Stay Focused on Health: Have Backup Plans

From the WebMD Archives

You've been sticking with your food and exercise plan for a while -- and feeling confident with it. Then, bam! There's an office birthday party or bumper-to-bumper traffic, and your dinner plan or gym time is derailed.

The best way to fight unexpected temptations is to have a solid backup strategy that can work in any situation.

Here are tips from five top health experts you can use anywhere, anytime, to stay the course to good health.

In case of stress: Never leave home without magnesium.

“Whether it's to survive a stressful day or to 'just say no' to the candy jar at the office that's calling out, magnesium will help you avoid the traps and stay on your health plan,” says nutritionist Ashley Koff, co-author of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged.

Why? Magnesium may lower levels of stress and anxiety. And when we’re calmer, we tend to make less abrupt and more considered decisions. Get your magnesium as a supplement, or for a midday treat as a 1-ounce serving of almonds: about 23.

When the workout goes out the window: Have a high-intensity plan.

“Most people tell you to schedule your workouts like you'd do an unbreakable meeting with your boss or biggest client. While that's nice advice, unless you're a master at self-deception, you're not going to perceive them with similar importance and will skip the workout when time gets tight,” says personal trainer Adam Rosante, founder of The People’s Bootcamp.

On the days when your regular plan falls apart, Rosante suggests picking five total-body moves and doing them back to back as hard as you can for 30 seconds each with no rest. If you don't know how to do these, talk with a trainer first to make sure you know how to do them safely.

  • Jumping jacks
  • High knees running in place, moving arms like you're jogging
  • Squat jumps: Squat, jump up with hands raised over your head, and land softly back in a squat.
  • Lunge with a back row: Do a lunge-step forward with your right foot, and back with your left, bending until your right knee is over your right ankle. Start with your arms down, then row your elbows back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. If you're near weights, you can hold an 8-pound one in each hand.
  • Standing wood chop: Stand with your left foot slightly forward. Holding a medicine ball, raise both arms over your head and lean to the left. Move your arms across your body and down toward your right ankle, keeping your knees gently flexed. Keep your body upright and your head straight ahead.

While you’ll have exercised for just 2.5 minutes, research shows that these quick, high-intensity bursts of exercise come with health benefits ranging from calorie burn to muscle building.

Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat as many times as you can handle or time will allow.


When birthday parties and other social events strike: Consult your list.

Ruptures in routines are usually open invitations for old coping mechanisms to take the wheel,” says psychotherapist Stephanie Manes. “To intercept these parts of ourselves before they take over, have a plan for talking back.”

Sometime in the next few days, make a short list of all your top reasons for not slipping and giving in to goodies. Include references to your goals and past successes. Keep that piece of paper in your pocket, and when temptation approaches, head to the restroom and read your list three times for an instant resolve-booster.

Eating out at restaurants: Read ahead.

“Nothing can save the day from any diet saboteurs like information,” says nutritionist Brooke Alpert, founder of B Nutritious. These days, it’s common for restaurants to post their menus, or at least some popular selections, on their web sites.

Check the menu before you go out, and make note of a few healthy choices. That way, you don't have to make a decision and order when you’re hungry and easily swayed by those around you.

For nonstop willpower, carry snacks.

“You’ll make your worst choices when you’re hungry; that’s when willpower is at its weakest,” says nutritionist Keren Gilbert, founder of Decision Nutrition. “Luckily, snacking is portable.”

Gilbert recommends never going more than 4 hours without a small bite. To make it a no-brainer no matter how busy your day, carry preportioned servings of nuts in your bag at all times. Not only are they light and easy to carry, but studies show nuts in particular help quell hunger and promote feelings of fullness.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 23, 2013



Ashley Koff, RD, co-author,  Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged, Hay House, 2011.

Stephanie Manes, LCSW, psychotherapist, Manhattan.

Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, founder, B Nutritious.

Grases, G. Magnesium Research, June 2006.

Ellam, S. Annual Review of Nutrition, July 2013.

Fitness Magazine: "Exercise Anywhere."

American Council on Exercise: "Squat Jumps," "Standing Wood Chop."

American College of Sports Medicine: "High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment."

Adam Rosante, CPT, founder, The People’s Bootcamp.

Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, president, Decision Nutrition.

She Knows: "Top 10 Functional Exercise for Full-Body Fitness."

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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