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  Stephanie Becker
  Stephanie Becker, dietitian at Pratt Regional Medical Center and leader of a Healthy Lifestyle Support Group, shows some snack foods that have good amounts of fiber. She makes a short presentation on a different topic each week. PHOTO BY CAROL BRONSON

Healthy Lifestyles Support Group

Resolutions require a plan
By Carol Bronson

Seven weeks into the new year, a dozen or so people are still working on their resolutions in a public way. To begin with, they converted a vague “I need to change” statement into one or more goals and developed a plan to achieve success.

Part of the plan is a Healthy Lifestyles Support Group at Pratt Regional Medical Center.

Early in the year, hospital employees approached dietitian Stephanie Becker, asking, “can you give me a diet list?”

Eating healthy or managing weight is not just about going on a diet for January, February and March, Becker emphasizes. On Jan. 16, she began leading a weekly support group in which she teaches a short lesson and participants share ideas about what works for them.

Last week’s topic was seasonings that can flavor foods without adding fat, sugar or salt. The week before, Becker shared some vegetable recipes along with samples of the food. This week she will focus on ways to gradually add more fiber to the diet. It’s not just lecture, she stressed, and there is plenty of time for group members to ask questions and share their own ideas.

The group started with hospital employees, and has expanded to include community members as well.

Becker plans that the group will be on-going and a person can “jump in any time — whenever you decide ‘I need to do something’ and need the support.”

She chose Monday because it fits her schedule and it is also a day when people may need to make a new commitment after getting off track during the weekend.

As a first step, group members completed a questionnaire about their health habits — everything from shopping strategies, what, when and where they eat, how much they move, and whether they have hobbies they enjoy and a faith that sustains them in tough times.

The questionnaire answers help them set goals they can achieve. The initial goal might be to park farther from the door and walk more, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

She encourages people to set three goals — one for being active, a second for eating behaviors and a third for what and how much food is eaten — and to work on each for three weeks.

It takes three weeks to establish a habit, Becker said.

Living healthy takes some planning. Keep vegetables cut up and bagged so they’re ready to go. If dinner is delayed, set out bowls of grapes for the kids so they don’t come to the table starved. Buy snack foods in large packages for economy, but as soon as you come home from the store, divide them into snack-sized bags — you can’t eat too many crackers if all you have is in a little bag, Becker commented.

And she does provide diet plans, based on three meals and two snacks at three different calorie levels. They differ only in the amount of food, and even at the higher level, 1800-2000 calories, servings are much smaller than what may be typically eaten. They’re definitely smaller than restaurant portions — two or three ounces of grilled chicken or hamburger, for example.

Nothing is forbidden. Becker keeps candy in a dish at home, but admits she doesn’t always buy the family’s favorites. Pizza is on the suggested meal plan — 2 to 3 slices of vegetable or Canadian bacon pizza with thin crust. A breakfast includes pancake( s) — one or two 4inch cakes, depending on calorie level, with diet syrup and light margarine. The goal with the support group is to meet people where they are and help them make changes in their lives.

“It’s all about adjusting behaviors and determining what is a need and what is a want,” Becker stressed.

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