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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

A Small Change Makes a Big Difference

Tired of juggling all of those diets floating around the internet and book stores? I'll consider that juggling burns calories {grin} but let's face it, choosing an "all- or-nothing" diet approach just doesn't work. A few years ago, I attended the Cardiometabolic Health Congress in Boston. It’s a very big, four-day conference on cardiac and diabetes disease that attracts physicians from all over the world. Dr. Lee Kaplan, the director of the Weight Center at Mass General Hospital, was one of the guest speakers. As you can imagine, these conferences are packed with scientific studies that are quite challenging for my brain to always follow, but Dr. Kaplan made a simple, summary statement that resonated with me. Ask your patients to make ONE change only, he said. In essence, when we (practitioners) ask our patients to make too many changes, they get overwhelmed and often feel deprived. Our good intentions, ultimately, set them up for failure.

I love this perspective and advocate this approach in my practice. When people come in to see me, I ask a ton of questions. I sometimes think I was a journalist in another life. I go through their eating and sleep patterns. I ask them about their social life and work schedules. I listen and learn, and then I look to see where I can inject realistic and doable changes that are sustainable. One small tweak can make a big difference.

We tend to talk about breaking habits in January when New Year resolutions pop up all over the place. But, changing habits can take place all year round. Behaviorists tell us that it takes at least 6 weeks to develop a new habit. If adding a new behavior seems like a daunting task, try piggy backing it to an existing behavior. Here’s an example: Do you find yourself pouring out potato chips every time you eat a sandwich? I admit it-I do! Here’s what has worked for me. I started adding dill pickles and yellow pepper strips to my lunch plate, instead of chips. If that is too hard, consider having less chips and introducing a new accompaniment (tabouli, baby carrots, pickles, etc.). Little by little, dump less of the chips onto the plate until you get to none, and soon you will have developed a new eating behavior of eating healthy veggies with that sandwich instead of the chips.

Another example is replacing one sugary drink per day with water. This is a great time of the year for fresh fruits to hit the stands, and it’s also when I pull out my Define Bottle- the fruit infused water bottle that was showcased on Shark Tank a few years ago. Fruit infused water is a naturally flavored, calorie-free alternative to plain, ol’ bottled water. What I like about it the most is that there is a built-in strainer between compartments that keeps seeds and pulp out of the top chamber. The Define Bottle is available at Target and Wegmans, as well as, online.

There’s a learning curve that requires lots of patience in changing one’s lifestyle. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a healthy plan you can stick with. Good things will follow. I promise!


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