Has your quality of life improved since you lost weight?

Last week wasn't a good one for weight-related news. First, there was the news that obesity had reached "major public health threat" proportions, and now new research shows that as our weight rises, our quality of life declines. The study shows that Americans are losing healthy days off their lives due to obesity, and that number has doubled from 7.5 in 1993 to 17 in 2008.

"The gains being made on the burden on our health-care system by decreases in smoking could be eroded by the progression of obesity if we don't have lots of interventions in place," said Dr. Erica I. Lubetkin, co-author of the study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. "Getting junk food out of the schools, having more recess and gym, discouraging television and computer use" would all be a good place to start, she said.

We're about nothing if not quality of life on Real-Life Makeover, so this news cut us to the quick. What use is it thinking about how to be happier and lead a more meaningful life, if our poor health is subtracting days we've got to work with? While dramatic change is good for makeover shows, when it comes to lasting alterations to our lives, sometimes small adjustments work best. Here are five things we can all do today to start improving our quality of life through our health.

  • Eat more fruits and veggies. The goal is five to seven servings, and summer is the easiest and most delicious time to meet that goal. Try a salad at lunch or a sandwich piled with veggies, fill one half of your plate at dinner with lusciously ripe seasonal vegetables, and make your afternoon snack a piece of fruit.
  • Take a walk after dinner. Instead of settling down into the couch after dinner, grab your sweetie's hand and take a turn around the block. Or step out after lunch to help stave off that post-sandwich slump.
  • Eat at home. Cooking your own food is one quick step to take to know exactly what you're eating. Try to skip restaurants, fast food, and take-out for a week and see how you feel. Check out these super fast dinners ready in 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes.
  • Upgrade your pantry staples. Swap out white pasta, rice and bread for more nutritionally dense whole grains that will keep you full longer and can reduce your risk of disease. Try whole wheat pasta and couscous, barley, quinoa, bulgur, and whole grain bread.
  • Take 5. For many of us, eating is a coping mechanism for stress. Make breathing your first line of defense. Every day, sit in a chair on with your legs folded on the ground. Breathe in for a count of five. Hold your breath for a count of five. Then slowly exhale for a count of five.