Tagged: nutrition

Surviving Thanksgiving

Every year clients and friends vent and lament to me about their anxiety over the upcoming Thanksgiving feasts and how this holiday ruins their fitness goals.  Every year I remind them all that Rome was not built in a day, nor was it demolished in one day either.

So I thought it best to repost my Thanksgiving column from November 2013 as the advice therein still holds true.  So take heart, enjoy the holiday and the food, be smart not reckless (with your nutrition), and as soon as your schedule will allow, get back to working out!

Does Thanksgiving give you anxiety?

I am amazed at how many of my clients have anxiety over the Thanksgiving holiday. They worry about what to cook, how to cook, when to cook, what to eat, what NOT to eat, and the biggie: how much weight they’ll gain.


Okay, people, listen very closely to what I’m about to say….


The reality is that unless you gorge yourself on crappy processed carbs, sugar and fats for 48 hours non-stop, you’re not going to do that much damage in one day/meal. Now I know some of you look at the Thanksgiving feast as just that … crappy processed carbs, sugar and fats. But I know that in reality most of the meal is not that bad for you if approached simply and with moderation.


By moderation, I mean utilizing either healthy substitutions in your cooking, OR simply enjoying smaller (much smaller) portions/quantities.  Here’s a example of choices and/or substitutions that are quick and painless and can make the difference between a 1200 calorie meal and an 800 calorie meal.

TURKEY:  eat the white meat. Packed with protein, very lean. If you love the dark meat, just mix a small quantity in with the white meat.


MASHED POTATOS:  substitute mashed sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower.  Use olive oil and non-fat milk instead of butter and cream. If your starch tradition also includes yams covered with marshmallows – keep the portion ridiculously small.


STUFFING:  hard to make substitutions here (gluten-free bread is one), but if you are a stuffing junkie – keep the quantity small. I make stuffin’ muffins, which allows for better portion control.


GRAVY:  another one that’s hard to substitute in a way that’s health and tasty, but if you keep it as a garnish and not a soup-sized portion, you’ll be alright. You can also try using a veggie based gravy (onions or mushrooms) and leave out the cream, just add in the turkey drippings and whisk till well mixed and “creamy.”


Veggies: skip the green bean with mushroom soup and Velveeta casserole, and just oven-roast your veggies with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper and your can fill up with these powerful green veggies loaded with vitamins and fiber.


PIE/DESSERTS: what can I tell you, desserts are where most people have the hugest weakness. I make organic apple pie casserole (with no refined sugar) using crumbles of gluten-free granola on top (therefore no crust) but if you have no healthy options, keep the portion size small and skip the whipped cream or ice cream toppings.


ALCOHOL:  being that I am NOT a tea-totaller, wine is definitely a part of my thanksgiving feast. But I keep it to Red (which has less sugar content and in general is healthier for you), and no more than 2 glasses — moderation of course!


In conclusion, don’t sweat Thanksgiving. It’s a lovely holiday where friends and family gather to eat, drink, catch up and hopefully share a few laughs. Keep your nutrition in check but don’t micro manage it, and on Friday, work out instead of or before shopping (although walking the mall is good for burning a few calories as well).

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!


Dear Ariana

Today I thought I would do a little “Dear Abby” and share some of the emails I have received lately. I choose three, which represent the most common questions I am asked:

“I’ve been eating very healthy and working out for about six months now, but a lot of my friends and family say I workout too much and eat too crazy. How do you know if you’re doing too much? How much time should I devote to my workouts, and can I ever treat myself to junk food?

      ~Melissa F.

If you’ve followed my blog and Facebook pages, you know my motto is everything in moderation. Unless you’re training for a sports-specific goal, the average amount of time spent on your fitness goals should be no more than 30-60 minutes a day, with at least one day off every five days (ideally working out only five times a week). As for your nutrition, depriving yourself of something you love will only end up in you over-indulging on that very thing. I still enjoy wine and chocolate on a regular, but limited basis. Get your cake and eat it too, but only sporadically.tumblr_mc1uz9cgtJ1r6u05ro1_500

“It seems no matter what I do, how few calories I consume, and how much cardio I do, I can’t seem to lose the weight. I’ve had my thyroid checked, I’ve stopped eating gluten, sugar, and most carbs, but I still have tummy and thigh fat that won’t come off. I’m very frustrated!”

     ~Stephanie S.

This is the most common complaint I hear from my clients, and all aspects of my answer have already been stated in one article or another in this blog. So forgive me being repetitious but clearly it needs to be restated: successfully getting your body in shape, i.e., lowering your body fat, is not about excessive cardio, restricting and counting calories, or participating in fad diets or exercise regiments. Success comes from consistent, yet always challenging workout routines performed effectively (e.g., good form and correct pace) combined with eating enough of the correct type of calories (which does include carbs and healthy fats), getting enough rest, and managing your stress. If any one of these elements are not in place, you will not succeed. Lastly, I must remind you all again, that there is no way to “spot reduce” body fat. Just like you didn’t control where the fat deposited, you cannot control what body part reduces it first. You can only control your percentage of over-all body fat and the tone of ALL of your muscles!


“In the last year I have alternated my workouts between P90X, Insanity, Cross Fit, Zumba, and Tabata. I feel bored and unenthusiastic and am finding it harder and harder to get the energy to workout. What can I do, what’s left?”

     ~Debbi, T.

I find that motivation is best renewed by successes. Therefore, I always recommend to my clients that they set small attainable goals and keep their focus on those goals. Then variety is less important than the challenge of the goal. For example, if you set a goal of being able to perform 25 burpees non-stop, and 20 plyo-box jumps at 24″ height – it may take you one week, it may take two months, but your focus will remain on something outside of your body’s shape.

Your workouts will consist of various exercises all geared to increase your stamina, agility, and core strength. Your enthusiasm will maintain throughout the goal period because each day/week you’ll get a little closer to success. Imagine how “fueled” your enthusiasm would be if you discovered after barely being able to complete five burpees, you could now do 10 or 15, on your way to your goal of 25.  At the end of one year where you’ve continued to achieve your goals, not only will your body be in tip-top shape, but your enthusiasm will anot have waned, and your motivation will keep you always moving forward.


If any of these questions resonate with you, I  hope my answers offer some helpful guidance.  If you wish to ask me for any other advice, please feel free to contact me.  Ariana@danelifefitness.com  Now go workout!

But Ariana, “I HATE exercise!”

These words have been uttered to me on more than one occasion. As we embark on a new year, I meet many prospective new clients, several of whom admit that they are begrudgingly seeking a new exercise routine because they “hate exercise.” (Often admitted in a whisper while shyly looking over their shoulder as if this is a punishable attitude.)



Exercise when achieved through something you have passion for or find fun (tennis, swimming, riding bikes with the kids) is wonderful! Exercise when it feels mandatory (or necessary but not voluntary) and in an uninspiring environment like a gym can feel like drudgery. So for those of you who are raising your hands in the secluded safety of your home that you are one of those exercise haters I have one question to ask you: Why do you exercise?


If your answer is “because I have to, to stay healthy” – then you will continue to feel resentment, and you will likely continue to fail at your fitness or weight loss goals. If your answer is “because I want to look more attractive” – then again you are setting yourself up for failure. There are many people, men and women, who do not fit into the stereotype of “attractive” (i.e., overweight, out of shape) yet due to a healthy dose of inner confidence and a healthy perspective of their own attractiveness, they have love, laughter, friendships, and happy lives. Granted some of these same people need to exercise to maintain better internal health, but therein lies an important secret that I’ll share with you all now….

It doesn’t take much exercise or radical nutrition to get your insides (organs, tendons, muscles, bones, and hormones) into decent HEALTH.

As for your outsides I’ll remind you of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes wherein the infamous (and beloved) Haradfasdfry Mudd is transporting three breathtakingly beautiful women to a planet inhabited by rock miners desperate for wives. Kirk quickly uncovers the truth that these women are being fed “beauty pills” to keep themselves beautiful and enticing. When he removes their supply, they begin to turn ugly and disheveled. Panicked they beg for their pills and Kirk gives them placebos (sugar pills). The women instantly transform back into their beautiful exteriors again and it is then that they learn the truth. The beauty came from the inside not a pill!

Don’t get me wrong, as a trainer I’m the first to advocate that everyone have toned and strong muscles, flexibility and endurance. I do not however feel that everyone needs to look “slim and perfect” (for what IS perfect anyway). All I want is for my clients to have a healthy percentage of lean muscle tissue vs. body fat, and to find their exteriors beautiful, no matter their shape.

So back to the issue of hating exercise. IF you need exercise to maintain your physical well-being, then know this – 20 minutes, three times a week may be all you need. Anyone can handle 20 minutes of exercise can’t they? But make those 20 minutes count. You must be focused and accurate in what you’re doing and how (that’s where I can help). You don’t have to do it in a gym, and you don’t have to do it alone (misery loves company, right?). Of course, nutrition is also important, but that’s a subject for another blog.

So go on … get it over with … even if you hate it … but remember, in the time it takes to think about all the reasons you resent having to exercise, your 20 minutes will be over!



The eternal question why can’t I lose weight is uttered hundreds of times a day – at least in my profession I hear it from almost every prospective new client.  The answer is simple – you’re not doing what you need to do to achieve your goals.  The power lies completely within you!  So the real question is what’s wrong with your execution? Successful weight loss (which is really successful fat loss) is achieved with the following 3-steps:


1.   Set an achievable goal for your body type and lifestyle.

2.   Create and FOLLOW a nutrition plan that provides enough calories, protein and yes, even carbohydrates and fats to allow for burning of fat and building of lean muscle.

3.   Exercise regularly – or more accurately – burn more calories on a daily basis than you consume!

That’s it.  If you follow those three steps you WILL succeed.  Now you may be saying I do, I am, I have, but I guarantee, if you are still not losing weight (fat) you’re missing one or more nuances to one or more of these steps, and of course, YOU MUST DO THE WORK! No excuses, no slacking (for more than a day or two), no giving up.


Weight-Loss1.  GOALS: If you are over 40, have a sedentary job or lifestyle, have lots of stress, have injured body parts (back, legs, shoulders) or weakened joints – any or all of these issues – you MUST take those issues into consideration when setting your goals.  With any of these issues you are likely to burn calories at a slower rate than others (age, lifestyle), if you are under stress you may in fact gain weight, and all of these issues greatly impact your ability to successfully follow step No. 2.

2.  NUTRITION:  First off, you’ll never succeed if you follow a diet – which implies a temporary change in how you eat (one in which you will cease when you’ve reached your goals).  Second, you need to cater your meal plans to your schedule, taste preferences, and budget.  Trying to eat what worked for one person who has a different set of criteria is a sure-fire way to not succeed.imagesCAXNTL2U

3.  EXERCISE:  You’ll note I re-addressed this issue as calorie burn.  Whether high-impact or low, 10 minutes or 45, resistance training or group classes, your success at embracing and maintaining a consistent exercise regiment hinges upon you enjoying what you’re doing.  If you hate the gym, but love to hike – make it so.  If you prefer DVD’s at home rather than working with a personal trainer then do that.  The key to remember is BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU CONSUME.

That being said, please heed this important note: eating fewer calories is NOT the answer.  The more you burn calories – especially in a proactive way such as resistance training (the fastest way to lose fat) – the more you’ll actually need to eat.  You’ll still be at a deficit, but beware of eating too little calories.  Your body will hoard what you do eat and you’ll not see a change!


SHAMELESS PLUG: I would be remise if I did not take advantage of a place to make a shameless plug for my services.  I have a website where you can purchase specifically customized workout routines and meal plans that will take into consideration all of the issues I’ve detailed herein and if followed, will definitely help you achieve your goals!  www.workouts247.com