Farrell Dietitian Services

A Healthy New Year

Small steps can lead to big improvements

January 2, 2011 12:35 am

By Donya Currie

Want to make a New Year's resolution that sticks? Consider calling it something else.

"Start with an intent or intention, not a resolution," said local registered dietitian Nancy Farrell. "Sometimes, people feel like they have to make a resolution, they have to give something up, they have to deny themselves."

Farrell, personal trainer Neil Lloyd and Dr. Makini Ainsworth all said they've seen countless people fall prey to the all-or-nothing approach to exercise, for instance.

Their advice: Start small, set realistic goals, and be flexible. In other words, if you can't spend an hour in the gym daily, consider other fun fitness activities to get your body moving: Hula hooping with the kids, dancing with your partner, taking a short daily walk around the block.

Whatever you resolve to do, know that small steps can lead to big changes over time.

"Even if you just start 10 minutes a day of walking, then you can increase as your stamina sees fit," said Ainsworth, of Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.

For those resolving to exercise more, remember that all the exercise in the world can't counter the effects of unhealthy eating.

"They go hand in hand: exercise and a diet that fits your lifestyle," Ainsworth said. "Have the foods that you like, but just do it all in moderation. I don't expect anyone to cut out completely a nice little piece of cake."


If you want to be healthier in 2011, consider Farrell's advice on some key components of a healthy lifestyle:

Hydration: Aim for six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

Sleep: It's tough to stick to healthy habits without a good seven to eight hours nightly.

Timing: Never go more than three hours without some type of meal or snack.

Quality: "Choose the best calories, and eat less of the rest," said Farrell, who suggests lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein.

A sense of adventure: Try new foods that can replace unhealthier options. Think edamame (soybeans in the shell, sometimes salted or flavored) instead of buttered popcorn, quinoa instead of mashed potatoes.

Read labels: Just because it says "low-fat," "low-carb" or "natural," doesn't mean it's a healthy choice.

Be sensible: Make one healthy change a week for the entire family. Week one, for example, can be a simple switch from whole to low-fat milk. Week two can be packing a fruit in everyone's bag for a snack. During week three, everyone includes a vegetable at lunchtime.


Like Farrell, Lloyd--the fitness director for Stafford Sport and Health on Garrisonville Road in North Stafford--would like people to take things slowly and realize progress takes time. Also, for those trying to improve their eating habits, consider eating more during the day.

"Most people are not eating enough most of the time, and not realizing it, and then they eat too much," Lloyd said. "They're constantly yo-yo dieting without realizing it."

No matter what your goal this year, consider telling a friend and asking for support.

"The buddy system always works," Lloyd said.

And try to stay positive even in the face of unexpected setbacks.

"Think progress, not perfection," Farrell said. "We all have derailments. What's most important is to jump back on the track so you can achieve your personal health goals."

Donya Currie is a freelance writer in Stafford County who regularly contributes to Healthy Living and to other health-related publications, including the AARP Bulletin. You can write to her at
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