Behavior modification: The key to success

I have spent countless hours trying to make the perfect workout program for numerous clients and friends over the years. These were programs that outline what and when to eat, how many times to work out and exact exercises to perform based on their capabilities. These programs detailed how to lose body fat, gain muscle mass or how to increase aerobic capacity. Unfortunately even with the best laid plans, it falls on the individual to execute those plans. The real key to realizing your fitness goals lies in behavior modification. Implementing true and lasting change is very difficult. However, doing something that difficult often proves worthwhile.

The first step to adopting a healthier lifestyle is making a commitment to change. The next two steps are incredibly important but often neglected. You need to identify current unhealthy behaviors. Next develop a plan and strategy to overcome those obstacles. Let's examine the most common obstacles people face and the strategies to overcome them.

“I don't have enough time to exercise.”

1. Treat your exercise like an appointment. Try to find three to five days in your week where you can dedicate at least 30 minutes to exercise.

2. Wear a pedometer and shoot for 10,000 steps a day. There is no gym required.

3. Pack your gym bag. Depending on your schedule, plan to exercise before or after work. You are less likely to drive on past the gym that way.

4. Find something you enjoy. Funny how your schedule opens up for things you enjoy.

5. Find some accountability. Hire a personal trainer or meet a friend to exercise. You are much less likely to skip when someone is expecting you.

“I eat really healthy until I get home.”

1. When you go to the grocery store, be careful of the middle aisles because they typically have processed packaged foods. Focus on real foods that are on the perimeter like fresh fruit, veggies, lean meat and dairy.

2. Clean out the cabinets. Get rid of the foods that trip you up like chips, cookies, soft drinks, etc.

3. Have convenient healthy foods on hand like apples, pre-washed veggies, almonds or yogurt.

4. If you mindlessly eat late in the evening, consider having an eating cut-off time.

“I would exercise if it didn't hurt my joints.”

1. Studies show that exercise decreases overall pain associated with osteoarthritis.

2. There are numerous alternatives to traditional exercise for people afflicted with major joint pain. Consider aquatic exercise, elliptical trainers or recumbent bicycles for joint-friendly exercises.

3. Ice the afflicted joint after exercise. This will decrease inflammation and pain.

4. Strengthening the muscles around the joint can help protect it.

“I eat out too much.”

1. Avoid foods that are deep fried (crispy), creamy sauces or dressing, and foods loaded with cheese. These dishes are typically high in fat.

2. Be careful of bread before the main course. It’s easy to consume 200-400 calories in bread alone.

3. Be aware of over-the-top portion sizes. Split your meal with a friend or spouse, or have half of the entrée boxed up.

4. Don’t drink your calories. Be careful of multiple glasses of sweet tea or soda. Just two 16-ounce glasses can add up to 400 calories.

5. Look for lean grilled meats along with fresh vegetables. You can find these at most restaurants.

Following these strategies will help in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Be sure to be as consistent as possible for three months because, by then, you will have developed positive habits and start seeing results. By no means will it be easy, but great achievements seldom are.

Chad Hodson is the fitness and weight management manager for the Blount Memorial Wellness Centers.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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