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It’s the holidays and for most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

But why not take a healthier approach to what we eat during this holiday season and beyond?

According to a recent website survey, about 18 percent of people say it’s hard for them to eat healthy because they don’t want to stop eating their favorite foods. The good news is you don’t have to. You can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you eat.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.

“Mindless eating has always been an issue,” said Riska Platt, M.S., a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The key to mindful eating is awareness. Just by paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.”

Awareness

When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:

  • Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Learn more about why you might be eating when not hungry.  
  • Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack, fiber keeps you feeling full longer.
  • Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
  • Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Platt, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”
  • Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. “Keeping a food diary is really key to awareness,” Platt said. “Most people are surprised at all they’ve consumed when they review what they’ve eaten.”

Eating healthier is easier than you think!

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Reaching Your 2017 Goals

2017 is here and most of us have set a New Year’s Resolution.  We will have the best intentions to keeping our new goals and be a healthier, happier individual, but we all know, somewhere along the way we just can’t keep the habits.  Check out some of these great tips on how to keep and make this New Year’s Resolution your best yet!

Set Clear Goals

When you set a goal, it should move you toward something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes so put your attention on what you want instead of what you don’t. Be very specific. For example say, “I want to sit in full splits” instead of “I want to be more flexible.”

Make sure these clear goals are reasonable too. If you’re new to exercise, opt for a fun run of 1 or 2 miles rather than an Ironman. You can always work your way up to the big goals after you’ve had some initial success.

Don’t Change Everything at Once

Even if you recognize that both diet and lifestyle need radical change, prioritize your self-improvement goals. It’s like learning to juggle—you don’t start with six balls, you start with three and then add one at a time. Juggling three balls successfully feels way better than dropping six. And if it feels good, you’ll be motivated to keep going.

Maintain Your Momentum 

If you set clear, realistic goals, you might feel like they are easy to achieve. That’s good! There’s no reason to make things more difficult for yourself and risk losing all the progress you’ve made. If things are going well on your diet, don’t reduce your calorie intake even more. If running once a day feels easy, don’t double your effort.

Instead, stick with what’s working and add in some rewards. When you get to the first month, treat yourself. If the reward is aligned with your intention, that’s even better. For example, if your goal is to spend time walking outside every day, buy yourself some new hiking shoes after a successful month.

Surround Yourself With Supportive People

When you make the decision to change a habit or create a different lifestyle, be prepared for potentially negative feedback from some of your friends. Some people may think that your choice to change is a poor reflection on their choice to remain the same.

The best thing you can do is spend time with people who inspire you to make positive choices. When you surround yourself with peers who celebrate your success, it will encourage your continued progress. You could also make new friends. If your goal is to start running, join a beginner’s running group. If your goal is to eat better, you could start a recipe-sharing club. 

Remember That You Are Deserving

Even if you’re surrounded by great people, with a clear goal and built in rewards, the human tendency can be to let your personal wants and needs fall to the bottom of the list. After cooking, cleaning, and packing lunches for the entire family, your plans to go to the gym become easier to ignore. But just like flight attendants say, put on your oxygen mask before helping your children. You have to make sure your needs are met before you can take care of others. Seeing their parents model this same behavior, children begin to learn the value of voicing their opinions and taking care of their needs.

Be Gentle With Yourself 

If you fall back into old patterns, instead of berating yourself, be grateful that you noticed. Wanting to change is the first step, so have gratitude that you recognize there is change to be made. If you fall off the horse, get back on and try again. 

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Healthy Weight Loss

Do You Believe This Common Myth?

Myth: I should avoid grain products such as bread, pasta and rice when trying to lose weight.

Fact: Unless you have a particular allergy or digestive issue, grains can be considered a healthy part of any diet, including a weight-loss diet.  A grain product is any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or anther cereal grain.  Some are healthier than others, however. 

Grains are divided into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.  Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel - the bran, germ and endosperm.  Examples include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, and certain cereals and pasta.  Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ.  This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also remove dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. 

People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet may lower their chances of developing some chronic diseases.  To lose weight, reduce the  number of calories you take in and increase the amount of physical activity you do each day.  Follow an eating plan that replaces less-healthy options with a mix of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean protein foods and low-fat dairy foods. 

- Source: National Institutes of Health

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