Each day brings about an opportunity for a fresh new start. Are you considering losing weight? Getting back in shape?

Diets are hard to stick with, and more often than not we cave in at the first sign of temptation. Diets can make us miserable when we watch our coworkers, friends and loved ones eat what we crave the most right in front of us.

Sometimes, when we break with our diets,  we end up eating more than we did before we started the diet. So how do we improve our health and lose some weight without the pressure of a strict diet?

1. Cut back on the junk food.

Let’s say that your favorite snacks are cheddar and sour cream potato chips. You’re eating them every other day. Instead of cutting them out completely, try limiting yourself to eating them once a week. Then, progress to once every two weeks and then to once a month. Then, only indulge in them celebrate special occasions. By slowly cutting out the junk food, your body will be able to adapt to not needing it anymore.

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2. Replace a starch with a veggie.

In America, our diets revolve around starchy foods. Bread, bread and more bread. It’s around us all the time. It’s in our desserts. It’s in our sandwiches. It’s the base of our pastas. It’s even in rice.

Most of us end up eating way too many starchy foods in the day and not enough of our daily servings of vegetables. A great way to improve your overall health would be to switch a bagel or a piece of bread with a vegetable instead, such as carrots, tomatoes or even spinach. You can even ask to remove the bread from your burger and opt for a lettuce wrap instead.

“Studies have shown that eating a primarily plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats such as olive oil promotes healthspan and longevity, as evidenced in longevity hotspots like Southern Italy, Okinawa, Japan and Loma Linda, California,” said Susan Kim, MS, RDN, outpatient kidney transplant dietician at Keck Medicine of USC.

There are many veggies that can bring the same type of satisfaction that you get from bread, but without the downsides.

3. Be active for 10 minutes a day.

Whether you already have a workout routine or are new to fitness, invest at least ten minutes a day exercising. You can spend 10 minutes going for a walk, jogging or lifting weights. The most important thing to remember is to repeat the routine daily.

When you continue to invest ten minutes a day into your body, your overall health will improve significantly.

4. Be grateful.

Having a healthy body isn’t everything. Being mentally healthy is just as important. One of the most simple ways to maintain a healthy mind is to start each morning by thinking of at least three things you are grateful for. Not only does it help jumpstart your day, it helps you improve your mood throughout.

“Review what you are grateful for,” suggests Carolyn Kaloostian, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a primary care physician at Keck Medicine of USC. “It doesn’t matter if you do it in the morning, at lunch or in the evening. All that matters is you are specific when you do it – and that you do it once a day. This will help you set your attitude towards a state of abundance and attract more happiness into your life.”

This one thing alone will have a significant impact on your overall happiness. Give it a try for one month and see how much better your life gets.

5. Get a check up.

Doing everything to get on track is only half the battle. We are just unable to avoid certain things. The best way to check to ensure you are in top-notch health and on track to hit your goals would be to see your primary care physician.

Your primary care physician will be able to do a full assessment on your health to assess how physically fit and mentally fit you are. Plus, they will be able to scan you for any infections or diseases that may play a crucial role in your overall well-being.

Schedule an appointment early each year so you can make your resolutions tie in with your doctor’s assessment of your health.

If you’re in the Southern California area and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

By Leonard Kim