Two local doctors discuss how to get healthy — the right way.
Everybody wants to get healthy — but what does "being healthy" really mean?
Rather than revamping your entire diet and exercise plan for the new year, doctors Christian Birkedal and Haroldo Melo want you to take baby steps to build better habits that will eventually lead to a healthier you.
Slow and steady
"A lot of people try to do everything immediately," Birkedal said. "They go from eating an unhealthy diet and never getting off the couch to wanting to change everything in their diet and lose 100 pounds by New Year's Day. They don’t set realistic goals, and they don’t have a realistic plan."
According to Birkedal, a general surgeon with Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center and who specializes in bariatrics and non-surgical weight loss, a realistic mindset is the key to real change. Rather than change a bunch of aspects of a lifestyle all at once, Birkedal said it's better to slowly add in healthier habits one at a time.
"Add in fruits and veggies and lean meats," he said. "And get some form of exercise. The exercise doesn’t matter, as long as they devote time to it."
Another thing to get realistic about is how fast you want to lose weight. Diets and plans that promise a 15-pound weight loss in two weeks are not going to stick. Birkedal said if you make an effort to slowly change your diet and add in a consistent form of exercise — a.k.a. making a plan you're willing to stick with — a pound of weight loss a week is totally achievable.
"I like to encourage my patients to journal their food, so they get a realistic idea of what they're eating," he said. "When you write it down, and you realize you're eating McDonald's four nights a week, you can cut it down to three nights a week and more and more. Or instead of getting a burger at McDonald's, you can get a salad for one of those meals."
The key is to take small steps forward each and every time and to set goals you know you can achieve. Once you do, you'll feel the benefit of success which will motivate you to keep moving forward and making more changes.
"The old adage is one bite at a time," he said. "The key to healthy living is a healthy diet, with a living."
One thing at a time
"Don't go for the fad, go for the lifestyle," said board-certified internal medicine physician Dr. Haroldo D. Melo. "It's best to get rid of your unhealthy habits one at a time."
Melo, who works with the medical staff at Florida Hospital Flagler and is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses as well as disease prevention and overall wellness, said the key is to take out one bad habit in your life and replace it with a good one.
"You have to detect what the problem is first," he said. "So if you drink soda twice a day, eliminate one and have water instead, or replace butter with an avocado paste. It's all about balance and equilibrium. It's always best to get one unhealthy thing out of your life at a time."
Along with avoiding trendy diets and crazy workouts, Melo said, it's also important for people to understand how interconnected healthy living is.
"A healthy person is someone that is in tune spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically," he said. "It's about exercising, eating well, and people at peace with everything around you."