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The top three New Year’s resolutions are 1) to spend more time with family and friends, 2) exercise more/get in shape, and 3) lose weight. Many of us have tried the fad diets and quick fix exercise programs that seem to work great at first. You get psyched about following the new plan and do everything right. You lose some pounds and feel better. But after a while, you get bored or frustrated with the restrictions and start to go back to those old habits. You gain back some or all of the weight, maybe even more. Many people have lost the same 5 or 10 pounds numerous times.
Instead of following the latest diet or exercise trend, what we should try to do is make gradual lifestyle changes to our everyday habits. The first step to making changes is to understand your current eating and exercise habits. The best way to do this is by keeping a food diary. This is an amazing tool! It can give you a clear picture of what and when you are eating and your activity level. It requires only a pencil and paper and you writing down what you eat. Include the date, the times you eat, and everything you eat and drink throughout the day, including serving sizes. It is also important to write down why you are eating (hungry, bored, etc.). You may discover that you overeat when you are stressed or that you eat macaroni and cheese way too often, or that you consistently skip breakfast. This is an invaluable tool to help you reach your weight goals. Studies show that overweight persons who keep food diaries lose nearly 3 times more weight than those who do not.
For those of you thinking “That is too much work”, just try it. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. Just keep a piece of paper with you and scribble it down. It doesn’t have to be neat, just so you can read it. Some of you are probably saying, “I already know what I eat”. You may think you do, but I bet you don’t.
At the end of the week, look back and see how you did. You will more than likely be amazed by something you discover. Did you eat enough fruits and vegetables? Do you hit the candy dish at work too often? Do you eat too much after supper each night? Are you eating too many fried foods? Keeping a food diary can also help you to see the good things that you are doing. By writing things down, you are making yourself accountable for your actions. You should now be able to pinpoint what areas you need to improve. Each week, you can make goals for yourself from your food diary.
A goal should be one or two small things that you can change within a set time frame. You decide what you want to work on first. Little changes can equal big results! Here are a few examples of goals:
I will switch from regular sodas to diet sodas by January 31.
By the end of February, I will eat sausage for breakfast one day each week instead of five days.
I will walk for five minutes of my break at work every day starting tomorrow.
Make goals within your reach and have a reward for yourself when you reach your goals. Rewards should not include food. You could buy yourself a book, go to a movie, buy a new outfit, or get a manicure. Write down your goals and rewards and put them where you will see them everyday. By taking small steps you can achieve your fitness and weight goals this year. Focus on the positive changes you are making to improve your health.
Editors Note: Jessica Spalding Bickett, MBA, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian with Lincoln Trail District Health Department. For more information, call your local health department.