Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New year, new you

With the new year comes a raft of resolutions and this year, you’ve decided to stick to your guns and tone up or shed a few kilos. Each year many women make a similar commitment to begin exercising and to take better care of their bodies.

As you well know, exercise is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy and fit and help you lose excess weight. You can add quality years to your life by making proper nutrition and exercise a lifestyle rather than something you do sporadically. Unfortunately, good exercise and nutrition are not always put into practice as sticking to your new year's resolutions is no easy task. One of the most common reasons why women fail in their commitment to exercise and healthy eating is because of lack of motivation. Many come out of the starting gates running hard and looking good, but they quickly run out of steam and fall short of their goals.

Dr Tim Lobstein, director of policy and programs for the UK's International Association for the Study of Obesity, says the Australian diet has taken a turn for the worse over the last 20 years and is now second only to the American diet as the worst in the world. He says the Australian diet contains more fat and oils than the American diet and that the consumption of fruits and vegetables is well below recommended levels.

Motivational secrets

So how can you stay motivated throughout the year on your quest for good health and fitness? One of the most important aspects is to be flexible. It's common for women to structure an exercise and diet program too rigidly, yet after years of cementing bad habits it's not realistic to assume you'll give up all your favourite foods and start going to the gym seven days a week (which isn't a healthy or safe plan for anyone).

The key to staying motivated and achieving your goals is to take small steps. Don't set goals that are so unrealistic that they serve to demotivate you. Your final goal should be comprised of several small goals so you can see your progress, feel good about yourself and want to continue improving.

Let's take your diet as the first step towards your new commitment to transform your body. Your diet should not be designed in such a way that you aren't happy with the food choices. It should be filled with a healthy variety of foods, including your favorites, in small and balanced portions.Eating healthy does not mean you're limited in the foods you can eat. Also remember that your new diet is a lifestyle change and not something that you are just going to do for the moment and allow to fade away. So it should include lots of foods you really like!

Next, choose exercises you enjoy. If you choose exercises that don't take your fancy, when training time comes around it's easy to make excuses. Don't force yourself to go to the gym if you don't enjoy the gym. These days you can find almost any type of class to suit you: dance, individual sports, team sports, running clubs, biking and hiking just to name a few. If you prefer the comfort of your own home, sample the huge variety of exercise DVDs available. Remember that exercise is only one component of weight loss and exercise alone will not help you to lose substantial weight - dietary changes are essential as well. However, you can soak up all the health benefits of exercise, whether or not you diet.

Another way to remain motivated throughout the year is to hire a PT to motivate and push you even when you don't feel like it. A PT will not accept excuses, and because you are paying for their services you won't want to see your money go to waste. If you can't afford a trainer on a regular basis, you could opt for a couple of sessions with a PT to design a personalised program that you can do on your own or with a fitness buddy.

Get results

Results will come over time, not overnight. This is one of the hardest facts to accept when you're trying to change your life. When you monitor your progress, don't expect to lose 10 of those 20 kilos in one month. More than likely it didn't take you one month to pile on your excess weight so don't expect to lose it that quickly. Aim to repeatedly practice new behaviours in order to form habits. For those who have been sedentary for most of their lives, remember that it took years to get into the shape that you are in, and it will take at least a few months to get into the shape you desire.

Again, the key to staying motivated year round is making diet and exercise part of a healthy lifestyle, not viewing the change as a temporary period of suffering. Be flexible with yourself and allow your program to change over time as your tastes change, as you get fitter and as the seasons change. Tell yourself (often!), ‘This is the new person I want to be - not just for today or tomorrow but for a lifetime.' Write down your specific fitness goals and refer to them when you're feeling unmotivated.

Don't forget to give yourself breaks. No one is perfect and frankly, who wants to be? If you have been exercising and eating properly for weeks at a time, there is nothing wrong with an occasional slice of cake or indulging in an extra serving of holiday dinner. It won't cause you to pile on the kilos as long as you continue your healthy habits. Part of being healthy is having fun! After all, eating is a pleasure, and the taste of good food makes us happy - we need and deserve to have this pleasure in our lives.

When you finally make your new eating and exercise program a habit, you will no longer have to look for motivation to eat properly or exercise. It will become something that you naturally do because it's something you enjoy. And isn't that the way life ought to be?

Jay Bonaretti is an award-winning PT who operates www.aminoz.com.au, one of Australia's leading online personal training services and supplement stores. 

From From Women's Health & Fitness Magazine

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