1) Set goals that are realistic and specific. Have a set time period as your goal to help you stick to a new fitness regime. Write down your plan of action for every day, week, and so on. Start with a plan that you think you can accomplish or exceed. For example, walk for 30 minutes, and then run for 20 minutes. See how many times you have to stop and walk each time. Eventually, work up to running for 30 minutes.
2) Identify and eliminate your barriers to exercise and eating well. Make a plan to conquer and avoid those specific barriers. Take each barrier or excuse and write down ways you can solve the problem.
3) Put one sneaker in front of the other. Many of us waste too much time saying we need to work out but dread the process. Get dressed to work out and don't think about the next step. If you take it one step at a time, before you know it you will finish the cool-down and feel amazing.
4) Make yourself an upbeat iPod playlist or CD. You can dance around as you clean up at home. Or, you can find a hip-hop or African dance class at the gym, learn to belly dance at an adult education class or at the Y, or just plan a girls' night out dancing. You can find a great list on my website.
5) Make dates to see friends and family and do something that doesn't involve eating and drinking. Walk through the park, go biking in summer, ice skate or cross country ski in winter, walk the mall, take a yoga or cardio class, or run on a treadmill right next to your friend.
6) Think of food as a fuel, not as a gift. Passing on food that is high in fat and sugar, and take half the portion everyone else heaps onto their plate. If you go out to eat, you should pack up half food on your plate in a doggy bag.
7) Practice good habits when you eat out. If you have to be at a restaurant, identify the three healthiest things on the menu and pick between those.
8) Follow the food pyramid daily. Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and calcium, not sweets and fats. Also, take a daily multi-vitamin
9) Don't eat any junk food lying around the office. Bring healthy, sweet or salty snacks to your desk, such as whole wheat crackers, almonds, grapes, or chocolate soy milk. Buy a slow cooker so that you can prepare a healthy meal in the mornings, and it's ready for you when you get home (it's like having a personal chef at home all day, and gives you that extra hour for exercise.)
10) Drink no more than two alcoholic beverages at parties and events (if necessary, cut extra drinks with spritzers) and have a snack before these events so you don't attack the buffet line.
11) Drive less and walk more. Take the stairs when possible and never go a day without some exercise.
12) Invest in a gym membership, if you don't have one already, and use it. If you don't have the money right now, buy an inexpensive workout DVD.
13) Weigh yourself everyday to remember your goals and feel good about the choices you made yesterday.
14) Keep reading health and fitness columns online. Subscribe to weekly e-mailed fitness tips for regular inspiration, and subscribe to fitness magazines. Whether it's a new and healthy dish you can make, news about a recent medical study, interesting moves to try at home, or another person's story about how they reached their goals, any inspiration will help.
15) Pass this advice along. I saw a quote once that said "You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most." So get your friends to subscribe to a fitness newsletter, such as the NikkiFitness newsletter, and find a partner to work out with and help you make healthy choices at a restaurant.
Nikki Fitness is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, writer and publicist living in New York City. She started as a cheerleader at Syracuse University, but became certified in fitness before her beach wedding so that she could get back in shape. Laura, a graduate student, working mom, and military wife, inspired Nikki's Military Wife Workout (MWW) for all military wives. Find more articles by Nikki at her article archive. Learn more at www.nikkifitness.com.