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Get healthy in the new year

Written By: Shelley Vanker, UT Physicians | Updated: December 28, 2023
New year 2024 featured image

Follow through on your 2024 health and fitness goals without breaking the bank.

The countdown is on as we usher in a new year and resolve to make changes.

Bonnie P. Gregory, MD
Bonnie P. Gregory, MD

For millions of Americans, weight loss and improved fitness top the list of resolutions.

“I think one of the things to be the most grateful for is a healthy body,” said Bonnie P. Gregory, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with UT Physicians.

But losing weight and getting fit in 2024 doesn’t have to come with a steep price tag.

Gregory says there is no gym membership required. It all begins with incorporating extra movement into everyday tasks.

“It doesn’t need to be something big or extensive to count as a workout,” said Gregory, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “It can be as simple as incorporating a little extra movement throughout your day. For instance, if your mobility allows, park further away in the parking lot when heading to the store, to get in more steps.”

Burning calories and increasing your mobility can be free, easy, and even fun if you incorporate small workouts into what you’re already doing.

She suggests dancing to music instead of sitting down to watch television.

Add squats while you brush your teeth.

Do lunges while vacuuming and calf raises while standing to fold laundry.

Gregory also offers a comprehensive video tutorial for easy movements to do at home.

Asmeen Bhatt, MD
Asmeen Bhatt, MD, PhD

“For a lot of us, getting fit or getting more active can seem like a really daunting task,” she said. “But in reality, big changes are made through consistent, small choices we make throughout our day.”

And for those resolving to lose weight in 2024, Asmeen Bhatt, MD, PhD, gastroenterologist with UT Physicians says weight loss won’t come without a change in diet.

“Do your groundwork before you decide to embark on this diet journey. Replace ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator, dispose of unhealthy food items, meal plan in advance, and go grocery shopping with intent,” she said.

There is no need to splurge on meal delivery plans or specialty diet books, and subscriptions.

Instead, Bhatt offers these food replacement tips:

  • Brown rice instead of white rice
  • Whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta
  • Multigrain or whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • White meat like chicken, turkey, or fish instead of red meat like beef, pork, or lamb
  • Lentils and beans instead of meats
  • Low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk, half & half, or cream
  • Make a fruit or vegetable smoothie instead of a milkshake
  • Eat veggie crisps instead of potato chips
  • Drink fruit-infused water instead of soda or juice
  • Eat nuts and seeds to fulfill salty cravings
  • Eat dates and raisins to fulfill sweet cravings

Bhatt emphasizes to pay attention to the foods you buy.

Meal plan in advance so you walk into a grocery store with a list and strategy. Never go grocery shopping while you’re hungry and try to stay in the store’s periphery where all the fresh produce, meat, and dairy are sold, versus the aisles where processed foods are sold.

“These are life-changing habits that people should adopt. It is not easy,” said Bhatt, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at McGovern Medical School.

Bhatt says it may be easiest for some to adopt a step-down approach, replacing only a few foods at a time with the goal of life-long diet change in the long run. “There’s no saying that all of it needs to happen at the same time.”

In every meal, half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. One-quarter of it should be healthy lean protein like lentils, chicken, turkey, or fish. The last quarter should be a lean grain like brown rice or multigrain bread.

The bottom line is starting the new year with healthy resolutions should be a long-term goal with a focus on adding small workouts and movement to your daily tasks, while replacing your pantry and grocery list with healthy substitutes that avoid processed food.

“If you fall off your path and have a bad day, don’t beat yourself up,” said Bhatt. “Get up the next day, start your diet plan, and resume your health goals. There is no saying that it has to begin or end at a certain time.”

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.