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Honestly, I’m in no place to give you advice on anything except maybe healthy eating. Which is not to say my diet is perfect, but perfect is boring anyway.

Look, you know diets don’t work as well as I do. (Go ahead, I’ll wait while you yell at the skinny nearly-vegan girl about how little she knows about the five pounds you lost eating nothing but grapefruit for a week.) As I was saying, we all know “diets” don’t work. They might work while you’re doing them. They might work short-term. But they’re not a good long-term strategy for health (or weight loss for that matter, but let’s worry about one thing at a time).

Diets don’t work because you think of them as short term. They’re a quick fix. Honestly, when was the last time the “quick fix” for anything worked better than doing it the “right way”? (I’ll wait while you tell me about the radiator you duct-taped or the bike you jerry-rigged in the Everglades — oh, wait, that last one was me, but I still needed a real bolt once I got back to civilization.) Short-term is just that. You lose the five pounds for the wedding and then you gain it back on the honeymoon. And often when you gain back “quick fix” pounds, they bring friends.

Furthermore, you need nutrients from a variety of foods, so living on nothing but grapefruit (or meat for that matter), doesn’t work in the long-term. You know it and I know it. Now, that we’ve admitted it, let’s move on. (Yeah, I know I eat “nothing but salads.” Well, get to that.)

Eating nothing but meat is a good way to die of heart disease. It’s a good way for bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and other nasty side effects to do you in no matter what the scales say. So cut that shit out. (No, you don’t have to cut out all meat if you don’t want to. It works for me. It might not work for you. Moderation is key. And keep an eye on your internal numbers. They’re a much better predictor of how healthy you are than the scale. Trust me, I’ve been the “fattest” skinny girl before. Growing up in the Deep South means even the underweight-BMI, borderline-anorexia chick had unhealthy internal numbers.)

More women die of heart disease than breast cancer. And many cancers have been linked to diet, too. So, seriously, go get some blood work done before you worry about fitting into a size 10, 2, or 22.

The scale? Not your friend. Muscle weighs more. And muscle is good. Muscle keeps your bones strong. Weight training goes further to prevent osteoporosis than drinking gallons of milk. (And milk can lead to heart disease cause it’s fatty.) We’ll come back to that.

The label in your pants? Not your friend. Why? Because clothing manufacturers mess with your head, that’s why. And because you’re not Angelina Jolie or Anne Hathaway playing a dying woman. You’re you. And if you’re healthy enough to run a mile, lift enough weights to keep your bones strong, and eat well enough to not die of some preventable disease, you’re doing good. If you don’t like the way you look, are you sure it’s because you don’t look good or is it because you read too many glossy magazines with Photoshopped America’s Next Model rejects in them?

Consider this: I’ve been wearing a size four since I was in high school. (Stop throwing things. I grew that way. And again, it means nothing.) In high school, I had a BMI under 16. My rib cage stuck out further than my boobs. (Huge hit with the boys, that. Yes, that’s sarcasm.) I weigh a good 25-30 pounds more than that now and my BMI is around 20. So, why do I wear the same size? Why can I sometimes fit into a size 2? For the same reason Chicos sizes their clothes the way they do. To mess with your head. Stop letting them mess with your head. YOU ARE NOT A DRESS SIZE. You are a PERSON.

Moving on.

So, if you want to be a new you in the new year, stop worrying about the things that don’t matter. Start working out. Trust me, the first few times or the first month might suck, but it gets easier and it gets fun and it’s not only great for your bones and your waist, it’s good for your mood and your energy levels. Stick with it. Don’t expect miracles. Again, focus on how you feel not what you weigh.

Do some weight training. Realize you need to lift more than you think. (All those “low weight, more reps” lies about “toning” and “bulk” are just that: lies.) Challenging yoga classes can also build muscle definition, but only if you’re doing a lot of balances that require you to support your body weight. If you’re easily doing your whole set, it’s not heavy enough. If you’re not sure how much weight you need to lift, hire a personal trainer, even if just for a few sessions.

Do some cardio. Walking, jogging, running, basketball, biking. The more weight-bearing the sport, the better (unless you have an injury or ailment that prevents it). Work up to the marathon. Couch-to-5K apps (and similar) are great because they train you to build up to a goal so you don’t overdo and injure yourself. If you’ve never run more than across the living room to chase your toddler, don’t try to jog five miles your first time out. If you’ve never biked further than around the little park in your neighborhood, don’t think you’re doing a 100-miler your first trip out. (And here’s where starting out with a trip to the doctor is a good idea. If your iron or other numbers are off, you should know before you kill yourself trying to get healthy.)

No, running alone won’t make you thin. Neither will biking or hiking or skiing or swimming. Stop thinking about size. Again, most guys don’t like concave boobs. Neither do most women. And you’re always sexier breathing than dead. (Well, I mean, to most people. There’s make-up if you really have some necrophilia fetish you don’t need to tell me about.)

Added bonus? the cardio helps your mood. It can help keep mild depression at bay, can help ADHD, and a bunch of other mental health problems, especially if you choose to do some of your workouts outdoors or in positive settings. (No, it doesn’t mean you necessarily can stop taking your meds. Pay attention to your body and talk to your doctor before you do anything crazy. I’m not a medical professional.)

Next time? More on that whole “diet” thing. Start small, people. But keep going.

**NOTE: I mention talking to your doctor a lot. I am not a doctor. I don’t claim to be. Before you start anything new, you should get checked out by someone who knows more than I do about how the body works. If your New Year’s Resolution was to “get healthy” it starts with a doctor’s visit and probably some blood work. If you don’t actually get to the gym until February because of that, it’s okay. It’ll be less crowded then anyway.)**

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