Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Sticking with fitness resolutions is a major source of grief for many of us, but I’ve noticed that you’ve stuck with your own for over five years. How do you do it? —Sam Scholten, Richmond

The typical American lifestyle—long hours at sedentary work spaces, fat-laden meals outside the home—is geared toward maximum satisfaction with minimum effort. Discipline and routine are the key factors to better health.

Avoid “lose 10 pounds in a week” diets. Instead, manage your daily intake of nutrition. Eliminate fried and white foods, curb refined sugars, and eat smaller meals more often. Try not to allow yourself to become hungry. Drink lots of water; thirst is often misread as hunger. Plan ahead for meals outside the home. Think of food as fuel for your life, and over time the changes you’ll make in your body will become the true reward.

Exercise. Walk whenever you can and build muscle mass through lifting or resistance training. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. Make time for yourself and embrace the selfishness of exercise. It is the portion of each day you put aside to care for yourself.

Smoking will kill you sooner. Drinking in excess will kill you sooner. Drugs will wear you down quicker. You can choose to live a shorter life filled with these vices or a longer life with less chance of illness.

Don’t try to change everything at once. Get help from a nutritionist or hire a personal trainer. Create a new routine based on one goal, and once you are used to it, add another goal. I highly recommend fitday.com, an online tracking tool. If you make the time and effort to keep track of everything you eat and do, it will be one of the most eye-opening experiences of your life.

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