...while still enjoying the festivities
This holiday season, don’t be trendy – avoid the Seasonal Seven (the average weight most Americans gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s). That’s one trend you don’t want to participate in!
I know what you are thinking – the holidays are a time for fun and indulgence. You don’t want to think about fitness during that time. You want to enjoy yourself. Don’t worry! The festivities don’t have to be eliminated or avoided. You can have a fabulous time while also maintaining your weight and your fitness regimen.
The secret to achieving a holiday season that is both full of fun and also includes fitness is found in moderation. There are two typical approaches to the seasonal festivities: 1) throw all healthy habits out the window and indulge in every guilty pleasure or 2) starve and binge approach (for example, you eat nothing all day long to allow yourself to overindulge in party food). Of course, neither approach is successful at maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle throughout the holiday season.
As mentioned above, the key is found in moderation. With a moderate approach both to what you eat (or don’t eat) and how much exercise you do (or don’t do), you can avoid packing on extra weight AND also partake in all the fun of the season. So this season, get a head start on the New Year instead of starting January with extra pounds to lose.
Here are some tips to help you:
Create a plan ahead of time. Before the holidays sneak up on you, create a plan for incorporating fitness and good nutrition into your daily routine. Evaluate your holiday schedule, and then determine how much time you will realistically have available to devote to working out and/or eating healthy meals.
Don’t put your fitness goals on hold until the New Year. If you can’t exercise as often during this time period, adjust appropriately. Don’t use the excuse that since you don’t have time for your full workout, you just won’t workout at all. Instead accept your limited availability and simply reduce the frequency and/or duration of your exercise. It’s much better to cut your fitness time in half than to completely eliminate it.
On the day of a party, be sure to eat regularly all day long. If the party is in the evening, eat breakfast, lunch and a snack beforehand (just as you would on any other day). Once you are at the party, go ahead and indulge in some of the fun, delicious foods. Since you have eaten meals earlier in the day, you probably will find that you aren’t tempted to go overboard and eat everything in sight. However, if you starve all day long attempting to save up all your calories for the party, you will be so famished by the time it begins that it will be difficult not to overeat.
Schedule your workouts. Mark them on the calendar and set-aside time to complete them. Consider them as important as any other appointment or event you have marked on your calendar.
When at a party, start by eating some of the healthy offerings. For example, vegetable sticks (without dip), fruit pieces, plain chicken pieces, etc. Then move on to some of the less healthy (but yummy) offerings. You will be less likely to overindulge on these foods if you have already filled-up on some of the healthier items. Yet, you will not feel deprived or unsatisfied.
On days that you really lack motivation or simply do not have time for your complete exercise routine, commit to do just 10 minutes of exercise. You’ll probably end up doing more than that once you get started. Even if you only end up completing 10 minutes, that is still a lot better than zero minutes.
When presented with a large variety of food options, it’s tempting to want to eat everything. Rather than eating one large slice of chocolate cake or a huge plate of meatballs, select a sampling of bite size pieces of several of the dessert or appetizer offerings. This way you get the enjoyment of trying many different foods without overeating.
Exercise at home. You’ll be more inclined to follow-through on your exercise commitment if you don’t have to drive somewhere to do your workout. Plus, you won’t waste any time on driving, parking, the locker room or waiting to use equipment. Working out at home requires very little equipment (even can be equipment-free) and is quite inexpensive.
Avoid wasting calories on alcoholic beverages. The average alcoholic drink contains 150-200 calories per glass. Indulge in just 2-3 drinks and you’ve drunk the equivalent calories of an entire meal. If you partake in these beverages, choose wisely. For example, instead of having a full glass of wine, try mixing half a glass of wine with sparkling water. This will help cut your calories in half.
When running errands or shopping, be sure to pack some healthy snacks to have on-hand. Then after you work-up a big appetite, you won’t be tempted to grab something at the mall food court or the fast food restaurant on the way home.
Hopefully these tips will help you find a balance between staying fit and also enjoying the fun of the season. Remember, moderation is the key. Have a great holiday season!
You’ve tried virtually every “diet” you can think of and still haven’t lose weight. Or, perhaps you’ve lost weight only to quickly gain it back. You feel like you are in a never-ending battle that you just can’t win. Does this sound familiar? Stop beating yourself over the head in frustration!
More than likely you just aren’t armed with the right information to help you be successful in reaching your weight loss goals. There are so many diet misnomers floating about that it’s easy to feel like you're drowning. The first step toward success is distinguishing fact from myth and using the power of knowledge.
To help you get started on the path to permanent weight loss and health living, read below to learn what’s true and what’s false in the world of dieting. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge, and you’ll learn what it really takes to beat the scale. Read each question and answer true or false. Then read below to find out whether or not you guessed right.
2. False. If you slave over 200 sit ups a day, it still isn’t going to get rid of your spare tire. Fat is lost evenly throughout the body. You can’t focus on one body part and only work it in an attempt to reduce that fatty area. To help a trouble spot you must focus on overall fitness – aerobic workouts, strength training, good nutrition and more. That’s the only way to reduce extra fat.
3. False. Your body doesn’t determine your weight based on WHEN you eat. It just cares how much you eat. What’s important is determining how many calories are coming in versus how many are going out. You need to find the right balance based on how much you're eating and exercising. If you take in more calories than you burn, then the extras will be stored as fat. That’s true whether you eat at night or not.
4. False. For the most part, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Sure, it is a little more complex than that but just keep in mind that for every extra 3,500 calories that you take in and don’t burn off, you will gain a pound. Does it matter if all of those 3,500 calories are fat-free. No! Your body just cares that the extra calories were consumed. Plus, fat makes you feel full. If you don’t eat enough of it, you may find yourself constantly hungry, and you may end up consuming more calories than if you had eaten something with fat in it.
5. False. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. Too few calories per day causes your body to adapt to a minimal amount of food, and slows down your metabolic rate. The body may think it’s “starving” and actually hold onto every bit of food to ensure survival. Then, when you begin to eat normally, your calorie needs are reduced and you end up gaining more weight even though you are consuming less food.
6. False. Sometimes you’d be better off eating a burger than a salad. Many restaurant salads are dripping in high calorie, high fat dressings. Plus, they often add fatty toppings like croutons and bacon bits. If you are going to choose a salad, be sure the dressing and extras don’t sabotage your calorie counting.
7. True. When it comes right down to it, weight loss is about the difference between intake and output. As long as you are burning more calories than you are consuming, then you should be able to lose weight. So, exercise isn’t a necessity but it certainly is the best approach. Study after study has proven that groups that both maintain an appropriate calorie intake and also exercise have more weight loss successes and are better at keeping the weight off. Plus, exercising provides SO many health benefits it would be crazy not to include it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
8. False. Losing 1 – 2 pounds per week is actually an excellent weight loss rate. If you lose more than that, then it’s very likely that it won’t be permanent. You’ll just end up gaining it back. When you lose at rapid paces, typically you end up losing water weight and muscle weight. You want to lose fat. So, even thought the scale may show less, you won’t be as healthy and won’t look as good.
9. True. It’s not necessary to exercise every single day of the week. Sure, it’s great if you can get some type of physical activity in on a daily basis. But, it also is important to give your body rest time to recover and improve. For example, you don’t want to lift weights every day working the same muscles. They need time to rest. And, intense cardio workouts daily can wear you down. Resting one day a week can actually help you to build muscle and lose weight.
10. False. Strength training is an essential part of good fitness. Virtually everyone should include some type of strength training in their weekly workouts regardless of whether they are wanting to lose weight, just maintain it, or build muscle. And, muscle actually helps your metabolism (e.g. helps you burn calories), so you should strength train as part of a weight loss program.
Studies have shown that 7 out of 10 people who start an exercise program drop out within a few months. One problem is that most people jump into exercise without doing any planning up front. They’re just not prepared for the commitment involved. Are you ready to make exercise part of your lifestyle? Sherri McMillan, MSc, co-owner of Northwest Personal Training & Fitness Education in Vancouver, Washington, and 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year has discovered that people who stick with exercise buy into the following four “Laws of Success.”
1. The Law of Possession: “If it is going to be, it is up to me.” Understand that you need to take ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of your exercise program. It may be tempting to blame your husband or kids or shift responsibility to your group exercise instructor or personal trainer, but you will be the one who actually exercises! Loved ones can support you, and fitness professionals can help educate and guide you, but you must be willing to give up a sedentary lifestyle.
2. The Law of Effort: “Anything worth achieving is worth working for.” Exercise takes discipline, willpower, character, persistence and a commitment to delayed gratification. Starting and staying with an exercise program requires hard work, but you can do it!
3. The Law of Consistency: “I have to stick to the game plan.” Researchers have found one characteristic common to those who adhere to exercise: They move toward their goals one step at a time and are committed to constant, never-ending improvement. Consistency and persistence are key to achieving results. If you get off track for a week or so, it’s no big deal. However, if you are regularly tempted away from your program, you will not succeed. Regardless of busy work schedules or lack of energy, you must keep exercising. For example, if you want to be 10 pounds lighter 10 years from now, it is not what you do over the next eight weeks that matters; it is what you do over the next 10 years.
4. The Law of Self-Efficacy: “If I think I can or I think I can’t, I’m probably right.” If you immediately start questioning whether you can make the changes required to live an active lifestyle, you are going to have a difficult time. You must believe you can do it. But don’t think you have to make the changes alone. Get support from a personal trainer, an exercise instructor, friends and family, and/or online exercise buddies.
Taking a walk is one of the best ways to take charge of your health. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 11, 1998) showed that walking briskly for half an hour just six times a month cut the risk of premature death in men and women by 44 percent. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (January 8, 1997) reported that men 61 to 81 years old sharply reduced their risk of death from all causes, including cancer and heart disease, by walking two miles a day. Other research has shown similar results for women.
Besides the well-documented health benefits, the beauty of walking is you can go at your own pace. If you are new to exercise or recovering from injury or childbirth, you can aim to walk for 20 to 45 minutes four or five days a week at the good fitness walking speed of three miles an hour. When (and if) you want to power up, you can take longer walks and work up to walking each mile in 15 minutes or less.
Once you're ready to hit the road (or the trail, track, treadmill or mall), how do you make the most of your walking workout? Minneapolis, Minnesota, walking instructor Kate Larsen, who has developed the LifeWalkTM Easy Audio Coach tape (888-LIF-WALK), offers these 10 practical tips for getting maximum aerobic, strength, postural and conditioning benefits from your walking program:
1. Warm Up First, Then Stretch After Your Walk. Start by walking for just seven to 10 minutes (wear a watch) and then do a few gentle stretches after you have completed your walk. Your muscles will stretch better if you've warmed them up first. Ask a fitness professional which stretches are best for you.
2. Take Short, Quick Steps. By taking short, quick steps, rather than long strides, you will work your glute muscles (in your buttocks) as you log miles.
3. Practice the Heel-Toe Roll. Push off from your heel, roll through the outside of the foot, then push through the big toe. Think of the big toe as the Ago button and push off with propulsion. Keep the other toes relaxed. (This takes practice.)
4. Squeeze Your Glutes. Imagine squeezing and lifting your glutes up and back, as if you were holding a $50 bill between them! This will strengthen your low-back muscles. Developing the ability to maintain this deep contraction throughout your walk will take a while.
5. Zip Up Your Abs. During your walk, imagine you're zipping up a tight pair of jeans. Stand tall and pull your abdominal muscles up and in. You can practice this even when you're not walking.
6. Pump Your Arms. Imagine you are holding the rubber grips of ski poles in your hands. Stand straight, drop your shoulders, squeeze your shoulder blades behind you and push back your elbows with each step. Keep your arm movements smooth and strong.
7. Keep Your Chest Up, Shoulders Back. Use your walk as an opportunity to practice perfect posture. Imagine someone dumped ice down your back. That's the feeling you want to have as you hold your chest up and shoulders back.
8. Keep Your Head Up. Look about 10 feet ahead of you. Imagine you're wearing a baseball cap and have to look up just enough to see the road. This keeps your neck aligned properly.
9. Smile and Have Fun. Learning these techniques takes time and concentration. Be patient and enjoy your workout. Dress comfortably, find a partner or wear a headset and listen to music you love and, if you're walking outdoors, vary your route.
10. Practice Mental Fitness. Don't replay the problems of the day while you walk. Try to maintain a state of relaxed awareness by paying attention to your breathing and noticing how your body feels. Visualize yourself getting healthier, stronger and leaner.
A Habit You Can Live With
Consistency is probably the most important part of your walking workout. The more committed you are to walking all or most days of the week, the healthier you'll be. Remember that short walks are better than none at all. As Larsen says, health, like life, is a journey. All you have to do is take the first step.
We all know that losing weight and improving your overall fitness are things that don’t happen overnight. But, did you know in order to be truly successful that important steps need to be taken before you even start a diet or exercise program? The first thing you should do is identify where you fall on the behavioral change spectrum. There are five distinct stages of behavioral change. Do you know what stage you currently fall under?
Knowing what stage you are at will help you to create a road map to the subsequent stages and ultimately help you to be successful in your fitness goals. Below are the five major phases.
1. Precontemplation: This is the point where you don’t feel that any change in your lifestyle is necessary. You may be thinking that exercising just takes too much time or that fast food is just too convenient to even consider giving up. Starting a fitness or diet program during this stage would probably result in failure. The best thing you can do during this phase is educate yourself further about health, diseases and risks.
2. Contemplation: During this stage you may start thinking that a change is necessary. So, you think that maybe cutting back to eating fast food only three times a week is not so bad and you might be able to at least take a walk once in awhile. This is a good time to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise.
3. Preparation: At this point you are getting more serious about taking action. You’ve penciled in a walk with your friend for next week and are planning to go grocery shopping to cook a home meal. You may want to research exercise equipment, gyms, personal trainers, and diet programs to learn more about what you can do (with the help of professionals and/or equipment) to get in better shape.
4. Action: Here’s where you actually take the first step. The first step may be as simple as taking a daily walk, reducing your fast food visits to twice a month or just cutting back on daily sodas. Or you may go as far as hiring a personal trainer or joining a gym. During this stage it is very important to learn coping mechanisms that will help you avoid re-lapse into your old ways. One way to avoid being a part of the high exercise dropout statistics is starting slowly into a new program and making permanent lifestyle changes versus temporary ones.
5. Maintenance: This is, of course, the phase that everyone should strive to be at. This means that you have been doing a regular fitness program consistently for quite some time and that you continue your new lifestyle. It’s important throughout this stage (which should last a lifetime) that you include a variety of workouts that change frequently. You should also seek social support of friends and family.
So, now can you identify what stage you are at? You may find that you are in the precontemplation stage for nutritional habits but that you are in the preparation stage for exercises. That’s okay. It’s not critical for you to force both areas into the same stage. You can work on changing your nutritional and exercise habits separately.
The key to success is first identifying your stage and then taking steps to advance to the next level (unless, of course, you are already at the Maintenance stage). Use the suggestions mentioned above in each stage to help you move to the next phase.
For example, if you are in the precontemplation stage, then research and read as much as you can on the subject of health risks and how they relate to an individual’s lifestyle. From there you will probably want to learn more about the consequences and benefits of specific lifestyles. Education is a powerful thing. The more you fully understand and can relate directly to the causes and effects of your action, the more inclined you will be to change.
It’s also important to tune-in to your fears, past struggles, and expectations. Making nutritional and exercise changes is not easy and should be approached slowly. Remember to make small changes. Don’t try to go from a completely sedentary lifestyle to an hour of continual exercise in just one day. Build up slowly starting with even just 10 minutes. And lastly, be sure to inform your family and friends of your plans and enlist their support. Support is extremely important for your success.
One of the simplest steps you can take when you embark on improving your health and wellness is setting your goals. Creating goals should not be taken lightly. To improve your success rate with achieving your objectives, you need to create a specific roadmap.
You need to set up SMART goals. They need to be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Oriented.
You need to state specifically what you want to accomplish. The goal should be very easy to measure. There should be no question at all whether or not it has been reached. It should be something you can truly obtain, not just an unrealistic dream. It should be relevant to your needs. You should include a deadline.
So, the clichés of simply wanting to “drop some pounds”, “fit back into your jeans” or “get bigger biceps”, don’t fit into the SMART model. Reworking these vague goals, though, will help you get and stay on the road to better fitness.
The first example is losing some weight. Here is the reworked SMART goal:
· Specific: Increase your overall lean body percentage to: 83%.
· Measurable: Lean body mass versus fat can be measured through various means but may require the assistance of a trainer or a clinic.
· Attainable: Ensure that you are not seeking a lean body percentage that will lower your body fat too far which can have negative effects.
· Relevant: Will it improve your health and overall quality of life.
· Time-Oriented: Choose the date for when your goal should be met.
A vacation can do wonders for reducing stress levels, but it can derail a healthy fitness regimen. Even some of the most die-hard exercisers find it difficult to stick with a workout program when away from home. Sure, many have good intentions. They may even pack their workout attire. Unfortunately, their gear never makes it out of the suitcase until they’re back home.
But travel from home doesn’t have to result in an interruption or complete abandonment of your healthy habits. You can still fit in exercise time when away from home, regardless of whether you find yourself in a warm or a cold climate. Even if bad weather forces you into seclusion in your hotel room, there are exercises you can complete without a single piece of equipment.
Below are some tips to help you stay fit while traveling and avoid coming home with unwanted extra baggage.