Melissa Rudy

A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into the online content field in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.

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10 Things Registered Dietitians Tell Their Clients on Day One

Every journey starts with a single step.
Of course, that step can be different for different people, depending on where they’re starting from and where they’re headed. For someone who is trying to exercise more, for example, it might mean taking a walk around the block or buying a pair of athletic shoes. If the goal is to stop smoking, the first step might be cutting out one cigarette a day or tossing the entire pack in the trash. The most important thing is to make a movement—even if it’s a small one—toward the desired result.
What about the journey to adopt a healthier diet? It’s a very common (and very broad) goal, one that can be overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. You know the basics—more fresh, whole, nutritious foods; fewer processed foods and “junk foods” that don’t fuel your body—but what specifically should you do first?
While your path is uniquely your own, you might find some helpful ideas in the advice that registered dietitians give to their clients who are just embarking on the first day of their journeys to health.

1. Remember that it's not a quick fix.

This is hands-down the most common guidance that experts offer to their clients. While it’s good to be excited and enthusiastic at the outset of the journey, a healthy lifestyle is just that—a lifestyle. Instead of expecting immediate results, it’s best to focus on consistently healthy habits that will achieve sustainable results over the long term.
“Achieving one’s weight goals, whether it involves weight loss or not, is most sustainable when long-term lifestyle changes are introduced into a practical setting,” notes Rachel Fine, M.S., a registered dietitian nutritionist. “I can’t expect clients to change old habits from day one, and they need to be easier on themselves when it comes to their own self-expectations.”

2. Create a 10-day plan leading up to day one.  

Becky Hand, a registered dietitian nutritionist with SparkPeople, encourages her clients to design a detailed "10 days to the start" plan. “This is not a 10-day period to binge before the diet begins, but it is 10 days to get your ducks in a row—to get your life in order so that you can build momentum and have greater success regarding your weight-loss goal,” she explains.
Everyone will have a different 10-day plan based on their individual needs. To help you process and personalize your plan, Hand recommends asking yourself some specific questions:
  • To decrease temptation, which binge foods need to be removed from your home?
  • Identify 15 easy-to-prepare, low-calorie dinners that you and your family enjoy. What ingredients do you need to purchase for these meals? When will you go shopping?
  • Share 10 of your favorite healthy, low-calorie snacks.  
  • What low-calorie beverages do you plan to drink?
  • Name your three favorite restaurants. What do you plan to order when you go to these places?
  • How have you tracked your food intake in the past? What has worked well for you? What technique do you plan to use now?
Hand finds that after completing their 10-day pre-plan, the “day one” behavior becomes a "no-brainer" and builds momentum and success.

3. Master one thing at a time.

Instead of trying to eat perfectly at every meal and make smart choices 100 percent of the time, you’re likely to achieve better results by focusing on mastering one thing at a time, notes registered dietitian nutritionist Jeanette Kimszal. Inspired by the book "The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, the idea is that the combination of small daily habits with only one clear-cut goal will propel you forward.
For one person, that might mean trading soda for water or tea. For another, it might be eating fruit as a side dish instead of French fries. Once that single change has become established as a consistently successful habit, it’s time to move on to the next small goal.
Research shows it takes about 66 days for a new habit to take shape, so don't beat yourself up if it takes some time to meet your new goals,” Kimszal says. “Once you have mastered that habit, move on to something new that you want to accomplish.”

4. Set up your home environment for success.

Michelle Hyman, M.S., R.D., believes that a person’s surroundings can make all the difference in hitting their nutritional goals. On day one, she tells her clients to start by going through the pantry, refrigerator and freezer to get rid of any foods and beverages that could potentially sabotage their efforts.
“Are you keeping a lot of tempting, high-calorie junk foods in the house? Are you keeping candy dishes by the couch? If you live with others who have no intentions of making healthier choices, are they willing to keep their snacks separate from yours, such as in a separate drawer or higher shelf?” she asks.

5. You don’t have to be perfect.

“There will be a learning process, and that is the best part of the journey. This is something that lasts for life, so build a solid foundation,” advises registered dietitian Ben Tzeel. “If one day you miss your goal, that’s okay—just figure out what happened, come up with a plan to avoid it going forward and make up for it the following day.”
Hyman tells her new clients that they should fully expect to experience a few slips along the way, and to see them as a learning opportunity instead of a discouragement. “Start paying attention to what causes you to stray from making healthy choices,” she suggests. “Does skipping breakfast lead you to buying snacks from the vending machine? Do you tend to crave desserts after a hard day at work? If so, 
Most dietitians agree that the “all or nothing” method isn’t a sustainable approach to nutrition. “Don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself to be successful. In fact, that will likely lead to you being less successful in the long run,” Tzeel says.
As an example, if you decide to eat a dessert or want a special meal at a restaurant, just be mindful about planning for it. You may have to modify some of your meals throughout the day to ensure that you still reach all of your nutritional goals, but you can still enjoy your favorite foods and treats in moderation.
Hyman adds that it is usually a lot easier to replace a less healthy habit with a healthier one than it is to completely eliminate a behavior. “For example, if you consistently eat a bag of potato chips every night while watching television, instead of resolving to never eat while watching TV again [or] try having a healthier snack, instead,” she suggests.

7. It’s about more than just nutrition and exercise.

For people on a weight-loss journey, it’s easy to get laser-focused on the “calories in, calories out” equation, but health coach Lisa Lewtan tells her clients that good health is more than just nutrition and exercise.
“Are you getting enough sleep? Making time for tranquility? Having enough fun?” she asks. “We look at the whole life and set mini goals initiated by the client to start moving to a more positive direction.” When one thing improves, Lewtan believes, everything else starts to improve along with it.

8. Make sure you know why you’re starting.

Before moving forward with anything else, registered dietitian Summer Yule always wants to know what brings a person in and why they want to accomplish their goal.
“It’s a common misconception that dietitians just help people with weight loss,” she points out. “There are dietitians who take a ‘non-diet’ approach, helping people to develop healthier habits without focusing on the number on the scale at all. This can be a very positive strategy for some people to help them move toward greater health.”
Whatever goal a person has for themselves, Yule aims to help them make it a SMART goal, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. She finds it helpful to re-frame larger goals into a set of smaller, specific milestones that feel more achievable.

9. Visualize what your life will be like.

Brandon Cole, personal trainer and nutrition coach, uses a powerful exercise when working with clients for the first time. He asks them to visualize what their lives will be like once they've accomplished their goal—what they will look like, and how they will feel emotionally and physically. He encourages them to get into as much detail as possible.
“The purpose is to get the person emotionally connected to that image,” Cole explains. “We have two brains: one rational and one emotional. The rational brain knows what they should be doing to reach their goal, but the emotional brain is impulsive and always wins out if there's a struggle between the two. If a person doesn't have an emotionally vested interest in staying on track to their goal, it won't be motivating enough to keep going when times get tough.”

10. Make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Hyman tells her clients that healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to look for easier, quicker ways to meet their goals. For example, if you don't have much time to cook during the work week, she says, don’t hesitate to take some shortcuts. Having a fully cooked rotisserie chicken from the store, frozen steam-in-bag plain vegetables, 90-second microwaveable brown rice, frozen turkey burgers and/or pre-cut and washed veggies that are ready to roast on hand can be the difference between cooking a healthy meal at home or getting takeout.
“You don't have to make everything from scratch in order to eat healthier,” she points out.
Although everyone starts from a different point and is headed to their own definition of an optimal result, these practical and accessible tips are universally helpful when it comes to adopting healthier eating habits.

Posted 1/16/2019  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 2 comments   87 views

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25 Warm & Cozy Ginger Recipes

Ginger's main claim to fame might be its adorable namesake cookies—and don't get us wrong, they're delicious. But this versatile spice makes an appearance in plenty of other recipes, many of which fit nicely into any healthy eating plan.
Derived from a flowering plant found in China, ginger has been linked to a bevy of health benefits. It contains compounds and metabolites that have been used to help improve digestion, curb nausea, alleviate cold and flu symptoms, reduce muscle pain, fight inflammation and boost cardiovascular health. Plus, 100 grams of fresh ginger is chock-full of vitamins and minerals, contains no sugar and is low in calories.
When cooking with ginger, you can use a fresh ginger root that is peeled and grated or sliced, or purchase it in dried or ground form. Ground ginger is sold at the supermarket along with other herbs and spices.
Need some ginger-spiration? We've rounded up a few of our favorite recipes in which it plays a yummy role.

Posted 1/9/2019  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 28 comments   4,782 views

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6 Tips for Keeping Your Resolutions on Track

On the first day of a new year, resolutions are like a fresh snowfall: bright and clean, unmarred by even the slightest failure. But by the time February rolls around, life's daily challenges and pressures have started to leave their muddy footprints, gradually turning the once-pristine snow into dirty slush, until you eventually forget how brilliant and full of promise it once was.
It's perfectly normal for even the most carefully chosen goals to lose some of their luster as the novelty of the new year starts to fade. That doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to wallowing in the mud of defeat, though. There are always fresh, unsullied opportunities waiting just around the corner, and every day is a chance to strike out on a brand-new path.
Instead of beating yourself up for neglecting your workouts or straying from your healthy eating plan, strap on your proverbial boots and try some of these expert-recommended strategies to keep your goals in sight well after the ball has dropped.

Posted 1/7/2019  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 100 comments   27,546 views

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50 SparkPeople Members' & Staffers' Goals for 2019

Got goals? While we're firm believers that you don't have to wait until a certain date to start embracing healthier habits, there's just something about a brand-new year that seems to inject all of those long-neglected good intentions with a much-needed dose of motivation. If you're feeling the urge to wipe the slate clean, turn over a new leaf or (insert your favorite "fresh start" cliché here), the first step is to have a clear idea of what success looks like for you.

If your goal-setting game is a little rusty, we've got you. Some of our SparkPeople members and staffers have shared what they hope to achieve in the coming year, to help inspire you to set the right targets and then get on track to meet them.

Posted 1/1/2019  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 43 comments   5,958 views

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30 Ways SparkPeople Members & Staffers Work to Love Their Bodies

In this age of constant comparisons, time-starved schedules and endless temptations, it's all too easy to slide into the trap of blaming, shaming and sometimes even hating our own bodies when they don't measure up to the standards in our heads. But it doesn't have to be that way. No matter how much it weighs, your body is nothing short of an amazing instrument—even if it has a little (or a lot of) ways to go before reaching its full potential.
Many of our members struggle with body image and self-esteem issues. They have setbacks and struggles. They take one step forward and three steps back, and then repeat the cycle, over and over again. There are days when they feel frustrated, lonely and maybe even angry.
But through it all, they find reasons and ways to love their bodies. Next time you're at a loss for how to appreciate yours, visit this list for some self-affirming inspiration.

Posted 12/31/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 36 comments   6,565 views

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12 Hearty Soup Recipes That Will Warm You Up

The weather outside may be frightful (unless you're lucky enough to live in a southern state), but soup is so delightful…
On a chilly fall afternoon or blustery winter night, a steaming potage ranks right up there with a hot bubble bath when it comes to keeping warm. Luckily, soup has a lot more going for it than its temperature. It's easy to cook, easy to serve, easy to eat, easy to reheat—are you sensing a theme here? Plus, if you're looking to ramp up your family's nutrition, it's the perfect medium for sneaking veggies past picky eaters.
Whatever your tastes, preferences and dietary requirements, there's a soup for that. Grab a spoon: We've rounded up some of our favorite SparkRecipes that will be sure to keep everyone warm and satisfied, no matter how harsh the elements.

Posted 12/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 93 comments   412,806 views

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30 Things to Say to Yourself to Avoid Sleeping Through Your Morning Workout

You meant well at bedtime. You registered online for spin class, set out your gym clothes, shared your intentions with your significant other and drifted off to sleep with visions of strong, sculpted legs and glutes dancing in your head.
But that was eight hours ago.
Now, jolted into reality by the very loud, very rude alarm, that early-morning workout isn't quite so appealing. On the contrary, it seems like cruel and unusual punishment. And you'd be willing to trade pretty much anything—money, chocolate, even a couple of the pounds you've already lost—to sink back into the dream you were just enjoying.
But wait! Before turning off the alarm and nestling back under the covers, borrow one (or more) of these quick-but-effective motivators to make sure your sleepy 6 a.m. brain won't do something you'll spend all day regretting. And if you’re worried you won't be able to remember any of these mantras in the morning, write your favorite ones down right next to your bed where you will see them first thing.

Posted 12/14/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 61 comments   8,721 views

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13 Healthy & Delicious Ways to Marinate Chicken

The cheeseburger is far from dead (for meat eaters, that is), but chicken has been the clear winner over beef for decades now. Although plant-based diets continue to grow in popularity, poultry still reigns as the primary source of protein in the United States,and for good reason: Chicken is packed with vitamins and minerals, is low in calories, its nutrients have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, and it has far lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat compared to red meat.
And it doesn't hurt that it tastes great—especially when it's prepped with a little TLC before cooking. You don't have to be an accomplished chef to get on the marinade train—with some simple tips and a recipe, anyone can turn a boring breast into an exciting, flavorful piece of chicken.

Posted 12/5/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 41 comments   15,603 views

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How to Remain Grateful to Your Body While Working to Improve It

"There's no way I can run a 5K."
"At this rate, I'll never reach my goal weight."
"I can't do a pushup (or a pull-up, or a sit-up…)"
"I would look terrible in that dress."
When you're on a journey to transform or improve your body, it's natural to identify those areas that you'd like to change. But while it's good to set specific goals, hosting a constant inner monologue of self-criticism won't help you reach them any faster.
It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what your body CAN'T do: It can’t shed pounds fast enough, it can't move quickly or nimbly enough, it can't look like it's "supposed" to in certain clothes, it can't lift the same amount of weight as the slimmer, fitter person next to you at the gym. But when you remain laser-focused on those perceived flaws and weaknesses, you'll ultimately lose sight of your body's many strengths and capabilities.

Posted 11/30/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 115 comments   16,209 views

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17 Budget-Friendly Dinner Recipes for $3 or Less per Serving

For three dollars, you can get a cheeseburger and a large order of French fries at McDonald's. It will also buy a Gordita Supreme from Taco Bell, or an order of chicken nuggets and onion rings from Burger King.
Easy on the wallet, sure—but you'll pay a steep premium in terms of calories, fat and lack of nutrition.
What if we told you that for the same amount of money, you could prepare a healthier and far more satisfying meal at home? While it might cost a bit more to assemble all of the ingredients, when you break it down to the per-serving price, the creators of these budget-friendly recipes say they won't cost any more than a drive-thru value meal.

Posted 11/29/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 42 comments   11,723 views

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26 Simple & Satisfying Slow Cooker Soups for Chilly Nights

Soup is one of those delightfully versatile foods that can be enjoyed year round—but if we had to pick a favorite season to spoon it up, winter would be the winner. There's nothing like a steaming hot bowl of bisque, broth, chowder or stew to chase away the chill and keep you satisfied until your next meal. Plus, soups are a great way to sneak some extra veggies and lean proteins into your daily diet, particularly during a time of year when there seems to be a not-so-healthy temptation lurking around every corner. If you're filled up on nutritious soup, you'll be less likely to succumb to all of the cookies, cakes and cocoa that will inevitably cross your path.  
Soup is great on the stovetop, but when paired with the slow cooker, you get the ultimate in crave-worthy convenience. Just add your ingredients, turn it on and go about your day—and when you arrive back at home, you'll have a hearty, satisfying meal to warm up your night. And if you have an Instant Pot, you can curl up with a bowl of your favorite soup in a matter of minutes.

Posted 11/21/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 100 comments   159,773 views

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How to Stop Feeling Guilty for Losing Weight

We talk a lot about all the good things that come with weight loss. There's the lower risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol, increased mobility, renewed confidence, reduced chance of diabetes—the list goes on (and on and on). But parting with pounds can also come with some not-so-positive side effects, many of which go unspoken, disguised or overlooked.
Like weight loss guilt.

Posted 11/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 50 comments   11,076 views

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How a Single Working Mother Finally Lost the Weight—This Time for Good

Like many SparkPeople members, 43-year-old Chris (ASHLEEMICAHSMOM) can't remember a time when she hasn't struggled with her weight. As an elementary school student in Flint, Michigan, she used to sneak the "goodies" out of other kids' lunchboxes.
"While I was never really bullied about my weight, I have always felt fat, and I always compared myself to all the pretty, skinny girls," she recalls. Then, when Chris lost her father at 18, she sought comfort in even more food. It wasn't long before her childhood chubbiness had become full-fledged obesity.

Posted 11/15/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 57 comments   14,183 views

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11 of the Best YouTube Fitness Channels

The gym is far from dead, a good group fitness class can be highly motivating and a run or walk around the block can be a great way to burn calories while enjoying the fresh air. But if you're pressed for time, house-bound by nasty weather or just having one of those days when you'd rather not venture out into close proximity to other humans, you can still get a great workout in the comfort and privacy of home.

Posted 11/8/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 156 comments   110,291 views

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The Advice That Changed SparkPeople Members' Lives

Everyone has their own turning point. For some, that "a-ha moment" might come from seeing an unflattering photo of themselves. For others, it might be having to ask for a seatbelt extender on an airplane, or not being able to keep up during a family hike. Maybe it comes in the form of something much more serious, like worrisome test results from the doctor or a life-threatening medical emergency.
While these instances can change a life around for the good, not everyone experiences them. Sometimes, a turning point can be as simple as a a single piece of advice given in a time of need.

Posted 11/1/2018  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 56 comments   14,840 views

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