I’m known as one who speaks my mind, so I’m going to give it to you straight.   We’re all crazy-busy, running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  We have work obligations, family responsibilities, homes to clean, laundry to do, meals to prepare and the list seems endless.   Exercise, eating nutritiously and self-care in general, are often the last things on the “to do” list, if they make the cut at all.  In a nation where a significant percentage of the population is considered obese or overweight that obviously has to change.  I want to give you a few things to consider that will not only make it easier to add fitness and improved nutrition to your priority list, but make perseverance, commitment and consistency part of the mix as well.

Before I jump right in to my recommendations for improvement, I want to make three things perfectly clear.  First, we must give up on the illusion of a silver bullet, pill or potion that will magically melt away thighs and tone your glutes overnight.  It doesn’t exist.  The reality is, achieving and maintaining your health and fitness requires a consistent effort, thoughtfulness, planning, focus, commitment, honesty and a dose of moxie.  Second, just know, fully acknowledge and wholeheartedly believe that your health begins and ends with you and the decisions that you make.  Fully own that responsibility and you are headed in the right direction.  No one can exercise for you or monitor every morsel that enters your mouth.  If someone could do that then every woman with a little disposable income would be a size 2.  Third, draw on two adages that could not be any truer---“you are what you eat” and “if you don’t eat it you don’t have to burn it”.  Realize that nutrition, the pattern of what you put in your mouth over time, significantly influences 80% of your fitness results.  In our “quick fix” culture this information can be hard for some to swallow, but the sooner you come to grips with these truths the sooner you can start getting healthy and achieving your health and fitness goals.

So, now that shorts and tank tops are front and center in your closet, how do you feel about your personal fitness and nutrition plan?  Are you happy with your muscle tone, shape and weight?  Do you have the energy to do all of the things you want and need to do?  If you’re like the majority of people I know your focus on fitness and health could use an overhaul.  While I have numerous tips to live by, I have distilled them down to a list of my top ten pieces of advice for successfully incorporating health and fitness into your life:

1) Get your head in the game.  Just like most initiatives in life, your success as it relates to health and fitness has a lot to do with your attitude and mental toughness.  Wo(man) up!  Accept the reality that you will have to incorporate healthy decision making into your life for the rest of your life. One thing that makes this easier is if you find a sport or activity that you’re passionate about and find ways to incorporate it in your fitness routine.

2) Be bold!  Set short and long-term goals as well as aggressive “stretch” goals and write them down, along with milestone dates when you plan to reach them. Refer to your goals daily.   Have you always wanted to run a marathon?  Put that on your “to do” list and figure out what it takes to get it done.

3) Eat treats outside the house.  Don’t bring the junk home!  If you must have, for example, ice cream or chips, buy a small portion or bag while you are out and about, eat it all before heading home and don’t obsess over it.  Once it is consumed move on.

4) Set a specific time to exercise daily and stick to it.  Consistency is king when it comes to exercise so schedule an appointment with yourself and don’t be late. 

5) Find a workout and/or nutrition buddy.  Tell someone what you are doing and share your goals so they can hold you accountable.  Additionally, if you are a competitive person challenge someone to a weight loss contest to boost your results.

6) Be realistic in determining how many days of the week you can actually work out.  Perhaps you can only start with twice a week.  That’s okay.  The important thing is to start and to keep going!

7) Go to bed early enough to get 7.5-8 hours of sleep, especially if you plan to exercise in the morning.

8) Plan your meals and snacks in advance to avoid relying on takeout and fast food when you’re starving and desperate.  Don’t get caught without your own snacks.  Pack a lunch box or cooler full of your favorite healthy snacks and munch on those things all day instead of going to a fast food restaurant or hitting the vending machines. Also remember to drink enough water to remain hydrated throughout the day.  Shoot for 96 ounces.

9) Write down what you eat every day.  Study after study shows that people who keep food journals lose twice as much weight as those who don’t.  Without recording your food it’s easy to be delusional and in denial about what you’re truly consuming.  Plus human nature makes us underestimate our calorie consumption and overestimate our calorie burn. Keep yourself honest by writing down everything that crosses your lips.

10) Loosen up once in a while.  The goal is to not feel deprived—eat controlled portions of what you truly love.  Make a conscious decision to make healthy choices 90% of the time, and the other 10% eat things you really and truly love but may not the healthiest for you.

Know that it’s going to take time to see results.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up, get discouraged and quit prematurely.  If you’re just starting out or jumping back on the health wagon you’ll probably take two steps forward and one step back, but the important thing is to keep moving forward.  Real life is not an episode of Law & Order where by the end of the hour everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow.  So, manage your expectations accordingly.  Rome wasn’t build in a day, so be patient with yourself.

I’m often asked, as a trainer, what I do to stay in shape.  My answer is simple – I consistently seek new physical challenges to keep myself motivated and moving forward.  Currently, I’m training for my second marathon.  Last quarter I did P90X with Tony Horton.  The quarter before that I did Insanity with Shaun T.  So I’m constantly trying to up my fitness ante.  In short, whatever excites you and gets your competitive juices flowing is a great base from which to build a fitness program.  Once you start putting in the effort to exercise regularly don’t sabotage yourself by eating poorly. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand.  I encourage everyone to train and make healthy nutrition choices like your life depends on it because, in reality, it does.

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