Guest Column: A healthy lifestyle is not in aiming for perfection

Published 3:06 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

By Emily Schmidt

Albert Lea resident Emily Schmidt is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She enjoys writing, cooking and spending time with her son and family.

Leading a healthy lifestyle can be challenging during the cold, winter months. Between holiday treats, indulging in warm comfort foods and the typical decrease in physical activity, managing body weight and taking care of health issues like diabetes, elevated blood pressure or heart disease can be difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to make these indulgences and habits healthier to help you obtain your goals despite the seasonal struggles. Planning strategies ahead of time, revving up your heart rate and being realistic are all aspects of striving for improved health during this time of year.

Emily Schmidt

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When it comes to holiday gatherings or Super Bowl parties, planning ahead is essential for managing your health. There is no need to skip holiday celebrations or other parties to be health conscious — life is meant to be enjoyed! Bring your own beverages, not only to be a courteous guest, but also to have your own options. Flavored, fruit-infused or sparkling water are great choices. Or opt for a lighter alcoholic beverage such as light beer, wine, hard liquor with diet soda or juice. Research shows that sugar substitutes in moderation are still generally less harmful than regular sugar, despite popular opinion. Allow some indulgences, but practice portion control. Sweet treats and higher-calorie dishes do not need to be excluded entirely; having smaller portions is the key. In order to be satisfied, you’ll still need a decent volume of food, and the best way to achieve that is by having more high fiber plant-based foods. Will there be any fruit or vegetable options? If not, bring your own. Fruit or vegetable trays are great, even with a vegetable dip, or switch it up with unique side dishes.

Ask yourself: Are there any opportunities — even brief ones — for raising your heart rate? Go for a walk with the family after the big meal, or jump on the treadmill for 10 minutes before heading out for the family get-together. Help clean up after the holiday meal and stay busy with household chores for at least five or 10 minutes after eating. If you’re the guest, that’s definitely a win-win situation for both you and the host.

Finally, I encourage you to be realistic. Why do so many of us not meet our goals even when we have the best intentions? Oftentimes it’s because we are aiming for perfection. We feel like we’ve failed when we aren’t quite perfect (but really, who is?). Instead of saying you will eat healthy 100 percent of the time, give yourself the goal of eating healthy 80 or 90 percent of the time. When you do have that inevitable indulgence, instead of feeling like a failure and giving up entirely, you can forgive yourself and remember that a healthy lifestyle is not about perfection — it is focused on progress.

When it comes to staying on track with your health during the cold months, remember to plan ahead and practice portion control, take advantage of opportunities for physical movement and strive to be realistic. This might just be your healthiest winter yet!