10/17/2013 02:29 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The 50+ Year Challenge

I stare at the stocked magazine rack at the airport kiosk, my eyes floating from one headline to the next until they land on the health and fitness section. Each magazine flaunts preposterous weight loss claims, slimming diet plans and calorie-blasting workouts, swearing to have found the magic weight loss formula.




A woman with toned abs and defined biceps tempts me with weight loss secrets on the glossy cover of the latest health magazine.

As a society that thrives on quick results and immediate gratification, we jump at any suggestion of a weight loss secret in order to bypass the real challenge -- making a lifelong commitment to fitness. Every day we are bombarded with obscure weight loss formulas and diet tricks, as the health industry knows how to exploit our impatient, result-driven nature. When other aspects of our lives spin out of control, we look to our bodies as a reminder that with the right amount of dedication and discipline we can prescribe an outcome.

Unfortunately, though, we often try to perfect our bodies through extreme diet restrictions and exercise routines that we all know are unsustainable. We latch on to fad diets and trendy exercises, convinced that we are improving our health and fitness; a healthy lifestyle, however, requires unrelenting willpower and dedication over the course of a lifetime -- in essence, you should never have to "go on a diet." Our shortsightedness (e.g., our goal to drop a few pounds before a friend's wedding) leads us headfirst into random bursts of dieting where we forget the long-term goal of health and fitness.

As we get sucked into the lazy trap of crash diets, we are brainwashed to believe ridiculous claims about food based solely on their caloric content, such as the myth that all fats are the enemy. When we see the word "fat" on a food label, an alarm goes off in our brain, instructing us to put the food down because fat equals calories, which equals weight gain, right?

Studies, however, suggest the opposite: If you eat the right fat, your belly fat will disappear. Eating so-called superfoods, many of which are high in calories, can actually help you slim down because monounsaturated fats (such as those found in avocados) can help curb hunger. Therefore, if we focused strictly on counting calories and eliminating all fat intake we would be depriving our bodies of delicious superfoods like avocados, which are also packed with fiber and protein, as well as almonds and brown rice. Instead, focus on making wiser food choices with a long-term goal in mind. The sacrifices you make each day as you progress toward your goal will no longer feel like sacrifices as you start to feel happier and healthier.

The best part about working toward a healthier lifestyle is that the process does not necessarily entail giving up your favorite treats or eliminating all fat from your diet. Leading a healthy lifestyle means finding a balance between eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods and listening to your body when it craves something sweet.

Together we should avoid the temptation of quick results and fad diets and start the 50+ year challenge. Make a long-term commitment to a healthier lifestyle and regular exercise routine that you can maintain, notwithstanding incredible patience and commitment, of course. And the next time your friend asks you to do a weeklong crash diet with her, pose the question: Then what? After losing five pounds from this all-liquid diet, will you just resort to your old habits and gain the weight back? Will you binge-eat everything in your fridge for the next week? I know I would. Let's face it -- you may not be "just a few days away from a new and improved you," but with a sustained commitment to health and fitness the definition of "the new you" has limitless potential.

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