Holiday parties can be sources of temptation, from the alcohol to the appetizers. Brooke Schembri, a director in the WellStar department of corporate and community health, said although most people gain an average of one pound during the holiday season, the problem is when they “don’t take that one pound off.” Over time, it leads to weight gain. She said getting back on track in January will prevent yearlong weight gain.
As New Year’s Eve parties approach, Schembri said a few changes could make a difference. Eat a snack before attending a party. Instead of selecting one of everything, eat only those items you enjoy. Mingle away from the hors d’voures. Bring healthy dishes to the party, such as vegetables, hummus and low-fat dips.
The registered dietician and certified health education specialist said it’s best to focus on the health benefits of eating properly and reducing health risks instead of just dropping pounds. Health Place offers Fresh N’ Fit cuisine, an eating program that is in line with the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American Cancer Society. Schembri said the program is helpful for those who need structure.
Goals are an important part of the journey, and Schembri said she encourages clients to set smaller, achievable ones and focus on behavior changes instead of just weight loss. Examples include replacing meat with fish twice weekly, adding 10 minutes to an exercise program a day, or filling a plate with vegetables.
“Things like that will help take the focus off weight and instead focus on fueling their body and taking care of themselves,” she said. “Making these healthy lifestyle changes in January will help you lose any holiday weight and will also help to maintain weight throughout the year and prevent that gradual weight gain.”
A weight management program begins Jan. 23 at WellStar. This six-week program includes individual consultations with a dietician followed by group classes. For more information, call (770) 793-7454.
Tim Palmer, exercise specialist at WellStar’s Health Place, said a new years spurs people to want to lose weight. He said people tend to flock to the gym in January to lose holiday pounds, but pitfalls include wanting to do too much too fast and falling off too soon.
“I think one of the barriers people run into (is) jumping in 110 percent off the bat,” he said. “That’s something that, as an exercise specialist, we try to work them into exercise and not push them off the cliff and say, ‘Have a nice fall.’”
Palmer said his job is to examine a person’s health history, conditions and restrictions, and then move toward a gradual program. For example, he said beginner’s program might be three to five days of cardio for 30 to 60 minutes, given the client’s ability. Weights could also be worked in the program. However, he said, “We always say do what’s comfortable. We also want to find something they enjoy.”
Working with an exercise specialist also includes setting goals, something Palmer said clients do at the beginning. He said, “Once we achieve that goal, it’s up to the client whether they want to continue with the specialist. But most of the time, they normally continue because they like the accountability of coming in and seeing the exercise specialist and to know we’re staying on top of their exercise and health.”
Consulting an exercise specialist is helpful, regardless of if a person wants personal training. Palmer said, “Always talk to someone who is knowledgeable about it. Don’t be afraid of them because they’re there to help. That’s what we do. We enjoy meeting new people and having them reach their goals, whether it’s with us or not.”
The process of losing weight can result in not only physical changes, but mental. Dr. Tonette Robinson, clinical psychologist, said body issues don’t disappear once the weight does.
“People think more about how they’ve failed in the past,” she said. “They really want to succeed, but I think the struggle is, ‘How do I succeed this time around?’”
While nutrition and exercise are important in improving health, Dr. Robinson said mental toughness is also an important factor. She said the purpose of a mental health professional is to help people determine what their real goals are in terms of what they value most.
“People try to change behaviors, but they can’t because they don’t really know if they can commit to the behavioral change,” she said. “What I like to do is establish what’s the most important thing in their life at this time, and why would this behavior improve that part of their life.”
Dr. Robinson said core values in life are factors to success and will help people stick to their behavioral changes. For example, she said an overweight mom might want to lose weight in order to play with her children. Using a strength-based approach, she helps clients find the link between goals, core values and compatibility. She said, “It it’s important to them, then I think they are more likely to stick with the goal.”
Dr. Robinson said a person is more likely to succeed in achieving their goals when they have people in their corner who want the best for them. “People need to support and challenge you,” she said. “You don’t want someone who is always saying, ‘You’re wonderful.’ You want people that can say, ‘I definitely see your strengths, I definitely am able to recognize what you bring to the table. At the same time, I feel like you also want to improve, so I’m here to support you in that.’”
Lofty goals, such as losing 20 pounds is 30 days, is unrealistic. Dr. Robinson said these unrealistic expectations are reasons as to why people fall of the wagon. “When you try to make huge steps, you then basically regress back to where you were because you haven’t developed skills and attitudes to support that significant amount of change,” she said.
Tracking success is an incentive to keep going and prevent discouragement. Dr. Robinson said, “When you see some progress, it motivates you to continue. Change is a process. It’s not just about succeeding for failing. It’s about change occurring over time.”
While weight loss can bring on positive feelings, Dr. Robinson said research indicates depression can also occur because of the change to the body. People can also view someone who has lost a large amount of weight in a different light.
Dr. Robinson said, “What people don’t understand is that when you have significant physical change in your life, you have to adjust to a new body (and) people interacting with you differently. There are some folks who may get more attention because they lost a significant amount of weight. They may receive not only positive feedback from people, but negative feedback.”
People can be jealous and may perceive you differently. She said, “Change may appear to people as if this person is not who they used to be.” Dr. Robinson adds body issues might not disappear with the pounds because it is an internal issue, which can contribute to depression and anxiety because of the change.
Getting a professional opinion from someone with an objective opinion can help with the entire process. Dr. Robinson said, “When you speak professional help, it allows the person an opportunity to express anything that they are feeling without being judged. It gives them the opportunity to learn skills they didn’t have prior to the weight loss, to develop skills to maintain the weight loss, as well as start to explore issues that they never thought to deal with before. Reaching out to a professional helps support them as they go through this transition.”
For information on WellStar’s services for the community, visit www.wellstar.org.