Make realistic resolutions about your health

AFTER ALL the excesses of Christmas dinners, all-day snacking and New Year’s celebrations, many make resolutions to get in shape.

AFTER ALL the excesses of Christmas dinners, all-day snacking and New Year’s celebrations and drinking, many will make resolutions to get in shape, start exercising and/or eat better.

And despite the huge goals some people set and then give up on, it is possible to achieve goals long-term by starting with small goals that are realistic.

And it doesn’t take much or mean huge sacrifices have to be made.

“Think about what you can take up rather than give up,” says population health dietitian Flo Sheppard.

For example, you might make a resolution to eat more vegetables and fruit.

Look at how to break it down to small achievable steps, says Sheppard.

“If you don’t eat any vegetables, don’t say ‘I’ll eat five every day.’ Maybe just ‘I’ll have vegetables for supper or bring vegetables to work as part of my lunch,’” she says.

“It builds on success. I think so often what happens is we eat better but we haven’t looked at how we’re eating now.”

Plus it’s something you can measure.

“If you say I’ll eat vegetables every day at lunch, you can measure that and even if you do not do it one day, you can get back on track,” she says.

Another thing is that we don’t realize how we eat and what we eat makes a difference.

When she was working in clinical care, she noticed that most of the people who could be classified as overweight didn’t eat breakfast.

“If we think of strategies to feel good and helping us reach nutritional goals, it might be eating regular meals or saying I’m going to have a snack every night from the food guide,” says Sheppard.

It’s important to think back to what the goal of healthy eating is and the goal first and foremost is to promote optimal growth, development and wellness, she says.

“And to recognize that wellness and health can be achieved at a variety of body sizes,” she adds.

“I think people really get caught up in wanting to lose weight but maybe the weight is OK,” she says.

When you look at success rates of weight loss, something like 95 per cent of people who lose the weight regain it in a year or two, she adds.

“You can be very well nourished and still not be at that ideal weight. Look at how we identify that ideal weight too,” she says.

And health is not just related to your weight.

“I’ve met people who look like they’re normal weight but they have no healthy behaviours,” says Sheppard.

And when you go out to some events, all there is to eat are hot dogs and chips, making it difficult to make a wise choice.

“I think all foods fit within a healthy way of eating. I personally do, and how often and how much and the quality of them,” she says, adding healthy ways of eating, in her opinion, include even the hot dog. “I think one of our big issues is everywhere we turn, there are less than desirable food choices or portion sizes so it’s not that one hot dog but the fact that everywhere you go, it’s difficult to make that healthy choice,” says Sheppard.

Nearly every home has a microwave, making it easy to eat what you want rather than having a family meal, although a family meal is good because it’s a consistent time to eat so people can get in touch with their hunger and fullness, it allows you to enjoy your food and others enjoying it.

The problem can be that children’s sports practices or lessons fall within meal time.

“Unless you’re cognizant of it, it’s easy to let it go and everyone grabs a meal time snack to go and doesn’t sit down to eat a meal,” she says. A family meal doesn’t have to be a huge fancy dinner either; it can be as simple as cereal with milk and fruit for supper, she says.

Most people have about 10 recipes that they repeat over and over.

One resolution could be to try new recipes.

There are simple swaps that can be done in recipes: for example, if you make soup at home, you can put in brown rice instead of white or use whole wheat macaroni or noodles or try quinoa.

If you go to the food guide website, by googling the Canada Food Guide, you can create a personalized food guide with foods you actually eat and activities you do.  Plus it gives advice on how many items of each food group to include and some details about what is a healthy food choice.

Other resolution goals can be activity and exercise.

“It needs to be part of your life,” she says about being active.

“I think there’s real value in supporting active lifestyles, which is different than organized activity. That’s not to say one is better than the other. Many kids are involved in organized sports when they’re young but they grow up and aren’t able to commit that same amount of time so it’s good to have an active lifestyle,” she says.

And if you’re thinking of following a particular diet, take a careful look at whether it’s a fad diets or extremely restrictive diet.

“One of the big things I would say is the more restrictive [the diet and] the more food groups you give up, the less likely it is to get all the nutrients you need to be healthy,” she says.