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What is a healthy lifestyle?

A healthy lifestyle means:

  • Eating healthy foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you eat meat and dairy foods, choose lean meats and low-fat dairy foods most of the time. Healthy eating also means not eating too much sugar, fat, or fast foods. You can still have dessert and treats now and then. The goal is moderation. See Healthy Eating.
  • Making some kind of physical activity part of your daily routine. "Physical activity" doesn't have to mean regular visits to the gym or running marathons. There are lots of other ways to fit activity into your life. See Healthy Activity.
  • Not smoking.Weight gain is a big concern for many people who want to quit smoking. But many people don't gain weight. And it's more of a health risk to keep smoking than it is to gain a few extra pounds when you quit. For information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol. That's up to 2 drinks a day for men, 1 drink a day for women.
  • Managing stress. Many people find that eating is their way of managing stress. If you have a lot of stress in your life, it can be hard to focus on making healthy changes to your lifestyle. For more information about how to deal with stress, see the topic Stress Management.

Becoming more active and improving your eating habits are the two main ways to reach a healthy weight.

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One Woman's Story:

"I see it as a whole life change. I actually get mad at people when they say, 'You've been on a diet.' I'm not on a diet. I've never been on a diet. I just changed the way I eat. I changed the way I live."—Jaci

Read more about how Jaci lost 65 pounds.

First, change your thinking

If you need to make some lifestyle changes to get to a healthy weight, you'll have more success if you first change the way you think about certain things:

  • Don't compare yourself to others. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Our culture focuses much too much on thinness, and thinness is just not realistic or natural for most of us. Yet we feel bad when we can't achieve such an unrealistic body size. Body size isn't as important as being healthy.
  • Pay attention to how hungry or how full you feel. When you eat, pay attention to why you're eating and how much you're eating.
  • Forget about dieting. Dieting almost never works over the long term.
  • Decide that you're going to improve your health instead of deciding to go on a diet. For example, you may want to:
    • Become more fit.
    • Lower your blood pressure.
    • Lower your blood sugar (if you have diabetes or prediabetes).
    • Lower your cholesterol.

For more on how positive thinking can help you, see:

Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking.
actionset.gifWeight Management: Stop Negative Thoughts.
actionset.gifStop Negative Thoughts: Getting Started.

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One Woman's Story:

"I finally realized it wasn't a time-limited thing. It wasn't like, 'Well, I'm going to be really good and stay on this food plan now until I get the weight off.' It was more a realization that, 'You know, at 62, if I want to weigh 130 to 135 pounds, then I have to do these things.' I can't stop doing them just because I lose the weight. So it became much more of a lifestyle change than a temporary diet. The idea that somehow I could go back to my old ways was just not there anymore."—Maggie

Read more about how Maggie changed her life and lost 50 pounds.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

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