A Fitness Plan That Works

AOL buildI recently participated in a panel discussion on health and wellness in the new year. With me were Jen Ator, Women’s Health Fitness Director, Tara Stiles, yoga guru — I know, intimidating for someone like me who doesn’t love workouts and is of average height — and AOL’s Chief People Officer, Terri Zandhuis. We were definitely approaching health from different angles, which made it an interesting discussion. Tara was encouraging veggie gardens, Jen was encouraging wise choices, and Terri was coming at wellness from a more global, corporate perspective. I think I mentioned Chardonnay a few times — or I may have just been thinking about a glass the whole time.

Though the advice may have been different, there was a unifying message. That is, do what works for you. Chances are, if you are over 30, you already know what this is. For me, it is to increase my water intake and decrease my sugar load. I do this for a week, and I look much less like a bloated tick. For you, it may be get back on the treadmill and give up pasta and bread. At some point in your post-college life, you were on a great trajectory. You were at a good, healthy weight and you felt strong and fit. Try to remember what you were doing and do it now. If it worked before it will work again.

If you have never had this experience, if you have spent a life searching for something which will work for you, do not jump on every fad. Protein is not the answer. Gluten is not the devil. Cavemen ate the way they did because they had no other choice. We jump on fad diets because they are simple and seem like something we can manage. But, the truth is, for the vast majority of people, they are unsustainable. Most people need variety and food options and days off from worrying about their weight. When you are deciding what course to take, consider these five questions:

What is your favorite food? Don’t start a diet which eliminates it.

How much extra time do you have? Don’t start an exercise program with unrealistic time commitments. There are only so many hours in a day, and you can only do what you can do.

What is your goal? The answer should be maintaining a healthy lifelong weight. If you want to lose weight fast, most fad diets will get the job done, but you will gain the weight back.

What type of workout do you enjoy? If you crave competition, find something to fulfill this desire. If you like to be by yourself, consider investing in a workout machine and the first season of Game of Thrones. What works for your best friend may not work for you. You will only stick with a routine you enjoy.

What are your greatest temptations and how can you avoid them and still enjoy life? You may love a Starbuck’s Caramel Latte but the 16oz has 440 calories, 13g of fat and 54g of sugar! Decide if the ten minutes of pleasure is worth about 1/4 of your daily calories and twice your daily recommended dose of added sugar. When put that way, doesn’t a cup of coffee with skim milk look better and better?

Find what works for you! If you are completely lost though, try these simple steps which will at least get you going in the right direction.

Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Do not drink your calories.

Avoid mindless eating. Focus on the food in front of you and don’t pick while working or watching TV.

Sit at a table to eat. Do not eat standing up or in your car.

Read labels, focusing on sugar and fat. Women should have about 25g (6 teaspoons) of sugar a day. Think this sounds like a lot? One light and fit Dannon yogurt has 9g. Kellogg’s Special K — 3/4 of a cup (you probably have twice that amount in a bowl) has 10g of sugar. Have one cookie and you’ve blown right through your 25g. Your fat intake should be no more than 20-30% of your total calorie intake, which roughly translates to about 50g of total fat a day. Get in the habit of understanding the food you are eating and you will naturally make better choices.

Think long term. Think overall health. Think about finding your own way to wellness.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.