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Make your New Year's resolution stick: Think small

TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer and TODAY contributor Gail Saltz help you start 2013 off on the right foot by offering tips for eating well and staying fit, as well as making and accomplishing resolutions.

New Year’s weight loss resolutions almost always follow the same trajectory. You start off really pumped and committed to losing weight, and go full-force with a strict health eating and exercise plan. A few weeks in, motivation starts to fade, you start to “cheat” a little here and there…and by mid-February, you’ve thrown in the towel and gone back to feasting on pizza, cheeseburgers and fries.


Joy Bauer

To make this year’s resolution a success, I’ve created a plan that will help you BUILD momentum as the weeks progress, rather than lose it. Unlike in Januarys past, the idea is to start off with small changes and up the ante as you start to lose weight and see results. It’s the same strategy I’ve seen many “big losers” adopt on their way to shedding hundreds of pounds…and it works.

Here’s how to get started: On January 1, adopt just one of the “mini resolutions” outlined below. Every week, tack on one more goal from the list. You can choose the order that makes the most sense for you and seems manageable and realistic for your lifestyle. The effects are additive so each new change will accelerate your weight loss and fuel results.

After 8 weeks, you’ll be slimmer, fitter, more confident…and, most importantly, still going strong. 

Add at least one cup of produce to every meal
Non-starchy veggies and fruit are low in calories, high in volume, and loaded with fiber, so they fill you up without filling you out. Have an apple or a handful of grapes with breakfast, or whip up a fruit smoothie – you can easily blend 1 to 2 cups of produce into your shake. For lunch, slurp up a bowl of soup filled with veggies (wilt a handful of baby spinach leaves into the hot soup for bonus points). If you’re dining out, order a side salad with your sandwich. At dinner, experiment with veggie-heavy entrees like stews, stir-fries, and frittatas. Or, fill your plate a generous side of steamed, roasted, or sautéed green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, or spinach.

Eat a protein-rich breakfast
Research shows that starting your day with a high-protein breakfast enhances weight loss by curbing your appetite later in the day, so you eat less overall. Including protein with your AM meal also helps you stay alert and energized throughout the morning and keeps blood sugars on an even keel. Your morning menu can be as simple as a Greek yogurt and an apple…or an egg white omelet…or a sliced tomato and cheese sandwich on a whole-grain sandwich thin. On the go? Grab an egg sandwich or wrap (hold the fatty sausage and bacon) at a fast food pit stop.

Exercise for 30 minutes a day (walking counts)
The obvious benefit of exercise is that it helps you burn more calories, but that’s just one of many perks. Physical activity boosts your mood and confidence, which puts you in a positive mindset so you’re motivated to stick with your plan. It’s a total feel-good. And your daily workout doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or intense. In fact, walking is my preferred form of exercise. It’s free, you can do it almost anywhere, it doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s easy on the joints – it’s really the perfect fitness solution. I advise walking for 30 minutes, every day of the week (aim for seven days and you’ll end up hitting at least five).

Nix liquid calories
Cutting out just one 20-ounce soda a day slashes more than 91,000 calories per year. That could translate a 26-pound drop on the scale! You can see the same dramatic results by cutting out sweetened iced tea, fruit drinks, and other sugary items. Sip calorie-free beverages like water, naturally flavored seltzers, and unsweetened coffee and tea instead.

Brown bag your lunch
When you prep your lunch at home, you have full control over ingredients and can slash calories easily by using low-cal options like light condiments, lean meats, and lots of slimming produce. Plus, if you already have something packed and planned, you’re less likely to cave and go for the fast food or pizza your co-worker brings back to his desk at lunch. And you save cash, too!

Pull back on starch, like pasta, bread, cereal, potatoes, and rice
Starches are calorie-dense and easy to overeat, so cutting back here and there throughout the day can add up to big results. Here are a few simple ways to start: lose the top slice of bread on your sandwich (eat it open-faced instead), dilute pasta dishes by adding lots of vegetables, and use a measuring cup to make sure you stick to one true serving of cereal in the morning.

Put your TV on a diet
Research shows that successful losers watch less than 10 hours of television per week. And when scientists at the University of Vermont forced a group of study participants to watch 50% less television by electronically locking their TVs, they burned an average of nearly 120 extra calories per day. Participants most likely crunched more calories because they were on their feet and moving around versus slumped on the couch channel hopping. So aim to watch no more than 2 hours of TV a day (I’m biased, but I suggest using your precious minutes to tune into the Today show!). Bonus points if you move while you watch.

Close the kitchen after dinner
For many dieters, the evening is the most problematic time of day. The food floodgates fling open…and once you start nibbling, you can’t stop. Conquer your late night grazing by going “cold turkey” after dinner and cutting out all PM snacking. Need help? These tricks can make it easier to stay out of the cupboard at night: floss and brush your teeth, sip a yummy herbal tea, chomp on sugarless gum… even light a non-food scented candle in the kitchen to erase the smell of leftovers.

For more slim-down tips, follow Joy on Facebook and Twitter, and visit her website at Joybauer.com.

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