I’ve worked as a personal trainer and fitness coach all across this country, from New York to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. As I return to my roots in the Dayton area, I’ll be using this space to write about health, wellness, and lifestyle with an eye toward the practical, the sustainable, and the efficient. Probably the most important thing that I’ve learned over the last ten years in an exploding industry is that health and fitness have become needlessly complicated for busy people. My goal in my work and in this space is to fix that.
So let’s get started.
If you’re the average American—meaning, you don’t eat the right combination of foods, you don’t get enough exercise, and you’re overweight—then you should start your fitness journey as simply as possible.
What to Put in Your Face: Vegetables and Water
When it comes to healthy body composition, your goal is to find nutrient dense foods as opposed to calorie dense foods. Vegetables are nutrient dense foods packed with things like vitamins and minerals but not calories. They also are full of fiber, which has been shown to play an important role in everything from immune health to digestion. Chances are if you fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal (yes, including breakfast) and eat slowly, you’ll have a built-in portion control.
The rest of your plate should be a combination of a good, lean source of protein like chicken if you’re a meat eater or beans if you’re not; a healthy fat like olive oil or avocado; and a small amount of a starchy carbohydrate like rice, potatoes, or bread (if you must).
And of course, like your grandmama said, drink more water. It will help with proper body function and it will help you avoid mindless consumption of things like soda. If you’re struggling to drink enough, try this: fill a glass of water and put it by your bedside table. When you wake up in the morning drink the entire glass.
What to do with Your Body: Lift, Walk, Love
Many people mistakenly believe that they need to run, bike, jog, dance, or somehow cardio their way to a better body. They buy Fitbits and sign up for brutal bootcamps and hire trainers to kick their butts like they see on reality television. They do all of these things because they believe the goal with exercise is pain and sweat. But if you’re a busy person with limited time, your primary goal with exercise ought to be to build as much muscle mass as possible.
Why? Simply put, the more muscle mass you have, the higher the rate of your calorie burning while at rest. People say they want to lose weight, but more often they’re really looking to be leaner. They want to look good naked as opposed to only looking good with their clothes on (the dreaded “skinny fat” aesthetic). Looking good naked requires muscle.
If you’re doing weight-bearing exercise twice a week then you’re already giving yourself a fighting chance of having the body you want. But cardiovascular fitness also is important, so you should try to walk—preferably outside, and preferably with a loved one—several times a week. Outside because it’s more interesting and you’ll get valuable vitamin D from the sun exposure. With a loved one because strong social ties and stress reduction are important foundations for lifelong fitness.
Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t complicated, but that’s not the same thing as easy. Incorporating these simple changes into one’s life is difficult enough. Don’t distract yourself with gadgets, juice cleanses, and diets. Sustainability and efficiency are built upon a foundation of the basics.