The New Year signals a clean slate (and a clean plate!). The good news: Implementing even small everyday diet and exercise changes can lead to a long-term difference, says Lee Goldman, MD, executive vice president and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. When it comes to exercise, "the simple message is to stay active," he says. Focus on building activity into your daily routine, he adds, whether it's going to the gym, walking several extra blocks rather than driving, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Dr. Goldman also cautions against the common mistake of celebrating your new exercise routine with heartier meals. "Don't overestimate how many calories you burn with exercise and reward yourself by eating just as many—or more," he stresses.
A month's worth of easy but effective changes that can be tailored to fit your needs and fitness level lie ahead. Try these moves to enter 2016 in great shape and drop some belly fat.
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Day 1: Have a mission
Write a specific wellness mission for the upcoming weeks (think: "I will eat two clean meals per day for two weeks") and stick it where you'll see it. Remember: This is a jumping-off point, so it's OK to start small.
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Day 2: Purge your pantry
Toss out three food products labeled "low-fat," "reduced-fat" or "fat-free." They often pack more salt, sugar or even calories than the full-fat versions.
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Day 3: Weigh yourself
Research has linked hopping on the scale regularly to better weight-loss results.
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Day 4: "Go" for a mile
Walk, run-walk, bike, swim—your pick. And don't forget to time yourself.
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Day 5: Eat off smaller plates
New research has confirmed the age-old diet trick: Smaller dishes (try 9-inch ones) and cutlery will help with portion control and naturally reduce your calorie intake.
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Day 6: Try a bird-dog plank variation
Start in plank position, then extend one arm and the opposite leg without disturbing your form; switch sides. Do 10 reps on each side.
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Day 7: Trade butter for avocado
Everyone loves replacing butter with avocado for avocado toast. But you can also swap it into other recipes to up your fiber; replace 1 tablespoon of butter with 1/2 tablespoon of avocado.
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Day 8: Scan your kitchen
Do you have any foods that you just can't stop eating once you start? (We're looking at you, buttered popcorn and M&M's.) Think about what those are for you, and purge three of the ones that tend to knock you offtrack from your diet goals.
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Day 9: Get up and move
Walk, stretch, even squatevery hour on the hour. New research has shown that sitting for long periods raises your chance of getting a chronic disease, even if you exercise. Here are six easy ways to sit less every day.
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Day 10: Hop on the scale again
If self-weighing seems to be working for you, aim for a check-in once a week. Recent research shows that may help you stay on track toward your weight loss goals. That said, some people find weighing themselves frequently just makes them frustratedespecially since the number on the scale doesn't always reflect an actual slimdown, since muscle is denser than fat.
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Day 11: Beat your own mile time
On Day 4, you ran, walked, or biked as fast as you could. Today, try to beat that time to hit a new personal record.
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Day 12: Build an open-face sandwich
Only use one piece of bread, which will save you about 100 calories. You could also opt for a lettuce wrap instead.
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Day 13: Add a hot ingredient to dinner
Foods like chili peppers and hot sauce have a thermogenic effect, meaning you quite literally burn extra calories while you chew. Try throwing a diced hot pepper into a salad.
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Day 14: Write out a new goal
Two weeks down! Write out a new goal, or expand upon your Day 1 mission. (Did you manage to eat two clean meals a day? Strive for three clean meals per day for a week.)
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Day 15: Crack an egg at breakfast
Starting the day with protein-packed meals keeps you full and satisfied longer. And whether you eat them scrambled, over-easy, or in a sandwich, eggs are one of the easiest (and most delicious) way to get the satiating nutrient in your morning meal. Try this healthy recipe for a bacon and egg sandwich.
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Day 16: Experiment with a new exercise class
A 2015 study found that women who did 30 minutes of an unfamiliar aerobic activity enjoyed their workout more than those who stuck to their usual routines. Not sure where to start? Go for one of the seven forecasted for 2016.
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Day 17: Work out first thing this a.m.
An early sweat session helps keep your metabolism humming all day. And although the thought of carving out time to work out in the morning may seem daunting, we bet you can find 2 minutes for this fast workout.
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Day 18: Do kettlebell swings
Go for 10 to 15 reps to get the hang of the motion. Watch this video tutorial to learn the proper way to execute the move.
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Day 19: Stick with veggies
Can you go meat-free for the next three days? Give it a shot. Research shows that vegetarians tend to have lower BMIs than meat eaters.
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Day 20: Go for H2O
Make water your primary beverage for the rest of the month. We'll give you a free pass for morning coffee and the occasional glass of wine.
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Day 21: Sneak in exercises throughout your day
Make the world your gym! Hold a wall sit before you brush your teeth, do 10 to 15 push-ups before you shower, and lunge your way from the TV to the bathroom.
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Day 22: Take a lunch lap
Instead of taking your full lunch break sitting in the kitchenette (or worse, at your desk), grab a co-worker and spend the first half of your break taking a brisk walk.
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Day 23: Mix things up
Enjoy one fruit and one vegetable that you rarely eat. Only about 13 percent of adults get the recommended amount of fruit per day (1 1/2 to 2 cups), and fewer than 9 percent get their daily veggie dose (2 to 3 cups).
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Day 24: Rock a jump-rope workout
Aim for five one-minute intervals of two-footed, alternating or high-knee skipping. Include a short rest in between each.
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Day 25: Try Tabata
Exercise using just your body weight—-style! Do squat jumps, push-ups, burpees and sit-ups for 20-second intervals, with 10 seconds of rest in between. Repeat twice.
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Day 26: Remember to hydrate
Drink a 17-ounce bottle of water before each meal. It'll help you feel fuller, consume fewer calories and stay hydrated.
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Day 27: Try a gym gadget you've never used
Resistance bands, BOSU balls and ankle weights are great for extra burn. Try this six-move that will tone your whole body.
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Day 28: Feeling strong?
Tally 50 burpees by the end of the day. Crank up the traditional move with these three calorie-torching variations.
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Day 29: Cook with quinoa
The fiber-filled seed can even be used for pie crust. Try our recipe.