In August, Linze Struiksma began to change 27 years of habits that led to what she said was "mediocre to bad health."
With the help of a close friend, Struiksma learned about healthy eating, how her body processes food, and she began weight training. Struiksma cut back on processed food and began scanning menus before heading to a restaurant to see what her options are and to ensure there will be low-calorie, nonprocessed food available. She's kept up with her training and now helps train friends.
Three sizes and 30 pounds later, she is just as committed. She chooses to focus on health and body fat rather than size.
"This is the one thing that I do for me," she said.
She is among those who have adopted healthier eating and exercising lifestyles who face challenges with maintaining these changes as they head into the heart of summer.
While many people have begun efforts toward improved health, there is a gap between those who say they want to lose weight — 51 percent of Americans — and those who are actually working toward that aim — 25 percent, according to aNovember Gallup Poll. A poll released in May showed that 35.3 percent of Americans are overweight and 27.7 percent are considered obese.
The July 4th weekend is a time for barbecues, with hot dogs, hamburgers and American favorites. But it's also a time to not overdo it and stay healthy as the summer marches on.
No matter where summer travel leads, "vacations are a great time to get in some exercise," according to Rebecca Fronberg, program manager for the Healthy Living Through Environment, Policy and Improved Clinical Care Program at the Utah Department of Health.
When she travels, she looks up nearby yoga classes in order to stay active. Many cities also have bike rental programs and short hikes nearby that can help people squeeze exercise into their vacation.
Weeks before a trip to New York, Struiksma checked ahead to make sure her hotel has a workout room, and she planned on running in Central Park. Because she is going to the food capital of the world, she said, she has adjusted her eating habits so she can accommodate some "cheat meals" while she is away.
Pack healthy alternatives
Chopped fruits, vegetables, cheese sticks and nuts are healthy snack alternatives for those who are on the go, Fronberg said.
Those who need to stop for food on the road can swing by sandwich shops or opt for a salad or fruit option at fast-food locations, said Lindsay Park, a dietitian.
For folks staying close to home and who are heading to a barbecue, be sure to fill up on healthy food first, which those hosting should try to make available, she said.
"A lot of people want to eat healthy, but a lot of times those options aren't there," Park said.
Healthy diets can include junk food in smaller portions, Park said. It is OK to indulge a few times a year for a hamburger, hot dog or other favorite treat, but (don't go) back for seconds," she said.
People who end up eating too much or abandoning exercise can "take that in stride," Park said. Although it is a setback, they can move forward and continue to be mindful of their habits. If this happens, "don't beat yourself up," Fronberg advised. Cutting back on portions and increasing intake of fruits and veggies will help.
"I think it's important to realize that we all indulge every once in a while and there's nothing wrong with that as long as it's occasional," Fronberg said.
She encouraged those who slip to tell themselves that "tomorrow's another day. I'll get back on track."
Struiksma has learned that while she receives a lot of support from others to maintain her healthy lifestyle, these same people will encourage her to skip workouts or cheat with her eating goals.
"You have support, but you're not always going to have support," she said.
Because of this, she knew it would be important to come up with reasons why she would commit to healthy eating habits. Now she has faith in her ability to change.
"The reason it's sticking this time for me is because for the first time, I really believe in myself," she said.