Health and Fitness

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It’s January, so at this point many people have jumped on the health and fitness bandwagon. My gym is packed and using the equipment I want is difficult. People have stopped eating sweets, left the cokes on the shelf at the store and picked up more fresh fruits and water. Many people are trying one of the thousands of diets. Sadly, many of these people will jump off this same bandwagon by the end of January or some may last through the better part of February.

This issue I have with this is that many people look at this time of year as a quick fix, instead of what it really is. This should be viewed as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. A diet automatically means that it’s temporary. Many people will decide to actively participate for a few weeks, lose a few pounds and then are shocked when the weight comes back.

The weight didn’t come on overnight and it won’t come off overnight. Diets and weight loss programs that promise participants that they will lose 20 lbs in a matter of a few weeks should be avoided at all cost. It’s not healthy and even if you manage to lose that weight, I can almost guarantee that it will come back as soon as you stop that program. If you are losing one to two pounds a week, you are doing something right. There may be weeks where you lose a little more or a little less and that is fine as long as you are taking the appropriate steps.

You must also remember that being healthy means taking a holistic approach to health. It means looking at the mind, body and spirit. If one of these areas is off, then there is an issue that needs to be fixed.

Food and exercise are BOTH essential for a lifestyle change. Contrary to modern thinking, your body NEEDS fats, carbs and protein. Cutting out any food group completely, means that you are not getting all that your body needs. The exception to this would be is if food allergies are present and then at that point you would need to consult your doctor for dietary needs.

What I am going to say now is probably going to upset some of my friends, but I feel like I need to say it. You don’t need shakes, “Pink” drinks or special supplements to get and stay healthy. Eating whole foods, with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains is all your body needs. You CAN eat meat and potatoes and still be healthy. Cutting out processed foods is best. This means shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and avoiding the middle aisles as best as you can. Yes, this is slightly more expensive and slightly more time consuming, but it is totally worth it in the end. If you don’t keep junk food in the house, then the temptation is removed. There are many books out there on what you should and shouldn’t eat, so take them and read them and do your own research. Don’t take them to heart, because you will always be able to find a book that contradicts the one you just read. Figure out what works best for your budget and more importantly what works best for your body.

Don’t forget your water. Leave the tea, cokes and juices at the grocery store. Water is the best thing for you to drink. The thing I have found that works best for me is to always have a glass of ice water close by. I typically have a Tervis of ice water in my hand or on a counter close to me. This makes it easier to get in your water requirements for the day and can help curb the temptation to reach for a sugary drink.

I am not a nutritionist, so I won’t pretend that I have all of the answers. If you have allergies or special medical issues, PLEASE consult your doctor or a licensed nutritionist before making changes to your diet.

Exercise is something that I actually enjoy. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys going to the gym. That being said there are things in the gym that I love and things that I loathe. Cardio is my favorite. Specifically, I enjoy the elliptical and the rowing machine. I also prefer the weight machines over the free weights. Part of it has to do with the fact that guys with huge, bulging muscles are over in the free weight area and they intimidate me like crazy. Any machine that works my arms makes me want to run the other way. The assisted pull-up and assisted dip machine makes me want to cry. Yet, at the end, I am proud of myself for enduring it.

So, what do you NEED to do in order to get and stay healthy? Reality is that you only need thirty minutes of exercise two to three times a week. If you can get in more that is better. An ideal exercise program would include both cardio and weights. You do not have to lift heavy weights in order to lose weight, nor do you have walk/ run for long periods of time.

Many people want to know what is the best exercise to lose weight and maintain fitness. The answer is “the one that you will actually do.” That’s right, there is no such thing as the perfect exercise. Some people enjoy running or lifting weights. Others may enjoy kickboxing, cycling, playing tennis or racquetball. Zumba is a popular class right now. My advice to you is to take the time to explore different types of exercise and figure out what you enjoy doing and then go for it. Take it easy and pick up the pace and increase weight as you are physically able.

Again, if you have special medical issues, please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. If you have the resources, connect with a trainer.

I am going to plug in for Spark People. This is a site that I have been using for a little over a year now. This site is completely free and it allows you to set goals and track your food and exercise. It also has work out videos and a link with healthy recipes. It also offers education and a place to connect with others and even trainers and licensed nutritionist. Spark People is NOT a diet, but a community that encourages and supports a lifestyle change.

I would also encourage you to find a friend or family member who will act as your accountability partner and cheerleader. This is not a journey to take solo. You will be pleasantly surprised to see who becomes your greatest source of encouragement and it can even strengthen friendships when you are doing this together.

Find Bible verses that encourage you. Yes. The Lord MUST be a part of this journey. Trying to do this in your own strength will only lead to failure. Find friends at church who will pray for you and with you as embark on this journey. The Bible is full of verses on health. God created our bodies and we are called to take care of them. I challenge you to do a search of verses and passages about health. I also encourage you to take a look at the life of Daniel and how his approach to diet and fitness set him apart from those around him.

Last, but not least, address the issues in your life. Most people if they are honest gained weight because an issue or two in their lives. It may not have been anything major, but if those issues are never addressed, the weight loss will not be permanent. Many people, like me, are emotional eaters. Food becomes the main coping skill. Food is what we turn to when we are stressed and when we are happy. Addressing issues may be as simple as having honest conversations with your closest friends. If the issues are more serious, then I strongly encourage you to seek out professional help. There is NO shame in meeting with a counselor/ therapist. In the long run you will be happier and more likely to stay on track.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I am perfect when it comes to diet and exercise. If I did, I would be lying. This is a journey filled with bumps in the road like anything else. I have learned that grace is important. Some days it is easy to stay on track and other days it feels almost impossible. Learn from your triumphs and challenges. Use them to make decisions about your future.

The biggest thing for you to remember is that this is a marathon and not a sprint. The changes are not going to happen over night. You will hit plateaus. You will have to change directions and plans at least once, probably more. There is no such thing as the perfect weight or size. We are all built differently and a weight that looks good on one person may not look good or be healthy on another. Your journey will not look like a friend’s journey. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin and love yourself the way the Lord loves you.

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