Tag Archives: diet

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 8 – Dieting Made Simple

(This is part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I can’t stand diets. In fact, if you tell me you’re on a diet or just trying to “jump start” your metabolism I interpret that as you’re prepared to fail. And why do I feel that way? Plain and simple, DIETS JUST DON’T WORK! Period! You’d think after all of these years of constant failures we would get the message. This time of year, people often look to trend diets for a quick way to lose weight. But, as I’d hope you know and understand, sustainable, healthy eating habits are the key to achieving lasting results. No question. It’s not easy but proven to be much more successful in the long term, which should be the goal. Here are a few simple tips and I emphasize simple.

1. Eat a variety of colorful fruits & vegetables. But you knew that already, right?
2. Consume protein at regular intervals throughout the day. Protein is the only macronutrient our bodies must consume from the outside. Fat and carbohydrate can both be manufactured by the body. And the importance of protein cannot be understated. Everything about you minus bone is made of protein. Digest that one.
3. Focus on consuming healthy fats. Fat is not the enemy. To lump them all together is admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. And fat does not make you fat. Energy (calorie) excess does.
4. Choose whole grains when available. Carbs are not the enemy either. To lump them all together is also another admittance in not knowing or understanding basic nutrition. Carbohydrates is the preferred energy source of the body.
5. Drink fluids throughout the day and during exercise based on individual needs. Hydration is key and is not to be taken lightly.

That’s it! Simple, right? There’s no sexy way to go about it other than to stop confusing real nutritional science with the ton of nutritional pseudoscience that’s out there. May be the day will come where the consumer is wiser than the manufacturers will give us credit for. Until then, you must fight on.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 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

 

Great for Fitness, Bad for Fat Loss

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Exercise in all and any of its forms is good for you. Period. There are better types of exercise for a particular outcome (i.e. a bodybuilder will have to lift weights) but in essence whatever you choose as your preferred method of exercise you can do no wrong. However, when it comes to the number one reason given as to why people exercise, their methods are no where in accordance with the desired outcome – weight loss, more specifically fat loss.

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

The two are not one in the same. You can have weight loss independent of fat loss yet when one decides they want to lose weight, what they’re really talking about is dropping the unsightly poundage from their physiques. Weight loss is easy. If I were to strap a 50 lb sack to your back to carry around all day – work, exercise, etc. – in the heat, you would definitely shed some pounds. You would most likely lose a ton of water and a fair amount of lean tissue (muscle), something you definitely don’t want to do when fat loss, not weight loss, is the goal. Fat loss on the other hand is not very easy to do. It requires a concerted effort where exercise is only a fraction of the plan. For one, eating behaviors (not dieting) must change as well as lifestyle choices. Many are on board with the exercise thing but only modestly interested in changing their eating behaviors or lifestyle choices. To achieve fat loss, you have to buy into that formula 100%.

You Can’t Out-Exercise Poor Choices

It happens every year. The day after Thanksgiving the gyms are flooded with people attempting to repent for their sins of gluttony the previous day. News Flash – that doesn’t work! Where does this thought come from and why is it still believed? Simple. Exercise becomes that easy cog to manipulate. You hop on a treadmill or bike, sweat for a few minutes, maybe do some light to moderate resistance training (that’s harder, right?), perhaps jump in on class, but feel good about exercising. Something’s better than nothing is often the mentality. Sure, if just moving and getting some physical fitness is your goal. But exercise at a level most people consider to be their “best” effort comes not even close to “denting the fat” so to speak. Don’t get me wrong. As I stated earlier, any exercise is good. Physical movement is good. It improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, increases endorphins, etc. It will not though erase a so-so diet, improve your chances of dropping unwanted fat, or increase your physical capacity (ability to handle what life hits you with). Choices good or bad are yours to make but exercise will not erase or benefit much from either.

What to Do

First and foremost, be absolutely steadfast with your goal. There is no room for excuses, otherwise it’s merely a thought. Two, you need to program your exercise program. Yes, program it. Write it out, have someone help you, and follow it. Third, you need to change the way you eat. Notice I did not say diet. If you can find a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life (that’s a lot to ask of anyone) then have at it. But don’t you see how we’re all guinea pigs to this crazy-eat-better thing? Every year a new program comes out saying this is what you need or should do. The one thing you need to do? EAT! You need food to survive, not avoid things like a plague. Finally and probably the most difficult to do, you have to change your lifestyle. You like Happy Hour on Friday’s? May be cut back to 1-2x/month. You like to eat out 3-4 times/week? Cut back to 1x/week. (This alone will save you 1,000s of calories and money).

When all is said and done, fat loss occurs in people at different levels. Comparing your success to others or to the scale is unfair and sure to disappoint. But you owe it to yourself if fat loss is your goal you must not rely solely on exercise more as your antidote. It’s only a small piece of the puzzle albeit an important one. It needs to be consistent and part of the rule, not an exception. I believe you can do it.

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

5 Ways Your Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

It can be very disheartening and even more frustrating. You’ve spent a bunch of time committing to doing what you thought was the right thing yet your weight loss has stalled or worse reversed. You’ve dieted and exercised all to no avail to the point where you’re ready to quit…again! Is it really supposed to be this hard? The short answer is no and chances are you’re most likely guilty of a few or all of the following reasons you struggle with weight loss.

1. You Don’t Eat Enough. Sounds counterintuitive but weight loss only occurs when you burn more than you take in, correct? Not exactly. Yes, if weight loss is your goal you inherently do need to eat less but there’s a point where much less is a bigger problem. As sporadic or chronic energy (calorie) needs are not met, the metabolism decreases to spare energy. This is one of the major issues with dieting. With a decreasing metabolism comes an even more uphill battle to losing weight (burning calories). Just eating less for the sake of eating less can do more harm to the body than good. As a general rule of thumb, females should not consume less than 1200 calories and men 1500.

2. You Do Eat Too Much. No one ever wants to admit it but unless your tracking what you consume you really have no idea how much you’re consuming. The classic is not eating all day and then eating a large meal at the end of the day to “spare” calories. Chances are you consume more calories in one sitting than you would if you had just eaten throughout the day. The other issue is overestimating portion sizes thus causing overeating. Portion sizes today greatly exceed how much you should really consume. Coupled with hurried eating and portion sizes it becomes a moot issue.

3. You Dine Out Too Often. It doesn’t matter how “healthy” a restaurant claims a food item to be. If you’re not cooking it, you have no control over that. Sure they may decrease the portion size but you’re still ultimately at the mercy of the restaurant’s chef. Dining out should be a treat saved for special occasions or for one time on the weekend. Portions are bigger, food is prepared for flavor, and they would love nothing more for you to order an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

4. Overdoing It On Weekends. Lets say you’ve been good Monday through Thursday but once Friday hits it all gets forgotten. Maybe you decided Friday night was your night out but then there was a dinner date for Saturday night and a brunch on Sunday. Shouldn’t 4 out of 7 days count for something? Maybe, if weight loss isn’t something you are struggling with. The body systemically processes, burns, and stores calories. A bad weekend won’t show up right away but you can bet it will in time for a repeat weekend performance.

5. Jumping From Plan to Plan. Diets work when they are strictly adhered to. If it’s repeatable and palatable and you can live that way for the rest of your life, it will work. Why? Because by some method you’re simply eating less, plain and simple. But the reality is diets are nothing more than calorie deprivation tactics disguised as some new finding or mechanism, one that most likely is not realistic for people to stick with over the long haul. I’ve always said the thing wrong with Weight Watchers or similar programs is that people keep going back. A lifetime plan should not require anyone to go back.

Weight loss is and always will be a long, not short term process. The good news is that the time it took to gain the weight and the time to lose the weight have no correlation, meaning you can lose weight faster than you gained it. But it takes a conscientious, no excuse approach with a margin of error that affects us all individually. No tricks, no gimmicks, no potions, no magic fairy dust, no supplements- NOTHING – can replace the work of a hard working individual with vision.

Til next time, Train Smart, Eat Well, and Be Better.

12 Days of Fitness 2017: Day 12 – To Your Dieting Success

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

A majority of American adults say they’ve tried dieting to lose weight at some point in their lives, and at any given time, about one-third of the adult population say they’re currently dieting. Yet 60 percent of American adults are clinically overweight or obese and more than 16 percent of deaths nationwide are related to diet and physical activity. “There is clearly a disconnect if we have a majority of the population that has tried to lose weight and a majority of the population that is overweight,” says Marc Kiviniemi, a public health researcher at the University at Buffalo. “People are planning to diet and trying to diet, but that’s not translating into a successful weight loss effort.” Many issues, from biological to environmental, determine effective weight control, but how people manage their own behavior is a big piece of that puzzle.

Plan to Change

Dieting is a process that involves a plan to change eating behavior and behaving according to that plan. But the factors that guide diet planning differ from those that guide actual diet behavior, according to the results of a study with Carolyn Brown-Kramer of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The crux of the disconnect is the divide between thoughts and feelings. Planning is important, but feelings matter, and focusing on feelings and understanding their role can be a great benefit,” says Kiviniemi, associate professor of community health and health behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. Plans to change behavior are a function of thoughts, the belief that weight loss is possible by making better food choices. But when it comes to making a food choice and deciding to execute the plan, feelings guide behavior. “If you’re sitting back conceiving a plan you may think rationally about the benefits of eating healthier foods, but when you’re in the moment, making a decision, engaging in a behavior, it’s the feelings associated with that behavior that may lead you to make different decisions from those you planned to make.” The findings highlight the shortcomings of deprivation diets or diets based on food choices that ignore people’s preferences. “First of all, the deprivation experience is miserable. If you didn’t associate negative feelings with it to start, you will after a few days,” says Kiviniemi. “The other thing that’s important is the distinction between things that require effort and things that are automatic. “Planning is an effort that demands mental energy, but feelings happen automatically. Deprivation or anything that demands a high degree of self-control is a cognitive process. If you put yourself in a position to use that energy every time you make a food choice that energy is only going to last so long.”

Plan for More Enjoyment

Kiviniemi says dieters should seriously consider enjoyment when framing and shaping a behavior change. “In the dietary domain, eating more fruits and vegetables is fabulous advice. But if you have negative feelings about those food choices, they might not represent elements of a good plan,” says Kiviniemi. “It’s not just about eating healthy foods. It’s about eating the healthy foods you like the most.” It’s not easy, and a lot of work is required to move intention to action, which is why Kiviniemi says planning should be broadly based on both thoughts and feelings. “Think seriously about how you’re going to implement the plans you make to change your behavior, and that includes not only the feeling component, but how you plan to overcome a negative reaction that might surface during a diet.” It’s not just the knowledge of what we’re eating, but consideration of how we’ll feel having decided to eat those foods, he says.

Happy Holidays to you and your families and blessings for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

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

 

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

Day #1 – Top 10 Reasons Why People Don’t Exercise
Day #2 – The Dangers of Dieting
Day #3 – The New Rules to Strength Training
Day #4 – How to Stay in Shape When You’re Busy
Day #5 – How Natural is “Natural Flavoring”?
Day #6 – Understanding Food and Nutrition Labels
Day #7 –  Minimalist Fitness
Day #8 – 7 Common Myths About Fat Loss
Day #9 – The Food Pyramid: The Demise of the American Diet
Day #10 – 10 Weight Room Mistakes
Day #11 – Organic Foods 101

 

 

The Bread is NOT Why You Can’t Lose Weight

Wouldn’t it be easier to place blame on something that’s so available on your weight loss woes? That’s exactly what happened in the late 90’s by Dr. Atkins, Dr. Sears, et al. in their quest to combat the rising obesity epidemic. They scared people into believing that bread, more specifically carbs, were the enemy to be avoided like the plague. In response, the food industry was forced to develop product that was low carb or no carb that people would buy by the dozens. And they did. Fast forward to current day and the low carb craze as it came to be known still has a life today. But despite its alleged magical powers, obesity in this country has continued to rise.

It’s All About the Bread

Bread sales in the country have decreased, albeit slightly. The biggest reason can be attributed to the fact that’s there so many options available to consumers. Low carb, whole grain, organic, diet, half sliced, sprouted, low sugar, etc. – the options are endless. Bring a snow day here in the northeast though and the bread aisle is wiped out! Apparently snow doesn’t care about your waistline. Here’s another tidbit. The bread doesn’t care about your waistline either. The amount or type of bread that one eats has no bearing on how much weight an individual will gain or keep. Now this is not a license to eat all the bread you want but it brings up a fact that most miss when they consider losing weight or dieting. Calories. That little number some obsess over and others know what it is but no one pays much attention to when concerned for their weight. It’s just easier to dump bread or eat a sandwich without it.

Back to Basics

Calories count. If you don’t think so, you can stop reading. But if you do, you have to pay attention to how many calories you need and how many you need to burn. Simply putting the bread aside isn’t going to be enough. For example, let’s say you order a cheeseburger you feel you earned but ask for the bun to not be included or halved. You might save about 150-200 calories. But what does the rest of the meal look like? No fries? Ok, so now you’re down about 350-400 calories. What about the burger itself? That can vary greatly depending on what or where you ordered it. That can be anywhere from 200-650 calories! The bun was a calorie culprit but a small one indeed. The point here is that bread became the scapegoat of irrational, minimally substantiated evidence that carbs, specifically bread, was bad for your body composition. Sure, there’s plenty of evidence showing the net effect of carbs on spiking insulin levels but note that’s when the carbs are consumed by themselves. (A major flaw of the GI – glycemic index; a discussion for another time.) If you enjoy bread, then eat it. Trust me, it’s not the issue with your waistline.

But What About My Waistline?

Waistlines didn’t expand in a day. They are the cumulative effect of poor diet choices and/or genetics, not because you ate bread. As I stated previously, it’s much easier to pinpoint and blame a single food group or item than take the responsibility that your diet overall is the issue. Who knows? Someday it could be green, leafy vegetables that are the problem. The very first step to achieving optimal health is examining what you consume on a daily basis, including Saturday and Sunday. There are no “cheat” days. If you “cheat” own it and move on but understand that “cheats” add up just like everything else, bread or no bread. Most of these food blamed scenarios all stem from a single thought, or idea that sounds good on the surface. Upon further review, they’re nothing more than a desperate attempt to satisfy a desperate audience.

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

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 4 – Never Diet Again!

(This is Part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

An impending New Year always conjures up thoughts of making better and healthier choices, particularly exercising and losing weight. According to a Boston Medical Center study, 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. Whether it’s Atkins, DASH, or Paleo, how well are those diets really working? Most dieters will be able to keep up the eating plan for a few weeks, maybe a few months if they’re lucky. But as their bodies start to crave the foods and nutrients eliminated by the diet they chose, it’s a slippery slope back to old eating habits and frustration. Fad diets are tempting for they prey on emotion. They promise quick weight loss by restricting one or two types of food or some bizarre combination of foods and/or timing. When sticking to a plan that pays attention only to nutrition, there is minimal if any guide to exercise or cook at home. Instead, dieters end up slipping back into their old eating habits and regaining the weight they lost after quitting the diet.

Don’t Follow The Herd

According to a study from UCLA, up to two-thirds of people who try these diets regain the weight they had lost. It’s time to get out of that cycle and start taking real control and responsibility of your nutrition? It begins by ignoring the fads and making lasting behavioral changes that will lead to long-term weight loss. It begins with smarts and common sense. Fad diets that promise a quick fix often promise minimal effort. That’s what makes them so appealing. What appears to seem logical and “backed by double blind studies” is nothing more than a smoke screen to get you to buy books, bars, pills, or programs. The joke is on you!

Real Keys to Success

Everyone always wants to know what’s the best way to lose weight? The answer is more complicated than a simple one or two word answer but a really good short answer is by adopting one healthy habit at a time. Changing day-to-day behaviors is the best way to make weight loss last long term and put an end to yo-yo dieting. The good news is that building new habits sounds more daunting than it really is. There’s no need to change everything in one fell swoop. In fact, that belief is the opposite of how weight loss should be approached. Instead, making small, gradual changes will help decrease calories and kick start weight loss. Start by choosing one new daily habit to incorporate and try it out for a week. For those having trouble making the habit stick, try setting calendar reminders or enlist a professional, friend, or family member to help. The first healthy habit should be one that makes a big impact to help boost motivation.

Here are three simple steps to get started with long term, not short term weight loss. It’s not sexy, won’t sell a lot of books or magazines, but has an undeniable track record for success.

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast:Numerous studies have shown that eating a healthy breakfast helps promote weight loss. While there’s nothing magical about eating breakfast, what it does do is set a precedent for the day, one of which should be fueling the body, not starving it. Avoid pre-packaged foods for a healthier start to the day. Whole foods like fresh fruit, oatmeal, and eggs are smarter choices.
  2. Keep a daily food log: It doesn’t matter how it’s recorded — on your computer, in a notebook, or with the camera on a smartphone — keeping a record calls attention to recurring food habits and creates accountability. When starting a food log, the focus shouldn’t be on counting calories. The key is to be consistent in writing down everything consumed throughout the day and seeing how even the little things add up. Once the habit of keeping a food journal is established, the next step is to review it that night or the next morning to set goals for the following day.
  3. Eat REAL food: If you glance through a grocery store circular one thing that should be staring at you is the fact that most of the discounts and deals are on packaged food items. Poor nutritional habits have their roots in the fact that we are bombarded by convenience food, some sold as “healthy” or “better for you”. It’s much easier to tear, grab, and go than it is to chop, slice, and cook. Real food preparation may take more time, but it will be more fulfilling and better nutritionally decreasing and/or ending the desire for highly energy dense, non-nutritious food.

You’ve had the power all along. Stop listening or reading to what sounds in theory to be a great idea. If this has been a yearly resolution for you, it’s time to end the madness now. It’s your choice.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 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 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself

 

How the Food Industry Has Destroyed Your Nutritional Knowledge

Agitated young woman looking up in frustration

Let’s just cut right to the chase. Food is big business. We need it to survive and it brings most a lot of pleasure. At the same time, it’s a commodity that some of the world has tremendous access too and others, not so much. Truth be told, whether you live in the highly industrialized United States or some third world Pacific island country, food is as important as the air we breathe. Yet in today’s modern world, food, more specifically proper nutrition, is more complicated than quantum physics. Did the biological need to eat become so complex or are we just kidding ourselves?

A Hearty Big Bite

Big business has essentially sunk its teeth into something it knows will never go away – the dependence on food to survive. Sure, you could hunt and farm off of your own land like our forefathers did but that’s not very likely or practical. Instead, our hunt for food today occurs in palaces (i.e. supermarkets which replaced grocery stores over 20 years ago) and convenient kitchens (i.e. restaurants) where our food is prepared for us. Lest not forget the quick and convenient ready to eat shacks (i.e. convenience stores and fast food chains) that appear to seemingly take over our landscape. Food is available in every shape and form you can imagine and it’s everywhere! Not only that but to ensure that we’re always buying (like you need a reason) we are mesmerized by what we should eat, what we should not eat, why we should eat it, and why you can’t afford not to eat it.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy

If you were to ask 10 people about what is a healthy diet vs. an unhealthy diet you would get somewhat similar but very different answers. In theory you would hope and expect the same answer but you’ll never get it. Why? Because they really have no idea and it’s all a matter of individual perspective. The concept that a food is healthy or unhealthy is a food industry based term to drive sales towards or away from their product or those of their competitors. Foods should be more accurately defined as nutritious (having real value towards quality and energy) and less nutritious (poor nourishment value despite delivering energy nonetheless). Health is not acquired from eating food. Our health can be greatly influenced from eating more nutritious food but it’s only one of several facets that lead towards optimum health. Despite the advertising and marketing of food products, there is not one particular food that can be labeled as healthy, or as a “super food”. It is all in the context of when and where a food item is consumed; not a specific labeling. For example, one of the most popular “health” foods right now is kale. Kale is highly nutritious but could dangerously be “unhealthy” if eaten in large quantities. Conversely, there are civilizations who eat every part of an animal and that is very nutritious for them. We have been programmed by the large food companies (with a little backing from the government) of what constitutes a ”healthy” and “unhealthy “diet all along filling the coffers of those who report and substantiate their beliefs as being the golden rule. The end result is a consumer base more confused and distraught about what “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” is and left in a state of growing illness and waistlines.

Where Common Sense and Jargon Collide.

Every time a new diet plan or scheme comes out touting “the new plan to end all plans” I often wonder how humans in third world countries react to that type of headline. Chances are they never see it and it doesn’t affect their livelihood. There are civilizations that live on high fat diets by our standards and are totally lean and healthy. Same as there are civilizations who live on high carbohydrate diets by our standards that are also lean and healthy. It’s not a food group, or a macronutrient, or a percentage of macronutrients, or a time of day, or an ancestral plan. We are all human with a basic need to survive. We simply have too much food (natural and manufactured) at our disposal, 24/7/365 fed by the spoon of an industry and government who care very little about your health and more about fattening their bottom lines. The amount of crap and “fake food” filling our nutritional landscape is not only very misleading but creating almost daily more disturbing behaviors and patterns of something that is very primal.

How Marketing Drives Confusion

Got to hand it to the marketing teams of many food producing corporations. They are very creative, and can easily mislead consumers to believe that some foods may be healthier than they actually are. While foods need to maintain a specific integrity of labeling by law, just because they are labeled as healthy, or certain “experts” in the industry claim them as being healthy, doesn’t give them a free pass into your diet. Here are just some of the most popular claims or justifications that shaped, molded, and confused our nutritional knowledge.

  • Carbohydrates Are Bad. Why? Because they make you fat. Wrong! Excess consumption of anything can make you accumulate body fat. Consumption of certain carbohydrates has the ability to add pounds to your frame due to their effects on certain hormones but before you buy into the “carbohydrates are why you’re fat” mentality, consider this. ALL fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates – never heard of anyone packing on pounds because their high carbohydrate diet was all fruits and vegetables. A single macronutrient group like carbohydrates unlawfully garners the attention because our highly industrialized nation has more carbohydrates available in many shapes, forms, and liquids than protein and fat.
  • Fat is Bad. The fat free industry has been around for decades and we’re no healthier now than we were before it was forbidden. The ingredients in most fat-free alternatives are more heinous for your health than the consumption of some fat. Fat-free versions of many popular foods do reduce the calories from fat.  Have you ever wondered how the hell there can be fat-free mayo on the market? What exactly is it then? The problems that arise with removing the fat from foods are two-fold.  First, a lot of fat-free or reduced fat foods have sugars added back to them to keep the food tasting somewhat palatable.  The other issue that comes from removing the fat from foods is that fat helps increase satiety, or fullness. By removing the fat, and possibly adding in sugar, foods that are naturally higher in fat and filling become less filling and sugar loaded.  You’re no farther ahead than if you just enjoyed a sensible portion of the real product. The artificial fillers and ingredients used to bio-engineer these foods are also a glaring issue.  Most fat-free foods truly wouldn’t even make the requisites to be considered food.
  • Organic is Healthy. Sure, certain organic produce and meat sources can be a great upgrade to your nutrition.  But let’s get one thing clear, organic junk food is still junk food. Organic fruits and vegetables are one thing, but organic chocolate Oreo cookies are another.  Just because something is labeled organic, doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Many food manufacturers have taken their top selling snack foods, replaced the ingredients with organic substitutions, and sold them as healthy alternatives.  Truth is, a calorie from organic cane sugar is the same as the calorie from non-organic sugar.  Organic can also be just a fancy label on produce that bigger companies can pay bigger money for.  There are plenty of pesticides that are still allowed on organic foods.  If you want the freshest and highest quality produce, check out your local farmers markets.  Many smaller farms grow their produce with the same stuff as organic labeled farms.  They just don’t want to, or can’t afford to, pay the fee to be certified.
  • Gluten Free is the Way to Go. Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten (the protein in wheat) leads to damage in the small intestine, requires a gluten free diet.  One of the hottest trends in America right now however is going gluten free to reduce inflammation or aid with weight loss.  Truth is, the prevalence of Celiac Disease in America is only about .71% (or 1 in 141). Many people without Celiac Disease may feel better after eliminating gluten from their diet, because this usually means they are eliminating all the low quality, highly processed carbs along with a huge chunk of their calories from these foods – thus possibly leading to weight loss. On the other hand, just because a food is labeled “gluten free”, doesn’t make it healthy.
  • Sugar-Free is Best. Sugar-free foods are typically synonymous with zero-calorie drinks or snacks.  While they do not contain any calories, they also are not necessarily healthy.  Studies have shown that the use of low-calorie sweeteners can help control body weight; however the overall difference in weight change is not a whole lot. The other issues that may come from artificial sweeteners (all dependent on the individual) include potential migraines, changes in gut microbes, and triggering sweet tooth cravings for higher calorie real sweet snacks. Bottom line again is, enjoy the “real” product in moderation. If that’s not possible, it’s safe to say the only problem isn’t with the sugar.

When it comes to your diet and justifying what foods are better for you and which are not, it may not be as simple as reading the flashy labels on the front of a food item.  It is important to dive deeper into the label on the back of the product, and read what ingredients might be added or missing – the one legality all labels must adhere to. Or an even better idea, try eating mostly foods that don’t even have a food label. Don’t fall victim to untruthful food marketing. Take control of it for yourself and don’t point the finger or place the blame on something or someone who told you what they wanted you to hear, not understand.

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

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 10 – Better Nutrition Starts With a Better Plan

(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

download (3)One of my all-time favorite sayings is “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Whether you’re speaking of fitness or finances or nutrition you couldn’t be more correct. People will go out of their way to seek some new magical diet plan or potion when all they really need to do is give their nutrition the focus and attention it deserves. Cooking your own meals is vital to controlling your diet, not putting yourself at the mercy of restaurants or pre-packaged meals. Deciding you want a more healthful diet basically means you begin worrying less about what to cut out and more about what you need to put in your diet. Here are some simple strategies to start taking control of your own diet where you’ve had the power all along:

  1. Write It Down. Planning your weekly menu in advance may seem obvious, but writing it out and posting it somewhere visible will keep you honest and on track. This simple tip turns food shopping into a fast-and-easy errand, because the menu lets you create a shopping list with everything you will need for the week. It will also keep you from making poor last-minute decisions. The bonus? You will save money since you won’t buy ingredients you don’t need.
  1. Add Muscle to Your Cooking Skills. You don’t have to be a professionally trained chef to make good, wholesome meals that taste great! Home-cooked meals don’t have to be complicated, and they definitely don’t have to take up a lot of time. Cooking is a skill so take some time to learn a basic skill or two (lots of good shows on Food TV, PBS, etc.) and don’t strive for perfection – just to be better. Just like training muscles, the exercises will get a little easier over time.
  1. Start With a Base for the Week. Preparing a different meal for each day of the week can be daunting. An easy technique to help you get through the week is to pick a recipe or item you can use a few times during the week. An example could be a roasted chicken. Make a dinner out of it one night with healthy sides then use the rest of it throughout the week for smaller meals, with salads, etc.
  1. Use Your Freezer Better. Frozen foods are convenient but they are also laden with processed and subpar ingredients. Create your own frozen meals by cooking large batches of freezer-friendly dishes and freezing them in single-serving containers. Homemade frozen foods are as good for you as homemade fresh foods, because few nutrients are lost in the freezing process.
  1. Make It Sounds ridiculous but it’s not when you consider the statistics that show a parallel growth between the nation’s increasing waistline and the decrease of the family sit-down dinner. Setting the table, designating a dinner time (free of electronics), forces you to pay attention to what you are eating rather than the mindless shoveling dinner sometimes becomes. If you eat alone, find someone to share the meal time with if not for anything to support you to keep on track with your goals.

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

 

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

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?
Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout
Day 9 – The Truth About Lactic Acid

 

My 7 Hard Truths About Exercise

hans-and-franz-snl-dana-carvey-and-kevin-nealon-pump-you-upThere is without a doubt no single thing in this world that you can do with your body that is good for you and has the greatest return on investment then exercise. Now, we could all debate what some of the other answers may be but bottom line is, when you read about one of the best things to do for a particular condition, ailment, or illness you will most certainly see exercise as one of the solutions. Does that make exercise the ultimate solution for fixing everything? Of course not, but somewhere along the way people have different opinions about what is good and what is not good for them regarding exercise leading them to do too much or worse, nothing at all. At its root, exercise is nothing more than getting physical activity that was once a part of everyday living prior to industrialization. Today we have plenty of options from which to choose to get exercise but that still doesn’t get enough people moving. Is it hard? It can be but it doesn’t have to be either. It’s what you make it and want it to be. However, there are some hard truths to understand, respect, and appreciate about exercise and failure to do so will leave exercise out of your life as opposed to a part of it.

Not All Exercise is Designed With the Same Result in Mind. Getting in shape seems simple enough: You exercise, keep at it and at some point you see results. But not everything happens as you may expect. You cannot do all the cardio in the world and expect a ripped, lean physique. You cannot just simply lift weights and look like a super hero. You cannot do yoga and just expect to be Gumby. Doing whatever you enjoy is the most important thing; just don’t expect unrealistic results from completely misguided means.

You May Not See Results for a While. Despite all the ads, books, and programs that promise quick, guaranteed results there could be nothing farther from the truth. Results vary from person to person and are dependent on numerous factors. Positive changes happen immediately to your body when you start working out, but they’re mostly on the neuromuscular level where your nervous system adjusts to the new demands placed on it. It takes six to eight weeks before changes become visible. There are no magic plans, pills, or potions to accelerate what nature has already designed to occur: acquire and adapt.

You Cannot Out-Exercise a Poor Diet. This is a hard one for many to accept. It happens every year the day after Thanksgiving where the masses workout longer and harder than they would any other day of the year to erase the quantity of calories consumed the previous day. Nope. Or they “treat” themselves to a bigger dinner or lunch because they had an awesome workout that day. Getting the benefit from exercise and weight loss are not as linear as one would hope. And throw away the notion that something is better than nothing and see how long that mentality benefits you.

Sweat is an Invalid Indicator of Exercise Intensity. Put two people on the same workout plan and one may sweat profusely and the other may barely glisten, though both may be working out as intensely. Furthermore, change the air temperature or humidity and you can have a much different sweat response from the same activity under different conditions. Genetics and fitness levels play a role too as some people just have overly efficient or greatly inefficient sweat mechanisms and very fit people tend to sweat faster because they’re able to hit higher workout intensities sooner.

Taking Time Off is Just as Important as Staying Active

There’s a difference between taking time off and just not exercising. Your body needs recovery time — pushing yourself every day can result in injury or diminishing returns. The body actually makes improvements during the time in which the body is recovering. Proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration can all impact results. The workout becomes the catalyst; the real gains are made in the recovery time. Listen to your body.

Understand, Appreciate, and Expect Some Muscle Soreness

It’s tempting to go all out when you’re first starting a new workout, but you’re better off progressing gradually. A new exercise or program will most likely make your muscles sore, especially if you’re new to the game. That soreness may go beyond the first 24 hours and get worse as much as two days later. DOMS, short for delayed onset muscle soreness, is believed to occur as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise, not an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle fibers. Furthermore, muscle soreness is not an indicator of the effectiveness of a workout either so don’t score your workouts based on the level of soreness they inflict.

Exercise is Not Meant to be Glamourous

This is not to say that whatever exercise you choose needs to be reminiscent of gym class back in school or like military boot camp. It does however need the level of focus and resolve that any important task you do deserves. Most treat exercise as an extracurricular activity that occurs when it conveniently fits into their schedule. The exact opposite must occur. Exercise needs to be a rule in the daily mix – not an exception. And sure it’s nice to wear the latest and hottest gear but if you’re putting more value into how you look during your workouts rather than how much umph you’re putting into your workouts, it’s going to be a very long journey.

What’s Old is New Again

There’s nothing magical or fancy about most exercise programs today. They’re more or less different wrappings for the same product. Yes, we know more then we did 10, 20, 30 years ago but the basics are the same. Keep moving with conviction, passion, purpose, consistency, and progression and you can do no wrong.

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

The Biggest Mistake You’re Probably Making When It Comes to Weight Loss

1350522522-frustratedThe universal advice to lose weight has always been to eat less and move more. In general, it’s simple, straight forward advice based on the first law of thermodynamics. To lose weight, one simply needs to consume fewer calories than they expend. It’s the advice that has sold millions on weight loss plans, programs diets, books, etc. and is still the number one reason why people say they workout. But if it really was that simple, why is that we face a nation of expanding waistlines yet have more tools at our disposal to keep our eating in check and our activity plentiful?

Weight Loss is Not Linear

In theory, it makes perfect sense that if we eat less (calories) than we burn we should tap into our calorie stores (fat) to make up the energy deficit. Then there’s the generic advice that if you successfully are at a net loss of 500 calories of day that after seven days (3500 calories) you would be down one pound of fat. (1 lb. fat = 3500 calories). On paper, that looks and sounds great! That is until you consider what would happen if you successfully continued at that rate for 1 year (52 weeks = 182,000 calories = 52 lbs.); 2 years – 104 lbs.; 3 years – 156 lbs.; and so forth. At some point, there would be nothing left to lose. Is it as simple as just decreasing the calories until you reach your desired or recommended weight or is there something much larger (no pun intended) to consider?

Know Thy Metabolism

People talk about metabolism like they understand it as well as they do their favorite Netflix show. You’ll hear things like, “Oh, she just has a high metabolism” when referring to someone who appears they can eat whatever they want and not gain any weight, or “I have a slow metabolism.” when justifying why they can’t eat whatever they want or they would gain weight. STOP! I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of how a car works when you step on the gas. I do know however that a car without gas or inefficiently tuned isn’t going to go very far. Calories are a representation of the amount of fuel we bring in and your metabolism is simply the sum of the amount of energy (calories) your body needs and/or consumes to keep the engine running.  What most don’t understand or appreciate is that there is an amount of energy your body needs and whether those needs are met or not, the body will do what it must to protect itself and survive despite what you think is the right thing.

Survival of the Fittest

It’s no secret. If you cut calories you will lose weight…initially. Why? Without getting into a fat vs water weight debate, the body is adjusting to a new stimulus like it’s supposed to. Thousands of years have still yet to change the human genome. There’s little scientific data to support how long that adjustment window is but I’m sure most who have ever dieted over and over again will tell you it can be anywhere from four to ten weeks, otherwise known as the “plateau” or end of the weight loss.  Hence the cycle begins of gaining weight back, cutting calories again, gaining weight back, cutting calories again, etc., etc., etc. What gives? Is this Mother Nature’s little joke? No. It’s her way of telling you, “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, and I’m going to do what I need to do.” Your energy requirement (calories) decreases as a result of your total energy (metabolism) decreasing. Shouldn’t that result in a greater weight loss? Initially, yes but as the energy demands of the body decrease, so too does the amount of energy needed to be ingested. The net result is a body that is striving to do its part to sustain and survive at all costs by slowing down bodily functions, decreasing lean tissue mass, leaching minerals from various parts of the body, while simultaneously storing any extra energy (calories) brought in to save for a rainy day.

Remove the Blindfold

When it comes to watching calories, most will assign themselves an arbitrary number such as 1,200 calories or 1,800 calories with no idea at all what those numbers mean for them. They assume that less is better and that even less must be even better. In reality the “less” is what actually may be thwarting their current and future efforts. It’s no secret. A great way to play the weight loss game is to hop from one diet to the next; small victories at times but failure in the long run. There is no winner. The only solution is to lead a lifestyle that is not only healthy and sustainable, but that is unique to you. That has to start from knowing some numbers. The BMR, basal metabolic rate, represents the amount of calories your body needs to just operate, nothing else. You can get an estimate here. That number doesn’t represent the number of calories you need; that’s just to get the engine running. The other number to know is your DCE, daily caloric expenditure. There are many nifty ways both on-line and various fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal to determine that number, which is representative of the total amount of calories you burn throughout the day – plus the BMR. That includes getting out of bed, household chores, going to work, etc., and of course exercise which can have a huge impact on the number. This number doesn’t represent the ceiling of the number of calories you can ingest. It not only represents the potential total energy you require but where you can have the greatest impact on how your body uses or stores energy. Expend more energy and you will see positive results so long as the BMR is being met. But there’s still a catch.

Success is a Badge of Consistency

Successful weight loss as stated earlier is not a linear process and as the body physically adapts, so too must you. That means, those numbers, BMR and DCE, will change throughout a year based on certain circumstances, such as activity level and/or how consistent you effectively reach the body’s energy demands. If your pattern of providing at least the bare amount of energy (BMR) is met haphazardly there will be a decline in its value. If you’re DCE drops or is here and there with activity, it too will drop. If either one drops and there is an overload a calorie surplus, you gain weight.

The main point here is this. Weight loss is not the result of fast or slow metabolisms. It is a result of what you created – a body that has become efficient at storing calories. Weight loss is not an easy task but and one that is fraught with tons of gimmicks, props, pills, shakes, and plain ol’ misinformation. It’s not just as easy as eating less and moving more; it is a balance. You can and are fully capable of making your body a machine that uses and stores fuel efficiently. All that’s required is a little patience and consistency.

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