Holiday Comfort Foods

Holiday Comfort Foods

Even though there are hundreds of happy songs for Christmas and the New Year, there’s no doubt about it, ’tis the season to be jolly simply doesn’t work for some people. They often turn to holiday comfort foods that are both high in calories and low in nutrition. While comfort foods can play an important role in maintaining your spirits and making it through the holiday season, those same foods also add weight. Often, they aren’t really as delicious as people remember either, particularly after they’ve eaten healthy for a while.

What makes a good comfort food?

It’s often about texture or memories from the past. It’s been my experience that comfort foods are often passed through generations, sometimes changing a bit, but basically remaining the same. Everyone knows you’ve had a horrible day or ended a relationship if you’re at home with a spoon and a pint or more of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s food that your mother gave you when you were good or needed a lift or one that was on the table for special occasions. Normally, comfort food isn’t one bit healthy or low in calories…I do know one exception to that rule. I have a client who just wanted to tone, but not lose weight. Her comfort food was celery (Now you know why no weight loss was necessary.) Actually, celery and anything that crunched. She ate it when she was frustrated and loved to hear the crunch.

Pass the mashed potatoes and rich egg noodles, please.

If you’re like many people, when you get sick, chicken soup is a great boost. That’s what my mother always served to make me feel better. Mashed potatoes with thick homemade egg noodles in an equally thick chicken gravy was another favorite that would brighten my day. You don’t have to chew, they go down with little effort and taste delicious together. These two comfort foods were staples in our house.

Find a new comfort food or find a better way of cooking it.

When you’re trying to eat healthier, many of your past comfort foods won’t fit in the healthy eating program. That doesn’t mean you have to give them up forever, but just save them for the worst disasters and eat only a small serving. (No, a quart bowl is not a small serving.) Finding a new comfort food is tough, but if you can figure out what made you love the other so much, that makes the task easier. Was it the texture? Was it salty? Was it the sugary blend or simply the taste? Once you know what gives you that lift, it’s easy to find a healthy substitute. If pizza is a favorite, make it with lots of fresh veggies like spinach and cubed butternut squash and a crust that’s lower in calories. Switching out recipes or finding new comfort foods will save loads of calories.

  • You can reduce the calories in mac ‘n cheese by blending butternut squash with the cheese.
  • If you love your burgers and fries, switch out to a tasty fry that also is good for you. Slice a sweet potato to fry proportions and bake it. It tastes just as yummy, is lower in calories and packed with nutrition.
  • Fried chicken that isn’t fried is one of my favorites. You can bake on that crispy crust and have even the most discerning fried chicken lover enjoying it.
  • Nothing is better than a huge plate of lasagna that’s low in calories and healthy. Try making noodles from thinly sliced zucchini. It actually tastes the same as my favorite, but has more nutrition and fewer calories.

 Could Your Food Decisions Be Better

 Could Your Food Decisions Be Better

We don’t give you a diet, but instead give you the training and education to help you make better food decisions. Those decisions are based on the caloric intake compared to the nutritional value. If you’re comparing a candy bar with fresh fruit, it’s a no brainer. Fruit comes in far ahead of the calorie laden and nutritionally barren candy bar. There are other decisions that aren’t quite as clear, but you can start with the basics.

Foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce have no place in your diet.

You should become a label reader, better yet, opt for whole foods rather than processed ones to avoid the need to read the label. If your food has ingredients that sound like they came straight out of a chemistry lab, you shouldn’t include it in a healthy diet. Rather than using artificial creamer to save calories, try drinking your cup of Jo sans cream (or fake cream) and sugar. Read the label before you eat your next hot dog. Processed foods like hot dogs and processed meats contain high amounts of preservatives and artificial ingredients. To make matters worse, they start with a slurry of ground up animal products, which include all types of tissues, heads, feet, skin and anything deemed edible on the animal and have very little nutritional value.

Fried foods may taste delicious, until you get your palate trained.

Fried foods are loaded with fat, calories and very little nutrition. While that crunchy skin may taste delicious, the fat they’re fried in isn’t healthy. In fact, when you eat in a restaurant, even though their foods are no longer fried in trans fats, they reuse the cooking oil. That causes the oil to break down and be more easily absorbed in the food, adding even more calories. Once you go without eating fried foods for a while, your tastes will change and you’ll find them less inviting. In fact, you’ll probably find you won’t like the food fried anymore.

High sugar products drain you of energy, provide few nutrients and add calories.

Sugar is hidden everywhere. Whether it’s called sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maltose or sucrose, it’s sugar. There are 61 different names for sugar and when you find several of them listed on a label, it’s the manufacturer’s way of hiding just how much sugar the product contains. While sugar gives you a boost of energy, it also burns off and sends your blood sugar diving from the peak to the valley and you need another hit. Sugar is addictive and can cause obesity, premature skin aging, osteoporosis, increase in candida and tooth decay. Keep it at a minimum for a healthy diet.

  • Food swaps can save calories and boost nutrition. For instance, consider using spaghetti squash instead of pasta. It tastes delicious, is loaded with nutrients and is lower in calories.
  • When eating beef or dairy products, try to use ones from grass fed beef. They have heart healthy benefits over the grain fed beef counterparts.
  • If you’re eating a salad, opt for spinach, romaine or red leaf over iceberg. Iceberg lettuce is low in calories, but compared to other salad fare, far lower in nutrition, too. It’s 96 percent water, but the lowest of this leafy group in all other nutritional content.
  • Simple swaps like eating brown rice instead of white rice and switching out Greek yogurt for sour cream adds nutrition and lowers calories, but still provides a satisfying flavor.

 Expect To Suck At First

 Expect To Suck At First

No matter how fit you are, if you’re starting a new program of fitness with exercises you’ve never performed, expect to suck. Since most people aren’t fitness gurus when they begin at the gym, it can be twice as bad. You may have visions of moving fluidly across the floor, lifting weights easily and keeping ahead of the pack, but if you’re doing that, I, or one of the other trainers, haven’t created an appropriate program for your level of fitness. The goal is to make you work hard and that means struggling.

It’s more than just about your level of fitness and hard work.

You’ll be learning new moves and how to do them. Form is extremely important and some of the moves may be quite foreign to your body. When you combine that learning curve with a difficult program, you can easily see how your first few weeks of exercise will leave you feeling a bit self-conscious and feeling like a dud, but don’t worry. Everyone else is feeling the same way, even if they don’t show it. In most cases, they’re more focused on their short-comings to ever notice yours.

Feeling awkward is no reason to stop the program.

Unless you’re one of those fortunate people who automatically jumped on the dance floor and Michael Jacksoned their way across the room, you probably felt foolish when you first started dancing. In fact, some of you may not dance today because of it. That’s sad because it’s not only fun, it’s great exercise. Working out is a lot like dancing. Every once in a while, there’s a person who immediately grasps the movements. However, unlike dancing, we make it hard enough for their fitness level that you’ll still see them flounder when it comes to performing them. Looking awkward should never be incentive to quit, but it should be incentive to improve.

One way to feel better is to chart your progress.

Trainers keep records. The primary reason is to modify the program as you improve or find ways to make the workout better. However, they can also be great sources of inspiration. You may not remember how hard it was your first day and still feel like you’re struggling, but when you look at your workout history, you’ll notice just how much you’ve improved. After a few weeks, those exercises you did the first week will be child’s play.

  • It’s only hard if you think it is. Changing the way you think can make a difference in your success. If you focus on how your improving or look at each movement as a step to better performance, you’ll look forward to your next day at the gym.
  • Stay consistent. Create a schedule for working out and stick with it. You’ll be doing better in no time.
  • Practice the moves at home. If you’re having a horrible time remembering each move, ask your trainer for written directions you can practice at home to improve your form. Just work on form without worrying about weights or repetitions.
  • Enjoy and don’t worry about anything but your goals. If you’re working your hardest, you’ll look fabulous and feel great in no time.

 Commit In Advance

 Commit In Advance

When you commit in advance to working out, you schedule your exercise time and make sure it’s part of your weekly plan. You have to give more than lip service to working out, you have to create a plan and follow through to get results. If you say you’re going to start exercising, you need to set a time and date or that intention is hollow. Some day never comes. A commitment to good health should be at the top of your to-do list.

Create an appointment to good health.

If you schedule an appointment, you’re more likely to keep it than if you simply create an intention. If you have a doctor’s appointment, you’ll do all you can to keep it. The same should be true with your appointment for a healthy lifestyle. When you have to schedule ahead and sign up for a program, it impresses how really important it is. Consistency is a top priority for working out and scheduling an important part of that. When it’s scheduled, you can’t say you’ll workout later that day or tomorrow. It’s a now type of attitude.

You can’t skip a week or two and catch up by working out three times longer the next week.

When you take a few days off, you lose a little of your momentum and that only comes back after a few weeks of consistent exercise. Doubling up doesn’t provide the body with recovery time and the second half of the workout will suffer. Consistency, again, is the answer to getting fit. It consists of a program that allows your muscles to rest in between so they can build.

You’ll boost your energy and start to love the fact that you workout and eat healthy.

A healthy lifestyle can relieve stress, make you feel better physically and create a better disposition. The exercise can help burn off the hormones of stress and replace them with ones that make you feel good. Healthy eating can help reduce stress and make you feel good. Both will give your energy level a boost and make you glad that you committed to a program of healthy living. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see and feel all the benefits these lifestyle changes can bring.

  • If you thought a pill would give you a huge boost of energy and leave you healthier for it, you’d probably buy several bottles and maybe even make a note to yourself when to pick up your next bottle. That’s what healthy eating and exercise does. The sooner you commit to it, the quicker you’ll feel great.
  • Your body undergoes massive changes as you age. When you commit to a healthy lifestyle, it can slow down those changes and keep you younger looking and feeling longer.
  • When you commit to any fitness program, whether it’s just to get fitter or to lose weight, you’ll see results quicker and that’s motivation to continue.
  • Creating a commitment to exercise and healthy eating and following through gives you the confidence to do it in other areas of your life. The mental toughness you learn through an exercise program can spread to other areas of your life.

Find Your Inner Athlete

Find Your Inner Athlete

Your inner athlete isn’t about being the best at your sport, it’s about being the best that you can be. Not everyone, in fact very few, ever become professional body builders, football players, long distance runners or yoga instructor. However, everyone is capable of developing the passion and commitment to be the best athlete they can be.

You need to believe.

Your inner athlete comes out when you have heart. I had a client who brought her daughter to me for private sessions. Her daughter was a high school athlete. She played basketball, volleyball and softball. She didn’t look like a basketball or volleyball player. She was barely over 5 feet tall, but she had passion. She worked hard on every aspect of the game and worked part time to pay for the personal training. She was passed over in middle school for starting line up because of her height, but by the end of the year, her dedication paid off and the coach recognized her talent. By her senior year, she received the MVP for the state tournaments in volleyball, played guard on a championship basketball team and received a scholarship in softball. It all boiled down to belief.

It’s never too late.

Ernestine Shepherd was like many 56 year old women, out of shape and ready to get fit again after seeing herself in the mirror when trying on swimsuits with her sister. So she and her sister started working out together. Ernestine became dedicated to fitness and at the age of 80 (although she looks about 40), she’s the world’s oldest female body builder. She is even a personal trainer. Her schedule isn’t one that most people could follow. She’s up at 3:00 runs 80 miles a week and follows a strict regimen at meals (1,700 calories a day of boiled egg whites, vegetables, chicken and a drink of liquid egg white.) She’s an inspiration and proves that it’s never too late.

Set your goal and see yourself succeeding.

Many people fail to achieve their fitness goal because they can’t see past what is to what can be. Visualizing yourself fit, able to run a mile easily and far thinner than you are today. Keep that thought in mind every time you workout. Follow your workout plan and eat healthy so you can achieve your goals. Once you reach them, set even higher goals.

– Everyone has an inner athlete and an athletic endeavor they want to conquer. Find yours and work toward your goals.

– That same passion for fitness can spread to other areas of your life. You’ll be amazed at the power you have once you learn that nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself.

– Don’t worry if you don’t have the perfect body now, every day you work toward your goal, you’re working toward perfection.

– Find a workout partner who also has found their inner athlete and work together to achieve your goals, providing encouragement along the way.

Cardio Vs Weights

Cardio Vs Weights

If you’ve spent much time working out, you’ve undoubtedly heard discussions or read articles about the benefits of Cardio vs Weights and visa versa. One study states that cardio will get you to the thin sleek look you want, while another tells you to lose the most weight, you need to pump iron or face being disappointment after a few months of training. So which one is better? The truth is, both are necessary to have the body that you want.

Cardio burns calories, but you lose more than just fat.

Even though you’ll burn more calories with cardio training, according to one study from Duke University, there’s a catch. Another study divided subjects int two groups. One group did cardio training, while the other did strength training, working out with weights. Both groups dieted and lost 21 pounds during the study. That would make it seem they were equal. However, the study went one step further to see more about the weight loss and found that the cardio group actually lost only 15 pounds in fat and 6 pounds in muscle, while those using weights lost all fat. As a result, they actually looked thinner, which after all is the goal.

When you gain muscle tissue, you burn more calories.

Cardio is good for many things, including burning calories and building endurance, but it won’t build muscle tissue like weights do. One study shows that as you build muscle tissue, for every three pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories a day! That means lifting weights can help you boost your metabolism and burn more calories even when you’re not working out.

Should you go for quick weight loss or building muscle tissue?

Still another study tracked obese people who used only exercise to shed those extra pounds. It showed that cardio only lost weight, cardio plus weights lost even more weight and gained muscle and weights alone gained weight, but it was lean muscle mass. What is the take away? Combining the two gets the best results, which is what everyone probably knew before the study.

– To be your fittest, you need all types of exercise. Fitness is more than just weight loss. It’s endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Each one improves the body and keeps it healthy in different ways.

– Get a vigorous workout with timed workouts that push you hard for cardio, while providing strength training at the same time.

– Combining cardio and strength training can be as simple as using kettlebells or pushing hard when strength training to beat the clock.

– Doing any type of training is far better than doing nothing! Also, to get the best results, you need to fuel your body right with a nutritionally balanced healthy diet.

How To Boost Your Workout Intensity

How To Boost Your Workout Intensity

When I talk to people dedicated to their exercise goals, they always want to know how to improve their results. I always say, “Boost your workout intensity and you’ll see a huge difference.” Most of the time, I get a puzzled look. They don’t understand what that means. Workout intensity is the amount of energy you burn when you’re working out. Basically, if your maximum potential and your workout is only at 50% of your maximum, when you boost your effort to 70%, you’ll be boosting your intensity. Here are some ways to do that.

Test it in strength training.

If you’re struggling to lift doing a low number of repetitions, you’re probably using the right amount of weight. However, if you barely sweat, even after 15 reps, it’s time to boost the effort and increase the weight. Going heavier is one of the best ways to boost your workout intensity and get better results from your workout. Push yourself to achieve more. Assessing your own fitness level and adjusting your workout to improve your fitness is often one step many people fail to do. It’s why you see more progress when you work with a personal trainer.

Hold each lift longer.

Flying through lifts is counterproductive to your goal. You need to increase the amount of time under tension. Slowing your lifts stress your muscles, which is necessary for growth. There’s a fine balance between overtraining and not working long enough to get significant gains. To increase strength, increase the amount of time for each set ten to twenty seconds. To build, double that time and to increase endurance make it even longer. Creating a slower tempo can give you the results you’ve hoped to achieve.

Shorten your rest periods.

If you’ve ever done circuit training, you know that the amount of time between sets or exercises is set by your fitness level. Here, faster is better. Moving from one set to the next with a shorter recovery period between exercises can build your stamina and endurance. Start with thirty to sixty seconds. Use it to get a drink if necessary. You can slowly shorten your rest period and will start to see your endurance improve. You should still feel fatigued, but able to still do the next exercise.

– Do supersets. Put two exercises together as a superset and go from one to another.

– Try circuit training or high intensity interval training, if you’re not already doing it. Circuit training takes supersets one step further.

– Do drop sets and take your muscles to failure.

– Try each of these ideas listed, adding them to your workout one at a time to see how it makes you feel and how each one helps you improve.

Tips For Running In The Heat

Tips For Running In The Heat

Getting outdoors and enjoying the scenery is one reason people add running to their workout. In hot weather, it can be dangerous, creating problems of heat stroke, heat cramps, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Here are some tips for running in the heat and stay safe at the same time. They’re also ways to enjoy your run more, so you’ll be more likely to do it.

Create a cool route and plan ahead.

If at all possible plan your route in a local park or along a shady street to help stay out of the sun. Don’t run on asphalt or concrete as both retain heat and will make it even warmer. Running along a water source, like a lake, river or stream can be cooler. If you don’t have the luxury of running in a cooler area, improvise. Run near fast food places or grocery stores where you can stop for a cool bottled water inside an air conditioned building. You may never need to go inside, but if you feel overheated, don’t let it turn critical.

Dress appropriately.

Keep your clothing cool and loose-fitting. If the sun is super hot, keep it off your skin with a lightweight, light colored long-sleeve loose flowing shirt rather than a tank top that shows more skin. Longer loose-fitting shorts provide more protection and more ventilation, which can keep you cooler. Don’t wear dark colors. White and light pastels will help you stay cool and comfortable. Wear a hat that wicks sweat away from your face and keeps off the sun.

Adjust your pace to the weather.

That should be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning, since some people use the same pace regardless of weather. If it’s the hottest day of the year, don’t run at the same pace you would on the coolest day. Use a slower pace and judge your progress by run time, rather than distance run. The only exception to the rule is if you’re training for a marathon in a hot area. Even then, work on progress slowly.

– Time your run to the coolest part of the day. Early in the morning is the coolest part of the day.

– Hydrate before you leave for your run and when you get home. On super hot days, carry water with you.

– Run near an area with public fountains or access to drinking water.

– Carry a towel If you have a fast food place on your route, get a drink but fill the cup with ice and water. Put the ice in your towel to cool your head. Break up the run to smaller sessions, running for 20 minutes, taking a break and running again.

Post Workout Smoothies

Post Workout Smoothies

Post workout smoothies serve a number of functions. First, they taste good and you look forward to them as a reward. One woman who started at our facility told me she hated switching gyms. While she didn’t get the help like we provide at our gym and the program here was much better, there was a smoothie stand at the box gym that she loved. We solved that problem by teaching her how to make her own smoothie at home, freeze for an hour or two and bring it with her. By the time she was finished working out, she can add a little protein powder, shook it and it was ready to drink or scoop with a spoon. Here’s some recipes you might try at home. You can make some fresh and drink right away or freeze them for the future.

Get protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in your smoothie.

You want to limit the breakdown of protein, increase the amount of protein synthesis and replenish your glycogen supply. The right smoothie can do that, plus help improve recovery. A simple smoothie using frozen berries, bananas, yogurt almond milk or coconut water and vanilla soy powder can be perfect. Slice and freeze the thinner rounds of banana, also freeze mixed berries or strawberries. When you’re ready to make your drink, use 8 ounces of the almond milk, coconut water, yogurt or low-fat milk. Add one scoop of vanilla soy protein, enough frozen banana slices to make ½ of a banana and ¾ cup frozen berries. Blend well.

This tropical treat will satisfy your nutrition and provide a treat.

Ensuring your body has all the electrolytes it lost and the additional nutrition and antioxidants for protection and repair isn’t hard with this delicious drink. Use 2 cups of fresh spinach, 1/2 cup of thinly sliced carrots, a cup of mango cubes cut fresh and frozen, ½ cup of each coconut water and live bacteria plain yogurt, one whole peeled seeded mandarin orange or a peeled Clementine and ¼ cup orange juice. Just blend and enjoy.

Reduce inflammation with this drink.

You may be shocked to see maple syrup in this recipe, but this recipe needs a little more sweetness than fruit has and maple syrup does have extra nutrients, including riboflavin, thiamin, calcium, iron, niacin and B6, just to name a few! It helps fight inflammation and is low on the glycemic index so it won’t give you a sugar high, just to crash later. The avocado also fights inflammation and you can also add a touch of turmeric or extra cinnamon for even more protection. Freeze cooked canned pumpkin in ice cube trays. Use half the cubes from one can for this recipe. Add 7 ounces of Greek style yogurt, 2T of freshly ground flax seeds, ¼ avocado, ½ C water, 1T pure maple syrup and ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice. It’s pumpkin pie in a smoothie with health benefits.

– Keep it simple. Slice bananas into rounds and freeze, then transfer to freezer bags. Have them on hand and ready to throw into the blender to make preparation faster.

– Use protein powder, yogurt and even peanut butter for the protein in smoothies.

– Want more protein than fruit, use a half cup each plain yogurt and milk. Add a banana and a tablespoon peanut butter. Top it off with a large handful of spinach and a bit (½ tsp ) of vanilla. Blend.

– Some herbs and spices that are anti-inflammatories include ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, thyme and cayenne pepper. These can be good additions for quicker recovery. The pepper will give your drink a kick.

Create A Fitness Bucket List

Create A Fitness Bucket List

If you want to enjoy your fitness program more, it’s time to get creative by making a bucket list. When you create a fitness bucket list, remember, these aren’t necessarily NOW goals, but goals you’d eventually like to achieve. Some, particularly tough ones, may need to be completed before you get to old and your performance slows. Others can be done at any time.

Have you always considered running a marathon, but running isn’t your thing?

The fun part of creating a bucket list is that you actually get to analyze your goals. If you’ve always wanted to run in a marathon, but aren’t fond of running, it’s obviously the attraction of challenging yourself to a grueling task that involves stamina and endurance. There are other competitions with a marathon style that don’t involve running. The strongman competitions are one example. You might try a competition like a triathlon, where running is a third of the competition, not the whole thing.

Do the perfect pull-up, power lift or extended forearm plank.

Sometimes taking a simple exercise, such as a push-up or forearm plank and creating a challenge that surpasses your imagination and present ability is a great item for your bucket list. Items for your bucket list don’t have to be dazzling or sophisticated. They can be simple, but something that you really want to do. Consider holding your body in push up position for a few minutes or doing the perfect pull up and holding as one option.

Get flexible.

I had a client who confessed to me that as a child, she saw a woman on television do a back bend and bring her head up between her legs in back bend form. It fascinated her and she worked on it for years. She never achieved it…at least not yet…but she does have amazing flexibility and abdominal muscles from trying. Your bucket list item could be something as simple as that. You should have a variety of items that cover all types of fitness.

– Take a trip for fitness. Consider hiking or bouldering as part of the trip. Maybe even hiking a famous historical trail. One man in my group is older than most of my clients. His bucketlist includes hiking the trails at every national park.

– Ride a bike on an overnight trip. The preparation and excitement of taking an overnight trip or a week long trip on a back is an excellent bucket list option.

– Don’t worry if your bucket list items don’t impress anyone else. They just have to get your juices flowing.

– Learn an ancient discipline like Qigong or even learn advanced yoga. Many of these are good for both the mind and the body.