Set tough health goals; accomplish them.

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Most Of us have tried to improve our health at some point — but for many, attempts to eat less and move more do not result in success. So, can we truly change bad habits? The Good news is “Yes.” No person is too out-of-shape, overweight or old to improve their health.

That said, old habits die hard, and fad diets may do more harm than good. Americans who are serious about changing their habits need to make realistic and gradual changes one step at a time and at their own pace. Think about what motivates you, what pitfalls have trapped you before and what eating and activity habits you truly enjoy. Then make a plan. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, so make goals that make sense to you. You can set a goal to eat oatmeal instead of a pastry for breakfast, or to park farther away from the grocery store when you shop.

Once you create your plan, track and evaluate your progress. The Weight-control Information Network (WIN), a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, offers the following tips to help you stay on task:

  • – Overcome your barriers. Ask family members or friends for support. If you know you can’t exercise later in the day, ask a coworker to accompany you on a walk at lunch. Plan ahead to avoid pitfalls. For example, if you usually snack on chips while you watch television, try eating air-popped popcorn or cut veggies and salsa.
  • – Reward yourself. When you reach a goal, buy yourself a new book or new gear or relax in a hot bath. Try to avoid rewarding yourself with high-calorie treats or time off from exercise.
  • – Add variety. It’s easy to get bored with one routine, so try new activities, foods and rewards.
  • – Plan ahead to avoid setbacks. Know what healthy activities you can enjoy in bad weather. If you know you’ll be on the go, pack healthy snacks and a lunch. Don’t give up after a setback — they happen. Simply regroup and start focusing on your goals again.
  • – Expand your goals. Revisit your goals, and look for new ways to challenge yourself. If you’re comfortable walking five days a week, try adding strength training. If you have successfully reduced your saturated fat intake, try limiting refined sugar.
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