When it comes to promoting physical health and fitness, Dr. Adelaide Nardone, FCRH ’79, likes to quote an unlikely authority: St. Ignatius Loyola, author of the Spiritual Exercises.
According to the 16th-century founder of the Jesuits, “A little holiness and great health of body does more in the care of souls than great holiness and little health.”
In other words, says Nardone—a board-certified OB/GYN with a passion for nutrition and more than 30 years of clinical experience—no matter what you do, “if you’re healthy, you can fulfill your responsibilities all the better.”
We asked Nardone for her advice on getting and staying fit throughout the year.
1. Be Practical
Set achievable goals, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
“Patients tell me, ‘Oh, doc, 20 years ago, I was your size.’ And I say, OK, it took you 20 years to (gain the weight); it’s not going to come off in 20 days,” Nardone says.
The goal is to get and stay in a range that’s healthy for you—one that’s not only appropriate for your age and in line with your genetic makeup but also compatible with normal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glucose tolerance.
“The worst thing is yo-yo dieting—up and down, up and down,” she says, which puts a lot of stress on your heart, your vascular system, and your entire body. “You should always try to stay within a seven-pound range that you can maintain without dieting or worrying every day.”
2. Weigh In Regularly (But Not Obsessively)
Get a scale you like and use it wisely, Nardone says.
“You can lie to yourself—oh, I’m fine—but your scale doesn’t lie. So you should weigh yourself once a week or once every two weeks. Patients will come to me once a year, and they’re surprised that they’ve gained 15 pounds. How could you not notice?”
But don’t “get obsessed with it,” Nardone adds, “and never weigh yourself every day.”
3. Prioritize Exercise
Daily exercise will help stem weight gain and improve your mood, so treat your workout like a social commitment.
“Mornings are probably best because later never comes. If you’re a mom and a working mom, you know what that means: later never comes,” Nardone says.
But allow for some flexibility in your routine, she adds.
“If the gym is closed, go for a walk or do a workout video on YouTube at home. And you can take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk around the block at lunchtime. You don’t need to belong to a gym to be physically active.”
4. Make Smart Swaps
Some simple recipe adjustments can go a long way toward reducing fat, salt, and calories in your meals—and improving your health, Nardone says.
- Try half-and-half or 2 percent milk when recipes call for cream.
- When cooking with butter, use half the amount called for in the recipe.
- Use low-sodium stocks (and don’t add salt) when making soups or gravy.
- Use olive or nut oils when sautéing.
- Add more vegetables like roasted carrots, peas, broccoli, and brussels sprouts (“You want a very colorful dish!”) instead of starchy sides such as potatoes and pasta.
- Choose lean cuts of meats and poultry that are fresh and farm raised.
- Serve water or club soda. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. And ditch sodas and juices entirely. “They’re just wasted calories,” she says, “and loaded with sugar and additives.”
5. Manage Stress
Use exercise and healthy food habits to reduce stress.
“Number one, exercise is a great release for stress. And it takes time, but you have to plan your meals. Don’t allow yourself not to be eating. You need breakfast, you need a lunch, and you should keep some healthy snacks, like low-fat granola, in your drawer,” Nardone says.
“If you’re stressed but you’re hungry or you’re not drinking enough and your blood sugar’s dropping, you get shaky. One component of stress you can control is eating, so eat the right things.”
Last but not least, she says, “Don’t use eating as an activity. Do something active instead. You’ll enjoy your food all the more when you’ve earned it!”
Adelaide Nardone, MD, FACOG, earned a BS at Fordham and an MD at New York Medical College. She was a clinical instructor at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island. And she’s been an instructor and a wellness consultant at Fordham, where she has offered one-on-one career guidance to students through the Fordham Mentoring Program.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert