Many Iowans are already talking about their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get healthy in 2016 but they’ll likely fail without a good plan.
Dr. Jacqueline Stoken, a professor at Des Moines University, says making gradual changes to your diet, exercise plan and lifestyle can help you to improve your fitness and attain your goals.
“If you follow a low-fat, plant-based diet, you could lose 17 pounds within the first three to four weeks,” Dr. Stoken says. “With that weight loss, if you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure could come down, your blood sugar could come back down to normal. It’s a really heart-healthy diet.”
A diet that’s focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans is the key, she says. Some people might be concerned that cutting out meat will drain their energy levels and be too expensive to maintain, but Stoken disagrees.
“It’s been my experience that you get more energy,” Stoken says. “Your body is more efficient at taking care of the waste products and as you lose weight, you have more energy because you’re not carrying around that extra weight. As far as the cost, it isn’t more expensive to eat because you’re cutting out the meats and you’re cutting out the cheese.”
Some Iowans make the same resolutions about healthy eating year after year and they don’t succeed because they try to make too abrupt of a change. Stoken says you should take it day-by-day and week-by-week.
“The easiest way to change your diet is the gradual way,” Stoken says. “For the first week, you can eliminate the cheese and your processed foods and make sure you get plenty more of your fresh fruits and vegetables and add your beans. The second week, you can cut out meat and poultry and fish. The third week, any free oils, you would eliminate.”
Exercise should also be incorporated into the plan, even if it’s things like parking farther away from the store, school or work and taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Also, she says exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to bring a benefit, adding, even mild exercise over time can lead to better fitness.
For more information, visit the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.