Let's face it, becoming fit and healthy can be daunting. There is no shortage of information on diet and exercise out there. Add to that the fact that everywhere we look, a member of the healthy social status-sphere (think six-pack abs on billboards) is looking back at us, reminding you of that New Years resolution you didn't keep. We all want to look good and we know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle -- but we don't all have the luxury of trainers and nutritionists to guide us and sculpt the body we always wanted, or let alone being born with those superstar athlete skills we dream of.
So what is a person to do?
My first suggestion is to NOT follow the 'deer-in-head-lights' approach to fitness and health. Many people become so overwhelmed with the voluminous amount of information, tips, programs, diets and advice that they do nothing. Not a good idea. The proliferation of online tools and information should be your friend, not your excuse.
This leads me to my second suggestion which is to become a connoisseur of the information that is out there. As you research and read about tips and trends, pick and choose what makes sense for you and your lifestyle. An example, albeit from an obscure source, may be helpful here. This is from Canada.com and is their rendition of "A Day's Worth of Healthy Habits" paraphrased below with some suggestions on how make some changes throughout your day and perhaps break some bad habits:
· 6 a.m. Work out early.
· 7:15 a.m. Eat a hearty breakfast.
· 8 a.m. Reduce the environmental impact of your commute and take public transportation to work and off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way to the office.
· 8:45 a.m. Take the stairs, not the elevator or escalator -- climbing just two flights of stairs every day could result in a loss of six pounds per year.
· 10 a.m. Get up and stretch your legs.
· 10:30 a.m. Enjoy a mid-morning snack. Nibbling on a light snack mid-morning will keep blood sugar levels steady and improve your ability to concentrate.
· 12:30 p.m. Eat lunch. A healthy noon meal mixes lean protein and healthy carbs. Then head outside for a 20-minute walk to re-energize for the afternoon ahead.
· 3 p.m. A mid-afternoon stroll will ease some of the postural strain of slumping over a computer for hours on end.
· 4 p.m. Have a late-afternoon snack, like nuts and avoid the late-afternoon energy slump.
· 6:30 p.m. Eat a balanced/healthy dinner (enough veggies to cover one-third of your plate, a portion of meat that fits in the palm of your hand and a small helping of whole-grain rice or potatoes.)
· 7:30 p.m. Get in another 15-20 minute walk after dinner.
· 10 p.m. Grab some shut-eye.
Sounds like a great day; however I'm the first to admit that a schedule like this is nearly impossible for many of us, including me. Although I eat well and exercise regularly, I feel somewhat inadequate with respect to taking public transportation, walking, or even getting the right "healthy noon meal." Not to mention my challenges with getting all the sleep I need. Even more concerning is who knows what environmental factors are canceling out all the hard work, anyhow?
So I have two choices, I can chuck the article and information and go back to my routine, or I can be an information connoisseur and pick and choose something new that might work for me. For example, having a mid-morning snack is something I don't do now, but would be reasonable for me to incorporate. It's not too difficult and probably would keep me from being starved by lunch. A 15 minute walk after dinner, not happening -- but that doesn't make me a fitness failure -- just a connoisseur.
Only you know what your body needs. Don't let the concept of optimal health and fitness overwhelm you, but rather go with the plan of picking and choosing the right routine, diet and exercise program that works for you. I can promise that it will become a game of trial and error, as everyone has different demands, schedules, body rhythms and preferences -- all of which makes a one size fits all routine nearly impossible. A suggestion like getting up for a 6 a.m. workout could likely scare a majority of people away from even reading the rest of the itinerary.
Being a connoisseur also means becoming a savvier consumer and an active participant in your healthy lifestyle. This leads me to my third suggestion -- do your health homework. Be diligent about asking questions, make notes and of course take action. Consider talking to a nutritionist (not just your M.D.) about your diet, treat yourself to one session with a trainer to check your form, post questions on fitness blogs, research diets or supplements you have heard are good and talk to friends who seem to have some of this already figured out. Also try new exercise programs. Exercise can become monotonous, so find a way to keep it entertaining and get out of your comfort zone by mixing it up. There are loads of great videos and trainers with free routines online -- just a search and click away. Remember don't let the options overwhelm you -- be a connoisseur.
What's important is that even small changes do matter, and with the information flowing more than it ever has, it is becoming easier to do the necessary self-study and begin to make healthy choices. You're only going to be a fitness failure if you don't do your health homework and start to consume.