ENJOY YOUR FOOD & STAY FIT
We’ve made it to 2017. The majority of New Year’s resolutions are health-related, and people across the country are currently setting their resolutions for the year in hopes that they’ll actually stick to them.
Many women struggle with weight issues and unhealthy eating habits, whether it’s because they don’t have the time needed to really focus on their goals or because they lack willpower. Many diets fail simply because they aren’t enjoyable. So how do we get over these hurdles and keep our promises to ourselves?
National Park Medical Center dietitian Laura Copeland, who has been an expert on diet and nutrition for 16 years, says her first tip to creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to eliminate all soft drinks, sugary drinks and even diet drinks from your diet.
“If you look at the research, they’ve linked a lot of diabetes to sugary drinks. And diet drinks are terrible; everybody loves them but they are not good for you. Cutting those out are going to do so much to improve anyone’s overall health,” she said.
In addition to being a dietitian, Copeland is also a certified diabetes educator.
For those that still aren’t convinced enough to cut out sodas from their diet, Copeland encourages people to visit the hospital’s dialysis clinic.
“Our dialysis, or our renal physicians, will tell you that drinking one soda a day is going to damage your kidneys, so if you do that over a lifetime, by the time you get into your fifties or your sixties you might end up with kidney disease, which is no fun,” she said.
Copeland added that the phosphorous content in soda is so high that it affects the calcium in your bones and increases your risk for osteoporosis.
“It’s a mental thing. Your habits are something that will make or break you, and everything that we do is because of the habits we form. So cutting that out of your diet is just a habit and you have to consciously make the effort to start weaning yourself back. But, it’s a lot of willpower,” she added.
The old rule of thumb is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, Copeland said, adding that some people may need more or less than that depending on how large they are and how active they are.
“My second tip would be to consume a variety of foods. So many people are not eating the vegetables that they should. They’re not getting the color. So, include those non-starchy vegetables at least once or twice a day in your meals,” she added.
Non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, greens, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers and asparagus. These are low in calories and high in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, versus the starchy vegetables — potatoes, corn, peas — which Copeland said are more like eating bread.
“There are so many people out there that, for some reason, do not like vegetables at all. In that case, supplementing is always going to be better than not getting them at all, but the only trouble that that runs into is that you’re not going to feel satisfied from taking a supplement, so you’re still going to probably overeat the starches and the carbohydrate foods and the meats and you’re still going to be at risk for getting too many calories from those foods, which in turn is going to cause you to gain weight,” Copeland said.
“I just try to encourage people, especially if they didn’t like vegetables as children — your taste changes as you get older so they may need to start trying to incorporate something, one vegetable; try it at least because sometimes it takes three or four times to try it before you develop a taste for it.”
While it may seem like simply not eating at all, or eating very little, will help us lose weight, Copeland said that simply isn’t the case. Women should eat consistent, small meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to make sure they are getting the proper calorie intake to keep their metabolism from slowing down.
One way to keep track of your calorie and food intake is to start keeping a food journal, which Copeland said helps a lot of people because it serves as a visual and sometimes is all they need to keep themselves in check.
Copeland added that women who live a very sedentary lifestyle should generally be taking in about 1,500 calories per day, but she said your magic calorie number really just depends on your activity level during the day.
“If you’re sitting at a desk and you’re not getting up and moving around all day, you’re probably not going to need that much,” she said. “But if you’re at a job where you’re pretty active, just walking and up and doing things, you might need a little more, and that’s basically just to maintain where you are.
“The most important point to remember in nutrition is just to enjoy your food. Don’t stress out over food, but eat a variety of food and watch your portion sizes.”
Laura Copeland with some of the food choices available at National Park Medical Center.