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THE DIET DETECTIVE

Fitness advice: Answers for your exercise and diet excuses

Use these tactics to avoid letting yourself off the hook.

Saturday, August 10, 2013 - 12:01 am

There are always obstacles that interfere with living a healthy life. There are also the things we tell ourselves — those excuses or “famous last words” that let us off the hook.

Here are a few of the more popular ones, along with ways to overcome them.

•Famous last words: “I was too busy to eat.”

The fix: Skipping meals throughout the day will result in ravenous hunger. This is when overeating is likely to occur. Try to plan your meals in advance. If you sit at a desk, try creating a standing order at a local delivery place. Or you can pick up a sandwich in the morning and have it for lunch. Even if you're not in the mood when you buy it, by lunch time you will surely eat it because you'll be hungry. Also, try some of my five-minute healthy breakfast ideas: www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/breakfast-5-minutes-or-less.

•Famous last words: “What a rough day! I definitely earned one of those chocolate chip cookies.”

The fix: Learn to distinguish between hunger and emotions. If you're not sure whether you are actually hungry, involve yourself in another task or activity. Still hungry after that? Then have a healthy snack.

•Famous last words: “This is an expensive dinner; I should eat the whole thing.”

The fix: Avoid rationalizations like “I paid for it,” or “I took the time to cook it, so I should eat it all.” If you are full, stop eating. Save the leftovers for lunch the next day.

•Famous last words: “It's my grandmother's Sunday dinner; how could I not eat? She would be insulted. How many years do I have left with her anyway?”

The fix: At social gatherings, try to focus on friends and family — not food. Socializing and eating do not have to go hand-in-hand. Plan to meet friends at the park or at the movies instead of over lunch. The key is to prepare responses for people who encourage you to overindulge in social situations. That way, you'll be armed with an automatic response — one that rolls off your tongue because you've thought of it ahead of time and it makes sense!

•Famous last words: “I'm a bit under the weather; I feel like I'm coming down with something.”

The fix: Research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who are physically fit and active have fewer and milder colds. The researchers tracked 1,000 adults during the fall and winter and found that cold “symptoms fell by 41 percent among those who felt the fittest and by 31 percent among those who were the most active.” The researchers theorized that working out increases the circulation of immune system cells and helps to fend off viruses and bacteria.

What about once you already have a cold? Experts from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend caution for people who are considering an intense workout while they're sick.

“Prolonged, intense exercise … can weaken the immune system and allow viruses to gain a foothold and spread,” ACSM officials said. “People who are already sick should approach exercise cautiously during their illness.”

ACSM experts offer the following recommendations:

Do exercise moderately if your cold symptoms are confined to your head. If you're dealing with a runny nose or sore throat, moderate exercise is permissible.

Don't “sweat out” your illness.

Do stay in bed if your illness has spread beyond your head. Respiratory infections, fever, swollen glands and extreme aches and pains all indicate that you should rest up, not work out.

If you're recovering from a more serious bout of cold or flu, gradually ease back into exercise after at least two weeks of rest.

In general, if your symptoms are from the neck up, go ahead and take a walk, but if you have a fever or general aches and pains, rest up.

•Famous last words: “I'm self-conscious about my body, and working out at a gym makes me uncomfortable.”

The fix: Find what does work for you. Before you join the gym, try it out first. Many fitness centers give you a trial period, so take advantage. Just make sure you read the fine print on the agreement before you sign anything. Perhaps hire a personal trainer to work with you right from the start. Or you can always do at-home exercises. Go to www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/home-fitness-8-exercises-you-can-do-right-now and www.dietdetective.com/weekly-column/more-exercises-you-can-do-home for a routine I developed, along with detailed instructions.

•Famous last words: “I'm just too tired.”

The fix: What about going for a long walk or bike ride? You can also work out for 20 minutes; it doesn't have to be two hours. Keep it simple and just do something. More often than not you will end up more invigorated and energetic. All you have to do is make it past the first few minutes.

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