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How to Ease Back-to-School Stress

It's back to school time. Ease back with less stress this year.

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fitness Fitness on a Budget Food & Nutrition Healthy Meals Uncategorized

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Source: MyFitnessPal

Small changes add up to big results over time, especially if you’re looking to lose weight with tweaks to your nutrition and fitness habits. Moreover, making simple changes gradually helps ensure it’s an overall lifestyle change and something that’s sustainable long term — preventing the likelihood you’ll gain the weight right back.

“People should plan to establish habits that they can follow indefinitely,” says Tami Smith, a certified personal trainer based in Williamstown, Massachusetts. “They should ask themselves this question: ‘Is this something that I can see myself adhering to forever?’ If the answer is no, then it’s not a great plan.”

The healthy habits outlined below are ideal for starting small, although if it’s still intimidating, don’t worry, you can always go at your own pace and implement two a week or even two a month. Find what works best for your lifestyle and build from there.

While it’s a great plan to form better weight-loss in the new year, you can always start (or return to it) anytime.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss
Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Replace some of your caloric beverages with water. Keep a water bottle nearby to encourage you to drink regularly throughout the day. “Increasing one’s water intake is definitely an important tool in any weight-loss program since it can help fill you up,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutrition consultant based in New York City and author of “The Small Change Diet.” “If someone does not like the taste of water, I suggest flavoring it with fruit slices or herbs or pouring a glass of sparkling water.”

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Adding short spurts of exercise to your schedule increases your step count and also helps counteract the negative effects of sitting. “Three 10-minute walks per day can eventually be condensed to two 15-minute walks per day, then one 30-minute walk,” says Smith. After that, you might want to continue to increase your distance, notes Smith.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Instead of eliminating certain items from your diet, gradually add more fruits and vegetables, which provide several important vitamins and minerals and nutrients like fiber that keep you full. Over time, you may find yourself gravitating toward produce, instead of processed foods, which saves calories and helps you shed pounds. “Choose to have one fruit per day, perhaps as a dessert with lunch, and then build to 2–4 servings per day,” says Gans. The same goes with vegetables; gradually build them into your diet, starting with breakfast. The more successful you are, the more likely you are to keep including more.”

Bodyweight exercises are awesome for improving strength and building lean muscle, which can help burn more calories.“I recommend starting with bodyweight exercises before attempting to add weights to the mix,” says Smith. Pick a bodyweight exercise (or two) to master such as lunges, burpees or pushups. Perform 4 sets of 12–15.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

If mindless snacking is your downfall, consider what you’re eating and your portion sizes. “View snacks as mini-meals,” suggests Gans. “Focus on enjoying something that is less than 200 calories, contains under 6 grams of added sugar, more than 5 grams of protein, and at least 3 grams of fiber.”

You’ll be more likely to follow through long term if you stick with a pace that feels achievable.

“Start at a low intensity and build as your fitness levels improve,” says Sergio Pedemonte, a certified personal trainer based in Toronto. Go for a walk, do some gentle yoga or cycle at an easy effort, for example.

Writing down what you eat and drink can help you realize every morsel you’re consuming, including food you steal from other people’s plates or bites you sample while cooking. “Many people who are starting a weight-loss program benefit from food journaling,” says Gans. “It enables them to see exactly what they are eating and when, as well as mistakes they may be making.” Use an app like MyFitnessPal to help you notice trends and make healthy swaps.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

“I recommend beginners start with 2–3 full-body workouts a week for one month before moving into split training — i.e., upper-body and lower-body workouts,” says Pedemonte. This can help you get the most bang for your buck at the start, and it doesn’t have to be super long, either. Try this 10-minute, no-equipment, total-body workout.

Think about the healthy changes you want to make to your diet — high-protein make-ahead breakfasts, more fruits and vegetables, fewer soft drinks — and map out the items you’ll need the next time you get groceries. “Planning meals ahead of time and shopping accordingly is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success,” says Gans. It’ll save you time, money and calories.

You might feel like pushing yourself, but avoiding too much too soon may keep you from becoming sidelined unnecessarily. “Starting slow minimizes the risk of getting injured the first week,” says Pedemonte. One way to make sure you’re not overexerting yourself is to calculate your heart rate zone (or use a monitor like Wahoo Fitness TICKR to do it for you) and aim to stay in zones 1–3 this week and progress until you can spend more time in zones 4 and 5.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Remember, consistency beats perfection for losing weight. If you’re eating healthily 80% of the time, you’re on target. If you slip up, don’t feel like all is lost — just be prepared to follow healthy habits again at the next meal. “Healthy eating does not mean choosing healthy foods 100% of the time,” underscores Gans. “One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is already be mentally prepared for some failure.”

Fitness challenges, like this 31-day squat, lunge and pushup plan can help you commit to moving your body daily. Building and maintaining a streak can be motivating and keep things exciting. “It’s a great way to connect with others, particularly during these times,” notes Smith, so be sure to get your loved ones involved.

Your 7-Day Guide to Forming Better Habits For Weight Loss

Sleep is often overlooked, but it greatly impacts nutrition, fitness and weight loss. Aiming for quality sleep (at least 7–8 hours per night), can help curb cravings, allow your body to recover after a tough workout and keep hormones in check to support weight loss. “Setting a bedtime allows you to make better decisions about what you eat and when you eat it,” says Pedemonte. “[And] while the body is sleeping, it goes through a recovery process that allows the body to burn fat, repair tissues and build muscle.” Check-in with how much sleep you’re getting, and if it’s not enough, set your bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you hit your goal.

Source: My Fitness Pal

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fitness

11 Benefits of Doing Lunges Regularly

woman doing a lunge

Lunges are a popular strength training exercise among people wanting to strengthen, sculpt, and tone their bodies, while also improving overall fitness and enhancing athletic performance.

This resistance exercise is popular for its ability to strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while improving mobility and stability. Lunges are ideal for those wishing to get stronger and for current athletes, including runners and cyclists.

Continue reading to take a look at the benefits of lunges along with what muscles they target and a few variation options.

Benefits of performing lunges

1. Weight loss

Lunges work the large muscle groups in your lower body, which builds leans muscle and reduces body fat. This can increase your resting metabolism, which allows you to burn more calories and trim excess weight.

If you’re looking to lose weight, push yourself to your outer limits by including lunges in a high-intensity circuit training routine using heavy weights.

2. Balance and stability

Lunges are a lower body unilateral exercise since you work on each side of your body independently. The single-leg movements activate your stabilizing muscles to develop balance, coordination, and stability.

Working one leg at a time causes your body to be less stable, which forces your spine and core to work harder to stay balanced.

3. Alignment and symmetry

Lunges are better than bilateral exercises for rehabilitation since they can correct imbalances and misalignments in your body to make it more symmetrical.

If you have one side that’s less strong or flexible, spend a bit of extra time working on this side so you don’t overcompensate or overuse the dominant side.

4. Stand taller

Lunges strengthen your back and core muscles without putting too much stress or strain on your spine. A strong, stable core reduces your chance of injury and improves your posture, making common movements easier.

Benefits by type of lunge

5. Stationary lunges

Stationary lunges target your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. You’ll put most of your weight on your front leg and use your back leg to balance, stabilize, and support your entire body.

You’ll want to get the form down since stationary lunges are the foundation for all the lunge variations.

6. Side lunges

Lateral lunges develop balance, stability, and strength. They work your inner and outer thighs and may even help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Side lunges train your body to move side to side, which is a nice change from your body’s normal forward or twisting movements. Plus, side lunges target your quadriceps, hips, and legs at a slightly different angle, thus working them a little differently.

Pay attention to the outsides of your legs and work on activating these muscles as you do these lunges.

7. Walking lunges

To do walking lunges, you’ll need balance and coordination. The walking variation targets your core, hips, and glutes, and improves overall stability. They also increase your range of motion and help to improve your functional everyday movements.

To make walking lunges more difficult, add weights or a torso twist.

8. Reverse lunges

Reverse lunges activate your core, glutes, and hamstrings. They put less stress on your joints and give you a bit more stability in your front leg. This is ideal for people who have knee concerns, difficulty balancing, or less hip mobility.

Reverse lunges allow you to be more balanced as you move backward, changing up the direction from most of your movements and training your muscles to work differently.

9. Twist lunges

You can add a twist to stationary, walking, or reverse lunges to activate your core and glutes more deeply. Twisting lunges also require balance and stability as you twist your torso away from your lower body while maintaining the alignment of your knees.

You’ll also activate the muscles in your ankles and feet.

10. Curtsy lunge

Curtsy lunges are great for strengthening and toning your derrière, which is excellent for your posture. Strong glutes also prevent and relieve back and knee pain, all of which help to improve your athletic performance and lower your risk of injury.

Curtsy lunges also sculpt and strengthen your hip adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings as well as improve hip stabilization. Use a kettlebell or dumbbell to up the intensity of this variation.

11. Lunges and squats

Lunges and squats both work your lower body and are a valuable addition to your fitness regime. You may favor lunges if you have low back pain since they’re less likely to strain your back. Consider focusing on squats if you feel more stable in this position.

Since this pair of exercises will work your body in similar ways, it’s a matter of personal preference to see if either exercise feels better for your body or brings you the best results. Of course, adding both lunges and squats to your routine is beneficial.

Muscles worked 

Lunges increase muscle mass to build up strength and tone your body, especially your core, butt, and legs. Improving your appearance isn’t the main benefit of shaping up your body, as you’ll also improve your posture and range of motion.

Lunges target the following muscles:

  • abdominals
  • back muscles
  • gluteal muscles
  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • calves

How to get results 

Lunges are simple, making them accessible to people who want to add them to part of a longer routine or do them for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. You must stay on track and be consistent to maintain your results over time.

If you do lunges regularly as part of a larger fitness routine, you’ll notice results in terms of building muscle mass and shaping up your body. You’ll likely feel the results before they are visible.

You may develop tight, toned, and stronger muscles and start to lower your body fat percentage within a few weeks. More noticeable results may take a few months to develop.

For each lunge variation, do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. If you feel yourself starting to plateau, up the intensity by doing more difficult variations, adding weights, or increasing the amount you do.

Source: https://www.healthline.com/

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Food & Nutrition

Is it OK to Eat Deli Meat?

Is it OK to Eat Deli Meat?

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.

Source: My Fitness Pal

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Food & Nutrition recipes

5 Drinks That Can Help You Lose Weight

5 Drinks That Can Help You Lose Weight

Is what you drink affecting your ability to lose weight? The short answer is yes. Liquid calories play a huge part in our health, and the amount you consume is directly related to your ability to control the number on that scale.

Beverages go down quicker and easier than food. But that’s also the definition of “mindless” consumption: not paying attention while we’re doing other things like driving, working, watching television or sports, mingling, catching up with friends, etc.

Sodas, as most of the MyFitnessPal community knows, are liquid sugar. They do little to satiate hunger. But that’s also true of many other beverages, including energy drinks, iced lattes, bottled green teas, smoothies, sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, sweetened teas and, yes, even those fresh-pressed organic juices from your local juice bar. Most of these contain a lot of sugar and very little fiber to help keep you full. A few hundred calories per day can add up quickly, as many people fail to factor liquid calories into their daily intake.

Most sodas, bottled teas, energy drinks and sports drinks have sugar and calories listed on the container. Always read labels, and choose beverages with little- to no-added sugar and calories.

Alcohol is where things can get tricky, as calories, fat, sugar and carbohydrates aren’t required to be listed on labels. With 7 calories per gram of alcohol — it’s the second most concentrated source of calories, more than both carbohydrates and fat. It’s also absorbed directly into the bloodstream, meaning your body doesn’t burn extra calories in order to process and break it down.


Many of today’s trending craft beers have as much as 200–250 calories per pint, and that’s just for one. Wine has around 120 calories per 5-ounce pour, if you can limit it to just a glass. Cocktails mixed with sodas, simple syrups and tonic waters add up quickly, too — and come in much smaller portions that “vanish” rapidly. Limiting alcoholic beverages is one of the first steps you can take for successful weight loss.

But wait: The good news is there are a few things (other than water) that you can start sipping that may aid your efforts to shed some pounds. Drinking to promote better hydration, sleep and digestion can also help with weight-loss efforts. Here are five quaffs to consider.

We all know how important it is to drink enough water — it restores fluids lost through breathing, exercising and metabolism. It’s the number 1 thirst quencher … and cheap! But the timing could make a difference, too. When you start to feel hungry, drink some water. A 2015 study in the journal Obesity found that participants who drank about 2 glasses of water before meals were more likely to lose weight than those who skipped the glasses of water and went straight to eating.

Drinking green tea regularly may not only boost your fat fighting metabolism, but may also play a key role in weight maintenance and hunger suppression. One study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that in just two months, green tea drinkers lost an average of six pounds more than those who drank plain water. Green tea is also brimming with antioxidants and flavonoids that are good for overall health. Drink freshly brewed tea with no added sugar or cream — bottled store-bought varieties have fewer antioxidants (the  concentration decreases the longer tea sits after brewing) and are often pumped full of honey or sugar.

The morning java boost is a necessity for many of us, but there’s proof that the jolt may spur a better workout (translation: burn more calories). A 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that participants could do almost 20% more leg presses and 12% more bench presses when they drank 2–3 cups of coffee before their workout. A similar 2011 study found an (albeit small) increase in energy expenditure both before and after exercise in the group that drank coffee before exercise.

In addition, coffee positively affects the hormones that help improve blood-sugar regulation. Maintaining stable blood sugar is essential to your well-being, overall fitness, regulating your hormones and plays a role in how much fat your body is able to store and burn.

But before you get too excited, we recommend you skip the sugar and heavy cream. The benefits noted above are singular to black coffee — not the mostly sugar and milk-based lattes, frappes, and mochas from Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts, which sell drinks that may contain more than 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar!

This fizzy, pleasantly puckery fermented beverage is made by adding a probiotic-rich bacteria to lightly sweetened tea. More and more research is looking into gut health and how it relates to obesity and weight, finding that the millions of bacteria that live in our guts may play a large role by altering the way we store fat, how we balance blood sugar and how we respond to the hormones that make us feel hungry and full. Fueling our gut with beverages and foods that stimulate good bacteria may make losing weight easier than we ever thought possible. Kombucha is readily available in most supermarkets and comes loaded with probiotics — just be sure to look for brands with less than 5 grams sugar per serving.

We’ve said it here before: Sleep is essential for more efficient weight loss. Drinking turmeric-steeped warm milk before bed may help you catch more zzz’s. The brain uses calcium and tryptophan (both of which are found in dairy products) to make sleep-inducing melatonin.

Turmeric contains a component called curcumin, which may shrink the size of adipose cells and limit fat accumulation. Curcumin also stimulates antioxidant effects, reduces inflammation and may help relieve anxiety. Research on turmeric is still young, but it certainly can’t hurt to add this warming spice to your nightly routine.

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Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement Uncategorized

Motivation Monday: 8 Foods That Are Surprisingly Good for Weight Loss

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.

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.

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.

 

Source:

BY: SIDNEY FRY, MS, RD
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Food & Nutrition Holiday Fast Track Humor Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement

How to eat healthy while still enjoying graduation party season

graduation gif 2.gif

 With the end of the year and warmer weather comes celebration. And celebration often means delicious, decadent food and lots of it. Whether it be at a graduation party, family reunion or backyard barbecue with friends, there always seems to be a scrumptious spread calling your name. And let’s not forget the dessert table.
Overindulging at one celebration might not be so bad, but what happens when you have three parties to attend in one weekend? Before you know it, you’ll find yourself feeling tired, bloated and a perhaps a few pounds heavier—just in time for swimsuit season.

So how can you keep your body happy and healthy without missing the fun that summer celebrations bring? Read on for nine tips on how to enjoy parties while still keeping your health in mind.

1. Eat before you go.

Heading out to a graduation soiree where you know there will be killer desserts? Try eating a light, healthy meal before you go. You won’t be hungry for the main event like fatty fried chicken and instead will have room for that slice of cake. Even the smallest snack can help when it comes to having control over the buffet table. Just remember, no matter what you do, don’t go to a party starving. You’re likely to enter a “see-all-eat-all” mentality and go overboard.

2. Bring a healthy dish to pass.

By bringing a dish to pass, you’ll at least know there will be one healthy option to eat. Serve yourself a portion of your healthy contribution and supplement it with smaller portions of a few more indulgent items. Not only can you keep your diet in check, but you’ll also enable others to enjoy a lighter option.

3. Taste test.

The first time you visit the food spread, take a little bit of everything you want to try. Give it all a taste and decide on your favorites. Then go back and dish up what you know you will truly enjoy. This will prevent you from eating foods that are just so-so to your taste buds but are also high in calories and fat.

4. Distract yourself.

After trip one to the dessert table, walk away. Don’t stand or sit near it, as this can increase the temptation to make a return trip. Instead, offer to help the host out with dishes, take a break from the party to walk around the park or venture to the backyard to check out what else might be going on.

5. Be active.

graduation gif

After eating, don’t just sit around. Instead, get up and join in that slow-pitch softball game, round of cornhole or sand volleyball match. You might even burn enough calories to warrant an extra piece of cake!

6. Be mindful of your beverages.

Sure, nothing says it’s a party like a cold Spotted Cow or a fruity margarita. And by “a,” I mean one. Calories from beverages — whether it be from beer, mixed drinks, lemonade, punch or soda — can add up fast. Guzzle down two cans of Coke and you’ve just consumed 280 calories and nearly 80 grams of sugars. That’s about 20 teaspoons! Bottom line: it’s just as important to choose your beverages carefully as it is to choose your eats. Stick to one beverage of choice and then switch to water, diet soda or unsweetened tea.

7. Pack along a piece of gum.

After you’ve finished your first plate, whip out this little lifesaver. Choose a minty flavor to curb any cravings for another piece of chocolate cheesecake and to help take your mind off of food.

8. Balance your plate.

Just as you would for a typical dinner around the table at home, try to balance your plate. Load at least half of it with fruits and veggies, a quarter with lean protein, and the other quarter with grains. (Whole grains are best!)

9. Use a dessert plate.

Swing by the dessert table first before hitting up the food, but only to snatch a smaller, dessert-sized plate. Ditching an oversized dinner plate in favor of a smaller plate aids in portion control and will prevent you from overindulging right off the bat.

Now, I’d have to admit that part of the “party” is definitely the food, and that it’s perfectly okay to indulge every once in a while. But for all those other times, stick to these nine tips and you’ll be on your way to celebrating not only the occasion but also your commitment to a healthier lifestyle!

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Categories
Fitness on a Budget Food & Nutrition Uncategorized

What to Drink When Water Isn’t Enough

drinking water

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 billionthere 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.

COCONUT WATER

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.

HYDRATION TABLETS

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.

SPORTS DRINKS

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.


“FITNESS” WATER

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.


Source: BY KATE CHYNOWETH

Categories
Uncategorized Weekly Workout Meet Up!

8 Things Trainers Wish Everyone Knew About Weight Loss

8 Things Trainers Wish Everyone Knew About Weight Loss

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.

1
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.

2
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.

3
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.”

4
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.”

5
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.

6
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.

8

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.”

Source: JULIA MALACOFF

 

Categories
Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement Uncategorized Workout Wednesday

Workout Wednesday: You’ve Lost Weight, Now How Do You Keep It Off?

You’ve Lost Weight, Now How Do You Keep It Off?

Losing weight is one thing, keeping the weight off is another. We’ve all heard about yo-yo dieting, know a friend who yo-yos and have probably bobbled ourselves. But it is possible to stay at your new, lower weight — and the more you’ve lost, the more likely you may be to maintain, according to a new study.

In this 2017 study, researchers split 177,000 adults into four categories: those who lost less than 5% of their BMI, those who lost 5–10%, those who lost 10–15% and those who lost more than 15% after six months. At the two-year follow-up, the people in the last group — the “high weight loss” group — were least likely to regain more than half of what they’d lost.

Here are four ways to help maintain your weight loss:

1. UNDERSTAND IT’S A LIFETIME COMMITMENT

“Weight loss isn’t an event, it’s a process,” says Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, a clinical psychologist and behavioral health director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center. “It’s not only about food and exercise — it’s about behaviors, emotions and our way of thinking. People who keep the weight off are able to stay focused and commit to prioritizing their health.”

This commitment may include staying active, watching fewer than 10 hours of TV a week, getting adequate sleep and eating breakfast, according to researchers with the National Weight Loss Registry.

2. PLAN REGULAR WEIGH-INS

“You have to continue the behaviors that helped you lose weight in the first place,” explains dietitian Georgie Fear, RD. “We look forward to being able to liberalize our diet and ease up on workouts after losing weight, but you can’t go overboard.” And that’s exactly why the changes you make while dieting need to be ones you can live with for life.

Another habit both the National Weight Loss Registry and experts recommend is continuing to weigh in on a regular basis. “I discourage daily weigh-ins because then you’re too focused on the scoreboard and not on the plays going on the court — what you’re choosing for lunch and dinner,” says Fear, who, along with Rydin-Gray, recommends getting on the scale once a week.

If you notice a significant gain, ask yourself why this happened — you likely know you were stressed, skipped your morning walks and turned to mint chocolate chip rather than calling your friend to talk it out. Then reflect on what helped you lose weight before. Refocus and recommit to those habits, and you’ll get back on track.

3. REMEMBER WHY YOU WANT TO BE HEALTHY

If it’s hard to return to healthier habits, take some time to recall your motivation for losing weight in the first place. “You can’t just be motivated by the scale,” Rydin-Gray says. “You really need to drill down and have frequent reminders of why this is important for you.”

Know that life may not be what you expected when you decided to lose weight. “Sometimes during the weight-loss phase, we have this idea that, ‘Wow, when I get to my goal weight, things will be better in my life — better at work, my romantic situation, I’ll have a great social life,’” Rydin-Gray says. “Then when we get to the maintenance phase, we realize life is pretty much the same as when it was when we were heavier.”

4. TURN TO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK

One thing that can help all of us maintain an optimistic outlook and manage stress — and keep weight off — is a strong support network. Having people you can turn to provides accountability and helps you stick to your healthy lifestyle. “You need supportive people who can lift you up and bring you back to feeling confident,” Rydin-Gray says.

It’s particularly essential that anyone you share a kitchen with is on your side. “It’s so difficult to overcome a cookie habit when the person you live with has cookies every night,” Fear says. Beyond that, your support system can be anyone from friends and coworkers to dietitians and online communities. “Many people don’t have an in-real-life circle of friends that encourage them to be kind to themselves or try a new vegetable recipe,” Fear adds. So if you can find that virtually, take advantage of it.

No matter what, know you can keep the weight off. “There’s a mindset shift where taking care of yourself feels better and more important than giving in to any cravings or slacking off,” Rydin-Gray says. That may sound crazy when you start the weight-loss journey, but once you reach your goal and feel how good it feels, you’ll know it’s better than any ‘high’ a food can give you.

Source: By Brittany Risher

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