Monday, March 05, 2001

Personal Trainer

Dieter should aim for consistency, not perfection

By David Patania

        Question: I am a 20-year-old student who feels that I need to lose a little weight. I have been eating better and working out, but I find it hard to always eat right when I am with friends, etc. I then get so down on myself for having a slice of pizza or something like that. What can I do? — H.P., Erlanger, KY.

        Answer: You should first start out by congratulating yourself for even being concerned about exercise and how you are eating.

        This is because most people at this stage in their lives (late teens, early 20s) feel that they are going to live forever and that hamburgers, soda pop, pizza (and let's not forget beer) are the official foods for your generation. You are taking a great step toward a lifetime of fitness and health that some of your peers won't take for many years to come.

        For some, it may become too little too late to reverse the effects of inactivity and poor diet. Take pride in the fact that you are making the time to work out, stay active and eat right.

        A neat trick for the student who wants to eat right is to write down all the things that you eat, where you bought the food (grocery store or cafeteria), where the food was prepared and eaten (home, cafeteria, dorm room) and find ways to make each situation healthy.

        If you are at the grocery store, choose healthy versions of the foods that you normally eat such as yogurt rather than ice cream, skinless, boneless chicken breast over hamburger and whole-wheat over white bread. At the cafeteria, look for lean meats such as turkey breast for sandwiches (on wheat bread with lots of veggies) and a healthy salad on the side.

        In a pinch at fast-food places, choose foods that will keep you out of the “guilt zone,” such as a grilled chicken sandwich with a salad. It may not be as healthy as something you would prepare yourself, but it is better than a huge, greasy burger with fries and a soda.

        Just remember that the goal is to stay consistent not perfect.

        Your body will look, feel and perform depending on what you do on a consistent basis, not what you do once and a while. For example, if throughout a seven-day period you have a couple days where you have pizza with friends or apple pie at mom's house, you won't miss a beat because your body will reflect what you do on the other five days.

        This doesn't however, give you the green light to see how many chili dogs you can eat every Thursday night at your local restaurant, but it does give you the opportunity to enjoy treat foods every so often.

        My workout partner and I choose one day during the week and one day on the weekend to have “cheat meals.” We eat healthy at all other times and genuinely look forward to our “cheat days.” The “cheat foods” that we choose taste that much better knowing that we don't get them as often and that we work hard in the days that we don't eat them.

        Sometimes, schedules get crazy and you may have to rotate “cheat days” but that's all part of being flexible and consistent. This format allows you to eat that burger or piece of pie with a huge, guiltless smile on your face, no excess fat and lots of crumbs on your lap. Stay with it, and a healthy future is all yours.

        Dave Patania, a certified personal trainer, welcomes your questions. E-mail


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