There are no shortcuts or hidden secrets to a healthy and fit body. Only two things truly matter: What you put in and what you put out.
When it comes down to it, your body is a lot like a business in that numbers must be closely monitored. You wouldn't let months go by without studying your revenues and expenditures, right? Why should your body be any different?
I'm not an expert, just someone who woke up one day more than four years ago and wanted to make a change. Since then, I've lost about 40 pounds and reduced my body fat to approximately 10 percent. I'm now in the best shape of my life.
So how did I do it?
Food. Our bodies need energy and we get that energy by eating. But what we eat and how much we eat impacts what shape we take.
The easiest way to monitor food intake is by looking at the amount of calories in food. (If you have existing health concerns, there are other factors to consider.) Calories are a measure of energy that food and beverages provide our bodies. We need them to do the things we do every day -- whether that's walking, working or even sleeping.
If we consume too many calories, we're likely to develop health issues and become overweight or obese (approximately one-third of Americans are obese). Too little and we can't function properly. That's why diets that require starving yourself aren't practical, as they put your body in starvation mode and can result in weight gain.
The first step is figuring out how many calories you should be consuming daily. That usually depends on your gender, age, height, weight and activity level.
This sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. To determine calories, abide by suggested serving sizes of food. Unless you're a wizard, though, actual serving sizes can be difficult to determine, not to mention extremely misleading.
This is why I use a kitchen scale to measure almost everything I consume -- fruits, vegetables, meat, coffee creamer, candy, you name it. I then chart what I eat in a food diary on my smartphone. I use the free app MyFitnessPal (available on both iOS and Android), but there are others available as well.
I do this for two reasons. The most obvious is to track how many calories I'm consuming
throughout the day.
The second is to actually modify my behavior. I love food, and I tend to not have self-control when food is placed in front of me. Knowing I have to track what I eat makes me consider the decision. Eating becomes deliberate, making it much easier to cut down on snacking.
With this in mind, no foods are off limit: Pizza, bacon, ice cream, turducken (or not) are all fair game. As the old saying goes, "Everything in moderation." You just have to stay at your calorie goal.
At the start, you may want to limit going out to eat. Once you begin to get a sense of food's caloric worth, you can ease up and be a bit more liberal. Although, I still think it's best to prepare your own meals.
Fitness. As entrepreneurs and corporate employees, we tend to be focused on our work, which can result in sitting at our desks for hours. Our bodies demand physical activity, and without it, they weaken.
If you don't have a workout regimen, a good start is carving out 10 to 20 minutes a day to do an activity that raises your heart rate. That's it. I suggest a quick jog or a ride on a stationary bike. Along with cardio, a few reps of strength-building exercises -- whether that's push-ups or lifting weights -- also helps.
The goal is to get into a habit. As you start working out every day, you can increase the time and intensity. But it's important that you don't overdo it, as you're likely to stop if you push too hard, too fast.
Try to also sneak in any opportunity to walk. If it's a choice between a five-minute drive or a 15-minute walk, some days choose the latter. During workdays, a midday walk is a great way to reduce stress and even boost creative thinking.
With these factors in hand, you should start seeing results quickly. It goes without saying that sometimes results are more difficult to see, especially at first. You don’t want your inability to notice striking differences -- on the scale or in the feel of your clothes -- to discourage you from continuing. This is not a “lose weight fast” fad diet: This is a lifestyle change that aims to make you healthier and lose weight at a reasonable rate.
It’s sometimes hard to remember what I looked like in January of 2010, but I know I didn't get to where I am overnight. Start easy, stick with it, and it will get easier for these habits to become second nature.