Tagged: weight loss

Never Assume Nutrition

Very often when faced with that dreaded moment where you must choose what to eat that will be quick, tasty and healthy, we make assumptions that we know which option is better (i.e., more nutritionally healthy), and that assumption is usually based upon limited knowledge.

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For instance, the other day I was pressed for time for lunch (but as always wasn’t going to skip a meal or suffer inferior (fast) nutrition), so I hit my freezer and had two choices: a Trader Joe’s Chicken & Bean Burrito or an Amy’s Organic Mushroom Risotto. My brain riffled through my solid base of nutritional understandings and told me that the burrito was the way to go because it would have more protein, less carbs, and probably be lower in fat and calories as well. After all, Risotto is pasta-ish and rice-ish both of which are high in carbs and sugars, right?

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Well then the trainer in me took pause, and decided to read the labels and compare the stats. To my shock I found out that I was not only wrong in my assumption, but really way off on my perceptions. Here’s what I found:

THE RISOTTO:                                            THE BURRITO:
240 calories                                                     400 calories
8 grms fat                                                         12 grms fat
590 sodium                                                      950 sodium
35 grms carbs                                                  51 grms carbs
2 grms sugars                                                  1 grm sugars
7 grms protein                                                20 grms protein

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While clearly I was correct that the burrito had more protein (almost 3x as much), but it also had almost double the carbs and sodium, and 4 grams more fat! Who knew? To help you grasp this further, lets compare a typical Subway sandwich to one of McDonald’s supposedly “healthier” sandwich options than their typical Big Mac:

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SUBWAY 6″ COLD-CUT          McDONALD’S GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWHICH
350 calories                                                 350 calories
12 grms fat                                                   9 grms fat
1030 sodium                                                820 sodium
46 grms carbs                                             42 grms carbs
13 grms sugars                                            8 grms sugars
7 grms protein                                            28 grms protein

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While I vehemently oppose ever spending a dime in a McDonald’s, when push comes to shove, I have to admit while I (and many of you I suspect) would assume that a deli-style “cold-cut” sandwich from Subway would always out-health anything from McDonald’s, clearly the facts prove otherwise. In case you missed it, Subway’s sandwich while having the same calories, had far less protein, and more fat, carbs, sugars and sodium.

So the next time you make an assumption about what you’re about to eat, stop and get the real facts and then decide. Your body and fitness goals will thank you for it!

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Person Reading Nutrition Label on Packaged Food

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Fretting over Feet

On the whole, people who are concerned with fitness and their bodies care about their heart, joints, muscles, bones, flexibility, strength, and body fat levels. Almost every body part is fretted over, toned, built, and stretched – every body part that is except the feet. Yet the feet are the gateway to everything we do except for sitting and sleeping.

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One of the first things I noticed back when I obtained my first PT certification was the rampant postural distortions of peoples’ feet and how they walked. Millions of people walk in an unstable manner, using only a portion of their feet which results in painful or harmful ramifications throughout their bodies. For example:

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If you walk on the outside rim of your feet (supinated) you put strain on the already thin muscles of the ankles which can transfer up into your hips and back.

If you walk tilting your feet inward (pronated) onto the inside or large ball of the big toe, you again can suffer from ankle strain and also can cause series knee pain.

Those who walk almost exclusively up on the balls of their feet (heels rarely touching or bouncing as they walk) can experience tightening of the calves and hamstrings which in turn pull on the lower back as well as painful ball-joint tenderness and swelling.

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Finally there is the duck walk or pigeon-toed options (toes pointing at 10 and 2 or inward with heels at 5 and 7) both of which misaligns the hips and can cause sciatic nerve pain and other hip, back and knee issues.  (Women in particular tend to duck-walk when wearing super high heels as it eases some of the toe pain.)

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For women obsessed with high heels, the ramifications of years of putting all your weight on your toes can result in irreversible foot pain, hammer toes, bunions, and serious knee and back strain. We weren’t meant to have our feet chronically (if ever) in the same position as Barbie dolls – it’s just not good for the body.

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So take a look at how you walk. Try to notice if your feet are turned out or in, or where you feel pressure when you take a step. An easy assessment to make is to look at the heels of your shoes – are they worn evenly or on the outer or inner portions only.

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If you suffer from foot pain and/or pain radiating up from your feet (ankles, knees, etc.), you might want to spend some time diligently working on walking straight and even – stepping from heel through to toes, feet pointed forward. I would also suggest spending at least 65% of your week in comfortable, arch-supportive, flat (or no more than a 2″ heel) shoes.

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In the evening you should kneed your feet with your knuckles massaging your heels, arches, balls of the feet, and even your toes (or get a loved one to give you a well-deserved foot massage). Then spend a few minutes seated while holding your legs out and pointing your toes into a tight stretch (like ballerina feet) and then alternating with flexed feet (heels down toes up) again holding for a tight stretch.

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The feet are really the most essential body part to daily living aside from your brain and heart. Do not neglect or abuse them. You’ve only got two and if they get ruined, you’re chair-bound!

Understanding Fat

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Heavy or Light?

I have been surprised lately to find that there’s still a bit of confusion surrounding how to properly choose and utilize weights when people engage in resistance training to tone muscles and lose body fat. On almost a weekly basis some woman will approach me and say that they only do cardio because they don’t want to bulk up, yet they’re frustrated at the lack of downward movement of the scale.

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As I’ve stated many times here in my blog – resistance training (weight lifting) is the key to successful fat reduction. While cardio burns calories, unless you are a career marathon runner, or at the least pay close attention to stay in the fat-burning zone with your cardio as well as what, how, and when you eat, cardio will only trim off a small percentage of fat before you plateau.

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Now the confusion about resistance training is in the idea that if a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll turn into “he-man.” Well I’m here to tell you first hand, that it takes a lot of very heavy lifting, and ingesting a massive amount of protein, for most women to really bulk up muscularly.  However, if your frame is already large, and there’s a lot of fat surrounding your arm and leg muscles – heavy lifting could definitely make you appear bulky – but once again, its all about understanding how and what to lift.

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Most people with any fitness awareness already know that heavy weight + low repetitions = increase in muscle size vs. light weight + high repetitions = toned and trimmed muscles. But there’s a bit more to it. First of all, using only one of these equations can still cause you to plateau (i.e., if you do not switch up your weight levels and lifting patterns you will cease to see results). Secondly, your specific body type and your body’s inherent muscle type (fast twitch or slow twitch) directly affects how your body responds to different types of lifting.

So at the risk of confusing anyone further, let me just state things simply:

Lifting heavy weights will NOT make you bulk up

Lifting light weights a lot of times does not always help you to loose more body fat

“Then what do I do” you ask? The answer is you can either consult a trainer (like ME), or do some experimenting. Change up your routine weekly: lift light, fast and repetitive for one week, followed by heavy, slow and lower in reps the next.

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The most important element that makes resistance training actually work is to fatigue and breakdown (not injure) your muscles on a regular basis. No matter how much weight you work with, you’ve got to find the right recipe of repetition vs. intensity vs. weight to successfully exhaust your muscles. Then feed them well (lots of water, protein, and rest), and do it all over again. This is truly the best and most efficient way to lean up your total body.

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Please please please believe what I scream to the world almost every day — do not judge your goals by a scale!  (You could lose 2 lbs of fat and gain 3 lbs of muscle and if the scale is your focus, you’ll be discouraged at the 1 lb gain!)  Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.

Now go lift!

Confused Nutrition

As a personal trainer I am used to my friends and family asking me for fitness and nutritional advice on the one hand, and on the other, knowing that they desperately hope I won’t judge or comment when they don’t eat well or exercise. I make a point of keeping my professional perspective and opinions out of our interactions (unless of course I am asked). That doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to stay silent (though I do) when I hear that they are “experimenting” with a new approach to their nutrition that I know is not a great choice for achieving lasting fat loss.

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But lately I’ve noticed just how badly so many people eat while simultaneously thinking they are eating well. I realize this is due to the widespread misunderstanding of nutrition with most Americans. The average person queried on the street could not tell you what the difference is between organic veggies and non-organic; or what’s so bad about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or what GMO’d food is.

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There’s a habit for many to blindly accept mainstream advertising when it comes to what’s healthy and what’s not. Let’s take a look at my first meal of the day (one of six): every morning I have a small bowl of bulk-bin organic oatmeal (not Quaker) with a teaspoon of organic peanut butter (just peanuts and salt), a dash of organic cinnamon, and a drizzle of real Vermont maple syrup. A client of mine said she was eating the same thing, but when I dug a little deeper it turned out she was eating Quaker oats (GMO oats), Skippy peanut butter (filled with hydrogenated oils and refined sugar) and a Aunt Jemima Lite syrup (with HFCS and other unpronounceable ingredients).

Here’s where the confusion sets in. My version actually has more calories, carbs and sugars (if I ate their suggested serving size which is 2-4 times more than what I eat), BUT my version is free from high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and refined sugar. My version is also free of GMO’d products. Now comes big question: what’s wrong with all HFCS, hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined sugar, and GMO’d foods?

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In a nutshell all food ingredients that have been altered/tampered by humans so that they can be grown and processed at a faster and cheaper rate, are slowly poisoning us all. Without going into great scientific detail, or quoting a myriad of biologically proven ailments that stem from these “poisons” I will simply give you some basic facts about some of these poisons (i.e., the ones stated above).

HFCS: when you alter the chemical compound of fructose (sugar) they way they have in HFCS, our bodies can no longer manage our sugars (how/when we use it and how/when we store it) in the same way we used to. Therefore you see elevated levels of everything from diabetes to obesity and all the “itises” in between (arthritis, bursitis, etc.)

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HYDROGENATED OILS: when you shove hydrogen into a vegetable oil simply for the sake of turning it solid, our bodies see these molecules as foreign and cannot process them. If you eat too much HO, your body will store it in your fat reserves, but never activate it for use like healthy fats, leaving you with higher levels of unhealthy fat.

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GMO: when you genetically modify the seeds of corn, wheat, soy, and oats so that they grow faster while having a higher resistance to over-ripening you will see (as we are) a rise in intestinal allergies and digestive auto-immune disorders (celiac’s disease, IBS, MS, etc.).

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Now don’t take my word for it – read up on all of these rampant food insertions and changes that our Country is embracing, and decide for yourself. However, the next time you find yourself saying that you’re going to eat gluten free while still shoveling commercial pop corn and large Jamba Juices into your digestive tract, be sure about what you’re eating (or not) and why.

 

 

Stress, It’s a Matter of Choice.

A recent study by medical professionals stated that personal stress levels of the average US citizen are at an all-time high, and higher still than many other technologically advanced countries. In my opinion, the reason for this lies in the sheer massive quantity of choices we can make on a daily basis. That’s right, CHOICES – about everything from what we eat, to what we wear, to how we raise our children, to how we want to be entertained, and the biggie: how we can make more money.

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While my daily focus is on the stress, or rather pressure, that so many people put upon themselves to get into shape and eat healthier, I am also aware of how much stress my friends and clients feel from all the above-listed choices that fill our lives. Many worry about how they look in the clothes they choose, or more likely they fret about the clothes they cannot wear that they’d like to choose. Others stress over their children’s education, while another group worries about organic vs. GMO and how to afford Whole Foods instead of Albertsons. But here’s the reality – these “choices” that are stressing us out are often born from WANTS instead of NEEDS, something which is clearly under our control.

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When I was young, my father abandoned us, and my mother held two jobs while she finished her schooling and obtained not only her Masters, but a Ph.D. During those hard times when money was tight, she would tell me that she’d make sure I got everything I needed, and once in a while something I wanted. She helped me to understand the difference between a need and a want. That lesson is something I’m passing on to my child, even though she is growing up with parents that are more secure financially than either of us were growing up.

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Now if you’re stressing over money, or the lack thereof, well I know that’s a hard issue to apply the word “choice” to, but you can. Despite the fact that the poverty level in the U.S. keeps rising along with the cost of living, so many people put themselves in a worse financial state because of their WANTS. The keeping up with the Joneses mentality often propels us into buying more than we can afford (from cars to homes). But the overwhelming want (vs. a real need) to have the latest technology or hot brand of clothing is a choice you can control.

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In terms of your fitness – or the condition of your body – as I’ve stated many times over in my blog if you stay focused on your health instead of the pressure-filled idea that you must shrink from a size 12 to a size 8, then you’re more likely to succeed. Just make the choice to eat small healthy meals several times a day, while committing to 2-4 workouts a week where you break a sweat. That little amount of change can reap huge results.

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As for children and their education, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that unless you have a child that is truly targeted for a career in law or medicine where attending Harvard or USC is paramount to their success, the average child can achieve a bachelor’s degree from your average four-year university (even if they start their first two years at community college) and go on to have a successful career in their chosen field even without AP Classes, Scholarships, or 529 Plans. Good grades and diligent studying can be enough – no one has to stress out about this starting in eighth grade (which believe it or not, many parents are doing – not to mention that they’re stressing their kids out too).

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So the next time you feel overwhelmed by your stress levels, look at how much of that stress is coming from choices you’ve made because you WANTED to, not because you NEEDED to.

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Jump Start The New Year

Happy new year. We’re six days into January and the annual surge in attendance at most gyms is ramping up quickly. Thousands of us make resolutions to get in shape, and to that end many people joined or received the gift of a gym membership this January. This happens every year, and every year by March 75-80% of new members have dropped off as old habits kick in.

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So today I wanted to offer you a “Jump Start” workout that can be done at the gym or in in your living room. If you can stick with this simple and quick workout – three times a week (every-other day) for 4-6 weeks, you’ll not only find yourself already in better shape that you are right now, but you’ll be more likely to stick with your resolution and that gym membership will not go to waste.

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One of the pitfalls people face each January is that they think they have to reinvent their wheel. In other words, they convince themselves that they have to have the right clothes, shoes, and gear, and buy a bunch of food and supplements that they don’t even know how to cook or use. Very quickly either budgetary constraints stop their momentum, or lack of seeing results due to improper workouts or confusion as to how to eat differently leads to frustration and they give up.

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I always suggest biting off only what you can chew (forgive the pun) is the best way to start something so radically new and different to one’s current lifestyle. This is why I am posting this very simple (yet still challenging) three-day workout, and some basic nutritional guidance to get you started. As I stated previously, if you can stick with this you might find the motivation you need to continue on into 2016 past January. If not, then hey, at least you won’t have lost a bunch of money, and you can go back to being out of shape until you’re ready to try again next year!

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You can Google most of the exercises listed and see photos or videos of how to properly perform each (I have examples on my websites and YouTube page too). I’ve given a beginners weight spectrum for the dumbbells (i.e., 3-10 lbs. should cover anyone who is just starting out, no matter size or gender). Pick the weight that challenges you but you can still complete the required repetitions. If it’s too easy, it’s too light! If you can’t do the full amount of reps now, then work up to it, but push yourself each week to do more.

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As for “gear” – clearly a gym will have the what you need for this workout, but If you have no hand weights, try two evenly filled gallon-sized water bottles (that doesn’t mean they need to be full, just filled to equal levels). They have handles and are durable and easy to use, and you can buy two at any Dollar Store. Start fairly light, and add more water if you find you’re ready for them to be heavier.

 THE WORKOUT:

DAY 1:

10 burpees

15 biceps curls w/3-10 lbs.

10 push ups

15 shoulder presses w/3-10 lbs.

20 air squats

1 30-second plank

Perform each in subsequent order then repeat entire set 2 more times.

 

DAY 2:

15 jumping jacks

15 bent forward rows w/3-10 lbs.

10 incline push ups (on bench, chair, or counter)

10 triceps dips (on bench, chair, or counter)

20 lunge walks

10 leg lowers & raises

Perform each in subsequent order then repeat entire set 2 more times.

 

DAY 3:

10 jump squats

15 biceps curls w/3-10 lbs.

10 up-out-in-downs (shoulder/chest) w/3-10 lbs.

20 wide-to-narrow jump squats

10 v-sits

1 30-second side plank (each side)

Perform each in subsequent order then repeat entire set 2 more times.

 

NUTRITIONAL GUIDANCE:

30-mins after waking:  Breakfast + glass of water

2-3 hours later:                Mid-morning Snack + glass of water

2-3 hours later:                Lunch + glass of water

2-3- hours later:             Mid-afternoon Snack + glass of water

2-3 hours later:               Dinner + glass of water

All meals/snacks should be small portions consisting of lean protein 65% (chicken, fish, pork), clean unprocessed carbs 20% (veggies, grains, beans, legumes), healthy fats 15% (avocado, fish, nuts). Avoid refined sugar, sodas, full-fat dairy, and processed salty-fatty snacks.

Will 2016 be YOUR year?

I posted the following article last year at this time and I dare say it bears repeating.  I made some updates to the original, but the message is still the same.  Do not let another year go by where you don’t achieve your goals and be all that you can be!  So read on, then take the bull by the horns and make 2016 YOUR year!

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The door on 2015 is closing tomorrow night and a brand new shiny hope-filled door called 2016 awaits you. Once again you face another opportunity to set goals, make “resolutions” and attempt to achieve them. Unfortunately every year many people fail at those goals within the first three months (for one reason or another), and then resign themselves to trying once more in the next new year. Well this is the year that cycle can stop for you. It’s easier than you think – here are three tips to help you achieve your goals whether they be getting in better shape (fat loss), career enhancement, or better relationships.

WORK IN INCREMENTS.

Having a big picture goal is important (losing a % of fat or scale weight, finishing courses that will enhance your career, etc.) but success is easier to achieve if you work in increments – 10 lbs. at a time, one class per quarter. Set a realistic time line for achieving each increment, make sure you have someone keeping an eye on your progress (holds you accountable), and use your phone or calendar so schedule daily time increments where you work on said goals.

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Seeing and feeling the completion of each increment and it’s furtherance of you toward your goals keeps your motivation fresh. Also, by making sure that each day you attend to those goals (daily workout, time spent on homework) it sets you into a routine that will soon be hard to ditch.

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FIND A FRIEND.

All goals in life that are worth pursuing are worth sharing. Support systems are the key to success in everything in life. As long as your goals are realistic and attainable, and cause no harm to those around you – everyone will be in your court and gladly help you. – you just have to ask! Buddy up with a friend to share weekly updates on your nutrition and exercise achievements AND set backs. Put together a group of people who are seeking to enhance their careers and have a weekly “mastermind” meeting where you help each other think outside the box and network. Schedule a weekly “catch up hour” where you and your significant other, child, or friend talk, share and reconnect.

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TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK IS OK.

Set backs are NOT failures. Life for most of us is a series of a few steps forward combined with one or two steps back. If you give up every time you have a set back, your life will stay stagnant and unmoving. Embrace the set backs, learn from them, and make sure the next set back is something different. In my experience, failures cut a path to success if you allow yourself to learn from them.

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So take a deep breath and open the door to 2015 with the knowledge that you can achieve ANYTHING you want if you simplify and stay focused. I’m here, as always, to offer my support, guidance and expertise. Happy healthy new year to you all!

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Managing Holiday Eat Outs

If fitness and nutrition occupy a large portion of your life as they do for me, the most stressful part of the holidays is how to maintain your nutritional goals/routines while still enjoying multiple feasts, parties, and restaurant gatherings. During this past Thanksgiving I successfully implemented a plan that allowed me to stay on track nutritionally while still participating in family events full of high-caloric foods, desserts and lots of wine… lots and lots of wine (wink). (This is extra-important as during the 4-day holiday I, like many of you, did not get to work out.)

So here’s the four simple steps that I follow and I highly recommend you give this “plan” a try as you head towards the year-end holidays and celebrations:

1. Be Choosey:

While I do enjoy almost all of the Thanksgiving foods, I realized that some of them I can skip (or eat a significantly small portion) and not feel that I was cheated out of something special. For example, mashed potatoes are easily available and/or made all year round and really do not add that much joy to my personal pallet (same for cranberry sauce). Stuffing on the other hand, is generally reserved for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and I find it to be a “treat” I enjoy. Therefore, I skipped past the potatoes and sugary-cranberries, and instead drizzled gravy all over my decent-sized portion of stuffing. My pallet was happy, and I didn’t feel stuffed since I had less food on my plate.

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2. Keep Quantities small – eat more often.

By now you all should be following my repeated advice to eat six small meals a day. In keeping with that, it’s easy to take a very small portion of each dish you enjoy (even if that’s all of them) and allow yourself to hold off on seconds – at least for 10 minutes to see if your stomach’s “full indicator” catches up with brain and taste-buds. You can always have round two a few hours later as one of your next meals/snacks. This keeps you from over-eating, while maintaining that fuel-in vs. fuel-out metabolism boost.

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3. Opt for Restaurant Simple.

When dining out, if you keep your orders simple, small and flavorful, you will not only feel satisfied nutritionally, you will feel relieved that you didn’t over-indulge and in most cases small simple choices are also way better on your wallet! My family went to a Mexican restaurant for brunch one day and I chose a small mixed veggie salad and added grilled salmon, pine nuts and feta (dressing on the side of course). The dish was super-yummy, not too much food, affordable, and stayed well within my nutritional routine.

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4. Keep the alcohol and sweets separate.

This last trick is a great way to “have your cake and drink it too!” I find that if I limit my meals to having either a dessert or some wine, I not only keep that uncomfortable fullness at bay, but I balance out my sugars as well. As an example we had a wine picnic one day where I skipped over the decadent chocolate dessert in favor of a long afternoon of drinking (wine tasting and a few bottles shared). Later at dinner, I abstained from the wine and enjoyed a luscious dessert.

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So fear not and stress not – with a touch of restraint and clever planning you can enjoy all the upcoming holiday feasts and parties without blowing out your waistline or your fitness goals. Cheers!

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.

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

DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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