Last week in the gym I had a lovely conversation with a new gym member…randomly. It was about being fit and what to do to get there. To be honest I was really surprised at her candor and her struggle with being fit. At 24 years old she was at the biggest in her life. She knew she had to make some changes and I seemed like the right person to talk to 🙂  I was happy to share my thoughts with her. Below are some of the points of our conversation that I wish more people would do.

1. “Have you always been fit?”

I was a bit surprised at a new gym member’s question but quickly answered “No”. I told her as a teenager I was chubby and that being healthy has been an ongoing journey for me for years. I personally don’t think there is one perfect diet or exercise plan, even for myself. My knowledge is always changing and that trickles down into the way I eat and exercise. I am constantly tweaking my view of a healthy lifestyle!

2. Quick fixes?

She also asked me what she could do now to lose her midsection as the weather is warming up. I told her there are no ‘get fit quick’ plans but I did mention a few reasons why we accumulate belly fat.

-stress (increases cortisol and insulin levels)

-consumption of processed foods (meats, breads, pastries, soft drinks)

-carbohydrate consumption* (grains, refined or whole grain, gluten and gluten-free, all can increase insulin)

-consumption of processed sugar and sugar in general (increased insulin levels)

-alcohol (beer belly anyone?)

-fructose (a sugar that is metabolized like alcohol!)

In the beginning of an exercise and diet plan everyone is motivated to get in shape for summer. In my opinion, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. If the need to be fit is extrinsic then motivation will eventually run out and you will go back to old ways of eating and (not) exercising. If however you are trying to have an overall healthier lifestyle and want to make changes gradually you will be more successful in the long run. Try reducing the above culprits one at a time. Trust me on this, it has worked for me over the years.

*It may be impossible to quit wheat cold turkey due to its addictive nature. I am currently reading “Wheat Belly” and the information on wheat is startling! I will post a more in depth discussion soon.

3. “Fitness” is 80% diet and 20% exercise.

Most people go to the gym and work out and at the end count their calories. Burning 200 or even 400 calories is not that much when you think about how many calories food contains. A meal is generally 400 calories. I personally don’t like to count calories at the gym or when I am eating. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. For some people in the beginning a meal plan guides them but you eventually have to listen to your body. We all have individual needs.

Many people burn tons of calories at the gym then go home and eat foods that are not healthy. Foods that contain added sugars, are processed, and that don’t resemble anything real. If you work out you want to be consuming the freshest foods you can afford. The food you consume is what makes your body. Do you really want your cell wall to be made of trans fat from a burger? I didn’t think so!

Exercise to be healthy not to lose weight. Choose activities you enjoy. I personally love lifting weights, interval cardio ( I rarely do a steady cardio session), walking around the city, climbing stairs, yoga (vinyasa), and mini-trampolining.

4. Some ‘quick tips’ to start changing your lifestyle.

I suggest one change a week. Real change takes time. Be patient!

-drink lemon water upon rising

-drink enough water throughout the day

-eat fruits on an empty stomach

-eat lots of vegetables, especially green ones!

-reduce/cut out processed foods

-if you do eat meat, buy quality organic meats to avoid antibiotics and hormones

-eat good fats, read more  here and here

-be active everyday!

So here’s to starting or continuing on a healthy journey!