6 Pack 6 Tips: Meal Planning Made eas(ier)

As a mom of six children, I know how challenging it can be to put healthy meals on the table every day. I want to encourage you that with a little planning every week it is possible to feed your family good, hearty and healthy meals.  Here are some strategies to get you started:
 
1.   Plan your week in advance.  I always take the grocery sales flyers from the Sunday newspaper, along with all my favorite cookbooks, a calendar to write in, and my planner.  I mark days that are especially busy and make sure that those days are the days I use my trusty ole’ crockpot.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  For each day plan out every meal including your snacks.  Have another sheet of paper next to you to slowly put together your shopping list.  As you add a meal, add the ingredients you need to your shopping list.
 
2.  Use your crockpot.  If it has been years since you’ve used this gem, drag it out of storage and dust it off because this thing is likely to become your best friend.  There are a lot of cookbooks out there for the crockpot.  The one that my family loves is The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Jyl Steinbeck.  She claims to be America’s Healthiest Mom.  Hmmm…I’d like to contend for that title.  LOL 
 
3.  Prepare meals in advance.  This has been said before so I can’t claim it as my own jewel, but simply making some meals in advance and freezing them really can help.  I like to take whole bags of frozen chicken breast and throw them in a pan, cover with foil, toss them in the oven and cook until nice and tender.  Then I divide them in separate containers for 3 days worth and freeze the rest individually in freezer bags.  This has come in handy so many times.  
 
4.  Precut your veggies.  This makes salads a cinch during the busy week.  When you get home from the grocery store, wash, cut and store your veggies.  You can wash your salad greens with a salad spinner.  They sell these at dollar stores and you get a nice arm workout at the same time.  Store the greens in the fridge in a large plastic container and take out the amounts you need throughout the week.
 
I hope this gets your creative juices flowing.  Cooking healthy does not need to be difficult, but you must plan ahead.

Now get out there and do it!

Nancy

Power Foods

So you have made a decision to eat healthier. No more fast food, fritos and fudgicles. But what are you going to eat? What food choices can you make that will help you get leaner and feel better?

Let me assure you, healthy eating does not have to be boring! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a great place to start! Filling your fridge and pantry with these healthy foods (and getting rid of the unhealthy stuff) is a big step to changing your habits, and taste buds!

Protein Sources
Extra Lean Ground Beef
Chicken/Turkey Breast
Turkey Sausage
Eggs
Yogurt
Wild Salmon
Cottage Cheese
Cheddar Cheese

Note that milk based products such as yogurt have a significant amount of carbohydrate, so if you are keeping an eye on total carbs watch this. Choosing lowfat varieties will help keep the total saturated fats down as well.

Vegetables
Spinach
Peppers
Cumbers
Tomatoes
Baby Carrots
Pumpkin
Broccoli
Shiitake Mushrooms

Fruit
Apples
Tangerines
Red Grapes
Pineapples
Strawberries
Blueberries

Fruit is nature’s dessert, and we know not to make most of our diet be dessert! While fruit is very good for you, be aware the sugar content in fruit needs to be recognized and monitored. Also frozen vegetables and fruits are a great option, especially when not fresh is out of season or not locally grown.

Grains/Legumes
Rolled Oats
Beans (Your Favorites)
Whole Wheat Pasta
Quinoa
Steel Cut Oats

Nuts
Raw Walnuts
Raw Almonds
Raw Pecans

Misc.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Apple Cider Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
Green Tea
Flaxseeds

If you haven’t tried some of these varieties of vinegar, I encourage you to try them on your salads and in your cooking. They are a great way to spice up and add flavor to your meals!

Be creative and add healthy variety to your diet. Don’t get stuck eating the same old thing all the time. Trying new things helps keep you motivated and also helps you get the vitamins and minerals you need.

No excuses! Start eating healthier today!

No More Thunder Thighs!

As a fitness trainer, I get a lot of questions regarding “What exercises are best for ______” fill in the blank. For my female clients, the thighs and glutes are the most common concern. Well today I’m going to share my personal favorite lower body exercise and all of its awesome variations. It’s called the Rear-Foot Elevated Lunge Variation (a.k.a. Bulgarian Split Squat). This exercise is so effective that you’ll pretty much make your body thunder-thigh proof once you master it!

Before we get into this, one thing I definitely don’t want to do is feed into the idea of individual body part training and spot reduction on certain areas of the body.  There is no such thing! You can’t do situps to get the flab off your gut, and there’s no single exercise to get the fat of your butt! Total body training is the key to effectively eliminate the body fat that is hiding those areas that people are having trouble seeing – the stubborn fat areas that prevent a good body from becoming a great body. Plus, a diet high in lean protein, fiber, and green veggies and low in unnatural fats and refined sugars and starches is absolutely necessary to bring out your best.  It is also important to know that you lose fat in a genetically predetermined way.  You can do all the crunches you want but without total body training, proper eating habits, and enough time to get to those stubborn fat areas you will never get rid of your gut, jiggly arms, or the unnatural desire to get out the thighmaster.

Alright so here we go – my favorite family of  lower body exercises. The Lunge – pretty exciting huh? Actually – Yes! Lunge variations are my favorite because I prefer single leg exercise in lieu of their double leg counterparts for a lot of reasons. For people with back issues, single leg exercises allow them to safely perform lower body exercises without putting their lower lumbar spine in jeopardy of hyper flexion or excessive rounding that can injure. It is also very common to have strength and flexibility imbalances between the right and left side, so it’s important to address one leg at a time to really shore up the weak links from the start.

My favorite lunge variation is called the rear foot elevated lunge.  So basically we’re going to elevate the back foot on a chair, bench, box, or any other sturdy foot support, usually about 12-18 inches high.  You’ll put your front leg well in front of you in order to make sure that your front knee and ankle are lined up. In general, I tell people to exaggerate how far you put your front leg forward so that the front knee is almost slightly behind the ankle as this really helps reduce sheer force on the knees. Initiate the exercise by loading the front heel and dropping your hips as low as you can in a pain-free range of motion while staying really tall up top with a proud chest and shoulders down and back. Finish the rep by explosively driving through your front heel to return to the top of the movement. You can start with body weight only in search of front thigh parallel to the floor or lower depth and then progress by adding speed of movement or by adding dumbbells. You can even incorporate some very cool combination movements with this lower body exercise like adding a curl to press at the top of the movement or even by raising dumbbells overhead to really challenge your core and single-leg balance and stability.

I have yet to find an exercise that hits the legs as hard as this baby does.  In particular, it really helps strengthen your vastus medialis muscle, that inner quad muscle that looks like a teardrop, that’s heavily responsible for tracking your patella and keeping your knee caps in line.  So if you have a history of overtraining or patella-femoral issues this exercise is phenomenal for keeping your knees as bulletproof as possible.

Also, what’s great about it too is that it provides a very good stretch for the hip flexor of your back leg, an area that is often very tight, especially for guys. Any exercise that allows you to simultaneously stretch and strengthen your body is a real keeper.  So get off the fancy machines, and start cranking it with something that really works, and start today!

Get It Done!

Nancy

My Clients Inspire Me!

I received an email from a client this morning that not only really touched me, but that I thought was profound.

You see Petra is a cancer survivor. Surgery caused some challenges with training her upper body, she wanted to gain strength, and she was unsure of her limitations.

She recently discovered those limitations – she doesn’t have any!

This is what she wrote:

Oh, I wanted to tell you how great I thought last night’s session was.  I haven’t exercised that hard in a long time. It was great… This is the absolute perfect exercise setting I need.

You know, I wonder how much of my not having upper body strength was actually just psychological?  Just simply being totally afraid to even try anything and then to put any pressure on it …. cancer can do that to you.  Well, whatever it was – and it was – it is no more.  I can put pressure on my right side.  I won’t break.  Yeah!

Thanks so much for the opportunity to come.  This is really, really great.

Best regards,

Petra

How many of our “limitations” are self-imposed?

How do you know you “can’t” do it if you don’t try?

Is the fear of failure – or the fear of success – holding you back?

It’s time to throw off the shackles of fear, self-doubt, and anger.

It’s time to attack each new day as if it were your last.

Petra, I thank you for being an inspiration to us all.

It is our privilege to work with you.

And thank-you for making my day!

Now the rest of you (and me)….

Make It Happen!
Dean

I Hate Shoveling Snow!

We’re officially in the midst of another winter season here in New Hampshire. Now I know some people have snowplows and snowblowers, but there are a ton of people who still break out the shovels to get rid of the white stuff. I can’t tell you how many clients of mine have tweaked their backs in their zealous attempts to keep a clear driveway.

Today I am going to reveal my top safe shoveling secrets. For those of you who do not live in New Hampshire like me, you still need to know this information too. This global warming stuff is a weird thing :).  It recently snowed in Vegas for the first time in like 25 years!

So, without further adieu, here are my top five safe shoveling tips:

1.) Perform a Proper 5-Minute Warm-up Before Shoveling

Yeah, right! Who’s actually going to do THAT? Well if you want to save yourself some pain, take 5 minutes and give it a try.

Just as very few people properly warm-up before intense exercise, so do many people fail to get their bodies ready for the rigors of shoveling snow. Let’s face it, snow, especially when it’s wet, is a real beast to move around. And if your body is tight and cold then you will dramatically increase your chances of short or long-term injury.

Here’s a great shoveling specific five-minute warm-up to get your body ready to go. There is a special emphasis on opening up the hips and chest to save your back and shoulders, the two most commonly injured areas of broken down shovelers:

Perform each exercise in the following warm-up circuit at a slow, controlled tempo for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest and transition between exercises. Do this warm-up indoors to better increase core temperature and total body blood flow:

Exercise#1- Stationary High Knee Run
Exercise#2- Jumping Claps (modified jumping jacks with arms moving across chest level, palms facing)
Exercise#3- Alternating Forward Lunge, Overhead Reach, and Twist
Exercise#4- Alternating Lateral Lunge with Opposite Hand to Toe Touch
Exercise#5- Prisoner Squats (hands behind head with finger interlocked)

2.) Split Your Stance When Shoveling

Back pain is probably the biggest complaint for those who shovel a lot. In most cases, a sore or tight back stems from restriction at the hips (see the warm-up above to best remedy this). If you shovel with a parallel stance (one leg right next to the other one) you are setting yourself up for some pain However, the simple switch to shoveling with a split stance, where one leg is forward and the other leg is back, will not only help prevent hyper flexion while bending over and moving snow, but will also actively stretch and open up those tight hips at the same time.

3.) Point Your Toes In Same Direction You Are Shoveling

This is a continuation of the last tip. Even when you split your stance, you can be susceptible to injury whenever you perform a rotating back extension (e.g. a shovel toss over your shoulder). So, to further bolster your body, be sure to always shovel snow in the direction that your toes point to minimize excessive spinal rotation that can literally wrench your back.

4.) Shovel EQUALLY to BOTH Sides

This is a further continuation on the last two tips. Another big mistake people make is that they always shovel to their strong sides causing further strength and flexibility imbalances that can put your body at greater risk for injury. Those of you who train with me know that imbalances between the left and right side can cause real problems in your training, and it is no different in every day life. So, we now know you want to split your stance and shovel in the direction your toes are pointing, but you should also be sure do an equal amount of shovel tosses to your left AND right. Do 10 shovel tosses to your left with your left leg forward and then do 10 shovel tosses to your right with your right leg forward. Repeat until your driveway or sidewalk is crystal clear.

5.) Buy a Condo

Or have teenagers around – this is helpful too! Ok, I am joking, if only because shoveling snow is the only activity some people I know get!

Back to reality: The aforementioned tips will go a long way in keeping your body as bulletproof as possible during the next blizzard. Seriously, it’s not really cool to get hurt shoveling. It’s a sign of an even bigger problem: being overweight and/or highly de-conditioned. And if you do get hurt shoveling, be sure to lie when some asks why you’re in a wheelchair. Just tell them you got hit by a snow plow truck, it makes for a better story and your co-workers or friends won’t bust on you for the next six months!

From Resolution To Results

There is no doubt that the training and nutrition systems we have in place work. I have seen it over and over again – our clients have lost pounds and inches, are healthier, and look and feel awesome. Flat out – the system works. But that said, today I am going to share something even  more powerful; something that must be set in place before you can even start to think about following a fitness program.

So, let’s just get right to it. What is the real secret behind our clients success? Well, if your answer was my aforementioned training and nutrition system, then your answer is wrong. An incredible program? Absolutely! Here’s the rub – It’s useless if you are not willing to start it AND stick with it. The real key, the most important component of changing your body is being absolutely determined that nothing is going to stop you from getting the lean, healthy body you have always wanted. That is the focus of my article today – setting goals and being determined to reach them.

Before I get into this goal setting process, I just need to get something off of my chest. I know a lot of people think goal setting is just a cheesy, useless thing. If you think that way I am probably not going to change your mind, but do yourself a favor and stick with me anyway. You might just learn something. The bottom line is that the most successful people out there, and I mean not just weight loss success, I am talking business, lifestyle, etc., are shamelessly goal driven. They know exactly why they want to do something and harness that super motivation to figure out what and by when they want to go about accomplishing that. Furthermore, they plan and prepare for every possible roadblock they will encounter in their path to success. This is what I want to teach you how to do today, so let’s get to it!

Step One- The Why: Why do you want to do this?

This is where it’s time to get real. In almost every initial consult I do, when I ask why they have contacted me today, here is the typical blanket response that I first hear:

“Well, I just want to get healthy and lose weight I guess.”

Nope, I don’t buy it. Sure, I know they want to lose weight and be healthy, I mean who doesn’t, but really WHY do they want to do this? I mean, what is it that’s going to get them up at 5 am to get their morning workouts in or take a couple of hours on Sunday to plan and prepare their meals for the upcoming week? It sure isn’t “being healthy” because for some reason this just isn’t a very powerful motivator for most people (though it should be).

Let’s face it: everybody, including YOU, wants to look better. There – is that so bad? The great part is that when you do the work to look great on the outside, the insides start to look great, too. So, after a little digging, I find out the real reason why they want to do this; what it is they are really looking for. Some people want to be able to mow the lawn in the summer with their shirt off and not feel self-conscious. Others want to get back into their favorite pair of pants that they haven’t been able to get one leg into for the last five years. Then there are those who want to look and feel more attractive to ignite some passion back into their relationships and/or put for their best image at work. And of course, my personal favorite is preparing for big events that have built in deadlines. Wanting to get as lean and tight as possible for that big vacation in Argentina, or get off the plane in Texas when visiting family you haven’t seen in two years to blow them away with how different (and great) you look, or being a classic beauty in your wedding dress on the big day, it all works! This is the stuff that gets people excited and ready to commit to making some real changes.

So, the first thing you have to figure out is your personal WHY. To make this even simpler for you, just answer this question: what are your physical dreams? Once you establish this, everything else is easy!

Step Two- The What and When: What do you want to accomplish and when do you want to accomplish it by?

So we already figured out the obvious: you want to look and feel great! So, now we need to establish what objective goal(s) need to be accomplished in order to realize this subjective dream.

Well, from a logistics standpoint and keeping things as cost effective as possible, there are three major ways I track “look better” progress with my clients, in order of importance from least to most important:

  1. Scale Weight: This is by far the least important goal, but it gives a number that’s worth tracking. Though body fat percentage would be a much better method of tracking progress, it is simply too inaccurate on a small scale and too costly on a large scale. The key is to taking your initial weight before you start and then not weighing more than every week.  There are simply too many variables for controlling your body weight and the natural fluctuations based on diet (and for women, their menstrual cycle), meaning every day is just no worth it. If the scale is just too de-motivating for you in general, then just skip this one altogether if you must, because the next two markers are far more important.
  2. Dress/Pant Size: This is probably the most simple and effective unused method of tracking whether or not you look better. I think it’s safe to say that if you are dropping dress and/or pant sizes that you will be looking better, right? Your best bet is to also select one dress or one pair of pants that you really want to get into since that is the true end goal in mind. For those of you would want to argue that every outfitter has different sizes, well that’s a moot point if you use the same pant or dress size to track. There’s nothing more powerful than being to literally being able to feel yourself comfortably get into clothes that use almost rip when you put on.
  3. Digital Pictures: Pictures don’t lie, that’s the bottom line. If you want to look better, what better way is there to assess this than pictures? I cannot begin to tell you how important this is. Taking a before picture is essentially you telling the whole world that you are ready to change and that you are ready to do whatever it takes to make those changes. They key is take pictures wearing exactly what you want to look your best in. Maybe it’s taking pictures of you in the dress or pair of pants that you are using to track your dress or pant size. Or maybe it’s a sleeveless shirt and tank top that you want to wear during the summer. And if you want to see your abs, then you best believe that you need to take pictures of your abs to track how much more definition you get. Take a front, side, and rear view picture and be sure to note the exact conditions in which the picture was taken (lighting, distance from camera, time of day/week, etc.) to be as accurate as possible in your assessment. Your before pictures will become your trophy and they are an absolute must if you really are serious about getting results that count.

Step Three- Planning and Preparing for Roadblocks: What are the big obstacles that will prevent you from having the success you desire? What’s contributed most to past failures?

Now that we know what you want to accomplish, it’s time to plan and prepare for any obstacles that might get in your way of getting the job done based on your own personal schedule.

In general, the number one thing I hear is that people are too busy and tired and don’t have enough time to get their workouts in or make their meals. Well, I don’t care how busy you think you are, there is always hidden time throughout the day and week that can be freed up if your re-prioritize. Again, think back to why you wanted to do this in the first place and then examine what’s most important to you. Make your workouts and your meal times just like work appointments. Either you make the appointment or you don’t. And if you want to keep your job (or get your dream body) then you better make that appointment.

Another big obstacle is alcohol. People like to drink and unfortunately alcohol is about as detrimental to burning fat as it gets. Again, what’s more important to you, looking great or getting hammered. The choice is yours. Remember, once you achieve your goal(s), alcohol can be added back in (although I don’t recommend it) with moderation. But know this, lean people just don’t get wasted unless they are genetic freaks. Low to zero alcohol consumption is needed if you want to look your best year round and that’s a fact.

Lastly, many people deal with boredom eating or emotional eating. Boredom eating means just that, eating to fill up dead time when you have nothing better to do. The best way to deal with this is, you guessed it, to do something! Find an active hobby to keep your mind off of eating when boredom strikes and you can beat this trend. Emotional eating describes the use of food to cope with stress or to reward for accomplishment. Food is not unlike drugs or alcohol in this regard, it can be very addictive. There is no quick fix for emotional eating other than avoiding trigger situations (bars, parties, etc.) and trigger foods (starches, sugars, fast food, etc.) in the short term to break bad habits.

At the end of the day, whether your roadblocks are very individual or if they fall in line with the general roadblocks our clients encounter on a regular basis, the key is to be honest about them and to plan and prepare for them. And that’s where social support and accountability come into play. The clients who have had the most success with us have undergone their transformation with the support of other friends or family members. This is so critical, especially since most of the poor food and drinking choices that sabotage one’s progress occur on the weekend, when most people hang out with their friend and family. If they are committed with you and your goal to get fit and look better, you can put yourself in a much better position to realize the success your desire and deserve. The last thing anybody needs is sabotage or peer pressure from those closest to you, so get them on board and get them on board early.

The time is now to take action – don’t wait until 2010 to get moving!

Fitness Futures: My Crystal Ball For 2009

2008 is in the rear view mirror, and 2009 is only a couple weeks away. Sadly, it appears as though the fitness industry as a whole has again failed to produce any significant results on a broad scale to effectively reverse the scary obesity epidemic that is plaguing our society. It’s not only adults that are getting fatter and sicker, but our kids too! However, on a positive note, I feel that in 2009 we can make real progress if we take advantage of some exciting breakthroughs that can help provide the long-term answers to solve this ever-growing problem:

Fitness Trend#1- Fitness Boot Camps Will Continue To Increase

One-On-One personal training will always be with us. There is a lot to be recommended with this type of training: The highly focused attention of one-on-one personal training can help an individual focus on a specific goal more readily than group fitness protocols for instance, and some of our clients just prefer one-on-one, and we are happy to accommodate them.

However one-on-one training just doesn’t make sense for many people. Often the price gets in the way, regardless of the value. Others just prefer training in a group envinroment. No problem! Fitness Boot camps are probably the hottest thing in the fitness game right now. Fitness clients are able to better access personal training services in a unique and dynamic team environment that provides better social support and accountability for only a the third of the cost of typical one-on-one training rates.

Fitness boot camps are popping up all over the country, and for good reason. But just because someone calls their program a “bootcamp”, perform due diligence and make sure to join a program with qualified instructors who are getting results with their clients.

Fitness Trend#2- Interval Training Kills Aerobic Training For Improved Fat Loss And Fitness 100% Of The Time

High-Intensity Interval Training is rapidly gaining popularity as the best form of improving both fitness and fat loss. Thankfully, 2009 will see more people doing sprints and less people doing marathons to lose weight. However, make no mistake about it, lots of people are still going to do hours of snail-paced cardio to burn fat.

Aerobic or endurance training is essentially going at a slow, low intensity pace for a long period of time (typically at least 30-60 minutes). In other words, the focus of endurance training is on the total volume of exercise (not quality). Think about all those speed limpers you see every New Year foolishly running for hours pounding the pavement or treadmill to get rid of that winter blubber. Sadly, this results in minimal fat loss and lots of overtraining injuries (e.g. tendinitis).

With interval training, the focus is on the intensity of exercise (quality). Intervals consist of alternating between shorts bouts of all out high-intensity effort and active recovery periods for a much quicker and focused amount of time (typically 10-20 minutes of intervals works best). This approach is scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat AND lead to faster improvements in fitness than the aerobic alternative.

Two landmark scientific studies come to mind here:

The Tabata study compared the effects of four minutes of high-intensity interval training with 45-60 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio. The interval training group burned just as much fat as the endurance group and also had greater improvement in both anaerobic (think sprinters) and aerobic (think distance runners) fitness… in only four minutes!

The Gibala study compared the effects of 20 minutes of interval training (30 second sprint followed by four minutes of rest) with 90-120 minutes of endurance training in the “heartrate zone.” The conclusions of the study were that both methods of training lead to the same improvements in oxygen utilization (or aerobic fitness). In other words, intervals accomplished what endurance training did from a fitness standpoint in only a sixth of the time!

The time is now to hop off the treadmill and start doing some intervals. Come 2009, do yourself and your body a favor and start sprinting your way to better health and fitness.

Fitness Trend#3- Lean Protein And Fiber Are The Carbohydrate Addict’s Answer For Improved Health, Performance, and Body Composition

Americans are carb addicts. We simply can’t get enough starches and sugars in our diet, and we have the bulging midsections to prove it. One of the biggest misconceptions about diet today is that eliminated starches and sugars from your diet automatically means low carb. There’s more to carbs than bagels and banana splits! Eliminating grains (even whole grains) and refined sugars still allows for consumption of the other carbohydrates: fruits and veggies. These nutrient-dense carbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber and create more stable blood sugar levels to keep your body burning fat all day long. All of my clients who have lost the most fat have followed our guidelines of unlimited veggies all day long (besides corn, peas, carrots, beets, and potatoes). In other words, eat lots of veggie carbs, and very little of the other stuff if you want to see your abs!

The overwhelming scientific literature proving the fat burning benefits of a diet high in lean protein and fiber is finally catching the eye of mainstream consumers. Protein is the most important component of each and every meal or snack you consume. It builds and maintains muscle, allows your body to preferentially burn fat, increases metabolism through the thermic effect of feeding, and fills you up. Fiber (ideally obtained from fruits and vegetables, specifically green vegetables) helps slow digestion for a more steady supply of nutrients and sustained energy, it prevents overeating at each meal, and it helps keep you more full between meals. Thus by combining protein and fiber every two to four hours, you provide your body with the optimal one-two belly fat burning punch for a leaner and healthier you.

Without a doubt, people who eat more protein and fruits and veggies next year will reap the rewards of this.

Well, those are the top fitness trends for 2009 according to my crystal ball. I hope the information in this article gives you the push you need to be the trendsetter for your own body and the bodies of those whom you care most about in the New Year!

Fat Loss Forever!

Nancy

10 Holiday Diet Strategies Save You From Stretchy Pants

Nobody likes to be left out of the holiday fun, including all those holiday parties. Here’s some pointers that will allow you to be social and enjoy yourself  without splitting your pants before the New Year:

1.) Train With High-Intensity Activity Before and/or After a Big Meal or Holiday Feast

I know, I know, tell it to the judge. I promised diet strategies, but I simply cannot go without recommending some activity. Your body is most receptive to higher carbs within 30 minutes before and within three hours following an intense workout. Ideally you would want to workout out before AND after a big meal, but if you can only do one, that will suffice. Don’t obsess over it – just pick one or the other and do it. Your best options will be 20 minutes of circuit resistance training or cardio interval training. Even a 20-30 plus minute walk a few hours afterwards can help a little bit..

2.) Do NOT save up your calories for your Holiday Feast

Eat as you normally would on a good nutrition plan – Every two to four hours, get in your protein and veggies. If you go into that huge meal in a fasted state, you are going to overeat, and because you are so hungry, your body will be craving all the high sugar and fat foods! You are just setting yourself up for a sugar crash and fat gain.

3.) Do NOT Gorge Yourself

Maintain your discipline, and eat until you are satisfied, not until you have to loosen your belt.  Remember this: binge eating is not the habit of lean individuals. It is imperative to understand that that holiday meals are not a ticket to eat as much as you can in as little time as possible. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

4.) Eat a High-Fiber, Protein-Rich Meal An Hour Before the Big Party

This is another great way to help you from stuffing your face with sugar cookies. Fiber and protein are a powerful combination in helping you be full and satisfied. A great strategy is to have a protein shake with some flaxseed. Nutritious, delicious, easy to prepare and it won’t go from your mouth to your hips.

5.) First Things First – Eat Your Vegetables

Just because it’s a holiday meal doesn’t mean you can’t eat any nutritious food. Head for the vegetable and meat tray and get something good in you.  This will leave less room for the unhealthier, higher calorie treats.

6.) Water, Water, Everywhere

Water competes for space in your stomach and really does help keep you from overeating. For every plate  of food you eat, drink a glass of water. After that second plate, when you have 1 full liter of water in your stomach, I bet you might just throw in the towel!

7.) Immediately Resume Your Normal Eating Schedule at the Next Meal

Ok, you had your fun, and what’s done is done. It’s time to get right back on the wagon, and back to normal, healthy eating habits. Don’t let one meal become one week become one month.

8.) Don’t Eat Junk Food at Breakfast or Bedtime

Eating a highly refined carbohydrate meal first thing in the morning will make your blood sugar levels go crazy for the rest of the day resulting in greater junk food cravings and uncontrollable hunger. On the other hand, eating a big meal before bed will result in a bunch of unused energy that will be stored as body fat and  can cause trouble sleeping.

9.) Don’t Drink Your Calories

It is way too easy to get way too many calories  in liquid form. One can easily consume over 1,000 calories per day from liquid calories alone. This means that in one week, you will gain 2 lbs of body fat from just fluids! Those holiday lattes ARE good, but the extra fat attached to your backside not so much! Also, sugar laden and alcoholic beverages tend to make you hungrier in general and often hungrier for junk food in particular. Furthermore, your body cannot burn fat until the alcohol is processed out of your body, as well as the fact that alcohol consumption actually lowers leptin levels. Decreased leptin levels increase hunger and decreases your body’s use of fat for fuel. Thus alcohol can prevent the fat burning process from resuming until several days later and/or even cause unwanted fat gain, setting you back anywhere from a few days to as long as a full week!

10.) Avoid Eating Meals that are High in Both Fat and Carbohydrates

The absolute worst thing that you can do is to eat a meal that is high in both fat and carbs. The high amount of carbs will lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels , which increases the potent fat-storing hormone Insulin. The high amount of fat will lead to a large increase in free fatty acids in your bloodstream. Since Insulin is already present in large amounts, in addition to there being a large amount of free fatty acids now available in your blood, the stage is set for all those free fatty acids to be gobbled up and stored by your fat cells. Good for a Sumo wrestler, bad for you. Following the strategies outlined above will keep this eating pattern to a minimum.

Don’t give into the mindset that holiday fat gain has to happen. Following these simple strategies will help you enter the new year better than ever!

Fat Loss Forever,

Nancy

4 Quick Fitness Tips To Help Keep The “Santa Belly” Away

We all know how busy the holidays can be. A thousand  things to do and so little time to get them all done. Will it really matter if I miss a few workouts? Just start up again in January?

Don’t do it!

It’s a big mistake to risk losing the lean muscle mass and strength that you have worked so hard to build and maintain. What’s the big deal? Losses in lean muscle mass will lower your resting metabolic rate, which accounts for the vast majority (about 60-75%) of your total daily calorie burning. This means that everyday you will be burning less and less calories which will put you at a much greater risk of putting on ugly, unwanted body fat during the holidays.

Here’s another thing to consider – remember when you first started training again? The soreness? Shortness of breath? Lack of strength? Do you really want all that to start over again?

Look, if you are on a good plan -stay on it! The time you take for yourself to train is an important part of being healthy and feeling great. Is another trip to the mall really worth it?

For those of you who have let your training, shall we say…slip… there are many ways to maintain or increase the number of calories you burn per day, both from exercise and from your normal daily activities, to stay fat-free this holiday season. Use these strategies to maintain and/or increase your current amount of lean muscle mass and maximize your daily calorie burn. Leave the “Santa Belly” to the professionals!

1.) Perform at least one intense strength training session per week

Studies show that only a single strength training workout per week during times when you cannot train as frequently as you normally do is an effective way to maintain your current levels of strength and lean muscle mass.  Anyone can get in at least one good strength training session a week to stay buff during the holidays and to prevent unwanted regressions in fitness. If you are serious about preventing weight gain, three total body strength workouts per week should do the trick . To maximize fat burning, perform three total body strength workouts per week and also perform three cardio interval workouts per week on non strength-training days.

2.) Add it all up.

Can’t spare the 60 minutes? (I’ll bet you could if you tried). When you honestly cannot find a five to 20-minute time slot to complete an effective total body workout, look for hidden chunks of time during the day to get in a certain number of daily repetitions for a certain number of exercises that work your entire body. Got a free moment from now until you need to take the turkey out of the oven? Then, bang out 10 push-ups, 10 rows, and 20 squats. Using this method throughout the day will lead to big numbers by the end of the day that will help maintain your strength and overall fitness.

It is important to note that this “Hit Your Totals” routine is merely a back-up option to the ideal 20-minute interval training workouts which are scientifically proven to burn nine times more fat than ordinary exercise (see my article How You Can Build the Ultimate Circuit Training Workout For Rapid Fat Loss for more info). Short rest periods between exercises create the optimal hormonal environment for rapid fat loss and lean muscle gain, which the long rest periods of “normal” training just don’t.

Make sure to pick multi-joint, compound movements (the BIG exercises) that hit as much of your body’s major muscle groups in the shortest amount of time possible (e.g. squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, rows, etc.). Use the plan below as guide to build your own “Hit Your Totals” workout. Adjust the repetition ranges accordingly based on your current strength levels. The only thing you need is your body weight and adjustable dumbbells and/or resistance bands. Train using this plan up to three times per week, resting a day between workouts. Make sure to alternate between Plan A and Plan B in order to work more of your body. You can either hit your total by doing straight sets (e.g. perform push-ups rest-pausing as needed until you get 100 total), or by simply employ circuit style training (e.g. 20 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 rows, repeat 10x throughout the day to hit your totals).

The Hit Your Total Workout For The Holidays

Plan A-

Body weight Squats: 100-200 total
Push-ups: 50-100 total
DB/Band Rows: 50-100 total

Plan B-

2-Leg Hip Extensions: 50-100/total
Off Chair/Couch Dips: 50-100 total
DB/Band Curls: 50-100 total (feel free to swap pull-ups or pull-downs here if you have access to the equipment)

3.) Rage Against The Machines

Machines have made us an incredibly out of shape and overweight society. This holiday season make it a point to not use them! Now I don’t mean to say that you cannot drive to the mall during the holidays. However, when you get to the mall, don’t drive around for 10 minutes looking for the closest space. A little walk will do you some good! Don’t wait in line for the elevator, the stairs will more than likely have plenty of room, and all those steps truly do add up. Stay on your feet as much as possible and resist the temptation to let a robot or machine do the work for you.

4.) Engage in more outdoor holiday activities

I have been in some pretty incredible snowball fights in my day. Though I was always having a blast while pelting my friends behind cleverly built igloos, I was never aware of how exhausting a good snowball fight can truly be until I came indoors afterwards. We never used to notice how cold it was outside because we were moving around and having a blast! Talk about an awesome way to burn calories without even thinking about it! Get outdoors this holidays season and throw around the pigskin or have your very own “Ice Bowl.” Once again, all these calories here and there truly do add up and could make a difference between you fitting in your pants or ripping your pants by the time the clock strikes midnight this New Year!

Now get out there and do it!