How to diet right?

Ten professionals and 10 teams are competing in the 2015 Get Fit Challenge. Who will earn the healthiest marks? Follow along on Facebook and then find out at the In Business Expo & Conference on Oct. 21. This week, IB checks in with Karen Hodgkiss, owner of KLH freelance, who is competing in the individual challenge.

There are many aspects of fitness that all of us are addressing as part of the Get Fit Challenge. The exercise components include strength, balance, flexibility, and aerobic capacity. It’s amazing that just a little bit of exercise can yield pretty rapid results. When at the gym, now I can easily handle mixing up my treadmill work with sprints. On weight machines, I’m gradually increasing the pounds. I’m holding planks longer and getting closer to real pushups.

Most significantly, I can see strength, balance, and flexibility improvement each time I’m in hot yoga class. Not too long ago, I had to use two blocks as props whenever I transitioned to and from the floor. Now, I can get there on my own. It’s not a perfect step through from downward-facing dog to a lunge or warrior pose, but I’m much quicker and agile. Speaking of downward dog, I’m holding this pose a lot longer and taking fewer breaks into child’s pose during the flow portion of class.

With exercise, success begets success. I’m gradually working more frequent formal exercise into my schedule, as well as short activities at home that include dumbbells, crunches on a fitness ball, standing on a balance disk, and stretching.

The diet portion is another story. Anyone who has struggled with their weight knows that it is very easy to gain five pounds seemingly overnight. Losing doesn’t happen as easily. I’ve learned that there is a big difference between eating more healthily versus eating to lose weight. I have improved my diet in many ways, especially in regard to food quality. I’m cooking more with fresh ingredients rather than packaged products, eating out less often, and buying more organic and local produce. In combination with the increased exercise, it feels like pounds should be falling off. But they’re not.

One of my biggest goals has been taking a lifestyle approach to exercise and eating right. That is a noble ideal, but the fact is to get where I want to be, I need to actually diet for a while. And by diet, I mean count calories or fat grams or points or something where I am strategically eating at a rate that will produce weight loss. Otherwise, any weight loss generated by exercise and healthy eating alone will continue to happen at a glacial pace.

What is intimidating is that in the past, every time I’ve dieted to lose weight, the weight has come back (usually more than I lost). In 2010, I launched a very ambitious diet and exercise program and lost over 40 pounds. Less than two years later, I was up 50 pounds. Clearly, I don’t know how to diet to get pounds off and then successfully transition into a lifestyle approach that will keep the weight off.

For now, I’m measuring success with my diet in other ways. I had a physical in July, and was pleased with the lab results. Compared to the summer of 2012, my cholesterol dropped from 154 to 146 and triglycerides dropped from 222 to 168! My doctor is encouraging a slow but steady lifestyle approach. That may not make a significant impact in terms of the Get Fit Challenge, but over time it will make a big difference in my overall health.

Meet all of the competitors here and see who wins at the In Business Expo & Conference.

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