New Year, New You

With the arrival of a new year, many people have committed themselves to two resolutions: losing weight and eating healthier foods.

Jill Spangler, a registered dietician and exercise expert at the Howard Long Wellness Center of Wheeling Hospital, believes the new year offers a fresh start for those who overindulged during the holiday season.

“People want to turn over a new leaf,” Spangler said of the appeal of resolutions.

Emphasizing that the hardest part is simply getting started, Spangler said having a friend with whom to exercise encourages accountability. To monitor healthy eating, food journals can promote personal accountability and are a record of meal choices.

She warned against rushing the process and reminded individuals not to focus on losing weight too fast, as those who do so often gain it back just as quickly.

“Take it slow,” Spangler said. “Every day make it a little more challenging.”

Referencing healthy eating and exercise misconceptions, Spangler explained that diet soda, despite not containing calories, still contains a sugar substitute that research shows can cause further sugar cravings. She added that, for those who think only a lengthy exercise routine produces results, even taking 10 to 15 minutes to stretch or march in place can stimulate mood-boosting endorphines.

“Every little bit is better than no exercise at all,” Spangler said.

At the Howard Long Wellness Center, Spangler provides medical nutrition therapy to patients and instructs some classes. Classes offered at the center include zumba, water aerobics, and pilates, among others. She said the center has been signing up a lot of new memberships recently.

Spangler explained individuals should “take ‘can’t’ out of their vocabulary” when approaching a healthy lifestyle change.

“We can give them the tools,” Spangler said. “It’s a matter of people taking it upon themselves to make [a lifestyle change] happen. A lot of patients want immediate results. It takes time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted even a loss of five to 10 percent of body weight can decrease risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.