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Fight Osteoarthritis: Get Healthy

By January 24, 2011 - 8:40pm

One of the best ways you can manage your osteoarthritis is by eating healthy and keeping your weight under control. When you eat right and stay fit, your body is in great shape to battle inflammation as well as keep extra pressure off painful joints.

The best way to start down the path of good nutrition and health is to make great choices when you sit down to eat. You don't have to go on a strict diet to gain benefits from good eating. Just choose the right foods in the right portions and much of the battle will be won. Keep reading for some easy ways to make some nutritional changes and advice on how to stay motivated when the going gets tough.

Make great mealtime choices
For most people, all you have to do is choose your foods wisely in order to keep extra weight off. No special diets are required!

For example, you should eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods. In fact, two-thirds of your dinner plate should consist of vegetables and fruits like broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.

Portion control may be the most effective weight-loss strategy around. It beat out exercise, regular physical activity, fat reduction in diet, and eating more fruits and veggies for effectiveness, according to researchers at the Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio. The study of 300 overweight people who were asked to practice five weight-loss strategies revealed that those who spent the most effort controlling portion size were most likely to lose weight and keep it off.

Break the habit of casually spooning food onto your plate by keeping a set of measuring cups and spoons on hand to ensure you end up with approximately one serving. No need to get too uptight by leveling off the top of a cup of corn. The idea is to train your eye to recognize what a single serving looks like. Here are a few visual clues to end portion distortion:

Serving Size of Fruit - Medium Piece = Size of Baseball
Serving Size of Meat - 3 ounces = Size of a Deck of Cards
Serving Size of Cheese - 1 ounce = Size of Four Dice

Use the comparisons on the Arthritis Today Portion Size Chart to eyeball proper portion sizes and end portion distortion.

Here are some more recommendations to help keep you on a healthy-eating track.
• Eat plant-based proteins. These are generally lower in saturated fat than meat-based proteins. Beans, lentils, dried peas, nuts, tofu and the grain quinoa are excellent protein sources.
• Don't drink your calories. Drinking even one sugar-sweetened soda a day can increase the risk of developing higher blood pressure and cholesterol. Quench your thirst with water instead.
• Resist the urge to fill your pantry and kitchen counter with starchy, fatty and refined foods. If you don't buy them, you won't eat them.
• For a healthy treat, opt for an orange or a glass of orange juice. Research has shown the importance of vitamin C and other antioxidants in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis and its progression.
• Stop eating when you feel mildly satisfied but not yet full. If you need to loosen a belt buckle after a meal, you're overstuffed.
• Record what you eat; even lean people underestimate how much they consume by 10-15 percent. And it has been proven that keeping a food diary can lead to weight loss. Weigh yourself regularly to monitor your progress.
• If you're sad, excited or depressed, take a walk rather than binging on high-fat foods. Emotional eating can quickly pull in the pounds.

Sticking with It
Whether you want to start a new healthy diet or a great new exercise routine, once the initial thrill of the program wears off, it's often difficult to stay motivated. Change is hard. But it's definitely possible, and healthy changes come packed with positive payback. Follow these tips to make your changes stick.

Keep at it. Repetition and routine are the keys to establishing new behaviors. Once you get used to reaching for fruit instead of cookies or starting your day with a walk around the block, it becomes an easy and expected part of your day.

Think small -- for now. Instead of promising to work out an hour a day for a year, commit to 30 minutes of exercise, three days a week, for the next two weeks. After that, commit to another two weeks. Soon you'll establish a habit that will carry you through.

Accept setbacks. Only 40 percent of people achieve their resolutions on the first attempt, according to research from the University of Washington Addictive Behaviors Research Center in Seattle. So go easy on yourself. If you slip up, give yourself a pep talk and try again.

Prepare for the worst. What will you do when someone tempts you with a slice of birthday cake? How will you exercise on fatigue-filled days? Map out the situations that could threaten your goal, and plan ahead how you'll handle them.

Surf the urge. When you're gripped by a craving, ride it out by taking slow, deep breaths. That will help you develop awareness before you choose to indulge.

Have faith in yourself. The belief that you can change what you want to change, no matter what the circumstances, really can impact your success. Your level of self-belief helps determine how long you can stick with a diet or weight loss plan, even when you run into a bump in the road. Ask for encouragement from friends and family and find a realistic role model so you can tell yourself, "If she did it, I can, too!"
• For information on specific vitamins and minerals, check out the Arthritis Today Vitamin and Mineral Guide.
• Study finds cutting calories is the crucial key to weight loss.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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