Archives for July 2011

Snooze buttons, wine clubs, a stubbed toe, and the dog ate my homework.

I’ve been teaching a 5:30 am fitness class for a little over ten years and have probably heard more excuses than most people except for maybe doctors, law enforcement officers, and school teachers.

Before I started teaching the early bird class, I taught the after work crowd so I’ve learned that the excuse makers don’t just come in the morning.  Over the years I’ve found the fitness class participants and other workout warriors fall into three categories:

  1. The Regulars – the ones that you can count on being there unless they are on vacation or have something pretty significant take place in their life that prevents them from coming.  They come when they are tired, sick and injured.  These are the die-hard whatever-doesn’t-kill-me-makes-me-strong folks.
  2. The Newbie – This person is coming to class for the first time.  The Newbie is a challenge for the instructor because the instructor wants to find a way to ‘hook’ them and turn them into a Regular.  “Drink the Kool-Aid Newbie and maybe someday you too shall be a Regular.”
  3. The Gung Ho a/k/a Disappearing Act – This person is rabid about their workouts and goes crazy while they are coming to class and are doing their workouts on a regular basis.  These are the people that are talking up their progress to the other participants, doing six or seven workouts a week, tracking their calories, losing weight. But then something changes and they start to burn out and their attendance starts to fizzle. These are the folks that miss a couple of weeks at a time and when they return they have an arm load of excuses:  “I hit the snooze button and overslept.”  “I went to the monthly wine club last night and stayed out to late.”  “I stubbed my toe on the couch and”   . . . .   You get the idea. This is the person that appears to have turned into a Regular but all of a sudden they do their Disappearing Act.

They feel bad about skipping out on their exercise program.  They are disappointed that they have allowed these other ‘things’ to interfere.  Their excuses don’t sound legitimate even to their own ears but yet they are not able to get back in the groove.  An internal battle has taken root and the snooze-button-hitting, wine-drinking, toe-stubbing evil twin has come out swinging.

Of the three categories of participants, Gung Ho is the most common.  We’ve all probably been Gung Ho at one time or another.  We’re totally energized, excited with our results, proud of our accomplishments but then one day, poof!  We’re gone.

Let’s look at some ways to get the Disappearing Act back.

To Go Faster, You Have To Slow Down  

The gal or guy that’s lost their motivation to continue to do those things that they know are good for them needs to dig a little deeper to find out what is going on:  Reflect. Rewind. Relax. Revive. Reboot.

  • Reflect – Some serious soul searching needs to take place so that the individual can understand why their motivation is waning.  You don’t have to find answers to the ‘why’ questions but rather try to expose what is really causing the setback.  Begin listing the reasons why you don’t feel as motivated to workout along with the excuses that you are using. Here are some examples:  I am not getting enough sleep.  I am bored with the workouts.  I don’t have time.
  • Rewind –Think back to the time when it was all clicking for you. What motivators were present?  What were you excited about?  How did you feel?  Write down your discoveries:  I like that it made me feel stronger.  I’m able to jog where before I could only walk.  My clothes look better on me. Get really serious about why this is important to you and how good the success made you feel.
  • Relax – Do not panic!  I see this all of time.  People, at some point, reach a peak in their level of motivation and then, for whatever reason, it begins to wane.  They don’t feel as excited about their workouts and they fear they won’t be able to get their mojo back. They are distressed.  They think that everything will turn back to the way it was and all of the hard work will have been for nothing.  And the worst part is they’ve lost control of it.   Breathe.   Everything is going to be okay.
  • Revive – It is completely normal to get excited about something new that you’ve started (in this case, working out) but after the novelty wears off it’s not as fun. (What is?)  Some of the things on the Rewind list that used to be motivators (getting up early to get my workout done) might now be on the Reflect list as a barrier (the snooze button).  Brainstorm some ideas that could help you get you excited about exercising again.  Write down at least five ideas and from that list set two goals. Once you’ve picked two goals, write them down and then smarten them up.  Remember your goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  Put the goals under the magnet on the fridge or in another very visible place.  Keep them in front of you consistently and keep track of your progress in reaching them.  Goals that are written down and tracked are the ones that are most often reached.
  • Reboot – The purpose of this exercise is to get the individual to put an end to the cycle of the negative self-talk that inevitably has started and actually begin tackling the problem.  Negative self-talk has a tendency to become very repetitious and is non-productive.  Telling yourself you’re a loser and berating yourself over what you are not doing won’t help you start doing it again.  Think of rebooting your brain.  Shut it down, delete the junk files (excuses, negative self-talk), and boot it back up.

Take a little time to figure out why you’re no longer motivated to do what you know is best for you so that you can move forward.  And please.  No more excuses.

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If These Shoes Are a Rockin’ and Weights Are A Shakin’ Keep Moving.

My last blog discussed fad diets but as you know, not all gimmicks are in the shape of a diet pill.  Let’s talk about the Shake Weights and Rockers that are trending right now.  Are they the ‘the real deal’ or just another gimmick?

Let’s start with The Shake Weights.

The web site for The Shake Weights claims that the handheld object will do the following (BTW – my comments are in parenthesis):

  • Dramatically increase muscle activity (doubtful)
  • Contract muscles up to 240 time per minute (that depends)
  • Build definition, size and strength FAST! (no way)
  • Weighs only 5 lbs. (true but that’s not enough for actual for results)
  • Provides incredible results in 6 minutes a day (waste of  six minutes a day)
  • Etc.  (blah, blah, blah)

Let’s take a look at the principles taught in Strength Training 101:  To gain muscle mass a muscle must be overloaded with a combination of weight and repetition so that tiny, microscopic tears occur in the muscle.  The muscle then goes to work repairing itself and becomes stronger in the process.  This is why people that lift heavier weights have bigger muscles.  The heavier the weight, the more the muscle breaks down and therefore more repair has to take place.  The end result is an increase in muscle mass for the targeted muscle group.

Now, let’s look at the principles of Shake Weight 101: The back and forth movement of the Shake Weight does not take the muscle through a range of motion specific to any one muscle group, plus it only weighs five pounds which would only cause minimal increase in muscle mass even if it did work.  My advice is save your money and your six minutes a day.

There have been numerous articles written on the pros and cons of the Shake Weight.  I like to refer to WebMD on controversial topics such as this one.  They have published a very thorough review on the Shake Weight on their web site.  Bottom line here is it would be better to invest your money in a set of dumbbells that allows you to load or unload plates so that you can overload specific muscle groups.

I found an inexpensive set at Wal Mart. I can load up to 40 pounds and have used them in my home gym for years.  I have a feeling the Shake Weights will go the way of the ‘Shaking Machine’ I used to see my mother on when was a little girl.  The machine had a big black belt that went around her butt. When she turned it on it shook her hips around and all that shaking was supposed to reduce her butt fat.  Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?

If these shoes are a rockin’ . . .

Toning Shoes or Rockers, like the Shake Weights, have been around for awhile but are still very popular.  Toning shoes claim to trigger different muscle groups to fire above and beyond the muscles that are at work when you walk in regular shoes.  From this extra muscle action you’ll get tighter legs and butt, burn more calories, etc.   To someone like myself that has had to do five to six high intensity workouts a week for years to keep my legs and butt toned up (and even now there are several spots back there that are questionable) this just wouldn’t be fair.  My common sense alone tells me it cannot be this easy.

Anyway, again I consulted the experts at WedMD and they agree with me.  Oaky, really they just confirmed what I already knew.  Studies have been done to test the shoes and results show that there’s no extra muscle toning going on.  The results of the workouts were the same as with regular tennis shoes. I guess I won’t cancel my gym membership yet.

But here’s an idea:  Take a nice brisk half-hour walk or steady jog followed by a 15 – 20 minute strength workout at least five times a week.  This is the activity that will see some results!

Run, Don’t Walk Away From Diet Pills That Claim To Aggressively Melt Fat

. . . . away from any diet or diet pill that claims to aggressively melt away fat!

Driving to work yesterday I heard the ad that I hear nearly every day on the radio.  It goes something like, “Are you looking for a way to aggressively melt away fat?!”  What exactly does that mean? I thought the only way to reduce fat stores was to lower caloric intake while increasing physical activity to create a calorie deficit which results in weight loss.  This melting away thing sounds a whole lot easier plus I guess now it comes in pill form!

Diet fads that lure people in with claims of dramatic weight loss over a short period of time nearly always turn out bad in the long run.  Once the diet ends, the weight comes back along with a few extra pounds.  The main causes of the weight gain that inevitably follows a quick, dramatic weight loss program is the result of a couple of things that have taken place.  One is that the weight loss program calls for an extreme reduction in calories; so extreme that no one could sustain the program for any length of time.

For example, HCG, one of the latest fad diets, calls for participants to consume a total of 500 calories per day plus a hormone injection.  Trust me, if you are only consuming 500 calories a day you are going to lose weight dramatically with or without the injection.  This diet also discourages people from exercising while on the diet.  I’m guessing you would have trouble walking from the car to the front door on a 500 calorie a day diet so I agree that any real exercise would be out of the question.

Second, when we are on a 500 calorie a day, a/k/a starvation, diet our metabolism slows down so we end up burning fewer calories doing our normal daily activities.  That coupled with  our system utilizing not just fat, but also lean muscle mass, for energy will lower our metabolic rate even more.  Both of these can have disastrous long-lasting effects on our metabolism.

The best way to lose weight is by first deciding how much you want to lose, how many calories a day you need to consume to lose it, eating nutrient-dense low-calories foods and engaging in an exercise program that includes both cardio and strength training at least three to four times a week.  If you’re looking for a resource to help you figure out how many calories you need to consume to reach your weight loss goal a good site that can help you is is Fit Click.

Finally, remember to keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. and think about what will work for you long term.  If you’re about to sign up for a program that you know you cannot sustain for the rest of your life you might want to rethink your plan.


I Know We’re Smart, But What About Our Goals?

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” –  Diana Scharf Hunt

Bosie S. Walsh once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going how can you expect to get there?”   That’s fancy lingo for if you don’t get really specific about your goals (and write them down) you’ll never be able to reach them.

Let’s say – hypothetically – that Margaret knows that she spends too much money going out to eat for lunch plus the eating out is sabotaging her plans to lose the seven pounds she gained over the holidays.  Margaret has an eight to five job in an office and ends up grabbing lunch at one of the local fast food establishments nearby.  Margaret decides she is going to start taking her lunch to work.

That sounds easy enough.  In fact that sounds like a very doable goal.  But, there are so many things that can go wrong even with a goal that seems this simple.  What Margaret needs to do is to make sure her everyday, seemingly easy-to-achieve goal is a S.M.A.R.T goal:  Specific.  Measurable.  Attainable.  Realistic. Timely.

To smarten up her goal she needs to decide on a few things:

How many days a week can she realistically pack a lunch to take to work?  Margaret works five days a week but the answer may not be five.  The answer may be two or three, at least in the beginning. The key for Margaret is to set a goal that she can achieve, feel good about and build upon.

What is Margaret going to put in the lunch (?) leads to the question when is she going to buy the food that she needs?  This may sound silly but it is something she needs to plan for in advance.  She can’t pack her lunch if she hasn’t purchased the food to put in it.

Once some of these decision have been made Margaret’s S.M.A.R.T. goal will be written down and will look something like this:

  • I will pack my lunch to take to work three days a week, specifically Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • I will purchase the food on Saturday.
  • I will pack the lunch the night before.  (Goodness knows there is never any extra time in the morning.)
  • I will start on Monday.
Once you’ve established your S.M.A.R.T. goal(s) it’s important to track how well you did.  Did you complete your goal by 50%, 80%, 100%?  Goal tracking is a proven practice that breeds success.  When you become deliberate about tracking your goals you become more conscious of how important they are to you plus fuel your desire to be successful.

This process can be applied to any goal that we have and the best part is it works!

Dear Michelle: What were you thinking?

“Healthy eating advocate Michelle Obama advocate downs 1700 calorie lunch.”  — NY Times

When I read the story about Michelle Obama going to a fast food establishment for lunch and ordering a cheeseburger, fries, milk shake and diet coke my reaction was similar to that of a lot of other people.  Here we have the First Lady leading the charge on obesity and establishing herself as a role model and at one meal consumes more calories than most of us should have in one day. What was she thinking?

Maybe she just simply gave into her cravings and decided to have what she really wanted for lunch.  Or maybe – and I’m only able to guess because I can’t possibly know – she didn’t know how many actual calories, grams of fat and sodium she was consuming. I know what you’re thinking “Yeah, right.”  But, I think it IS possible.

In the weight management coaching that I do I see how easy it is for someone to get off track.  And it’s not always because they don’t care.  It’s because they don’t know. There is a big difference between getting off track and getting derailed.  In this case having the cheeseburger, fries and diet coke might have gotten a frown.  Throw in the milkshake and it’s headline news for a week!

I’m guessing 9 out of 10 readers find themselves at the end of a fast food drive-through at least occasionally.  Being in that situation does not have to be the ultimate throw-in-the-towel-there’s-no-point-in-even-trying catastrophe for someone trying to lower their cholesterol or lose a couple of pounds.

I am an “Eat This, Not That” junkie and search for the articles that run in Men’s Health Magazine.  (You’ll learn, as you get to know me better, I have some strange obsessions.) Once you start reading the Eat This articles I bet you’ll be surprised what you don’t know.

Let’s take a look at some of the common fast food derailments and what a better choice might be.



Better Choice


Triple with Everything and Cheese
Large Fries, and Chocolate Fudge Frosty Shake (large)
2,050 calories
99 g fat (39 g saturated fat, 8 g trans fats)
2,860 mg sodium
Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich
with a Mandarin Orange Cup and a Medium Iced Tea
480 calories
7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
980 mg sodiumThis is the healthiest sandwich on the menu. just don’t order your chicken spicy: That’s their cue to fry rather than grill your bird, tacking on extra 9.5 fat grams.
Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad
with Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, and Large Mountain Dew
1,690 calories
60 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 3 g trans fats)
2,540 mg sodium
Two Fresco Soft Beef Tacos
with Mexican Rice and a bottle of water
470 calories
17 g fat (6 g saturated fat)
1,760 mg sodium
Subway 6-inch Double Meatball Marinara
with Wild Rice with Chicken Soup (10 oz), and Large Coke (32 oz)
1,420 calories
53 g fat (21.5 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fats)
3,400 mg sodium
6-inch Double Roast Beef Sub
with Veggie Delite Salad with Fat-Free Italian Dressing and Medium Iced Tea
455 calories
8 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat)
2,100 mg sodium
Sonic Super SONIC® Cheeseburger
Tater Tots with chili & cheese, and Cherry Slush (RT 44)
2,340 calories
115 g fat (40 g saturated fat, 4 g trans fats)
3,310 mg sodium
Sonic Burger with Mustard
and Diet Cherry Limeade (32 oz)
585 calories
26 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat)
780 mg sodium
McDonald’s Chicken Selects® Premium Breast Strips (5 pc) with Creamy Ranch Sauce
with Large French Fries, and Large Coke
1,670 calories
87 g fat (13 g saturated fat)
2,370 mg sodium
Quarter Pounder without Cheese
with a Side Salad with Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Large Iced Tea
470 calories
22 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat)
1,490 mg sodium
Arby’s Ultimate BLT Market Fresh Sandwich
with Large Curly Fries, Ranch Dipping Sauce, and a Medium Pepsi
1,751 calories
97 g fat (22 g saturated fat)
3,311 mg sodium
Super Roast Beef
with Chopped Farmhouse Salad (no chicken) with Balsamic Vinaigrette, and a Medium Diet Iced FruitTea
688 calories
40 g fat (14 g saturated fat)
1 g trans fat
1,800 mg sodium

Let’s talk about kid’s meals.  The news isn’t any better.



Better Choice

Burger King(Worst Kid’s Meal) Burger King’s Kids Double Cheeseburger and Kids Fries
740 calories
42 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 4.5 g trans fats)
1,410 mg sodiumBK’s dubious double burger earns the distinction of being the fattiest meal for an on-the-go kid, with nearly a day’s worth of saturated fat for the average 8-year-old.
4-piece Chicken Tenders with Strawberry-Flavored Applesauce
280 calories
11 g fat (3 g saturated fat)
440 mg sodium
Olive Garden Garden Fettuccini Alfredo meal
800 calories
48 g fat (30 g saturated)
810 mg sodiumSaturated fat equivalent: 1.5 full jars of Nutella!
Cheese Ravioli
300 calories
8 g fat (4 g saturated)
440 mg sodium
Applebee’s Grilled Cheese with French Fries (Kid’s Meal)
1,020 calories
54 g fat (17 g saturated)
2,170 mg sodiumCalorie equivalent: 400 Cheddar Goldfish Crackers. (That’s 1.3 full bags!)
Hot dog with applesauce
300 calories
13 g fat (4 g saturated)
860 mg sodium
Outback Steakhouse Kookaburra Chicken Fingers MealWith Aussie Fries
1,030 calories
60 g fat (21 g saturated)
2,052 mg sodiumFat equivalent: 12 Frosted Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts!
Joey Sirloin with Fresh Seasonal Veggies
435 calories
28.5 g fat (15 g saturated)
631 mg sodium

Being armed with information can help us avoid derailments.  The source for the information table was compiled from the book “Eat This, Not That” – David Zinczenko.

Let Me Help You With Your Cookie Problem

It’s A Jungle Out There.

We all know it.  There’s nothing we can do about it.  It’s the world we live in.  Fast food that’s quick and cheap, jobs where we sit at computers in cubes all day, information that is at our fingertips.  Everything (and I do mean everything) is automated.  We rush from this place to that not processing where we’re going or why we’re going there.  Where has it gotten us?  In constant rotation on a revolving wheel within a sedentary lifestyle where we’re overweight, overtired and stressed out!

Why do we opt to drive through the local fast food chain rather than cook a meal at home? Why can’t we fit the recommended 30 minutes a day of exercise into our routine at least five days a week?  Why do we rush home from work and before we can pack up the mini van to get the kids to ball practice and music lessons devour an entire sleeve of Oreo cookies without even realizing it?  Because we find that when we finally make it home after a busy day the three children need to be in three different locations before 6 o’clock and dinner hasn’t even been considered must less waiting for us in the crock pot as planned. What is our response to that?  We throw in the towel, eat the Oreos, drive through Sky Burger and promise ourselves we’ll do better tomorrow.

Wow!  This ‘time’ thing is turning out to be somewhat of a problem. How will we ever lose the ten pounds we’ve gained since Christmas, focus on preparing nutritious foods for our family, and find time to exercise in this rapid paced life that we’re caught up in?

Much of what we’re going through today is the result of information overload.  We have so many things to take our attention from what’s important.  We all want our health, and the health of our family, to be Number One on the Top 10 Most Important Things in Life list but somehow we are having trouble getting it up there.  Maybe it’s even drifted out of sight.  It’s a backdrop; we know it’s there but we don’t have the time or energy to deal with it.  What do we do?

The good news is there are some things that we can do.  Simple things.  Everyday things.  Things that don’t take an enormous amount of time.  Things that if we do them consistently will begin to change our lives in ways that we didn’t think would be possible.

I’ve spent many years as a fitness instructor, fitness trainer and wellness coach and know that there are some very basic concepts that, when implemented and applied on a regular basis, will improve our sense of wellbeing and help create an overall healthier lifestyle.

So why have I decided -like thousands of other people on the Internet – that I want to write a blog?  Because I’m just like many of them.  I think that I have something to share that will eventually help someone else.  I’ve researched popular blogs.  Some bloggers want to help people learn how to be a better golfer, or gardener or have more fashion savvy or take better pictures, or provide advice on the best resorts in the most remote places of the world.  I don’t know much about most of that.  I do know that the struggle to find that balance in life where we are actually able to gain the control of our habits and take good care of ourselves is within reach.

I’ve decided to blog because I want to help people find a way to dig deep and find the power that I know is within them that will give them the strength they need to Put Down The Cookie Now!