Health and Fitness

As you deal with the many aspects of your divorce, you may not yet have thought about how your separation has affected your health and wellness. But your health is extremely important at this time in your life. As you plan your future as a newly single person, you should make fitness and good nutrition an important part of your new lifestyle. For many people, a divorce comes at a time when health and fitness have become low priorities. Some people deal with the stress of a bad marriage by overeating or becoming “couch potatoes.” Most divorcing couples are no longer enjoying one another’s company with active recreational activities that they may have enjoyed in the past. And once the divorce process begins, you may be so overwhelmed with the changes in your life-a new place to live, new childcare arrangements, new financial concerns-that once again fitness takes a back-seat to other concerns. But you should plan it into your new lifestyle. Remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The first wealth is health.”

As a single person, you’ll begin to feel interested in members of the opposite sex again and you’ll want to be attractive to them. Naturally, you will wish to look and feel your best. Whether your goal is to lose weight, to maintain your weight, or just to improve your overall well-being, here are some suggestions to help you manage your health. And no matter what your goal may be, remember to keep a positive and realistic attitude toward health and fitness-Don’t expect instant results, but rather, set short-term realistic goals. Be willing to become more physically active and make changes to your lifestyle and eating habits.

Exercise is crucial. First, it is important to your mental health. Exercise helps to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress-all common to the recently divorced. The physical benefits include increased energy, cardio-vascular health, improved flexibility, and strength. In light of its benefits, you should do some amount of exercise every day. If you are not regularly exercising, begin by setting reasonable goals. Try to incorporate 10-20 minutes of exercise into your day two or three times a week. You can gradually increase the amount until you are doing 30-45 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week. Before you begin doing vigorous exercise, you might want to consult your doctor.

Exercise doesn’t have to a structured activity that requires fancy equipment. Exercise includes daily activities that keep you moving or raise your heart rate slightly. Here are some things you can do to make exercise part of your daily routine:

  • Ride your bike or walk to work.
  • Garden for 15- 30 minutes.
  • Play baseball, tag, or another physically active game with your children.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Clean house.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator.
  • Park far away and walk to your destination.
  • Walk short distances instead of driving
  • Use public transportation, walking a few blocks to the subway or bus stop.
  • Take a walk at lunch/break time.
  • Move around while watching television or talking on the phone.
  • Play golf without cart or caddy
  • Carry walking shoes in your car; look for opportunities to walk.
  • Consider buying a pedometer, a small device available at more sporting goods stores- It will measure the distance you’ve walked in a day and help you assess your activity level.

Of course, you may wish to try some more structured kinds of exercise, too. Ideally you should exercise for cardiovascular health, for strength-training, and for flexibility. Cardio exercise includes anything that raises your heart rate-power-walking, aerobics, bike-riding, stair-climbing or elliptical machines, running, or swimming. Cardio workouts are important to help you burn fat and maintain a healthy metabolism. Strength-training activities usually involve weight training, either nautilus or free weights, but can also include Pilates and other floor workouts. Strength-training is important to help you build strong muscle. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, people with strong muscles are able to eat more without gaining weight. Finally, exercise for flexibility includes stretching and yoga. These activities will help you to stay limber, possibly preventing you from injuring yourself. They are also excellent for stress-relief.

If you are a parent, try to incorporate your children into your fitness plans. Remember that your kids need to be active, too. Make exercise a part of your family routine, whether you are a custodial parent or have weekend visitations. You can go for walks, go to the park, take up a new sport together, or visit the zoo. You might want to bicycle, hike, or canoe with your children. Or, as a family, you might consider joining the local YMCA. The YMCA is a wonderful family-oriented organization that provides workout space for adults as well as many beneficial activities-sports, dancing, karate, and more-for kids.

If you are new to working out, it may be helpful for you to develop an exercise plan. Talk to your doctor about this, and consider seeing a trainer. Finding a trainer through a local gym or YMCA may be much more affordable than you think. Consider joining a gym or purchasing equipment that you can use at home. And finally, always warm up and cool down.

Just as important as developing a good fitness routine is making sound nutritional choices. For more people, the best approach to nutrition is to eat a variety of healthy foods, to limit alcohol, high-fat or “junk” food to small quantities, and to eat in moderation. Eating in moderation means limiting your portion-sizes, skipping seconds, cutting down on snacking, and not going overboard in your consumption of alcohol, salt, caffeine, sweets, and high-fat foods. Some people believe that a strict diet is the only way to lose or maintain weight. But in fact, diets often backfire when dieters get sick of feeling deprived, or because they feel guilty and give up after going off the diet a few times. If you eat moderately and exercise regularly, you don’t need to go on diets. You just have to learn to trust yourself, to keep track of what you’re eating, and to make gradual changes.

What you should eat
If you have not done so before, try to familiarize yourself with the basic guidelines for healthy nutrition. Most people need 3-5 vegetable servings a day, 2-4 fruit servings, 6-11 bread servings, 2-3 servings of protein (meat, fish, beans, nuts, eggs, beans,) 2-3 servings dairy (including yogurt, milk, and cheese) and a very small amount of fat. Women should choose the lower number of servings indicated, while teen boys and active men should eat at the high end of this range. Everyone else-children, teen girls, most men, and active women-should eat in the middle range.

Keep in mind that in nutritional terms, the word “serving” has a very specific meaning. The typical amount of pasta or bread that you eat in a meal might really be 3-4 servings in nutritional terms. In order to determine how much you should eat of any given item, use the following guidelines: A serving of bread is 1 slice, 1/2 cup, or 1 oz. A serving of vegetables is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup uncooked. A serving of fruit is 1 piece, 1/2 to 3/4 c. fresh, or 1/4 c. dried. A serving of milk/dairy is 1 cup. A serving of protein is 1 1/2 oz cheese or meat, 2-3 oz. lean meat, 1-2 eggs, and 1 cup beans. Finally, a typical serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards.

Some Tips for Health and Fitness
1. Try to achieve a healthy weight.
2. Try to be physically active every day.
3. Eat a variety of foods from the food pyramid.
4. Try to eat whole grains every day.
5. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
6. Keep only “safe” food in your house-don’t buy items that you will entice you to overeat.
7. Use fats sparingly, and prefer plant oils to animal fat or solid fat (butter, shortening).
8. Choose beverages carefully in order to avoid unnecessary sugar, sodium, and caffeine.
9. Drink alcohol only in moderation.

There are plenty of great web sites out there to help you stay healthy too. Check out WebMd and Mayo Clinic.

We all know that eating out, especially at fast food places, is usually bad for you, but for many of us, our fast-paced lifestyles mean that we often end up eating on the go. If you can’t completely avoid restaurant food, here are some tips to help you choose wisely from their menus:

  • Beware of salads that appear healthy but are filled with high-fat toppings. If you choose a salad, use fat-free dressing and avoid bacon bits, croutons, extra cheese, eggs, olives, etc.
  • Avoid “salads” that aren’t really salads at all-like tuna salad (which is high in mayo) and taco salad.
  • Go easy on high-fat deli meats. Try a veggie sandwich or a grilled chicken or turkey with no cheese.
  • Order the child-size portions.
  • Forego appetizers and side dishes.
  • Don’t put the dressing directly on your salad-dip your fork in it instead.
  • Choose broth-soups instead of creamy ones.
  • Have toast rather than pastries.
  • Try a plain hamburger instead of cheeseburger.
  • Opt for grilled items, not fried.