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I don’t like the word “diet.” And based on what I’ve researched and read, neither do the experts. Dieting usually equals failure or short-term success. Lifestyle changes are what equal long-term results and successful weight loss.
So here we are again in a new year, busy as ever, running after kids, working long hours, cleaning the house, scrambling around to get dinner on the table, etc. Making a lifestyle change probably sounds like the last thing you have time for—don’t be so sure.
Lifestyle changes don’t have to be drastic. In fact, they should be subtle and made over a period of time if you want them to last. Don’t get me wrong, the cold turkey method does work for some people. But the majority of us have a hard time stopping life-long habits all at once without some regression.
Here is a list of ten small changes you can make to your life now without altering your lifestyle or habits too drastically. Choose a couple to start with and see how you do and then take it from there.
- Don’t drink calories. Start slow on this one if you are a big pop/juice drinker. If you need motivation, write down what you drink in a typical day, then look up the caloric content. You may be shocked. Pop, juice, alcohol … they all have calories. You know what doesn’t? Water. Think water is boring? Add some lemon or orange slices. In the morning, I like to pour myself just a couple inches of cranberry or orange juice and then water it down. It gives me that juice flavor I crave with my breakfast without all the calories.
- Eat smaller portions. Well, duh. I know you’ve heard this one before, but really try to downsize and tell yourself you can have seconds. Then, once you’ve finished, assess whether you are really hungry or just want to keep eating.
- Change your snack habits. Notice I said change your habits, not stop them. A little snack here and there throughout the day is necessary to sustain energy sometimes. And I know, it’s super important for it to be quick and easy, like a cookie, or muffin, or candy bar … You know what else is easy? A banana, a cheese stick, a handful of nuts and dried fruit. You get the picture. Clean up your act!
- Stop cleaning your kids’ plates for them. Are you guilty of grabbing a nugget off your child’s plate after they bounce away from the table to play? Stop. I know it feels wasteful, but just pick up their plates and toss their leftovers down the disposal (or wrap them up for tomorrow). All those nuggets and mac and cheese leftovers can add up to hundreds of extra calories a day.
- Add 10 minutes of exercise to your day. Whether it’s a 10-minute exercise video you can do on the floor of your bedroom before the kids get up or a quick round of jumping jacks and jump rope in the backyard, get yourself moving first thing in the morning to set the tone of the day.
- Amp up your chores to burn calories. The next time you do a load of laundry, run up and down your stairs and extra time at top speed. While you’re vacuuming, vacuum the curtains as well. Just add a little something to those chores to give yourself that extra push.
- Change your sugar habits. I LOVE sugar. Love, love, love it! And usually after a meal, I like something sweet. Here are a few treats I love to stop myself from eating a cupcake or bag of M&Ms after every meal: dark chocolate (one or two pieces hits the spot!), Tootsie Roll pops (if you suck on them, they last a long time, which totally satisfies the sugar craving), sugarless gum (by far the best option if you can make due without an edible treat).
- Fill up on a quick, healthy breakfast. Spending a half hour cooking up an elaborate breakfast for yourself every morning probably doesn’t fit into your schedule. But these healthy foods will, and they’ll fill you up: whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas, Greek yogurt with dried fruit and Cheerios, egg sandwich on a whole-wheat English muffin.
- Find a fast-food alternative. Yes, there are always going to be days where you just don’t have time to make dinner. Nope, you don’t even have time to defrost something and reheat it. You MUST pick up something quick and easy that could possibly be eaten in the car. Ok, fine. Try to find a local sub shop that has fresh-sliced deli meat, tuna salad or grilled chicken. Serve ’em up with fresh fruit and you and your family will feel a lot better than if you had inhaled greasy cheeseburgers and fries.
- Make pizza night healthier. Ah, pizza night. We live for it in my household. But we’ve cut back to once a month (or sometimes every two weeks) instead of once a week. And we’re also trying to make our own, healthier pizzas with lots of veggies and a homemade crust. Kids LOVE helping make pizza, so ditch the delivery (at least some of the time) and lighten up pizza night!
Notice how I didn’t include a new exercise plan in these 10 items? Jogging for a half hour every day or going to the gym for an hour three times a week will definitely give you results, but this list is about small, realistic changes you can make without waking up at 5am or hiring a babysitter to hit the gym or spending your evenings on a treadmill.
Remember, small changes like these will get you results, but not overnight. If you want to do an extreme diet for a week or two or amp up your exercise routine to jump start your weight loss, do it! More power to you! These are just simple little tricks you can do to start giving your day-to-day life a healthy makeover that will also set a great example for your family.