6 Weight Loss Secrets from the Skinny State

Featured Article, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Plans
on August 13, 2013
Health habits from the residents of the skinniest state.

In a nation where obesity rates continue to skyrocket, one lone state remains markedly unscathed by the battle of the bulge: Colorado. Since 1990, Colorado has weighed in as the skinniest state in the union, with an obesity rate hovering consistently under 20 percent (compared to the current national average of 26.2 percent). So what is Colorado’s hidden secret to leanness? Is it something magical in the water, or are Coloradoans merely onto something the rest of us aren’t?

Mystified by this exact question, doctors James Hill and Holly Wyatt embarked on a quest to unlock the Colorado secret to good health. Drs. Hill and Wyatt studied the patients in their Denver-based weight-loss clinic and also looked for clues in the lean people of Colorado. What they determined is that Colorado is a place where diet, activity and environment intersect perfectly.

“We have a great environment for eating healthy and moving more,” explains Dr. Holly Wyatt, a physician and clinical researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado and the national director for the Centers for Obesity Research and Education. “A lot of people in Colorado are passionate about fitness and healthy eating. It starts to become contagious and rub off on other people.”

It makes sense that Colorado’s environment would be conducive to good health: Boasting breathtaking natural scenery with myriad hiking and biking trails—not to mention a favorable climate—Colorado simply beckons residents to lace up their shoes and experience the Great Outdoors. But what about the rest of us who are consigned to crowded urban spaces or less-than-spectacular cul de sacs? How can we vicariously experience the Colorado lifestyle, even if we don’t happen to have the Rocky Mountains in our very backyard?

Here’s the good news: No matter what state you reside in, you can still adopt the health-conscious Colorado ethos. In their revolutionary new book State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet, Drs. Hill and Wyatt outline a comprehensive diet plan inspired by the quintessential Colorado lifestyle. Built on the premise that a sluggish metabolism is one of the biggest impediments to long-lasting weight loss success, the Colorado Diet is a three-phase plan designed to reignite, rebuilt and reinforce the metabolism. The plan relies on several simple, realistic and sane lifestyle tweaks that will help you achieve what Wyatt and Hill dub a “Mile-High Metabolism”—one that enables you to eat to satisfaction and still stay slender. And who doesn’t want that?

Below, we divulge the six secrets that keep the people of Colorado in a state of slim. By adopting these simple habits, you can reap the benefits of the wholesome Colorado lifestyle regardless of where you live.

1) Colorado Slim Secret #1: Be active every day. A few years ago, Wyatt and Hill conducted a research study and discovered that the average American takes about 5,500 steps per day, while the average Coloradan takes upwards of 6,500 steps per day. Simply put, physical activity is the capstone of the Colorado lifestyle. But it’s not necessarily because Coloradans are doggedly slaving away on the elliptical or summiting high peaks before breakfast; rather, they instinctively incorporate exercise into their daily lives. Take a cue from the typical Coloradan and find ways to sneak more movement into your day. Take a yoga class with the girls instead of meeting for happy hour, and walk to the nearest grocery store rather than driving.

2) Colorado Slim Secret #2: Fuel up on real food. Physical activity is just one piece of the weight loss puzzle. In order to slim down, you’ll also need to consume the right foods. Many Coloradans are selective about what they put in their mouths, opting for sustainably grown, local fare whenever possible. In other words, you’re more likely to find a Coloradan perusing the aisles of an organic food store than idling in the fast-food drive-thru. Adopt the Colorado mindset and be more persnickety when it comes to your food. Emphasize fresh, flavorful and seasonal ingredients. Rather than dining out for every meal or eating from a box, focus on making nourishing, home-cooked meals using whole, unprocessed ingredients.

3) Colorado Slim Secret #3: Create your own healthy environment. With ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, Colorado is a bustling hub for healthy cyclists, hikers, mountain climbers and marathon runners alike. This is one of the key reasons why Coloradans, in general, are so lean: When you’re constantly bumping elbows with active individuals, it fosters an environment where healthy living is the norm rather than the exception. In the book, Drs. Hill and Wyatt talk about the ways in which a so-called “social circle effect” informs a person’s health choices. In other words, if your best friend is a judicious exerciser, chances are pretty good that you will instinctively begin to mimic her healthy habits. On the flip side, if your friends are reveling, burger-eating types, those destructive habits will probably rub off on you. The takeaway lesson? Surround yourself with active people whenever possible, and you will become more active too. But you don’t have to ditch your old friends to do this; try expanding your social circle by signing up for a new yoga class and befriending some of the people in your class.

4) Slim Secret #4: Stay true to your purposes. When you gain control of your health, it resonates outward, empowering you to gain better control over other areas of your life. “For Coloradans, being in good shape physically helps them achieve their purpose. It gives them the energy and confidence to do the things that are most important to them,” Hill says. Success with weight loss often correlates directly with financial success, professional success and other types of life success. If you recognize how losing weight and keeping it off will help you better achieve your goals in life, that will make it much easier for you to commit to going to the gym or passing up on dessert.

5) Slim Secret #5: Keep a positive mindset. Many diets fail because individuals fall into a trap of negativity or self-pity, bemoaning the negative aspects of weight loss—“E.g., I can’t eat my favorite foods,” “I hate working out”—instead of funneling their attention toward the positive aspects of weight loss—“I have more energy,” “I can now zip up my jeans.” Don’t see your diet as a limitation; feel empowered by it. Having a positive attitude will make it easier to stay motivated and will enable you to maintain your weight loss goals in the long-term. Adjust your attitude, and success will follow. “In general, Coloradans have an upbeat attitude,” Hill says. “It’s not that everyone is running around happy all the time. It’s more a sensibility that you are responsible for your own happiness.”

6) Slim Secret #6: Make healthy living fun. Here is perhaps the ultimate “secret” to Colorado’s leanness: Coloradans know that being healthy doesn’t have to be punishing or challenging—it can actually be quite fun. The more you embrace healthy living as a way of life, the more you will grow to take pleasure in being active and eating well. If you stick with your healthy lifestyle, you will be amazed by how drastically your outlook shifts in response. All of a sudden, your morning run will seem more enjoyable than torturous, and you’ll find that you no longer crave greasy fast-food hamburgers. “The key to success is savoring this lifestyle and doing it in a way that brings you happiness rather than feelings of hardships,” says Hill and Wyatt. “We know this is possible, because we’ve seen it in our neighbors, colleagues, and Colorado friends and in those across the country who have succeeded in losing weight and keeping it off.”

Want to eat as the Coloradans do? These 3 recipes, approved by the Colorado Diet plan outlined in State of Slim, are bursting with flavor without adding fat.

Juicy, Cheesy Spinach Turkey Burgers 

Pan-Seared Salmon with Chile Oil and Wild Rice 

Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Chili