Dietician Zonya Foco wants to help women decrease their risk of heart disease by 60 percent.
She'll explain her heart-healthy habits at the ninth annual "The Heart Truth for Women" luncheon, hosted by St. Francis, on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Zonya, a guest presenter for "Oprah & Bob's Best Life Challenge," has nutrition games, demonstrations and funny stories planned for the event.
Rather than advocating strict dieting to stay healthy, Zonya encourages women to develop healthy habits that they'll maintain for life. She wants women to leave the luncheon feeling "renewed motivation and inspiration for their health," she says.
In high school through her early 20s Zonya fell victim to fad diets and seemingly quick-fix weight loss programs and watched her weight drop and then increase.
Though she studied nutrition in college, applying what she learned wasn't easy. "Just knowing it wasn't the answer. It took six years of teaching, of helping others, before I realized it was about mastering habits not diets," she says.
Once she successfully changed her habits, her weight loss stuck.
"It's amazing how life changing it is," she says.
Simple steps can make a big difference.
"Just seconds of exercise can really help," she says. "I want to inspire women to take on exercise in a new way."
Simple diet changes can also help. "Eat more beans, fish, veggies and fruits," she says.
"We really need to think about our habits. Are we abusing caffeine? Are we sabotaging our sleep? Take one whole week to look at your beverages," she says.
She advocates balance over elimination.
"You can eat anything sometimes. It's about balance. I'm going to have popcorn tonight so I'm going to lighten up at dinner and I'm not going to have bread or potatoes for dinner," she says.
She encourages women to evaluate their behaviors and master one good habit at time.
"Take on one good habit that can change our life. It can lengthen our life by years and years and add quality," she says.
For women who find themselves hitting fast food restaurants on their way home from work when they're short on time, Zonya offers a series of healthy "lickety-split" recipes at www.zonya.com.
"I love to cook for about 15 minutes and then I want dinner on the table," she says.
She has a few recipe tricks that she'll share with guests at the luncheon.
"I'm going to show them that things can be convenient and they can be tasty but not at the expense of our health," she says.
Understanding what's in the food you're eating is key to deciding how much you really like it.
"I'm not here to say doughnuts are a bad food. I'm here to say here's what's in that," she says.
Armed with that knowledge, women decide for themselves which foods they want to treat themselves to and which they want to skip.
"Personally, I love chocolate. I've turned into a chocolate snob I have a little food rule... I only eat dark chocolate," she says.
For mothers, mastering good nutrition is important so they can teach their children healthy habits that they'll maintain for life.
"I think teaching kids that it's not just about fat and fiber and sodium and sugar. That it's about natural foods," she says.
What: "The Heart Truth for Women" luncheon, hosted by St. Francis
When: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19
Where: St. Luke Ministry Center.
Attire: Attendees are asked to wear red to the luncheon. The red dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease.
Cost: Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at www.wecareforlife.com or by calling 706-596-4070.
Visit www.zonya.com for details.