Eating and Exercise: Getting Back on Track
by Grace Fox
At the beginning of January, approximately 45 percent of the adult American population will commit to making positive changes in their lives. What’s the number one resolution? Lose weight. Staying fit and healthy ranks fifth.
Obviously the majority wants good health. But wanting it and doing what’s necessary to achieve it are two different things. Ask me—I learned the hard way.
Rewind to 2001. At that time, I walked two miles nearly every day. Things changed after we moved to an old house that needed immediate attention. Hours spent painting and stripping wallpaper resulted in severe shoulder pain that lasted more than two years. I found only one respite during that time—holding my arms in a certain position while typing on my computer keyboard. I delved into my writing projects but sat there, immobile, for hours every day. I also snacked on chips and chocolate bars whenever I hit writer’s block.
By the time my shoulder injuries healed, my daily walks were a mere memory. One health issue after another hit me, and I blamed them on aging. In January 2013, I suffered leg injuries and lost mobility for three months. Recovery took much longer.
By September 2014, I carried 194 pounds on my 5’4” frame. My family’s history with strokes and diabetes scared me. I needed a seismic shift in thinking and behavior, and I needed it now.
Today I weigh nearly 60 pounds less, and I feel fabulous. So what made the difference? How did I get back on track with eating and exercise? Here are the strategies I’ve practiced:
Track food intake.
I like food. That’s why I hung out beside the snack table at family and church get-togethers and kept super-size chocolate bars in my office. But those snacks, plus second helpings at mealtimes, contained hundreds of excess calories. I’d never paid attention to how many calories I consumed until I began tracking my food on www.myfitnesspal.com. What an eye-opener!
Portion control is vital. I’ve used measuring cups to help me understand, for instance, what a half-cup of rice or a cup of soup looks like. Now I guesstimate portion sizes with reasonable accuracy when eating out.
Seventy percent of overweight issues stem from eating more calories than we need. Weight loss happens with regular calorie deficits. Tracking intake is the only way I know to get a handle on this.
Exercise can be built into errands. When you go shopping, leave your car at the far side of the parking lot. Take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator. If you’re a frequent flyer, then walk in the airport during the time you’d normally sit at your departure gate.
I owned a gym membership for several years but rarely used it because I didn’t consider exercise a priority. When I did go, I showered and fixed my hair beforehand. Breaking into a sweat was out of the question because that would ruin my best attempts to look presentable should I choose to run errands afterwards. When my youngest daughter discovered this, she rolled her eyes and said, “Mom, you’ll never do a proper workout that way.” She was right.
Now I visit the gym a minimum of four days per week—and I always sweat. A fitness coach recently showed me how to use free weights and resistance machines, doing three sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise. This builds muscle, ramps up the metabolism and results in weight loss.
Not everyone lives near a gym or can afford a membership. If that’s your situation, then google “YouTube exercises” for a plethora of videos. Consider discussing a potential exercise program with your doctor to prevent injuries.
Set tangible goals.
“I want to get healthy and lose 50 pounds in 2017” sounds noble but it’s unlikely to happen. Why? Because it’s too broad. Break it down into something doable—“I will lose one pound per week in 2017”—and set measurable goals to achieve it. This pertains to both exercise and healthy eating habits.
Start by making small changes. When I got serious, I bought a pedometer to track my daily steps. Seeing the visual count helped me understand how sedentary I’d become and prompted me to start moving more to reach the 10,000 steps/day goal.
My current measurable goals are to visit the gym at least four days per week. I walk 5 KM twice per week. I do strength-training exercises for at least 20 minutes per day.
Find an accountability partner.
When I chose to pursue good health, I asked a friend to be my accountability partner. We connected with a brief online “check in” every Thursday. We shared our weight, our frustrations and our victories. We also shared health tips we’d learned and we prayed for each other’s success. Doing this meant facing my fear of what others might think of me, and it ultimately became very freeing.
Statistics say only eight percent of those making New Year’s resolutions will fulfill them. I suspect that’s because goals are unreasonable or willpower is weak. Boy, can I relate! The underlying reason for my success, I believe, is a change of heart.
I cried to the Lord for help in pursuing better health, and He answered by changing my thinking about my body. I used to credit aging for my aches and pains so I figured I’d best get used to them. I allowed my busy schedule to overrule exercise, and I ate whatever I wanted.
Now I see my body as a gift from God, and I’m its steward. It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. He deserves a mansion not a rundown shack, and I’m the only one who can ensure this temple provides a home of which He’s worthy.
One day at a time, God gives me strength and perseverance to treat my body well. His doing has kept me in that eight percent. He’s done it for me, and He can do it for you!
Grace Fox is a national co-director for International Messengers Canada, a popular speaker at women’s events worldwide, and the author of eight books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation (Harvest House). She lives in British Columbia. www.gracefox.com
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