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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I am 14 years old, and will be turning 15 this coming August. I currently weigh 133 pounds. I am 5'2" and my desired weight is about 105. I really hate exercising. I usually try to get out of P.E. in school as much as possible. I drink green tea all the time. I never drink water. I usually have about 2 soft drinks a day, and I have some junk food too. I want to look like Jessica Simpson (100% FLAT STOMACH!!!). If I were to work out I have no idea what exercises to do, because I want to have abs as well. I really need guidance in what to eat, and what exercises to do for my body. I really need a plan. Please help me!

(Article continued below.)

If you want to have a figure like Jessica Simpson's, I'm afraid you'll have to work at it. Ms. Simpson works out quite hard. As a matter of fact, she worked out 2 hours a day to get in shape and stay in shape for Dukes of Hazzard — even when she was exhausted from filming. In addition, she is making an exercise video. So Jessica Simpson is a tough act to follow — you'd almost have to make working out something of a career. That said, if you do put in some effort in the exercise and nutrition arenas, you can drop pounds. You may even earn yourself that 100% flat stomach, although I'm not promising anything! That last part is up to you and your genetics.

The first thing you need to do is face facts about your diet: you are not eating in a way that supports your goal to be thinner. I imagine that everything you drink — the sodas, the green tea — are loaded with sugars or highly caloric sweeteners. These empty calories do nothing but pack pounds on. There is nothing wrong with green tea, if you make it from a teabag, instead of drinking it out of can or a bottle, and sweeten it with a natural, no-cal sweetener like Stevia. The sodas are another thing altogether — even the diet versions are bad for you. Can you please drop them altogether? And can you learn to love water? If you think water is just too boring, you can try a couple of different things to make it more appealing — you can add some lemon or lime slices, or perhaps you can drink Propel, a vitamin-enhanced "fitness water" from the Gatorade people. It's lightly flavored, so you'll be more likely to drink more of it than if it were just regular water. You should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day, and in hot weather, maybe even more. As for the food, I think I don't have to tell you that the junk food is doing you no good. Cut it down to an absolute minimum. If you're at a fast food restaurant with your friends, you don't have to eat the most caloric things on the menu, or even the moderately caloric things. Can you get the smallest hamburger? Can you skip the fries and order a salad instead (with low-fat dressing, of course)? Can you drink water instead of that soda? Making these changes will go a long way to helping you lose weight. If you're not hanging out with your friends, then you have no reason to even be inside a fast food restaurant, unless it's a Subway. (Subway has lots of healthy sandwich and salad choices, and they tell you which ones those are) Find healthier meal options — eat more vegetables and lean protein. When you want to snack, skip chips and sweets and choose fruit instead. Incidentally, this is one of the things celebrities do to stay thin — they eat healthy, low-calorie fare and avoid junk. They drink lots of water too. Trust me, I know — I live in Los Angeles and grew up in a family that worked in the entertainment industry.

Now for the exercise — I'm with you, as far as P.E. goes! "When I was your age" (ugh, I hated that phrase then and I still hate it!), I did everything I could to avoid P.E. The funny thing is that I was actually quite active as a teen — I walked all over the place and I loved to dance (in fact, I still do both). It's just that I hated the whole team sports thing that you get in P.E. So I don't necessarily believe that P.E. and exercise are synonymous. Are there other non-P.E. activities that you enjoy that will get you moving? If so, then you should do them every day. If there is some activity that you'd like to try, but don't know how — tennis, tap dancing, kayaking or kickboxing, to name a few — go out and take lessons. In addition, find someone who is already good at it and see if they'll help you or mentor you — and also befriend others on your level so you can share in the fun. That's the easiest way to do exercise. If you want more structure, or if you have specific goals, like getting those flat abs, then the other easy thing to do is get exercise videos or DVDs. We have a whole library of reviews for you to read, and you'll be able to find a lot of them at your local library if you don't want to buy them right away. For a lot of the really good videos you'll have to invest in some light dumbbells and a mat, but most of this is pretty inexpensive. And yes, there are exercise videos and DVDs for abs, but you need a well-rounded program so you're toned overall. It'll help you burn fat, which will help reveal your abs. You may be a little young to join a health club, but if you're really inspired and think you can stick with a program, then you might look for a trainer who works with teens. A good trainer will set up a routine that's appropriate for you (not grueling, 2-hour Jessica Simpson workouts), and will help you achieve your goals. Good luck!

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