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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 31 Surround Yourself with Support

Photo by Marcie Casas on Flickr
Having a good support team can be the difference between reaching your goals and being in a perpetual cycle of trying to reach your goals.

Achieving your weight loss goals can be difficult when it feels like everyone around you is sabotaging your efforts.

Some of the most common things I've heard: "I want to lose weight, but my friends always want to go out drinking," or "I've been working out, but my wife doesn't cook anything healthy," or "I have been eating better but my husband always comes home with junk food." Sound familiar?

There's nothing worse than making strides toward reaching your weight loss goals, only to have your progress stunted by those around you -- mainly family and friends.

The best thing you can do is to tell them what you're trying to do. And ask them to be supportive. Let them know that your goal is really important to you and be specific about how they can help.

That may mean telling your friends that you may not go out to the bars with them as much or if you do, that you'll be drinking water or a mocktail and for them to not give you a hard time about it.

You may have to sit your spouse down and tell them very plainly that bringing junk food into the house or certain meals are ruining your efforts and ask them to respect what you're trying to do and be supportive.

If trying to reach out to your friends and family simply doesn't work -- get online. Find people who share your attitude toward fitness on Facebook or Twitter. There are a lot of fitness and diet professionals who have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts where they share tips and offer support.

Joining a group class or a league is another alternative. Groups are great because everyone is in it together and have similar goals. You start feeling accountable to the group and won't want to miss a session or practice.

Put in a little effort to find support and/or make those around you be supportive, and you're more likely to reach your weight loss goals.

Monday, January 30, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 30 Cheat Smart

Photo by Shimelle Laine on Flickr

Planning indulgences can be an effective way to have a treat and stay in control of your weight loss efforts.

While transitioning into a healthier lifestyle, it's only natural that cravings will come up. Ignoring cravings can bring on binges -- or worse yet, cause one to give up on a healthier lifestyle altogether.

The first step is to acknowledge the fact that you enjoy whatever your indulgence is -- for me, it's chocolate.

Next, plan a day that you'll treat yourself. I like to allow a treat once a week. But depending on where you are with your weight loss efforts, you may find a different schedule that works for you. The key is to plan it. Don't allow yourself to get caught off guard. If it wasn't planned, then don't indulge.

If you have an event coming up like a birthday or a dinner party, you may want to save your cheat for that day.

Once you schedule your treat, things get a little easier. For one, you can look forward to the food, which will make it even more enjoyable. Two, you won't find yourself being tempted by every unhealthy thing that comes into view, because you know you're going to have your cheat planned.

When the day comes, and you indulge, you get right back on track. Spend some time thinking about what you would really enjoy for the next time -- and plan it.

Over time, you'll find that some of the things you thought you couldn't live without, aren't even appealing anymore. Also, you'll be able to spread out your indulgences over longer periods of time.

Keep in mind that it takes time to make long-term healthy habits. Perfection is not the goal. The goal is to make better choices more and more -- the time table is unique to each individual person.

Don't compare your efforts to what other people may be doing. Compare your efforts only to your efforts -- you know if you're doing your best or if you can do better.

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 29 Avoid High Glycemic Index Foods

Photo by Nick Saltmarsh on Flickr
Foods that are high on the glycemic index, or GI, such as white bread, white pastas and white rice can hinder fat loss.

As explained in the "The Low GI Handbook," the GI is based on scientific testing of real foods in real people. It measures how fast carbohydrates hit the bloodstream on a scale of 0-100. A high GI food has the greatest effect on blood glucose levels while a low GI food less effect.

In previous posts, I've talked a lot about the importance of avoiding drastic increases and decreases in blood glucose (sugar) levels in order to lose weight.

When a high GI food is eaten, the body breaks it down very quickly and the glucose derived from that food enters the bloodstream rapidly, spiking blood sugar levels. This is problematic because it promotes fat storage in the body.

Let's take potatoes for example. Which is a better choice -- sweet potato or white potato?

According to the GI list, a baked sweet potato has a GI value of 46 which is low and a baked white potato has a GI value of 76 which is high. This tells us that eating a white potato is going to be digested much faster and cause a more rapid increase in blood glucose levels -- which we want to avoid.

How do you know if something is high, medium or low?

  • High GI value is 70 or more
  • Medium GI value is 56-69
  • Low GI value is 55 or less

General guidelines to follow are: opt for whole grain options such as brown rice versus white rice, avoid any high sugar foods and avoid processed foods.

To look at some of the foods you may eat frequently, check out this list.

The Low GI Handbook, 2010

Sunday, January 29, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 28 Reduce Starchy Carbohydrate Intake

Photo by Johnny Jet on Flickr
They can be hard to avoid -- potatoes, beans, pasta, bread, cereals and grains -- are present in just about any meal. But if you're having a tough time shedding fat, you might need to reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates.

We know that weight loss can be difficult if we eat too many carbohydrates in the form of sugary foods -- but it can also be difficult if too many starchy carbs are eaten.

The key is to reduce starchy carbs, not eliminate them entirely. Our bodies rely on the glucose derived from the breakdown of carbs to provide energy for all types of bodily functions from walking down the street to thinking about walking down the street. If you drastically reduce carb intake, you'll definitely feel it -- through crankiness, lack of concentration and loss of energy.

The body's immediate source of energy comes from the glucose circulating in the bloodstream from the carbs we eat, and starch being the main source.

As carbs are eaten and digested, they are converted into glucose. As the level of glucose in the blood rises, insulin is released in order to keep the amount of glucose in the blood at a safe level. Insulin helps transfer extra glucose from the blood to the muscles and liver for storage.

As discussed in the book "Advanced Sports Nutrition" by Dan Benardot, our muscles and liver can store excess amounts of carbs, but only to a certain point. It is when the muscles and liver reach a saturation point, that the excess carbs are then stored as fat.

This is why one can workout forever, but never quite get the muscle definition they desire.

Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and spinach are better carb choices because they are lower in carbs and don't have the same impact on blood glucose levels as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.

Determining what is a good amount of carbs to have is completely individual. Factors such as gender, age, weight and activity level need to be considered.

When I was training for my figure competitions, it took some trial and error to find what worked for me. I eventually found a good balance for myself -- heavy training days required more carbs and light training days I could eat fewer carbs to achieve my goal bodyfat percentage.

The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is minimal usage of glucose by the brain. The desirable daily range of carbohydrates (both starchy and non-starchy) is between 45-65% of total calories (also referred to as the DV, daily value).

A person consuming 1500 calories a day should have between 169 to 244 grams of carbs total for the day. Using that as a starting point, if you're exercising consistently 4-5 days per week and you are eating healthful meals daily, you might want to start to reduce starchy carbs for the day by 25 grams. Try that out for a week, see how it goes and then adjust further if necessary.

Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Benardot, 2006
Fitness Professional's Handbook, 2007

Friday, January 27, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 27 Vary Your Workouts

Photo by Simon Schoeters on Flickr
If you want to maintain your weight do the same workout over and over -- but if you want to see the number on the scale decrease, you've got to change up your workouts.

I can't tell you how many people I hear complain about not being able to achieve their ideal weight, yet do the same workout over and over -- for years even.

Maintenance workouts that involve doing the same type of workout are beneficial for cardiovascular fitness and help your body stay exactly the same. For example, going for your usual morning run or walk every day or doing your customary 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym are great for maintenance.

But, if you're trying to shed some pounds or make some changes, you need to step it up. Our bodies adapt very easily to our exercise routines. It is imperative to keep your body guessing at what's to come and most importantly, make your workouts a challenge. If you don't find your workout to be tough -- it's not, and you need to turn up the intensity.

The standard is to change your routine at least every six weeks. But I find it beneficial to constantly change exercises and types of cardio. I've been known to do a different workout each time I go to the gym. How you choose to vary your workouts is individual and up to you.

Here are some tips:

  • Try a new group class. Spinning, Zumba, yoga, pilates and all the new fusion classes are a great way to change things up.
  • Use fitness magazines for new workouts ideas. You're likely to find one if not several things you've never tried. 
  • Change the type of workout program you do on your favorite cardio machine. For example, if you always do aerobic training, try doing interval training.
  • Join a league. Basketball, softball, flag football or even dodge ball are great options.
  • Increase your weights. Here's a way you can actually do the same weight training program, but make it more challenging by going up by 10-15 pounds. 
  • Take on new activities like biking, running or hiking. 

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 26 Avoid the Alcohol Sabotage

Photo by Rob Ireton on Flickr
Don't let alcohol encumber all of your hard work and efforts toward a healthier lifestyle.

Alcohol is almost always involved in any social gathering and can be difficult to avoid. I've often heard many people say that they weren't going to eat too much during the day so they could "save the calories" for when they go out drinking.

Sure, it's important to be conscious of the calories you consume, but skipping meals -- or worse starving yourself and loading up on calories from alcohol is a bad move.

Any alcohol consumption -- be it beer, wine or hard liquors like rum and vodka -- all raise blood sugar levels, which then raise insulin levels and finally you're left in a hypoglycemic state where your blood sugar is too low.

This is problematic for several reasons. One, keeping insulin levels as even as possible is key for weight loss. Two, drastic increases and decreases in insulin levels is a risk for diabetes. And three, low blood sugar levels increase your appetite and cause you to crave things that aren't healthy -- which is why you see long lines at fast food restaurants on any given Saturday after the bars have closed.

Not only are you in a losing situation while consuming alcohol just on an insulin level, but also when it comes to calories.

Most alcoholic drinks are mixed with sodas, juices and syrups making a bad situation even worse. After having a few drinks, you're likely look at having had consume 600 or more non-nutritive calories. To get an idea of how many calories are in most drinks, check out this list from Calorie King.

So, what does one do -- stop drinking altogether? That is ideal but it's a bit unrealistic. Avoid it if you can, but if you are to drink at least be wise about it. Here are a few of my tips:

  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Opt for red wine whenever possible -- at least get some antioxidants out of the deal.
  • Skip sugary mixed drinks like margaritas, daiquiris or pina coladas. 
  • Skip light beer. Lighter beers do have fewer calories but you're more likely to have more to get same effect of one regular beer, resulting in more total calories. 
  • When drinking hard liquors choose ones you can drink straight. Or mix with water and lime or lemon for flavoring.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 25 Have Protein After a Weight Workout

Hemp protein shake
After putting in some serious work with weights, be sure to refuel your muscles by having protein after your workout.

I posted before that building muscle helps with weight loss because the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. Plus, having a little muscle makes your physique look better. I think anyone can appreciate nicely sculpted arms, right?

Protein consumption following a weight training session assists the body in building muscle.

During a weight training session, you are tearing down muscle fibers and using stored glycogen (glucose) as fuel. In order aid muscle growth, the body needs protein to help rebuild the muscles that have been broken down. Protein is better able to get to muscles when paired with a glucose source. The presence of glucose in the blood helps muscles absorb the protein while also replenishing glycogen.

The ideal time to consume a mix of protein and carbohydrates (glucose) is within 30 minutes of your workout. The timing is important because if you wait too long, recovery can be delayed -- and you want to make the most out of your weight sessions.

Protein shakes are easy and convenient. I like making a protein shake made of almond milk, banana and hemp protein powder -- though, you can use whatever blend you like.

Here's my current protein shake recipe:

1 cup almond milk
1 serving of hemp protein powder, about 16 grams
1/2 banana (glucose source)

Simply add all ingredients into a blender and drink. I  currently like using hemp protein powder because it is a vegetarian source of protein and easier on digestion as compared to animal sourced powders such as whey.

So, go get in the gym, lift weights and refuel immediately afterwards.

Personal Trainer Manual by American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 24 Opt for Coconut Oil

Photo by Allison Felus on Flickr
Swapping your usual cooking oils with coconut oil on occasion can help support thyroid function and weight loss.

Many polyunsaturated oils -- which are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) -- that we consume on a regular basis such as corn, canola, soybean and cottonseed, can have a negative impact on thyroid function.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) and is known to stimulate metabolism and to have a positive impact on the thyroid.

The body is able to digest and burn up MCTs (coconut oil) more quickly than LCTs (vegetable oils).

A study published in the March 2002 issue of The Journal of Nutrition found that MCTs increased energy expenditure, decreased fat storage and increased satiety.

As with all fat, it should only be consumed in moderation. Using extra virgin coconut oil in some meals versus usual cooking oils over a long period of time can help promote weight loss.

Another benefit of coconut oil is that it is rich in lauric acid -- which has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Journal of Nutrition
Mayo Clinic

Monday, January 23, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 23 Eat High-Fiber Foods

Photo by Jeremy Keith on Flickr
Eat as many high-fiber fruits and vegetables as your stomach can hold -- and watch the weight fall off.

Changing to healthier eating habits, often leaves many people feeling deprived of food and hungry all of the time. This is because people usually cut back on all of the food they consume. That's only half right. Yes, cut back on all the high calorie, non-nutritive junk food -- but eat all fruit and vegetables your stomach can hold. Seriously.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' daily recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Fiber filled vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, brussels sprouts, artichokes and fruits like strawberries, raspberries, apples, bananas and pears are great because they make you feel full and satisfied.

Nuts and grains are also excellent sources of fiber -- but unlike vegetables and fruit, they should consumed in moderation.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the kind that dissolves in water and adds to the fullness effect because once it comes in contact with water, it forms a gel in the stomach. Insoluble fiber is the kind that does not dissolve and stays intact as it passes through the intestines. It adds bulk to food which makes you feel full. It also speeds up the passage and elimination of food in the gut.

Not only does fiber add heft to your meals, it also slows the increase in blood sugar and insulin levels. The bulk from fiber in food slows the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines which is how blood sugar levels are maintained relatively even. Drastic up and down insulin levels adds to fat storage and is a risk factor for diabetes.

At the start of each meal, eat all the vegetables you can, first. I've been known to eat a whole head of lettuce in one salad! So, don't be afraid to eat more vegetables, you can't eat too many. Starting off each meal with vegetables will get fiber in your stomach which will fill you up. Then you're less likely to overeat and the fiber in your stomach will work to keep blood sugar levels even as you eat the rest of your meal.

Check out this list from the Mayo Clinic for high-fiber foods.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 
Mayo Clinic

Sunday, January 22, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 22 Chill Out

Photo by Dawn on Flickr
So you ate a donut yesterday and you missed a workout last week and you picked up a candy bar while standing in the checkout lane at the grocery store. So what. Chill out and relax.

Don't beat yourself up about being perfect and never missing a workout or ever eating anything bad . When you're trying to adopt healthier habits, it's not about perfection -- it's about making improvements. Because, let's face it, there will be slip ups.

The goal is to gradually make more good choices than bad.

I've had a lot of clients that felt like, if they missed one workout or if they broke down and ate fast food, that it was over  -- as if they lost the battle and were doomed to be unfit and unhealthy forever.

It is unrealistic to think you can take years and years of bad habits and change them overnight, no matter how motivated and determined you may be.

If you're overly excited about a weight loss or fitness program, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Yup, that's right.

How many people do you know that have been really excited about getting in the gym come the first of the year? They've gone out, gotten a gym membership, new shoes, new clothes, gadgets even -- only to completely fall off not even a month into the program.

My advice is to be realistic and understand that making changes takes time. Don't buy into the hype of all the magazines promising you can get abs in 30 days or drop 10 pounds in a certain amount of time. It's different for everybody. Just take things slow. If you slip up, don't get down on yourself -- just immediately pick right back up. And by all means, don't make a bad situation worse by having one slip turn into weeks of not even trying.

Making fitness improvements is definitely a long-term endeavor. Relax. Take one day at a time and eventually you'll reach your goals. The key is to never give up, be realistic and strive to make more good choices than bad.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 21 Schedule Your Workouts

Photo by Vic on Flickr
One of the most common complaints that I hear when it comes to working out, is time.

There's never enough time.

But here's the thing -- if you wait until you have time to workout, it'll never happen. We are all busy. We have work, meetings, errands, kids, spouses, chores, and everything in between -- all demanding our time.

It is easy to push working out to the back burner, but once you do that, it's forgotten about. Then you eat something you shouldn't and are reminded about the fact that you've been putting it off. Then the guilt sets in.

But there's a simple answer to this: schedule your workouts -- like you may schedule grocery shopping.

If you have to wake up an hour earlier to make it happen -- do it. Or if you have to go to the gym after dinner and the kids are put to bed -- do it. If you have to make arrangements for a sitter -- do it. Maybe all you can fit in is walking the stairs or walking around the block a few times during your lunch break -- do it.

The key is, each week, take a look at your schedule and add your workout to it. Don't let anything interfere with the time you've allocated for your workout. Once you write it down and make it a priority, the easier it is to stick to it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 20 Drink Lemon Water

Photo by Rob on Flickr
Whether you prefer your water hot or cold, the next time you have some, squeeze in a little fresh lemon juice to boost liver function and aid with weight loss.

The liver is our body's main fat burning organ -- it breaks down and metabolizes fats. It is also responsible for  a whole host of other important functions as well, such as breaking down and eliminating toxins, producing bile for digestion and storing glucose for energy.

Having a liver that operates as efficiently as possible can boost weight loss. One of the easiest ways to give your liver a little boost is through lemons. Lemons help cleanse the liver, create new liver enzymes, strengthen existing liver enzymes and regulate blood carbohydrate levels -- all of which help it function better.

I posted before about the importance of increasing your water intake. Another bonus of adding lemon juice to your water, is that it's an appetite suppressant. So, go on ... drink up -- and add lemon.

The Human Machine by The World of Science, 1989
The Official Anti-aging Revolution by Klatz, R., Goldman, R., 2007

Thursday, January 19, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 19 Do Combine Food Properly

Photo by woodleywonderworks on Flickr
Eating heavy and improperly combined foods can cause bloating, delay absorption of nutrients and prolong digestion which can cause food byproducts to stay in our intestines longer than necessary -- contributing to excess weight.

In the book "The Beauty Detox Solution," nutritionist Kimberly Snyder notes that many people are not aware of the principle of proper food combining. In fact, most mainstream health professionals would argue that it's unnecessary. However, much research has been done to support the practice and you should at least consider it as you plan your meals to help with weight loss and better health.

The idea behind proper food combining is to promote efficient digestion and assimilation of nutrients into the body. For example, let's take a look at this dinner option: baked chicken, vegetables and potatoes. In this meal the easiest food for the body to digest is the vegetables, second is the potatoes and chicken is the most difficult. When eaten together, the chicken takes hours to break down and by the time it's done, the vegetables have all but rotten -- leading to gas and bloating and other digestive issues.

Here are some guidelines of proper food combining. For more information, I encourage you to read the listed source books.

Concentrated foods:
Any non-water based foods. Examples: fish, chicken, pork, seafood, beef, protein powders, beans, eggs, cheese, grains, pasta, crackers, cereal and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams and white potatoes.

Non-concentrated foods:
Any water based foods. Examples: all fruit and all non-starchy vegetables.


  • Aim to eat only one concentrated food at each meal (though two starches together are OK)
  • Eat vegetables first at any meal
  • Only eat fruit on an empty stomach (though fruit and leafy vegetables are OK together)

  • Eat more than one meat in a meal
  • Eat meat and a starch together

Examples of properly paired meals:
  • Baked chicken, asparagus and salad
  • Salmon and broccoli 
  • Vegetable stir-fry with brown rice
  • Fruit plate for breakfast
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Toasted bread with butter

Once you start making changes, knowing which foods pair well, will become easy. For me, when I first started pairing foods properly, I thought it seemed ridiculous that having a turkey sandwich was an improper food pairing. It made me reluctant to go through with it. But once I did, I saw a huge improvement in my energy and I didn't have an unsettled or sour stomach -- but most importantly, I dropped the weight I was having a hard time getting rid of. 

I understand being a little hesitant to get on board with this, I know I was. But I encourage you to try it for at least a week and see if you notice any changes -- I know you will. 

The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder
Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 18 Avoid Store Bought Juice

Photo by manwithface on Flickr
Walk into any grocery store and find the juice -- you'll be met with a plethora of options from orange to grape to apple to tempting blends of pineapple, cranberry and strawberry. But if you're trying to lose weight and be healthier, avoid all of them.

Juice that can sit around on store shelves has been pasteurized. The pasteurization process heats the juice to a high temperature to kill off harmful bacteria, mold or unwanted microorganisms that may be present.

And when the bad stuff is eliminated, so is the good. You are left with a denatured juice that has a tiny amount of nutrients left, which is why juice is fortified -- to add back some the nutrients that are lost (and not all are added back).

According the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 98% of juices sold in the United States are pasteurized and can be found as frozen concentrate, stored at room temperature or in the refrigerated section in the grocery store.

Store bought juice is basically sugar water. And many contain one of the worst sugars you can consume -- high fructose corn syrup.

Don't be misled by claims on the label, like "100% juice" or "not from concentrate" and think that this type of juice is best for you. These types of juice are missing many of the fruit's natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes. And sure, 100% juice at least doesn't have added sugars, but it still lacks the fruit's natural nutrients.

So if you are going to have juice, make it yourself with a juicer. And if you don't have a juicer, opt for eating a piece of fruit instead -- you'll be much better off.

United States Department of Agriculture
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 17 Keep a Food Log

Photo by Vic on Flickr
Accountability is the missing link for a lot of people who are trying to stick to a diet and exercise program. 

Keeping track of what you eat on a daily basis will help you maintain healthy habits by giving you an honest feedback of what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong. This is one of the reasons why personal trainers are so helpful. But if you don't have a trainer, you can be accountable to yourself my keeping track of the food you eat.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that participants who kept food records lost twice as much weight as those who didn't.

When I keep a food log for myself, I'm less likely to indulge in cheats because I know I'll have to write them down.

Keeping a food log is easy. All you need is a dedicated notebook. Don't write anything else in this notebook other than what you consume and when. Or tracking online is useful too -- is a good tool. After a while, start researching the calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates and keep track of that too. Before you know it, you'll have very specific information about how your body handles to food you eat.

For an example of one of my old food log's, click here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 16 Do Yoga

Photo by lululemon athletica on Filckr
One of the best ways to boost weight loss is to do yoga -- it's a great cardiovascular and muscle building workout, plus it detoxifies.

The stretching, pulling and twisting done during a yoga session assists the body's detoxification systems in eliminating waste. Waste removal is important because the build up can cause unnecessary excess weight and having cells free of as many toxins as possible, keeps organs functioning well.

Yoga doesn't seem like it would compare to more traditional forms of cardio, i.e. running. But the positioning and holding of the different postures really increases your heart rate and oxygen consumption which improves aerobic capacity -- the functional capacity of the cardiorespiratory system (heart, lungs and blood vessels).

The isometric contractions performed during yoga are great for muscle building. I posted earlier about the benefits of building muscle -- the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.

I personally love Bikram yoga -- there's something about sweating in a room that's 105 degrees that is refreshing (ironic, I know). I always come away feeling cleansed, relaxed and fit. But any form of yoga is beneficial. If you're new to yoga, give it a try. Or if you're a seasoned yogi, maybe try a new style to switch it up. Have fun with your workouts.


Gaiam Life
American College of Sports Medicine

Sunday, January 15, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 15 Say No to 100-Calorie Snack Packs

Photo by Horia Varlan on Flickr
Cookies. Cupcakes. Brownies. Cheese crackers. Ice cream bars. Peanut butter bars. And even soda. You name it -- and there is probably a version of it that you can get in a package of 100 calories. But just because you can get junk food in smaller quantities, that doesn't make it better.

You may be gasping right now and thinking "it's only 100 calories, that's not bad."

It's still junk food. And it is filled with non-nutritive calories like sugar, saturated fat and additives.

In a previous post, I talked about why sugar is bad for us -- sugary foods are addicting, lead to fat storage and cause unstable blood glucose levels which is a risk for diabetes.

Additives are bad because they are non-food, often toxic substances that lead to weight gain. Many processed foods contain some form of the additive MSG which oftentimes is unidentifiable because it is contained in ingredients such as glutamic acid, calcium caseinate, soy protein isolate and flavorings -- to name a few. MSG is an excitotoxin which interferes will brain function. These substances have been linked to lepin resistance. The hormone leptin is the fullness hormone that tells our brain when we are full and can stop eating.

So, what does this mean? When sugary and additive filled food is consumed (like cookies, cupcakes, soda, etc.) the more it is craved. And when that happens, without having some serious willpower, more is eaten which leads to weight gain. It's an on-going cycle of want more -- eat more -- want more -- eat more, until you have to force yourself to stop eating the food.

Ever have a serving of chips and want more, not necessarily because you were hungry for more, but just because you craved it? The same applies to the 100-calories snack packs. Who can really just eat one package?

The 100-calorie snack packs are probably even worse. Because you think you're making a better choice, and may end up eat two or three packages in a sitting. You may be thinking "oh, it's OK, they're only 100 calories." But those calories add up. And if you've eaten three packages, that's 300 non-nutritive calories you've consumed that only detract from your health and sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Eat fresh fruit, nuts or seeds instead of snacking on junk food. You'll feel full and satisfied -- which is what you want when you're trying to loose weight.

Documentary: The Gerson Therapy

Saturday, January 14, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 14 Plan Your Meals

In order to successfully shed some pounds, you need to plan. Going from meal to meal and trying to figure out what you're going to eat at the moment hunger strikes, is a recipe for disaster.

What happens when you are hungry and have nothing on hand to eat? Most likely, you'll find whatever is closest and fastest. And oftentimes, those choices sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Before the week starts, you need to know exactly what you'll be eating and at what time for the entire week. So, if I were to ask you, "OK, what's for lunch on Thursday?" you need to be able to answer that question immediately.

Here's how to do it: Since for most of us our week starts on Monday, let's use that as our week start point. On the Saturday before, sit down with a piece of paper and pen and write out all of your meals for the week. Make a grid that includes each day of the week  meal times -- everything from breakfast to snacks to dinner. On Sunday, write out your grocery list accordingly and go shopping.

On Sunday, do any necessary prep work or meal preparation for Monday's meals. You can even pack those meals in storage containers and sit them in the fridge so they're are ready to go on Monday. Repeat this process every day. The key is that you want to have the next day's meals ready to go the day/night before.

And of course, if you usually make dinner each night, that's fine to do -- you don't have to make dinner the day before.

Here's a useful tip: Making large quantities of meals that will last a couple of days is a big time saver. A friend of mine who works full-time and is a super busy mom has a great strategy. She makes Sunday her cooking day and cooks all of her meals for the week and stores them so that every day all she has to do is heat up her food. This way she saves herself a ton of time because the cooking is already done.

With a little planning and preparation, you'll set yourself up to succeed with your weight loss efforts. And adopting these habits will make for long-term success.

Friday, January 13, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 13 Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Photo by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr
Sugar free: Consume the sugary stuff you like without any of the calories. Sounds like a winning situation, right?


I know that lots of people have good intentions and try to avoid the effects of sugar consumption by using artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin or sucrolose. Even I used to like using those yellow packets instead of real sugar. But research shows that these sweeteners can actually make you gain weight.

A study done by researches at Purdue University found that artificial sweeteners interfere with the body's ability to recognize the fake sugar and the body reacts to it as though it is real sugar -- raising insulin levels and causing sugar cravings -- which leads to weight gain.

If you're thinking, "but I don't use those little packets of sweeteners," well, you may be a fan of zero calorie soft drinks, and this especially applies to diet sodas.

In a study done by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, researches found that diet soda drinkers waist circumference was 70 percent higher than non-drinkers. And in another study, the researches found that heavy aspartame usage may directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels -- which promotes weight gain and is a risk for diabetes.

Ditch the diet sodas and sugar free varieties of everything from gum to jelly and improve your chances of long-term weight loss and better health.

Purdue University
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
International Journal of Obesity

Thursday, January 12, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 12 Prevent Impulsive Junk Purchases

Photo by
Ever been out and your stomach starts howling and you become lured by the ever-present fast food restaurants that line most streets? Or maybe you're sitting at your desk and the image of the office vending machine keeps flashing in your head? Prevent making a bad decision by always having a healthy snack on hand.

Whenever you leave the house, make sure you have some easily accessible snacks available. I always make sure I have some raw almonds or a piece of fruit stashed in my purse for those instances when I'm out longer than expected and I find myself starving.

Some examples of healthy snacks that travel well are: bananas, apples, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines and bags of strawberries, blueberries, grapes, almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.

If you plan properly, you put yourself in a better position to succeed in your weight loss pursuit.

Note: I no longer recommend store bought protein bars or any variation of health bars. Many are high in sugar and fat which makes them really comparable to candy bars. Furthermore, because they are a packaged good, they will almost always contain some type of preservative (a non-food substance). Foods that have non-food substances should be avoided.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 11 Green Smoothies

Photo by Arnold Gatilao on Flickr
Remember how I said that if you want to lose weight, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables? Well, here's one easy way: Drink green smoothies.

Making a smoothie filled with fruits and vegetables like apple, banana, pear, lettuce, spinach, kale, parsley sounds delicious, right? OK, maybe not. But once you start drinking them, not only will you want them all of the time but your body will feel so much better.

In her book "The Beauty Detox Solution," Kimberly Snyder strongly encourages drinking green smoothies as a part of one's lifestyle for all its beautifying, health and weight loss benefits.

These smoothies are very detoxifying because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, enzymes, chlorophyll and water. All of these different elements help to cleanse and flush toxins from cells. As toxins from poor eating habits and the environment build up in our bodies, these toxins can interfere with the functionality of our cells and body systems. Having a body that runs efficiently with all systems working at their peak will help with weight loss.

If you'd rather juice your greens, that's great too. The documentary "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" focused on one man's journey of juicing for health and weight loss. On his juicing fast, he lost a considerable amount of weight and also improved his health.

Let's think of our bodies like our cars. Our cars, don't only need fuel to run, they need the right type of fuel to run properly. If your car operated best using a higher grade of gasoline, you wouldn't dream of using a lower grade. Same analogy applies to our bodies. Our bodies function better when we eat a higher grade of food.

I personally like smoothies more than juicing because smoothies yield more and the fiber stays intact. But whichever you choose, you'll benefit greatly from having it.

I would recommend having a smoothie every day. Most days I like to have a smoothie for breakfast. At first you may find that you're still hungry, especially if you're accustomed to having a large breakfast. In that case, wait about 20 minutes or so after having the smoothie and have a bowl of oatmeal. You can have a smoothie at any point during the day. Maybe swap out a midday snack for a smoothie.

I use the Glowing Green Smoothie by nutritionist Snyder. Here is a link to the recipe.

Directions: Wash and chop all ingredients into small pieces. First add water into blender, some greens and pulse. Then slowly add remaining greens, celery, apple, pear, lemon juice and add banana last. Blend until smooth. Makes about 4 servings of 12-16 ounces.

Note: If you're like me and don't have a super high powered blender, I find that splitting the ingredients into two batches helps since all the ingredients won't fit into the blender. Also, if you're up for it, make all the ingredients organic. I haven't quite gone all organic, but I do buy some organic fruit here and there. Store in fridge for up to 2.5 days or freeze for later use. I like using mason jars because I can separate the batch into servings, then put in the fridge. Using mason jars also makes it easy to travel with the smoothie. So if you were wondering how you were going to take it to work with you, use a mason jar.


The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder
Documentary: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 10 Read and Watch

Photo by Horia Varlan on Flickr
I absolutely love learning about nutrition and the food we eat which is why I'm such a junkie for documentaries and books on nutrition. How food works in the body is fascinating and having an understanding of it will increase your chances of changing to a healthy lifestyle for the long-term.

There are some documentaries that I've watched and books that I've read that have been really eye-opening and have influenced my approach to nutrition. I wanted to share some of them with you. I've complied a list and added a short tid bit on what each is about or what I took away from each. Check it out.


Food Inc.
The food industry

Forks Over Knives
Processed foods

National Geographic's Incredible Human Machine
How our systems function

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
Juicing for health and weight loss

Foods that hurt and help our health

King Corn
The corn industry

Supersize Me
Being overfed and undernourished


The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder
Great introduction to food combining 

Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
Benefits of vegetarian based diet

The Low GI Handbook (various authors)
Great breakdown of how the body handles carbohydrates

Monday, January 9, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 9 Reduce Caffeine

Photo by Sarah Fleming on Flickr
To help yourself in the weight loss process, cut down on caffeinated beverages.

Consuming an excessive amount of caffeine puts an enormous strain on the liver, can negatively affect sleep patterns and increases cortisol levels -- all of which contribute to fat gain.

You may have heard that there are some health benefits associated with coffee. Some research shows that coffee may have some benefits such as lowering the risk of certain cancers. But the caffeine in coffee can have adverse effects on weight loss.

It is wise to limit caffeine consumption from coffee and soda, here's why:

Taxing on the liver. The liver metabolizes the food we eat and is our main fat burning organ. The liver also metabolizes caffeine breaking it down so the body can process it. Consuming large quantities of caffeine can be burdensome to the liver. An optimally functioning liver is ideal for efficient food metabolism. Limiting caffeine consumption in order to reduce the burden on the liver is beneficial for weight loss.

Raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol taps into fat stores to use as energy under stress and moves fatty acids to another location such as muscle for energy. But if that fat isn't used up, it gets stored again but usually as belly fat. This is because there are a greater number of fat receptors in the abdominal region. A study done in 2005 by the National Institutes of Health found that caffeine intake increased the secretion of cortisol.

Can disrupt sleep patterns. Insomnia is a sign that your diet may contain too much caffeine. When caffeine is consumed, norepinephrine and epinephrine is released -- stress hormones that act on the brain and nervous system. Working together they increase heart rate, blood pressure and cause that jittery feeling often making sleep difficult. Getting too little sleep can raise cortisol levels resulting in the problems listed above.

National Institutes of Health
Mayo Clinic
Scientific American

Sunday, January 8, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 8 Do Cardio on Empty Stomach

Photo by jweingardt12 on Flickr
If you want to see your body start changing in a hurry -- and let's face it, who doesn't? -- start doing cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, a very effective method of burning fat.

When we exercise our bodies use carbohydrates, fat or protein for fuel. Carbohydrates and fat are most common, and our bodies only use protein for fuel under certain circumstances.

When we consume carbohydrates immediately before a workout, our bodies will use the glucose derived from those carbs as fuel since it is the most readily-available energy source. If carb-based glucose isn't present, the body will next turn to fat for energy. So, if you refrain from eating before your workout, your body is forced to pull from its fat reserves for fuel.

Additionally, high-intensity cardio has been shown to burn fat more effectively than low-intensity cardio, according to research referenced in "Advanced Sports Nutrition" by Dan Benardot.

And though many people are unable to exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for very long without feeling nauseated or extremely fatigued, the good news is that one doesn't need to spend a considerable amount of time doing this for it to be effective.

Start small, do as much as you can. Try a light warm-up, maybe march in place. And then start your day off with an activity such as jumping jacks. Then build up over time -- it can be very effective.

Benardot, D., Advanced Sports Nutrition, 2006

Saturday, January 7, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 7 Run a Race

Photo by Katina Rogers on Flickr
If you need help getting motivated to start or stick to an exercise program, sign up for a race.

Few things will push you to workout quite like having an upcoming event that you need to be ready for. I recommend doing a race because it is probably the easiest event to get into -- there are no qualifications and races are held year-round all over the world -- anybody can do it. No matter the type of race you choose, be it a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, triathlon or Ironman -- the commitment holds you accountable.

The inability to get motivated is the most common complaint I've heard from people who want to get in better shape. They know what they want, but haven't figured out how to become interested enough to get off the couch.

When it comes to motivation, there are two types: internal and external. People who are internally motivated are able to push themselves in their athletic endeavors because they enjoy the sport and competition. People who are externally motivated are driven by outside factors such as rewards or praise.

What I like about planning to run a race, is that both internally and externally motivated people will have their motivation fires stoked. And for a lot of people, the race is just the kick-start they need to get them on a course for long-term physical activity.

Internally motivated people may find themselves really getting into the culture of racing -- researching training techniques, equipment that may help them compete -- all because they find the very idea of competing exciting and they enjoy it.

Externally motivated people may find themselves thinking about how exciting it will be to finish the race and possibly earning a medal for their competition. Or they may be thinking of how they can shut up the naysayers in their lives that think they can't do it.

So if you're finding that you just can't motivate yourself to get started, find a race in your area and sign up for it. Runner's World has a race finder tool on their website. Click here to check it out.

Smith, L.H., Kays, T.M., Sports Psychology for Dummies, 2010

Friday, January 6, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 6 Understand Digestion

 Photo by Spectacles on Flickr
Digestion is rarely considered when diet and exercise plans are devised for weight loss. Promoting efficient digestion could be the missing link for many people who have been struggling with losing those unwanted pounds.

If your body can't break down food efficiently, it can lead to fat storage and a gut full of heavy, rotting gunk.

Digestion is the process in which the body totally breaks down the food we eat. This process begins in the mouth as soon as we take a bite of food and begin to chew. Saliva then starts to break down the food before it is passed down to the stomach. From the stomach the food moves to the small intestine, then to the large intestine and then finally to the colon.

The whole process can take up to 30 hours -- a rather long and energy-draining function.

Ever feel sluggish and devoid of energy after a heavy meal? Well, our bodies having to focus an incredible amount of energy on digestion has a lot to do with it.

Digestion is more efficient if we eat certain foods together and avoid eating others together, for example combining starches and proteins in the same meal is best avoided.

Food that isn't digested well can putrefy and rot in the stomach, causing bloating and indigestion. Food  then has a more difficult time passing through the intestines, often clogging up their some 30 feet. And because the food is rotten, no nutrients are being passed through the body, making a bad situation even worse.

The good news is that there are some things you can do to promote efficient digestion. Here are some tips:
  • Practice proper food combining
    • only eat one concentrated food at a time (starches, proteins)
    • only eat fruit on an empty stomach 
    • don't eat several types of meat in same meal
  • Eat vegetables first in any meal
  • Eat light breakfasts
  • Save heavier meals for dinner
The tips listed above will be covered in more detail in blogs later this month. 

Diamond, Fit for Life, 1985
Snyder, The Beauty Detox Solution, 2011

Thursday, January 5, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 5 Eat Water-Containing Foods

Photo by Global Jet on Flickr
You've always heard the advice "eat your fruits and vegetables." And here's why:

Fruits and vegetables are high-water-content foods. The water found in these foods nourishes and cleanses the body, helping rid it of built up toxic waste. The more of these foods you eat, the better nourished and cleansed the body will be. After years of eating foods that are filled with preservatives, the non-food substances they contain -- such as additives, fillers, dyes, sugar substitutes and other chemicals -- can build up in our bodies. This build-up adds weight and blocks vital nutrients from getting to our cells. As a result, internal organs and the functions they perform, such as metabolizing calories, will not run optimally.

Start to incorporate more and more vegetables into your meal plan, especially dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and collard greens because darker vegetables are more nutrient dense.

Also, any fresh fruits -- apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, blueberries and everything in between -- are great choices. But avoid dried fruits because as all the water has been removed, and many of the health benefits along with it.

Additionally, fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and enzymes, which are essential for the body to perform at its peak.

Diamond, Fit for Life, 1985
Klatz, R., Goldman, R. The Official Anti-aging Revolution, 2007

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 4 Avoid Sugar

Photo by Mykl Roventine on Flickr
It's amazing how something so sweet can be so bad for you.

Sugar comes in many forms, almost all of them unnecessary and easy for the body to turn into fat. The carbohydrates we eat break down into a form of sugar called glucose, which is the energy source for cell function. If there is too much sugar in the system, the body is very efficient at storing it as fat. And consuming too much sugar is easy to do.

Some examples of the different forms of sugar are: table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, organic sugar, agave syrup, honey, dextrose, glucose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Though some types are worse than others -- perhaps none worse than high fructose corn syrup. The bottom line is that overconsumption will lead to bodyfat. And if you're trying to lose weight, it should be avoided altogether, with the exception of the sugar found in fruit.

Fruit contains fructose, but it is full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients, all of which help to slow the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream. The reduced rate of absorption means the sugar in fruit does not have the same effect on the body as the other sugars, meaning you're less likely to turn this sugar into fat. For example, bananas and banana nut muffins both contain fructose, but I've never seen anyone who became overweight from eating too many bananas.

Since sugar is in just about all processed and packaged foods, it is important to pay close attention to the nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Avoid products that contain sugar in any of its forms. This includes items like soda, juice, yogurt, health bars, flavored water, and condiments such as ketchup, salad dressing and barbecue sauce.

When foods with a high amount of sugar are eaten, they create a surge of energy followed by a crash. People who regularly consume too much sugar probably don't even notice this anymore, making a bad physiological situation even worse.

The surge-and-crash cycle leads to a hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, state. In this state, the body craves more sugary foods, perpetuating an endless cycle of ups and downs that promotes fat storage in the body.

Klatz, R., Goldman, R. The Official Anti-aging Revolution, 2007

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 3 Increase Water

Here's an easy one: If you want to be fit, don't be thirsty.

Water makes up more than half of the human body and an adequate supply is vital. Throughout the day our bodies continuously use water for any number of purposes, from brain, liver, kidney and cellular functions -- and everything in between. This is why replenishing water to our system is so important.

Without a sufficient water supply, our bodies cannot function optimally.

Here a few things to keep in mind as you sip your next glass of water (I like mine with lemon wedges):
  • helps speed up metabolism
  • helps transport micro- and macro-nutrients to cells
  • helps suppress appetite
  • reduces fat deposits in body
  • helps dissolve waste particles (an impacted colon can add several pounds of weight)
  • reduces water retention (dehydration causes the body to hold onto water, increasing weight)
Tucson Medical and WebMD

Monday, January 2, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 2 Never Skip Meals

Skipping meals is a bad idea if you want to be fit.

If you go too long between meals your body is more likely to store fat. If you eat regularly throughout the day, your body will burn calories more efficiently.  

Maintaining an even blood sugar level is a key element to losing weight and staying lean. Doing this will prevent the insulin spikes that lead to fat gain.

When we skip meals, our blood sugar dips to a low level and when we do finally eat, blood sugar and insulin levels skyrocket, creating an environment where it's easy to store fat. 

Insulin is the regulator that prevents our blood sugar levels from getting too high, and causing health problems. When insulin goes into the bloodstream, it helps cells absorb glucose to use as fuel and keep blood sugar at a safe level.

When blood sugar levels rise drastically, as is likely to occur when we eat after having skipped meals, the body releases a large quantity of insulin to reduce blood sugar levels. Excess glucose that cannot be used immediately as energy or used by other cells, is stored as fat.

National Institutes of Health & How Stuff Works/Science

Sunday, January 1, 2012

31 Days of Weight Loss Tips: Day 1 Build Muscle

Photo by Victoria Garcia on Flickr
So you want to tone up and lose a few pounds? Then you want to speed up your metabolism. 

Boosting your basal metabolic rate will help you burn calories all day, not just when you're in the gym. And the best way to charge up your metabolism is to build some muscle.

By increasing your lean muscle mass you will ensure that while you're sitting at work pecking away at the computer, your body will be hard at work burning calories.   

Muscle tissue is about three times more metabolically active than fat. So the more muscle the body has, the more calories it will burn at rest.

This is one of the reasons why men tend to be able to eat more than women without the same consequences, they naturally have more muscle.

The best way to build muscle is to lift weights. Make sure to go heavy enough that you're challenged, but not so heavy that you get hurt. As always, contact me with any questions.

WebMD and Mayo Clinic