Wedding rings

Sometimes it takes an upcoming life event such as a reunion, wedding or milestone birthday to push us to accomplish our fitness goals. For me, it was preparing for my younger sister’s wedding that occurred during the Labor Day weekend.

Even though I teach several group fitness classes a week, I was starting to see my unhealthy eating habits get the best of me. I was feeling sluggish, tired and out of shape. Plus, I started to gain unwanted pounds. No amount of workout would have been able to make up for my poor diet.

Between working toward my master’s degree, completing deadline-driven work projects and dealing with other life stressors over the past couple of years, I lost track of what I was putting on my plate. If it was within arm’s reach, I ate it.

I would partake in snacks from the vending machine; I would drink high-calorie flavored coffee drinks and soda; and most of my meals came from fast-food restaurants. I used my chaotic schedule as an excuse to make poor eating choices. I got to a point where I was embarrassed to be a fitness instructor — especially since I wasn’t following the healthy advice I was giving to others.

So, it was time for a change. Using my sister’s wedding date as a deadline allowed me to stay focused on achieving my weight-loss goal. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with using these major family events as a reason to get in shape. The ultimate goal is to keep up with your new healthy path no matter what life throws at you.

Fitness Diaries: 5 steps to achieve your goals

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, it is always best to write down a plan of action when you’re ready to tackle your wellness goals. Eating healthy and finding the right workout routine can be overwhelming — especially if you’re not determined or motivated. It can be easy to give up before you even begin.

Next, focus on achieving one fitness goal at a time. My suggestion is to make nutrition your top priority. I cut out sugary drinks and started drinking more water, but I allow myself to drink a cup of coffee with a splash of cream every other morning; I never skip breakfast; I eat more vegetables and fruits; I’ve stopped wasting money on unhealthy snacks from the vending machine; and I rarely eat at fast-food restaurants.

Fitness Diaries: Is it possible to lose weight just around those troublesome areas?

My diet is far from perfect, and there are still occasions when I eat poorly. But I’ve started paying more attention to my food intake and I never starve myself. These changes allowed me to lose 12 pounds over four months and I hit my goal weight just in time for my sister’s wedding. My husband also set his own dietary goals and he’s lost 60 pounds since starting his weight-loss journey in March.

While my husband and I may have different fitness goals, our overarching objective is to not resort to gimmicks or shortcuts to get healthy. It takes time and dedication, but cleaning up your diet is one of the safest ways to lose weight successfully.

I will admit, now that the big event is over, there has been a temptation to slip back into those familiar unhealthy habits. It’s important to continue setting new fitness goals with deadlines. My next fitness goal is to build my strength and endurance to prepare for another upcoming fitness certification training.

Remember, maintaining your health is a lifetime commitment.

Stephanie Swearngin teaches group fitness classes at VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa and at VASA Fitness.

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