With the new year just beginning, many people are working on their resolutions and weight loss is one of the top goals. However, when people don't see immediate results - sometimes they get discouraged.

But don't get caught up in numbers. Making healthy lifestyle choices are more important than a specific number on the scale.

Healthy weight is reached through regular physical activity, healthy habits and good nutrition. People who carry extra weight can be healthier than thinner people who have poor nutrition and don't exercise. There isn't an ideal weight for every person. People come in all shapes and sizes.

What increases a person's risk of developing serious health problems is being overweight and inactive. People who make lifestyle changes have more success losing weight and keeping the weight off than those focused only on numbers. Increasing physical activity and eating right can boost energy levels and decrease the risk of developing sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even coronary artery disease.

Making long-term lifestyle changes does require a balanced, realistic approach. Here are some tips to help make that change:

* Focus on eating the right types of foods, not counting calories. Change your eating habits slowly by including more fruits, whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins (fish and chicken) in your daily diet.

* Portion sizes do matter. Be wary when dining out. Instead of trying to clean your plate - like so many have been taught to do - ask for a to-go box and take half of your meal home for later. Or, split your meal with a friend.

* Set small, realistic goals. Make a commitment to be active three to four times a week. Start slowly and work up to the goal.

* Make exercise part of your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away at the store or work. These changes will become habits.

It's important to start slowly and work up to your goals. Talk with your health care provider about the best weight-loss plan for you and remember to celebrate the milestones along the way.

Jennifer Smith, advanced practice registered nurse, is a local provider at Siloam Springs Internal Medicine. She is a board-certified adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. This certification allows her to provide advanced care to meet the needs of young adults, older adults and the elderly with complex acute or chronic health conditions. Smith is located at Siloam Springs Internal Medicine located at 1101-1 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.