Monday Medical: Small goals, big success |

Monday Medical: Small goals, big success

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today

Monday Medical

Editor's note: This article is the second in a two-part series highlighting tips for a healthy new year.

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, diet and exercise often make the list. But people may be tackling these resolutions in the wrong way, trying to do too much, too soon.

"You're not going to change overnight how you eat and how you exercise," said Rachel Van Parys, health and wellness coordinator for Yampa Valley Medical Center. "These changes are about overhauling your mindset more than a specific behavior. That's something that takes a long time, which can be overwhelming."

Instead of starting an intense workout plan or a brand new diet, Van Parys recommends setting — and celebrating — small goals.

"Any little step that you take is going to make a difference and is going to make other steps you take in the future easier," Van Parys said.

Exercise: Reasonable goals are key when it comes to exercise. If someone decides to join a gym and exercise six days per week, he or she might stick with it after missing one day but throw in the towel after missing a second.

Recommended Stories For You

"Maybe you feel like, 'I already failed at that goal, so it's not worth it anymore,'" Van Parys said.

Instead, make resolutions that are achievable, even when life gets busy.

And, keep your focus on more than just number on the scale.

"You really want to focus on how you want to feel — do you want to feel stronger or have more endurance?" Van Parys said.

It's a good time of year to try something new, whether it's an exercise class or sport, and it can be extra motivating to set short-term goals, such as running a 5K in the spring or hiking a new trail.

"If you set these small, tangible goals, it can give you a clear way to get there," Van Parys said.

And don't forget, exercise can be built into the day.

"Even if it's just doing calf raises while brushing your teeth or walking or doing squats while you take a phone call, those little things will build up," Van Parys said. "We tell ourselves that it has to be all or nothing, when, if you start small, you'll make things so much easier for yourself."

Diet: There are an overwhelming number of diets and health tips, but Van Parys recommends keeping it simple: Focus on eating whole, real foods, and don't get stuck in a cycle of guilt when you do, invariably, eat unhealthy foods.

"Every meal is another opportunity to make the kinds of choices that you want to make. You have to be forgiving with yourself and just focus on eating real, whole foods," Van Parys said.

While treats are fine, they should be just that — treats. To that end, Van Parys tries to keep only healthy snacks in her house and office. And, when hunger strikes, Van Parys recommends taking a short walk first.

"If you're still hungry, eat something," she said. "But a lot of times, we're just bored. We're tired of sitting and doing what we're doing. Walking for 10 minutes gives you a chance to check in with yourself first."

This year, be sure your resolutions are reasonable, and be ready to forgive yourself when you fall a bit short.

"It's okay if you get off track or make unhealthy decisions," Van Parys said. "Every day is another opportunity. You don't have to overhaul everything all at once, but this is a time to really think about and prioritize yourself."

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

If you go

What: Real Life Weight Management, and eight-week weight management program led by YVMC’s registered dietitian nutritionists Cara Marrs and Laura Stout.

When: 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays through March 16.

Cost: $225, including an individual health assessment

More information and sign up:, 970-870-1048

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.