Maintaining Good Habits During National Nutrition Month March 13 2013

March is National Nutrition Month! 

Nutrition is something we should focus on year-round, but that's not news. There are plenty of excuses for not eating as well as we should, or not getting enough exercises, but there's also a long list of small things we can do that have a great lasting impact. I stumbled upon this article in Time Magazine last week: Health Tips From Some of the Fittest People Out There


The article features short profiles from health experts like an athlete, doctor, dietitian, yoga instructor, etc. I don't consider myself to be an expert on fitness by any means, but I like to think I've done a good job of figuring out what works for me and what doesn't. It takes a while to sort through the endless articles of advice on how to uphold healthy habits. Eating well and staying in shape requires changing your routine and eventually turning that routine into a lifestyle. Most importantly, staying fit and healthy should be sustainable. When you start a new diet or workout regimen, ask yourself, "Can I do this for the next 200 days?" If you can, then you've picked a good place to start. After several attempted diets and failed workouts, I can proudly say that I have found something that works.  


Each person featured in the TIME article filled out this little survey so I thought I'd fill it out on my own too. This is what I know about nutrition and staying fit:


Diet: I eat everything – everything in moderation. It's not healthy to cut out things like carbs and it's not easy to obsessively calorie count, nor is it necessary. On a typical day, I eat greek yogurt with honey and fresh fruit for breakfast. Two hours later, I'll snack on some almonds. For lunch, I make sure to eat carbs because that's where I'll get my fuel for my post-work pilates class. Throughout my work day, I'll continue to snack on carrots and celery sticks, also remembering to drink plenty of water. For dinner, I like to make myself a salad with lean meat (chicken) or I'll cook up some salmon and eat that with a side of brown rice and veggies. The reason why this diet works for me is because I like all of those foods. It's important to like the foods you eat. Your diet should be something that you can follow for a long period of time and that's why short-term solutions like juice cleanses and fad diets don't work. Sure, you'll get some great initial results, but then you'll move on to the next sensational diet without finding a plan that works. If you don't love kale and tofu, enjoy your burger, but maybe swap out the fries for a side-salad. Remember to eat slowly so your brain can recognize when you're full. Think about what you're putting into your meals and try to find healthier alternatives that are just as satisfying.


Health resolution: My health resolution is to cook more often. Cooking takes time and at the end of a long day, the last thing I have energy for is firing up the oven. Cooking doesn't need to be so elaborate but when you spend time in the kitchen and stay mindful of what you are putting into your food, you learn to take better care of your body and you gain a new appreciation for feeling great based on the foods you eat. I prefer to do some dinner prep work at the beginning of the week – meal planning gets easier with practice and will always be a good skill to have. Cook a couple of big entrees over the weekend and separate them into tupperware so you already have a base for preparing meals. Quinoa is one of my favorites because you can add any combination of vegetables and meat and have a meal ready in minutes. As former queen-of-the-frozen-TV-dinners, I can honestly say I feel ten times better after cooking up a fresh meal. 

Lastly, make your food presentable. By making your food look more appealing, you are telling your brain that you like the foods you're eating (this is especially helpful when changing your diet.)


Most surprising thing in my fridge: Ice cream . . . three different flavors. And chocolate. And yogurt-covered pretzels. I love my sweets. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to sugar in small amounts. Eating a piece of dark chocolate has plenty of health benefits. Even if you'd prefer to eat a cupcake topped with a mound of frosting, enjoy that cupcake! Just make sure your sugar intake is balanced with the rest of your diet. 


General thoughts on weight loss and healthy living: I don't believe in scales. I refuse to own one. The number on a scale can sometimes make you feel like you're not doing enough, and that can trigger a set-back. The only time I ever step on a scale is at the doctor's office and although that number is sometimes higher than what I expect, I shake it off because I feel great and I know I'm doing everything I can to maintain my health. A scale can be helpful, just as long as the number on it doesn't affect your self-esteem.

I can't say I'm someone who has always struggled with my weight, but I've always had 5-10 extra vanity pounds. My weight will always fluctuate a little and I'm okay with that. Your best weight is the weight that you feel most comfortable at, and the best way to reach your most comfortable weight is to make good decisions and listen to your body. 


The little things I do to stay fit: 

-I always take the stairs. I live on the third floor of my apartment building and those three flights of stairs, up and down every day, make a difference. 

-I drink plenty of water throughout the day.

-I carry a basket at the grocery store instead of pushing a cart. 

-I walk as much as I can. 

These are all little things you can do.

Papersalt's Take The Stairs book is another great reference for little ways to stay fit.


Fitness regimen: I do pilates five days a week and I go on a high-intensity hour-long run once a week. I know this is extreme, but I do it because I love it and it took me a while to reach this level of physical strength. Getting stronger takes time and is a gradual process. It's taken me a while to find a way to exercise that I truly enjoy. Rock climbing, dancing, swimming, playing soccer or participating in any group sport – these are all great ways to get your daily amount of physical activity. Even if you can only exercise three times a week, that's still better than no exercise. 


As a college student, I wanted the magic pill for getting skinny overnight. It turns out, no such pill exists. I would run stairs for an hour and expect to lose ten pounds instantly. The next day, I'd be crawling because I felt like I pulled every muscle in my legs and then I wouldn't be able to work out for days. Lesson learned: Your fitness goals should be realistic and sustainable, just like your diet. Always ease into a new routine – that way, you'll have room to make adjustments along the way.


Options for being a little more active throughout the day seem so obvious, but they're not something we think about until we decide to make a change:

-Walk when you can (instead of driving)

-Bike to school or work

-Stand up and stretch if you've been sitting for a while


Staying fit and eating right shouldn't feel like chores; they should be ways to de-stress, and I've found that they can be pretty fun. The best fitness results come from a "want" to get in shape. It takes willpower and motivation to stick to a plan, but when your body and mind feel balanced, you sleep better, you have more energy during the day, and you gain a better perspective on everything in between.