You know the drill. You make a resolution for the new year and swear that this year is going to be different.
You’re strong the first week – maybe even the first month. But by February or March, your visits to the gym are declining, and you aren’t tracking every bit of food that goes into your mouth.
“Many people make resolutions that involve losing weight, eating healthier or being more active,” says David Sarwer, PhD, Professor of Psychology and member of the Bariatric Surgery Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
“This includes people who have undergone bariatric surgery. However, most people set those goals too high, and when they get back to their daily routines during the winter, it can be hard to find the time and effort to reach them. Smaller, reachable goals are the better way to go.”
We have a solution to your resolution. This year, instead of focusing on those giant goals, we want to help you take small steps toward your target with these tips.
Eat heart-healthy foods to lower cholesterol
Did you know that most of the time there are no symptoms associated with elevated cholesterol?
Serum cholesterol tends to increase with age, especially among women, who have reduced estrogen levels as they reach menopause. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and heart attacks; however, because it's asymptomatic, it's difficult to monitor it.
Why don't you make a goal to be more conscious of the foods you're consuming and lower your cholesterol? Try eliminating trans fats and cholesterol and adding more vegetables and fiber.
Focus on one thing at a time. Have your blood levels checked regularly by your health care provider to see what is working for you. Sometimes just concentrating on one number like cholesterol can lead to other healthier habits.
Start a walking program
Want to run a 5K this year? That’s a great goal, but it can be pretty daunting if you are just starting to work out. Instead, focus on starting a program that will get you to your goal.
Chiara Gravell, a three-year bariatric alumna who has maintained a 100+ weight loss, says to sign up for a race if that’s your goal, but be realistic.
“A program like ‘Couch to 5K’ is a good guide to help you get started,” she says. “If it takes you three weeks to complete Week One of the program, that's okay! Do as much as you can, and remember that whether you walk or run a 5K race, you’ve still completed the race.”
Schedule a health screening
One of the most important things you can do for your health is get regular screenings. No one ever feels like doing it, but it is a step on the way to a healthier lifestyle.
The mammogram, for instance, remains the most important screening device in the detection of breast cancer, and it likely saves thousands of lives every year.
Beginning at the age of 40, all women should have an annual mammogram to check for breast cancer. Depending on a woman’s personal risk, a physician may recommend annual mammograms before the age of 40.
Develop a plan to stop smoking
Quitting tobacco is a big resolution to keep, but it is the most important one if you currently smoke or use tobacco.
You know the risks of tobacco. You also know that you must quit smoking and be smoke-free for two months before you can undergo bariatric surgery.
What you may not know is that there are more tools and techniques to help you quit smoking than ever before.
Instead of resolving to quit entirely, resolve to give Penn Medicine's Comprehensive Smoking Cessation Program a call. Clinicians and staff in the program will help you by working with you to develop a quit plan, identify strategies that will work with your lifestyle and teach you about available medications to help you quit for good.
Go to a weight-loss information session at Penn
Losing weight is one of the biggest resolutions people make this time of year. It’s a great goal, but many people set themselves up for failure by going on crash diets or working out too much, too soon.
This year, resolve to make a plan to lose weight. Join us at a free information session about weight-loss surgery at Penn Medicine.
There, you will hear about your weight-loss surgery options and how Penn can help you lose weight and get healthy for good.
It’s a first step, to a healthier you this year.
Go to a support group
If you're already part of the Penn Medicine Bariatric Surgery program, you should know that weight-loss surgery isn’t a magic pill or a quick fix to lose a lot of weight. Anyone who has had bariatric surgery will tell you it's a lot of work.
Matt Kirkland, MD, FACS, bariatric surgeon at Penn, says that after bariatric surgery, ongoing support is important. Penn Bariatrics offers several support groups each month at different locations for those who have had bariatric surgery.
“I try to emphasize to people that if they don’t continue to do what they’re supposed to do and incorporate what they learned pre-operatively, they can potentially regain their weight,” says Dr. Kirkland.
“You can cheat on any of these operations. You may not enjoy that as much as it sounds like you might, but you can cheat on any of them. With all the resources available before and after surgery, you can be successful - but you need to work at it."