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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 12:10 am

Here’s what worked for me

If resolutions don’t work, try my Top 10

Karen Witter, front row third from left, works out with the CrossFit Instinct “Longevity” group, in which the average age is 66.


It’s that time of year when articles about diets, resolutions, healthy eating and exercise are rampant. Although I’ve been active and generally fit, for several years I made the same resolutions – lose 10 pounds, eat more healthily and exercise more consistently. These types of resolutions lack concrete actions, and often good intentions that accompany the New Year fade as the weeks pass.

I ended 2016 with my weight 12 pounds lighter than I started the year. I attribute my results to changes in my daily lifestyle. I changed what I bought at the grocery store, how I cooked and what I ordered when eating out. I discovered food prepared with fresh ingredients can be delicious. I picked a specific time that fit my schedule and made working out a regular practice. It became part of my daily routine and not something I debated doing. I certainly wasn’t perfect and am nowhere near 100 percent consistent. But, making meaningful changes that I followed on a fairly regular basis had an impact. Although there is nothing new or revolutionary, here’s my Top 10 list of what worked for me and might work for you.

1. Be motivated.
Others can encourage, but self-motivation is key. Find a reason to be motivated. For me it was the desire to be in better shape for my daughter’s wedding.

2. Decide to go it alone or do it with someone else.
Understand whether you need support from someone else to stay on track or if you can be successful on your own. I am more successful with support from others. My husband agreed to exercise with me and work with me to change our diets. I ran the Chicago marathon a number of years ago, which would not have happened without the support from a group of friends who trained together.

3. Cook with fresh ingredients.
Although exercise is important, what you eat has a far bigger impact. The most significant change I made was to cook with fresh herbs and vegetables and avoid processed food. I bought things I had never purchased before, made simple changes (such as switching from white potatoes to sweet potatoes) and prepared many new dishes that were surprisingly tasty.
4. Google whatever you have in your refrigerator to find delicious recipes.
It’s amazing what you can discover when you simply Google recipes for a list of ingredients. I purchased things like Swiss chard and other greens, Googled recipes with those ingredients, and selected the ones with no sugar and limited processed food.

5. Read labels.
Stay away from the inside aisles of the grocery store. If you purchase something in a can or jar, read the label. Avoid buying products with added sugars. It’s shocking to see how much sugar there is in processed food, even products you might think are “healthy.”

6. Avoid sugar and learn more about the effects of sugar.
There is more and more evidence of the adverse impacts of processed sugars. I’ll leave it to others to convey the science. Having learned more about sugar, I am now a believer. Search for The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes to learn more. Avoiding sugar should be on the top of my list, but the way to do that is to cook with fresh ingredients, avoid processed foods and read labels. I’m not a purist and haven’t given up sugar altogether, but it is surprising how less tempting it is to eat sugar regularly when you learn more about its impact.

7. Drink lots of water.
Staying hydrated has many benefits. Although drinking a gallon of water daily sounds like a lot, it’s easy to drink a lot of water if you simply keep a glass at hand throughout the day. The only downside is more frequent trips to the bathroom. If you find it challenging to measure the amount of water you’ve consumed, the color of your urine reveals if you are well hydrated. The goal is to have clear to straw-colored rather than yellow pee. (Be environmentally responsible by drinking tap water and using refillable water bottles.)

8. Exercise regularly.
Pick a time to make exercise part of your daily routine. Put it on your calendar. Even a small amount of time is better than nothing. Experiment to find some type of exercise you enjoy. Increase your level of intensity. Focus on building a strong core. Do a plank every day, and increase the time by five seconds each day. This takes a tiny amount of time, can be done anywhere and is a great way to build your core. You might be surprised to find exercise can be fun. I experimented with CrossFit and now enjoy going 5-6 days each week. I joined the CrossFit Instinct Longevity class, a group of amazingly fit 55-plus-year-olds. Mike Suhadolnik inspires and challenges everyone to achieve things they didn’t think were possible. There is tremendous support, encouragement and camaraderie among the group as well as sharing of information about food and nutrition.

9. Track your progress
Monitor things that will keep you motivated. I weighed myself regularly, kept track of the days I worked out and monitored my progress from month to month. Decide what will make you feel positive about your accomplishments.

10. Don’t give up.
The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to be better, and to make some lifestyle changes that you actually enjoy in order to improve your health and fitness.

Karen Witter, 62, retired after 35 years in state government. As a part-time consultant and volunteer, her goal is to connect people, organizations and ideas to achieve greater results.

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