So here's the best fitness advice I can give you: pay attention. To what? To your own body.
When we're young we think we're going to feel great forever. One of my teen friends has told me that she's never worried about being hit while walking in a parking lot, because if she does get hit, she'll get a lot of money. As a 50-something with lots of issues cropping up, I beg her to reconsider. Here's the analogy that works best for me:
Your body is like a car. So let's say you get a new car. Cool, right? Here's the catch: it's the only car you're ever going to be able to have. Ever. So what you do to this car over the course of your lifetime matters, because you can't trade it in for a new one.
So given that we have this one body, it makes sense to pay attention to it. And treat it with care. There have been entire decades when they only thing I noticed about my body was the number it gave when I was on the scale and whether my skinny jeans fit. Now that I'm older I'm getting better at really paying attention. So I now know what works for me and what doesn't work for me. (Well, I know a little about that.) This is why there are so many diet and exercise books, people. Because one size does not fit all.
So in sorting through all the conflicting information out there, it's best to look at the least common denominator, because chances are health advice that appears virtually everywhere is probably good information. From what I've read, these things are universally true:
- Eating lots of vegetables is good.
- Cooking your own food is good.
- Wearing sunscreen is good.
- Moving your body enough to break a sweat and breathe hard is good.
I know there's a study somewhere that refutes my claims. But generally speaking you'll live better if you follow these rules. Actually, I'd rather call them "guidelines" as that's a gentler way to see them.
Because I've paid attention, there are some other things that seem to work for me:
- Eating lots of protein and fat makes my waist smaller.
- So do avoiding gluten.
- Caffeine helps me to pay attention.
- Taking an anti-depressant daily helps stabilize my mood and keep me from free-falling into the depression abyss.
These are not true for everyone, but they work for this girl. So I'm gonna keep doing them. And if they stop working, I'll know sooner rather than later, because I'm paying attention.
What's tricky about this is if you feel overweight and out of shape. The times I've felt like this, I was also way out of touch with my body, because I didn't want to look. And I'm not suggesting eating while naked in front of a mirror (there was a diet that actually promoted this!), but really checking in with the reality of what's going on with your body. Because that's a great place to start -- with what is.