Three years ago I presented the following post and as school has started back up (or is about to) for a large majority of us here in the U.S., I thought it would be beneficial to remind everyone just how important sleep really is.
What I didn’t address before was how important sleep is for children/teenagers. If your school-aged child has to start school at 7:30 or earlier, it is imperative that you guide them to getting to sleep as early as possible. Current studies show the detrimental ramifications of too little sleep for children ages 5-17, with issues ranging from lack of concentration, depression, increase in body fat, and mood swings.
It is up to us parents to enforce earlier bed times especially when transitioning from summer break back to school hours. If your child has trouble winding down, take away their electronics as they have been proven to be stimulants instead of relaxers, and encourage reading quietly in bed until they fall asleep, etc. It only takes a firm commitment for a week or two until the new routine is firmly in place.
Now for the rest of you, read (or re-read) this former post and then get some sleep!
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It’s a well-known fact to those of us in the fitness profession that sleep is a key element in achievement of one’s fitness goals to lose fat (lose weight as most of you refer to it). Unfortunately, this fact is little acknowledged, not to mention followed, by most people. Sleep is a commodity in our fast-paced, over-worked, over-committed society. While many of is can function quite well with little sleep (especially you Moms), the detrimental effects are huge, yet hugely ignored.
With too little sleep comes a myriad of issues ranging from depression, elevated stress levels on organs, higher blood pressure, higher risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced sex drive, inability to concentrate, deteriorated memory, etc. But the biggie is obesity. According to studies by medical professionals, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. Research has shown a direct link between sleep and the peptides that our brain stimulates to regulate appetite. Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite, it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, especially at night when the body is less likely to burn those calories.
There is also a vicious cycle that occurs in the many obese people who suffer from sleep apnea. Even if they allow enough time to sleep, their sleep is disrupted multiple times each night which results in less quality sleep time. Thus their bodies retain more fat, increasing the sleep apnea, and the cycle continues until they are on assisted breathing devices. I have a hard time convincing clients that if they follow my recommended course of exercise, healthy consistent nutrition, and proper sleep habits, they could find themselves off the breathing mask within months (and in many cases off their high blood pressure meds too)!
So here are a few tips that can help improve the increase amount of time you sleep:
Prioritize: Make sleep as important as all the other responsibilities you have in your life. Schedule at least 8 hours of sleep just like you schedule everything else from getting to work on time to getting to the gym (you do schedule your gym time too, right?). For children you really need to do the math and get them tucked in early enough to balance out when they have to get up (see chart below).
Decompress: Many of us need a little while to decompress before we can fall asleep. Schedule about 30-minutes prior to when you want to fall asleep and do some yoga-like stretches, read a book, watch TV (as long as the show is not too dramatic or stimulating), or journaling (as noted below).
Journaling: If you’re like me, sometimes the issue with falling asleep (or staying asleep) is an over-active brain, sorting and re-sorting tasks needing to be dealt with. If you spend a few minutes prior to sleep writing down the issues weighting on you, or Journaling about your day and feelings, the brain will relax and sleep will be easier.
Time your Nutrition: You mustn’t got to bed hungry, but conversely, you need to not have just eaten a meal. Make sure your last meal/snack is at least one hour prior, but not more than two hours before bedtime.
Cardio wimps, take heart, you’re not alone!
I’ve admitted this before in my blog, but in case you missed it – I’m a cardio wimp! Every time I hop on a treadmill, stair climber, or elliptical I start with an enthusiastic committment to plow through 45 minutes of heart strengthening, fat burning cardio, and every time I get to about 20 minutes and my brain says stop this insanity, stop right now! I try to ignore my brain and usually make it about 30 until my all I can focus on is my aching knees, or how winded or light-headed I think I am. Sadly, though I know my brain is lying to me, I succumb because I just don’t like cardio.
I truly envy all you people who can mindlessly run, cycle or climb stairs for ridiculously long periods of time, enjoying the surge of endorphins that result from sustained anaerobic activity which allow you to keep on moving and reap the rewards of lengthy cardio. I especially appreciate the fact that one’s ability to sustain cardio is not directly affected by a person’s external shape. In other words, there are many people carrying extra body fat that can perform cardio exercise for much longer than other lower-fat bodies. It’s all about your body’s internal set up (i.e., slow twitch muscles vs. fast) and how your brain operates and handles different movements.
For those of you who feel like I do – you just can’t turn off your brain and run – I felt like I should remind you of certain truths that I have been needing to remind myself of lately. Cardio exercise is all about getting your heart rate to a certain level and keeping it there for a certain length of time. The key here is to remember that you can achieve “cardio” without actually “running” or performing the same monotonous exercise at a set speed for a sustained period of time (i.e., 30+ minutes).
My approach to cardio therefore, is to perform a wide variety of specific exercises in a specific manner for an hour. In this way I not only train my heart to stay in a specific fat-burning range (HRT=heart rate zone) but I’m also working my muscles and core to be stronger and more toned.
So if that sounds like your kind of work out, here’s the gist of how you can do this for yourself (or request a customized workout routine from me via http://www.workouts247.com). Follow the sample workout noted below, all the while maintaining your target heart rate to the levels noted. This means you’ve got to keep a pretty quick pace throughout the resistance training portion, so all rests between sets should be no more than about 30 seconds.
Try this entire workout at least 3-4 times to build up your stamina and you will definitely see better results than 60 mins of boring, non-stop cardio! Your cardio vascular system will be improved, your muscles will see more tone, and your brain will be at east!
THR GOAL = 130-150*
10 mins Cardio equip of your choice
15 mins Cluster of 5 lower body resistance exercises repeated 5x**
10 mins Different cardio equipment
15 mins Cluster of 5 upper body resistance exercises repeated 5x**
10 mins Different cardio equipment w/cool down last 2 mins
*I’m offering up a generic target heart rate that will still be effective for most, but if you really want to be fully effective for your fitness goals, you need to have the THR established that works for you and your body. Any personal trainer can tell you this very quickly, and of course I would supply you with this if I made a workout for you.
**Clusters are 5 exercises performed in a row, one after the other, with no rest, followed by a brief rest, and then repeating the exercises back from the top, etc.
When we’re kids we’re naturally limber (i.e., flexible) and most children (especially girls) spend a good deal of their childhood jumping, climbing, twisting, back-bending, performing splits or at the very least sitting for long periods of time on their butts with their legs crossed or bent underneath them.
Then through the process of aging and studying more leading way to working at a desk more, we lose that limberness until we are old people who can’t get themselves off the ground. Most adults can’t touch their toes any more, can you?
As a personal trainer, one of my goals is to help all my clients reclaim their physical ability to do the things they want to do whether it’s hiking in the mountains, or simply being able to play with the grandchildren on the ground (and then get back up again). Not all clients are seeking to achieve the physique of a Greek God, some simply want to be able to have more stamina, strength, and flexibility.
A few years back my Mother took a fall and lost her confidence about traveling to Europe (one of her joys in life) because she felt that only my Dad could lift her up if she fell. I refused to have her stop partaking in her passion of travel and urged her to work with a trainer (we live in different States) just to the point where she could get herself up off the floor without help.
After a lot of persistent nagging on my part, she agreed and I found her a pilates instructor only five minutes away. They worked together twice a week for about six weeks performing exercises to improve my Mother’s balance, strength, and flexibility just enough that she could get herself up off the ground without assistance. The following year we celebrated her 80th birthday in Yosemite and she hiked an slight incline mile with me, barely stopping. Since then she has maintained this fitness level by performing the exercises daily and continues to enjoy travel and hasn’t fallen since.
Clearly when dealing with seniors or very out of shape teens/adults, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re simply trying to build up the body to the point that satisfies the client’s life goals. We don’t all need to be skinny or “ripped” but we do need to be able to handle whatever physical abilities are required to achieve our goals and passions. (I’ve seen overly-fat people hiking with less difficulty than some younger and/or thinner hikers, so it’s not always about your shape on the outside, it’s about your shape on the inside.)
So I urge all of you to consider this and find a trainer, take a class, follow a DVD or YouTube video, and push your body just a little more than you’ve been. Figure out what you can’t do physically today that you want to be able to do in the near future and seek out exercises that will assist you in that physical improvement. Sometimes all it takes is gentle but regular stretching. Other times it may require a little more effort and some guidance/instruction in form from an expert or trainer. Either way it doesn’t take much time, money or effort to see improvement, you just have to have enough motivation.
At the very least, if you want to be able to do the things physically that you can do today when you’re 80 or 90, you should start now! With the warmer “outdoor” months upon us, this is a perfect time to get outside and enjoy being physical, to whatever extent that entails. If you would like a personalized exercise or stretching routine, you can order a customized plan with detailed instructions on form from me.
A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case. Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).
After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them. More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume. So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:
FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT
There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.
In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.
I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.
All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”
So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.
Two years ago I posted The Children Are Listening and lately I feel strongly that it needs repeating. It is evident that how we talk about our bodies, how we talk about other people’s bodies, and how we handle our nutrition directly impacts how our children – the girls in particular – view themselves. They are listening to what we say and how we still idolize thin, plastic or enhanced women and super buff men.
We MUST make it a priority to teach the latest and future generations to view nutrition and exercise as equal priorities along with the standards like good dental hygiene and a good education. Then, and only then, will we see an entirety of young adults having healthy fat levels, and healthy self-esteems, which in turn will benefit us all (especially as health insurance issues are far from being resolved). So read and remember, the children are listening.
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I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. Said tall girl then replied “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”
What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has been overhearing her mother lament about her weight. It tells me that by third grade, she’s already decided that what the scale shows defines how you’re seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening society’s obsession with weight.
It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment “wow she’s hot” by a Dad watching a Victoria Secret’s commercial to take root his son’s head.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.
Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy – not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner best friends, sure she seems thicker – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.
I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.
My hope today for those of you who read this – and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more – is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain. They’ll either see themselves as flawed, or they’ll deem other’s as flawed if they don’t match up to that perfect body expectation.
So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their covers – beauty is not just skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.
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.
We humans are the only creatures living on Earth who have elevated our need for sustenance to something close to worship. We obsess over food, turn it into art, and attach emotional elation to substances that pass over our tongue and into our system. The downside of this food obsession is that we actually give up much of our self-control to one of the tiniest parts of our bodies – the taste buds.
Taste buds are tiny microscopic hairs that send messages to our brains detailing how something tastes – i.e., bitter, sour, sweet or salty. Our brains then send us a message back (and this is where we differ from all other creatures save for maybe primates) and somehow we’ve assigned emotions to those messages. Food was not designed to be a vehicle for emotions, yet we humans combined the two nonetheless.
The problem is that we forget that WE are in charge – not our minds, not our tastebuds – and so we indulge and indulge and indulge. With so many foods being processed with sugars and salts that electrify the tastebuds and then the brain, we find it difficult to stop eating what tastes soooo good! Because of this, America in particular has suffered the worst affects from these over-indulged tastebuds, as we have the highest rates of child and adult obesity in the world!
Now scientists, nutritionists, and personal trainers like myself have been telling the masses for sometime that if you give yourself 5-10 minutes after completing a moderate sized meal or snack, that gnawing message from your brain to eat more WILL cease.
Our amazing systems also initiate a message from our stomachs to our brains when we are full. However, unlike the hyper tastebud the stomach’s signals cruise at a much slower speed, there’s a lot going on in the digestive track after all. Thus if you wait the recommended 5-10 minutes, the message finally gets through and the brain tells the tastebuds to calm down – we’re full.
So the next time you relish that decadent chocolate dessert or delightfully salty bag of chips, remember that your tastebuds are NOT in charge. Moderation is key, and after a few weeks of this “retraining” you’ll find the reward in your waistline!
Fat has a bad rap. Yes, American’s are overall too fat, with over 34% (78 million) of adults being clinically obese (a BMI of over 30), but our response to this epidemic is to say all fat is bad. This is not true.
Body fat exists to help us have energy when we’ve run out of food in our systems, it keeps our temperature and circulation level, it gives us healthy skin and hair, and transports essential vitamins and minerals throughout our body.
Fat in foods helps us maintain healthy levels of body fat – provided, that the fats you are consuming are natural vs. animal based, and kept to a healthy minimum. Good nutritional fats are avocado, certain nuts, olives and their oil, and fatty fish (wild caught salmon, etc.). But with our tendency to lump everything into a “bad” or “good” column, most American’s see all fats as bad and when they’re focused on lowering their fat percentage of weight, they eliminate these essential fats.
Another misunderstood aspect of “fat” is that sugar has no fats and therefore it’s okay to eat – especially demonstrated by fat free snack foods (cookies, etc.) that are high in sugar to compensate for the lack of creamy additives from animal fats (butter, cream). But what many adults fail to realize is that excessive sugar in their bodies (and their children’s bodies) will convert to fat for later use – said later use usually not happening because of so many American’s put exercise and activity on the non-priority list in their lives.
Same thing has happened to carbohydrates. The fad-fitness industry decided to label all carbs as bad, and Atkins type “diets” became the rage. But ask any of my clients who come to me declaring they eat no carbs, carbs ARE essential. They usually learn this lesson after I push them just enough in a workout to cause their carb-lite systems to flip into hypoglycemia and they are reduced to a weak sweating pile on the floor. You NEED carbs – you just don’t need processed, man-manipulated carbs (i.e., white bread, white rice, crackers, cookies, mashed potatoes, etc.
So here’s the bottom line – you’ve got to understand that fat is important and essential to a healthy body. If you keep your healthy fats, sugars (non-refined), and carbs (unprocessed), you will be able to reduce and manage your body fat percentages. Keep eating animal facts, sugar-laden goodies, and nutrition-void breads and crackers and you’ll have more fat than your body can deal with. As I always say, do NOT diet (that implies temporary) – change your nutrition to a moderate and balanced six meals/snacks per day, and enjoy an indulgent periodically (from wine to ice cream or fried chicken), and of course, exercise effectively at least 3-4 times a week.
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.