Just thinking of what we need to do to make a difference in our blood pressure can be overwhelming: cut back on sodium, increase your potassium intake, lose weight, stop smoking, get more exercise, manage your stress…
So in this installment of The Circulatory, I want to emphasize the sometimes surprising impact that a tiny change in habit can make.
Here’s an example to illustrate this point:
Let’s say you want to lose some weight. It isn’t just an uphill battle, it’s one that you’re tired of trying to climb. You’re a modern Sisyphus trying to push that stone to the top of the mountain, only to have it fall back whenever you’re close.
So here’s a much easier way to conquer the mountain. Instead of aiming for the top, focus on getting to the nearest next level. Losing just 5% of our body weight (that’s just 10lbs for a 200 lb. person) can help decrease our blood pressure, our triglycerides, our risk for type 2 diabetes, our joint pain, and our risk of cardiovascular disease.
5% can do all that.
Now, is losing 5% of our body weight easier said than done? Maybe. But here are a few pieces of information about tiny habit changes that can make that goal seem easier to accomplish:
It takes 3500 calories over/or under maintenance needs to gain/or lose a pound of fat.
This means that 35,000 calories subtracted from your intake over the course of a year would have you lose 10 pounds of fat.
An average 12oz can of soda is 150 calories. Cut out 1 can of soda (or the equivalent caloric deficit) every day for a year, and that alone would give you a 15lb fat loss.
An average serving of full-fat salad dressing is 2 tablespoons and a whopping 150 calories. Most of us use more than 2 tablespoons … a lot more. Cut out one serving/day. Same result as above.
A serving of most chocolate chip cookies (2 cookies) is 156 calories. Cutting out 2 each day would give you a 16 lb. fat loss over the course of a year.
Alcohol calorie averages:
12 oz Beer – 150 calories
5 oz Red Wine – 125 calories
5 oz White Wine – 100 calories
1.5oz Whiskey – 100 calories
average cocktail range from 128 (scotch and soda) to 644 (Pina Colada) calories
So, cutting out one of these each day would give you a fat loss of 10lbs to 67 lbs over the course of a year, depending on which you cut out. I’m guessing that there aren’t many people having a Pina Colada every day!
As an added bonus, 10 lbs. of fat loss isn’t the same as 10 lbs. of weight loss. In the process of losing fat, we will also lose water that our body holds onto in its stored carbohydrates. This will reflect as a weight loss that is greater than 10 lbs!
So any one of these tiny changes (or the caloric equivalent) would get a 200 lb. person to 5% fat loss over the course of a year. Two of these tiny changes? A 10% fat loss over the course of a year, and so on and so forth. But just one of these changes could lead to a significant decrease in blood pressure, triglycerides, inflammation, joint pain, and risk of cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.
This same approach is true for most goals we’re trying to accomplish. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Walk it rather than run it. One tiny habit at a time.