Setting small goals is a smart start to a healthier new year


An annual favorite carving out the top spot for new year’s resolutions can also be one of the most challenging — losing weight.

With two years of a changed world amid the coronavirus, weight gain is one side effect for a number of people. For others, the yo-yo effect with tried and failed diets piling up as quickly as calendar pages turn is a perennial battle. Being overweight can come with a host of health issues. There is a greater risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes — among other concerns. But the good news is there are ways to make a difference and even small changes can have big benefits.

Approximately 88 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. “Of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.”

Lifestyle changes can prevent or delay serious health problems, the CDC notes. But, even with good intentions, new year’s resolutions can fall by the wayside without positive results to serve as encouragement.

Restrictive diets do come with specific rules and can help people lose weight, but over the long term can be difficult to stick to, said Dr. Adrianne Moen, family medicine physician at Lakewood Health System based in Staples, Minnesota.

Simple steps

“I really try to preach portion control,” Moen said, noting she tries to keep it simple.

For some diets, food is measured or weighed on a scale and calories counted. While that approach works for some, others may find the time involved will, over time, curtail their use of those tools. In terms of portion control, Moen suggests a simple method by looking at a good, balanced diet and the palm of your hand.

“Portions in America have just gotten crazy, so if you just remember … the size of the palm of your hand is about a serving size for most food,” she said, which is a guide that works for people who are on the go, eating out or at home. People also can under credit their fruit and vegetable intake, with a good salad perhaps providing the four or five servings recommended as daily servings.

“The simple calories in or calories out, if that simple balance is off one way or the other you are going to see the scale move that direction, too,” Moen said.

Moen said stress hormones can really contribute to weight gain as well so it’s important to take moments during the day to just focus on slowly breathing. It’s a mini-reset.

“It’s amazing how that can change your perspective and your attitude,” Moen said.


— Dr. Adrianne Moen, family medicine physician at Lakewood Health System

Miranda Berg, registered dietitian/licensed dietitian and Lakewood’s Nutrition Services manager, works with patients who have diabetes, high cholesterol and are dealing with obesity challenges on a daily basis. In addition to being more active, she said choosing more healthful food choices and a carb-modified diet helps in terms of diabetes risk and entails cutting back on sweets, pasta, rice, breads, cakes, doughnuts, cookies and starchy vegetables. Those food choices and increased activity can manage weight loss and play a crucial role in reducing the risk for health problems like diabetes.

“Weight loss is probably one of the hardest lifestyle changes out there and you can’t see good weight loss in a short amount of time,” Berg said. “Your weight loss journey will take place over months and not days.”

Staying away from fad diets is important, Berg said.

“I tend to see a lot of rebound weight gain because they are not sustainable,” she said.

Berg advocates setting small goals and target ranges that aren’t overwhelming such as losing 5-10% of body weight.

“Once you achieve those small goals that is going to build up that confidence so you can achieve that larger weight loss goal that you have,” Berg said.

Hitting smaller targets gives people motivation to keep going and believe they can actually achieve their goal, Berg said. She advises people to consume three well-balanced meals per day and pay attention to their bodies to tell them when they are full. That can take eating slowly to let the signals set in. Berg also recommends breaking down water intake goals to smaller amounts and thinking of 64 ounces in two halves with some in the morning and night, or thinking of eight cups. Cutting back on sugar sweetened beverages is also key.

For food, Berg likes to incorporate the visual of dividing the plate into four equal parts — one part for meat, one for pasta/potato for starch and two parts vegetables.

Move more — even a little adds up

In addition to a balanced diet with right-sized portions, movement is important to add -- even in small increments -- like yoga to stretch and strengthen and one of the most basic and effective ways to move -- walking. 
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

In addition to a balanced diet with right-sized portions, movement is important to add — even in small increments — like yoga to stretch and strengthen and one of the most basic and effective ways to move — walking.
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

Part of the balance is also movement, which helps burn calories. Moen suggests starting with moving 10 minutes a day and then working up to longer times and perhaps farther distances. That could be walking around the house, getting the mail to start and a go-to for Moen, incorporating yoga to stretch and also strengthen. There are many free yoga videos on YouTube and streaming options as well as local classes that can help newcomers try poses or workouts.

“That is also going to help swing that balance in the right direction,” Moen said of being active and moving.

Developing an exercise regimen of 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day on five days of the week is a goal in reducing the risk for diabetes. Berg says that can be moderate activity like walking, light jogging, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

In breaking down the goal further, Berg says starting out small can mean using a 15-minute work break twice a week to walk. Increasing that to using the break twice a day for walking means getting in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day right there.

Setting too high of a goal at the outset can be discouraging and counterproductive.

Berg said good healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. To lose that pound, it will take a 500-calorie deficit from the regular consumption.


— Miranda Berg, registered dietitian/licensed dietitian and Lakewood’s Nutrition Services manager

Berg suggests keeping a food journal to know what you are really consuming. Writing down everything can be eye-opening in terms of how many calories you are really taking in each day. But knowing that information opens the door to choosing what to cut out to create the 500-calorie deficit needed to see results.

With food intake and portion control looking at calories coming in and movement focused on increasing calorie burning, a third piece of the puzzle can be motivation.

“One of the things for me personally that has been huge, because I do yo-yo, too, is a group of friends that we just keep each other honest,” Moen said, noting she’s fortunate to have an Apple Watch and they share activities and send texts to each other for meeting goals or to provide support. They also started a fitness challenge at Lakewood during the holidays to help motivate and encourage each other to get their steps in each day and meet goals.

“I’m a little bit about external motivation. I need a little push from friends or loved ones, but each of us is motivated differently,” Moen said, suggesting finding something other than the weight scale is important.

Also important is having a realistic goal. Setting a goal that isn’t achievable is a surefire way to make for disappointment, frustration and a desire to quit or find comfort in old habits. Instead of expecting to drop 30 pounds in a month, which is neither realistic nor healthy, Moen suggests working to shed 5 to 10 pounds is a better goal.

Moen said getting flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 shots can also keep people from getting sick and then falling off the healthy eating and movement wagon with a setback to those health and weight loss goals.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, tuna and salmon and limiting unsaturated or trans fats — think doughnuts and baked goods, red meat and dairy — in favor of lean proteins of poultry, chicken, pork and a vast array of colorful vegetables and fresh fruit. 
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

The Mediterranean diet focuses on healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, tuna and salmon and limiting unsaturated or trans fats — think doughnuts and baked goods, red meat and dairy — in favor of lean proteins of poultry, chicken, pork and a vast array of colorful vegetables and fresh fruit.
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

Picking a food change that is sustainable may include taking up the Mediterranean diet, which both Berg and Moen pointed to as one that emphasizes good healthy foods and can limit risk for cardiovascular disease. It focuses on healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, tuna and salmon and limiting unsaturated or trans fats — think doughnuts and baked goods, red meat and dairy — in favor of lean proteins of poultry, chicken, pork and a vast array of colorful vegetables and fresh fruit.

But even good food can benefit from portion control. For Berg, food preparation is also key as it keeps people from grabbing something unhealthy that is fast and easy when hungry or coming home after a hard day.

Preparing fruit and vegetables ahead of time, perhaps as part of putting groceries away after shopping, makes those healthy choices easier because the fruit and vegetables are already ready to eat and pre-portioned. Berg’s pro tip: Put them in small baggies so the portion size looks impressively large.

For those trying one of the currently popular diet choices of intermittent fasting, Berg recommends starting the fast after dinner to help curb snacking and then getting a healthy breakfast for a 12-13 hour overnight fast.

Berg also said the DASH diet, for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, is sustainable with an emphasis on the right types of fats to help lose weight, lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

Don’t give up

“The biggest thing I try to preach is to be kind to yourself and to set a realistic goal,” Moen said. “If you have 150 pounds to lose, you might not do that in a year and that’s OK. If you’ve got 20 pounds to lose that might take you six months and that’s OK, too.”

People aren’t likely to stick to a seven day a week workout routine, particularly if they haven’t been working out to start with. That’s just not life, Moen said.

“So I think giving yourself grace to meet those measures but making sure those measures are realistic to you and your schedule and where you are in your fitness journey. … Giving yourself the realistic opportunity to meet your goal so that you don’t feel defeated when you don’t see the scale move but, ‘Hey I still moved my body three days this week, so I can feel good about that even if the scale didn’t move yet.’”

Berg suggests not going to the weight scale everyday, where numbers can fluctuate from 3 pounds up to 5 pounds down in fast order. It will take time. Developing a buddy system can also help keep one motivated to stay the course.

“Physical activity is such a good stress reliever as well,” Berg said, noting those two 15-minute walk breaks can help clear the head.

No one plan works for everyone, Berg said, but the key is to stay the course and remember weight loss will take time. She recommends people connect with their primary care physician for support.

“I always recommend to my patients that we need to start small so we can achieve these small steps first. And then they see progress and then they see they met their goals, and it gives them motivation rather than starting out with these large goals,” Berg said.

Starting now with the new year will put next summer in play for reaching healthier weight goals and ready to enjoy the new you.

Renee Richardson may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.