Welcome to 2014! Like so many others, this may be the year you resolve—once and for all—to become a healthier you. We have such good intentions, yet many people quickly become overwhelmed, discouraged and disillusioned, giving up and reverting to old behaviors within weeks.

The key to success involves small steps. Instead of resolving to revamp your entire health and fitness regimen, consider making just one or two realistic, manageable changes. Once those small tweaks become habits, you can add others, step by step, as you build a healthier lifestyle. The payoff is looking better, feeling better, and reducing your risk of a variety of serious ill-nesses and chronic conditions.

We asked several local nutrition and fitness experts for their suggestions about small steps we can take toward big health payoffs. When it comes to exercise, personal trainers and gym owners see an influx of eager customers each new year, but the ones who have staying power are those who take fitness one step at a time.

“To start changing old habits, start making new choices,” says Robin Bach, a trainer and owner of Robin Bach’s Body Sense. “Doing a few of these 30-second workouts will tweak the way you look at fitness. It will not take any time out of your day, which is the number one objec-tion about starting fitness programs.”

She recommends ‘wake up and get down,’ spending 30 seconds getting your whole body on and off the floor; breathing deeply and gently stretching your back during your morning commute; and parking in the farthest spot from your building.

Jeff Brockes, owner of FUEL Strengthen and Wellness Studio, says his number one tip is to find a workout buddy. “It really increases retention,” he says. Knowing someone is waiting for you at the gym can make the difference between showing up or skipping a workout.

Laura Miller, owner of 20 Minutes to Fitness in Clayton, suggests always taking the stairs, noting that this simple resolution will add an element of cardio fitness to your life. She also promotes her business’s technique of devoting just 20 minutes per week to an intensive workout that will ‘challenge your muscles for optimal health.’

When it comes to diet, eating less is the basis of many resolutions. However, we all know how difficult it can be to adhere to this somewhat nebulous and overarching goal. Instead, focus on portion control, says Dr. Adam Ralko, a physician with Mercy Clinic Internal Medicine. “This can be an easy change that people can institute to limit their total daily calories and result in meaningful weight loss. Sometimes passing on the second helping of mashed potatoes or the extra slice of pie can really make a difference in someone's diet,” he says.

Another simple resolution is to eat one more meal at home each week, suggests Sherri Hoyt, a registered dietitian and outpatient nutrition counselor with Missouri Baptist Medical Center. “Maybe you microwave oatmeal then top it with yogurt and nuts before heading for work instead of grabbing the usual drive-through at breakfast,” she says. “Or cook an extra batch of bean soup over the weekend to eat for dinner during the week—cooking once to eat twice saves time and money and can add more nutrition to your day.”

Hoyt sums up, ‘building a healthy lifestyle takes time, a little self-evaluation, patience and willingness to be easy on yourself during the process.’ Talk with your primary-care physi-cian, dietitian or fitness professional and focus on the small step that will make a big difference to your health this year.

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