Sticking with Healthy Goals
As we start off the New Year, we tend to make health resolutions that quickly fade. Now that we are mid-year, let’s take this opportunity to make some realistic, healthy, gradual, and permanent changes that will improve our lives for years to come.
In today’s day and age, we want results fast. Unfortunately, as far as weight loss goes, the best results are slow and sustained. Losing about 1-2 pounds per week has shown to help people make gradual but permanent changes to their diet and exercise plans. One reason is because when we enroll in a fad diet that promises quick weight loss, it makes us drastically change our diet. Whatever that fad diet promotes is such a big change from our normal habits that we end up sticking with it for a while, but eventually “fall off the wagon” and go back to our old habits. Instead of overhauling everything in the diet at once, try working on small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. If we make small, gradual modifications, we tend to make them permanent! Try to focus on one area of your diet at a time.
Write it Down
One way to know how to start modifying your diet is to keep a food journal for a few days. This helps you to identify how much you currently eat in a day and to highlight the possible problem areas. For example, maybe your meals are healthy but the snacks in between are high in calories. Or maybe you notice that you have a bad habit of mindlessly snacking in front of the TV. You can keep a food journal the old-fashioned way by writing everything down or by using web-based or smart phone-based apps such as My Fitness Pal or Lose It.
Make SMART Goals
Another tool to use for goal setting is to make SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When creating a goal for yourself, especially diet- or exercise-related, make sure to define it well. For example, instead of saying “I will exercise more,” define it! For example, say “I will start walking 1 mile in City Park for 20 minutes on 3 days per week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.” As your exercise tolerance increases, update your goal by either increasing the duration (length of time or distance-i.e. 1 ½ miles), intensity (how fast or hard you exercise- i.e. walking 1 mile in 15 minutes), or frequency (amount of times you exercise- i.e. 5 days per week: Monday-Friday).
In order to stay on the right track, it helps to have some support. Enrolling a friend to walk with you can keep you motivated to continue with your exercise routine. Asking your spouse to eat the same healthy meals as you can diminish the temptation to deviate from your meal plan. Even sharing accomplishments, such as losing 5 pounds, with loved ones and friends can boost your confidence in your health goals.
Katie Schlemer, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and a Diabetes Educator in the Touro Diabetes Center. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Saint Louis University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane University. Katie has been counseling individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and gestational diabetes for the past 3 years. Her goal is to help individuals learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to live well with diabetes.