If you are reading this because you've decided that it is time to make healthy changes and commit to your best self in 2010, well done! Sometimes the hardest part in this journey is realizing - and admitting - that you have work to do.
However, for many people, sheer denial can be one of the strongest (and earliest!) deterrents from a well-intentioned fitness program. It is easy to convince yourself that you don't need change (or don't need help making that change) until your favorite jeans stop fitting, you don't have the energy to get through the day, or you realize that the clerk at the drive-thru knows your name.
The best strategy for healthy lifestyle change is to evaluate objective information and use it to make measurable steps toward your health and fitness goals. As a personal trainer, I recommend that all my clients know (and yes, own up to) these three simple numbers prior to beginning their bene-fit program:
1) BODY FAT PERCENTAGE
Because the number on the scale reflects total mass without regard for muscle density, body fat percentage (the proportion of fat mass in the body, relative to lean mass like bone and muscle) is critical to measure actual fitness gains. I recommend the BodPod as one of the quickest and most accurate ways to measure your body fat percentage. If you aren't sure where to find these services, a certified personal trainer can help (and YES - bene-fit offers body fat measurement).
2) DAILY CALORIE INTAKE
So many of us embark on an exercise plan unprepared for the effects our current diets may have on our fitness goals. Weight lifting and resistance training require a higher level of lean protein intake than do sedentary activities, and engaging in cardiovascular exercise without eating whole-grain carbohydrates can leave you feeling fatigued and lethargic. Keep a calorie log (my favorite is The DailyPlate but I also recommend Zeer if many of your foods are pre-packaged) and be honest - every bite counts. Don't be afraid to ask for help interpreting your results - bene-fit can help you figure out how many calories, and what type of calories, you need to fuel your new healthy lifestyle.
3) "HEALTHY" TIME
Finally, ask yourself how many minutes you can allot to exercise and food preparation each and every day. Even if your daily workout has to be split into three 10-minute sessions (try two cardio and one strength-based segment) and you need to rely on cooking shortcuts (bagged prewashed salad is my go-to supermarket find!), try to figure out exactly what proportion of your day you can devote to making the changes you want to see in your body and in your life - and then schedule it in to your calendar, like you would any other appointment or meeting. You may be surprised to realize how little it takes to squeeze in some time on the StairStepper and squeeze out those extra minutes spent surfing Facebook (!). Here at bene-fit, we can customize personalized exercise plans that maximize the time you have to achieve the results you want.
In short, the sooner you face the facts, the sooner you can make actual and realistic change. Go get 'em, bene-fitters!