Grab your tape measure: If your waist size is greater than 35 inches (40 for men) you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (To get the right number, measure around your belly button just above your hip bones.)
Though “pleasantly plump” was once a compliment, attitudes have shifted dramatically, and the 21st century ushered in new definitions as health problems ballooned. Doctors had previously used weight-for-height tables to set standards for men and women. But in the late 1990s, the body mass index (BMI), devised in the 19th century to measure body fat, took on greater significance. In 1998 the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) switched to the BMI to reassess weight standards.
Calculating your body mass index is easy and can help evaluate your risk. Check out the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s simple calculator. If your BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, you’re within the normal range. If your BMI is 25 to 30, you’re overweight. A BMI over over 30 indicates obesity. The higher your BMI, the greater your risk for other health problems as well, such as gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers.
Other factors that put you at risk include high blood pressure, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, family history of premature heart disease, physical inactivity, and cigarette smoking.
If your waist size or BMI indicates that you are overweight, you are far from alone. Fewer than one-third of Americans boast a “normal” weight for their height, a fact that has turned extra weight into a national epidemic. According to the CDC, 69 percent of adults age 20 years and over are overweight or obese.
Despite national initiatives such as the Strive for Five (veggies and fruits daily) and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, or heart-healthy options such as the Mediterranean diet, the fat war continues to be a leading public health problem.
Changing habits can be a challenge, to say the least. But it is possible. Here are 11 tips that can help, from 500 Time-tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them:
- Eat a good breakfast. Studies show that eating breakfast protects against being overweight. For many, a good breakfast satisfies the hunger of the overnight fast. A high-protein breakfast including eggs, for example, fends off hunger longer than a high-carb breakfast.
- Push away from the table before you feel full. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.
- Use smaller plates and serve smaller portions. Don’t just eat what’s in front of you.
- Split meals. In restaurants, portions can be huge enough for two or three. Share desserts. And never order fried foods.
- Eat only when you’re hungry and eat only real foods: fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed foods (the stuff that comes in bags and boxes).
- Try fresh fruit. Juicy grapes or apples shake hunger better than dried fruit or juice. (Fruit juice is packed with sugar naturally contained in fruit but without the hunger-satisfying fiber. If you drink juice, cut it by half with water).
- Stay away from sodas and soft drinks. Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened (zero-calorie) sodas are associated with being overweight. High-fructose corn syrup can contribute unwanted calories linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, high tryglyceride levels, and more.
- Manage stress. The stress hormone cortisol and other stress-induced hormones increase appetite. Recurrent stress promotes compulsive overeating.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to changes in nervous system function, hormone release, and inflammatory chemicals that increase hunger, decrease satiety, and favor visceral fat deposition.
- Set realistic goals. Start slowly with a goal of reducing body weight by 10 percent over 6 months (a reduction of 500 to 1000 calories per day amounts to approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week).
- Make time to exercise. Physical activity should be part of a comprehensive weight loss therapy and weight control program because it contributes to weight loss and reduction of abdominal fat. Exercise can also help you maintain any weight you’ve already lost.
To start your regimen, try this recipe from 500 Time-tested Home Remedies:
Breaking the Morning Fast
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup sliced mushrooms
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon nonfat milk
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
¼ teaspoon dried basil
½ cup baby spinach
Pinch of cracked pepper
Pour the oil into an omelet or medium-size pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until soft. While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk together the eggs, milk, and herbs in a bowl. When the mushrooms are browned, transfer them to a plate. Turn the heat to medium- high and cook one side of the omelet (about 2 minutes). Once the eggs solidify on one side, flip and layer with the mushrooms and spinach. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes to set the bottom of the omelet. Fold the cooked eggs over the top of the vegetables. Add cracked pepper to taste.
The Remedy Chicks