5 Tips to a Lifetime of Healthy Habits

Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong commitment and lifestyle changes can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. For many people it can be challenging to lose weight and keep it off, but it's very important because being overweight places you at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and many other diseases and health issues.

Changing habits can be difficult at first, but once you establish new healthy behaviors, they will become your new norm. Remember that you can always talk to your healthcare providers about ways to make these necessary changes to prevent the complications of obesity and save your life. Here are 5 tips from the National Kidney Foundation to help you get started towards your weight loss goals.

  1. Control your calories. Limit your intake of high fat foods and sweets. For healthy snacks, choose raw fruits and vegetables. Include whole grains, lean meats and skinned poultry, nonfat dairy products and low calorie or sugar-free beverages in your diet.
  2. Get moving. Increased physical activity is key to your success, so it's important to participate in a regular exercise program. Most weight loss will occur as a result of healthier food choices and decreasing your overall calorie intake, but ongoing exercise is necessary to prevent the weight from creeping back. Also, exercise helps to reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease, beyond weight loss alone.
  3. Set realistic goals. It's hard to stick with a weight loss or exercise program when you feel discouraged. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before starting a new exercise program. If you haven't exercised for quite some time, be sure to start slow and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise program over time. If you feel you have physical limitations that prevent you from participating in a regular exercise program, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist to assess any physical limitations. A physical therapist can help teach you how to overcome those barriers in order to increase your activity level safely.
  4. Don't cut corners. There currently are no weight loss medications that are recommended for routine use in transplant patients, so beware of product claims. Before taking any weight loss medications, supplements or vitamins, be sure to discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure they are safe for you.
  5. Reward yourself (and not with food). Too often people associate rewards with dessert or an unhealthy food choice. This doesn't help further propel you towards your weight loss goals. Instead, when you reach benchmarks reward yourself with a fun activity or present, like going to the movies or buying a new set of workout clothes. Acknowledge your short-term accomplishments and always keep your eye on the prize – your long-term goals!

If you are unable to achieve your weight goal with the above strategies, considering pairing up with a buddy who is also looking to lose weight and form healthy habits or ask your dietitian to refer you to a community-based program. This can help you with the accountability and day-to-day management needed to stick with an exercise or weight loss program.

Many thanks to Janelle E. Gonyea, R.D., L.D for her contributions to this article.