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New Year, Wild Guess: “More Exercise, Less Fat”?

Healthy Resolutions That Won’t Fail You

  1. Shave off 100 calories with these few simple changes
    • Substitute non-fat milk and sugar-free syrup for whole milk and sugar in your favorite coffee drink
    • Trim all fat from beef and pork and remove the fatty skin from poultry
    • Use reduced-calorie ice cream instead of regular
    • Enjoy raw vegetables with salsa or fat-free ranch, not chips
  2. Why eating a healthy breakfast every day is important
    • When you wake up in the morning, your body has been fasting for hours. By eating breakfast you “break the fast” and give your body the needed energy to function. Most people who have lost weight and kept it off eat breakfast every day. A healthy breakfast ensures that you are less likely to overeat later in the day.

      Here are healthy choices that will make you feel full and satisfied for hours:
    • Oatmeal with raisins or fresh fruit
    • Whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter (but no more than 2 teaspoons)
    • Eggs and whole grain toast
    • Smoothie made of fresh or frozen fruit and nonfat yogurt
    • Half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread
  3. Start exercising
    • If you’re healthy, you can gain substantial health benefits by performing 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. To gain even greater health benefits, the government recommends 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 1.5 hours of vigorous aerobic activity.

      Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include gardening, skateboarding, riding your bicycle, brisk walking. Vigorous-intensity activities include jumping rope, running, hiking uphill and sports, such as soccer, basketball and ice or field hockey.
    • If life gets in the way or you get sick, don’t get discouraged. Instead, resume your exercise routine as soon as possible and remember that even 10 minutes a day are better than no exercise at all.
  4. Five Easy Ways to Build Exercise Into Every Day and Burn Calories
    • Ignore the elevator and escalators; take the stairs instead
    • Park your car further away from the grocery store, workplace and home
    • Make it a rule to walk at every opportunity (during your breaks, before or after lunch) and ask family members, friends and co-workers to join you
    • Leave your workout clothes in your car, at the door before you leave home or at your work place (that way you know that your workout clothes are always with you).

From The Head Down

It’s a New Year and time for a new you: This year, you will lose the extra 5-10 pounds, start exercising, spend more time with your loved ones and make better choices.

It’s only human to want to start anew in January.

A quick survey among my co-workers here at the American Council on Exercise showed that the desire for self-improvement ranks as high as ever.

Wish List for 2010

Frances Zuniga, ACE's receptionist, said in an e-mail, “my goal is to fit into my size 6-8 dresses.”

Anna Beron, ACE’s IT Manager, plans a return to her pre-pregnancy weight, which she will accomplish with strength-training and swimming laps at the pool.

Todd Galati, ACE’s Certification and Exam Development Manager has even bigger goals: He wants to lose 7-8 pounds this year, spend more time with family in the evenings instead of working, sleep more, support his wife with her exercise goals while keeping on track with his own exercise goals, and even compete in a few running races.

For Camisha Burks-Walker, ACE’s Accounts Payable Coordinator, 2010 is a simple matter: Move more, eat less. Though she said she won’t worry about it too much. After all, her doctor just gave her a clean bill of health and it’s not like she’s ‘fat’ (which she isn’t by any means).

By the end of the year, we will know which co-workers kept on track with their health and fitness goals, let alone realized them. The only certainty is that making a true life change is incredibly hard. Many people don’t make real life changes unless they’ve had a serious health scare, a sobering incident or a death of a loved one that made them reevaluate their own lives.

According to a psychology professor quoted in The New York Times last year, research has shown that about 80 percent of people who make resolutions on January 1st fall of the wagon by Valentine’s Day.

Michael Mantell, a psychologist in private practice in San Diego, agrees with the notion that it’s difficult for people to stick to their resolutions over the long haul, because sustained behavior change is a challenge for most of us.

“Most people are hard-wired not to change quickly,” said Mantell. However, people who tend to have the most success in making real life changes achieve balance in the four following areas:  

  • Positive Emotions
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Find Meaning in Life
  • Celebrate Accomplishments

“Look at what is positive in your life and focus on the four areas,” Mantell said.

For the sake of this article, we will focus on diet and exercise, which continues to top the list of New Year’s resolution makers.

The Ugly Truth About Diets

Firstly, while it is tempting to start off the New Year with a radical diet, research has long proven that most people who jump on any diet may lose weight in the short term, but regain weight in the long term. In fact, dieters often regain more weight than previously lost.

Here is one example: A study of 60,000 men and women enrolled in Jenny Craig, a commercial weight loss program, found that dieters who stuck to the program lost 16 percent of their body weight in one year. But then only 6.6 percent of the original dieters stuck with the program for that long (Finley et al. 2007). Other popular diets have yielded similar results.

Roles of Emotions, Relationships, Meaning in Life and Accomplishments in Diet and Exercise

The reality is there are no easy or quick fixes to weight loss and weight maintenance. To achieve a healthier and active lifestyle takes a lifetime commitment. The rewards, however, are priceless. To help you get on this path, examine the four areas in your life, and then initiate change.

Mantell tells his clients to start by looking at their emotions:

  • Don’t devote too much effort on your weaknesses. Focus on what’s positive.
  • Mind and body are intrinsically linked. Hence, if you want to lose 5 pounds, start by addressing any mental or emotional barriers that may hinder your success (e.g., negative self talk due to previous “failures”).
  • Savor foods: Enjoy the texture, the smell and color of foods and learn to stop eating when your body provides the signals that it’s full. That way you don’t deprive yourself of foods you love, but learn to eat smaller portions and stop overeating.
  • When you don’t feel like exercising, think about how good you’ll feel afterward and how much better foods will taste after a great workout.

Then look at your relationships:

  • Are you surrounded by negativity? Are people nagging you to do things? Do you feel like others are trying to force you to eat better and exercise more? If that is the case, you will likely rebel and resist change. The desire to change needs to come from within.
  • Surround yourself with people who want to have a horizontal dialogue with you: Horizontal dialogue means being supportive and positive; being curious without passing judgment (so why do you think you’ll never lose the extra 20 pounds?); validation and empathy (I understand your frustrations).
  • Convince your family members that you need their support to eat healthier and move more. Ask them to buy healthy foods, not junk foods, and to exercise with you or allow you the time to exercise alone or with others.
  • Recruit your friends and family members to exercise with you. Having an exercise partner has consistently shown to improve adherence.

Find Meaning in Life

  • Mantell tells patients that good mental health requires believing in something meaningful: Religion, spiritual or mindful exercise such as Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or being a part of a community that shares your passion or beliefs all fit the bill.
  • If you’re religious, you may want to say a grace before eating and count the items on your plate you’re thankful for.
  • Humans are social animals: Find meaning by doing things with others: Cook together, eat together, have fun together.
  • Find ways to relieve stress: Exercise boosts energy levels, helps relieve stress and anxiety, helps you focus and lose weight (provided you burn more calories than you consume).

Celebrate Accomplishments

  • Celebrate milestones by rewarding yourself: If you want to fit into your ”skinny” jeans, hang them in plain sight to remind you daily of your ultimate goal. But celebrate milestone along the way, such as ‘two sizes down, one more to go.’
  • Never give up. If you get sick, injured, or life gets in the way, resume your healthy eating habits and exercise routine as soon as you get better. Mantell offers the analogy of a figure skater who falls during a competition. The skater doesn’t just walk off the ice. A skater will always get up and finish the routine, no matter how often he or she falls without being seriously injured. Think like a competitor and don’t ever give up.

People who have a plan to meet their specific goals are already one step ahead in initiating real behavioral changes, provided their goals are realistic and fit into their lives.

For instance, Galati has a very busy work and home schedule. Yet, he knows that strength-training twice a week at the ACE gym during lunch and running two or three days a week are realistic goals for most weeks. During the weekends, he will fit in one day of mountain biking to train for a mountain bike race. He already knows that there will be some weekends when family time, work or other obligations will get in the way of exercise and biking, but that won’t deter him from getting back into the gym and on the mountain bike trails whenever he can.

In conclusion, to achieve real change takes discipline, commitment and real desire. For some 2010 may be the year for self-acceptance. For others, it could be the first year of self-improvement.


Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at