Make the most of your health in 2018

New Year 2018 Resolutions on Chalkboard Background new year working

Achieve your New Year’s resolutions the right way

Many providers can relate to patients who struggle to achieve their health goals. Christine Cardone is no exception.

“I’ve struggled myself to make healthy choices,” said Cardone, a family nurse practitioner with Novant Health UVA Health System Virginia Internal Medicine & Primary Care in Manassas, Virginia. “I’m a working mom of five children. I know it can be done!”

Cardone has managed her own cholesterol and prediabetes through a low-carbohydrate diet—but recommends each individual follow a plan that fits with their needs.

She offers the following personal tips to adopt a healthier lifestyle in 2018.

Keep your goals specific. Set small goals, rather than big ones.

Think of the big picture and then sit down to consider your specific approach. “Rather than saying, ‘I am going to eat better and exercise more,’ set specific goals like walking briskly for 30 minutes four times per week or cutting back refined carbohydrates by 50 percent,” Cardone said.

Cardone encourages patients to steadily decrease their intake of refined sugars. Hidden sugar lurks in many processed foods, juices and soft drinks. And “low fat” or “reduced fat” foods often have more added sugar.

Sugar is enemy No. 1 (save tobacco) when it comes to our health,” Cardone said. “And this is not just true for people with diabetes. Consumption of added sugar, hidden sugar, and large amounts of other complex carbohydrates can cause obesity, elevated triglycerides, diabetes, and other health conditions.

“Cutting back on refined sugars and complex carbohydrates can really make a big difference. This includes anything made with flour, such as breads, cakes, cookies, pastas, and crackers. In addition, limit foods made from potatoes, such as french fries, baked potatoes, and potato chips, and also curb foods made with corn, including tortillas and corn chips. Be careful not to drink your sugar in sweet teas or sodas.”

Always check with your primary care provider before beginning any new diet or exercise routine.

Join a support group. The power of peers can bring motivation to make lasting change.

“Talking about plans, goals, and struggles can be therapeutic,” Cardone said. “Share your progress with close friends or family members. I often encourage patients to join a support group or regularly scheduled fitness class.”

“It accomplishes a few things,” she added. “Being part of a group where members are inherently pursuing similar goals encourages accountability. People tend to be more successful when there’s accountability. In addition, being part of a group provides emotional support. People tend to be more successful when they feel they have emotional support from those in their lives.”

Expect challenges. Not everything will go exactly as planned, but sticking to a plan as much as possible can fuel longer-lasting transformation. Cardone recommends menu planning prior to the start of the week and creating a grocery list.

“I’m a working mom to five kids,” she said, laughing. “I have to menu plan.”

Ultimately, though, no amount of planning can prepare you for every life circumstance. Stay positive and persistent.

“Recognize that no one is perfect and this is a process of growth and life change and that does not come easy,” Cardone advised. “Stay motivated and determine that you’re going to do better moving on or moving forward.”

Hydrate. To stay on track with drinking enough water, Cardone advises her patients to purchase two 32-ounce water bottles. “Always keep one in the fridge and always have one with you,” she said. “Try to drink one before lunch, one after lunch and one after dinner. That way you know you’ve had all your water for the day.”

The amount of daily recommended water intake varies by age, according to the recommended dietary reference intakes.

(Note: Consult your primary care provider regarding proper fluid intake if you are on fluid restrictions due to a medical condition.)

Lifestyle, not diet. There are many diets out there that require a tremendous amount of research and documentation. These types of high-maintenance diets can be difficult to maintain for the long term. “If that’s your personality, great,” Cardone said. “But the lifestyle you choose is heavily dependent on your personal preferences and your personality. Some don’t want to make lists, check labels on packages all the time.”

If tracking every bite is too difficult, focus on your food choices and portion control to achieve weight loss, she noted.

Yes, you can! Cardone said she understands patients who feel making healthy and lasting lifestyle changes may not be possible.

“I have been there. I have struggled with my weight and health in the past. I completely understand what it is to feel overwhelmed and too busy to make these changes. The fact that I’ve been able to improve my health in a sustainable way shows it can be done.”


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