March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
You might leave your registered dietitian nutritionist's office feeling energized to lose weight, eat more healthfully or exercise more. But enthusiasm for healthy changes can wear off quickly, sometimes as soon as you drive away and pass your favorite fast food restaurant. In fact, it takes willpower and motivation to make and maintain changes in your life.
But, press on, arm yourself with a few good strategies, and you'll be on your way to maintaining healthy habits for life.
Make the Most of Your Time
Thinking through your options and making a solid realistic plan can go a long way in making the best use of your time. Enlist a registered dietitian nutritionist as your ally in the quest for healthier living.
"I try to get a sense of how much time my patients have to shop and prepare meals and then discuss strategies that work for them," says Madelyn Barrows, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Ask for Accountability
Tell a few trusted friends or family members about your plans — they may even want to join you! "It really helps to have someone to keep you on track," says Barrows. But your accountability partner doesn't necessarily have to be another human! "Personally, my dog is a daily reminder that I need to get outside and stay active," she says.
Tap into Technology
In the age of health-savvy gadgets and apps, look around and find the right fit for you. Some devices track steps, sleep habits, heart rate and more. There are apps that log physical activity and food intake, while giving you some basic guidance on making healthy choices. Making a habit of tracking your goals with technology can be as simple as remembering to do a quick check-in after reading your emails. Look for websites that map out trails near you for walking, biking, hiking and running.
Court Some Competition
With workplace wellness initiatives on the rise, many companies now offer health-oriented challenges. These can be a fun way to get to know your co-workers better while keeping the office healthy. Has a friend or family member expressed a desire to be healthier too? Propose a friendly competition with a prize at the end!
Remember to follow up and fine-tune your goals with a registered dietitian nutritionist for that extra support and motivation. RDNs often have fresh ideas for small tweaks in your routine that could have a big impact. "Throughout their journey towards a healthier lifestyle, the dietitian serves as a vital member of a client's support system," says Barrows. Be honest and open about your barriers, and watch your health and fitness improve as you overcome each one.