It’s no secret that obesity is widespread: Nearly three out of every four men are either overweight or obese, and 50 percent of men don’t engage in vigorous leisure-time physical activity for more than 10 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If these statistics haven’t convinced you to start making healthier lifestyle choices, then at least start adopting better habits for the sake of your kids. A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that fathers have a major impact on kids’ food choices; namely, how often they eat fast food and other restaurant food, which can in turn affect their own risk for weight problems.
Ready to end your relationship with the pizza delivery guy and spend a little less time on the couch? Let these simple tips motivate you to fuel your body with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Vary Your Fitness Routine
Alternate your exercise activities to stay motivated to work out — variety is good for both the mind and body, said Jim White, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, certified health fitness instructor, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, Va. “Your body can get used to the same thing if it’s done over and over again,” White said. To keep your body guessing, he suggested combining different types of fitness workouts: Mix up a cardio workout like running with strength training, yoga, and martial arts, or vary your tempo within any one activity through interval training.
Find a Fitness Buddy
Do you need extra motivation to stick with your fitness and diet plan? Don’t go it alone — enlist the help of a buddy. Not only does working out with a friend keep you both focused on fitness, it also adds an edge of competition, especially if you pick a workout buddy who’s a bit more advanced and will make you feel challenged. You’ll work harder to keep up and reach your fitness goals.
Read Nutrition Labels
Reading package labels is a must to keep from sabotaging a healthy diet with oversized portions and unhealthy ingredients in processed foods. “A lot of the time there are three to four servings per package,” said White — not just one. Avoid foods with trans fats and limit sugars; less than 7 grams per serving is a good idea. Look for high-fiber foods, which contain more than 3 grams of fiber per serving. And remember that the more fresh foods you add to your diet, rather than processed lunch meats or prepackaged meals, the easier it is to ensure that you’re getting essential daily nutrients.
Keep Cooking Simple
When you’re following a healthy diet and cooking at home, make sure your preparation methods are also healthy. Bake, grill, steam, or sauté foods rather than breading and deep-frying them, suggested White. Cook with healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil instead of butter, and season with fresh or dried herbs, not salt. Order food prepared in these healthful ways when you eat out, too.
Develop Strength-Training Exercises
Strength training is a key part of any fitness plan, both for variety and to build calorie-burning muscle. You don’t have to lift weights or spend hours at the gym — you can tone your muscles at home or at the office just a few minutes at a time. Push-ups are great for working the chest, triceps, and shoulders, said White, and you can do them anywhere. Squats and lunges are also effective because they work multiple muscles and are easy to add to any fitness routine.
Stick With Simple Cardio Workouts
Cardio exercise gets your heart rate up and burns off calories. Running provides a great cardio workout, said White. If you’re a beginner, start out slowly by alternating walking and running intervals. You can also burn calories throughout the day by taking a few simple “steps,” such as standing up more at work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking your car farther away from the office. Walk at a brisk pace whenever possible.
Avoid Diet Boredom With New Foods
Adding new and unusual tastes to your meals helps you to stay interested in eating right and ensures that you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. If you eat only a narrow range of foods, even foods that are good for you, you could become deficient in some vitamins and minerals, which can lower your energy level. In addition to lean protein and low-fat dairy staples, experiment with exotic fruits and vegetables and different types of whole grains. Try eating quinoa as a side dish or having oatmeal or shredded wheat for breakfast.
Pay Attention to Serving Sizes
A serving of meat isn’t that whopping one-pound steak you may like to grill up for dinner — an appropriate serving size for meat is actually only 4 ounces, said White. In addition to using measuring tools and possibly a food scale to weigh portions, be sure to carefully calculate the serving size of any packaged food by using the information on the nutrition label. At restaurants, White suggested safeguarding your diet by eating only half your portion and taking the rest home to enjoy the next day.
Stay Motivated for Fitness
As with diet, sticking with the same fitness plan day in and day out can lose its appeal over time. Taking up a new exercise activity or even a new sport can ramp up your enthusiasm. Always wanted to play golf? Reward your exercise dedication with a few lessons and walk the course to burn calories. Want a relaxing exercise option? Rent a rowboat and spend a few hours on a serene lake. Of course, if you’re already doing a fitness activity you truly enjoy, be sure to keep it in your exercise rotation.
Tweak Your Diet With More Fruits and Vegetables
A healthy diet can be a work in progress. Meat may have been your main staple, but as you improve your health, continually improve your nutrition as well. Find simple ways to fit in more fresh fruits and vegetables and eat less meat. White suggested snacking on celery sticks with peanut butter or carrots with fat-free ranch dip. Other easy ways to improve your diet include bulking up sandwiches with tomatoes and fresh greens, topping whole-wheat pasta with steamed seasonal vegetables, and slicing fruit into your morning cup of yogurt or bowl of cereal. Your food calories will leave you more satisfied as well as help you maintain a healthy weight.