Most trendy diets share a list of off-limit foods, which can range from beans and dairy to whole grains and sugar. However, there are some foods considered so nutritious they make practically any approved list. Thinking in those terms can be more helpful for reaching health goals. “Thinking about what you can’t have feels restrictive. But shifting your perspective to what you can add in is a healthier mindset,” says Jill Keene, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer in New York City.
Google anything from keto to Paleo to Mediterranean and the biggest thing you’ll see is a push to focus on fresh, whole foods. “The big-three types of foods that can make up most any diet are lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables,” says Keene.
Here are six go-to foods you’ll find on any approved list:
The Mediterranean diet is rich in leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens) and for good reason: Not only are they a non-starchy veggie (ideal for very low-carb diets), but they’re full of important vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, A and K, as well as iron.
Whether you’re on a high-, moderate- or low-fat plan, nutritionists advise honing in on healthy fats. Avocado fits the bill, as it’s rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that are associated with cardiovascular health, says Keene. Plus, it’s a surprisingly rich source of GI-friendly fiber. One half of the fruit packs nearly seven grams.
Salmon is one of the top sources of omega-3’s, fatty acids that benefit the heart by slowing accumulation of plaque that gums up arteries and better lipid profiles and blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA recommends consuming two fatty-fish meals per week.
People who regularly consume nuts are less likely to gain weight over a five-year period or be overweight or obese, according to a study in the European Journal of Nutrition. Walnuts are particularly special because they contain a type of omega-3 called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). They’re also a good way to eat more fiber and are rich in magnesium, which plays a key role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
In the era of coconut everything, olive oil is an important staple in some of the top-ranked diets including DASH and the Mediterranean diet. Incorporating it in your diet as one of your go-to healthy fats pays off: Research shows people who do so may lose weight and reduce belly fat.
As a source of natural sugar, people remain weary that eating berries may cause weight gain. The reality is that, in moderation, fruit — especially berries — can add a source of satisfying, subtle sweetness to any eating plan. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are rich in disease-fighting polyphenols and are lower-carb.
Try them as an oatmeal or yogurt topping, snack or dessert. (Source: MyFitnessPal.com)
Few things are more frustrating than seeing little progress after starting a workout routine—and sticking to it—no matter how many gym sessions you log or sweaty laundry loads you do. It’s so frustrating, in fact, that it might even tempt you to quit.
But before you start slacking, know the simple mistakes that could be sabotaging your results—and that you can fix them!
Below are six of the most common workout mistakes people make—and the expert advice you need to get your motivation and progress back on track.
1. Your Goals Are Unrealistic
Set the bar too high and you’re sure to fail. Whether it’s scoring a six-pack in a month or vowing to hit the gym every single day of the week, setting unrealistic goals is probably the number-one way people sabotage themselves, says trainer, yoga teacher, and nutrition coach Kendra Coppey Fitzgerald, C.P.T. When you can’t achieve these unrealistic goals, you’re bound to feel discouraged, which might lead you to give up on your exercise routine altogether.
The Fix: Check in with yourself to make sure your goals are realistic, and adjust if and as needed. Choose a goal you think you can accomplish and then commit to reaching it. So while scoring a six-pack in a month may not be feasible, goals like sticking to a regular workout routine or losing half a pound or so per week are attainable, says trainer and author Jeremy Scott, C.P.T., C.N.S.
Step one is creating a workout schedule that fits your lifestyle. You’re more likely to stay motivated when you have a schedule in place you can really commit to—even if that means squeezing in a quick 15-minute HIIT workout instead of spending an hour at the gym some days.
Then, adding mini fitness goals to your daily routine— such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work—can be really motivating, says Fitzgerald. This way, you’ll be more active—and feel more accomplished—every single day.
2. Your Pre-Workout Snack Game Is Off
What you eat (or don’t eat) before you get your sweat on can make the difference between having a killer workout and feeling like a sloth. Most people make one of two opposite mistakes: either eating too much too close to a workout or not eating enough.
Eat too much and your body doesn’t have time to digest and absorb the nutrients in your food, and you might feel sick to your stomach during your workout, says Fitzgerald. If you don’t eat enough, though, you could feel lightheaded and tired, and be more prone to muscle cramps, adds McCall. Your body relies heavily on glycogen (carbs stored in your muscles) during harder workouts, so if you don’t have enough available your body will turn to other less-ideal energy sources—like protein—and your performance will take a hit.
Another overlooked fuel issue: Not drinking enough water in the hours before a workout. Water comprises the majority of our muscle tissue, so you want to be well-hydrated before you exercise, says Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T., master trainer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Dehydration can make your body temperature and heart rate rise, which both put extra stress on your body during exercise—so much so that poor pre-workout hydration can actually cut your ability to do high intensity exercise almost in half, according to Sport Nutrition, Second Addition.
The Fix: If you work out first thing in the morning, don’t worry about eating much (if anything) beforehand, since your body still has fuel stashed away from your food you ate the night before, says Fitzgerald. If you’re saving your gym session for later in the day, though, and haven’t had a meal in a few hours, eat something that contains some protein and carbs about an hour beforehand, so you have time to digest. Some of our favorites are toast or a banana with nut butter, a serving of edamame, or Greek yogurt with berries. The carbs will cover your energy needs while the protein will keep your body stocked on the amino acids it needs to support your muscles, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
As for hydration, McCall recommends drinking 16 ounces of water an hour before working out.
And don’t forget to refuel after you work out, too! Nosh on something high in protein and carbs within an hour after you exercise, Fitzgerald recommends. The carbs will restock those energy stores while the protein will help your muscles repair and grow stronger. Fitzgerald’s go-to post-workout snack? Chocolate milk—because it provides protein, carbs and fats.
3. Your Workouts Are Too Repetitive
Yep, there is a such thing as too much routine. Mindlessly run through the same workouts day after day—whether it’s a spin class, weight-lifting session, or any old cardio—and your body will adapt and, eventually, you’ll stop seeing results, according to Fitzgerald. “If your body isn’t being stressed enough, or you’re not putting enough intensity into a workout, your body gets used to it,” Fitzgerald says.
Think of it this way: If a runner jogs at the same pace all the time, they’re not going to get any faster, she says. Bottom line: No matter how much you love a particular workout, it can’t be the only thing you do. And you definitely shouldn’t do it at the same speed or intensity every time.
Plus, doing only cardio—or only strength training—prevents you from developing well-rounded fitness. Cardio helps your heart pump blood (and oxygen and nutrients) throughout your body more efficiently, and helps you ward off cardiovascular issues and chronic conditions like diabetes, according to The Mayo Clinic. Strength training, on the other hand, helps your muscle fibers work more efficiently and grow, boosts your metabolism, supports strong bones, and improves your balance.
Women especially may get stuck in a rut of repetitive cardio-only workouts and miss out on the benefits of strength training because they’re afraid of bulking up, says Scott. But without a balance of cardio and strength training, you’ll likely sabotage your metabolism and even gain fat.
The Fix: Switch up your routine throughout the week to include a balance of cardio, strength training, and stretching (such as yoga), so that you challenge your body in multiple ways, says Fitzgerald.
To keep your cardio and resistance training effective, try alternating between high and low-intensity workouts. This will stimulate your muscles in different ways and give your body time to recover between tough workouts, says McCall. Think track or treadmill sprints versus a nice steady jog, or lifting heavy for just a few reps versus lifting moderate weight for a dozen reps.
From there, switch up the tempo, intensity, or order of your strength-training exercises to keep your workouts challenging, adds Fitzgerald. For example, if you usually do squats before lunges, try swapping them, adding more weight to your squats, or turning bodyweight squats into jump squats. You can also mix up your cardio workouts by cross-training and swapping a run for a spin class or a swim. This will help keep your muscles from plateauing and prevent overuse injuries from doing the same repetitive movements all the time, Fitzgerald says.
4. You Skimp On Warmups And Cooldowns
Your workouts are key to making continuous fitness gains—but what you do before and after them matters, too. Let’s start with warming up: If you jump right into a high-intensity workout without prepping your body, you put yourself at greater risk for injuries like pulled and strained muscles, according to Scott. And the same goes if you run out of the gym before properly cooling down, says McCall. During a hard workout, your muscles produce waste your body needs to clear out of its system—and your cooldown and post-workout stretch give it the opportunity to do so, he says. Skimping on that cooldown can delay your recovery process and leave you sore.
The Fix: Spend at least 10 minutes warming up before a workout, Scott recommends. Perform simple moves like lunges, arm circles, toe touches, and hip swings, which get your whole body moving and start to boost your heartrate.
Then, spend about 10 minutes stretching and foam rolling after nailing your sweat session. Stretch all of your major muscle groups for 30 seconds each, and pay special attention to your hip flexors, calves, and hamstrings, McCall recommends. Using a foam roller to massage out your muscles can also help relieve tension and boost recovery, says Fitzgerald. In fact, a review published in Current Sports Medicine Reports found that foam rolling after strength training decreased participants’ soreness later on.
5. You Don’t Take Rest Days
This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but to see results from your workouts you have to rest. Remember that glycogen we talked about earlier? Your body needs time to replenish the stores it used up during your workout, says McCall. If you continue to push yourself on an empty tank, you’ll just feel fatigued and under-perform.
Without solid glycogen stores, your body may turn to protein for fuel—and that’s the opposite of what you want! Your body needs protein to repair damaged muscle tissue and help your muscles continue to grow, so running off protein leaves you more prone to soreness and injury, he says. If necessary, your body will even pull that protein from your muscle tissue and your workouts can actually break down some muscle instead of build it up. And because muscle supports your strength and burns a lot of calories, this is bad news for your overall fitness and your metabolism.
The Fix: Fitzgerald suggests taking a rest day after two or three workout days—especially if any of those workouts were high-intensity (which puts extra stress on your body). Make the most of rest days by foam rolling and stretching to help sore muscles recover, she says.
It’s normal for soreness from a workout to last a day or so, but if you’re still feeling it after a few days, consider it a sign that you’re overdoing it on exercise and putting yourself at risk for injury, McCall says.
4 Common Weight-Loss Pitfalls That Lead to Weight Gain
Congratulations: You worked hard to hit your goal weight and you made it.
However, maintaining weight loss might be harder than you think. Research presented at The Endocrine Society’s annual conference found just 14% of those who lost moderate amounts of weight (defined as 10–15% of their original body mass index) maintained their weight loss; among those who lost less than 10% of their original BMI, only 23% maintained their weight loss.
Instead of letting months (or years) of hard work disappear in a haze of skipped workouts and sweet-tasting rewards, beware of these common pitfalls that could cause you to regain weight:
FOLLOWING A FAD DIET
The promise of quick weight loss might make it seem worthwhile to consume nothing but low-calorie shakes or cabbage soup. Chelsea Cross, RD, a dietitian with Dietetic Directions warns you might lose a lot of weight on a fad diet but dramatic calorie restriction is impossible to maintain long-term.
“Any plan that restricts a large food group simply because it’s off limits or too high in calories … is not something that can be stuck to,” Cross says. “You’ll eventually eat those forbidden foods and, because of the deprivation, will overeat them.”
Instead of adopting a fad diet or prioritizing quick weight loss, Cross suggests setting realistic weight-loss goals; eating a balanced diet that includes all of the food groups; and focusing on changing your lifestyle, not just your diet. These strategies, she says, help you achieve long-term, sustainable weight loss.
Whether you showed up for boot camp at the crack of dawn, squeezed in a run on your lunch hour or invested in a personal trainer to keep you motivated, the hard work paid off.
Once you hit your weight-loss goal, you might think you deserve a break from those high-intensity sweat sessions, but skipping workouts is a bad idea. Taking a two-week break from your exercise routine significantly reduces cardiovascular fitness and lean muscle mass, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Anthony J. Wall, MS, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise, notes that skipping workouts may make it harder to get back into an exercise routine.
STICKING TO THE SAME WORKOUT PROGRAM
Running the same 3-mile route or choosing the same settings on the elliptical trainer might have helped you shed unwanted pounds, but continuing with the same workout is going to make it difficult to maintain your weight loss. After you lose weight, you need to switch up your workouts, says Wall.
“When you follow a consistent exercise program, your body gets more efficient and you stop [burning as many calories],” he explains. “You have to take the intensity up a notch if you want to maintain your weight loss.”
Changing the number of repetitions in your strength-training program, adding high-intensity interval training to your cardio workout or checking out new classes like Pilates and aerial yoga instead of showing up for the same Zumba class each week ensures you don’t see the weight you lost start creeping back on.4
HAVING TROUBLE SLEEPING
If you struggle with sleeplessness, it might be harder to maintain weight loss. Sleeping less than six hours per night was associated with higher rates of obesity; and additional research found shorter amounts of sleep were linked to larger waistlines.
“Insufficient sleep can disrupt hormonal levels that are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness,” explains Natalie Dautovich, PhD, National Sleep Foundation Environmental Scholar and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The more time you spend awake, the more opportunities you have to eat — and you’re more apt to reach for high-calorie snack foods than fruits and vegetables when you’re exhausted, Dautovich says.
To maintain weight loss, aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night. You can increase the odds of getting a good night’s rest by sticking to regular sleep/wake times and going to bed in a cool, dark environment.
Keeping the number on the scale from creeping up takes some work, but the effort will be worth it when your favorite jeans continue to fit like a glove.
If you’re diabetic, have prediabetes, or are simply worried about your sugar intake, you may be overlooking a certain mainstay in your cupboards.
White rice is a food typically considered a staple in most diets; this is certainly true of American culture, but even more true among Asian demographics. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that white rice in large doses can increase the risk for diabetes.
This understanding explains why diabetic rates are higher in Asians than other populations. Contrary to previous theories, it’s not a matter of genetics, but the levels of starch found in white rice. In such large amounts, starch can flood the body with blood sugar, thereby increasing diabetic risk. How much of a risk are we talking? Well, according to Zee Yoon Kang, chief executive of the Health Promotion Board, when white rice is eaten daily, it can increase the risk of developing diabetes by up to 11%.
Concerned? That’s understandable. Here are some other things to consider:
On average, one bowl of rice has about double the level of carbohydrates of a can of soda. All of this excess sugar can put a strain on the pancreas; this is because the pancreas, by means of insulin production, converts the sugar in our blood into usable energy. Certain foods, white rice among them, cause problems then by dumping too much sugar into the blood at one time. When there is too much sugar in the blood, the event is referred to as a ‘sugar spike’. Sugar spikes are bad for the body because they overtax the pancreas, which makes it less effective in the future. What this means is over time, the pancreas gets weaker and weaker, which limits its ability to generate insulin. This means sugar levels in the body steadily rise as a result.
Excess sugar leads to kidney damage, and kidney damage leads to diabetes. So, put simply, too much starch in white rice leads to too much sugar in the blood, followed by organ damage and diabetic complications.
There are other factors that tend to contribute to diabetes. For example, a higher body mass index plays a part, and to a degree, genetics and family history do as well. As for the role that white rice plays in this, it, and other refined carbohydrate foods come packed with loads of extra sugar. Fortunately, the solution is simple: eat brown rice! Studies show that even replacing as little as 20% of the white rice you consume with brown rice can cut diabetic risk. Furthermore, brown rice, as well as other varieties of rice, simply packs more of a nutritional punch than typical white rice anyway.
If you’re dead set on keeping white rice in your diet, that’s okay. Just be sure to eat it in moderation. A good time to consume white rice is immediately after a workout. Post workout, your body will be seeking to quickly recover energy, and so the quick energy of white rice will be immediately broken down for the body’s use.
Another problem with rice (all rice) that is recently becoming more prevalent is the presence of arsenic in rice. Arsenic, typically known as a substance toxic to humans, does occur naturally in the environment, usually bonded to some other compound. It is found in rocks and ends up in water as well, which means it ends up in plants, and therefore, in our food. Normally, this is of little concern, because arsenic only appears in small amounts. However, human activity and pollution (pesticides, herbicides) have greatly increased the level of inorganic arsenic in the environment. Given the ability of rice to take in so much water, it comes as little surprise that high levels of arsenic can end up in rice as a result.
Arsenic is deadly to humans, particularly children. It can cause a number of harmful effects, including factors that contribute to heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowed or blocked blood vessels. It can also hinder cognitive development.
While the level of arsenic in rice is increasing, fortunately, for the time being, it is not a serious health concern, according to the FDA, which as establish various levels at which arsenic becomes harmful. If this is cold comfort, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself:
Washing and/or soaking rice in water can remove some of the arsenic. The same goes for using lots of water during cooking. Furthermore, different varieties of rice, such as basmati and jasmine rice, typically harbor less arsenic than white or brown rice. In general, when it comes to healthy eating, and therefore healthy living, do your best to buy organic, non-chemically treated products, clean and prepare them properly, and consume a wide variety of food, rather than too much of any one thing. Remember, healthy eating is healthy living.
Many Asians consume refined carbs, such as noodles and rice. These foods come with a lot of sugar. What’s even worse is that if you have a high body mass index, your diabetes risk increases the more you eat white rice.
Thankfully, there are ways to combat this risk increase and among them is to replace 20% of white rice consumption with brown rice. By simply doing so, you cut your risk by up to 16%.
Sandwiches are a lunchtime staple and it’s easy to make healthy high-protein versions of your favorites, like turkey or steak. However, deli meat often gets a bad rap for being highly processed (which ups the sodium content). Still, “cold cuts can definitely fit into a well-balanced diet, but the frequency may depend on the type,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of “The Small Change Diet.”
Here, a look at how different cold cuts compare nutritionally, why sodium content matters and how to make a healthy sandwich that helps you reach your health goals.
As you can see, turkey, ham and roast beef run pretty similar in terms of calories, fat and sodium. It’s salami that is markedly higher in fat (including saturated fat) and sodium.
THE SODIUM DILEMMA
“The problem with many deli meats is they are very high in sodium, and for salt-sensitive individuals, this may increase their risk for high blood pressure and heart disease,” says Gans. Even if you’re not particularly worried about salt, think about how you feel after eating a sandwich packed with cold cuts. “For some people, very high-sodium foods can cause bloating, which leads to GI discomfort,” she adds.
Cold cuts are among the top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider that the recommendations are to limit your sodium intake to 2,300mg per day. If you’re eating a sandwich with bread, deli meat, cheese and mustard, you may get 1,500mg of sodium in a single meal, says the CDC — and that’s before sides like chips and a pickle.
ARE PRESERVATIVES A PROBLEM?
Deli meat often contains nitrates or nitrites, which are added as preservatives to keep slices fresh. A report from the American Institute of Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund says there’s evidence consuming processed meats daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer. It’s less clear, however, if it’s the nitrates specifically or because of other factors such as lifestyle. “More research is needed, but, in moderation, deli meat is safe,” says Gans.
TIPS FOR EATING DELI MEAT
If you eat a lot of deli meat, look for those free of added nitrates or nitrites. Applegate is one example; major brands also have lines free of these preservatives, says Gans.
Most people should also opt for cold cuts that are lower in sodium (you can look for low-sodium or reduced-sodium on the label). If you have a sandwich, it’s also a good idea to cut back on saltier foods for the remainder of the day.
Choose wisely: “Turkey, ham or roast beef are better choices than salami, bologna or pastrami, because they are lower in sodium, calories and fat,” says Gans. “Fresh roasted” is another buzzword to look for at the deli counter, she says. “These may include fewer preservatives, and thus, less sodium.”
HOW TO BUILD A HEALTHY SANDWICH
Gans advises using four slices of deli meat, max. “Build bulk by adding veggies, not more meat,” she says. Along with the standard lettuce and tomato, consider piling on cucumbers or sliced carrots for crunch or using grilled veggies as toppings. Avocado or hummus can replace mayo or cheese as a spread, which adds healthy monounsaturated fats.
You can also cut down on sodium by using one piece of bread and making it open-faced. Or, try placing a couple pieces of turkey between two slices of bell peppers as the “bread,” or roll it up in hearty greens like kale or collards.
Sure, standing around isn’t exactly traditional exercise, but research shows it’s got more than a leg up on sitting. After all, long periods of sitting are linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, whereas standing significantly increases your daily caloric expenditure Stand whenever you can, and consider roping in other coworkers to have standing meetings too! Small changes goes along way!
It’s every weight loss enthusiast’s dream to zap belly fat but, far from pure vanity, there’s actually a reason why having a lot of fat in the abdominal region can be dangerous. Fat is stored all over our body, but how does an expanding waistline grow your risk for chronic illness?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Your body’s fat impacts your health differently depending on where it’s stored. While most fat found on other parts of our bodies (think arms, legs, buttocks) are considered “subcutaneous fat,” belly fat is more likely to be “visceral.”
PINCHABLE VERSUS PRESSABLE
“Subcutaneous fat” is the pinchable, squishy fat right between your skin and muscle that helps keep you warm, cushions you against shock, and stores extra calories. “Visceral fat” stores calories too, but isn’t as pinchable because it is located in and around your organs. It’s hidden deep within the belly region, which is what makes it firm (rather than squishy) when you press it.
Fat doesn’t just store calories—it’s a living tissue capable of producing and releasing hormones that affect your other organs. Because visceral fat sits near our organs, its release of these chemicals is poorly situated. Having more visceral fat can raise your LDL (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol) and blood pressure. Visceral fat can also make you less sensitive to insulin, which increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
TELLING BAD BELLY FAT APART
Even if you’re thin, you can still have visceral fat around the abdominal region—being “skinny” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. There’s no sure-fire way to tell visceral from subcutaneous fat short of an expensive CT scan, but it’s important for you to get a rough idea of what your visceral stores are. Here are a few tricks to figure out where your belly stands:
You’re probably wondering, “What does fruit have to do with it?” These two fruits give a quick visual of where most of your fat is stored on the body. Pears tend to store fat in the lower extremities (hips, thighs, buttocks) as subcutaneous fat while apples tend to store fat in the upper region (belly, chest) as visceral fat. It takes a quick inspection, but this is an imperfect way to tell these two fats apart.
WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE (WC)
Feel for the top of your hip bone (it’s at the same level as the top of your belly button) and circle a tape measure around this point. Remember to relax and don’t suck in your gut (be honest!). Take 2-3 measurements and figure out the average. Men should have a WC of less than 40 inches (102 cm) and women should have a WC of less than 35 inches (89 cm).
The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) takes the circumference of your waist (see above) and divides it by the circumference of your hips. To measure your hips, stand in front of a mirror then figure out the widest part of your butt and measure that circumference. Then use this formula: WHR = (Waist circumference) / (Hip circumference). Men should have a WHR of less than 1 while women should have a WHR of less than 0.8.
KNOW YOUR FAMILY HEALTHY HISTORY
If your parents or siblings have insulin resistance, heart disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver, you may be at a greater risk for storing visceral fat. Keeping an eye on your visceral fat may be beneficial, but know that the causes of these chronic diseases are complex. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider.
BANISHING VISCERAL FAT
If you fall in the normal range for WC and WHR, that’s great! Keep working at your weight goals as you see fit. If you’re not there, don’t despair. Because of its proximity to the liver, visceral fat is usually the easier fat to burn. It’s the less risky subcutaneous fat that likes to stick around.
Unfortunately, you can’t forcefully spot reduce fat around your belly no matter how many crunches you do. The next best thing is to live a healthy lifestyle:
Go beyond weight tracking. You can track your waist, hip and even neck circumference in the app. Use this feature to see how your measurements change over time as you lose weight.
Sweat for 30-60 minutes each day. Visceral fat responds well to regular endurance exercises, such as running, biking, rowing, swimming, that elevate your heart rate. As your body uses fat to fuel exercise, it’ll start using up your visceral stores.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Eat a diet high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein with calories set for gradual weight loss (e.g. about 1-2 pounds per week). Cut way back on added sugars and alcohol since these nutrients will more likely end up as visceral fat.
Sleep more, stress less. It’s easier said than done, but in order to take care of your physical body, you have to take care of your mental state. Sleep loss and stress can sabotage your health and fitness goals, so learn more about getting a quality night’s rest and use meditation or yoga to calm your mind. Remember, it’s not just about your health; it’s about your happiness, too.
Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mini Blender Muffins
YIELD: ABOUT 17 MINI MUFFINS
TOTAL TIME:15 MINUTES
PREP TIME:2 MINUTES
COOK TIME:8 TO 9 MINUTES
The fastest and easiest batter I’ve ever made. Combine all ingredients (except the chocolate chips) and blend until smooth. The muffins are gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, and they’re under 100 calories each (66 calories if you omit chocolate chips). For all the health claims you could make about these muffins, the best part is that they taste every bit as good as muffins made with flour, gluten, and lots of added sugar. The peanut butter flavor is pronounced and bold, while the banana disappears almost entirely. I used mini chocolate chips because they’re size-appropriate for the mini muffins.
1 medium ripe banana, peeled
1 large egg
heaping 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I recommend using classic storebought peanut butter, and not natural or homemade)
3 tablespoons honey (agave or maple syrup may be substituted)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
heaping 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare mini muffin pans by spraying very well with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pans; set aside. If keeping gluten-free for health reasons, simply use cooking spray or grease the pan.
To the canister of a blender, add first 7 ingredients, through optional salt, and blend on high speed until smoothy and creamy, about 1 minute.
Add chocolate chips and stir in by hand; don’t use the blender because it will pulverize them.
Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop that’s been sprayed with cooking spray (helps batter slide off spoon or scoop easily), form rounded 1 tablespoon mounds and place mounds into prepared pans. Each cavity should be filled to a solid 3/4 full.
Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until the tops are set, domed, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Due to their small size and oven variance, make sure to watch your muffins closely, and bake until done. Allow muffins to cool in pans for about 10 minutes, or until they’ve firmed up and are cool enough to handle. Muffins are best fresh, but will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Losing weight doesn’t always have to be about deprivation and denial. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Successful, sustainable weight loss is far more attainable when you focus on the quality of food rather than the quantity. Eat wholesome, nutritious, (and even calorie-filled) foods and you’ll be far more satisfied and content on less. Many of the foods people think are off-limits when it comes to losing weight are the very foods that have the ability to actually help us reach our goal. Here are eight foods that cannot only help you reach your weight-loss goal, but help you keep it off for good.
Drink skim and stay slim? Not always so when it comes to dairy. A recent study published in the American Journal of Nutrition found that more than 18,000 women who consumed more higher-fat and whole-milk dairy products had a lower risk of being overweight.
How can this be? Some essential fatty acids are stripped when milk is skimmed — the very component that may help you feel fuller sooner and stay full longer with full fat products. Several studies have found that when people reduce the amount of fat in their diet, they tend to replace it with sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can have a worse effect on overall health.
Bottom line: Eat a variety of dairy and worry less about how much fat it contains. Limit high-sugar ice cream treats, and buy plain yogurt with no added sugars, which tend to pile up in the flavored and fruited varieties.
In addition to healthy fats, nut butters contain an impressive amount of protein and fiber, too. Peanut butter boasts a plentiful 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons along with 2 grams of fiber.
A study from Harvard School of Public Health found that regular nut consumption among a group of more than 51,000 women was associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity. A similar study in the Journal of Nutrition found that weight changed very little among people who consumed a normal versus nut-enhanced diet. In other words: Nuts and nut butters can be a healthy addition to your diet, even when trying to lose weight. Try snacking on nut butters in between meals to sustain your appetite. A 200-calorie cashew or peanut butter snack is far more satisfying and filling than say, 200 calories of crackers or pretzels.
Shopping tip: Skip the reduced-fat versions, which ironically tend to have more calories, sugar, sodium and preservatives than regular nut butter. Buy those that list nuts — and maybe a bit of salt — in the ingredient list, and use them as a way to eat more whole grains, fruits, and veggies. What’s not to love about an apple smeared in almond butter?
Pasta is surprisingly low on the glycemic index — a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100, based on how quickly they raise blood-sugar levels. The lower the number, the longer it takes to digest, leaving you with a steadier source of fuel to support energy levels. Whole-grain pasta falls in the 32–37 range (about half that of white bread), while white pasta averages in the mid-40 range — still much lower than that slice of white bread. And because pasta is traditionally tossed with other wholesome foods like seafood, vegetables and olive oil, a healthy pasta meal is far from off-limits for those concerned about their weight.
Pro tip: Stick to whole-grain varieties, double up on veggies and skip the super cheesy, cream-based sauces.
Rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals, eggs are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense choice when it comes to snacks and meals. At just 70 calories per egg, there’s no reason not to enjoy the entire egg, yolk and white combined. Yes, egg yolks are a source of dietary cholesterol, but recent studies now prove that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than we once thought. The evidence says eating whole eggs in moderation is safe, and some studies even show they may aid in weight loss when eaten in place of refined carbs.
Bonus: Eggs are super cheap and cook quickly — a perfect solution for busy, time-crunched mornings. Cook your eggs in olive oil and use them as a vessel for sautéed greens and vegetables, then serve them over whole-grain toast for a complete, well-balanced, weight-conscious meal.
What most people fail to realize is that per ounce, dark meat chicken or turkey (from the leg and thigh) only has about 5 extra calories and 1g of fat more than white breast meat. The skin is where most of the fat lies — skip that on any part of the bird for a far more calorie-conscious choice. Dark meat poultry tends to be more tender, juicy and rich in flavor than white meat — requiring not only less butter and oil to cook with, but also less sauce or creamy condiments to make it palatable than breast meat. It’s a great source of lean protein that may leave you more satisfied at meal time, and less likely to overeat later.
Dark meat contains more myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein that gives it a gray-reddish color, as well as more iron and zinc — two immune-boosting minerals.
Portion tip: Thighs are about half the size of the breast, making them a far more portion-savvy option than today’s 9- and 10-ounce breast halves. Double bonus: They’re cheaper, too.
When it comes to weight loss, limiting liquid calories can be the key to success. Alcohol carries 7 calories per gram, which not only adds up quickly, but goes down quickly, too. But giving up our occasional cocktail at the end of a long day is non-negotiable for some.
Red wine may be more beneficial than white, according to one study from Washington State University, which found the polyphenols in red wine (including resveratrol) may even prevent obesity by aiding in metabolism. The heftiest boost of polyphenols comes from whole grapes, but wine certainly carries a portion of those benefits.
Bottom line: Alcoholic beverages won’t necessarily aid in weight loss, but they do help us relax and wind down from stressful days. In moderation, alcohol is good for the heart, too. Drink responsibly (not on an empty stomach), limit your intake and choose a 120-calorie glass of wine over sugar-loaded cocktails and carbohydrate-dense beer for better weight-loss success.
Your daily cup of joe may do more than just help you roll out of bed each morning. It stimulates the brain and nervous system, and contains antioxidants that may help improve glucose metabolism — which not only helps suppress the appetite, but also lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Caffeinated coffee may also stimulate thermogenesis, and the body’s ability to burn more fat stores, improving performance in endurance exercises like running and biking.
While the effects of coffee on weight loss are likely minimal, the overall health benefits are reason enough to enjoy a cup or two each morning as part of your daily routine. A 2014 systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 studies found those who drank their morning cups of coffee were actually at the lowest risk for heart problems.
A cup of advice: Not all coffee is created equal — most of the benefits associated with coffee are singular to black coffee — not the cream and sugar-filled coffee beverages from drive-thrus and coffee boutiques. Limit the flavored (and over-priced) lattes to a rare treat.
Just one or two bites of rich, satisfying chocolate can not only reduce stress levels, but help curb cravings for other sugar-loaded treats, too. High stress levels can lead to cortisol hormone spikes, which increase the appetite and emotional eating behaviors.
The benefits of chocolate are specific to the concentration of cocoa flavonoids, which have been shown in studies to have multiple health benefits, such as improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefits.
Buying tip: Skip the convenience store and check-out lane chocolate bars, which contain a lot of added fats and sugars — which can counteract some of cocoa’s health benefits. Look for bars with at least 70% cacao or higher, with a short, simple ingredient list … and indulge in just an ounce or two. Eating too much will work against you.
It’s summer—that amazing time of year when fresh produce abounds. Better yet: many of summer’s fruits and vegetables are brimming with secret health benefits.
Nothing says summer like fresh sweet corn. And did you know that two antioxidants—lutein and zeaxanthin—in corn may act like natural sunglasses, helping to form macular pigment that filters out some of the sun’s damaging rays? It’s true. The same antioxidants may also help lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60 (though much of the damage occurs decades earlier).
An iced pick-me-up is a great way to start your summer mornings. Better yet: drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. In one study of more than 93,000 women, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, those who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their risk. Decaf didn’t seem to offer the same protection.
3. Tart Cherries
They deliver a host of health benefits. You may have heard that drinking tart cherry juice can help you get a better night’s sleep and quell post-workout pain (read more about that here). But did you know that compounds in tart cherries may also help you slim down and get leaner? When scientists at the University of Michigan Health System put rats on a high-fat diet supplemented with either a tart-cherry powder (equal to 1% of the weight of their total diet) or the same number of calories from carbohydrate, those that got the cherry powder gained less weight and body fat. Why? The anthocyanins in tart cherries activate a molecule that helps rev up fat burning and decrease fat storage.
There’s no question that sunscreen should be your first line of defense against the blazing summer sun. But eating tomatoes could give you a little extra protection: consuming more lycopene—the carotenoid that makes tomatoes red—may protect your skin from sunburn. In one study, participants who were exposed to UV light had almost 50 percent less skin reddening after they ate 2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste (or drank about 1 2/3 cups of carrot juice daily), in addition to their regular diet, for 10 to 12 weeks. Supplements, however, weren’t as effective: in the same study, those who received a lycopene supplement or synthetic lycopene weren’t significantly protected against sunburn.
Staying hydrated keeps your memory sharp and your mood stable. It also helps keep your body cool (by sweating) during hot summer months. The good news is that you don’t just have to drink water. You can eat it, too: in addition to delivering skin-protecting lycopene, watermelon is 92 percent water (hence the name). Another boon? Research shows that eating foods that are full of water helps keep you satisfied on fewer calories. (Interestingly enough, drinking water alongside foods doesn’t have the same effect.)
Raspberries are a great source of fiber—some of it soluble in the form of pectin, which helps lower cholesterol. One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber—and a study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that eating more fiber may help prevent weight gain or even promote weight loss. Over the course of a two-year study, researchers found that when study participants boosted their fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories, they lost about 4 1/2 pounds. Try it for yourself. If you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day, aim to increase your fiber by 16 grams
7. Iced Tea
Sure, a tall glass of iced tea on a hot day is refreshing, but did you know it might also do your body good? Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. Regardless of the variety—black, green, oolong, white or herbal—maximize the power of tea’s flavonoids by drinking it freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, “add a little lemon juice,” recommends Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon—or lime, or orange—help preserve the flavonoids.
Fresh blueberries straight from the berry patch are a special treat! Turns out the antioxidants in them may help ward off muscle fatigue by mopping up the additional free radicals that muscles produce during exercise, according to recent research out of New Zealand.
When we begin a weight-loss journey, we often have a vision of what our body and life will be like when we reach our goal weight. But the reality is typically different.
“Weight loss is something that, for people who need it, can make a huge positive impact in their lives, physically and psychologically. But weight is such a complicated and publicly visible matter that sometimes weight loss is a mixed blessing,” says Patrick O’Neil, PhD, director of the Medical University of South Carolina Health Weight Management Center.
Here is how to handle eight typical consequences of losing weight that nobody tells you about:
Dropping a lot of weight can lead to loose skin. “If you’re losing a significant amount of body fat, that body fat has been under your skin protruding and helping to keep the skin taut,” O’Neil explains. Depending on your genes, age and how much weight you lost, your skin will recover somewhat, he adds. Resistance training to build muscle can help some, so try that first. You may also choose to talk to a plastic surgeon about surgery to remove the skin.
LIVING IN YOUR OLD BODY
When you grow up being teased for being heavier, “you incorporate that as part of your self image,” says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, behavioral health director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center. “When you lose weight, unless you develop a realistic image of yourself, you may continue to think of yourself as a bigger person.” Movement is a great way to help tune into your body, she adds. Or consider keeping one piece of larger clothing and putting it on to see how much bigger it is now. Looking at photos of you at your starting weight may also help you see the changes in your body.
COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
“Often weight plays more of a role in some relationships than we might appreciate at first,” O’Neil says. Your friends and family may not always be supportive of your weight loss. If someone questions why you’re no longer eating certain foods or always going to the gym, explain why losing weight is important to you. If a friend says you’re getting too skinny, say, “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve spoken to my doctor, and I’m at a healthy weight for me.”
ATTENTION FROM STRANGERS
Often when women lose weight, they find they get more attention from men. If this is discomforting, you feel vulnerable or you fear relationships and intimacy, speak to a therapist. “Clients sometimes say the fat has been a protection,” O’Neil says. “Oftentimes there are other issues bound up in that. In some cases, there may be a history of sexual abuse.” It’s important to work through those things with a professional.
REALIZING LIFE ISN’T THAT DIFFERENT
When researchers studied 1,979 overweight and obese adults over four years, they discovered weight loss was associated with a reduction in health risks but not with psychological benefits. “When you’re in the active weight-loss phase, it’s the honeymoon period where you are seeing results and gaining confidence,” Rydin-Gray explains. “When you are in maintenance, you’re not getting that regular feedback.” And you may not land that job or have your girlfriend propose like you thought you would. Think back to why you wanted to lose weight — what were your deeper motivations? It can help to explore what you feel is missing in your life and the barriers to achieving those things with a therapist.
WORRY THAT IT’S “NOT REAL”
When you have lost weight in the past and later regained it, you may think you “can’t” lose weight. If you think your current weight loss isn’t real, listen to your self-talk and come up with counterpoints, O’Neil suggests. Pretend the weight loss is real — how would you behave differently? Why not do that now? Remember, too, that you have tools and skills you have used to lose the weight. Keep using those and it will be real, Rydin-Gray adds.
Shedding pounds after the wedding can cause your partner to feel threatened and insecure, leading to tension in your marriage, according to a study in the journal Health Communication. Talk to your partner if you sense this may be happening. Ask what their concerns are and talk together about how to address those concerns. If you think it’s best, see a couple’s therapist together.
YOU STILL NEED TO WORK
“Losing weight is one challenge; keeping it off is a whole new challenge,” O’Neil says. By now many of the skills you adopted in order to lose weight are habits, so keep them up. And be prepared to face setbacks. Identify the most critical pieces of your weight-control program that you can do if your weight starts to trend upward.
We all know hydration is key. Yet it seems like the whole country is on an H2O hiatus. After all, who needs regular old water from the tap when you can chug coconut water? Courtesy of the energy and sports drink retail market, which recently topped $25 billion, there are more hydration options than ever before.
It’s a big business that wants us to imagine big things (like a single drink might make us perform like a star athlete). Yet the truth is, if you’re averaging an hour at the gym a few times per week, eating healthy snacks and drinking water before and after your workouts provides adequate fuel and rehydration. According to a recent UC Berkeley study, most people who drink sports drinks at least once a day aren’t as physically active as they should be.
Instead of overdoing the designer drinks, think before you sip and make sure you’re not taking in more calories or sodium than you should.
While this all-natural, refreshing drink is hyped as a super-hydrating powerhouse, the majority of studies don’t prove that it rehydrates the body much better than water. On the plus side, it contains less sugar than sports drinks and far less than juice. It’s also naturally rich in potassium, a key electrolyte that supports blood pressure and heart health, as well as bone and muscle strength. Yet one cup still packs 45 calories, which can add up quickly if you’re drinking it frequently. Bottom line: An occasional coconut water is fine, but don’t go overboard and read the label: Coconut water with added juice or extra flavorings can contain as much sugar as regular juice.
Portable tablets like those made by Nuun are designed to be dissolved in 16 ounces of water to provide key electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. There’s no hidden high-calorie pitfall: Every tab has one gram or less of sugar and around 12 calories. Not everyone can get on board with the fairly weak taste, which is similar to lightly flavored water. However, if you’re active outdoors especially in the sun, where excessive sweating makes electrolyte replacement important, the delivery system is awesome: the tabs come in cylindrical tubes that are lightweight, making them easy to stash in your backpack for any on-demand needs if temps soar during an afternoon bike ride or if that Sunday hike takes hours longer than expected.
A simple, effective sports drink is one that refuels the body with some carbs (aka sugar) and electrolytes (aka sodium and potassium). The formula has launched a dizzying number of “performance” beverages, with some brands like Gatorade going so far as to promote distinct products for before, during and after exercise.
Yet these drinks contain tons of sugar, ranging from 35–52 grams per bottle. In truth, the idea that sports drinks are “good for you” entirely depends on whether your body needs them to recover from extra-challenging exercise. So: Was your last workout a grueling endeavor that lasted two hours or longer? A super sweaty run on an extra hot day? Congratulations, you earned a sports drink! If not, skip the unneeded sugar and drink water instead.
Zero-calorie drinks in this category include Propel, water designed for “performance” with an electrolyte content similar to Gatorade (which owns the brand). Then there’s what some call “designer” waters, such as Smartwater from Coca-Cola or the the recently introduced Lifewtr from Pepsi. These contain very small amounts of electrolytes, mainly for flavor and are more similar to regular bottled water than sports drinks. Yet another entry here is VitaminWater Zero, lightly flavored zero-calorie version of regular VitaminWater. (The latter, although promoted as “healthy,” actually contains tons of sugar, and tends to have vitamins such as B and C, which are the ones most people get enough of already.) Not sure which one is best? Keep it simple and drink a glass of regular water — nature’s perfect hydration system.
Weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals trainers deal with. The reality, however, is that not every person who seeks to lose weight ends up reaching their goal. Often times, that’s because people striving for weight loss don’t go into it with the right mindset or information about what really works when it comes to shedding fat and building muscle.
Drawing upon their expertise and years of experience with clients, here’s what trainers want you to know about dropping pounds, plus what successful weight loss looks like from their perspective.
RESULTS TAKE TIME, AND IT’S BETTER THAT WAY
You probably already know it can take a while to see the benefits of working out and eating healthy, but knowing something and accepting it are two different things. “Many clients will join a fitness program only to terminate too soon,” says Michael Piercy, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner of The LAB and IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year 2017. Think about it this way: “The weight that you might want to lose didn’t get there in one day, so we know that it won’t come off in a day.”
Plus, there’s the fact that losing weight really quickly isn’t a great idea. “The faster you lose weight, the more likely it is to come right back (plus some) when you stop dieting,” says Christel Oerum, a certified personal trainer and diabetes coach. “When you lose weight too quickly, you also decrease your body’s metabolism, meaning that you burn fewer calories. When you have reached your weight goal and go back to a normal, healthy diet, you may have decreased your metabolism so much that even a ‘normal’ diet will make you gain weight fast.” That’s why slow and steady is the best approach, which means 1–2 pounds of weight loss per week maximum.
YOUR “WHY” IS AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR “HOW”
Having a plan for how you’re going to lose weight is great, but there will inevitably be moments when your motivation wanes. During those times, your reason for wanting to lose weight in the first place becomes even more crucial, according to Brian Nguyen, CEO of Elementally Strong. Ask yourself: Why are you doing this? Is this doctor-ordered for your health? If so, why would you follow those orders? “After all, most people know what they should be doing: Eat more broccoli and less sugar, get eight hours of sleep, exercise or be active for about 20 minutes a day,” Nguyen points out. To actually make those lifestyle changes that will affect your body composition requires a big “why.”
“Maybe it’s to be able to play with the kids without pain. Maybe it’s to reinvigorate your sex life with your partner. Whatever it is, no one’s goal is really the number on the scale,” Nguyen says. “Get to the real why and make yourself conscious of it daily.” That can include making a vision board, creating your own mantra, or journaling about your weight-loss experience. However you do it, the more you focus on the specific reasons you want to lose weight — the ones without numbers attached — the more likely you are to stick to it.
WHAT WORKED FOR YOUR FRIEND MIGHT NOT WORK FOR YOU
It’s easy to get caught up in trendy workouts, diets and wellness trends, thinking they could be the answer to all your weight-related woes. “I see this all the time,” says Alix Turoff, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian. “A client will come to me and tell me what’s working for their friend and think that they need to be doing the same thing. If your friend is following a Paleo diet, and it’s working for them, that’s great but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to lose weight or meet your goals,” Turoff explains. Instead, it’s better to figure out a plan that capitalizes on the healthy eating and workout habits you may already have. “It’s important to realize that weight loss and nutrition are extremely individual and it’s OK to follow your own set of rules — within reason, of course.”
CRAZY-HARD WORKOUTS AREN’T REQUIRED
You might think the harder you work out, the faster the weight will come off, but that’s not necessarily true. “Don’t sign up for the most challenging boot camp in town with a goal of totally burning off your bad food choices,” says Shana Verstegen, fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness. “This is a recipe for injury and burnout. Instead, find fitness activities that you enjoy and stick with them. If fitness is viewed as fun and something you look forward to, then there is no limit to how long you can maintain it.”
RESISTANCE TRAINING WILL MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE THAN CARDIO
It’s a common misconception that to lose weight, you have to do a ton of cardio. “By mainly basing your weight loss on lifting weights and eating healthy food — and not just on lots of cardio and a super low-calorie diet — you will permanently increase your base metabolism, meaning that you will burn more calories every second of the day, even when you are not working out,” Oerum explains. “As you build more muscle mass and your metabolism increases, it will become easier and easier to both lose weight and to maintain your weight loss.” Of course, cardio isn’t a bad thing, and it deserves a place in your routine no matter what your goals are, but perhaps a smaller one than you might expect. Oerum emphasizes that resistance training and good nutrition are more effective for long-term results.
THE PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH MATTER
Having a community to reach out to can make a world of difference, and while you might not be able to control your family’s health habits, you can certainly make an effort to spend time with fitness-minded friends. “Don’t forget that you are the culmination of the five people you hang around with the most, so be sure to seek out friends who are already living that healthy and fit lifestyle,” Nguyen advises. “The bottom line is that no one does this alone.”
If you can, find a workout buddy who can help keep you accountable. “Have fun with the fitness game using a system of checks and balances with rewards and penalties,” Nguyen suggests. “Maybe the most consistent partner gets a free steak dinner or whoever is later to workouts does the meal prep for the following week.” By motivating each other, you’re also motivating yourselves.
PLAN HOW YOU’LL END YOUR WEIGHT LOSS
“One of the most common weight-loss mistakes is not having a plan for what to do after you reach your goals,” Oerum says. “Most people either keep following the same diet they used to lose weight or end up going back to how they ate before their weight loss.” Neither choice is ideal. “Instead, don’t think of your weight-loss journey as being done until you have managed to keep your goal weight for at least a month.” How do you do this? “After you reach your weight-loss goal, slowly start adding a little more (healthy) food into your daily diet.” Finding a calorie intake that allows you to keep your weight stable is just as much a part of the weight-loss process as shedding pounds.
IT’S BETTER NOT TO HAVE WEIGHT LOSS AS YOUR PRIMARY GOAL
You might be thinking, “What? How can this not be the goal if it’s why I’m training?” Easy. “Strive for athletic and wellness goals such as completing a race, improving your maximum lifts or tracking your food intake for 30 days straight,” Verstegen says. “The weight loss will follow. If you train as an athlete, you will eventually look like an athlete.”
In 2006, Carol S. Dweck, PhD, published 30 years of her research answering the question: What makes someone successful? She theorized people contain two mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Choosing one over the other alters the success you find in life.
This is the belief we are born with a set of abilities and intelligences and we cannot move beyond what is inherent within us. People who choose the fixed mindset avoid taking risks, lose out on life’s adventures and look at failures as endings rather than opportunities to learn and try again.
This is the belief hard work and determination can provide you with endless opportunities. No one ever reaches their full potential because you can always keep learning and growing. People who choose a growth mindset take risks and never mind making mistakes. Rather, they view mistakes as positives because those mistakes are a gateway to growth.
5 ACTION AREAS OF THE MINDSETS
To explain further, Dweck identified five action areas in which the two mindsets diverge: challenges, criticism, success, effort and obstacles.
Here are examples of each mindset. Think of what sounds most like you. Are you someone who thinks with a fixed or growth mindset? If you are in a fixed mindset, it is time to start switching your thought process.
Challenges Fixed mindset – avoids failure: “I will not sign up for a full marathon because I don’t think I can do anything longer than a half-marathon.” Growth mindset – sees failure as opportunity: “I did not finish the full marathon and had to stop. But I’ll try again because I love the idea of challenging my body and pushing it to its limits.”
Criticism Fixed mindset – rejects feedback: “My coach is wrong. I know what is best for me.” Growth mindset – learns from feedback: “I will ask my coach questions during and after our training sessions and take notes to remember what I am told.”
Success of Others Fixed mindset – gets insecure: “I am jealous of my friend who qualified for the Boston Marathon.” Growth mindset – gets motivated: “I need to spend time doing speed work to qualify for Boston like my friend did. To do this, I will hire coach who can help me get faster and stronger.”
Effort Fixed mindset – thinks trying means you are no good: “I am already a good cyclist. I don’t need anyone to help me get better.” Growth mindset – puts in the work: “I’m up at 6 a.m. to train. I can always get a little stronger.”
Obstacles Fixed mindset – gives up: “I could never run a marathon. I am not a runner.” Growth mindset – tries: “I think I could run a marathon. Today I will look up running groups in my area and join them for their next session.”
To better see a growth mindset in context, here are a couple of examples:
“Reflecting on past lifestyle changes or personal accomplishments that I previously believed were beyond my ability really helps me keep a growth mindset and trust that I’m capable of more than I think. Once you prove yourself wrong a couple of times, you learn that ‘I can’t’ is a lie, and the only way to ever really know your limits is to step out of your comfort zone.”
“I spent most of 2017 rehabbing high hamstring tendonitis and not running nearly as much as I have in the past. When being a runner is part of your identity, it’s devastating to not be able to do the thing you love. After successfully rehabbing my legs … I gave myself permission to take the pressure I was putting on myself out of the equation and just have fun out there. By making running fun again, with minimal training miles, in the month of January alone, I’ve almost beat my half-marathon PR, and I’ve run 52 miles.”
“The most successful athletes train their mind to have a ‘champion’s growth mindset’ (as I call it) which applies to both trainers and athletes. [This] includes a positive, optimistic attitude,” says personal trainer Kira Stokes.
Fully switching from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can take years, if not a lifetime. But you should practice training yourself to have a growth mindset every day, like you practice your sport every day — it will be worth it. You will view endurance sports not as something so data and results driven but instead as something in which you enjoy the journey.
There may be no “best” workout for getting fit, but there definitely are right and wrong options for everyone. With so many gyms and boutique fitness studios opening around the country, how do you know what workout fits your lifestyle best? We developed a quiz to give you some ideas for the workouts and activities you will enjoy the most. Here’s what you will actually look forward to doing — therefore giving you the most success.
Add all of your answers to find your most common one then find your workout type below:
You are most likely a classic introvert, meaning you enjoy quiet, introspective moments. Yoga and Pilates are both meditative practices that require you to focus on the mind-body connection. Though barre classes are often done in a group setting, you will enjoy the structure and small, pulsing movements of the exercise that can often be calming (even though yes, it totally burns). Should you be looking to hit the gym, working with a trainer one-on-one is your best option — with a ‘cheerleader’ type versus drill sergeant — who can coach you through moves and help you learn your way around the gym, which can be intimidating for newcomers.
These are all great fitness options that will not only get you outdoors, but can be done either solo or in a group, offering some flexibility. All of these have a meditative quality your introverted side will enjoy — whether you are swimming laps in the pool, paddling through the water watching the sunrise or focusing on your breathing as you train for a 5K. You’ll also get some great aerobic fitness along the way.
You love being around people and these group, full-body workouts let you get fit with your friends. These activities are great because they offer some adventure but still allow you to talk and socialize during the process. You won’t be too out of breath to congratulate your friend as they execute the perfect right hook or take a water break together after a game in your tennis set.
You are hardcore. You want adventure and you crave extreme challenges. These high-energy, loud workouts are perfect for you and you won’t get bored thanks to the constant change-up from workout to workout. If you are the competitive type, CrossFit lets you compete against others (and yourself) — or if you prefer to get outdoors, rock climbing will give you an adrenaline rush as you rappel down from a high peak. Mix it up with a spin class for some high-energy moves and music and to add cardio to your routine.
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. He is most well-known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.
What Do People Do?
Martin Luther King Day is a relatively new federal holiday and there are few long standing traditions. It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background. Some educational establishments mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about the work of Martin Luther King and the struggle against racial segregation and racism. In recent years, federal legislation has encouraged Americans to give some of their time on this day as volunteers in citizen action groups.
Martin Luther King Day, also known as Martin Luther King’s birthday and Martin Luther King Jr Day, is combined with other days in different states. For example, it is combined with Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, while it is observed together with Human Rights Day in Idaho. It is also a day that is combined with Robert E. Lee’s birthday in some states. The day is known as Wyoming Equality Day in the state of Wyoming.
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday, but has slightly different names in some states. Non-essential Government departments are closed, as are many corporations. Some schools and colleges close but others stay open and teach their students about the life and work of Martin Luther King.
Small companies, such as grocery stores and restaurants tend to be open, although a growing number are choosing to close on this day. Some compensate by opening on Washington’s Birthday instead. Recent federal legislation encourages Americans to give some of their time on Martin Luther King Day as volunteers in citizen action groups. Public transit systems may or may not operate on their regular schedule.
Martin Luther King was an important civil rights activist. He was a leader in the movement to end racial segregation in the United States. His most famous address was the “I Have A Dream” speech. He was an advocate of non-violent protest and became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated in 1968.
In 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King died, a campaign was started for his birthday to become a holiday to honor him. After the first bill was introduced, trade unions lead the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976. Following support from the musician Stevie Wonder with his single “Happy Birthday” and a petition with six million signatures, the bill became law in 1983. Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000. In 1990, the Wyoming legislature designated Martin Luther King Jr/Wyoming Equality Day as a legal holiday.