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What's Your Nutrition Goal For The New Year?
by Amy Carlson, MS, RD, LD

If any of you are familiar with the "dieting cycle" you know that January 1st of any year means new goals! Those goals are usually headed by the number one goal of all time "LOSE WEIGHT"!! "By the fourth of July I’ll be 30 pounds lighter", "by Easter I’ll be able to fit into my favorite dress", "by next year I’ll be at my goal weight and I can finally scratch it off of my goal list!" As a registered dietitian, I get to see more New Year’s resolutions than I care to admit. What I typically see happen is a quick sign up at the local gym, a mass exodus to the health food store to pick up some fat slimming pills and a thorough investigation of the latest diet craze. Then it begins, severe restricting, excessive exercise, and sheer will power in action. The typical New Year’s diet lasts anywhere from one day to three weeks. Then the "diet" is often abandoned for a 1/2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and a night on the couch instead of the gym. This leads to more disappointment in ones’ self and a resolve to start fresh February 1st. For many of my clients they have lived on and off this cycle for years, trying desperately to lose weight and get fit "once and for all".

What’s wrong with this approach?
It doesn’t take long to figure out that it just plain doesn’t work. Our bodies were not designed for such intense abuse and given a period of time our bodies will rebel and cause us to regain every painstaking lost pound. This approach is restrictive, depriving, unrealistic, short term and just plain NOT FUN! Who wants to eat celery sticks while they’re doing 60 minutes of hard aerobics at the gym followed by more carrot sticks and maybe 2 oz of baked chicken? Most people give up relatively quickly out of survival but instead of going back to "moderation" they are led to eat large portions of foods they had deprived themselves of and do zero exercise! This often leads to more weight gain than was originally lost.

How can you get off this cycle?
First of all, throw away your New Year’s dieting resolution and pull out some clean paper. We’re going to make some fresh goals!! The best way to get a handle on what you’re currently doing is to keep a food diary for about a week. Write down everything you put in your mouth without consciously changing your eating habits. You may want to include times and general portion sizes so you can see what your patterns are like. Go ahead and keep a record of your exercise and your water intake as well. This will give you an overall picture of your current health habits. Then assess what parts of your habits need the most work? Are you skipping breakfast? Are your portions excessive? Are you doing no exercise at all? Do you drink 8-9 cups of water every day? Are you eating high fat foods or comfort foods late in the day? Write down what you think might be potential problem areas that are keeping you from reaching your weight loss goals. Then put together a fresh list of goals. Take one or two areas that you consider realistic for you to pursue. Maybe you want to start eating breakfast, switch to low fat dairy and start walking 4 days/week. What kind of results would you see by making these small changes? Small changes equals big results!! Sometimes I have clients just decrease their soda intake from 5 per day to 1 per day and within a couple of weeks they’ve lost weight. They may add breakfast and decrease evening portions and what do you know they start losing weight! It’s amazing how our body responds to moderate, gradual changes. Remember your body is resistant to sudden weight loss. It will do everything it can to stop this process. But, your body wants to be thin!! It is counterproductive to carry excess weight and small, gradual changes are welcomed by your body to help it reach athinner, healthier you!

You may want to enlist a "health partner" to keep you accountable and to make the process more fun. You may also want to recruit some health care professionals to help you get off to the right start. When is the last time you had a thorough physical exam? Call your primary care physician and make an appointment for your annual physical. A personal trainer can help you put together a realistic exercise program, get you motivated and guarantee that you’re "doing the exercises correctly". You want to make sure and ask your trainer about their credentials. Finally, a registered dietitian can look over your eating habits and help identify what areas you may want to focus on. He or she can also help pick up on any areas of deficiency in your diet as well as emotional reasons for your excess weight. However you decide to approach the New Year remember...your body wants to be thin!!

Amy B. Carlson, MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian and consults clients in the greater Houston area. To contact Amy for an appointment call 713.978.1713 or e-mail her at abcdietitian@houston.rr.com.

View Amy's Bio
View our frequently asked nutrition questions & answers




Weight Training
Lat Pulldowns
Pulldowns are a great exercise for the back muscles but avoid pulling the bar behind the head. Pull the bar down in front of the body toward the collar bone and with the bar just below your chin. Pulling the bar behind the head puts undue stress on the shoulders and rotator cuff.
Running
Avoiding Shin Splints
Do you have lower leg pain or shin splints from running? Running on hard surfaces, worn out running shoes and weak calf muscles could be the culprit. Try running on soft trails, buying a new pair of running shoes or adding calf exercises to your weight training routine.
Walking
The Talk Test
A great way to make sure you are staying in your aerobic fat-burning range is the talk test. If you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation with your walking partner you probably need to bring down the intensity to assure yourself that you are burning fat.
Fat Burning
Your Anaerobic Threshold
A great way to make sure you are burning fat during cardio sessions is knowing your anaerobic threshold or where your heart rate zone needs to be to burn fat stores. Find a gym or fitness center that offers anaerobic/VO2 testing. Merlino Fitness offers anaerobic threshold testing every month. Check out the link below for more details.
Merlino Fitness Metabolic Testing
Nutrition
Keys to Weight Loss
If you are trying to drop weight make sure you incorporate the following to get you on your way. Drink lots of water, don't skip meals (especially breakfast), do not eat late night meals or snacks after 7 or 8 pm and build as much activity into your everyday life as you can. Michael also recommends joining weight watchers to anyone trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Nutritional Supplements
Stay Away From Ephedra!
The weight loss/energy supplement is in the news again. Supplement companies that market this controversial supplement claim it is safe although many have died from this dangerous supplement. Make sure you check the labels of your nutritional supplements as many are laced with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang (the actual herbal).
Quick Tip Archives
Our archived collection of fitness and nutrition tips to help you stay focused and fit.
Tip Archives

Soy Dream
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Eggology Egg Whites
Take the edge off those sweet cravings with this healthy soy alternative to an ice cream sandwich without the unwanted calories and guilt.
Product Website
Grocery Store Archives
Our latest collection of on-line articles to help you stay focuses and fit.
Grocery Archives
 
Fitness
Pamela from Chihuahua, MexicoI work out 5 days a week and can't loose weight. I do spinning, tae bo and many types of cardio. Where am I going wrong?
Answer
Nutrition
Ross from Sidney, AustraliaI am currently trying to eat six small meals per day. Apart from breakfast and dinner, I always seem to forget or skip my meals during the day. I also need some simple, easy meals (snacks) that do not require refrigeration or preparation, apart from the obvious fruits.
Answer
Running
Amanda from Manitoba, CanadaWhat should I eat the morning of my track meet?
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