Habits For Keeping the Weight Off this Holiday Season

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healthy-turkey

With the holiday season approaching, it’s a great time to review the most successful habits that can help keep you on track when you’re surrounded by temptations from now through New Years. Regardless of what style of eating you consider healthy – food guide pyramid, low-carb, paleo – those who have mastered their dietary health share the following common practices. And you should too.

Visit the grocery store at least once a week. Healthy eating requires you to have nutritious food available. To do so, you may find yourself at the grocery store every few days restocking meats, fruits, and vegetables. Make a list of items you need before you go to the store and stick to the list. Buy most of your food from the perimeter of the store and stay out of the middle aisles as much as possible.

Use your kitchen. Do you spend more time in your kitchen or your living room? Start spending more time in the kitchen learning how to cook healthy meals. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a simple grilled chicken breast, but there are so many delicious options for healthy eating if you take the time to learn. Read a book, watch a video, take a class – whatever you do, make cooking a part of your day and you’ll be proud of your meals and have the peace of mind knowing exactly what’s in your food.

Prepare meals and snacks on a daily basis. Unless you work from home, you don’t have the convenience of stepping into your kitchen when it’s time to eat. Before you leave your house in the morning, make sure you have your food prepped for the day ahead. It could be something as simple as leftovers from last night’s dinner for your lunch and a yogurt and almonds for a snack. Use your kitchen as the hub from where your meals originate. This way you won’t be tempted to grab less desirable options such as fast food or skip a meal altogether.

Know your enemies. Healthy food for one person may be poison to another. Food allergies are very common and even if a food is healthy it may not agree with your body. If you have issues with gluten, dairy, or soy, those foods should not be a part of your diet, especially for the time being. This still leaves you with ample options, as long as you’re prepared ahead of time. If you notice unpleasant symptoms after eating certain foods, cut those foods out of your diet for a period of time and see if you feel better overall. If you want more definitive answers, your doctor can recommend a lab where a blood test can be performed to identify specific food allergens.

Eat for the right reasons. The main reason for eating in the first place is to nourish the body. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your food, but eating purely for pleasure gets a lot of people into trouble with their weight and overall health. Build your meal around the benefit it will provide for your body and then you can get creative with combinations of foods, flavor, and preparation methods. Make a habit of including all three macronutrients in your meals – protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Master these tips and you’ll be on your way to establishing healthy habits and building long-term success.

Exercises for the Seated Lifestyle

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How do you choose the exercises that make up your workouts? Maybe you base it on exercises you like or exercises you’re familiar with. Or maybe you have certain areas of the body you’d like to see change, so you focus on those muscle groups.

Obviously everyone has different goals, body types, and lifestyles, but one common issue we see with many of our clients is a weakness pattern through the core and posterior chain. If you find yourself sitting most of the day, it makes sense to choose exercises that counter this shortened posture. The following exercises will help strengthen many of the muscles that become weak through a seated lifestyle.

The Deadlift. Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip to shoulder width apart. Squat down toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural curve through your back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

deadlift

 

Bent-Over Row. Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with palms facing inward. With feet hip width apart, bend the knees slightly as you lean forward to about a 45 degree angle. Be sure to keep your posture while maintaining a tight core. Your body will stay in this position for the duration of the exercise. As you exhale, pull the dumbbells up and back while you bring your shoulder blades together. Your elbows should slide right past the sides of your body as you pull. Inhale as you extend your arms back to the starting position.

db-row

Reverse Cable Woodchop. Slide the handle on a cable resistance machine down to a setting just a few inches off the floor. Position your body perpendicular to the machine and set feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Drop down into a deadlift position, and with abs engaged, rotate your upper body away from the machine while you rise up to a standing position. Keep your arms fully extended and allow your hips and shoulders to rotate with the movement. Once you’re fully rotated and extended, control back down to your starting position.

r-cable-woodchop

So add these exercises to your routine to help strengthen the muscles that most likely need it.

Is Your Food Causing You Stress?

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Tired young businessman in office

When you hear the word stress, what comes to mind? Your commute to work, paying all the bills this month, or trying to function on four hours of sleep. We all have a good understanding of what stress feels like and where it comes from, and many of us even practice techniques to manage that stress.

Other types of stress may not be as apparent or we just don’t recognize the signs.

For example, food can act as either an ideal fuel for the body or a poison that should be avoided. When you eat certain foods, they may be causing stress within your body – also known as inflammation. Inflammation is our body’s response to illness, injury, or stress. Inflammation can actually be beneficial when it’s short term. Sprain an ankle and it will become inflamed to begin the healing process. But, if inflammation is long-term and systemic, it could lead to many diseases and health problems.

Diseases associated with long-term systemic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and many auto-immune diseases. So it would seem logical to try to minimize or at least control inflammation.

Taking control of systemic inflammation begins with the digestive system. Changing the types of foods you eat will have a dramatic effect on the health of your digestive tract. Cutting out processed foods, sugary foods, chemical laden foods, and trans fats is a good place to start. Adding healthy fats such as fish oil while limiting certain plant oils such as soybean oil may help balance out your Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat ratio. Omega 3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect while too much Omega 6 fatty acids can have an inflammatory effect when consumed.

“Healthy” foods could also be causing inflammation if your body can’t tolerate them. Common food allergies include gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and nuts. These allergens could be causing un-needed stress on the body every time they’re consumed by causing your immune system to react. It’s almost as if your body thinks you’re sick every time you eat an intolerable food. If you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance, talk to your doctor. By taking a sample of your blood, a lab can determine if you have reactions to certain foods.

Imagine living life in a constant state of inflammation fundamentally caused by the foods you’re eating. Your body would be constantly stressed out. To put that in perspective, just think if you were mentally stressed all the time. Life wouldn’t be much fun would it?

So give your body a break from this stress by choosing foods that produce benefit rather than harm. You’ll have less stress, more energy, and live a longer and healthier life.

A quote by Dr. Ann Wigmore sums it up best – “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”

Still the Most Important Meal of the Day

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Corn Flakes

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It seems like such a logical concept – wake up, feed your body, and get on with your day. But, many people ‘don’t have time’ or ‘just aren’t hungry’ and either skip breakfast altogether or grab less than desirable options.

Here are 5 great reasons to eat breakfast every day.

Control blood sugar levels. By the time morning rolls around, your body has been without food for several hours. Depending on the time of your last meal, your blood sugar levels are on the lower end of the optimal range and need replenished before you become too active. If you skip breakfast your blood sugar will drop below the desirable range and negatively affect your health. Eat something high in sugar and you may temporarily feel energized but crash later. Avoid both scenarios by eating a complete meal that contains lean protein, healthy fats, and a natural carbohydrate.

Support metabolism. If you’re running on fumes until lunchtime, your body will slow down its own metabolism to conserve energy. When you do finally eat, your body is more likely to store calories in an attempt to make it to the next meal. This will slow down your metabolism, negatively affect your body composition, and eventually lead to weight gain.

Stay healthy. A daily dose of breakfast increases the amount of nutrients available to your body. Remember, our bodies don’t thrive on calories alone, but on the nutrients that make up those calories. Studies have shown that non-breakfast eaters are more likely to be malnourished than regular breakfast eaters. A malnourished body is more prone to injury and disease.

Feel better. No one likes feeling hungry for extended periods of time. This is what your cells feel like when you skip breakfast. They’re hungry, tired, and not very happy. But, by eating a balanced breakfast, you’ll recharge your cells and improve your energy, mood, mental clarity, and productivity.

Take a break. Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to relax for a few minutes before starting your busy day. So many times breakfast gets neglected because it doesn’t seem important at the time, or you scarf something down on your morning commute. Use breakfast as a chance to slow down and take a moment to do something good for yourself.

So what should you eat for breakfast? First, get out of the mindset that you have to eat ‘breakfast foods.’ A bowl of cereal or a breakfast bar everyday might be convenient, but it’s just not an ideal food. A cup of coffee might give you a boost, but by itself, it’s only a false sense of energy. Think in terms of pairing up a protein, fat, and carbohydrate from natural foods. How about leftover chicken and vegetables from last night’s dinner or a 2 egg omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, or a smoothie consisting of a banana, kale, blueberries, protein powder, and a scoop of almond butter. Put together a list of different options that work for you.

So take advantage of the most important meal of the day and feel the benefits.

Does Fat Make You Fat?

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Health Nutrition: Longevity Food

Most everyone would agree that the word fat does not conjure up good thoughts. Dietary fat seems to be the bad macronutrient that many people try to avoid. But, is fat such a bad thing?

The food we eat can be classified into three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Furthermore, fat can be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The different classifications come down to the molecular makeup of the fats, but for this article we’ll address the most practical differences between these four types of fats.

Most fats are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and or polyunsaturated, but we’ll classify them based on their most abundant component. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and include dairy products, animal fats, coconut products, and palm oil. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable oils such as soy, sunflower, and corn, as well as fish and fish oils. And finally, trans fats are not derived from natural foods but are instead man-made and found in many processed foods.

So, which fats are the best? This is where things can get complicated, but our recommendations are always based on eating as natural as possible. With that being said, let’s get rid of trans fats before we go any further. They are not a natural part of the human diet so we recommend avoiding them altogether. Polyunsaturated fats are also found in many processed foods, and we recommend limiting these types of fats, such as soy and corn oils. However, we do recommend adding fish to your diet on a weekly basis as a great source of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados are recommended daily, as well as a moderate consumption of natural saturated fats such as coconut oil and organic pasture-raised meats that contain some animal fat.

It’s worth noting that fats have a higher calorie content than protein or carbohydrates, 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram, so it’s important to limit your fats to still fall within your daily caloric needs. We recommend getting up to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.

Why are fats so important? First off, fats are an essential nutrient for the metabolic processes of our bodies, such as our ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy. Healthy fats support brain, skin, and joint health as well. Including fat with your meals will help you stay satiated longer by helping to control abrupt changes in blood sugar levels which is key for long-term health and weight loss. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, before your workout will increase fat oxidation during the workout. This means that consuming healthy fats will actually help you burn more body fat as a fuel source, therefore improving your overall body composition.

So learn to see healthy fats as an integral part of your diet and you’ll be one step closer to overall wellness.

Do you Deadlift?

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Deadlift_1

When it comes to getting the most value from a particular exercise, there aren’t too many movements that can beat the deadlift. This total body exercise demands strength, power, cardiovascular efficiency, and postural control. When performed correctly, the deadlift works the entire posterior chain – including the hamstrings, glutes, low, mid and upper back, as well as muscles of the quads, core, shoulders, and arms.

The deadlift is great for total body strength and conditioning as well as improving your muscular and cardiovascular endurance. A set of deadlifts may leave you more winded than a 100 yard sprint and the muscle overload and fatigue will elicit gains in strength and muscle density.

To Perform

Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip-width apart. Squat down and lean toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural posture through the back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake with the dead lift is not getting the hips fully involved. If you are rounding forward over the top of the bar rather than squatting down to the bar, you are compromising your low back as well as missing out on all the benefits of efficient biomechanics. A forward rounded posture further accentuates common muscle imbalances, but proper form will help to improve these imbalances and minimize your chance for injury.

How to Incorporate

Include the deadlift in your weekly workouts by treating it as a total body exercise. If you’re doing a split routine, include it as either a leg or a back exercise. By sticking with light to moderate weights and high reps you will greatly improve your muscular endurance and cardiovascular efficiency, while heavier weights will help build muscle density and overall strength. Try light to moderate weights one week and perform higher reps (10-20), then follow it up the next week with a heavier load and less reps (3-8).

Once you realize all the benefits of the deadlift, you’ll be ready to include it in your weekly workouts.

 

Nutritional Support to Boost Your Workouts

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Sports nutrition

A great workout starts with great nutrition. The positive stress from strength training builds muscle and burns fat, but, the negative stress can actually cause more harm than good if you’re not properly fueled.

Pre and Post workout nutrition are a must if you want to maximize results and improve overall health.  Pre-workout nutrition gives your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to get through the activity of the workout. Post-workout nutrition gives your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to repair and recover from the effects of the workout.

The following tips will keep you performing at your absolute best.

Don’t overlook the importance of water. If you’re dehydrated, your workout performance will suffer and you will feel exhausted. Dehydration increases your chances for headaches and head rushes, muscle cramps, nausea, and poor overall performance – not the recipe for a healthy workout. Try drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you need 80 ounces of clean filtered water daily.

Timing of calories and nutrients before and after each workout is key. A pre-workout snack should be consumed about 30-90 minutes prior to your workout depending on the complexity of the food consumed. A meal or snack will take more time to digest than a simple liquid shake. A post-workout snack should be consumed immediately after or up to 45 minutes after the workout is completed. Your body is a sponge during this time and has already begun the recovery process – so nutrient ingestion is a must.

The types of foods consumed will affect your results.  A great option for pre and post workout nutrition is to bracket your workouts with a simple liquid shake.  Add the following ingredients to a shaker bottle: 3 oz orange juice, 3-6 oz coconut water, and 1 scoop protein powder, along with 1-2 fish oil capsules. This will ensure simple carbs for energy, electrolytes, protein for muscle repair, and healthy fats to combat inflammation. Another option could be 1-2 hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit. The goal is to get a balance of healthy macronutrients but not to consume so much that you feel bloated or too full.

Listen to your body. If you’re feeling weak or you find yourself shaking or you sometimes have a headache during your workouts, chances are your blood sugar is too low. Try changing the timing and types of foods you’re eating before your workouts so you feel more energetic. If your stomach feels bloated during your workouts you may have to lighten your snack or allow more time for digestion. If you feel ravenous after your workouts, ensure that you’re getting enough sustenance in your post-workout snack and that you’re consuming it as soon as your workout it completed.

So prepare yourself for a great workout and feel the difference it makes.

Spring Clean Your Diet

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Box with fruits and vegetables

With spring finally here, it’s time to give your diet a thorough cleaning. Changing the types of foods you eat can help your body rid toxins and absorb new nutrients – giving your cells and systems a much needed recharge.

The first step is getting rid of ‘dirty’ foods. This list seems to be never-ending but includes most processed foods, fast foods, sugary foods and drinks, foods containing enriched flour, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Non-organic foods also contain chemicals that can slowly poison the body and put added stress on the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs. These foods make the body dirty by causing inflammation, digestive problems, inadequate detox, weight gain, dehydration, and lack of energy.

Once you throw out the dirty foods, you can bring in the ‘clean’ replacements. Eating more of these foods will actually aid in your body’s natural cleansing process. These clean foods include raw organic vegetables and fresh fruits, omega-3 fats, green tea, and filtered water. Organic foods provide valuable nutrients without all the unwanted chemical disruptors.

By eating more raw vegetables and fresh fruits you are increasing fiber intake and plant nutrients. Fiber will capture toxic particles in the body and improve bowel movements. Other foods like lemons, spinach, and olive oil will help to support a neutral pH balance. Maintaining a neutral pH will help minimize many problems that exist in an acidic body, such as fungus and bacterial growth, which could lead to allergies, fatigue, and even obesity.

Increasing your water intake will help flush your system of toxins and accelerate fat loss. A general recommendation is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. So a 150 pound person should aim to take in around 75 ounces. This is much easier when you eliminate or minimize other fluids such as colas and juices and make water your beverage of choice.

All these factors will help your body do its job of absorbing the good and eliminating the bad. So make the effort to improve your body’s ability to keep itself clean and healthy. You’ll see and feel the difference!

 

PUSH RECOMMENDS

REMOVE

LIMIT

INCREASE

 

Fast Foods

Sugary Drinks

Sugary Foods

Gluten

Processed Foods

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Added Sugars

Artificial Sweeteners

Genetically Modified Foods

 

Non-Organics

Caffeine

Alcohol

 

 

Organics

Raw Vegetables

Lemons/Limes

Grapefruit

Berries

Garlic

Olive Oil

Green Tea

Filtered Water

 

 

Improving Kids Nutrition

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Happy family preparing a healthy dinner at home.

As alarming as the obesity epidemic has become in America, children are especially vulnerable due to the poor nutritional habits of many parents as well as the abundance of affordable and convenient processed foods.

Clients often ask us, ‘What should my kids be eating?’ Fortunately, since a lot of the problems that lead to weight gain in adults also lead to the same in children, improving the diets of parents usually leads to a healthier upbringing for kids.

Here are the most common nutritional issues we find with the kids we work with and how we fix them.

Eating the same foods every day. As a general rule, try to give your kids as much food variety as possible. This ensures a wide array of nutrients and minimizes their chances of getting burned out on a particular food. Think of getting variety within each of the three macronutrient groups – protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Protein foods include meats, eggs, fish, and dairy. Healthy fats include nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, oils, seeds, olives, and natural cheeses. Carbohydrates include all fruits and vegetables, along with beans, potatoes, rice, cereals, and breads.

Missing out on nutritional density. Along with variety, pick foods that are the most nutritious. Nutrient-dense foods will give your kids more of the things they need and keep them satisfied longer. In general, natural foods are more nutritious than processed foods. Natural foods are minimally or totally unaltered from their original state, such as fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. Processed foods include cereals, crackers, cookies, hot dogs, and frozen dinners, just to name a few.

Eating too much sugar. Get a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates with each meal. Although a banana is healthy, it’s all carbohydrates, so pair it up with a hardboiled egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter to balance it out. This will give variety, but will also help control blood sugar levels so they don’t spike too high or drop too low – an effect of eating pure carbohydrates that is sure to make your kids feel hungry again a short time after eating.

Drinking too many empty calories. Finally, be aware of the calories your kids are drinking. Cut out soft drinks and minimize processed fruit juices. Drinks containing sugar or caffeine will again spike blood sugar levels and alter energy levels and appetite. Replace these types of drinks with filtered water, coconut water, milk, and natural juices.

Teaching kids healthy eating habits while they’re young will increase their chances of maintaining those habits well into adulthood.

Kids Nutrition Chart (2)

 

Resistance Training for Weight Loss

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DB Thruster

Although many people realize the importance of diet and exercise, few fully understand the value of resistance training and how it may be one of the most important types of exercise for long-term weight loss. Adding just 2-3 workouts per week can have a dramatic effect on your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.

Don’t be one of the many who spend hours on the treadmill every week but see minimal results. Instead, implement the following workout designed for overall muscle toning and fat loss. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds using a moderate weight. Your goal is to get through all five exercises with minimal rest time – then recovering for 1-2 minutes before starting back at the first exercise. Repeat this series for a total of 3-5 rounds.

Dumbbell Thrusters – Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with feet placed shoulder width apart. Squat down slowly until upper leg is near parallel to the floor then rise up out of the squat forcefully as you press the dumbbells overhead. Repeat.

Pushup – Assume a pushup position with hands placed shoulder width and feet placed hip width. Your body should be in a straight line from shoulder to ankle, making sure to keep your abs engaged. Bend your arms and drop down to a challenging depth before pushing back up to the starting position. Note: Pushups can be performed from the knees to decrease the resistance if needed.

Plank – From a pushup position, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and rest your weight on the underside of your forearms. Focus on holding your body in a straight line from shoulder to ankle, while tightening your abs and maintaining a neutral posture. Hold for 30 seconds.

Kettle Bell Swing – Grip a kettle bell with both hands while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Drop into a partial squat while folding forward at the waist and let the kettle bell swing down and back between your legs. As soon as the kettle bell reaches its lowest point, stand up forcefully as you push your hips forward and swing the kettle bell upward to shoulder height. Drop back to the starting position by moving with the momentum and repeat.

Mt. Climber – Assume a pushup position with more of your bodyweight shifted forward onto your arms. Now, bring your right knee forward and rest your right food on the floor while the left leg is still straight. With a light hop, quickly switch your foot position. Continue switching back and forth as you focus on driving your knee forward and engaging your abs.

So make resistance training an integral part of your workouts and start seeing results.

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