Posts Tagged ‘weight-loss’

The Whole 30! (or Whole 33 +Counting )

July 31, 2015

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Tuesday marked the last day of my Whole 30 healthy eating challenge. I am glad that I pushed through the difficult moments and kept on track. The end results far outweigh the struggle. Most of the time, I found it pretty easy to stick with the plan, and I learned that there is almost always a way around poor eating if you are diligent.

Speaking of weight, I probably lost about 5-6 pounds in the course of a month, all of it in the first week or two. Although I didn’t have lots of weight to lose, I did want to get rid of the extra couple of pounds that were gathering around my midsection. With all of the gym time I log, I needed to clean up my diet to see some results. While quick and significant weight loss early on in a diet is generally water weight, there was a difference here. It may have been water, but this came off, and stayed off throughout the entire month. I think it was a result of all the bloat and inflammation from foods that were aggravating my system leaving my body, and not being reintroduced in the subsequent days. While the lack of further weight loss was puzzling, I started waking up with a flatter stomach and leaner look all around. The scale may have stopped measuring change, but my body composition has shifted for the better.

I didn’t embark on this to lose weight. The Whole 30 premise is to change your relationship with food, eliminate the foods that are causing inflammation in your body, and set the foundation for a healthier lifestyle. For many, weight loss is a part of that equation.

Prior to doing the Whole 30, I had been feeling sluggish, fuzzy headed and achy. Most nights were spent awake with a terrible burning in my stomach that antacids weren’t always helping. The real trigger was a day trip to Toronto where I didn’t eat for prolonged periods of time and then scarfed up whatever I could get my hands on, in this case, pizza and a muffin. I ended that marathon day with popcorn and red wine at midnight. The next morning, I felt like I had been run over by a bus. I honestly wondered if I had the flu. My normal eating habits were great, but these bouts of bad eating, which often stretched over a period of days, were taking a toll. I knew food was the culprit, but I didn’t know which ones. Whole 30 confirmed this belief, as I have not had an antacid for 27 days.

My general energy level is high, although I have yet to see my performance in the gym change dramatically. I may be lifting slightly heavier weights, but my endurance is not stronger.After two weeks of random gym going, I am back on my regular kind of hard core program, so I hope to see gains more quickly. During my stressful weeks of balancing fashion deadlines with baking deadlines and having a big presentation date moved up without notice, I found myself feeling calmer amid the storm than usual. I was stressed and I knew it. But that pit of the stomach, feeling like you’re going to combust, out of your mind sensation wasn’t there.

What now, you may be asking? My answer is that I don’t know. I am going to stay the course for a few more days while I figure it out. The next steps are supposed to be a re-entry plan. Each of our bodies are different, and food that bothers one person may be fine for another. The concept is to select an eliminated food group, such as dairy, and try to eat some at each meal for one day, return to the Whole 30 way of eating for two days, and assess how those food made you feel. Did you have any digestive issues, bloating, headaches or any other reactions that were unpleasant? If not, you are free to add back those foods into our diets. Grains, such as quinoa and oats are added back separately from those grains containing gluten, to see if there are issues with some and not others.

Truth be told, I am a little hesitant to try the re-entry. I know I will hit on some foods that bother me. I know that I may think certain things don’t bother me, but I will see the bloat come back slowly, and the scale start to rise again as I the effects start to pile up. I think that whatever my personal poison is, it has a cummulative effect in my body. It isn’t one bowl of pasta that does me in, or one cookie that makes me feel unwell. It is the fact that it triggers cravings that makes me want more sugar, more refined carbs and then, I start to feel ill. The re-entry program is critical, and if I can figure out the foods that are my downfall, I can generally avoid them, and know that if I want to indulge occassionally, I should be prepared to counter attack with a super clean diet to get me back on track again, and purge the inflammation from my body. Just reverting back to eating less mindfully is not an option. Living an active lifestyle requires eating for fuel, and high quality fuel at that. We wouldn’t fill race car up with cheap gas, or worse, the wrong amount of gas and expect it to run properly. We shouldn’t fill our bodies with improper fuel and expect it perform at it’s optimum level.

I will probably start my re-entry in a few days. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if the weekend brings a glass of wine or a bowl of organic pop corn, I will embrace it.

Did any of you try a Whole 30 or another clean eating program? Any take aways to share? Let us know in the comments.

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Fitness Falsehoods

January 28, 2015

 

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You are almost one month into the new year. So, how are those resolutions coming?

Yeah, it’s been cold. Yeah, it snowed. We all need carbs to survive a natural disaster, right? (I know I do!)

Sometimes we talk ourselves into believing that things are going better than they really are. Here are a few of the fitness falsehoods that people use to justify how things really are.

Some of my favorites:

“I weigh more because muscle weighs more than fat.” Ah, sorry, but a pound of muscle weighs a pound and a pound of fat weighs…you guessed it, a pound. You can’t convert fat into muscle. It’s simply not possible. It’s like turning water into wine. You can, however, burn off fat and replace that space with muscle. You need a healthy diet and training program to do that.

“I can’t lift heavy weights or put too much resistance on my bike or I’ll bulk up.” Oh, if it was that easy! Most women generally don’t have enough testosterone to build gigantic muscles on their own. It takes a lot of heavy lifting to build any muscle. Tossing around those 2 pounders aren’t doing much for you, and using cardio equiptment with out any resistance isn’t going to get you results either. I bet your purse weighs more than those little dumbells you are curling with. If you want the rewards, do the work.

“I’ve been walking and I’m not seeing results.” Chances are, you aren’t walking fast enough to make a difference. Slow walking, or using cardio equiptment without speed and resisistance doesn’t burn enough calories to offset your latte. Assuming you are healthy, you need to ramp it up to see results.

“Lots of crunches will give me flat abs.” Lots of crunches, and other (better) abs exercises will build abdonminal muscles, but if they are hidden under a layer (or 2) of fat, you won’t see them. There is an old saying that 80% of great abs are made in the kitchen and 20% in the gym. Sadly, it’s true. Revamp your diet, and reap the benefits.

“This week is a bust. I’ll start my diet on Monday.” We’ve all been there. But why wait until Monday? You are just one meal away from getting back on track. Which do you want more? To have a six pack, or to consume one? Make a choice and move on.

Vintage photo: Glasshouse Images

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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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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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How Much Should I Eat?

January 24, 2014

January is the most popular month to start a diet and exercise regime, as many resolve to get in shape in the coming year.
While it may be widely known that cutting calories is the key to weight loss, most of us don’t know how many calories we need in the first place.

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Each of us has our own magic number: the number of calories our body needs just to exist. Even if you lay on the couch all day long, you need energy to keep your body functioning. That amount is called your basel metabolic rate, or BMR. This can be calculated using the Harris-Benedict equation for women:

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BMR= 655+ (4.35 x current weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years). By plugging in your height, weight and age, you will determine the total number of calories you need to exist. Next, multiply your BMR by your activity factor, as estimated below, to get the total number of calories needed per day.

Sedentary: minimal movement: multiply by 1.4

Minimal: office work or 1 hour of moderate activity per day: 1.5

Moderate: Light physical labor during the day, such as light housework, and an active lifestyle: 1.6

Very Active: Athlete, active military personnel, or heavy laborer: 1.9

This new number is amount of calories needed to maintain your current weight.
To lose weight, you need to eliminate calories through consuming less, and/or burning more through activity.

You need to eliminate 3500 calories to lose one pound. With a healthy goal of losing one pound per week, that means you must eliminate 500 calories per day. Most doctors and nutritionists caution against eating less than 1200 calories per day, to maintain good health.
It is a good idea to use a food and activity journal app to help accurately estimate the calories you are consuming, and how many you are burning through exe

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photos: Glasshouse Images

Little Changes Reap Big Rewards

January 20, 2014

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New reports show that the average American is eating 78 calories less per day, than they did 5 years ago. The change is credited with the decline in saturated fats due to more limited consumption of fast foods.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of our country’s recession, is the cutback on spending in fast food establishments and other restaurants, driving people to opt  for home cooked meals.

With greater attention being paid to wellness initiatives from shows like The Biggest Loser, the upgrading of school lunch programs and Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, people are becoming more conscious of the need for a healthy diet and exercise regime.

While 78 calories per day may seem trivial, it does add up over the course of the year. While on average, it takes 3500 calories to make a pound, a reduction of just 78 calories x 365 days per year, adds up to a weight loss of over 8 pounds in a year.

There is still much room for improvement in our country’s diet, and reduction of the obesity rate, but clearly this is a step in the right direction.

Want to cut 78 calories a day out of your diet? Food preparation actually burns calories!
*Just 15 minutes of food shopping burns about 22 calories, and carrying the bags and putting the groceries away is worth another 26.

Preparing a simple meal uses up about 17-26 calories, and setting the table and serving the meal burns about 26 as well. If you get stuck with the dishes, you will likely burn another 22 calories. All added up, that’s about 92 calories burned before you even pick up your fork.

Chances are, the food you prepare will be fresher, simpler and therefore healthier than driving through to the fast food window to pick up a greasy, meal high in saturated fats. It sounds like a win-win situation to us!

Little changes can reap big rewards!

* based on a 150 pound person. Those weighing more, will burn more for the same tasks.

photo: Glasshouse Images

New Year’s Revolution

January 1, 2014

They’re coming and it won’t be pleasant. Like the zombie apocalypse, they will invade our gyms and fitness classes and unwittingly wreck havoc in our lives. Sit tight people, it won’t last long. By the end of the month, the masses will recede, and things will get back to normal. Who I am writing about, you may ask? The New  Year’s Resolutionaries!

Each year, swarms of people join gyms January 1st, and resolve that THIS is the year they will get in shape. They start out with all good intentions, and then somehow burn out and fade away. Health Clubs typically see a big boost in membership this time of year, and lock people into contracts so that they get paid whether or not their members succeed in becoming the gym rats they aspire to be.

If you are one of the millions of people starting the year off with the promise of fitness, here are a few tips for making the commitment stick, while avoiding pissing off those who were there first:

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Start slowly

If you over do it, you will be sore, exhausted and discouraged. Instead of vowing to workout everyday, commit to hitting the gym 2 or 3 times a week to start.

Set realistic expectations

Going from sedentary to running 5 miles straight isn’t realistic. Neither is lifting super heavy weights, or doing multiple fitness classes in a row. Start with a run/walk combination and increase the running time each week until you can get through a mile without stopping. If you aren’t experienced with strength training, invest in a few sessions with personal trainer who can teach you proper form and help design a program for you. Bad form + too heavy weights=injury.

Make a gym date with yourself and keep it

Put your workout into your agenda, and take it as seriously as you would if it were a doctor’s appointment, a business meeting or a date with someone you really want to see. If you really can’t make it, reschedule it right away.

If you reserve a spot in a popular class, show up, and don’t leave in the middle.

Some popular classes ( read: indoor cycling ) are difficult to get into. Us regulars become enraged when they are turned away from a full class, only to see you walk out 15 minutes later because it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. Do what you can, but stick with it! Take a short breather, pull back on the intensity but try to tough it out if you can. Conversely, don’t sign up for the toughest class in the gym right away. Find something more in line with your fitness level, and build up from there.

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Let the instructor know you’re a newbie:

They will help you get set up, watch your form and cut you some slack on your intensity. Set yourself up for success by letting them know you’re a beginner.

Be conscious of your food intake:

For the most part, weight is based on calories in, and calories out. Just because you took a 30 minute stroll on the treadmill, it doesn’t mean you can pig out afterwards. It takes 3500 calories to make a pound. If you do the math, burning 150 calories at the gym does not mean you can indulge in a 350 calorie congratulatory treat and lose weight. You also need food to fuel your workout. Starving yourself will not result in having the energy to complete a serious workout. Ask my friend who took 3 fitness classes in a row without eating, and passed out in the shower. Facing the paramedics and health club staff buck naked was not fun.

Keeping a food and activity journal will help you determine your calorie intake and expenditure. I recommend an free app called Lose It! to keep you honest, and on track to meet your goals.

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Find something you love to do, and stick with it.

If you hate running, you most likely will not do it enough to make a difference. If you love to dance, try a hip-hop or Zumba class. If you like a high intensity workout, and are motivated by a group setting, try indoor cycling or a boot camp style class. If you like being outside, go walking, hiking or skiing. If you find something you enjoy, staying with it will be much easier.

Don’t create gridlock.

Most people go to the gym to work hard. If you are going to just stand around and chat, please step to the side and get out of the way. This concept applies to walking down the street in New York City as well, but that is a whole other post! Don’t camp out on a bench or piece of equipment while you text, fix your ponytail or sip colorful water. Allow others to “work in” and keep moving.

Clean up after yourself:

Wipe your sweat off the equipment, put your weights away, and please don’t leave your towels, dirty tissues or makeup smeared Q-tips laying around. It’s disrespectful, unsanitary and downright gross. Shout out to those who leave their used disposable razors in the shower. Even in the poshest gyms, with ample cleaning staff, it’s just downright unacceptable.

It’s not magic.

Fitness and healthy eating isn’t a fad, or a quick fix. It takes hard work, diligence and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. You probably didn’t gain weight, or lose muscle tone in a week, and you won’t lose weight and gain significant strength in that period of time either.You need to do the work to get the results. Give it time.

If you fall off the wagon, get back on fast.

Nobody is perfect, and if you indulge when you know you shouldn’t, enjoy it, and get back to healthy eating right away. If you miss a few workouts, recommit and get moving again. Don’t take a defeatist attitude and decide since you already blew it, it’s over. You are only one meal, and one workout away from being back on track.

See you tomorrow at the gym?

photos: Glasshouse Images

Start the  year off right:

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Sites We Love: Slimkicker

October 2, 2012

You all know I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to exercise and nutrition. My concept is to eat as perfectly and healthfully as possible, except when I choose not to.

Ok, I know what you are thinking; don’t we all do that?

The answer is yes, but most people choose to eat poorly more often than not.
Keeping a food and exercise journal is one way to keep yourself honest, and to really understand what you are eating and how much activity you are doing.  There are many on-line journals and apps available to do this.

Slimkicker is both a website and a free smartphone app, that not only helps you log your activity and food intake, but also tracks your intake of sodium, sugar, fiber and fat. Unlike other sites, it helps you set goals and lets you know when it’s time to reward yourself for your hard work.

There is also an on-line community of Slimkickers to offer support, comments or even serve up group challenges.

The company launched in March 2012, and has plans to expand their services in 2013.


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