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Spend a week's vacation at home creating healthy new routines for eating, exercise

If you flip on a reality TV show about weight loss, you can expect to see an exercise montage and get a helpful nutrition tidbit or two. But if you ever try to emulate the participants' success at home, you'll quickly realize the cameras have forgotten to depict one critical thing: reality.

Sure, people who leave their home and the stresses of daily life, and are given the services of a full-time team of diet and fitness experts, will slim down. It's the same formula used at Canyon Ranch and other wellness retreats frequented by celebs.

But say you're not ready to become a reality "star" and don't have much dough. It's not a problem if you have a spare week of vacation time, says registered dietitian Felicia Stoler, host of TLC's reality show Honey We're Killing the Kids, who encourages her clients to spend seven days focusing on their health.

It's a twist on the staycation, using free time to savor your hometown. Instead of sightseeing, you'll explore how to build more physical activity into your daily life and figure out smarter ways to shop for groceries and plan meals. It's unlikely you'll lose 10 pounds in a week like they do on TV. But by getting a jump-start on an exercise routine in your own neighborhood and cooking in your own kitchen, you're setting yourself up to continue these behaviors when real life kicks in again.

If you're not dropping $100 or more a night on a hotel room, you might be able to afford visits from a pro each day: a personal trainer, a chef, a nutritionist, a psychologist, a masseuse. Those services might seem extravagant, but they won't be pampering as much as pushing you toward healthier habits and helping you work through obstacles.

The key is remembering that you need to make these changes part of your regular routine, says physician Arthur Frank, founder and co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program. "A week of working out is essentially useless unless you can continue it," he says.

Plan your week

• Consider snagging spots in yoga and cycling classes, and schedule appointments with trainers and experts.

• Splurge on your exercise wardrobe and gear.

• Know your workout limits: Check with your doctor before going from zero to 60, and be careful in the heat.

Day 1

• Clean the kitchen. Find your trigger foods and dump them. Make sure your healthiest food is the most accessible. Pull out measuring cups and spoons to encourage you to dole out exact portion sizes rather than eyeballing them.

• Exercise without watching the clock. If time constraints are your standard excuse for not working out enough, spend an hour or two on what you wish you could do regularly.

• Write it all down. You know how valuable a daily journal is, but for this week, start keeping track through nightly postcards. You can send them to yourself at the end of the week, so you'll have a reminder once you're back to work.

Day 2

• Go on a supermarket sweep. Examine nutrition labels, linger in the produce section and squeeze an unfamiliar veggie or two.

• Walk. Grab a water bottle and see how far you can go.

• Cook up something you've never made before.

Day 3

• Change it up. Sample a new form of exercise.

• Plan a field trip. Visit museums, or research your family history, or do whatever else you love. You need to mind your mental as well as physical health.

Day 4

• Stretch your limits. Hone that mind-body connection with a yoga or tai chi class.

• Take a hike or bike ride along a route that's new to you.

Day 5

• Master the music. Assemble personalized playlists to take on cardio workouts.

• Sample swaps. Figure out how to satisfy your favorite food cravings with less fat and fewer calories.

• Get off the couch. No watching TV after dinner tonight. Clear the table, then go for an evening stroll.

Day 6

• Think ahead. Take stock of what you've done this week, and what you'd like to continue doing.

• Make ahead. Prepare a few meals for the freezer so you have healthful alternatives for busy days ahead.

Day 7

• Enjoy a last workout without worrying about the time. Then treat yourself to a professional massage. A bubble bath at home isn't a bad idea either.

Spend a week's vacation at home creating healthy new routines for eating, exercise 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:30am]

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