The Surprising Thing That Will Up Your Fitness Game

Do something active in the morning. Yes, a workout, walk, or fitness class burns calories. But even more important, it clears your mind, helping you feel calm, centered, and more in control of your choices later in the day. If you're traveling, bring sneakers, resistance bands, a swimsuit, or other workout equipment that's easy to pack. Download a few yoga podcasts or workout apps for hotel or guest room–friendly workouts. Or ask a concierge or pal to recommend nearby parks, running trails, gyms, yoga studios, or bike paths. Don't skip meals. Trying to save up your calories will just leave you hangry and more likely to overdo it during the cocktail hour—not to mention you'll likely get drunk more quickly on an empty stomach. Front-load your day with vegetables, lean protein, and water. If you would normally enjoy a Saturday treat, enjoy it at the wedding. You can also make room by skipping, say, bread with a salad, fries with a sandwich, or sugary road drinks and snacks in the days beforehand. Pack a healthy snack. Show up to cocktail hour hungry, and you'll overdo it. Try protein-rich plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of ground flax, which adds filling fiber, and cinnamon to help promote stable blood sugar. You could also do a boiled egg or an ounce of cheese and some fruit. On the go? Pack a purse-friendly serving of nuts or dry-roasted edamame. Cocktail Hour Pace yourself. Remember, you've got the whole night ahead of you. Decide ahead of time how much you want to drink. One drink per course (cocktail hour, dinner, champagne toast) is a good rule of thumb. But if that's just not realistic, limit yourself to one drink per hour, alternating alcohol with water. Dinner Skip the bread and butter. Most of the time, it's nothing special. If you're drinking alcohol, consider that your carb for the meal. Eat meat. Unless you're a vegetarian, skip the meat-free options (which tend to be carb-heavy and low in protein) in favor of meat, poultry, or fish—whichever one you'll feel the most satisfied with. Because sit-down meals are usually pre-plated, it may be difficult to request a meal with sauce on the side or no potatoes, but it's worth asking. Choose wisely. There's no rule that says you have to have some of everything. Decide what you want to make room for. Stick to one plate, and fill it halfway with veggies, and the rest with protein—or a quarter with protein and that last quarter with a grain or starchy vegetable like potato, corn, or beans. Dessert Practice portion control. Most weddings don't stop at cake: There are cupcakes, cookies, s'mores, you name it. Rather than grabbing a bunch of things, decide what you absolutely want to try. Look for mini desserts and pick just a few favorites. You can also share with a pal or your date. Fill your plate with fresh berries if they're available and grab some tea or coffee. The Afterparty If you're hitting the afterparty, go slow on the booze and focus on rehydrating. If you're hungry, a combo of protein and complex carbs will help your blood sugar stabilize as you sober up. Just steer clear of greasy and super-sweet stuff. Aside from the fact that they won't do you any favors, these foods can wreak havoc on your digestion, especially if you've got some alcohol in your system.

Whether you're training for your first triathlon, looking to lose a few pounds, or chasing after that endorphin high, keeping up with a fitness routine usually involves a purpose. And reminding yourself of that purpose definitely helps when you need the motivation to make it to that 6 a.m. spin class. But according to a new study, having an even greater sense of purpose—like the "meaning of life" kind—might also help you meet those gym goals. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver wanted to explore the idea that having a sense of purpose in your life—whether that be something like spirituality, success, or following a personal passion—correlates to greater physical activity. Previous research has shown a correlation between purpose and self-reported physical activity, but for this study, the researchers wanted to go beyond how much effort participants said they put in at the gym. At the start of the study, a group of 100 people filled out questionnaires that measured their overall health as well as their sense of optimism and purpose in life. Then, they wore activity trackers for three days. The conclusion? Those who felt like their lives had some greater meaning were way more active than those who reported a more meaningless or apathetic worldview. Previous research published in the journal Psychological Science has also shown that an overarching sense of purpose, direction, and long-term goals actually adds years to your life. (See: Can Going to Church Help You Live Longer?) So how do you cultivate this greater sense of purpose? Doing outside of the gym exercises like journaling and setting long-term goals can help. But according to Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., a sports and high-performance psychologist in New York City, how you set those bigger goals is really what's important; goal setting should always focus on the deeper motivation. Rather than say "I want to go to the gym to lose weight" your goal should get at the greater purpose; more like "I want to go to the gym to lose weight and gain confidence so I can feel good about taking on bigger challenges in other areas of my life" Simply thinking about why you really want to be kicking ass will help you do it a lot better.