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New year ... new healthy you


January 17, 2020

Jana Peterson

Walking outside during winter in appropriate clothes and footwear is good for the body and soul. And walking through the trees at the Cloquet Forestry Center (seen here) is pretty too, no matter what the season. Researchers have found that being in nature has a positive effect on mind, body and spirit. And the Vitamin D from a dose of sunshine also helps.

It's a new year and once again you've resolved to get healthy. And you're certainly not alone.

According to the website Body Blueprint, the No. 1 New Year's resolution is to lose weight.

Every year millions of people make such resolutions, followed by a grab-bag of others, from quitting smoking, to drinking less alcohol, to exercising more, to cutting out sugar.

Unfortunately, Body Blueprint also notes that a staggering 80 percent of all these well-intentioned aspirations are broken by the second week of February.

So how can you keep your promises to yourself in 2020?

We checked in with Dr. Natalie Krier at Community Memorial Hospital's Raiter Family Clinic to establish some steps you can take to create a healthier you.

Krier pointed out that one of the first considerations for any fitness journey is food.

"One way people can take a pretty painless step toward getting healthier and losing weight is looking at how much they eat out," she said. "Most people eat out way more than they realize and generally that food isn't necessarily the healthiest. I suggest trying to eat more at home. Even a small step in this direction will help."

She recommends thoughtful grocery shopping that involves a list (not done while you are hungry), with at least three recipes on hand for planned, healthy meals.

"Go to the store prepared," Krier said. "It's also true that you should do most of your shopping on the outer aisles of the store where the meat and produce are. More of the processed foods are located on the interior shelves."

She suggests planning for meals that include protein such as chicken or beans, and vegetables, with veggies and fruit filling half of your plate. (See recommended plate portions at

"It's much easier these days, even if you are in a hurry, to get your vegetables to the table quickly," she said, noting that there are many healthy choices in the frozen area as well.

Bonus: it's also cheaper to eat at home than it is to dine out in most cases.

Once you've stocked your fridge and cabinets, be mindful of portion control, remembering that one serving of meat equals the size of your palm.

Unfortunately, according to Krier, some people consume many of their daily allotted calories in drinks, from sodas to cappuccinos to alcohol.

"A lot of people don't realize how much sugar you find in drinks," she said. "Some things are obvious, but there's also a lot of sugar in drinks like sweet tea and juices. A lot of coffee drinks also come with a lot of sugar. Some are made with straight-up sugar and syrup. That's worse than a lot of cream and milk, which also have sugars."

She said alcohol can have quite a lot of sugar in it, and it's not just the soda you add to your mixed drink. Liquors and wine contain sugar as well.

Next up ... exercise.

"Everyone's goal in the New Year is to exercise, but in the winter up here it's unpredictable and it's hard to commit to when it's so cold outside," Krier said. "There are a lot of great fitness places but those aren't always cheap and can be intimidating for people just starting out."

She recommends making use of places like schools or shopping malls that are also open to the public for walking purposes, and incorporating walks into your day by parking farther away from the store or work, for example.

In Cloquet, residents are welcome to walk the upper level at Northwoods Credit Union Arena, and also at Washington Elementary School. Washington is open to walkers before and after school on school days.

The walking program is free but people have to sign up with Cloquet Community Ed and get a badge to wear when they walk. No pets or running are allowed, and people are asked to wear clean shoes.

Exercise with a buddy, Krier recommends, to hold yourself accountable and make yourself stronger than your excuses.

"It's too easy to back out when it's cold outside if it's just you, but if you have someone depending on you it's likely to make you more accountable."

Northwoods is closed to walkers during games that have paid admission, but people can walk there from about 7 a.m. until the last practice at night most weekdays and weekend times depend on what games are scheduled. There is an elevator to get up to the upper floor for those who struggle with stairs. Temperatures are cooler at the arena so dress accordingly. There are also others who walk indoors at the local Walmart store, although there is no official walking program there.

Walking outside in daylight can be even better, as long as you dress for the conditions, including footwear. Although the ski trails at Pine Valley are not open to walkers in the winter, snowshoers are welcome to hike the mountain bike trails there or walk on the trails just off Spring Lake Road and White Pine Trail. The Cloquet Forestry Center also has a number of trails open for ambulating all year around.

Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are fun options to get into as a family, and there are lots of local ice skating options, including the fun new skating ribbon at Dunlap Island in Cloquet.

Krier said it is also important to take care of your mental health during the long winter months. She recommends UV lamps.

"A lot of folks are affected by the lack of vitamin D in winter," she said. "The best way to address that is to check out light lamps that give off imitation sunlight. Vitamin D supplements can help as well, but they are typically for people with a true deficiency and not those who are just lacking some of the benefits of the sun. But vitamin D deficiency and lack of sun can affect you on many levels."

According to the Mayo Clinic vitamin D deficiency can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen. Vitamin D also appears to play a role in insulin production and immune function.

Although the amount of vitamin D adults get from their diets is often less than what's recommended, exposure to sunlight can make up for the difference.

The recommended dietary allowance for adults is 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. That goes up to 800 IU a day for those older than age 70. To meet this level, choose foods rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, trout, tuna or fortified foods, such as milk and yogurt.

Other alternatives to keeping your happy self going during the dark months include activities such as yoga, and just plain staying social.

Dr. Natalie Krier

"Yoga is great because it not only helps calm you, but it is also often done in a group setting," Dr. Krier said. "It's important to stay social in winter. It's too easy to stay at home when it's cold and snowy. Go to the movies with friends or meet up and walk. If that is not an option, there are online options for yoga and exercise."

As for the good doctor herself, she hits her at-home rowing machine to get her steps in.

"We have a little rowing machine I use," she said. "My husband likes the Anytime Fitness gym in town. We have a baby so it is hard for both of us to go to the gym together. I would also recommend occasional meal subscription services to have on hand. We do that three times a week and that saves time and also assures we are getting the right nutrients, calories and so forth without the added stress of planning and shopping."


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