstorm about healthy recipes and try to exercise together.

Energize your exercise.

Reinvigorate your exercise routine! Try a new form of exercise like the pool, Frisbee, or dancing.  Find an exercise that you really enjoy because it will be easier to stick with that.

 Look into different options for structured exercise such as a fitness center, gym, or yoga studio.  Pay for a one-day pass and check out as many available classes that look good.

Borrow or rent a fitness DVD.  The library has a collection and you can check out a few at no cost.

Plan an active outing with family or friends, such as a hike or bike ride.  Mowing the lawn, weeding, and raking also count as moderate exercise!

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Most people need about 8 hours of sleep a night, but there is a lot of variability form person to person.  You can tell if you’re getting enough sleep if you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, rather than groggy and grouchy.

Eat breakfast – slowly and mindfully – every morning.

Most people skip breakfast because they’re too rushed or aren’t hungry.  Try getting up 15 minutes earlier (which means going to bed 15 minutes earlier) to make time for breakfast.  Practice eating slowly by putting down your utensil or sipping water, coffee, or tea between bites.  If you’re not hungry in the morning, maybe you’re eating dinner or snacking too late.  If that’s the case, set a goal not to eat or drink anything (except water) after 7 or 8 p.m.

Monitor and modify your screen time.

People often complain that they don’t have enough time to exercise or to shop for and prepare healthy meals.  But in fact, most people spend many hours watching TV or using their computer for fun.  Keep track of your screen time for a week, then trying scaling back the number of hours by a quarter or a third, and devote that time to your weight-loss efforts.  If you sit at a computer during much of your work day, consider a standing work station or try to get up and move around at least every half hour or so.  Encourage your co-workers to join you!

Shop smarter.

You probably know not to grocery shop when you’re hungry and to use a list to avoid impulse buys.  You should also make sure that your list has ingredients for at least three healthy dinners and some nutritious, portable snacks (like bananas, baby carrots, or almonds).  Having these foods on hand will make it easier to avoid going out to eat or buying junk food.

Reward yourself with (nonfood) pleasures.

Treat yourself to a small reward if you are succeeding at these changes.  Buy yourself some flowers, music, soap or other nonfood item that you normally wouldn’t buy for yourself.

If you have mastered several of these tips, buy yourself a bigger reward like a massage or a facial or get yourself tickets for a sporting event or concert!

Look at trigger behaviors.

Create a behavior change by recognizing how minor events can trigger an undesirable outcome like overeating.  Triggers can be something like a situation (party, movie theater), emotion (sad, depressed), or negative thoughts (“I have no willpower” or “I’ve already blown my diet, so I might as well give up”).

After identifying these triggers, work backwards to where this “behavior chain” begins and where you can “break the chain” the next time you are in a similar situation.  For example, record TV shows to watch earlier on another night. 

Nutrition guidelines to follow.


  • Eat foods that are filling and low in calories (like brown rice, whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, beans, lentils, and other legumes).
  • When you eat meat, cut out fat and cut down portion sizes (about 3 ½ or 4 ounces per serving).
  • Avoid fried foods.
  • Avoid fast foods.
  • Avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks (like chips).  Watch out for low-fat snacks because they often have large amounts of sugars and carbohydrates.
  • Watch what you drink!  Regular sodas, fruit juices, and alcoholic beverages are high in calories.

Download free recipes and get some “pantry basics” from the "Good Food, Great Medicine" book.

Eat slowly and enjoy your food!

Studies show that if you eat quickly, you will consume more calories and report feeling hungrier and less satisfied than if you ate slowly and purposefully. Try to stretch mealtimes to 20-30 minutes.  This will allow time for certain hormones to activate brain chemicals that produce a feeling of pleasure after eating.  If you eat too quickly, you may not allow this hormonal cross-talk system enough time to work.

How to add exercise into your life without even noticing.

Pick three to five options using the examples below and mark your plan on a weekly calendar. Stick with your plan for at least three weeks before stepping up to a more difficult level. 

  • Walk or bike to work or while doing errands, rather than hopping in your car.
  • If you take public transportation, get off a few stops early and walk to your destination.
  • If you need the car to run errands, park in one spot and walk to several shops. Try to choose parking spots that are farther away from the stores.
  • Take stairs, not elevators.
  • Rather than watching your kids or grandkids play, challenge them to an active game like Frisbee, tag, basketball.
  • "Work out" at work. For example, while on the phone, pace or do simple exercises like knee lifts, squats, and heel raises. Hold walking meetings.  Keep a resistance band handy, so you can periodically flex your muscles quickly.
  • Walk your dog instead of just letting him or her out in the backyard.
  • Rake leaves and shovel snow instead of using leaf blowers or snow blowers.
  • Try a walk with a friend instead of meeting at a coffee shop.

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