New Year, New Diet Resolutions, New Determiniation
January gives everyone an opportunity to change for the better, to establish new habits that will enhance personal health. Better eating strategies, food portion control and a regular exercise regimen are building blocks to reaching weight-loss goals and getting healthier, reminds Anna Mazzei, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Washington Hospital.
“We see patients with a variety of conditions, and weight management is a key to increased health,” she notes. “Most of the outpatients who are seen for medical nutrition therapy have a physician referral for weight management and/or diabetes.”
Mazzei and other Washington Hospital dietitians provide guidance and education, encouraging patients to lose excess weight and develop ongoing weight management practices.
Many patients are referred to a dietitian due to medical conditions, including (Type 2) diabetes, high cholesterol, being overweight or having irritable bowel syndrome or gout. Some people may not know that they are gluten intolerant and many have multiple conditions that are affecting their weight and overall health.
“Some patients don’t admit they are overweight,” Mazzei notes. “They have to contemplate their condition before they are ready to make and commit to changes, and they need to focus on maintaining a healthy body weight.”
She adds, “I customize diets for each patient, attending to their culture as well as their readiness to change. I provide them with resources that are a bridge to change. We talk about which steps they can take to phase out old habits and start new habits. I encourage them to try new foods and new ways of preparing certain foods.”
The dietitians also provide many resources including guides to understanding food labels, sample menus and suggestions of books and websites. They may counsel patients about certain medications can affect how a person’s body processes food.
Developing New Eating Habits Doesn’t Happen Overnight
“Culture, daily activities, social surroundings and finances all impact eating habits,” says Mazzei. “We counsel patients individually according to their culture and lifestyle. Their diet has to be manageable or they won’t be able to stay on the diet.”
Encouragement is an important component of a dietary plan for change and Washington Hospital dietitians emphasize the positive benefits of reducing the risk of possible health complications.
“Losing weight is not easy, but if people start with small changes, they can gain confidence as they become healthier,” Mazzei adds. “It takes self-searching and a willingness to change. You need to be patient and have perseverance. Learn from your mistakes.”
Document Eating Habits
Mazzei says that keeping a food diary in a notebook or on a Smartphone application can help you become more aware of what you are eating.
“Increase your awareness of foods,” stresses Mazzei. “How much do you consume at a particular meal? What foods do you eat that are high in calories and fat, and how often do you eat them?”
Do’s and Don’ts for Weight Loss Success
- Have several small meals and snacks a day. Consuming healthy foods about every four hours helps patients avoid overeating.
- Cut down on portion sizes.
- Keep high-calorie or high-risk foods out of the house and the workplace.
- Plan ahead: Stock up on the foods you need so they are handy when you are ready to eat, and help you avoid the temptation to grab an unhealthy snack.
- At a restaurant, ask for a food container and set aside half the meal before you start eating. Ask that some element of the meal NOT be included; for example, gravy or other high-calorie sauce.
- Start the new year with a diet diary and a commitment to exercise. Increase your physical exertion – it’s important to overall health.
- Take advantage of New Year sales of exercise equipment or DVDs. Many gyms offer reduced annual membership fees in January. Cities’ recreation programs start in January.
- Walk, walk, walk -- weekdays and weekends. “Only you can exercise for yourself – schedule it specifically,” suggests Ms. Mazzei. Seek a balance of aerobic exercise with strength training, which will improve flexibility as well as weight loss.
“The more specific you are with your goals, the more successful you will be,” encourages Mazzei. “A healthy diet never stops; it’s a lifetime habit.”
Download Healthy Recipes Online
Washington Hospital offers nutrition counseling by appointment for individuals with specific medical needs as well as those who wish to maintain optimal health. Visit www.whhs.com/nutrition for more information and to download healthy food recipes.