Your One-month Plan for a Lifetime of Wellness

You resolved to live a healthier life this year, but aren't sure how to begin. All you need is a plan. Here’s a one-month road map for eating and exercising that could start you on a life-changing journey.


Week 1

Diet: Take stock of your current weight and eating habits. If your body mass index is more than 25, you may need to lose weight.

Most people can safely lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. To hit these weekly targets, cut 500–1,000 daily calories through a combination of diet and exercise. Keep a food diary or download an app that lets you track how many calories you eat and how many calories you burn each day.

Exercise: Has it been a while since your last workout? If so, get your doctor’s OK before hitting the gym. Find a reasonable block of time for 30 minutes of daily exercise. Hint: If you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule your workouts for 5 a.m.

Week 2

Diet: Focus on hydration. Replace sugary beverages with water. Enjoy a cup of decaf coffee or tea instead of an after-dinner nightcap. Green tea can give your metabolism a boost. A cup of calming chamomile tea can help tame cravings.

Exercise: Aim for 30 minutes of constant movement three to five days this week. Biking, swimming, walking, yoga or low-intensity group aerobics classes are great options for beginners.

“Many people who are just starting an exercise program want to make up for lost time in one day,” says Kevin Carter, Director of Wellness Services, Navicent Health. “As a result, they exercise too intensely or for too long. Your body will do a good job of letting you know when you are doing too much. Listen to the warning signs. Stop or lower your intensity if needed.”

Week 3

Diet: Find a cheerleader.

“Ask around, and you’ll likely find a friend or family member who’s trying to make the same healthy lifestyle changes you are,” Carter says. “Look for a partner to share recipes and accountability.”

Exercise: Make fitness a group effort this week. Try walking or jogging with a friend or family member, and go only as fast as you can while talking without getting out of breath. Take a group class, try a sport or sign up for personal training.

Week 4

Diet: This week, focus on your food-buying habits. Learn how to understand food labels to make the most of your meals.

“Be mindful of the way foods are marketed,” Carter says. “Foods labeled ‘organic’ or ‘gluten-free’ aren’t always healthy. Try to base meal planning around fruits and vegetables instead of packaged foods.”

Exercise: Perform a mix of aerobic, strength-training and stress-busting flexibility exercises, such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of weekly moderate aerobic exercise. Strength-training and flexibility workouts should occur at least twice a week.

Beware Self-sabotage

Many plans to eat better and exercise more never get off the ground for one reason: They’re doomed from the start by goals that are difficult or impossible to reach. The instant-gratification era in which we live conditions us to want immediate results, but weight loss and fitness don’t work that way. Making a change as big and important as adopting a healthy lifestyle takes time.

“Trying to make too many changes at once is a mistake,” says Kevin Carter, Director of Wellness Services, Navicent Health. “So is setting goals that don’t fit in to your current lifestyle at all. Specific, realistic goals are best and set you up for success.”

Carter recommends making small changes each week and building on them until they become healthy habits. For example, an attainable goal could be to replace the soda you have each afternoon at work with a glass of water. That is something that would be easy to build on. Creating a new habit can take up to 16 weeks, he says, so don’t get discouraged if it seems to take a while. Just stick with the changes until they become routine.

Visit the Wellness Center, Navicent Health website for a free guest pass. To schedule an appointment with a dietitian, call 478-477-2300.

Atrium Health Navicent