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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - February 2011

Why is it so difficult to live a healthy lifestyle?
Set achievable and maintainable goals, and take small steps to get there

In January, like most Americans, you probably made a resolution to lose weight or exercise more. How's that working for you? If you are like most of us, you've found it's easier to make resolutions than it is to keep them. Even though a lot of people who make New Year's resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't make resolutions.

Any effort to improve your health has to start with goals and a plan for achieving them. For instance, you can set a goal to do something that you want to do, but don't or can't do now because of some physical reason. Think about why you can't or don't do it and consider a plan to address those reasons.

Whether your goal was to eat more healthfully, lose weight, exercise more or even just do a better job of managing stress, here are a few simple tips to help you keep your promise to yourself.

Eating better

Eat regularly. Space your meals and snacks out throughout the day and try to eat at about the same times. Also, try to eat the same amount at each meal. Skipping meals or eating one large meal with other, tiny meals throughout the day can throw off your system and energy level and lead to unplanned and unhealthy snacking. Eat a variety of foods to help your body get all the essential nutrients it needs to function well.

To balance your diet, just look at your plate. At each meal, visually divide the plate into two halves. Fill one half with non-starchy vegetables (such as leafy greens, tomatoes or broccoli). Split the other half evenly between protein-rich foods (such as lean meat, fish or cheese) and whole-grain, starchy foods (such as bread, rice or potatoes).

When dining out, select restaurants that offer variety and flexibility in types of food and methods of preparation. Choose items low in fat, sodium and sugar, or ask if they can be prepared that way. Plan ahead on the type of food you will eat and how much. Plan to bring home leftovers.

Losing weight

There is no "ideal" weight for individuals. Instead of trying to fit somewhere on an impersonal chart based on population statistics, strive instead to achieve a "healthy" weight. A healthy weight is one whereby you reduce your risk of developing health problems or further complicating existing ones, and feel better both mentally and physically.

The key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is to make changes you can tolerate, even enjoy. Unfortunately, when thinking about losing weight, most of us tend to think of all the things we can't eat anymore. Instead, think of it as learning to prepare your favorite foods differently, trying new foods and being creative.

A good way to start to manage your weight is to follow the "200 Plan." Basically, each day eat 100 fewer calories than you normally would, while at the same time exercise to use up 100 more calories than you did before. Cut out one slice of bread or a medium-sized cookie, or the amount of butter or margarine you would put on a slice of toast. Add 20-30 minutes to your regular exercise routine, such as walking, bicycling, dancing or gardening. Take the stairs more and park farther away from the store.

If you find that your weight loss has slowed, don't give up. With time, your body will adapt to your new calorie intake and activity level. Instead of cutting calories even more, try adding to your physical activity exercise goals. Modify your goals to focus more on maintaining the weight loss you've achieved with more moderate loss going forward.

Exercising more

If you are going from little activity to moderate or heavy activity, you can expect to experience some fatigue. Fatigue can be caused by disease, inactivity, poor nutrition, inadequate rest, emotions (such as stress, anxiety, fear and depression) and even some medications. The key to fighting fatigue is to identify what is causing it and address the root problem. When it comes to exercise, respect your body. If you feel very ill, don't exercise. If you can't comfortably complete your warm-up period of flexibility and strengthening exercises, don't move on to more vigorous activity.

Do you avoid exercise because you are afraid of falling? Did you know that exercise actually reduces your risk of a fall by strengthening your legs and ankles and making you more flexible? Talk to your health professional about exercises you can do to improve your balance. Also, talk about any medical conditions or medications you take that may affect your balance.

Managing stress

Causes of stress, or "stressors," typically are not independent of one another. One stressor can often lead to other types of stressors or even magnify the effects of existing stressors. Stressors can be physical (such as lifting, exercise or disease), mental and emotional (such as your reaction to the events around you) or environmental (such as weather conditions, second-hand smoke and noise).

Are you over-stressed? Warning signs of stress include: biting nails, pulling hair, tapping your foot, grinding your teeth, tension in your head, neck and shoulders, feeling irritable or helpless, frequent accidents and forgetting things you usually don't forget. If you catch yourself feeling stressed, think about what is making you feel tense. Take a few deep breaths to relax.


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