5 Bad Diet Habits to Stop Today

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This blog post originally appeared on Muscle is the New Sexy.

If you’ve been working out and lifting weights consistently but haven’t seen the scale or measurements budge lately, then it’s time to take a look at your diet plan.  As the common saying goes, “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet.”  As tempting as it is to say, “I’ll burn it off tomorrow” after we indulge in some cheesecake or donuts, it’s just not realistic to think one workout will help.  Take a look at these 5 Bad Habits and ask yourself if you’re guilty of one or more of them.  It could be the key to assisting you with your weight loss goals.

Eating at your Desk

I list this first because it’s probably one of the more unappealing and just plain gross habits we’ve become used to as of late.  In typical American fashion, we’re always in a hurry and no one seems to have time to sit down during the day and eat their meals.  This is why the grocery store aisles are loaded with quick and convenient “meals.”  But even if you have the best intentions and pack your meals everyday, there is still the problem of WHERE to eat your meal.  If you’re in a rush, your desk becomes the table.  With as many germs that are typically on a keyboard and office desk, this is not ideal to enjoy your lunch.  At the very least, choose a place to eat that is communal and intended to be eaten in, such as a cafeteria or break room.  Everyone is busy, and your job is important, but your health is much more important.  And getting crumbs in between the space bar is not attractive.

Scarfing Down your Food too Quickly

No one seems to enjoy their food anymore.  Not every meal needs to be an earth shattering experience.  But if you go to the trouble of cooking, or at least purchasing your food, why eat it like it’s going to be your last meal?  If you eat with intention and with purpose, you might find yourself eating slowly, thus, feeling fuller for a longer period of time.  Take time to taste every bite.  Some people even bless their food before they eat, ensuring they savor every morsel.  You know you’re going to eat again in a few hours.  There’s no need to rush!  Take frequent sips of water in between bites as well.  If you’re hanging with others, chat with them while you eat.  You should be too busy talking to eat so fast.

Skipping your Meals

There is still the misconception among dieters that in order to lose weight, you must skip some meals.  This is counterproductive.  Why?  Because if you start reducing your caloric intake so drastically, you’re just going to become even hungrier and most likely start gaining weight because you might double the size of your next meal.  If you are dieting, cutting back on the portion size is a better strategy than to skip a meal entirely.  The food you eat should be whole and natural as much as possible, not invisible.  An empty plate does not equal a lower number on the scale.

Drinking your Calories

Soda, pop, beer, wine, mixed drinks, juices.  All of these beverages would be considered poor options to hydrate you.  The best choice, of course, is water.  Even if you have a “stellar” diet, and you celebrate a few days a week with just a few drinks, you could be doing yourself a disservice.  For example, one Cosmopolitan has 145 calories in it, a Whiskey sour has 160 and a regular Beer has approximately 150.  Those calories really add up over time.  Reduce and cut back on these, and you might see a shift in your energy levels, better endurance in your workouts, and a change in the scale.   You should see an even bigger change when you increase your water throughout the day.  A good goal? Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces per day.

Opting for TV Dinners instead of Cooking

Boy Scouts aren’t the only ones who should always be prepared.  Adults need to have a plan.  It all starts with cooking.  Planning and cooking your  food might seem like a time consuming chore, but it really is the best way to ensure success with your health.  Maybe you know those tv dinners aren’t very good for you but you don’t know what else to eat.  And if you think those processed meals are “decent” for you, read the ingredient list.  There are usually more than 30 ingredients listed which is always a bad sign.  Learning to cook is worth it!  Take some cooking classes or have someone you know share some tips with you.  And cookbooks are cheap. I found one called “How to Cook” for $5. It really isn’t that difficult to bake some lean proteins and vegetables, cook up some hard boiled eggs, and heat up some leftovers for lunch.  You can even pick one day during the week to get all your cooking done so you’re prepared and ready to get on track with zero excuses.

If you’re guilty of one or more of these bad habits, make the decision today to stop and create better, healthier habits.  Pick one good habit to start and stick with it!   It might take weeks or even months to create the better habit, but it will be completely worth it and your body will thank you.

The Top 9 Pieces of Equipment for the Home Gym

Got a basement? Or a garage? Or some space that you want to fill with cool stuff?  If you want to look buff by Christmas you’re probably dreaming. But, if you want to get fit for life, you’ll need more than just a mat and a ball. Get with the times and get a few good pieces of equipment. Here are my top picks:

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1. Sandbag – My most favorite piece of equipment, ever. I purchased one a few years ago and what’s so awesome is that you can choose how heavy you want to make it. You purchase the bag, but you get the sand from a home improvement store. Of course, if you’re handy, you can just make your own bag I guess. There are tons of exercises you can do with this and it MIGHT be a good idea to get two so you can have a super heavy one and a lighter one for different exercises.

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2. Suspension Trainer – (also known as TRX) – TRX is the original creator of this mechanism and plenty of people have gotten on board, especially athletes like Drew Brees and a bunch of Mixed Martial Arts competitors. What’s so special about it? It uses your own bodyweight as resistance and you can manipulate every exercise to make it easier or more challenging. The foot cradles double as handles and plus…it just LOOKS badass when you’re training with it. The most advantageous part of it for you is that it’s extremely easy to use (takes about 10 seconds to hang it from a beam in your house or a doorway. Not to mention it’s lightweight and portable, which makes it perfect for people who travel and want to use it in their hotel rooms.

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3. Pull up Bar / Dip Stand – I bought this ages ago and continue to use it. I put these in one category although they are two different things. The pull up bar is easily installed in a doorway. The dip stand doubles as a pull up bar but moreso as a body row (pictured). You can also use the dip stand to do some hanging leg raises.  Although it’s not as portable as I would like, nothing beats a pull up as one of the most challenging upper body moves and you can get a great workout on these two.

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4. Stability Ball – I consider these the grandfather of all exercise equipment. Because probably everyone and your grandpa has one. Or knows someone who does. The reason? Stabilization is something everyone must work on. Plus, it’s completely versatile. You can sit on it, you can toss it, you can lean on it, you can lift it, you can lay on it. Just make sure you keep it pumped up air because once these things lose their air, they become UNstable.

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5. Kettlebell – It might look strange but it’s more than just a weird looking weight. This thing can be used to do anything a dumbbell can do but because of the handle, you can do more. You can swing it as I demonstrate here. You can raise it. You can hold it up and lower your body down to the ground. All kinds of torturous things! 🙂

 

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6. Medicine Ball – This is a ball that has weight. So as the stability ball is large and full of air, the medicine ball is small and full of…something. Sand? Whatever it is, it works like a charm, especially the ones with handles. Some of them are anti-bounce balls meaning they are used for more power moves. Others that are of the weight specified can be use to press, pull, twist, raise, and bounce for a variety of exercises.

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7. Powerblocks – I admit I have yet to purchase these but they are on my Christmas list. Why? I know they look strange but that multicolored block is the answer to just one set of weights that every home gym needs. In case you haven’t noticed, dumbbells are usually priced by the pound. So you can spend quite a bit of money on just one set of 5, 10, 12, and 15lb weights. Well, how about getting just two? That’s the magic behind the Poweblock. It’s an adjustable “block.” I also just noticed they make barbells and kettlebells. My Christmas list just got real big…

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8. Bosu Ball – This flying saucer, crazy blue half ball looking thing is awesome. It’s called a BOSU ball because BOth Sides are Utilized. You can balance on the blue side or the black side. You can put your hands on either side, your feet on either side, you can stand on it, sit on it, jump on it, lift it up, twist it across, anything and everything.

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9. A Timer and a Tracker – Not what you’d expect out of all this equipment on this list right? But when you workout you need a way to track and log your workouts. You could also use a really good timer when doing timed metabolic workouts. I recommend anything FREE because I’m cheap so I use the timer called Tabata Stopwatch Pro – Interval Timer. It allows you to choose different sounds for when you need to start and stop your exercises. This way, you’re not constantly looking at a clock or your watch or iPhone. As for logging your workouts, you can just use a document and save it online but I prefer the old fashioned pen and paper. I use a logbook I found on Amazon.com but you can just use a good old steno notebook. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

 

I hope you find this list useful for building your own home gym. Keep this Wish List handy for the holidays and birthdays or after you reach a certain goal, perhaps you purchase a new piece of equipment for yourself!

 

 

 

Change Your Plate: How to Balance Your Meals Without Worry

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Are your meals balanced?  Today, with all the nutrition information out there, it’s very easy to over think how to eat healthy and balanced.  Everyone seems to have  their own definition of eating “clean” and their own opinion on how to everyone else should be eating too.

The best advice I give my clients is this:   The best “diet” or meal plan is the one that works for you and you can live with.  Once you figure out that balance, it’s easy.  But figuring out what that is for you can be a very long and tedious process.  But if you strive to have balanced meals, you’re off to a great start.  Here are some basic steps you can take to get started.

First off, let’s define what balanced means.  For me, and for most people, balance means all macronutrients are present and accounted for – Fats, Protein, and Carbohydrates.

Some people really aren’t aware of what is considered a protein, a fat, or a carb so here are some examples in case you’re a little behind in Nutrition 101.

Fats – olive oil, nuts, avocado, nut butters, coconut oil, butter

Protein – fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, eggs

Carbs – fruits, veggies, breads, cereals, grains, oats, rice, pasta

How much of each is going to depend on your goals. But here are some general guidelines I try to follow:

  • Protein should be the size of your palm – this is a very generic rule but it’s universally accepted as the norm.  Take a look at your protein on your plate and compare it to your palm.  Is it close?  Is it way off?  Make adjustments and dig in!
  • Carbs should be in the form of veggies/greens – This is usually a salad or a piece of fruit.  Are you getting the recommended daily intake of 7-9 servings of fruit and veggies?  Most people don’t.  Just remember, no  one ever overdosed on veggies.
  • Fats are usually used as the cooking oils or dressings so they shouldn’t take up too much of your plate – Fats don’t make us fat.  They help make us feel full and we need those good healthy fats that contain omega-3’s.  Don’t ever be afraid of fat!
  • Your greens/veggies should take up a large portion of your plate.  Think of them as filler, literally filling up on veggies before you even stick a fork and knife in your protein
  • Your protein should take up the rest of the plate living very little room for “extras.”  I go over what those Extras are below.
  • Ask yourself if all macronutrients are accounted for.  What are you missing?  How can you replace something that’s missing?
  • If you’re already eating balanced, it might be a good idea to weigh and measure you food.  Many people use the “eye-ball” approach a bit too much and could be consuming more (or in some cases LESS) than what they think they’re eating.  Invest in a food scale and start measuring out your portions.  It’s an excellent way to review what you’ve been taking in and a small way to hold yourself accountable to sticking with your plan.

Eliminate the Extras

Think of “extras” as those foods that have little to no nutritional value.  Almost like decorations on a plate.  If you don’t care about having much balance on your plate, then go ahead and eat these.  But if you really want to strive for 90% balance, it might help to cut back or completely eliminate these “special occasion” foods.

  • Rolls, biscuits, breadsticks, muffins, etc.  You usually find these on the dinner table at restaurants before you even order your entree.  Not necessary to fill up on these!
  • Alcohol, sugary sodas, diet pop, juices.  You really want to think of these as “once-in-a-while” treats and never your beverage of choice.
  • Sauces, syrups, creamy dressings.  Find healthy alternatives or make your own.
  • 100 Calorie Snack packs.  Why are these considered extras?  Because I’d be willing to bet you’ve had more than 1 of these snacks in a given day.  They don’t fill you up because they contain little nutritional value and usually no protein.  Protein will help you stay fuller longer, whereas pre-packaged snacks leave you wanting more.

And don’t forget….

  • Where’s your water? Hydration should be a staple in your daily routine
  • Don’t scarf down your food.  Eat slowly and enjoy the meals that you make.  If you must, set a timer for 20 minutes and force yourself to eat slower.  You’ll be glad you did!
  • Think of each meal as a food opportunity.  Will your next opportunity get you one step closer to your goals?  Or will it deter from your goals?  Think and choose wisely.
  • How big is your plate?  If you’re eating your meals on a huge plate, chances are you try to fill that plate with food leaving no spaces in between.  Consider eating off of a smaller plate.  It can be a visual game changer!

A couple examples of balanced meals would be:

  • Grilled chicken breast on a bed of greens and a side of brown rice.  The salad is dressed with an oil based dressing.  The chicken is the protein, your salad/greens as well as the brown rice are your carbs and your salad dressing is the fat.
  • Egg white and Whole Egg omelet with spinach and sauteed in coconut oil with a side of oatmeal.  Your eggs and egg whites are your protein, your fat is the coconut oil and your carb is the oatmeal and the spinach.
  •  Even snacks can easily be balanced – Yogurt with some nut butter mixed in and a piece of fruit.  Yogurt is your protein, nut butter is your fat and the fruit is your carb.

Take these simple steps and make your meals balanced every time.  Once you get some practice preparing and logging your meals, it will become second nature.  Remember, eating should be a stress-free part of your day.  If you get off-balance, no need to worry.  Make your next meal as balanced as you can, and get back on track.  Print this post out and put it on your fridge.  Keep it with you or save it to your phone and refer to it the next time you’re trying to stay balanced.

Need help finding out how much you should be eating for your goals? I offer online coaching to assist you with this. Check out my package offerings to see which might work best for you!

I’m The Next YouTube Sensation

I like the exaggerated titles to my posts. It made you click on it….didn’t it?  😉

So I FINALLY shot some workout/exercise demo videos this weekend. I will be posting those as soon as they are edited but I would like to post them all at once instead of only as they are done. My goal is to do about 40 total. We shall see…

In the meantime I asked my friend/camerman to shoot me discussing my long term goal.  After watching it a few times I have come to a few conclusions:

1. Filming yourself and watching it back, no matter what size you are, will always end with “Well the camera DOES add 10 pounds.”

2. I used to cringe watching myself on camera or listening to myself talk…I STILL do, but I must have a case of “I just don’t care what anyone thinks” or I’m just finally getting old enough to realize this is who I am because I am over it.  A few years ago I would NOT have posted anything like this.

3. The double thumbs-up at the end is so cheesy that I think it’s actually cute.

Enjoy!

You’re Doing it Wrong: 5 Mistakes You Make in the Gym

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I recently observed a woman about my age at the gym recently who has been doing the same “routine” every time I’ve seen her. She always seems to manage to get the bench next to me in the weight room. And she always seems to be doing similar exercises at the same time I’m doing them. But that’s where the similarities stop.

I would say this woman is probably following a Tracey Anderson-type of workout, perhaps from that blonde idiot (sorry, not sorry) herself or maybe out of a magazine. Who knows, all I know is this woman looks like she needs help. Why? She lifts nothing higher than 10lb dumbbells. When she goes to the machines, she tends to do almost all of them and puts the pin in the top (lightest) weight. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to her routine. The amount of reps is more than 20 because I literally lose count any time I attempt to count how many reps she’s doing.

I vowed to myself that if I see her one more time, which would be the third, I would go over and attempt to help her. Because maybe she just doesn’t know….

Here are 5 things that I think people do wrong at the gym. And if you think you’re doing some of these, maybe this will help you because maybe you just don’t know either!

 

  • You go in without a plan. I’m talking no plan whatsoever – no sheet of paper, no notes on your phone, no workout journal, nothing. WHY?  You travel from machine to machine. Going through the motions, staring off into space, probably making your grocery list in your head because you don’t have a plan when you go there either. You’re here to workout, put some EFFORT into it, will ya? Don’t be Mr. or Miss Random. Get in, do the work, and get out. Get an actual program from someone who knows your goals and is knowledgeable and someone you trust. Preferably a personal trainer. (Want online training? I do that now too and I’ll have videos coming soon. Click here for more information) Magazine workouts are sub par for those on a budget. If you have sworn off hiring a PT, you should invest in one or two really good BOOKS with programs that you can follow. Here are two that I’m reading right now: Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle and Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body. Obviously men wouldn’t purchase the latter recommendation although most ladies like a man with some a strong set of glutes on them. 😉  A couple other authors I really like are Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove. Rachel put out one of my favorite books: The Female Body Breakthrough and her hubby Alwyn wrote what I consider the bible for women lifters: The New Rules of Lifting for Women.

Not a woman and want some recommendations? Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle mentioned above is appropriate for everyone but another good one –  The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle is geared towards men.

  • You have a routine…but it’s been the same routine for over a year. While there’s nothing wrong with being consistent, all of us could use a little update to our current programs. It doesn’t even have to be anything drastic with regards to the changes you’re making. But if what you are currently doing isn’t quite getting the job done, it’s time to update your ancient program. At the very least, you should be changing up the amount of reps or at least adding a more challenging weight. Repeat after me – Change is Good! I trained a woman recently who was doing the same program her old personal trainer had her on…3 years prior. She complained that nothing was changing at all and she was bored. No wonder! I’d be bored too if I did the same exercises day in and day out 3 years in a row too! When you can’t remember the last time you changed up the exercises in your current regiment, it’s time for an overhaul.
  • You don’t lift at all. Why are you even reading this blog? 😉  Seriously though, time to stop thinking you don’t need to lift in order to see results because I promise you, you do. Cardio will only get you so far. And no one is saying you have to lift super heavy. The woman at the gym I referenced earlier lifts nothing heavier than 10lbs. Based on appearance alone, I feel like she is MUCH stronger than that! I feel like there’s a little lion in there and it needs to roar, ha! She doesn’t seem like she has an injury that she’s recovering  from, her range of motion was fine. Perhaps she’s worried about getting “bulky.” Perhaps she doesn’t think she is CAPABLE of lifting that heavy. You have to start somewhere! You don’t need to grunt and sound like you are in pain everytime you lift…but you should look like you’re putting forth some effort to get those weights up. This is the only way you will see change. You. Need. To. Lift. Even if it’s your own bodyweight.
  • You have no idea about pre and post workout nutrition. I don’t care if you’re going for fat loss or muscle gain or maintenance – Anyone who works out knows that the best snack is your PWO snack (Post WorkOut). This is the time when you can enjoy the benefits of working up a sweat and repair those muscles. EAT your Carbs! Drink your Protein Shake! This is the BEST time to eat. I make sure I eat within 30 minutes of finishing up my workout. When I was training for my competition it would not be unusual for me to be eating my snack the MOMENT I finished my last rep, walking out the door of the gym, scarfing down that Pop-Tart or fruit snacks like they were my last meal. It was glorious! As for pre-workout, some people can get away without eating anything and still getting a good lift on but at the very least, you need to ingest some BCAA’s so you have some energy.
  • You don’t know what tempo means. I was guilty of this as well. I would get a good pump going on at the gym and go home and it was fine. But once I started getting coaching from Erik at LBC, and he instructed me on tempo when lifting, it was a game changer for me. I finally started seeing significant change in my physique. I finally started feeling a little sore too, which wasn’t a bad thing. Most of all, I FELT the muscles in my body working. You not only have to visualize your muscles working, you have to slow everything down and concentrate on the motion. Only then do you really appreciate what a machine your body is truly capable of being. Stop being in a such a rush when you lift. It just looks plain silly. Like this poor fella.

 

Accountability for the Unaccountable

I bought myself an accountability partner today – A Jawbone UP.  It’s very similar to a Fitbit tracking device that you wear on your wrist.  This particular one was on sale and marked down significantly at Radio Shack, plus I had a coupon (that’s a sure fire way to get me to buy something, gotta have a coupon) for $10 off. A steal!

Today is day #1 with this little gadget. I bought the warranty too because I heard how easily these things can bend and break.

You would think since I’m somewhat anti-tracking when it comes to food that I would be against using this tool. But really, I’m anti-obsessive when it comes to tracking. I would hate for any of my clients to become a slave to numbers and tracking incessantly and worrying about each and every bite of food that they take.

So when I first started tracking my intake on this, I estimated for the most part. For example, I probably had more than a cup of greek yogurt. It was maybe more like 1 and a quarter. But I logged it as a cup. Big whoop.

I also put about a dozen craisins on my salad today. (Maybe it was more like 20, I have no idea). But I logged more than that. I also logged less cheese than I had on top of it. I would never sit there and measure each and every piece of food. Not unless I was planning on competing in the near future. For all intents and purposes, it’s fine to just estimate.

Now as for my biggest vice, peanut butter.  Yeah I was accurate with that one. :/  I mean, one tablespoon is considerably different than 3 tablespoons (don’t judge me, you know you love PB as much as I do!!).

As for activity, I know these things don’t track heart rate so it’s not really possible to get a good idea of how many calories I’m burning when I’m lifting or doing cardio but again, it’s nothing to be obsessed about. I’ll enter in my stuff and see what it spits out at me.

So here’s the biggest update since the beginning of this month: My measurements aren’t too terrible.  I say “aren’t too terrible” because I’m not about to cry looking at them. I didn’t pick the best day of the month for a female to be measuring herself (sorry TMI) so I’m taking that little bit into account. But, although this isn’t indicative of someone who has been dieting, it’s okay. Because I haven’t been dieting! HA! If I’m being 100% honest I really haven’t been cutting too many calories at all, so this isn’t a huge surprise to see. This is basically my Bulk Phase 2.0.

I didn’t even flinch at 4 INCHES gained in the stomach. I have to laugh…I mean, what can ya do?

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Can you guess what I’m happiest about in this? The HIPS/BUTTOCKS! 1 more inch! YEAAAAHHH!!!! 🙂

NOW, with my little Jawbone UP tracking tool, and a new goal of another photo shoot in the FALL, I think I should be able to lose a few inches. I think maybe finally I will start taking this seriously. I have definitely enjoyed my summer haven’t I? Ph well…moving on…yet again. At least this time I have a little buddy holding me accountable. Jawbone_Up_35536649_05

Putting the fork down…and getting up off the couch. Moving on!

The More You Know, the More it Sucks

So I kinda figured out this whole fat loss/dieting thing. I actually figured it out a long time ago, but unfortunately, it just took me until NOW to realize how much it really sucks.

See, there’s really no big secret to losing fat and keeping it off. We all know it’s basically being in a caloric deficit. And yes it requires hard work and patience and time and effort of course.

But to finally finally FINALLY understand that you cannot possibly see good results without adhering to your diet at least at an 85-90% compliance rate 100% of the time?  Well, that’s the part that really sucks.

Here comes the whining (I’m really good at complaining, so brace yourself).

So now I gotta get back to being the tupperware queen again. Now I have to resist the urge to eat something I’m not really supposed to. Now I have to toss the peanut butter that calls my name when I’m not even hungry at night. Now I have to suck it up and just deal with hunger sometimes. (Not starvation, let’s be clear).

I finally understand how most of my clients feel MOST of the time. I’m struggling like they do. I’m frustrated like they are. I’m cheating as many times if not more than they are on the weekends.

And here we go again on Monday morning, starting over. This time we will be 100%. This time we won’t cheat. This time we will prep our foods. This time we’ll get our workouts in. This time we’ll try really really hard and we will not fail.

But a few days or maybe if I’m lucky, a few weeks might pass and I’ll be back here again, repeating the same thing.

So goes this whole dieting thing.

And there’s really no other words of wisdom to share with this. There’s no big revelation. There’s nothing more to say other than THIS. SUCKS.