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fitness habits

By Jayne Jang Belz

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Fitness professionals may seem like super humans who never struggle with making healthy diet choices, showing up for workouts or pulling off that unforgiving outfit. But … surprise! They're just like us! They're busy professionals, wives, moms, friends and community members who have lives—beyond the gym and produce section.

Fitness professionals are able to stay on track because they arm themselves with effective daily habits.

Here are some tips shared by Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of Health, Exercise Science and Yoga Studies at San Diego Miramar College, and a yoga teacher, certified health coach, and senior adviser with the American Council on Exercise.

Pairing: Add a Good New Behavior to an Established Habit
Pairing involves taking a consistent, established habit and adding in a new one until it sticks. Matthews always does squats while she's brushing her teeth in the morning and at night. "Brushing is a consistent habit and during a two-minute brush, I can do about 30 squats. So that's 30 squats in the morning and 30 at night," she says. Because she uses the principle of pairing, you'll never find her just brushing! Another idea: Try balancing on one foot while you're washing dishes!

Park Farther Away and Take the Stairs
Matthews lives by the motto of grabbing any and all opportunities to add more movement into her day. Research supports that these seemingly small habits and actions can add up to big health gains, Matthews says.

Get a Head Start on Hydration While Balancing the Body's pH
Even though she's a professional, Matthews admits that she never liked drinking water. So she found a more enjoyable way to hydrate. Every morning, she drinks a mug of warm water with lemon, which can stimulate digestion and help balance the body's pH. This warm beverage in the morning helps minimize her coffee and caffeine intake, which is an added bonus.

Plants Are the Base
Instead of focusing on calories or stressing over what to restrict, Matthews makes plants the base of her diet. Most of her meals are made from veggies, occasionally mixing in some seafood. Making plants the base ensures that she's eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Take Time to Breathe or Meditate
Matthews doesn't leave her room in the morning until she's taken some time to sit still and focus on her breathing—for a minute or 15 minutes. "Meditation isn't sitting on a mountaintop," she says. And it doesn't even require sitting! The focus is to be mindfully aware, be still and listen to the movement of your breath. If you do this in the morning, it can help you start the day in the right place mentally—and it ensures that you actually do it!

Here are some tips from Arielle Dani Lebovitz, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian nutritionist with over 10 years' experience specializing in health communications, human performance/sports nutrition, diabetes education and children's nutrition.

Make Healthy Food Convenient
Set aside a day to prepare healthy foods that you can just reheat and grab. With unhealthy food choices all around us, it's easy to choose them out of convenience. "If healthy food is just a grab-and-go option, healthy foods will be the easy choice," Lebovitz says.

Write It Down
Don't just keep your intentions in your head. "Before I go to bed every night I write down three things I want to prioritize and accomplish for the next day," Lebovitz says. This helps her remain mindful of her goals and how she'll accomplish them. She jots down anything from doing a 30-minute workout in the morning to adding mushrooms to an egg scramble.

Here's some helpful input from Nev Nelson, certified personal trainer, certified health coach, NFHS certified, and tennis player and coach.

Keep Each Morning the Same
Nelson wakes up early at the same time almost every day (on weekends, one hour later) and does the same thing every morning to establish routine and habit. She changes into her workout clothes at the start of the day and puts in her headphones to get her motivated to work out.

Eat More Often

Most of us are conditioned to think our food intake has to happen within three square meals per day. Nelson eats more than three times per day. She eats smaller meals every two to three hours, which keeps her metabolism going and prevents her from overeating. We all know skipping a meal can make you ravenous at the next!

Don't Journey Alone
Everyone, even professionals, needs support. Nelson has an exercise group that holds her accountable. Whether it's an exercise class you love, a running club or even just one good friend who will keep up with your workouts, be sure to surround yourself with people who will help you achieve your wellness gals.

And last, but certainly not least, here are some tips from Emily Ann Callahan, MPH, RD, owner and consultant, EAC Health and Nutrition, LLC.

Find 30 Minutes per Day
The top excuse for why people don't work out is lack of time. No matter how busy you are, you can probably find 30 minutes in your day. Callahan aims to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. That's easy on her gym days. "But on the other days, I try to at least get outside for a 30-minute (or two 15-minute) walks," Callahan said. Everyone can find 15 minutes!

BYO Fruits and Vegetables
If Miller knows she's going somewhere where healthy options might be slim pickings, she packs her own fruits and vegetables. This helps her stay on track with including a fruit and/or vegetable in every meal.