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Most of us who have ever made a resolution to lose weight know that it gets overwhelming. Starting off slow and making just a few changes can make a big difference. It’s best to pick one or two areas to focus on and setting realistic goals to get there. This will set you up for success, unlike another fad diet or extreme exercise plan.

Start by reviewing your habits in these three areas: drinks, food and activity. Pick one area to focus on first, and start with the one that feels most doable.

Drinks: One way to cut calories quickly is by focusing on what you’re drinking. Cutting out sodas and other high sugar drinks, like juice, energy drinks and specialty coffee drinks can make a big impact. For example, that flavored latte you order every morning has 32 grams of sugar and 220 calories.  And if you grab a can of regular soda at lunch, that’s about 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, there are 4 grams of sugar in one teaspoon.

Make a plan to start by replacing high calorie drinks with water. Cutting back will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of diseases, like diabetes and obesity.

Food. Change one or two eating habits. Can you replace margarine with olive oil when you’re cooking? How about packing lunches for work, rather than relying on fast food.

It’s best to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, especially avoid those high in trans-fats, partially hydrogenated fats and corn syrup. Aim to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, both raw and cooked. Foods high in fiber, including fruits and vegetables, help to reduce hunger.

Activity: Walking is a good place to start. Walking doesn’t require special equipment or even a gym membership! If you are not used to walking, set a goal of walking around the block two times, then after a week or two, increase that to 4 times, then a mile, then two miles after a few months. To keep yourself motivated, walk with a friend  or consider getting an activity tracker, like a Fitbit, which will monitor your daily exercise.

Remember, exercising is great for overall health but by itself it’s typically not enough to lose weight. Think of it as a way to maintain weight and improve your health, overall.

The more we learn about exercise, nutrition and chronic diseases, the more we realize how huge an impact healthy choices can make.

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