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Little changes each day make a big difference

Health & Fitness Column

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

I often sit down to write my article and find myself writing about exercising in some shape, form or fashion. Today, I want to discuss the largest piece of the healthy lifestyle pie — diet.

My husband and I find ourselves on the dieting seesaw at times. Some weeks it seems so easy to watch our diet and eat healthy, and other weeks it feels like herding a bunch of cats would be easier than eating right. In June, I started my own group fitness company, BodyStrong Fitness.

We’ve tried to make a conscious effort to stay on point with our diet as we now represent my business. It still gets hard at times, but we’ve made some easy changes. We’ve discovered some little things that have helped us through the challenges we face on our journey to a better diet.

None of the things I’m about to share with you is rocket science. I hope you can use them and incorporate them into your everyday life. Remember, it’s the little things.

  1. Cut out alcohol. I cannot lie. I enjoy a really good margarita on the rocks. Preferably with Patron. It just feels right to have a margarita with Mexican food. But alcoholic beverages are just empty calories. An average 12-ounce margarita has 540 calories. And think of all of the sugar. If you have one margarita a week for one year, that is an extra 28,080 calories that you are drinking. Translate that into pounds, and you have just gained 8.02 pounds. Kent and I have cut out all of our alcohol. Goodbye empty calories.
  2. Share meals. We’ve all been in this situation. You go out to eat, order a meal and the waitress brings out enough food to feed a small army. What do we often do? We stuff ourselves because the food is sitting there looking at us, and eat way more than we should. Or, we eat all of it. We try not to eat out often, but when we have to, Kent and I often share one meal. We save money, and we eat less. A win-win.
  3. Drink more water, or flavored water. Water is good for you and inexpensive. I don’t care for plain water. It’s just hard for me to drink it unless I am really, really thirsty. I carry around Crystal Lite single serving packets in my pocketbook. They are super easy. All you have to do is tear the pouch open and pour it into your own bottle or glass of water. We use them everywhere we go. Work, restaurants, home. Our favorite flavors are Raspberry Lemonade and Iced Tea with Lemon. All of the benefits of water with better flavor.
  4. Eat at home. It’s hard to eat healthy when you eat out. You don’t know exactly how the food is prepared, and oftentimes the recipes have hidden ingredients and calories that you never realize you are eating. Take the time each week to plan healthy meals ahead, make a grocery list and enjoy your meals at home. By doing this, you know exactly how your food is prepared and what ingredients have been used. This has been a big move in our “eat right” plan. We now give ourselves one cheat meal a week at a restaurant.
  5. Pack a lunch. This goes hand in hand with No. 4. Don’t get in the habit of going out for fast food at lunch. I started my job with the Department of Audits in 1993. Many of our audit locations would be in small towns with no healthy choices for food. I would always pack my lunch in this little tan Lunchmate cooler that my mama had at the house. Twenty years later, I still have that cooler, and I have taken it to work with me every day this week. Kent packs his lunch too, but I make him carry his stuff in plastic Walmart bags. Having food to take with you every day for lunch requires planning ahead on your part. You also must have willpower when your coworkers try to talk you into going out to eat with them.
  6. Eat more protein. Kent and I try to eat a large amount of protein. We eat more than our share of egg whites, Lean Body whey protein and grilled chicken. We also enjoy fish, peanut butter, Greek yogurt and other higher protein goodies. Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, so when you eat a high-protein meal, you may feel fuller longer. And, protein plays an integral role in building muscle.
  7. Cheat on your diet. Everyone cheats on their diet at some point in time. Nobody eats totally clean all of the time. If someone tells you that they never cheat on their diet, then they are telling you a story (as my Grandma would say). Kent and I cheat on our diet. It keeps us sane and makes us appreciate that cheat meal or dessert more than ever before. Kent and I enjoy going to get frozen yogurt with the boys. Sometimes I think we enjoy our cups of frozen heaven more than the boys do. We have our little favorites — pizza, bread at Pricci’s in Atlanta, a bowl of Froot Loops with Marshmallows. Nope, not one single healthy food choice in the entire list. But, who cares? It’s called a cheat meal for a reason. We try to keep our cheats to once a week, maybe twice depending on the occasion.

Take a good long look at your diet. I would be willing to bet that 60 percent of the athletes who come to my classes aren’t getting the results that they want because of their diet. Diet is crucial and makes up 60-70 percent of the fitness equation. Small changes can reap huge rewards. Look over our list. What changes can you make? Remember, it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.

Michele Moulton is a certified group fitness, boot camp and Spinning instructor with more than 23 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She operates Bodystrong Fitness offering group fitness classes at the Stardust Skating Rink facility. She is a Category 1 cyclist and the PCP Race Team Director. She is also a state auditor and the mother of two boys, Austin and Harrison.