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DIET DETECTIVE

Nutrition advice: Change things up to improve fitness, diet

Monday, January 21, 2013 - 12:01 am

Several years ago, I read an article in Psychology Today about making your own luck. It really resonated with me made me really think. The gist of the article was that if we want to change things in our lives, we need to change things up.

The underlying principle is that you need to make changes if you want things to change. To get into the “right” comfort zone, sometimes you have to leave your current comfort zone. This is somewhat tricky, because losing weight and staying fit require consistency and routine.

At first glance it would appear that these are two competing concepts (routine vs. change). But they're not. In fact, being open and ready to change are critical for moving toward your goals. When it comes to getting in shape, the idea is to recognize your current “routines” or “patterns,” (e.g., eating chips in front of the TV), change things up and then develop new, healthier patterns and routines.

Let's start by looking at how to create new opportunities. Opportunities are all around us. If we make a point to be aware of and open to the world we're familiar with, we might find long-overlooked answers to problems that have plagued us.

The failure to see these opportunities to arrive at new solutions has sometimes been called “resource myopia,” meaning that we don't see what's under our noses because we're so close to it.

So, how can you change it up? Many people come up with great ideas or solutions to problems by changing their physical environment. Some examples include simply sitting in a room for 30 minutes with no distractions, taking a long walk or hike, or even a quick day trip.

Give yourself the time to take a look at the routines in your life and think about whether you're following the path you want to follow. Remember, behavior often becomes automatic — meaning you develop patterns you follow without even considering whether or not they are serving you well. Examples include: 1) taking people or situations too much for granted; 2) not truly observing what's going on in your life; 3) assuming you've seen it all or can predict what will happen.

You need to get a fresh perspective on yourself, so ask for feedback from trusted sources. The idea is to monitor your own behavior, keep tabs on yourself and keep yourself on track.

Many therapists and psychologists call this ability to look at your own behavior an “observing ego.” By taking a step back from your everyday interactions with others, you become aware of the role you play in shaping your own behavior and circumstances.

The observing ego should help you monitor your goals and aspirations, and keep you operating on a path that will lead to success.

What will you do differently to break out of the mold? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Start a blog about your weight-loss or fitness goals. Go to www.typepad.com, www.wordpress.com, www.Blogger.com (Google's blogger site), or maybe start micro blogging on www.twitter.com about eating healthier and working out and/or create a Facebook page.

2. Go on a walking tour right where you live.

3. Go for a hike. Here are a few sites to visit: Try www.Localhikes.com. Recreation.gov ( www.recreation.gov) is the U.S. government's one-stop shop for information on everything from monuments, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and rock climbing to wildlife observation and caving. It lists 388 National Park Service areas, 3,200 federal recreation areas and 16,741 miles of trails.

4. Take a few yoga classes. Find a class at www.yogafinder.com or do yoga using your computer with www.yogatoday.com, which offers free daily classes online.

5. Hire a personal trainer or take a lesson. Once you make an appointment, there is a high likelihood you'll show up (especially if you're committed to pay). Look for trainers certified by the American College of Sports Medicine ( www.acsm.org), the National Strength and Conditioning Association ( www.nsca-lift.org) or The American Council on Exercise ( www.acefitness.org). Or take lessons in activities such as tennis, volleyball or horseback riding.

Here are a few other activities to explore:

•Go for a bike ride. Don't own a bike? Rent one. Just type “bike rental and X (your location)” into google.com or yahoo.com.

•Try kayaking, canoeing or surf paddling.

•Try cooking a new healthy recipe. To find one, go to www.Eatingwell.com, www.Cookinglight.com, www.AllRecipes.com or www.Food.com.

•Go to healthy cooking school and learn spa cuisine. If there are no schools in your area, maybe plan a vacation around taking healthy cooking classes.

•Plan an overnight trip. Make sure there are fitness activities for you to take part in, but also take time to think about and plan a new, healthier future. Bring a pad and pen, computer or some way to jot down your ideas.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of www.DietDetective.com.