We've made it through Christmas and are quickly approaching the end of 2009 and even the end of a decade. With the beginning of each year come those New Year’s resolutions, whether in a brief thought or a more deliberate plan. What’s interesting is that we seem to choose the same topics when we make our list, like family, finance, career, character flaws, and life goals. And every year weight loss, health, or fitness becomes one of our main targets to resolve.
While it’s obvious to most that proper diet and exercise are the master keys to realizing our weight loss, health and fitness ambitions, there are other things we can do to ensure we succeed this year, 2010.
Success Begins with a “Reality Check”
First we can be more specific with our weight loss, health and fitness goals and write them down. But before we can be clear on what those goals are, a personal assessment is a must. Every smart and successful person who truly wants to improve significant personal areas of their life—the development of character, relationships, spiritual life—or who wants to see progress in more pragmatic areas—career, financial, and time management—will always begin with a thorough evaluation of their current condition. It is no different for anyone who wants to transform his or her bodies into a lean, firm, healthy, and more functional machine.
This brings me to that dreaded body fat test. When you’re serious about reducing fat, the most important thing to consider is not your total body weight but rather what makes up that weight. This is referred to as your “body composition”, which is a combination of your lean body mass (LBM) — muscle, bones, organs, and water — and your body fat. Your own ideal weight is the weight at which your lean mass and fat mass are combined in the correct proportion for health, wellness, and aesthetics. When you are in shape, you have a proportionally higher amount of LBM and a lower amount of body fat, regardless of what you weigh.
Due to the fact that your body weight can fluctuate anywhere from two to ten pounds in a given day, bathroom scales will only make you crazy. They are best used once per week and under the same conditions (i.e.; early morning, on an empty stomach). Also, traditional weight scales can’t differentiate between how many pounds of LBM or fat are on your body, which is more relevant to health and fitness than what you weigh.
In seeking out an accurate body fat test reading, there are quite a few methods for measuring body composition, each with its own margin of error, advantages, and disadvantages, as well as special devices, attire, restrictions, and costs. The Hydrostatic Weighing method is the most accurate and considered the “gold standard”, but it requires special and extensive equipment, can be quite intrusive to some people, and somewhat costly. Due to its convenience (both portability and fee) and its accuracy, I would recommend using the skin fold method. However, if your body fat level is over 30%, you might consider Bioelectrical Impedance. The most important thing to remember is to use the same method each time you take your body fat test.
After you know your body fat percentage, compare it the American Council and Exercise (ACE) chart and see where you fit in. With this information you will also be able to calculate how many pounds of LBM and fat your body is carrying. To get a more accurate review of your physique, take measurements, noting your size in clothes and a possible "before" photo. These are much better monitors when tracking fat loss and appearance then the scale.
Consider a thorough medical checkup to get an insight into your health and to see if you have any medical issues brewing. Note all your medications and maybe as you get more healthy and fit, you will be able to reduce or eliminate them altogether. A fitness assessment is a great way to test your strength, endurance, flexibility, core conditioning, functional capabilities and any possible, yet highly overlooked postural defects.
Create a visual aid by keeping all of your data in a special notebook and updating as you advance toward you goals. Every four to six weeks retest your body fat and measurements. Knowing your percentage of body fat and reassessing it periodically, is very useful in gauging progress during an exercise and weight-loss program. Your medical and fitness evaluations can be done every three to six months, unless you are under a doctor’s care for a particular medical problem.
Set Realistic and Specific Goals with a Timeline
Since you have completed your health and fitness "reality check" and have it all compiled in a special place, you may be feeling discouraged because sometimes reality sucks, but don’t despair; now you can set some realistic and specific goals for each category: weight, body fat, measurements, clothes size as well as health. If you are more interested in improving you fitness levels, you can set goals for strength, endurance, flexibility and all the rest. Include a timeline comprised of your long-term goals broken down into short-term, more obtainable ones. This will help keep from losing your motivation and affecting your momentum.
Design a Comprehensive Diet and Exercise Strategy
Design and write out a comprehensive diet and exercise strategy. This means choosing a diet plan that is based on a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix solution. Also, a work out regimen should incorporate all the components of exercise: cardiovascular conditioning, strength and endurance training, flexibility training, core and balance training, corrective exercises and functional training. The good news is that when you eat right and exercise, your health goals will fall into place most of the time.
Execute Your Strategy
You have your notebook full of data, goals, and your weight loss and/or "get fit and healthy" strategy ready to be implemented––now what? Following through is the most difficult part of all and is where discipline and motivation take over. A "get fit" buddy or a personal trainer may come in handy to either put or keep you on the right track. And the best motivating factor when trying to lose weight, get fit or healthier is when you experience results––consistency is key.
View wellness as a journey not a final destination. You can re-evaluate your notes and at anytime adjust your goals and timeline. Leave yourself some latitude and if you fall off your "get fit and healthy" wagon, dust yourself off and get back on immediately.
Seize this year and don’t leave your health and fitness for next year's resolution list. Succeeding at this one New Year's resolution will have a positive impact on your entire list by increasing your energy, productivity, attitude, and so much more, making 2010 one of the best years ever!