A few years ago, I went through what I call my Chunkster Phase. I didn’t even notice I had gotten out of shape until one of my favorite clients, a grandmotherly nutritionist, told me I was looking “well-loved.” Since then, I have made it a point to exercise regularly — through a job change, a trial, and a file-cabinet-drawer-related injury. And during the past year or so, I have figured out how to eat a mostly balanced diet. The result is that I still fit comfortably into my high-school cheerleading uniform (as demonstrated at my office Halloween party). And I can climb to the top of Mailbox Peak — one of the steepest day hikes around — without needing to take a breather or cry.
Though of course everyone’s health and fitness needs are different (and some may need to consult with a doctor before changing diet and exercise routines), here’s what I found worked for me to get fit, without a huge time commitment:
Wrap your mind around the no-brainers.
There are some obvious steps to getting healthier. They do not make life more enjoyable, but they work. For me, these included:
- Swapping out iceberg for greener stuff like spinach, kale, and romaine.
- Avoiding fried food and drinking less. (Sigh.)
- Bringing a healthy lunch and snacks to work.
- Making extra at dinner to have healthy leftovers for lunch.
- Buying whole-wheat bread, English muffins, and pasta instead of products made from processed flour.
- And the most intuitive but somehow hardest: Stop eating when you are full.
For most of my adult existence, the crisper drawer in my fridge housed little more than a couple of bruised apples and a bag of dried-out baby carrots. Now I try to build my meals around fruits and vegetables. I stock up on “the usual suspects”— broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers — which can be sliced up and roasted with garlic powder in minutes. I always keep a bag of salad in the office fridge, so that even if I have to buy a sandwich or eat a Lean Cuisine, my midday meal is somewhat healthy. (I can’t eat just a salad. In my stomach’s opinion, a bowl of lettuce is not a meal.) And I literally eat an apple a day.
Annoyingly, having a lot of produce around usually requires an additional trip to the grocery store each week. But I try to take care of that task right after the gym, so my sweaty gym clothes can serve as a reminder to me of what it takes to burn off the calories I am about to buy.
Remove common road blocks.
I have found that it is best to think of working out as the default: Plan to work out every day, and only opt out if there is a competing commitment. It also helps to remove any of the usual impediments:
- Pick a gym that is close to work and do not stop at home first (it is so hard to get the motivation to leave the house). Indeed, proximity is worth a pricier membership, since you will go more.
- Work out as early in the day as you can, to avoid feeling too worn out for post-work exercise.
- Bring your gym bag to work every day, even if you have other plans (in case they fall through).
- Keep healthy snacks at work to avoid the “I’m too starving to work out before dinner” excuse.
- Stock up on decent workout clothes, so you have clean gear without constant laundering.
- And for those with kids, pick a gym that has childcare.
My gym is across the street from my office. It takes me 10 minutes to get from my office chair to the treadmill. If I have plans after work or more work to do at night, I can leave for the gym and come back. This level of convenience makes it irritatingly convenient to exercise regularly.
Using shortcuts can make healthy eating choices an efficient option.
- Keep an apple slicer at work to cut up fresh fruit.
- Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables if you do not have a lot of time or energy to play sous-chef.
- Choose bagged salad that comes with all the necessary ingredients.
Pile fruits and vegetables on ready-to-eat stuff.
I like food that tastes like chicken strips. I am also lazy as all get-out when it comes to meal preparation. My compromise is minimal-effort things like throwing a bunch of vegetables into pasta sauce, or layering a frozen cheese pizza with a ton of veggies. I have also mastered this breakfast burrito — whole-wheat tortilla, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, ham, and a little cheese — that requires only one egg. Since vegetables make up so much of the meal, I end up eating less of the bad stuff that I still need to consume to avoid food rage. Try a little ice cream with a large serving of strawberries, or add a banana to your cereal.
Visit NWSidebar later this week for Part 2 of A Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Health and Fitness in 2014!