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Jump-starting diet, fitness plans

The Baltimore Sun

It's four months into the new year and many dieters are still trying to satisfy their New Year's resolution to take off the pounds.

But by now it should be easy to stay with the routine of eating right, exercising and getting enough rest, right? Well, not exactly.

With growing demands at work and home, experts say, it's hard for lots of people to keep pace with their frantic lives and still eat healthy.

Nutritionist Dr. Rovenia Brock, author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy, and fitness trainer Charles Harris, owner of Chizel-It! fitness in Baltimore, have some advice about how dieters can re-energize and revitalize their plans for a fit 2007.

"I think, by February, people get distracted because they set expectations too high," says Harris, who is a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor who teaches several aerobics classes a week at an area gym and other locations.

To Brock, it's a mind-over-matter situation.

"I'm asking you to retool your thinking. I'm asking you to think differently about food. ... and I want you to start thinking differently about physical activity," she says.

Here are some practical tips they offer to those whose diet and fitness plans have hit a lull and need a jump-start:

Cook in advance --"Use Sunday to prepare more than one meal to last at least until Wednesday so you can make healthy choices," Harris advises. Prepping food in advance curtails impulse eating of less nutritious foods such as pizza and fast foods.

Taste the rainbow --Eat colorful fresh fruits and veggies packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. "Get as many colors in your diet as possible -- orange, yellow, red, blue, green -- and lots of green leafy vegetables [instead of] a brown and beige, meat-and-potatoes diet," Brock says.

More water, please --Divide your body weight in pounds by two, then drink that number of ounces of water per day, Harris says. Staying properly hydrated not only speeds metabolism and aids in weight loss, but curbs cravings by telling the body it's full.

Feed your spirit --Make exercise a mind-and-body experience by doing what you enjoy. "Take a salsa-dancing class and burn some calories," Brock says.

Think small --"Eat four to six small portions every two hours to deter binge eating," Harris says. A piece of fruit or half a sandwich goes a long way in fighting hunger pangs that can lead to overeating.

Be creative --"If you have carpet on your floor and you've got to vacuum, why not do lunges or squats?" asks Brock. Or, during busy workdays, take 10-minute "exercise sparks" and take a walk.

Don't exercise solo --Sign up for kickboxing or aerobics classes at the gym. "You can always say no to yourself, [so] pull energy and motivation from group exercise," Harris says. "I always encourage [clients] to partner up with someone. Most people start a new regimen by themselves. It's hard to do it alone."

Cut portions in half --Save up to 500 calories a day by sticking to a lean, not clean, plate philosophy when eating out. "You don't need to eat your money's worth; eat your heart's worth," Brock says.

Rest up --Get six to eight hours of sleep a night so the body can rejuvenate and recover from exercise. "Getting proper rest gives the body the energy it needs to push it!" Harris says.

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