A new year sparks hope for starting over, but that can sometimes be an overwhelming endeavor, especially when it comes to your health. According to Baylor College of Medicine doctors, the secret to achieving and maintaining good health is to incorporate small behavioral changes that you can live with into your lifestyle.
Baylor experts offer up more tips on how to make small changes to see big results.
A good place to start when it comes to evaluating your health goals is with a physical exam, also known as a yearly physical or if you have Medicare, an annual wellness visit. You can use this visit to talk with a doctor or healthcare provider about your lifestyle choices and how they can either positively or negatively impact your health.
This type of exam also may include screenings for certain illnesses or issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, so you know what diet or exercise changes are needed. Depending on your age, risk factors and guidelines, your healthcare provider may even recommend testing for cancers like colon cancer or breast cancer.
When a problem is identified early, you are more likely to get back to optimal health sooner.
- Isabel Valdez, physician assistant and instructor of internal medicine
Ingredient substitutions are an easy way to cut calories without cutting out flavor. Modifying the fat content in recipes with healthier substitutions gives the biggest calorie reduction.
Many times, applesauce can replace butter and oil in baking recipes, and Greek yogurt can replace sour cream. Other substitution options include switching to a low-fat cheese rather than a whole-fat cheese and switching from white bread and rice to wheat bread and brown rice.
Learning what substitutions work best does take some time and experimentation with cooking time and temperature, but reducing a diet by 100 calories per day can result in a 10-pound weight loss in one year
Start with small changes you can include in your everyday routine so you don’t feel overwhelmed with a new workout schedule.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park farther away so you get in a few extra steps.
- If possible, walk or bike to your workplace.
- During your lunch break, take a 15- to 20-minute walk.
- Instead of carrying a big water bottle or thermos, keep your drink in a small mug or glass so you will have to get up from your desk to refill your drink.
- Set an alarm to get up from your desk and walk around your office for a couple of minutes every hour or two.
- If possible, use a sit/stand desk, which can give you the option of being a little bit more active in your workplace.
It doesn’t matter what time of day you decide to exercise; Baylor experts say the right time is when you can get up and move. As these habits become more routine, adding time and more physical activity won’t be difficult.
Good choices start today
Other changes you can make today that many people overlook when starting on a health journey include:
- Eating breakfast – people who eat breakfast are more likely to make better food choices throughout the day.
- Cutting back on portion size during your next meal – don’t make drastic diet changes you will not be able to keep.
- Telling someone today you want to start making healthier choices – this will help to create a support system as you find others who are also looking to make healthy changes.
- Going to bed earlier tonight – the body needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
- Going for a walk this evening – start small, maybe just 10 minutes, and gradually work your way to longer walks.
- Weighing yourself – the number on the scale doesn’t necessarily indicate your health, but it could help you make better food and exercise decisions throughout the day.
Baylor experts want to remind those starting the new year with a pledge to better health to not be discouraged – every day is a new day and a new opportunity to make good choices.