If health and fitness is your New Year's resolution, here are some important tips to make it a successful one:
1) Get Medical Check-Ups! Highly important, and not just for the usual legal yada-yada of "consult your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program." Early diagnose of any medical problems you may have is extremely important to your ability to successfully and quickly deal with those problems, and may save you HUGE amounts of money (and suffering) in the long run. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. Please don't make my mistake.
Regular vision exams are important not just for your eyes, but they may detect type 2 diabetes long before other symptoms show up. Regular dental exams and cleaning are important not just for your teeth, but because there are some surprising and direct links between the health of your teeth and your heart.
2) Find external motivation. Don't try to improve your health and fitness for yourself. Its easy to make-up and accept excuses when its only about us. Make your motivation external instead - for your wife, your husband, your kids, your grandkids, or whoever.
Instead of quitting smoking so you can live longer, make it "I'm quitting smoking so I can live long enough to see my grandkids graduate college." Instead of getting fit so you'll feel better and have more energy, make it "I'm getting fit so I can better protect my wife and kids."
3) Start small, and take small steps. The easiest way to fail at any diet or fitness program is to try to do too much, too soon. A little pain (sore muscles) is probably a good thing, but too much will discourage you and give you an excuse to quit. Its okay to start small and slowly work your way to your goals.
4) Its good to have an exercise or diet partner, but only if they are as committed to it as you. Having a buddy to diet or exercise with is a great idea, but don't let their lack of commitment stop you. If they call with some excuse as to why they can't jog or go to the gym with you today, GO WITHOUT THEM. Don't let their excuse become your excuse.
5) Be aware of servings sizes and "hidden" calories and sugar. A healthy, low calorie salad can quickly become a high-calorie diet nightmare as you add all the extras - croutons, cheese, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, and top it with a sugar-loaded salad dressing. Besides, if you are just dumping the salad dressing on top instead of measuring out a single serving, you're probably using 2 or 3 servings, so multiple its calorie and sugar content by 2 or 3 to find out how much you're actually adding. With salads, stick to veggies only, and a small amount of zero-sugar olive oil-based salad dressing. Read the labels! Even with their small serving sizes, many salad dressings are loaded with sugar and calories.
Read the labels for ketchup and other condiments. They often have a surprising amount of sugar and official serving sizes are rather small, so chances are your using more than a single serving each time. That means, just like with salad dressings, you need to multiple to find how much calories and sugar you're actually consuming. A single serving of Heinz Ketchup has only 20 calories, but 4 grams of sugar. So, if you're actually consuming 3 servings (easy to do if you like ketchup), the calorie count is 60 with 12 grams of sugar (basically, half a candy bar).
Nuts are my weakness - I love them! And they do make a healthy snack in moderation - lots of healthy fats, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients. But they are also high in calories. The key is moderation - sticking to a single serving of about 1/4 to 1/3 cup shelled. If you love nuts like I do, its easy to eat a lot more than that, and those calories quickly add up.
6) Be careful of foods labeled "healthy." Words like healthy, lean, low-fat, natural and so forth sound great, but have no real meaning. Most often, they are little more than marketing terms designed by mega-corporations to get you to buy their product. Read the labels. You'll be surprised to find that most "healthy" frozen dinners have 2 to 3 times more sugar than the average candy bar, making the candy bar the actual healthier choice (chocolate does have a lot of antioxidants). But seriously, make your food choices based on what is actually in the food, not what marketing terms they put on the packaging.
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