The little things in life make a big difference. This is especially true in adopting a healthy lifestyle. People often think of healthy living in terms of big changes that they need to make. If I have to lose 50 pounds to reach a desirable weight, then why bother? Weight loss is one of the most difficult things to do. It requires a plan and a series of short term goals or “little bites” (forgive the pun) to reach the objective. Start with a small change such as eating a small apple between lunch and supper. This little change will help you to come to supper less hungry. Managing appetite is one small change needed for successful weight loss.
People often underestimate the benefit of daily activity. One small change that can make a significant difference in one’s health is to walk for 30 minutes every day. How fast or how far is not important. The duration in time is what matters. After 20 minutes of walking, we have used up most of the stored energy in our blood stream and are starting to mobilize stored fat from our body. For every minute you walk after 20, you burn more stored fat.
We hear a lot about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. There are more reasons to include fruits and vegetables in our daily plan than can be reviewed here. But think of the little things we can do that make a big difference. A sandwich can be a very healthy meal if we include the lettuce, tomato, and onion. Add berries to our cereal or a side salad to any plate is a small but important step. Remember that color is an indication of nutrient density in fruits and vegetables - the deeper the color the healthier the food.
Speaking of that sandwich, can we find a replacement for chips or French fries? How about the crunch of a handful of mixed nuts? Or look for unsalted reduced fat chips. Initially we may not be willing to make this substitute every time. But we can begin to work our average by making small changes frequently. “Sometimes” can turn into “most of the time” if we work at it.
Little changes added one at a time are easier to internalize into healthy habits. Pick one change and focus on it until it is no longer a conscious decision. For those who are milk drinkers, changing from whole milk to 2% can be a significant reduction in calories. Replacing a soft drink with a flavored water might be the best initial change to begin your weight loss journey. Make the little change and look to add the next one when you are ready.
A cheerful greeting can be a soothing ointment to someone who is experiencing rejection in life’s circumstances. A sympathetic ear can help diffuse another’s moment of anger. The little things in life make a big difference.
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Director of Clinical Nutrition and the HC Polk Education Center at Memorial Health System in Lufkin. The Polk Center provides education on diabetes, heart disease and weight loss and sponsors monthly classes and support groups on healthy lifestyle. In cooperation with Sodexo Food Service and the City of Lufkin, the Polk Center produces the nationally viewed TV series Memorial Cooking Innovations featuring Tim Scallon and the celebrated Chef Manuel Marini. Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrates the joy of fresh food and healthy eating and can be seen on cable in 46 cities and online at http://www.memorialhealth.org. On the website find healthy recipes, past cooking shows and sound nutrition information. Call 639-7585 for more information.