Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Morning Workout EVERYONE Can Do

As many of you know, I'm doing P90X right now (just started week 6!), which generally takes about an hour and fifteen minutes each day, but I'm also only working part-time and don't have a family of my own to take care of.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very, very busy and have simply had to make working out a priority.  Sometimes that means turning down a trip to the mall with my girlfriends, but if I want results, I have to put it in the time.  I can always reschedule with friends, but I'll never get a day back that I didn't work out--a day that pushed me farther from my fitness goals.

So, maybe you don't have an hour a day, or you're new to fitness and not ready for something as rigorous as P90X, but if you really, truly want to transform for your body, you can start by adding a brief workout like this one each morning.  This looks like a great way to get started and after a month or so of doing this, I bet you'll want to do more challenging exercises and spend more time each day dedicated to working out.  Once you start seeing the results--body transformation, increased energy, stronger muscles, etc--you'll realize that you actually have more time than you think.

Give it a shot:


Thursday, February 23, 2012

MPD: Fight

Motivational Picture of the Day

I don't usually make this blog about being "skinny" and I try not to focus on weight loss, but rather I try put the emphasis on health and fitness, but this quote really made me think.  What do you think?  Is it true?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My New Favorite Fit and Healthy Lunch: Portobello Avocado Sandwich

This is a meal I pretty much made up myself, but it's becoming my favorite healthy lunch.  It's vegetarian, yet still has plenty of protein (thanks to the Ezekila bun, avocado and the portobello mushroom).

(this is a generic photo, not the one I actually make)
On one Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Grain Hamburger Bun Put the Following:
  • One large, grilled portobello mushroom cap (I use my Cuisineart Griddler, which is like a George Forman, until it is pretty black, making it easier to bite off without getting stringy.  I cook it on a very small amount of olive oil and I add a dash of salt on top of the mushroom cap)
  • One slice of red onion
  • One slice of tomato
  • 4 slices of cucumber
  • 1/5 avocado with some lime juice on it
  • A few pieces of fresh spinach (or lettuce)
  • Spicy Brown mustard (or whatever spread you like)
On the side, I have one half of a baked sweet potato or yam (no salt or butter needed!).  



Here's the nutritional breakdown for the whole meal (based on information from Livestrong.com)

Calories: 311
Fat: 4.5g
Protein: 12.67g
Carbohydrates: 57.2g
Fiber: 11.9

Some other things that might be good on the sandwich (but not ALL of them at the same time!):

  • Sprouts
  • Shredded carrots
  • Reduced Fat cream cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • What else would you put on yours?

MPD: Sweat!

Motivational Picture of the Day:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be A Fit and Healthy Weekend Warrior

Happy Monday everyone!  If you're like many people, Monday is often a day to "get back on the wagon."  I usually give myself a little more freedom on the weekends in terms of food choices, but I know I used to have a really hard time not overdoing it.



Here are some tips that helped me conquer the weekend binge fest:

  1. Do Your Grocery Shopping on Thursday.  Of course, Thursday may not be a good day for you, but you might want to try to do your grocery shopping as close to the weekend as possible; that way you are sure to have a  fridge and pantry fully stocked with healthy treats for the weekend.  Late night binges on take-out or delivery are often caused by the feeling of "there's nothing to eat."  Prevent it by stocking up on healthy snacks and meals.
  2. Do Your Homework.  One of the hardest parts about overeating on the weekends is that we are more likely to dine out on the weekends.  Before heading to a restaurant, check the menu online and decide on what the most healthful option for you would be.  Don't forget to calculate in alcoholic beverages if you choose to have any (I recommend skipping them and really enjoying the meal).  You may also want to figure out ahead of time how you can get your meal modified to suit your dietary goals.  I never hesitate or feel bad about requesting a side salad instead of fries or asking that the chef hold the oil/butter, bacon bits, egg yolks, etc.  As long as you are polite, the waiter and kitchen staff should not have a problem with this.  Don't be embarrassed or feel guilty about getting what you know you want and deserve.
  3. Plan Ahead.  I often do this during the week, but during the weekend it's even more crucial.  Now that you know what you'll be having for dinner because you did your research on the restaurant, might as well figure out what you'll be eating for the rest of the weekend, too.  In the morning (or even the night before), write down what you plan to eat and how many calories it will be.  This decreases your risk of grabbing something without thinking first.  As the day goes on, plans may change and you may have to make alterations to your menu, but you'll still be prepared for the majority of the day.
  4. Don't Sleep In Too Late.  We all love to sleep in a little on the weekends, but sleeping in too late and skipping breakfast can really throw off your whole day.  Make sure you get up and have a healthful, balanced breakfast (preferably the same breakfast you normally have or something similar) and stick to your normal eating times.
  5. Work out!  Many people say it's harder to be motivated to workout on the weekends, and I can definitely relate.  You'd think having more time would make it easier, but for whatever reason it doesn't.  Some ways to stay accountable with your workouts on the weekends are: make plans with a workout buddy to meet up at a certain time to workout, workout earlier in the day so that you don't keep putting it off until it just doesn't happen, and save that especially fun workout that you look forward to for the weekend that way you don't dread your workout.  By working out, if you do eat more on the weekends or eat less healthfully, you're guaranteeing that you burn it off (or at least some of it).
You may still "fail."  A lot of well-meaning people will tell you, "Don't worry about it!  Tomorrow is a new day!"  While it's important not to beat yourself up about it, make a mental note of that feeling of remorse and regret.  Really feel what that is like to know that you genuinely want so badly to do better.  Sitting with the disappointment for a while will actually prevent you from making the same mistakes again.  For me, sometimes the only way I can seem to make a positive change is when not changing becomes so painful and disappointing that I simply can't stand it anymore!  Please forgive yourself for your poor choices, but don't let yourself off the hook for next time either.



I hope this helps!  Do you have any other tips for staying healthy on the weekends?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Get Your Superbowl Healthy Snack Game Plan

Personally, I plan on treating myself to a few indulgences tomorrow during the big game.  I've been very healthy all week--I even lost two pounds--so I feel very deserving of a treat or two.  However, it's always good to have a few healthy options in your game plan.  And what better way to ensure you stay healthy than to prepare the healthy food yourself.  I enjoy going to family gatherings and taking on the roll of bringing the healthy dishes or snacks--it's fun to surprise people after they're raving over my recipes by saying, "I'm glad you like it--it's also fat free."  Ah, the look on people's faces when they learn that being healthy can be tasty is priceless.

I dug up a few healthy super bowl snack recipes for my readers (who are growing in numbers--thanks guys!!):

  1. Multi-Bean Chili, from Eating Well magazine, is a delicious vegan dish, that even your meat eating friends will love.  Only 294 calories per serving and packed with 16 grams of protein.
  2. Smoky Corn Black Bean Pizza, is also from Eating Well magazine, and although it's not vegan, it's sure to be a hit.  A little bit higher on the calorie side, but with 14 grams of protein it's worth it if your a vegetarian like I am, and not about to dive into the buffalo wings.
  3. Spiced Pecans, from TasteofHome.com, are quick and easy to make and only 106 calories for a quarter cup.
  4. Warm Spinach Artichoke Dip, from the Huffington Post, is a great appetizer (not that you really eat anything other than appetizers during the super bowl) that's only 59 calories!  Chips and dip are my weakness, but with this dip, I wouldn't feel quite as weak.
  5. Zucchini Fries, also from the Huffington Post, are one healthy snack I cannot wait to try.  Get this: 181 calories for ELEVEN fries!  Not to mention the boost of Vitamin C!
  6. Baby Portobello, Avocado, and Asparagus Sliders, from Food.com, weren't advertised as necessarily healthy, but just look at the ingredients!  I'm on a big mushroom kick (a high protein alternative to meat), and these are yet another vegetarian (or vegan if you leave out the cheese) dish even carnivores will love.
  7. Mini Turkey Burgers, from Health.com, will satisfy the meat-lovers yearning for burgers.  When I used to eat poultry, I swore turkey burgers tasted just like hamburgers, and for 169 calories each, any difference you can taste is worth it!
  8. Calico Corn Salsa, from TasteofHome.com, is aligned with an old weight watchers slogan my mom used to say, "Your plate should be colorful," and this dip is just that!  High in fiber and only 107 calories for half a cup.
  9. Fudgy Chocolate Brownies, also from Health.com, made the impossible (guilt-free brownies) possible!  With only 132 calories each, who could resist!  All thanks to unsweetened cocoa.
  10. Peppered Peanut Brittle sounds like an interesting one considering the added ingredient of pepper!  Not to mention, this little desert is only 105 calories!
What are you planning to make on game day?  Any tips for resisting unhealthy urges?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

12 Tips for: "I'm doing everything right, and still not losing weight"

I've been checking out the message boards at MyFitnessPal.com (if you're not a member and don't have the app, do that now), and there is a common theme throughout the boards, which is people crying, "HELP!  I CAN'T LOSE WEIGHT!"  My heart goes out to people who have this perceived problem because I think this notion contributes to so many people throwing up their hands and returning to their former poor eating habits.  I sometimes get frustrated when I look at these people's food diaries and want to fire back (out of love, of course), "No duh you're not losing weight!  Look at what you're eating!"  But I know that isn't much help and is never well received.



The common problem I see is that people are too focused on the calories-in-calories-out philosophy.  Mathematically that all sounds well and good.  People have learned that you have to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound, so if you create a 500 calorie deficit each day, you should be able to lose a pound a week, more if you exercise.  And there exist innumerable other formulas people have used to calculate exactly how many calories they should eat in order to lose weight.  However, weight loss is so much more than that!  Your body is smarter than any mathematical formula!  Your body's main purpose is to adapt.  So when you cut out 500 calories a day, you may lose a few pounds at first, but eventually your body adapts to the new low-cal diet, generally through slowing down the metabolism--NOT what you want.



Don't get me wrong--if you need to lose weight, you should consider a 500 calorie deficit per day; however, if you want to continuously lose weight and keep it off, it's going to take more than just that.  Here are some tips to combat the common mistakes I see people making:

  1. No more "diet" foods.  I had to stop looking at the labels on the front of packaged foods.  Things that say "Reduced fat" or "High in fiber" etc, etc only say those things for the sole purpose of making money--not to actually inform you of how nutritious the food is.  The very first thing I look at are the ingredients and I make sure that there are no or very few chemically altered ingredients (and if they are they are one of the last ingredients listed), especially no high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.  I make sure the first ingredients are plant-based.  When there is only one or two plant-based ingredients, I am especially satisfied.  Then, and only then, do I look at the "Nutrition Facts."  And before looking at how many calories, fat, carbs, sugar, etc, I check the serving size to get a sense of how much actual food we're talking about.  The biggest problem with "diet foods" is those pesky artificial sweeteners.  These foods encourage cravings because they give your mind a sense of satisfaction, but not your body.  If I'm craving something sweet, it is my body's way of telling me that I need glucose, and it prefers to obtain it from fruits.  We'll talk about what to do if you want to treat yourself later down the list.
  2. No more (or very few) chemically altered foods.  This goes back to what I was just saying, but it cannot be understated.  Chemically altered foods sabotage any diet.  They make the brain think you're eating a highly nutritious food because of their rich taste, but your body doesn't process it as such.  These foods are linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.  The way I eliminated chemically altered foods from my daily intake was by simply not purchasing them.  You would not believe how amazing I feel when I eat a mostly whole foods diet.  I have energy and I just feel full of life.  I feel more patient and positive, and I just seem to handle stress better.  That's because my body is getting exactly what it needs--real food.  (note: a lot of people say you shouldn't eat "processed" foods, but I find that next to impossible for my lifestyle.  Think about it: all natural peanut butter, whose only ingredient is organic blanched peanuts, is not chemically altered; however, it is considered processed since those peanuts had to be processed to be turned into peanut butter)
  3. Limit (or completely eliminate) refined sugar and white flour.  This advice comes solely from personal experience.  There is a ton of research out there that suggests why eliminating refined white sugar and white flour is good for you, but to be honest, the best thing I can say about it is that doing so made me feel fantastic. You decide how these ingredients affect you--some people seem to have more of a tolerance than others.  For me, refined sugar contributes to cravings and white flour to fatigue and general sluggishness, as well as a low level of depression.  I now put a little bit of honey in my oatmeal when I want to sweeten it and I opt for deserts and snacks sweetened with honey as well.  The white flour is a little bit trickier to avoid, but Ezekial bread is something I highly recommend as opposed to white bread or even most packaged breads that claim to be "whole grain" because they rarely are.  Ezekial bread is made of sprouted whole grains.
  4. Eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.  One person on the My Fitness Pal message boards was very distraught about not losing weight even though she was under her recommended calorie limit.  When I looked at her food diary, I was amazed that she was trying to lose weight without eating any or barely any fruits and vegetables on most days!  In order to get enough fruits and vegetables, I make sure that I have at least one (preferably more) with each meal--including snacks.  So with my morning "Breakfast of Healthy, Fit Champions" I always have berries in my oats.  For my mid-morning snack I usually have a fruit with my spirulina protein shake.  For lunch I often have a salad or vegetable soup, but if not I make sure I have some side of veggies, and I'll usually have a fruit with lunch as well.  For my mid-afternoon snack, I often enjoy raw veggies with two tablespoons of almond butter. And I always have a side of vegetables, usually steamed, with dinner.
  5. Eat all day long.  I try to eat something nutritious ever 2-3 hours.  This keeps my metabolism at top speed and prevents me from getting too hungry and overeating.  It also prevents cravings for unhealthy foods.  Not to mention, this is how I make sure I'm eating enough.  Creating calorie deficit that is too high can actually be counterproductive to weight loss because it slows down your metabolism.  I stick with my recommended number of calories, never going more than 100 calories over or below.
  6. Drink water all day long.  I always have water on hand.  I have a liter-sized water bottle with me that I take EVERYWHERE.  Usually it's just good old fashioned water, but sometimes I add slices of cucumbers and spearmint leaves for a refreshing flavor (although I don't recommend drinking that all day long, as the cucumbers will make you bloated) or just a spritz of lemon, lime, or orange.  I highly recommend completely eliminating soda of all kinds, as well as steering clear of flavored waters or low-calorie powders that can be added to water for taste (see rule #2).  
  7. Sleep 7-8 hours a night during consistent times.  Getting enough, consistent sleep each night prevents cravings during the day as well as a sluggish metabolism.  Not to mention, not getting enough sleep is counterproductive to workouts, especially rigorous workouts, as you need optimum energy for your workouts to be effective and in order to prevent injuries.
  8. Eat generally the same things from day to day.  My daily intake of food is very predictable.  This has nothing to do with the chemistry of your body or metabolism, it's simply because it makes it easier to stay on track.  So many fad diets advertise "variety," but variety can take the fun out of health and turn it into work.  When I find nutritious foods I enjoy, I tend to know their serving size, nutrition info, ingredients, etc by heart.  Not changing it up too much takes all the guesswork and calorie counting out.  I'm NOT saying eat the exact same thing every day forever, but have a few staple meals and snacks and stick with them.  When I get bored of those foods and find I'm no longer looking forward to eating them, then by all means I switch them out for a new food and come back to that one later.
  9. Exercise 5-6 times a week and vary your workouts.  Regular exercise should be a no-brainer when it comes to weight loss and general health (although it wasn't for me).  But some people don't do it enough or even do it too much--I give myself at least one rest day each week (I sometimes do light stretching on rest days but no strength training or cardiovascular exercise).  Also, unlike my diet, I vary my exercise.  One of the main reasons I used to think that working out wasn't effective was because I'd go to the gym and do the same things every day.  Now, I do strength training three days a week on alternating days, only focusing on one or two muscle groups a day, and I do a variety of cardiovascular workouts three days a week on alternating days.  Every four weeks or so I change up the nature of my workouts, which is called "muscle confusion" strength training.  To learn more research High Intensity Interval Training (often referred to as HIIT) as well as muscle confusion strength training.
  10. Fail.  When it comes to working out--I often aim to fail.  I know that sounds crazy, but I've found that I need to get to the point when my muscles are so fatigued that I literally cannot do another push-up or run any farther.  This means that I have to make my workouts slightly more challenging as time goes on (remember the body is constantly trying to adapt).  When I do strength training, I keep a mental log of how many reps I do and how much weight I lift (most people write it down though), and I'm ever vigilant that I'm constantly improving and making my workout more challenging.  When it comes to weight training, you should not wait to hit "muscle failure" in order to stop lifting, but with exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges etc, I honestly think there is no sense counting your reps--just keep going until you can't go any more.  I'm not, I repeat: I AM NOT, saying work yourself into the ground until you've injured yourself or over-trained, but you know the feeling you get after you've done X amount of push-ups and your muscles will simply not allow you to do another one?  When I have that feeling of muscle failure, I know I've done enough reps.  When I'm in a kickboxing class or doing plyometrics or running on the elliptical trainer, I'm constantly asking myself "Could I be doing more?"  If the answer is yes, I have to increase my level of intensity.  If the answer is "No, I can't go any harder," than I'm exactly where I should be in terms of intensity and should try to maintain that.  If my answer is "I have to stop, I'm in real pain," then I should have stopped earlier.  Learn the difference between "This is too hard, I want to stop" and "I've worked at my maximum for as long as I safely can, it's time to stop."  
  11. Allow yourself treats, but not cheats.  This is my own personal motto.  A treat is something I can afford.  If I've calculated the non-dairy, sugarless ice cream into my day, it's a treat.  I'm going to enjoy every bite, knowing that I have room for it nutrition-wise.  A cheat is an unexpected decision I made, without really considering whether or not it was a nutritious choice, and I feel guilty after eating it.  If you're going to a birthday party, by all means have a piece of cake!  It's a celebration!  But on the day of the party, when you're considering what to eat beforehand--keep in mind that you'll likely have cake later.  This eliminates guilt and the possibility of overeating.
  12. Make your goal more about health and less about weight.  It's perfectly fine to want to lose weight and for some people it's necessary for their health, but when I used to focus all of my efforts on weight loss, I'd fall back into the calories-in-calories-out philosophy.  Once my main purpose became choosing healthy foods over non-healthy foods, losing weight was just an added bonus.


In writing this post, I did not really research these tips--I stand by them because they worked for me.  I learned about them through the success of others as well as my own success.  I also highly recommend Tosca Reno's book, The Eat Clean Diet, in which she really spells out much of this better than I do.  Remember: It takes 21 days to create a habit (make it 30 to be safe), so in the beginning it's going to be tough, but in just 3 weeks, you'll be so accustomed to these habits that they will be as natural as brushing your teeth each day.  

Good luck and be well!