Local experts encourage gradual changes to boost nutrition habits

Adrianna Rubison tries to arch her back as she stretches out before exercising at Bright Start Preschool on Tuesday. Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Kamps visited the school to discuss fitness, nutrition and healthier selections. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Mar. 20, 2013 12:02 pm Updated: Apr. 3, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Bob Scott has dropped two bowling balls from his body since he started losing weight in November.

Ashlyn Myers, a licensed dietitian and nutritionist with Quincy Medical Group, has coached Scott through his lifestyle changes, and he's tracked his progress in bowling balls. He's now down at least 35 pounds thanks to healthy choices.

March is National Nutrition Month, but Myers promotes gradual changes daily.

"The more color you put in your diet, the better you're going to be," Myers said. "For some people, it's as simple as adding two vegetables a day."

For Scott, it started with soda. He saw a dramatic change in his body and energy level just from cutting out the high calorie, fizzy beverages. Myers said that first bowling ball worth of soda encouraged Scott to lose more weight.

As Scott approaches his third bowling ball, he looks forward to using his increased sense of energy to walk up the steeping, previously daunting boat ramp at Mark Twain Lake. He recently flew on an airplane when his size had prevented it before. He still has several more bowling balls to go before he drops the 100 pounds he set out to lose, but Myers said with each pound, Scott's motivation increases.

"Nobody can make you do this. You have to want to do it yourself," Scott said. "You're the only one that's with you all the time."

Myers educates her clients about healthier options. She said a person often can decrease their caloric intake just by eliminating high-calorie beverages from their routines.

She explained that many people lack basic knowledge about shopping for produce. She teaches how fresh fruits and vegetables should look, feel and sound.

Jen Kamps, a dietitian for Hy-Vee, uses the grocery store as a classroom and strives to educate the community about healthier choices. Hy-Vee customers can tour the store with Kamps to learn which foods provide the most nutritional value for their cost.

"Sometimes it feels like the healthier items cost more," Kamps said. "But empty calories, well, that's empty cost too."

She also helps customers identify healthier ways to eat foods they enjoy. She shows which cookies can quench a sugar crave and still provide a body with nutritional value. She also encourages her clients to boost their fruit and vegetable consumption from the national average of 1-2 servings per day to the recommended 9-13 servings.

Myers said slight changes produce gradual weight loss. Scott still enjoys his coveted weekly dinner at Gem City Pizzeria, even with his new lifestyle. Myers and Kamps agreed that denying an individual of favorites only creates hostility for the end goal. These changes are less about restrictions and more about modifications.

"(Scott) can still go to Gem City and he can still go to The Tower (of Pizza), but he's going to have to make real lifestyle changes once he gets there," Myers said.

Myers considers 1-2 pounds per week a healthy rate for a weight-loss journey. Losing weight slowly, with gradual changes, allows someone to maintain healthy habits more easily after shedding the pounds.

"It's taken down a couple notches on the belt, but it's just getting started," Scott said. "Really I'm looking at going further."