Monday, January 11, 2010

How Your Home May Help You Lose Weight

A new study shows that what's in your house—including TVs and exercise equipment—influences your ability to lose weight and keep it off.

By Megan Othersen Gorman,

"Home, Sweet Home," takes on new meaning when considered in the context of a study of at-home weight loss just published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. The research found that your home and what's in it can influence your ability (or inability) to lose weight and keep it off.

The details: Researchers under the direction of Suzanne Phelan, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, set out to determine the factors that distinguish those who've lost weight and kept it off from people who can't seem to lose weight. To examine at-home weight loss, they compared 167 people who had lost at least 10 percent of their body weight and kept it off for at least five years with two groups of overweight men and women who had a history of dieting with no success.

Do you know many hours your kids watch TV daily, and how it's affecting their health?

What they found, among other variables, was that the weight-loss maintainers tended to have more low-fat foods, including more fruit and veggies, in their homes than the yo-yo dieters, and fewer high-fat foods, such as high-fat snacks and spreads. Weight-loss maintainers also had fewer TVs in the home and more home exercise equipment. In other words, the homes of the weight-loss maintainers were better equipped to inspire and support weight loss and maintenance than those of the yo-yo dieters.

What it means: Losing weight is hard work, and what's going on at home can help or hinder weight loss. Those trying to lose more than a few and keep 'em off need all the help they can get—including a pro-weight-loss home environment. "We know that long-term maintenance of weight loss requires continued vigilance, monitoring of intake and exercising," says Phelan. "What our study suggests is that by slightly altering your home environment, you may be able to make it a little bit easier to practice these weight-control behaviors."

Here's how to help your home help you to lose weight and keep it off:

Rearrange, and perhaps restock, your cabinets. "What do you see when you first open your fridge?" asks Phelan. "If you want to lose weight and keep it off, your answer should be healthful, low-cal foods." Make the healthiest food the most visible, and keep high-calorie junk food out of the house, or at least hidden.

A little housework can boost your heart rate and burn calories.

Survey your rooms for exercise cues. The weight-loss maintainers in the study tended to have more pieces of exercise equipment in the home than the yo-yo dieters, and they burned significantly more calories per week doing physical activity (2,877, on average, versus 882). Part of the reason may be that having the exercise equipment around cues you to be more active. Of course, you don't want to run out and buy a treadmill you're not going to use. But making sure the equipment you do have, whether sneakers or a stair-climber, crosses your line of sight every day may help motivate you.

No gym needed:7 easy abs exercises you can do anywhere.

Evict one of your TVs. The weight-loss maintainers tended to have one fewer television sets in the home compared to the yo-yo dieters—a total of two versus three. Far fewer of the first group had TVs in their bedrooms, and they watched an average of six fewer hours of television per week, perhaps as a direct result. Time spent in front of the TV is time spent sedentary, plus you're bombarded with advertising cues for consuming high-fat foods (The researchers also point out that television-viewing is implicated as a cause, and treatment target, for obesity in children.)

One way to minimize your own TV time (and perhaps your weight) is to reduce the cues you get to watch it by sticking with just one or two TVs. And "Just make sure none are in your bedroom! exclaims Phelan. "Get rid of your TV there, and you'll catch up on sleep"—and, perhaps, feel energized enough to hop on that treadmill.

Still not getting enough exercise? Getting fit is easier than you think.

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