It’s amazing how just a handful of small changes to everyday habits can add up to big rewards. I’ve mentioned before that when someone tells me they’re ready for a major diet and lifestyle overhaul, I usually tell them to proceed with caution. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, when you try to make too many changes at once, you run the risk of …if you’ll excuse the pun… biting off more than you can chew. And, I think that once you’re successful at making a change – no matter how small – it gives you the confidence to keep going, and to keep chipping away at new challenges. On top of that, just a handful of small changes to your everyday habits can add up to bigger reward than you might think.
Here’s a way to look at it. Think of the changes you’re going to make in your lifestyle as an investment. You could rely on an aggressive strategy that might give you quick rewards – but there’s also a high risk that it won’t. On the other hand, you could ‘diversify’ – and use blend of strategies that are more likely to give you the results you’re after, even though it may take a little longer. So when you’re investing in your health for the long term, slow and steady usually wins the race.
When you take a closer look at the foods you routinely eat – and your everyday exercise patterns - it’s amazing how a little fine tuning can add up to big rewards. Here are some recent changes I worked out with a patient of mine – enough to lead to the loss of 60 pounds in a year:
- Add 20 extra minutes to daily exercise – could be an additional 20 minutes of brisk walking in the morning, or a second walk later in the day. The extra 100 calories burned per day could equal 10 pounds less at the end of a year.
- If your usual breakfast five days a week is a coffee drink and a bagel with cream cheese. A switch to a protein shake will shave off about 250 calories a day – enough to drop more than 18 pounds in a year.
- A healthy habit of eating salad about 7 times a week is a bit counterproductive if the greens are drenched in dressing. Reduce salad dressing from three tablespoons to one will lead to savings of more than 1000 calories a week – and the loss of about 16 pounds in a year.
- About three times a week, instead of having a candy bar as an afternoon pick-me-up, have a small protein bar and a cup of tea instead. You could be cutting as much as 600 a week – enough to shed nearly 9 pounds in a year.
- Sandwiches are eaten 5 times a week on average and always include a slice of cheese. Lose the cheese and replace with veggies, and save 500 calories a week. Another 7 pounds could be lost in a year with this one change.
- Dessert is eaten six times a week – usually cookies or ice cream, to the tune of about 200 calories. Swap for a piece of fruit, and cut enough calories to lose another 10 pounds in a year.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.