By ABC News' David Zinczenko
There are times when it makes sense to dream big, reach for the stars and put it all on the line.
Making a New Year's resolution isn't one of them. We all know how great we feel when we make our resolutions in January, and how bad we feel as that confidence starts to waver by the end of March.
The problem with most New Year's resolutions is that we aim too high, with big, general statements like "I'm gonna get in shape," or strict, self-imposed punishments like "I'm never going to eat a carb again." But the key to a successful New Year's resolution is not to make one big change but a series of little tweaks that you actually can stick to. Here are five little ways you can resolve to take charge of your health, today.
1. EAT IT … CHOMP AWAY THE WINTER BLUES
A lot of us struggle with the post-holiday blahs, but that doesn't mean you should seek out a therapist or start popping pills. Many mood issues are related to diet, particularly the imbalance of essential fatty acids. Most experts agree that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should range from 1:1 to 5:1. The sad reality is that for most Americans, that ratio is more like 20:1 - a statistic we can attribute largely to a diet too high in processed vegetable oils. Studies find that improving the omega 6:omega 3 proportions can improve mood, reduce inflammation, and might even ward off Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.
Change your life tip: Eat wild-caught seafood once or twice a week; and cut way back on vegetable oils (that means 86-ing anything fried!).
2. EAT IT … FIND HEALTHIER EATS ANYWHERE
Wouldn't it be nice to have a personal nutritionist at your beck and call? Ladies and gentlemen, I present HealthyOut, an awesome app that turns your smartphone into a registered dietitian-cum-personal assistant. It works by sorting through take-out menus at nearby restaurants and presenting you with the healthiest options. Not only can the app save you time, but it can also slash hundreds of calories from your diet. HealthyOuters who order seven-plus meals a week with the app have reported losing five to 10 pounds in the first three weeks.
Change your life tip: If you're in New York City, check out HealthyOut. Not a New Yorker? HealthyOut plans to expand its healthy delivery service soon. In the meantime, pick up a copy of my book, Eat It to Beat It!, and you could become your own nutritionist.
3. EAT IT … DRINK TEA FOR BETTER HEALTH
Care for a spot of tea? Well, you should. Research suggests compounds in black tea ( Note: green tea too) mimic insulin and may help prevent diabetes by slowing the rate at which we absorb sugar. A study in Europe that looked at data from more than 26,000 adults found tea-drinkers to be at a 16 percent lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than nontea drinkers. But that doesn't mean knocking back a bottle of tea with breakfast for good measure. Some bottled teas have the exact opposite effect on glucose digestion, packing more 30 grams of sugar.
Change your life tip: Make your own sun tea by throwing six tea bags in a pitcher with two quarts of water and leaving it on a windowsill in the sun for eight to 12 hours.
4. BEAT IT … BURN BELLY FAT WITHOUT THE GYM
What if the secret to a Victoria's Secret supermodel figure cost a mere $16? Well, according to the Angels' trainer Michael Olajide, a $16 jump rope can do the trick. (You can buy any rope you wish, but one with ball bearings will be smoother/faster). Not only does it torch calories in record time, but jumping rope may be one of the most effective ways to suppress appetite, according to a new study from Japan. Participants in the study who jumped rope reported feeling less hungry than a group who cycled for the same amount of time. The results are attributed to an interference with the release of hunger hormones caused by the rapid up-and-down movement of jumping rope.
Change your life tip: Skip to it! Pick up a jump rope and skip for 10 minutes a day.
5. BEAT IT… MAKE ANY WORKOUT MORE EFFECTIVE
Can you talk yourself slim? A new study found that cyclists who verbalized positive affirmations during exercise were able to pedal for much longer, and also said it felt easier than for their silent counterparts. The data suggest that verbal affirmations can improve your workouts. On a deeper level, a bad workout may really just be in your head!
Change your life tip: Hop on a treadmill, and say it with me: "I'm great! I'm not tired! Five more miles? Piece of cake!"
6. BEAT IT… TRICK YOURSELF INTO EATING LESS
Remember how your mom told you to clean your plate? Over the course of the past 50 years, the average plate has grown from 9 inches in the 1960s to 12 inches today. So what? Research printed in the journal Appetite showed that, on average, people clean their plates 91 percent of the time, no matter how much food is on the plate and even if they are no longer hungry. Data from the study suggests that switching from a 12-inch plate to a 9-inch plate may help reduce caloric intake by up to 48 percent. I'll take it!
Change your life tip: Start serving your meals on smaller plates, and put your diet on auto-pilot.
7. BEAT IT… SILENCE YOUR HUNGER WITH SILENCE
Resist the urge to eat or drink while you watch the tube or check your email. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that people who eat while distracted, eat 10 percent more in one sitting than they would otherwise. Not only that, "distracted eaters" go on to eat up to 25 percent more total calories over the course of the day.
Change your life tip: Save hundreds of calories just by indulging at the dinner table and away from the television.
David Zinczenko is ABC News nutrition and wellness Editor and the author of "Eat It to Beat It!" To discover more hidden sources of sugar, and how to lose weight by skipping other ingredients in our everyday food, check out "Eat It to Beat It!" here .
Statement From Pure Leaf Tea on "GMA" segment 1/1/14:
Pure Leaf provides a wide variety of choices for consumers. In addition to its sweetened offerings, Pure Leaf also has "Not Too Sweet" and "Unsweetened" options. The two Not Too Sweet teas have 100 calories and 26g of sugar per bottle. The unsweetened option has 0 calories and 0g of sugar. Additionally, Pure Leaf is committed to using the finest all-natural ingredients with no preservatives to create its teas. It is a real brewed tea made with fresh tea leaves.