1. Which of the following best describes your sleeping habits?
a. I like a nice snooze, but I only get five hours. (-3)
b. I get about six hours a night. (-2)
c. I sleep like a baby for eight to nine hours. (+4)
d. I’m an insomniac. (-4)
Researchers at Columbia University and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York have found that individuals who slept less than four hours a night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who got the recommended seven to nine hours. Those who averaged five hours of sleep had a 50 percent greater risk of gaining weight, and those who got six hours had 23 percent more risk. Additionally, University of Chicago researchers in a review of the research literature found that short or poor quality sleep is linked to increased risk of obesity by de-regulating appetite, leading to increased energy consumption.” Finally, research reported in the journal Sleep found that a high tendency to overeat in response to various stimuli, such as lots of tasty foods or being under emotional distress, combined with short sleep duration creates increased risk for overeating. Set up your environment for sleep success. Go to bed earlier and aim for seven or eight hours of sleep. Make sure the temperature is correct and that you have the proper bedding. Get a good, high-quality mattress. Have a regular bedtime. Get rid of the TV in the bedroom, and make your sleep environment quiet, both aesthetically and in terms of actual noise.
2. When it comes to physical activity / exercise, you feel:
a. Who has time? (-5)
b. I get enough just living. (-4)
c. I take a long walk a couple of times a week. (+2)
d. I walk or participate in other physical activities daily. (+4)
e. I walk or participate in other physical activities for at least 60 minutes daily. (+7)
A study published in the Journal of the American Association of Occupational #Health Nurses concludes that the primary reason for inactivity is lack of time. The best way to combat this is to incorporate walking or other physical activity into your everyday routine. Try walking more, or get a dog (increases activity level). Get a fitness app so you can work out at home, or hire a personal trainer (so youre committed and will be charged if you cancel). Walking more is probably the simplest. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health and the American Journal of Health Promotion found that people who live in the suburbs and therefore drive everywhere weigh 6.3 pounds more than urbanites, who walk more in compact cities (e.g., New York, San Francisco). According to the National Weight Control Registry, 77 percent of successful losers use walking as their means of physical activity. Walking works. (See: http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/walk-your-health-great-tips-i-know-youve-heard-it-read.) There are many great apps and fitness trackers out there, and research shows that accountability helps. Turn your smartphone into a pedometer with the Every Body Walk app from the American Heart Association (http://everybodywalk.org/). It allows you to start, end, pause and resume your walk with the tap of a button; set targets such as distance, time and calories burned; view your walking routes on maps; watch your progress in real time; and save walks for future reference.
Other great smartphone apps include Walkmeter and MapMyWalk. Theyre all very user-friendly and typically free or very low-cost.
Fitness trackers such as the Nike+ FuelBand, LINK by BodyMedia and Fitbit, claim to keep track of steps taken, calories burned and sleep patterns. They are more expensive than the phone apps mentioned above, but are also great to use for accountability and can make exercise fun. Most of these new devices automatically upload info to a website tracker or app. They typically cost around $100. You might also try the 7-Minute Workout (see: http://goo.gl/xZuwlk), but remember that you will need to do at least three or four cycles for the workout to be effective.
3. My partner or significant other can best be described as:
a. Always doing something physical and in decent shape. (+3)
b. Usually pigging out with me in the evenings and on weekends. (-3)
c. Always bringing home fattening foods and never wanting to be active. (-2)
d. Very supportive of my eating healthfully and being active. (+5)
We tend to take on the good and “bad” eating patterns of our partners. According to research from Cornell University, one criterion we tend to use when selecting a spouse is how he/she eats. If you’re a vegetarian or a gourmet, you are more likely to feel comfortable with someone who shares your individual eating traits. Think about it you’re going to be eating with this person for the rest of your life. Also, eating with another person makes it more fun to consume “sin” foods, such as cookies, ice cream and chips. Use mental rehearsal (see: http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/weight-loss-lessons-olympians) to keep from being thrown off healthy eating patterns.
4. What best describes where you live?
a. Plenty of parks and scenic areas to walk around. (+4)
b. Easy-to-use bike paths and easily accessible stores you dont need to use a car if you don’t want. (+2)
c. Few parks, recreational areas and/or scenic areas. (-3)
d. A city or rural area with few walkable sidewalks; you have to drive everywhere. (-3)
e. A major city. (+2)
The most common environmental barriers to exercise, according to Health Education & Behavior, include safety and the lack of availability or cost of parks, beaches, recreation centers, pools and fitness centers. The American Journal of Public Health reports that numerous studies have shown that people increase their physical activity (e.g., walk and cycle more) when their neighborhood is densely populated, has shops within walking distance of home and connected streets (that is, a gridlike pattern instead of many cul-de-sacs). Other community design characteristics, such as the condition of sidewalks, the presence of bike paths, street design, traffic volume and speed, and crime, may also be related to physical activity. Find the recreation activity centers in your community using online search engines.
5. How would you rate your stress level, both at work and at home?
a. Very stressful work environment, such as being a 911 operator. (-5)
b. Moderate stress, such as strict deadlines. (-1)
c. Light to no stress. (+3)
d. High stress from a recent major life event (marriage, moving, job loss). (-3)
Recent studies tend to suggest that social stress public speaking, tests, job and relationship pressures cause overeating and weight gain. Excess stress increases the release of the hormone cortisol in your body, which increases your appetite and also causes you to store more fat. Plus, we tend to turn toward comfort foods for relief in times of stress, and these foods are typically high in calories and fat. Develop a StressEating Alternate Action Plan: As an alternative to eating, try to find enjoyable, nonfoodrelated activities that can distract you, such as exercising, shopping, going to the movies, using relaxation techniques, working, chatting with friends, reading a humorous book. Have your plan in place before the stressful situation takes control. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll also be working toward relieving some of that pentup stress. And since you’ll thoroughly enjoy what youre involved in, it won’t feel like a chore! Exercise the Stress Away: Yes, go out for a walk, take a spin class, go for a run. As much as relaxation techniques (like yoga and meditation) can be alternatives to stress eating, its also a good idea to do some aerobic activity, even for five minutes. See more about stress and #diet here: http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/social-stress-and-weight-gain.
6. Do you eat while doing other activities (such as driving, working at your desk, reading or watching TV)?
a. I eat consciously, where there is nothing to distract me. (+5)
b. Yes, I typically eat while watching television or at my computer. (-3)
c. Yes, I eat when I’m at my desk during work or watching TV or on the phone (-3)
d. Once in a while I eat while distracted, but most of the time I eat in a quiet designated eating place. (-1)
Use mindful and conscious eating behavior. No matter what else you’re doing, always stop to think about what you’re eating and whether you really want it or whether it’s just a big waste. If snacking makes the experience sweeter or the studying easier, you don’t have to give it up; just go for the option that’s healthiest and lowest in calories: baby carrots, grape tomatoes, an orange, an apple or a small bowl filled with a measured amount of pretzels or chips. (Put the rest of the bag back in the kitchen!) If you decide ahead of time to eat only a healthy amount, you’ll be able to enjoy every bite, knowing you’re treating yourself and your body right. A study in the scientific journal Eating Behavior reports that watching TV induces high-calorie snacking. Results suggest that snacking (but not necessarily eating meals) while watching TV is associated with increased overall caloric intake, as well as increased calories from fat.
7. Do you believe its in your best interest to eat healthier foods and exercise more?
a. Ive heard that its OK to have a few extra pounds, and really, you only live once. (-4)
b. My doctor told me that Im at high risk for diabetes and heart disease and I need to lose a few, but I havent done anything yet. (+2)
c. My husband/wife bugs me all the time to lose weight. (-2)
d. Yes, I really want to live a healthier life, and its very important to me Im clear as to my reason why. (+6)
Part of being able to change any behavior requires you to have a very strong reason / reward for actually changing the behavior. So, whether its wanting to look your best or achieving a better quality of life, make sure you know the reason you want to lose weight and that the reason is important to you. In other words, what’s the REWARD you’re working toward? You need to be able to answer that question, because when it’s time to battle the temptation of a fudgy, chewy brownie or some hot, salty, oh-so-good french fries, you’d better be clear on your motivation. I call this “Seeing the Why.” Why do you want to lose weight in the first place? I realize you might think the answer is obvious, but trust me when I say that many times it’s not. I’ve found that people often convince themselves they’re losing weight for one reason when clearly it’s about something else. People don’t always understand the motives that are driving them, and their lack of understanding backfires. (See: http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/seeing-why.)
8. Do you think you can actually lose weight for good?
a. I would like to lose weight, but just dont think I can. (-3)
b. I have fat genes but with a bit of work, maybe. (+3)
c. I know that I can eat healthier foods, and ultimately I can lose and control my weight. (+7)
d. Its possible, but so is winning the lottery. (-4)
Feeling confident that you can change a behavior is the single biggest predictor of being able to change. Its called self-efficacy, or an individuals belief in his or her ability to succeed at something in this case changing an ingrained negative eating pattern. If you have it, youre more likely to be successful at losing weight. See: http://www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/confidence-lose
30 or more: You have an excellent chance of losing weight for good.
15 to 29: Make a few minor changes to increase your chances of losing weight.
0 to 14: You need to evaluate your current exercise and nutrition plans and start making a few key changes.
-15 to -1: Youre not hopeless, but you need more direction.
-25 to -16: Low chance; read these free books: http://goo.gl/4BQjDc and http://goo.gl/C7NDtj
-26 or less: Youre not likely to lose weight permanently; try to use an organized weight-control program.
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of dietdetective.com. Copyright 2014 by Charles Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.dietdetective.com