Learning the Licorice Ropes

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I can proudly say that I have established a workout habit that has taken a firm root in my calendar. I am very good about the exercise thing. On the other hand, there's the healthy diet thing. I have heard from a lot of people that they're good at either one or the other. It's rare, in my experience, to come across someone who does well with both, with the exception of health professionals. Many even say that one is better or more important than the other for them, which is untrue. Both are equally vital.

Well, I'm the type who does well with exercise and not as well with nutrition. I have improved though in the last year or so with my eating habits.

My best piece of advice would be to learn something about diet/nutrition every day. I like to keep my eye on studies and health news. My favorites are Medline Plus (daily published results from health studies) and Yahoo Health. I don't necessarily remember or apply everything that I read, I just like to pick up little tips here and there to try. And once you hear the same thing repeated several times, it tends to stick.

The second piece of advice would be to temporarily (or habitually if you can manage it) track your food intake. And I don't mean estimating. I mean getting out the measuring cups, food scale and restaurant guides to track every morsel. This may sound a little bit obsessive, but once you do it for a few days, you'll receive some eye-opening information, I guarantee it! I recommend Sparkpeople for a free, comprehensive food tracker. The best I've ever found. Just being aware is enough to give you a quick kick. Going back and doing this every once in awhile also helps you bust through plateaus and steer you towards more healthful choices. I, for one, go overboard almost every day on my fat intake and could use a few more vegetables in my diet. I wouldn't really know or admit that if I didn't see it on paper.

The final piece of advice would be to use a search engine to look up healthy snacks, and maybe even healthy meals. I keep a list of healthy snacks (such as sliced cucumber with salsa or apples with peanut butter) that I can reference when I head to the grocery store for weekly provisions or the fridge for a nibble. I also have a stack of healthy go-to recipes so I'm never at a loss for what to eat.

I always thought that dieting meant being constantly hungry, deciphering every scientific percentage on the food labels, creating some elaborate menu that would break my budget, or giving up my reason for living (chocolate). But these ideas are so far-fetched it isn't funny. By making a little headway every day towards something I was not that good at brought me to a place where I feel quite comfortable about what I'm eating.

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