5 Ways to Shape up Your Food, Flab, & Finances

Tax Tips

Okay…so flab might be going a bit far, but it’s already almost mid-January. How are those fitness resolutions you so earnestly made just two weeks ago looking? I’m not talking just physical fitness; I’m talking financial fitness too.

Among top New Year’s resolutions, people always promise to fix up their fitness regimes or financial habits each New Year but by the end of January so many people get back to their normal routine, get busy, and just plain forget.

One of the keys to success with changing any habit is taking baby steps to make the resolution a permanent improvement. Here are 15 simple starters for shaping up how you eat, work out, and get financially fit in 2010:

Shape Up Your Diet in 5 Steps:

Stephanie Averkamp, San Diego-based ACE Certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, shares five small steps you can take to kick-start healthier eating habits in 2010, starting with breakfast:

1. Eat breakfast: Not a big morning eater? If you think you don’t have time or are not hungry in the morning, start by getting used to eating something when you wake, even if it’s just a banana.

2. Choose food closest to it’s original form: It’s simple – pick an apple over apple sauce or apple juice. Love chips and fries? Opt for a baked potato instead.

3. Divide your dinner plate into 3 sections: Fill half of your plate with vegetables, and each remaining quarter with whole grains and a lean protein source respectively. Perfect example? A dinner plate that is half salad, a quarter brown rice and a quarter grilled chicken.

4. Create a healthy kitchen: Keep healthy food visible. Place healthy food like fruit on counter tops, whole grains at eye level in your pantry, cottage cheese and lean dairy on the top shelf in your refrigerator, and snacks like almonds in clear, portion-sized containers.

5. Sweat the small stuff: Make small, realistic changes that over time will become a permanent part of your lifestyle.

Kick-off Fitness that Fitness Regime in Just Five Steps:

1. Have a goal or vision, make it as real as possible: Cynthia Miranda, program manager for MedFit, says if weight loss is your goal, imagine and visualize yourself at that ideal weight. Clip pictures of someone at a fitness level you aspire toward, and stick it to the fridge. If you want to run a 5K, spend 5 minutes each day imaging yourself finishing the race.

2.  Create a plan and date your goals: Create a weekly goal at first. For example, Miranda says if your goal is weigh loss, the first week’s goal might be to spend time meal planning and week two you’ll make it a goal to eat three fruits per day.

3.  Work with a professional: Through classes, workshops, or with a personal trainer, you’ll be able to quickly benefit from years of experience and knowledge that is hard to gain on your own otherwise.

4. Be open to fun and different activities: If you are used to strength training, try hiking; if you only run, bounce into a spinning class.  Bike with your children, take a family hike, try yoga or meditation, get on a boogie board.  Make being active the fun part of your day.

5. Recruit your friends and family: It’s no fun being alone all the time when you’re working out.  Meet a friend for a lunch class, schedule time for strength training with a co-worker, or cook with friends who like to eat healthy.

5 Simple Tips to Tackle Finance and Tax Season Laziness:

Let’s be honest, it’s tax time. Tackle the most pressing financial matter of 2010 first. What you do now can vastly improve your financial situation all year long.

1. Contribute holiday cash to an IRA: Did you receive some cash from gramma? Have a small chunk of savings just sitting around? Make it work for you by contributing to an IRA before you file your 2009 taxes, at the latest, April 15, 2010. According to the IRS, “you may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your IRA.”

2. Keep receipts to write-off resolution-related expenses: Join a weight loss program? Visiting a dietician or nutritionist? Keep your recepits this year, some of this stuff might qualify as a tax write-off, easily boosting your refund and putting more cash in your pocket with little effort.

3. Wanna be charitable this year? Charity is a great way to give back, either through volunteering your time or giving money or goods like used clothing. Don’t forget the monetary benefits of giving. Start 2010 right by keeping track of what you give for a refund booster on your 2010 tax return.

4. Put savings on auto-pilot: Reduce your taxable income next year by choosing to automatically contribute to your 401(k) next year, and set-up a free high-yield savings account online where you start by contributing even a small amount, say $25 per pay period, to an account you can’t easily drain.

5. Pay down debts: Too often we make lofty goals when it comes to paying down debt. Start with one credit card and focus in on one realistic first step, like doubling minimum payments toward one card with the highest interest, then slowly expand once you can meet this goal without skewing any of your other finances toward the negative.

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