Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Around Diet Snafus

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of October! Fall is definitely in the air, and based on the snack sized candy section at the store, Halloween is right around the corner. I’m guessing that most of you have someone in your office that has a stash of candy, just calling your name. You tell yourself, I’ll just have one, and before you know it, five mini candy bar wrappers have appeared in your trash. Now this obviously conflicts with your weight loss goals, so how do you handle it? The answer to this question could determine if you stay on track or derail for the day. Here are my suggestions to help you through this diet snafu.

First, don’t panic or overreact. This is not the end of the world, so don’t throw out your diet for the rest of the day. I think of it in relation to getting cut off in traffic…you might be upset at the time, but you continue driving, perhaps more safely than before. If you decide the day is a total loss on the diet, you will have more work to do down the road, whether you choose to not eat for the rest of the day or eat everything in sight.

Next, ask yourself some questions. Does this happen every day, or is this an isolated incident? Why did I eat so much, or choose that particular food? When was the last time I splurged like this? How do I feel now? What might have been a better choice? Asking yourself these questions helps you to figure out exactly what happened so you can potentially identify your triggers and recognize them in the future. This way, the behavior may not become a habit.

Finally, for lack of a better phrase, deal with it. How are you going to address the snafu (making sure it’s within reason)? As I mentioned above, keep with your diet plan for the rest of the day. Eating good foods will help to motivate you to stay on track. Be sure to hit the gym as scheduled. If you are feeling guilty, use that energy and add 10-15 minutes of cardio exercise into your routine for the day. Not only will you feel more accomplished by sticking to your routine, you have overcome an everyday obstacle in your weight loss journey.

Don’t let one thing ruin your day; use it as motivation to make the rest of the day better!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What "Counts" as Exercise?

I am often asked to settle disputes if some activity “counts” as exercise. I get the same question during my initial consultations with clients. In order to best answer the question, I ask a few questions myself. For example, are they trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Walk their dog twice a day around the block? Get in their 10,000 steps per day? Lose weight? As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as you might think. For the purposes of this blog entry, I’m going to narrow down the focus and address what “counts” as cardiovascular exercise for weight loss. There are factors to consider when evaluating a cardiovascular exercise, such as heart rate, intensity and duration.

First, let’s look at heart rate. Everyone has a target heart rate zone, which for most people is typically approximately 130-160 beats per minute. When this maintained for over 20 minutes, then fat burning will take place. During the first 20 minutes of exercise in this zone, sugars are being used for energy. The energy cycle will begin using fat as an energy source after that. I highly encourage all my clients and even acquaintances looking to lose weight to purchase a heart rate monitor. This way you know where your heart rate is in relation to where it needs to be. This is also valuable if you are over exerting above your maximum target heart rate – when you exceed this number, you may become light headed, dizzy or nauseous.

Next is intensity, or how hard you are working. Let’s looks at a 30 minute walk on a flat surface, like the track around Wash Park. You would need to be really moving, possibly jogging, to maintain that target heart rate zone. Now, let’s look at that same 30 minutes climbing the stairs at Red Rocks. Quite a bit tougher with the incline and you’ll be able to more easily maintain your heart rate at a higher level. For a test, try it out on the treadmill or other cardio equipment at the gym. Go for five minutes at a zero incline, and then crank it up to a 8% incline for five minutes. Continue until you reach the 30 minute mark. You’ll see a huge difference.

Finally, duration, or how long is this particular bout of exercise. As you can see from the heart rate issue, you need to be moving for at least 20 minutes, so anything below that is not going to burn any fat. Typically, I advise my clients, depending on their goals and ability, to participate in 30-40 minutes of cardio for most days that they don’t train with me. In this case, cardiovascular exercise is defined as some activity in their target heart rate zone.

So I hope I’ve been able to settle the score for some discussions. All this said, any time you are moving and not sitting still is a path to a healthy lifestyle. So get moving!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Don't Waste Your Time

Ahhh…summer is finally here! It seems like there is so much to do, and the time flies by so quickly. Vacations, outdoor activities and visitors all keep us moving more than in the cold weather, so it can be a great asset when it comes to weight loss. Most of us will continue to hit the gym, exercise, and try to race through workouts to get back to our summer lives. It’s important to be safe and efficient when working out, so here are some tips to help you not waste your time in the gym.

First, have a plan. What is it you are looking to accomplish in your workout? Total body workout or specific areas? For weight loss goals, look to achieve a balance between cardio and weight exercises. Map out your workout, write it down so you don’t spend time thinking about what to do next. If you plan to be outdoors, ensure your planned exercises can be achieved. For example, if you plan to do sit-ups, make sure there is a soft surface other than the trail to do them.

Next, and probably most important, is to make sure you have perfect form during your exercises. One key component (that actually helps you to lose weight) is to be what I call “standing tall.” Pull your belly button to your spine, and tilt your hips forward slightly. This straightens your spine, forces you to stand or sit taller and burns more calories. This forces your core muscles to be engaged all the time. This is an “exercise” you can do anywhere, and even become a habit.

Another key component to an effective workout is the pace of exercise. For losing weight, keep moving around from exercise to exercise, with little rest in between. Alternate muscle groups to allow for active rest. If you do a chest exercise, follow it with a back exercise. The chest will be resting, but you are still moving. Also important is the pace at which you perform each exercise. A slow and controlled pace allows the targeted muscles to engage and work properly. It helps with breathing as well, with the exhale on the exertion part of the movement. A good place to start is a count of two each direction of the movement.

Finally, pick exercises that allow for multiple muscle groups to be engaged at once. Instead of a bicep curl on a machine, grab some free weights and do a squat as you curl. Not only are you using your biceps, but also your core muscles and legs. This efficient approach will help you with other factors such as balance and coordination.

By making the most out of your workout, you are able to accomplish more in a short period of time. This works any time of year, but is certainly helpful for those looking to enjoy the summer!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Exactly How Much Are You Eating?

Recently, I was watching TV and saw that commercial (you know, the one with the blonde model) for yogurt that is much lower in calories than the “other fat free yogurt.” When I compared the two at the store, I discovered that the lower calorie option was also proportionately smaller in size than the larger, higher calorie container. It caused me to remember that advertisers can be tricky and you might actually be eating more than you realize. Diet is such a large, important component to a successful weight loss plan. So, what are the keys to keep a realistic look at what you’re eating on a daily basis?

Let’s start with revisiting a previous topic: read the label. That little thing is so full of information, it’s amazing. Look at the serving size, and then the related information such as calories, calories from fat, etc. When you are comparing two similar products, see if the serving size is the same so you are able to make an educated decision which item is better suited for you and your weight loss goals. My favorite item on which to test this approach is cereal boxes. For the most part, they have the same serving size, so it’s easy to compare calories. One cereal might be 110 calories per half cup, while the next one over might be 190 calories for the same half cup.

Another way to get a good estimate of how much you are eating is to pour it out. I know it seems silly, but it can be quite informative. With so many items in single serving containers making it easy to eat on the go, it’s easy to lose track of how much you are consuming. The other day, I wanted to add some Grape Nuts to my yogurt for some crunch, so I poured it out of the single serving container into a bowl. It turns out that 6 ounce container has quite a bit of yogurt crammed inside. The yogurt I had is 100 calories for that container. Now imagine one of those 100 calorie packs of cookies or crackers and how little is in those packages. Next, take a look at an apple, even add a little peanut butter. These three items are all about the same in calories, but some offer a healthier choice than others.

Lastly, there is the good ole boring but effective option: measure it out. Some morning, just for giggles, measure out that half cup serving size and see how it compares to what you pour any other morning. Most people don’t eat just one serving, usually it’s much more. In fact, I heard the other day that some food companies are altering their serving sizes to match what people actually consume. I’m guessing the labels will show some much higher numbers than they do now for many products.

Portion size can be so distorted, it’s no wonder some people aren’t aware of how much they eat in a day. Keep an eye on your portions, try to make the better choice, and look forward to losing weight!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Variety is Key for Weight Loss

Here we are…February 2010. In Denver, it has been a dry but somewhat snowy, dreary winter so far, and motivation can be challenging with the winter blahs. A little variety might be needed to keep you going, especially when it comes to weight loss. Your diet may seem mundane, eating the same foods every day. Your exercise routine is the same as it was the first week. As your body is adapting to your exercise regimen to help lose weight, it has (or will get) gotten used to your everyday routine. This is what creates the dreaded plateau effect…what has been working is no longer as effective. Variety is key to keeping your mind focused and your body challenged.

Let’s start with diet. Spices and spicy things are a great way to make the old seem new. Add a little salsa or even hot sauce to eggs or your grilled chicken for a little pizzazz (that’s right, I said pizzazz). Spicy additions will help keep your metabolism going at a higher rate, if you can tolerate a little heat. Change your snacks so that you have a different one every other day. For example, if yogurt is your morning snack, have that 3 days and try apple and peanut butter on the others. If you have a co-worker on the same sort of plan, switch snacks for a week and see if you like and can integrate their choices into your diet. Tired of chicken for dinner? Pork chops are a good alternative, and can be just as easy to make.

Next let’s look at your exercise routine. There are easy ways to trick your body into thinking it’s doing something new and work differently. On the cardio side, intervals are a great way to burn fat and keep your heart rate up. You can do speed intervals (run for a minute, walk for a minute, increasing the run time as you get more comfortable) or incline intervals. Jumping rope in between sets of weight training will keep your heart pumping as you rest the muscles you are using during those sets. Speaking of weights, switch from machine weights to free weights for a new challenge. By using free weights (or even just your body weight), you can engage more muscles during a single exercise, therefore increasing your caloric expenditure. If you get stuck in a rut, there are several options available to you. Try a group class at your gym. Work out with a buddy (this will also help to keep you accountable). Hire a personal trainer a day or two a week and inform them of your goals.
They say variety is the spice of life, so change things around and see what happens. See you at the gym!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Doing Your Homework Before Losing Weight

Well, here we are, one week into the New Year. Are you sticking to your resolutions? If you have weight loss or health goals, I bet you are, based on the amount of people at the gym these days. Good for you! My question for this blog is “Did you do your homework?”

I was at the gym on New Year’s Day, getting work on my goals for 2010 and noticed a commotion on the other side of the room. It turns out an older gentleman started to feel ill while doing his workout, possibly working on his own goals for the New Year. Long story short, an ambulance was called and they took him to the hospital for tests. This experience caused me to wonder about something I ask every single one of my clients: are you under the care of a physician?

I’m sure many of you have seen the warnings on the treadmills and other equipment, but may just look over it, telling yourself that you think you are healthy enough for what you are doing. While there is a great value in using your body’s cues how you are feeling, there are other indicators that are equally if not more important. These other indicators can be diagnosed by your physician. Things includes are: heart health, blood pressure values, diabetes, joint issues, back pain, lung health, pregnancy, cancer, etc. Other factors that may influence your ability to participate in certain types of exercise are age, gender and your medical history, particularly if it includes heart or pulmonary issues. Your physician can help to find any special health circumstances that may require a more individualized, monitored approach to weight loss.

It’s important to include your physician as part of your weight loss team, as they will have their own role in helping you achieve your weight loss goals. In most cases, dropping some weight makes you healthier on the inside, which may ultimately be more important than the changes you see on the outside. The way you approach weight loss should be something that helps you to achieve your goals, rather than cause issues.

Check in with your physician, and I’ll see you at the gym!