Spring is here and along with warmer weather and flowers blooming, I see an onsalught of commercials and social media posts all focusing on weight loss in preparation of summer. It’s a silly marketing ploy that so many fall prey to, you know, “bikini season” and “summer ready body” kind of stuff.
It makes me sad because as you know if you’ve read my blog for any period of time to me fitness is a life-long pursuit to be practiced daily, in moderation, so that life can be lived to it’s fullest. I also strongly advocate that we ALL realize and accept that every BODY is different and what is a sign of beauty or sex appeal today is likely the antithesis of tomorrow, not to mention not everyone’s taste.
So for those of you getting sucked in to the taunting that your summer life just wont be satisfying unless you transform your body right now, I offer these gentle reminders to love yourself, not give up or give in, but be smart about how you prepare for summer.
DO NOT DIET
Dieting simply doesn’t work and it’s a waste of your time and money. Stop eating strange concoctions or restricting calories or fats or sugars. You have probably learned by now that the body fat simply returns once your old way of eating is resumed. Instead, eat 6 small meals every day, composed of healthy lean protein, veggies, fruits, grains, and fats, allow yourself a day or two of higher caloric meals or drinks and remember daily that you love your body and care about what you put inside of it.
VARIETY IS KEY
For those of you who do not love time spent in a gym or in front of a video or class – just remember that an hour here and an hour there WILL make a huge difference, and if you keep your workouts reasonably intense while maintaining a variety of styles, you will see results which in turn will stop making it seem like such drudgery. The key is to keep boredom at bay while maintaining progress. Start by working out 2-3 times a week with weights (ideally with a plan created by a trainer like me), each workout being different from the last. Then add in some fun outdoor activities on the weekends, maybe a dance or body pump class with a friend in the evenings, and/or a DVD at home once in a while. Variety will keep you entertained, and as you see results you will need far less convincing to stay diligent.
REMEMBER TO REST AND SLEEP
Taking a day every 4-5 days to allow your muscles and cardio system to rest is hugely beneficial to your metabolic system becoming more efficient and thereby burning more fat. Sleep, likewise, is essential to the body recovering and allowing a change in composition (i.e., more lean muscle, less fat) to occur within (which then shows up on the outside). So tweak your schedule and make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Your body will thank you.
STOP STRESSFUL THINKING
Clearly stress is not good in any areas of your life, but it’s especially hard on the body. While you may not be able to reduce the stress of your circumstances, you can reduce the stress you place on your body when you fret over your physical condition. Negative thoughts about your body, and beating yourself up for being “fat” or “out of shape” will not help your body relax and embrace the change you seek to make. Emotional stress will also force your body to hold on to fat as fat is an insulator and protector of organs, and has hormonal properties which are ignited when under stress. So lighten up your thought process and your body may just lighten up as well.
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Now get ready to enjoy the warmer weather and the summer vacations, and by following my advice you’ll hopefully be in better shape AND happier at the same time.
With society being so focused on enforcing “politically correct” language these days, I’m constantly surprised at how many standard statements are not deemed rude or demeaning. For instance, I saw a woman at my daughter’s school yesterday carrying a 4-week old baby. The woman was slender and in workout clothes. She was surrounded by other women all saying how incredible she looks after only 4 weeks! (Believe me when I say not all of them had sincere tones to their “compliments.”)
The issue I have with this example is that it is implying that women after childbirth (and pregnant women as well) do not look good. Stretched out bodies or extra fat is viewed as “unattractive” and although the majority of women take 6 months or longer to get their bodies back to pre-birth shape (if at all), the idea that a woman who doesn’t look like she just had a baby after only 4 weeks is incredible (i.e., special and/or coveted) bothers me.
Where does that leave the rest of the women, and how they feel about their bodies? This rides tandem to my pet peeve of people asking naturally thin women if they ever eat. You would never walk up to an over-fat woman and ask her if she ever eats less or diets, but you can walk up to a skinny woman and tell her she needs to eat more! We’re constantly judging each other’s bodies.
I’m also surprised by how many women will comment about a woman who clearly has spent a lot of money on her clothes, hair and purse (i.e., appears to have large amounts of discretionary money) as if it’s a put down. Yet we don’t know her story, and the irony is that America loves the idea of working just enough to make lots of money and then spending it as a blatant indication that you HAVE it. But these same women get their panties in a bunch if a clutch of “wealthy” woman looked down on a woman wearing sweat pants and carrying a purse from Target.
The bottom line is that there’s just too much judgment and negativity going around where women are concerned — towards women and BY women. Despite the fact that we almost had a woman as President of this great Nation, women still only hold 4.6% of CEO Positions in S&P Fortune 500 companies (23 out of 500 to be exact). We (women) are still holding each other back with our pettiness and constant need to compare, judge, and find ways to feel superior (or make others feel inferior).
So take a hard look at how, where and why you judge other women and decide for yourself if you can improve your perceptions, and think about what the affects of what you say. Just like last month’s historical election, it takes all of us, one-at-a-time, to make a change!
Six weeks into the new year and I see many people/clients who were energized and committed to getting into shape (i.e., losing body fat and making healthier nutritional choices) already giving up. My standard motto is “you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make them drink.” This is highly applicable to those of you who are not fully resolved to the goal of taking healthier care of your body. No matter how many routines I create for you, no matter whether you follow one of my meal plans, or join Jenny Craig, if you are not absolutely committed to changing your body inside and out, then you have probably given up already – or are close to it.
With that said, I hope to offer a little in-your-face re-motivation, and get you, or keep you, back on track. So let’s look at the WHY of your decision to get into shape. Did you decide to “diet and exercise” because you wanted to fit into a smaller size of clothes? Were you tired of having less stamina and energy? Was your health at risk according to doctors? Or were you simply being nagged by worried family and friends? I can tell you now that all of those reasons are not enough.
If I told you that you had one month to live unless you did 50 jumping jacks every morning and never ate another french fry again would you do it? Probably. That seems do-able, right?
But if you could stave off death by spending 30 minutes three times a week at a gym and eating healthy small portions six times a day for five days a week (eating and drinking your favorite foods for the other two) would that be too much of a change to your lifestyle to commit too? The answer appears to be yes for many of you.
It all comes down to how badly you want it. Obviously none of you reading this are facing imminent death (presumably) so again the stakes seem less tangible – more immortal if you will. But I assure you, they’re not. If you have body fat levels of 30% or more you are in serious risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and a significantly reduced life span. But like many humans, unless death is knocking blatantly on our door, we don’t consider the future when it comes to caring for our bodies.
So if you’ve given up your 2015 quest for health, I implore you to dig a little deeper, make the stakes more urgent and personal, get up off that chair and just DO IT. Same goes for those of you who are starting to slack off on your motivation and giving your goals less importance.
As the quote goes from one of my favorite movies (Galaxy Quest) “never give up, never surrender!” The journey from fat to fit is tough but the end result is so worth it – and if you stick with it, you might just thank me when you’re 80!
I’m sensing a pattern here – a pattern of people having a completely wrong concept of food and how to utilize nutrition to lower their body fat (lose weight). I know I’ve discussed these concepts a few times on my blog but evidently it bears repeating.
Here’s how the pattern displays: I ask a potential client how much they eat. They reply with anything from “I eat a lot” to “I try to keep it to 1200 calories or less” or some other such nonsense. Then I probe a little deeper and usually discover that (a) they do NOT eat a lot or (b) they actually have no clue how many calories they are really ingesting. I found out one client was eating six 5-calorie mints a day. Do the math: 5×6=30. That’s 30 calories they were not counting. As you may know if you follow me, miro-managing your calories is a waste of time in my opinion.
Finally comes the part where I shock this person by telling them they are not eating enough. The human body is designed for movement, movement supported by fuel (food). The machine (our bodies) takes fuel in (ideally clean and healthy fuel) and then hums along seamlessly running everything from blood flow, circulation, digestion and brain processing (behind the scenes) to supporting us as we walk, run, lift, twist, kneel, and of course, exercise.
If you do not put in regular, consistent quantities (and quality) of fuel, our bodies know to store the fuel for slower disbursement and later use. They way fuel is stored is FAT. If you do not use that stored fat, it remains in your body. If you’ve ever watched NBC’s The Biggest Loser you’ll see that the trainers (Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels) are always telling the contestants they have to eat more to lower their body fat!
SO, once again, fuel in – fuel out. Eating six times a day is essential. The quantity and quality matters as well. I had a client who was eating six times a day, but after reviewing her food journal (something I highly recommend you keep), it was obvious that her six meals were what I call “squirrel food.”
Here’s an example of what the I eat a lot people, actually eat:
7:00 a.m. Breakfast: 1 Egg, 1 slice of toast w/jam, Orange Juice
12:00 p.m. Lunch: Grilled chicken salad, piece of fruit
3:00 p.m. Snack: Granola bar
7:00 p.m. Dinner: Pasta with protein & marinara sauce
Why is this a problem? First, you have a 12 hour fast from dinner to breakfast. Second, you have a long stretch between breakfast and lunch. Third, while both the lunch salad and the dinner pasta are very filling so they feel like they’ve eaten a lot, the reality is this is not enough fuel to support a day’s worth of activities. Remember, if you have a sedentary job, your body has a lot of work going on “behind the scenes.”
Here’s an example of those who eat squirrel food meals:
7:00 a.m. Breakfast: small bowl of oatmeal with blueberries
10:00 a.m. Snack: handful of nuts and grapes
12:00 p.m. Lunch: Half a turkey & veggie sandwich, apples slices
3:00 p.m. Snack: 1 DNA Life Bar (there are 2 in a pack)
7:00 p.m. Dinner: ½ chicken breast, quinoa and roasted veggies
9:00 p.m. Snack: ½ apple with peanut butter
Now while this meal plan is way better than the I eat a lot sample above, you still have too little quantity in each meal. Especially if you are actively engaged in an hour of exercise at least four times a week. Your initial body fat loss will plateau very soon and leave you stuck in your fat loss goals.
Now here’s an example of balanced nutrition for the average person’s needs:
7:00 a.m. Breakfast: Bowl of oatmeal with natural peanut butter, bananas, & real maple syrup
10:00 a.m. Snack: Handful of almonds, handful of grapes, 2 DNA Life bars
12:00 p.m. Lunch: Half a turkey sandwich + veggies & humus
3:00 p.m. Snack: Other half of turkey sandwich
5:00 p.m. Gym: Protein shake
7:00 p.m. Dinner: Full chicken breast, quinoa & roasted veggies
9:00 p.m. Snack: Small serving of 3-bean salad (black, kidney, chickpea) + an apple
So the next time you wonder why you’re not seeing a difference in how your clothes fit (or if you’re still weight focused – on the scale), perhaps this detailed itemization will help you adjust your own nutrition to a more effective level. Of course, if you have questions or would like a meal plan catered exactly to your needs, you know where to find me! (www.workouts247.com)
As many of my previous blogs have addressed (Calories, The Great Destroyer, Dieting Is Your Enemy), watching weight and counting calories are futile concepts in my opinion. Weight should not be micro-managed, and life is too short to spend hours each day worrying about your body. If you follow my prime directive (shout out to all my fellow Trekkies) that moderation in all things is key, then no one aspect of your life (food, exercise, work, relationships) will carry a consistently heavy burden on your brain.
But regardless of my sage advice, still many of my clients and friends just can’t stop being obsessed with their weight. When they beg for a trick, tool, or pearl of wisdom that can help them relax on this issue, I have a favorite nugget, I borrowed from my years studying as a classically trained actress, that I call the Purple Giraffe.
You all know the adage of “ignoring the elephant in the room.” One of my dear old directors once suggested that instead of focusing on the Pink Elephant, you should turn your attention to the Purple Giraffe. The idea is this, the harder you try to ignore the pink elephant in the corner, the more likely you are to continuing thinking about it, spying on it, and trying to figure out how to get it out of your sight. BUT, if you redirect your attention to an albeit nonexistent Purple Giraffe you will slowly but surely stop focusing on the elephant (the issue) that is causing you such dismay.
The trick is to imagine all the minutia of the purple Giraffe. How tall is it? What shade of purple is it, and what color are its spots? Boy or girl, young or old. The more details you can fill in, the more your mind will shift focus away from the elephant. Now this may sound like a temporary fix, and it also may not make sense in relation to obsessing about food and calories and weight. However, if the elephant is your food/weight obsession – make the Giraffe be your new workout routine, or a daily goal-oriented plans for training for a 5K. Pick something that you can think about as much as food and weight, but with more productive and positive results.
Set goals, make plans, and when your focus starts to shift back to worries, redirect yourself to the details: how many more blocks will you run next time, what new class will you try at the gym, etc. Please keep in mind I am in no way suggesting that you replace one obsession with another. You should use this technique whenever you find yourself spending a predominate amount of time and energy worrying about one aspect of your life. With a little perseverance and practice your obsession will fade away and a healthy lifestyle will be in its place.
It’s almost summer, and the gym is packed. Every year gyms enjoy the “seasonal” membership cram session from March through August as everyone attempts to put their bodies into pool-side shape.
Some of you clearly enjoy your daily hour spent strolling on a treadmill (at a steep incline while holding on is a stroll not a workout) while reading a magazine or catching up with friends on your cell phone. Then a quick 20-minute saunter through the resistance machines circuit and you are out the door, certain you have done your part to lean down and tone up.
Conversely, there are those who begrudgingly speed through a haphazard routine of machines and cardio equipment, all the while looking discouraged and bored. But still, you persevere because as we have all been told, and now believe, exercise is the road to body perfection, good health, and long life.
There are also a handful of dedicated “gym-rats” who love their 1-2 hours of daily assault to their muscles and challenges to their cardio-vascular system. But for the most part, the majority of gym members say they force themselves to workout, but wish they could obtain their exercise another way.
Now depending upon where you live, there are a myriad of wonderful choices that take or keep you outside having fun while exercising (biking, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, running, etc. But for those in Cities/States where outdoor activities are limited in the 100+ heat of summer (Arizona, Nevada) or the -10 degrees of winter (Alaska, Minnesota), the gym is often the only choice. Whether you view it as friend or foe, the gym is an easy, self-contained, climate controlled environment to help you change your body, so embrace it and get it done – quickly, efficiently, and enjoyably.
Below are a few points that will hopefully make the gym a friend to you all:
1. Exercise in your target heart rate. Everyone has a different Target Heart Rate (THR) depending on their Resting Heart Rate and their age. You may have noticed each piece of cardio equipment has a THR chart broken down by age (in increments of 10 years). These charts show percentage zones, the lower being the “fat burning zone,” the higher an “endurance zone.” Understand that these charts are very generic and only slightly helpful. Most trainers who work at your gym should be able to give you a more precise THR for you to aim to achieve proper fat burning.
If you perform cardio at a rate too low, i.e., you can carry on a conversation or easily read a magazine, you are doing nothing but burning a few calories which you will regain upon your next meal!
If you are performing cardio at too high a rate, i.e., you cannot talk without gulping for air, and are panting profusely. This means you are likely out of your fat burning zone as well, and therefore, defeating the purpose.
2. Effective Treadmill usage. How many of you walk on a treadmill for 40-60 minutes? How many of you are noticing only slight changes to your body from this activity (or no further changes after an initial weight loss)? Consider that after 3 weeks of the same activity, your body’s progress plateaus. Also consider that you could spend half that amount of time, and be twice as effective in seeing results! Wouldn’t you prefer that? If so, here’s a tip:
Keep the treadmill on manual mode. Every 1 minute change either the speed or incline (or both). Once you have reached your THR goal, yo-yo the speed and incline to maintain that THR within 15 degrees (i.e., if your THR is 150, stay between 145 and 160). Next, most importantly: do NOT hold on! If you have balance issues, or are briefly checking your heart rate, then please grab a handle. But all other times, holding on is a huge crutch and wastes your time.
Twenty to thirty minutes of walking at a steep incline (not holding on) at a speed that is slightly challenging but comfortable, combined with moments at a much lesser incline, but a faster walk, and even throwing in a few 1-minute sprints (as fast as you can run with no incline) is the best way to make the time fly, (and be effective too). This approach also has great toning effects to the back of your legs and buttocks.
3. Ellipticals. Aside from monitoring your THR, the only change I might suggest for your elliptical use is to alternate backwards and forwards every other minute. If there is tension or angle that can be changed, change them as well – continuing to alter something and your direction, every one minute.
4. Stationary Bikes. Pick a different pre-programmed mode each time you ride, and try standing up while you pedal for brief periods (on an upright bike), or changing seat distance on a recumbent.
5. Weight Lifting/Resistance Training. Change your routine every 3-4 weeks. Alter the order in which you perform your exercises. Make the weight lighter and perform more reps, or heavier with less reps. Increase your sets. Always, make sure you are challenging yourself to complete your reps and sets. Fifteen minutes of muscle exhausting focused work beats 30 minutes of exercises where you barely break a sweat.
If you can commit to one hour, five times a week, you may indeed see the results you crave. Needless to say, a personal trainer is a great way to get proper focus, direction, and instruction but if you are motivated enough, you can do it yourself.
Also, do not forget that your approach to exercise is only as successful as your nutritional intake (remember five meals, small quantities of good quality foods, less sugar and fat, and lots of water, etc.) Healthy nutrition (what and when you eat), management of your stress, and the proper amount of rest/sleep will also help you achieve your weight loss goals (nutrition alone plays a 70% role of body fat reduction).
If you incorporate these tips, your gym visits may be shorter and more satisfying, not to mention more effective! Once you see/feel changes to your body, it becomes easier and more satisfying to go to the gym.
(If you would like to have a customized workout routine designed for you by a trainer, visit www.workouts247.com where for a fraction of the cost of working with a trainer, you can receive a personalized routine catered to your tastes, time availability, and equipment preference, as well as a customized and easy to follow menu plan.)