Mike Parker: ‘Healthy Life weigh’ shares a pathway for better eating

Mike Parker: ‘Healthy Life weigh’ shares a pathway for better eating

Sandra and I spent four August Wednesdays in a class at the Minges Wellness Center of UNC Lenoir. Our goal was to learn effective ways to take off the poundage we have packed on through the years.

I secretly blame Sandra for turning me from a hefty young man into something akin to a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. You see, the first year we were married, I gained 30 pounds.

She, on the other hand, blames our son Michael. She seemed to regain her girlish figure after giving birth to each of our daughters. When Michael came along, the pregnancy weight never seemed to go away.

When we learned about the “Healthy Life Weigh” class, we decided we should pony up the money and learn what we could to help us find the path to safe weight less.

Enter Holly White, the dietitian who teaches the class. Holly is on staff at UNC Lenoir. One of her main focuses is to help those with diabetes learn better ways for coping with their condition. She is profoundly knowledgeable and energetic. She also has a sense of humor that gives a light-hearted flavor to what could be heavy helpings of discouraging information.

After the first class, I was convinced what Holly would be serving up for the next three weeks would help me fundamentally change my eating habits.

We all understand the basic truth of weight loss: If we burn more calories than we consume, then we will lose weight. While that principle seems rock solid, adhering to that law is more difficult than we are willing to admit.

Holly’s challenge for the first week: Track what you eat and drink.

She provided several tracking methods. I discovered an app on my iPhone to help with tracking titled “My Fitness Pal.” I started tracking. No games. No winks. Just brutal honesty.

Once I committed to tracking what entered my mouth, fewer things entered my mouth. I love a chocolate chip cookie – or two or three – now and then. Miraculously, my cookie habit stopped. Want to know why? Because I knew if I ate that cookie, I would have to record that cookie.

My Fitness Pal also allows me to track calories, so I look up the number of calories in everything I shove in my face and faithfully record not only the food but also the calories I am “spending” from my daily allotment.

The class taught me a good deal more than just “tracking.” I learned why following Mom’s advice of “Eat your vegetables” is so important. I learned about portion control and about how much of each kind of food I needed to eat each day. Fruits, veggies, protein, grain, starches, and dairy are all important components of a healthy diet.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, we focus far more on proteins, grains and starches than we do on fruits and veggies. I also started drinking more water – and forgoing any type of soft drink.

As the class unfolded, we learned about food as fuel for our bodies and about the importance of planning what we eat to ensure we have a balanced diet. We also learned to evaluate our food “environment” and put our temptation foods in places hard to see and inconvenient to reach. I no longer have a package of “Chips Ahoy” sitting on the counter right next to the refrigerator door.

I saw the connection between physical activity and exercise and a proper diet. We also learned ways to guard against emotional triggers that cause us to eat the wrong food at the wrong time in the wrong place.

As we finished Class Four of this whirlwind dietary tour, Holly’s last words to us were:

“We have had only an introduction to these principles. Next week, even though we will not have class, start at Chapter 1 of your book and read a chapter each week.”

I am pretty sure when I finish the second and slower reading of the material, I will hear Holly voice exhort me to start reading the book again – and to keep on reading it until the new habits I am trying to adopt become second nature.

Pray for me.

Mike Parker is a columnist for Neuse News. You can reach him at mparker16@gmail.com or by clicking here.

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