Healthier 2021: Laura's Ready to Make Some Changes

3 min read

2020 was a wild ride. And for many of us, healthy eating, exercise, and self-care habits went flying off the rails.

If you’re feeling ready to get back on track, we’re with you. Three WebMD team members are making big changes in the New Year, and they’ve offered to take us along for the ride. For the next few weeks, we’ll be following Laura as she ditches her sugar habit and jump starts her fitness routine, and we’ll be rooting for our dynamic dieting duo, Bill and Mark, as they work hard to drop pounds and improve their health. Here’s to a Healthier 2021!

By Laura J. Downey

It’s a new year, and I’ve got to make some changes.

I’ve done it before. A couple of years ago, before I turned 40, I told myself enough is enough. The time for hiding behind oversized clothing and people in photos had come to an end. So I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and committed to the program. Twelve months later, I lost 23 pounds. Although I didn’t hit my goal weight, since then, I’ve been trying to keep the weight off.

When COVID-19 surfaced in the U.S., I stopped going to boot camp classes and started taking walks in the neighborhood. As much as I enjoy the fresh air, I’m definitely not pushing myself as much as I would with a trainer shouting, “Drop and give me 20 push-ups, Laura!” Months later, my body just doesn’t feel the same as it used to, and in the past few weeks when I’ve gotten on the treadmill to run, I could barely get through 5 minutes. Before March 2020, I was able to run 15 minutes straight.

Being at home more meant finding things to occupy my time. I started baking treats like brownies, shortbread cookies, and cakes to cheer people up. I would drop off the goodies to friends who were having a hard time coping with the pandemic. It put a smile on their faces but ended up putting the pounds on me because I started eating whatever I didn’t give away.  I had to ask myself if I was eating because I really wanted something sweet or if I was eating out of boredom.

My eating has gotten especially bad recently. Knowing I’d be committing myself to healthier habits after the New Year, I’ve been eating everything in sight. I think it was a form of self-sabotage. I went to McDonald’s twice for breakfast (I ordered my favorite, a sausage biscuit), I ate two huge slices of red velvet cake that a co-worker made for me (how could I turn that down?!), I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch, and I ate an entire bag of Pirate’s Booty in one sitting.

I’ve been out of control -- I need a reboot. I want to start eating healthier and feeling better about myself. This doesn’t just mean looking good on the outside and dropping a few pounds. This for me means being intentional with my food choices (I need more vegetables in my life!) and choosing to live a healthier lifestyle altogether.

I am still on WW and I do a weekly check-in every Saturday morning. I will continue to do that and attend group meetings for support. Plus, my job offers me access to a health coach, and I plan to call them at least once a month for some guidance. It’s nice to have accountability since clearly I don’t hold myself accountable as much as I should.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to eat sweets anymore. I’m not doing a complete overhaul here, people! But I am going to make smarter choices and I am going to push myself to be a better me. Every new year, my sister and I create our own personal slogans. This year, mine is: “Get the job done in 2021.”   

Laura J. Downey is the executive editor of WebMD Magazine. She hopes this blog will help others see that every small step can lead to a more well-balanced, healthful, and fulfilling life. For more on her journey, follow her on Instagram @laurakadowney.