The New Diet: Small Healthy Changes

Skip the diet and make small, healthy changes instead



With the dawn of each new year, people crave a fresh start, and with good intentions individuals make resolutions for the coming months. The reason people often fail to keep them is because “they think they have to make sweeping, grandiose changes,” says Jessica Griffin, training and fitness coach and founder of NJ Fit Moms. “They try to do too much all at once, but really small changes over time lead to big, sustainable ones.”

When certified health coach Laurie Hoffman asked women attending her workshop, “Are you dieting now?” most hands shot up. “The average 47-year-old woman has dieted 61 times in her life,” she revealed, noting that unfortunately, many women gain the weight right back. This led Hoffman to develop an easy, fun and empowering plan as an alternative to dieting that emphasizes nutrition, mindfulness and fitness.

Eat foods that nourish your body.

Griffin changes the focus from dietary restrictions to considering what healthy foods you should put in your body, choosing vegetables instead of the sugary sides. After just one week of eating healthy and reducing sugar intake, her class felt sharper, more energetic and less cranky. They began swapping sugary drinks for water, substituting white pasta for whole grain, white rice for brown, putting natural sweeteners in coffee and packing healthy lunches and snacks.

Slow down and eat with gratitude.

Be mindful of how you feel when eating and ask yourself, “Am I eating gratefully with love and compassion? Do I feel like I am nurturing myself during my meals?” This helps you access your relationship with food, suggests Sudha Allitt, founder and executive director at the Kula Kamala Foundation & Yoga Ashram in Alsace, PA.

Embrace mindful practices.

Yoga teaches students to tap into what is happening within themselves as well as in their surroundings so they may identify distractions, such as expectations of being present 24/7 via Facebook, Instagram and other social media. Work too can be a stressor, she explains.
“Many recent medical studies suggest between 80-85 percent of all diseases begin with stress,” she says. “Meditation and self-study can help you identify the root cause of the issue; then, with support, you can put a lifestyle in place that allows for your optimal health.”

Deep breathing is an overlooked stress and weight reducer. At the top of every hour, “Breathe from the diaphragm. Inhale and exhale three times, without rushing, to set yourself in the present moment. It has been shown in scientific research that breathing properly is directly related to the body’s relaxation response, which releases stress,” says Allitt. “Proper breathing is the number one way to lose weight because when the body doesn’t function optimally, then it harbors weight.”

Be active whenever you can.

Engaging in light activities will improve mood and help lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels, says Arlene Feleccia, RD, medical nutrition therapist and certified diabetes counselor at Beebe Healthcare of Delaware.

“In a study of 36 adults, taking a two-minute brisk walk every half hour over seven hours reduced the buildup of triglycerides by 7 percent compared to sitting all day. If you add a 30-minute walk at the end of the day, you can reduce that build-up of artery-clogging fat by 11 percent,” explains Feleccia.

Hoffman says that making small, but significant, changes in your daily routine has long-term benefits. “There is no one right way to eat that will guarantee success for everybody, but when you eat clean, find the foods that fuel your body and energize you, then you will achieve success and feel empowered.” 

Linda Dell is a freelance writer.

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