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Get healthy! Shedding your pandemic and winter weight

Colorful fruits and veggies such as broccoli, spinach, Granny Smith apples, blueberries, ruby red grapefruit and more displayed neatly on a table.

Admit it, we all stress eat sometimes, and these past two years have been stressful!

Throughout winter and the pandemic, many Veterans found themselves staying inside and being a lot less active. Some may have made a few too many trips to the fridge and packed on a little extra pandemic poundage and winter weight. 
 
But now, Chicagoland is reopened, and warmer weather is finally here, giving everyone an opportunity to reset their nutritional and exercise habits. But where should Veterans begin?  
 
“Change is hard for all of us. Start slow and be realistic,” said Dana Strohmaier, Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital clinical dietitian. “We’re not going to go from stress eating chocolate or ice cream at home every night to a perfect diet. It takes time, consistency and good habits.”
 
Strohmaier explained, an effective way to build healthier habits is by rediscovering old ones. 
 
“Think about what you’ve enjoyed in the past and start setting smart goals around that,” Strohmaier explained. “Let’s say you enjoy walking outside; set a goal around that. How many days do you want to go walking outside? How long can you comfortably go for?”

Strohmaier also stressed accountability, including exercising with family, or recording your goals. Veterans can also sign up for free online healthy living communities or classes, such as VA’s MOVE! Weight Management Program, which encourages healthy eating behavior, physical activity and promoting even small weight losses. MOVE! also offers a free fitness tracker app that can guide users through 19 weeks of weight loss and exercise care.

Veterans can also contact Hines VA Hospital for support and work with a dietitian, like Strohmaier, by calling the appointment hotline at 708-202-2707.
 
“Your doctor’s team has a dietitian that works with them,” Strohmaier explained. “Veterans have a dietitian assigned to them, essentially, that they can get connected to. That dietitian can meet virtually through VVC (VA Video Connect), over the phone or in person, whatever the Veteran is comfortable with. That’s great for helping them set individualized goals to help move them forward.”

Strohmaier said, although COVID-19 infections are declining, safety should still be considered if exercising outside their homes. 
 
“For a pandemic, exercising outside is the safest way to reduce your COVID risk, especially if you’re masked, versus going to a gym,” she explained. “If we’re going to the gym, it’s important to be masked and stay within six feet of anyone around us. Wash your hands frequently and check current safety guidelines.”
 
Taking the first step in any new journey can be difficult, but not impossible. As the nation moves forward, so can Veterans by staying safe and healthy. 

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