5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight and Improve Your Health
Sure-thing resolutions: Simple changes that can make a big difference.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Almost as soon as the Times Square ball drops and the confetti is thrown, many of us start making resolutions to improve our health and our lives. Then, within a few weeks, our resolve often fades -- and we go back to our old, bad habits. But what if, instead of trying to make sweeping changes, we resolved only to tackle a few easy ways to lose weight and boost health?
The health and weight loss resolutions that stand the best chance of lasting are the ones that call for minor, doable changes, experts say.
"The key is to take small, positive steps and move ahead consistently," says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. "People need to be realistic about the changes they can achieve."
David Katz, MD, director of the Prevention Research Center for Yale University, says that one key to making resolutions that last is to do more planning and less proclaiming.
"Resolutions tend to be the stuff of inspiration, but lasting behavior change is the stuff of planning, sustainable motivations, and careful consideration of the pros and cons," he says in an email interview.
For example, he says, more important than "willpower" are skills like learning to interpret food labels, and to identify the best choices when eating out.
5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight and Improve Health
Beyond that, experts say, resolutions that offer some sort of noticeable result within a couple of weeks can also help keep you motivated to keep going. That said, here are five easy ways to lose weight and improve your health -- many of which may bring you positive results by mid-January!
Easy Resolution No. 1: Strap on a Pedometer
Let's be honest: Seeing a number at the end of the day can make getting more walking in a lot more fun (talk about instant gratification). Not bad for an investment of around $15.
Striving to reach a goal, such as 10,000 steps at day's end, can be just the motivation you need to keep moving. Researchers affiliated with Stanford University looked at the results of 26 studies involving the use of pedometers in adults. They found that the study results showed that people who used pedometers significantly increased their physical activity -- and took more than 2,000 steps per day more than study participants who didn't use pedometer. Further, the researchers noted two physical benefits as a result of wearing a pedometer -- a decrease in the volunteers' BMIs (body mass index) and their systolic blood pressure.
After just two weeks of walking more, you might see some measurable health benefits, too. Walking even 30 minutes every day for two weeks should be enough for people with hypertension to see better blood pressure, and people with diabetes or elevated blood sugar to see better blood sugar levels, says Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Easy Resolution No. 2: Drink 2 Cups of Tea a Day
With each sip of green or black tea, you get health-promoting substances: two potent flavonoids -- anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin -- and a healthy dose of catechin. Green tea in particular is loaded with the catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is suspected of having some anticancer properties.
Try buying some flavored green (and black) tea bags, and keep some at work and at home near your hot water kettle. Figure out when you're most likely to want some tea, be it midmorning, afternoon, or before bed. Then you can get yourself into the habit of making yourself a cup of tea at that particular time of day. If you're sensitive to caffeine, choose decaf teas.
This habit can be particularly healthful if tea takes the place of other beverages that contribute calories without any beneficial nutrients.
Easy Resolution No. 3: Switch to Whole Grains
Switching to 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread is easy, especially now that so many 100% whole-wheat products are available in supermarkets -- from hot dog buns to breakfast cereals to pasta.
Whole grains are naturally low-fat and cholesterol free; contain 10% to 15% protein; and offer loads of fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and more. Whole grains can help to protect you against cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and some cancers. And you may see a difference quickly, some experts say.