Home News New Year/New You: Reflections on Nutrition and Exercise back to News
At this point, those who resolved to lose weight in 2023 are either trending in the right direction, discouraged, or they’ve given up.
If you fall in the latter two categories, maybe it’s time to try a different approach.
Though the common wisdom on weight loss is that one simply needs to increase exercise and reduce food consumption, the formula is rarely that simple – particularly if you are older or if you’ve struggled with health issues. Because no two people are the same, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for losing weight.
To provide food for thought on meeting your fitness resolutions for 2023 and beyond, we asked some faculty and staff from the University of Colorado College of Nursing to share insights on what has worked for them, and what might work for you.
While our sources have seen results from their favorite fitness models, they agree that results may vary depending on your age, lifestyle, and personal preferences.
“Weight loss is the hardest thing we do as humans. It is also the element that we beat ourselves up for again and again.”
– Kim Paxton, DNP, APRN, Specialty Director of CU College of Nursing’s Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program
Kim Paxton, DNP, APRN,
Assistant Professor of Clinical Teaching Specialty Director of Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program
As the Specialty Director of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program at CU College of Nursing, Kim Paxton’s academic passion lies in translating theoretical research of health promotion into practice.
Dr. Paxton has presented nationally and regionally on strategies, technology, and exercise integration for health promotion. She is not an advocate for “dieting” however, and she discourages using the “d-word” in her classes.
“I tell my students never to use the word ‘diet’ in class,” she says. “Because there is no diet: It’s all about the balancing of nutrition. When you look at the balance of nutrition, it’s not about calories, it’s about the macros.”
What are macros? The term is short for “macronutrient.”
“Macros are fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and most individuals don’t know how to balance them properly,” Paxton says.
In general, a macro-based nutritional regimen emphasizes decreasing carbs, and increasing protein and fats.
“It takes a higher metabolism to burn protein and fat,” she says. “I’m not saying go eat a stick of butter but just a small percentage of an increase improves results.”
For example, Paxton says a protein-enriched breakfast with eggs, turkey sausage, toast and jelly is a good way to start a day. She also stresses eating slowly and meaningfully and avoiding “stress eating.” Being aware of water intake and hydration is also important – though she advises people to avoid products with artificial sweeteners like aspartame that can contribute to inflammation and weight gain.
Paxton has found a macro-based app called RP (for Renaissance Periodization) to be effective in helping her (and members of her family) lose weight. She also says any kind of exercise helps – whether it involves aerobics, strength training or simply taking a walk. Paxton herself invested in the Peloton app and is working with an exercise physiologist to stay in shape.
Overall, Paxton suggests that people be easy on themselves while changing their exercise and nutrition habits.
“Don’t try to change everything in January because it’s not going to happen,” she says. “Give yourself permission to fail. Weight loss is the hardest thing we do as humans. It is also the element that we beat ourselves up for again and again.”
Catherine Jankowski, PhD
Even though she is a fitness buff who believes that exercise is important, CU Nursing Professor Kathy Jankowski, PhD, maintains that exercise alone is not a good strategy for weight loss – particularly among older adults.
Dr. Jankowski’s research focuses on the maintenance and promotion of physical function during aging. In general, people start losing their muscle mass in their 30s, but the loss becomes more obvious later in life.
“As a lifelong exerciser, I wanted to know more about the science of exercise,” she says. “The benefits of exercise are way broader than weight loss, but exercise alone is not an effective strategy for weight loss.”
For older adults, it’s important to maintain or build muscle mass and muscle strength.
“The actual weight-scale weight is not as important of what that weight is comprised of,” she says. “As you get older, you’ll have more fat accumulation, but you’ll also lose muscle mass unless you stimulate the muscles.”
Whereas six-pack abs are either unobtainable or undesirable for most people, simple fitness is relative and achievable, Jankowski says.
“What’s important is that everybody move around and avoid a sedentary lifestyle – even if it’s something very simple such as standing up during commercials,” she says. “The most important step in exercise is the step out the front door. The sky is the limit after that. People will be surprised by how much improvement they’ll see with modest increases in physical activity.”
While weight training and resistance training are helpful, Jankowski also stresses a relatively low-fat diet with sufficient high-quality protein as part of an effective plan.
“A typical American meal trend is that people get most of their protein during an evening meal, but a small amount of protein in meals throughout the day is probably more effective in maintaining your muscle,” she says. She adds that whole grains, leafy vegetables, and fiber are other critical components in good nutrition.
Jankowski encourages people to understand their limitations and set reasonable expectations when adopting a new fitness routine.
“If you are working with a nutritionist or a trainer, or even an app, and they don’t start off by asking what your goals are and getting a thorough picture of your overall health, then that’s a red flag,” she says.
As the Health Care Manager for the Office of Clinical and Community Affairs and the longest-standing staff member at CU Nursing, Jennifer Smith has experienced many ups and downs over the last 16 years. During her 20s, she lost 68 pounds on the Weight Watchers plan, but gained it back, and lost it again.
“In my early 50s, I went back to Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds,” she says. “Then life happened, and I had a medical procedure that led to a lot of changes in my body. I quickly put on all 30 pounds again.”
Considering her family history and before she could become a diabetic Smith decided to get in better shape. Smith strengthened her resolve after learning of a neighbor who lost 75 pounds using a program called OPTAVIA. Designed by a board-certified critical care physician, OPTAVIA is a low-calorie, reduced-carb program which combines packaged foods, homemade meals, personalized coaching, and information resources to encourage weight loss.
Though Smith admits the program costs a premium, she’s been happy with the results – having lost 40 pounds between May and November, 2022. She’s kept the weight off and kept her insulin levels at a healthy pace. Overall, she is happy with her investment.
“I’m making better choices [nutritionally], but if it’s my birthday, I’m going eat birthday cake and I’m going to enjoy it because I want to be able to love and live life too,” she says.
Mona Pearl Treyball, PhD, RN, Professor of Clinical Teaching Specialty Director of Veteran and Military Health Care Program
From a nursing perspective, Mona Pearl Treyball believes that individuals are the best authorities on their own health.
“We know what works for us,” Dr. Treyball says. “The doctor will tell you what to do, but we know our bodies best. So, I think it’s important to figure out what works for you.”
The Specialty Director of the Veteran and Military Health Care Program, Treyball had three cancers and treatments over the years, which altered her metabolism and weight.
“I gained a lot of extra weight steadily over the last 10 years – maybe a half pound a month, but it added up to about 50 pounds,” she says. “As I got older, I tried different things: I tried eating more consciously and mindfully; I participated in the MOVE program, which is the VA’s weight management program. It was helpful and interesting, but it didn’t really help me to lose weight to be honest.”
Working with her doctor, Treyball also tried different medications for weight loss. She was eventually prescribed Ozempic, which is generally used to treat diabetes but gaining popularity as a weight-loss drug. In just six months, Treyball lost 50 pounds on Ozempic.
Though Treyball exercises regularly, she found that she was hungrier after exercise. This hasn’t been the case since she started taking Ozempic.
Unfortunately, Treyball recently learned that her healthcare provider could no longer prescribe the drug amid a global Ozempic shortage. While other promising weight-loss medications are on the horizon, Treyball notes that insurance companies generally don’t cover the costs of weight-loss drugs – even though obesity and unhealthy weight gain can cause numerous health problems, including diabetes.
For now, Treyball says she feels good about her weight loss over the year and hopeful that she could keep the weight off moving forward.
“I not only look better, but I feel better,” she says. “My brain feels more sharp, and because I do so much work with my brain, I really notice it.”
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Home News New Year/New You: Reflections on Nutrition and Exercise back to News