When I was younger, I had a really unhealthy relationship with food and my body. I hated looking in the mirror, but even more than that—I hated getting on the scale.

I just didn't feel good about myself, but it was so hard to change because I thought I’d have to make all kinds of big scary changes all at once to feel better.

Now medical science (and common sense) is revealing that making small changes now is actually a smarter plan for seeing big changes later. Learn about three small changes that can help your health and your wallet—starting today!

1. Make just one small change of your choice each week

According to a study published through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biggest weight loss impact occurred when study participants chose their own small behavior modification goal each week. Every week, participants would continue the small change they had started the week before, and add one new small change.

Participants in this study lost more weight and kept it off longer than participants in other groups.

Ideas for small changes (from the NIH study):

  • Drinking one less can of sugary soda or juice per day.
  • Adding five more minutes of walking to your daily routine.
  • Replacing your usual bag of chips with an apple at lunch each day.

Health impact over time:

  • Lose up to three inches in your waist size.
  • Lose up to 10 pounds in three months—and keep it off.

Wallet impact over time:

  • One vending machine soda per day is about $1.25; one bag of chips from a vending machine is about $0.75; Total cost: $2
  • $2 per day times 5 days = $10 per week. $10 per week times 4 weeks = $40 per month. $40 per month times 12 months = $480 per year that you saved!

2. Skip the commercials…or get active while they play

Luckily, today we have more options when it comes to watching television commercials. With some software, we can fast-forward right over them or even cut them out of our recordings. In cases where we can't avoid commercial breaks, experts recommend using them to add movement to our day.

Ideas for small 1-2 minute movement activities:

  • Do one sun salutation series from your yoga class.
  • Run up and down the stairs in your house.
  • Do 10 jumping jacks in front of the TV.

Health impact over time:

  • Just 5 minutes of cardio (heart rate-raising) exercise per day can burn between 30 and 50 calories (for most exercises).
  • Let's say you burn 40 calories per day—that’s 1200 calories per month and 14,400 calories burned in 12 months!
  • You could lose 4 pounds per year by doing just 5 minutes of exercise per day (3,500 calories equals 1 pound of body fat)! Imagine how much you could lose by doing 10 or 15 minutes of exercise per day!
  • Calculate it for yourself using ShapeFit's free "Calories Burned" calculator!

Wallet impact over time:

  • Here, you’re exercising at home for free, using small little exercises that require no special training—so, no gym fees!
  • According to Forbes, if each of us, on average, would lose just 10 pounds, it would save Americans "hundreds of billions of dollars" in health care expenses annually, including treatment for life-threatening weight-related issues such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and arthritis.

3. Fall in love with "brown bags"

The good news about bringing your own lunch is—you don't have to stop eating the foods you love (well, maybe just one or two of them—see #1). The truth is, making your own versions of restaurant favorites will automatically help you start making small, healthy changes to lower fat and sodium content!

Ideas for small "brown bag" changes:

  • Make your own version of that turkey wrap you love, but use light mayo and a whole wheat tortilla, plus add in some crunchy lettuce and spinach for their cancer-fighting powers.
  • Bring crunchy low-fat pita chips from home to substitute for the greasy vending machine potato chips.
  • Try La Croix sparkling water (zero calories and sodium) to substitute for the carbonation you crave around lunchtime.

Health impact over time:

  • You’ll pretty much instantly lower your sodium, fat and processed food intake.
  • You’ll cut out sugar and calories while upping your fiber and whole grains intake.
  • Just one sugary Coke delivers 140 calories (or approximately 25 minutes of fast walking to burn off!).

Wallet impact over time:

  • If you spend $8 (the average person spends $10) each day on eating lunch out, you’ll save $40 per week, $160 per month and $1,920 per year!
  • You also lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other deadly and expensive health issues (see #2).