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Q&A: Diet and weight loss

| Weight Loss | Healthy You | Eating Right

Two children and two adults at breakfast counter

With working from home and juggling my kids' schedules, how can I get my diet back on track?

Question:  “Working from home and juggling my kids amidst the pandemic has been more challenging than I expected. I’m often stressed and have no time for myself, and my health has fallen to the wayside as a result. I’m hoping to use the new year as a fresh start to get my diet (and weight) back on track. Do you have any manageable tips for a busy employee and mom?”

Answer:  Here’s what PeaceHealth expert Cecelia Jacobson, a clinical dietitian, has to say:

First, I want to applaud you for all you’ve accomplished this past year. The pandemic has completely upended daily routines, and it’s normal that your priorities shifted as a result. I’m glad you’re taking this new year as an opportunity to reset yourself and find a better life balance. Adopting healthy eating habits is a great place to start.

It’s important to remember that everyone is unique, and you need to identify practical dietary changes that fit well within your lifestyle. Before you set any goals, I encourage you to listen to this quick PeaceHealth webinar that provides guidance on how to set manageable goals and stick to them — whether you’re focused on healthy eating or other aspects of your life.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to get further guidance on nutrition-based goal setting.

When it comes to simple, healthy dietary changes, below are some key tips I like to share with my patients:

  1. Never skip meals. It’s so important that you properly fuel your body throughout the day. It’s a common misconception that skipping meals can aid in weight loss, but in reality, this often results in decreased energy levels and binge-eating later on. Try to eat something every 3-5 hours, incorporating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. I always like to keep a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts on hand for those moments when I get hungry and need something to tide me over.
  2. Eat a good breakfast within an hour of waking up. Skipping breakfast can actually slow down your metabolism and result in unhealthy eating choices later in the day. When choosing a breakfast option, aim for a mixture of protein, high fiber carbs and a bit of healthy fat. There are so many quick, easy and nourishing options out there! Some of my favorites include a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts, and avocado or peanut butter toast.
  3. Drink 16 ounces of water before eating. Dehydration often masks itself as hunger. Drinking a big glass of water before you eat is a great way to ensure you’re properly hydrated throughout the day, and it helps you keep the amount of food you consume in check.
  4. Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep. This is such a great habit to get into to ensure a healthier diet. Devoting just an hour or two to meal prepping each week ensures you have healthy choices readily available that you can grab on the go. This can help curb any temptations to reach for an unhealthy but quick option in the moment. It also ensures you’re getting the appropriate balance of nutrients with each meal. You’ll find dozens of ideas for simple, healthy recipes and meals from PeaceHealth dietitians.
  5. Keep pre-cut fruits and vegetables on hand. You can buy pre-cut fruits and veggies or chop up a bunch at the start of each week. Either way, it’s a great way to ensure you reach for a healthy snack in the moment versus something more caloric and less nutrient-rich. Make sure to keep any unhealthy snack options, such as chips or cookies, out of reach—or, better yet, out of the house altogether. If they’re out of sight, the more likely they’ll be out of mind.
  6. Choose smaller dish sizes. Studies have shown that the larger dish you use, the more food you’ll consume in one sitting. Swapping your usual plate (12-inch) or bowl with a smaller (9-inch) alternative is a great way to control portion sizes, and it’s likely you’ll feel just as full having eaten less. You should also use your plate as a guide, ensuring half your plate is taken up by vegetables.
  7. Take it easy on yourself. We’re still in a pandemic and facing new challenges each day. If you slip up and have an unhealthy meal or two, that’s okay. It happens to everyone! The most important thing is not to delay getting yourself back on track. Stick to your normal eating schedule and make sure your next meal is healthy, nutritious and well-balanced.

Lastly, please remember how important the management of your health is as we continue to navigate this pandemic. Diet is just one of many essential health-related elements that shouldn’t be neglected due to fear of COVID-19. (Remember: the healthier we are inside, the stronger our immune system is, and the better suited we are to fight a virus such as COVID-19!)

Best of luck, and Happy New Year!

portrait of Cecelia Jacobson RD

Cecelia Jacobson RD

Cecelia Jacobson, RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist for PeaceHealth in Oregon. She has been providing adult nutrition counseling and diabetes education for more than 15 years. Cecelia also conducts monthly cooking demonstrations, health fairs, and wellness outreach. She is passionate about helping her patients obtain sustainable diet and lifestyle changes in line with their goals. Cecelia grew up near Bellingham, Washington and graduated from Bastyr University. When she is not at work, you can find her outdoors or volunteering. She has ridden Cycle Oregon multiple times on the Candle Lighters, Ride For a Child team. She also loves to camp, hike and tend to her small garden to create culinary experiments at home.