The most important thing

My husband and I were concluding our Christmas visits. We had spent the afternoon with his mother and her caregiver talking about this and that. The fact that I was a fitness instructor and liked running races came up, but wasn’t lingered on. As we were heading out the door, the caretaker asked said, “I’m trying to lose weight. What’s the most important thing I should do?” Wow. One thing. I paused for a moment and said something like this: “Consistency. There are a lot of eating and exercise plans out there that people have had success with. You need to choose something that makes sense for you and your life that you can commit to. You can’t get permanent results from temporary behavior.”

Your life is a journey and so is your path toward health. You may be motivated to lose weight for a wedding or vacation, but what happens next? Does the plan you’ve chosen take you beyond the milestone? Many plans start out with a short, strict jump-start phase, which can be fine as long as you know what to do when it’s over. Can you see yourself doing it for the rest of your life?

While I believe that there are some definite truths when it comes to owning a fit, healthy life, I also believe that there are a lot of roads to Rome. People have differing work and family obligations. Some have physical challenges. Some have abundant resources and support systems, while others don’t. Then there are the internal differences. Some people thrive on structure and don’t mind counting every calorie. Some need the convenience of meal plans. Sweets are the downfall of some, fatty while salty fare might thwart others. What’s delicious to one might be gross to another. Some people crave companionship when they exercise, others enjoy having slices of time to themselves.

Our motivations, emotional makeup, and tastes differ and can even change along the way. I started reading fitness magazines when I was a High Schooler obsessed with the thought of the “perfect” body. I would vacillate between strict dieting and sugary binges. It has been a process learning to eat for nourishment and to appreciate the way that healthy food made me feel. Exercise went from being something I had to do to burn calories, to something that my body craved. I appreciated the strength and endurance that I had gained. I liked being fit.

So whether you are just starting out on your fitness journey, or finding your way back to the road, commit yourself to progress. Know that there will probably be times when find yourself clutching your queasy stomach while staring at an empty plate ashamed that you ate the whole thing. Sometimes the snooze button gets the upper hand. We slip up. We need breaks occasionally. We can always start again. Consistency wins. Happy 2013!

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