Virginia Nagy, M.D., offers 5 tips on keeping your New Year’s resolution to be healthier.

Don’t Diet.

“I don’t like the word ‘diet,’ ” says Virginia Nagy, M.D. “It implies something that you will do for awhile until you lose weight, and then resume your normal routine. To see lasting results,you have to make lifestyle changes with modifications in both nutri- tion and exercise.”

According to Dr. Nagy, a family practitioner at Lake Regional Clinic in Lake Ozark, that includes avoiding weight-loss pills, as well. “I don’t recommend any kind of diet pills,” she says. “Many have side effects. The risks just don’t outweigh the benefits.”

Be realistic and practical about the change you want to see.

Often, people have unrealistic goals, and they get frustrated when they don’t accomplish them. “After losing even 5 to 10 percent of your total weight, you have a reduced risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a variety of other health concerns,” Dr. Nagy says. “A goal of 15 per- cent total weight loss is reasonable and a big accomplishment.”

More importantly, don’t measure your success in numbers like weight loss or fat percentage. “Many fad diets teach people to eat minimal calories per day, and yes, that can make you lose weight in the short term,” Dr. Nagy says. “But, that’s not healthy or sustainable, and it doesn’t result in long-term effects. Look at how much healthier your lifestyle is. That is true success.”

Move more.

Dr. Nagy recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week outside of work. That may sound difficult, but you have to make time in your schedule to change your lifestyle. And, if you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly.

“You shouldn’t be so out of breath that you can’t finish a sentence,” she says. “Start with seven minutes, a quarter of a mile, whatever you’re comfortable with, then slowly build your tolerance.” For patients with arthritis or joint pain, Dr. Nagy recommends activities that are less weight-bearing, such as a stationary bike or swimming.

“If you don’t like to swim, consider getting into the water up to your chest and running in place,” she says. “That’s great exercise and puts less pressure on your joints.”

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