It can feel daunting to start a weight loss or exercise plan, but it doesn’t have to be. Making just a few changes can make a big difference, as can pacing yourself. Starting out with a few new habits and setting realistic goals will stick with you better in the long run than fad diets or extreme exercise plans. So go ahead, ease into it for lasting change.
Start by reviewing your habits in three areas: drinks, food and activity. Pick one area to focus on first, and start with the one that feels most doable.
Consider what you are drinking. Cutting out sodas and other high sugar drinks, like juice, energy drinks and loaded coffees can make a big impact. For example, a large (16 oz.) flavored latte with 2% milk has 35 grams of sugar and 250 calories and a can of regular soda has about 150 calories.
“If you change only one habit for your health, start by replacing caloric drinks with water, including soda, juice and alcoholic beverages. People don’t realize how many calories are in a simple drink and how cutting way back will help them maintain a healthy weight,” said Dr. Rick Ray with the Prowers Medical Center Clinic.
While the average woman needs 1600 – 2000 calories and the average man needs 2200 – 2800, you can imagine that drinking even just two sugary drinks a day could by itself equal at least a few extra pounds every month. It takes just 3500 extra calories to put on one pound.
Replace high calorie drinks with water or sparkling water with a splash of juice to add flavor. Check labels on drinks to make sure your favorite products are not loaded with sugar, as sugar equals calories, and empty ones at that.
Next up, change one or two eating habits. Maybe you simply replace lard with olive oil when cooking, or give up fried foods, or pack lunches for work rather than relying on fast food. Or, select new foods at the grocery store.
“Choose whole foods rather than processed, especially avoid those high in trans-fats, partially hydrogenated fats and corn syrup, and eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, both raw and cooked. Foods high in fiber, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, slow absorption, reduce hunger, and improve digestion,” said Dr. Margaret Loewen with Prowers Medical Center Clinic.
Lastly, start a new activity habit, something you can do every day. Now that the days are getting longer, consider committing to a walk every day before dinner. Set a realistic goal to start. If you are not used to walking, set a goal of walking around the block two times, then after a week or two, increase that to 4 times, then a mile, then two miles after a few months. To keep you motivated, set the goal with a buddy or consider getting a pedometer that tracks your daily exercise and gives you a conscious goal to work towards, like 10,000 steps, every day.
“Walking is the single best exercise out there and it doesn’t demand spending a lot of money on special equipment. Plus, it’s something you can do alone and do anywhere,” Ray said.
Remember, exercising is great for overall health but by itself it’s typically not enough to lose weight. Think of it as a way to maintain weight and improve your health, overall.
“The more we learn about exercise, nutrition and chronic diseases, the more we realize how huge an impact healthy choices can make,” Loewen concluded.
If you need help getting started, visit with a provider at Prowers Medical Center Clinic by calling (719) 336-6767. Besides its regular hours, the clinic has convenient evening, same-day appointments until 7:00 pm Mon – Thurs, and walk-in appointments 7:00 am – 8:30 am Mon – Fri, and Sat from 8:00 am to Noon.