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From Williamson Medical Center: The power for lifestyle change is at your fingertips

By Williamson Medical Center

The key to successfully managing a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle, might very well be sitting in your pocket right now.

Jeffrey Suppinger, M.D., says today’s technology arms a person with a powerful tool in the fight against obesity that was unavailable as few as five years ago. It’s called the smartphone.

Simply being armed with easy access to calorie counts for meals at restaurants, combined with any number of apps designed to help you monitor and track eating and exercise habits can be the key to success.

“Everyone has smartphones, and they can be a great learning tool,” says Suppinger, a family care physician with Franklin Primary Care. “You don’t need to become obsessed with these apps, but they are great for learning about calorie counts and portion sizes.”

For example, a person trying to watch his or her weight might sit down at a restaurant and order a salad. Sounds like a healthy choice, doesn’t it? Whip out your smartphone and look it up. Turns out this salad packs a whopping 900 calories and 18 grams of saturated fat. Oh, and then there is the 1,500 milligrams of sodium. This type of on-the-spot research can be applied to all entrée or drink items at any restaurant that posts its nutritional information to its website or smartphone app.

Suppinger says the biggest problem, though, is portion sizes.

“Technology is really helping people recognize just how oversized portions are,” he says. “A normal serving size should be about the same as your fist. What we are used to being served is way more than one serving size.”

His suggestion for dining out in addition to reading the numbers before you order is to only eat half of what is served and box the other half for lunch the next day.

Learning to control portion sizes is one thing Suppinger recommends as you embark on a healthier lifestyle. He says biting off more than you can chew when making changes to your diet is a bad idea—literally and figuratively.

“People say they are going to change everything now and try to make a lifestyle adjustment that isn’t sustainable,” Suppinger says. “Most lifestyle changes that are successful are incremental and attainable.”

For a healthier diet, he says to focus on substitution and quantity.

“I tell people to look through their daily habits and see where they can make slight adjustments,” he says. “Maybe for your afternoon snack, instead of hitting a vending machine, bring some fruit. Substitute water for soft drinks. Knock back how many times a week you go out to eat. Do a biopsy of your behavior.”

Suppinger says other culprits are snacks and foods that are nutrient deficient.

“It could be sodas, for example,” he says. “They are high caloric and have zero nutritional value. Maybe for you it’s sweet tea or a sports drink. They all contain a lot of sugar with little benefit. They don’t fill you up and can even make you crave additional sweets.”

With the start of a new year being prime diet time, Suppinger cautions against fads or extremes and advises his patients the key to long-term success is approaching it one step at a time.

“You can’t go at this from 0 to 60,” he said. “What it boils down to is that you have to ultimately push away from the table. Every person I’ve seen who has lost weight and kept it off has done it this way.”

Posted on: 2/6/2013


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