Your Tahoe Health: Making small changes can make major impacts | SierraSun.com

Your Tahoe Health: Making small changes can make major impacts

Dana Dose
Special to the Sun

Make small changes to your diet and exercise — you can realize major results.

What if a tiny change in your behavior could result in massive health outcomes for your future, preventing costly and life threatening diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke?

When we think about making health changes, it's easy to get overwhelmed with a daunting end goal like losing 50 pounds or more. Taking small steps is a great way to breakdown these big goals, and small steps, by themselves, can actually produce surprisingly impressive results!

Here are some examples:

Exercising enough to burn 1,000 extra calories per week (walking briskly for 25 minutes per day for a 150 pound person) reduces the risk of dying by 20%.

Losing just 1 pound of fat can ease the stress on your heart enough to reduce your risk for stoke and sudden cardiac arrest. For each extra pound of fat, the heart must support about 1 mile of blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrients.

30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day is associated with a 30-40% lower risk of developing colon cancer and 20-30% lower risk of developing breast cancer (among women) compared with inactive people.

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For each 12 oz serving of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed per day, the risk for developing diabetes increases by about 25%.

Attending a diabetes prevention program (weekly classes for 6 months and 1-2 classes a month for another 6 months) is associated with 58% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (and 70% reduced risk for those 60 years and older!). Participants maintained their reduced risk even when they gained back any weight they lost.

So, how do you go about making changes like these?

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, uses a step-by-step approach to replacing unwanted habits with more desirable ones:

First, pick one habit you want to change (i.e., cutting out soda).

Then ask yourself: what is your cue for that habit, and what do you get out of it—your reward? If you always have a soda in the afternoon at 2 pm as a pick-me-up, then the cue is 2 pm and the reward is afternoon energy.

Next, come up with a list of things that could replace that soda: unsweetened tea, a 10-minute walk, 2 minutes to stand up and stretch, listening to your favorite song, etc.

Then, experiment with each option until you find one that works. It's important to see each trial as an experiment so that you don't feel like a failure if that particular one doesn't work.

Once you find something that works, solidify this as your new routine by writing down and telling yourself daily what your new habit is and why it works. Affirm your new routine by writing it down and posting it where you will see it daily. For example, "Every day at 2 pm, I do 20 jumping jacks and take 10 deep breaths because it gives me energy for the rest of the day by getting my blood flowing and allowing me a break from the computer."

If your goal is to lose weight and prevent diabetes, you can take a small step to start the process by joining the Prevent T2 program and begin working with a lifestyle coach and your peers. Contact the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance, 530-587-3769, for more information. This free class begins April 26, with a free information session is on April 19.

The Center also has plenty of other resources to support you in achieving your best health, such as individual sessions with a dietitian or personal trainer, group exercise classes, workshops and more.

And if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all that you want to change with your health, just remember what Lao Tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Dana Dose, RDN, LD, CDE is part of the Rethink Healthy team and provides outpatient nutrition counseling as well as clinical dietitian services for the Tahoe Forest Health System. Dana is the trained lifestyle coach for the upcoming Prevent T2 Diabetes Prevention Program.

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