Houston County AgriLife Extension Office Offers Tips for Healthier Lifestyle

By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

With temperatures rising, flowers blooming, and schools gearing up to release for Spring Break, the time has come to think about spring cleaning – be it at home, the office, or even cleaning up your diet.

In honor of National Nutrition Month – observed throughout March – the Houston County AgriLife Extension Office is encouraging everyone to spring into better eating habits and take the necessary steps to improved overall health.

“One of the things I would say that is the most important when you really look at your eating habits and nutrition and the choices you’re making is, you have to be really honest about what you’re doing,” said Houston County Extension Agent Mandy Patrick.

As Patrick pointed out, habits such as snacking while watching television in the evenings can easily get out of hand, adding hundreds of unnecessary calories to a person’s daily intake.

“We all have nightly rituals; things we do. Some people take their vitamins at night, some people do certain things, some people sit on the couch with a bag of chips and watch TV,” she said. “It’s really important to know what your habits are so that you can start to make changes and to identify what might be unhealthy or where extra calories or something like that is creeping in.”

After identifying potentially unhealthy habits, Patrick said, the next step is to formulate a plan on how to change those patterns into healthier ones.

“We always tell people to make small goals, because it’s really overwhelming,” she explained. “You know, at the first of the year, people make all these New Year’s resolutions to lose 40 pounds or something like that. And it gets to be very overwhelming if your progress stalls or if you don’t meet that goal in the time that you feel like you should meet it.”

Patrick recommended setting goals on a weekly basis to accomplish changes such as taking walks after dinner or cutting down on the amount of junk food consumed throughout the week.

“The long-range goals are great, and those are great things to work toward,” Patrick said. “But the more specific and short-term goals are probably where you see your most results and feel good. Then, the next week, you make another change or another goal.”

Patrick also encouraged the use of trackers for those who are implementing new diet and exercise regimens.

“Our cell phones these days have all these wonderful apps and fitness trackers and step monitors and all those kinds of things,” she pointed out. “But you can go right back to just a little notebook where you’re just kind of keeping track of your meals and water and things like that.”

Patrick explained that tracking and following progress can lead to a higher rate of success in keeping dietary changes permanent.

“It also kind of helps identify problem areas – especially when we have holidays; like, we have our Easter holiday coming up, and that’s known as a candy holiday,” Patrick continued. “If your weakness is the peanut butter-chocolate eggs or something like that, you might want to cut back somewhere else so that you can have one or two of those and not feel guilty about it and have that self-control to plan to have what people may call a cheat day or a cheat item so you don’t feel deprived.”

Another tip provided by Patrick was having patience when working to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

“Weight loss does not happen overnight,” she pointed out. “We know some people that could decide to go for a jog tomorrow and lose five pounds, but more than likely, that is just water weight or something like that; it’s not actual fat loss.

“You have to be consistent and you have to be patient and chart those changes over time,” Patrick said.

Patrick also recommended that individuals who weigh themselves several times per week to average the readings from each day.

“We all fluctuate every day, and that is something you also have to be patient with and understand how certain foods may have a little more sodium; you may retain a little more water that day, and then, the next day, you may do something else and kind of flush that out with your other food choices,” she explained. “Patience is a really big part of getting healthy.”

For more information, including healthy recipe suggestions, contact the Houston County Extension Office at 936-544-7502.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.