Small steps

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(HOST) Making healthy changes in our daily routine doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Commentator Rachel Johnson has four small steps we can take every day to help stay healthy.

(JOHNSON) We all know and secretly resent them. They’re fit and thin and they slip effortlessly into clothes in the tiniest sizes. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. For me, staying fit and at a healthy weight in middle age is an act of constant vigilance. I suspect it’s the same for most of us, no matter how easy it may appear to others. But this doesn’t mean we have to be marathon runners or live on celery sticks. Small steps we do every day can go a long way toward keeping us healthy. Here are a few things that work for me.

Schedule time for exercise and make it nonnegotiable.
I’m amazed when high-powered, well-paid executives tell me they don’t have time for exercise. Who controls their lives? For years, I’ve set aside noon to one o’clock on my weekday calendar for exercise. Sure, things come up, but by scheduling it consistently, I get in three to four days of noontime workouts every week. Lately I’m spinning to music on a stationary bike, practicing yoga and running outside. I know I’m more productive, better able to handle stress and more content when I exercise.

Don’t waste calories on bad food.
Think about what you are eating. I was on an early-morning flight to Chicago not long ago and was served a croissant breakfast sandwich. Knowing it was loaded with calories, my first thought was to just eat half. I took a bite. The croissant was greasy and tough, and the egg was tasteless and the ham was still frozen. Yuck. I decided to skip it and saved the tasteless calories for something more enjoyable later.

Never travel without workout clothes.
When I pack for a trip, business or pleasure, the first things that go in my suitcase are sneakers and workout clothes. Sure, this means I can’t cram everything into a carry-on, but I rarely have to wait more than a few minutes at baggage claim anyway. Having my workout clothes means that if the weather is cooperating and the area is safe, I head out for a morning run. I travel to Washington, D.C., regularly and look forward to running past the Washington Monument. The exercise helps keep me alert during long days filled with meetings.

Take advantage of healthy convenience foods.
I admit it: I pay extra for convenience foods when I know they’ll help me eat nutritiously. I used to feel guilty when I bought those outrageously priced packages of vegetables that are washed, sliced and ready to go. No longer. When I get home from the office at 6 p.m., having the packages in the fridge can mean the difference between a healthy or not-so-healthy meal. What’s more, by staying home and cooking rather than eating out, I’ve still saved money.

We all have tricks that work for us. The key is establishing those small steps that work for you. Once they become routine, people might just start accusing you of being one of those people who are naturally fit and thin.

Nutritionist Rachel Johnson is Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UVM and an advisor to EatingWell magazine.

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