Grocery list

I once read that if you want to be successful at something you should find someone who does it well and emulate them.  In the spirit of this idea, I linking to a fitness forum that I often visit.  The post was written by one of the site’s ‘super moderators’ and contains, as the title clearly implies, his weekly shopping list.  I found it very useful for getting new ideas for healthy balanced meals.

Visit the link here

Also, you it’s a great idea to register and participate in the threads.  It’s not only informative, but it ‘s an amazing way to keep motivated. 

If you’re looking for a great end to end program that will teach you how to eat, how to exercise, and most importantly, how to achieve your weight management goals, visit our products page.

For the novice push-upper

I’ve preached in earlier posts about the benefits of doing push ups.  After getting some feedback about not being able to do enough of them initially to pump the heart and muscles, I wanted to give some follow up advice on how to quickly see gains.

The first and most obvious place to start is with the knee push-ups, less affectionately known as ‘girl’ push ups.  Now c’mon people, let’s put the egos aside, if that’s where you have to start don’t even worry about it.  Instead of avoiding admission that you’re out of shape, take it as a challenge to get better.  Also, gains will come very quickly, it’s likely after two or three weeks you’ll be ready to move on.  It’s important to stress that a lot of what’s good about push ups is their ability to get your heart going.  You’d be much better off doing a set of 20 knee push ups than doing just 5 traditional ones.

Another way to see fast gains is by repeatedly doing the ‘negative’ motion of the exercise.  For those of you not familiar with the term, it’s the ‘down’ motion of a push up.  Start the movement at the top as you always would but go down really slow and accentuate that movement.  It should take you at least 5 seconds to go down.  Once there, just get back up to the starting position in any that’s comfortable and repeat.  This helps strengthen the necessary muscle groups as well as helps to speed up ‘muscle memory’.  Regardless of your current strength, any new movement will be weaker simply because your body isn’t used to it.  Creating this memory will allow you to get stronger faster.

Keep with these ‘tricks’ until you can do at least 20 standard pushups.  Incidentally, the ‘negative’ method works with almost all exercises so keep it in mind.

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Inexpensive home gym?

If you’re looking to start a consistent exercise routine but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on gym memberships or elaborate home gyms, you do have options.  In fact, you could get everything you need with very little money and very little space.  Two very important concerns for most of us.

The first thing to do is get educated.  All of these ‘ab-centric’ machines are just empty promises.  All the sit-ups in the world aren’t going to matter if you’re sitting at 20% body fat.  Your focus should be centered on two things: elevating your heart rate and strengthening/building muscle.  If time is a concern, your routine should be able to do both simultaneously.  The best way to accomplish this is to do strength building calisthenics with little rest between sets and/or power Yoga or Pilates.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1) Push up bars– While certainly not necessary, push up bars, including ‘the perfect push-up’, do help take some of the stress off of your wrists and shoulders.  They also allow f or a slight wider range of motion.  If you’re planning a home routine of strength building and cardio this should be a staple exercise.  This goes for women as well, push-ups are fantastic for everyone.

2) Chin-up bar –  I prefer the one that requires no drilling and can easily be taken down after each use.  The iron gym is a great example.  Do a set right after you finish your pushups – This will get your heart racing and your muscles pumped.

3) A set of variable weight dumbells– These are the ones that you can ‘select’ the amount of weight by moving a slider back and forth.  You can do a wide variety of exercises hitting every major muscle group.  Curls, shoulder presses, tricep kickbacks, lunges, squats, and on and on!

4) A yoga ball –  You can use this as a bench and work your pecs with dumbells, or get a yoga ball DvD and do your entire core.  A great and inexpesnive tool

5) Resistance bands–  If you’d rather not opt for dumbells, these bands can be used in a variety of ways as to mimic a lot of the exercises you do with free weights.  They’re inexpesive and easy to store.

With just 4 or 5 solid exercises done with little rest in between you can create an amazing home circuit routine that will build muscle and burn fat.  Do three or four circuits a few times a week and you’ll see amazing changes in your body.

Finally, a level headed star

I’m not one to read entertainment magazines at check-out counters, but I admit I can’t resist any article that features a celebrity diet.  This morning I saw Jennifer Aniston on the cover of a magazine that revealed her weight management program, so natrually I gave up my turn in line to read it.  While I normally read these just to get a kick out of the maniacal routines that people put themselves through, I was very pleasantly suprised.  Her exercise of choice?  A Yoga routine with a personal instructor.  The two hour routine uses all the classic poses which are well known to increase strength and flexibility.  Yoga also elevates your heart rate, making for a great full body workout.  It was said that she supplements these sessions with 20 minutes on the elliptical machine.  It’s important to mention that she doesn’t work out every day, rest is important for the active body.

Finally, the article said that Jennifer is also very ‘sensible’ about her diet.  Keeping it to 2000 calories day with a balance diet of whole (non processed) foods and a good sense of portion control.

What I love so much about her entire approach was simply that it’s sensible.  I won’t undermine her efforts, it certainly takes dedication and self discipline to work out 4 to 5 days a week and keep to a specific eating pattern, but she didn’t overdo it to the point where it’s obsessive.  She took and educated and balanced approach, not a short term gimmick. 

For more information on a long term weight management program, visit our products page!

Read more about eating whole foods here:

Foods that lie – revisited

I’ve been seeing a particular pizza commercial a lot lately, one that boasts how it’s ‘all natural’.  While I don’t doubt the validity of the claim, I do find the term somewhat misleading.  The same can be said for a lot of foods now using the terms ‘all natural’ and  ‘organic’.   As I’ve said, Advertisers are clever.  They splash these buzz words everywhere in hopes of making you believe they’re a healthly, low calorie food. 

The term ‘all natural’ simply means that there are no additives or preservitives.  While that’s certainly a good thing, don’t mistake it for anything else.  The pizza I referenced earlier still has sausage and pepperoni and a good portion of mozzarella cheese.  The calories will still pile up on each slice regardless. 

Beware of the term organic as well. Does an organic sugar cereal mean it’s really any  better for you than the regular version?  Absolutely not, you’re still getting too much sugar and empty calories per serving.  While it’s great to strive to eat more natural foods, let that mean that you’re eating foods as nature intended.  Stick to whole and raw foods, avoid the ones that are processed as much as possible.

Please do not take this as a knock against anyone looking to eat nutural and organic foods.  The point I’m making is that the clever food industry is throwing these terms around to simply promote their products.  The best defense is to understand nutrtion labels.  Once you’re proficient at it, you can determine for yourself which foods are the best for you and your family.

I found a supporting article after I drafted this post if you want to read more about it.

Portion Control

There’s no doubt that we are a society that eats for pleasure.  Tasty snacks and elaborate meals are at the heart of all gatherings, from summer BBQ’s to formal parties.  What movie is complete without buttered popcorn and a soda big enough for a small child to swim in? 

when we’re thinking about adopting a weight management program, we should not only concern ourselves with what we eat, but how much of it we eat.  If you’re the type to read nutrition labels, you probably scoff at the serving sizes.  They’re pathetically small for the super size nation.  However, it’s essential that we try to retrain ourselves to eat simply to fuel our bodies, not to feed until we can’t fit in another bite.

One of the best ways to do this is to exercise good portion control.  Here are 5 tips to help start you out:

1)  Don’t serve dinner ‘family style’ .  Often, we just put a pot of food out and have everyone fill their dish at the dinner table.  With an seemingly unending pile of foood in the center of the table, it’s way too tempting to overeat.  To avoid this pitfall, plates should be made at the counter.  Use the correct portions of each part of the meal.  Immediately put leftovers away.  You’ll be amazed how you’ll  avoid stuffing yourself with this simple step.

2) Be aware of the correct portion size for meat – I know it’s often a point of pride to take down a 16 oz steak at your favorite restaurant, but that’s a ridiculous amount to eat in one sitting.  Especially of red meat.  Ideally, keep your steak and chicken portions to about 40z, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards.  Pile up veggies on your plate to add volume as well as much needed nutrients.

3) Be aware of the correct portion size for starches with your meal (Rice/Pasta).  Americans eat entirely too much pasta.  In other parts of the world, pasta is a side dish only, not a complete meal.  The correct portion size should roughly be the size of your fist. How often do you eat pasta the size of your plate?  Also, if you are going to eat pasta as the meal, include a protein in the dish and opt for whole grain pasta.  It’s worth the time to get used to it, it’s infinitely easier on your waist.

4)  Control your snack sizes.  How often do we sit in front of the television with a bag of chips and before we know it we’re down to the crumbs at the bottom of the bag?  If you’re the type that must have a snack while vegging, put a serving on  a plate and put the bag away.  This will allow you to indulge a little without piling on the calories.

5)  Put leftovers in single portion bags.  If you have a few pieces of steak or chicken left over, cut it into 4 oz servings and bag them individually.  Similarly, break the rice and pasta into single servings and put them into separate containers. 

These ideas might seem a little silly as you read them, but in practice, it will go a long way.  Most of all, remember that it takes a while for your brain to get the signal that your full.  You’ll realize after about 20 minutes that you’re completely satisfied and you’ll cut your calorie intake by at least half, if not more.

For more information on a complete weight management program, visit our products page.

You can read a little more about the importance of Portion Control on WEBMD.

Avoid foods that lie

Marketing and Advertising firms are very clever.  They recognize the latest consumer thinking and shamelessly prey on it.  Over the past few decades, there has been more and more focus on eating right and staying healthy.  However, they’re very well aware that people want to indulge.  With that knowledge, there are a lot of foods/drinks available now that purposely seem healthy but aren’t nearly as friendly to you waist as you might think.

 1) Bagels – When high fat and fried foods were public enemy number one (prior to the carb craze), many people did away with eggs and bacon as a way to start the day.  Instead, they reached for a bagel (a naturally low fat food) and juice.  However, once smothered in cream cheese or butter, it’s now a double threat.  Fat plus over processed carbs that have been stripped of fiber.  Eating a bagel has the same affect as a food high in sugar, it spikes glucose levels and can quickly store as fat if not burned off.  Add a large glass of orange juice, which is often loaded with added sugars, and you can expect to feel the morning crash after your body creates too much insulin to deal with high levels of sugar in the blood.  Skip the bagel, go for an egg white omelette and a piece of whole grain toast.

2) Smoothies – Smoothies have gained the reputation as being a complete health drink simply because that’s how they started out. The nutritious versions made at home and in Gym’s worldwide were pure fruit smoothies.  However, the chain stores now selling their own versions are packing them with sugar and calories.  In many cases, a large smoothie can be as many calories as a meal at your favorite fast food restaurant.  If you’re looking for a nutritious smoothie, do your research, or make them yourself at home.  We should all be eating more fruit, but we’re better off just eating them.

3) Caesar salad – Many people mistake this one simply because it’s a salad.  The same goes for the Junk salads.  Depending what ‘s in it and the dressing that it’s smothered in, you will definitely be surprised how many calories your taking in.  Try to eat salads often, but stick to the basic house salad with lettuce and vegetables and stick to low fat, oil based dressings.

4)  Chain Deli Sandwiches – A lot of gym rats like to stick to Turkey breast on whole grain for lunch.  This staple has caught on and many folks now turn to sandwiches for lunch.  If you’re grabbing lunch at a chain sandwich shop and just ordering from their menu, you’re definitely loading up without knowing it.  The sauces/condiments and ‘extras’ are taking this to another level.  The good news is, no matter where you go, you can still get turkey breast on whole grain bread with a little mustard and veggies. 

5)  Signature Coffees – While a cup of black coffee isn’t offensive at all, the snazzy beverages that you get at the snooty cafes are a disaster.  Large versions of some of these drinks have more calories than a full meal.  This is especially troublesome as most people don’t even think about calories when it comes to drinks, they worry more about food.  You could be adding upward a thousand calories a day in these delicious elixirs if you’re not paying attention to nutrition labels.  Stick to regular coffee with low fat milk.  Also, get used to not using sugar or substitutes.  It will take awhile to get used to, but over time you won’t crave it anymore.

Sense and Sensibility

I was doing some light reading this morning and came across an article that seemed to echo a lot of the same principles that I advocate on this site.  Most notably, setting goals, eating a balanced diet, increasing activity levels, and losing only 1 to 2 pounds a week.  I admit, I absolutely love reading these same sentiments, it just proves that there are intelligent people spreading the word on how to sensibly manage your weight; not just picking your pocket.

However, I will admit that there is a fine line between being practical/sensible and being a little too soft.  For example, I very often come across advice to do simple things like take the stairs at work or park in the furtherst corner of the parking lot.  While these things certainly won’t hurt and I’d love to see more of it from everyone, I don’t want people to mistake this for the necessary daily exercise they need.  The horrible truth is that even a moderately intense workout for 20 minutes will barely cover a can of soda and a bag of chips.  So please, don’t let the fact that you walked a quarter mile let you justify a empty breakfast like a bagel and juice.  When we start thinking like this, we actually end up in calorie surplus because we start taking in more than we expend.

Again, I urge you to do all of those little ‘extras’, but you still need your daily and steady dose of exercise and you need to get a feel for how many calories you’re burning during those sessions.  Finally, don’t let the morning workout justify a high calorie ‘reward meal’.  If your goal is to lose weight, you can’t afford those indulgences everyday.

Read the article here

Add Pull-ups to your routine

Pull-ups are often touted as one of the best upper body exercises you can do.  This post compliments the push-up post from a few days ago. Targeting the remaining upper body muscle groups such as back and biceps, and to a lesser degree, shoulders and abs, this is just a raw powerhouse of an exercise.  It builds and stretches muscles and gets the heart pumping.  When I previously spoke about circuit training at home, this exercise is an amazing compliment. Throw in some squats and ab work (and, of course, push-ups) and you have a complete muscle and heart pumping routine.  Also, you don’t need to join a gym to start doing pull-ups, you can pick up a bar that easily attaches to any door frame witout any drilling.  You can literally put it up and take it down in seconds.  Visit our products page to learn more.

I encourage women to think about this exercise as well.  While it may take some time to build up the necessary strength, this will tone your muscles very nicely.  Start with the old arm hang from Junior High School and begin building strength.

Visit this link for some great information on technique and benefits and get pumped to ummm get pumped!  Remember, a 20 to 30 minute strength training circuit routine and a few changes in your eating habits could be all you need to stay in great shape.

Tools of the trade

I continually preach about the value of setting specific and measurable goals and taking stock of things prior to starting a weight management program.  In today’s post, I want to do a little of the legwork for you.  Below I will outline a few of the steps you should take and link to useful sites that will help you get there.

1) It’s imperative that you know how many calories you should be consuming each day.  This shoud be one of the very first short term goals you write and read every single day. Click here for a calculator and read this article for more detailed information.

2) It’s necessary to measure you body fat %, get yourself a pair of calipers and vist this site to learn more about it.

3) You’ve probably also heard about the body mass index, which, I’ve found, is very unfriendly!  But it’s useful so learn more about it here.

4) Antoher extremely important calculation is your target heart rate.  You should be exercising at this rate for 20 to 30 minutes a day.  Click here

5) Lastly, I don’t think you should start a program with out first setting goals.  This step is paramount for longevity, motivation, and success.  Read more here