Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take Your Best Bite First.

I have been getting a lot of questions about what to do when you go to a restaurant. What meals should you pick? What items should you stay away from? This is one of the biggest challenges when trying to eat healthy. When you prepare your own food, you know what goes into it. When Applebee’s does, you never really know what you are getting.

I had a conversation with my sister when I started training her that was an eye opener. Every time I go to a restaurant, I eat the best thing on the plate first. If I order a sandwich, I eat the sandwich and leave the fries for the end. For two reasons I do this: 1) I enjoy the sandwich more than the fries. If I liked fries more, than I would just order a batch of fries. 2) If I eat the sandwich first, it will fill me up and I will be less likely to dive into the fries that are left on my plate. Since normally, a sandwich is better for you than fries, I go for the healthier option first.

My sister, on the other hand, had a different approach. She always ate the thing she wanted least first, saving her favorite stuff for last, essentially, saving the “best bite for last.” This approach always ended one way… her finishing her entire meal.

Restaurants have no shame when it comes to portions. The bigger the better. When eating out, you need to have a plan of attack to combat the fact that someone else is preparing your food. Here are a few helpful hints:

1) Don’t eat the bread! I know it is free, but most of the time it is white bread with tons of empty calories and no nutritional value. Also, because it takes 20 minutes or so for our stomachs to recognize we are full, you inevitably order an entrée, eat the entrée, and then realize you could have stopped at the bread. Don’t fall victim to “free food”.
2) Just because you are out to eat, doesn’t mean you get to order a soda. Order water. You need the hydration anyway. And if you want to spend money on a drink… get some wine.
3) Eliminate things from your plate. Sandwiches almost always come with chips, fries, a salad, cup of soup, etc. In reality, your portion size for that meal should only be the sandwich. Ask for NO SIDE. Don’t even have them put something on your plate, even if it is a salad.
4) The “clean plate club” broke up a long time ago. Eat what you enjoy first and stop eating when you get full. Don’t save the best bite for last.
5) Don’t be afraid to change up the menu. Order your sauces, dressings, etc ON THE SIDE or not at all. Many calories can be taken away from a meal simply by removing what it comes “dressed” in.
6) Look at how things are prepared. GRILLED, BAKED, and STEAMED are key “healthy” words you want to look for. SAUTEED, FRIED, BATTERED, BREADED, CREAMED… bad, very bad. Stay away from these items.
7) Many times you can find your meal under the appetizers. Don’t be fooled by the label, most places serve big portion appetizers that would fill you up just fine.
8) Don’t forget your vegetables. Many restaurants offer STEAMED vegetables. Who knew! Order up some of those the next time you really want to get a side with your dish.
9) Lastly, I don’t care if there is a deal on “appetizer, entrée, and dessert”, that is WAY too much food for one person. You need an entrée. Period. On a special occasion, you can order dessert.

Here are a few ticket items that many average restaurants have that are safe bets:
1) Grilled Chicken Sandwich- Don’t get it covered in a sauce. Don’t ask for mayo on the side. Ask for mustard. Trust me, it really is quite good.
2) Turkey/chicken/veggie wraps- here is an even better option than the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Number one, a wrap is better for you than a bun, AND normally, wraps are packed full of veggies. Order it without sauce or dressing (leave the ranch for the next customer). Leave the cheese behind as well.
3) Hummus plate- Many restaurants offer this as an appetizer, but it makes a great meal. Normally, it will come with vegetables and pita. Start with the veggies first and save the pita for a treat at the end.
4) Fish- If the fish is not battered, breaded, fried, etc , this is a great option. We don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet and fish is a great way to start adding them. Go for the salmon, or if you are like me and can’t stand the fishy taste of salmon, go for the baked white fish. Again, skip the sauce… are you starting to see a trend?
5) Salads- Here is the tricky one. Just because it is a salad, doesn’t mean it is good for you. That said, you can transform any restaurant salad into something that IS good for you with a few easy steps: 1) Dressing on the side. You will use WAY less dressing if you dip your salad into it instead of having them dowse the entire thing in ranch 2) no cheese 3) no bacon 4) skip the croutons 5) skip the bread that sometimes comes with salads.
6) Go a la carte- Look at what sides they have to offer. Sometimes you can make a meal simply from sides. Get some veggies, a baked potato, maybe a cup of soup and you are on your way!

Finally, make all this easy on yourself from the beginning: Choose a restaurant that you know is going to offer you healthier options. You eliminate half the hassle by omitting places you know you shouldn’t go to.

I hope this fills in some of the questions people had about restaurant food. Keep the questions coming and look for another blog in a few days!

Oh, BTW… how are you coming along with your intervals??????

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ready, Set... Intervals!

Have I convinced you to move around more? Did you find time in your day when you could fit in a little more movement? I hope so! I thought about it yesterday as well. Some days my number is well above 10,000, other days… not so much. As with all things related to the body, it is a constant process because we are constantly changing.

As promised (a day late), this blog is all about exercise! You don’t need to go out and get yourself a personal trainer, though I wish I could be standing next to all of you giving you motivation as you suffer through your first set of interval. In fact, you don’t even have to go join a gym (I don’t belong to a gym… but I have a treadmill. Thank you, Kyle!)

Let’s break it down:

I am fully aware that not all people are up for jumping on a treadmill and cranking out 20 minutes of intervals on their first day. The first day I started training my sister, Emmy, she didn’t want me anywhere near her when she was on the treadmill. “Bekah, I don’t run. I am not like you. I can’t do it.” Fine, I said, and she proceeded to walk /run at her own accord without any interference from me. After one work out of realizing she wasn’t going to die from raising her heart rate above normal, she asked for my help to amplify her workout. Little did she know… BUT today Emmy runs 3-4 days a week. She went from the girl who cried “I can’t!” to a sexy running machine. HOW???? More on that later…

IF YOU HAVE NEVER WORKED OUT BEFORE: Let’s take this week slow. Realize that raising your heart rate feels good. Like Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Let’s put a little more happiness in your life this week! I want you to dedicate 3 days to activity. Mark them on your calendar and do not deviate from those planned days. On those days, I want you to take a long (45 minute or more) speed walk. Not a “chat with your best friend” walk, a “huff and puff, swing those arms” walk. When you feel like you want to slow down, DON’T. Prove to yourself you can do it without slowing down. See what it feels like to use muscles that have been sedentary for far too long. If you get sore, tough it out. Muscles rebound faster when they are used again. The key to not being sore is to work out again (I know, it’s messed up but true. You WILL feel worse if you don’t move through the soreness). Sound like a plan?! Put it into action this week. We will switch it up next week.

FOR THE REST OF YOU… whether you belong to a gym or not, this is when interval training commences.

How did Emmy get acclimated to running so quickly? How did she build her speed so fast? How did she lose 6 pounds in a week (of course, part was from eating correctly)? INTERVAL TRAINING.

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Interval training is a high intensity workout that produces more muscle mass, longer caloric burn, and an extended heightened metabolic rate through bursts of high heart rate changes.

A little science… Low-intensity training (i.e. running 3 miles at a consistent pace) only burns calories for the duration of the workout. Once you stop running, you stop burning. It also does not build as much muscle mass, which is essential for raising your metabolic rate (muscle burns fat just by sitting on your body). Think of a marathon runner. They are in great shape, but if you were to put them next to a sprinter, they would look like a shrimp.

High intensity interval training burns fat and calories long after you are finished working out because of the muscle mass that your body will be creating and the rise in your metabolic rate (because of the extra muscle on your body). AND it creates lean muscle mass… which should make all women happy. Who doesn’t want to be described as lean?!

Interval Training is built to be a short intense workout (20 minutes) with bursts of high and low heart rates. Here is what you do:

If you are a person that has never run before, start with this routine (this is where Emmy started):
Minute 1: 3.5 speed
Minute 2: 3.5 speed
Minute 3: 4.0
Minute 4: 4.5
Minute 5: 5.0
Minute 6: 5.5
Minute 7: 4.0
Minute 8: 4.5
Minute 9: 5.0
Minute 10: 5.5
Minute 11: 4.0
Minute 12: 4.5
Minute 13: 5.0
Minute 14: 5.5
Minute 15: 4.0
Minute 16: 4.5
Minute 17: 5.0
Minute 18: 5.5
Minute 19: 6.0
Minute 20: 4.0

Here is the key to intervals: When you want to slow down or fall off the treadmill, DON’T. As I told Emmy, you can do ANYTHING for a minute. Don’t let yourself down. Also, if you start at this speed and are not begging for the workout to be over, YOU NEED TO GO FASTER. Increase your speed the next time you do it.

If you have experience running…
When I started interval training 5 years ago, I began at this speed. I had been running on and off for a few months beforehand.
Minute 1: 5.0
Minute 2: 5.0
Minute 3: 5.5
Minute 4: 6.0
Minute 5: 6.5
Minute 6: 7.0
Minute 7: 5.5
Minute 8: 6.0
Minute 9: 6.5
Minute 10: 7.0
Minute 11: 5.5
Minute 12: 6.0
Minute 13: 6.5
Minute 14: 7.0
Minute 15: 5.5
Minute 16: 6.0
Minute 17: 6.5
Minute 18: 7.0
Minute 19: 7.5
Minute 20: 5.5

You don’t need a treadmill to do interval training. All you need are your 2 legs. Follow this plan:
Get out your stop watch. Head outside. Do a 2 minute warm up of a quick walk or light jog. After 2 minutes, sprint for 1 minute (time it out on your watch and don’t stop before the minute is up). After the minute, slow down to a fast walk or light jog (DO NOT SLOW DOWN COMPLETELY) for one minute. Repeat the sprint/jog combination for 20 minutes. Since you don’t have a treadmill to keep your legs moving, be good to yourself and DON’T CHEAT.

FOR EVERYONE: Do this exercise 3 times this week.

Okay, I hope this give people some direction! If you have questions, post them to the blog and I will answer them. Also, a disclaimer: As I stated in my first blog, I am 9 months pregnant. I DO NOT do interval training while pregnant, nor should anyone else. If you have a bun in the oven, don’t attempt to be superwoman. Stick to low-intensity exercise.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It Isn't Your Workout Routine that is Broken. It's Your Lifestyle.

Take a moment and think about your day. How much time do you spend sitting down whether at work or at home? Do you hate bending over to put on your shoes? Do you drive everywhere? When your kids want to play in the yard, do you sit and watch them instead of playing with them? We should be walking 10,000 steps a day. If you do the math, there are 5,280 feet in a mile, which means you should be walking about 2 miles a day just for your own wellness. If you were to wear a pedometer for the day, would you hit 10,000 steps? Most people don’t even come close.

The problem with life today is it is much too sedentary. We don’t move enough. We watch TV at night, sit at a computer all day, and drive everywhere we have to go. The result: laziness and obesity. Sure you don’t feel lazy. You work 8 hours a day, take care of 2 kids and a husband, and keep it all together. That is not the lazy I am talking about. I am talking about driving somewhere when you could walk. Going through the drive-thru instead of making dinner. Watching TV instead of working out.

I have been grappling for the past few days how to broach the subject of exercise. How do I impart to people who might not be inclined to work out the importance of doing it?

Let me make just a small plea on the importance of frequent and consistent exercise: your heart. As we all know, your heart is a muscle and just like all muscles in your body, it needs to be used or it will atrophy. Your heart shows signs of atrophy in different ways, though. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, inflammation, and all of these things resulting in possible heart attack, stroke, certain cancers and death. Is that a good enough reason? Some might call that extreme, but heart disease is the #1 killer of women (and men). BUT… you know that! So, why aren’t you exercising?

Take a day. Observe yourself. Before I can give you an exercise routine to follow, you have to learn about yourself. Do you care enough to want to move? Have you settled into a lazy lifestyle? To lose weight and keep it off, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTLYE. You have to educate yourself on YOU. The idea isn’t to work out for 6 months and stop; it is to move for the rest of your life whether that be nightly walks with your husband or hour long workouts at the gym.

I can and will give you the best work out to burn the most fat, boost your metabolism, and increase your speed, but unless you decide to change the way you live, it will only get you so far.

I am going to break my exercise advice into two blogs. The reason being: 1) there is too much information for me to concisely put it in one blog and 2) I can’t put enough emphasis on taking time to observe your own behavior. That is what I want you to do before I start dishing out exercise routines.

Here is the work I want you to do. Observe your life tomorrow. Find one thing you could change that would make you move around more. Could you walk to work? Take public transportation? Go for a walk at lunch instead of eating at your desk? Walk to the grocery store? Change one thing and make it a permanent change. Think about reaching your 10,000 steps. What can you do to get there?

Wednesday, I will post actual exercise routines that are built for multiple skill levels. Exercise is not the sole solution to weight loss, but coupled with a good diet, it is an imperative part. Remember, 80% of weight loss is what you eat, 20% is exercise. Don’t miss read what I am saying, you need to exercise… if all you do is eat right, you are missing 20% of a complete you.

A few things to add to the eating portion…

Have you started feeding your body better? Need a few helpful hints to keep you on track? I read about one idea in this month’s Natural Health magazine that I really liked.

- Keep a food diary. Don’t just write down what you are eating, also write down how it makes you feel right after you eat it and then an hour after that. Look back at how you feel when you eat. The idea is to be happier. Eat what makes you happy (I am guessing that is not going to be McDonalds).

Also, I have a recipe to share with everyone! I made this last week and it was a total hit at my house.


Substitute whole wheat bread for focaccia bread and omit the mayonnaise (I have made them with and without the mayo and there is very little difference). If you want to add some protein, add a few slices of lunch meat. Also, I made mine on a Panini press and they came out great!

Look for more on Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Three Meals a Day... who thought of that crazy idea?

Let's take everything you think about food and throw it out the window. Health teachers were lying to you when they said you should eat three square meals a day. That doesn't make any sense and here is why: think of your body as a car engine. Just as a car engine burns fuel, your body burns calories. To run at its best, you have to constantly fuel your body, and in turn constantly burn calories. When a person works out for an hour they burn on average 300-500 calories. If you do the math that is only about 1/4 of the calories you have to burn in a day to MAINTAIN your weight. How does the body burn most of the left over calories? The answer: Digestion. Your body has to work at digesting your food. If it has no food to digest, it stops burning. Just like a car that doesn't have fuel, your body turns off. The key to weight loss (and maintenance) is to constantly keep your body burning. How? By eating!

(Another analogy if the car one is too confusing… every morning you light a fire in your body by eating breakfast. It is easier on your body to keep putting sticks on the fire, than letting the fire burn down and having to start it over again 2 more times that day. )

To burn calories best and keep your body functioning on energy, a person should eat at least 6 times a day. I am not talking about gut busting meals; I am talking about 3 balanced, portion appropriate meals and 3 snacks. Here the logic: If you eat everything in three meals, you are overloading your system. The stomach can’t keep up with all the food it has to burn, so it sits there making you feel sluggish and tired (you know, the afternoon at work when you wish you could put your head down and take a nap). If you take all the food you are supposed to consume in a day and spread it out over many meals, you don’t overload your system. Your body can keep up with all that it has to digest, in turn giving you more energy and burning more calories.

So how do you know what is the correct amount to eat? If you are eating 6 meals a day, three of those meals should be comprised of 3 whole foods, and three meals should be comprised of 2 whole food. What the hell is a whole food? Good question… it is anything that is a single entity of food that has been unprocessed or altered as little as possible (an apple, cucumber, brown rice, avocado, egg). A TV dinner is NOT a whole food. So, here is an example of what one day of eating might look like.
Breakfast: 1 egg with tomato and a piece of whole wheat toast (3 whole foods)

Snack: banana and almonds (2 whole foods)

Lunch: whole wheat wrap with turkey and avocado (3 whole foods)

Snack: celery and peanut butter (the real stuff, not Jiff) (2 whole foods)

Dinner: Chicken with brown rice and green beans (3 whole foods)

Snack: cottage cheese and strawberries (2 whole foods)

Here is the key behind the combination: You want to combine different food groups in every meal. For example: at breakfast the egg is a PROTEIN, the tomato is a VEGETABLE, and the toast is a CARBOHYDRATE. No meal should contain any foods from the same food group. That way you are diversifying your eating and getting all your essential nutrients. Here is a SUGGESTED list of food you can choose from and what food group they fall under. If you don’t see something on the list, it doesn’t mean you can’t have it (for example, not all fruits are on the list, but am I going to tell you not to eat fruit.. no way!). Feel free to ask me!
Chicken breast
Turkey breast
Lean ground turkey
Top round steak
Top sirloin steak
Lean ground beef
Lean ham
Egg, Egg whites or substitutes
Low-fat cottage cheese

Green beans
Green peppers
Brussels sprouts

Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Natural peanut butter
Low-sodium nuts
Olives and olive oil
Safflower oil
Canola oil
Sunflower oil
Flax seed oil

Baked potato
Sweet potato
Steamed brown rice
Steamed wild rice
Kidney beans
Fat-free yogurt
Whole-wheat bread
Whole-wheat Tortilla
Whole grains

Fried foods
Whole-fat dairy products

Here is the key to eating your meals: PORTION CONTROL! For example, one portion of meat is 3-4 ounces (not 8 oz. as they would like you to believe at a steak joint). Your meat should fit in the palm of your hand. That is pretty much true with everything you eat. If you aren’t into measuring your food (which I suggest everyone look at the labels on your food and see what an actual serving size is), hold it in your hand. If it doesn’t fit it is too big.

When should I be eating? Every 2-3 hours. If you get up at and eat breakfast at 8AM, your next meal should be around 10:30AM, which puts lunch at 1PM, snack around 3:30PM, dinner at 6PM, and your final snack at 8:30PM.

What should I have to drink? Here is what you should NOT have to drink: any type of soda (diet or otherwise), fruit drinks, flavored ice teas, mocha-frappa-latte crap from Starbucks. All of these drinks are packed with sugar, mostly artificial and wreak havoc on your insides. They also mess with your taste buds, causing you to crave them more (have you ever seen someone addicted to Diet Coke? Not pretty). Stick to water, coffee, tea (from a tea bag), skim milk. If you think you will die from not having a Diet Coke, you won’t. Toughin’ up.

What about alcohol? I would NEVER suggest that we get rid of alcohol from your diet. Just like anything, moderation is key. Understand that alcohol is empty calories (but on some days, needed calories). Instead of having a bottle of wine with dinner tonight, just have a glass. Instead of having a drink every day, only have one a few times a week. You decide what you are comfortable with. Unless you drink excessively, cutting alcohol out of your diet is not going to make a huge difference.

Finally, can I bend the rules? That depends on what you want to get out of this. If you are looking to lose weight then no, not in the beginning. Why? Because you owe it to yourself to try something different without wanting to change it. You might just find that it changes how you view food and the way you look at eating. Remember, this is a way of living your life, not a short-term fix for losing weight. There is no end when it comes to eating properly. In six months, you can’t just go back to slugging Diet Coke and eating TV dinners. But I promise you, if you treat your body well, you will never want to treat it poorly again. If you are looking to live a healthier lifestyle, but don’t care about losing weight, you will have to decide how strict you follow the rules.

Okay… this is a lot of information. If you have questions, post them on the blog. I will answer them. One question you are probably wondering… do I follow the rules? Yes… most of the time. Like I said in my first blog, I live down the street from a Dairy Queen...

And remember this, losing weight is 80% the food you intake, 20% the exercise you do. Start with what you put into your body and then we can work on the rest.

Let's get started!

Okay ladies, it’s time to cut the crap. Do you have a pair of fat jeans sitting in your closet for those times in life when you put on a few extra pounds? Maybe you are wearing them right now? Do you poop only two times a week? Eat only two meals a day thinking that is what keeps you thin? Want to work out but don’t have the time? I have a proposition for you: Let’s change your life. Read what I have to say, learn about your body and the food you put into it, stop looking for short term solutions to lifetime health. Start your new life today… or tomorrow, if you need a day to think about it.

I know what you are thinking, “Why are you an authority on health?” and you are right to question me. I am not a trained professional. I have never worked in a gym and I don’t have a degree in nutrition. Maybe one day, but not today. I am a stay-at-home mom who wants to share with women what has worked for me, my friends, and can work for you, too. Also, I am not perfect. I have cellulite and upper arm fat I wish would just melt away. I also live two doors down from Dairy Queen (I could eat a chocolate peanut butter cup blizzard everyday). But that is my point. Let’s not try to be perfect, let’s try to be healthy. After successfully not owning a pair of fat pants for five years and training three of my friends (one who lost 20 pounds in less than 2 months and another who lost 12 pounds in one week) friends have prompted me to start this blog. (To be honest, I love doing this stuff! Helping my friends to see the potential in themselves gives me so much joy.)

A little background: When I started dating Kyle (my now husband) five years ago, I was living in New York City. I weighed 130 pounds (I am 5’3’’) and I thought I was healthy. I fit in most of my pants, I ran occasionally, and I ate healthy things. Even though I thought I was healthy, I thought about my weight all the time. This stemmed from years of yo-yoing weight (hello, college). I was a chronic binge working outer. When I noticed that I gained weight, I would work out like a maniac (come on ladies, admit it, you have done it too). I would also give my body as little nourishment as possible, 3 small meals a day. And voila! In a few weeks/months, the weight would be off and I would feel great again. I would stop working out as much (because my body needed a break, I would tell myself), eat more (because I had been slightly starving myself for months) and fast forward 6 months, the weight would be back on. Maybe not all of it, but some at least.
Five year ago, I had a conversation with Kyle that changed my life. It went as follows:
Kyle: What did you eat for breakfast today?

Bekah: Coffee

Kyle: You can’t eat coffee

Bekah: I don’t eat breakfast.

Kyle: What did you eat for lunch?

Bekah: A sandwich.

Kyle: Dinner?

Bekah: A salad (honestly, it was a taco salad, so it wasn’t the healthiest)

Kyle: You need to eat more.

Bekah: No I don’t. If I eat more, I will gain weight and I don’t want to gain weight.

Kyle: That is not how the body works.

Bekah: That is how my body works.

Kyle: No, that is how you have trained your body to work.

From that moment forward, I had to change how I looked at food and my body. The body I was living in was “skinny-fat”. I needed to be healthy, not thin. Once I got healthy, I found my “body weight” (I call it that because it is different for every person. Just because we are the same height doesn’t mean we should weight the same thing). Once I loved what I was putting into my body and what I was burning on a treadmill, I stopped worrying about bouncing back to a weight I had been years before. It is the most liberating experience of my life. I left all my weight baggage behind and started new.

Fast forward five years, I haven’t yo-yoed once. After I got healthy, I lost 10 pounds (without trying, my body just adjusted to that weight) and I haven’t stopped working out in five years. And yes, I love it. I could run circles around a younger version of myself. Even now as I sit here typing this at nine months pregnant (I am due on April 15), I am dripping with sweat from a 3 mile run I just did while my daughter is napping.

So what does this have to do with you? Maybe nothing. Maybe you know all the information I am going to give out in this blog, but if you want to feel healthier and in return look better, I might just be the person to help you out. So check out what I have to say, it couldn’t hurt… well not until you wake up after your first day of interval training, but more about that later.

In this blog, I will tell you what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, and why you are doing it. Once you understand the physical nature of your body, you can understand why it is important to put certain things into it. I will also tell you how to work out and why your sorry excuses for not making it to a gym are exactly that… sorry. Lastly, I want to incorporate an element of wellness and lifestyle. Any information I come across that I think might be of service, I will pass it on. I want your input, too! If you are having a hard time, need motivation, or just have a delicious healthy recipe don’t hesitate to share.

So let’s cut the crap out of your diet. Let’s get real about food, body image, and what it really means to be healthy. Let’s start a new lifestyle today. Okay, the sweat from my run is officially starting to smell and Drew should be waking up soon. The next installment will be information to get you started. I am excited! I hope you are, too.