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10 Motivational Tips to Keep You Healthy

Experts explain how small steps can help you stay on track to meet your diet and exercise goals.

From the WebMD Archives

Find yourself losing interest in exercising and eating a healthy diet? Maybe you were gung ho for a few weeks and then your get-in-shape determination quickly faded -- and you went back to your old, bad health habits.

What if instead of making mega-changes with the all-or-nothing approach to weight loss and good health, you resolve to tackle a few simple changes at a time? Studies show that the health and weight loss habits that have the best chance of lasting are the ones that call for minor, doable changes.

According to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, the key is to take small, positive steps and move ahead consistently. "People need to be realistic about the changes they can achieve."

Consider the following ten motivational tips to help you make small, positive steps each day.

1. Feel Good About Yourself Today

Be sure the people around you make you feel good about you -- no matter what your size or health condition. In addition, if close friends encourage you to smoke, overeat, or drink too much, find some new friends who have good health habits and also want a healthier you.

Elaine Magee, MPH, Rd, author of more than 20 books, says don't get hung up on pounds or what size dress you are wearing.

"Instead, focus on being healthy from the inside out," Magee says. "Eat well, and exercise regularly. And remember that you can be sexy and look and feel fabulous and not be thin."

2. Rethink Your Role Model

Barbie's still the first role model many young girls are drawn to. But let's be honest. For most of us to look like Barbie, we'd have to be nearly 6 feet tall, shrink our waist size by 8 inches, move the excess inches up to our chests, and then pose in the "suck in the gut/high heel" position all the time. Come on! There's a better way to live our lives than pretending.

Select positive role models. Choose role models that help you feel good about who you are, rather than ones who make you feel bad. Find a female role model who is strong, healthy -- and real!

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3. Know What Makes You Overeat

The key to staying motivated is to know where your problem areas are and have a plan for dealing with them. Do you use food to cope with disappointment, rejection, boredom, or even personal success?

Brainstorm some healthier ways to cope with mood swings that do not involve food. In addition, control your environment to avoid bingeing on high-calorie foods when you do feel disappointed, rejected, or bored. Keep your kitchen stocked with lots of healthy options such as chunks of fruits and veggies, low-fat yogurts, flavored waters, and sugar-free gum.

4. Make Simple Daily Change

Who said health-related lifestyle changes had to be all or nothing? Start small and make a few simple weight loss and exercise changes each day. These small changes can add up over time to give you a big health boost. Here are some suggestions:

  • Add 5 more grams of fiber to your daily meal plan.
  • Cut out refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and sweets
  • Avoid foods with trans-fats
  • Add two more servings of veggies at lunch and dinner
  • Drink three more glasses of water each day
  • Add 10 minutes of walking to your daily exercise regimen
  • Take a break every hour at work and walk 500 steps in place (2,000 steps burns 100 calories)
  • Wake up 15 minutes earlier and walk before work

5. Find a Cheering Section

We all need a cheering section -- having to account to someone else gives you a reason to hang in there when you can't muster determination from within. It doesn't matter where the support comes from -- a spouse, friend, co-worker, or online "buddy," or others.

Think of five people who might be in your cheering section. Talk to these people about giving you support and holding you accountable as you work to reach your weight loss or health goals. Call upon your cheering section when you're having trouble sticking with good health habits. When you do reach small weight loss or exercise goals, invite your support group to celebrate with you.

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6. Forgive Yourself

If you slip up on vacation and overeat, drink too much, or fail to exercise -- forgive yourself. Don't beat yourself up! Instead, say, "I really enjoyed my vacation," and let it go at that.

Allowing yourself time to enjoy a few indulgences occasionally is OK. If you start to feel guilty for having dessert on a special night out, forgive yourself and start back on your more disciplined program the next day.

7. Never Go Hungry

Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple, says the biggest cause of overeating is undereating. "People go too long without eating, and then pig out when they are ravenously hungry."

Rigid diets don't work for anyone. Include planned snacks in your daily diet to prevent binges. Make sure you allow for treats once a week without feeling guilty. Have a brownie every Friday, and enjoy every bite.

8. Remember That Change Takes Time

It's easy to see thin people and think how lucky they are. But here's the truth: If a thin person is over 30 -- or even over 20 -- chances are they are working hard at being thin each day. Learn from them. Find out how they stay thin. Is it through more exercise? Eating fewer snacks?

According to Kathy Kater, a LSW and psychotherapist in St. Paul, Minn., the research on body diversity is conclusive. "Even if we all ate the same optimal, wholesome diet and exercised to the same high degree of physical fitness, we would still be very diverse in our shapes. Some quite thin and some quite big, but most in the middle."

Make the commitment to change some lifestyle habits and allow yourself plenty of time to see your goal. In addition, accept the fact that your body is meant to be a certain size -- even if that size isn't skinny -- and feel good about it.

9. Move Around More Today; Sit Less

Make healthy choices by being more physically active. Park at the end of the lot when grocery shopping. Change your TV channel manually. Take the stairs at work. Go on a long walk with your kids or grandkids. Raining outside? Walk or run in place while watching TV. No excuses!

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According to Christopher Wharton, PhD, a certified personal trainer and researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, the more time spent exercising and the more vigorous the exercise, the more calories you will burn.

"Studies have shown that with increases in exercise time, the elevation in resting metabolic rate is prolonged," Wharton says.

Make a deliberate effort to move more and sit less to increase physical activity and good health.

10. Celebrate Each Day's Journey

In the midst of your exercise and weight loss goals, don't forget to enjoy each day's journey. Most women agree that their lives and dreams for the future are so intertwined with reaching a specific goal or destination that any derived pleasure is disregarded. Problems arise when the "goal" becomes the sole purpose of living and overshadows our daily lives.

While having healthy weight loss/exercise goals are important, make sure to take time to celebrate each day's journey. Live for the moment and savor some of life's simple pleasures -- every day.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on 4/, 008

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WebMD Features: "5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight and Improve Your Health," "Look and Feel Great at any Weight," "8 Ways to Burn Calories and Fight Fat."

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