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April 3, 2007 > Small Changes, Lasting Results

Small Changes, Lasting Results

Women's Center Class Teaches Simple Ways to Improve Health

Have you ever found yourself giving in to your son or daughter's simple demand for a candy bar and found yourself scratching your head later after you have agreed to a much larger request you originally would have said no too?
Social psychologists call it foot-in-the-door phenomenon. People are more willing to agree to larger demands if they first agree to a smaller one. Salesmen often use it to get their foot in the door - and you can use it on yourself through the Washington Women's Center's next Lunch and Learn class titled, "Small Steps."
"Small Steps is a class that encourages women that they don't have to make up huge lofty goals to take good positive steps towards health," according to Kathy Hesser, Women's Center coordinator. "Taking small, realistic steps towards a healthy diet is more helpful than binge dieting."
Most of us, at one time or another, have gritted our teeth and launched into a strict diet that we were bound to give up on. Hesser says looking for fast results only dooms us to fail.
"When you diet and you lose weight and then go right back to your old habits, you gain the weight back," she explains. "Additionally, when you cut back radically on your calories your metabolism decreases. Then when you go off the diet and stop exercising, your body takes the calories that you eat and stores them as fat because it thinks it's starving."
Hesser says that in talking to people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, a key element to their success is doing it in small steps, integrating healthier habits into their lifestyle and overcoming old habits. But she warns that losing weight and becoming more physically active aren't things we achieve overnight.
"It's not going to happen in two weeks, more likely it will take a year or two," she says. "The sooner you change your lifestyle, the better. As you get older, if you maintain bad habits, you will gain weight faster as your metabolism slows."
Small Steps is an interactive class in which Hesser will help participants assess where they fall in the health spectrum according to age and history. The next step, Hesser says, is determining individual goals - from losing weight and improving physical fitness to reducing cholesterol.
The class will talk about taking first steps toward improving overall health, including calling the doctor's office to make an appointment to find out important measures of health, including cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), which is a number that reflects the correlation between height and weight.
As a woman, you need to know your weight, BMI and waist line measurement, Hesser says, explaining that having a waist measurement of more than 35 inches can increase the chances of cardiac disease.
Participants will also assess their current weekly activity level, and Hesser will discuss different ways to slowly increase fitness through easy, free activities, as well as costlier and more intensive strategies.
"I'm going to give participants strategies; for instance, what you can do in seven minutes in the morning before work as far as exercise that's really quick to integrate into your morning wake-up routine," says Hesser. "You start doing something simple and it raises your metabolism rate."
Similarly, taking just a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day to take a walk outside - especially if you have an office job that requires sitting at a desk - has multiple benefits. In addition to boosting metabolism, a walk around the block can help clear your mind and make you be more productive at work, Hesser says.
She will also cover common pitfalls to changing your habits, as well as how to overcome them with simple solutions. She points out that meal portions at restaurants have steadily increased during the last 20 years, making it easier to gain weight when we dine out. An easy solution? Bring half of your meal home for a tasty lunch the next day or split items with your dining partner.
And to curb the pre-dinner munchies, Hesser recommends drinking a healthy amount of water during your daily routine, including during meal preparation.
"If you get home in the evening and drink a glass of water and then start drinking a warm low-calorie beverage like tea, you'll curb your appetite before dinner," Hesser suggests. "Then drink a low-calorie beverage with dinner and you'll stay full longer."
On weekends, if you have evening dinner plans, take an hour out of your afternoon to prepare a bunch of easy-to-eat, healthy snacks for later in the week to help stave off overwhelming hunger before the dinner hour.
If you're still feeling unsure that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to diet and fitness, Hesser points out that: "Just by exercising 30 minutes a day and not changing anything else, you're going to probably lose five to seven pounds in a year!" That's not bad for one little change!
Take Small Steps, make big changes
Small Steps will be held on Tuesday, April 10, in the Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital.
Sessions will be held at 11:15 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. and will last 45 minutes. To learn more, call Washington Hospital's Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070. To suggest a Lunch and Learn topic that you would like to see, call Hesser at (510) 608-1356.
For more information about services at the Washington Women's Center, call (866) 608-1301 or (510) 608-1301.

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Small Steps to a Better You

What: Lunch and Learn
Topic: Small Steps
When: Tuesday, April 10: 11:15 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.
Where: Women's Center Conference Room, 2500 Mowry Ave. Fremont
Call: (510) 608-1356 for more information

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