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Chocolate, “clean eating”, and why people just need to chill out and embrace moderation

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Once again in an attempt to prove why we can’t have nice things, one of the other pieces of the article I quoted in my last post talked about how dark chocolate may not necessarily be all that great for you either. I am well known among my friends, family, co-workers, and fitness community for saying “I eat very healthy, but you’ll have to pry the chocolate out of my cold, dead, rotting fingers.”

And I am totally serious. ūüėÄ

Granted, on one hand, one must not overdose on anything–especially anything that’s sugary¬†and calorically dense. But on the other, I can’t help but feel that there’s a great deal of scaremongering as click-bait to take advantage of people who are already neurotic about food. Every couple of¬†days I get emails titled things like, “Why exercising makes you fat”, “Why drinking water makes you fat”, “Why cardio makes you fat”, and am expecting the next one to be titled, “Why merely breathing¬†dooms you to be fat, you fatty fat fat person”.

Everyone!

Chill. The. Hell. Out.

There’s this unnecessary struggle in a culture that wants it both ways. We can’t be sedentary and consume twice as many calories as needed and expect to be healthy. At the same time, we can’t obsess over every crumb we put into our mouths until we develop an eating disorder. The phrase “clean eating” is constantly thrown around, but it’s become a nebulous term without a clear definition. People are told “Avoid processed food”, but technically nearly everything is processed to a certain extent, so that’s meaningless too. “Avoid chemicals”, some say, but once again, technically EVERYTHING is a chemical and is composed of chemicals so this is once again meaningless. “Appeal to nature” is a logical fallacy which is oft used by the health and fitness “experts” to scare you into buying their product, book, what-have-you. Don’t buy into it. Don’t try a fad diet or think that you have to eat in an unnatural, highly restricted, and limited way in order to be healthy. Use common sense and good judgment.

People fail at “diets” because they see them as the following:

  1. Torture
  2. Deprivation
  3. Restriction
  4. Temporary

“Clean eating” is about eating reasonably healthy 80-90% of the time and enjoying yourself the rest of the time. It’s about making changes in your habits you can feel comfortable and content maintaining for the rest of your life. People need to develop¬†a healthy relationship with food and learn how¬†to enjoy it in moderation without either feeling deprived or starved. Food is fuel, but it can be tasty fuel.

This is one of the many reasons why I tell people over and over again: any diet which vilifies any of the macronutrients: fats, carbs, or protein, avoid like the plague. All are required in your diet in varying amounts in order to have a balanced meal plan. So when you hear “Carbs are evil”, “fat makes you fat”, run, just run. Neither “advice” will help you to be healthy and will actually harm you in the long term.

And enjoy your chocolate (in moderation). ūüėõ

Side note: one of the sanest reads I’ve found in a while on the subject is called The Lean Muscle Diet: A Customized Nutrition and Workout Plan–Eat the Foods You Love to Build the Body You Want and Keep It for Life!¬†A lengthy title but a worthwhile read. Regardless of whether or not you are vegan or paleo (and the book discusses both), it’s invaluable. It discusses in depth how to eat for fitness in a sensible way that you can maintain indefinitely.

 

 

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“I’m sick! Should I work out? What can I do if I’m sick?”

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I spent the entire weekend in bed with the stomach bug from hell after missing out on a LOT of sleep in the past week. Did I workout? Hells no! I rested, drank fluids, and spent time watching Buffy and Veronica Mars marathons. My kitties were incredibly upset at my absence and I owe them a kitty cuddle movie night, but I badly needed the rest. No workouts for me!

Whether or not you should workout when you’re sick depending on a few things:

  1. What the illness is and its symptoms
  2. How severe the illness is
  3. The type of workout you’re looking to do

Here’s the problem: the same system that helps your body to fight off a cold or a bug is the same system aids in recovery during and after a workout. To tax it would be the same thing as overtraining and would produce the same results. It would also potentially prolong the illness and make it even worse.

If you’re fighting allergies and/or sinus issues, I’ve found that getting the blood circulating helps to clear the passageways and boost the immune system. The key is to listen to your body and not overdo it. I used to spend all winter with sinus and ear infections until I began working out regularly, now I hardly get them at all. I now average getting sick only 1-2 times per year as opposed to several times, especially during the winter. So exercising can be a preventive measure as well provided you are NOT overtraining and are taking care of yourself, getting plenty of rest, etc.

However, if you have a genuine bug with a fever, vomiting, upset stomach, GI issues, etc., you are far better off taking a rest day or two and going easy on yourself. I had a temperature of 101 and the bathroom became a frequent companion, which meant no, no, no workouts. None. I burned all of 1500 calories on Saturday by lying down all day and I had to suck it. So must you!

I am personally the sort of individual that once I get run down for any reason for a few days: lack of sleep, stress, etc I can pretty much expect that if I don’t nip it in the bud soon, my immune system will be compromised and my chance of illness is heightened. So get your zzz’s, take a rest day every so often–even if it’s an active rest day that involves walking or yoga–and remember that rest and recovery is just as important as working out.

I’ll leave you all with this handy image of a list¬†of when NOT to workout, when it is okay, and what forms are good:

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Desk jobs don’t have to mean death to your fitness goals

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It’s been published a lot lately that the longer you spend sitting down during your day, the more years are being taken off of your life. While this sounds utterly morbid and depressing, it’s not entirely out of your control.

A lot of us work 9-5 jobs¬†sitting at desks, but we don’t all have to suffer from unnecessary weight gain and health issues as a result. Exercise and fitness is something a lot of people put off. In Stephen R Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he breaks up daily tasks into different quadrants: urgent and important, urgent and not important, not urgent but important, and neither urgent nor important.

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Exercise falls into quadrant two, “not urgent but important”. If you spend more time dealing with tasks that fit this category, you can prevent them from turning into “urgent and important” later. This should be common sense, but often times people confuse what is not important but urgent with what is important but not urgent. I highly recommend this book; it’s one of the best ones out there for getting your life into gear not matter what the topic.

“I don’t have time to workout.”

“I don’t have time at work to get up and stretch.”

“I don’t have time to eat healthy.”

…yes, yes, you do.

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Here are my suggestions to combat the 9-5 “desk¬†death”:

  • Get your clean eating habits in gear. Too many offices surround themselves with junk food, and often the trap becomes that food is social. You don’t have to not be social, just be mindful of what you’re putting into your body.
  • Get up and walk around whenever you can. Grab water, grab tea. Will it mean more bathroom trips? Sure, but it beats not moving around much of the day and if you wear a Fitbit or Bodymedia device you WILL see the difference. When you walk, you burn 4-5 times more calories than sitting. When you stand, you burn twice as much as when sitting.
  • Do office workouts. There are lots of exercises you can do at your desk.
  • Go out for walks during your lunch break. Try to organize walks with other co-workers, if you can.
  • Stretch. Many of us have bad backs due to being slumped over at a keyboard all the time. Exercising and stretching has helped mine, and I am often working at my stiff neck and shoulders to prevent injury.
  • Park further away from the office¬†and walk. Take public transportation whenever possible to maximize walking versus driving.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get creative! Do squats in the bathroom stall. I do them, no joke!

And that’s the key–prevention. Too often people wait until there’s a visible sign of a problem in order to do something about their health. Fitting into clothing is one thing, but injuries and illnesses are another. Join up with Team Happy and Healthy and beat the 9-5 “desk death”!

 

Need additional help with your goals? Free fitness coaching is just a click away.

Eat right, not less!

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How do I lose weight?

Why is my scale stuck?

Diets mean starving, I don’t want to diet!

The only way to lose weight is to go hungry.

If I eat more than 1,000 calories, I gain weight!

I’ve heard all of these in some combination or another, but did you know that undereating can cause you to hold onto fat as much as overeating can cause you to gain weight?

Ideally for fat and weight loss, you want to be in a calorie deficit. That is, you want to burn more calories than you’re eating. This is a precious balance, because we don’t want to eat too many and we don’t want to eat too few. Any deficit of 1,000 or more every day sustained over time can actually cause your body to go into starvation mode and kill your metabolism. And we don’t want to kill your metabolism!

What you want to do is this: move more and eat less junk. By junk, I mean overly processed foods, foods which are high in sodium, foods which are fried, foods which contain refined sugar, etc.

The best way to get in gear is to increase your level of physical activity and do food swaps:

  • Bag of chips? Try celery and hummus instead.
  • French fries? Slice and bake a potato. Doesn’t have to be a sweet potato; all potatoes are good so long as they’re not fried in a ton of oil and/or butter.
  • Cheese and dairy freak? Cut back and/or make substitutions. Also, non-dairy cheese isn’t necessarily healthier. I know of someone who had a nearly impossible gut to lose until he started eating significantly less dairy products and began to eat leaner versions of the high protein sources he normally ate. Tony Horton rants about this too, and he is right!
  • Swap hummus for cheese, avocado for mayo.
  • Decrease all sources of refined sugars and/or eliminate them entirely: white pasta, white breads, white rice, baked goods, etc. Stick with whole grains and in moderation.
  • Increase the amount of veggies you eat, especially fresh ones.
  • If you are a meat-eater, replace about 25-50% of the meat you eat with vegetable sources of protein. They are not only leaner and lacking in cholesterol, but unlike animal products they contain fiber and will fill you up faster.
  • Go easy on oils, nuts, and seeds. They are very healthy in moderation; however they are calorically dense and can add up fast!
  • Drink more water. If you like tea, drink more eat–especially green tea.
  • Consider drinking coffee black if you’re used to having it with some form of milk and sugar. If you have a lot of it, that too can add up–it is not calorie free.

As a general rule you want to save your calories for that which is higher in nutritional density. Much of the problem with junk food is that it’s high in calories but low in nutrition. Eat smarter and you won’t have to starve in order lose weight, move more and you don’t have to worry as much about eating less as much as eating right. Problem solved!

Need more tips? Looking for accountability and motivation with your fitness goals? Help is a click away!

How I lost over 100 lbs and what I’ve learned since

I’ve had a number of people ask me for more detail than what’s in my¬†bio¬†on this site: how did I lose the weight? What did I do specifically? What was the magic recipe?

First of all…it took me a little over a year to do. I was not on the Biggest Loser, I had no trainers, I had no books, no coaches, no manuals…nada. The most amount of support and training I got was when eDiets first came out, and they allowed me to log my meals, have a fitness plan, etc. That’s when I first REALLY learned how to eat.

I started out the first month cooking for myself, which helped me to shed weight right there. After that, I decided to give a modified version of Atkins a try: I eliminated bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, and fruit. With the caveat that this was years before I went vegan, I cooked tomatoes in garlic with cheese, I ate grilled chicken, and I gave veggie burgers a try once I saw how much less fat and calories they had than the standard burger. I also made stir frys with lots of veggies. Afterward I slowly began adding on the GOOD carbs: whole wheat pasta, multigrain and whole wheat bread, potatoes, etc. I avoided refined sugar, white flour, soda, sugary drinks, and HFCS. Heck I was avoiding that crap before it became trendy! I also ate convenience diet foods like Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones, being careful to pay attention to calories, fat, and sodium. I gave no fucks on the amount of carbs in each meal; I just looked for a good balance of nutrients. And lastly–this is part is the most important–I DID NOT STARVE MYSELF. I cannot emphasis this enough.

I didn’t work out for the first half of the weight loss. In some ways, this was good: I needed to get my diet on point and figure out how to eat before I started to figure out what the heck to do with myself in the gym. I never, ever knew how to eat and it’s a good chunk of what cost me in college, that and gaining so many food intolerances. During the last half of the weight loss, I began working out in my apartment complex’s gym room. It was open 24/7, and it cost me a nominal fee for the key to the room. One of the best perks of that place ever! I really do miss it sometimes, and have been slowly building up my own home gym to help out. I also began taking yoga and aerobics classes at work.

Keeping motivated for an entire year of watching what I ate and working out was sometimes challenging. I succeeded because I didn’t deprive myself. I made compromises on occasion, keeping those occasions infrequent: when I went out to eat, I would get a slice of pizza and a salad. I ate Smart Ones desserts. I figured out that lite cool whip and strawberries was delicious (I recommend rice whip for that now!), and made substitutions when I could. I sliced potatoes and baked them with garlic and a bit of EVOO instead of eating fries. When I went out to eat, I figured out what I could order on the menu that wasn’t fried, coated with either a ton of cheese or some form of dairy, etc. I had salads and soups before my meals, making sure that the dressing was on the side and usually some form of vinaigrette.

The reminders had to be there too. Thinking about wearing a two piece for the first time in my life helped. Knowing how fed up I was of not being able to wear the clothing I wanted, and the frustration of not even being able to fit into a size 14 also helped. I’m all of 5’4″, I have a small bone structure–I had to have had a LOT of fat on me to be that heavy. It sucked. I basically dug my heels in and got good and stubborn about changing my life, and no one could get that stubborn for me but me.

I’ll also add what didn’t help: fat shaming from people around me¬†¬†just made me feel worse. It didn’t make me want to lose the weight more; it just made me feel like a fat failure. On more than one occasion someone who thought that they were being “well-intentioned and concerned” was mean enough to drive me to tears. It’s like people think they have to tell you that you’re fat. Trust me, when you are–you KNOW. I had no delusions about my size. I was harassed and followed on the street, and screamed obscenities at for having the audacity to be out in public while female and fat. This is why I aim to be 100% body positive. You will never, ever see me using being “fat” as a motivation for working out, use body shaming to try and get people motivated, or any form of negativity as a means of getting people into gear. Instead I talk about being on “Team Happy & Healthy”, feeling good, etc. Positive thinking gets positive results, and you cannot hate yourself into a better version of you.

I had so much weight to lose that I tried and failed a number of times to lose the weight, not realizing that I wasn’t succeeding because I wasn’t sticking with it. I wasn’t going to get thin overnight, and I had to be patient. Getting over that hump right there helped me out a lot. This is why I blog a lot about making small changes, especially if you have a big goal in mind. Those big goals can look awfully overwhelming, and you are best breaking those up into chunks or milestones to get through. Small victories over time paid off for me. You don’t need to make drastic changes to have drastic results, although the bigger the goal, the more likely you will need to overhaul your lifestyle in the long run. Ultimately, the changes you make must be ones you can maintain in the long run, not for a quick fix.

Pictures of me before and after the 100+ lb weight loss:

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Years later when I got cocky, had too much personal stress, and got inactive, I started to gain some of it back. I got photos back from a vacation with friends, and had flashbacks to days back at college and how I felt and looked. I had no idea I had gotten that heavy, and it hurt. All of that hard work, out the window. Gone. I also was painfully aware that my finances are in a severe crunch and I couldn’t afford to take all of the classes that had kept me so lean in the past. I needed something which would help me to lose weight AND help out with the money issues. That’s when I found Team Beachbody¬†and became a fitness coach.

Here are pictures of me before Beachbody, and ones taken recently:

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Really the most important thing that happened to me as a result of the weight loss was this: it gave me the knowledge and experience to know that I had and have the power to change myself and my life at any given point in time. It’s empowering, it’s uplifting, it’s downright magical. It’s about having the will and the drive to make a dramatic, positive difference in your life. If I can help at least one person to achieve that and steer them towards whatever will help them to do that, I will have done something awesome with what I’ve gained.

If you are not happy where you’re at for whatever reason and are looking to get healthy, lose weight, gain weight, gain muscle, run a 5K–whatever it is–feel free to reach out to me and make me your fitness coach. This is a labor of love, and hopefully this lengthy post will explain why. ūüôā Now you know my story.

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