Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post-vacation musings

Our family recently went on a wonderful four day cruise.  We relished every moment of being lazy, gluttonous and catered to.  Our biggest decisions each day were which ship restaurant to eat at, what activities to partake in, and where to shop next.  These few days of eating whatever we wanted whenever we wanted were freeing.  At home we cook healthy meals at home, and exercise most days of the week, so vacation is a time to take a mind/body break from all of it.
    It was very eye-opening a couple of days into the cruise when my husband's ankles and fingers swelled so badly from all the sodium in the food that he looked like the Michelin man.

Most of the cruisers were overweight, and we watched as they piled the food so high on their plates it was spilling over the sides.  I saw a guy standing in line for more food while still munching on a sandwich from the previous load. Another lady had just finished a couple of plates of food and came back to the table with three pieces of cheesecake, and 2-3 other desserts- and ate it all herself.  Now don't get me wrong.  We were enjoying the chocolate covered strawberries and chocolates delivered to out suites daily, and dined and imbibed enough to return with a few unwanted pounds.  It was scary to think of how profoundly this way of eating affected my husband, who works out regularly and maintains a healthy diet.  It is easy to see how much stress the standard American diet puts on the body if his extremities could swell to those extremes. 

   A few of my clients seemed to be curious as to why we didn't take our exercise clothes or plan to exercise while on board.  My very simple answer is that a vacation is defined as "leisure time away from work devoted to rest or pleasure".  Exercise does NOT fit into that definition.  I have come to a place of balance in my life which I did not have even a few years ago.  Not being able to abandon the workouts for a few days to rest and recharge is the definition of imbalance.  I subscribe to the 90% rule.  If we eat clean and workout 90% of the time, there is 10% of wiggle room left over.  I have spent many years in that place where there was no balance, fretting over every missed workout and uncounted calorie.  I've come to realize that I didn't look/feel any better being obsessed, I just made my life empty.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Muscle toning" workouts

Many people, especially women desire a fit, lean, toned body. There seems to be some controversy in the fitness community about how to achieve this look. Many people seem to believe that there is a different means by which you “tone” muscles as opposed to getting the big, muscular look. That’s actually not true, both looks require some form of resistance training, usually free-weight training. In order to get that definition, muscle needs to be built. Many trainees work out with weights that are too light due to their fear of getting “bulky”. There are so many other factors that weigh in to getting large muscles. One is genetics. There are few, but not many people with a genetic propensity toward gaining muscle quickly. Most of these individuals are men, since muscle growth is largely dependent on the hormone testosterone. Women naturally have very little of this hormone, so this is one reason why it is highly unlikely that most women need to worry about excess muscle growth. Another factor is nutrition. You need to be in a major caloric surplus to put on massive amounts of muscle. These top bodybuilding competitors that scare most of us with their huge shredded muscles consume thousands of extra calories a day to support that muscle growth. That is another reason most women need not fear getting too muscular, most women don’t eat a surplus of calories each day. If anything, many women are in a chronic deficit due to trying to “watch their figure”. You simply cannot build muscle without the building blocks (amino acids and carbohydrates) available. The last factor is the use of anabolic steroids. Unfortunately, a vast majority of athletes that appear “too muscular” to fit in with the mainstream are using these substances. So if you don’t have superior genetics, eat mass quantities of protein and carbohydrates or take ergogenic aids (anabolic steroids) you can train as hard and as often as needed without fear.

The principles involved in getting the toned, tight look are threefold. The increase in muscle size from training is what gives that nice, shapely look to all of the body parts. The second factor is cardiovascular activity to burn off that layer of fat that is blanketing the muscle. Lastly, and most important is nutrition. The most well planned out and rigorous workout program will be unsuccessful if the trainee’s diet is not intact. A proper amount of nutrients to support the workouts, and the right foods. 100 calories of French fries is not equal to 100 calories of oatmeal.

The take home message is that there is only one way to a nice, aesthetically pleasing, toned physique. It is with a good, balanced training and cardio program coupled with a clean, healthy diet.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Watch Those Incidentals!!

incurred casually and in addition to the regular or main amount.

In all my years helping people to lose weight, I have figured out some tricks to get a client's weight loss moving again when it has stalled. The one I want to focus on today is the accurate tracking of "incidentals" in one's diet. I'm not merely referring to the bites of left over chicken finger or cheeseburger off their kid's plate that wasn't accounted for......but a more sneaky and insidious form of excess calories, the kind when you're measuring everything with your little scoopers and measuring spoons.......and STILL going over by a couple hundred calories per day?? How is this possible?
I'll tell you how. The next time you grab your half-cup or cup scooper, dunk it into that oatmeal container, scoop it up and level it off- try throwing that on the scale. You will find that there are more grams of oats on the scale than what the package label says is supposed to be in a half cup serving. To get the true serving size, you can't even fill the scooper all the way to the top. I know, ugh. A little more bad news, nuts are even more heinous. If the package says 1/4 cup is a serving size, and you level off the scooper full of nuts you are easily getting another half a serving. This is a big deal, because nuts are so calorie and fat dense. As an experiment, I weighed out my 28 grams of nuts (the serving listed on the package) and then put that into the 1/4 c measuring cup- it wasn't even close to filling it up. Bummer.
On to the GOOD news about all of this? Now you know, and now you can easily shave a pretty decent amount of calories off of your daily total and get back to where you THOUGHT you were in the first place. Oh, and.....I didn't even mention all that coffee mate and those packets of Splenda you weren't counting.....