Happy, Healthy New Year!

Looking at me, you would never guess that I used to weigh nearly 200 lbs. My parents have always lived healthy, active lifestyles and encouraged this lifestyle for my siblings and myself. Beginning in high school, my interests turned from sports to theatre and music. I spent less time exercising, and even as a swimmer my diet was never the greatest. This is me just before last Halloween. I weigh between 150-155 lbs. I’m a dress size 8 instead of the 16 I wore to prom.

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I was the fat kid in my family. We would go on vacation, and I would be the one lagging behind on the bike ride or huffing and puffing my way up the stairs. I’m tall, so it never seemed like obesity was a problem. Most people tell me that they can’t picture me heavier than I am now. Here I am in 2013 on the left, 2010 on the right.

One of the most common New Years’ resolutions is to lose weight or get healthier. Now that we’ve reached the end of January, it’s a good time to check-in with your goals. I heard on the radio that 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the end of January. Making these lifestyle changes isn’t easy. Many of you have probably noticed that diets fail and shortcuts don’t produce results.

Slowly, over the course of three years, I made changes to my diet and general lifestyle that contributed to my weight loss. Today I’ve lost nearly 40 lbs. Everyone is different, so what works for me may not work for you. Also note that even though I want to be a doctor, I am not a doctor; this is not medical advice.

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After my first 5k! The Color Run

Here are some small changes that can add up for big results!

1) Drink Your Coffee & Tea Plain

Real talk. Caramel macchiatos, vanilla frapuccinos, and chai lattes are packed with sugar. Some of those drinks can have over 300 calories! Add a muffin or a breakfast sandwich and you’ve already pushed past 600 calories for one meal.

I know cutting back on sugar is difficult. I still struggle with resisting candy and other sweet treats. Some people may not care for coffee without the sugar and cream. If that’s the case, start cutting back. Use some honey instead of sugar. Use plain milk instead of sweetened creamers. Cut back on the number of creamers or sugars you add in.

Black coffee is between 2-5 calories. No fat, no sugar. Tea is about the same. You can get your caffeine without adding on the unnecessary.

2) Stop Drinking Your Calories in General

I’m convinced soda is poison. The amount of sugar in soda should be criminal. I’ve known plenty of people who have dropped 10-15 lbs. just from cutting out soda! Diet soda is still soda. Though there’s no “sugar” there are additives that create a similar insulin response. Bottled teas, juices, and drinks like “Smart Water” can have between 20-40 grams of sugar. That’s as much as a candy bar!

Check your labels. If your drink has more than 15-20 grams of sugar, drink water instead. If you can, replace as many beverages as you can with water.

3) Check. The. Labels.

If you’re trying to cut back on salt, sugar, fat, or calories in general, read the labels. You might be surprised by which foods aren’t as good for you as they seem. Check the serving size! A bag of chips that you’re used to eating in one sitting may actually have 2 or 3 servings. Without knowing it, you’re eating twice as much food as you should.

4) Take the Stairs

The stairmaster and I are not friends. I used to despise taking the stairs because I got easily winded. Now that I take the 4 flights of stairs up to my office every day, I’ve gotten better. Take the stairs whenever you can. Start with one flight a day, up and down. Take them at the mall or the airport, whenever the opportunity arises.

5) Track Your Food

You’ve heard the expression “watch what you eat.” There are a couple ways to track your food. I use the free app, My Fitness Pal. If you have a Fitbit or similar device, the app should allow for diet tracking as well. I’ve met people who just write down everything they eat; this way they don’t get too caught up on the numbers. I’ve also met people who take a picture of everything they eat in a day, then post it online for accountability.

6) Make Your Cheats Small

I think that you have to make room somewhere in your diet for the unhealthy things you’ve come to love. Denying myself makes me more likely to binge. I don’t recommend a full cheat day, but at least one cheat meal or treat in a week isn’t going to kill your progress. That is, as long as you don’t go overboard. Some people take cheat meal to mean they can eat whatever you want. You still have to exercise some self-control. If you buy a candy bar, don’t buy the King size bar. If you miss those frappucinos, order a tall and maybe skip the whip. I’ve found that over time there are fewer junk foods that I like to eat anymore.

7) Walk 30 min. Every Day

Walking is a seriously underestimated form of exercise. I first began losing weight with a brisk walk after work. Though it isn’t as intense for me anymore, it is excellent for your heart and for weight loss. Work your way up to 30 minutes if you don’t feel ready. Start with 10 minutes. Walk at a pace that allows you to talk, but not to sing.

8) Beware of “Health” Foods

While reading the news the other day, I came across this article listing the 100 Unhealthiest Foods of 2018. The list includes the obvious choices: candies, fast food, chips, etc. Shockingly, it also includes items from Weight Watchers, Special K, Power Bar, and Muscle Milk. I stopped eating many protein bars including Power Bars, Balance Bars, Cliff Bars, and Think Thin once I read the label and realized how much sugar they have in them. Even natural peanut butter was listed. Marketing is not always honest. Read the labels and get to know the nutritional content of the food you eat every day.

9) Don’t Change Everything at Once

It’s great that you want to make changes, but if you get carried away, you’re less likely to keep your resolutions. Start small. Cut out soda, then once you’ve kicked the habit, cut out candy. If you work somewhere you need to take the stairs, take a few flights or take them once to start.

10) Eat at Home

I swear one of the reasons I lost so much weight is that I could eat at home. When I cook for myself, I eat smaller portions with less salt and sugar. I often eat more protein and vegetables, instead of packaged foods high in fat and salt. I don’t buy candy and cookies and other junk, so when I eat at home there’s less temptation.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but I hope even small changes like these will help you on the journey. Have you made a resolution to lose weight? Have you already lost weight? Share your tips on getting and staying healthy! Even better, share a healthy recipe!

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