MARQUETTE - Making a change to your lifestyle by adding more exercise and a healthier diet can be inspiring at first, but as the weeks go on, the original effort might seem to lose its spark.
Organizers behind the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge say some of the keys to maintaining your momentum toward health is maintaining supportive relationships and looking for the healthiest option no matter what situation you find yourself in.
"I think the best thing they can do for success is maintain their friendships for support," said Marquette General Hospital Dietitian Pam Roose, who has been working with the wellness challenge during its course of 12 weeks over the summer.
Ishpeming resident Peggy LaVigne closely scans a soup can label at the last Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge meeting. Being aware of what you are eating can help you make healthier choices throughout the day. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The relationships made in Ishpeming, Negaunee, Gwinn and Marquette by attending weekly information and exercise sessions have given participants support and encouragement, whether that is to finish the last set of crunches or eat one more serving of broccoli.
Particularly if your family hasn't jumped on the healthy living bandwagon with you, having outside support can truly make a difference.
Throughout the Community Wellness Challenge, participants have been encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables - at least five servings every day - relying on fresh foods instead of pre-packaged items. Foods eaten as close to their natural state as possible eliminates added fats, sugars and salts. For example, for most people, experts recommend eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, which is about a teaspoon of salt. Even if you don't use a salt shaker at the table, read the labels of the foods you are eating to see how much sodium they contain.
Cooking all your own meals allows you control over what you are eating, but home cooking isn't always an option for busy families and individuals. Even if you are eating on the run, however, there are ways to make sure you're making healthy choices.
If you know that you'll be eating out, try planning out your meal before hand. Many restaurants, both chains and locally owned, post their menus on their websites, allowing diners to think through what they want to eat. On menus the words "baked," "braised," "broiled," "grilled," "poached," "roasted" and "steamed" are clues to foods that are lower in fat and calories than items that are fried, buttered, creamed, crispy or breaded.
If available, try ordering smaller sized or child-sized menu options. If no smaller options are available, ask for a to-go box to pack up half your order before you start eating or split your meal with whoever you're eating with.
Also, try ordering a salad or steamed vegetables to go along with your entree instead of French fries. If you still want a potato, go for one that's baked for more fiber, fewer calories and less fat. Eat your low-calorie food, like a salad or broth-based soup, first to fill your stomach up, so you'll eat less later in the meal.
Look to vegetables as toppings for pizza or sandwiches, since they have fewer calories than meats. At a salad bar, go for leafy greens and fresh vegetables instead of mayonnaise-based pasta or potato salads. If you're tempted to eat too much at a buffet, limit yourself to two trips with small plates or avoid the "all you can eat" option altogether.
For dessert, if you're tempted by cake, pie or ice cream, order one item with several forks so the entire table can have a taste of dessert without each person eating an entire serving by themselves.
If your day is too busy for sitting down for lunch or dinner, pack some healthy non-perishable foods along with you like peanut butter and crackers, a granola bar or individual serving packages of cereal. At your desk, try soup, crackers or tuna fish.
The Community Wellness Challenge wraps up Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Marquette Commons for a celebration and award night. The celebration will include healthy snacks, prizes and the announcement of the community team that logged the most exercise, ate the most servings of fruits and vegetables and lost the most weight.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.