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Small changes that make a big difference

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders
Over the holidays I had a very interesting talk with an uncle of mine who has recently cut sweets out of his diet. He told me that a little over a year ago he had seen his physician and while all of his blood work was good, it wasn't perfect. He is very physically active, but has always enjoyed sweets (not just as a dessert, but also as a snack), and decided that maybe this was a good time to cut them out of his diet. And with few exceptions (a slice of cake at a special occasion, etc) he has managed to largely cut sugary sweets out of his diet for well over 1 year.

While the fact that he made a positive health decision may be admirable in and of itself, I was more impressed by the physical changes that have resulted from this relatively minor change in his diet. His waist circumference has dropped several inches, and just as importantly, his blood sugar and lipid profile have improved substantially, to the point where his physician said that it literally could not be any better for a man his age. It was fun to see how excited he was about the changes, and that he has no plans to revert to his old diet anytime soon.

While anecdotal, I think there is a very important lesson that we can take from my uncle's experience: He made a reasonable lifestyle change that he knew he could maintain over the long term. He likes sweets, but he knew that for him personally, reducing the number of sugary snacks was a change he could live with for years to come. And he still has a piece of cake from time to time, but he realizes that that's ok too. This is in contrast to many other people that I know that attempt to make changes that do not suit their lifestyle, or their preferences. Or the people that make a lifestyle change that is so strict that they can only hope to follow it for a few months. For a change to make a real difference, it has to be something you can maintain as a part of your lifestyle for years, and hopefully for the rest of your life.

So instead of looking at quick fixes, or "miracle" foods like the acai berry, why not think about the small, attainable changes that can make a real difference to your health. It could be walking to work, skating on your lunch hour (a very real possibility in many northern cities like Kingston which is literally peppered with public outdoor rinks), or cutting down on your consumption of sugary drinks or red meat (changes that I have personally made over the past few years). But if it's something that you can maintain for the years to come, it is likely to have a very positive impact on your health.

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2 Response to "Small changes that make a big difference"

  1. justjuliebean Said,

    I think you're right, changes are very difficult to make when you are too rigid. If you allow room for occasional flexibility, it is much easier. I have cut out "most" sugar, though occasionally I'll eat a chocolate, or a tiny taste of something that I will thoroughly enjoy, but only a little, as I'm now not used to such sweet stuff. A little goes a long way, if you're not used to it.

    Posted on January 13, 2009 at 5:38 PM

  2. Travis Saunders, MSc Said,

    Thanks for the comment Julie! I agree with you entirely - there needs to be a little flexibility for any change to be maintained over the long-haul. BTW - I have really enjoyed your blog, I am looking forward to your next post!

    Posted on January 13, 2009 at 9:54 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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