Cheers to a Healthier 2017!

Less carbs. More protein. No food after a certain time of day. Spin and body shred class. Avoid this … but not that. The list of diets and workouts promising to help with weight loss and improve health are endless! But do they work long-term?

If you – like countless others – rang in the New Year with thoughts of shedding a few pounds or treating yourself healthier, here are a few practical ideas to help you accomplish just that …

Sleep More
What does sleep have to do with health and weight? Plenty! Most experts agree that adults need seven to eight hours nightly. Research has linked adequate sleep to fewer colds, fewer symptoms of depression and eating fewer calories the next day.

A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition observed that sleep-deprived individuals consumed an average of 300 more calories in a day than when they had adequate amounts of sleep. What causes this? Well, it’s likely related to the hormone leptin, which tells your body when it’s full. Less is produced when you don’t get enough sleep. Instead, more ghrelin – your hunger hormone – is produced.

Bottom Line – getting enough sleep is a powerful tool for weight control and health.

Tune-in to Hunger
When you’re well rested, be aware of hunger pangs. Don’t let yourself get ravenous before eating, or you’re likely to overeat. And take time to consider what really will satisfy your hunger. Choose what you really want at the time, sit down to eat it, and notice how you feel during and after eating. Food should be enjoyed!

At the same time, you may not be truly hungry every time you feel like or decide to eat. Try to:

  • Avoid distracted, mindless eating
  • Think about how you really are feeling … Bored? Stressed? Tired?
  • Address how you are feeling with an appropriate response. The root cause of boredom, sleepiness and stress truly won’t be remedied by eating

The book “Intuitive Eating” by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, is a no-diet approach to health and wellness. It outlines 10 principles to intuitive eating that may help you appropriately tune-in to hunger.

Bottom Line – eating what you want – when you’re truly hungry – may be the best “diet”* ever.   

Strategically Swap Foods
As you become attuned to true hunger, it’s a good idea to keep in mind a few simple nutrition principles, too. If a food can both provide positive nutrition and satisfy, it may be better to select it over another food choice. Consider these eat-this-VS.-that ideas:

  • Breakfast
    • Peeled orange VS. large glass orange juice (saves calories, increases fiber, still get a day’s worth of vitamin C)
    • Whole wheat toast & egg VS. biscuit & sausage (less total and saturated fat & calories, more whole grain nutrition)  
  • Lunch
    • Homemade wrap – turkey, Cheddar, lettuce, red pepper strips, lower-fat cream cheese – & an apple VS. burger & fries (more fruit/vegetable & whole grain, less fat)
  • Snack (especially during carnival season!)
    • ½ slice King Cake & Mardi Gras King Cake coffee** VS. large slice of King Cake (saves calories & fat, adds antioxidants & fluids)
    • Mardi Gras King Cake or other flavored coffee & milk VS. flavored frappuccino (less sugar, calories, fat)
  • Dinner
  • Grilled salmon & rice VS. fried fish & fried potatoes (more healthy omega-3 fat, less overall fat, calories & sodium)

Think about your repertoire of usual menu selections. And keep in mind that eating favorite foods is important so you don’t feel deprived. However, sometimes strategically trading out a favorite for a smart – yet yummy – nutrition choice can be satisfying, too. 

Bottom Line – small food choices can have a huge nutrition impact over time.

Move it!
You don’t have to be a passionate “gym rat” to reap the benefits of exercise*. Think about what you enjoy doing – walking, biking, dancing, swimming – and get moving. Start slowly if you haven’t been exercising lately. And if you find yourself starting to dread the idea of moving, try something else.

Why is it important? Well, there are extensive studies to support the benefits of exercise. It can:  help combat depression, boost energy, help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, burn fat and help control weight, strengthen muscles and bones, help you sleep better, decrease risk of heart attack and certain cancers and add years to your life. Sign me up!   

Bottom Line – regular exercise should make you feel better mentally and physically.

And finally, one last bit of caution: modeling these behaviors for your family just may have unintended consequences … they may adopt a few better-for-you habits, too!

*Consult with a physician or registered dietitian nutritionist before beginning any diet or fitness program to make sure it is appropriate for your needs.

**Community® Mardi Gras King Cake coffee – available for a limited time – is a quality coffee blended with light vanilla and cinnamon flavoring, providing a subtly sweet flavor.


Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.