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posted: 4/30/2012 5:58 AM

She's learned her fitness lessons well

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I've been eating on the run for the past week, mostly at the hospital where my mother had knee-replacement surgery.

When the week started I thought, "Well, it won't look good on the scale next week, but in my overall health plan, it'll just be a bump." So far, though, it appears the changes I've made really are deeply ingrained.

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Despite the alluring pizza, stir-fried foods, mile-high sandwiches and innumerable desserts in the cafeteria, guess what I picked up? A salad with chicken breast slices, shredded carrots, mushrooms and balsamic dressing! It's little victories like that which motivate me now. I CAN change!

When I look back at the past few months, little went as I expected. Would I have asked for a torn knee ligament? Not hardly. But I learned how committed I am to rebooting my life when I had to work out four times week with an injury instead of quitting. The injury meant I had to place an even greater emphasis on good eating to compensate for the lack of cardiovascular workouts. I learned more about what I eat and why than I'd ever anticipated. I guess, in the end, I got what I really needed, not what I thought I wanted.

So what did I learn through all of this?

• Set the achievement bar just a little bit higher than you think you can reach. Always. It's easy to let complacency, weight and bad health creep up on you over time, but like weeds, they spread once they get a foothold. If you're being "nudged" -- either by someone else or your own conscience -- to improve your health, listen!

• Don't be perfect. It's not attainable. Everybody slips now and then -- don't use this excuse, which I'd perfected over time: "Well now that I've blown my diet once, (or missed a workout) I might as well just keep eating bad things because I've fallen short of perfect compliance." Wrong! Shake it off, put on your big-girl pants and move on. (Otherwise you'll never get out of the big-girl pants.)

• Start small. Don't jump into the deep end of the pool first. Remember all those exercises you did in high school and college? Yeah, well, forget them. You're not a spring chicken anymore! Don't start with those! Nobody starts at the top of the mountain first, they make a gradual ascent.

• Hurdles are opportunities, not obstacles. Once you start making changes, it seems like the world turns against you and you do something like falling down stairs and hurting yourself. How you respond is up to you. Just keep moving forward until your expectations catch up, the rewards are doubly exciting.

• Don't underestimate the importance of a healthy diet. If you'd told me my migraines would virtually disappear because I cut out processed food and sugar and added protein, vegetables and fruit throughout the day, I would have laughed. Nothing else worked, why should that? But it did and I now vigorously advocate an eating makeover to every migraine sufferer I encounter.

• Celebrate your victories! I've started a once-a-week Goodwill shopping expedition for new, smaller clothes to replace the ones I'm shrinking out of. There's nothing like a new outfit to perk you up -- and if it only costs $15 to get one, you can celebrate the smart-shopping victory, too.

• If you need help, ask. There are many people out there who could undertake on their own the journey I've started and they'll be just fine. I'm not one of them -- at least not at this point. I need someone like trainer George Gersch to think about details my brain doesn't have the energy or capacity to store, to point out when I'm doing something wrong and steer me to the right path, and to cheer on my victories. Hiring a personal trainer isn't a sign of defeat -- it means this is where I'm placing my priority right now. Sure, it means I'll have to keep driving my 7-year-old vehicle even longer, but if I'm not around to enjoy it, what's the point of getting a new one?

• Catherine Edman is the cooperative advertising manager for the Daily Herald. She spent 19 years as a reporter at the paper, frequenting many drive-through windows on the way to cover night meetings, before joining the advertising staff in 2009.

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