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From Me to Oprah, Week 4: 8 Secrets For A Healthier Life

January 12, 2010

As a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, wife, and mother of two boys, I have always tried to live a good, mostly healthy life. Since this is the second week of a New Year, and many of you are tackling your unhealthy habits (including overeating and underexercising) head on, I thought I’d take a few moments to share some of the secrets I try to live by each and every day. Of course like yours, my habits and behaviors that relate to diet, nutrition and fitness have evolved over the years (and will likely continue to as I enter my fifth decade and beyond). These are 8 of my secrets for a healthier life; I hope they inspire you and help you make your personal resolutions a reality.

Secret #1: I plan meals and exercise sessions ahead of time. I think of meals and physical activities as appointments, or routine parts of my day. When plans change (because sometimes life gets in the way!), I always have a back up plan–for example, if I have to miss a workout, I find a few minutes here and there to get up and move, even if that means just 10 minutes of walking. I also refuse to beat myself up when life happens when I’m busy making plans, and I remember tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to fit in fitness and healthy eating.
Secret #2: I eat enough to meet my needs and satisfy my hunger, but not so much that I feel stuffed or really full when I’m finished.
Secret #3: I try to have a healthy food (like a piece of fruit, a few nuts, or some veggies like cucumber slices, baby carrots, or Brussels sprouts) before I indulge in a treat (like cookies, chocolate, chips etc). When I do have a treat, I keep the portion small (1-2 small cookies, 3-4 individually wrapped small candies, or 1/2 bar or chocolate).
Secret #4 I never treat any meal like it’s my last. I LOVE food, but I know after one meal, another will come. When I eat, I try to take my time and savor every bite, and really taste the food. I also set myself up for success by taking/ordering an appropriate portion–one that will satisfy me without stuffing me.
Secret #5: I NEVER feel guilty about what I ate, what I am about to eat, or what I want or plan to eat. Guilt in my opinion is a useless emotion (not to mention a negative one). When I eat something unhealthy, I try to keep the portion small and make an effort to choose other healthful foods at that meal or at my next meal to boost my nutrient intake and save calories.
Secret #6: I’m honest with myself but also cut myself some slack. Even though there are times when others question what I, a registered dietitian, eat (or drink)–they think because I’m an RD I must eat perfectly–I don’t feel I have to be perfect or prove anything to anyone or act like I am. I eat what I eat, and drink what I drink, and I know that at least for now, my lab values, blood pressure, and body weight define me as healthy. I also FEEL healthy and energized most of the time. When I do have a treat or indulgence (like movie popcorn), I tell myself that it’s ok, no matter what anyone says, and make dietary adjustments to keep my overall calorie, sodium, and fat intake in check.
Secret #7: I stay physically active all day long. I engage in activities I enjoy (like walking or running, weight training, and occasionally skating, tap dancing, tennis, and other sports). Most importantly, I’m consistent in my habits (for example, most days I do my formal exercise at 8 AM, right after I drop my kids off at school). I’m also conscious to not sit for too long at the computer and to get up and move often..more sedentary time means a slower metabolism and fewer calories burned, and who wants that? Not me!
Secret #8: I always keep in mind that no matter what happened yesterday, today is always a new day. And if today I ate too much, had one too many treats, or did not get in the exercise I planned, tomorrow will present another opportunity to practice healthful habits. I live in the present and try my best each and every day, and know I’ll try to do the very same tomorrow too!

So there you have 8 secrets for a healthier life. What are yours? Please share your favorites to inspire me and others who want to live, as Oprah (and Bob Green) would say, our best life.

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