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20 Tips for a Healthy New Year

The Independent Weekly talks to Acadiana’s health, beauty and fitness experts for their advice on how to put your best foot forward in 2009 and beyond. Below are their helpful tips to meeting your goals this year. 1. Add one new, repeated behavior each week.
“Tackling too many goals at once can be overwhelming and counterproductive,” says Julie McNally, a registered dietitian at City Club at River Ranch. “Remember, slow and steady wins the race, so keep it simple.” She says the American Institute on Cancer Research now suggests at least 2/3 of the New American Plate consist of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. So try this: On Week 1 eat one more fruit a day; Week 2 add one vegetable each day; Week 3 try adding 4 cups of water; and on Week 4 eliminate all calorie containing beverages. “At the end of the month you will have eaten 30 more pieces of fruit, 23 more vegetable servings, drank 64 cups of water [four per day for 16 days] and saved tons of beverage calories,” McNally says.

2. Take care of your skin, too.
“The main thing is to be consistent with your skin care regimen, and to be consistent is to have a simple regimen,” says Pascale Henry of Pascale Spa. “I recommend that you hydrate with an antioxidant during the day. At night, use a treatment with retinol or Retin-A to nourish the skin. And, of course, use a sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy to protect the skin from the sun.”

3. Be realistic.
“The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people are not looking at the big picture,” says Manny Fuentes, a clinical exercise physiologist at LGMC and T’ai Chi instructor with Potpourri at UL Lafayette “They are looking for immediate fixes for something, and they tend to say, ‘Well, I want to lose weight.’” When you set a goal for yourself, Fuentes says it needs to be a specific goal — how many pounds do you want to lose, which outfit do you want to wear. “It also has to be a realistic and reasonable goal,” he adds. “You are not going to lose 40 pounds in a month, unless you go through a gastric bypass or something like that. It has to be something achievable, something that you can actually tend to accomplish. I’ve had a lot of people who say, I need to lose 30 pounds in two weeks, and I’ll say, ‘Fine, cut your leg off.’”

4. Slash 100 calories a day and lose 10 pounds this year.

Estelle Benoit

Photo by Robin May

“You want to analyze your diet, and look at the bad habits that you can definitely live without,” says Estelle Benoit, a registered dietitian at Red Lerille’s Health and Racquet Club. “One is drinking sodas — one soda has about 150 calories.” So, if you cut out one soda a day, that’s 150 calories, and some people drink three cans a day. Another way to cut calories is to use mustard instead of mayo, Benoit advises. One tablespoon of mustard has 12 calories, and one tablespoon of mayo has 100. “Also, get your lattes with skim milk instead of whole milk. One Starbuck’s tall Skinny Latte is 100 calories, whereas one tall Café Latte made with whole milk is 200 calories.” A good goal for most people is just watching their portion sizes at meals. “Generally, for protein, you only need two [portions] a day, each about the size of your hand,” she adds.” For other foods, portion size is about the size of your fist — any carbs like rice, pasta, potatoes.”

5. Never go more than 3.5 to four hours without some small meal or snack.
This should include a lean protein source (low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, light string cheese, peanut butter, boiled eggs, handful of nuts, deli meat, canned tuna or salmon) to maintain metabolism and blood sugar levels and keep hunger at bay.

6. Experiment with new, healthy foods and recipes.
Foods that you’ve never heard of can be the most nutritious. For example, quinoa, the ancient supergrain of the future, is a wonderfood with slow carbs and all eight essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein,” City Club’s McNally says. “It is the most nutritious of all grains and has unlimited culinary versatility.”

Nathan Pry

Photo by Robin May

7. Have fun with exercise. 
The health and wellness environment is so filled with innovation that even people who work out regularly should be encouraged to try something new — such as dance-infused classes like Zumba — so that exercising doesn’t get old. “There are just so many options in the realm of fitness right now that you don’t need to just go on the treadmill or hit the weights,” says Nathan Pry, director of the City Club at River Ranch.

8. Invest in home equipment.
If economic times are getting a little tough for you, your New Year’s resolution may not include a gym membership (though that would have been a fantastic Christmas gift). There are tons of inexpensive gadgets that yield good results, and one of the best investments you can make is a couple of sets of hand weights (5 pound and 10 pound) to use at home. If you do have a few extra bucks to spend on your health, Pry recommends a low-end Bowflex. “Biomechanically and functionally it is one of the best pieces of equipment out there and is space conscious,” he says. Pry also says the best at-home exercise is Pilates and suggests you start with a tape that’s a general intro before moving onto a world of great Pilates tapes now on the market. “You can do lots of moves in front of the TV to lengthen, strengthen and stretch,” he says.

9. Have an intention, not a resolution.
Resolution is not the best way to go, as far as Michael and Lydia Morton of Lafayette Center for Yoga are concerned. “It is better to go in the direction of an intention,” Lydia says, “because, when you talk about a resolution, it kind of has a negative connotation. You start thinking about giving up things — like if you are going to lose weight, then the subliminal message you get is that you are fat. Or, if you are thinking about calling your parents once a week, then the subliminal message is that you are ungrateful. Those kinds of things are not really directed toward the yoga plane of thinking.” The Mortons say yoga encourages people to think more globally and be aware of the lessons coming to them in everyday in your life. “Look at the nobility, the honor of your intentions, rather than denying yourself things,” Lydia says.

10. Hook up to the hydrant.
Even mild, chronic dehydration can decrease metabolism, send false hunger signals, and compromise mental and physical performance. Don’t rely on your thirst mechanism. About 50 percent of your body weight is comprised of water, and each system in your body depends on water. “It flushes out toxins and helps to keep a lot of your vital organs working properly, so you want to make sure you get adequate fluids,” says Amber Faul, clinical dietitian and registered dietitian at LGMC. “A general rule is the 8/8 rule — eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Ideally, you want your water to be your first source of hydration, but not always is that the case. Some of your fruits and vegetables are 90 to 100 percent of fluid, like watermelon or tomatoes, so get fluids in whenever you can.” Experts also advise monitoring urine color to ensure it stays at least as pale as lemonade.

11. So you’ve always wanted to ...
“If you are going to add physical fitness to your life, choose something that you have always wanted to try, like step class, riding lessons or kayaking, because you then will want to do other workouts that enhance your new activity,” says Alyce Wise, owner of Wise Bodies Pilates studio. “If you choose a physical activity that you enjoy, then you are more likely to go to the gym or take your Pilates class or something that is going to help you do your new activity.”

12. Sleep, sleep, sleep.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try Qigong, the breathing and movement exercises Wise’s husband teaches to help reduce stress. “A lot of the world has trouble going to sleep. Learn how to sleep, because it is the best thing for healing your body and for mental health,” Wise says. There’s also emerging sentiment that hard mattresses, while good for your back, may not be best for sleep. Look into whether softer may be better for a good night’s rest.

13. Increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Alyce Wise

Photo by Robin May

“Incorporate at least two fish meals a week, because Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Rosalind Allen, nutrition services supervisor at Lafayette General Medical Center. “In regards to the type of fish, it would be things like salmon and sardines,” Allen notes. “But, if you are not a person who is into fish, you can try flaxseed, one to two tablespoons a day, which is another good source of Omega-3 acids. Other sources include canola oils and walnuts — 2.5 grams or about an ounce of walnuts per day would be another source of Omega 3 fatty acids.”

14. Get your money’s worth.
“Get your money’s worth,” Pilates expert Wise tells her clients. “Basically, do it all the way — don’t just half do it — with everything in life,” she says. “Get your money’s worth means not only do you invest your money in a certain situation, but invest in your time or your energy. Have a good attitude and enjoy. Even if you are going out spending money to eat a meal, enjoy the meal. Laugh out loud at the movies. If you are investing time, energy, or money, participate all the way.”

15. Add Vitamin D for depression.
Lack of the sunshine vitamin can dampen your mood and keep you from sticking with any new health program. And while you’re getting cheery, you’ll help your bones, too — as Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption.

16. Get your daily dose of fiber.
“There are a lot of health benefits from fiber,” LGMC’s Faul says. “You can keep down weight, because it tends to keep you fuller longer. So, for good digestive health, good heart health, good, soluble fiber may help to lower your cholesterol levels. It may help with diabetes, helping your blood sugar stabilize.” She suggests trying these tips from’s “Ten Tips to Get Your Daily Fiber: scan for bran; grab the whole food, savor the skins (potatoes), screen for beans, go nuts, be berry wild, bring on the brown (rice and bread), skip the chips, drink up and sneak in some Fiber One cereal.”

17. Get rid of the ‘I’ve blown it’ mindset. 
“In the event of meal derailments, don’t cop out with the ‘I’ve blown it’ mindset,” says City Club’s McNally. “Remember the words: progress, not perfection. Go easy on yourself and get right back on your track toward your goals. Make the next meal a clean one, perhaps a huge entrée salad with a lean protein source like beans, tofu, fish, chicken, turkey, lean ham/beef or a side of low-fat cottage cheese.” She also urges experimenting with vinegars for dressing (red wine, rice wine, balsamic) and says to go easy on the cheese and avocado.

18. If it’s not food, don’t eat it.
An estimated 90 percent of food dollars are spent on processed, packaged food that is low-quality and chemical-laden (pseudofoods). “The definition of food is that which is nourishing to the body,” City Club’s McNally says. “Pseudofoods are not only not nourishing but detrimental to your health.” If you see the terms high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, sugar, enriched flour in the first five ingredients on the food label, “step away from the package,” she says. Choose another brand or variety. If you do eat a pseudofood, wait a long time before you eat it again so your body can recover.

19. Aim to consume at least one side salad daily.
Ensure that you get vitamins and fiber by adding lots of fresh veggies, and if you must, opt for an olive oil and vinegar dressing. The salad will help you feel full and eat less when your entree comes around. And for dessert, go for a fresh fruit salad. Research continues to mount on the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, with the findings so compelling that it is no longer just a polite suggestion to increase your intake.

20. Watch your salt intake.
The American Heart Association recommends a restriction of dietary sodium to 3,000 milligrams (3 grams) per day, so you really have to watch it, especially if you eat out a lot. According to McDonald’s Web site, a Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, for example, packs 890 mg of salt — twice what you get in a large order of fries. And that’s before you add any dressing. Most processed foods are loaded with salt, so read the labels.