Improve Your Health and Fitness

Let our experts fill you in on their own health and fitness secrets

Danger Zone 1: parties, special occasions and holiday celebrations
Diet Destructors Not having a plan, feeling deprived, peer pressure, gluttony
You can stick to your diet without being a party pooper. Before heading out the door in those 3-inch slingbacks, decide what your limit will be. Will you have just one piece of pie instead of the usual two, or perhaps skip dessert altogether in favor of a favorite entree? Make those choices before the event. And, just for extra insurance, set a goal for morning-after damage control. For example, you might decide that if you overindulge, you'll eat lighter meals for a few days afterward and increase your cardio workouts. Consider especially the impact of your beverage choices: "Alcohol is frequently served at celebrations, which lowers inhibitions and makes you more likely to make a bad food choice," Washington cautions.

Danger Zone 2: work
Diet Destructors Peer pressure, not having a plan, "stuck" syndrome
With doughnuts, vending machines and birthday cakes around virtually every corner, there are very few places the Diet Destructors love more than the workplace. Your best chance for success in adhering to a healthy diet while at work is to enlist help from like-minded colleagues. Consider taking turns bringing healthful foods to meetings, or ask the person in charge of refreshments to offer some healthier options such as fresh fruit and yogurt or whole-wheat bagels and lowfat cream cheese. For maximum control of work-time eating, you'll need to plan ahead and bring your own healthful lunch and snacks from home. Keep a jar of almonds in a desk drawer and have two dozen nuts and a small piece of fruit instead of a candy bar when an afternoon slump hits. For around 200 calories you'll get a balanced mini-meal with about 6 grams of protein.

Danger Zone 3: happy hour
Diet Destructors Peer pressure, fatigue, "stuck" syndrome
Sometimes it's fun to relax after 5 p.m. with co-workers, but just as often happy hour turns into an extension of the workday tedium. Whether happy hour is a command performance or an enjoyable reprieve, the advice is the same, Washington says: "Start out with water or seltzer to hydrate yourself. Sometimes we drink too much alcohol after a long day of work simply because we're thirsty." When it's time to order appetizers, get involved and put your vote in for the healthiest options, like a veggie platter with salsa or grilled chicken strips. If you know you'll be at a restaurant that has only high-fat choices, eat a piece of fruit or handful of nuts before you leave work so you won't be as tempted to overeat the fatty stuff like cheese nachos and fried potato skins.

Danger Zone 4: the gym
Diet Destructors Not having a plan, fatigue
Gyms and health clubs have expanded into the lucrative fast-food market, selling everything from energy bars and sports waters to smoothies and protein drinks. But just because these foods are available at your gym doesn't mean they're low in fat or calories. Judy Phillips, M.S., R.D., project manager of the childhood obesity program at South End Community Health Center in Boston, recommends saving calories and money by skipping these tempting products. "If you're eating normal, well-spaced meals throughout the day, don't bother with food at the gym. Bring an orange for after exercise if you feel you need it," she says.

Danger Zone 5: vacations
Diet Destructors Not having a plan, gluttony, "stuck" syndrome
Vacations are all about taking a break from our normal routines. As a result, we often end up breaking our diet rules and gaining weight. All-inclusive vacations and cruises in particular can be challenging. Being on a luxury liner is like being on a floating island loaded with fabulous, free food, says Karl Muhlberger, corporate executive chef for the five-star Cunard cruise line. "Most people feel like, 'Hey, I paid for this and I want to enjoy it.'" But it is possible to eat healthy by choosing the right cruise. Cunard's Queen Mary 2, for example, has a Canyon Ranch SpaClub right on board, and Cunard's other ships offer vegetarian, low-carb and lowfat menus. No matter what your vacation destination, avoid packing on the pounds by planning how you'll eat before you go. One solution is to choose to treat yourself on even days and practice moderation on odd days. Or, if you decide you want to enjoy whatever you want whenever you want it, include a plan for getting back on track as soon as you return home.

Danger Zone 6: air travel
Diet Destructors Fatigue, not having a plan, "stuck" syndrome
There is perhaps no time in your life when you are more at the mercy of a bad food environment than when you're in the air. "You can literally spend your whole day with no access to wholesome food," says Michel Nischan, Fairfield, Conn.-based author of the best-selling cookbook Taste Pure and Simple (Chronicle Books, 2003) and executive chef for Song airline. "First of all, you've got the stress of travel, which makes you more nervous and likely to eat anyway. And then you finally say to yourself, 'I'm just going to go get whatever I can find.' And it's maybe some giant muffin with 1,000 calories."

Last year Song launched a buy-on-board menu of organic meals and vegetarian entrees. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine rated 10 top airlines for healthful food selections, and Song received the highest marks. So when you book your ticket, inquire about nutritionally sound food choices. If the prospects aren't appealing, bring your own wholesome snacks, such as apples, dried fruit or nuts to tide you over until you reach your destination.


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