Step by Step to the Healthy Life!

Jamal Thompson, Personal Trainer

By Jamal Thompson, Certified Personal Trainer

The Basics of getting healthy are eating right and getting regular exercise. Eating right by my definition is eating 5 to 7 small meals per day with the calorie count less than the amount of calories that you burn for the day. If at all possible, I would suggest enlisting the help of a professional (personal trainer, nutritionist) to develop goals and set healthy eating habits. There are other support options (spouse or phone app) that can help you hold yourself accountable for how you eat, day to day. Combine eating right with regular exercise, and you are well on your way to getting healthier. (Please consult your physician before starting any exercise program.)

Be excited about getting started with you new healthy lifestyle; fitting those old pair of jeans, having the energy to play more with the kids, maybe even running and finishing a 5K.

Here’s how to start an exercise program and stick to it, while keeping your excitement level high

Set goals: First things first, FOOD: get your food intake plan together. This means, know how many calories you should eat per day to maintain/drop/pick up weight, consult a professional (personal trainer, nutritionist) to develop this number. After you know this calorie number then you can effectively plan your meals and snacks down to the last calorie. When you start an exercise program, setting short and long term goals will help you stay on track. Short term could be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 4 days a week or eating 5 small meals and counting your calories for a week; some long term goals could be losing 40 pounds,  drop 3 dress sizes or dropping  3 inches in the waist over 4 months.  These types of attainable goals will keep you motivated.

Choose your activities: Try group classes with several different themes (boxing, spinning, yoga, dance, kickboxing) to keep exercise fresh and help figure out what you like. Doing activities around themes that you enjoy will keep you coming back.

Schedule it in ink: Treat your workout like an important appointment and do not miss it.  Write it on your calendar, put it in your smart phone and set the alarm!

Recruit a built-in motivator: Staying motivated to exercise week after week is hard for most people, but if you invite a friend to go for walks or join an ongoing boxing or yoga group, you’ll have extra motivation to show up and work hard. Another productive option is to hire a certified personal trainer (get a referral) to work with at home or at the gym. A trainer can build a custom-made exercise program to help meet your goals, and knowing your trainer is waiting will help get you out the door.

Track your progress: Weigh and measure every month! Make sure you measure at the same place each time—waist at the navel, thigh six inches above knee cap, and hips at the widest point.  Be consistent with the scale (same time and same scale every time you weigh) to ensure your measurements are accurate.

My story:

I am a graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in Food- Nutrition & Institution Management.  I am a personal fitness trainer and serve on the strength and conditioning coaching staff at North Carolina Central University.

After personally going from a 219 pound, finely tuned Division I College football player to a 305 pound salesman within 7 years, I made the decision to take control of my health and be a good steward to God’s temple! Those first few years after college, my life focus was work, work and more work! I did not take care of myself physically and my body was starting to show the ill effects (high blood pressure).   Health concerns in your early 30s leads to shorter life expectancy. Being a former athlete, you know better!  The results of a high-pressure sales job, bad eating habits and a bad attitude (I have plenty of time to start taking care of myself, I’m still young) were beginning to take its toll on my body.  Thinking of my family and my love for life, I had to take control of my health!

With my doctor’s advice, I started a workout program that eventually grew into a way of life.  I had very slow success and was “hitting the gym” hard, approximately 4 times a week. After a few years of working out 4 to 5 times a week and working 12 to 15 hour days, I started to wonder why I wasn’t getting over a hump. I hit a wall with my weight loss and turned to my education in Nutrition for the answer.  I was only eating two meals a day (breakfast and dinner). From that point, I started eating more often (3 meals and 3 snacks) but not more food, making sure that I was able to fuel my workouts (eating within an hour pre-workout) and eating for recovery (within an hour after a workout).  This helped me perform better in the workouts and also helped build lean muscle that burns away fat.  The weight loss started back and now I use these techniques to control my weight and assist clients and athletes to perform at a higher level. I am currently at my college football playing weight! My personal story emphasizes the point that effective nutritional habits combined with regular exercise will conquer the weight control battle.


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Jamal Thompson is a graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in Food- Nutrition & Institution Management. He is also a personal fitness trainer, and member of the strength and conditioning coaching staff at North Carolina Central University.