Doable, sustainable advice for getting healthier in 2011

(ARA) – The fat-laden, high-sugar, spirit-soaked roller coaster ride of the holidays will be over before you know it and many of us will head into 2011 resolving to take better care of our health in the New Year. Losing weight and improving fitness are two of the most common New Year’s resolutions in America – year, after year, after year.

It is possible, however, to make 2011 the last year you’ll have to resolve to eat better and exercise more. Start by looking for trusted resources that can help you focus on changing habits and developing a healthier, yet still enjoyable, lifestyle. And learn the truth behind some common obstacles to sustained weight loss.

Members of the Mayo Clinic staff, authors of The Mayo Clinic Diet, offer some advice for improving your healthy lifestyle in the New Year:

* You may have heard of fad diets that have you counting carbohydrates, bulking up on pure protein or eating bushels of grapefruit. Weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you take in. Reduce extra calories from food and beverages, and increase calories burned through physical activity.

* A sustainable weight loss plan should include food from all the major food groups, feature foods you can easily find at the grocery store, fit your lifestyle and budget, include proper amounts of nutrients and calories and encourage regular physical activity. The Mayo Clinic Diet starts off with a two-week focus on breaking unhealthy habits and adding healthy habits.

* Being active is an essential part of a weight-loss plan. Cleaning the house, making the bed, shopping, mowing the lawn and gardening are all forms of physical activity. Exercise is a structured and repetitive form of physical activity that you do on a regular basis. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity or exercise most days of the week.

* Learn to make healthy food choices you can live with. The Mayo Clinic Diet relies on the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, which guides you toward a general direction of smart eating. The base of the pyramid focuses on generous amounts of healthy foods that contain fewer calories in a large volume of food, like fruits and vegetables. As you progress toward the peak of the pyramid, you eat lesser portions of categories like whole grains, lean protein, dairy, healthy fats and even sweets.

* Resolve to manage stress in the New Year. While stress is a normal reaction to life’s demands, the nonstop stress of modern life can be harmful to your health. Relaxation techniques such as meditating, visualization, exercise, hypnosis, massage and listening to music can all help manage stress.

* To help keep yourself on track with your healthy lifestyle in 2011, be sure to set goals. Make exercise fun by choosing sports and activities you enjoy. Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Seek support from friends and family, and reward yourself for meeting goals.

* Every weight loss plan faces challenges. Learn what yours are and how you can cope with them. The Mayo Clinic Diet provides an action guide that lists a number of challenges and recommends ways to cope with them.

“Many patients I see have tried several diets in an attempt to lose weight, yet the weight keeps coming back,” says Dr. Donald Hensrud, a Mayo Clinic specialist in preventive and internal medicine, and medical editor-in-chief of the book. “The key to weight loss is to eat well and obtain regular physical activity. Our goal with this book is to give people real tools for doing that.”

You’ll find more information on living a healthier lifestyle in 2011 at

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