10/2 Special Column: Essential tools for reaching your health and wellness goals

By TRACEY CARLTON, tcarlton@on-pointnutrition.com


Maybe you have been trying your hardest to eat healthy foods or to exercise. Maybe you do well for a while; then a slip here or there from your plan takes you completely off course. Or maybe you have been repeating to yourself that you need to start eating better or becoming more physically active, but you just do not know where to start.

Whether deciding to change your eating or exercise habits, or both, it is important to take the time to consider what you need in order to do so in a healthy manner. You might first consider the tangible tools to get the job done, such as the right food and cooking utensils and appliances, or the right workout shoes or equipment? Even more important, though, are the intangible tools - those that you cannot purchase from a store or borrow from a friend. Social support, knowledge, and a well-structured plan are all tools you need first in order to better ensure your success at making a healthy lifestyle change through good nutrition and exercise. Those tools can offer you support through providing the motivation and confidence required to keep you on task in working toward your goals.

Next, decide where you will find these tools. Look first toward the people with whom you spend the most time for your social support. Talk to your family, friends, co-workers, classmates, and anyone else you see almost daily and discuss your health goals with them. Explain to them why it is important to you to reach your goals and why it is important that you have their support. Then, allow them to offer ways they can help you.

You may also find that a nutrition or exercise partner or group is another good source of support. Find others with similar goals and help one another remain accountable to his or her nutrition or exercise plan. Go grocery shopping or share recipes. Exercise with a partner or in a group setting. Feeding off others enthusiasm can push you toward your goals especially when you feel your motivation may be lacking.

People who surround themselves with others who can offer support to their goals, make positive contributions to their decision making, and provide help are much more likely to reach their goals. People without this type of support may find it more difficult to reach their goals, and often, they just give up. That really is a shame considering that support can come from a variety of sources.

Fortunately and unfortunately, there is a vast array of informational sources to enhance your knowledge on nutrition and exercise; however, keep in mind that not all of those sources are credible or are concerned with your best interest. Be judicious in the information you apply to your health. Check the source of the information, the credentials, and any bias behind the information presented. Consider the intent behind the information and the source of that information. When in doubt, speak to a medical professional to make sure that what you are doing is right for your body and your goals.

A well-structured plan should be based on sound knowledge and identifiable goals. Write down what you want, how you plan to achieve it, and how you plan to do so healthfully. This is where you may consider finding support in structuring and carrying out your plan. Find support with a healthcare, fitness, or nutrition professional in your community, or with a health and wellness facility such as the Greater West Point Family YMCA, which has trained and certified staff to help put you on a healthy track to your goals.

The YMCA provides support to the community's health and fitness through programs and classes, such as the 5210 child nutrition program starting October 2 and a personal trainer's certification workshop planned for November 16 and 17. The workshop, conducted by the National Exercise Trainers Association, will help prepare attendees in attaining the NETA NCCA accredited Personal Trainer Certification. Anyone interested in such support from the YMCA, be it through classes, training, programs, or workshops, should call 843-3300.

Whether your health and fitness goal is to help others reach theirs or it is to become healthier yourself, having a support system raises your chance at success. Having the essential tools in place - the social support, the knowledge, and the well-structured plan - can carry you through the rough patches on your journey toward your goal and make the route much smoother and enjoyable.

Tracey Carlton is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist certified through the International Sports Sciences Association, and is the owner of On-Point Nutrition, which offers both online and face-to-face nutrition coaching to meet your individual weight, performance, and health goals. She also is employed by the Greater West Point Family YMCA, providing instruction for its 5210 youth nutrition program. Feel free to e-mail your questions or nutrition topics of interest to tcarlton@on-pointnutrition.com. You can find On-Point Nutrition on Facebook or at http://www.on-pointnutrition.com.