Q: I feel like my life is the same old, same old. I want to get in better shape and eat better, but I get psyched-up for a few days and then lose steam. I need to shake things up. Any advice on how to make changes that stick? — Barry D., Calgary, AB, Canada
A: Barry, sounds like you're ready to make changes — that's a big first step. The next step? We think you'll have good luck making things stick if you have fun while pursuing new experiences, and you'll be surprised at how that changes your outlook and your health!
First, find a buddy who wants to join you in your pursuit of new experiences and better health: Hardly anyone (including the two of us) can sustain important changes alone. But if you can't recruit a buddy right away, get started by yourself. Sign up your pal later, after setting an example.
New tastes: Discovering new flavors is a major step toward a healthier diet (that works best for long-term, permanent weight loss). Fatty, sweet, processed foods dull your taste buds and make you crave more of those same old, same old. Just what you want to stop doing!
You can learn to enjoy new foods one adventurous bite at a time. Try a new food experience (Indian, Japanese, Mexican) at least once a week. (There are great recipes at www.clevelandclinic.org/wellness.)
New activities: Enjoy activities that you haven't tried before. Go to Sharecare.com and build a walking program! If you're already a walker, sign up for ballroom dancing lessons, snow-shoeing treks or a new gym.
New sights: Discovering new sights brings new energy to your life. Try a photo field-trip of local architecture or explore a museum. Traveling to another city could be part of this adventure.
Q: I have arthritis and was wondering if a vegan diet is really less inflammatory than other ones and could it help me feel better? — Ellie B., Providence, R.I.
A: Many studies show that a vegan diet is anti-inflammatory if it contains healthy food choices and is supplemented with missing essential nutrients. Remember, you can eat a lot of highly inflammatory refined carbs, added sugars, syrups and processed foods, and still be vegan. And the vegan diet (no meat, dairy, eggs or any associated animal products) can be lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for fighting inflammation, as well as B-12, D-3, K-2 and calcium, all vital parts of a healthy diet, strong bones and a strong immune system.
But a nutritious vegan diet with lots of 100 percent whole grains, a wide variety of veggies and fruits, and supplements like algal oil DHA omega-3 can ease arthritis pain and help prevent other inflammatory conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. (Chronic inflammation is very destructive to tissue, bones and organs in your body.)
Venus Williams was on “The Dr. Oz Show” last October talking about how effective a plant-based protein (no meat) diet has been in maintaining her health while living with the inflammatory autoimmune disease Sjogren's syndrome.
Also vegans tend to take in fewer calories and have a lower body-mass index than meat eaters. And maintaining a healthy body weight with good muscle mass is the single best thing you can do to control bodywide inflammation. (Check out the vegan challenge at www.doctoroz.com.)
If you're thinking about getting started on a vegan diet, but it seems daunting, try a modified Mediterranean or Asian-style diet. They're low in saturated fats and high in omega-3s and fruits and vegetables. Then gradually remove animal products from your plate until you're fully vegan.