10 Ideas To Spring Into Action

I can’t wait to get outside after this looong winter!  The sun is finally shining, I hear the birds again and the snow is slowly melting!  It’s a great time to change up my workout and get outside. So here are my top ten ideas for taking things up a notch for this season:

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1.  Get yourself some new kicks!  Sneakers only last about 4-6 months.  If you can’t remember when you bought your sneakers, it’s probably time for new ones! I love the feeling of lacing up some new colorful sneakers and feeling cushiony new socks (I love my Thorlo’s!) under my feet.  It literally puts spring in my step!

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2.  Commit to an upcoming event.  Look around for a local 5K walk or run.  Maybe a Mudderella or Warrior Dash!  Having that deadline will give you a goal to strive towards.  Okay, you don’t have to get as muddy as we were, but you get the idea!

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3.  Get a friend or family member to exercise with you.  Exercising with a buddy makes it more fun, and makes you more likely to stick with it.  Commit to regular early morning walks or weekend tennis matches.

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4. If you’re still listening to December’s music, splurge on a new playlist!  I just created an 80’s playlist that really makes me move!  (I just posted it on my Facebook page if you want to check it out here).

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5. Try outdoor exercise!  If you’ve always wanted to try canoeing or hiking or even yoga on a paddleboard, you can start now and be ready for some real adventure by summer!  (You can tell from the three colliding canoes above that my family always makes these sports violent, as in jousting on canoes.)

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6.  Change up how you’re fueling your workout. Spring is a great time to overhaul your snacks. Try some different seasonal fruits and veggies in your smoothie, like fresh berries, spinach, and arugula.  Watch your juicing, though!  If you wouldn’t eat a banana, an apple and a pint of blueberries in one sitting (that’s a lot of food), why would you drink it?

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7.  Reward yourself!  Find an awesome summer top that you can reward yourself with, and post a picture of it in your kitchen so you’ll be inspired by it throughout the day.  Then buy it for yourself when you accomplish your goal.  For me, it’s absolutely anything from the Boston Proper catalogue!  (Oh, and always get the earrings, too!)

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8.  Get a fun new water bottle!  Let’s face it – drinking water isn’t the most exciting thing, but having a cute water bottle makes it just a little bit easier to stay hydrated!  The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink.  Keep it next to you all day long.

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9.  Take lessons in a new sport!  Tennis or golf lessons are great ways to get outside and meet new people.  And lessons make the sport so much more enjoyable (Sorry, Frank.  I saw this photo, and just had to put it in!)  Bonus:  What’s more fun than shopping for new tennis or golf clothes?

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10.  Plan an family outdoor adventure vacation!  Book the ultimate escapade for you and your family.  Hike one of the national parks, or ride horses at a dude ranch, or climb an island volcano.  I think I just talked myself into it!

Whatever you do, enjoy it!

 

 

The Top Ten Food Lies That Keep Us Overweight – Part Two

The Next Five Food Lies:  Part Two

In the last blog, I exposed the First Five Food Lies:

1.  All calories are created equal.

2.  All you need is willpower.

3.  Diet soda is better than regular soda.

4.  Low-fat foods are good for you.

5.  Whole grain foods are good for you.

 

Now let’s take a look at five more food lies that keep us overweight:

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6.  Eggs are Unhealthy For You – FALSE!  Eggs are just one of those foods that seems to be surrounded with controversy.  A lot of the debate has to do with the large amount of cholesterol in eggs.  According to Dr. Jon Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, research consistently shows that the cholesterol you eat has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood.  (There’s only one possible exception here: diabetics and the 0.2 percent of the population with familial hypercholesterolemia. More research has to be done to confirm this.)  In fact, in controlled trials, when people were instructed to eat 3 whole eggs per day, they LOST weight, experienced decreased inflammation, and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels.

Bottom line: Unless you have diabetes or a rare genetic disorder, eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you. In fact, egg yolks are one of the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods on the planet!

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7.  It’s All About Genetics – FALSE!  While it is true that there are genes associated with obesity, only 9% of overweight and obese people have the genetic or hormonal defect that predispose them to being heavy.  It is more likely that your weight is directly related to the habits of the environment you were raised in.  Even if you don’t eat exactly the way your parents do, it was within your home that you learned how to cook (or if you cook), what to eat, and how much to eat.  Plus, although our genes only change 2% every 20,000 years, by the year 2050, it is estimated that over 50 % of Americans will be obese (up from the current 35%).   What has changed over the last century has not been our genes, but our eating habits.  We have gone from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person per day in 1800, to currently eating about 152 pounds of sugar per person per day!

Bottom line:  Obesity is caused by all kinds of factors, but genetics is the least of them.  The good news is that you can change this!

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8.  Milk Is Nature’s Perfect Food – FALSE!  This one was a tough one for me to get my head around.  I was raised to think that dairy was an ideal source of calcium and protein.  But there are several reasons why this isn’t the case.  Many people have adverse reactions to milk – inflammation, allergies, sinus congestion, intestinal issues, and asthma.  Milk also spikes insulin, which encourages abdominal fat.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of “The 10-Day Detox Diet,” it may increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, and even increase the risk of types 1 and 2 diabetes. If that’s not enough, think about it this way; in nature, milk is provided at times when you want to experience exponential levels of growth (infancy).  Soooo, if you’d like to grow at an exponential rate, drink lots of milk!

Bottom line:  Milk doesn’t always do a body good.  Get your calcium from green leafy vegetables instead!

Do low carb diets really workWeb

9.  Low-Carb Diets Are Bad For You – FALSE  First, let’s define a low-carb diet:  a diet that restricts the type and amount of carbohydrates you eat, typically a daily limit of 60 to 130 grams (or 240-520 calories per day).  The idea behind the low-carb diet is that decreasing carbs lowers your insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy which ultimately leads to weight loss. Here’s my take on it;  most overweight people don’t realize that they are actually on extremely HIGH-carbohydrate diets, and all research indicates that high-carb diets are not good for you.   When you substitute vegetables for the white flour and sugar (the bulk of carbs in the standard American diet), you will dramatically reduce your caloric intake and increase your vitamins and nutrients.  Don’t forget that vegetables and fruit are carbohydrates, too.  But back to the question – are low carb diets dangerous?  No.  Studies show that low-carb diets may help prevent metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bottom line:  A low-carbohydrate diet is a highly effective, healthy way to lose weight and reverse metabolic disease.

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10.  You Should Eat Frequent, Small Meals Throughout The Day – FALSE!  At first glance, this one appears to make sense.  The idea is that by eating frequently, you speed up your metabolism all day, and therefore improve your ability to burn more calories, right?  This idea has been put to the test and refuted multiple times; there is no significant difference whatsoever in terms of “speeding up your metabolism.”  As long as your total daily calorie and nutrient intake remains what it needs to be, the manner in which you consume those calories/nutrients just doesn’t matter. Plus, it’s impractical to be eating constantly.   According to Jillian Michaels, celebrity master trainer on “The Biggest Loser,” by grazing around the clock, you’re preventing your body from burning fat, and causing yourself to lose track of the calories you’ve consumed!   Jillian recommends eating every four hours to stabilize your blood sugar, optimize insulin production and manage hunger.

Bottom line:  For weight loss, keep it simple; eat three balanced meals, plus a snack between lunch and dinner.

The Top 10 Food Lies That Keep Us Overweight – Part 1

When it comes to nutrition, there’s a lot to learn, but there’s a lot to UN-learn, too.  Here are the first five of what I consider to be the…

Top Ten Food Lies:  Part One

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1.  All Calories Are Created Equal –  FALSE!  If you were to eat 1000 calories of broccoli vs. 1000 calories of cake, do you think your body would know the difference?  Of course it would! The old idea that losing weight is just a matter of eating less calories and burning more calories is just what the food industry wants you to think.  Our bodies are more than just bank accounts with a certain number of calories in and calories out.  Our bodies are more like chemistry labs, with every bite affecting our hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism.

Bottom Line:  What really matters is the quality of the food we eat.  There are good calories (like lean protein, healthy fat, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds) and then there are bad calories (processed foods, sugars, and white flour).

 

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2.  All You Need Is More Willpower – FALSE!  The implication is that if you’re overweight, then you’re just lazy or you lack self-discipline.  The truth is that we have simply believed the barrage of messages that the food industry has bombarded us with for decades.  We are literally addicted to the processed foods and additives that we consume, and then we are blamed for not being able to resist them!   When our taste buds, brain chemistry and metabolism have been damaged by sugar and processed foods, willpower alone can’t win for long.  First we have to break those very real addiction and cravings.

Bottom Line:  Processed foods and sugar truly are highly addictive.  We need to replace those foods with high quality whole foods that will allow our appetite and weight to function normally.

 

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3.  Diet Soda Is Better For You Than Regular Soda – FALSE!  I have to be honest here – this is by far my hardest habit to break.  Diet soda is so addictive!  But even though artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, it does not mean they are better for you than sugar.  In fact, many studies show a consistent association between artificial sweeteners and obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and depression.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, in a 14-year study of more than 66,000 women, researchers found that diet sodas actually raise the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.  Just one diet soda per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 33%.  But diet soda slows down your metabolism, and makes you crave even more sugar!  Ain’t that the truth!

Bottom Line:  Stay away from all artificial sweeteners, even the “natural” ones.  To break the addiction to diet soda, try a combination of sparkling water topped with a little cranberry juice.  It’s the only effective substitute I have found!

 

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4.  Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You – FALSE!  Many of us grew up in the low-fat era.  In fact, I remember my Yale-educated pediatrician sitting me down as an overweight teenager writing down on a little sheet of paper:

  • Carbohydrates:  4 calories per gram
  • Protein:  4 calories per gram
  • Fat:  9 calories per gram

Therefore, the best way to lose weight is to avoid fat, right?

Well, how’s that advice working out for America?

Here’s the low-down:  When fat is taken out of food, it tastes like cardboard.  So food manufacturers add sugar and artificial sweeteners to the product.  Not surprisingly in retrospect, the low-fat era has been accompanied by a dramatic rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.  We now consume twice as much sugar than we did 30 years ago!

Bottom Line: Low-fat foods are usually highly processed products loaded with sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  They are extremely unhealthy.  Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s food.

 

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5.  Whole Grain Foods Are Good For You – FALSE!  There is a common misconception that whole grain foods are nutritious and you will be missing essential vitamins and minerals without them in your diet.  According to Robb Wolf of “The Paleo Diet Solution,” the fact is that, on a calorie-per-calorie basis, as compared to meat, seafood, veggies, and fruits, wheat is not even very nutritious.  Furthermore, according to Kris Gunnars of “Authority Nutrition.com,” wheat is loaded with gluten, which many people are unable to properly digest.  Most whole grain products have actually been pulverized into very fine flour, which tends to raise blood sugars rapidly and can cause all sorts of problems down the line.   Also, because refined grain products like white bread get digested quickly, they can lead to large spikes in blood sugar.  So at best, it’s filler; at worst, it takes you on a sugar roller-coaster ride.

Bottom Line: The way I like to put it is, there’s nothing that whole-grain food can do for you that vegetables can’t do better.

What do you think?  How many of these did you think were true?

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The Most Inspiring Workout I’ve Ever Seen

10514684_10152855161295435_4579993386483610974_nI am a gym rat and I’ve seen a lot of amazing athletes there.  I’ve seen one-arm pull-ups, jumps onto a Swiss ball, and dead-lifts that bent the bar.  But the workout that I’m thinking of was a few years ago.  I was feeling sorry for myself because I’d had tennis elbow surgery on my right arm, which rendered my right hand and fingers useless for the time being.  Due to Hurricane Irene, we had lost power for a week after the surgery, so I was doing everything one-handed and lefty.  Try putting on a bra with one hand.  Or cutting anything with a knife.  Or even opening mail.  Woe was me!  It was about the same time that a movie came out about the surfer whose arm had been bitten off by a shark, and previews showed her tucking her surfboard under her good arm, happily running back into the water.  I felt so sorry for myself, but there she was, a story of the triumph of the human spirit.  “Show-off,” I thought.  She was made me look bad, so I turned off the TV.  “No one is that good.”

During that time that I would stoically go to the gym and do whatever I could with one arm.  I had already done a year of physical therapy before the surgery, so I was used to the single-arm workouts, but I was in a full blown state of mental martyrdom after the surgery. “Unable to even hold a pen,” I would tell anyone who asked about the sling.  As I started my warmup, I saw an empty wheelchair, and nearby there was an older woman face down on the floor!  I thought she had fallen, but as I looked a little closer, I realized she was with a trainer, who was guiding her through a barely perceptible motion with her leg. The trainer counted, “Eight, come on, come on, nine.  That’s it.”  You could see the determination in her eyes, and you could see her leg shake as she lifted her foot just a few inches off the floor.  She was so proud when she got to 20!  Heck, I was proud of her, too.  And a little ashamed of myself.

When I thought of not just the physical strength, but the mental fortitude it took, I was blown away by her.  God only knows how she became wheelchair-bound, or what she had gone through just to get to this point.  I could only imagine that this was probably an improvement from wherever she was before.  Just think of her sustained determination: to make the appointment, arrange the ride, and then go out to a public gym to work out with a trainer!  Later the trainer helped her back into the wheelchair to do some more exercises, and she was still there when I left the gym.

There were a few lesson there for me.  The first was that I am only a victim if I choose to see it that way.  The other way to see it is that I was fortunate enough to have an excellent surgeon to restore proper function to my arm and hand.  I was also lucky enough to have a hand with five fingers that would work properly again one day; for me, this was only temporary.  The final lesson was never to underestimate the power of mental strength.  I will always remember that woman when I say to myself, “I can’t do that.”  The question really is, “What CAN I do?”  That’s where I’ll start.  That’s the only place to start.  And then I won’t quit.

The Kamikaze Dieter – Thoughts From One Who Survived

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‘Tis the season for binge dieting.  You know the drill:  throw out all the food, spend a fortune on exotic ingredients at the grocery store, and buckle in for the complete overhaul.  “Turn over a new leaf!”  “I’m never going to ….(fill in the blank)… again.”  “This is a new beginning.”  It hurts even to watch.  Why?  Because it’s like watching a kamikaze pilot strap himself in – they teach him how to fly, but not how to land.   That’s what it looks like to me now.  And I dread the inevitable crash when the cleanse/pills/detox/extreme diet is done, which should be right about now – January 24th or so.  As soon as the diet is over and you go back to the old eating habits, the weight comes right back on, and it should! Think about it:  if the diet works (most of them do in the short run), you will obviously lose weight if you stick to it religiously for the prescribed short period of time.  Therefore, the weight SHOULD come back on when you stop.  And in the end, I could be wrong, but you weren’t really doing it for such virtuous reasons as to “reset your metabolism,” or “fill your body seaweed extract.”  Down deep, you were really hoping that you’d lose weight and it would stay off, for once.  Think about how it is when you get a stomach bug – don’t you kind of hope you’re down a couple of pounds?  Or if you get a colonoscopy, the good news is that at least you’ve lost a little weight!  But the weight comes right back on again.  I know.  I’ve been there, done that.  And it just hurts to watch you do it, too.  Because, just like the kamikaze pilot, as soon as you’re done flying, you’re going to crash.   Because you haven’t learned how to land – how to eat under normal circumstances.  You haven’t incorporated any new habits into your daily life.

The key to lasting weight loss is to adopt new habits.  Automate as many foods choices as possible by making the food we eat habitual.  According to the book, “The Power Of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg (a book I highly recommend), 40% of what we do every day is automatic, ritualized, habitual.  That’s almost half of your day!  Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t even have to think about it?  If you could re-habituate some of the foods that you automatically grab during the course of the day?  You see, you don’t have to be on a strict diet to get results.  You’ll see results if you just make one healthy switch and stick to it.  My brother, who has now lost over 100 pounds, says he started by just not eating after dinner.  (Just think of what people usually eat after dinner!  It’s nothing healthy – EVER!  It’s always desserts or snacks.  Then eat mindless amounts of it in front of a TV!  Yikes!)  He saw results, and that built up his confidence to ….. add on another healthy habit! And another!  Think of it as building a portfolio of healthy habits that displace the old habits.

It’s not easy.  But it’s worth it.  You’re worth it!

“Your Move Fitness” – What’s It About?

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“Ask not what your doctor can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.”

Most of today’s chronic illnesses are lifestyle-related, which means there’s a lot you can do to improve your health.  Of course your doctor can try to help you with pills or surgery, but if you continue with your old lifestyle patterns, the problems will likely persist or worsen.  Plus being sick is expensive!  Then there are the side-effects of the medication and/or complications from scarring.  So what can you do?  You can throw your hands in the air and accept your high blood pressure, bad knees, and shortness of breath, saying, “It stinks to get old.” or “It runs in my family.”

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… you can do everything you can to help yourself first.  You can take control of your own health, starting from wherever you are today.  Things can improve dramatically with the addition of just one healthy habit at a time. You don’t have to go “on a diet.”  If you just ate a healthier lunch every day, you’d see improvements.  Or if you walked 10,000 steps every day.  Or drank a gallon of water every day.  That success feels good!  Each healthy habit displaces an old bad habit, and builds confidence.  So you add another healthy habit.  And another.  Now you’re winning!    Before you know it, you’re in a different mindset.  You’re in the game now, and on the road to a healthier life.