Amy Culver - The Queen Of Lean

Dear Amy,

I have never been a regular exerciser, in fact, I have to admit:  I hate exercise.  How can I motivate myself to begin a regular exercise program?

Jeanette S.

Dear Jeanette,

Once upon a time, I was just like you.  I was the typical non-athletic, non-exerciser, always picked last for sports teams.  When I was at my heaviest, I actually feared exercise.  What I learned was how to redefine it as "activity".  Now, I plan each day so that it incorporates some form of activity.  Yes, some days, that activity is exercise, such as:  walking on a treadmill or swimming laps.  Other days, it might be a functional activity, such as cleaning my house or yard work.  Recently, my activity came from a home improvement project, which included painting bedrooms.

Of course, activity can also be something fun.  My husband and I like to go bicycle riding.  Spending a day walking around at a fair or amusement park is another example.  When we go on vacation, I look for fun, physical activities that I can't do at home.  Kayaking, paddleboating and renting bicycles for sightseeing are some possibilities.

The important thing is to find something that you enjoy.  That is what will keep you motivated.  If you feel as though you have to force yourself to do something you hate, you are not likely to stick to it.


Dear Amy,

You often mention calorie counting in your articles. What's the best way to go about doing that?  How many calories per day should I eat?

Linda F.

Dear Linda,

There are three basic methods I use to find the calorie values of foods. 

1)  Nutritional labels on food packages.
2)  The Internet - you can lookup values for specific foods as well as restaurant items.
3)  Calorie Count Books - I recommend getting two.  Get a larger, more complete version that stays at home with your cookbooks and a smaller travel-sized version that you can keep with you for handy reference.

The American Dietetic Association recommends 1,800 - 2,000 calories per day for weight maintenance and 1,200 - 1,500 calories per day for weight loss.  Of course, you should confirm these numbers with your doctor to be sure that your own specific nutritional needs are addressed.


Dear Amy,

My weight just doesn’t seem to go anywhere over time.  I do well during the week, but have trouble sticking to my food plan on the weekends.  Because of this I seem to gain back anything that I managed to lose during the week.  Do you have any suggestions?

Sandy J.

Dear Sandy,

I run across this problem all the time.  The structure of many people’s weekdays makes it simpler to stick with a plan.  Then the weekend comes and all bets are off.  When this happens and no progress is made it becomes very difficult to stay motivated.  Here is an idea that usually works:  tell yourself you will stick to your food plan diligently for one month.  Just one.  This is a small enough time frame for most people to feel comfortable committing to.  Generally, at the end of the month you will see enough progress to keep you motivated to go another month.


Dear Amy,

I travel a lot for my job.  Do you have any ideas on how to eat right when I have to eat out a lot of the time?

Julie P.

Dear Julie,

Yes, this can be a tough one, but it can be done.  First, watch your portion sizes.  Remember a serving size of meat is about 3 oz.  This is about the size of a deck of cards.  Eat all your salad (dressing on the side!), all your veggies and half of your main course and starch.  Skip dessert or order fruit.  Be sure to order grilled, broiled or boiled, never fried or “crispy”!  Always start with a good breakfast to give you a strong start.  I like to have oatmeal when I’m traveling because it keeps me full for a long time.  I take a small shaker of cinnamon and use that with Equal and sometimes a little skim milk.  Order a side of fruit with it and that should keep you satisfied for quite awhile.  Pack some healthy snacks that you can stick in your purse, briefcase or wherever.  You might choose some protein bars that you like or some of the 100 calorie snack packs that are widely available.  Also, never be afraid to ask how something is prepared in a restaurant.  Servers are generally quite knowledgeable abut this and I find them typically more than helpful in getting my food prepared in a healthy manner.