Taking One Step Closer to Your Goals

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Successfully achieving weight loss goals usually requires reaching many smaller goals along the way. Whether you are trying to lose 15 or 150 pounds, experiencing peaks and valleys throughout the journey is common.

I previously worked as a Clinical Dietitian in a large teaching hospital. Part of my work included nutrition education for patients (and the family members that cared for them) with various medical conditions. This nutrition education was a mix of healthy eating guidelines and necessary nutrient modification information. For those that were dealing with poor kidney function, low potassium and low protein nutrient modification were typical. Those with heart or liver dysfunction needed information for a sodium restriction. I learned many valuable lessons over the years sitting in hospital rooms and outpatient clinic offices. People wanted to do the right thing but saw the mountain of the prescribed eating plan too high and the valley they were currently in too low for success to ever be possible. Many times my number one goal was to help both the patient and their family understand that success could be achieved taking one step at a time.

Trying to tell a person everything they need to know about healthy eating with Type 2 diabetes in thirty minutes before discharge from the hospital is next to impossible. The best approach was to find out where they were starting and tailoring the education session around the information they needed to take the next step forward. Referrals for ongoing nutrition education after the patient went home were common. Far too many times for a variety of reasons, families ended up on their own to figure things out. Play the scenario out a little further and you find that the mountain seemed taller, the valley seemed lower, and small changes stopped happening. Soon the patient returned to the hospital with a complication, and I or another RD had the opportunity to take the nutrition education another step further.

Many people have long-range health goals but little idea of how to achieve them. Sometimes they are also dealing with other medical issues. Many more people get started in their journey toward reaching their goals but find discouragement at setbacks. This discouragement can quickly cause them to abandon their goals in favor of the old habits that are easier and most familiar. Even with great programs to help them set goals, resources to learn healthier options and people to provide encouragement, the mountain can still seem too big and the summit unattainable.

We are starting a new series with the goal of helping you take small steps up the mountain. I will focus on various aspects of healthy eating. I will try to provide some ideas I have seen help people move forward. To those that are closer to the top of the mountain and feeling the thrill of victory, the ideas I discuss or the suggestions I make may seem too basic or not healthy enough. This series may not be for you. For those people that feel they try but fail or can't seem to make healthy eating fit into their busy and hectic lifestyle, this series is for you. For those that are trying to manage medical conditions while also reaching weight loss and improved health goals, this series could also be for you.

See, after leaving the hospital and becoming a wonderful stay-at-home mother (at least I tried to be), I developed thyroid disease. I learned very quickly that knowing what to do and doing it, doesn't always work the same in a altered medical state the way it does when medical conditions aren't involved. I developed such a better understanding of the battles my patients had been facing once I was facing them myself. I found increased frustration when I would not get the same results for more effort. Problem solving to move the scale took on a completely new dimension. Views on healthy eating changed to cope with the other medical aspects I now had to consider. Several years later, I went back to work full time, my husband went through graduate school and changed jobs and my children entered their active junior high and high school years. I soon found healthy eating to become a challenge in the midst of our hectic schedule. Suddenly the things I never would have suggested to my patients before (because they were not the healthiest options) became the "better" choice compared to the alternatives.

In this series, healthy eating guidelines will serve as the foundational target. However, ideas for small steps to get there will be our series focus. I can't provide you with specific medical advice, a prescribed diet plan or detailed health related information. I can help you look at the barriers you are experiencing in a different way whether related to a busy schedule or medical issues out of your control. I can also say that I understand the frustration you feel. My hope is that you will stay committed to taking another step forward toward your health goals instead of giving up.

As we get started, use the blog comments to let me know what pitfalls you are experiencing. Together, we can take the small steps necessary toward the top of the mountain in the hopes that the thrill of victory is not far away.

What healthy eating hurdles do you find in your journey? Tell me what specific issues you would be most interested in learning alternative tips to overcome.

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I am interested in a program that I can follow through the internet. I have been following SP for several years but could benefit from comments from a professional to enhance the journey and provide another knowledgeable perspective. I am type 2 and obesity is one challenge. I have been working on a lifestyle change for some time which is showing signs of progress. I am hoping to pattern my eating habits after the Mediterranean diet paying attention to portions and balance. I also have developed arthritis in my right hip so exercise is becoming a challenge.
I look forward to pursuing this resource further.
My biggest issue is my sodium content! I have tried to keep it below or even at the level it should be, but I haven't found a good way , even counting it throu labels, to regulate it. Is there an easier way to monitor it better? Report
Thyroid issues. I take a supplement daily. Also medicines that cause weight gain. Report
I find just being aware of what you are doing and eating helps. But weekends are bad for me too. Honey is home, have lovey dovey time, a few drinks. Still gonna try for at least 10 min. of exercise each sat. an su. Its just hard for me to be patient, cause I take hormones, certain meds make losing difficult. I keep tryng tho. Report
I've got the macronutrients part down - at goal weight with protein, carbs, fats, and fiber where I want them. But whenever I look at other nutrients I learn that I need more - always MORE. I'm taking iron and calcium supplements, but it must be possible to get the nutrients I need from food. I can't eat four servings of dairy a day - I find it so filling I don't have room for other food. I don't eat meat at all, which makes iron a real challenge. Report
I need to learn how to cut sodium down, I was just taken off my blood pressure medication and I want to keep it that way. Report
thats great news i can use all the help i can get ty sorry about your illness gl with your goals Report
Sodium is a real culprit for me. Through studies and tests, the endocrinologist proved sodium directly raised my blood pressure. Makes eating out almost impossible and requires diligent label reading. Report
Looking forward to this series--need help with busy schedule meals, teenagers who scoff at anything whole grain or looks "too healthy", & husband that likes large portions. Report
Maintaining healthy habits (eating, exercise, thinking, etc...) is difficult for me. Where can I subscribe to this series - it sounds like it is just what I need! Report
Thanks for the comments. They all help me. Report
I can stick to a plan for about two days. I can exercise for a week or two. Then I get sick or busy and it's over. It can take months for me to restart. I need help sticking with the changes and following through. Report
I'm like many - good in the week but on the weekend with activities - it gets upsettting always saying no to their happy faces and if i just stay home i don't feel that good as well. However, during the week when I leave early 'to go feed my dogs' before the food fest I don't feel bad. I find this an added stress which i deal with but not happily Report
I am ok during the week but like some of you I don't do well on the weekends. My son plays sports so we are on the run from one game to another game. Report
I do well when I get into a routine. If for some reason I need to change that routine, my whole plan fails. I need help sticking to my healthy eating no matter what and learning to say no.
How do I change this? :/ Report
I am fairly new to the site. I do pretty good thru out the week, I have a fairly structured schedule. But, when the weekend comes the routine is gone!! I need help getting thru the weekends.
Hypo-thyroid, type 2 diabeties, high blood pressure and high colesterol. Add to that being on a medication that exasperates many of these conditions and makes it difficult to lose any weight. As well as a busy lifestyle. I find myself constantly trying to choose the lesser of the evils, never satisfied with my choices, becoming discouraged because what I'm doing isn't good enough, and many times not knowing what a "good" choice would be. I'm looking forward to this set of articles. Report
I have mutiple problems. Allergies,(milk products, chocolate, tuna, turkey, tomatoes, on and on.) I am Hypoglycemic, Chronic Colitis, and constant bloating. I am easily discouraged by these issues. Is there help for me??? Report
Thank you for posting this idea and i am looking forward to your series. I will keep checking back ! Report
Leefer2, I take 2 Caltrate +D chewable daily ... they taste like candy, so no upset stomach! You might need to take 3 to get as much as your doc wants you to take. Report
I have pre-diabetes, hypo-thyroid, and high cholesterol and although a challenge under control by medication, diet and exercise. However I now have mild pre-osteoporosis and low white blood count. My doctor prescribed taking 1500 mg calcium and 1000 IU of vitamin D. This combination has my stomach so upset that I do not feel like eating. The low white blood count is a major concern to me as my mother had aplastic anemia. It is my understanding that some of these problems are age-related and genetic. My goal is to keep the diabetes and osteoporosis from developing. Report
I have a plateau problem if I don't watch it all the time the scales won't move.
Also I have a problem with excercize because my knee and feet. Report
This series sounds very interesting and I can't wait to read more. Please keep me updated. Report
Wow, I read a bunch of comments, and it's interesting that everyone's biggest problem is different! Well, here's mine. My biggest problem is that I can't seem to keep up the effort more than just a few months at a time. I can be so good with eating healthy meals I've made at home, tracking my calories and staying within a reasonable range, and getting regular exercise.. but never more more than, say, five months at a time, usually less. Then BAM, I'm off track, and I always gain back everything I've lost. As a result, I keep losing the same 20-30 pounds over and over again. So frustrating!!! I know what kinds of advice I would give to someone with this problem, mostly stuff about moderation, and I do try very hard to practice that, but I do keep gaining the weight back. Any new ideas would be greatly appreciated. Report
I'd like to know simple grab-and-go meals that are full of nutrients and keep me full. I guess that would be kind of Chef Meg's department, but I mean meals that aren't really recipes, you know? I overeat so much. I track it all, but I can't seem to make myself stop eating so darn much! Report
My problem is my body does not seem to like to lose weight. I can stay within a healthy range of foods (while eating healthy foods not just junk), I can exercise (I do 3-4 days of cardio and 2-3 days strength), I can pray, I can do everything I'm supposed to and in two months I will lose 3 pounds if I'm lucky. I'm so frustrated but I keep trying. My doctor insists there is nothing wrong with me and even though I've showed him a food log, exercise log, ect I don't think he believes me. Report
I wonder whether I may fit into the "this series is not for you" group. I eat healthier than many. But I'm having a really hard time taking that final step up the mountain, which for me means getting away from processed foods. I don't typically make dinner out of a box or anything, but many of my "from scratch" recipes include ingredients like Worcestireshire sauce, which if I read the label is really not so good. I use canned beans (the kidney beans I buy - the only brand I can find in my store - have HFCS! Why?) or tomatoes (I recently read there is BPA in the cans!?) or feed my kids Cheerios, which contain preservatives. I don't mean to make the mountain look higher for anyone reading this, but I read lots of tips for getting to the point where I am and not so many for getting beyond it. I would appreciate any help. Report
I have several challenges i am trying to overcome, eating healthy is coming pretty easy to me, i do have to many snacks still but overall focused, my main problem is excercise i have chronic pain ,fibromyalgia and nevr damage well you get the picture, i can onlt stand for a while i can walk vary short distances so i am trying to figure how to get more excercise thanks for your help. Report
I am really hesitant to state my problems in public, but here goes. I struggle with eating properly due to bad teeth. I have severe gum disease issues and have been unsuccessful in overcoming them. As a result, my teeth are in pretty bad shape. Not having insurance or even a job right now means putting up with the pain and not eating anything that will aggravate the situation, such as raw vegetables and tougher meats. Some days I can't even chew scrambled eggs, its so bad. I do a lot of mashed potatoes, cream soups, and dairy products to get by on those days. I also have trouble with the fact that my husband and I like different things. He likes chicken thighs and I like breast, he likes green chilies or cayene pepper in everything and I prefer milder dishes. It makes doing stir-fries and other dishes harder to do. I usually give in and eat what he wants, but then I indulge in sweets or ice cream to have something that I want. I know this all sound stupid, but that is my life. I look forward to your series. Maybe it will help me resolve some of these issues. Report
Like others, I am close to my goal weight but now I am struggling with re-gaining and re-losing the same 5 or 6 pounds every month or so (for the past 8 months). I would like to increase my exercise time but have not been able to do so. I don't think eating less is the answer, as I am keeping to a (mostly) healthy eating plan. Report
Looking forward to this series. I have two issues - gaining and losing the same five pounds ( I know it is because I lack consistency and have been falling back into emotional eating). Problems with my legs - had hip replacement and have reoccurring venous ulcers. When I need to stop waking or doing other exercise for a time - it is very hard to get back into exercising. I like the idea of working on one small step at a time because the idea of losing 70 pounds and getting more fit seems impossible when looked at all at once. Report
I'm looking forward to this series. I was so close to my goal weight, then gained back about 15 pounds. Although I'm still within the "healthy" range, I'm not comfortable with it and am struggling to lose those pounds again. My biggest problem is that I'm perimenopausal. I often go through "streaks" where I'm starving and craving protein that last for days. Kind of like neverending PMS. I'm fortunate that's my only symptom and I don't have hot flashes like many of my friends, but I'm really struggling here. Report
This series sounds very interesting. I am waiting to find out more information. Thanks for the blog. Report
I look forward to this series to help me stay focused. Sometimes I feel out of control, and I have a problem getting my appetite under control. Report
My biggest problem is that my knee hurts so much of the time (large parts were removed while doctors tried to cut out my MRSA infection) that it is difficult to exercise. I need to move in order to lose weight. Please help!!! Report
It's the planning hurdle. I don't plan for the work week. So, I usually end up coming home late...hungry. Report
This blog sounds more useful than some of the thinking one reads on other health sites, no big headlines about getting "skinny" or even "skinnier" if you do this or that in 8 days, or some such nonsense!!!! Seems as if no expert ever tells us that whatever we do to lose the weight, we have to do the rest of our lives, so it had better be an eating plan of foods we enjoy, or it isn't going to last, no matter which celeb says it's a good eating plan. Reality bites, I guess.
I have had a lot of success, but can't drop the last 20 pounds and keep them off. In addition a number of people in my life tell me that I've inspired them. One of these people called me on his way home from the hospital after a stay for CHF, in addition he is diabetic, he asked because I have done so well and know what I am doing, will I go grocery shopping for him. That was back in March. I continue to shop, because he knows I will carefully look at every label to watch the sugar and sodium levels. Now he's developed potassium issues. I've told him he has to have the doctor order a nutritionist consult, because what I know is good for someone in my general good health, I'm afraid to suggest something that could be harmful, but until that happens I don't want to leave him high and dry. He was close to 300 pounds when he went in the hospital - and he's been loosing, and I find myself encouraging and supporting like I was supported during the slow times. I look forward to any information I can share with my friend - at least until he gets personalize professional advice. Report
I LOVE the idea of this series! I have a problem cutting my calories more and more as I lose. I've been increasing activity instead, but that made me hungrier, so I end up using the calories and keep plateauing about every 10 pounds. Report
I'm a new member with high blood pressure. I am very salt sensitive. When I eat salty foods I can gain 5-7 pounds in one day! Once the weight is on, it takes 2 -3 days to lose it and I'm in a vicious cycle of losing and gaining the same pounds. I am trying to eat clean but I can't get past my craving for salt. I would like to see flavorful, low sodium recipes that are also low in fat and calories. Report
I can't wait for some direction. I have been doing great but now I have a torn meniscus and surgery on Aug. 13. I need to know how to adjust my calories and what nutrition is optimal for healing and recuperation. Also, how do I get those last pounds off without losing motivation and momentum? You are just what I need! Thanks! Report
I am looking forward to this series. I am new to SP and looking for all the tools i can get. I have fibromyalgia and often dont have the energy to work out. Report
1) What can I eat at night to help me have a "first thing in the morning" blood reading of under 100? 2) Tricks of the trade to keep sodium under 2,000 mcg daily? Report
I look forward to this series! I am a very picky eater and will not eat a lot of veggies! I am finding some I can tolerate! I also because of my fast pace lifestyle eat out a lot! Report
Help with stress eating would be great. It is what I do all day at work. Report
Trying to find healthy foods I will eat - hate to say it but I've been a picky eater my entire life - that makes it very hard because there is so little I will eat - trying new foods is one of my huge hurdles - looking forward to your series Report
I felt that so many things were being taken away.. carbs, sodium cholesterol... I felt that there was nothing left to eat. Talk about a valley, I was stuck in a deep crevasse and it no one knew I was down there.
Changing my mindset was the biggest hurdle. Dealing with my family was the next biggest. It seemed that no matter what, eating healthy was the way to go... but re-educating myself and letting go of old ways is a daunting task.
Trying new foods is challenging... especially when you do not know how to prepare it. Often ill preaparation can turn you off to good foods. Report
I'm a new member and am still trying to figure out what's what. I am looking forward to reading this series, and other articles that will help me to lose weight and become healthier. I have fibromyalgia and several other problems that go along with this disease, and I have had a difficult time losing weight. I am really looking forward to learning all that I can on this site! Report
I'm also looking forward to this series. I can get started, but seem to find any excuse to get off track even though it's very important to me to stay on track. I appreciated the comment that it's easy to know what to do, but a lot harder to do it. Thank you for understanding and helping us get to where we want to go. Report
I'm looking forward to the series, but not hopeful that it will help me change. I KNOW what to do, and I know from past experience that it works, but I don't do it...not likely anyone can change my mind-set that much (and the only thing that might--serious illness--isn't an alternative I want to think about :{ Report
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