Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why does the scale weight matter so much?

Ever know someone whose mood for the day is determined by what the scale says every morning?

Oh, that someone is you?


Why does the scale weight matter so much? 

When it does matter so much, it can be the difference between having a good, productive day or having a bad, depressing day. It can affect what you eat for the remainder of the day. It can affect your relationships with those around you. It can affect your emotional state of mind, thereby affecting your physical body.

How do you get over that? 

First of all, I truly believe and encourage my clients NOT to weigh themselves every day. It is too tough. Do you know how much your body weight can change each day based on your exercise and food intake, not to mention water retention and other factors? It's a constant battle - up and down, up and down - and when you are trying to lose weight, a frustrating battle. It makes you want to cry or scream when you don't get that magic number you were thinking in your head.

Some people base their wellness or fitness level on what the scale says. Doctor's offices take your weight, but they don't measure you or take your bodyfat %. They take your blood pressure, but they don't take your measurements. They estimate what you should weigh based on a chart, which could be 50 years old for all they know. And when a person loses 5 lbs., where does that 5 lbs. come from? Is it fat weight? Is it muscle weight? Do you know the difference?

When I first started losing my weight, way back in 2001, I started a 12-week program and was very diligent during the entire time, or so I thought. I did lose 11 lbs., however; my body SIZE did not change at all. I was still obese and wearing the same size clothes as when I started the program 12 weeks earlier. Very frustrating. Then, 4 months later, I started another 12-week program and again was very diligent during the entire time; however, this one focused on more than just weight. In the same time period, I lost 23 lbs., but my body size changed dramatically. I went from a size elastic [that's what I call it when you refuse to buy a size bigger than what you want to wear :)] to a size 6, the smallest I had been in my adult life. What was the difference between the two times? Well, in the first one, I was very focused on the number on the scale. I was not interested in my bodyfat or measurements because it was what the scale said - it's how I lived or died. In the second one, I focused more on bodyfat % and actual measurements. It worked. And it still works today. I eventually went on to another 12 week program, 4 months after the last one, and lost the rest of my weight, another 10 lbs and to size 4, where I have stayed for 9 years now.

Stop focusing on what the scale says!

Focus on what is really important - your bodyfat %, your measurements, your clothing size, and then your weight. All of these measure your progress, but it is not solely based on what the scale says. The weight will go down if all of these go down as well. But if you are living by what the scale says, you will be frustrated and depressed because it doesn't go down like you want it to.

Some helpful hints for getting off the scale:

• Weigh yourself once a week. Make this a day that is a good day for you. For example, if you eat a little bit more on the weekends [like most people do], then don't make Monday your weigh-in day. I like to make mine on Wednesday, because I start out really strong on Monday and Tuesday and by Friday, I am ready for a break.
• Keep track of your weight, but don't focus on it. If you have goals, set reasonable goals. It is best to lose 1-2 lbs. a week - and that is when you ARE REALLY TRYING! That is not going to happen every week, most of the time, so you have to be prepared for those weeks where you don't lose anything. Don't lose heart. Keep track of it and go onto the next week. If you gain for two weeks in a row, then it's time to see what is wrong with your program and re-evaluate.
• Girls - trust me on this one - do NOT weigh your self days before your cycle. Seriously, I have gotten to the point that I don't even go near the scale during that time because my weight can fluctuate up to 5 lbs. Ugh, talk about discouraging! Just skip that time and weigh when your cycle is done.
• And here's another one NOT to do. Girls, do NOT go out and eat Mexican and have your fill of chips and salsa and then get up the next morning and weigh yourself. Just don't do it, please! If I could tell you all the calls I get from disstressed and distraught clients who do that....just DON'T. Even if it is your weigh in day, just be calm, drink lots of water and fruit that day, get your body back to normal without the chip bloat and weigh yourself in two days. Trust me on this one.

Don't let the scale run your life. You run it. Get on a good program that focuses on what is really healthy - a good bodyfat %, a healthy waist measurement and something that you can achieve - through good workouts and good nutrition. Now get to work, go do it!!!

As always, I am here to help you...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stress - Part Two and My Happy List

This is a continuation of yesterday's blog...

So, is the stress still eating away at you?

How do we get into stressful situations? Why do we get into stressful situations?

The dictionary defines stress as "physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension". We've all felt physical stress when we've done too much for our body, or done something physically challenging and we feel it in our body. But I believe we feel the mental and emotional stress just as much in our body, sometimes we just don't know it.

There are many ways we deal with stress. How many ways do you describe it?

"I'm so stressed out"
"The stress is killing me"
"He/she is stressing me out"
"Major stress"

Sometimes, the stress is daily, sometimes it is weekly, sometimes it is layers upon layers and built upon for years. When I see someone who is completely "stressed out", usually it is a pattern that has built up over a period of time. There are major stresses and there are minor stresses. Major stresses are deaths, divorce, separation, job loss. Minor stresses are job situations or office politics, disagreements, deadlines, decisions. Children and finances can be both of these, major and minor :)

The minor stresses you can handle, sometimes well, sometimes not so well. But the major stresses truly take a toll on your body. And sometimes you don't recover from that stress and being "stressed out" becomes the norm for you. You have probably heard about the hormone cortisol and how harmful it can be, i.e. belly fat and this is a serious problem. There are also other hormones in your body that are affected by stress, esp. for women, progesterone levels, estrogen. All of these affect how your body responds and how you live after a stressful event. If you are stressed out and cannot seem to get better, go back into your past and find what event started this journey. Sometimes you have to really do some digging, other times you just know what it was. Find out what is was and write it in your journal. Then look at your life since then. Did you handle the stressful event or is it still being manifested in your life today?

How do you know if you still have stress in your body from a stressful event? 

Well, most of the time, you just KNOW. You KNOW something is not right. You are sad. You hurt. Aches and pains. Your heart hurts. Your nerves hurt. You feel "fried". You snap at people. You cry. You go from one thing to another and never finish.

Ya gotta get it out. Start small with the suggestions in yesterday's post, but do something to start. Start getting the stress OUT of your body so you can truly live.  Many people just put it off and say "I'll start this....when I get over this...." and continually put off getting healthy. I see this so many times when people start a new workout or nutrition program. Something happens, a stressful event, and it sets them back and they say "I can't do this right now until this... is over", but they don't realize that the workout or nutrition program will actually help them get over the stress. And it just repeats the cycle. Can I tell you something? If you are thinking about starting a new workout or nutrition program, I can GUARANTEE that something stressful is going to happen to you, probably in the first week of your program. Guaranteed. The question is - how are you going to handle that stress? It starts by getting healthy today, no matter how stressed out you are.

Now, on request from my friend Stefanie - http://theprincessrunner.blogspot.com/ - I am posting my "Happy List" - 10 things that make you happy...some things that make me truly happy:

1. The sound of my son laughing. I love this sound. He has a great laugh, a belly laugh and when I hear it, I can't help but smile.

2. Watching my daughter play her viola. She is beautiful and plays the instrument like she loves it. She does. She gets her whole body into it and she feels the music.

3. Running. No doubt about this one. My personal therapy. I no longer say I am a slow runner, I just say I am a runner. This is where I solve the problems of the world and I love the feeling after a run when I just feel free and healthy and happy.

4. A kiss from my dad. I don't see him that often, but when I do and we part, we hug and he kisses me on the cheek and says "be good". I don't know, just something about that kiss. He does not show his emotions and never says "I love you" or anything resembling that, but when he kisses me goodbye, I feel that love.

5. Running with Fred. Fred is the best dog! He is my white German Shepherd who loves me unconditionally - and - he LOVES to run! I love to watch him run. He is graceful, he is fast, he is unbelievably fast. He looks like he is grinning when he runs. That makes me smile.

6. Browsing in a bookstore - I could spend hours in a bookstore. I love books, I love magazines, I love browsing and learning and smiling at everything they have. I think when I am 90 or 95, I will work in a bookstore, just because I can.

7. Celebrating PMS at Coldstone's. I know, I know, I'm a fitness trainer, I should know better. I don't do this all the time! But there are certain days, okay, there is one day in particular, one day a month, where it is in the best interest of my family at home that I leave the home and consume a highly chocolate-based snack. I choose Coldstone's. Dark chocolate ice cream with brownie and fudge sauce. Eat it slowly and walk while I am eating it, casually while the world gets better. Then I go home and no one dies that night :)

8. Random acts of kindness. Doing something for someone else that is unexpected. I truly believe you cannot be happy unless you put others first, think about others and be kind to others. I love making someone happy or make them smile.

9. Smiling. I love to smile. I love when a friend sends me something like a text or e-mail or calls me and makes me smile. It can be something silly, something crazy, anything that lightens the mood and makes me smile. I have a natural tendency to be too serious and bring my brow together, even when I am working or reading. Smiling takes that away and makes me relax.

10. A great workout. Giddy-up. The harder, the better. I want to be totally drenched in sweat, weak in the knees, and feeling AWESOME! Taking all my stresses to the workout and leaving it there. Coming out of the workout like a new person.

Okay, that's it. Thanks Stefanie, that was fun! I challenge each one of you TODAY to make your Happy List. Please share it if you want to. Really think about it. What makes you happy? What REALLY makes you happy? Tell me your list - and THEN - start doing it! Be Happy today!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stress and Stressful Situations - What Can You Do?

It's inevitable, you're going to have stress in today's world. Lots of stress.

Stress with your loved ones.
Stress with your job.
Stress driving in traffic [esp in Atlanta]
Stress with relationships.
Stress with burdens you take on, places you have to go, people you have to see, things you have to do.

It goes on and on. And never seems to end?

So, what can you do about stress and stressful situations?

First of all, I am not a doctor. I am a Fitness Professional and can only give you my opinion based on what I have seen in my clients as well as going through it in my life as well. Stress can kill you! It will kill you, if you let it. And if you let it, it will hurt your body and your mind. But so many of us walk around each day increasing the load over and over, on our bodies and our minds, until inevitably one of them breaks - body or mind. Many times, the mind protects itself and so therefore, the body suffers. It may be a nagging injury, it may be a sudden injury, it may be temporary, it may be permanent. Whatever it is, it takes the pressure off your overloaded mind and gives you something else to think about, I mean to stress about.

I see a lot of body injuries that are stress-related. I also see a lot of emotional injuries that are stress-related. You get to a point of "how much more can I handle?"

There is no easy answer and there is no one answer. But there are things you can do to help. Part of that is taking responsibility for your body and understanding that regardless of how much you take on, if your body fails, you will be unable to do it. Wait! Maybe that's why your body fails, it's telling you to not take on so much. ?? Is that possible?

Bottom line - the stress is going to be there regardless, the only thing you can change is your reaction to it. And you can take care of your body.

Blaming others for what has happened in the past.
Taking on too much.
Letting things build up.
Not having an outlet for your emotions.

Taking responsibility for the choices you have made.
Saying no when you can.
Getting things out in the open.
Having an outlet.
Taking care of your body.

Let's talk about the last 3 helpfuls:
Getting things out in the open. So many of us hold our emotions inside. Fearful of what others will think. Fearful of showing our emotions. Maybe even fearful of our emotions. Gotta get it out. Find some way. Talk, find a counselor, pray, cry, and most of all, stop shoving things under the carpet. Get them out in the open.

Having an outlet. Take it to the workout. You've heard me say that before. In my life, running is my therapy. It is my time to get things out in the open, examine them, fix what I need to, and let the others things go. It wasn't always this way. My outlet 10 years ago was to overeat unhealthy foods and not workout. And it got me to a place where I was obese and miserable. You have to make that choice. If you know what you want and you are not doing it, then you will be miserable. Find an outlet. It doesn't have to be running. It could be yoga, tennis, soccer, aerobics - anything that gets you up and moving and physical.

Taking care of your body. Find ways to HEAL from stress. My favorites:
• Massage - this is so necessary for your body to release unhealthy toxins. I consider it part of my monthly routine. Not only does it force you to relax, but it just helps you get healthy and push the bad stuff out of your body. Skimp on fast food, but spend money on this one. It is well worth it. My contact in Atlanta area:
http://www.simplymassagetherapy.com/ - talk to Dawn.
• Supplements - there are natural supplements that you can take to help your body in stressful situations, temporarily. Melatonin to help you sleep, Holy Basil, Vitamin B, and natural progesterone cream for hormone issues. Do the research and find out what will work with you. I would recommend talking to your doctor, but don't be surprised if he says you don't need it and it's in your head. Go with your gut instinct. Sometimes you have to go to a new doctor. Listen to what your body is telling you. If your hormones are off-balance, then you will know it if you listen. It doesn't mean that you can only fix the problem with a pill, but sometimes a supplement can help you through the rough times.
• Epsom salt bath - I highly recommend these, once or twice a week. Fill a tub with warm water and add 2 to 4 cups of epsom salts [yes, I know that is a lot]. Relax. Epsom salts are very healing to your body. Once again, you want to get the bad stuff out.
• Reflexology - this is the technical term for "rub your feet!". Okay, well, it is for me. Reflexology is the science of using pressure of thumb to release pain and tension, typically on the feet. This is a huge stress reliever, but not many people do it. If you don't have someone to rub your feet, hello? Do it yourself! Part of my nightly routine is getting a good aromatherapy lotion and rubbing my feet. For about 10 minutes. Find a reflexology chart and read about it. It is very interesting. Some believe that certain parts of your feet correspond to certain parts of your body. Regardless of whether you believe that or not, try it just for the heck of it and see if it helps you.

Find out what works for you. Take care of your stress.

Again, there is no easy answer, but there is a way you can start - start with the inside - start listening to your instincts, your inside voice and start healing your body and handling your stress. Let it out! Get it out! Now go and get healthy, okay?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So What's So Bad About Diet Coke?

I get this question a lot. From clients who are trying to lose weight, from friends who know how adament I am about any soda consumption, and from innocent bystanders who hear my rants while trying to dissuade an obese person in the soda aisle from a purchase. Well, the last ones really don't question me but more look at me like I am crazy. 

So what's so bad about Diet Coke? 

It's "diet", right? It's gotta be good for you, right? 

First of all, the word "diet" is a TOTAL misconception. The false claim that it has: 
NO calories
NO sugar
NO nothing

Well then, why drink it if it has nothing?

I don't know why so many choose to drink it because I personally never got into the flavor, but I do know personally how destructive it can be. I have seen people I care about drink it and have side affects. I have seen clients who are hooked on it and dealing with a number of physical issues. Let's face it, do any amount of research on Diet Coke and you will be bombarded with the negative physical effects of it, mostly due to the Aspartame sweetener in it. Yes that's right, NO sugar = plenty of Aspartame. Still think there's no calories in it?  Really? 

The most common negative side effects besides fibromyalgia, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, and on and on are DEPRESSION and FATIGUE. 

What have I seen the most? 

Depression, definitely. 
Hormone imbalance. 
Weight gain. 

It is SO ironic because of the name "Diet" Coke, there is an immediate EMOTIONAL tag in your brain that says "because it's diet, it must be good for me, it must be able to help me lose weight". It sincerely drives me crazy when I see an OBESE person drinking a diet soda. Aaaaggghhh! How did it get that way? 

Umm, may be marketing and advertising? May be to make a company millions of dollars by promoting an addictive product to people with low self-esteem?

I'm sorry if I am stepping on some toes, but maybe some toes need to be stepped on. 

I asked one of my best clients who had a huge problem with colas when I first started with her to give me her point of view:

"Eliminating coke from my diet has overall made me feel better. I don't get as many sugar cravings in the afternoon that typically came with my drinking soda, and I my digestive system seems to appreciate using water in my tummy instead of excessive amounts of carbonated drinks. I used to have a pretty bad eye twitch - it's completely gone since I cut soda out of my diet. I do not drink any caffeine anymore, which really wasn't that hard to get used to. The best part of this all....I can't stand the taste of coke anymore! It's really disgusting! I actually decided to treat myself over the holidays with a Coke Zero - I had one sip and had to dump the rest of the can down the drain. It was horrible. Water is really satisfying and truly feels like a clean drink. I have no worries when I'm drinking water."

As a Fitness Professional, the biggest negative symptoms I see:

Women - hormone imbalance, depression
Men - belly fat, depression

I know it's hard to give up something you like, but I challenge you to do a little research yourself. If you are feeling any of these negative symptoms or are overweight, consider taking a soda break. I challenge you to take a two-week break. Do you think you can? If you can, please let me know your results, okay? 



Monday, January 11, 2010

Should Protein Bars Be Part of a Healthy Nutrition Plan?

Does a healthy nutrition plan [notice I didn't say "diet"] include protein bars? 

I get this question a lot from people who are just starting on a weight loss program. And the answer varies a little bit. It depends on your situation. 

If you go to your local grocery store, to the "protein bar section", you will most likely see approximately 60 different bars - different flavors, different brands, different breakdowns. So which ones are good? And are they that good? 

Here's some tips to help you navigate and made the decision as to whether you should include them in your nutrition plan. 

First of all, the NAME "protein bar" is misleading. Try an experiement for me. Disregard the pretty packaging and clever advertising and turn the bar over. Look at the label. Look at: 
1. Calories
2. Carb grams

3. Protein grams
4. Sugar grams

1. Calories - for women - should be in 180-250 range. 300-400 calories for a bar is way too much!
2 and 3. Look at carb grams vs. protein grams. If the bar screams on the label "High Protein" and yet it says 41 g Carb and 9 g Protein, what is it high in? Carb, it's a "High Carb" bar, not a "High Protein" bar. Aagh, so where's the truth in advertising? Well, they are a little overwhelmed in trying to fix our broken healthcare system, best not to wait for them to fix it. Take action yourself by reading labels and educating yourself. 
4. Sugar content by grams and also by reading the ingredient content. If sugar is first or second ingredient, you can be sure sugar content is high. Compare bars on sugar. You will see some with 9grams and other with 20+grams. Which do you think is better for you? 

Okay, so they are not all good for you. So, do you just pick out the ones that are good for you? 

Again, depends. 

When you first start on a nutritional program, a lot of times, you are coming off several things: bad [okay horrendous] eating patterns, poor quality of food intake and poor choices of food available. It's hard to make all of those changes at once without feeling some kind of rebellion from your body. 

When I wanted to lose weight, I realized I would have to give up some form of chocolate, whether it was the chocolate M&M's I had daily, or the small snack-size candy bars I had daily [see a pattern here], or the chocolate ice cream I ate at night. Something had to go. I chose all of them, which was a good choice for me at the time. I was able to focus on a good workout program and healthy foods for once. It forced me to lose my grip on chocolate. But there was a problem, I still CRAVED it. Then I found protein bars and again, was mislead by the title "protein bar". I figured if it had that title and WAS in the healthy section of the store, it can't be that bad, right? I did have protein bars as part of my nutrition plan, but I limited it to once a day, and then once I made progress, I had to limit that again to 1/2 bar a day or every other day. The further I got along in my weight loss, the more I had to "give up" in my chocolate battle. It just had to be that way. 

And now, I have been pretty much the same weight for the last 9 years. Are protein bars part of my regime now? Kind of. When I am training or serious about body fat % [think bikini], I don't have protein bars. When it is off-season or that time of month and I absolutely CRAVE chocolate, I will have one. But not every day. 

For me -- a protein bar was an ALTERNATIVE to having a candy bar. Period. 

So, for me, a protein bar was a good choice to help me over the weight loss hurdle hump. And that's what I recommend to my clients. Use it if you HAVE to to get you through, but know that there are heatlhier options and those include less-processed and more natural foods. 

Also, if you are going to have a protein bar, eat it with something for balance. For example, a handful of grapes, or an apple. Not only to satisfy your stomach, but to subconsciously tell your body to eat healthy foods [like fruits and veggies]. 

Be a smart consumer by turning foods over and reading labels. Then, YOU make the choice, NOT the front of the label, IF it is a good choice for you. Be strong friends!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Oatmeal and How to Cook It

[This is from a post on Start With The Inside fan page on Facebook.]

Oatmeal is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but it's sometimes confusing on which KIND to get and HOW to cook it. Basically, there are 3 types you can get:

#1 - Instant Oatmeal in packets
#2 - Quick Cooking oats in a container
#3 - Old Fashioned oats in a container

I have had all three and here's a quick breakdown on nutrition information:

#1 - Instant Oatmeal in packets
Serving size - 1 packet
Calories 160
Fat 2g
Carb 33g
Protein 4g
Sugar 13g
Sodium 230 mg

#2 - Quick Cooking oats in a container
Serving size - 1/2 cup
Calories 140
Fat 2.5g
Carb 26g
Protein 5g
Sugars 0g
Sodium 0mg

#3 - Old Fashioned oats in a container
Serving size - 1/2 cup
Calories 150
Fat 2.5g
Carb 27g
Protein 5g
Sugars 0g
Sodium 0mg

Calories is about the same for all three, but look at the sugar and sodium level in oatmeal packets. Not much difference between quick cooking oats and old fashioned oats, minor difference in calories and carbs. So how do you cook them? [all examples will be using the microwave]

#1 - Instant oatmeal in packets - empty packet into bowl, add 2/3 cup water, microwave for 1 minute.
#2 - Quick Cooking oats in a container - 1/2 cup of oats and 1 cup water, microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
#3 - Old Fashioned oats in a container - 1/2 cup of oats and 1 cup water, microwave for 2 minutes, stir once, then microwave again for 1 minute.

You can adjust these microwave times if you need to get the right consistency and actually, there is no "right" consistency, it's how you like it. Some people like it lumpy, some people like it smooth. If you prefer more smooth, then add more water.

To answer the next question that's coming...yes, I have had all three and which do I recommend? #3 every time. #1 has too much sugar and sodium and for me, one packet doesn't fill me up so if you have 2 packets, what do you do? You take everything X2 = 320 calories. #2 is okay, but I usually use them for cooking oatmeal muffins or oatmeal bread. I love #3. I sprinkle cinnamon on it before cooking. And I always make my oatmeal a "protein" oatmeal by adding a scoop of protein powder to 1/2 cup of water - whisk it until smooth [I do this while the oatmeal is cooking] and then add the water when it is done cooking. How often? I eat oatmeal every day! Again, it is one of the healthiest foods you can eat and it really starts my morning out right!

Let me know if you have other food questions! For more information on our fan page, visit: www.facebook.com/startwiththeinside - Become a fan today!