Archive for the ‘fitness’ Category

Can You Exercise and Still Gain Weight? SPOILER: YUP!

November 19, 2014

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Did the New York Times act responsably when they wrote about a recent study of weight management and exercise?
The article, entitled “Exercising but Gaining Weight,” takes a look at research conducted at Arizona State University, following 81 healthy, but sedentary women who were overweight.

The women participated in a supervised exercise program where they walked on a treadmill 3 times a week for 30 minutes, at a pace that represented 80% of their maximum endurance.

They were told not to alter their diet or eating habits during the 12 week study. At the end of the study, all of the women had significantly increased their aerobic fitness, but many had also gained weight attributed to fat, not added muscle.

Are you shocked? I certainly am not. The average 150 pound person would burn about 142 calories walking briskly for 30 minutes.A 200 pound person might burn about 172 calories in the same time. Do the math, and at best, these people would have lost between 1.4 and 1.7 pounds over the 12 week period. That’s it. Less than 2 pounds!

I would venture to guess that the increase in activity led them to be a little hungrier, and maybe a little more tired, causing them to eat a bit more and move a bit less throughout the day. It’s no surprise to me, that these people gained weight.

I see woman at the gym struggle through a cycling class, only to spend the next hour or two at the juice bar, replacing practically every calorie they burned with carbs. Exercise isn’t a magic pill. Slow, consistent cardio doesn’t burn much fat. To see results, it takes a combination of strength training and cardio with intervals to spike your heart rate.
What you put into your body is of even greater importance. Moving more and eating more, especially more of the wrong foods, is going to cause weight gain. It’s that simple.

A congratulatory post workout snack at Starbucks would run about 600 calories for a tall Pumpkin Spice Latte and a muffin. Try that three times a week and see where that gets you.

I calculate a 6 pound weight gain from that alone!

It doesn’t take a degree, or an elaborate study to come to these conclusions.

Did the Times do a disservice to it’s less fitness conscious readers by printing this study? Does it send a message that exercise isn’t going to help you lose weight so you shouldn’t bother?

While I am sure people are using this study to validate their sedentary existence, I am not going to give up my gym membership just yet.

Read the article in it’s entirety here:

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Know When to Say When

November 6, 2014

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When it comes to exercise, more is not always more. I, like many of us, worry that skipping a day will slow my progress. I go hard most days,and I am well read enough to know that the real change occurs during recovery. I always take one full day off from the gym each week; sometimes two. During those days I walk as much as I can, and try to be active, without actually working out.
When I left my cycling class on Tuesday, I was drained. I followed it up with a Pilates mat class, which served to loosen up and stretch out some of the muscles that were screaming for relief. I vowed that Wednesday would be my active recovery day.
Fast forward to Tuesday evening, when a broken pipe in our building started flooding the studio.
Plumbers arrived late that night and after a lot of banging and some nasty sewage odors, deemed our water off limits.
Wednesday morning arrived and every muscle in my body was sore.  I was moving at a snail’s pace. Without the use of the kitchen or bathroom, I sauntered off to my oasis: the gym.
I figured that as long as I was there, I might as well do something. After an hour of weight training and some foam rolling, I hit the shower. I was dehydrated and hungry which didn’t exactly help my situation.
That evening, we had an event to go to. While we said we would have a quick glass of wine, shake some hands and leave, we ended up staying for few hours, standing in high heels on marble floors.
By the time we left, my legs and my back and shoulders were screaming. It was too late for dinner, and I ended the day with unhealthy snacks.
Like a zombie on auto pilot, I hit my cycling class this morning. Despite being tired,sore and not so well fueled, I took a few Advil and pushed through. Since returning,I have finally given in to the exhaustion.
The moral of this not so short story? LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Pushing past it yesterday didn’t do my any favors. My performance at the gym today was subpar and my productivity this afternoon is well below that. Muscles and minds need a little reprieve to reboot and power back up. Overworking any of those can lead to burn out or injury.
Powering through a tough workout is often mind over matter. When the discomfort sets in, we need to convince ourselves to keep going unless we feel ill or injured. But by the same token, we need to know when to say “when.”
Tomorrow,without a doubt, is a recovery day.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Halloween Damage Control

November 1, 2014

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Halloween has come and gone. You have cleaned up after the party, removed the costume and taken off the makeup.

Now it’s time to shake off that hangover, and deal with burning off the candy you ate. Yes, it was only a couple of pieces at the office, and a few more from the kid’s trick or treat bags. In essence, each little piece of fun sized candy is not so terrible, calorically speaking. But do you know anyone who eats one little candy corn kernel and calls it a day?

Have no fear, with are here to help with damage control. You already ate it, but there is still time to negate it!

For every Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you ate, go for a half hour run at a moderate pace (6 mph) to burn it off.

For every mini Tootsie Roll you ate, spend about 5 minutes on the Elliptical at a moderate pace. (You know you ate at least 30 minutes worth so settle in.)

It only takes about 30 minutes of your spin class to negate the effects of a  300+ calorie candy apple. Might as well stay for the whole thing and work off that handful of candy corn while you are at it.

That little bag of Skittles you consumed will cost you a not-so-leisurely walk for almost 1 1/2 hours to torch.

A mere hour in the weight room should get rid of the 3 mini Hershey’s bars you gobbled down. Stick around a little longer if they had almonds.

When you come back, rehydrate, shower and get rid of the rest of the candy to avoid further temptation.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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What Is Your Fitness Age?

October 24, 2014

 

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We are all the age we are, and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We can however change how our body ages, through a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

This test, created by a team at the K.G.Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, can accurately estimate your fitness age, which is a good predictor of longevity and cardiac health.

Taking this test won’t stop the earth from orbiting the sun, nor will it reduce the amount of candles on your cake. But it might just be a wakeup call to take a look at your lifestyle and make healthy changes while you are still able to. (High intensity intervals anyone?)

*Humble brag: My fitness age is less than 20 years old. My biological age is significantly higher than that. A testament to working out religiously, and eating mindfully.

To take the test and see how you fare, click HERE.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Risky Business

October 10, 2014

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There is a new study out which shows the startling correlation between an increase in waist size, and breast cancer risk.
It’s pretty common for our waistlines to expand a bit as we age. Now there is a new, and very compelling reason to battle that bulge!

The British Medical Journal reports that going up just one skirt size every 10 years between the ages of 20-60, can result in a 33% increase in post-menopausal breast cancer risk. A two-size per decade growth spurt equated to a 77% increase in risk.

Research suggests that excess body weight, especially in the midsection, can spur cancer development. Midsection fat triggers estrogen development and inflammation, both of which could be factors in the elevated cancer rates. It is also thought that belly fat is more metabolically active than fat tissue in other parts of the body, therefore promoting the spread of cancer cells.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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What The Scale Means When It Says You’ve Gained Weight

October 9, 2014

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Last week I wrote about the flawed concept of “calories in/calories out,” based on my own, non-expert findings. Today, a real expert weighs in on weight fluctuation, and explains what I have been experiencing.

According to Richard Talens, fitness coach, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Fitocracy, the number on the scale may not accurately reflect whether or not you are losing fat.

And no, it’s not because a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat. They both weigh just that: a pound!

Talens begins with a mathematical equation, which looks like this:

Scale weight= true weight +/_ weight variance.

He attributes weight variance to the following factors:

Glycogen stores: When you consume carbohydrates, your body stores glycogen to be used later, for energy. For every gram of carbohydrate stored via glycogen, your body stores three grams of water.

Ah-ha! So that’s why I get puffy and the scale jumps up every time I have a major carb-fest.

Water retention/depletion from sodium: Large consumption of sodium causes your body to retain water. Low sodium consumption causes your body to release water. A hormone called aldosterone helps your body to adjust to the new sodium level, so simply cutting sodium from your diet is not a long-term solution. Maintaining moderate sodium levels will help reduce bloating, as will drinking enough water to regularly flush your system out.

Cycle related bloating: Women generally retain water at certain points in their menstrual cycle. Embrace it; it’s part of life. And it sucks.

Dehydration: When the body is dehydrated, it means it is holding onto less water. While this does cause the number on the scale to move south, it is an unhealthy and temporary state of being, and should not be used as a weight loss method.

Fast forward to the days after a binge, when the body is holding on to all that excess glycogen, and the water that accompanies it. Not only does the scale say that you have gained several pounds, but the mirror reinforces it. Talens claims that “bloat weight” makes you look heavier than actual “fat weight”. He recommends taking photos of your self throughout the month, especially after a big carb blitz to illustrate this fact. He contends that you will look fatter in the post-binge photos than in those where you weighed the same naturally. Chances are, the weight ends up in certain places, vs. being evenly distributed. For me, it’s across the lower belly. The good news is that a few days of clean eating and a lot of water consumption will allow your body to return to it’s “real weight.” (Whew!)

The other disconcerting fact that Talens points out is that scale variance tends to be asymmetrical. contends that the upper limits of scale variance tend to be +4% of your normal weight, vs. only -2% on the lower side. For someone weighing 150 pounds, that is 6 pounds more, or 3 pounds less that usual!

It’s hard not to be frustrated, and even harder to stay the course of healthy diet and exercise. It’s good to know that “binge weight ” is only temporary, and there are legitimate reasons for it.

To read more on the subject, and how to accurately respond to those pesky scale fluctuations, check out Talens’ article on Greatist.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Challenging Math and Science

September 29, 2014

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a doctor, or a nutritionist. I am not good in science and I absolutely suck at math. Therefore, please take this post with a grain of salt, or better yet, skip the extra salt completely and just keep reading.

Conventional wisdom states that 3500 calories make a pound. A pound is a pound, whether it is fat, muscle, butter or carrots. It is presumed, that if you reduce your calorie intake by 3500 calories over a period of time, you will lose 1 pound. If you over-consume by that much, you will gain. Makes sense,right? Well, not so fast…

What you eat, and how you burn it off is as important as the elimination of those 3500 calories. Case in point:

I am admittedly obsessive about food and fitness, hence the premise of this blog. I keep a food and activity journal, and try to be as accurate as possible. Based on my current size, if I only consume 1,110 calories per day, I will lost 1 pound per week. Before you all go crazy and think I starve myself, when I enter activity, it adds those calories burned back to my daily food quota. Because I am so active, I am able to eat more than that and still be on target to lose a pound per week.
I take hardcore cycling classes four times per week, I weight train, do weight circuits and toss in a Pilates class when I can for good measure. I also walk 1-1/2 hours per day on average, as transportation. In most people’s eyes, that should be a free pass for the all-you-can-eat fish fry, with extra dessert, right? WRONG!

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According to my Lose It app, I have saved 5369 calories over the last 4 weeks, over and above the 3500 per week deficit built in. That would mean I lost 5.5 pounds. According to the scale in my bathroom, I have gained almost that much. Say WHAT?

The big differential for me these last few weeks is not the amount of food I am eating, but the type of food I am eating.  Based on my personal experience, here are the cold, hard realities of healthy eating and exercise, according to me:

Just because it came from Whole Foods, or is organic, low fat, gluten free or whatever else the package says, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sorry, but real healthy food does not come in a package, and therefore does not state it’s virtures.

I do not have a gluten allergy or celiac disease, and gluten does not make me sick. Foods that contain it however (with the exception of french fries, that would be all the really delicous ones!) make me fat. And by fat, I mean bloated, and thick around the middle. Maybe it’s not the case for you, but for me, if I want a flat belly, I need to lay off the white stuff, most of the time. And while we’re at it, the whole grain goodness of whole wheat isn’t any better on my middle.

For many, many years, I avidly avoided sugar. Not even a bite of a cookie, or a lick of ice-cream. Now, if I have a little sweet something, it makes me want more. Like a junkie, that bite becomes the whole thing. And then I have a stomach ache. My body is trying to tell me something. Why don’t I listen to it? Do you listen to yours? You really should.

Protein is the building block of muscle or something like that. (See disclosure above.) I am clearly not eating enough of it lately. I don’t like meat, so getting to the fish market has to be a priority, otherwise I just eat fruit and vegetables, and later become ravenous and down half a bag of  trail mix or something else masquerading as “healthy” in a  package in my pantry. It’s important to fuel properly during the day to avoid the ravenous binge, especially post workout.

My exercise routine is intense, followed by long stretches of sitting on my butt in front of a computer or drawing table all day. I get out of my chair sometimes and can barely move I’m so stiff. Studies show that even a couple of  hours a day of physical activity cannot offset being sedentary for the rest of the day. I need to get up and move around every few hours, to rev my metabolism and stretch my sore limbs. Perhaps a stroll to the nearest fish market would solve multiple issues?

While we are on the subject of walking, I regret to inform you that walking does not burn very many calories. For those of you that think walking for 30 minutes per day a few times a week is exercising, you are wrong. It is better than not moving at all, but it doesn’t do much for increasing your heart rate or decreasing your fat rate. Lose It says that I burned 69 calories during a 30 minute walk, or the equivalent of  1-1/2 tablespoons of trail mix. And that’s not the kind with M&M’s in it. Bummer, right?

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

The media touts salt as an enemy. It’s not the salt that we sprinkle on our home cooked meals that is the problem. It’s the huge amounts lurking in those bags and tetra packs, and glass jars (no plastic please! ) that is the issue. That organic, gluten free, low fat, high fiber soup my be a BPA free sodium bomb. Making soup is so easy and tastes so much better. It’s time to get off my duff and make a few different kinds to put in the freezer in individual containers so that I can have homemade convenience foods at the ready. While salt doesn’t cause fat gain, that jump in the scale after consuming large quantities of it is due to good old bloat. Drinking a lot of water can help to eliminate the retained water in a day or two.

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The bottom line is that whole foods; the kind that are produced by nature, not factories, are the best for us. There is no debate there. Eating the freshest, highest quality foods, without added chemicals, additives and flavorings will produce the best results in terms of health, fuel and weight management.

Moving throughout the day is important for your health, but adding bouts of high intensity activity ( intervals for example,) will yield you better results.

It’s true what they say: You can’t out train a bad diet, and abs really are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

Expansion Plans

September 25, 2014

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The American obesity epidemic continues to take it’s toll, despite warnings to the contrary. What is really alarming, is news that although our collective body mass is not expanding, our waistlines are.

The New York Times reports that the average overall waist circumference in 2012 was 38.7″, up from 37.5 in 1999.

Abdominal obesity, defined by a waist circumference of more than 40″ for men, and 34.6″ for woman, is a key indicator of metabolic syndrome, which puts us at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Getting on the scale is a good indicator of weight, but monitoring your waistline could be a better indicator of good health.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cleaning a Reusable Water Bottle

September 2, 2014

bottles, water, glassTo avoid plastic bottles, I tote a reusable water bottle to the gym. Mine is stainless steel, and sports the logo of my favorite charity, Cycle for Survival on the outside. Using a metal or glass bottle is better for the environment, and for your health. That is, if it’s kept clean.

Although I wash it out every night, sometimes it needs a little more love to keep it germ free.

Before leaving for a short vacation, I left it filled with water and baking soda to disinfect it. When I went to rinse it out, the water inside the bottle was the color of tea. Yuck! To completely clean your bottle and kill the germs that might be harboring in the bottom, try a few of these simple tips:

Soap and Water: Of course, good old soap and water is always a safe bet. Add a few drops of dish soap and let it soak.

If you ever use the bottle with flavored water, or other drinks, it might need one of the other methods to remove the taste and coloring left in the bottom of the bottle.

Baking Soda: As mentioned above, baking soda and water are a great way to clean the bottle. Add a nice amount of baking soda and fill the bottle with water. Give it a few shakes and let it sit.

Vinegar: A vinegar and water mixture is also an effective way to disinfect your bottle. If you are really adventurous, add a little baking soda for some fizzing action. ( Be sure to use white vinegar!)

Denture cleaning tablets: Drop one denture cleaning tablet into a full bottle of water and let it do it’s magic.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to thoroughly rinse the bottle to get any residue out, and to avoid having an unpleasant flavor when you add water. Pour out any excess and allow it to air dry completely.

Don’t forget to wash the cap and outside of the bottle as well.

photo:Glasshouse Images

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What’s On My Mind This Week

August 7, 2014

After almost 10 months of traveling endlessly for work, I am back in New York for awhile and settling into my new, OLD routine again!

I am finding joy in the mundane things that I haven’t been able to do lately. Here are just a few of them:

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Cooking and eating greenmarket fresh vegetables : I love vegetables and finding a variety of fresh, simply prepared produce isn’t so easy to come by on the road.

Many hotel restaurants don’t offer a lot of vegetable choices, and slathering them in butter, a creamy sauce or frying them doesn’t help matters. My current fixation is zucchini. It has become my main course when the family is having meat ( which I don’t like,) or pasta, ( which doesn’t especially like me!) In addition to spiraling it into noodles and eating it with my other current fascination, tomatoes, I am playing with it in zucchini bread, and instead of lettuce in a salad, among other things. I’ll keep you posted with unrecipes soon!

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Nesting: I am reveling in being home, and taking time to do some improvements. I shampooed the bedroom carpet, and am slowly reorganizing.  My sofa needs recovering, and the whole loft could use a coat of paint. I have been discussing this for months, but the current downtime is allowing me to look at fabrics and paint chips, and actually make it happen. I didn’t plan to do anything else, but yesterday I swatted a mosquito that had flown in through the kitchen window, and both the insect and the glass backsplash in my kitchen did not survive. I’m thinking of replacing it with mosaic glass tiles in neutral tones. Any ideas?

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Training…hard! I have been a gym rat for many years, but it’s not easy to keep up with a fitness routine on the road. Yes, there are hotel gyms, and I do run outside a little, but those workouts tend to be maintenance, not real training. Travel days and early morning meetings wrecked havoc on my schedule, and I have been finding my fitness level has slipped. I was lifting lighter weights, running shorter distances, and biking at lower wattages. I am back on a serious regimen, and feeling great about it!(Okay, a little sore, but energized!)

Slow foods: I got a slow cooker a long time ago, but lately, I am actually using it! I can prep everything early in the day and leave it cook while I do whatever else I need to do. It means that I am not scrambling to get dinner ready at 7, or slaving over the hot stove when it’s hot outside. So far, BBQ pulled pork and Bolognese sauce were a hit, and I popped my favorite coconut miso chicken with shiitake mushrooms in there a few hours ago. It smells great!

Rebooting: It feels so good to relax, reconnect with friends, and think about what’s next. I love what I do, and the busier I am, the happier I am. Yet, I have missed a lot of social events, kid’s milestones, and just sitting back and relaxing! It’s also giving me enough breathing space to think about what I really want to do next, instead of just taking on the next project blindly. I usually panic at this stage, but this time I am enjoying it. Before the craziness began, I was working on a new concept for Indigo Jones. Perhaps now, I can take it to the next level. I’m pretty sure that will be what I will obsess over next week! I can’t wait to be able to share it with you.

Finding balance: These days it seems like it’s all or nothing with me. I’m not retired and I do still have work to do. I need to find the balance between committing myself to it fully, and living a normal life. And that is what I intend to do.

photos: Glasshouse Images

 


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