Happy New Year! Now that holiday parties and family get-togethers have ended, your mind is likely flipping through the eating and drinking choices you made. Chances are your gut is in disarray. As you’re coming out of the haze of holiday feasting, you may be wondering if all those excess portions, sweets and alcohol have made their way to your waistline … and dreading the moment you step on the scale to confirm your fears.

Rebecca Cripe RD

Rebecca Cripe

This normally leads to the mentality of dieting: extreme changes to cleanse the body of those poor choices and lose the weight you’ve been struggling to lose for a long time. But why does this situation happen every year for so many people? Dieting has you follow instructions, but it doesn’t teach you how to make changes to your daily habits to lead to lifelong weight loss.

So what should you do if you want to lose weight and become healthier? It comes down to making a lifestyle change. Here are the first steps to get you in the right direction:

Knowledge is power

Your approach to weight loss should be backed up by strong research. This can be difficult to gather, especially given the internet provides many confusing messages and options, including paleo diets, gluten-free diets, ketogenic diets and vegan diets.

With all these mixed messages swirling around you, you may make one fatal error: you do nothing.

Or, worse, you try to overhaul your entire diet at once and end up feeling like a failure after you fall flat. Resources like gundersenhealth.org/nutrition and eatright.org and can answer questions about new diets, like are they safe or legit. Consider working with a registered dietitian, who can help clear up any confusion and start you on the right direction of change.

Start small

Your emotions are high right now, which drives the urgency to act fast for weight loss. Yet, it is also likely you have been struggling with weight loss for longer than these past six weeks. Remember: You didn’t gain this weight overnight, so you are not going to lose it overnight. With a lifestyle change, you are making a habit change. Research shows the best approach is in making small changes to form healthy habits that last a lifetime, rather than doing an all-or-nothing approach that often fails because it’s too hard to follow.

Prepare for setbacks

Setbacks are normal when changing habits. It is almost never going to work out on the first attempt.

For example, let’s say you are working on portions. You do well at home with using a portion plate or measuring cups, but you don’t plan for an unexpected invitation from a friend to dinner or a family get-together with buffet-style food. Entering a situation like this can trigger you back to old habits of overeating. After doing so, you can easily become discouraged. Don’t fall into all-or-nothing thinking. You can chose to either end progress because of that one overeating experience, or you can choose to learn from it to keep progress going.

Setbacks are teachable moments. Instead of judging yourself — which never inspires change — you can objectively ask yourself what you could do differently in the future. For example, if your goal is portion control, you can plan to eat half an entree at a restaurant or use MyPlate to guide a balanced plate of food.

Old habits are hard to break, but this information may be the beacon of insight you have been looking for. I would encourage you to seek the help of a registered dietitian who’s training is focused on providing the established information for true weight loss and helping you problem solve though the situations that can undo your success. Here’s to a new year of true health!

Peanut butter fruit dip

Makes: 4 servings


  • ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 (6 oz.) low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • ½ cup Cool Whip


Place peanut butter and yogurt in a bowl and whisk together. Fold the cool whip into the peanut butter and yogurt combination until combined.

Nutritional information: Per serving: 160 calories, 10 g fat, 5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 80 mg sodium

Baked bruschetta

Makes: 8 servings


  • 8 slices crusty Italian bread or medium loaf of artisan bread
  • 2 cups fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup packed basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice bread into thin (about ½-inch) slices and place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Brush the tops of each slice generously with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Maintain oven temperature.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil together until evenly coated. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Once bread slices are warmed, top each with sliced mozzarella and spoon the tomato mixture evenly on top of each slice. Return bread to the oven for six to eight minutes to warm and soften tomatoes and mozzarella.

Remove from oven and serve warm.

Nutritional information: Per serving: 220 calories, 9 g fat, 10 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 260 mg of sodium

Rebecca Cripe is a Gundersen Health System registered dietitian.


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