Making small changes

A Buddhist monk said we think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. By seeking perfection and controlling our experience we are setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control. Her point is that life presents continual challenges, and maybe we needn’t be so hard on ourselves.

When it comes to your 2020 resolution to lose weight, it is challenging. But looking for another perfect diet plan isn’t the solution. There’s no quick and easy fix.

Ninety-five percent of dieters gain weight back, with two-thirds of those people gaining even more. Life throws us holidays, parties, emotional triggers, donuts at work—all will challenge your best intentions. Instead of planning to never eat sugar again, cleanse or lose 15 pounds, small changes can be helpful and empowering.

Getting a handle on weight control is more than being perfect, or eating only “perfect food.” Getting off the couch, moving more, getting enough sleep and good nutrition all play a vital role regarding your health.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently presented a massive amount of data. They analyzed surveys filled out by 120,000 nurses, physicians, veterinarians and dentists over a period of some 20 years. These subjects answered questions about the number of servings of various foods they consumed each day. One of the more interesting findings from the data collected was that there was an average weight gain of about 17 pounds over 20 years, roughly at a rate of a pound a year. Noteworthy was that these were educated subjects who knew something about nutrition.

Over the years, some people increased their intake of some foods and decreased their intake of others, but statistical analysis was able to tease out their effects on weight. Certain foods and drinks had a greater impact on weight gain. French fries were a problem, as one serving a day resulted in a weight gain of about a pound and a half a year, yet another type of potato led to only one-sixth as much weight gain. Researchers point out that it’s obvious there is more fat in fries, yet the data shows that an extra serving of nuts a day, which are also high in fat, actually results in some weight loss, though small, over a year. So weight control is more complex than just counting calories. In the Harvard study, there are foods to stay away from and foods to try to add to your diet, like fruits and vegetables, which, sensibly, you should be filling up on. Potato chips, sugar-sweetened drinks, refined grains and trans fats were associated with weight gain, as were red meat and processed meats. Small changes offer long-term success.

Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at

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