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Last updated: Mon. Dec. 31, 2012 - 10:12 am EDT

YOUDOCS

You Docs: Start with simple changes for healthier lifestyle

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Q: I'm getting desperate. I need to lose weight, but it never happens. I want to exercise, but I can't seem to stay motivated. I want to be healthier. How can I get on track? — Katie P., Foxboro, Mass.

A: Start simple, and don't be discouraged if the weight doesn't fall off. You're building for a lifetime of health. Your first step? Walk 30 extra minutes a day. With that 30-minute walk — or three 10-minute walks — you are doing a lot to get your health on track. You might want to sign up now for a local charity walk-a-thon in the spring; having a goal that does good for others will provide incentive to stay disciplined. After 30 days of taking 30-minute walks, you should reward yourself by buying and using a pedometer.

There are other proven techniques for creating new habits and sticking to them. Dr. Mike's Wellness Center uses them to help people who want to reclaim their health.

•Pick a realistic, long-term goal: Ask yourself, “What can I reasonably accomplish in six to 12 months?” As you set your goal, remember: If you lose weight slowly — 1 pound a week — you increase your chances of keeping it off. And people who start a moderate-activity program feel better and can slowly build up intensity and endurance. (Aim for 10,000 steps a day.) You're more likely to sustain working out than people who dive into super-tough routines.

•Pick a mentor or buddy: Whether it's a friend, nutritionist, coach or gym instructor, arrange to work toward your goal with someone who can support you. All of us need help to stay the healthy course; otherwise life's demands, big and small, intervene. A buddy or coach can help you keep you as a priority. (Remember, keeping yourself healthy demonstrates your love for others.)

It takes two to three weeks for a new behavior to become a habit. Apply your willpower for 14-21 days, and you'll see the rewards in a renovated life and a younger you!

Q: My daughter is running for junior-class president, and she's obsessed with building up Facebook friends and Twitter followers for her campaign. I want her to win and I understand this is part of modern campaign strategy — even presidential candidates use it — but I feel like it's hurting her. Am I just out of touch? — Victoria S., Dearborn, Mich.

A: Social media is here to stay, and there are many wonderful things about making new connections or reconnecting with friends from the past. We love it because a lot of feedback from you, our readers, comes through Facebook or Twitter. And the power of people's opinions, individually and as a community, is wondrous to behold.

But a new study may confirm your suspicions that too much Facebook can be hard on image-sensitive kids, especially girls. Adolescents are worried about what others say about them and about keeping different groups of people (parents, friends, other kids and other adults) happy at the same time. So, if your daughter is trying to win a popularity contest — and that would be junior-class president — it's possible she's trying to be all things to all people. That's tough on a teen who's formulating who she is and what her place in the world will be (as all teens are).

You might want to point out that despite the name “social media,” there's very little that's social about digital connections. But campaigning door-to-door (or lunch-table-to-lunch-table) works. You can't really have 10 or 20 BFFs (although studies show that Facebook-obsessed girls often make such claims), and in high school you can't have real “supporters” who don't know you personally. Help your daughter use social media for the tool it is: to organize a debate and present her platform for the junior class. Assure her that the more she connects to classmates face to face, the more likely she'll win, by a landslide. And remind her that, win or lose, valuable lessons come from participating in healthy competition.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.


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