A Lesson in Labels

Labels can be deceiving, very deceiving.  The USDA's regulations are, well, not where they should be... let's leave it at that. (not opening up that can of worms tonight).  The phrase "you are what you eat"... means more than just the reflection of low-cal/low-fat food onto the external physique.  The abundance of chemicals and man-made 'crap' in 'food' is everywhere.  And, they are especially in low-fat/low-sugar foods.  Foods with these labels are processed so they taste like there is real fat or sugar in them... what do they use? Hydrogenated oils, saccharin, flavor enhancers such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), etc.  

So what's the problem with these additives? Well, I could go on and on... if you want a solid read... pick up Jillian Michael's "Master Your Metabolism".  Here's the issue in a nutshell; These additives are not recognized by your body as food. So what happens?  Your hormones, which regulate your metabolism, get thrown out of balance and sometimes stop working. (oh, and these additives can cause a multitude of diseases including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and much more) What happens when your hormones are thrown out of balance and your metabolism is off kilter?  You have a really hard time maintaining an appropriate weight. These additives also strip your body of the nutrients you put in it... leaving you feeling fatigued and hungry. Would you water a plant with anything besides water? No. Why? It wouldn't recognize it.  Think of your body the same way.

Here's a list of what to look for:
Monosodium glutamate or ANY GLUTAMATES: These are flavor enhancers and what's worse? They are addictive... that's why you can't put down the Pringles. They are laced with flavor enhancers that make you keep eating.  Annoying, right? Why? They mess with brain chemistry and adversely affects hunger hormones and much more.  Glutamates are one of the worse (if not the worse) additives to put into your body. Glutamates also hide on labels as: autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, gelatin, glutamic acid, hydrolized corn gluten, hydrolyzed protein, monopotassium glutamate, natrium glutamate, sodium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient.

Sucralose 'aka' Splenda:  I eat raw sugar.  I do not eat fake sugar.  Sometimes I eat stevia because it comes from a plant extract.  Sugar has 15 calories in a tsp... that's it. Moderation is key.  So here's the deal with splenda: It's indigestible and is not naturally occurring, as they claim. And it's 'generally recognized as safe'.  What does that even mean?  Would you give your child or your dog food that is 'generally safe'?  Seriously.

The word or phrase "NATURAL" OR "ALL NATURAL":  Guess what? It means absolutely nothing in the US.  Depending on the manufacturer - it can be defined multiple different ways.  USDA Organic on the other hand... has strict USDA guidelines as to how it was grown, raised, etc. And, anything labeled 'natural' can have glutamates in them. Bad, bad, bad.

Partially hydrogenated oils or hydrogenated oils aka 'Trans Fats':  By now, there's been enough press on trans fats that most are familiar with why they are bad.  In a nutshell: They are added to foods to make them keep their shelf life longer.  Do you really want to eat a cookie that's been sitting on a shelf for 5 years? Imagine what that is doing to your insides. These fats increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease your HDL (good cholesterol.  Trans fats increase inflammation in the body and some research has found that they even make the liver stop responding to growth hormone and, in turn, metabolism.

What to do with all this information?  Just read your labels.  Any food item with the above listed ingredients will not be recognized by your body and can negatively affect your metabolism.  That's why there are SO MANY articles out there right now that promote not counting calories and just eating 'whole foods'.  Your body processes 'whole foods' and, in turn, positively affects metabolism.

Now, moderation is key.  As much as I try to avoid the above listed ingredients... I must admit that there are times (weekends) when I will have some bad foods. Nobody is perfect.  What I can tell you is that it would be hard to find them in my own apartment. 80% of the time - I am as healthy as possible.  That's my motto.  This post became much longer than originally expected so I'm going to skip 'moves of the week' today.  I hope this helps you all better navigate your labels.  Have an awesome week!

Get Active

It's "Motivational Monday", making it the perfect day of the week for a little extra push to

get active.

 If you haven't become active yet, or, are stuck in a dull routine... now is the time to change it up, get moving, and stop making excuses.  

Why?

Summer is upon us, the days are longer, and the weather is gorgeous.

Excuses like not having a gym membership, weights at home, or "TIME" isn't going to cut it this time of year.

(I don't like excuses any time of year but this time of year, I have zero tolerance

;)

The sun is out bright and early and doesn't set until around 8pm.  Get outside, go for a run, walk or hike.  Find a local basketball court, track, or tennis court and make it fun!  Find a local beach or hiking trail and change up your running or walking routine.  Now is the time for no excuses and to

make exercise a habit.

Moving on... here are my

"moves of the week"

! We've already talked about

squats, burpees, lunges, push-ups, criss-cross, and planks

! Add the following three moves and you'll have yourself a solid workout just in time for bathing suit season!

1. Star jumps -

Start in a squatting position, touch the ground, then jump up and throw your legs and arms out ... like a star!  These are tough... do 8-15 depending on your level. (more if you can!)

2.

Supermans -

Start facing down on the floor.  Arms out straight in front of you, neck neutral, and legs together. Raise arms and legs up in the air.  This move works your erector spinae which is the opposing muscle to the abdominal and very important to work to keep your core strong and evenly balanced.  It also works glutes and hamstrings... giving a nice lift in the tush!  Do 12-20 depending on your fitness level.

3.

180 jumps -

These are also tough but they are awesome.  Start in a squatting position and as you pop up, jump 180 degress and squat back down again... repeat. Do 10-30 depending on your fitness level.

Combining these 9 moves in the order that I've listed them is a great workout.  Depending on your fitness level, repeat the sequence 2-3 times (preferably after a run outside;).  I'll continue to add more moves as we progress into the summer. Let me know if I can better explain any of the moves or how to incorporate them into a workout and

have a GREAT week!

Motivation continued & Moves of the week

I was thinking about what I wanted to post about tonight and decided that I want to continue to talk about

motivation

.  I think it's important.  Being motivated not only to work out and eat healthy, but also, in every aspect of life.  

Last week, I talked about the marathon and how just watching it should be motivation enough to get a fitness program started.  The week before that I talked about my first boxing class and how it was new and frankly, awesome. I'm still super motivated by that class... getting stronger, less sore, and perfecting my form is a constant goal... plus - it's so fun! This week, I want to discuss

where to find the motivation needed to hit your own personal goals. 

I have to be honest... unless someone has an extreme life situation... I really don't like hearing people say "well I just can't do that" or "well I'm just not good at that".  Don't get me wrong... I'm not talking about running a marathon or climbing a mountain.  I'm talking about people who truly don't think they have the power to work out, eat healthIER, complete a daunting task at work, run a 5k, bake a cake, paint a room... things like that. I always just want to (or do) say WHY?! Try it for crying out loud!! Andddd here I am finally getting to my point... I hope it translates... I think sometimes the

best place to look for motivation is in the people that you already know.

You know those people... the people you look up to and admire, have it all together, seem to be doing everything that you wish or hope you could or want to do.  It doesn't necessarily have to be a famous person (although that can work to) but we all have people in our lives that motivate us in some form or another.  I have colleagues that I look up to at work... their organization and creativity.  I have friends and acquaintances that seem to be super athletes... they are just good at everything.  Others have the amazing ability to always look perfectly put-together. Here's the thing, instead of getting discouraged by these people... I look up to them. Try to figure them out... what do they do that allows them to be so put together, organized, fit, etc.  You know these people - are you asking them how they do it? I do it all the time, I always have.  You won't know if you don't ask! :-)  

There's always a way to become better.  I will never stop working hard at being a good friend, family member, athlete, employee, boss, and overall productive person. 

If you don't know people like this... start surrounding yourself with people that do motivate you.  Join a class, run a race, join a group/club, etc.  And I'm going to let you in on a couple of secrets on the workout side that I hope gives you an extra push to get movin'!

1.

Group Exercise Classes

- Don't be nervous that you're going to look "stupid".  No athlete that is working out next to you is going to make fun of you or talk about you... in fact, they'll probably try to help you.  (if you do find someone is mean - they are insecure - ignore them - seriously)

2.

Running a Race

- Afraid you're going to come in last? You're not.  Runners come in all different shapes, sizes and speeds.  I've never known anyone to come in last and if you do come in last - so what - you did it! Don't believe me? Go find a local race this weekend and watch it. (that again, should be motivation enough)

3.

Not sure how to Lift properly?

- Ask any of the employees at the gym... They'll show you a couple moves and you won't hurt yourself with poor form! Or ask a friend who does know how - they WILL show you.

Where did this all come from?  I read an article a long time ago that discussed the best forms of motivation and, in a nutshell, it said that individuals who look up to or find out how those who motivate them do it all... have the most success.  Makes sense, right? That's why there's coaches, teachers, trainers, tutors, bosses, etc. etc. That article always stuck with me.

Movinggg onnn... I promised a few weeks ago that I'd start providing my favorite moves. I already discussed planks, criss-cross, and squats.

This time: Lunges, Push-ups (yesss push-ups), & Burpees!

All three of the above are killer for your whole body.  

Lunges are amazzzing for the legs. Keep the same form in mind as you do for squats (don't let the knee extend beyond the foot, drop down and push through the heels).  

Push ups work you whole body - yes they kill but they work!  Not just your chest, but triceps, delts, and even your core.

Burpees work everything! And they are a cardio blast - try 10 a day and start to stack on more when you get stronger... I love burpees - call me crazy.

burpees1.jpg

Jump up, squat down, jump out, in and up!

someone+who+is+busier....jpg

Motivation for the week! Have an awesome one!

Try something new...

Yesterday, I went to a boxing gym in Southie with my best friend.  I've boxed a little bit in the past, but, it's been a while.  I've been looking forward to checking out this gym for a while. Well, let me just tell you - it was awesome!  I've always enjoyed boxing workouts and  my favorite class to teach is cardio kickboxing.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to check this place out, but, I'm so glad I finally went.  We started out jump roping then moved on to boxing circuits with a heavy bag alternating shadow boxing and strength moves.  We then moved on to free weights (ah, at this point I had to grab lighter weights than I usually use).  Then, we finished with medicine ball partner work. Then, see ya later - go stretch when you get home. 60 minutes of intense cardio and strength work - I'm hooked.  

My friend and I are both pretty sore today... which is what leads me to my point with this post.  When is the last time you challenged yourself? Not only is it important to switch up your workouts on a regular basis, but, it's also important to really challenge yourself every once in a while... even once a week.  First, it's great for your body (obviously). I lift, run, plyo-jump on a regular basis, but the last time I hit a heavy bag? Ah, it's probably been a year... even my forearms hurt today! Next, it's good for your self esteem.  You'll be surprised at what you can do -  don't ever assume that you cannot do something... be confident and try it.  Third, it's also healthy for the brain. Yes, challenging your body also challenges your mind and keeps you sharp.

There are so many cost free ways to try a new, exciting powerful workout without spending extra cash.  Here are some ideas:

1) Check out a new gym class... most offer a free trial

2) Try a class at a local dance studio... again, most offer a free trial

3) Drive to the hilliest part of town and go for a run and hit every hill you can find.  Sprint up each hill.  Tell me you don't feel that the next day.

4) Go to a track and do sprints, run up and down the stadium. Do sprints on the field.

5) Try a crossfit workout

6) Ask for a trial with a personal trainer at a gym - most gyms will give you a free first trial (this will also give you ideas for workouts and help improve form)

7) Go to the beach and run on the sand

8) Try a boxing gym! ;)

9) Sign up for for a Heat Management race (spartan races, mud runs, etc)  They are so fun - I did one back in the fall with my best friend (Lucky me that I have a friend who's down for any challenge)

10) Pick up some new equipment at a store (even "5 Below" has kettle bells, medicine balls, etc) and create a circuit with a friend.

Obviously it will cost money if you sign up, but, won't it be worth it? I'm joining this gym in southie - it rocks.

Onto the recipe of the day...

This is super fast, healthy, and delicious!

Need:

- 1/3 Avocado

- 1 1/2 Tomatoes

- 1 Chicken breast (or two tenderloins)

- 3 mini mozzarella balls (ciligiene)

- Olive oil

- Juice from 1 half lemon

(TIP: I always have a lemon cut into wedges and ready to go. I buy a bag a week and always have the slices ready for my water and for cooking)

- Garlic

- Salt, crushed red pepper, parsley flake, FRESH basil

First, pound the chicken thin in between two pieces of parchment paper or saran wrap.  Spray or drizzle with olive oil and coat with garlic, crushed red pepper, salt, and parsley.  

Throw it on a grill or saute pan (it will cook very fast because it is so thin). Then flip to cook the other side.

While this is happening... Chop tomatoes, avocado, mozzarella, and basil and put in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt and crushed red pepper. Mix it up.

After that, put the chicken on a plate and in a small bowl put a squeeze of lemon, tsp of olive oil, tsp of parmesan, and minced basil... mix and spread on chicken (pesto flavor without busting out the cuisinart food processor.

Lastly, pour the mixture over the chicken, serve & eat!

Hope you all have a great week!

Busy girl, Slim.

Ah, I have been looking forward to writing this post (and my friends have been asking me for it.... especially lately (must be the Spring air!;).  You all know by now that I pull off living a healthy lifestyle all while maintaining a busy schedule at work and enjoying my weekends to the fullest.  I don't believe in giving up good times with good people in order to save a couple calories... c'monnn, that is no fun!  So, how is it all possible?  Allow me to let you in on my secrets.  Weekend warriors, workaholics, party girls (boys), and soccer/football/bball/etc parents - this is for you!


First, weekday lunches/dinner (from home or at the workplace).  Don't indulge here. I don't find it to be worth it.  Monday - Thursday afternoon is the time to be the healthiest.  Super, super healthy. Weekends should be saved for indulgences.  Pack a lunch on regular days.  Don't have time to pack a sandwich or salad? Ya, me either.  Here are some of my 'quick' options:
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Frozen berries
- Apples
- Oatmeal
- Bananas
- Lara Bars
- String cheese
- PBJ (all natural PB!)
- Almonds
- Pecans
- English muffins
- Ezekiel toast
- Walnuts
- Carrots/celery w/ hummus
(I pretty much eat a plain greek yogurt with berries, a slice of ezekiel bread, apple, and either a mini lara bar or another piece of fruit, every day) If you must eat on the fly - check out my "Leaving on a jet plane" post. http://bit.ly/HepqUi


... Anddd if you have to go out for lunch, stick with lean proteins, vegetables.  Look for words like "grilled, baked".  For lunch, a lean salad with light dressing and minimal toppings is the way to go... for dinner... here are some options:
- Grilled fish 
- Caprese salad with a shrimp cocktail
- Baked potato sans extras with a grilled lean protein
- Broth based soups (not creamy)
- Petite filet with salad or steamed vegetables
- Grilled chicken with same sides as listed above
- Sushi - steer away from tempura, and if you get a roll, get some edamame, seaweed salad and/or some sashimi to balance it out.
- Grilled fish tacos (soft shell)
Tips: Start out with a simple salad and drink a tall glass of water before the food comes.  Only eat one piece of bread or roll.  Stay away from anything creamy, fried, candied, or breaded.  Go for steamed, grilled, baked.  Remember, just two drinks and try to stay away from dessert during the week.


Drinks/Apps out with friends (during the week)
- Limit to two drinks, Vodka/soda or red wine.  Stay away from any multiple ingredient, specialty drinks.  They are usually loaded with calories.  If you must, have one, then switch to something lighter.
- Appetizers - I always split apps with my friends.  Choose wisely.  Pick something lean or light as an option in addition to whatever other (tastier) app that you get. Balance! (yes, I am a boneless buffalo wing connoisseur and I will never give that up). 
Ideas:
- Hummus platter with baked pita chips and veggies (a lot of places have this now)
- Mussels
- Tuna sashimi
- Shrimp cocktail
- Grilled anything
- Satay skewers (be careful of the sauces - dip lightly)
- Caprese salad
- Oysters
- Raw platter
- Antipasto
- Salad/pizza combo (bad pizza - one slice, healthier, grilled pizza - two slices)
(sorry if you don't like seafood - I didn't leave you with much ;)
Tips: Try to eat more of the healthier options, and only indulge a little in the fried stuff and dips.  You know you can't avoid ordering that stuff.  Control yourself when it's in front of you! **Be mindful**


Weekends
It's ok to be a little more indulgent on the weekends.  Follow the same tips from above, BUT, don't give up at every meal.  For example, you had too many bevy's then got late night pizza... don't go out for a gigantic brunch the next day. Or, you had an amazing meal at your favorite restaurant and then want waffles in the am - ah, no. Pick one.


How to deal with a few too many bad decisions?
a) don't beat yourself up
b) well, how bad? haha justtt kidddinggg
c) do this: drink lemon water all day the next day, rest, try to get some sort of exercise in late the next day, down your vitamins, especially b12, drink more lemon water, go to bed super early Sunday night (if possible), drink more lemon water, eat a super healthy lunch/dinner - vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbs, you know the drill. Drink more water.  


Last but not least... if you live this lifestyle and plan to stay healthy, you must work out.  Even if you follow all of these tips, you are likely still consuming more than you should.  I work out 5-7 days a week.  I'm not saying you should be that extreme, BUT, try my 15 minute workout rule. Get in AT LEAST 15 minutes of solid cardio, especially on warrior days.

Tip: either go for a 15 minute run. OR DO THIS:
Jumping jacks, squats, squat jumps, criss cross, burpees, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, burpees.  If you only work out for 15 minutes - you should be out of breath. You will feel so much better if you do this AND, maybe you'll make it 20 or 25 mins :-)


That's what I got, my friends!  It's possible to do it all... just be mindful, make smart decisions, and work out. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed.  Have a great week!