How are you doing with your commitment to take better care of yourself this year? If your heart is in the right place, but you are simply not managing to make the changes necessary to take it off once and for all, read on.

There are hundreds of diets that claim to be effective weight loss strategies. Some are too rigid to be followed for more than a few days and others are effective but only when followed precisely. However, to become truly healthy while losing weight and to keep it off permanently, you will need a LIFESTYLE change that you can stick to. Deprivation is not a lifestyle. To be successful, many of the old habits will have to be replaced by new ones. Believe it or not, junk food is an acquired taste. Ask anyone from out of the country how they like our packaged cookies, candies, and chips, and they will often shrug their shoulders with a “so-so” attitude or express that they are too sweet and too greasy. Unlike us, they have not acquired a taste for these items. Changing our old acquired taste habits like drinking colas to drinking water, or eating fruit instead of chips, takes time, consistency, and patience, but if you can do these kinds of things for just a month or so, you will acquire a taste for the alternative.

Making a few subtle changes to your eating and exercise habits can make the difference. There are certain times of the day when you may just have to have a candy bar or a bag of chips. Or you may be the type of person who hardly eats a thing until night time and then makes up for all the lost calories throughout the course of the evening. Or you may simply eat too much and not get enough exercise. Whatever the case may be, the best way to lose weight is to permanently replace each bad habit with a good habit. What could you eat instead of the candy or the bag of chips that will still satisfy your craving? If it’s chocolate that you want, how about bringing a co-worker a bag or a bar of high quality bite size chocolate and ask them to give you only one a day. This works, of course, only if you don’t swing by the 7/11 or McDonald’s on the way home and if you don’t keep other sweets in your kitchen or desk! Your craving for sugar WILL change if you will wean yourself off of it. To wean yourself off of chips, keep a bag of low fat, healthier choice pretzels in your desk or in your kitchen for when you have to have something crunchy. It’s the small changes that can make a big difference.

Knowing HOW you are putting the weight on is a crucial first step. If you eat at Fast Food places for lunch or dinner, there is a website called Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone at dwlz.com that has a complete fat and calorie rating for every restaurant chain in the country, including Starbuck’s! Knowing WHAT to order when you are eating out can make all the difference. Did you know, for example, that the new Fajita Pita at Jack in the Box is the least fattening thing on their menu? And their tacos have less fat and calories than their salads!

Soft drinks and alcohol and empty high calorie drinks, and of course the number and size of the drinks, keeps adding those pounds. Consider choosing low and no-calorie drinks (water, tea, or diet soft drinks). If your drink choices have calories, they should at least contain nutrients. Alcohol and soda both contain useless calories so if or when you do drink them, adjust what you are eating to balance out the calorie count.

There is nothing worse to sabotage a healthy lifestyle than the feeling of being deprived. Being surrounded by people who can eat the kinds of foods that you enjoy but don’t suffer the negative consequences, or watching television and being tempted by mouth watering commercials every seven and a half minutes can make it difficult to stay on track, there’s no doubt about it. But you can reprogram yourself so that just a little taste can be enough to keep your weight loss goal on track. Here are some ideas for snacks that are less than 100 calories but have enough fat to help keep you feeling full: 6 saltine crackers and 2 teaspoons of peanut butter; one rice cake thinly spread with fat-free sour cream and sprinkled with 1 Tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese; a microwaved marshmallow on top of a graham cracker with chocolate syrup; half an apple spread with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter or a single slice of low-fat cheese, or a small biscotti. For other alternatives try 1/2 cup of frozen orange juice, 8 oz. of low-fat yogurt, or a small container of low-fat pudding.

If your hardest time of day is dinner, while you're cooking, eat a healthy snack. Did you know that a meat serving is actually the size of a deck of cards? How many servings do you eat at one sitting? For those who can’t say “no” to large portions, cook only what you will eat. If you make more than you need, serve from the stove, and put leftovers away before you sit down to eat. In other words, do not have extra food sitting in front of you on the table.

Exercise has to become a part of your daily routine if you are going to manage to keep blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight down. Everyone says they are too tired to exercise but if you’ll go anyway, you’ll discover that just a half hour walk can provide stress relief, prevent depression, provide a feeling of vitality, bring more of a sense of control and discipline into your life, and a feeling of well-being that you may not have felt since youth. When you go shopping, make a plan to park your car far away from the store from now on. Walk up and down stairs instead of using elevators and escalators. When you take the dog for a walk, move at a faster pace. Look carefully at your routines and plan something that you like doing. When was the last time you took a walk in a park, or on the beach? When did you last take a swim in the ocean? If you like an activity, chances are you will continue to do it. If you need an accountability partner, make arrangements to meet someone at the same time every day, or however often you plan to exercise.
If you need the support of a group, join one! You can do this for yourself and for everyone who loves and relies on you to be healthy. It’s never too late to begin again!

Author's Bio: 

SUNNY MASSAD, PH.D., President and Founder of the Hawaii Wellness Institute and originator of UnTherapy , a trademarked system of peer counseling, comes from a family of women who all weigh over 200 pounds. She has learned over the years a
number of approaches that have proved to be successful in helping her to personally keep her weight down and that of her clients, as well. Sunny is excited to teach others
how eating healthy, low fat foods (and that includes snacks, sweets, and restaurant foods) can be a lifestyle that anyone can practice under any circumstances. For more information go to: http://www.hawaiiwellnessinstitute.org