Small Changes, Big Impact

Small Changes, Big Impact

Turn over a new leaf, set goals and switch things up. We’ve all heard these catchphrases before. “Change is never easy, but it’s less difficult when change is gradual,” says Stephen E. Metzner, M.D., a family medicine physician with Meritus Family Medicine-North Hagerstown. One way people get it wrong is by catapulting themselves into change.

Change involves five stages, from pre-contemplation to maintenance. “When letting go of an unhealthy habit or starting a new habit, don’t do it all at once,” says Dr. Metzner. “If you’ve never been an exerciser, it’s not realistic to go to the gym for an hour every day.” Instead, set aside three days a week to walk around your neighborhood.

Small lifestyle changes are easier to achieve and maintain. When successful, they are more likely to become habits and can lead to increased self-confidence.

Exercise Changes

  • Walk 30 minutes three times a week.
  • Wear a fitness tracker. Becoming more aware of how much you move motivates you to move more.
  • Pack your sneakers in your car and look for any opportunity to walk (i.e. at lunch or at your child’s soccer practice)
  • Put your exercise clothes on first in the morning.
  • Park in the farthest parking spot and take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Do 15 minutes of resistance training three days a week.
  • Alternate an easy stroll (2.5 mph) with a brisk pace (4 mph) for two minutes at a stretch.

Dietary Changes

  • Serve food on smaller plates.
  • Chew slowly and take longer to eat each meal—try timing it.
  • Replace processed carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and flour with whole grains.
  • Allocate half of your plate to fruits and veggies.
  • Swap out soda for club soda and a splash of fruit juice.
  • Make dinner the lightest meal of the day.
  • Drink water before you start to eat—it fills you up!
  • Replace chips with nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
  • Record what you eat for breakfast for one month and add another meal next month.
  • Grab a piece of fruit when looking for a snack

“It’s never too late to implement healthy choices into your life,” says Dr. Metzner. “Make incremental changes and keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle is a journey.”