For millions, the new year means setting fitness goals. Gym memberships skyrocket. Resolutions abound. Things go gangbusters for a few weeks, but then falter. Why?

Fitness is more than sweating and deprivation. It’s a lifestyle change that spans intake, output and outlook. It’s the ability to “do your life” with strength, ease and happiness by managing physical challenges and experiencing healthy interactions with people, food and events.

There’s an old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition are proven risk factors for colds and flu, as well as big, scary, expensive illnesses that are hard to cure. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis are all mitigated by activity and nutrition. Fitness is prevention and comes from small, sustained changes in attitude, habits and routines.

• Find your starting point.

Keep a seven-day food and activity diary. Write down everything you consume, food and beverages. Add in duration and rigor of activity, then take an honest look.

A diary illuminates the good, the bad and the ugly. You’ll take responsibility and have a great launching pad to fitness.

• Move: Get up!

Sitting is the new smoking. Change your commute; park a mile away; walk to work (avoiding traffic!). Stand, or add an hourly get-up from your desk, join an after-work activity. Ride your bike or walk to the movie.

If you must drive, add a walk into your outing. Plan ahead and get the right gear for moving around in any weather. (Hint: This makes you wicked easy to buy gifts for.)

• Take out the “carbage.”

Carbohydrate garbage – any grain-based processed “food” – must go. End of story. No “buts.” Simple is not always easy!

• Avoid environmental traps.

At work: Have an extra pair of running shoes for walking lunch breaks, mark “no-sugar/no-junk” zones around your desk. At home: Clear the kitchen counter; don’t shop when hungry; avoid the chip aisle; ban low-nutrient, high-calorie food (see No. 3) from your house.

• Put your money where your health is.

The cost of illness far outweighs money spent on nutritious, local and organic food. Fresh flavorful plants contain phytochemicals that repel invaders for the plants. You harness that phyto-power when you eat them. Food that fights back fights for you. The farther fresh food travels, the more nutrients are lost.

Shop your farmers market or seek locally grown food in the supermarket. Buying local ensures your food has more nutrients and supports environmental fitness: 68 percent of your expenditure stays in the local economy.

• More water, less alcohol.

Time to burst the bubble about alcoholic beverages. Most bar drinks are water, alcohol and sugar combined – completely empty calories! Alcohol has almost twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein and comes in just under fat. Drink water instead. Cold, room-temp, iced or hot – just down it! Especially in winter!

• Engage long-term thinking.

To break a mindless bad habit, you must be constantly aware of your actions. When making a familiar bad choice, STOP. Activate your mind and ask “Is this in line with my long-term goal?” Many people fail here because it requires energy and attention. Shaping new behavior means making smarter decisions that require forward thinking, patience and consistency.

• Practice mental, emotional and physical hygiene.

Mental hygiene is having a calm, confident and educated approach to life events and the reactions of others. Emotional hygiene represents your feelings and attitude to yourself, others, work, food, beverages, old beliefs, etc. Interacting without dependency is a big part of it. Physical hygiene is a no-brainer. Just in case, here are two tips: Floss and wash your hands a lot.

• Challenge yourself to be open, flexible, balanced and resilient.

Consistently learning something new keeps your brain synapses refreshed. Educate yourself for fun and opportunity. The flexibility to bend, not break, applies to our bodies and our minds. Improved balance prevents injury but can be applied broadly, addressing what we allow in and out of our life. These qualities eventually lead to resilience in the face of challenges.

• Be steadfast.

When it gets tough; modify, but don’t stop – reflect, flex, but be tenacious. Create a personal mission statement this new year and reread it to remind yourself of your goals. You will prevail and you’ll likely inspire someone else to do the same. We never know the impact our actions will have on friends, children and others who pass through our lives.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.