February 3rd, 2010
11:19 AM ET

January: A time of trial and error

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

A month ago, I blogged that I was going to make some changes in my life: Eat better and exercise more. And for the most part, January has been 30 days of trial and error. My biggest accomplishment was to cut my calories by 500 or more a day, and I've done that. I dropped sodas, those so-called power water drinks I used to guzzle and fatty foods. Not that I ate that many fatty foods, but watching my fat intake has helped a lot. And I eat more fruits and veggies, which I've grown to like.

There have been some setbacks. I came down with a cold two weeks ago, and I still can't kick it. I very rarely take a day off but I was out for two days from work with a miserable stuffy head. It left me exhausted, which means I didn't hit the gym at 6 a.m.

Also as a medical producer, I travel from time to time. I spent three days in New York City and one day in Nashville. And although both hotels I stayed in had gyms, as a fellow spinner and friend of mine said, "No matter how great the hotel gym, it's just not the same." So I found myself sleeping in the nice warm (and may I say huge) beds, instead of getting up and hitting the Stairmaster. Not good and no excuses.

I have also found writing down everything I eat a challenge. Why, I am not sure. I spoke to a nutritionist who I work with and she said, jot down what you are going to eat before you eat it. That way it helps you visualize how many calories you are consuming. So I started that this month and it seems to be working. I am writing the items down before I gobble them up and that has helped because it does give me an idea, what I ate, when I ate it and most importantly, how I feel after I ate it. So this is a good change.

As for my curfew, I am also sticking to my bedtime. Sure, I don't hit the sack every night at 10, but five out of seven nights, I do.

I originally stated in my first blog on January 7, I wanted to see how much I could achieve in one month, because February 7 is my birthday. And although I can't claim a lot of success, I have made these small changes and I plan to stick with them. And I plan to make more. Doctors and nutrition experts say it's better to take baby steps when changing your lifestyle than to jump off the cliff and not survive.

So I am surviving and in the process I have lost 6 pounds, which my physician says is a "very positive weight loss." And minus the bout with the cold, I feel more rested. Now it's back to the gym as I march on to March.

Have you made changes in your life for the better? Quit smoking? Taken up yoga? Going out for a daily walk? We'd like to hear how you’re doing.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.