Welcome to the first edition of The Dagger’s health and fitness column. I’m so excited to share my knowledge that I’ve learned over the past 6 years in my journey to become healthier. I began as a martial arts student in Taekwondo and Aikido in 2003. I followed that up with becoming a kickboxing instructor, and only continuing to pursue group fitness certifications of indoor cycling, water aerobics, and TRX. I’m an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Most recently, I became a Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certified Instructor, of which I am the first in Bel Air.
Our lives are already so busy. Time is the biggest factor in Americans’ struggle with the obesity epidemic. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to eat, let alone consider adding time to exercise. Consider the McDonald’s drive-thru completely wrapped around at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Families struggle even more with the “T” word because of their children’s obligations that often fill up their nights after a long day at work. The result: our world is fat. Fat IS such a harsh word, but obesity, the technical term doesn’t seem to convey the severity of the situation. Weight is a struggle for so many. Constantly, there are advertisements for various fast food chains trying to help fill our bellies with lots of food, for little money, in what parents hope to be even less amount of time. Let’s think about life. Do you feel FIT?
WHAT IS BEING FIT?
Before you answer if you are fit, the definition should be clear. Being fit doesn’t mean you’re a size x (fill in the blank of an unrealistic size for you). Fit doesn’t necessarily mean completely flat tummy or no trouble areas. Oh, and fit isn’t airbrushed. We have flaws regardless of how fit we are. I believe fit means that you’re taking care of your body—exercising and feeding your body what it needs. Fit can mean something different for each person and I believe it is an ever evolving word. Define your own fit, realistically. Each of us are shaped differently and we all have unique genes too. Some of us have great genes, and others may not be so lucky. Personally, I thank my Dad for my genes. Specifically, my high cholesterol, flat feet, and irregular growing eyebrows. The most important fit factor is how you look at yourself and what you do about pursuing the idea of being fit. Be realistic. Dig deep. You’re awesome!! Fit is a lifetime commitment because it is easy to be…well, not fit. Just look around and see the food choices surrounding you. The option to sit on your bum and watch television all night. You have to make an active choice to choose what is best for your body.
Here’s a simple way to breakdown FIT and begin your journey: F-ood, I-nspiration, T-ime to move.
I’m not a nutritionist, but I can tell you the basics: Eat real food. I say it again below. Keep a food journal. Write everything that touches your mouth down, including drinks. Yes, that’s it. It’s important too. Your body is starved for something that doesn’t just zip right through your blood stream—i.e., white bread, sugar, pasta. Think of skeeball. On the outside you have macaroni and cheese. 1 point. One circle in you have whole wheat mac and cheese. In again, and you’re looking at whole wheat macaroni and cheese with broccoli, spinach and chicken. BULLSEYE! A full, complete meal. Don’t just settle for the 1 point score. You’ll be satisfied if you put more effort in and win the big points.
If you fill your belly with vegetables, good carbs, good protein, and good fats—things that are full of fiber and will hit you hard—then you will discover that you won’t run to the fridge for a giant bowl of ice cream after dinner. Or, have to get the fudge brownie explosion. Unless, it is your cheat day of course (see below).
When you think of food–do you think of an image of Homer Simpson drooling? Think about your favorite dinner. Choose to make it healthier. Add veggies. Add lean meats. I’m not saying you need to give up your cheeseburger (or whatever food is your vice), completely. Keyword: completely. I hear time and again—“Are you really going to eat that?” My salad that I make at home and bring to work for lunch. Chock full of veggies, good fat, and protein. It fills me up. It works, and in fact, I do drool over it. You can change your eating habits. With time, progress can be made. Try Clean Eating Magazine. Revise the recipes so they fit you—your life, your kids—just don’t add some creamy sauce or ranch dressing, please. If you don’t like an ingredient, take it out. I’m not even sure the last time I followed a recipe exactly as printed. I like to make it my own. Be sure to write it down or remember what you revised so you can re-create it.
We cannot live the rest of our lives legitimately believing that we will never eat a sweet again, or live without that cheeseburger. Everything in moderation. Plus, we can tweak those favorite things to make them more healthy. It doesn’t ruin it, I promise. You have evolved over the years and created the food regiment you currently have. Something has told you in your head to eat like that—something you saw, something you read, etc. We can’t forget it overnight. We need to progress to make a change. One baby step at a time. You can have a splurge meal once a week. Depending on where you are in your journey, you may be able to have a splurge day. Enjoy it, and get right back on track.
Americans have health issues. It’s true. We tend to be medicated by our doctors, and sometimes it is necessary. However, other times we can help prevent the use of medications with daily exercise and better choices of food. My doctor understands my frustrations when I do every single thing to get my cholesterol lower, but it only remains the same or lowers a bit. He has commented that if some of his patients went home and even tried a few healthier options they could possibly eliminate or avoid the medication. Yet, time and again they return unchanged.
Health issues plague us. They are surrounding so many of us, and even children have been inflicted with these same conditions. I’ve had borderline high cholesterol for about 4 years now, and it is truly hard work regulating it. I refuse to go on medication because one of the warnings right on the labels says something to the effect of do not use if you are nursing, intend to become pregnant, etc. That is truly reassuring. The main health conditions that come with great abundance in our society are: High cholesterol, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Depression, and Stress. There have been studies for each of these to show that exercise can help lower and assist you in having a healthier life.
So, your inspiration is that it is documented that becoming healthier will truly help you in your life. Becoming fit will help you to feel better about yourself. You will walk differently—probably even be taller because your posture will improve. You will smile more. And, well, you’ll just discover the awesome person inside that is dying to come out. Inspired yet?
Time to Move:
I’m not saying you need jump up and run (well, drive your car) to the gym and sign up. Nope. You don’t need to do that. But you can, if you want. Think about moving your body and trying to conquer activities that we complete each day. Think about opening a door, one heavier than normal. We push, pull, do things on one foot, bend over to pick up something that dropped while holding open a door, we hold children on either side or both sides of our hips, we squat to use the bathroom, the list goes on and on. We have the potential to do a lot of activities each day. But we have to conquer those activities and be stronger. Growing stronger physically can guide us in our quests to also be mentally stronger.
If I still have your attention, then you’re ready to make a change. Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back (because you’re most likely hunched over the computer screen reading this), and smile because you should be proud of yourself. If you’re struggling with the idea of becoming healthy: the first step is to start with you.
Pick ONE thing that you (not your friend, not your neighbor, etc. YOU!) think is unhealthy and change it. If you completely overwhelm yourself, then you will be exactly that—overwhelmed. And you will too easily resort back to old habits. You can teach and old dog new tricks, I promise. Can’t is a word that accepts defeat. Value yourself higher than the word can’t. Typically, here, I insert a smiley face.
Take a week and rock the one thing you decided to change. Each week add on to your list so that you can positively make the changes and you will actually be able to see/feel results. Documenting helps too so that you can see the progress you are making, and see where you were beforehand.
Here are some ideas to begin the journey to fit:
• Try to avoid drive thrus. Yes, I said it. Even though we have the “T” issue, if plans are made in advance, meals can be pre-made and unfrozen, or made a day or two before. Plus, if you fuel your body with real food you may find that you will have more energy for those long sports nights with the kids. If you are stuck, then try to chose smaller portions and healthier choices.
• Try to avoid food with ingredients you cannot pronounce. How about those ingredient lists? If you can’t pronounce it, or if you don’t know what it is (or from) then why put it into your body?
• Eat real food. Bel Air has one of the best Farmer’s Markets, in my opinion. If you don’t believe me, there are a number all over the State of Maryland. You can search: http://www.localharvest.org/ to try and find others. Plus, this reiterates being FIT because you’re walking the market too! The only way our farmers can continue to grow food is if we go out and support their efforts to avoid becoming just another mass producing corn or soy farmer.
• Find a friend. Find a group, a class, or someone else that can help hold you accountable. Not only will it help you stick with your program, but you’ll inspire each other. Charm City Run has great groups that meet up for runners of all levels.
• Try a Group Class. You don’t even have to join a gym anymore for this. There are facilities that allow non-members to take classes. Smaller gyms have even evolved where classes are a specialty. Get inspired.
• Walk, walk, walk. Walking is the number one way to exercise in America. Along with walking, you can increase the intensity by introducing intervals of jogging and eventually running. Start off slow.
• Get your kids involved. Play games outside. Hide and seek is great. Duck duck goose. Remember the games you played as a child. Think about the giggling and smiles. It’s the summer, get out the hose and chase each other.
If you would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to contact me: www.reshapewithape.com.