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Setting realistic goals helps shed holiday weight
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Blood pressure screenings. 10 a.m. fourth Tuesday of the month. Hall County Senior Center, Gainesville, 770-538-2603.
Stroke screenings. 9 a.m. fourth Thursday of the month. River Community Church, 5043 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville. 800-697-9721.


Take off pounds sensibly. 10 a.m. Thursdays. St. Michael Catholic Church, 1440 Pearce Circle NE, Gainesville. 770-536-6268 and 770-536-0501.

Weight Watchers. 5:45 p.m. Mondays; 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays; 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays; 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursdays; 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Fridays; 8 and 9:30 a.m. Saturdays, 975 Dawsonville Highway, Suite 14, Gainesville. 800-651-6000 or

Indoor walking. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. first Monday of the month. Mulberry Creek Community Center, 4491 J.M. Turk Road, Flowery Branch. 770-965-7140.

Indoor walking. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. first Monday of the month. East Hall Community Center, 3911 P. Davidson Road, Gainesville. 678-450-1540.

Lakeshore Walkers Program. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Saturdays, Lakeshore Mall, 150 Pearl Nix Parkway, Gainesville.

Low-impact Zumba. 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Flowery Branch United Methodist Church, 5212 Spring St., Flowery Branch. $3 per class. 770-337-1572.

Joints in Motion class, Braselton. 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, 1400 River Place, Braselton. Free.

Frances Meadows Aquatic Center. Facility with an outdoor water park, plus an indoor competition pool & instructional pool. 1545 Community Way, Gainesville. 770-533-5850,

North Georgia Physicians Group Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. 770-219-9209,

Remnants of holiday season-indulgences may have crept onto your waistline and stuck around long after the party was over. If you’re looking to have the numbers on the scale decrease before temperatures increase, local experts say the key is making gradual changes.

“You have to discipline yourself to make those small changes,” said Zandrea Stephens, assistant division manager at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville, a fitness facility with two indoor pools, a seasonal outdoor water park and water and land exercise classes.

“What has worked for me is not going into a diet abruptly,” she said, adding that she doesn’t start a diet suddenly changing her eating habits. “I like to gradually go into a diet.”

By not taking a hard approach to a diet, it allows you to evaluate your eating habits and see which foods you may need to eat more or less of.

For example, Stephens found she needed to add more greens and nutrients to her diet. As she added the greens, she took out some of the breads and french fries.

“Then your body isn’t in shock and you don’t feel the fatigue,” she said.

Jennifer Way, a registered dietitian at North Georgia Physicians Group Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, said to start a more healthy lifestyle, set small, realistic goals. Huge goals can seem unattainable and cause you to give up.

She also suggests having a support person or someone else make the lifestyle change with you.
“Whether it’s a dietary plan or a workout buddy, (having a buddy) will keep people motivated,” she said.
Start slow when it comes to working out, too, Stephens said. She recommends working out at least 30 minutes each day.

Way said to stay away from quick-fix diets, as they’ll likely be temporary and you’ll gain the weight back.
“Focus more on the gradual weight decrease,” she said. “If they don’t meet a goal within a certain week, people tend to get frustrated or lose motivation.”

Stephens recommends drinking plenty of water to flush the body of sugars and starches from the holiday overeating.

She also recommends introducing more fruits and vegetables into your diet. She brings two apples to work with her each day and has cut back from snacking on pretzels and granola bars.

Stay away from fast food every day or multiple times a week.

“Sometimes you have to go, so when you do look for the healthy option,” Stephens said. “Look for the salad or wrap that you can incorporate into your eating habits.

Choose goals that will make eating healthier easier in the long-term.

“Do more grilling options, add more fruits or vegetables or eat out less,” Way said.

“When you deprive yourself of something, you’re more likely to want ‘cheat days’ where you get off track.”