I have been blessed (or cursed depending) with an amazing sense of smell. On the good side, my ability to sniff out the delicate nuances of a special glass of wine is an enjoyable asset. But on the bad side, I can sniff out a cigarette being smoked two cars in front of me!
Now I know first hand that America on the whole smells better than many other countries – I honeymooned in Bali and the over-powering and rampant body odor hit me the minute I deplaned and assaulted my senses every time I got in a cab. But for some reason America has gotten fixated on either masking scents within our homes or covering ourselves head to toe with perfumed products. Whether using a plug-in diffuser, aroma-therapy candle, or the multitudes of air freshener sprays, many people care more about scenting their homes with un-natural “country vanilla” or “sea breeze” aromas, than just opening the windows and allowing fresh air to do its thing.
I have an especially high annoyance with men and women who wear too much perfume/cologne. My mother, an “old-school” elegant lady, taught me that perfume was for smelling up close ONLY. “A woman’s perfume should not be smelled before she rounds the corner” she would say. I can’t count how many times I’ve been forced to move from a theater seat (or suffer in silence if I couldn’t change seats) because some woman has drenched herself with an Estee Lauder concoction that would repel a bear!
I also have a few male friends who wear so much head-ache producing cologne that I avoid hugging them lest I have to change my shirt just to stand being around myself. The other day a young man working out at my gym had so much Axe Spray on that even three rows away I couldn’t’ concentrate on my workout. I really wanted to say “sweetie, you don’t need to announce yourself that way! You’re a 6′-2″ handsome 20-something with muscles … lay off the damn cologne!” But of course I didn’t, I just crumbled and moved further away.
Even our laundry detergents offer six to eight different scents, all so strong and invasive, that when my daughter used to have her clothes washed at her grandparents house, I would have to wash them again because it gave me a headache just to hug her. Clothes should be clean with a mild unscented soap that removes dirt and odors, but doesn’t “sterilize” them with perfumes that then clash with deodorants, body lotions, and the rest of our self-applied scents. We even have scented trash bags! Come on, really?
Why am I on a soapbox today about scents and smells? Because while the essential oils industry has been selling us on the healthful and emotional impacts that can occur when utilizing our olfactory senses, what no one is addressing is the downside of all the overpowering, chemically-created scents we are forced to inhale on a daily basis.
The problem with these man-man aromas is that they dull one of our important, yet overlooked, senses and can cause headaches, loss of appetite, or worse, an altered pallet where we need higher levels of sugar and salts just to enjoy our foods. People likely forget that the first step in appetite and proper digestion is through our sense of smell. Haven’t you ever notice that when our noses are stuffed, food tastes bland.
If we continue to douse ourselves and our environments with these over-powering and unnatural scents, our noses will stop working the way they should. Food will smell and taste different and we will seek to engage our pallet by enhancing foods with the standard taste-enhancers – sugar and salt. More sugar and salt in our diets leads to higher levels of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes just to name a few issues. Plus a dulled-nose will also miss out on the subtleties in nature of healthy clean air, flowers in a meadow, the warm smell of pine needles, or the real (not canned) scent of a sea-breeze (not to mention the warning signs of a fire or food turning bad, etc.)
Some of you may laugh this off, but for those of you who share my nose-sensitivity, pass the word along – and lets lighten up on the perfumed products. A little scent goes a long way – and we should NOT smell you coming around the corner.
In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
For centuries people have perpetuated the ancient lore that a fountain of youth existed. A magical pool of water (or some other substance) that could keep or transform youth and long life. Well if you didn’t already know this, it doesn’t exist!
I bring this up because of the current escalation in people using (or rather misusing) the latest fountain-of-youth-fad Human Growth Hormone (commonly referred to as “HGH”). HGH is produced by the pituitary gland, and helps to regulate several body issues such as metabolism, muscle and bone growth (more muscle, less fat), skin and hair quality, and your body’s assumption of sugars and fats. Traditionally it has been prescribed to help skeletally and muscularly underdeveloped children and adolescents grow taller or heavier. But since the body’s HGH levels naturally decrease with age, people have now turned to HGH products with the misplaced idea that it can rev help them lose weight and more ridiculously reverse aging.
Thus, the market was flooded with injectable HGH via Internet pharmacies, anti-aging clinics, weight loss scam web sites, and worst of all, hack doctors (you must have a prescription for these injections). But now, with people always wanting an easier option, suddenly HGH in pill form is being peddled on infomercials or online ads that claim they will turn back your biological clock, reduce fat, build muscle, strengthen your immune system, level your blood sugars (appealing to diabetics) restore hair growth, and even improve your sex drive. However, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has found no proof or reliable evidence to support any of these claims especially in light of the fact that when taken orally (pill form) HGH is digested by the stomach long before your body can absorb it. So in case you missed it, swallowing an HGH pill, whether herbal or not (or using an spray), will NOT alter your body in any significant way.
The truth about HGH whether injected or in pill form is that it is NOT a fix for aging or fat loss, and there are dangers to its use as well. While HGH injections have been useful in the treatment of children and adults who have significant growth hormone deficiencies, for the rest of the population there is the potential for a myriad of serious side effects, including:
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Carpal tunnel and arthritis like symptoms
- Increase in headaches and muscle pain
- On-set Diabetes
- Abnormal growth of bones and organs
- High blood pressure
- hardening of arteries
So once again I find myself standing on my soapbox pleading with the masses to not look for shortcuts when it comes to improving their health. If you’ve been following my blog for any period now, you know that I’m a proponent of making the change to a healthier lifestyle quick, easy, and moderate (no extreme diets or two hour workouts). There are no shortcuts, but honestly, It’s not as hard as you think once you embrace these simple ideals:
- You must eat small healthy quantities 5-6 times a day while still allowing yourself small indulgences along the way;
- You must drink lots of water;
- You must exercise a minimum of 20 minutes, 3 times a week in a manner that elevates your heart rate and challenges your muscles; and
- You must stretch and seek improved or sustained muscle flexibility and balance, while also allowing for enough sleep/rest.
These four simple “musts” can become second nature if you are motivated enough and prioritize them into your life. They are far less expensive than pills or fad equipment or DVDs, and ultimately they will get you to your goal and keep you there. Endorphins help reduce inflammations (like arthritis), improved circulation will result in healthier hair, nails, and skin, and regular exercise elevates your energy all day (which can also directly translate into your sex drive if that’s one of your issues. Who needs HGH now?
Please stop looking for the fountain of youth – for in truth it only exists within your own commitment to stay healthy and active for as long as you’re destined to live.
For years Americans have turned to salads as a safe, low-calorie meal they can freely consume when trying to “lose weight” (which as you know I appropriately renamed “lose fat”). Many an office worker suffers through weeks of homemade salads or restaurant salad bars just to they can feel like they’re eating healthier and, more importantly, leaner.
Well the truth has been out for some time that depending upon what’s on or in your salad, as well as the dressing type and quantity, salads aren’t necessarily better for you than a lean hamburger and a few fries or even a glass of diet soda.
Currently, the hottest weight-loss food trend is Juices and Smoothies. Tumblr and Pinterest are weighed-down (pun intended) with hundreds of breakfast juice recipes. Sorry to burst another bubble, but ingesting a large quantity of fruit sugars, even if they are balanced out with chia seeds and spinach, can still pack on “sugar” calories that can turn into fat.
The point is that you really have to consider all aspects of your nutrition to know if something is healthy for you. Take the afore-mentioned morning smoothie. An average recipe might include an apple, banana, carrot, spinach, blueberries and chia seeds, and maybe even a dash of yogurt. Depending upon the size and quantity of items, there can be anywhere from 45-60 grams of sugar. The recommended daily amount of sugar an average adult should consume is about 25 grams (6 teaspoons). One smoothie and you’re double and that’s just breakfast!
Back to the salads, here’s some perspective for you: McDonald’s Chicken Caesar Salad is your pretty run of the mill Caesar (including croutons and creamy dressing) and comes in at 425 calories and 21.4 grams of fat. Their regular burger is only 253 calories and 7.7 grams of fat. Even if you added a small fries, while your calories would be a touch higher (459), your fat grams would only be 16.7.
Perhaps you already know that Chinese Chicken and Caesar Salads are the worst salads you can eat when it comes to lean and healthy nutrition. But did you know that even without croutons or wantons and ditching cream based dressings, if you load up a salad with nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, egg, quinoa, feta cheese, etc., you’re still consuming a lot of calories, sugars, and fat grams. Undoubtedly better for your insides than a Big Mac or anything from Taco Bell, but don’t be surprised if your fat loss slows down depending upon your habits and metabolism.
So next time you decide to clean up your nutrition, read labels and crunch numbers before you assume that juices and salads will get you to your goal. Ultimately, you’re always better off to eat moderate amounts of healthy foods, and exercise more rather than deny yourself something or over-consume something in it’s stead.
There’s a great article in the New Yorker about the detrimental effects of too much sugar. Click on the photo below to read it.
In our ever-increasing attempts to be politically correct in this Country, we have started utilizing colorful adjectives to describe someone who is what we used to call “fat.” Over-weight, big-boned, large, hefty, heavy, full-figured, thick, heavy-set, etc. are now the less insulting ways to describe someone who has a larger percentage of body fat.
But I think we’re wrong to do so. It’s simple, you are either proportioned evenly (regardless of your height, weight, and build) or you have too much body fat. The body (and what it weighs) consists of muscle, bone, fat, organs and water. None of us are shaped perfectly and none of us ever stay exactly the same shape as we age. There are healthy fat people and internally-fat skinny people. I only care that an individual can perform anything they wish physically (like dancing or simply walking up stairs) and that they suffer from as little stress as possible in their lives, while enjoying a mix of healthy and fun foods and experiences.
With this said, my point today is that I hear many clients and people on social media lamenting that they are fat, over-weight, uncomfortable in their size and clothes, or worse yet, have physical limitations and/or illnesses due to their increased body fat. What irritates me about this is that a predominant amount of people complain repeatedly, yet do little to nothing about it.
Sure they’ll attempt a diet, a new exercise routine, or hiring a trainer such as myself. But within a matter of months, their willingness to do the work – and I know it’s hard work for most – dissipates. Pretty soon, they’re eating less often again, more high-caloric fattening foods, and the workouts trail off to once a week or none.
My personal philosophy on ADULTS is that as long as you’re happy, and not achieving that happiness at the detrimental expense of someone else, then just be happy. If you’re not in imminent danger of dying, if you are okay with being less able to do certain things physically, then I say accept your condition and enjoy your life. There’s nothing wrong with being over-fat outside of your shortened life span and inability to experience certain life joys. There are plenty of people who find an over-fat mate sexy and attractive. There are plenty of over-fat people who are not suffering from health related issues, and can dance all night long. Right on, I say!
But the chronic complainers who chronically will do nothing long-term to fix their issues should – well to be blunt – fix up, or shut up. Yes it’s a huge commitment to change the way you shop, cook and eat food. Yes, it can be inconvenient to your schedule to work out for 30-60 minutes 3-5 times a week. But the results can change what you’re complaining about, and in a relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things.
So if you really want to change – and make it a permanent one – then do it. I have faith in all humans to achieve anything they set their minds to, and I support anyone who earnestly tries. If you prefer fast food diets and couch-potato lifestyle, do so with all the lust for life that life deserves – and enjoy!
I’m still shocked these days to find a plethora of fitness-minded individuals still placing value in fad diets. A week does not go by where I don’t hear someone dissing carbs, or talking about how drinking hot-lemon-honey-cinnamon-cayenne water helped them boost their metabolism. Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites are littered with the next best superfood that we should O.D. on. On my Tumblr account this week I slammed the photo below for promoting the idea that a single food can burn belly fat.
People people people, listen to me: no one food, or food combination will help you get those six pack abs – especially as a stand-alone concept. Granted, if you eat foods that build muscle and help your liver to keep sugars under control ALONG with consistent and effective exercise (resistance training and cardio), you will burn fat from your body. But let me also remind you that there is no way to spot reduce the fat from an area of your body. While you can tone specific muscle groups, where your body burns the fat from is still more random than you might think. If you radically curtail your food consumption while over-ramping your calorie burn, you will lose fat, but you will also lose muscle and more importantly, the fat may come from other areas of your body before the desired zone (i.e., your face or bosom before your belly or butt).
I know that all of this stems from society’s desire to do things quickly — see results fast with as little work or discomfort as possible. Unfortunately life has proven repeatedly that, as trite as this personal trainer common quip sounds — NO PAIN NO GAIN is reality when it comes to changing your body. That doesn’t mean abusive pain, but it does mean giving up a quantity of things you love and keeping your body moving despite soreness.
Once again I want to remind all of you that fad diets do not work – or rather do not work for long. As I stated only last week (Success Comes with Consistency) diets are temporary. But fad diets are worse because they strictly restrict what you eat, forcing your body to try and obtain a full range of nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats from a very limited source. Their failure rate is even higher than a simple calorie restricting diet because most people find the limited fad-foods boring within a very quick period.
So back away from that Pinterest post that claims you can lose 5 lbs and increase your metabolism by eating grapefruits, almonds, and green tea exclusively for a week. It’s not worth it even if it were to work, because as soon as you reintroduce all the other foods you still crave, the 5 lbs will return, and your body will be pissed off at you and likely not let you lose 5 lbs the same way again.
If you want to change your nutrition in a permanent way, I’ve given you lots of tips within this blog, and I offer a very affordable meal plan that will be customized to your lifestyle, and food tastes (Workouts247.com). Now go eat something healthy and stop starving your body!
Today I am getting back on my “nutrition for kids” soap-box to address a continuing trend of parents thinking it’s okay to give kids lemonade and 7-up (or any soda) with their meals. Every time we eat out with our daughter I see other kids getting lemonade or clear soda (7-up, Sprite) with their meals. At my daughter’s school every open-house, award ceremony or celebration includes cookies and 7-up or lemonade. I want to scream out “why are you offering them sugar and sugar? Don’t you know how bad that quantity of sugar is?”
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m all about moderation, and that includes sugar. But I am astonished to see how little regard these two innocent-seeming liquids appear to have with parents.
Just on simple logic, I would think if you’re ordering high fat and carbs “kid-friendly” foods like mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, that you’d opt for water to at least balance out these nutritionally void meals. Add into the equation that kids often get dessert after such a meal, and you’ve just given them plenty of sugar. But no, the world at large thinks nothing of sugar + sugar where kids are concerned.
Many parents and restaurants offer fruit juices as an option, thinking that these are healthier. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Perhaps you need an in-your face assessment of what is really in these drinks?
8 oz of Lemonade (like Minute Maid) = 27 grms Sugar
8 oz of Orange Juice = 24 grms Sugar
8 oz of Apple Juice = 26 grms Sugar
8 oz of 7-Up/Sprit = 26 grms Sugar
8 oz of Coke = 26 grms Sugar
1 Capri Sun packet = 18 grms Sugar
8 oz Nesquik Chocolate milk = 29 grms Sugar
(Don’t forget, you often give them refills too!)
Now you might be saying “so what? What’s so bad about 26 grams of sugar?” Well, besides the fact that it offers no nutritional value, it can damage their metabolism, and increase their risk of obesity and type II diabetes, among other health issues (like mood swings and hormonal spikes). I’m not even touching upon the deadly high-fructose corn syrup issue (in sodas), or the quantity of sugars in a Jamba Juice or other seemingly “healthy” juices.
The American Heart Association has set guidelines for the limits of added sugar that kids should consume each day. (Added sugar means “refined sugar or sugar substitutes” as fruit and other foods contain natural sugars.) The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis varies depending on the child’s age and caloric intake, but here’s their basic recommendation:
Preschoolers should limit added sugar to about 16 grams per day
Children ages 4 to 11 should limit added sugar to about 12 grams a day
Pre-teen and teens should not have more than 20 to 32 grams per day
Clearly you can see how one drink at lunch has already maxed out the quantity of added sugar your child consumes. Now factor in any desserts or sweet-treats they’ve consumed that day and you’ve easily overloaded their sensitive systems.
I was criticized repeatedly when my daughter was a baby because I didn’t give her any refined sugar until she was 2. No birthday cake, ice cream, candies, fruit yogurt, or fruit juice. I was called controlling, silly, and even, albeit jokingly, evil. My Father-In-Law asked once why I didn’t give my toddler apple juice. I replied that she had a bowl-full of apple slices in front of her and a bottle of water and once in her stomach she would have “apple juice.” (He didn’t find my sarcasm funny.) I did point out that this way she was getting fiber that is missing from filtered apple juice, but he’d already tuned me out.
The reality is that America loves it’s sugar and many well-meaning parents blindly fall into line with their children’s nutrition. But hopefully you’ll stare a little longer at the facts posted above, and at least think twice next time before giving your children that innocuous little beverage. Perhaps on another day I’ll bring up the issue of rampant use of sodium in America and how much of that harmful substance you and your children are consuming, but today my attack is on sugar. Have a sweet day!
How great would it be to be French? You could have a meal comprised of bread, cheese, wine, and a touch of delicately dressed salad and not worry about your waistline. Or be Italian and enjoy a serving of fresh al dente pasta with tomatoes and basil, tossed lightly with newly pressed olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. No fretting about gluten or pasta affecting your glycemic index.
Granted these are generalizations and I know there are many French and Italians who have diabetes and worry about their figures. But there’s one thing for certain, the French and Italians understand food better than we do.
Take a vacation in those two countries (or anywhere in Europe, save for maybe the UK) and you will see an entirely different approach to food than we follow in the US. I’m talking specifically about how they approach meals in the home. There are three major differences:
- Portion size
- Refrigerator size
- How, when, and what they cook
The average European household ingests far less preservatives and additives. With their refrigerators being classically small little boxes designed for limited items, food is bought often on a daily basis, made fresh from local vendors and cooked immediately. Meals are simple, uncluttered by manufacturer-inserted-sodium, nitrates, high fructose corn syrup and even GMO foods. Portions are smaller, while frequency of meals/snacks are higher.
I long for the freedom to eat bread and cheese. Why do I avoid these items? I do not have a gluten or dairy allergy. I eat in moderation and exercise regular so I really don’t have to worry about my fat content. I avoid them because in America these items are not good for us.
The Untied States’ approach to food creation, treatment, preparation and preservation focuses more on the dollar value of making food grow quickly, cheaply, and having it last (shelf-life). Europe has thankfully not embraced this concept.
While we may live in the “greatest nation on earth” we are not necessarily the smartest. It is up to each individual to band together with more like-minded individuals and fight the long up-hill battle to regain control over our food. When having our food not genetically modified matters to all of us – then perhaps we can make billion dollar companies like Monsanto will feel the pinch. Until more parents really care about the food they put in their childrens’ bodies (even those on a limited budget), then McDonalds will still be able to serve substandard food.
But forgive my soapbox today. I guess I’m just really missing warm sourdough bread with fresh brie cheese paired with a lovely french wine!