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Designing a plan to start the new year on right foot

January 08, 2003|by LYNN F. LITTLE

As we enter a new year, many people have taken time to reflect on the past and make plans for the future. Some have decided they are ready to make some changes to improve health and well-being. One way of doing this is to adopt a fresh approach to achieving a healthy weight. Research suggests that people who successfully manage their weight have three things in common:

  • They have carefully considered what goals are right for them.

  • They have made a commitment to be more active.

  • They know what eating habits they are willing to change.


Advice about how to manage weight usually focuses on eating behaviors such as portion control and fat intake. While these are good ways to manage weight, your odds of success are better if you make a commitment to be more physically active and set some goals for better personal health habits.

We know that perhaps the most important step toward better health is to take a good look at what changes you are willing to make. Carefully consider what is important to you and how you can achieve your goals. Identify behaviors you can change, such as drinking more water, walking to the mailbox or eating more fruits and vegetables.

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It is important to design a plan for better health that works for you. To succeed, research shows that you need to be at least moderately active (30 minutes of physical activity) on most days of the week.

To achieve a healthier diet, there are many ways to change eating habits. It is a good idea to first look honestly at what you are in the habit of eating and drinking. Then decide what you can do to move your diet closer to the recommendations for good health.

Many of us are inactive and need to lose weight. We can benefit from the good news that losing even a small amount of weight or engaging in moderate amounts of activity will benefit health.

The key to success is to decide what is right for you.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides information and suggestions on promoting good health and reducing your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis. For more information on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, send a stamped (37-cents), self-addressed, business-sized envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "Health."

You also can find health and nutrition information by visiting www.usda.gov/cnpp.

Lynn F. Little is the extension educator with Family & Consumer Sciences, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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