Six steps to a healthier and more livable lifestyle

(ARA) – Often, the thought of getting healthy conjures up images of restrictive diets, counting calories and hours at the gym. However, deprivation diets and strict workout regimens tend to be short-term fixes that never meet your long-term goals. Luckily, there are simple and realistic ways for you to feel great, boost your energy and increase your overall health – and the effects can last a lifetime.

Start with these six simple steps and before you know it, you can be living a happier and healthier lifestyle (without missing your old one).

1. Find new role models. Do your recipes tend to start with butter and continue with other high-fat, high-calorie ingredients? If so, your cookbook needs an update from new role models that pride themselves on healthy cooking. Whether you are looking to move toward a vegan lifestyle like Oprah’s favorite, Tal Ronnen, or are just looking to lighten up your current menu, adding more vegetables, fruits and lean proteins – with less fats and cheeses – will be a step in the right direction. “Eating plant-based foods can be tasty and healthy,” says Ronnen. “It isn’t a sacrifice anymore. It’s a step up when you look at the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and one of the greatest benefits is health.”

2. Equip your kitchen. Once you’ve found a new role model and updated your recipe repertoire – it’s time to give your kitchen a make-over. Swap out the deep-fat fryer for new appliances and gadgets, such as salad spinners and veggie steamers. One that is a favorite among many chefs is the Vitamix TurboBlend VS, a high-performance blender which has multiple functions, including juicing, blending, grinding and cooking – and comes with a “Live Fresh” recipe book and “Let’s Get Started!” DVD instructional video to get you on the right path to creating healthy meals and lifestyle.

3. Change how you eat. Are you a late-night snacker? Do you save up your calories all day for a big dinner? How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Experts agree that skipping meals leads to trouble. Be sure to eat within an hour of waking to get your metabolism going; eat moderate meals throughout the day, and if you’re feeling famished, drink a glass of water and you will be less likely to overeat.

4. Get moving. Getting fit doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym or running a marathon. Even moderate exercise is beneficial to your heart and helps with weight control. Plus, it helps your body release endorphins and other hormones to make you feel better. Be sure to start slow (so your muscle soreness doesn’t discourage you) and set realistic goals to motivate you to continue any program you start.

5. Enlist a support group. Sticking to a new program is much easier when you aren’t going it alone, so look to others to keep you on track. Challenge family members to find and test a new healthy recipe each week; enlist a co-worker to walk during the lunch hour rather than going out to a restaurant; plan active, fun activities for weekends to keep your body moving.

6. Relax. Stress is a part of most everyone’s lives – but to be healthy, you need to find a way to relax. For some it’s yoga or meditation; for others a comforting book and a good night’s sleep; or maybe just an evening of laughing with friends. Determine what works for you and be sure to add a dose of stress relief to each day.

When it comes to incorporating healthy choices into your lifestyle, it’s important to start slowly, make realistic changes and not get discouraged if you don’t follow the program 100 percent. Remember a healthy lifestyle is for the long haul – it’s not a sprint.