Self Care and Your Waistline

Self Care Yoga

Reaching a healthy weight isn’t something that happens only when you’re at the gym or watching what you eat. It’s influenced by the many tiny moments that make up your day — whether you take the stairs or the elevator, how much sleep you get, or if you had a few moments to de-stress. It can be easy to dismiss the idea of self-care as a bit indulgent — and it may also seem hard to cram one more thing into an already crowded schedule. But the truth is, finding time to make your health — and weight loss goals — a top priority doesn’t have to be a giant endeavor. Here are five ways to sneak in micro-moments of self-care that can have a real impact on your waistline.

Time Saver: Rethink Your AM Routine

“The morning shapes how you feel for the rest of your day,” says Gretchen Rubin, a habits and happiness expert whose most recent book is Outer Order, Inner Calm. Leaving the house like a hurricane might set the tone for chaos throughout the day, while an ordered exit helps you feel primed to tackle the day’s priorities. To revamp your routine, start with a simple audit: Jot down everything you do on a typical morning, and think about where the snags are. “Are you always struggling to find your keys? As dumb as it sounds, commit to putting them in the same place,” Rubin says. Does getting dressed involve multiple trips between the bedroom, laundry room, and hallway closet? Try pulling together everything you need the night before.

Self-Care Sneak: Stretch It Out

Streamlining even one or two snags in your morning routine can mean 10 more minutes of freedom before you head out the door. Resist the urge to hit snooze on your alarm clock and instead roll out your yoga mat. Research has shown that yoga may be an effective tool for losing weight and improving body composition, although additional research is needed. And recent research suggests that yoga may even improve heart disease and metabolic syndrome risk factors as much as other types of exercise.

Time Saver: Tame Your Inbox

You have all the best intentions about getting a walk in at work, but happens. A dead-simple tactic you can use to take back more of the time you spend stuck in your email, says Jocelyn Glei, author of Unsubscribe, is to “email block.” Check your email at set intervals throughout the day — say, right when you hit the office, just before lunch, again in the early afternoon, and before you sign off. It might seem like dealing with emails in batches would take the same amount of time as fielding queries as they come, but don’t underestimate the power of distraction. Every time your inbox alerts you to a message, it pulls your focus away from the work at hand. Those little interruptions add up, and can get in the way of doing something healthy.

Self-Care Sneak: Take a Stroll

Shift those saved minutes from your inbox to get away from work. Every break “you give yourself will help, by calming the autonomic nervous system, lowering your blood pressure, and allowing you time to recover,” says Alice Domar, PhD, a psychologist and executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. And if you make that break a walking one, you’ll give your weight loss goals a boost at the same time. Sure, walking burns calories (about 140 per half hour, for someone who weighs 154 pounds). But it can pay off in other ways as well: For instance, a 2019 study in the journal Sleep found that less sedentary time and more light physical activity (like that loop around the block at work!) helped postmenopausal women sleep better. And better sleep can also help with weight loss.

Time Saver: Become a Meal-Prep Pro

Eating in makes it easier to eat healthier. You know exactly what’s going into each dish, can tweak recipes to cater to your dietary needs, and control portion sizes, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a nutritionist and author of The Superfood Swap. But preparing meals takes time. One way to slash your kitchen time significantly is to get a week’s worth of prep work done at once. Clean, peel, and chop veggies, pre-cook grains, hard-boil eggs, roast sweet potatoes, and pre-make sauces or dressings. Investing an hour on Sundays could buy you back 20 minutes every other night of the week. 

Self-Care Sneak: Schedule “You” Time 

Now that you’ve got 20 extra minutes to spare, grab your calendar and get ready to plot out some self-care. When Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, studied the time logs of women who were able to balance demanding careers with healthy habits and positive relationships, she found that advanced scheduling was key. It starts with getting super specific. “Most people make very nebulous goals,” she says. Instead, schedule defined activities. With a little bit of preplanning, “go to the gym” becomes “spin class on Tuesday at 7pm.” 

Time Saver: Run Errands at an Off Hour

Between 4 pm and 6 pm, you’re more likely to encounter crowds and traffic, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert. That’s because many people are getting off work during this window and hoping to run “one quick errand.” To knock out your to-do list without having to jostle elbows with other like-minded shoppers, aim to do errands at offbeat hours. Pick up dry cleaning over your lunch break, or hit the grocery store in the early morning or late evening, after 8 pm. 

Self-Care Sneak: Breathe Deep

For some, stress and snacking go hand in hand. But when you take back the time you would have spent on crowded errands, you can spend it on decompressing in healthier ways. When we get stressed, our breathing tends to become more shallow, says Domar. “Deep, diaphragmatic breaths increase your oxygen and create a sense of calm.” To make sure you’re breathing from your diaphragm, Domar recommends resting one hand an inch above your belly button. As you inhale, she says, your hand should rise an inch. Count down from 10 to zero with each inhalation, then exhale slowly. Make this simple exercise a daily habit by building it into your morning routine: Practice breathing deeply before you start your engine to drive to work, or after you board the train. 

Time Saver: Put on Your PJs After Dinner 

Most Americans watch between two and three hours of TV a day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While we’d never suggest that you kick that habit to the curb entirely (this is the new Golden Age of Television, after all!), there are some clever ways to make sure that it’s interest — not inertia — that has you watching. Some people set an alarm to remind themselves it’s time for bed, says Rubin. For her, prepping for bed before she turns on the tube works even better. “I used to feel too tired to take out my contacts, brush my teeth, change into pajamas and all that, so I’d just stay up,” she says. After switching off the TV, take 30 minutes or so to wind down without screens with a book or some gentle stretches. Research suggests that blue light from digital devices may suppress the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, making it harder to get a good night’s rest. 

Self-Care Sneak: Go to Bed Already! 

After you’re done reading or stretching, now actually get in bed. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests how much (and well) you snooze can influence what numbers you see on the scale. For instance, one large-scale study, which followed roughly 68,000 women for 16 years, tracked participants’ weight, diet, and sleep habits. Over the course of the study, women who slept five hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese, compared with those who slept seven hours, even after accounting for their diet and physical activity. Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep a night — but many of us get less than seven hours, according to the CDC. The bottom line? Hitting the hay a bit early may be one of the best self-care moves you make all day. 

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