The Science Of Sticking To It
01/10/2017 06:00AM ● Published by Christy Quebedeaux
New Year’s Resolutions That Last
By Barbara McConnell
How many times at the end of the year have you said: I’m going to eat better, lose weight, stop smoking, curb alcohol, exercise, and then what happens? Like most people, your best-laid plans don’t materialize. Why?
And it isn’t just a matter of looking better, this impacts your health, too - diabetes and obesity rank at the top of Louisiana’s health disorders.
According to the most recent 2015 Louisiana Department of Health’s Annual Health Report Card, one third of our population is obese (as defined by a BMI or body mass index above 30), ranking us as the 45 state out of 50 in percentage of obese residents. And in diabetes, which is the inability of the body to process sugar correctly, the state is also ranked 45 nationally, yet another bad grade.
So, we consulted with two dietitian/nutritionists, a physician and a physical therapist for the answers on making lifelong decisions on diet and exercise, avoiding burnout and turning those decisions into long-term success.
The number one reason our experts agree that lifestyle changes fail was: trying to do too much at once.
Avis Domingue, a local registered dietitian (RD) advises, “Pick a doable plan and choose a realistic weight to shoot for. Losing 30 pounds in a short period of time is not realistic; losing maybe 10 pounds gradually is more likely to end in success.”
And to lose that weight she suggests: first seeking expert advice, focusing on fluids, eating foods rich in fiber (fruits and vegetables), going easy on salt and added sugar, moderate alcohol use, and for women especially, watch calcium and vitamin D intake for bones and teeth.
Domingue adds, “Find an exercise you love. Your endorphins will kick in, and you’ll do it! And if you get fit, then you’ll lose weight.”
Weighing in was another dietitian, Lanah Brennan, Reactive Nutrition, LLC “People don’t fail diets; diets fail people. Ones that promote restrictive eating will most always result in episodes of overeating. So set small goals that will lead you to your larger goal; having small goals that you can achieve will help keep you motivated.”
Brennan cautions that someone may eat for reasons other than being physically hungry: out of boredom, depression and other triggers. It’s important to identify your triggers and create solutions other than food.
“Eat when you are physically hungry, and stop when you are satisfied”, she advises.
Dr. Stephanie Aldret, is a DO, or doctor of osteopathy, a field of medicine which espouses a natural, body-centric approach to healing, suggests checking in with your doctor at the New Year starting with a wellness visit including baseline labs, which measure fasting glucose, cholesterol and A1C hemoglobin for diabetes risk, among other tests.
A doctor can also check body alignment at that time to make sure you are not at risk for any musculoskeletal injuries that may come with the start of any new exercise program.
Physicians and their professional associates can also be a referral source for dietitians, personal trainers and fitness instructors who can be your guides and motivators to the program that’s right for you and who will help keep you accountable.
Aldret also warns, “Don’t rely on pills or supplements to lose weight or burn fat. Many contain substances that can be harmful to you, your thyroid and your metabolism. You still have to do the work.”
She adds these caveats: Don’t feel like you have to change everything at once; celebrate when goals are achieved (but not necessarily with food!); recruit friends and family to join you in your lifestyle changes; and don’t just focus on the weight on a scale, but rather notice changes in your body.
“If you choose a ‘diet,’ pick one you can live with, and if you miss a day or several, don’t feel like your chance is over. Just do better tomorrow. Any day you wake up is a new day and a good day for change,” she says like the cheerleader she once was.
James Sellers, physical therapist and owner of Summit Physical Therapy, agrees that exercise also should start slow and progress in layers of short-term goals, until the ultimate long-term goal is achieved and maintained.
“Once you get over the initial excitement of beginning new exercise, just know it’s going to take a long-term commitment, focus, perseverance and mental and physical energy to get there,” he counsels. “Don’t do too much too soon, because you are going to get very sore and it will be painful, and that will persuade you not to continue because you will feel worse! In fact, take a day of rest in between exercise sessions to let your muscles recuperate.” He strongly suggests to journal or log, counting the number of repetitions and the weight used if you are using machines, as you set and work through each layer of short-term goals.
He also believes in personal trainers, who usually are at the workout facility you go to, or the facility will have a list of names. These are good especially for people who may not be as familiar with exercise concepts and the machines. “Explain to the trainer what your goals are, go for as many sessions as it takes until you get a good feel for it, and then go on your own. Remember, ultimately you are accountable only to yourself.”
And all those fitness gadgets out there, Fitbit, phone apps and the like? Our experts all agree that if they help you stay accountable to your goals, go for it!
And finally Brennan adds, “I think it is important to focus on creating a non-diet approach to wellness, because in the end, traditional diets don’t really work. Take time out to think about what is most important to you...relationships, health, spiritual well being and prioritize time to invest in these things.”