Parkland health pros weigh in on food, fitness fads

Parkland health pros weigh in on food, fitness fads

New Year’s health resolutions should be effective, easy to keep

Every January, many of us pledge this will be the year to shed those unwanted pounds and get in shape. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, fitness goals are the most common New Year’s resolutions. About 50 million Americans vowed to ‘up’ their diet and exercise game at this time last year.

However, experts at Parkland Health & Hospital System say research shows that good intentions can quickly fall by the wayside. Two months into 2017, just 37 percent of people in their 20s and only 16 percent of those over age 50 had stuck to their weight-loss and exercise resolutions.

“We know a healthy lifestyle helps prevent illness and improve our quality of life, but breaking old habits is tough. That may be one reason for the popularity of trends promoting the health benefits of everything from superfoods to intermittent fasting,” said Maggy Boyd, a registered dietitian at Parkland and former college athlete and swimming coach. “People want a quick fix.”

2017’s top health fads included maca powder and turmeric, hot yoga and cryogenic saunas. In 2018 marketers are already promoting cricket protein powder and edible flowers as the latest “superfoods,” a label that Boyd says has no scientific meaning.

“Diet fads come and go, but the basic science doesn’t change,” Boyd said. “It’s calories in versus calories out when it comes to weight management.”

“Personally, I don't believe in fad diets or exercise plans,” said Beth Belk, a physical therapist at Parkland and a certified yoga instructor. “My mindset is: choose to live a healthy lifestyle every day, not just because it’s the new year.”

Belk recommends finding a form of exercise that you love, whether it’s group classes, walking or running outdoors, tennis, aquatic exercise or yoga, so that you stick with it. “Set yourself up for success by doing something that challenges you and makes you feel great so you will be consistent with it throughout the year,” she advised.

Tried-and-true diet and exercise techniques are recommended, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new, experts say, if it gets you motivated. For example, staff at Parkland’s Irving Health Center train and participate together in a Tough Mudder event each fall.

“It’s a 12-mile obstacle course. And yes, there’s a lot of mud,” said Salvador Nevarez, medical practice supervisor at the clinic.

“It’s a great experience and helps us build teamwork. We signed up earlier this year so we could keep each other accountable during our training for the event,” said pharmacist Denise Yeung.

Yeung and Parkland physician Esmaeil Porsa, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer, are among those who have abandoned desk chairs at the office, instead perching on balance balls. “When I developed low back pain, I started using a balance ball to improve my posture. You cannot slump on a balance ball without falling off. It forces you to engage and strengthen the core muscles in your abdomen, back and legs,” Dr. Porsa said. “It has helped my posture and encourages me to be active during the day,” Yeung added.

Parkland dietitians, physicians and physical therapists offer these proven tips for reaching your weight and fitness goals in 2018:

• Choose an exercise you enjoy and can safely perform. Start slowly and gradually increase to 30-45 minutes, 5 days a week.
• Avoid missing more than 2 days in a row without exercise.
• Track your progress daily in a journal or fitness tracker.
• Find a partner to exercise with you and motivate one another to keep going.

Nutrition & Diet
• Eat healthy meals and learn to control portion sizes. Avoid skipping meals.
• Plan meals and snacks for the week – use a grocery list.
• Eat 3 planned meals and 1 to 2 healthy snacks like apples, berries, raisins or raw veggies each day. Space meals every 4 to 5 hours, and have a snack if needed 2 hours after a meal. Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
• Take a healthy, low-fat lunch to work.
• Eat lots of fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables – they add color, flavor and texture, plus vitamins, minerals and fiber to your plate.
• Cut back on caffeine – it can interfere with sleep, may make you jittery and cause you to lose energy later in the day.
• Avoid processed foods, eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, peas, lentils and whole grains.
• Eliminate fried food and fast foods from your diet.
• Limit sweets, sugar, fat and salt. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
• Use a slow cooker, air-fryer or electric grill.
• Read food labels to watch for serving size, calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates.
• Be comfortable counting calories – use apps like MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople.
• Get your sleep each night – 7 to 8 hours is recommended.
• Manage stress to limit the stress hormone cortisol that can cause weight gain. Find ways to deal with emotions that do not involve food.
• Get meal ideas from sources such as the American Diabetes Association website ( or from the Parkland Diabetes website at