Condensed from article in Health Day by Serena Gordon

Fulfilling this years resolutions does not have to be as difficult as it’s been in preceding years. Believe it or not, small steps can make a big difference.

Here are eight ways to get started:

Break it down. Changing your lifestyle to shed weight can seem overwhelming. “Look at it one plate at a time, or even one choice at a time, but start right now, and by this time next month, you’ll see good changes,” advises nutritionist Samantha Heller, from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.”If you lose 5 percent of your body weight, you can significantly decrease your risk of many diseases…”

Pace yourself. Nutritionist Maudene Nelson, from Columbia University Health in New York City, and Ms. Heller both feel that very low-calorie diets don’t work in the long term because the body goes into starvation mode. “You don’t want to lose weight too quickly, because it scares the body into thinking there’s no food available,” Heller said.

Segment your plate. Half of your plate should be vegetables, one quarter is protein and one quarter is starch. If you finish your plate, and you’re still hungry, she said be sure to refill your plate in the same way. “Don’t just refill on the mac n’ cheese,” Nelson advised. In the morning, you can substitute fruit for the veggies.

Identify trouble times. Kids clamoring, worked late, you’re tired — you don’t feel like cooking. Don’t get into the fast food trap. Make sure you always have healthy snacks in the refrigerator and ingredients for a quick meal. Your family will understand. After all, you’ll all be learning to make changes to become healthier.

Add protein. Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and then crashing. Without at least a little protein in your meal (especially breakfast), you’ll be hungry soon after eating because of a fast rise and fall in your blood sugar.

Track it. Both Heller and Nelson said one of the most important things you can do for losing weight is write in a journal or food tracker to keep track of the food you eat.

“You can use your food tracker to see what happened when you did well, or on days you didn’t. If you over-eat one night, you can look back and see that maybe you skipped lunch and were starving. You can use it as a learning tool for the next time,” Heller said.

Don’t drink your calories. Both experts said people often get empty calories from soda and juice. “It’s just not worth it to drink your calories,” Nelson said. What about adult beverages, such as wine and beer? Nelson said those can be considered part of the plate method. Each drink replaces a starch from your plate.

Plan a reward. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, it just should make you feel that you’ve accomplished something in small steps.

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