New Year’s Resolutions: a marathon, not a sprint

The New Year has begun! I love this time of year because it’s just brimming with possibilities and hope for the future. And while, sure, there are probably a million-and-one articles and blog posts about how to make (or not make) New Year’s resolutions, I hope this one will resonate with you.

First things first: I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I feel like bettering ourselves should be a year-round effort and not confined to an otherwise dreary time of year (sorry, January-lovers). But, I do believe in setting goals and formulating a plan to meet those goals. With the craziness of the holiday season behind us, the New Year is as good a time as any.

For me, New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) is a lot like training for a marathon. You have a big ultimate goal in mind (to complete that marathon) and you have a training plan in place to get you to that finish line. You can’t just get up tomorrow and run the full 26.2 miles – that is, unless you’ve already got a strong foundation. That training plan is also filled with a lot of interim goals to keep you motivated and inspired. So whether your goal is to lose weight, quit smoking, or – yes – run a marathon, here are my tips to getting you to your goal:

  1. Harness that newbie energy. Starting anything new is fun at first – you might have recently joined a gym, gotten a new gadget, or formulated a plan that’s now ready to be implemented. But more than that, you have the energy and desire to reach that goal. However…
  2. Don’t blow all your energy at once. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. In long-distance running, if you go out too fast at first, you can easily burn up all your energy stores. While it’s possible to recoup some of your losses on the run by taking in drinks or nutrients, or even slowing down to a walk at times, it’s really hard to get back to your original energy levels. Slow and steady, while not flashy and exciting most of the time, really does win the race.
  3. Welcome outside help. We can’t do this all alone. Join a group, have an online community, work with a therapist or coach – whatever it takes. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. In fact, it’s a strength. You know that feeling when you’re in a race and you feel like you can’t go on any further…then you hear the cheering crowd? Those cheers are what carry your feet when your legs seemed to have given up. At the same time…
  4. Know that the strength to succeed exists inside you. Sometimes even the most well-intentioned help can only get you so far. That’s when you’re in the 20th mile, and the cheers are loud but your legs feel like bricks. That’s the time to dig deep, to block out the noise around you, find that strength within yourself, and pull through. That’s true if you’re trying to quit smoking, cut out desserts, whatever it may be.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments. Not just the big major goal, but all the little ones along the path to success. The first 14-mile training run I did was huge to me because it was the longest distance I had ever done. Or maybe it’s the work happy-hour you happily attended without imbibing because your goal was to cut out alcohol. Each step counts.
  6. The end is just the beginning. After a marathon I feel elated to have finished, but that feeling soon became despair because I don’t know what to do next. I feel the same way after reading an amazing book. Celebrate like crazy when the big goal is met, but also be ready with the next goal in mind. It could be completely different from the first one or somewhat related. Like, if your goal was to quit smoking maybe your next goal will be to put those pink, healthy lungs to use and register for a 5K. For me, after a marathon my husband bought me a FitBit Flex, knowing that the daily goal of hitting at least 10K steps was enough to feed my competitive spirit while giving my body a much-needed rest from running.

Whatever you goals may be in the New Year, please remember these tips and know that you can do it! I’d love to know what you have planned in 2016. Share your New Year’s resolutions in the comments below, and tell me what steps you’re taking to reach them.


Body After Baby

Attention, ladies! There’s a surefire way to lose about 10 lbs…in one day! Of course, you need to first gain about 25-35 pounds, and how you lose that extra weight is a heck of a lot harder.

Yes, I’m talking about pregnancy. For a women at a normal weight, she can expect to gain about 25-35 lbs over the course of the 9 months. Underweight women need to gain more, and overweight women need less. Obese women might not need to gain any weight at all, according to the latest recommendations. Steady, moderate weight gain is good for both mom and baby, helping to prevent low birthweight (less than 5.5 lbs at birth) and high birthweight (greater than 9 lbs at birth).

Steady, moderate weight gain can also help women more quickly bounce back to their pre-pregnancy weight. For greatest success, follow a healthy diet and eating plan, and get some physicial activity, before the baby is born – ideally before you even become pregnant. But for those who find themselves weeks or months post-partum, struggling to lose the weight, all is not lost. Here a few tips and hints:

1. You are NOT eating for two.

Sure, when you’re pregnant a single body is carrying two beings, with two heartbeats, two digestive systems and so on. But a 130-pound woman does not deliver a 130-pound baby (can you even IMAGINE??), so strike from your mind any notion about eating for two. It’s more like eating for 1.2.

As I said before, most women can expect to gain about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, and deliver on average a 7.5-lb. baby. So what about that extra weight? That’s placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood vessels and several other ways your body grows and adapts to accomodate the being growing inside of you. Any weight accounted by the baby and placenta will automatically be lost at birth, but the other weight takes time to lose.

So even though you need to take in extra calories during pregnancy, the actual calorie amount needed is about 100-300 per day. If you’re breastfeeding, your calorie needs actually increase to about 500 extra per day. Continue to make those calories count by eating nutritious foods, having an extra snack or two, or using more calorie-dense oils and fatty/healthy foods such as avocadoes, fatty fish (no more than twice/week, and avoiding high-mercury fish), nuts and olives.

2. Drink up!

Staying hydrated during pregnancy helps prevent Braxton-Hicks contractions (those false-labor contractions). If you’re nursing, you tend to get very, very thirsty. Also thirst may mask itself as hunger, so before you reach for another bite, try drinking something first. Water is always a good option, but it can get boring after a while. Try mixing it up by serving it ice-cold, or adding a slice or two of fruit or veggies: lemon, lime, orange, cucumber – even some watermelon or frozen berries. Your calcium needs increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so you might even reach for a glass of lowfat or fat-free milk. Other good, low-calorie options are unsweetened iced tea (careful how much caffeine you’re getting), seltzer water, 100% fruit juice (try diluting with water, since a little goes a long way), even Gatorade or flavored bottled water. Of course, avoid alcohol during pregnancy and limit it when you’re nursing – try to time it until after the baby eats, and wait about an hour or more before breastfeeding again. Remember, alcohol can be dehydrating, so drink some extra water as well.

Fruits and vegetables also provide lots of water in addition to vitamins and nutrients, so don’t be afraid to load up on things like lettuce, celery, watermelon, oranges, and berries.

3. Get moving!

Gone are the days in which pregnant women need to stay off their feet and “endure” pregnancy. Research shows that being active during pregnancy can help keep weight gain in check and may even help ease delivery. Women who were not active during pregnancy should not suddenly take up a vigorous activity such as running, and all women should first check with their doctors before doing any kind of physical activity. Certain exercises such as bicycle riding, horseback riding, skiing – even volleyball and basketball, aren’t recommended during pregnancy due to their high risks for falling and colliding with others. Also, after the first trimester, pregnant women should avoid anything that has them laying flat on their backs. Activities that are typically safe during pregnancy include yoga, most cardiovascular machines (elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike), weightlifting (some modifications may be needed)…and, of course, walking.

In the immediate post-partum days, you need to give your body time to recuperate. Labor and delivery is a major event, and there’s a tremendous amount of recovery going on inside your body. Especially if you required stitches or had a c-section, it’s important to take it easy for the first 6 weeks, or at least until your doctor gives you the green light to exercise. Even then, take it slow.

Keep in mind –

Remember, it took 9 months to grow a pregnant body. It will take some time to lose the weight. Pregnancy is not a time to diet, but it is a great time to think about reassess your eating habits and to set yourself and your baby up for the best possible success.

Write it down

Today’s tip seems simple enough, but it’s surprisingly hard for me to do sometimes. Before you start something new – like a new lifestyle goal or wellness plan, a first step is to assess the situation. Only then can you identify changes that you need to make, attainable yet challenging goals to set, and so on.

One of the first things I do with my clients is find out what they eat on a given day. It’s even better when they can provide me with a food log, having written down what they’ve eaten, when they’ve eaten it, and how they felt at the time (starving, bored, stressed). Of course, logs with that much information are the ideal, but the simple act of jotting down food can have valuable results.

For one, seeing what you’re eating gives you and me a lot of information. Maybe you’re eating too much processed food, or not enough unsaturated fats. Perhaps you don’t eat until lunchtime, and by then you’re ravenous and load up food. Or maybe you find that, no matter what, you can’t help yourself from raiding the vending machine in the mid-afternoon for a little pick me up.

If weight loss is your goal, there’s even some evidence that the simple act of writing down the foods you eat can help with cutting calories. Do you really want to write down the handful of M&Ms you grabbed from the snack room after lunch…and again 10 minutes later?

Keeping a food log need not be a chore – just 1-3 days’ worth is enough to identify eating habits and patterns, and can give you a sense of how you can improve your diet or habits. Try it and see.

What’s Your Nutrition Resolution?


National Nutrition Month(R) starts today. And while perhaps the people most excited about National Nutrition Month are dietitians and health professionals such as myself, it’s as good a time as any to reassess your health and put renewed focus on your wellness goals.

The American Dietetic Association created National Nutrition Month as a way to increase attention on developing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This year’s theme is “Eat Right…With Color,” emphasizing the importance of increasing one’s palate with a palette of food colors.

I’m totally on board with the idea of challenging ourselves with eating a rainbow of foods as a way to increase dietary variety and nutrients. However, I feel that as a goal it might be too limiting, and I’d rather challenge my clients and friends to focus on goals that best meet their current needs. Assessing what’s working – and not working – for you and you only, and making small steps to change your behavior in order to meet your goals, is the best way to achieve success. So, maybe you do need to eat more purple or orange foods. Or, maybe you eat a lot of different colors, but your downfall is the 3 p.m. vending machine raid. Wherever you are today in your wellness journey, take an assessment, think about a change, and make one – just one – goal. At least for today.

To help you, each day this month I’ll blog about a particular goal to consider. Some may resonate with you…some may not. For today, and to set us up this month, I want you to think about a single goal you want to focus on this week. Make it challenging, but achievable. By the end of the month, you may have 5, or 30, small goals to focus on this month and into the next month. Or some ideas that you can save until you feel good about your new habit and are ready to move onto the next goal.

My goal? To seek out the furthest parking space to park my car, forcing me to walk further to my destination. Now that the weather is getting nicer, I want to take advantage of ice-free streets and every minute of sunshine I can get, so giving me just an extra minute or two of parking lot-walks will help me get in some exercise – and some fresh air. I’ll try it for a week, see how I like it…and then either make it a habit or take on a new goal.

What’s yours?

Lap it up!

Swimming usually isn’t my first choice for being active, but once I get back into the pool I start getting addicted. There’s something about emerging from the water after some serious laps, peeling off a wet swimcap and releasing the suction cup of goggles that makes me feel so alive.

Let’s face it, though, swimming isn’t one of the easiest sports to get into. It requires special equipment (a heated pool), some basic skills and a fair amount of time. Getting in a “quick swim” is no easy feat – you have to get to a pool, shower, swim, and shower again – it’s not like yoga or a brisk walk where you can sneak back to the office after a workout with a quick towel-dry.

Yet there is something addictive about swimming, especially when you’re pregnant or just starting out a new fitness regime. And according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, it’s a sport that pretty much anyone can do, from childhood into older adulthood, and even among those with disabilities or chronic health conditions such as osteoarthritis. Once you have access to a pool, the rest of your “gear” needs are easy – you really just need a swimsuit and yourself. A pair of goggles is helpful for being underwater, and a swim cap is nice to have to protect your hair. I also use silicon ear plugs, since I hate hopping on one foot to get the water out of my ears.

Here are some great reasons to consider swimming as part of your exercise plan:

  1. It’s perfect for people with joint issues or those who need a non-impact workout. Swimming is a great exercise when you’re pregnant, as it’s easy on the joints and ligaments and makes you feel weightless. The breaststroke in particular can help strengthen muscles needed for childbirth, as well as stretch back muscles that can get tight during pregnancy and early motherhood. If you’re new to a workout routine, are overweight or recovering from injury, pool exercise is a gentle but effective workout.
  2. It can be a serious cardiovascular workout. Lap swimming engages your entire body, especially the freestyle (crawl stroke) which works your arms, legs and core. Timing your breathing with each stroke also works your respiratory system. Water running and water aerobics are also major calorie burners.
  3. You don’t sweat! Sure, at the end of your workout you’re completely drenched, but unlike other cardiovascular workouts, the temperature in your physical environment (the pool) is fairly regulated, with your body corresponding to the temperature. Your chances of overheating are very low, and if the pool is cold your body will warm up to it as you begin exercising. Perhaps the biggest shock to the system is the initial surge in the water, if the water is cold, and emerging from the pool – particularly if you’re swimming in a heated outdoor pool on a cold day (don’t scoff – it’s actually really neat!)
  4. It’s meditative. I first got into swimming during a particularly tough time in my life. Being underwater was a welcome silence and allowed me to be free with my thoughts. For some people, the silence can be deafening, but there are actually waterproof mp3 players you can get if listening to tunes is the best way for you to pass the time and keep you energized during a workout.
  5. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. “It’s boring!” is the first thing people say to me when I suggest swimming as an activity. Yes, you swim up one length and back, but there’s so much that can happen in between – so many ways to challenge your muscles. You can do alternate strokes with each lap, working different muscle groups and giving your breath a break (if you do backstrokes, sidestroke or water running), work with props such as kickboards to concentrate on your legs or a wedge between your legs to challenge your upper body. Play with your cadence, speed, etc. When I swim as part of my prenatal exercises, I like to swim 40 laps to coincide with each week of pregnancy (or I swim to whatever week I’m currently in, depending on how my body feels). If I get bored, I think about the particular “week” I’m swimming, either reminiscing about what things were like that week, or planning what I’ll look and feel like if it’s a week in the future. I guarantee you, with a little mindplay or shaking up your activities, your time in the pool will fly by.

While the Physical Activity Guidelines rate swimming among one of the lower-risk activities, people must take certain precautions. First of all, never begin any new activity without first consulting your doctor. And second, swimming – like any cardiovascular activity, can be dehydrating. Keep a water bottle poolside and sip regularly throughout your workout.

Don’t be afraid to put that bathing suit to use and get in the pool. It’s refreshing, and you’ll feel great.


I’m so glad you found my new blog! You can learn a bit about me in the “About Me” tab, but in a nutshell I’m a communications consultant and registered dietitian in the D.C. metro area, serving patients in Northern Virginia and business clients all over the country (technology is a wonderful thing!). I work with clients of all types, particularly those with a focus on eating more healthfully and with a goal of losing weight. I also specialize in prenatal and postnatal nutrition, early childhood nutrition (those picky toddler years!), and cooking skills for young adults and people living on their own for the first time.

The purpose of my blog is to comment on the latest food and nutrition news, review products that clients most often ask me about – or that I come across myself and feel they are worth mentioning, or general musings on nutrition, health, fitness and pregnancy.

I welcome your comments and hope to learn more about you as you learn a bit about me. Thanks for reading!