Take Control of Lifestyle Choices FIVE Actions, FIVE Minutes Per Day, FIVE Days Per Week!

By Marianne E. Morano, M.S., ACSM, CWC

Many seek changing lifestyle habits, yet it is difficult to achieve as we are creatures of habit and habits are hard to change.

This program is a proven tool for initiating behavior change. There are various stages of behavior change: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance and Termination. The Preparation stage is the perfect time to introduce the Fit Five, as this program will prepare you for lasting lifestyle change. It compliments goal setting and accountability, two key factors in sustainable behavior change. Change may be fearful for many, and this program allows you to embrace the changes and conquer the fear.

The Fit Five includes tracking Food, Inspiration, Vision & Value, and Exercise. Initially, the task might appear daunting to some; however, it is essential to the process. Approximately one month into the program, there will be less of a need to continually track progress as you begin to adopt new behaviors. Three months of practice will ensure adoption of new behaviors. Twelve months of continual action usually secure the changes as new habits replace old habits. Old habits will be broken; however, not forgotten. This tool will remind you of new habits. Use this tool as you begin your journey and return to it at any time during the process to assist in getting back on track.

The FIT Five



Spend 5 minutes each day planning meals, snacks, beverages and tracking what, when, why and how much you eat each day in a general manner to begin to become aware of your current nutrition habits. If you hate tracking on paper or apps, keep track of it in your mind. As you become mindful about what you are eating and how much, you will be more aware and that thought process allows you to make better choices.

‘You are what you eat’ is an old adage that is still in vogue today. Good nutrition is not rocket science, yet 69% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. Why? Because habits are hard to change! What we eat, how much we eat and why we eat is equally important

Understanding the 3 Keys to Nutrition: Balance, Variety and Moderation, is vital in replacing old habits with new habits. Diet needs to be balanced by incorporating all of the food groups each day. Within each food group, there are various types of food that contribute to variety in the daily diet. Moderation is the hardest, yet most essential key, as it denotes portion control.

Applying this concept takes practice as does adopting any new skill. Begin with learning about the various food groups: Fruit, Vegetables, Protein, Dairy, Oils, & Grains. Visit http://www.choosemyplate.govfor detailed information. Eating foods from each of the food groups will add balance to the diet.

Choose a wide variety from each food group. For example: within the Protein group you may choose lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans. From vegetables vary the color and choose, red, purple, orange, yellow and green vegetables. Vary the type of green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Choose citrus fruits, berries, bananas, apples, melons, kiwis etc. from the fruit group. Vary the type of dairy including cheese, milk, yogurt, almond milk, for example and choose the low or no fat varieties. The point is to vary foods from each food group, as no single food contains all of the essential nutrients, to ensure consuming all the essential nutrients we need for survival.

Reduce portion sizes to equal the size of your fist. If you scoop the food on your plate into a ball it should be no larger than the size of your fist, equal to about the size of your stomach. Eat until 75% full, and eat slowly as it takes the brain 20 minutes to signal the stomach that it is full.

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with Drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

~Thomas Edison~



“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

~ Maya Angelou~ 

Change is a choice, and finding inspiration assists in making the choice to change. Spending 5 minutes a day on something or someone that inspires you creates motivation to achieve your goals. Inspiration creates excitement and excitement leads to motivation. Inspiration is powerful because it expands our perspective of what is possible by motivating us to take action.

Find inspiration in people, situations, or be an inspiration to someone else; both are rewarding and lead to action. Inspiration assists in behavior change by giving a sense of purpose, a feeling of gratitude, and a feeling of energy and spirit.

Finding inspiration is personal, so explore: dancing, music, reading, art, paint, draw, deep breathing, learn something new, community, family, healthy role models, animals, children, volunteering, charity, writing, nature, gratitude, forgiveness, day dreaming, and find inspiration in yourself. It may even be pictures of health that remind you that your choices define your actions that ultimately determine your life quality and longevity. The key is to open you mind to what might be, and choose anything or anyone that inspires you to take action. Your future self, will thank you someday for the work you put in today.

As you practice being inspired each day, include practicing gratitude and forgiveness. Forgiveness and Gratitude are 2 simple words that are difficult to implement. Why is this so? As part of human survival instinct, our brains are wired to protect against impending doom, also known as the fight or flight response. As such, many of us hold on to negative emotions such as, anger, hurt, jealousy and fear, as a way to protect our-selves instead of letting go. Let go by practicing forgiveness and gratitude.

Applying inspiration into daily practice can be as simple as thinking something in your head, or as elaborate as researching and writing at length. Beginning with 5 minutes as suggested in this program provides clarity to then begin the process of defining your vision for lifestyle change. Follow the below suggestions to begin incorporating inspiration into your routine.


What is your vision of the best version of you? What short and long term goals are needed to achieve your vision? What steps will you take and how will you overcome obstacles that get in the way of achieving your goals?

“The Future Exists First In Imagination, Then In Will, Then In Reality.”

~ Barbara Marx Hubbard~

At this point you have learned to apply your sources of inspiration, and the next step in this program is to determine your vision and value. You must be inspired in order to create a vision for yourself. Vision and value are developed together. As you create, a vision if it is not rooted in your core values, the risk of failure is greater. If your vision has value, it will become reality.

In your mind’s eye, begin to develop a vision of how you see your future self.   If you envision yourself setting a goal and actually doing it over and over again in your mind, it usually will become a reality. For example, when I was training for tennis I was experiencing difficulty serving, and I envisioned myself serving exactly like my tennis idol, and eventually transferred that vision into my actual physical service motion. The continual mental imagery of me serving exactly like my tennis idol over and over again actually became a reality after much practice on and off the tennis court. This mental imagery is very powerful and may be applied to any type of behavior you would like to change, physical or mental.

Begin exploring various questions such as: What is the best version of you, and what needs to change to create that best version? What would you like to achieve in the short and long term? What is the time frame for achieving short and long-term goals?   What obstacles might get in the way of you achieving your goals for behavior change? What tools can you draw from to overcome these obstacles and get out of your own way?

On your journey to finding that best version of you be positive and believe you will achieve. We are products of our thoughts and beliefs. If you believe you will change, you will change and vice versa. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there are negative internal conflicts that are unresolved, this may interfere with your progress and it is recommended that you seek a professional wellness coach to sort through the reasons you are stuck in the muck and are having trouble moving forward.

Remember that to seize opportunities, risks must be taken. Identify fears and move past them. Setbacks are inevitable. Learn from them and keep moving forward. Measure each small step on your journey and reward yourself along the way. This will boost morale & confidence.


 Your vision must have value to be successful and sustainable. Determine what you value most and create your vision and goals around the value. Your vision will become your reality.

VALUE: the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

This is the definition of value; however, value is personal so explore the people, events, things in life that you value and determine the values that are powerful enough to keep you focused and moving forward toward changing lifestyle habits.

Creating a vision is unrealistic unless it has value. Determine the value of the vision and goals you are creating. When there is value in something, it is worth the time, effort and risk. Values are the basis for our behaviors and keep us moving forward.


No time… No space… No money… NO PROBLEM. Begin with 5 minutes of exercise using easy bodyweight routines.

“Those Who Think They Have No Time For Exercise, Will Sooner Or Later Have To Find Time For Disease.”

~Edward Stanley~

Exercise is the last action in this program. Although we are aware of the importance of exercise on overall health and longevity, only 23% of us exercise regularly. As with any other daily routine, exercise must be scheduled in order to become habit.

The biggest barrier to exercise is time and money. Bodyweight exercises eliminate both barriers as you can perform them anywhere, with little time commitment and no cost. Try this sample of exercises and get fit for summer.

Follow simple guidelines for exercise such as: wear exercise clothing and supportive sneakers, warm up before exercise and cool down and stretch after exercise.

Warm up and cool down for 5 – 10 minutes each and stretch all of the major muscle groups and hold each stretch for 10 – 30 seconds. Stretch until you feel the muscle engaged, and stop if you feel pain. Overstretched muscles may tear and cause injury.

Warming up increases the load on the cardiovascular system and warms up the muscles via blood flow to prevent injury. Cooling down returns the cardiovascular system to its’ pre-exercise state and releases lactic acid from the muscles to prevent soreness. Stretching restores muscles to their pre-exercise length, as muscles shorten during a workout. Be sure to stretch after the cool down. Stretching after the warm up can stretch the muscles to the point of diminishing returns during the workout. Meaning, the longer muscle length inhibits training to the muscle’s potential.


You have just completed the first challenge by reading this article. It is the first step in physically taking the challenge to be FIT!

The purpose of this article is to create a simple start to a lifetime of change. We all know what we need to do and sometimes it is difficult to get out of our own way to let change happen. This article aims to give you the start to make change possible. The simple format is designed so you can be successful. There are so many programs in fitness, weight loss, and lifestyle change; however, most are cumbersome and unrealistic. Short- term results are usually achieved yet they are not sustainable. With the Fit Five, you will achieve sustainable results.

As you begin to practice the five actions, you will begin to feel better physically and emotionally. You will be more focused, have more energy, feel less stressed, have more strength and endurance, have clarity, be motivated, inspired, feel lighter, have less digestive issues, be more in control, begin to live your best life. Even at 5 minutes for each action, it is enough to feel and see results. As you become proficient in the practice, most of the actions can be done in your mind while doing other activities. For example, as you are exercising you might think of what food to prepare, or you might give thought to what inspires you and how you will stay motivated to live your vision.

Remember that you now have the tools to draw from to overcome the obstacles that led you astray. You have a choice in the roads you travel on, the exits you take on a highway, and every lifestyle habit. Choices are hard and consequences even harder. Creating FIT habits are hard; however, consequences of disease are much harder, so make the choice for health! You owe that to yourself.

Congratulations on taking the challenge. There will be many battles along the way and as long as you keep fighting the battles with the tools you have acquired, you continue being a warrior in the fight to live your best life.


Marianne E. Morano, M.S., ACSM, CWC serves on Cancer Schmancer's Medical Advisory Board. She is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and the CEO and Founder of Fit or WHAT, Inc. Her mission is to empower clients and the community to achieve their personal best through healthy lifestyle programs, creating longevity and quality of life.

Click here for tickets to Fran Drescher's Cabaret Cruise in New York City! All VIP, red carpet and dinner with Fran, and astounding live music with Broadway and Hollywood's brightest star!