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January 6, 2010 > Make Healthy Changes This New Year

Make Healthy Changes This New Year

At the start of the New Year, many of us resolve to lose weight, but by the next week or month, most have already "slipped up' and given up trying. Few will have lost weight, and even fewer would maintain the loss they were able to obtain.

How do we go about achieving the loss we desire and keep it off permanently? Well, we have to look at our resolutions as long-term goals, and not just focus on quick results.

Maggie Villagomez, R.D, a Washington Hospital registered dietitian has some good advice on how you can achieve a weight loss goal this New Year, once and for all.

1. Exercise:
Exercise is a well-known catalyst for weight loss. You burn more calories than you consume, and you lose weight. Dedicated workouts are great, but any physical activity you accumulate throughout the day helps you burn calories, too. Park further away when shopping. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and do jumping jacks during commercials. Better yet, turn off the TV and take a brisk walk. Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise five days a week.

2. Sleep: According to data obtained from the 2000-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I (NHANES I), skimping on sleep may make you more vulnerable to obesity. People who reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night were more likely to be obese or develop obesity. If you currently sleep less than 7 hours a night, try to add 1 hour a week until you get to 7-9 hours. Even an extra 60 minutes per night will help lower your risk for obesity.

3. Eat Breakfast:
If you are someone who thinks skipping breakfast will help you lose weight, think again! An ongoing study of people who have maintained weight loss of at least 30 pounds for more than a year shows that eating breakfast helps with weight loss and is associated with better weight control (National Weight Control Registry). Breakfast eaters tend to eat fewer calories, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and have better overall nutritional status than breakfast skippers.

4. Befriend a Farmer:
Think eating more fruits and vegetables will hurt your wallet? People everywhere are discovering the benefits of buying produce at Farmers' Markets. Local fruits and vegetables are cheaper because they don't require transportation from other parts of the country (or world!). They're fresher than anything in the supermarket, making them tastier and more nutritious. And they're also good for your local economy--buying directly from family farmers helps them stay in business.

5. Reading Food Labels Thoroughly: Healthy eating is not only about looking at the calorie and fat content of food. What is the serving size of this product, and can you realistically stick to it? How high is the sodium content? Is it full of added sugars, such as corn syrup, maltose, or dextrin? What's the first ingredient in the product? Is it made with whole grains, or is it just enriched white flour? Is it considered a high fiber food? All of these things are important to look at when shopping for processed foods; you need to know what you're really buying.

6. Plan Ahead:
Planning your meals ahead of time can be a sure-fire way to stick to your diet. Designating what you're going to eat and when can keep you from choosing whatever is in reach when hunger strikes. This can be as simple as planning and packing your lunch the night before work or school, or even making meal batches on the weekends and freezing them until you're ready to eat them during the busy week.

7. Have the Right Attitude:
Know that long-lasting weight loss takes time, and that behaviors must change along with a slimming body. Learn how to handle high-stress or high-emotion situations in different ways rather than running to food-take a bubble bath, get a massage, or go for a bike ride. Also, enlist the help of family and friends to help you on your weight loss journey. By being open about your new lifestyle changes, they'll be more likely to go out and do physical activities with you, and less likely to push unhealthy food or drink when you're vulnerable to giving in.

"Everybody knows the saying "slow and steady wins the race," says Villagomez. "The same goes for our weight loss and health goals; we must treat them as lifestyle changes and not just temporary ones that we'll stop doing once we accomplish our objectives.

Washington Hospital Offers Nutrition Counseling

Washington Hospital's Outpatient Nutrition Counseling program is available by appointment to provide nutrition counseling for individuals with specific medical needs as well as those who wish to maintain optimal health. To learn more about the services that are offered, please call (510) 745-6542 or visit our website:

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