New Year New You: Consider your health triangle

Originally posted in The Jamestown Sun.
By Dr. Dean Cramer, South Central Human Service Center

In thinking about wellness, and New Year’s resolutions related to improving health, I often encourage people to consider the concept of the “Health Triangle.” True to its name the health triangle proposes that there are three core components to healthy living including physical, emotional and social health.

So often our New Year’s resolutions narrow in on one side of this triangle and perhaps even a single aspect of that side. For example, most of you reading this article have likely had a New Year’s resolution at some point related to weight loss. Physical health, however, is a much broader concept than your weight and should include an emphasis on nutrition, exercise habits, sleep, and use of alcohol and/or drugs, etc.

It is also important to consider the other two sides of our triangle. Emotionally healthy and socially supported individuals are more likely to be successful in any change they make than are those who feel isolated or unhappy.

New Year New You taps into the idea of having a support network as you seek to make changes. Healthy home environment, loving families and close friends are all critically important parts of our overall well-being. Consider the people around you and whether they are supportive people who build you up or are negative/critical people who lead you to doubting yourself.

As much as possible, consider increasing your involvement with those who will support you. Likewise, set limits and if necessary consider removing or reducing the influence of the negative people in your life. It is remarkable how much our mood, feelings of self-worth and view of the world are impacted by those around us.

The final side of this triangle relates to emotional health, which is an area that people often fail to consider when making New Year’s resolutions. Emotional health includes the way you feel about yourself, how you deal with emotions and how you manage stressors. In my work as a psychologist, I encounter people who often hold a very negative self-perception. People will berate or be continually critical of themselves in ways they would never consider talking about another person. I would encourage everyone reading this article to take a day and “watch” your thoughts carefully while considering “what sort of messages am I sending myself” and depending upon what you discover consider practicing sending more positive messages. This rather simple change can lead to a marked difference in mood and attitude.

Other activities that can positively impact emotional health include taking time for your hobbies, reaching out to friends, managing stress, stepping away from the television or computer monitor and limiting worry. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or some other mental health concern, please reach out for help to your physician or a counselor. The research is conclusive that therapy and/or medication management are extremely effective in treating these disorders.

The biggest barrier for so many people is taking the risk to share their struggle and ask for help. Change happens every day, and often it comes from a person simply deciding “I’m worth it.” If you are so inspired and are looking at making changes with regard to your health please consider the New Year New You program’s global vision of wellness.

New Year New You: Limit your sodium intake to keep a healthy heart

About 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. Too much sodium increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, which often leads to heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association has recently lowered its recommendation to 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily for the general public. Americans eat on average about 3,300 mg of sodium a day.

Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. Sodium is involved in the preservation of foods and cannot be removed. However, manufacturers and restaurants can produce foods with less sodium. At a restaurant or grocery store, select lower-sodium foods when possible. You can also cook more foods yourself to better control how much sodium you eat.

More than 40 percent of sodium comes from the following 10 types of foods:

  • breads and rolls
  • cold cuts and cured meats
  • pizza
  • poultry
  • soups
  • sandwiches
  • cheese
  • pasta dishes
  • meat dishes
  • snacks


Ideas to reduce salt intake

  1. Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed or packaged items. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium.
  2. Choose fresh and frozen poultry or meat that hasn’t been injected with a sodium-containing solution. Fresh meat is lower in sodium than more processed meat choices.
  3. If you do choose to buy processed foods, look for those labeled “low sodium.”
  4. Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. You are able to remove salt in casseroles, stews and other main dishes.
  5. Remove the salt shaker from the table and taste your foods before adding additional seasonings
  6. Limit the use of condiments such as soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish.
  7. Use alternative flavorings to enhance foods. Try using fresh herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruits, or fruit juices to jazz up your meals.
  8. When dining out share entrees, order small portions, and ask for your meal to be prepared without salt. Ask for no sauce or have it on the side and use it sparingly.

Use the nutrition label to help make low sodium purchases:
Sodium Free: each serving contains 5 mg (milligrams) of sodium or less.
Very low sodium: each serving contains 35 mg of sodium or less.
Low sodium: each serving contains 140 mg of sodium or less.
Reduced or less sodium: each serving contains at least 25 percent less sodium than the original version.
Light in sodium: each serving contains at least 50 percent less sodium than the original version.
Unsalted or no salt added: no salt has been added during processing.

Work on decreasing your salt intake slowly. Your taste buds will gradually adjust and you will begin to enjoy the true flavor of food while you reap the benefits of eating healthy for your heart.

New Year New You: Control portions with MyPlate

Eating proper portions and being mindful about the amount of calories consumed each day can help aid in weight maintenance and weight loss. A study published in the American journal of Preventative medicine has shown those who keep a food journal lose about two times more eight than those who do not. Benefits of keeping a food journal include: acknowledging how much you truly eat; encouraging mindful eating; helping to ensure you are consuming a balanced diet; keeping track of extra calories; and increasing self-control.

Tips to shave calories while staying on track with your food journal:

  • Downsize your dishes. Use smaller plates and bowls to help you eat less. Our brains think we are getting more when the same amount of food is placed in a small dish.
  • Savor your meals. Eating slowly helps you consume only what your body needs to feel satisfied.
  • Don’t eat out of a bag or box. Pour one serving into a small bowl to better track how much you are eating.
  • Choose your glass wisely. When glasses are short and wide, we tend to fill them with more fluid and to drink more. Use a slender glass for any beverage except water.
  • Rethink your drinks. High-calorie beverages like soda, juice, energy drinks, specialty coffees and alcohol add calories.
  • Keep track as you go. It’s a lot harder to remember the whole day versus one meal at a time.
  • Practice proper portion size. Measure out your food when eating at home.
  • Keep in mind what one serving looks like. Some examples are: cooked pasta or beans = computer mouse; bread = compact disc; fresh fruit or raw vegetables, yogurt, or dry cereal = baseball; meat or French fries = deck of cards; cheese = four dice; peanut butter = ½ ping pong ball; grilled or baked fish = checkbook.

Follow the MyPlate method when planning healthful meals. MyPlate is based on the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,” which was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At each meal you should try to fill half your plate with a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Choose lean proteins such as: chicken, lean beef, pork, beans, lentils or peas and limit those to one fourth of your plate. Fill the remaining quarter of your plate with a grain source. Aim to make half of your grains whole with whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, oatmeal or brown rice. Additionally, choose one serving of low fat dairy to have with your meal. of low fat dairy include: low fat or fat free milk, reduced fat cheese and yogurt.

Fats, sweets and desserts should be eaten sparingly.

Stay Hydrated, Stay Healthy

New Year New You 2013
Stay Hydrated, Stay healthy
By Joan Enderle, American Heart Association

The human body is made up of about 10 to 12 gallons, so replenishing your body’s water supply is crucial for proper function and health.

Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles remove waste so that they can work efficiently. If you are well hydrated, your heart does not have to work as hard and helps your body regulate temperature. Adequate hydration can help you feel more energetic and help your skin look better.

Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.

Water is best
For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. There are no calories in water. Additional sources of water also include foods, such as fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water.

Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in calories. It may be healthier to drink water while you are exercising, and then when you are done, eat a healthy snack like orange slices, a banana or a small handful of unsalted nuts.

Other beverages such as sugary drinks, soda, coffee drinks and juices contain water but also may have a large number of calories, contributing to weight gain.

Young woman drinking water at workout, outdoorsHow much water do you need?
The amount of water a person needs depends on a number of factors: climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration. A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more to avoid over-taxing the heart or other organs. Some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.
Thirst isn’t the best indicator of hydration status. If you get thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. The easiest thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

A safe bet is to drink at least eight cups of water each day to make sure you are properly hydrated. The Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine recommends a total daily beverage intake of 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women.
If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need during exercise, experts recommends weighting yourself before and after exercise, to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. A rule of thumb is every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish.
Not sweating during vigorous physical activity can be a red flag that you’re dehydrated to the point of developing heat exhaustion.

Getting enough fluids during the winter is just as important as when temperatures are high. When you’re exposed to extreme temperatures – whether it’s very hot or very cold – your body uses more water to maintain is normal temperature. Also, in the winter you’re exposed to heated air, which evaporates water from your skin.

Physical Activity vs. Exercise

“I don’t understand. I am busy and active with tasks all day long, but I just can’t seem to lose any weight.”

A common misconception is that physical activity and exercise are one and the same. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there is a very important difference in the purpose and outcomes.

Physical activity is defined as the process of exerting energy for a task. Exercise is physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning the body. Exercise is prolonged physical activity that is of a higher duration than typical daily tasks.

Many of us get physical activity during working hours or at home with chores. During this time the heart rate is increased above the resting state, but only for a few minutes. We work hard for a short interval followed by rest, allowing the heart rate to lower again. Incorporating this type of physical activity into your day is encouraged and beneficial. However, when it comes to a goal of improving cardiovascular health or weight management, your body needs planned and structured exercise.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults are to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. An example of this would be to ride a bike for 30 minutes for days per week. It is also acceptable to accumulate this in short 10-minute bouts throughout the week. More exercise, 300 minutes per week, is recommended to improve health status or to reduce body weight.

Adults should also incorporate resistance training to improve muscular strength and endurance. Increased lean muscle tissue boosts the metabolism so that the body burns more calories even in the resting state. Strong muscles allow you to more easily complete regular daily activities, reduce fall risk and create an appearance of a toned body.

The annual New Year, New You community wellness challenge begins Monday. Get your co-workers, friends, or family together and form a team to compete within our community for a healthier lifestyle. The challenge is a great opportunity to start or support your current personal wellness plan through motivation, accountability, variety and education.

Registration information can be found at or call the Jamestown Regional Medical Center Wellness Center at 701-952-4891 for details.

2013 New Year New You Wellness Challenge

6x4_NYNYRegistration for the 2013 New Year New You Wellness Challenge is now open. This community wide six-week wellness challenge begins on January 7 and encourages participants to exercise and make healthy lifestyle changes in addition to promoting health awareness and enhancing education. Participants will create teams and gain points for healthy activities. Points are reported weekly to the appointed team CEO or leader. The team’s averaged point total is reported and ranked amongst competing teams weekly in the Jamestown Sun as well as online.

The wellness challenge has three divisions: large business, small business and friends and family. A small business is 15 or fewer participants and a large business is over 16 participants. This year the weekly topics will have a nutrition focus consisting of the following: hydration, portion control and calorie counting, fat, fiber, sodium and sugar. Each week there will be corresponding articles in the Jamestown Sun highlighting that week’s topic.

The cost to participate in the New Year New You Wellness Challenge is $8 per participant and includes a t-shirt. Participants will also receive a punch card to the James River YMCA to use through the duration of NYNY.  To join the 2013 New Year New You Wellness Challenge, go to to access registration forms for each of the three divisions. Deadline to register is Sunday, January 6, 2013. For more information go to or call the JRMC Wellness Center at (701) 952-4891.