But the most common goals, and perhaps the most difficult, are to lose weight and, even more challenging, keep the weight off.
As pretty much anyone with an email account can attest, revolutionary new weight loss regimens pop up every few weeks or so. While many of these are unabashed snake oil, there is some merit to a handful of them. But this is no reason not to be wary, according to Brandy Green, director of food and nutrition programs for Citizens Baptist Hospital in Talladega.
“You can lose some weight pretty quickly with some of these fad diets, but most likely you will also gain it back quickly,” she said. “Slow and steady is better.”
Calories are the key. An adult woman should take in between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day, and a grown man should get 1,500 to 1,800 depending on variables like height and other factors.
“A pound equals 3,500 calories, so a reduction of 500 calories per day translates into one pound per week,” she continued. “That can be done as simply as cutting out sweet tea or sodas, or cutting out sweets. Again, everything depends on the individual. Also, you want to make sure that you are getting 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day, along with a lot of water, because fiber and water work together. You can get fiber either from foods or from supplements like Metamucil or Benefiber.”
Other good fiber sources include the skins, especially, of apples or baked potatoes, whole wheat breads and pastas and virtually all fresh fruits and vegetables, which also pack lots of other valuable nutrients.
The daily caloric intakes listed above are totals, not including calories burned up by regular exercise.
“You definitely have to exercise as well,” Green said. “Of course, before you start exercising, you need to get cleared with your physician, but I would recommend at least 30 minutes per day.”
What type of exercise will work best again varies according to the individual, based on their age, overall physical condition and history, Green added. “But no matter what, you’ll want something that will get your heart rate up. You can start out with fast walking, walking up an incline or using an elliptical machine, but basically any kind of physical activity is better than just doing nothing.”
A weight loss of one to two pounds per week is generally easier to maintain and will still reduce the risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems.
But here’s the rub. Anyone might be able to lose a little weight at the first of the year, but it’s keeping the weight off past the time when you start remembering to write 2014 as the date that’s the real challenge.
Audra Gray of Talladega understands this, but is also living proof that it can be done.
Back in November 2010, Gray said she was working as a freelance graphic designer and photographer and was still in school at the same time. She decided to get in shape in 2011 because “I was tired of being tired,” she said.
She lost 60 pounds, then 65 and is still maintaining today, on the cusp of 2014.
She started out eating better, she said. “The ladies’ group at my church had done a fast where we didn’t drink any sodas, so I started with that. I started eating more fruits and vegetables, and learning to just say no to Chicken Mcnuggets. I knew I was going to have to get radical, so I started doing some research, using the same skills that I had used to get my degree. I investigated what appeared to be good and what actually was; I looked at peer-reviewed papers and I read blogs from people I respected and trusted. I looked for consistent results across different sources, and I swore off pills and fad diets and those diet shakes that were starting to get really popular.”
She did, however, get a copy of the workout video “Jillian Michaels 30 Minute Shred,” and began practicing yoga at home.
“It was around this time I started seeing results, and that really helped keep me inspired,” she said. “I started to get even more radical, and actually picked up the nickname ‘food police.’”
She added regular runs in July 2012. “You can still see me running through Talladega in really loud clothes,” she said. “I’ve stuck with that so far, and I’m planning on recommitting to yoga again. I change things up gradually, adding more miles. I’m up to eight and a half miles per day three times per week right now, and I’ll be adding to that. But you have to change up your routine if you want to be able to break through those plateaus. Even with all the research I’ve done, I still know that I’m going to need to help my body make those breakthroughs.”
Gray now maintains a blog of her own detailing her regimen at perplemudd.blogspot.com. The name was inspired by a Nashville design firm called Clay Mud Designs, she said, and she was shocked to learn that Nashville has as much clay as Talladega.
“Perple was originally an acronym, but it was too long to for me to remember all of it, so now I just say it’s because I like the color, even though it’s misspelled,” she said.
She keeps the blog “because my goal now is to inspire other women. I can do this, and I know they can too.”
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.