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New You Revolution: Take-home tips

Lessons learned during the New You Revolution

Programming Note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta checks in with Harald, Jonathan, Leigh Ann, Sandra and Thekla to track their progress the week of October 10 on "American Morning," 7 a.m. ET.

Fischer
Thekla Fischer's goal was to get healthy and in shape for a baby.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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(CNN) -- Have a bad habit you'd like to break? Want to shed a few pounds? Confused about where to begin?

Then check out these tips from CNN's New You Revolution. The series follows five people -- Thekla Fischer, Harald Fricker, Sandra Garth, Jonathan Karp and the Rev. Leigh Ann Raynor -- as they attempt to forge paths to healthier and happier lives under the guidance of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's senior medical correspondent.

1. Keep a journal

Karp, 28, had a nasty nail-biting habit that left his fingers gnarled. To stop, he tried acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Neither worked very well.

What did make a difference was the support of his fiancee, exercise and writing in a journal.

"Every day, just quantifying to make sure I hit that zero," Karp said of recording results his journal. "I've stopped biting, so now I don't even want to start again. So, that's my major motivation."

Tip: To help you achieve your goals, keep track of your progress in a journal. This will force you to be honest with yourself while giving you a clear sense of how close you are to your goal.

2. Train smarter

Fricker, 45, enjoys pushing his body to its limits. As a younger man, Fricker competed in triathlons and ultramarathons.

"I'm addicted to running," he said.

But when Fricker became a dad his eating habits changed, as did his exercise routine. So, when Fricker entered the New You Revolution earlier this year, he was 100 pounds overweight.

Doctors said his problem was that he ate too much and slept too little. He was told that a lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain and that his regular running routine was not the most effective way for him to train. Fricker needed to mix some weight-training and even walking into his exercise program.

Tip: To get better results, try mixing up your workouts. Train smarter, not harder. Aerobic exercises, which push your cardiovascular system, and weight-training, to strengthen muscles and bones, are both important. One should not be done to the exclusion of the other.

3. Consult a doctor

Raynor, a New You participant, has a serious heart condition -- hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, an excessive thickening of the heart muscle -- and underwent a procedure for this condition last year. But she needed to lose some weight, and exercising would be a big part of that.

So after consulting a doctor, Raynor, 50, eased into an exercise routine. Now she works out five or six days a week. The workouts aren't strenuous, and she'd like to do more, but Raynor's heart condition won't let her. Yet the hard work is paying off. After eight weeks in the New You program, she lost 14 pounds.

"I feel better than I've felt in 20 years, at least," Raynor said.

Tip: Be patient when starting an exercise program. And consult a doctor. This is especially important for people with health issues. Your body needs to get used to exercising, or exercising again. Going slow will pay off in the long run.

4. Eat better

Garth, 50, a grandmother and former fitness instructor, loves to eat. A typical breakfast used to include cheese, eggs, French toast and bacon. Dinner might include beef tacos, deep-fried.

No longer. In an effort to lose some weight, Garth now prepares healthier versions of her favorite foods. She eats egg whites, whole wheat toast, peanut butter and a banana for breakfast. She makes turkey tacos, and doesn't fry them.

"I think back now at what I used to eat, and I was eating a ton of food," she said.

With this new diet, as well as a new exercise program, Garth feels great. She lost 22 pounds by week eight of the New You Revolution.

Tip: Instead of dieting, try eating healthier versions, preferably home-cooked, of your favorite foods. They should include whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and low-fat meats. It worked for Garth, and it could work for you.

5. Get organized

Thekla Fischer, 34, wanted to get healthy and get her life in order so she could have a baby. This involved starting an exercise plan, eating better and cutting down on her work schedule, which involved late nights at the law firm.

Doctors suggested taking a prenatal vitamin to get enough nutrients to have a healthy baby. An organizational expert wanted Fischer to avoid e-mails and phone calls for the first hour of the day and tackle her various projects one at a time to keep from being overwhelmed.

"What scares me the most is the time commitment," Fischer said about having a baby.

Tip: Plan ahead, weed out unnecessary tasks and focus on one project at a time. Americans are busy and stressed-out. Trying to fit a new exercise plan into a busy life can raise the stress level even higher. Simplify and get organized to achieve the best results.

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