Staying the Course on our Goals for 2015
January is a hopeful time; the numerous obligations of December have passed and the dawn of the New Year provides time to stop, breathe, and reflect on what we want for the future. Our talk is filled with resolutions and plans for the coming year. January is a new beginning, a fresh start. 2014 is closed. 2015 awaits.
The New Year is often associated with the resolve to be healthier – to exercise more, to eat less or, to eat ‘better’. You hear stories about previously comfortable gym classes now bursting at the seams, and talk of giving up eating this or that. But now, a few weeks later, reality appears to set in. Life catches us. Classes are missed, ‘treats’ are eaten, and guilt for missteps lead to feelings of failure in our ability to achieve success. We lose sight of the goals we set for the year – goals just weeks ago we were so committed to.
Does this sound familiar? I know it does to me. This appears to be the natural ebb and flow of January. But it doesn’t have to be! It is possible to change this pattern. What it needs is a reimagining of our goals, goals that set us up for long-term success. The missing piece is sustainability.
As a Registered Dietitian I’ll focus on what I know best – nutrition. I am sure many of you have read or heard about the rise in global obesity, a trend that increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes amongst others(1). It is not surprising then that a common health goal for the year is to lose weight. The benefits of losing additional pounds are clear, however it may come as a surprise to learn that even modest weight loss can result in health benefits. Research indicates that, amongst adults whom are overweight or obese, weight loss of 5-10% of one’s current body weight is often associated with improvements in health markers (such as blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels)(2). Putting this into perspective, for an individual that weighs 200 pounds, 5-10% weight loss is 10-20 pounds. Setting an initial goal to lose 10 pounds is realistic and attainable!
The next step is making change happen. Research suggests that one of the greatest challenges with weight loss is not always losing weight itself, but keeping those pounds off year after year(2). There are a lot of diets available offering quick fixes, but the truth is weight loss takes time and commitment. Making drastic changes to your diet that you cannot sustain will not be helpful in the long run. Therefore it is essential to start with small changes you can live with, changes that can be sustained. Healthy weight loss is considered to be 1-2 pounds per week; one pound, in terms of calories, means removing 500 calories from your day, 7 days a week. Going back to the previous example, losing 1-2 pounds per week means, with perseverance, one can achieve 5% weight loss in approximately 10 weeks, or 10% weight loss in about 20 weeks. This means that in 3-6 months you may start to experience positive changes to your health!
But, what does 500 calories of small change look like? Well, 1 cup of apple juice has 120 calories, whereas 1 cup of apple slices has only 60 calories – could you make the switch? Reducing the amount of pasta or rice on your plate from 2 cups to 1 saves 230 and 250 calories respectively. A can of cola (355mL) carries 140 calories and a commercial chocolate chip muffin can have between 260-490 calories depending on its size(3). As a general rule, vegetables have fewer calories compared to other food groups; substituting more vegetables for less meat, pasta, or rice will also cut calories. This doesn’t mean you should remove other food groups – simply change the proportions. In practice we use “Space on your plate” dividing your plate as follows: ½ a plate for vegetables, ¼ plate grains or starch, ¼ plate for meat, legumes, or fish.
As we approach the 3-week post-new-year threshold, take time to reassess your goals, think about what is feasible for you and your lifestyle. Can the changes you want to make be sustained for the long-term? Look to the past, did you resolve to address your health last year? What worked? What didn’t? We learn from the past to inform the future. Look also to the future, why is this change important to you? What motivates you to make and sustain this change?
Remember you have 365 days to work at and build upon your goals. As much as the New Year motivates us to consider change, we are not tied to the specific resolutions we make; there is nothing to stop you from frequently modifying your goal to ensure continued success. Here’s to 2015 and making this the year we achieve our goals.
Written by: Laurie Wybenga, RD ( Toronto Nutrition Counselling )
* This blog post is not a substitute for medical advice. Different medical conditions require specific dietary interventions; always follow the advice of your physician and/or Registered Dietitian.
1. Health Canada. (2006). Obesity – It’s your health. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/life-vie/obes-eng.php
2. CMAJ. (2007). 2006 Clinical practice guidelines on the management and prevention of obesity in children and adults. 176(Suppl 8): Online 1-117. Available from: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/suppl/2007/09/04/176.8.S1.DC1/obesity-lau-onlineNEW.pdf
3. Nutrition information from Canadian Nutrient File (2012). Available from: http://webprod3.hc-sc.gc.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp