Tag Archive for: healthy weight

Woman After Weight-Loss Looking In Mirror

Woman After Weight-Loss Looking In Mirror

Your body image is the way you view yourself—the mental picture you’ve created from several factors. Naturally, physical metrics—like body size and weight—play a part in shaping your image of yourself. But psychological, mental, and emotional factors make just as big of an impact on how you see yourself, and how accepting you are of your body.

Here’s the catch: your body image isn’t always accurate. Your perception—shaped by all the facets listed above—can be skewed. You’re often your harshest critic—especially when it comes to the way you look.

A negative body image can impact your life in many ways and keep you from feeling your best. Nobody wants that, so it’s time to start untangling the psychology of weight, body image, body positivity, and body acceptance.

The body positivity discussion exists on an individual and societal level.

On an individual basis, body positivity describes a frame of mind. When you’re body positive, it means you generally feel good about your body. This includes accepting the changes that your body naturally can—and will—experience. Body positivity requires having realistic expectations for yourself, and, more importantly, being forgiving of your body as it changes.

Body positivity also describes a broader social movement. Society has had unrealistic beauty standards for about as long as popular media has existed. And that’s a long time. In recent years, people have talked more openly about the negative effects these beauty standards can have on individuals. When you are constantly exposed to unrealistic images of how you “should” look, it’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself. Makes sense, right? The body positivity and body acceptance movement is simply people calling for changes to the norm. Advertising and media should reflect the real world: this means representing people of all shapes and sizes.

So contrary to popular belief, body positivity isn’t a fad. And it certainly is not encouraging people to be unhealthy. Rather, body positivity is a frame of mind and a social movement simply encouraging people to be more accepting of themselves and others.


Factors That Influence Body Image

The human brain is constantly taking in and processing information—both consciously and unconsciously. It’s one of the things that makes life so interesting. But it can also be a bit inconvenient. Because of your brain takes in so much information, your body image is often influenced unconsciously by the world around you.

Some factors that might have a negative impact on your body image include:

  • Culture and family: Beauty standards vary from culture to culture. How well you fit in with your culture’s ideas of beauty can have a lasting impact on the way you view yourself. Your family can have a similar influence—for better or for worse. A supportive, body positive family can help foster body acceptance in children. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. Judgmental family members can have a lasting toll on an individual’s self-image.
  • Media: As mentioned above, advertisements and other forms of media—especially those related to the fashion industry—play a big role in shaping society’s beauty standards. And often, those standards are unrealistic. Comparing yourself to an unattainable (and possibly unhealthy) standard of beauty often leads to a negative body image. Try to be mindful of the media you consume—especially on social media!
  • Weight loss or fluctuations: Rapid or extreme changes to your appearance can impact body image for the worse. This even includes weight loss. Many people who shed weight rapidly still have a negative body image. One possible cause for this is “phantom fat,” a phenomenon in which people still feel overweight, and even view themselves as overweight after they have quickly dropped some pounds.
  • Skin conditions: Body image isn’t all about weight and size. Acne, scarring, and other changes to your skin can impact body image, too. Because of airbrushing, makeup, lighting, and other post-production tricks, people in the media always seem to have perfect-looking skin. Remember: this doesn’t necessarily reflect how those people look in reality. And you exist in the real world. So when you compare your skin to theirs, you’re not being fair to yourself.

Body Image and Health: The Effects of Body Positivity on Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Most people want to feel good about the way they look—to have a positive body image. It might sound simple, but this goal can be harder to reach than you might expect. But there are good reasons why it’s worth it to keep aiming for body positivity.

After a while, body negativity can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. Body positivity and body acceptance, on the other hand, can boost your confidence, mood, self-esteem, and general sense of wellness and fulfillment. This can help reduce social anxiety, improve your performance at work, and benefit your interpersonal relationships.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Positive body image is also linked to healthier lifestyle habits. People with a positive body image tend to maintain a healthier diet, smoke less, and drink less alcohol than their body-negative peers. This creates a positive feedback loop. The better you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel about it. And the better you feel about your body, the more you’ll want to take care of it.

Phantom Fat: The Psychological Effects of Weight Loss on Body Image

Contrary to popular belief, improving your body image isn’t always a matter of losing weight. This is because, as mentioned above, your body image isn’t always tied to how you look—it often has more to do with your thoughts and other mental and psychological elements.

A phenomenon known as phantom fat is good example. When a person loses a substantial amount of weight—enough to change their physical appearance—they sometimes still see themselves at their previous weight and size. And they still feel their “phantom fat” on their body. People experiencing phantom fat report worries about knocking things over and perceive themselves as much larger than they actually are.

People’s experiences with phantom fat vary greatly. And there’s not one guaranteed way to help your brain catch up with the way you look. Often, it just takes time. After years and years of learning to view yourself one way, it can take a while to change those thought patterns.

Changing your brain can take longer than changing your body, but that mental adjustment is possible. Whether it’s replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones, throwing out the scale, or reciting affirmations, there are countless strategies for boosting your body image. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

Tips for Maintaining a Body-Positive Mindset

At this point, you probably have one main question: if body positivity is so important, what can you do to keep your body image positive? There’s no fix-all solution—body acceptance and positivity look different for everyone. Try a few of the following tips and practices to see which help keep your body image positive!

  1. Keep your self-talk positive: If you find you frequently experience critical thoughts about yourself and your appearance, try replacing those criticisms with self-affirmations.
  2. Move your body every day: You may be sick of hearing about the benefits of exercise, but there’s a reason you hear so much about it. Exercise really works wonders! A little bit of movement each day, even if it’s not rigorous exercise, can really help you keep your self-image up. This could mean jogging, cleaning, dancing, or going for a walk.
  3. Be kind to yourself: A lot of people write self-love and self-care off as corny and unimportant. Don’t let that be you! There’s no right way to practice self-care, but try doing something each day that is truly for yourself. This could be as simple as setting time aside for reading a good book or as involved as going out for a massage.
  4. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable: When considering your clothing choices, be sure to account for two factors: how the clothes feel physically and how they make you feel. If your clothes are too tight, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. Try to find clothes you like the look of that are also comfortable.
  5. Be mindful of who you surround yourself with: Your friends, coworkers, and peers can have a huge impact on your self-image. Try to surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good. This goes for social media, too! A social feed full of negativity won’t do your thoughts any favors.

Every few months there are advances in smart phone technology. Every few weeks science seems to come up with new, exciting discoveries. Every few hours a new idea enthralls the internet. That makes it seem like the world is accelerating ever faster towards a sci-fi future.

As advanced as every voice-activated, algorithm-driven gadget is, the basics of human health have thankfully remained mired in antiquity—a constant in a whirlwind of change. This relative stasis allows you to look back at what’s worked from ancient cultures to help shape your healthy lifestyle today.

For the sake of your continued well-being, learn to lean on the wisdom of traditional approaches from around the world. That doesn’t mean tossing that new fitness tracker or trashing your meal-planning app. You’ll see below how to mix ancient wisdom with the tech tools of modernity to keep you living your best life.

Seek Balance

The concept of balance has remained relevant throughout ages—unlike the dedicated practice of it. You frequently hear about balanced diets, work-life balance, and so on. But it’s mostly lip service.

Seeking balance is a goal that requires action and attention. Instead of abiding so much imbalance, use the tools available to sustain a harmonious, healthy lifestyle.

  • Set timers to define boundaries around tasks so they don’t bleed into time for yourself or your family.
  • Utilize phone functions that snooze notifications for periods of time or have dedicated hours of powering devices off so you can focus on being present and mindful.
  • Organize your days to provide the balance you want—the structure and intention of the action are both helpful.
  • Track your food intake using an app to see an unvarnished view of what you’re eating each day.
  • Turn to programs or online health coaches to help you settle into a balanced diet that works for you.
  • Remember to balance your energy output with revitalizing self-care activities—from meditation to practicing hygge (the philosophy of cozy comfort).

Avoid Excess

Balancing your life means avoiding excess, so the two goals feed into each other. You can’t balance your work and family life if you’re working 12-hour days. And a balanced diet isn’t possible with an excess of sugary snacks tipping the scales—literally and figurative.

But excess is exceedingly hard to avoid. This era of abundance means many cultures are swimming in excess information, excess calories, excess material possessions, and more.

There are solutions, though. Some of the work you do balancing your life will help tamp down excess, as well. Here are a few other ways to moderate many aspects of your modern existence:

  • Track calories in and out to avoid caloric excesses that can lead to weight gain.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation—accomplished through a tracking app, or good, old-fashioned limits imposed through self-control and help from your friends.
  • Declutter your physical spaces to make them healthier places to be.
  • Use meditation apps or other mindfulness tips to shed some of the stresses crowding your headspace, stealing your focus, and sapping your energy.
  • Limit your screen time (smart phone, tablet, or TV) whenever possible. There are apps for that, too.

Take the Holistic Approach

Being detail-oriented is a great quality to have. It helps at the office and at home. However, tracking details and focusing on minutiae often obscures the big picture.

Details haven’t always bedeviled humanity, though. Ancient Eastern philosophies focus on a holistic approach to life—and to health. Traditional Chinese health approaches treat the body as a whole, while Western practices tend to focus more closely on the specifics of individual systems.

But the absolute truth—a fact spanning all traditions—is that the body is a hyper-connected machine. Zooming out to see these connections and keeping an eye on the big picture of your body and your overall well-being can help keep you healthy and happy.

Being more holistic means servicing your total body health, and supporting all your pillars of wellness. Use the smart phone apps at your disposal to find whole-body workouts, schedule time for all aspects of your health, and design your diet to serve your overall health goals.

Practice Self-Massage Techniques

Massage is a ticket to a realm of luxurious relaxation. Muscle tension and stress melt away with each minute, leaving you a puddle of pure tranquility at the end. But sometimes you’re stuck at work with tension rippling around your body, wringing out your energy and calm with each wave. And there isn’t a massage table or fluffy robe for miles.

Ancient traditions—with their self-massage techniques—can make a world of difference for muscle relaxation and calm feelings. You don’t have to be born with magical massage hands to find relief when a spa appointment isn’t possible.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Only massage areas of tension or mild pain. Massaging the wrong area (like one that is experiencing sharp pain) in the wrong way can make matters worse.
  • Use pressure on areas of tightness and utilize circular motions to work out knots.
  • Try using two fingers, a knuckle, or your thumbs—whatever is most comfortable for the area you’re working on.
  • Limit yourself to about 30 seconds on each area you massage.
  • Start light on the pressure and never press as hard as you can.
  • Use foam rollers, tennis balls, or massage gadgets to enhance your ability to work out tension. (Only use massagers and rollers as directed and instructed by the manufacturer or a health professional.)
  • Find videos or tutorials for guided exploration of different self-massage techniques.
  • Book time with a quality professional masseuse for help dealing with problem areas.

View Food as a Functional Part of Your Overall Health

The focus on diet has stayed strong throughout the centuries. Unfortunately, the spotlight today tends to be on weight-management or aesthetics—not as much on how food can support your overall health.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important. And concentrating on your diet actually follows along with ancient traditions. The aim is just slightly different.

Traditional Chinese nutrition—and other long-lasting philosophies—tend to view food as functional for health, imbuing more intentionality on dietary decisions. This means ingredients are chosen to help support specific aspects of health, while also maintaining your holistic well-being.

So start reframing your relationship with food and beverages to include functionality along with considerations like taste, calories, and macronutrient content. You can learn more about traditional Chinese nutrition and then apply your knowledge by using technology to make meal planning and your diet easier to shape and then follow.

With the ever-increasing popularity of fad diets and pop nutritionists, the world of healthy eating can feel intimidating. Everyone from your neighbor to your doctor to your mom seems to have advice on what you should—or should not—eat. And this advice is often contradictory.

But healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simplest foods and meals are often the best for you. This is the guiding logic behind taking the clean eating approach to your diet.

Clean eating is the practice of filling your plate with primarily unprocessed, whole foods. It doesn’t outline how much you eat or when, but rather how you should select the foods you consume.

Bite into the Benefits of Clean Eating

Before diving into the ins and outs of clean eating, you should know one thing: clean eating takes commitment. It means diligently monitoring the foods you buy and eat—at home and when you’re out. That being said, the benefits of clean eating make it worth the effort. Take a look at why that is.

Food provides your body with the essential nutrients, energy, and building blocks to keep your body going. And, if you’re lucky, the food tastes good, too. People often think that the two are mutually exclusive: food is either healthy or tasty, not both. With clean eating, you can experience the best of both worlds.

Clean eating is an excellent way to provide your body with fiber, antioxidants, plant-based fats, and whole grains—all of which will help you feel energized and maintain overall health. And on top of that, a clean eating diet is full of flavorful, fresh foods that often taste better than their over-processed counterparts.

So if you’re looking to make your diet nutritious and tasty, keep reading to find the recipe for clean eating success.

The Key to Clean Eating? Stay Closer to Nature

Clean eating is all about focusing on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This means limiting the processed foods you eat. Think about potato chips: if someone showed you a chip, would you be able to identify the plant it came from without any prior knowledge? Sure—they’re made from potatoes, but those root veggies are processed to the point where they’re no longer instantly recognizable.

Compare this to, say, a baked potato. This is far closer to a potato’s natural form. And you can apply this logic to most foods—but more on that later!

As foods are processed, they undergo a number of changes. Processing can strip foods of nutritional value, and loaded them with sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals. Clean eating can help you maximize the most nutritional value from your food while avoiding those negative additives

Clean eating also means moderating your intake of alcohol. While a little red wine won’t hurt you, it’s probably no surprise that alcohol isn’t exactly good for you. It is, after all, a toxin that needs to be broken down and dealt with by your liver.

A Crash Course in Whole Foods and Food Processing

If you’re looking into clean eating for the first time, you’ll want to ensure you have a good understanding of whole foods—both what they are and how to identify them.

As mentioned above, whole foods are those that have undergone as little processing as possible. Or, in other words, foods that are close to their natural state. Unless you’re eating fruit right off the tree, most of the food you consume will be at least a little processed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Chopping, washing, mashing, or cooking are all forms of processing. And some are better for your health than others.

Slicing an orange in half and eating it won’t reduce the nutritional value. It’s a form of processing with minimal impact on the food itself. The same is true of, say, washing an apple before you eat it.

Now, think about orange juice from concentrate. To reach that state, oranges are juiced, the liquid is reduced down into a thicker, concentrated form, some preservatives (and maybe even artificial flavorings and sweeteners) are added, and then water is added before use to make it a juice-like consistency once again.

Now, you might think, “that sounds like a lot of unnecessary steps.” And you’re right. At each of those steps, the original produce—an orange—strays further and further from its natural state. Many of these steps reduce the nutritional value of the juice and introduce unnecessary chemicals and sugars into it. Not exactly clean eating—or, in this case, drinking.

So how can you identify whole or minimally processed foods? The supermarket is full of options, but it can be difficult to parse out which foods are truly whole foods and which are simply being marketed as a health food. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks for selecting whole foods that you can use the next time you’re at the supermarket.

Tips for Selecting the Best Foods for Your Clean Eating Meal Prep

  1. Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Beans are another great whole food—just be sure to watch for added sodium in canned versions!
  2. Opt for whole grains. Refined grains—which are the more common form—contain less fiber and fewer overall nutrients. To check if your bread is truly whole grain, look at the ingredients label. Does it show “whole-wheat flour” as the first ingredient? If not, it is probably made from mostly refined grains.
  3. Don’t be afraid of food in its natural state. A bundle of dirty, fresh beets might seem intimidating at first, but with a little practice and research, you’ll be able to prepare and cook them to perfection!
  4. Read nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists. So many foods at the grocery store have added sugars, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives. Be sure to know what you’re buying—and eating.

Eating as Clean as Possible—Even When Life Becomes an Obstacle

There isn’t a clear line between clean and unclean eating. It’s a spectrum. And there’s room in your clean eating approach for a variety of foods—including some processed items that meet certain criteria.

In the real world of whirlwind schedules and limited time, you need to be realistic. Sometimes you have to rely on a nutrition bar, shake, snack, or other more acceptable processed food choices. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Moving to more whole foods and picking the right convenient options still mean your clean eating approach is working.

When you have to reach for processed snacks or meal replacements, look for these qualities:

  • Nutrient rich
  • Full of fiber
  • Packed with protein
  • Low in calories, low in added sugar, and—if possible—low on the glycemic index
  • Made with quality ingredients

This means you need to do a little research. Take a look at the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to make the best choices.

And remember: making the better choice is always good enough. Choose progress over perfection. That means it’s OK to skip the fast food or potato chips in favor of a shake or nutrition bar that provides fiber and protein without a lot of extra sugar.

Start by Creating Your Clean Eating Meal Plan

If you’re sold on the benefits of clean eating, you don’t have to make the shift all at once. Fortunately, starting is the easy part.

As you begin making the shift towards clean eating, start with small changes. In each meal, try to identify one processed food that you could replace with a whole-food counterpart. If, for instance, you typically make sandwiches on white bread, try using whole-grain bread instead. If you eat cereal for breakfast every morning, try steel-cut oats instead. For snacks, see if you can stick to fresh fruit, vegetables, and lightly roasted nuts.

If you typically cook your meals from scratch, follow a similar process. You have total control over the ingredients, so it’s just a matter of choosing the right ones.

As you make these substitutions and small changes, you’ll figure out what works best for you. Your grocery list will gradually develop to include whole foods. And remember, clean eating looks different for everyone. So figure out what you like by exploring different ingredients and cuisines. Then make favorite meals the cornerstones of your weekly clean eating meal prep.

Exercise changes your body in many ways, some of which you can see in the mirror. The number on the scale may shift a bit and your clothes may start to fit better with each mile (or kilometer) you walk, jog, or swim. These scale and non-scale victories might be how you measure the success of your exercise routine, but have you ever considered the cellular benefits of exercise?

Your cells are the starting point for all the changes that regular exercise can bring. And there are many cellular benefits of exercise that can lead to full-body transformations. Cardiovascular and strength training exercises affect cells throughout your body. From your heart and brain to the white blood cells of your immune system, your cellular health is optimized when you exercise.

Cardio: It’s Not Just for Your Heart

Classic cardiovascular exercises send blood pumping and elevate your heart rate. You might add cardio to your training to build your stamina and endurance. But you’ll be doing more than that. Cardio can be a cellular health exercise, too.

Several cell types respond to cardiovascular exercise (cardiac cells included). Cellular health is supported by the quick, heart-pounding movements of cardio. Check out how cells all over your body respond to this fast-paced form of exercise:

Cardiac Cells

Let’s start with the cells closest to the action of cardio exercise. Cardiac make up your heart tissue. Your heart is essentially a super muscle, with an impressive compression force that pushes blood out to your entire body.

The muscle cells in your heart are highly specialized, and they don’t regenerate nearly as often as the other cells in your body (only about one percent of heart cells renew themselves every year). But there is a way to support cardiac cells and optimize their regeneration—exercise, cardio to be exact.

A 2018 study of mice helped scientists draw a link between cardio exercise and heart cell growth. Mice are frequently used as model organisms for human biology research. Mouse biology is very close to human biology and their genes work in many of the same ways human genes do.

Researchers found that mice with access to a treadmill in their enclosures chose to run approximately five kilometers every day. Their heart health was monitored and the scientists administering the experiment used DNA markers to track the growth of cardiac cells.

The results were spectacular, and favorable for the mice that had access to a treadmill. Mice who exercised made more than four times the number of new cardiac cells than their non-exercising counterparts.

This study helped cement the cellular benefits of exercise for your heart cells. So, if you have access to a treadmill (or a pair of running shoes and the open road) try putting in a few miles (or kilometers) the next time you want to focus on cellular health exercise.

Brain Cells

Anecdotally, many people believe you can train your brain like any other muscle in your body. It’s not a completely accurate statement since there are no muscle fibers in your brain. But if the goal of brain training is to strengthen the connections between neurons and build new neural networks, then exercise can definitely help whip your brain cells into shape.

Neurons, like muscle cells, can change as you exercise. Increased blood flow to the brain during exercise creates an oxygen-rich environment that your neurons thrive in. Extra oxygen and the release of neurotransmitters during exercise foster the growth of brain cells and the development of new neural pathways. You need these new neuronal connections to keep your brain “flexible” and to support your ability to learn new skills and make memories.

So, in a way, cardio exercises actually work out your brain, too. Movements that ramp up your heart rate are simultaneously stimulating your brain cells to grow and create new connections. Brain cells respond to heart-pumping exercise much like your large muscle groups respond to strength training—they grow!

Immune Cells

If you’re looking to mobilize the cells of your immune system, try to crank out a sweat session a couple times per week. Your white blood cells (WBCs) respond to exercise by increasing their circulation in the bloodstream. More WBCs in circulation means your immune system is primed and ready to take on germs that dare make an appearance.

The effects of exercise on immunity are well documented. You temporarily initiate your body’s immune response when you exercise. This allows your body to keep joint aches and soreness to a minimum after you work out.

With regular exercise you’ll experience a slight uptick in the number of WBCs that enter your bloodstream and stay in circulation. As a result, people who exercise regularly have been shown to experience fewer seasonal bugs and colds.

This phenomenon occurs only when regular, moderate exercise is performed. Consistent days of high-intensity exercise can trigger the opposite response from immune cells. “Overtraining syndrome” is the decline in immune performance that some ultra-marathoners and triathletes experience during training. Long periods of high-intensity exercises can put your body in a constant state of stress, actually hampering your immunity.

To hit the sweet spot of immune cell support, exercise moderately and consistently. A good way to identify what moderate exercise means for you is to gauge your breathing effort during your workouts. Try to aim for 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (you can calculate your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 beats per minute). That’ll keep you in the zone for cellular health and help you stay out of range of potentially damaging exercise intensity.

Telomeres (All Cells)

Cardiovascular movement influences the health of cells more generally, too. That’s the case when it comes to the telomeres that cap the ends of each cells’ chromosomes.

Chromosomes store all the DNA cells need to replicate (make copies of themselves). These chromosomes are used over and over again for multiple replication cycles. Telomeres are repeating segments of DNA that reside at the ends of each chromosome. These telomeres act as buffers to protect the chromosome from incorrect DNA replication.

Over time, telomeres start to shrink as more copies of each chromosome are made. Shortened telomeres lead to cellular aging and eventual death. So, it’s important to preserve the length of telomeres for as long as possible.

That’s where cardiovascular exercise comes into play. Regular cardio can slow the shortening of telomeres and moderate cellular aging. This is because cardiovascular exercise can affect the level of telomere-preserving enzymes in the cell.

The enzyme that protects telomeres from shortening is called telomerase. Exercise has been shown to elevate the amount of telomerase present in cells. And more available telomerase means telomeres are safeguarded from premature shortening.

Telomeres are at the center of the study of aging. While their role in general health and old age is not clear, one thing is certain. Exercise is great for keeping telomere caps from shrinking too soon and can positively affect the health of each of your cells.

More Cellular Health Exercises—Strength Training

Jogging through the neighborhood or riding a stationary bike exercise your cardiovascular system. But another method of exercise involves slower, more concentrated movements. It’s called strength training. Your heart rate won’t climb as high with strength training, but this form of exercise provides many benefits to your muscle cells.

Muscle Cells

Strength training in a gym setting often focuses on entire muscle groups, but the real effect of resistance exercises on muscles can be found at the cellular level. The cellular benefits of exercise for muscle cells begin rather uniquely. Injury to muscle cells during strength training is the launching point for these cellular benefits.

The cells that make up your larger muscle groups are injured (ever so slightly) when you strength train. Resistance exercises—like planks, push-ups, and squats—all create microscopic injuries to individual muscle cells. To repair themselves, muscle cells need to recruit the help of neighboring satellite cells.

Muscle fibers are surrounded by cells waiting to be called up to active duty when muscles are injured. These satellite cells fuse with injured muscle fibers and donate their organelles to help strengthen the muscle cell. Organelles from satellite cells—like mitochondria and nuclei—are valuable additions to muscle fibers. These organelles allow muscle cells to produce more energy and force during contraction.

Without exercise to trigger these micro-injuries, your muscles would never grow and strengthen in this way. Strength training is an important component of any exercise routine because it plays such a critical role in the health and growth of muscle cells.

Reap the Cellular Benefits of Exercise

Noticeable changes in your body and overall health are the reward of exercising regularly. And below the surface of it all, your cells thrive when you exercise. Think of the trillions of cells that make up your body when you are prepping for your next workout.

Shifting the focus of your workouts to the cellular level can help you appreciate how important your efforts are to even the smallest components of your body. Keep up the cardio and add in strength training so every cell in your body can experience the cellular benefits of exercise.

A lot of the information you find on weight management carries the same scientific heft as the blank pages you’d waste printing it out. The Internet wasn’t where weight myths started, though—not by a long shot. But weight-related misconceptions flourish in the fertile ground of today’s online ecosystem.

Physical and lifestyle realities make modern-day weight-management efforts hard enough. Add in the mountain of weight misinformation burying people’s best efforts, and you have a Herculean task.

But you can manage your weight to live a healthy, happy life. It starts with knowing fact from fiction. Clearing up six of the most pervasive weight myths is a good start. Read on to see which weight-related misconceptions you can toss aside to lighten the load of advice for staying healthy.

The Scale Says It All—Body Weight is Key to Your Health

It’s correct to connect higher-than-normal body weight with a broad range of undesirable health impacts. This is especially true when the added heft comes from accumulated body fat.

And body composition is certainly an element to consider when stepping on the scale. You’ve heard that muscle weights more than fat, which is true. Same goes for bone and water, too. So, that number on the scale doesn’t tell you everything you need to know.

Weight alone is a consideration, but your body composition is an important factor in evaluating what that scale number means for your health. Instead of buying this weight myth, put context around the measurements you’re doing. Also know that your body weight is only one piece of a big, complex health puzzle.

BMI is an Essential, Accurate Measurement

Body Mass Index (BMI) is somewhat useful in evaluating where you fall on the spectrum of healthy, overweight, and obese. But calling it a standard-bearing measurement, without realizing BMI’s shortcomings, spins this statement into a popular weight-related misconception. And one that can create unnecessary negative pressure on many people.

The simplicity of BMI—putting your height and weight into an equation that reveals your number—makes it a one-size-fits-all approach. Unfortunately, weight is an issue that’s highly personalized and incredibly variable. Here are two ways BMI’s oversimplification make its elevated importance a weight myth:

  1. Body composition isn’t considered. How much fat you have compared to muscle, bone, and water is—as you read about with the last weight-related misconception—essential context when discussing weight.
  2. The approach sidelines important demographic information like sex, race, ethnicity, and age.

Waist measurements (especially when related to height) are better, more accurate indicators of health risks related to body weight. It’s time you move on from relying solely on BMI—an outdated and inaccurate measurement—to make health decisions.

High Body Weight Signals Inactivity and Lack of Athletic Ability

This weight-related misconception is a common and painful bias that springs from bad information. Since many looking to lose weight turn to exercise, there’s a harmful conflation of physical activity and body weight.

As weight myths go, this one is particularly hurtful for those stereotyped by the way their bodies look. Just because someone looks to be carrying around a few extra pounds doesn’t mean they’re lazy or lack athletic ability.

How do you fight this weight-related misconception? Remember the most important statement: Bodies of all shapes and sizes can be—and frequently are—healthy.

Exercise Saves You from Bad Dietary Decisions

You may have read about the distance you need to run to burn off a big meal. They’re shocking numbers that underline why diet and exercise are talked about in combination.

Your bad dietary decisions will follow you to the gym—and likely long after. You can burn the calories you take in if you have the time to do it. However, this idea is best considered a weight myth because it’s not possible for almost anyone to balance out a bad diet with enormous amounts of exercise.

The truth is a successful weight-management plan needs to include a healthy diet AND consistent body movement.

Skinny Always Means Healthy and Being Thin is Ideal

Thin is always in when it comes fashion or pop culture. But a skinny body signaling ideal health is a major weight myth.

Staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight are beneficial to your health—as you’ve read so many times. But fretting over clothing sizes and wanting a thin image reflected in the mirror aren’t as important. Actually, a skinny silhouette can hide a bevy of issues, including the accumulation of harmful visceral fat.

This is one of the most damaging weight-related misconceptions. That’s because the unreal, unhealthy expectations set by “thin is ideal” images are—despite body-positive progress—still too prevalent.

Some body types don’t allow for anyone to meet these false ideals—no matter how hard a person tries. And the quest to look skinny is frequently very harmful for the physical and mental health of children and adults alike.

Instead, focus on what feels right for your body and your health goals. Eat healthy. Move your body. Sleep plenty. And always keep in mind that bodies are healthy and attractive in different sizes and shapes that may not match pop culture’s obsession with skinny.

Eating Fat Makes You Gain Fat Tissue

If you understand anything about how digestion breaks down dietary nutrients, you know this is an easily debunked weight myth.

Your digestive system does too much work, and your food goes through too much transformation, for the dietary fat you eat to turn straight into fat tissue. Sure, your body can store energy that was originally fat in adipose tissue (a fancy term for fat). But there’s no guarantee fat in means fat stored.

Skipping fried foods or fat-rich, nutrient-poor dishes are good ideas. But it’s worse to avoid eating fat at all—especially beneficial, plant-based options. Loading up on a balanced diet with plenty of plants is more effective for health and weight management.

Don’t Let Weight Myths Determine Your Health Journey

There’s always new, attention-grabbing content waiting when you want to read about weight. That doesn’t mean you have to buy into the weight-related misconceptions out there.

The basics of foundational health—a balanced diet, active living, minimal stress, solid hydration, and good sleep—are typically also beneficial for managing your weight. Everything else that offers a one-size-fits-all solution should raise a red flag about the advice or information possibly pushing a weight myth.

Avoid tripping yourself up with weight-related misconceptions by focusing on the basics and remembering that all bodies can be healthy, happy bodies.

There’s little debate that exercise plays a powerful role in a happy, healthy life. Regular physical activity helps to build strong muscles, improve your cardiovascular and metabolic systems, shape your physique, and even extend your health. Physically, most people feel better when they regularly exercise. But it doesn’t stop there. The psychology of exercising and enjoying physical activities that boost mood can be just as beneficial to overall health. It’s time you explored the emotional benefits of exercise.

Move for Your Mental Health

Shaping mental health looks different for everyone. Increasing positive feelings to help elevate your energy, give you confidence, boost your mood, and enhance your ability to cope with life’s daily stressors is a great place to start. Your mental health influences your cognition, behavior, and emotional well-being—how you think, act, and feel—at any moment. A crucial part of overall health is gaining more control over how you experience the ups and downs of everyday life.

The benefits of exercise on mental health are powerful. In fact, research suggests that exercise can be as effective as other remedies in maintaining a healthy mental state. This happens by supporting the growth of nerve cells and optimizing their connections within the brain—not simply because it helps tone your physique and improve your self-confidence. A lifestyle shift to try activities that boost mood and bolster your mental health can be a fun way to reap the rewards of reduced stress and a resilient mindset.

The psychology of exercising gives insight into what motivates you to get up and move and how to fit regular activity into your day. If you’re already a habitual exerciser, you’re probably familiar with one of the most common reasons exercise can be so fun—it just feels good. That’s you experiencing the emotional benefits of exercise. But, what’s behind that euphoric feeling that floods your body after a long run and helps you bounce back after a tough day?

Physical Activity and Brain Chemistry

As an infant, you were loved and adored by parents and family members. Being doted on by your primary caregivers flooded your brain with positive neurotransmitters—a powerful, happy combination of chemicals that helped give you feelings of safety, love, and pleasure through responsive interactions.

As you grow and develop, you carry this same innate need for positive feelings of well-being. And though physical activity may not exactly mimic the soothing feeling of receiving love from a parent, the emotional benefits of exercise produce some of the same combinations of chemicals—poignant tools for living a full and balanced life.

The crucial interplay of communication between your brain and body is a result of neurotransmitters and their essential role as messengers. They create a link to your nervous system tied to your emotions, motivation and drive, pain response, focus, energy levels, and your ability to tap into the positive aspects of the human experience. Common neurotransmitters that play a role in exercise and mood for greater mental health include:

  • Serotonin is a messenger that impacts your entire body. As an important regulator of mood and cognition, it’s responsible for creating an overall feeling of well-being and happiness. It also reboots your brain while you sleep and affects digestion.
  • Dopamine is your primary motivation chemical. It helps to promote ambition, drive, and attention. Plus, it assists to regulate important responses like movement and learning, as well as impacts your emotional state. Maintaining basic self-care, including daily exercise, is the most efficient way to ensure optimum dopamine levels.
  • Norepinephrine is associated with the fight-or-flight response when your body senses danger. It helps you react to stress and exercise by increasing heart rate and plays a role in breaking down fat to provide energy for your body.

Digging Deeper into Exercise’s Feel-Good Factor

If you’ve ever been motivated to hit the gym simply because it feels good—there’s a great explanation why. Hint: it’s not just the flood of endorphins common with this exhilarating feeling. Endocannabinoids (produced naturally in the body) are chemical compounds that are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier to bind to neural receptors. They are actually responsible for the rush you feel after a great work out.

Aerobic exercise increases the production of several neurotropic factors—growth factors of the nervous tissue. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is among them, playing a central role in protecting existing neurons and stimulating the growth of new ones (a process called neurogenesis). BDNF actually helps you grow new brain cells. The more BDNF you have, the more you support the growth and development of your nervous system.

During exercise, BDNF is produced and works with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body to effectively block pain and create that feeling of bliss commonly known as a runner’s high. The presence of new neurons gives you an increased level of responsiveness to be more in touch with your experience. And the unique protective ability of BDNF makes your existing brain cells more resilient and less affected by stress on the body. Stress from regular exercise causes a chain reaction that feels good, helps make you more resilient to feelings of stress and anxiety, and actually helps you bounce back from the outside stressors of life faster than before.

BDNF also boosts serotonin production. And it’s reciprocal—higher levels of serotonin stimulate BDNF expression—creating a dynamic cycle that ignites feel-good senses from physical activity alone.

The Mental and Emotional Benefits of Exercise

It’s true, exercise helps to stimulate your mood on a chemical level, but the mental and emotional benefits of exercise also transform your day-to-day mindset. Whether you have a set fitness routine, are a seasoned weekend warrior, or want to experience the positive impact of daily exercise, you may recognize these benefits as you increase your physical activity.

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Easier weight management
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Pride in accomplishments
  • Improved body image perception
  • Enhanced ability to cope with stress
  • Stronger interpersonal relationships
  • Increased mental alertness

These practical benefits of exercise can increase your satisfaction, gratitude, and connection—all major mental-health wins.

Go the Distance with Aerobic Activities that Boost Mood

If you haven’t adopted a favorite aerobic activity, it’s a good time to try something new. Any form of exercise helps to overcome feelings of anxiety and increase well-being, but research shows the best activities that boost mood kick your heart rate up a bit. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise creates more robust and longer-lasting changes to your neurobiology. That’s right—revving up the treadmill speed can enhance your ability to cope with challenging situations.

  • Moderate intensity exercise—50-60 percent of your max heart rate (find your max by subtracting your age from 220)
  • Vigorous intensity exercise—70-85 percent of your max heart rate

Add intensity slowly, if necessary. Carry a backpack on your hikes, set goals to swim a faster lap, take fewer breaks between sets in the gym—anything to increase your heart rate as you become more physically fit. Achieving your personal exercise goals is an unbeatable investment in your well-being.

Keep the Momentum

A healthy habit of regular exercise creates ongoing, mood-boosting effects to build your momentum and tackle your fitness goals. If the first step to fitness seems difficult, try these motivational tips to mentally prepare for your next sweat session.

  • Action precedes motivation. Don’t wait until you feel like exercising—just do it. Schedule your workouts ahead of time, set out your gear, and don’t think too much, just start moving.
  • Be mindful of screen time during exercise. Engaging on social media or checking your phone constantly forces you to multitask during your workouts. You may become overwhelmed or distracted and lose your intensity and drive to continue.
  • Recruit a friend. Working out with a buddy enhances social connection, can push you to strive for greater intensity, and makes you accountable for your goals. Plus, a shared fitness goal is great motivation.
  • Make your workout fun! Finding the right type of exercise is a must. Try new activates and workouts, and switch up your routine to keep you motivated. The more engaged you are in your workout, the more likely you’ll be to show up day after day.

If you’re looking to improve your overall health and find a natural way to cope with daily stress, find some activities that your boost mood. Positive emotional benefits of exercise await on the other side of an intense bike ride, a long run, a night of dancing, or a competitive tennis match. Make your move toward better mental health today.

You and a few friends sit down at your favorite restaurant, order appetizers and a meal, and enjoy each other’s company as you fill up on patatas bravas. Without realizing it, you’ve polish off your plate, sans any portion control whatsoever—over 1,200 calories consumed in half an hour, more if it was washed down with a soda.

Everyone’s been there, stewing in lack of self-control guilt after overeating. But cut yourself some slack—cultural shifts are some the biggest consumption culprits. Restaurant servings sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the last 25 years. This is contributing to a crushing calorie overload and soaring obesity rates.

A fast-food burger ordered in the early ‘90s would’ve weighed in around 4.5 ounces (about 128 grams). Today, that same burger sits at 8 oz. (about 227 grams). In turn, plates at home have become fuller to match the new norm. Preservative-packed prepackaged foods have also steadily become staples, replacing home-cooked meals.

The world is seeing steady increases in average calorie consumption. But you can reverse the trend in your own life with easy, effective planning. Savor your meals, without the guilt, using portion control science.

Weighing the Portion Control Benefits

Why is portion control important? It helps you manage overall caloric intake while ensuring you feed your body the right types of macro and micronutrients. Whether you have a weight-loss goal, want to adjust your BMI, or aspire to maintain a healthy weight, your body will appreciate the beneficial nutrients you may otherwise miss. Your wallet will thank you, too, since every ingredient will go further. And you can say goodbye to mindless munching straight from the package.

The importance of portion control extends to your gut. Too-large portions may cause indigestion and discomfort. If you feel cramped or bloated after a big meal, overeating could be to blame. Measuring out meals will leave you feeling refreshed, content, and energized after eating—defeating the dreaded “post-lunch brain fog” once and for all.

Beyond belly imbalance, a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than your body can burn) has been shown to contribute to overall weight gain, even in active adults and athletes. With the exception of pure protein, overfeeding tends to have a negative effect on body composition, resulting in increased body weight or fat mass.

Eating for Your Body Type and Activity Level

Making portion control science work looks a bit different from person to person. Your genetics and lifestyle play a major part in the amounts and types of nutrients you should eat. Start by determining your body type—endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph. This will help define your macronutrient ratio—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—and whether you should err on the side of more or fewer calories on an average day.

Know Your Nutrients

The more you know about nutrients, the easier it is to design a diet that fits your needs and goals. Learn more about macro and micronutrients today.

The next step is inputting your height, weight, and a few other stats into a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator. BMR calculators offer a rough estimate of the energy your body currently expends in a neutral environment (like binge-watching an entire season of your favorite TV show). Factor in your activity level and add in any of your energy-burning hobbies. Here are a few common activities measured out in 30-minute increments by Harvard Health Publishing for a 155-pound person:

  • 112 calories for general weightlifting
  • 130 calories for golf (with a cart)
  • 167 calories for walking at a 3.5 mph average
  • 223 calories using a stair-stepper
  • 260 calories for low-impact aerobics
  • 298 calories for general circuit training

Combine your BMR, general activity level, and all the motions you make to determine the average number of calories you should aim to consume in a day.

Master Your Meal Plan

You’ve done the math. Now it’s time for the exciting part: making your own personalized portion control guide. Determine the nutritional content of your favorite foods and ingredients, and read the nutrition facts label found on packaged goods. Pay special attention to the serving size—it will surprise you how microscopic the recommended portions can be on many processed foods. For home cooking, a kitchen scale could be a new staple for fast, accurate ingredient measurements.

While your body type will guide you towards the right type of diet, you can’t go wrong with the “golden ratio” of macronutrients. On average, half your plate should be vegetables, a quarter of protein, a quarter of complex carbohydrates, and a dash of healthy fats. Eating within these parameters ensures plenty of satisfying fiber and a range of phytonutrients and other micronutrients that simply aren’t available in a take-n’-bake pizza. Plus, veggies tend to be lower in calories compared to protein-rich foods, while healthy fats tend to be calorie-dense. This means your meals will still be hearty, even when measuring out portions.

The right ratios don’t have to be boring. In fact, eating a varied diet contributes to gut diversity and is a predicator for a healthier heart and weight range. Challenge yourself to try fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow and you’ll enjoy great flavors and beneficial compounds in no time.

The Practice of Portion Control

The importance of portion control becomes less meaningful when it isn’t practiced consistently. Make perfectly measured meals a habit with these tips:

Portion Control Tips

  • Use smaller plates. It’s the simplest, and most effective, method of portion control. Studies show people eat less—or more—depending on their dishware dimensions, regardless of how hungry they were to start.
  • Meal prep during the week. Measuring, cooking, and storing a week’s worth of meals ultimately saves time, allows you to eat on the go, and ensures you stay on track—even on your busiest days.
  • Give yourself a hand. When a scale isn’t available, your hand makes for a solid portion control guide. Protein portions should be about the size of your palm, carbs sized to a clenched fist, and fats portioned to the size of your thumb.
  • Drink a tall glass of water before each meal to help trigger your stomach to signal fullness. Actually, you should aim to stay hydrated all the time—a win-win for your overall health and portion-control goals.
  • Eat purposefully. It can take 20 minutes or longer for your stomach to signal feelings of fullness to your brain. Take your time with each bite, appreciating the textures and flavors. And put down the smartphone at the dinner table to avoid the risk of distracted overeating. (And because it’s rude, of course.)
  • Enjoy healthy, whole-food snacks like almonds, apples, or celery sticks with hummus dip between meals. Utilize the glycemic index to shop for low-glycemic foods—a satisfying way to silence tummy rumbles.
  • Split the meal when eating out, or ask for a half serving. Even if you tell yourself to be extra-vigilant as you order, it’s too easy to overdo it with often-exaggerated portions. At the very least, secure a to-go box at the same time as your food is delivered and divide out your leftovers. Peruse the menu for lighter fare or lunch options—they offer healthier choices and classic meals in smaller portions.
  • Make less mean more. Intermittent fasting is a popular eating option that simplifies eating by condensing your caloric intake into fewer meals. It’s also shown to decrease fat and maintain energy levels.
  • Keep a journal. Jotting down what and how much you eat every day, as well as including brief notes on your daily reactions, can help paint a picture of how nutrition affects your life. Look for trends, and bring up your thoughts with a trusted nutritionist.
  • Ensure enough quality sleep to help regulate hormones associated with hunger. A multitude of other physical and mental health benefits surround a sound night’s slumber.
  • Remove the temptation. Your environment strongly influences your behavior. You know yourself better than anyone, so address your weaknesses. If you often reach for a cola at 3:00 p.m., go for a walk at 2:55 p.m. instead.

Your hand makes for a perfect portion control guide.

Experience the Importance of Portion Control

Society may be eating more than ever before, but armed with the know-how—along with a little practice—you can reign in your dietary habits. You’ll save money, nourish your body with the right nutrients, and lose the overeating guilt. And the next time you visit your favorite go-to restaurant, drink a tall glass of water, portion out a to-go box, and enjoy every bite.

With the right mindset, it’s easy to make portion control science work for you.

Life is busy. And often the easiest foods to find come from the drive-through or a package. The problem is that these are often low in protein, fiber, and micronutrients. At the same time, the easy food options are often high in total calories—while not being very satisfying. These characteristics are the opposite of what to look for in a meal replacement. You want to make your meal replacements a healthy, on-the-go alternative to these unhealthy meals.

To fill this role, meal replacements need to be simple. That’s why the best meal replacements often take the form of a shake or a bar, which have minimal or no preparation. If an option is too complicated and time consuming to prepare, then you might go back to the unhealthy options.

The Nutrients to look for in a Meal Replacement

It’s not easy to have freshly prepared food with a balance of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates for every meal. The best meal replacements will provide a good balance of these macronutrients in an easy-to-eat form. This will vary depending on your goals and food preferences, but a healthy diet acquires roughly 20-35 percent of its calories from fat, 40-65 percent from carbs, and 15-25 percent from protein.

Applying that same balance to a 250-calorie meal replacement means it should have roughly 6-10 grams of fat, 25-41 grams of carbs, and 9-16 grams of protein. About three grams of those carbohydrates should be from fiber.

Those numbers are just guidelines. What’s most important is a meal replacement should still fit into your overall healthy eating goals. It could be a good opportunity to secure a little bit of extra fiber and protein that the rest of your diet may be lacking. So don’t worry if you see protein and fiber go beyond these general recommendations, but they should support your bigger daily goals.

The fat in a meal replacement should focus on healthier fats. This means it should generally limit saturated fats and contain more unsaturated fats. The fats in meal replacements often come from nuts and seeds—a much healthier choice than fried fats found in fast food. There are small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in many foods, but the amount should be low enough that it rounds down to zero.

A normal, healthy meal that’s full of plant-based foods is also going to have lots of essential micronutrients. You should still be amassing some of these nutrients from your meal replacement, too. Look for a meal replacement that has a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals.

What are the Benefits of Meal Replacements?

Now you know what to look for in a meal replacement. Let’s assume you have found one that meets the above criteria, you like the flavor of, and have decided to incorporate it into your daily life. The real benefits will come from using it to replace the unhealthiest parts of your diet first.

A healthier meal on-the-go

Meal replacements are all about finding an easier way to have a nutritious diet. They aren’t meant to replace a well-balanced meal full of lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Instead, they aim to replace the unhealthy snacks and fast food that fill out your diet.

Why do people eat these unhealthy foods in the first place? Some of the foods do taste good, but people aren’t frequenting the corner fast-food joint due to their fine dining experience. A lot of it is due to convenience and routine.

The beauty of meal replacements is they are very easy to prepare. And that ease will help you turn meal replacements into part of your regular routine. So instead of a pastry with your morning coffee or the daily burger and fries for lunch, you can have a shake or bar instead.

Replacing fast food, chips, or candy with a meal replacement can help you increase your intake of essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. At the same time, it can help limit the number of simple sugars, unhealthy fats, and total calories you eat. This is a win-win—giving you more nutrition in fewer calories.

Meal replacements instead of dieting

Yes, the act of eating a meal replacement does make it part of your diet. But compared to many of the traditional weight-loss diets, meal replacements have some distinct advantages.

As mentioned, the best meal replacements are easy to incorporate into your diet. Shakes require minimal preparation and bars don’t require any. The convenience of meal replacements also plays an important role in their ability to help people maintain a healthy weight.

Some of the top reasons people fail at weight-loss diets are due to their complicated nature. Many diets have you counting parts of the food you eat. Calories, fat, carbs, and protein are all important parts of your diet. But for most people it becomes tedious to track them and always be aware where you are at each point throughout the day.

Counting calories

If you have ever eaten out or at a family member’s house while trying to count calories, then you know the nightmare that can become. You are stuck with a few bad options. You can give up on goals for the day and eat what they have prepared. Or you can pick out the couple foods that you can guess accurately and eat some of those—but then go home still hungry.

This isn’t a viable long-term solution for most people. It leads to inconsistent results and eventually giving up on the diet.

It’s not encouraged to just bring a shake to dinner at your friend’s house. But you can plan ahead. Have a shake for lunch that same day, instead of eating both a large lunch and a large meal for dinner.

Even if you still end up eating more than you should on some days, meal replacements are tools for long-term success. Unlike most diets, the replacements are not about losing 10 pounds in the next month. They help you make better eating choices over the months and years of your life.

So after a big night out, rather than the internal debate about whether to continue your calorie counting or give up, you can go back to a simple meal-replacement for lunch. It’s not the most exciting or glamorous food. But the best meal replacements are convenient, and provide a choice you can lean on for years.

That’s great if counting calories works for you, or it’s something you want to do for a short while. These dietary approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. You can use meal replacements while you count calories. Just remember that weight maintenance is a life-long goal, and whatever works for you is going to have to be maintained throughout your life.

Counting carbs

Ketogenic diets are extremely popular right now. And for good reason—most people love an excuse to eat bacon and cheese all day.

Ketogenic diets have some legitimate benefits. Beyond the cheese and bacon, one of the big benefits people talk about is avoiding the calorie counting mentioned above. As already outlined, that task isn’t fun.

But the true followers of keto know that it’s not a diet that keeps you completely away from the counting game. To stay in ketosis, you need to keep your carb intake below about 10 percent of your total energy intake. That means you need to know your calorie intake AND your carb intake.

You could try to keep it simple by skipping the calorie counting, and just limit carbs to 50 g per day. But that won’t work for everyone. And those who do keep their carbs below 50 g per day will face a struggle common to keto diets.

That challenge is acquiring enough nutritious fruits and vegetables in your diet and 25-plus grams of fiber, all while staying below 50 g of carbs per day. It isn’t easy, especially without really tracking your diet carefully. Just like with calorie counting, this isn’t saying that keto diets are bad. Just that it’s more difficult to maintain for most people than turning to a quality meal replacement as a weight-management tool.

What to Look for in a Meal Replacement? What Works Best for You

The most important part of a healthy diet is finding what works for you. The balance of a good meal replacement makes them a great alternative to unhealthy snacks. And their simplicity makes the best meal replacements good alternatives to stricter diets.

Meal replacements aren’t perfect either, but it’s that lack of having to be perfect that makes them so easy to incorporate into your long-term goals. Whether you are trying to have an overall healthier diet or trying to maintain a healthy weight, longevity is essential.

Dieting for life is a marathon, not a sprint. And that’s what a meal replacement is designed for—a life-long addition to your diet.

It’s common to have an adversarial relationship with fat. You’re taunted by it when you look in the mirror. You curse your body fat. You pinch it and try hard to burn it off. But maybe instead of open hostility, it’s time to try to understand fat tissue—or, by its impressive, scientific name, adipose tissue.

This attitude isn’t the fault of the individual alone. Society at large has a complicated relationship with fat tissue. The conflict stems from a plethora of misunderstandings and misconceptions. The lack of knowledge about fat functions creates a simplified understanding of adipose tissue’s biological importance.

You can expand your understanding of all things adipose with the answers to common questions about fat tissue. Learn about formation, function, and fun facts that will reshape your relationship with body fat.

Q. Besides a constant source of ire, what is fat tissue actually?

A. The definition of fat or adipose tissue is fairly simple. It’s loose connective tissue that acts as energy storage. That’s the very basics of fat tissue.

The more formal name (adipose tissue) comes from the fact that this type of tissue is made up of adipocytes—commonly referred to as fat cells. The moniker fits because their main job is to store excess calories as fatty acids called triglycerides.

These reserves of energy in physical form are stashed throughout the body. You tap into the fatty acids in adipose tissue when energy intake and carbohydrate stores—as glycogen—are depleted. It’s a process that’s familiar to those on keto diets or who practice intermittent fasting.

One other easy misunderstanding about fat needs to be cleared up right away. Eating dietary fat of any type doesn’t transfer directly to adipose tissue. Sure, the fat tissue on your body is similar at a molecular level to the fat you eat. Lipids and fatty acids form the building blocks of all fats—including adipose tissue. But the fat you eat goes through a lot before it possibly is incorporated into adipocytes.

Digestion breaks down the fats you eat into component parts. Some of that energy is burned off. Some is used to build structures or for other health-maintenance purposes throughout the body. The leftover energy from dietary fat can then be stored in adipose tissue. So instead of avoiding fats in your diet, just look for healthy, plant-based sources. And remember the caloric price tag, because fat packs nine calories per gram.

Q. Is there more to adipose tissue than just fat? Or are there other components?

A. Your body fat is more complex than the simplified villain narrative that pervades pop culture. There are the adipocytes, of course, and plenty of small blood vessels to maintain circulation into the adipose tissue. Nerve and endocrine (hormone producers) cells as well as lymphatic pathways are also found in fat tissue.

But the biggest non-fat component of adipose tissue is the stromal vascular fraction (SVF). This important element is a collection of diverse cell types—including mature cells (vascular, smooth muscle, blood and immune cells, as well as fibroblasts) and stem cells. Millions of these SVF cells aren’t fat-filled, but provide structure and material that can adapt as the tissue needs fluctuate.

Q. What health and survival functions do fat tissue perform?

A. Of course, you don’t want too much adipose tissue, but having too little is a problem as well. That’s because fat isn’t just a physical punishment for unhealthy eating or a lack of exercise. It has crucial biological functions that keep you alive and thriving.

The main functions include:

  • Energy storage—This main adipose purpose (already discussed above) is a survival mechanism to make the most of bountiful food supplies by stashing some for later.
  • Heat—Animals in cold climates use blubber to keep them warm, and this phenomenon exists in humans—especially babies, but research is showing the role fat plays in heating adults, too.
  • Padding—Accumulated adipose tissue cushions your organs to provide a measure of protection.
  • Metabolic impact: Using secretions (hormones, cytokines, and other metabolites), adipose tissue helps regulate energy balance, appetite, and various metabolic actions.
  • Hormone production: As an endocrine organ, fat tissue makes a variety of hormones, like leptin, adiponectin, and resistin.

Q. Fat is an organ?!

A. Yes. You read that right—adipose tissue is considered an endocrine organ. And a big one, too. This designation is based on fat tissue’s ability to produce hormones—literally the definition of an endocrine organ.

Your adipose tissue’s communication and influence on metabolic activities are helped by the array of hormones it makes. Leptin is especially important for energy regulation. It interacts with your brain’s hypothalamus and helps maintain the body weight over time. It’s one of the reasons dieting is so hard.

Q. Are there different types of adipose tissue?

A. Indeed there are different forms of adipose tissue. And they’re conveniently color-coded to keep them separate.

White fat tissue acts as the energy storehouses for the extras from your diet. That’s also what’s pulled from when your body runs out of easily burned sugars. Your white adipose tissue also handles the hormone secretions that come from your body fat.

Brown fat tissue is thermogenic—packed with more blood vessels and to help maintain warmth. Science has known this kind of fat was in newborns. But up until recently, it wasn’t thought to play much of a role in adults.

Adipose tissue is also often described by where it is on the body.

Q. Where does fat accumulate?

A. The midsection is the first place you might look for body fat. But a round belly is only one place you’ll find fat-stuffed adipose tissue.

In fact, fat is all over your body.

Adipose tissue is tucked into the innermost layer of your skin. This subcutaneous fat is what you measure with calipers or pinch to check your weight-management progress. It’s also the fatty tissue that’s easiest to spot.

You can’t exactly see visceral fat—though evidence of it (a pot belly) can become apparent with too much accumulation. This type of fat describes the adipocytes clustered inside your abdominal cavity and around your internal organs. You need some for padding, but too much visceral fat can hamper health.

Fat is also laced between your muscle fibers (intermuscular fat) and inside your bone marrow. That yellow bone marrow—the kind where adipocytes are found—is important for stem cell production.

Q. Can you really not eliminate fat cells? What’s the process to remove adipose tissue and slim down?

A. You were born with tens of billions of fat cells and they aren’t going anywhere. You’ll likely have them, and maybe more, for the entirety of your life. That’s because, while you can’t naturally destroy fat cells, you can add more adipose tissue. And once it’s there, it doesn’t go away, either.

Sorry if that’s bad news. Liposuction can literally suck up and permanently remove adipose tissue located under your skin. But there’s simply no way to diet or exercise away your adipose tissue.

If that’s true—and it certainly is—how do you burn fat naturally to improve your physique?

Fat tissue is made up of adipocytes that act as little energy storage containers of lipids. When your body is in a state where it has to rely on stored fat for energy, the necessary amount of containers are emptied.

The storage structures stay, but they are no longer plumped up by the fat that filled them. This helps you look slimmer. Just remember that those adipocytes can be filled back up in the future—depending on your calorie expenditure and intake.

Q. Is there a correct amount of fat tissue?

A. Like most health indicators, there isn’t a single number that works for everyone. Instead, there is a healthy range for body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI).

Women with 10-31 percent body fat are considered in the healthy range. For men, the numbers are between two and 24 percent. If you’re looking to use BMI, the healthy range is 18.5–24.9.

There are other factors—age and activity level, for instance—that may make your target range slightly different. But the important takeaway about body fat is that you do need some, but too much isn’t good for maintaining optimal health.

Also, dealing with fat loss purely based on your weight isn’t the right approach. When you’re talking about fat tissue amounts, body composition is the keyword. That’s why the measurements you see above aren’t tied to a number to shoot for on the scale.

Use Your Knowledge About Adipose Tissue to Shape Your Health

Now that you understand more about your body fat—including a cool new name, adipose tissue—that doesn’t mean you’ll stop pinching it or trying to burn it off. But come at your relationship with fat from a place of knowledge and understanding.

Utilize your newfound knowledge to smartly design your lifestyle to achieve the right fat-related goals. Respecting the way adipose tissue works, the functions it performs, and its impact on your body can inform your dietary and exercise choices.

Next time you look in the mirror and are ready to curse your stubborn adipose accumulations, remember fat isn’t automatically bad. Fat tissue isn’t a black-and-white issue. Now you know adipose is a matter of brown and white tissue.

Weight loss is the most popular reason people exercise. But losing weight is far from the only exercise benefit. Working out can support the health of all aspects of your body.

Here’s a full-body overview of other exercise benefits. From your brain to lungs and joints, learn why you should exercise for more than weight loss.


Your body’s command center needs exercise just as much as your waistline does. Moving your body for a few minutes every day is a great way to keep your brain in shape.

The brain relies on building new connections between neurons so you can store important information throughout your life. This action of building new bridges between brain cells is called neuroplasticity, and it increases through exercise.

Scientists believe neuroplasticity and exercise are linked because of the increase in blood flow to the brain during physical activity. With plenty of blood and oxygen circulating in your brain, regions like the hippocampus can wire new neural pathways. This can help your memory adapt and continue to improve through your lifetime.

Aging is hard on your brain. So, exercise is one thing you can do to make the transition into later life more manageable. Regular exercise has been shown to support healthy recall skills and can slow the progression of age-related memory decline.

In one study, researchers noted that even light exercise and a minimum of 7,500 daily steps were associated with an increase in total brain volume. Higher brain volume can indicate enhanced neuroplasticity in the brain. That’s how exercise can help keep your mind and learning abilities sharp as you age.

If you want to exercise to boost your brain power, cardiovascular exercises are best. The bursts of movement during cardio elevate your heart rate and send blood pumping to all areas of your body—your brain included. Cardio doesn’t need to be intense to get the job done. Your brain will benefit from a regular evening walk, bike ride, or swim in the pool. Anything that pumps your blood is great for your brain.

Mood and Hormones

People that exercise can count on a better mood as their reward—not just weight loss. The link between mood and exercise is a strong one. And it can be a great motivator to work out more.

It all starts with aerobics. Faster paced, cardiovascular movements can reduce the amount of stress hormones circulating in your blood. These hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) often  contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, and worry. Too much of any stress hormone can even interfere with your sleep habits. This leaves you tired and unprepared to tackle your daily tasks.

Regular aerobic exercise does more than just decrease the presence of these stress hormones. Cardio and other blood-pumping workouts can even add in feel-good hormones to your bloodstream.

Endorphins are hormones produced by your brain in response to exercise. They act like natural painkillers and stress-relievers. Some people even call the rush of endorphins you experience after exercise a “runner’s high.”

Runner or not, you will like the way you feel when endorphins enter circulation. These mood-lifting biochemicals bring on a sense of euphoria and can even help combat anxiety and depression. In addition, they help you relax and calm down.

Let exercise be your go-to way to pick yourself up after a hard day. A light jog, game of tennis, or trip to the park with your family, is all you need to feel the effects of endorphins. At the same time, you’ll be reducing stress hormones and putting yourself at ease.


One of the first organs in your body to see the benefits of regular exercise is your heart. Your cardiovascular system becomes more efficient as you grow fitter. Treat your heart to some endurance training and exercise for the health of your ticker.

As your fitness level improves, you might notice your resting heart rate slow a bit. That’s because exercise makes your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood. A slower heart rate is a sign that your heart doesn’t need to work as hard to circulate your blood. Each heartbeat packs a little more force and pumps blood with less energy expended.

Exercise benefits your heart in other ways, too. Regular physical activity is linked to reducing fatty plaque build-up in arteries. This thickening and hardening of vessel walls can make it harder for your heart to push blood to the places it needs to be. Keeping arteries clear of hardened fat is another perk of working out.

Cardio exercises are the kind of workouts your heart needs. You’ll know you’re doing cardio when you can feel your heartbeat start to quicken. Jumping-jacks, plyometrics, running, and other fast-moving exercises are great options for cardio. Take the opportunity to work-out for your heart the next time you exercise.


Tough workouts can leave you feeling breathless. But exercising on a regular basis can help combat this feeling of breathlessness. Aerobic movements can increase the volume of air your lungs can take in with each breath. This measurement is called lung capacity. As lung capacity increases, so does the amount of oxygen available to the muscles powering your workout.

Try breathing exercises to boost your lung capacity. You can incorporate them into your daily exercise or practice them while resting. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lips breathing are two methods you can use to expand your lung capacity.

Just Breathe

To do diaphragmatic breathing, place you hand on your abdomen just beneath your rib cage. Breathe deeply and focus on expanding your abdomen and stomach as you inhale. To exhale, purse your lips together like you would to suck through a straw or give someone a kiss. Push the breath out of your pursed lips slowly.

Bones and Joints

A common myth surrounding joint health is that regular exercise can lead to damaged joints. Consistent, moderate exercise can actually increase bone mass and strength, while protecting joints from swelling, pain, and erosion.

Stronger joints start with stronger bones. When muscles are activated during physical activity, they push and pull on the bones they attach to. Tension from working muscles encourages bone cells to multiply and thicken. As a result, your bone density improves.

This relationship between bone strength and exercise is important. It means that the more consistently you exercise, the stronger your bones become. And the strong bones you develop through regular movement will fare better as you age.

Another reason you should exercise for more than weight loss is to relieve stress on your joints. Swelling and stiffness can happen when your joints aren’t cared for properly. Discomfort in the joints might make exercise seem like a chore.

Don’t give in to the temptation to skip a workout. Movement and regular use of your joints can help them feel great. Daily exercise is a great way to reduce aching and promote strength in your joints.

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, lunges, squats, and burpees are excellent bone-strengthening activities. Try to hit each muscle groups when you exercise to ensure every bone and joint benefits from your workout.

Immune System

Entire body systems, like your immune system, thrive when you exercise regularly. That’s because exercise has perks that can help keep you healthy.

Exercise promotes the turnover and exchange of leukocytes (white blood cells.) Leukocytes are part of your innate immune response and fight against pathogens that invade your body. When you exercise, the leukocytes that protect you from getting sick are regenerated.

Your immune system needs regular physical activity to defend you from sickness later in life, too. It turns out that along with the rest of your body, your immune system ages, too. Exercise stimulates immune activity that helps keep healthy and free from infection. A habit of everyday exercise can help you maintain immunity in the face of possible age-related decline.

To exercise for your immune system, find an activity that promotes circulation. Aerobic exercises and full-body movements trigger the white-blood-cell turnover that maintains your immunity. Dancing, jogging, tennis, and volleyball are great ways to move your whole body and support your immune defenses.

Working Out for Your Whole Body

Moving your muscles on a regular basis does wonders for your overall wellness. Remember, you can exercise for more than weight loss. So, try to find another factor that motivates you to exercise.

Incorporate a variety of exercises that target different health and exercise benefits. Add cardio and aerobic movements to bolster your heart, brain, and mood. Stretching and deep breathing practices work for your joint and lung health. Find a fitness groove that works for your whole body, and start working out for more than the bathroom scale.