Making a permanent lifestyle change is challenging, especially when you want to transform many things at once – psychologists have long advocated setting small goals and taking things one step at a time.
The start of the New Year often prompts people to make resolutions – but research suggests only a few actually keep them. If you want to shift the pounds and make healthy lifestyle changes that last then forget the faddy, quick fix diets.
Instead, follow this 30-day plan devised by a medical expert which involves adopting a new, easy habit each day to help make those good intentions a reality. In the simplest of definitions, habits are thoughts or activities that we repeat again and again.
Dr Lee Goldman, executive vice president and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, shared with Health.com the way you can make 2018 the year you make those resolutions stick.
Dr Lee Goldman has devised a 3-day plan to help you make 2018 the year you make those resolutions stick (stock image)
Day 1: Write down your personal mission
Writing a personal wellness mission statement gives you the opportunity to establish what’s important to you and make a decision to stick to it.
Make it specific and focus on the short-term – so the upcoming weeks. An example is: ‘I will eat two clean meals per day for two weeks.
Remember that this is the beginning of your journey, so it’s acceptable to start small.
Day 2: Purge your pantry
Now is the time to do a thorough spring cleaning of your kitchen cupboards. Read food labels, ditch the junk food and chuck out items that you know are your downfall.
Get rid of products that are overly high in sodium, sugar or artificial colorings and preservatives.
Also toss out foods labeled low-fat, reduced-fat or fat-free – these are often packed with more salt, sugar or calories than the full-fat versions.
Day 3: Start weighing yourself regularly
Research has found that stepping on the scales regularly is linked to better weight-loss results.
A study found that obese and overweight people who weighed themselves every day lost more weight than those who weighed-in less often.
This is likely because the daily weighers made better food and exercise choices, researchers say, according to Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
At six months, researchers found that daily weighers lost 13 to 14 pounds (about 6 kilograms) while those who weighed themselves five days or fewer each week lost about 7 lbs (about 3 kg).
Day 4: Move for a mile
By walking, jogging, biking or swimming just one mile a day, you can make huge change to your life.
Leaving your car at home and taking the bus to work is a great habit to develop to help you beat the battle of the bulge.
A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the commuting habits of more than 150,000 middle-aged Britons found those who used public transport to be thinner than those who drove.
Researchers found that male and female walkers were 7lbs and 4lbs lighter respectively. Even those who took the bus or train weighed less than car-users (stock image)
Cyclists were the slimmest, with the average male who commuted by bicycle 11lb lighter than his counterpart who drove. The typical female cyclist was almost 10lb lighter – roughly the equivalent of a dress size.
Those who walked to work were the next thinnest. Walkers were 7lb and 4lb lighter respectively.
Even those who took the bus or train weighed less than car-users – by 5lb for men and 2lb for women.
Day 5: Eat off smaller plates
Research has confirmed the age-old diet trick: Eating off a smaller plate can help with portion control and reduce your calorie intake.
In one experiment, carried out by Cornell University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, it was discovered that a shift from 12–inch plates to 10–inch plates resulted in a 22 percent decrease in calories.
Assuming the average dinner is 800 calories, this simple change would result in an estimated weight loss of more than 10 pounds over the course of one year.
Day 6: Try a bird-dog plank variation
This exercise strengthens your lower back as well as your glutes, while targeting your deep abdominal muscles that line the front of the stomach wall.
The bird-dog blank is a good move for enhancing your core workout (stock image)
Start in plank position, then extend one arm and the opposite leg while keeping your form; then switch sides. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
Try to get into the habit of doing this every day – possibly first thing in the morning before work.
Day 7: Swap butter for avocado
Avocados are loaded with nutrients and healthy fats, and make a good replacement for butter on toast (and switch to wholemeal if you eat white bread).
A 3.5 oz. serving of avocado contains 14.66 g of fat, while the same size serving of butter contains 81 g of fat.
You also swap it into other recipes to up your fiber – replace one tablespoon of butter with 1/2 tablespoon of avocado.
Day 8: Scan your kitchen
Today is the day to check your kitchen cupboards again. Is it looking balanced?
Experts recommend you still enjoy treats in moderation and many swear by the 80/20 rule, including The Biggest Loser, fitness guru and star trainer Jillian Michaels.
The idea is, instead of following a perfectly ‘clean’ diet, you’re encouraged to eat healthy 80 percent of the time.
Day 9: Get active every hour
Walk, stretch, even squat – every hour on the hour.
Research suggests that if you spend at least six hours a day at a desk, your heart attack risk is double what it should be.
Studies have also showed that gardening, washing the floor or cleaning the kitchen could save your life.
The report from McMaster University in Canada found that doing physical household chores five times a week for half an hour decreases your risk of death by 28 percent and that of heart disease by 20 percent.
Day 10: Hop on the scales again
If you’re not weighing yourself daily, get on the scales today to check your progress.
While experts say the scales keep you accountable, also be aware that they are not the be all and end all.
Experts say the scales keep you accountable – but also be aware that they are not the be all and end all (stock image)
Fitness gurus say you need to track your body fat as well as your weight – and often how your clothes fit can be a good indication as the scales may not always reflect how your body is changing.
Muscle is denser than fat and you may be trimming down yet not seeing a budge in your numbers.
Day 11: Beat your own mile time
On day 4, you ran, walked, or biked – and hopefully you kept it as a daily habit. Today, try to beat that time to hit a new personal record.
You may want to aim for two or three miles – or alternatively try to speed up.
Day 12: Build an open-face sandwich
If you enjoy a sandwich for lunch, only use one piece of bread – this will save you about 100 calories. if you did this every day that’s a whopping 700 calories a week.
You could also opt for a lettuce wrap instead, saving almost 1,400 calories a week.
If you don’t eat butties much, have a think about what other small tweaks you can make to your diet – for example, swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes or white pasta for wholewheat.
Day 13: Add a hot ingredient to dinner
Research suggests that there are some foods that may help manage weight by boosting the metabolism, due to their thermogenic effect on the body – in other words, the amount of energy used and heat produced as your body processes this food.
Capsaicin, a compound in chilli peppers, stimulates the body to burn energy and create heat. In our bodies, white fat cells store energy and brown fat cells are thermogenic, producing heat by burning fat.
Increasing capsaicin – as found in chili peppers – may stimulate thermogenesis in the body
A 2015 study suggested that increasing capsaicin in the diet may stimulate thermogenesis and also induce white fat cells to behave like thermogenic brown fat cells.
Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, has a thermic effect and can be responsible for the breakdown of some fat cells.
Ginger also contains capsaicin, responsible for its fiery flavour. Eating ginger, fresh or powdered, in your food can speed up the metabolism due to the increased heat production.
Day 14: Set a new goal and write it down
You are now two weeks into your new healthy lifestyle. Assess your day 1 mission – did you manage to eat two clean meals a day?
Today write out a new goal. You could aim to have three clean meals per day for a week.
Again, it’s ok to make these small changes. It may be that you know you should try to get more sleep – lack of shut eye has been linked in many studies to obesity.
Day 15: Crack an egg at breakfast
Starting the day with a protein-packed meal is well-known to keep you full and satisfied longer. Skipping breakfast has often been linked to weight gain.
A few decades there, eggs had a bad reputation due to their high cholesterol content. Then, in 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary guidelines and gave them the green light once again.
Research suggests that cholesterol in food is not the main culprit – saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol.
The AHA now recommends an egg a day for healthy adults while still advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.
One egg has only 75 calories and 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
Day 16: Try a new exercise class
Switch up your workouts by enrolling in a new exercise class. Not only will this give your fitness regime a shake up, but it could also teach you some new skills and help you make some new friends.
A 2015 study found that women who did 30 minutes of an unfamiliar aerobic activity enjoyed their workout more than those who stuck to their usual routines.
Day 17: Work out first thing this morning
It’s a debate that has raged for years: the early bird gym larks versus the weights room night owls.
Research by Northumbria University research published in 2013 discovered that if you do your cardio at the crack of dawn and you’ll burn 20 percent more fat.
However, some experts say that you should ultimately work out when it feels best for you.
Rockefeller University found a specific genetic mutation affecting certain people, hard-wiring them to prefer late nights to early mornings.
Day 18: Do kettle bell swings
A cast-iron kettlebell may look like a portable cannonball, but it is one of the most versatile forms of free weight on the market.
It has become a popular exercise tool in the US, largely due to the influence of Russian fitness instructor Pavel Tsatsouline, who has trained both Soviet special forces and US Marines.
Use it to build muscles in legs, hips and shoulders. Go for 10 to 15 reps.
Day 19: Stick with veggies
Can you go meat-free for the next three days? Give it a shot. Research shows that vegetarians tend to have lower BMIs than meat eaters.
Canadian researchers found substituting one to two servings of meat or dairy with plant-based proteins every day reduces the risk of heart disease by 5% (stock image)
Plus a recent study suggests substituting one to two servings of meat or dairy with plant-based proteins every day reduces the risk of heart disease by five per cent.
Researchers from St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto say swapping animal fats for foods such as soy, nuts and pulses – including dried peas and beans, lentils and chickpeas – can be beneficial.
Day 20: Go for H20
Your body depends on water to survive and drinking enough every day brings may health benefits. It is a well-known diet trick to help reduce hunger as it simply helps people feel full, and as a result consume fewer calories.
No single formula for how much water we should drink fits everyone. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.
Aim to make water your primary beverage every day from now on.
Day 21: Sneak in exercises throughout your day
We spend between six and 13 hours a week cooking in the kitchen, according to research.
But a hefty chunk of that time is spent waiting for our food to cook through, for the oven to pre-heat, or for the pot to boil.
So while you’re making a cuppa or waiting for your dinner – try gettin in some quick and easy squats or star jumps.
Day 22: Take a lunch lap
As a nation of largely sedentary workers, we take less and less exercise. Yet one of the most simple forms is also the most effective – walking.
There is now evidence to suggest that regular brisk walks could be as good for us, if not better, than strenuous jogging.
So instead of taking your full lunch break sitting down, grab a co-worker and spend the first half of your break taking a brisk stroll.
Day 23: Mix things up in the kitchen
Research some recipes online to help you fall in love with cooking and enjoying healthy foods.
Today try one fruit and one vegetable that you rarely eat. Sample a new spice. Find a new healthy dessert that can be your ‘go to’ when you want a treat.
Day 24: Get jumping
Using a jump rope is a great cardiovascular workout. Skipping for 10 minutes is about equivalent to running an eight-minute-mile.
Victoria’s Secrets model Adriana Lima and 36-year-old mother-of-two revealed that this is her go-to method for staying in shape when she’s on the go and stuck for access to a gym.
Aim for five one-minute intervals of skipping using two feet, alternating legs or high-knees. Include a short rest in between each.
Adriana’s trainer, Aerospace co-founder Michael Olajide, is pictured walking the model through a jump rope routine
Day 25 Try Tabata
Tabata is a timed interval method that alternates between 20-second intervals performed at maximum effort and 10-second stages of rest. This is repeated eight times for the ultimate, fat-blasting four-minute workout.
Do squat jumps, push-ups, burpees and sit-ups for 20-second intervals, with 10 seconds of rest in between. Repeat twice.
Day 26: Remember to hydrate
Check your water intake today. There are many apps on your smartphone you can use to do this.
Day 27: Try a gym gadget you’ve never used
Resistance bands, BOSU balls and ankle weights are brilliant for that extra burn.
If you’re someone who struggles to get the gym or you don’t enjoy it, you may find it better for you to create your own workout area at home so that you can be active when it suits you.
Day 28: Get the burpees bug
This exercise doesn’t require any kit, meaning you can do them any time and anywhere to turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
Burpees work out almost every muscle group while providing the aerobic and endurance benefits. Try to get 50 done by the end of the day – and keep it going as a daily habit if you can.
Day 29: Cook with quinoa
Quinoa is a great base for a meal as it’s packed with protein and gives you energy for the rest of the day, minus that sluggish feeling.
The fiber-filled seed can even be used for pie crust.
Day 30: Reassess your wellness mission
Look back over your progress over the last 30 days. What did you enjoy? What didn’t work for you?
Sticking to a healthy lifestyle is all about creating a routine and assessing and adapting your goals and tactics along the way.