By Marty Copeland
Love this time of year because it inspires new commitments…and change. During this season, I’m inspired to evaluate my future goals, as well as review past successes. I take inventory of habits I’ve developed and determine whether or not they are equipping me to attain my goals. And, I get gut-level honest about whether or not I’ve been true to follow through with the goals I set the year before — especially my health and fitness goals.
For many years, I failed to lose weight and keep it off. There was a time when I could not imagine what it would be like to live free from guilt, shame and bondage. Now I am able to control what, when and how much I eat, and my fitness level is advanced. I say that by way of encouragement to you. If I can do it, so can you!
I’m sure you know, however, that making any kind of change in life won’t just happen because we want it to be so. Weight will not automatically fall off your body simply by saying, “I resolve to lose weight and get fit this year.”
It’s a fact that most people who make New Year’s resolutions resolve to make changes in their diet and exercise habits. According to a 1997 study conducted by the University of Washington: “Increasing the amount of exercise was the most common primary resolution being made by 37 percent of subjects. It was followed by increasing the time devoted to study or work, 23 percent; increasing the consumption of healthy food or decreasing the amount of unhealthy food, 13 percent; reducing the use of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine or other drugs used, 7 percent.”
Achieving health and fitness goals requires a firm commitment, a willingness to identify unhealthy habits, and a specific plan to get results. Taking an honest look at your life, your health and your body is required.
Most people really don’t realize how many calories they are consuming in a day, or how many are empty, needless calories. So, to attain a goal of eating healthier this year, you could begin keeping a food journal. As you write down everything you consume, you will be able to identify unhealthy eating patterns.
“When” Can Be More Important Than “What”
What you eat is very important, that goes without question. But, sometimes it’s when you eat that can sabotage your best efforts. For example, not eating breakfast can have a dramatic effect on your health. According to a Harvard Health Publications report: “Research suggests that breakfast eaters are leaner than those who skip the morning meal, with one study reporting that missing breakfast was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of obesity. High-fiber cereals are central to breakfast’s health benefits and can help you reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even intestinal polyps and colon cancer. Look for breakfast cereals that provide at least 6 grams of fiber per serving, but make sure your choice is low in sugar (less than 10 grams per serving). Add nonfat milk and bananas, berries or apple slices to create a tasty meal.”
Cereals are not the only healthy breakfast foods. Dense, high-fiber breads with peanut butter, eggs, low-fat yogurt and fruits also are healthy choices.
And, here’s another reason to eat in the morning: Skipping breakfast may cause your blood sugar to plummet in the afternoon. When your blood-sugar level drops, guess what you crave? A quick “pick me up,” which usually comes in the form of simple carbs and/or caffeine (both of which are addictive and limit your body’s ability to get proper nutrition). When you reach for a convenient snack that is typically loaded with refined sugar, white flour and fat, you sabotage your goals. Eating a healthy snack in the afternoon will help stabilize your blood-sugar level so you will avoid excessive eating in the evening.
Keeping a food journal will enable you to identify these poor eating habits and help you begin to implement positive habits that will support your health and fitness goals.
Moving Makes Life Better
And, what about exercise? “Yeah,” you may say, “what about it?”
Well, if you want to feel more energetic, sleep better, look better and have less stress in your life — start moving. Exercise will do all that and more!
In fact, there are so many life-giving benefits to exercising, I am convinced it is a God-given tool to help us live a better life, and it is also a powerful weapon we can use to fight the effects of aging and premature death. Think about it, God is “life” and exercise produces “life” in us. It is something God has designed to help us live longer and better so why not take advantage of it?
If you are not in the habit of exercising, a great way to begin making positive changes in your physical fitness is to ask yourself this one simple question each day: How can I be more active?
You can increase your physical activity just by making small adjustments. For instance, you can get more exercise by simply walking around while you are on the phone; standing instead of sitting when possible; taking the stairs instead of the elevator; or stretching for a few minutes several times during the day. I’m sure you can think of some other ways if you put your mind to it, and if you need more suggestions, Chapter 9 of Marty’s Top Ten Diet and Fitness Strategies book has some great ones.
By consistently adding more activity to your routine, you could easily burn an additional 50 calories per day. That would translate into losing 5 pounds within a year’s time. Add to that a plan for reducing calorie intake by 50 calories per day (such as omitting cream in your coffee, or having whole-grain toast instead of a muffin for breakfast) and you could lose another 5 pounds in a year. That means you could potentially lose 10 pounds in one year without even having an exercise program!
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you don’t need an exercise routine, because to be healthy, you must exercise. The point I’m trying to make is this: Small, consistent changes will make a big difference in your overall health. These simple diet and exercise changes taken together over time can have a huge impact on your health and fitness goals.
But please don’t have an attitude that seeks to do as little as possible. Remember, the Apostle Paul urges us to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:14]
Part of the calling Paul refers to in this passage of Scripture is operating in the blessing of God’s Anointing —His power and His character. While attaining a higher level of fitness is a goal we need to strive for, we can do that most effectively when we (by God’s grace) seek to increase our love walk as well as our endurance, faithfulness and self control (which are characteristics of God’s nature).
There are days when my body does not want to go to the gym and workout. That’s when I especially have to lean into God for help. I release my faith in the fact that God lives in me, therefore faithfulness and endurance are within me. I remind myself that the time I spend taking care of my body is time I spend honoring God’s holy temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Exercise is not something selfish we do just for our own benefit. It affects every area of our lives. It affects the way we feel, our outlook, our ability to meet everyday demands. It also affects every person in our lives because, quite frankly, walking in love is easier when we feel good.
Taking care of our physical bodies will help us live well and live to be a blessing to our children’s children and beyond!
Having a healthy body is a blessing from the Lord. So, as this new year presents itself, do as Paul urges in Romans 12: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. [verses 1-2]
On a daily basis, present your body as a living sacrifice to the Lord and spend time renewing your mind in His Word. Then, eat fewer calories, get more exercise and know that big results will result: a new year, new body, NEW YOU!
Certified by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, Marty Copeland is a personal trainer, nutritional counselor and minister of the gospel. She is a regular contributor to Fresh Outlook.