Diet or exercise: what should you focus on to lose weight?

Set your kitchen up for weight loss success

If you want to lose weight, what should you focus on, your diet or your exercise plan?

According to Yoni Freedhof, MD, author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, food choices are responsible for 70-80% of one's overall weight, whereas exercise is responsible for the remaining 20-30%.

What does this mean to you?

Continue to exercise in order to gain enormous health benefits, (improved mood, greater strength, healthy metabolism, cardiovascular fitness, better sleep, reduced risk of disease), but don't underestimate the importance of the food choices that you make every day.

Here are some healthy eating tips that will set you up for  success:
  1. Make healthy foods easy to eat. Wash and cut your favorite fruits and vegetables and store them in glass containers, at eye level, in your refrigerator
  2. Don't buy junk food that you know will be too much temptation for you
  3. When you do buy treats, put them in the back of your cabinets. People are more likely to eat the things they see first, not the things they have to dig for
  4. If you are pressed for time, buy bagged and washed produce to cut down on food prep time
  5. When you take the time to cook, make a double recipe and freeze the leftover for days when cooking isn't an option
  6. Skip sugary and caloric protein and sports drinks. Unless you exercise for over an hour each day at a high intensity, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated
  7. Avoid rewarding yourself with food. When you've achieved an exercise or other goal, treat yourself to a manicure or a massage, not a calorie dense latte
  8. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where whole, not processed foods, are displayed
  9. Surround yourself with like minded friends who are striving to eat well. Your friends can share tips and support you, making it easier to stay on track
  10. Ditch your oversized plates and bowls. Studies show that people fill their plates no matter what size they are: a smaller plate means a smaller portion


How to make simple, healthy soup

Healthy soups are simple to make

It's funny how some childhood memories are so clear and vivid. As a child, I remember watching my mother make soup. She began by hauling Thanksgiving's turkey carcass out of the freezer, throwing it in the largest pot she could find, and making broth. While the bones boiled and sizzled she peeled, chopped, pureed, and sautéed seemingly every vegetable in the house.

Her soup, full of savory broth and healthy vegetables, was the perfect antidote to numb toes, cold fingertips, and sniffly noses. I could eat it until my belly was swollen.

Naturally, I'd love to recreate this delicious meal, but who has the time? This soup isn't for the novice or the lazy. It is soup for the professional with time to invest in the kitchen. It is soup that is delicious precisely because it requires attention.

I always assumed, then, that soup making was out of my culinary repertoire. Despite my love of the steaming spoonfuls, despite the welcome aroma of simmering turkey and vegetables, this lazy cook could not commit the time and energy to make such a production out of just one meal.

But then my sister sent me a recipe for an easy soup. I took her base recipe and started to throw all kinds of things into my soup pot. It was fun, easy, and tasty. What else could a busy mom ask for?

I won't lie. My creations aren't as good as my mom's, but I'm finally making healthy and delicious soups. AND, they are easy. That'll work.

Here's my latest recipe. Recreate or use it as a jumping off point for your own amazing soup. It's that simple.

Chicken Soup:

In a pot, combine:

  1. 32 oz. chicken broth
  2. 1/3 cup of pesto
  3. 1/2 cup of shredded, cooked chicken
  4. 1/2 cup chopped turkey sausage
  5. 1 can of cannellini beans
  6. 3 handfuls of spinach or kale
  7. 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
Serve hot, with homemade biscuits or muffins. Enjoy!


Gift Ideas for Female Fitness Enthusiasts

A gift guide for female fitness enthusiasts

It's that time of year again. The air is chilled, the turkey has been devoured, and it's time to begin preparing for Christmas. I love everything that comes with this season. I love searching for trees, decorating the house, reading books by the fire, and hunkering down for a movie while snuggling under warm blankets. AND, I love picking out the perfect gift for the special people on my list.

I understand that not everyone relishes the opportunity to shop, and some even find it stressful, so I thought I'd share my annual list of gift ideas for female fitness enthusiasts:
  1. Vitamix: Juicers are all the rage among health minded individuals, and if your special gal doesn't have one, she is probably wishing she did. The Vitamix is an investment, but it blends wonderfully and she won't be limited to kale and apple smoothies. This machine can be used to make everything from soups to ice cream, too.
  2. Nutribullet: Vitamix a bit too pricey for you? Buy her the NutriBullet. This blender comes with cups for blending. After she mixes her favorite juice she can pop it off the mixer and go. This makes it the perfect gift for the busy woman who struggles to sit down for breakfast.
  3. Cooking classes: If she likes to cook, scour the community education classes to find some healthy cooking classes she can take. Enroll both of you to double the fun!
  4. Cookbooks: Health minded women are always looking for healthy, environmentally sound, and delicious ways to prepare food. Inspire her with The Pollan Family Table: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom for Delicious, Healthy Family Meals.
  5. Books: Healthy living is a conscious choice that involves answering many questions about eating within just one day. Set her up for success with Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. Written by bestselling author and researcher, Brian Wansinck, she'll find each page packed with easy tips for healthy living, all the time.
  6. Yog Mats: Is her yoga mat beginning to look a bit grimy? Get her one of the gorgeous Magic Carpet Yoga Mats from Anthropologie.
  7. Footwear: Women who work out barefoot and live in chilly climes need footwear. Buy her some Toesox, which have grip on the bottom. If she finds these uncomfortable, consider leg warmers from Lululemon. They cover the ankle and forefoot but have cutouts for grip and traction just where she needs it.
  8. Fitness Trackers: Is she a statistic junky? Elevate her Fitbit so she can wear it anywhere in style. Tory Burch has a collection of bracelets and pendants she'll love.
  9. Pilates Mats: A yoga mat just will not do in a Pilates studio. Give her a soft mat to cushion her spine as she works out. This one, from STOTT, is a winner.
  10. Scents: Active women tend to like fresh, crisp scents. Fill her stocking with a bottle of CK One, Acqua Di Gio, or Calyx.
  11. Personal Care: This is the season of dry skin. Get her a body paste that smells light and clean and whisks away scaly, dry skin. I love the Rodan + Fields Body Microdermabrasion paste. 
  12. Pedicures: I've never met a woman who didn't love a good pedicure. For those that exercise barefoot, a gift certificate to a favorite salon is the perfect gift.
  13. Massage: Massage is a luxury, making it a wonderful gift for an active woman. 
  14. Self-healing treatments: Is your loved one feeling a few aches and pains? Get her a Hand and Foot Treatment Kit from Melt. This bag of small, differently sized balls, which also comes with an instructional DVD, will teach her how to treat herself for pain-free living.
  15. Workout gear: There are lots of options for fitness clothing. Athleta and Lululemon produce the most coveted among the people I work with. Get her some skinny pants, a form fitting jacket to show off her defined curves, or a stylish top.
  16. Accessories: Stuff her stocking with small accessories she'll love. Think cotton scarves, gloves and slouchy hats that won't ruin her workout updo, stylish hair bands, fingerless gloves, fun leg warmers.
  17. Exercise classes: There is no better gift than the gift of health. Delight her with a series of personal training sessions or a punch card valid at her favorite studio.


How to train your brain to crave healthy food

You can train yourself to crave healthy foods

Imagine yourself hanging out on the couch with your family watching football. When you begin to get hungry you crave chopped carrots, not potato chips and Doritos.

Is it a pipe dream?

Researchers say no. According to a study published in Nutrition & Diabetes, cravings for unhealthy, processed foods can be reversed. They found you can condition yourself to seek out healthy foods over months, in response to what you eat.

What does this mean to you? Stay the course. Make a commitment to preparing and eating healthy foods. Over time your body will ask you for more, and those pastries and sweets will begin to taste too rich, too sweet, even yucky.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Make it happen.


Why Americans are fat

Why have Americans become so fat? Is it because we eat too much, or is it because we don't exercise enough?

According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, the answer is the latter.

Over the last 20 years Americans have seen a significant drop in physical activity during our free time. Take a look at these shocking statistics:
  • In 1988 19% of women reported that they did no physical activity during their free time. In 2010 that number jumped to a whopping 52%
  • In 1988 11% of men said they did no physical activity during their free time. In 2010 the number jumped to 44%
  • Between 1988 and 2010 researchers found little difference in the average number of calories Americans typically consumed
What does this information mean to you? It's worth taking a look at your own activity level on the weekends and after work hours. Do you have a hobby that gets you moving? If not, perhaps it's time to find one.

Next weekend, find a trail to hike. Take a bike ride. Invite a friend to the ice rink. Rent a canoe so you can take a peek at the fall foliage. Get the family together to don some sporty shoes and play a couple frames at the bowling alley. Try your hands at indoor rock climbing. Put on your best dress and go ballroom dancing.

If you don't have fun, try something else. Search and explore until you find an activity that's fun, energizing and inspiring.  When you find it you'll be hooked, and that's good for your mind and body.


Control your weight with hydrophilic foods

Brussels sprouts are hydrophilic foods. Try roasting them in the oven.

I have a diet tip for you: load up on hydrophilic foods.

Hydrophilic foods attract and absorb water, making them swell in size. They are nutritionally dense, full of fiber, and satisfying.

What does this mean to you? Simple. It means you can eat natural, healthy foods that fill your belly, making you feel full longer. Consuming these foods will add vital nutrients to your diet and aid you in your quest to take in fewer calories.

Are you in? Here's a list of the most common hydrophilic foods:

  • Chia seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Okra
  • Kidney beans
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Chickpeas
  • Lemons
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Green beans
  • Snow peas
Now, get thee to a grocery store.


What are myofascial meridians? Why should you care?

The Superficial Back Line,
a page from  Anatomy Trains by Tom Meyers

Myofascial meridians are lines of pull, linked strings of muscle and connective tissue. Loads of force are distributed throughout the human body via these lines. These lines facilitate movement and provide stability to the body.

The human body has 12 meridians. These lines run up and down the back of the body, the front of the body, the sides of the body, deep within the body, on the front and back of the arms. They also spiral like a helix from one side of the body to the other.

So what?

Understanding myofascial meridians expands our understanding of the human body, how it functions, and how it can be rehabilitated.

Let's go to the gym to get a sense of how this idea might influence how we exercise. If we go to the weight machines we can sit down at a machine designed to work the hamstrings, load it up with weights, and work out that muscle.

If we take meridians into account, though, we'd recognize that focusing purely on the hamstring will neglect the fascia and other muscles within the Superficial Back Line, where it resides. This line of muscles runs all the way from the toes up the back of the legs, and up the sacrum. It includes the back extensors and travels all the way up the back of the skull, finally ending at the eyebrows.

It is important that the muscles and fascia surrounding the hamstring is strengthened as well. We take a risk if we strengthen just one muscle in the line without properly strengthening the others, because the result over time will be imbalance, compensation, and injury.

So what should you do? Think of your body not in segments, but as a whole structure, whereby strengthening one part will effect the others. Seek activities that are functional, and try classes like yoga and Pilates that recognize these lines of pull and strengthen muscles groups rather than individual muscles.

Now go to it!
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