seven ways to adapt a healthier lifestyleKara Campbell, contributing writer 

The fire is burning! You sign a two-year gym contract, download a meal plan that cuts all carbs and buy two cartloads of veggies, Slimfast and prepackaged “lean” meals, and five days later you are hiding in the storage room crying and eating a king-sized Snickers bar while the baby is napping. We’ve all been there! The candy bar may be a different variety, but the story is the same.

I took the long road around, but I discovered there is a better way to a healthier life — one that doesn’t end in tears. The key to true lifestyle change is improving diet and exercise a little at a time. My advice: Don’t bite off more than you can chew (pun intended). Here are seven actionable tips you can implement to help you have your healthiest year yet.

  1. Don’t focus on the scale. When we expect to lose 10 pounds in 20 minutes, well, this is where things get ugly. Healthy weight loss is anywhere from one to two pounds per week and everyone loses differently. Exercise, focus on nutritious foods and then go to work. You’ll feel the change long before you see it on the scale.
  2. Park in the farthest available space and use the stairs. It is the small things that matter. Every calorie burned counts.
  3. Make it yourself. Microwave popcorn is so easy and the taste is arguably addictive, but it’s also loaded with all kinds of junk that you wouldn’t dish up from a buffet. Try air-popped popcorn with some melted coconut oil and pink Himalayan salt. This way you control what is in your food and how much. Honestly, it tastes so much better.
  4. Swap it out. There are options everywhere to reduce calories or eat more nutritiously. Use coconut oil in place of butter on toast, almond milk for cow’s milk in your oatmeal and fruit instead of candy when you need a sweet treat. Stick to real foods instead of artificial sweeteners, though. Some of those can actually cause more harm than good.
  5. Reduce the sugar by half. My amazing sister-in-law taught me this little trick and I couldn’t believe it worked. In nearly every recipe I have tried, I was able to cut the sugar in half without affecting the outcome. I know, right? We are an over-sugared society. You will notice a little bit of the sweetness missing at first, but pretty soon food starts tasting better. You can taste more of the pumpkin in a pumpkin pie. The world is too full of amazing flavor opportunities to make everything taste like sugar.
  6. Use at-home workout programs. If you are currently working out zero times per week and have never used a gym, it can be really hard to make it happen five days per week and sustain that change long term. If you have small children at home, you can just about forget about it. Using an at-home program like the 21-Day Fix or Insanity gives you a scheduled outline that takes the guess out of the work out. These kinds of programs are affordable and available 24 hours a day so you can do them when you can fit them in. Plus, they generally come with a meal plan to help even more.
  7. Get an accountability partner. Find a friend, a support group or a health coach to keep you accountable and offer support and direction. It can make a big difference in whether you give up on your goals or press forward.

All of these things are easy to do, but they are also easy not to do. Make the small changes and do them every day. They will add up, I promise. If you need extra help or support, go to icanrefineme.com.