Many of us are inspired by the "New Year, New You" slogans, but past bad habits will return unless we make long term changes. Step one is to check with your doctor to discuss any limitations to your food and exercise plan. Step two: grab your calendar, and let's get started.
Week one: Keep a food diary. Write down everything that you eat and drink and all of your exercise time for at least one week. The truth about our habits will be revealed. The key here is complete honesty.
Week two: Modify your fluids. Water is key to weight loss as it flushes toxins from the body and improves hormonal and digestive signals. Start decreasing your caffeine and wean yourself from coffee and all sodas, drink mixes and flavored waters.
Week three: Overhaul breakfast. Skipping breakfast is associated with 300% risk of obesity. Add in a small amount of lean protein, start eliminating sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet. Skip the OJ and eat the whole fruit instead.
Week 4: Start your exercise program. Begin with 30 minutes a day. Start slowly and alternate activities to prevent muscle overload. We lose both muscle mass and flexibility as we age, so add in weights or resistance bands and stretch before and after your workout.
Week 5: Overhaul lunch. Time to brownbag it. You'll save both calories and dollars. Treat yourself to a cup of green tea at the bookstore and check out Rena Tosco's "The Eat Clean Diet" for ideas of what to pack in your cooler.
Week 6: Overhaul dinner. Sit down and plan ten meals of foods that are Healthy, low calorie and low in sugars and that you enjoy. Preplanning will help you stay on track.
At the end of week six, repeat your food diary to see your progress and make adjustments. Apply the 80/20 rule: eat healthy eighty percent of the time in order to allow for the occasional night out or special treat.
Eating and exercise habits come from decades of beliefs and conditioning, so be gentle with yourself. Instituting small changes will take you a long way toward your goal. Be your own cheerleader and by this time next year you'll be celebrating a healthy "New You."
Angela LaSalle, MD is board certified in family medicine and practices integrative medicine with Indiana Health Group in Carmel, IN. 317-843-9922. www.angelalasallemd.com