Friday, September 24, 2010

Stick with it to stop the dreaded holiday weight gain before it starts

It is never too early to begin planning your strategy to stay healthy over the holidays, or as I lovingly call them, The Weight Gain Months. Candy-filled Halloween is just around the corner (the candy has been highlighted in stores for almost a month now!!) and Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Years and so on will be here before we know it. Plus, now that it’s starting to cool off, food becomes less light and more hearty…think chili, casseroles and other warm and rich food. That, along with our busy back-to-school and then holiday schedules can sometimes make exercise less of a priority. So more food, richer food and not enough exercise really is just a big ol’ recipe for disaster. But not to worry, you don’t have to finish out 2010 with a belly Santa would be proud of; just have a plan.

  1. Be assertive. No means NO people. So when someone offers you a second slice of pie or helping of buttery mashed potatoes, say “no thank you, it was delicious” and then stick to your no-guns! The "no-guns" also work when saying no to the Halloween candy bowl at the office.
  2. No excuses. “But it’s the holidays” is not a good excuse for throwing out everything you know about eating healthy. Just because you can eat a dump truck load of cookies, drowned a pot of chilli or drink a lake full of eggnog, doesn’t mean you should. Think about how overeating junk will make you feel a few hours later and about all the hard work that will disappear because of a month or three of binging.
  3. No excuses part deux. “It’s the holidays and I’m too stressed and busy to workout,” is possibly the lamest excuse ever for not working out (check out other worthless excuses that should never come out of your mouth by clicking here). Exercising reduces stress, helps us to think more clearly, banishes irritability and so forth…plus, it burns calories that we inevitable consume more of during this time of year. Just do it…even if it’s 20 minutes a day…get your body in gear. Want to shave off the time driving to and from the gym? Try this quick and very effective workout at home.
  4. Split it up. Because your time is valuable, split up your workout routine into 10 minute sessions throughout your day…you’ll get the same result, but wont need to find an entire 30 minuntes to and hour at a time.
  5. Don’t go hungry. A great tactic to ensure that you don’t overeat at big meals or parties is to not go to them hungry. Eat a light but satisfying snack before you go. A half turkey sandwich on whole grain, veggies and hummus or a protein shake should do the trick. This also works in every-day a small meal or snack every three hours so that you don't end up eating a ton of food out of starvation.
  6. Exercise portion control. Thanksgiving, Holiday parties and your kitchen should never be viewed as all you can eat buffets. Fill up on fresh or steamed veggies, lots of fruits and a small amount of meat and side dishes. Make it your goal to have one plate of food per meal…half of it being fruits and veggies.
  7. Say “bye-bye” to leftovers. Send the fatty and high calorie leftovers off with your guests, put them on festive plates and deliver them to your neighbors, take them to the office or “gasp!” throw it away (this is a great option for your extra Halloween candy). Whatever you do, try not to leave them in your house for you to snack on day and night.

Armed with these tips, you are ready to go to holiday parties, family get togethers, Thanksgiving dinner and wherever else the next few months of 2010 take you. Remember, it’s okay to indulge every once in a while, just don’t make it a habit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Five Exercise Excuses BUSTED!

We have all had our battles with the ominous, and sometimes very convincing, exercise excuse as to why we can’t get our bodies moving. But let’s face it…most of them are super lame (notes from your doctor and emergencies excused). Check out these all too common excuses and why they shouldn’t cross your lips…or your mind…ever again.

1. I’m too tired to work out.

Being “too tired” or tired at all is a reason TO exercise! Exercise has been shown to boost energy levels for up to two full hours after the work is done. Plus, as soon as you start to get your body moving, you get your blood flowing and heart rate up which makes it almost impossible to be sleepy. Next time you are feeling the need for a nap instead of heading to a workout, try the workout first, and then see if you’re still sleepy…bet you wont be!

2. I’m too busy to work out.

Let me translate this excuse: “Exercise is not a priority in my life.” Let’s call a spade a spade, people. If you have time to watch TV, sit around at your kid’s soccer practice, wait for the cable guy, etc, you totally are not too busy to exercise. You don’t have to get to the gym for a great workout. Try one of these easy-to-do workouts that you can do virtually anywhere.

Also, studies have shown that people who get up and work out before their day begins have a higher chance of sticking to a workout than those who workout at other times during the day…so set your alarm 30 minutes early and do a body good!

3. I’m too sore from yesterday’s work out to work out.

Sounds like you got a great workout in that really challenged your muscles…hurray! But if you don’t move your body when you are sore, you will become more sore. In fact, a study done at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has shown that those who do a light work out the day after a hard workout experience less soreness. So get off the couch and get those sore muscles moving!

4. I never see the results that I’m looking for, so why bother working out?

If this is your go-to excuse, we should probably take a good hard look at your expectations. For instance, if you are a 5’4” woman who is expecting her body to transform into a runway model’s body, then of course you will never reach your “goal.” Exercise should make you look and feel YOUR best. So don’t compare yourself to others.

Also, if you expected to work hard in the gym for 2 weeks and drop 20 lbs, that is also not a realistic goal. Looking and feeling your best requires a commitment to your body through exercise and eating right.

Lastly, let’s remember that exercise is not just about looking good; it’s about what you are doing for your body in both the short and long term. The benefits of exercise are vast and include the following important internal results that you won’t be able to see on your frame:

    • Regular exercise prevents chronic disease such as heart disease and osteoporosis
    • Exercise helps lower high cholesterol and blood pressure
    • Exercise can prevent type-2 diabetes
    • Exercise promotes better sleep

5. I’m too stressed and not in the mood to work out.

Lame! Exercise has been proven time and time again to help decrease stress and improve mood. Physical activity causes the brain to release various “feel-good” chemicals that leave you feeling more relaxed and happier than when you began your exercise. Exercise can also help prevent depression…so get that body moving to be a less stressed and happier you!

So next time you are too [insert your excuse here] to exercise, get over it and get your body moving!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eat your veggies for good health!

You know that eating healthy includes eating fresh veggies. But sometimes just because you know you should do something, doesn’t make it easy to do. You want to get at least 5 half cup servings of veggies a day.

Why eat your veggies? Check out these very compelling reasons for loading up your plate and snack drawer with things that grow in the ground.

  • Vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to operate. Plus they are a great source of fiber! Studies show that those who eat a diet rich in fresh produce have a lower incidence of disease such as cancer, cardiovascular issues and stroke.
  • Eating fresh veggies can help you control your weight. Vegetables are naturally low in calories and most are virtually fat free. So eat them first thing at a meal to eat less calories overall.
  • Eating veggies will make you feel good. When you eat whole foods (unprocessed food), your body responds well, your skin glows and your systems work like they should.

5 servings of vegetables might seem like a hard pill to swallow or get into your schedule. But it’s actually very easy if you make sure to have a serving at every meal and snack. Here are a few simple ways to get your daily quota without blinking an eye.

  • Breakfast:
    • Throw some peppers, zucchini and broccoli in your morning omelet
    • Make a tasty smoothie with a bunch of baby spinach, your favorite fruit and low fat yogurt (you wont even be able to taste the spinach…I promise)
  • Lunch:
    • Top your sandwich with actual veggies (forget the sad piece of lettuce and tiny sliced tomatoes…they don’t count). Add cucumbers, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, etc.
    • Hit the salad bar and load up with all colors of pre-cut vegetables including dark leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, cabbage, you get the picture…lots of veggies.
  • Dinner:
    • Load your spaghetti sauce (or any sauce for that matter) with tons of veggies. My favorites are broccoli, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms.
    • Make stir fry with lean meat and lots of veggies such as cabage, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms and celery.
    • Steam your favorite veggie and have it on the side...have lots on the side.
    • Eat a side salad before dinner to eat less
    • Make an old school vegetable soup with lots of chunky veggies and for some “umph” add some potatoes.
  • Snacks:
    • When you go to the salad bar for a salad, get lots of pre-cut veggies for to much on when you get hungry
    • Make sure to have cut up carrots, broccoli, peppers, celery, jicama, etc for crunching and dipping in low fat protein packed dips like hummus.
    • Steam a bag of veggies (frozen veggies are just like fresh…as long as they aren’t in sauce)

So what counts as half a cup? Besides the obvious measuring technique, keep these easy to remember tips close at hand:

· 5 broccoli florets

· 6 baby carrots

· 1 large handful of raw greens (spinach, lettuce, cabbage)

· 1 large stalk of celery

· ½ large ear of corn

· 6 bell pepper strips

Friday, September 3, 2010

Five Fitness Myths Debunked!

1. Doing tons of crunches and other abdominal exercises create a flat stomach.

Although doing stomach exercises can strengthen and build ab muscles, you can not get rid of abdominal fat simply by crunching away. There is no way to “spot train” a certain body part. A combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and diet is needed for ripped or flat abs.

2. Running on a treadmill is better for your knees than running on pavement.

It doesn’t make much difference on what surface you run. What makes a difference is the impact of your body weight on your joints. The key to having healthy knees is cross-training (doing different activities other than just running). When you add swimming, biking, elliptical training and other exercises, you reduce the impact on your knees and strengthen different muscles in your legs.

Sweating more means that you are working harder during your workout.

Sweating is simply the body trying to cool itself off. Therefore, if you are exercising in a cool and dry environment, you may not sweat as much even though you are working at the same intensity as when you are exercising in hot and humid conditions.

You are more prone to injury when you work out than if you don’t.

Building strong muscles and a strong heart, not to mention balance and coordination, are great ways to decrease your chances of injury from a fall or pulled muscle. That being said, make sure that you are using correct form when you exercise. If you’re unsure of your form, talk to fitness professional.

You should stretch before working out to “loosen up.”

Though stretching is important, you will not be able to lengthen your muscles or increase your range of motion by stretching before cold muscles before a workout. In fact, you might be putting yourself at risk for injury because the muscles become unstable. So stretch after you finish your workout!