6 Stress-Free Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle

John McGran, chief editor at Diet-to-Go, has been covering the fields of diet, fitness and health since 2000. He writes from the perspective of a dieter rather than a dietitian.

No more yo-yo dieting in the New Year. In 2024 we’re going to key in on developing a long-term healthy lifestyle, not a short-term trendy weight loss episode. Once you make healthy living your way of life… well, you really don’t need diets anymore.

There are only six steps to a healthier lifestyle:

Step 1: Make a commitment… and stick with it!

You want to lose weight and be healthier, right? Of course. So let’s resolve to do it for real this year. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and start writing…

“I , _____________, do solemnly declare that starting today I am working to achieve a healthier lifestyle. I will eat better, exercise more, and develop a positive frame of mind. I will lose two pounds this week, 10 pounds this month, and _____ pounds before I am at a healthy weight. I may slip along the way but I will not quit until I achieve my goal weight.”

Great start! Now make copies and post this resolution in several key places – like your bathroom mirror, the fridge door, your car dash, and your office desk.

It takes just 14 days for new behavior to become a habit, so it’s out with the old and in with the new by mid-January!

Step 2: Clean house!

Grab a trash can and head to your fridge. You know what foods are healthy. You definitely know what foods have no place in your home when you are trying to get slimmer and healthier. When in doubt, throw it out!

After you’ve cleaned out the fridge, do the same with the freezer. Yes, that ice cream needs to go – you’ll soon be rewarding yourself with non-food treats!

The cupboards and pantry are next.

Step 3: Choose a healthy eating plan.

A healthy lifestyle does not require a diet. It does require you settling into an eating pattern you can stick with for life.

Three popular and proven plans are low fat, low carb and vegetarian. DO NOT opt for any quick-loss plan you may have heard was used by Beyonce, Kim Kardashian or some other hot celebrity.

Low fat is the most popular diet out there. Low fat does not mean NO FAT. It means less fat… and more GOOD FATS like olive oil or omega-3 fish oils.

Dr. Atkins used to take a lot of heat for promoting a low-carb style of eating. But you know what? Time and a lot of research has proved his guidelines do indeed work at helping us lose weight and get healthier. Low-carb diets have even proved better than low-fat at reducing cholesterol – who would have thought!?

A vegetarian diet is hailed by many as the healthiest diet out there. In general, the more plant-grown products you eat (i.e. fruits and veggies), the better your diet. Just make sure you get enough protein into the mix.

Step 4: Carve out time for fitness!

Whether it’s an hour first thing in the morning or maybe two to three 20-minute spots spread throughout the day, make an effort to make room for a little sweat… and a lot of fun!

No one ever said fitness needed to be work. If the thought of lifting weights or pumping iron at the local gym is a turn-off, sign up for a Zumba or Pilates program or maybe a dance class, dust off your old bicycle or simply strap on your sneakers and go for a long stress-busting walk!

Basically, do something active every day – and do it for 30 to 60 minutes a day – and you will soon find you look better, feel better and actually want to continue working your body in some way each day.

Step 5: Learn to relax!

Your life is busy… maybe even hectic and stressful. Stress is our body’s way of handing too much on our plate (and here I mean responsibilities not food!). Stress forces our brain to release chemicals, that in turn cause our bodies to get fatter.

The easy answer: STOP STRESSING! Okay, so that is easier said than done. But try to find a few minutes a day to do something relaxing… something you enjoy. Read a book… take a bubble bath… meditate… put on headphones and listen to music (easy listening NOT heavy metal!).

Step 6: Keep an eye on the scale!

Now that you’ve mastered steps one through five, you need to put your new healthier lifestyle on cruise control. BUT… make sure you keep an eye on your weight on a weekly basis. Slips occur and sometimes the extra pounds pack on before we are even aware we’re backsliding horribly.

The moment you see you’ve regained five pounds, slam on the brakes and cut back on the behaviors that have led to the extra pounds. When you are eating healthy and exercising, you should be able to drop five pounds within two to three weeks.

For more helpful insight from Diet-to-Go Chief Editor John McGran, check out these articles:

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