So you’ve decided to make a change towards a healthier lifestyle. Now what? If you have even attempted doing research on diets and exercise plans, I guarantee that you have been bombarded with everything from miracle pills and fat burning girdles, to super supplements and complicated fitness equipment. While there are many products out there you should avoid, there are still many products, diet plans, and exercise systems that are legitimate. Your challenge is to find the one that works for you. There are many factors that go into personalizing a health and wellness plan, so make sure you pay attention to how these factors relate to you. I have outlined a few for you in the following paragraphs.
First Step: What is your goal?
Before picking any products or plans, you need to decide what you want to tackle first. For example:
- Do you want healthier eating habits?
- More regular eating habits?
- Do you want to lose weight?
- Do you want to gain weight?
- Do you want to tone up?
- Do you want to lower your cholesterol?
And so on. Each of the aforementioned questions will lead you down a different path so it is important for you to pick the starting point that is right for you.
Second Step: What is your budget?
I know that it’s incredibly exciting to embark on a new journey, especially when it involves your health, but you really need to take your financial situation into account. It is quite possible to achieve a healthy lifestyle on a budget, you just need to know where to turn for help.
- For those on a tight budget, here are some tips to get you started. First, check out the website www.choosemyplate.gov. It is an informative and FREE website with many tools and resources that can help you along your path to better health. This website is for generally healthy people, so if you have any chronic diseases, you need to see a healthcare professional. Second, when food shopping, keep in mind that frozen fruits and veggies are just as good as fresh fruits and veggies, and often less expensive. And while canned fruits and veggies aren’t the best option, they’re still a better option than not eating fruits and veggies at all, and an inexpensive alternative (just rinse them first to wash away excess salt or syrups). Meat tends to get a bit pricey, so stock up on legumes (beans), tofu, peanut butter, salt free nuts and nut butters to get your protein. Grains such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice are excellent choices for complex carbohydrates and, again, are inexpensive. Third, when it comes to physical activity*, there are tons of exercises you can do at home or outside without the need for expensive equipment; jogging and walking are the most popular choices. For strength training, you can do a fitness circuit by rotating the following exercises (perform each exercise for 30 seconds and take a 15 second rest in between; repeat 3-4 times and rest for 1-2 minutes after each round): Push Ups, Squats, Plank, Jumping Jacks, Dips on a chair, Bridge, Bicycles, High Knees or Butt Kicks. Here’s a short video, demonstrating all of these exercises:
- For those with a moderate budget, check out diet programs such as Weight Watchers. WW has revised their program and done a fantastic job of making it an interactive, easy-to-follow program. There is a one-time sign up fee of $29.95 and a monthly fee of $18.95 (not including food). The success of this program is based on your participation. As for exercising*, there are many gyms now that offer low membership fees starting at $10 a month. These gyms don’t always offer group exercise classes or plush amenities, but they have the essential equipment you will need to begin an exercise program. Also, check out specialty gyms, fitness studios, and boutiques; often times, these places will offer packages so you can buy several classes at once for a discounted price.
- For those who can fit it in to their budgets, I strongly recommend putting together a team of skilled professionals to build a healthy lifestyle plan for you. When it comes to your diet, look into registered dietitians or dietetic technicians. It is technically illegal for people without the proper credentials to prescribe a meal plan for you, so you need to hire a healthcare professional that is skilled in this area. As for exercise*, look into hiring a personal trainer. When researching personal trainers, look at their credentials, make sure they are certified and insured.
Third Step: Exercise caution as well as your body.
The more you research and get involved in health and fitness, the more you will be subjected to those products mentioned in the opening paragraph. Be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is. Do not waste your money on gimmicky products that promise instant results with little to no work. You do not need to spend money on supplements, especially if you’re eating a balanced diet. Only healthcare professionals can legally recommend supplements for you to take. If you are interested in taking any vitamins or minerals, botanicals, or other herbal products, double check with your doctor or dietitian before spending money on it. The only supplements I take are a multi vitamin (it’s a gummy), and whey protein powder (a big bag that I buy at Costco), which I add to my post-workout shakes. Interested in learning more about dietary supplements and how they are regulated (or not regulated)? Check out this website http://ods.od.nih.gov/. Remember, you want to get your vitamins and minerals from natural food sources. How do you do this? Eat a balanced diet consisting of veggies, fruits, legumes (beans), whole grains, lean meats, and low fat dairy products. If you are interested in attempting a vegetarian or vegan diet, I strongly recommend consulting with a dietary professional. You may find yourself eating a very unhealthy diet if trying out these V-diets with limited knowledge on the subject.
Fourth Step: Be forgiving…of yourself!
No one is perfect. If you want to maintain your new healthy lifestyle, you need to keep yourself from becoming obsessed with dieting and exercising. If you miss a workout, don’t get down on yourself; if you have a food craving, honor the craving every now and then without going overboard. Eating disorders exist as more than just anorexia and bulimia. If you are obsessing about your food, that is disordered eating and you need to seek the help of a professional. You should have a healthy relationship with your fitness regimen, and your food. Food exists to fuel your body, it should never be used as a reward or punishment. Stick with a balanced diet and throw some fun stuff in here and there; control portion sizes, and eat small meals throughout the day and you’ll be golden. If one of those fun things is a small slice of chocolate cake, who cares? If it’s a whole chocolate cake, then you need to be worried.
My sister always says, “What’s the plan?” I want you to remember this throughout your journey towards better health. Always have some sort of plan. Whether it’s one goal or several, you need to have an idea of where you’re trying to go, and keep this goal or destination in mind.
*Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.