Cancer Prevention Starts with Goals

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image26386669It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and for this cancer — along with many others — we know that moving more, eating nutritious foods and staying lean are important for reducing risk. Most of us live busy, fast-paced lives with habits that have been established over a lifetime, so it can be hard to figure out where to begin. Have you ever said “I’ll try to go to the gym more” or “I’ll try to eat less dessert”? By saying I’ll try you are already giving yourself an excuse to not follow through.

That’s why setting concrete goals can be really helpful. Let’s say your general goal is to be more active. That goal is vague, and won’t hold you accountable or allow you to measure your progress. Turning that goal into a concrete SMART goal will make it more achievable.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: A specific goal describes exactly what you must do to reach your goal. What will you do to be more active?
  • Measurable: A measurable goal allows you to track your progress. How often will you be more active?
  • Achievable: A goal can be as high as you want it to be, but make sure you know it is possible. Will that type of activity be something you can do now? If not, maybe start with something smaller and aim to work up to running a 5K, for example.
  • Realistic: Goals should be realistic considering your resources and time. How can you fit your goal into your budget and schedule?
  • Timely: Give yourself a specific time frame to reach your goal. When do you aim to reach your goal by?

Now let’s return to the original goal: to be more active. Turning it into a SMART goal, you might say: “I will take the stairs instead of the elevator at work 3 times per week over the next month.” Write down your goal and put it somewhere you’ll see it often, like on your fridge or next to the computer at work. When you reach your goal set a new one – continue to challenge yourself as you make accomplishments!

What is your SMART goal for cancer prevention?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.


Dieting Tricks or Myths?

You may have heard a lot about health-related myths recently. An article from the New England Journal of Medicine dispels myths about obesity that even health-care providers often state as fact. canstockphoto5701649

With February 4th being World Cancer Day, AICR published a piece to set the facts straight about cancer. One important truth is that excess body fat increases risk for 7 types of cancer. As a dietitian who works daily with individuals trying to lose weight, I’d like to clear up some common myths about weight loss that I hear regularly.

Myth 1: “I switched to extra virgin olive oil [instead of butter] to help me lose weight.”

Truth: Let’s first look at the rationale behind this claim. Olive oil is mostly made of unsaturated fat, the kind that is good for heart health (the same type of fat also found in nuts and avocados). Butter, on the other hand, is mostly made of saturated fat, which increases total cholesterol and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. This can increase your risk for heart disease.

However, this is a weight loss myth because whether it is butter or extra virgin olive oil, the calories are the same. One gram of any type of fat equals about 9 calories. Continue reading


A Lasting Resolution: Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier

It’s that time of year again: the time for fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever said to yourself, “I’m going to give up chips” or “I’ll cucanstockphoto11612702t out all sweets from my diet”? It’s common to go to extremes this time of year, pledging to make changes that are difficult to keep in the long run. Making smaller (and more realistic) changes that you can stick with will lead to long-term health improvement and reduction in cancer risk.

A good place to start is in the kitchen. You may have favorite meals or family recipes that you make time after time. Rather than making a resolution to cut back, make a resolution to add more nutrition to something you love. Pick a recipe to modify, and make it a project for you and a friend or family member.

One favorite of mine is coffee cake. My family has grown up eating blueberry coffee cake over the holidays. Sometimes we buy it from a bakery, other times we will make it ourselves. Traditional recipes are packed with sugar, butter, sour cream and white flour, making a breakfast that is high in calories and saturated fat. Continue reading