Many of us have spent the last couple of years unable to participate in our usual activities or get together with friends and family. If you were stuck at home or had the stress of being an essential worker during the pandemic, you may have slipped into some unhealthy choices regarding food and exercise. Whether you’re battling the COVID “19” extra pounds or you’ve struggled to be healthy most of your life, the first steps to feeling better will be the same. So, let’s get started!
Discover your “why”
The most important question when starting out is “why?” Do you want to feel better and have more energy? Are you trying to lose or gain weight? Maybe you want to manage a chronic health condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Being clear about why you want to change your lifestyle is key to navigating this new journey. Remember, you’re making a plan to change your life, and perhaps your family’s lives, for the better.
Filter out the noise and talk to an expert
Once you determine your why, the next step is to find out how. The temptation is to get on the internet and start looking for the quickest, easiest, sure-fire fix. There are thousands of so-called nutrition experts out there pushing the latest fad diet. Do yourself a favor and ignore the noise. Talk to your doctor and make an appointment with a registered dietitian. Why a registered dietitian? Because they are the only ones with decades of science behind them and who answer to law and a governing body. Before you start thinking “they’re just going to make a meal plan and put me on a diet,” think again. Today’s registered dietitians are experts in helping you develop a lifestyle based on your expectations, preferences and needs. They want you to succeed!
“There are a lot of ways to lose weight fast, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” says Sarah Widener, RDN, LD, CDE, Director of Community Wellness at Med Center Health. “A registered dietitian will take into account your entire health history, schedule and lifestyle. We find out what changes you are willing to make and where you want to start because we want the changes to be sustainable.”
Find balance in your life and on your plate
Balance is the single most important thing to remember. MyPlate.gov is your best online source about balancing your life and your plate. Rather than the old pyramid some of us might remember, you’ll see a plate divided into four sections for vegetables, grains, fruits and protein with a side dish of dairy, which includes fortified soy versions. It can’t get much simpler than that! You’ll also find hundreds of recipes and tips for every stage of life.
Speaking of balance, step away from the scale. The scale can be important, but does not provide the full picture of your health and progress you’re making. Pay attention to how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally and focus on all the positive changes you are seeing in yourself. You’re not on a diet; you’re on a journey.
Ready, set, go!
You are on your way to a healthier, better life! Here are a few additional tips to help you succeed:
- Attach your goals to the refrigerator as a reminder – this can really help when you’re tempted to grab something unhealthy. But, wait! There’s nothing unhealthy in there because you’ve also followed step 2.
- Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy food. Leave the unhealthy stuff in the grocery. You can’t be tempted by what you don’t have.
- Build a support system – a registered dietitian can be your chief cheerleader, but it also helps to let your friends and family know about this exciting new journey you’re on. You might inspire them!
- Get up and move. Even if you just start with a short walk every day, getting active will be essential to your success. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise plan.
- Sleep is your friend. Make sure you are getting enough sleep for good health. Most experts recommend seven to nine hours a night for the average adult.
Med Center Health’s Medical Nutrition Therapy program can help you achieve your goals and manage diabetes and heart disease, as well as celiac disease, eating disorders and food allergies among others. Ask your physician for a referral or call 270-745-0942 or 1-877-800-3824 for more information. Learn more at MedCenterHealth.org/MNT.