NEW YORK CITY — Maybe you noticed your pants were a little tighter, or you had to loosen your belt by a notch or two.
Thanksgiving came and you had that second helping of turkey, and The Feast of the Seven Fishes added about 7 lbs. at Christmas. Holiday cheer left you rosy cheeked amid all the cold weather, so who wants to go out and exercise?
Now the season's changing, and it's time to shed a few pounds. But dieting can be difficult, and working out is a lot of work.
Making a commitment to staying healthy doesn't have to involve lots of money or effort, experts explained. There are simple, effective steps you can take right from your own home.
Know What to Eat — and What Not To Eat
No one says you have to apologize for enjoying a snack on the couch while you watch the latest episode of "Scandal."
But instead of eating potato chips, nuts offer a healthier alternative, according to Ryan Arnold, an advanced Equinox Gym personal trainer who has health management and nutritional certifications. Try swapping out your Lay's with some almonds, walnuts or mixed nuts.
Come dinnertime, try to stay away from breads and pastas and eat more whole grains, like quinoa and brown rice. Use oil and vinegar on your salad instead of creamy dressing. And use fresh or organic meats instead of processed ones.
While calorie counting may not be for everyone, Arnold recommends at least being aware of what you're putting in your body.
"In general, people just have to learn how to eat real food," Arnold said. "In most cases, by the time someone decreases the sugar in their diet, they will be well on their way to their fitness goals without having counted a single calorie."
Knowing when to eat can be as important as knowing what to eat, according to Tim Rich, a fitness manager at Crunch Gym.
He recommends eating five to seven small meals throughout the day. In the morning, be sure to drink at least 8 ounces of water immediately after waking up, and eat breakfast within 30 minutes of rising.
"The word breakfast literally means to break your fast," Rich said. "You have been sleeping without nutrition for hopefully eight hours — New Yorkers, probably six. Eating fires up your metabolism."
Drink Smart at the Bar
You may think a vodka and Sprite is delicious. But after a night of drinking them, the calories add up.
Instead of mixing your drinks with cola, just add soda water. Even juice should be swapped out, Arnold said.
"Juices are loaded with sugar and will add a bunch of extra calories," he noted.
Even healthier is just to drink booze straight or on the rocks, Arnold said.
Make a Realistic Plan
If your goal is to become more active and healthy but you have never quite been able to get there, one of the biggest reasons could be because you're setting yourself up for failure, Arnold said.
It's important to make a plan that not only encompasses all of the above ideas, but is also realistic.
"Instead of leaving your workout until the end of the day when things are likely to 'come up,' why not hit the gym in the morning?" Arnold said.
You can also work on setting up small routines for your daily life. For example, deciding when you'll go to sleep every night can help you "shut down," Arnold said. Give yourself a time and turn off your electronics an hour beforehand. Consider reading a book instead of watching television.
After dinner, too, can be a good time to slip in a fitness routine. Make sure you always do something active after eating. Take a short walk, Arnold said, or use the stairs instead of the elevator when you take the garbage out.
"Just doing something can help more than you may think," Arnold said.
Maybe joining a gym was your New Year's resolution. But as many as four out of five people who buy gym memberships drop out, according to Marketplace.
Some people stop due to a lack of motivation. Others, a lack of money. But doing some simple exercises at home — and using household items to help — is a cheap, easy solution, experts said.
Many of the best ways to tone your body are through exercises you learned in high school gym class, like squats and push-ups, Arnold explained.
Another good exercise is the front plank. Laying on your stomach with your elbows beneath you, lift your body up so you’re supporting yourself on your elbows and your feet, like a modified push-up. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulder blades, and if you're doing it correctly, Arnold said, it should be difficult to hold for even 30 seconds.
One of the more important ways to make sure you're staying active is to keep your heart rate up, he added.
"If jumping jacks are not challenging enough, you can do high knees [marching in place]," Arnold said. "If that gets easy, go outside and do an all-out sprint to the end of the block."
And instead of spending money on weights and exercise equipment, a towel and a gallon jug are all you need, Rich explained.
A reverse towel lunge can help you tone your glutes, legs and thighs, he said. Just stand with your legs shoulder-length apart and put a towel on a smooth floor. Put one foot on the towel and use it to slide your leg back, stretching out with your other leg.
You can also replace a kettlebell with a gallon jug of water, Rich said, in order to "improve dynamic hip motion and fire off the glutes."
"You've heard the term use it or lose it," Rich said. "Well, you sit on your glutes all day long."