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Wellness, not weight loss: Advice for starting the new year off right

For many of us, New Year’s resolutions like quitting smoking, getting organized or losing weight are sweeping lifestyle changes, which often fail after a few days or weeks. At the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, experts in nutrition and wellness coach patients to focus on making changes that can be sustained for improved health in the long-term.

Registered dietitians Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, LDN, and Ema Barbosa Brown, MPH, MPH, RD, LDN, offer this advice: When considering your goals for the new year, start with small changes.

“If you are not currently in an exercise routine, setting a goal of working out five times per week for 30 minutes can be intimidating and challenging to maintain,” says Koroly. “Instead, start with small bursts of physical activity that you enjoy, such as 10 minutes of walking each day or a 15-minute Zumba video three times per week.”

When it comes to nutrition, the advice is the same:

Increase the amount of vegetables and fruit you eat per day. Vegetables and fruit contain beneficial vitamins, minerals and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals that help to reduce chronic disease risk. One serving of vegetables is 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. One serving of fruit is about ½ to 1 cup. See if you can gradually increase to 3 to 5 servings per day of vegetables, and 2 to 3 servings per day of fruit. Try meals such as zucchini noodles with turkey meatballs, a cauliflower rice stir fry or oatmeal with berries to increase you intake of vegetables and fruits.

Try something new. If you don’t like vegetables or generally don’t add them to your grocery list, try adding one new vegetable to your grocery list each week for four to eight weeks alternating between red/orange, purple and other colors, leafy greens and root vegetables. Vary the ways you prepare your vegetables for interest and palatability. You may choose to eat them raw (green salads, celery/cucumber/carrots with low fat dip), steamed (broccoli and zucchini), stir-fried (yellow bell peppers, sugar snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, water chestnuts), roasted (sweet potato, red onions, bell peppers, scarlet turnips, beets, snap peas), baked (acorn squash, sweet potatoes) or added to stews and soups (yuca, collard greens, yellow squash, yautia/malanga, Brussels sprouts).

Vary your micronutrients and fiber. Do the same with fruits regarding color, taste and texture to vary the micronutrients and fiber they provide to enrich your eating pattern. Try a new fruit each week for several weeks until fruit becomes part of your weekly grocery list. Eat fruit as a snack, dessert or as part of a meal such as a fruit/yogurt smoothie for breakfast, cut up fresh fruit or canned fruit added to your salad or mashed bananas in your pancakes.

Make nutritious snack options more accessible. Keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter, pre-portioned packages of nuts towards the front of the cupboard or in a drawer at work and Greek yogurts in the fridge to encourage yourself to reach for the healthy options. Consider a cupboard cleanout so there are nutritious options for everyone in the family.

Aim for mini sweet treats. The first few bites tend to be the most satisfying as our taste buds fatigue with additional bites. This can help you stay on track with your goals without depriving yourself of your favorite foods.

Koroly and Brown say the small changes approach can also be applied to other areas of your life.

“Stress management is key to a healthy lifestyle,” says Brown. “I encourage my patients to aim for 10 to 30 minutes of self-care per day depending on their schedule. Deep breathing, meditation, physical activity, laughing with loved ones and listening to soothing music can all help to manage stress. Self-care may also include taking a nap when needed, going to sleep earlier or taking a warm bath.”

It’s also important to stay connected with friends and family by eating one daily meal together. If you live alone, try connecting with loved ones at a mutually agreed upon place (restaurant, place of worship, library, mall, park) or via video chat.

With these small changes, you’ll be sure to enjoy 2022 from January through December!

Need help getting started? Speak to your primary care provider or call the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at 617-525-3597.

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