BY BARBARA MINTZ, MS, RD The truth is, staying healthy is a journey, not an annual quest. It is not a series of failed diets or exercise binges. It is a series of small steps.
We know the holidays can challenge even the most disciplined and vigilant. It is that time of the year when every day seems like a food fight. We are tempted by those treats our kids came home with on Halloween. We’ve been attending family events at Thanksgiving, going to holiday parties and trying not to eat those hors d’oeuvres or drink that extra cocktail. We are tempted by that tray of holiday cookies our co-worker brought in, or grandmas stuffing or mom’s apple pie
No matter what holiday you celebrate, food is always at the center. And exercise? There never seems to be enough time to do that even when we are not dealing with the holidays. And now it’s that time of year again. Everyone is making those New Year’s resolutions…. You know the drill… We wake up January 1st and vow to lose the weight we gained over the holidays and drastically change our eating and exercise habits in a day. Sound familiar?
• I will get up every morning before the sun and get to the gym.
• I will never eat ice cream or eat cookies.
• I’m giving up drinking.
Easier said than done, which is why we keep going back to what seems to be those same resolutions every year. The truth is, staying healthy is a journey, not an annual quest. It is not a series of failed diets or exercise binges. It is a series of small steps. This requires changing some of your hardwiring about food and diets, keeping your expectations realistic and being kind to yourself. Start by taking inventory of your eating habits, food choices and exercise routine.
If you are trying to lose weight…
It’s all a simple equation of balance: calories in and calories out. If we eat more than we burn
off, we are going to gain weight. If we want to lose weight, we have to either eat a little less or
exercise a little more, or a combination of both to lose those extra pounds. Remember, you only have to reduce your calorie intake by 500 a day to lose an extra pound of fat in a week. This comes from eating a little less, exercising a little more or a combination of both for long lasting results.
Some simple facts…
Did you know that 20 ounces of soda is about 240 calories? Just two of these every day will equal the amount of calories in one pound of fat. The good news is that if you gave up just one of
these, you will lose ½ a pound of fat a week. If you gave up both and switched to a diet beverage or water, then you will lose a pound. If you thought that switching to juice is better, don’t be fooled. Remember even 100 percent juice has the same as, or sometimes more calories and sugar than regular soda. It’s a different kind of sugar, but it all adds up to that same pound of fat.
Some other tips to remember…
• If you are frying your food, remember that you will be eating more calories from fat.
• If you reduce the portion sizes or eat less per week, you will also reduce your calorie intake.
• Stay away from processed foods as much as you can. The closer you stay to food in its natural state, the healthier you will be by reducing the amount of sodium, preservatives and hydrogenated oils. Too much processed and convenient foods can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol in addition to helping you gain that extra body weight.
• Watch the alcohol and think moderation here. Red wine is loaded with antioxidants, but more is not better. It does have those extra calories and it can also impede your ability to burn fat when you exercise.
Remember, changing your diet takes time. Eating is a behavior, a habit, and changing it for the better can take time. When you take one change at a time and really master it, then you are more likely to keep that behavior, making it a part of your lifestyle
Now let’s talk about exercise…
You do not have to go like a crazed warrior when you work out. Even the gladiators knew that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Thirty minutes of cardio vascular exercise, something that gets you heart rate up to a moderate intensity level, helps you burn off that excess fat. This could be whatever you like… It could be biking, a Zumba class, or even something as simple as walking. The important thing is to do it frequently enough in a week’s time. At least five days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes will give you great benefits. You also should incorporate weight resistance exercises, and the weight room is not just for men. Women need it too. Behind every curve there is a strong muscle. Cardio vascular work will take off your extra fat, but weigh training will help keep up your muscle mass. The more muscular your body is, the more your body burns calories even when you sitting at your desk because it takes more calories to maintain a muscled body than one that has more fat. This goes for men and women. Exercise is an appropriate combination of frequency, duration and intensity. All of these in the right combination for you will get you in shape, and keep you there!
Keep the spirit of fitness all year long…
Keep going forward. Take one day at a time but look at your progress in a week’s time and don’t look back. We are going to be faced with many chances to make the wrong choice, because we are busy people. Our lives will get in the way and we will probably not always be as disciplined as we think we need to be. That’s ok. Stay focused on your goals, visualize them, write them down and look at them every day. Remember, anything that is worth something takes time. Changing your life is a journey that you must take one step at a time. •
HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES
Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Vice President of Healthy Living and Community Engagement for Barnabas Health, New Jersey.