Category Archives: General

Make It a Healthy Thanksgiving

Despite the current pandemic, the biggest meal of the year is about to occur. Whether your plans are a lot smaller than in years past or not, the question is, are you ready? The average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2,000 calories. You don’t have to starve yourself or exercise excessively to counteract this monstrous meal. With some smarts and a little willpower, you can eat, drink, and still button your pants when it’s over. Follow these tips to the dinner table and have a healthier Thanksgiving …

Plan Ahead

Before you get to cooking, schedule a workout prior to your big meal. Even a short workout may reduce appetite. Some studies monitored the brain activity associated with appetite. They found a decrease in food interest immediately after exercise.  Don’t take a holiday from your health. Exercise is usually the first thing people won’t make time for. You owe it to make time for yourself. You probably want to spend the day with family and football games and the excessive amount of sitting that occurs with it so make your exercise time count. Be sure to eat a complete breakfast and make time for lunch. Even a light lunch is better than “saving up room.” Always remember to slow down when eating too. When hungry, we often eat faster and dish out larger portions. By eating fast, more food is consumed before the brain registers the stomach’s fullness. Also, alcohol absorbs more quickly into the bloodstream on an empty stomach so drink responsibly.

Choose Wisely

Know everything being offered before you serve yourself. Then, prioritize your favorites as a few splurge choices. You may prefer dark over white meat, yet decide on leaner white slices so you can save a splurge for something that matters more. Serve yourself with a table spoon instead of a serving spoon or ladle. This lets you sample the variety without overeating. Go for the healthiest options first– veggies, garden salads, and lean meats. There will be less room to pile on the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and creamy casseroles. Satisfying your hunger throughout the day prevents gorging on appetizers and pre-meal bread. Leftovers are permissible so stock up on plastic containers to share the wealth of leftovers. Everyone can enjoy a little slice of Thanksgiving in the days that follow. And, no one person is stuck with the burden of a week’s worth of overeating the same foods. 

Get Moving

Many use turkey as an excuse to laze around post-feast. Experts acknowledge turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, popularly cited as a kind of dietary sedative. However, it is not likely the cause of Thanksgiving Day fatigue. Tryptophan‘s sleep effect only occurs on an empty stomach when eaten with no other protein sources. This same amino acid is found in other common foods, like eggs, yet no one claims they have a sedative effect. Perhaps the popular association between turkey and fatigue is a placebo effect. More likely, Thanksgiving fatigue is the outcome of overeating and that extra cocktail. A full stomach requires blood for digestion, which reduces blood flow elsewhere. Big meals, especially those high in carbs and sugar, naturally trigger sleepiness from the effort required to digest.

Seize the Quality Time

Holiday stress, particularly this year, induces fatigue. Instead of sleeping off the effects of food and family, take a walk. Get fresh air and perhaps a fresh perspective on the day, a tense situation, or the meaning of life. An invigorating walk burns off calories and allows time outside the confines of what is likely an over-crowded house. Practice mindfulness so your senses truly come alive this holiday season. Indulge in the moment, notice each breath, and savor every delicious bite.

Wishing all of you a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

Note: See you all again on December 8th for another year of the 12 Days of Fitness

Sifting Through the Fitness Bull#@*%

I’ve been a fitness professional for over 25 years. During that time, I think I’ve seen and heard it all before. But then, something else will come down the line leaving me scratching my head. What I’m talking about is all the lies and deceit that fitness marketing pushes on you, the consumer. Allow me to explain.

The Great Ab Deceit

Abs, short for abdominals, continue to be one of the top reasons someone will start to workout or continue to workout. It’s assumed that if one trains their abdominals hard  and excessively, they will attain the coveted 6 pack. That will never happen. All of the ab programs, DVDs, classes, etc. are nothing more than a pipe dream that will never see the light of day. But they’re sold and presented in such a way that the buyer thinks that this time will be different. This time it will work. Again, that’s a big no. First of all, being able to see the abdominals divided into 6 separate parts has so much more to do with diet than any exercise. Period. Second, it’s a conscientious, consistent, and difficult dietary journey that many people don’t even possess the genetics to make happen. It should never be one’s ultimate goal, just something that potentially, and I mean potentially can occur. And the marketers will continue to lead you otherwise.

The Great Cardio Myth

Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is great exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Cardiovascular exercise works the cardiovascular system, plain and simple. But where that ends is when people are led to believe that it’s the only way to lose unwanted pounds. You see it in the gyms and health clubs where 2/3 of the equipment in there is cardiovascular exercise equipment. In January, they are occupied to the fullest, complete with sign up lists in some places. Again, cardio is good and yes it does burn calories, but no where near the amount that most of those machines are programmed to report. Why do they do that? To keep you engaged and working towards a misguided number. It’s easy to use numbers as a guide, but in the end they rarely correlate with effort..

The High Intensity Faux Pas

If cardio is not effective enough, then higher intensity, HITT for short, must be the way. Not necessarily. HITT is a great side car to an already strong exercise base. Meaning it’s not a great place for a beginner to start. Exercise is a stress and if you are not adapted to the stress of exercise to begin with, HITT can severely hurt you. These HITT programs are sold and marketed as the next best thing and what you’ve been missing. They are good when applied appropriately, not thrown at you as the best way to exercise.

The Spot “Toning”, Spot “Reduction” Fallacy

Toys and gadgets are sold on the promise of delivering quick results to a certain location on the body. Good news: you can spot “target “ a specific muscle or body part. However, that doesn’t mean miraculously the fat layer on top of said muscle disappears. That’s the result of a systemic loss in body fat. When someone says they want to tone, what they’re really saying is that they want the muscle to show and that won’t happen without fat loss occurring systemically. Consequently, you can not work a specific area exclusively and hope to decrease the body fat that is present. It all takes place as an overall effect, not a specific one.

The Nutritional Fiction

I am a fitness professional, not a dietitian, but I would be remiss to not discuss nutrition. The topic of nutrition is probably the biggest source of deceit when it come to exercise success because they are closely associated. Without getting into the semantics of carbs and protein and fats (the macronutrients), I can 100% assure that there are no cleanses, magical foods, detoxes, or super supplements that will answer or correct a poor or even so-so eating pattern. You will continue to be duped and reeled in because that is how the machine works. Sell, sell, sell, and sell more.

The True State of Fitness

It’s all of the outside distractions that take away from something that’s inherently very basic. It’s an annual battle that continues and unfortunately will continue leading more and more into a state of confusion and craving the next best thing. The message has never changed – you need to exercise in whatever form you enjoy. You just need to do it. You need to be mindful of not only what you eat but how much you eat. If it’s off, it’s easy to blame it on something out of your control. The thing is, you always have control. You just need to find what works best for you, not others. Nothing, and I mean nothing will ever replace hard work done honestly and consistently. If you’re capable of those two things, you can never be disappointed.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Virtual Fitness: Is This the New Way of Fitness for the 21st Century?

2020 has been quite the year and we’re not even done yet. The days simply seem to run together as we keep looking for hope and answers. If you’ve been counting, it’s been about 5 months. That’s quite a bit of time to do something, anything with the time you’ve been given. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to do something positive for yourself and for those important to you. For me, both personally and professionally, I’ve made the best of the time given to me, some planned, some not so much.

COVID-19 Effects on the Fitness Industry

Back in March, we were told to close down for two weeks. Two weeks became two more weeks, then a month, and then two months. For my brethren in the fitness industry, it was hard to take. Gyms were asked to close. Studios were asked to close. If you made a living teaching fitness classes or training those in the gym, you were quickly unemployed. Nobody knew for how long and as a result a lot of fitness businesses closed their doors permanently. On a personal level, I was devastated. Not because it personally affected me, but fitness has always been touted as one of the best things to have when combatting this virus. And I am a huge proponent of fitness. To simply deny people the ability to exercise seemed counterintuitive. Then came the onslaught of sales for home exercise equipment that depleted quickly with no signs of a return. No gyms, no equipment, and no hope if you didn’t have an alternative. But then, an opportunity for me professionally became apparent through all of this that has been going extremely well today, and hopefully for the foreseeable future.

The World of Virtual Training

I’ve been extremely fortunate. My business saw very little drop off and has actually grown in the worst possible environment I could be dealt. And why? Because of the trust and loyalty of my clients, I was able to venture into the world of virtual training. Virtual training is working with someone live, but digitally through an existing platform. I’m there, just not physically. Now I’ll be honest. Training “on-line” was something I had been looking into for several months prior to our shutdown. I prefer and would much rather be in the physical presence of working with a client. But it has opened a gateway for me professionally that had COVID-19 not happened, I still might not have explored. By training clients virtually, I’ve been able to run “business as usual” – which is good for me and excellent for my clients. For my clients, it’s an opportunity for them to continue to stay up with their fitness and alleviate any fears of potentially spreading of the virus. 

The Pros and Cons

Virtual training has opened the door for me to work with clients perhaps I may have never had the opportunity to work with in person. I now have the capacity to train anyone, anywhere in the world. But what are the benefits to the client? For one, especially during this pandemic, they’ve been able to stay with their fitness goals. I’m still involved in their journey, albeit just not physically. Two, they also have more flexibility with their scheduling with me. There’s never an excuse to miss a workout now – I’ll be there in a sec. Some of the downside? You have to be able to have some exercise equipment. If you were caught empty handed when the pandemic hit, your best chance of securing fitness equipment came from others potentially selling their own. I’m a huge proponent of body weight training, but unfortunately most can not rely on simple body weight training as their only mode of exercise. The biggest one however is having a strong and secure internet connection. Now I’m not going to lie. In my house, due to a teacher and student also needing an internet connection, there were three of us at any given time and our signal never timed out. But it is a possibility and one that can put a real damper on a session. 

Virtual training is different, yes, but the only true difference is me not physically being present. I’m still extremely capable of guiding clients through their workouts and making any of the adaptations required. In the end, virtual training isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. It’s an option to consider and one that is just as effective as me being in the physical presence. If you’d like more information or would like to give virtual training a try, just shoot me an email. Together, we can turn a pandemic into a positive.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

A Client Success Story

For those of you who have known me and followed me over the years know that not only am I fitness professional but a very passionate one. You see, fitness to me is a way of life. I’ve just been fortunate enough to make a career out of it. Most view fitness as a side activity, one that either fits into their lives or it doesn’t. I take a great deal of pride and education for myself in helping people to understand the positives that fitness can have on their lives. I don’t always have followers but that’s why I continue on. I want to share with you today a story of a client who has done all those things – made fitness a priority in her life; continued to follow my guidance; took all the positives along with the negatives and turned out to become the best version of herself.

How We Started

Tricia and I first met about 12 years ago when I worked at Pottstown Health Club. She had been working with one of my trainers and it was brought to my attention that I might be better suited to help her. Tricia had a “nagging” forearm issue of sorts that we later determined was the result of carrying heavy bags (computer, handbags). With a successful evaluation and treatment plan, Tricia’s arm got better and shall we say, the rest is history. Tricia has been a personal client since then and stuck with me through the gym closing and venturing out on my own. Stories like you’re about to hear are one of the many reasons why I do what I do, why I love what I do, and where my passion for all things fitness comes from. What better way than for you to hear this story other than from Tricia herself.

Her Story

I’ve always been athletic; a tomboy most of my life.  As a kid, I played baseball and football with the boys in the neighborhood.  I played field hockey and lacrosse in high school until knee issues sidelined me during my senior year.  Since then I’ve had a total of 5 surgeries on both of knees.  Ultimately, I will need a full knee replacement, so I have learned to manage the issues and pain since I was 17.  Having a chronic injury like that impacted my participation in sports, as well as working out.  This led to weight gain, which is not good for anyone, but for me with my knee issues, it was worse because I found it even harder to work out or even move.  That’s when I decided to take control and lose weight.  Another motivator was that I was engaged and wanted to look my best for the wedding. I joined Weight Watchers, as I knew I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself in the weight loss journey.  I lost 30 pounds and was very proud of myself.  I focused mostly on my nutrition but was working out a little as well. 

After the wedding, a few of my work friends started working out together at a gym close to the office.  Within a year, I was at my most fit and felt great.  I really enjoyed working out with my friends (never thought I would be a “gym rat” but I was there a lot). Then life happened.  I began traveling a lot with work and was not home a lot.  Because I was working out so much, I had a lot more “flexibility” in my diet.  When you stop working out consistently and continue to eat the same “flexible” way, a not-so-funny thing happens; you gain weight.  I did work out while I was traveling.  I found I had less excuses to NOT work out when I wasn’t home.  It helped that most of my work travel mates were working out in the hotel gyms, so if I brought my workout gear, and told my colleagues I was going to work out. I was accountable to them.  So, I tended to work out more when traveling then when I was home, but eating more than I should have, and maybe drinking more.  Because of my travel schedule, as well as losing most of my workout buddies (started families, changed jobs, moved) I canceled my gym membership. 

My husband and I decided to join Pottstown Health Club together.  I was using the cardio equipment and taking classes.  It had been a while since I spent time in a proper gym, so felt like I needed to work with a trainer; also felt like I needed someone to be accountable to again.  I had started working out with Cathy but then I met Jeff. He created a workout for me that allowed me to continue my momentum despite my injury.  I have continued to work with him since.

Fast forward a couple of years to the week I turned 40.  That seemed to be the year I hit the wall; it felt like I hit the wall, bounced off, then got run over by a truck, got up, and then fell face first into a vat of molasses.  I’ve felt stuck for the past 8 years. The week I turned 40 my back spasmed.  I never had any back issues until that week.  I spent most of that week in bed trying to recover from that until Jeff had recommended massage therapy.  In March of my 40th year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Luckily it was caught very early, but a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation were necessary.  Oh, and you can’t forget the 5 years of Tamoxifen.  Through my recovery, it was difficult to bounce back into a healthy, fit lifestyle.  It’s been nearly 9 years, but I found my way.  My health journey has one consistent factor…accountability.  And today is no different.  I got a sinus infection in January and visited the local urgent care.  They take your temp, blood pressure and weigh you before seeing the doctor.  As you leave, they provide a synopsis of your visit, including an evaluation of your weight.  I rarely read that information, but for some reason I did after that visit.  Based on their information, I was considered OBESE.  I knew I was heavy, but to see that word in my “chart” was eye-opening. 

Jeff and I talk about accountability a lot, and why it is so hard for people to be accountable to themselves.  I think it took the word OBESE and the quarantine to finally get me to be accountable to myself.  I also know that I do not want to start my 50’s feeling the way I have for most of my 40’s. I’ve taken advantage of the time that I’m home to take care of ME.  I’ve been using my normal “commute” time to work out.  At 6:00AM I ride my Peloton for 20 minutes (that’s my normal commute time).  Again at 5:00PM, I’m on my bike for another 30-45 minutes.  I’m also eating clean and healthy; tracking everything I eat (using Weight Watchers again).  I am feeling great!  I have a lot more energy and just overall feel better.  My approach to the quarantine has been one of taking care of me.  Since I am not traveling (which has been a major excuse for not always eating healthy or working out) I really have no excuses to NOT take care of me.  If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to take responsibility for myself. 

My husband is benefitting from it as well.  His pants are a little looser too.  And I just hit 40 pounds lost!!  I am at the same weight I was when I got married 18 years ago.  The journey has not been easy.  As much as it is about eating healthy and implementing a fitness routine, it is also about psychology.  I’ve found that without feeling accountable to myself I would self-sabotage.  It was a viscous cycle.  It is a little crazy that it took the word obese and a quarantine to set me straight.

Tricia – a living example of what it means to train smart, eat well, and be better!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

5 Ways to Stop Overeating

Overeating is easy to do, especially during this time of being recommended to stay home. It’s also easy because there are many factors that cause us to overeat, including stress and noshing too fast—both of which we likely experience or do on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, there are many tactics you can use to stop overeating once and for all, from slowing down to learning your body’s hunger cues. Use these tips and strategies to get your eating on track so you can feel fueled and satiated instead of full and frustrated and not putting on what has come to be known as the Covid-15.

Plan Ahead

This is a great tactic even when life is “normal”. Out of sight, out of mind, meaning if it’s not in the house in the first place the chance of eating it is lower. If you’re surrounded by unhealthy food all the time, it can be easy to eat all day long, whether or not you are hungry. Here’s one way to avoid this temptation: Think about how you’ll feel after you eat too much—like those times when you know you’re full, but there’s still food on your plate. A similarly powerful tactic is thinking about how you’ll feel if you don’t eat the food. In almost every case you feel proud, happy and more satisfied than if you’d indulged unnecessarily. Strategy: Before you grab that muffin in your kitchen—especially if you’ve already had a full breakfast—think to yourself: How will I feel when I finish this? Better yet: How will I feel if I walk away right now? Make this a habit, doing it every time you reach for an unnecessary snack; sometimes you’ll want to indulge and that’s okay. But you may find that you say “no” a lot more often than you say “yes.”

Eat Slower

It takes time for your stomach to tell your mind that you’re full because the process of feeling satiated takes time. The stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water. These signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem. This process of sending signals from your gut to your brain can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes, which is why it’s important to eat more slowly. Eating too fast is a surefire way to overeat because we get this cue well after we’ve already eaten too much.  Strategy: The next time you eat, set a timer for 20 minutes and see how long it takes you to feel full, paying close attention to the cues your body is sending you. This will give you an approximation of how long it takes your body to feel full, which you can use to stop overeating in the future. Continue eating slowly until you notice that “I’m full” feeling. 

Eat Mindfully

In our on-the-go world, we’re often eating breakfast in the car, rushing through lunch at our desk, and half-heartedly chowing down on dinner while watching our favorites shows. In all of these situations, your focus isn’t on the food you’re eating. It’s on driving, working or watching television, which can lead to overeating. When you’re not paying attention to your body, it’s easy to miss the “I’m hungry” cue—just like when you eat too fast. Strategy: Make a rule to eat at least one meal a day without doing anything else. Notice the difference in recognizing your satiation (feeling full) cues and how satisfied you are. Slowly increase this to two meals each day and eventually to all three.

Give Yourself Time

How many times have you looked down at your plate, knowing that you’re full, and finished it anyway? When you’re done, you feel full and mad at yourself: “Why did I eat the rest of that? I didn’t need it and now I feel like crap”. It’s hard to resist food in the moment, thanks to our need for instant gratification. But giving yourself time to decide whether or not to finish the plate may be exactly what you need. Strategy:  The next time you’re in a moment where you would normally eat more, but know you shouldn’t, stop for 10 minutes. Give yourself time to decide if you want to eat the rest of the food on your plate. Almost every time, you’ll be happy to toss or save the rest of the food when your 10 minutes is up.

Pay Attention to All Your Hunger Cues

If you’re waiting for your stomach to growl, you may be setting yourself up to overeat, because we don’t all experience the same hunger cues. Sometimes it shows up as a headache or a bad mood that comes on suddenly. Knowing how hunger can show up in your body is key to recognizing it before it’s too late and you’re starving. Other potential hunger signals include:

  • Growling stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Low energy
  • Suddenly irritable (“hangry”)

Strategy: Make note of which hunger cues you experience each time you eat. Slowly you’ll discover what means “I’m hungry” for your body, allowing you to eat right away rather than waiting until later, when you’re ravenous, and therefore more likely to overeat.

Overeating, just like overtraining, is a behavioral choice, knowingly or unknowingly. By creating awareness and developing a strategy that is unique to you, meaning you find what works best for you, and implement it is the key to your success. These are just some of the more sensible strategies you can try, but in the end, you’re just looking to create a lifelong habit.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

How Fast Does Fitness Dissipate?

We are currently living in some very challenging, different times. You can’t go to visit family or friends. You can’t travel and going to the store is a task within itself. Most can’t go to work either because the business had to shut down or their work was considered to be “ non-essential”. All of this from a vicious virus that has spread not only continentally, but globally. And if fitness is a part of who you are, that too has been stripped from you. Gyms, fitness centers, studios, and whatever else fitness gatherings that we have taken for granted are closed. What is one to do? More on that in just a bit. A bigger concern is what happens to the fitness we have all worked so hard to build and/or maintain if all of the sudden it stops!

The News is Not So Bad

First, it’s important to remember that taking time off now and again is a good thing. Any good workout program includes a heck of a lot of rest days, especially if the exercise is very intense. And there are benefits to both “active recovery” and complete rest. Exercise inflicts a degree of stress on your body. Generally speaking, if you’ve been working out several times a week for more than a year, your muscle memory is solid. When it comes to fitness, we’ve all heard the saying “Use It or Lose It”. While it’s true that when you stop exercising you lose fitness, how quickly you lose it depends on several factors, including how fit you are, how long you have been exercising and how long you stop. Losing fitness when you stop working out, also called detraining or deconditioning, is one of the key principles of conditioning. The principle of use/disuse simply means that when we stop exercising, we generally begin to decondition and lose both strength and aerobic fitness. Most of us need to stop exercising on occasion for any number of reasons. Illness, injury, holidays, work, travel, and social commitments often interfere with training routines. When this happens, we will often see a decline in our level of conditioning. That being said, the better in shape you are, the minimal that is lost. A few weeks, ok; a month, a little bit more; a month or two more and you’ll see and feel a drop in both muscular strength and cardio fitness. Here are some of the general guidelines to how we lose fitness.

Strength Loss

  • For most people, strength loss occurs after two to three weeks of inactivity, but that can vary.  A 2017 study showed that men who did resistance training held on to muscle strength after a two-week break. But a 2013  study showed that athletes will start to lose muscle strength after three weeks without a workout. 
  • The more muscle you have, the more you stand to lose. A 2015 study found that active young adults lost one-third of their leg strength after just two weeks of inactivity.

Cardio Loss

  • Sadly, we lose this kind of conditioning a little more quickly than we lose strength.
  • An older, but a landmark 1984 study showed that after 12 days of inactivity, VO2 max dropped by 7 percent and enzymes in the blood associated with endurance performance decreased by 50 percent. 
  • A 1993 study of endurance cyclists found that four weeks of inactivity resulted in a 20 percent decrease of their VO2 max, which measures a person’s maximum capacity to take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise.
  • The really good news is that while your cardio conditioning does fall faster than your strength, it’s easier to regain.

Other Factors

Consistency is key for building new habits, and it’s as true for the body as it is for the mind: If your body hasn’t been enjoying exercise for long, it can be easier to lose the progress you’ve made. While your fitness level is key to how quickly you get back to your fitness baseline, a few other variables also come into play.

  • A 2000 study found that age plays a role in bounce-back time. Among 41 study participants who were either 20 to 30 years old or 65 to 75 years old, the older people lost strength almost twice as fast as the younger people during a six-month “detraining” period.
  • Children have a serious advantage. A 2018 study found that 10- to 13-year-olds were able to hang on to fitness gains after four weeks of detraining. 

How to Make the Most of Your Time in Quarantine

1. Go for a walk. Indeed, training a little will do a much better job of maintaining your gains than totally stopping, especially if you’re able to squeeze in the odd cardio session that’ll train you at the upper end of your intensity level.

2. Incorporate some resistance training. If you have some equipment, great, but it’s not necessary. Do some body weight training exercises like push ups or squats. For the really inclined, do a four-minute Tabata session (or two) that will make a huge difference in maintaining your strength.

3. Hire a coach. No one thinks they need a coach until they need one. Technology today, especially in today’s era of “social distancing”, makes it easier to reach people in every corner of the world right from where you are currently.

3. Eat well. Exercise helps control junk food cravings, so you may need to try harder to avoid less-healthy foods while you’re not working out. Get lots of protein, healthy fats, and low-GI carbs, and your body will thank you. Eating well will help you avoid any weight gain, which would make restarting fitness all the more challenging.

When this is all over, and believe me, it will end, the gym will be right there waiting for you when you’re ready for it, but for now, do what you can and do what makes you happy. Until then, stay safe and stay well.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 6 – The Cult Of Supplements And The Dangers Of Multi-Level Marketing

(This is part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Here’s how you know a good doctor: A good doctor is one who asks a lot of questions and then listens to the answers the patient provides. A good doctor doesn’t make a recommendation or prescription before knowing the patient inside and out. A good doctor doesn’t have a one-size-fits -all solution for what ails the patient. Doctors take a Hippocratic oath when they become physicians. They swear to practice medical honesty. They swear to keep their patients from “harm and injustice.” The same should hold true in the world of fitness and wellness. Unfortunately, I can say that does not.

It’s All a Big Fat Lie

I’ve been in fitness for a long time now and have seen many trends come and go but none as prevalent as many of the multi-level marketing products sold. Not a day goes by when I hear or worse see fellow fitness “professionals” hocking something that claims to add beauty, fitness benefits, weight loss, and a cure for obesity. We all know deep down these claims are false, irresponsible, and self-serving. We want to believe though, both those who sell and those who buy. We want to believe because we will do almost anything to avoid being uncomfortable and face hard truths. That is why people who sell multi-level marketing products talk a lot more than those who are their customers. If they talk and dance fast enough perhaps they can convince you otherwise of what you already know deep down is a lie – that you can have your cake (or diet cheese puffs) and eat it too, or that you can enjoy that brownie-flavored energy bar and it will help you get and stay thin. You want so desperately to have the body you’ve always wanted and to find something that tastes as good as the food you’re addicted to. Unfortunately for you, there are plenty of people who are happy to sell you that bill of goods and with good reason – there’s potential for plenty of money in it for them. It’s profitable to give customers what they want and tell them things they like to hear. Unfortunately, in fields like medicine, fitness, and wellness, doing so is also often an injustice. We all know the truth about diets of all kinds. They only work in the short term. Period.

The Truth

You know what solves the obesity epidemic? Telling people the truth. Telling people they need to face why they are addicted to processed and toxic food or asking them to face why it is they don’t want to get uncomfortable with rigorous daily exercise. Again, telling people this truth is often not profitable or sexy. It is much more profitable to tell people what they want to hear, which is that there is a fun and easy way to do exercise, and that there is a version of packaged food that is good for you. If you look at the definition of dietary supplement you’ll notice that these supplements are “not considered food.” The same goes for the diet products our country consumes en masse. The fact is we are addicted to toxic and processed food, much of which isn’t even food in the first place. Many of the foods we eat are derivatives of food mixed with chemicals we cannot pronounce, and they come to us in boxes that have shelf lives of months. Selling people products, potions, pills, and powders based on shoddy science or popular belief is downright laughable to me.

The Reality

The reality is food doesn’t have a shelf life. As Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, don’t buy anything that is sold at a gas station. Yet another hard truth is that when you switch to eating real food it probably won’t taste as good to you either, at least initially. But understand that we need less stuff from a box or a pill – a lot less. That is the truth we need to be spreading. Obesity and the correlated health issues such as diabetes are continuing to skyrocket out of control. Clearly the rapid and robust growth of the supplement industry and multi-level marketing have solved nothing except make those who sell these goods richer. Money – this is the cause of the multi-level marketing craze in the fitness industry – greed, and specifically greed in response to coming from a position of lack or want. Remember when your parents used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Couldn’t be any more succinct than that.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays
Day #410 Fitness Myths That Need to Die
Day #59 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Feeling Full

12 Days of Fitness 2019: Day 1 – 6 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

(This is part 1 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

There are countless opportunities to pile on extra pounds during the holiday season. If you’re anything like me, it’s difficult to turn down all that scrumptious food and drink. And guess what? You shouldn’t! Forget denial and follow these science-based strategies to enjoy the season healthfully without making that tired resolution to lose the weight come the first of the year.

  1. Eat mindfully It takes time for our brains to respond to satiety signals that say “Stop eating! You’re full!” They’re either drowned out by our desire for more yumminess or because we are not giving your body the chance to react. The holiday season is meant to be savored, so enjoy each delectable dish to its fullest by eating mindfully. Chew slowly and focus on the experience..
  2. Drink water Liquid calories contribute significantly to our daily energy intake, especially during the holiday season when tasty libations abound. Our bodies aren’t great at recognizing that calories in liquid form contribute to fullness, so we tend to pack them on as extra. Choosing water rather than an alcoholic or sugar-sweetened beverage means you’re consuming fewer calories.
  3. Focus on veggies and fruits Holiday treats tend to be loaded in calories and rarely feature lighter fare like vegetables and fruits. “Eat more plants” may sound like tired advice, but there are so many festive ways to prepare plant-based dishes for your holiday table that help boost nutrition and keep calories in check. And why not feature fruit for dessert.
  4. Select smaller plates and cups Selecting smaller plates and cups leads to less food and drink consumed. Try setting your holiday table with smaller place settings. Choosing smaller plates is especially important in a buffet situation, which is a recipe for over-indulgence given all of the tasty choices for the taking. And smaller portions also means you’re more likely to finish what’s on your plate, which means less food waste.
  5. Watch your weight Weight gain occurs incrementally, and stepping on a scale either daily or several times a week is the easiest way to tell whether you’re holiday feasting has gone awry. Weight gain around the waist is especially harmful because of its inflammatory effect, so keeping track of how your clothes fit throughout the season is also key.
  6. Get out and play Weight gain is, ultimately, a simple equation: consuming more calories than you’re burning will lead to storage of energy as body fat. So the other side of energy balance—physical activity—needs to be on the list. Maintaining a fitness routine is a challenge during the holiday season, but the fact remains that we should actually increase our activity to offset the extra calories we’re consuming. Figure out what works for you and stick to it. And if stuff gets in the way, don’t beat yourself up; just get back out there when you can.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you tomorrow for Day 2 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Getting to Know A Fitness Professional

Ok. I’m going to get personal with you. For those of you that know me on a personal level, most of it probably won’t come as much of a surprise. For those of you that don’t, I want to give you a chance to get to know me better. Why? Because after nearly 24 years as a fitness professional, I work in a profession that I still feel is highly misunderstood. So here we go.

What I Am Not

In my career, I’ve trained/worked with nearly 1,000 different people. Every single one of them was a positive learning experience. Many of my clientele I’ve had the privilege to work with for 10+ years. But even if we’ve only had a few opportunities of working together, I’m confident I’ve made a positive impact. In every contact opportunity I’ve had, the one thing I am not is a rep counter. Sure, reps are counted during sessions, but that’s not why I’m there contrary to some popular held beliefs. I am not a merciless hard ass that only works with those willing to push the extra mile either. My job is to push people out of their comfort zone in a reasonable, progressive manner. To build confidence in their in their abilities which in turn builds upon their self-confidence. That’s what proper training should be.

What I Am

For one, I’m a normal everyday guy. Yes, exercise is a passion of mine and it is my chosen profession, but I don’t think about it all the time. Exercise occurs for me without thought. More specifically, while I do plan exercise into my daily schedule, in some form it would still happen. It’s just who I am. I am a very compassionate person. I have certainly had my own challenges in life, but they’ve shaped me to who I am today. Every single person I meet is a challenge; a challenge to make better. I do not judge anyone as I don’t know what path they’ve followed before we met. I will admit, I don’t take excuses very well, but it is my job to determine why those excuses come forth. There’s always an underlying reason. Always. I work to find the best in everyone. It’s not always apparent to the individual but sometimes it’s what or where they’re not looking. I am amazed by the human body and all it’s capable of and more. When I work with clients, I’m observing their movement patterns – what’s good, what’s bad, what we can improve, etc. While form is certainly important during exercise, it is important not to be short sighted because everyone is different and unique. No one exercise is perfect for everyone. Modifications are not only necessary but a must. I am truly grateful for what this profession has provided for me: a comfortable way of life; the vast networks of contacts I’ve met; the incredible people I’ve not only had the chance to work with, but their trust in me. Most of all, the fact that I look forward to everyday of “work”. Sure, there are days that are some what more challenging or lengthy, but when it is all said and done, I wouldn’t change a thing.

A Few Other Tidbits

I am a fitness professional and teach the importance and value of a healthy diet, but I am a true foodie. And by foodie I mean eating at exquisite restaurants, sampling “unhealthy” items, enjoying all the glorious food on this planet! My Italian heritage probably has something to do with that. I am a coffee junkie. Every morning with cream and sugar. I don’t drink it to wake up. I drink it because I enjoy it. I drink, prefer loud, hard rock music, and I am a die hard Eagles and Flyers fan. I’d rather ride my bike 100 miles before running another marathon. At the end of the week, the gloves come off and I indulge in whatever the indulgence is that week. And why not? We’re only given this one life. The fact that you skipped on the potatoes indicates more of a bad relationship with food than a commitment to a silly diet. Eat the potatoes, eat the cake, and keep moving forward. If you spend too much time thinking about what you should have or could have done, you’re wasting time. Establish the balance that works best for YOU. No book or guru is going to help you there, I promise.

That’s me!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness: Day 10 – Insulin and Insulin Resistance

(This is part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Question. Can you name a hormone other than thyroid that warrants a lot of attention. Give up? How about insulin? You’ve heard of it before but do you really understand it’s role, how it works, and it’s significance? If you do you’re probably one of the few but the number is growing of Americans who are impacted by insulin everyday. And if you haven’t best pay attention as you will want to know.

The Importance of Insulin

Insulin is an important hormone that controls many processes in the body. It is a hormone secreted by an organ called the pancreas. Its main role is to regulate the amount of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. Although insulin is mostly implicated in blood sugar management, it also affects fat and protein metabolism. When we eat a meal that contains carbohydrates the amount of blood sugar in the bloodstream increases. This is sensed by the cells in the pancreas, which then release insulin into the blood. Then insulin travels around the bloodstream, telling the body’s cells that they should pick up sugar from the blood. This leads to reduced amounts of sugar in the blood, and puts it where it is intended to go, into the cells for use or storage. This is important, because high amounts of sugar in the blood can have toxic effects, causing severe harm and potentially leading to death if untreated. Problems with this hormone are at the heart of many modern health conditions.

The Issue With Insulin Resistance

Sometimes our cells stop responding to insulin like they are supposed to. This condition is termed insulin resistance, and is incredibly and unfortunately common. When this happens, the pancreas starts producing even more insulin to bring the blood sugar levels down. This leads to high insulin levels in the blood, called hyperinsulinemia. This may continue to develop for a long time. The cells become increasingly more insulin resistant, and both insulin and blood sugar levels go up. Eventually, the pancreas may not be able to keep up anymore and the cells in the pancreas may become damaged. This leads to decreased insulin production, so now there are low amounts of insulin and cells that don’t respond to the little insulin that is available. This can lead to skyrocketing blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels exceed a certain threshold, a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes is made. The good news is that insulin resistance can be dramatically improved with simple lifestyle measures.

What Causes Insulin Resistance?

There are many potential causes and contributors to insulin resistance. Some of those found in the research include:

  • Increased amount of fats in the blood (circulating trigylcerides).
  • Having increased visceral fat, the dangerous belly fat that builds up around the organs
  • A high intake of fructose (from added sugar, not fruit)
  • Increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Physical inactivity
  • Bacterial environment in the gut can cause inflammation that exacerbates insulin resistance
  • Overeating and increased body fat, especially in the belly area.

The Good News

The good thing about insulin resistance is that it is very easy to influence it. In fact, you can often completely reverse insulin resistance by changing your lifestyle. Here are several evidence-based ways to reduce insulin resistance:

  • Exercise
  • Lose belly fat
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce your intake of added sugars, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eating a healthy diet based mostly on whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Improving quality of sleep
  • Manage your stress levels

Insulin resistance may be one of the key drivers of many (if not most) of today’s chronic diseases, which are collectively killing millions of people every year. The good news is that it can be significantly improved with simple lifestyle measures, such as losing fat, eating healthy food and exercising. Preventing insulin resistance may be among the single most powerful things you can do to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

 

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple
Day #9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing