It’s just about the lifestyle, is what we all say and believe in when it comes to health. But simple as this statement may sound, changing one’s lifestyle—eating healthy, giving up sweets and chocolates, avoiding deep-fried food, eating more vegetables, waking up early to exercise every day, etc, etc—is easier said than done. Even if changing your lifestyle is the only natural, effective and non-invasive thing you can do to stay healthy and prevent illness.

Be patient: Tell yourself you can, and will, change.

The fact remains that small lifestyle changes—like staying away from fried food, creamy desserts and biscuits, having unrefined grains and vegetables on a daily basis, and exercising—are very good at keeping arteries unclogged, improving blood supply to the heart, and strengthening both muscle and bone. These simple steps also help control blood sugar levels, give the body more energy, help maintain a healthy body weight, prevent diabetes and hypertension, improve skin quality, act as mood lifters, boost productivity—the list is endless.

These three steps will help you take a positive decision to change your lifestyle.

• Assess your health needs: Take the mirror test. Do you like your image? Would you rather have been slimmer, with a narrower waistline, or do you need to gain some weight? Are you happy with the size of your jeans? What about your energy levels? Are you consuming far too much junk or binge eating? Do you tire easily, especially by the end of the day? Are you finding physical activity harder? Are you having too many aerated drinks and not enough water? Is it difficult for you to climb three flights of stairs without panting?

If you are above 30, it would be a good idea to do two blood tests: the CBC, or complete blood count, and the lipid profile to check your cholesterol.

• Tell yourself you are willing to change: This is an important step in believing you can adopt a healthy lifestyle. More often than not we know what we need but cannot get down to making the changes. Whenever you feel that you are resisting change, tell yourself that you are willing to change.

• Give yourself four-six weeks to adopt a new lifestyle: During this period affirm to yourself that you are doing your best to avoid any setbacks. Scolding yourself for slip-ups will only put you back several steps.

The six-week plan

Week 1

Give up deep-fried snacks. Restrict oil intake to three-five teaspoons a day. Every day, have a heavy breakfast of oats or muesli, with milk, fruits and a couple of egg whites. Take a brisk walk.

Week 2

Reduce consumption of aerated drinks, desserts and caffeine. Instead, have fresh lime water and high-fibre fruits such as apple and papaya. Have 8-12 glasses of water every day (a good way to judge adequate water intake is pale coloured and odour-free urine). Climb three flights of stairs and stretch every day.

Week 3

Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables, regularize meal times and practise deep relaxation for 10-20 minutes, at least five times a week. Eat small meals, frequently, every 3-4 hours.

Week 4

Focus on your protein intake. Have a fist-sized serving of skimmed paneer, lean poultry or fish for lunch and dinner.

Weeks 5 and 6

Resolve to sleep early on weekdays. Consider a gym membership and resolve to maintain your lifestyle.

Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.

Write to Madhuri at