Sure-Fire Tips For A Healthier Lifestyle

You can pick up any magazine or newspaper or watch any number of TV shows and find someone giving (or selling) advice on health, fitness and nutrition issues. The advice can be confusing and even contradictory. Before you trade your workout gear for a cupcake and a cola, check out these no-nonsense tips that can help you start reshaping your body.

1. Make a commitment. Goal setting is the key to success in any fitness program; set attainable goals and stick with the plan. When you reach your goal, reward yourself and then start the process over.

2. Keep a journal. Keep a written record of your fitness program. This will help keep you on track and measure your success.

3. Choose a training partner. This individual is responsible for that extra motivation that you need to keep you, and your program, on track. They are also a needed safety device when they are pushing that extra repetition out of you.

4. Do your fat math. Keep your fat intake to no more than 3 grams per 100 calories. Of this, no more than 1 gram should be saturated fat.

5. Keep the water running. You should drink 10 eight-ounce glasses of water each day as a minimum. For every ounce of caffeine you drink, you should drink that much additional water.

6. A pound of fat a week. If you can cut 250 calories a day from your diet and at the same time burn an additional 250 calories a day, you can lose a pound a week.

7. Have a "No Potato Chip Month." Cutting out these nasty little fat pills can mean carving as much as 300 calories from your lunch (about 25 chips). Substitute the fat fertilizer with foods such as fruit cocktail, pretzels or non-fat cottage cheese.

8. An apple a day. Or any fruit for that matter. You should eat at least three pieces of fruit each day; they are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates.

9. Start the day with breakfast. And not green eggs and ham. Your day should be jump-started with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal to give your body the energy it needs to take you through to lunch. Skipping this meal will cause you to not only run out of energy but make you more apt to grab a candy bar, which will give you a lot of empty calories.

10. Make fat-free substitutions. Mustard instead of mayonnaise, vinegar instead of Thousand Island dressing, butter substitutes instead of the real thing and skim milk instead of whole.

11. Test two for Tuesday. Testicles and breasts, of course. Early recognition of cancer is a key to surviving this deadly disease. Perform a self-test on the first Tuesday of each month. The American Cancer Society will supply you (or your department) with free self-check literature. Start this life-saving practice now. Also include the spouses and significant others of your members by supplying enough pamphlets for members to carry home.

12. Fast food/fast fat. The standard big burger, big fries and big drink at a fast-food restaurant equals to over 1,000 calories, not to mention the meal is over 75 percent fat calories. If you must do the fast-food thing, stick to the grilled or barbecued chicken and the baked potato (with barbecue sauce) to keep the calorie count acceptable.

13. No-fat desserts. Skip the ice cream and opt for non-fat frozen yogurt, gelatin or pudding made with skim milk. These treats taste as good as their fat-filled cousins, with only half the calories.

14. Total body workout. Your weightlifting regimen should include all your muscle groups. Do not get caught in a trap of only working your upper or lower body and neglecting the other half. Emergency incident activities, whether fire or EMS, involve utilizing muscle groups from your entire body.

15. Take a walk. A one-hour walk daily for a 170-pound individual can burn over 300 calories. You can also build in shorter walks each day by parking at the edge of a parking lot and walking in, taking the steps instead of the elevator, or taking half of your lunch hour and getting in a 30-minute stress break. Make this a family activity when away from the station to help get everyone involved.

16. Watch the watch. By performing your aerobic activity to the clock, as opposed to a distance, you can work out anywhere. Allow for an ample warmup period, complete the activity and cool down afterward. Your body continues to burn substantial calories up to an hour after you complete your aerobic activity.

17. Think safety. Use a spotter when using heavier weights, wear a bicycle helmet whenever you ride, wear a reflective vest if your run will be during darkness and always carry identification to help emergency workers in case of an accident.

18. Listen to your body. Do not overtrain or push your body to failure. "No pain, no gain" is a myth. You can make great gains without injuring your body. Heed your body's warning signs. Use the "RICE" principle for minor injuries Rest, Ice, Constriction, Elevation. If soreness persists, seek medical care.

19. Buy a book. Invest in a healthy recipe cookbook, such as The Healthy Firehouse Cookbook by FDNY Firefighter Joe Bonanno and Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl.

20. Have fun. The foundation to a healthy lifestyle is having fun getting there. Step out of the box and come up with new and fun ways to accomplish old things.

I hope these simple tips will help you on your way to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Mark R. Nugent is senior captain and deputy fire marshal of the Chesterfield, VA, Fire Department.