There are a lot of commonly asked health and fitness questions. I could quickly rattle off a pretty big list of repeat questions I’ve been asked over the last five years because I heard them so many times. Most of us get stuck on a lot of the same things. Since I’m a blogger too, I like to put things like this into blog posts so they can live on the internet and be a resource to anyone, anytime they need it.
At first I thought I would just answer questions I’m always asked. Then I decided to ask my Instagram followers to submit their own questions. I was planning to incorporate them into my list. Turns out their questions were mostly the same questions I was already planning to address. So I guess the idea that most of us get stuck on the same health/fitness things holds true. So here goes…
21 Health and Fitness Questions You Probably Need Answers to
Remember, I’m not a doctor. any health related questions I answer are merely suggestions based on my studies and experience with myself and my clients. Always consult your doctor!
1. I’m feeling sick today, should I still workout?
If you’re having flu like symptoms like a fever, chills, and body aches, the best thing you can do is rest. These are signs your body is trying to fight something off and it needs all the help it can get. It can also be a good indication that you really do have some sort of bug and could be contagious. Stay home! Drink lots of water and rest. If you’re symptoms are above the neck like sore throat, stuffy nose or stuff like that, just decrease the intensity of your workout. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re working out. If you have plenty of energy that’s great, but if you feel a sudden drop in your energy you should stop. Always listen to your body.
2. I’m following a meal plan. Should I still eat snacks if I’m not hungry?
If you are eating regular, healthy meals and snacks and you just happen to not be hungry at the time you would normally have a snack I think it’s just fine to skip the snack. I would suggest keeping a snack handy anyway, just in case you get hungry before you next meal, so you don’t find yourself so hungry that you binge on whatever you can find. Now, if you’re working out regularly and you’re just experiencing a lack of appetite all together, you might want to look into that more. You should have a healthy appetite to replace all of that expended energy. But as long as you’re eating at some point, it’s really less of a big deal than most people think.
You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. This article refers to it as one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, but it’s actually not a new concept. Way back in the day when our food sources were not so plentiful we survived just fine on a very similar eating schedule.
3. How do I not let stress and worries weigh me down?
It’s so easy to get bogged down with stress and worries. This is something we all deal with. I believe there are two components of dealing with this. One is emotional and one is practical. First of all, part of loving yourself through this process is giving yourself some wiggle room and understanding that you are not perfect and you are not magic, you won’t always get everything done and some things are out of your control.
Practical action steps
Second, the practical part, is that in reality you probably do have a lot of things to keep up with and a lot of people to worry about. I think the best thing you can do is what’s called a brain dump, get it all down on paper, then rearrange things in the order of priority. The most important part of this is removing things from the list that you have no control over. Those things cannot take up so much of your mental and emotional space. Keep them down on paper on the list I like to call “things that matter but I cannot control”.
Then I make a separate list of things that I can control and then write out from each item the action steps I need to take in the order I need to take them, then I start taking those action steps. Action is what will start to make you feel the best.
If you’re like me, a bit of a control freak, you need to get a handle on the fact that you are not in control of everything. But knowing exactly what you do have control over and taking action on those things is the key.
4. What’s the best way for me to meal prep?
Meal prepping is all about having a plan. I think meal prepping works best when you pick one day each week when you’ll plan out what you’re going to eat. This doesn’t have to take long but it might be time consuming at first while you’re learning. Keep in mind it will get easier! Then pick a day of the week when you’ll do all of your meal prepping. Sundays always worked best for me. It typically takes me around two hours to cook everything. You can do the grocery shopping a day or two before or on meal prep days, depending on your schedule.
Decide what meals you’ll prep – breakfasts, lunches, and dinners or only lunches and dinners. Breakfast can be thrown together pretty quickly but if you want to prep those too that’s even better. If you’re prepping for yourself and you need to make different food for your family, you can either prep it at the same time or throw it together as you go through the week. A lot of this will be trial and error for you because you have to find what works best for you.
Figure out what works for you
You can make a variety of meals for the week or stick to two or three things to alternate. That’s up to you, some people are pickier about what they eat than others. But I don’t recommend meal prepping with recipes you’ve never tried. If you don’t like them you’ll end up wasting food and being unprepared which will leave you making all kinds of bad choices for convenience sake. Meal prepping doesn’t work the same for everyone, but this is a good base to start with and you can tweak it as you go to fit your lifestyle.
5. How do you overcome self hate and start to love yourself again?
You are so far from alone in this. So many of us have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and believing we can’t and won’t ever be good enough. This is an identity issue. For those of you who don’t regularly follow my blog, I just want you to know that I believe our identity and worth are found in Jesus. When we don’t know who we are according to God, we don’t know how to be gentle and loving to ourselves. So the first thing you need to do is get yourself grounded in what God’s Word says about your identity.
Another thing that I believe helps tremendously is for you to trust someone else to tell you the truth about your worth. Trust me when I tell you that you are loved so much more than you know. that you have access to so much strength in the Lord that makes you so much more capable than you believe. Trust me first…until you prove it to yourself (or really let God prove it to you, but you have to believe it).
You’ll get there if you don’t give up
This journey to a healthier you is about so much more than physical appearance. This journey is going to bring out someone in you who you might not believe is there. But she is. She’s there. She’s just been buried under hurt, mistakes, unrealistic expectations, failures, discouragement, and all the other crappy things we have to deal with in life. But as you start raising the standard for your life, as your start seeing change, as you start pushing through the hard stuff no matter how you feel, as you take the time to understand where your feelings and expectations come from and how to deal with them, you’ll start seeing that girl again. You’ll see it for yourself, just give it time. In the meantime, believe me, believe God — she’s there.
6. Should we eat meat or not? Is it as unhealthy as many people say?
This is such a highly debated topic. I don’t believe meat eaters are unhealthy per se. I eat meat sometimes and then sometimes I feel like it’s not the best things for me. I know far too many healthy vegetarians and vegans to believe those who say that we must have meat in our diets. Both ends of the spectrum can be unhealthy depending on the moderation, or lack thereof, each uses. The truth of the matter is, the research and data for this topic is all over the map. It’s impossible to know the absolute truth.
I just read a Harvard Health article that referenced a “Protein Summit” held to discuss protein and human health. They found that we don’t eat too much protein, but it was organized and sponsored by beef, egg, and other animal-based food industry groups. I just can’t have a lot of faith in those results. Many studies like these end up (in my opinion) losing their credibility. Research like this costs a lot of money and the money has to come from somewhere. That’s all I’ll say about that. You can watch documentaries like “What the Health” for more info.
I share all that only to say that it’s tricky. The person who submitted this question on Instagram started her submission with, “I’m so confused about nutrition!” And I felt her frustration. I feel it every day myself. I’m not sure I can answer this question about meat. I say, everything in moderation. Try going without meat and see how you feel. Be sure to keep a well-rounded diet. You can do a little research on a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.
7. What do you do for dinner on a night out that’s not a “free meal”? As far as drinks and/or food.
If you’re trying to follow a meal plan, I suggest being as prepared as possible by looking at the menu before you go and deciding on the healthy option available. If you don’t have the chance to do that, go for some kind of grilled meat, whatever veggies the restaurant has. Be sure to ask how they prepare the food – what oil they use and ask if they can substitute for healthier oils if they don’t already use them. You might not get the perfect healthy meal out of the deal but you can for sure make some good adjustments.
Also, try to be the first person who orders so you don’t get too tempted by unhealthy food when you hear everyone else’s orders. As far as drinks go I would stick with water and if you plan on drinking alcohol be sure to skip the sugary mixes – in general most mixed drinks are loaded with sugar and calories. Be sure and ask about the ingredients if you aren’t sure. Clear liquors are lower in calories and easier on your body, try vodka and seltzer water with lime.
8. I feel like I fell off this week. How do I get motivated again?
Don’t beat yourself up. One of the worst habits I think we create is believing that messing up means that’s it, we failed and we might as well not even try. But we’re human and life happens and we’re going to face obstacles that we don’t always overcome -at that moment- but we can overcome them in the long run if we don’t take those little mistakes and turn them into big ones by giving up entirely.
We have to keep our eyes on the big picture. Now, there’s a fine line here so don’t give yourself too much slack – you don’t want to just stop and start and stop and start whenever you feel like it – you’ll never make progress that way. But you do have to believe that one wrong decision, one bad day, even one week of getting completely off track does not have to derail your entire plan. Just start again. The minute you realize you’ve messed up, start again. Yesterday is the past, one minute ago is the past. This very minute you can do something completely different, as long as you don’t allow yourself to get bogged down by your mistakes. Keep on keepin’ on – that’s my motto! Well, one of them.
An important note about this question
My response answers the question for a person who is trying to stick to a nutrition or workout plan. The more I’ve learned about diet, exercise, mental, and spiritual health, the more I’ve started learning toward a more intuitive form of eating and exercising. This is because I believe our spiritual health is the first and most important thing we can focus on and when we do, everything else seems to get better. So just keep that in mind and maybe look into it if you’re curious.
9. When I step on the scale after working my butt off, it feels like a slap in the face. What am I doing wrong?
I know that hurts, but please remember a couple of things. Number one, the scale is not the only measurement of progress and should really be the last measurement you pay attention to. Your weight can be affected by so many different variables that the number can lie to you about your progress. You could be losing inches but not pounds because of fat loss and muscle gain at the same time, for example.
Number two, if you aren’t losing weight and you’re also not losing inches, the number is just stuck – you might need to tweak some things that you’re doing. Sometimes it’s your diet that needs to be tweaked, maybe your daily calorie intake number needs to be reevaluated because you’ve lost weight and haven’t adjusted that number in a while (it does change as you make progress). Have you taken new measurements to see if you’ve lost inches?
Keep switching it up
Maybe your workouts need to be switched up a little bit to give you a new challenge. When was the last time you leveled up your workout routine? There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to diet and exercise. Remind yourself that this is (or should be) about a healthier lifestyle. That means you’re playing the long game. You’ll make so many adjustments over time, it’s just a natural part of making progress. And as always, remember that the number on the scale does not define you.
10. I was just diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, what should I do?
Diet and exercise are super important in treating diabetes. Your doctor might have told you that weight loss and a steady diet and exercise routine can help manage diabetes and might prevent you from having to take medicine for a while. The focus of your diet as a type 2 diabetic is avoiding simple carbs that your body processes quickly and will spike your blood sugar.
Diabetes is a progressive disease and the more you take care of your body, the slower it will progress. So if you weren’t already taking diet and exercise seriously, now’s the time to start.
11. Should I be doing cardio before or after the gym session?
It really depends on what kind of workout you’re doing. I like to combine my cardio and resistance training with high intensity interval training. But if you’re doing a resistance training program that includes separate cardio, I would say… there’s kind of a debate and frankly, a lot of opinions, about whether cardio is best done before or after resistance training.
From personal experience I would say that I have more energy for my resistance training when I do cardio afterward. Unless I’m doing a leg workout, then cardio is hard after that. But I still do it after so I can get the most out of my resistance training for legs. I know a lot of people who feel differently than me about this. My advice to you is that unless you are an athlete on some sort of super strict training program, these things don’t matter quite as much as people let on. Try both ways and see what you like better. What’s most important thing is that you’re doing what works best for you and what you enjoy the most.
12. How do I put myself first without feeling the guilt of needing to take care of everyone and everything else?
I’m sure you’ve heard the totally cliche statement, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Cliche means overused – it’s overused because it’s true. I don’t necessarily believe we always have to put ourselves first. I believe more in having personal boundaries. You need boundaries with every person in your life. Yes, even your husband and even your kids. If you don’t then you just won’t have it in you to do all the things for all the people and you’ll be feeling guilty because you won’t feel like you’re enough.
If you can just believe in this idea that once you begin to feel better, have more energy and have more mental clarity that you’re going to be much more useful and enjoyable to your family and the people demanding of your time, you’ll soon prove it to yourself and to them. First you have to have a little faith in the process. After you see the benefits that guilt will fade.
13. While working out your heart rate should be up but how long is it safe to stay at your maximum heart rate?
Generally you want to work at anywhere from 70 to 80% of your max HR. Dropping below that for too long probably means you aren’t working hard enough. On the flip side of that, getting to about 95% of your max HR in short intervals can be beneficial if you’re pretty well conditioned. As you start progressing in your fitness journey and want to start challenging yourself more, short bursts (like 30 second intervals type bursts) of intense work in the 90-95% of max HR range can help increase your cardiovascular endurance and can be helpful for burning more fat.
14. I’m in a funk, how do I get myself out of it?
Take one step. Honestly, there is no easy fix, there is no magic motivator. When you’re in a funk, you’re just in a funk and you can’t wait around to feel like getting out of it. It’s not going to happen. You have to decide to take one step and that’s when you’ll start to feel the funk fading. Then you take another little step and that’s when the momentum comes and the motivation starts showing up again. It’s always a decision followed by action, it’s never a feeling that will get you where you want to go. Action, action, action.
Use Mel Robbin’s five second rule – if you want to do something, you have a five second window to act on it before your brain kills the idea. So count backwards from 5 – 5,4,3,2,1 and do it. It sounds silly but sometimes we just have to push ourselves forward, whatever it takes. No one else can do it for you.
15. I have an office job and I sit all day. What exercise can I do at my desk?
If at all possible I think you should get up at least once every half hour or hour at the most and just stand or take a quick walk. If you’re stuck at your desk, stand and work as much as you can. While standing step out and in and repeat (out, out, in, in). Stand and stretch when you can. Whatever you can do to keep your body in motion as much as possible. If you have a chair with wheels and won’t drive anyone crazy, I used to push myself away and pull myself back to my desk a few times every once in a while. If you aren’t afraid to look a little silly, do some arm circles every once in a while. You can always do some stretching throughout the day. Any kind of movement will help.
16. Can we eat donuts if we workout hard enough?
YES. I mean, a lot of people probably disagree with me here. But I say you can eat donuts and I don’t think you have to “workout hard enough” to be allowed. I think we can have treats in moderation for sure. Donuts especially! I believe the key to long term happiness in health and life in general is moderation in everything. So it’s not really about working out hard enough to eat donuts. It’s about understanding that it’s not a matter of “if I do this, then I can do this”.
Food should never be a reward for hard work, that connects our food to an emotion – which is not beneficial to anyone. It’s more about understanding what good food can do for our minds, bodies, and our goals and knowing that a donut every once in a while is healthy too because we aren’t restricting ourselves to the point of misery.
17. What the best exercises to get rid of cellulite?
Cellulite is a such a pain, isn’t it?! Here’s the thing, there are no quick fixes for cellulite and unfortunately, genetics can play a part in how much cellulite some people have. Even some super skinny people have cellulite. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it though. It’s just fat storage and it can be reduced and sometimes eliminated with diet and exercise – mainly cardio but all forms of exercise will contribute positively to the process. Just know that between 80 and 90 percent of women struggle with this and it takes a lot of time to see it decrease and it may never disappear. Also, you won’t be able to spot reduce just like you can’t decrease belly fat without reducing overall body fat.
18. I need help with self sabotage!? How can I stop this?
The fact that you recognize that you do this is huge. Until you see it for what it is, you absolutely cannot move forward. So give yourself a pat on the back for that. Think about why you think you do this, because the reasons you self sabotage make a difference in how you deal with it. Do you think you do it because you’re scared of failure? Or maybe you are scared of success and then having to maintain that new standard. Once you pinpoint the real reason you’re doing it, get to work changing that mindset. Belief always shows up in our results. So if you’re failing at whatever you want to do, it’s probably because of a belief you have about it.
19. I’m scared to go to the gym because I’m afraid people will be judging me. How do I overcome this?
As a trainer I have faced this obstacle with so many people and as a human being I have faced it within myself. It’s so hard to go into an unfamiliar situation like this. But it’s actually not that hard to learn to be comfortable if you’ll just face it head on. Still, I remember this feeling like it was yesterday – and it has been more like 15 years.
If you can find a workout partner that would help a lot. I know not everyone has that option so another thing you can do is to go prepared with your workout. Watch videos of how to do the exercises beforehand so you don’t feel completely clueless while you’re there. I used to save the videos on my phone so I could reference them easily. Also try asking for help from gym staff. They are there to make you feel comfortable in your surroundings and the more people you get to know the better you will feel.
You can get comfortable in the gym
Start out going to the gym during hours when less people are typically there. I don’t actually suggest finding a room or lonely corner to workout in because if you just tackle the nerves and the discomfort the quicker it will become more comfortable. Just try to focus on yourself and your workout, put some music in your ears and push through. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason. Think about all the uncomfortable situations you’ve had to put yourself in in your lifetime — a new job, a new relationship — you made it through all of those things. You can do this too, I know you can! Before you know it, you’ll be walking around that place like it’s your second home.
20. How do you overcome mindless overeating? I’m really struggling right now with listening to my body and stopping when I’m full. I eat when I’m bored a lot.
Meal prep and portion control are so important, especially if you’re a mindless eater. I’m a major mindless eater. I love eating. Preparation is key here. Never sit down with a whole bag of whatever you’re snacking on, never overload your plate to begin with. Always portion out what you should be eating and if you want more you’ll have to make a conscious decision to get more. That’s when I drink a full glass of water and then decide. Also important, just don’t keep junk in your house to snack on. Have healthy snacks like veggies on hand that you can eat lots of. That way you can satisfy that need to snack sometimes.
When you’re eating at a restaurant, ask for a to-go box before they even bring your food. That way if the portions are too big (as they usually are), you can immediately put half in a box for later. If it’s on your plate you’ll be more likely to keep eating until it’s gone.
21. How do you respond to saboteurs (even those with good intentions — like family members)?
I know it’s so hard when it feels like people close to you either don’t support your goals or don’t understand them. Some people, like your granny, might just want to feed you all the time because she loves you. You can be firm with Granny, she might not get it but just tell her you love her but you’re gonna pass on the pecan pie. Or, my preferred method, have the pie and then adjust for it later.
On a more serious note, some people might flat out be opposed to what you’re doing. Maybe your spouse doesn’t like it because you’re not cooking him the stuff he really loves anymore. Or a friend is not on board because you’re not going out to eat and/or drink with them the way you used to. But one of the most important things that I have learned throughout my fitness journey (and life in general) is that although I value the opinions and happiness of the people close to me, I am not responsible for them. I am only responsible for my own.
Just lead from a place of love
It’s hard when those people who think what you’re doing is ridiculous say or do things, or refuse to encourage you. It’s hard not to take that personally and it’s hard not to react to them in a negative way. Just remember that we are all in different places mentally and emotionally. Sometimes how they act is a reflection of a struggle within them to make a change that they are fighting. But how they react to your decisions is not a reflection of you and you have the opportunity to show them that they can make positive changes in their lives too. Just lead by example. You are influencing them by your decisions and your determination to stick to your guns even when they make it difficult.
Finding answers that you feel confident in regarding health and fitness questions is hard! There really are so many different opinions claiming to be facts out there. Even researchers and experts doing legitimate studies have differing opinions. I just want to encourage you to find what works for you, what makes you feel healthy and energetic. Diet and exercise are not a box that every person should fit in. They are more like a box full of options that we can choose from. Obviously, there are some foundational absolute truths. Veggies are healthier for your body than cupcakes, for example. But the way you live out your health and fitness journey may look drastically different than someone else’s. It might take a while to figure out what works for you but you will figure it out if you stick with it and learn to listen to your body.
Do you have a question that I didn’t list here? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org — I would love to answer anything I can!