We’ve all been there: weary of the shape our bodies have morphed into over the years, longing for the energy we had in high school, and dreading what we’ve turned into and wishing we could have a do-over. We want to make changes. We think about it. We put it off. We think about it more. We finally get serious about it, serious enough to make forward motion. We have great intentions but often go overboard, set too many lofty goals, fall short, quit, and feel defeated. Does this cycle sound familiar? I’d like to help you move beyond the spinning vortex of fitness failure, and spring out of the rut permanently with my top five tips for fitness. Try one each week or month. The key is to stay committed to transforming your life so that these tips become a normal way of life for you, one in which you won’t have to think twice about doing it or making a choice; it just happens naturally. People from all walks of life transform their health and bodies with one common denominator — they are consistent with the positive changes they make.
1. Control food portions. We live in the age of portion distortion, eating more food than is necessary to enjoy life. What is a “normal” portion? It varies depending upon the person. As you sit here reading this article, make a fist with your hand. This is your serving size of a carbohydrate, such as pasta, rice, potato, corn, peas, etc. Eat one serving per meal. Now, open your clenched fist. The palm of your hand (not the fingers, just the palm) is your serving size of meat. Eat one serving per meal. You have your hands with you at all times and interestingly enough, they are always bringing food into your mouth. They are a constant reminder of portion size and control. You may not always abide by this portion size model, but if you at least become aware that you are eating five servings of pasta, you are on your way to becoming conscious about your health. Maybe the next time, you’ll only eat three servings of pasta, and so on. When you eat this way, there is no such thing as an “off-limits food.” Enjoy all foods in moderation and portion size.
2. Plan and pre-prep easy food for the week. If you don’t spend a little time on the weekend getting ready to eat healthy during the week, you will find yourself in line at a fast food restaurant. Keep it simple.
• Make a large bowl of salad for the week. Add several types of leafy greens (romaine, spinach, arugula, kale, etc.) and any vegetables you like, except sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Leave them in a separate container because they will cause the leafy greens to wilt. Next, place a paper towel on top of the salad, put the lid on it, and place it in the refrigerator. The paper towel absorbs the moisture and keeps the salad fresh all week. Now, every night when you come home to eat, you’ll have a freshly prepared salad waiting for you.
• Buy a vegetable and/or fruit tray to munch on all week. This will keep you out of the bag of chips, peanuts, ice cream, etc. You could also toss those vegetables with balsamic vinaigrette and spices to roast in the oven at 450 degrees or put on the grill for about 5-7 minutes.
• Fix an easy crockpot meal, as in five ingredients or less. One of my favorites is easy enough for a first grader, so I know you litigators can do it. It involves 3 ingredients: a jar of salsa; taco seasoning packet; and 6 chicken breasts. Put all of this in a crockpot on low for 8 hours and you have food! You can change this up by adding BBQ sauce or soy sauce. Add the shredded chicken to your salad one night, and top off a baked potato (fist-sized) with it the next night. Get creative!
3. Divide your plate. One quarter of the plate is for lean protein (steak and hamburgers are allowed). One-quarter is for a carbohydrate or a starchy vegetable (fist-sized). The remaining half of the plate is for non-starchy vegetables and fruit. Remember that a serving size of pasta is only a fist size? You’re going to starve, right? No! You will get to eat more than just pasta. Top the pasta with lean protein and have a large salad (that you’ve already pre-made for the week) and a side of steamed vegetables or a cup of fruit. The goal is to make your plate as colorful as you can.
4. Buy a quality fitness tracker and use it. Most of us are driven and competitive. There is nothing like buying one of these fitness trackers, setting a step goal and doing whatever it takes to reach the goal. You wouldn’t believe the crazy stories I’ve heard about people trying to get in their steps for the night. Challenge your family, friends, and co-workers to see who can take the most steps in a given day, week or month. I am not a spokesperson for Fitbit, but I love their products. They have many options, from the type that fits into your pocket (my personal favorite), to the sports watches that track heart rate and different modes of activity. If you get a Fitbit, send me a friend request at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will motivate you to keep moving.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded people a majority of the time. If the people you’re associating with are always going out to eat, choosing high-fat foods and massive quantities of alcohol, you’re more likely to do the same. If your friends think a hard workout is walking to the mailbox instead of picking the mail up from the window of their car on the way up the driveway, you’re likely to be this way, too. However, if most of the people in your life are interested in their health, you will become more interested in your own health and well-being, too. You will eat better, move more and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Being healthy and reaching your goal weight does not mean you have to live on celery and water or run 10 miles a day. It means learning a new way to live — controlling portions, making healthy food simple and available, enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables, moving throughout the day, and being with like-minded people who realize this is the only body they’ll ever have. It’s up to you. There are no trade-ins. Transform your body into the machine you once had.•
Sharon McGoff is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a certified personal trainer and health fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified life and wellness coach with WellCoaches Inc. The opinions expressed are those of the author.