SEEK OUT ADVICE ON YOUR DIET CHANGE
John Mulligan (Providence, R.I.)
"Over the course of the [year], I went from carnivore to vegetarian to vegan. I made the switch -- which wasn't easy -- for a number of health concerns. I've always had stomach and bowel problems, and as my job grew more stressful, my gastrointestinal problems became more acute. Eating less meat seemed to help, and I found that the less often I cooked meat, the less I wanted it. In fact, I found myself almost naturally using less butter, milk, eggs, sugar, and other animal products... and I felt myself becoming tired and ill when I backslid into eating animal products again. I sleep better, have more energy, and get sick less often now."
Advice? "My advice is to ask for advice. I tried vegetarianism years back, and did it all wrong: not enough iron and a variety of vitamins. Take it slow, buy a cookbook, ask your friendly neighborhood vegan or everyone's favorite confidante, Google, for tips. The last thing you want is to go cold-turkey (haha) on animal products, then a month later find yourself run down, go back on a meat binge, and discover that your system doesn't really like meat anymore."
In the photo: "This is my pet rabbit, Robot, who is the other reason I quit meat, and with whom I now share about 50 percent of my diet." (Photo by Niki Clements, shared by John Mulligan)
CONSIDER THE UNINTENDED HEALTH BENEFITS OF A NEW PUPPY
Jerica Sifuentes (Farmers Branch, Texas)
"My husband and I got a second dog -- a five-month-old pup. It was not intended to improve my health, but as a result, both of us are getting almost one hour of walking time in every day. I've lost a few pounds as a result, and I love that we're getting more fresh air and exercise!"
Advice? "Bringing a dog into your life not only helps you become more active, they help reduce stress and provide companionship! It's a great move if you have the time and energy to take care of a dog."
In the photo: Jerica Sifuentes' new puppy, Guinness (at right, with Petticoat), is helping her get more exercise. (Photo by Carmen Sifuentes, shared by Jerica Sifuentes)
FIND HELPFUL RESOURCES
Andrew Nelson (High Ridge, Mo.)
"I had become a regular drinker, and I quit alcohol entirely. I'm 100 days sober as of Dec. 6, 2012. I also tried to watch my carb intake, and have gone from 205 pounds to 174 pounds over the course of 2012."
Advice? "For alcohol, I recommend a book by Allen Carr called 'The Easy Way to Stop Drinking.' For the weight loss, I recommend looking into reducing carbohydrates. Look into the ketogenic diet and read the book 'Why We Get Fat,' by Gary Taubes."
(Photo shared by Andrew Nelson)
RECOGNIZE THE BENEFITS
Bradley Jones (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
"I had open heart surgery five months ago. Rehabilitation meant: 1.) Stepping up the fitness discipline; 2.) Watching my diet, particularly sodium intake. I feel great at age 77."
Advice? "Know that fitness discipline has a great payoff, both mentally and physically. It's one of the best things you can do for your well-being."
(Photo shared by Bradley Jones)
START EASY AND MAKE A GOOD PLAYLIST
Katie Beane (St. Louis)
"I started running in 2012. I have never been a runner. I hated running. But in 2011, I started working out. I did the StairMaster, Zumba, yoga, elliptical machines. I got in shape.
"In June 2012, I tried running for the first time in years, and ran three miles off the bat. Now I typically run six, and would like to run a half-marathon next year. I made this change because I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I am able to go a mile farther. It makes me feel so strong. It's also a great reason to be outside, listening to music and taking in the scenery."
Advice? "Start easy. Running can be painful if you haven't done it in a long time. Alternate running with other exercises and only run a couple times a week. Your joints and muscles will get used to it and you will be able to go farther. Also, make a really good playlist."
Paul Ellul (Galveston, Texas)
"I made small impactful changes to my diet and stuck with it! I replaced mayonnaise with avocado (ripe avocados provide the same texture quality), committed to only eating whole grain or multi-grain bread, and snack on almonds and pecans instead of Cheetos and Oreos. Even though I have stopped playing racquetball for the past four months, I have kept the 15 pounds I lost off. I can only attribute this to the change in my diet."
Advice? "Change is scary, but if you embrace it, you'll discover a whole new world -- and may even like it!"
(Photo by Tali Wintrob, shared by Paul Ellul)
DON'T EVEN BUY THAT TEMPTING FOOD
Julie Hansen (Grand Junction, Colo.)
"I have committed to a 100-day challenge of eating only clean food. I'm avoiding processed, fried or extra-sugar foods. I made this change to help improve my digestive health. I constantly was struggling with acid reflux and other discomforts, and changing my diet has helped."
Advice? "Avoid buying your 'weakness' foods. If it's not in the house you're less likely to eat it."
STICK WITH IT
Alexander Murdoch (Glenmoore, Pa.)
"I changed my diet in June by following the Slow-Carb Diet in the book 'The 4-Hour Body.' I made this change because I was worried about my health from being overweight. I'm still losing weight, but feel much better since beginning the change."
Advice? "Never give up. Even if you fall off of the wagon for a day or two, you should not view it as failure. Simply return to your plan. Find others who also want to change in the same way so that you have a support group and don't feel like you are alone. Always measure for results. They may be small, but they are results."
DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR GOAL
Tim Hagan (Wichita, Kan.)
"I lost 40 pounds and got into better shape. Initially it was to be able to fit in an Air Force dress uniform from bygone days to walk my oldest daughter down the aisle for her wedding. Maintaining, because it's the right thing to do."
Advice? "Establish a goal and keep it in mind."
STUDY UP AND SEEK FAMILY SUPPORT
Christina Hernandez (Horizon City, Texas)
"I recently underwent gastric bypass surgery to improve my health. I was tired of trying and trying to get healthy, only to be defeated time and time again. I felt it was important to take a drastic step in an effort to move on with my life and help my family become healthier."
Advice? "Do lots of research to decide which surgery you want. Make sure that your family is on board with you, especially your spouse if you are married, because it will impact your spouse's life, as well. You have to be 100 percent committed, because if you don't take it seriously, you will a.) be disappointed with the results, and b.) likely gain the weight back."
In the photo: Christina Hernandez had gastric bypass surgery recently. "At the time of the picture, I had lost 40 pounds," she says. (Photo by Rob Hernandez, shared by Christina Hernandez)