We had a business lunch this afternoon, which meant I got to eat out and don’t have to feel guilty about spending the money. 🙂


We met with a local massage therapist to talk business at Zada Jane’s, a very cute semi-vegetarian place in the hip part of town.  I’ve eaten here a few times but always forget about it!


I went with the traditional soup, salad, and biscuit.  :)  Lunch was kind of early for me and I wasn’t too hungry yet.  This hit the spot!  I need more vegetables in my life, anyway.



Getting Healthy:  How to Get Started


Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), I get e-mail questions and my first reaction is:   “Man, my readers can answer this question SO much better than I can!”  I really value comments because it allows me (and others, I suppose) to really see a question from a ton of different perspectives.  Hey, I don’t know it all – I just wish I did.  :)  Today’s reader e-mail is a perfect question for everyone to answer!


Susan said: “Here’s what I am struggling with: where to start?  There are so many things I need to work on, I’m just so overwhelmed so I do nothing.  I think if I could just get the energy to start maybe I would be able to see how to work on these other areas.  How did you start?  How do you find the energy to work out, plan meals, make healthy choices?  Thank you!”


Here are my thoughts:


Start Small:  Healthy Tipping Point’s catchphrase is “When every day decisions add up something amazing” for a reason.  You don’t need to do a total lifestyle overhaul right away.  In fact, that’s the best way to feel overwhelmed and fall off the wagon.  Identify small changes that you can make right away that will help you immediately feel that you’re being productive and working towards healthy goals.  Add a new small change every week.


Some of my favorite ‘start small’ suggestions:


  • Start drinking more water – you feel the benefits of hydration right away.
  • Pack your lunch each day.
  • Identify unhealthy time suckers – such as watching too much TV – and find a healthier way to spend that time (that you actually enjoy doing!).
  • On Sunday, freeze a healthy casserole so you have dinner to eat throughout the week.
  • Cut out soda and other sugary beverages and begin cutting back on caffeine.
  • Pledge to get more sleep each night.
  • Swap out one unhealthy snack with a healthy one, like potato chips for an apple with natural peanut butter.
  • Start going for a walk every morning before work or every evening when you get home.  Bring your phone and call a friend or your iPod and listen to music.
  • Take 10 minutes before bed to quietly stretch and calm your mind.
  • Begin eating breakfast if you don’t already do so.


Read Labels and Plan Ahead:  For me, my biggest food trip-up was that I ate a lot of processed foods.  I began reading labels at the grocery store, but instead of focusing on calories, I looked at the ingredient list.  If there were a lot of chemically-sounding ingredients or artificial sweeteners, I picked something else.  My other food problem was that I had no idea how to cook for myself and rarely packed meals.  I began to read food blogs and actually go to the grocery store so I could cook and pack healthy options.  I started off by focusing on packing healthy lunches and snacks so I had good food to eat at work.


Get Drinking Under Control:  Not everyone has this issue, but as I’ve written about before, I was a big social drinker, which caused a whole host of problems.  Not only was I regularly drinking way too many empty calories, but the alcohol caused me to overeat crappy bar food.  Also, I woke up feeling like crap, couldn’t exercise, and would drink a ton of caffeine to feel normal.  So, I decided to get my social drinking under control (obviously, I was not an alcoholic; that’s another bag of tricks entirely).  I began opting for higher-quality beer at the bar, which was more expensive and forced me to drink less. ;)  Another trick I used to reduce my alcohol consumption was alternating beer with water, which slowed down my drinking and helped me stay hydrated. 


Just Move:  If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of exercise, remember that you don’t have to train for a marathon or run a triathlon.  Just MOVE your body a little bit every day.  It sounds corny, but dancing in your living room totally counts.  So does walking the dog, doing push-ups in between commercials, and taking the stairs instead the elevator.  Joining a gym can be very motivating for some people, and don’t be afraid to try new classes or ask for help! 


Choices Become Easier:  It really does get easier to make healthy choices.  Eventually, things like cooking and exercise become part of your routine, even if you have to force yourself to do them for the first few months.  That’s why it’s important to just focus on small efforts at first.  Don’t look it as a complete overhaul; it’s just a series of choices.  Remembering that perfection isn’t the goal also helps things, too.  The goal is to make an effort! 


Those are my ‘just get started’ tips – basically, make one healthy choice, then make another (as Heather says!).   


So – what are your favorite tips on how to get started with a healthy lifestyle?  What did you change first?  What advice can you share?



  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing February 7, 2011, 3:05 pm

    My biggest piece of advice regarding food is to plan head and take the time to make smart decisions. Plan meals for the week, research recipes and ingredients on the internet, etc. Then, take the time to carefully plan out your shopping list. THEN, take the time to grocery shop! I take a LONG time in the store because I read almost every label there is, and if I’m rushed, I’ll grab something easy and unhealthy.

    The more time you put into it, the more knowledgeable and prepared you’ll be when you shop, cook, and eat!

  • Claire February 7, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Loved all of those great tips. One thing I think I can add would be to not get derailed if you have one bad day. I think it’s too easy to feel like you failed and to fall off the wagon. I myself like beer and gooood tasting beer. Sometimes I have a few too many which also causes me to load up on chips and then feel super guilty about it the next day. The best revenge is to start fresh and with a new attitude. Over time, those little slip-ups seem to happen far less because overall you are still making better decisions…

    • Caitlin February 7, 2011, 3:18 pm


      • Claire February 7, 2011, 3:49 pm

        You are so my hero! I’m not gonna lie when I saw your post this morning on my blog…I almost fainted!

    • Sara February 7, 2011, 3:36 pm

      This is so true! I’ve been really concentrating lately on exercising and eating more fruits and veggies, and I just had a weekend of drinking and heavy food. Sometimes, you just need to indulge! And frankly, one hangover and you’ll want to avoid wine and fries for a loooong time 🙂

      Besides, ain’t nothing wrong with a glass (or three) or good wine. Just don’t drive yourself home.

      • Baking 'n' Books February 7, 2011, 4:18 pm

        Yeah, I’m still struggling right along with Susan.

        But I find that the more I think about my “regrets”, “should-haves”, what I didn’t do or am not doing – the worst it gets!

        I’m starting to come around to the idea of not thinking of what I didn’t do – but what I DID do. So even if it’s something simple like getting up and doing the laundry or going for a 15 minute walk after work can count…I try to aim for ONE thing I can say I accomplished at the end of the day – even if it is silly or simple – that’s me 😉

        • Baking 'n' Books February 7, 2011, 4:19 pm

          Oh – and I’d like to pose that same question of Susan’s in the context of WRITING and knowing where to start! Hah!

  • Lisa February 7, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Starting small is the biggest thing people can do. For me, I had 100 pounds to lose and that was a daunting task. I told myself I’d just lose 50. 50 was an attainable number to me–100 was overwhelming.

    I started with the exercise first. I started swimming a few times a week and then a month later I decided it was time to tackle the food part. I counted my calories for one day without making any changes and it was a huge eye opener. I reached 2,000 calories by lunchtime and knew I had to make changes.

    I started counting calories and continued to exercise a few times a week. I lost 50 pounds and knew I could keep going!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat February 7, 2011, 3:08 pm

    I totally agree about starting small, as well as all your other tips. I think it can seem really overwhelming for some people, especially when they feel they have a really long way to go. It’s really important that the change to be made is really for THEM, as opposed to other people. Just like any other goal, if they don’t want it bad enough, other things will get in the way and motivation is lost. Great post Caitlin!

  • Sarah for Real February 7, 2011, 3:08 pm

    I’d like to add that when you’re whole life seems messed up, one choice at a time doesn’t feel like enough. Don’t panic.

    It is enough.

    Or at least it will be. It’s a snowball effect! You have to trust the process and know that even the healthiest people have difficult meals/days/weeks. Just keep making one good choice at a time.

    • Jessica February 7, 2011, 8:33 pm

      This is a great point, Sarah.

    • Shelly August 18, 2011, 11:32 am

      Yeah health is a *looooong* term goal. It’s hard to let go of the idea of a quick fix, but one evolves into a healthy person over the course of years in my opinion. When I first got on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon, I thought I was “there” but now it’s so easy as to be automatic and the quality of my workouts is so much better. As you get healthier and stronger you can naturally do more. Just don’t push yourself to get there- it will happen!

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) February 7, 2011, 3:10 pm

    I agree with making small changes. Just cutting out a few bites of food and incorporating a little more activity per day can make noticeable changes after a pretty short time.

    I also agree with drinking more water. It’s a simple change that will get you more in tune with yourself and has so many other benefits (fullness, flushing out toxins, etc.)!

  • Liz February 7, 2011, 3:10 pm

    Great tips Caitlin! I would say start by adding a fruit/vegetable to every meal. For breakfast, that could be fruit in oatmeal/yogurt or a veggie omelet. Lunch and dinner could be salads, veggie sandwiches, roasted vegetables, soups. Basically, make fruits and vegetables the star of every meal, not just a side dish.
    Also, don’t compare yourself to others who seem to have everything in the healthy living department under control. Everyone had to start somewhere!

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin February 7, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I love this post Caitlin! I think start small is definitely one of the best tips for overhauling your life, but in conjunction with that, set yourself some weekly goals that coincide with the small changes you want to make. I think if the goals are quantifiable, like drink 6 cups of water a day to start rather than “drink more water,” it can help you see your progress and make your goals more attainable.

    I think its good to pick 2-3 things you want to focus on, like getting X servings of fruits and veggies a day, getting 20-30 minutes of exercise X times a week, drinking X amount of water per week, and then once you have those down, you can add more goals.

    When you look back, its pretty amazing how quickly time goes and how quickly those little changes add up! For me, when i decided to change my life, that’s what I did and its pretty amazing to see how much I’ve changed, inside and out, from the old me.

  • Katy @ RecipeCan February 7, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Great tips! I think those are the best ways to get started.

  • Annette February 7, 2011, 3:13 pm

    I love these tips! I would also had that grocery planning and shopping should be a high priority (and don’t go when you’re hungry)–stick to the list and make healthful, filling choices that can produce good meals and snacks. Stick to the outer perimeter of the store (breads, fruits, veggies, dairy, etc.) and avoid mostly processed foods that have too much artificial “junk” that our bodies do not need. Remember to PLAN ahead!!ANd have fun making small changes 🙂

  • Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing! February 7, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Great suggestions here, Caitlin! When I started losing weight, the best advice I received was this: “make changes that you can be happy with for the rest of your life.” That helped me transition from the “diet” mindset to the “lifestyle change” mindset that I needed in order to reach health. Some other good guidelines that helped me lose weight were:

    -aim to move at least once a day. Break a sweat!
    -eat 4-5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. It’s not a huge thing, but it makes a big difference!
    -drink 64 oz. of water a day. Hydration is key for health!
    -get 8 hours of sleep a night. You can’t have energy to make changes if you’re not well-rested!

    Best of luck!

    • Caitlin February 7, 2011, 3:18 pm

      What a great piece of advice: “make changes that you can be happy with for the rest of your life.”

  • Kayla February 7, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Your tips are spot-on, Caitlin. I was going to say that your reader should try one thing for a couple weeks, then add in another thing for a couple weeks, etc. Example: Drink 8 glasses of water every day for two weeks. Then, go for a walk every other day for two weeks along with continuing to drink 8 glasses of water every day.

    I also found that it helped me to keep track of what I was eating, drinking and doing. I became way more aware of labels and portion sizes and everything, and I really credit that awareness with getting healthy.

    Good luck to your reader!

  • Jenn @ LiveWellFitNow February 7, 2011, 3:16 pm

    There are already so many wonderful ideas/tips from you + commenters. Love it!

    Here are my additions:

    1. I started with my “healthy” attitude. When I was motivated to lose weight, fit into jeans or look a certain way- the behaviors didn’t last, the energy didn’t feel as good as it could and I always ended up back at square 1.

    When I shifted my attitude towards wanting to feel and LIVE healthy- the decisions became very easy. I started, like you, simply. What feels good to change now? What do I already know that I can do?

    2. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t try to change it all at once or create a mega plan with a calendar and required steps for the next 6 months. 🙂 Be gentle with your body + your mind. Start small, start with what feels manageable right now!

    3. Create your OWN PLAN. There is something very empowering about discovering how to be healthy according to yourself. Not another person, another book or another article. Find what healthy means to YOU and how that may look for the long term.

    Then you become you, FULLY!

    4. Have FUN WITH IT!

  • Kareen February 7, 2011, 3:17 pm

    OMG that skyline looks EXACTLY like my skyline (here in grey and snow Cleveland, Ohio)!


  • Whitney February 7, 2011, 3:17 pm

    I think you should get started with the exercise first before revamping your food. Once you start exercising, you will not want to eat junky food and can gradually start switching up your diet. I have been an athlete all my life so I have never had a problem to exercise. My food, on the other hand, was lacking and now that it’s cleaned up I feel amazing. It amazes me how eating so clean and healthy feels so much better! 🙂

  • Emilee Joy February 7, 2011, 3:17 pm

    One of the first things I did to start getting healthy was cut out red meat. It’s so bad for you anyway and has such a huge carbon footprint. Plus, there are so many other options available, even at a steakhouse! And I always order ice water (w/ lemon!) when I go out to eat. Cheaper and healthier. (No way am I spending $2.50 for sugary soda!)

    Exercise was the hardest change for me to make (and it still is!), so I started out with eating healthy. Whenever I tried to exercise (weight lift, long cardio workouts) while I was still eating unhealthy, I was always dragging and felt too sluggish to actually make any progress. As long as you’re moving around every day, don’t stress too much about exercise until you’ve changed your eating habits.

    Plus, do what Caitlin says and look at blogs! Trying new recipes is always a great motivator for me! 🙂

  • Carly February 7, 2011, 3:18 pm

    This came at the perfect time for me! I was just making my grocery list and trying to decide how I was going to change my life into something healthier. Thank you, these tips are awesome.

  • Alayna @ Thyme Bombe February 7, 2011, 3:18 pm

    I think the very first thing I did was get my insane cravings for sweets under control. I threw out everything I had that wasn’t healthy and replaced it with tons of fresh fruit and dried fruits. At first, eating an apple or a handful of golden raisins did not even remotely quench my cravings for sweets, but as time went on my palate started to change and fruit started tasting sweeter and sweeter. Using fruit as dessert really helped me to not eat crap when I was just craving empty calories. Try replacing one of your go-to junk foods with a healthier alternative and stick with it, after a time your cravings will go down.

  • Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! February 7, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I agree with all of your suggestions! And I love that you’re posting about this, too. So many times in the past when I thought about losing weight and getting healthier, I stopped short because it just all seemed like too much. Then, when I finally decided to do it for real (and started my blog as an effect of this) it really was just about taking it one step at a time.

    For me, I started purely with overhauling my diet. I started drinking more and more water every day, cooking healthy dinners for myself and bringing the leftovers (I still find it very difficult to just cook for one) to work the next day for lunch. Steering clear of the crackers, chips, and cookie aisles at the grocery store and loading up on fresh produce instead, so if I did get a snack attack, the only thing at my disposal were healthy snacks. Just making small changes like these to my previously unhealthy diet alone allowed me to lose almost 30 pounds, without a large part of my life being devoted to exercise!

    I’m now starting to make exercise a bigger priority in my life now that I have the nutrition and food part down. In total, I’ve lost just shy of 45 pounds since August, and I’m still going strong. So yes, start small. Just pick one thing, and focus on it. Don’t feel like you have to become an expert healthy eater and a marathoner all in one go. Just take it step by step, and you’ll make it!

  • Laura February 7, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Cutting out soft drinks was a big one for me. I was a “Coke-a-Day” kind of gal for a year or two, and deep down I knew all that excess sugar wasn’t good for me. I wasn’t a big fan of drinking plain water at the time, so I decided to “transition” rather than going cold turkey. I bought a re-usable water bottle and some lemonade powder (Crystal Light, maybe? It’s one that you can scoop…). Each day I’d put a spoonful of powder in my bottle and fill it up, and I stopped buying bottles and cans of Coke at the grocery store. Over time I slowly decreased the amount of lemonade powder, and only ordered soda on occasion if I went out to eat. Now I drink mostly water and only drink soda a few times each year!

  • Ashley February 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

    I’m very all or nothing, so I tend to just do something or not, but if you want to start small cut out the bad stuff, then add in the good. Drink less soda, and stop eating junk. I love reading blogs for inspiration, and find something you love doing for exercise, even if it’s walking. Eating breakfast is a big one also, and not just any breakfast, a good healthy filling breakfast. Doing that and exercising will make your body want healthier food.

  • mindy @ just a one girl revolution. February 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

    The biggest thing for me was learning portion control – a food scale was the BEST thing ever for me! I was eating so much more than I really should have been! The other thing was not to change everything all at once. Focus on one thing, get comfortable with that, then incorporate another change.

  • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery February 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

    I love the idea of bringing your phone along on a walk. I’ve done this before and the benefits are two-fold. I usually end up walking for much longer than I would’ve otherwise (this is good unless you have time constraints to meet) and I intentionally make time to catch up with a friend that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

  • Holly @ Couch Potato Athlete February 7, 2011, 3:23 pm

    For me, I joined Weight Watchers. I wanted to lose 15-20 lbs and I wanted to learn how to eat! It really helped having a plan of some kind. After a while, I started reading blogs and found inspiration there. I’m since maintained my weight through lots of trial and error.

    For exercise, I registered for a race. That was motivation right there — I wanted to finish, so I trained! I also worked out with friends or my dad. It was helpful to have a partner in crime. Now, my husband and I run together.

    I agree with points about starting small — get a book (Beck Diet Solution is good and so is 4 Day Win), drink more water, cut out soda, have veggies with every meal, change all snacky junk to healthy stuff (fruits, veggies, oatmeal, hummus, etc). And keep trying! We all have “off” days (or at least I do!) from healthy eating and from exercise, but I start back up the next day 🙂

  • Amanda-The Nutritionist Reviews February 7, 2011, 3:35 pm

    That salad looks awesome! You always find the neatest places to go out to eat!

  • Lindsey February 7, 2011, 3:35 pm

    Something that REALLY helping me was never denying myself fresh food. Over the summer I was trying to lose weight (and that really catapulted me into a healthier lifestyle.) I counted calories, but if I was hungry, I made sure I ate- and while I limited some things, I told myself I could always have a piece of fruit or a vegetable. I have eaten 4-5 apples in one day, but I never have felt guilty about it!

  • Lauren February 7, 2011, 3:36 pm

    I completely agree with all of your tips. When I cut out the pop and started drinking only water or tea with the very occassional juice, my health totally changed.

    The other tip I have is for individuals who don’t APPEAR unhealthy (ie. they are somewhat fit/healthy, are of normal weight, have a background in competitive sports) is also, START SMALL. I have attempted to train for a half marathon multiple times. However, I know that I can already run a mile or two easily, so I start at three or four miles and then hit serious burnout and end up running the half without training (bad, bad, very BAD).

    This time, I started with a Couch to 10k and actually DID EACH WORKOUT. I’d add in cardio and strength as I needed to get a decent workout, but following the plan made running enjoyable for the first time in my entire life.

  • Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans February 7, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Great tips! I completely agree that you need to start small. Getting more rest and lots of water are an easy way to start feeling better and having more energy. Once your body feels better it will actually want to move more and won’t need sugar for pseudo energy boosts anymore.

  • Jen February 7, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Great tips!!!!

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) February 7, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Great post Caitlin!
    Planning + starting small are definitely two of my tips 🙂

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) February 7, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Definitely start small. I started with eating healthier foods. You have to train yourself to be healthy, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t change things quickly. Start with changing out a junky snack for a healthier one. You will notice that you start to crave the healthier ones. Also, learn to make the healthier snacks more fun. You don’t have to force yourself to eat things you don’t like, but making oatmeal fun with healthy toppings is a great way to make a healthy food more appealing especially in the beginning. Also, start moving. Even if it is only for a little while in the day, it does help to do something. It doesn’t have to be hard, make it fun. I guess the key to health and fitness for me is fun. I never really thought about it like that before, but it is.

  • June February 7, 2011, 3:42 pm

    there are so many and i have been doing bits and pieces for so long that i cant remember when/how i started.

    but i will say this, if there is ONE thing that can send me nosediving into not having a good week vs a great healthy week, its not planning my food for the week; make the grocery list (buy what i need that i dont have), and then also make sure that i have easy stuff to make for lunches and breakfast.

    otherwise i will go to the cafeteria at work, and while i am ok at my choices, i am tempted WAY too often and not everyone can forego the bad or not so good in favor of the good.

  • Michelle February 7, 2011, 3:44 pm

    I felt overwhelmed by everything so I joined weight watchers. It was an easy way to help me figure out what I should be eating. And although I no longer subscribe, the lessons I learned from WW will carry me through my life. One thing that I see others mention is that a meal is just a meal. It doesn’t define the rest of your day or week or month. It’s not an excuse to eat horrible the rest of the day, but it’s also not an excuse to beat yourself up.

    Also, pick an activity you like. I took zumba classes 3 days a week because I had so much fun that I barely realized I was getting fit. Now, i’m training for a half marathon and feel like I could someday run a full! I wouldn’t be there without those zumba classes giving me a push! Good Luck!!!

  • Alex @ Healing Beauty February 7, 2011, 3:45 pm

    I think starting small is the best idea for how to get started. I always lose motivation if I try and do too much, so I’ve found that what works for me is to plan, plan, and plan. I plan workouts, meals, time for myself to read and journal, and just basic planning on what in my life could use a boost and then taking steps to getting there.

  • Alison @ Around the VeggieTable February 7, 2011, 3:45 pm

    Caitlin, that is GREAT advice! I think planning is SO important in a healthy lifestyle. Also, consider writing down health related “goals” for the week and posting them somewhere you can see them. Find a way to add an extra serving of fruit or veggies to everything you eat. Even if you are getting chinese take-out, throw in an extra cup of peas or spinach with your fried rice. One thing that really works for me whenever I get the “munchies” after dinner is to drink a cup of tea first. If I am really still hungry after that I’ll have a snack, but more often than not I find my craving has disappeared! Good luck 🙂

  • Carmen @ Goodbye Gorda February 7, 2011, 3:49 pm

    Two big thumbs up for this post! The best tip is to start small. When I started my healthy life change journey, I felt overwhelmed with all the poor habits and the 100 pounds I needed to lose, so I made a few small changes at a time.

    One of my small steps was to cut out my daily diet soda intake. This forced me to drink more water, and now my favorite bubbly beverage is a Trader Joe’s raspberry lime sparkling water.

  • Ella February 7, 2011, 3:50 pm

    those tips are great! my biggest switch was replacing processed foods with real fruits and upping fruits and veggie intake. i’ve always been athletic (ballerina, cheerleading since age 3 and then an avid gym goer since 13) so the transition wasn’t super hard.

    the drinking thing kills me. i’m a college student, i drink two or three nights a week and i know its dragging me down…

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations February 7, 2011, 3:53 pm

    I started with QUITTING fast food. Then, I began eating a healthy breakfast every day. Then, it spread to lunch… and then to dinner. I still struggle with healthy snacks sometimes, but I’ve come a long long way.

  • Zoe February 7, 2011, 3:57 pm

    These are some great tips. There was another tip that you had on this blog a week or so ago was about lists. I’d make a list of things I’d want to achieve (exercise, fruits and veggies, water, less junk food, sleep) and make it a long list. Take this list and make it into a chart of these tasks for each day of the week. Check off each task you accomplish on the day you do say that you have to accomplish three of these new habits everyday. This way you get in the habit of doing a bunch of things, but it gives you flexibility. The chart will also act as a visual reminder of the things you should do and all the goals you have already accomplished.

  • celina February 7, 2011, 3:58 pm

    If it’s not in your house, you cant eat it!
    Surround yourself with fresh food, hand weights, always keep a pair of running shoes in your car and ALWAYS TAKE THE STAIRS!

  • Leanne (For Health's Sake) February 7, 2011, 3:59 pm

    I think the biggest thing that has helped me in the past is to only make changes that I can sustain 🙂 I refuse to starve myself or do anything that I cannot do long-term.

    Also, I gave up McDonalds 1 1/2 year ago. Every now & then I will still go to Wendy’s for a burger or something but I seriously had an addiction to McDonalds in the past so I had to make it completely off limits. It’s very rare I miss it, and when I really do… wendy’s does the trick. I know it sounds silly to “crave” one fast food chain and not another but its the truth!

  • Caitlin @ The Caitie Experiment February 7, 2011, 4:06 pm

    I started with the whole calorie counting, small-swap means of getting healthy. Through careful tracking on a calorie-counting websites, I lost 30lbs… but I was obsessed and totally becoming a different person, and eventually hit a breaking point. It looked like I was successful on the outside, but internally, I was a mess. I wish someone had told me the real first step I should have taken, which would have made the whole process easier:

    Forgive yourself.

    I know not everyone has this issue, but for me, negative self-image and fat talk did a real number on my psyche, and it made me doubt myself and my achievements every single step of the way. Once I found a way to make things work, I was totally consumed by it, and I spent so much time beating myself up, both mentally (“Should I REALLY be having this chicken wing even though I planned it into my day?; I can’t believe I let myself get like this! Why don’t I have any discipline?! My next weigh-in is going to go up!”) and physically (Restrict calories, workout like a maniac, binge, breakdown, repeat ad nauseum), without even realizing it.

    I ended up having a complete meltdown in the grocery store because I was so tormented by the fact that I no longer felt like I knew myself — yes, I could run for longer than 10 seconds for the first time in my life, the number inside my pants was smaller, and I could tell you the calorie count of basically anything you could throw at me, but I was still so ANGRY at myself for putting myself back into an unhealthy position in the first place. That negativity was seeping in everywhere, ruining the fun part of getting healthy! It wasn’t until I finally forgave my “past” self for coping with tough situations the only way she knew how (food, beer, etc.), that I truly started feeling like myself again. After that, the overwhelming anxiety of the long road to health just sort of sorted itself out, one thing at a time. 🙂

    • Jennifer February 7, 2011, 4:29 pm

      Thank you so much for this comment. I KNOW everything that I would like to be doing better for my health – and even though I’ve slowly started taking small steps to get there, there is a huge barrier that is my anger and my poor self-image. I hope as I slowly learn to express my anger instead of stuff it down with food, and as I choose to love myself, that my slow and small steps will start to snowball.

    • Amy February 7, 2011, 5:59 pm

      I agree, thank you for posting this comment.. i’m still “there” i’ve lost all but the last ten pounds and am having a real struggle but am making a new breakthrough of the reasons “behind” the eating every day… but the forgiveness is something you are so totally right on! We forgive the past indescretions of others, why are we so hard on ourselves? great comment!

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:39 am

      Great comment!

  • amanda February 7, 2011, 4:11 pm

    I’d say start with one small change at a time. For instance, make a goal to start drinking more water, and stick with it. When you’re ready for something new – set another goal, like making sure you are getting at least 5 servings of veggies per day. Keep on doing that and it’ll all add up.

  • Jessica February 7, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Great tips! The only thing I would add would be try to find someone to make the changes with you…friend, boyfriend, husband, co-worker. It is always great to have support and someone to keep you accountable!

  • Jenna@frombostonwithlove.com February 7, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Totally agree. I think the sleep one, at least for me, is major. Without a good night of sleep under my belt, I am prone to overeat seeking energy from food and feel too tired to be physically active.

    Great post!

  • erica February 7, 2011, 4:14 pm

    i LOVE this post! such great suggestions…i think my biggest problem is mindless snacking at the office. a few chips here, a small cookie there, a holiday candy there…

  • D February 7, 2011, 4:14 pm

    I personally think that just by looking at all of these different responses is a piece of advice in itself…not everyone takes, or needs to take, the same path towards ‘getting healthy’. Healthy for someone else might be cutting down on sweets, and for someone else it might mean training for a race. Maybe it’s Weight Watchers, maybe it’s veganism. I think the most important thing is to find things that work for you personally…pick and choose from all of these great tips, but if something doesn’t fit YOUR personality or lifestyle, that’s not a bad thing. You might really hate to cook and have no desire to learn, so maybe for *you* it’s about learning how to order healthier takeout choices. Or maybe you really hate exercise and can’t ever see yourself taking a workout class, so you find ways to move more during the day. Just as much as it’s great to be inspired by health tips on blogs, just because you see it on a healthy living blog doesn’t mean that it needs to become part of your healthy routine if it doesn’t suit you. Plenty of tips and tricks WILL be the right ones for you, but just because you see tips on portion control, packing lunch, exercise, sleep, vitamins, veganism, vegetarianism, sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, training, counting calories, etc. doesn’t mean you need to do them all! And it’s not just about doing one at a time and eventually getting them all nailed. You don’t EVER have to do EVERYTHING! That’s not feasible or desirable for anyone, so just pick the things that matter to you and focus on that.

  • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy February 7, 2011, 4:16 pm

    I am a commuter student at my university, so I’m on campus all day. I pack my lunch instead of buying it. I started doing this in high school, and it has stuck. I also don’t carry any money with me; this way, if I’m tempted to buy a bag of m&ms when I’m craving something sweet, I have no way to do it. I carry healthy snacks, like almonds or fruit, as well. This way I am in control of my food intake throughout the week, and if I want to have a little something extra after dinner or on the weekends, I don’t have the guilt 🙂

  • Kara February 7, 2011, 4:17 pm

    Just remember that being healthy is a journey, not a destination. That’s why so many diets fail, they aren’t sustainable. Everyone, even thin/fit people, get derailed. What matters is your reaction to it. Health isn’t all or nothing and a donut in the morning doesn’t mean you have to have cake after dinner.

    My husband recently struggled with trying to get healthy and once he made the decision to just change his breakfast, everything else got easier. Although, now he’s obsessed with watching the Food Network, especially shows that use a lot of butter 🙂

  • Quinn February 7, 2011, 4:18 pm

    Some small things that have helped me eat healthier: plan out healthy meals for the week and cook a few dishes on Sunday. These dishes can be brought to school/work for lunch or reheated for a quick week night dinner. I also created a grocery shopping list template on Word that is broken up into various food groups/categories. When I review the list, I can see if I am a bit short on fruits or veggies, etc. Shopping with a list (and sticking to it!) and meal planning in advance have definitely helped me begin to lead a healthier lifestyle.

  • Lauren February 7, 2011, 4:24 pm

    Like you said, start small. I would suggest focusing on positive things – like eating a fruit or vegetable with every meal instead of a bag of chips for example. Start small with exercise too – maybe invite a friend to walk with, or ask a friend who exercises to help you out. Reading all these blogs is also motivating, and gives tons of ideas for recipes, exercising, and healthy living tips and advice.

  • Brenda February 7, 2011, 4:28 pm

    On Saturday, I actually just wrote down the 30 most healthy foods that I found on Carrots n Cake, which I believe she found in Real Simple. Since Saturday, I’ve been writing down everything that I’ve been eating and I put a star next to items on the list. This is motivating me to see how many stars I make in a day. I discovered that I already eat a lot of the foods on the list but there are some that I never eat. So when I’m thinking about what to have for dinner, I look at the list and see what I can come up with. I think it’s fun!

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:37 am

      What a fun and unique way to do healthier eating!

  • Gill (snaxandthecity) February 7, 2011, 4:34 pm

    i think the biggest thing for me was having the guts to do trial and error. tell yourself that just for one day, you’ll forgo that chocolate bar in the afternoon and have fruit or a protein shake instead (or in my case, ‘trialling’ eating more). you see that you don’t die, or explode, or whatever, and then you get more confident to implement these steps more consistently. often people are just scared to take that very first step.

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:36 am

      So true… trial and error is an important thing!

  • Jennifer (keepitsimplefoods) February 7, 2011, 4:35 pm

    This is such a great question! I totally understand feeling overwhelmed by taking on too much!

    Like Caitlin said, start small. Like going swimming at the pool, ease in to the water and get your bearings before you start swimming laps.

    Start by planning 1 meal per week. Maybe it could be Meatless Monday? When you’re comfortable, take on another meal. It’s really great to just start with one goal that you can concentrate on and go from there. Also, be sure to reward yourself for all your hard work!

  • erin February 7, 2011, 4:44 pm

    I agree with all the comments–starting small, taking each day as a new chance– and would add to start with the thing that feels most natural to you. Personally, I love to cook, so my start was to look at what and how I was cooking to see what kinds of changes I could make. I have never been much for eating out, but I realized that much of what I was already cooking could be healthier. Some things had room for more veggies, some things didn’t need quite so much fat (oil, butter), and everything that used to be ground beef is now ground turkey. Since I love experimenting in the kitchen anyway, making the experiment about healthier options was really natural and fun!

  • Lisa February 7, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Awesome tips! I think other people have said similar things, but for me, what works is thinking about WHY I want to make healthier decisions – to be a happy person who enjoys all aspects of my life and who can radiate that happiness outwards to others! Of course there are bad days, where I feel like I “mess up” and don’t make the best decisions, but I am learning to let my motivation be feeling good! It’s an ongoing process!

  • Caitlyn (A Spoonful of Life) February 7, 2011, 4:52 pm

    I think one way to motivate yourself to make healthy life choices is to read up on the subject. Find something related to health and nutrition that intrigues you! Something you are interested in and want to learn more about. This interest will turn into a desire to implement that healthy thing in your life. Suddenly, making healthy changes won’t seem so daunting because you have that desire and interest in the subject! Good Luck Susan!!

  • Jill E. February 7, 2011, 4:57 pm

    i dont have any other tips to add because yours and everyone elses have been so good. i have been working on not getting upset if i have a “bad day” like so many i would try to be “good” then slip up and throw in the towel this past year i lost 12 pounds which is huge for me and it did mean more exercise, more fruits and veggies but it also included chicken fingers and days of nothingness. so i guess for me its been about creating something i can do for the rest of my life.

  • Mary Nell February 7, 2011, 5:01 pm

    Great ideas! A year ago, I just adopted the philosophy of “eat less, move more.” I’ve now lost 30 pounds…I started very slowly. Just watching portion sizes and trying to make a healthier choice. My basic premise was that if normally I ate a whole dish of french fries, then why not eat half the amount of sweet potato fries. I never “deprive” myself in the sense that if I want something, I eat it. But I definitely watch my portions. Reading blogs like this one really helped. I also started “just moving” like Caitlin says. After doing small things (like taking stairs instead of elevators), I progressed to walking, then moved to working out at the gym, and then started classes like Zumba. I would say I’m definitely “addicted” to a new healthier lifestyle…

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape February 7, 2011, 5:13 pm

    These are such great tips!! It definitely is true that you need to start off slow. Trying to make huge sweeping changes are definitely admirable, but hard to keep up over time.

  • Katy (The Singing Runner) February 7, 2011, 5:15 pm

    These are fantastic tips! Definitely starting small like one change a week is good. I would say write down a list of goals and things you want to change. Then think of ways you can go about achieving those goals. Each week have a mini-goal to work towards. Soon enough, all of those mini-goals will add up into something big! 🙂

  • Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) February 7, 2011, 5:15 pm

    Great tips!!! I say, everything in moderation. If you love brownies and cut them out completely, you will go crazy. If you REALLY want to eat something, eat it in a smaller portion. Sometimes if I have a craving for something unhealthy, I’ll drink of cup of tea and see how I feel afterwards. Sometimes, the craving passes. And sometimes not. 🙂

  • mary (whats cookin with mary) February 7, 2011, 5:16 pm

    Those were all great suggestions Caitlin had… The first thing I thought to myself after reading Susan’s email was START SMALL !!! SO important !! If you create mini goals it’s easier to succeed and therefore easier to continue making and reaching them. Also, setting REALISTIC goals are almost as important. If you never workout, making ‘work out 5 times a week at the gym’ is a huge step and probably unrealistic.

    I’ve almost lost 100 lbs total since I began my journey and it’s still not over! I have really enjoyed the things that my body can do now that I am a much more healthy weight and that is SO MOTIVATING! When I first began I could not walk to the third floor of my best friends apt building without being red in the face, totally out of breath and tired (from 3 floors of stairs stairs ?!). I was also a smoker. this didn’t help… So the number one thing on my list was stop smoking. After the pack I had in my purse that day, I never bought another… After kickint that I started small. I would swim laps in the pool at my complex (used to be a swimmer in HS). All I could do was maybe 20 min going very very painfully slow, but I did it. I did it about 3-5 days a week for about 20 ish minutes. Then it became easy and I was SO PROUD! My first step on a healthier path with food… I often ate fast food once a day. Yep. Not good. That was easy to stop. I replaced fast food and processed food (before I could really cook for myself) with yogurt, fruit, turkey sandwiches and salads. As time went on I started to really like cooking healthy stuff for me and B and eventually started cooking almost every night.

    So I guess the moral of all that is… start small. And I think it helps to write out goals and check them off. Something about SEEING it makes it so much more rewarding.

    The energy to do it comes from (came from for me) having more energy (literally) bc I was excersizing, not smoking and eating better foods – even though it didn’t seem like a lot at the time, I knew that everyone had to start some where.

    Good luck to you Susan! I know you can do it. You just have to want it.

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:36 am

      Great comment… thank you!

  • Melissa February 7, 2011, 5:36 pm

    Hi Susan! I can sympathize 15478% with everything you wrote in your e-mail to Caitlin. Where do you start?!?!

    I am in college and recently started doing WeightWatchers because I felt that I could learn about food and think about what I am putting into my body. I have just started and the past few weeks have been difficult- it is so hard to manage your busy schedule and incorporate healthy foods that work with the diet. However, I have learned that if I want this for myself I have to put in the effort because no one else can do it for me.

    Additionally, doing this made me feel like I had control over something that is at times very hard to manage. I have had those bad days where every crappy food in the world looks absolutely amazing, like pizza and chocolate chip cookies, and the thing is, you CAN eat it, just in moderation. One bad day can’t get you down; if you have a poor eating or exercising day or one that doesn’t live up to your expectations strive to do better the next.

    Also, like Caitlin said, moving helps. If I am constantly moving or doing something I feel more productive and proud of myself. I can actually say I did something during the day and I go to bed proud of myself. Like I said before, I am in college so my life is totally off kilter between classes, exams, extracurriculars and socializing, but you can do it, anyone can.

    Last, it took a long time for me to take the initiative and do this but now that I am doing it I can say that I am doing it for me, and not anyone else.

    Good luck, I hope you are able to accomplish everything you set out to do and more!

  • Amber K February 7, 2011, 5:49 pm

    I love your tips! I also have to add: Do What Works For You. Which is my all-around motto. Read tips, tricks and ideas, but don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work for you. Not all things work for everyone! So just say “oh well” and move on to the next tip!

  • carpensm @ A Life Without Ice Cream February 7, 2011, 5:57 pm

    I totally agree, start small!

    2 years ago when I started my healthy lifestyle journey I started by adding 10 minutes of fitness into my day 5 days a week. For food I cut out late night snacking.

    The 10 min especially was perfect for me. I loved working out but every time I had tried to incorporate it into my life in the past I would be doing 40 min to an hour and I couldn’t maintain that so early on. With 10 min I knew there was no excuse. Tired? Busy? Its just 10 min! I would do things like jog in place in front of the tv or run the stairs in my apt building while I was waiting for dinner to cook.

    All of Caitlin’s suggestions are great! If you pick one you’ll feel successful and good about yourself and before you know it you add another one, and another and … you get the point!

  • Jessica @ The Virtual Scrapbook February 7, 2011, 6:08 pm

    I thought your advice was fabulous. I’ve lost 70 pounds and I still struggle with this every day (how am I possibly going to lose my last 30?!) I have to take it meal by meal, and often have to walk away from the food that tempts me…I have no willpower 🙂 Even now, it is so hard for me.

    I had to keep track of what I ate…it’s the easiest most successful way for me to do it. And I hate it 🙂 I have to really remember that I can save whatever deliciousness for the next meal or the next day, because overconsumption leads to a repeat and then I need more and more to fill me up. So…I didn’t do such a good job taking my own advice this weekend, but I’m trying to get back on track now 🙂

  • Susan February 7, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Hi Everyone,
    This is Susan…the one who wrote the email to Caitlin. My heart is so full of gratitude for all of you who responded. I just can’t tell you how much all of your thoughts, ideas, and kind wishes mean to me. I have printed all of them out so I can have a hard copy to go back to reread again. Thank you. It has been a real struggle for me lately and to think that so many people would respond so kindly to a complete stranger is a light for me. Thank you!

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:35 am

      <3 You rule, Susan.

  • Lesley February 7, 2011, 6:25 pm

    Hi Susan,

    I can really relate. One of my biggest problems when I decided my habits needed a makeover a few years ago was the same…where do I start? I still struggle with that when pushing myself to keep improving to this day. But one thing I found got me started (especially with improving my eating habits) was to not do anything new for a month, but write down what I was already doing. It’s hard to see all of your bad habits written out like that, but sometimes you see a few healthy things you didn’t realize you were doing! Plus, I think it gives you an idea of where you really are. Like for me – I realized I already had more produce in my diet than I gave myself credit for, but I really was eating more fast food than I thought. So, I knew how to set my goals better after I faced the truth!

    Good luck!

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In February 7, 2011, 6:37 pm

    My first steps were to replace most of my diet soda with water (I was at a point where I could go a whole day without a glass of water!) and to cut out the “diet foods”. No more lite yogurts or 10 calorie jellos for me! I made sure to eat enough wholesome foods that I didn’t need a sugary fix all the time.

  • Kristen @ That Hoosier Girl February 7, 2011, 6:45 pm

    I started by nixing fast food because it had become such an easy fall back option. It took about a month for the cravings to go away, but now when I drive by, it honestly doesn’t even sound good. Subway’s my only big exception, but I still try to limit it to once a month or less. It just becomes too easy to make a habit out of convenience foods rather than planning ahead. 🙂

  • Kim February 7, 2011, 6:51 pm


    A great post on how to start implementing healthy habits, and getting rid of the bad ones.

  • Meredith February 7, 2011, 6:55 pm

    totally agree with you about starting small! i tell my patients to just pick one or two small goals to focus on at a time, and of course to make them specific. it’s also good to write down the goals and then keep track of your progress. and remember that everyone slips up sometimes and it’s ok: while the road may be full of ups and downs, you are always moving forward!

  • Lacey @ Lake Life February 7, 2011, 6:57 pm

    I do all of my cooking (b-fast, lunch, dinner & snacks) and packing it up on Sundays. Also, taking a sip of water after every bite kills two birds with one stone- you get adequate hydration AND feel fuller 🙂

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) February 7, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Small changes are key! Thanks for all the tips 🙂

  • MelanieF February 7, 2011, 7:09 pm

    Plan, plan, plan!!! Me and my husband we cook most of our weekly meals on Sundays. We take the time to cook healthy meals so we are not tempted to eat out or use delivery. I cut veggies and fruits, and we make our lunches as well as plan what we will eat for dinner. If it’s too long, we even cook it on Sundays (like soups or lasagnas). We bake healthy muffins or breads as well for snacks. That’s what helped me to stay on track.

  • Wendy February 7, 2011, 7:20 pm

    AMEN to the small changes. My best advice is to start with just ONE small change per week. My first step was to cut out soda for one week, and that was my healthy tipping point! Everything else is now falling into place. The trick is to do your best to NOT feel guilty about other unhealthy behaviors while taking baby steps. It takes time, but you didn’t become unhealthy overnight, so you shouldn’t expect to make every single healthy change overnight either! Progress, not perfection!

  • monicanelsonfitness February 7, 2011, 7:24 pm

    great great tips everyone!

    BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE! Is also a HEALTH tip as simple as it sounds. 🙂

  • Lee February 7, 2011, 7:27 pm

    How about aiming for a certain number of fruits and veggies each day.

  • Vanessa February 7, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Some tips which have helped me lose thr first 40 lbs were 1)cut out diet soda completely and replace with water(drink a big glass before each meal)
    2)serve yourself on a smaller plate(except for veggies) to control portion size
    3) cut the fast food and start cooking most of your meals
    4)incorporate veggies into every meal( veggies in your eggs, salads with both lunch & dinner, carrots, celery as snacks) will ensure you get the amount of veg you need and keeps you full
    5) lastly, keep a food journal to document everything you eat either online or just a small notebook you carry around to know exactly what you’re eating.

    I incorporated these changes slowly over a span of 6 months along with walking and helped me lose 40 lbs. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off track, just move foward and make the healthier choices at your next meal. Consistency is key.

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss February 7, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Getting healthy is definitely not a “cold turkey” kind of thin- baby steps!!! Baby steps really add up!

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit February 7, 2011, 7:36 pm

    Great tips! When I feel like I’ve lost track of some of my healthy habits, I always feel better when I eat some fresh veggies at my next meal, and cut back a little on sugars and alcohol. oh, and exercise is always good too, of course.

  • Sarah @ The Strength of Faith February 7, 2011, 7:58 pm

    I would add stretching to that list! When I start to feel like my healthy living is slipping away I force myself to take some time at the end of the day to stretch. It always feels good to crawl into bed feeling loose – and if you’re starting new workouts, stretching will help keep you injury free and not as sore. Good luck!

  • Julia February 7, 2011, 8:13 pm

    Thought you should know re: your recent yogurt post



    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:34 am


  • Heather February 7, 2011, 8:18 pm

    good tips. I have the fitness thing down pat,t he foo part is more difficult for me so small changes help me to not feel overwhelmed. I started drinking more water and ENJOYING my food so I don’t just scarf it down then overeat.

  • Jenifer February 7, 2011, 8:22 pm

    I would like to add getting your portions under wraps. One of the best things I’ve gotten was a small food scale, and a nice set of measuring cups. My eyeballs were wayyyyy off!

  • Sheilah February 7, 2011, 8:32 pm

    Lots of great tips!
    One thing I found very helpful in adopting a healthier lifestyle was finding out how much one serving of something was. I was not about to stop eating junk food or semi-junk food altogether (and I’m still not going to!), but when I read the label on, for instance, a bag of tortilla chips and saw how many chips are in a serving, I was able to take that many chips out of the bag and put the bag back. I felt like I had had my allotment of chips and wasn’t tempted to go back and eat more of them.

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:33 am

      Yes… serving sizes are so important, I think. Our idea of what is a normal serving of food is pretty off in America! I think its due to restaurant portions.

  • christine February 7, 2011, 8:56 pm

    I think your tips are great. I also subscribe to a few health and fitness magazines (Shape, Women’s Health, etc…)- sometimes they can get repetitive, but during moments of weakness where I don’t want to go to the gym or I want to gorge on carbs they can be motivating (and distracting).

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) February 7, 2011, 8:58 pm

    I always tell people to add things to their diets: water, more greens and veggies in general, fish, fruit, organic whole grains …

  • Jessica February 7, 2011, 9:03 pm

    Hi Caitlin and Susan,

    I just wanted to add that for me, making good (healthy) decisions is easier to do when my space is organized. Seems silly, but when my house and work area are disorganized, my mind is disorganized and I am less likely to make healthy choices. Good luck 🙂

  • Kathy @ newlywedindc February 7, 2011, 9:20 pm

    These are all great tips! I would recommend tracking your food intake; you can use an app like Lose It, a website like Fitday, or just keep track yourself with a pen and paper. It might seem overwhelming at first, but just try it for one day. Once you realize exactly how big your servings are, the contents of your food, the nutritional analysis, and the total amount you take in in just one day, you may be surprised. It can be a real eye-opener!

  • Alyssa February 7, 2011, 9:32 pm

    Caitlin this post is awesome! I love it when you write about questions a lot of readers have and ask readers to chip in with their suggestions. Those kinds of posts are one of my favorites! 🙂

    My biggest piece of advice is what Caitlin said: Start small and be realistic. When I decided to make a commitment to eating healthy and exercising regularly, it was when Special K challenge started, the whole “lose six pounds in two weeks” plan. I dived right in and became obsessed with exercise and food, leading to an eating disorder; but that is an extreme/rare case. Be realistic and don’t get down on yourself if you slip or don’t do as good as you think you should be doing. As far as exercise, do something fun and think about how good it feels afterward. Dancing in your room to loud, energetic music is a lot of fun (as goofy as it might sound), plus it’s a great way to let off some energy 🙂

    Good luck and remember that LOADS of people struggle with the same thing you do 🙂

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey February 7, 2011, 9:43 pm

    It took me four years to become my healthiest self. I started small. I started working out. Then I changed some eatig habits. Then I kicked packaged food to the curb… all over the course of 4 years!

  • Clare February 7, 2011, 9:50 pm

    It seems like most of the previous responses advocate tackling your diet first. When I got serious about health, what really motivated me was getting involved in a sport. My eating habits were sub-par when I started, but performance-related goals motivate me to fuel my body properly.

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:32 am

      I think I got involved in sport first, too, and then diet followed.

  • Charlie February 7, 2011, 9:56 pm

    I started working out, then changed some eating habits. The other way around works too but it is easier to do it one at the time instead of everything at once!

  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table February 7, 2011, 10:24 pm

    The biggest change for me was sugar. It was really hard to break the habit, but if you can cut out your “weakness” for a week, you get used to living healthier.

  • Kelly (meatlesswithaman.blogspot.com) February 7, 2011, 10:41 pm

    So many of your tips are what I would share, Caitlin. Specifically, replace all gross (yes, gross) sugary drinks with water. Seriously, after a few weeks of water only – the very thought of that sugary mess in your system will make you cringe!

    Start walking (it’s less scary and super cheap and convenient to start!) around your neighborhood. Aiming for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week.

    PLAN. Pick a day to prepare your meals – put things in ziplocs (or even better, reusable storage bags) for the week so that packing your lunch in the morning is a snap.

    Don’t forbid yourself from eating certain things. Tell yourself “I’m never eating ice cream again” and guess who’s on the couch with a milkshake wathcing Biggest Loser by the 3rd day?? Allow yourself that treat – in moderation.

    STICK WITH IT. Get your calendar out and PLAN the days you’re going to walk. Do it now. And cross off each day that you complete. NOTHING is more rewarding than crossing thngs off of a to-do list (except for looking amazing in your skinny jeans).


  • Jacquelyn February 7, 2011, 11:03 pm

    I was in a similar situation a year and a bit ago. I had been struggling with disordered eating and fat talk and decided I had enough…
    first – I agree with everyone who’s saying don’t be too tough on yourself! If you mess up, don’t beat yourself up about it or give up.
    Also, what worked the best for me as far as exercise goes was the couch to 5k program. In September 2009, I could only run 90 seconds at a time. Now, I can run 4 miles in less than 37 minutes with no rests.
    Just focus on one thing to change each week – say, going to bed at a decent hour or packing lunches or whatever and then move from there.

  • Parita@myinnershakti February 7, 2011, 11:10 pm

    I thing the one thing I wish someone had told me years ago when I was confused about weight loss and the right way of doing things is that it’s ok not to be perfect, it’s ok to eat real foods, it’s ok not to exercise everyday. You have to start small and work your way up and find things that fit with your lifestyle. It’s like anything in life, if you’re not having fun while you’re doing it, you will not be as successful as you potentially could be.

  • Lindsey February 8, 2011, 12:47 am

    Like you said, what seems like what might be extremely small things add up. For example, if you’re someone who absolutely loves having a burger, fries, and coke…take small steps! Replace the coke with a water, or replace fries with a side salad…things like that. Take a even 10 minute walk a day!

  • Amanda February 8, 2011, 1:11 am

    I love those tips & emailed them to my friends! It’s hard to not fall into the ‘all or nothing’ attitude when getting healthy. But you have to remember that you are making changes for life not just for a few months. It takes a lot of work to make these changes stick and beating yourself up for minor slips is so unfair! Life keeps happening and you have to learn how to roll with it.

  • Megan February 8, 2011, 7:11 am

    Love the tips!

    If I were to give one, I would say LOVE YOURSELF FIRST! It is so much easier to lose weight and make healthy decisions if you look at your body with respect. If you respect your body, you wouldn’t want to fill it with junk! Aim towards a healthier you in ALL aspects!

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 9:31 am

      Amen! Love yourself!

  • Snack Girl February 8, 2011, 8:45 am

    Wow! There are so many helpful ideas here. I focus on snacks because they can be 25% of your daily calories -it is pretty easy to make them healthy but it does take some planning. Almost every day, I post a healthy snack idea on Snack Girl. I hope it is helpful!

  • Jessica February 8, 2011, 9:02 am

    One of the biggest, most helpful small step that I took when I first began to get healthy was to eat at least one fruit and/or vegetable with every meal. I always ate breakfast to begin with, but I realized I always ate sugary cereal and would feel hungry by 10am. So, when I made lunch or ate breakfast I would add a fruit or vegetable. It was so easy to pack an apple, banana, even a red pepper to slice up. Adding some tomato to an egg and cheese sandwich, or scrambled eggs was easy. Frozen veggies were quick to heat up at lunch and eat- the steam in a bag are easy and good. I would also always keep unsweetened applesauce in my fridge in case I ran out of fresh fruit, I could pour some of that in a bowl with some cinnamon and eat that. If I could add just one fruit or veggie to every meal, I felt better about what I was eating, and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

  • Marie-Sophie February 8, 2011, 9:17 am

    Love Gavi’s quote “make changes that you can be happy with for the rest of your life.” – so true! And don’t see it as having to give up all the good stuff in life – it was much easier for me to live a healthier life when I realized that there were so many yummy choices waiting for me (a lot of which I found through the blog world) and that it was up to ME to find out what was best for ME!
    Discover a sports that makes you feel empowered and strong and brings a huge smile on your face; discover food that makes you feel awesome!

    You only get one body for your entire life (to move, to bring life to kids, to be a kickass mum and a great grandma) – and I think that sometimes is a huge motivation to aim for a healthier lifestyle.

  • Johanna B February 8, 2011, 11:05 am

    My first change was to stop eating mayonnaise. I substituted plain Greek non-fat yogurt whenever it was called for. When that became a habit I added two servings of fruit a day. I kept changing one thing at a time and now two years later a LOT of things are different and I’m still on a roll making changes one thing at a time. Works for me!

  • Jaclyn February 8, 2011, 1:17 pm

    I love your suggestions! My suggestion is to find a good support network… like SparkPeople! I love how SparkPeople lets you personalize your goals and helps you identify small things you can do to attain the healthy lifestyle YOU want. I joined SparkPeople back in 2008 but didn’t really start using it until 2010. In early 2010, my mentality was “I want to get in better shape, but I DO NOT want to diet.” I focused on the fitness goals on SparkPeople and before long I was craving healthier foods too! Once I started moving regularly and fell in love with exercise, I naturally began to gravitate toward the foods that would fuel me the best. Now I’m a vegetarian. =)

    Healthy living really is like an avalanche… or at least, that is my experience. If you start small, sooner or later you’ll find that you’re developing healthy habits one after another.

  • Quisha February 8, 2011, 2:04 pm

    This is definitely the post I’ve needed! I think when you’re in your 20’s drinking and staying active are two big issues we face. Now that I’m starting to climb up there to the late 20’s category (mwahahahaha) and have a desk job, and there’s snow on the ground, it’s easy to get lazy.

    so thank you for these reminders. This was the best post I’ve seen from a blogger all year and it really gets you thinking about how you treat your body 😉

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 4:10 pm

      Thank you girl!

  • Alyssa February 8, 2011, 3:10 pm

    When I am laying in bed contemplating turning off the alarm and skipping the gym, or staring at a delicious looking piece of cake, I think to myself – how will my decision make me feel afterwards? Sounds cheesy but it works – when I remind myself that I’ll feel sluggish and irritable all day at work if I don’t work out, or that I’ll have a sugar crash and feel sick to my stomach after chowing down the cake, it usually helps me make the decision that will feel good. Not that its never ok to opt for extra sleep or have a treat, but I think the key is making those times the exception, not the rule.

  • Veronica February 8, 2011, 6:05 pm

    Before I decided to get healthy, I thought about it. I started researching it. I contemplated it inside and out. Essentially, I got my MIND ready for it before I even started doing anything with my BODY.

    I would recommend to anyone wanting to get healthy, to first sit down, look at themselves and ask 3 questions:
    1. How did I get here?
    2. What needs to change?
    3. How can I ensure success?

    Spend a good 2 weeks plotting your path for success before you attempt to walk it. Just as you always run the course before any race, you need to mentally go through your plan and find the areas that will trip you up. Such as:

    – A menu plan that requires a lot of homemade food wont work if you dont have time to cook. So you’d have to anticipate how you’re going to navigate that obstacle.

    – If your schedule is jam-packed and you have obstacles like childcare needs, you’ll have to get creative in finding time to exercise or get to the gym.

    – If your momentum tends to fizzle quickly, what steps will you take to maintain enthusiasm and excitement for your new lifestyle?

    Without a plan, these obstacles are what cause 90% of people to fall off the wagon by week 2 of their “Gotta Get Healthy” endeavors. By taking the time to think these things through, you can ensure success!

    • Caitlin February 8, 2011, 6:31 pm

      Great comment, Veronica! Thank you!

  • elaine! February 9, 2011, 4:24 pm

    Great post!!! I wonder about that a lot too, especially when I’m in one of my funks. What’s really helped me this year was going back to my roots, which is SparkPeople. I read their new book, The Spark. They recommend starting out with a 1-2 week “fast break” where you pick three health goals that you can easily accomplish every day for the fast break period.

    My goals were:

    1) Get 8 hours of sleep every night
    2) Give myself a 5-minute pep talk each day (I really needed this, as I had started to lose faith in my ability to live a healthy life)
    3) Track my calories every day

    Other goals could be drinking 8 glasses of water, exercising for 10 minutes, eating 5 fruits/veggies, eating breakfast, packing your lunch — whatever three small things you know will make your life better.

    Of course, picking your Fast Break goals will depend on what your overall goal is. You really need to sit down and decide specifically WHAT you ultimate goal is and WHY you want to achieve it, S.M.A.R.T.-goal style.

    Anyway, at the end of you Fast Break, reward yourself then pick another area to dig into more deeply. If it’s healthy eating, add in some goals regarding eating more fruits and veggies, more whole grains, more healthy fats, drinking more water, drinking less soda, etc. If it’s exercise, maybe start a 10-minute-a-day exercise program or a couch to 5K program. If it’s a positive outlook, add in positive affirmations, yoga, and meditation.

    If you start with a few small steps, then you can build up to more small steps, then start taking bigger steps — cumulative consistency will get you where you want to be!

  • Ann February 14, 2011, 10:36 am

    One of the first things I learned was to shop (at the grocery store)around the perimeter…produce, lowfat dairy, seafood, local baked goods. I only sneak down the inner aisles for canned and dried beans of various kinds, vegetable stock, and some frozen veggies, depending on the season.
    And the other thing I began to do was to write down everything I was eating…so much of my eating was mindless, and now I pay more attention. I’ve lost 110 pounds,so I know what I’m talking about!

  • Lindsey August 18, 2011, 11:02 am

    I started to move number one, even if it was a 15 minute run. Then I made small changes with my diet and ate out way less.
    This is a great post – I passed it onto my friends who are starting their healthy living journey.

  • tina August 18, 2011, 11:22 am

    The thing that helped me first was to get organized! I looked at my typical week & assessed how I spent my time. I identified time wasters (mindlessly watching TV or surfing the internet) & unimportantor less important commitments (too many hours at a second job). Then I scheduled time the following weekend to research quick and healthy meals (Cooking Light was a lifesaver!). The following weekend I collected menus from my favorite take out, carry out & eat-in restaurants & highlighted healthy, yummy options for those days I didn’t have the time or desire to cook. I basically created an environment for myself in which choosing the better or best option was easy & required little thought. From there I made gradual changes in implementing those dietary changes and then, months later, adding exercise.

  • Shelly August 18, 2011, 11:26 am

    My number one suggestion is to give up soda, even diet soda. Same goes for koolaid/crystal light/ southern style sweet tea. I think this is a big non-trivial challenge, but there is seriously nothing good about this stuff. The sugar sweetened stuff is a huge source of empty calories in our society and the artifically sweetened stuff fills your body with unnatural chemicals and causes your body to store the rest of your calories much more efficiently. Both affect the level of sweetness your body is used to, which means that your overall choices of sweet things are going to need to have way more sugar to taste sweet to you.
    Stop drinking soda and in a few weeks you’ll be amazed by how sweet and delicious fruit tastes!
    It takes a while to get used to drinking water (try adding slices of lemon, lime or orage; berries, mint leaves, or sliced cucumbers if you can’t deal with plain water), tea, coffee (and yes, you can add a little sweetener to this- it’s the supersaturated “sweet tea” that’s the trouble), green tea, fresh fruit juices (in moderation- it’s better to eat a piece of fruit!), and seltzer- but in the end you’re tastes will adjust and you will feel better!

    A small change is to park further away from where you need to go, and to take the stairs whenever you get a chance. I also think walking half an hour every day is an easy change to incorporate.

    Good luck!

  • Kelly August 18, 2011, 11:35 am

    I love this post! Getting started is always the hardest part! Planning meals out has definitely been the key for me. This helps reduce unhealthy impulse buys and convenience shopping. I also like a previous comment about sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store! That’s a great way to start.

  • Ros August 18, 2011, 11:36 am

    I struggled BIG time to get started being healthy, and I knew I’d never stick with it if I didn’t have a way to hold myself accountable. I signed myself up for a half marathon (long enough away that I had plenty of time to train), told everyone i was doing it,and paid for the registration. It helped me because i knew I wouldn’t be able to finish if I didn’t make healthy choices and stick to my running, which would be wasting a lot of money and pretty embarrassing after telling everyone about it. it also helped that i picked a disney race, and disney is something i really love. It was hard at first to get excited about cutting out potato chips or sweating away miles, but day dreaming about running down main street and then riding rides while proudly wearing my medal definitely got me excited. Maybe this is too big of a first step for some, but for me it worked great.

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