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Be Well, Be Well Informed

Make Healthy Eating a Lifelong Habit

Posted on Jan 14, 2014

lifehealthyeatingblogAmericans are obsessed with losing weight, and with good cause. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 68.8 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. This condition can cause a wide range of health problems, from type 2 diabetes and gallstones to coronary disease and strokes.

But despite all the headlines about one “magic diet” or another, there’s really only one way to achieve and maintain your healthy weight, says Erica Framsted, M.S., R.D. CSO, a dietitian at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Turn healthy eating into a lifelong habit you enjoy.

Healthy eating, she says, is not a diet. It’s more like a hobby that you can get better at over the years. Here are her tips to help you get started.

1. Find Your Local Farmer’s Market

“Farmers’ markets bring quality produce closer to the center of where you live,” Framsted says. “And the nutritional value is better than something that was picked two weeks ago and shipped to this country.”  Plus, seasonal produce tastes better than the watery vegetables coaxed to ripeness out of season. “Going to your farmers’ market is the cheapest way to find quality produce, and you’ll probably run into friends and neighbors while you’re there.”

2. Have Fun with Food

It’s worth repeating: Healthy eating is not a diet! “Have fun with it and invite others to join in,” Framsted says. “You can trade recipes with friends. Or create a cooking challenge where everyone focuses on one healthy ingredient.” Perhaps you’ve belonged to a book club in the past. Now, try setting up a healthy recipes club with friends. Each person can bring a theme dish to the monthly meeting.

3. Set Small Goals and Work toward Them

Want to lose some weight? One pound a week or less is a good target. Try for more and you might lose lean muscle mass and throw your body into “starvation mode.” Result? Your metabolism slows down to try to help your body “survive” by hanging on to body fat. If your health is a bigger concern to you than the scale, aim for a slight drop in blood pressure, or greater strength in your upper body. Start with small and achievable goals, Framsted says. Once you’ve met them, you can move on to your next set of goals.

4. Plan for Success

Make shopping lists and plan meals in advance so you always have fresh, healthy foods available, Framsted says. At meals, eat slowly. As you digest, the gut sends a signal to the brain to tell it you are satisfied, but it takes up to 20 minutes for that signal to arrive. And when you go out to dinner, pay attention to portion size. Most restaurant meals are loaded with twice as many calories as you need. Ask for a take-out box as soon as your meal arrives and put half of it in the box before you even begin eating.

5. Build In Accountability

Make yourself accountable. “That’s the reason people check in with registered dietitians,” Framsted says, “because they know that in the near future someone is going to ask them what happened. And if they have completely fallen off the wagon, then we’re going to problem solve with them.” You don’t have to see a dietitian to create accountability, she says. “You can use anyone – a friend, a relative, a community member – but pick someone you respect and want to emulate.”

6. Expect to Slip a Bit and Learn to Forgive Yourself

“An isolated incident of slipping doesn’t equal failure,” Framsted says. “It’s how we react to the slip. There are going to be good days and bad days. When you do have a bad day, or if you don’t accomplish the goal you set, try to understand and move on from it.”

After all, you’re setting a lifelong habit. One day is just a bump on your long and successful road.

FramstedE_2011Erica Framsted, M.S., R.D. CSO, is a registered dietitian at PAMF’s Palo Alto Center where she works with patients in PAMF’s New Weigh of Life program, and with patients who’ve had weight loss surgery.