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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.

Gold Medal Wellness

This post comes from a Dietetic Intern I have had the pleasure of working with the past couple of weeks. Lynetta Wood, a graduate student enrolled in Illinois State University's Dietetic Internship program has put a timely/seasonal spin on an age old topic to bring the value of healthy lifestyles forward. Although the Winter Olympics are over, Lynetta's entry will get you started on achieving your next champion feat, whatever it might be!

Have you been in the Olympic spirit lately? I have greatly enjoyed celebrating the triumphs of our American men and women on the snow and ice this season. Watching these talented athletes compete and learning about their stories to achieve gold has made me wonder about what connects all of them. What factors do they share in common? The first thing that comes to my mind is genetic predisposition followed by devoted coaches and unwavering training regimes. A thought that may follow this internal dialogue is, "What about me? What makes me any different?"

Certainly most of us are not gifted with athletic prowess nor have the opportunity to work with world class coaches. We also probably do not have the time or resources to train as fervently as an Olympian. But, perhaps we may share one desire–to be the best that we can be.

"Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It's our goal in life to find it and keep it lit." --Mary Lou Retton, winner of the gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games.

For some the best may mean career success and recognition, raising responsible and healthy children, expanding the mind through academia, avoiding or overcoming disease, or making a difference in the community and world. And those, my friends, are goals worthy of Olympic effort.

How can we be the best that we can possibly be? Well, like an Olympian, we can all start by providing our bodies with the fuel that it needs. It sounds elementary and perhaps even unrelated, but feeding yourself healthfully will help keep your fire lit and is one of the most rewarding activities you can engage in. How does one accomplish healthful eating?

The answer is by taking one step at a time. Especially important in the journey to achieving Olympic-sized aspirations are to follow those that have gone before you and to be realistic. The quickest ways to trip up when taking steps towards health are to take action without planning (i.e., step without guidance) and to try to take on more than what is manageable.

What were your food and nutrition goals for 2014? Did you make any? For those of you that did not, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides three major goals for Americans under the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 20101. These goals include:

1) Balancing calories with physical activity to manage weight;

2) Consuming more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood; and

3) Consuming fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

You may take one or more of these goals and begin to take SMART2 steps toward being the best that you can be. For those of you who did make New Year's resolutions regarding nutrition and health, how are you doing? The following SMART activity may help those of you in both camps to start on your path to being the best you can be and to encourage you along the way.

S – Specific: Make sure your goal is clear and communicates exactly what you want to accomplish. For example, instead of "eat more fruits and vegetables" you can say, "eat one serving of fruit or vegetables at every meal this week".

M–Measurable: Quantify your goals so that you can evaluate the extent to which your goal has been met. In the last example, setting a goal of eating one serving of fruits and vegetables at every meal this week makes your goal measurable.

A–Attainable: Ask yourself if your goal is realistic. Do you really think you can incorporate a fruit or vegetable at each meal?

R–Relevant: Make sure your goal holds personal meaning and importance for you. Why do you think it's important to eat more fruits and vegetables?

T–Time-bound: Set a deadline for yourself to guide your goal to successful completion. Otherwise, your goals will get lost in the hustle and bustle of life.

Making and achieving goals will guide you on your journey to being the best that you can be and healthfully fueling yourself for the road ahead is the best way to start. Everyone has a story whether they're an Olympian or not. Here's to going for the gold in your life!

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