It’s that time of year again when friends, family members and coworkers start making sudden, radical changes to eating habits, such as eating nothing but cabbage soup.

These radical changes are neither healthy nor a good idea, and won’t be successful in the long run. Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your overall health and stabilizing your mood.

Here are a few simple tips to make healthy eating and physical activity a lifelong habit:

You must take responsibility for your current state of health. No matter what may be holding you back (no time to exercise, depression, fatigue, cocktails after work or poor eating habits), it’s up to you to make the changes now that will positively affect your health in the future. The only person that can change your life is you.

In today’s world of conveniences, we have to go out of our way to burn calories. If you do activities you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to keep it as part of your lifestyle. Just like brushing your teeth and combing your hair, working out must be part of your daily hygiene, and you must make the time for it. Block out some time on your schedule most days of the week.

I like to use the 80/20 approach to nutrition. For 80 percent of the time, eat healthy. This doesn’t mean omit all sugar, or all flour or all anything. This means following a healthy meal plan such as the Mediterranean nutrition plan, abundant in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, lean meats, low fat dairy and healthy oils such as olive or canola. Enjoying meals with family and friends is also part of this plan. The other 20 percent of the time, you may indulge within reason.

The key to life-changing results is to be committed and consistent to a healthy lifestyle. You must make this a priority in your life. If you want it badly enough then you will find how to make the sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if you’re 21 years old or 70 years old, 135 lbs. or 300 lbs., adding frequent moderate-intensity physical activity and healthy eating into your life will improve your health.

Find people that will inspire and encourage you along the way. Your chances of success will be higher, and this journey will be much more enjoyable if you have a network of support. You might find a workout buddy, a fitness class or friends and family members that would like to join you.

Take time for YOU! When you take care of yourself first, you will be stronger and more capable of taking care of others. I encourage all of you to make your health one of your top priorities in 2017. I guarantee you, you won’t regret it.

Kim Jacobs is a registered dietitian at Blue Mountain Hospital.

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