Resolve to be "good" 80% of the time
Get real, says Dr. Tedd Mitchell. Strict health routines won't work because you won't stick with them. Do what he does: Eat and exercise sensibly during the week, then relax all weekend.
By Tedd Mitchell, M.D.
any people start out the new year resolving to adopt healthier lifestyles: lots of exercise, no fatty foods or sweets, no alcohol. And within a few weeks, they've given up those good resolutions. The problem is that any resolution to "give up" a particular food or "always" exercise is unrealistic. What I tell my patients, and what I do myself, is try to exercise and eat healthfully most of the time. More specifically, eat right and exercise five days a week, then feast on the weekends and be a couch potato.
Dr. Mitchell's 80/20 diet
In other words, be "good" 80% of the time and you can be "bad" 20% of the time -- more or less. I call it the 80/20 program. (OK -- if you do the math, it works out closer to 70/30. But it feels like 80/20.)
Here's my routine: My wife and I work out five days a week, Monday through Friday. Five days a week, Janet does a combination of the elliptical trainer and the Stairmaster, or she power-walks. I jog. Then we both get in two 30-minute sessions of strength training during the week. If we get busy at work and have to deviate from our schedule one day, that's fine. But if we miss a second day, we make up for it on the weekend.
We get up at 5 every morning to be sure we get our workouts in while the kids are asleep and before the day gets too busy. On the weekends, we sleep in and don't work out.
With our diets, we follow the same schedule. We eat healthful foods beginning with Sunday dinner, then every Friday night we take the whole family to Taco Diner, where I always have the fajita beef tacos. Saturday morning, we go out for doughnuts. But Sunday evening, we're back on the plan, usually with a light dinner of cereal and skim milk or sandwiches.
One thing that happens when you start on this program is a tendency to pig out on the weekends. But soon you learn to make better bad decisions. I used to eat a dozen doughnuts on Saturday mornings; now I eat three.
If you have a work event or a special evening out during the week, do a swap: Eat what you want that night and enjoy it, then eat healthfully one weekend night.
We don't drink any alcohol during the week because it's empty calories. But Friday nights, I'll have a mango margarita. Limiting alcohol to one or two nights a week keeps you in a consumption range that's best for you. The latest studies all suggest that two to seven drinks a week provide health benefits, especially in minimizing heart attacks and strokes. (If you don't drink, don't start, but if you do drink, limit yourself to seven drinks a week.)
Our children -- Katherine, 8, Charlie, 6, and Christopher, 4 -- follow the same program we do. They don't have sweets during the week, so it's really a treat when we go to Baskin-Robbins on the weekend.
During the week
(starting Sunday night):
* Don't skip meals. Eat a light breakfast and lunch so you're not ravenous at dinner.
* Avoid eating out. If you do eat out, follow the Restaurant Rules (below).
* Drink 8-10 servings of water daily.
* Eat low-calorie/ high-volume foods during the day (fruits and vegetables) to keep you feeling full.
* Prepare foods by dry baking (no fat added), dry broiling, grilling, poaching or steaming instead of frying.
* Start meals with volume: salads, raw vegetables, low-fat soups.
* Eat meat in only 3-4 meals a week.
* Don't have second helpings.
On the weekend
(starting Friday night):
Eat slowly. Eating fast leads to getting stuffed.
* Sip water and diet beverages throughout meals.
* Have dessert with evening meals.
* Get back into the "workweek" mind-set on Sunday night with a low-calorie meal. Restaurant rules
* Frequent restaurants you know, with varied menus and low-calorie options.
* Decide your order ahead of time.
* Have butter, gravy and salad dressings served on the side (avoid them completely during the week).
* Have bread, crackers and chips removed to avoid temptation.
* Choose appetizers as entrees.
Opt for poultry and fish instead of beef and pork.
Avoid fried foods, casseroles, cream and cheese sauces, and large meat portions (over 6 ounces).