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Originally published Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 6:16 AM

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Putting together a plan for fitness

Getting started on a fitness program can seem overwhelming. Here’s a plan for leaving square zero and doing something,


The Dallas Morning News

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Starting a get-healthy program is like having a pre-exam nightmare. You walk into a strange classroom (preferably wearing pajamas), look at the test — and have no idea what any of the questions mean. Your classmates, of course, know everything.

Fitness can seem overwhelming, too. Everyone (but you) seems to understand carbs and fat. Everyone (but you) seems to know exactly how much and how to work out. Faced with the embarrassment of asking questions that everyone (but you) seems to know the answer to, you do nothing.

To push you off square zero and on to doing something, we consulted registered dietitian Eve Pearson, of Fort Worth, Texas.

Put a plan together

“Like a financial budget, a job search, anything you do in life, you need to think what you can do to start making your way in the right direction,” she says.

Forget quick fixes. There’s no such thing when it comes to being healthy and fit. Instead, think baby steps: some squats here, skipping a soda there.

“The journey someone will take to get to the goal is a lot more rewarding than doing it quickly with crash diets and a two-hour-a-day exercise regimen,” Pearson says.

Schedule exercise time

As far as what kind, walking is great. Maybe go for 10 minutes, turn around and come home. Do it again the next day, or the day after. Just be consistent.

“People will jump out there and try to go full force six days a week for an hour a day, and that’s not a recipe for success,” Pearson says.

Join a gym or yoga studio, or sign up for boot-camp classes, all of which can be done no matter your fitness level.

“We find if there’s a financial component that people are more likely to follow through,” Pearson says.

Eat breakfast

Skip it and you’re more likely to be overweight.

“Figure out what will work for you, whether a protein and fruit smoothie or Greek yogurt parfait or eggs in a tortilla,” she says.

Be sure to include protein and a little fat; peanut butter (in moderation) can give you both.

Make swaps

If you eat fast food five times a week, exchange a few of those for eating at home: You’re more likely to eat fewer calories and less overall fat and to drink fewer sugary drinks, she says.

“Doing that one simple change, they’ll consume a little better food and fewer calories.”

Think color

Aim for a plate half filled with colorful fruits and vegetables.

If you eat more of them, Pearson says, “9 out of 10 times, sugar cravings, as well as intake of sugar, salt and fat will decrease.”

Beware salads and sandwiches

Yes, a nice green, leafy salad with lean protein and a minimum of dressing is good. Ditto for lean turkey with mustard, lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat bread.

But, Pearson warns: “There are salads out there with avocado and dressing and cheese and bacon, and they taste fantastic, but they’re 900 calories. You might as well eat a Big Mac and save 300 calories.”

Bacon, avocado and mayonnaise equal lots of calories and fat in sandwiches, too.

Watch out for restaurant meals

The average servings are larger. Box half before you eat any of it.

Avoid foods with descriptive adjectives like “crunchy,” “crispy” and “sauteed.”

Eliminating food types isn’t necessarily helpful

“It’s common for people to come into my office in January and say, ‘I just read a book about this,’ so they cut out gluten or sugar or whatever,” she says.

“If you cut something out,” she tells them, “I can work with you. But are you ever going to eat it again?”

If they answer “yes,” she says, “Then let’s figure out a way to incorporate that into a lifestyle versus a diet so you can be successful.”

Seek help

People who work out or eat healthily are happy to impart what they know. Remember: They had to start somewhere, too.



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