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Getting healthy: setting goals for 2018

A woman checks her weight on a scale. Photo courtesy of iStock images.

As the first of January rolls around, a new year begins and traditionally with that comes resolutions. Frequently these goals revolve around getting fit, losing weight and staying healthy.

Wouldn’t it be great if this was the year that it stuck? That as we reflect on 2018 we aren’t filled with disappointment, but instead we close out this year and enter into 2019 with the goal of maintaining or building on what was achieved in 2018?

It is possible! And what a better time to recommit to resolutions than during this week: Healthy Weight Week, Jan. 14 – 20.

“The first step to setting goals, is determining what a healthy weight is for you,” said Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Dietitian Wendy Wyatt. “You can determine if you are in a healthy weight range, over or under weight, by checking you BMI [Body Mass Index].”

According to the CDC, BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. The best way to find out your BMI? Use a simple BMI calculator, where all you have to input is your height and current weight.

Wyatt recommends making your goals SMART. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-focused. For instance, “I want to lose 10 pounds” is not a SMART goal. A SMART goal would be, “I am going to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks by replacing my nightly bowl of ice cream with an apple” or “I am going to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks by walking 30 minutes, 5 days a week and replacing my daily soda with water.”

It takes a deficit of about 3,500 calories to lose a pound of body fat. You can do this by reducing the calories you take in and/or increasing the calories you burn. An adult can lose one to two pounds per week by avoiding or burning 500 to 1,000 calories per day.  Meaning you should take in less calories than your body needs or increase the number of calories your body needs by increasing activity.   The same is true if you need to gain weight. Increasing your intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day can increase your weight by 1 to 2 pounds a week.

“To decrease your calories, its best to keep a food journal and track the number of calories you are taking in for at least a few days,” said Wyatt. “Then, the journal helps determine where you can make a realistic cut in calories. You can also keep a physical activity diary to track how many calories you are burning a day and make a goal for ongoing activity.”

To help set those goals, here are some tips to success:

  • Choose small changes that you can maintain.
  • Follow a healthy meal plan.
  • Be active, start slowly and gradually increase.
  • Plan ways to overcome setbacks.
  • Weigh yourself daily.
  • Read and understand food labels.
  • Get family and friends involved.
  • Celebrate your success!

For Veterans enrolled at Charleston VAMC, there is also an opportunity to take advantage of the MOVE! Program. This program is an intervention designed for Veterans who are currently overweight or obese, with a BMI of 25 or greater.

"MOVE! is a self-managed program, which provides the Veterans with the tips and tools for success," said Charleston VAMC MOVE! Coordinator Rebecca Luhrs. "Excess weight is associated with more than 50 adverse health conditions. Many of these can be prevented, improved, or even eliminated with weight loss. We begin to see positive changes with just a 5 or 10 percent weight reduction. Losing weight improves both the quality and the quantity of life."

MOVE! programs are available at the main VA hospital in Charleston and at all of the facility's outlying outpatient clinics. Veterans can attend group sessions in person, be seen individually, have telephone visits, or participate in MOVE! Telephone Lifestyle Coaching. Additionally, Veterans can get help remotely through TeleMOVE!, or through the MOVE! Mobile Coach - an iPhone app designed to keep Veterans on track while on the go. Patients who have previously tried other MOVE! options but still struggle with being overweight may also benefit from more intensive medical treatments such as weight loss medications and bariatric surgery through the MOVE! program.

Need some inspiration, check out these Veterans’ MOVE! success stories.

Veterans interested in joining MOVE! should speak with their primary care provider about options available to them at their local facility.

So, take some time to sit down, evaluate your resolutions and make the commitment to letting 2018 be a year where you can look back and celebrate your fitness success!

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