Finding long-lasting healthy behaviors

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

As a working mother, I often wonder if I can manage it all — maintaining a career, being a good mom and wife, and eating healthy while exercising regularly. There are days, even weeks, that can be overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that as a registered dietitian I know that regular sleep

patterns are directly related to my overall health, so cutting hours there is not the best option. Everybody says we need to take time for ourselves, but where is that time going to come from? Can working moms do it all? Can we bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, as they say? (OK, first we should probably change that to turkey bacon.)

Amy Pleimling

Amy Pleimling

Our country is fast-paced, and this is not likely to change anytime soon. It is easier to pick up food on the way home for dinner than it is to make it at home. It is easier to eat lunch out with co-workers than it is to plan, shop and pack your lunch from home. After work and dinner are done, it is a lot easier to sit on the couch than to take a bike ride. But let’s face it, these repeated habits can be unhealthy, and we know that we feel a lot better about ourselves when we do eat healthy and exercise. Since we probably can’t do it all, how can we manage our busy lives so that we can make room for healthy eating and regular physical activity? Here are some ideas that make it easier for me:

Email newsletter signup

Let go of the all-or-nothing mentality

I see this type of thinking far too often. If you mess up and eat too much at lunch time and/or eat a bar (or two) from the pan in the break room, you don’t have to overeat at supper and then get ice cream just because you were off-track. This mentality is going to do you no good. You should plan to derail frequently; how you handle it is what matters. The other part of letting go of the all-or-nothing mentality is

facing the fact that perfect eating and exercising rarely exist. It doesn’t need to be perfect to be healthy. Small, repeated efforts will make the most difference.

Accept that small efforts make a huge difference

I think we still have a hard time letting go of the quick-fix thinking. If you are going to make efforts in losing weight for a few weeks and you don’t lose, why continue? Switch that thinking to accept that it takes time — a lifetime. Too many large changes at once won’t work for very long. Being healthy doesn’t mean you need to completely change your lifestyle from top to bottom. Keep the things that you really love, but make efforts where you know you can. Something as small as a healthier breakfast can make a huge difference in how you feel.

Keep a positive attitude

In efforts to stay healthy, we tend to set up strict guidelines for ourselves. What happens then is a negative cycle of thoughts and feelings. You might declare “no sweets or sugar in my diet,” and from this comes thoughts and cravings for something sweet. Which leads to indulging, which leads to feelings of guilt. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and you will get much further. Instead of thinking about the doughnut you can’t have, think about how much more satisfied you feel when you eat oatmeal in the morning and be proud of yourself for making small, positive lifestyle efforts.

A woman I once worked with on managing her weight had a routine of eating dinner with her mother at McDonald’s once a week. She found a way to cut calories and ordered a plain, grilled chicken sandwich with honey mustard on the side instead of a breaded chicken sandwich. This is a great example of a small effort that made huge improvements in her health. Finding what works is going to be different for everyone.

I don’t think we can do it all, but we can find healthy behaviors that work for us and make us feel better. Because we all know when Mama ain’t happy, then no one is happy!


Amy Pleimling is a registered dietitian living in Albert Lea.