You Should Be Taking More Steps Every Day

You can’t out run a bad diet but you can out sit a good one.

You might be eating low calorie foods that are high in nutritional value, drinking plenty of water, avoiding sugary pop and drinking lite beer only on the weekends. But if you’re sitting at a desk or have another sedentary occupation or past time, the pounds will be hard to keep off. If you find your waist line is expanding in spite of your calorie counting it may be because you’re sitting too much. By being sedentary you’re also losing that precious muscle mass that keeps your metabolism at its peak.

Earlier this year, four experts for the Washington Post created a detailed list of everything that happens to the body when you sit for too long.  The expert panel consisted of James A. Levine, inventor of the treadmill desk and director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic, Charles E. Matthews, National Cancer Institute and author of several studies on sedentary behavior, Jay Dicharry, director of REP Biomechanics Lab in Bend, OR and author of Anatomy for Runners, and Tal Amassay, biochemist at Barry University’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Pedometer

Levine, Matthews, Dicharry and Amassay’s created list of health related issues that are the result of too much sitting.  The three big ones are:

  • Heart disease – muscles burn less fat and blood becomes sluggish in the veins when we sit. Prolonged sitting is also linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol which are also indicators of impending cardiovascular disease.
  • Overproductive pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin which carries energy to the cells.  If you’ve been sitting for awhile, the muscles don’t respond to the insulin so the pancreas has to produce more which can lead to diabetes. Scarier yet, according to the experts, a study was done in 2011 that showed a decline in insulin response after one day of prolonged sitting.
  • Colon cancer – The reasons why colon cancer is more prevalent among sitters isn’t proven but it is believed to be related to the elevated levels of insulin that encourages cell growth.

Other reasons to move more during the day is to prevent mushy abs, tight hips, soft bones and a foggy brain. A sore neck and shoulders and back problems are also the by-products of immobility.

There’s More

You don’t need more bad new, but even if you get a healthy does of structured exercise every week it doesn’t undo the health risks of sitting. One study shows that the negative effect of six hours of sitting is similar in magnitude to the benefit of one hour of exercise. That doesn’t mean that if you sit for eight or nine hours a day you have to exercise for three hours to make up for it. That would be impossible to do. What the researchers suggest is to break up the sitting with short doses of movement.

Taking short walks throughout the day, walking in place while you’re on the phone, and getting on the clothes rack treadmill while you’re watching T.V. are some simple ways to get more walking in. To get to the goal of 10,000 steps a day, you’ll probably need to get creative and do something extra. If you need some tips, click here.

Why This Is Important For You

A study published in the American Medical Journal shows that inactivity in American men and women continues to rise.  Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center report that in 1988, 19 percent of women were inactive. By 2010, that number had jumped to 52 percent. For men the rate nearly quadrupled, going from 11 to 43 percent in the same period of time.

The study notes that what didn’t change is the number of calories people consumed.  More calories and less activity is the formula for obesity.

I could have turned this into a post about 50 ways to put more steps in your day but I think you all know what you should do: park in the space farthest away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk on your breaks at work. Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.

Wear A Pedomoter

Wearing a pedometer will help you build the habit of reaching a walking goal. If you don’t wear a pedometer you don’t have any idea how many steps you’re getting in on an average day. It might be 2,000. That isn’t enough.

Try wearing a pedometer and set a goal to get to 10,000 steps a day every day for a week and find out what you have to do to get to the goal. If you’re a cube dweller it will be an eye-opener. It will help you reach your weight loss goals and might even save your life.

Pedometer 10,000

What do you do to put more steps in your day?

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Ten Super Foods You Should Be Eating Every Week

As humans we are forever evolving, or if we’re not, we should be. We should be trying new foods and finding which ones are the most important to our individual life and eating style.

Over the years I’ve posted my list of superfoods and realize it’s time for an update. I’ve grown to depend on some foods more than others to keep me nourished, happy and healthy.  Below is a list of foods I eat every week, some every day.

Super Foods

1.   Almonds – Almonds are a prime source of protein and healthy oil. They have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol, and, when eaten with a meal, lower blood sugar.  Almonds are high in vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants.  The best thing about almonds is that they are filling. I eat a few each morning with breakfast and it helps me stay full until lunch. You can add almonds to salads, vegetable dishes, yogurt and baked goods.

2.   Olive Oil – Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean Diet and is most known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and ability to reduce total blood cholesterol.  It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of some cancers. Keep in mind when cooking with olive oil that it has a low smoke point so you don’t want to get it too hot or it will lose some of its health benefits. Drizzle olive oil on breads, salads and garden vegetables.

3.   Blueberries – Blueberries are also famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These berries are also believed to improve cognitive benefits and memory.  They may even slow down cognitive problems that are associated with aging. Blueberries are best when fresh but can also be frozen. They are abundant in vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber and manganese.

4.   Bananas – There isn’t anything that compares with bananas when it comes to post-workout recovery.  They have more potassium than sports drinks plus they are a good source of vitamins B6 and C.  Despite their sugar content, bananas are low on the glycemic index due to the amount of fiber and pectins they contain. Bananas can be added to smoothies, eaten with peanut butter or on their own.

Banana Smoothie

5.   Romaine Lettuce – Leafy, crunchy romaine lettuce is my favorite for salads.  It is high in vitamins K, A, C and B1.  Plus, it has fiber and folic acid that’s not found in a lot of other foods.  The best thing about romaine lettuce is its high nutritional value combined with being very low in calories.

6.   Coffee – Okay, it’s not actually a food but it has super powers. The proven benefits of coffee are that it helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer.  It also is known to improve cognitive function and mood and will jump start a workout.  It comes in at zero calories when consumed without any creamers or sugar.

7.   Peppers – Colorful bell peppers are a staple on my grocery list. I add them to pasta dishes, use them as a topping for pizza, and eat them as a snack with hummus. Peppers have more vitamin C than oranges, and are high in antioxidants. We grow mini sweet peppers in pots on the patio in the summer and by fall we have a harvest of beautiful peppers to eat.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

8.   Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have an abundance of antioxidants.  They also provide calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. Research has shown that eating chia can lead to improvement in certain health conditions and has long been known as runner’s food. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds and it came them sustained energy.  The seeds can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, breads, and sauces.

9. Garlic – The sulfur component of garlic is, in part, what makes it a super food.  Sulfur is an important component for good health and helps keep blood pressure under control.  Some people may be deficient in sulfur so a daily dose of garlic is a good way to replenish your supply. The best way to buy garlic is fresh and whole. You can use a garlic press or a knife to chop it before adding it to soups, salads, meats and main dishes.

Garlic

10. Black Beans -Black beans are rich in fiber and protein which support the regulation of blood sugar. The beans are also a good supply of anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants and give support to the digestive tract. They are low in calories and high in protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways including black bean brownies.

I encourage everyone to experiment to find the foods that work for them.  A super food is a whole food that is high in nutrition, has the ability to improve your health when eaten on a regular basis. Most important, they must be foods that you enjoy eating.

What foods are on your super food list?

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Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step

Changing A Behavior Is Easy.  Making it Stick?  Not So Much.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man that has lost over 140 pounds. His story was amazing and we talked for awhile about how it did it, what strategies he used, and what he’s doing now to maintain the weight loss.

Maintaining the weight loss proves to be the most difficult part.  He says that the pounds are starting to creep back on and he is struggling to keep doing the behaviors that helped him lose the weight. He finds he’s slipping back into his old habits.

We talked about what that one thing might be that he could start doing today to get back in motion.  After talking to him I was reminded of this post that I wrote almost two years ago and is what I encouraged him to do. Just take one small step.

Start

Flickr photo by jackandlindsay

How long is it from the time you download a phone app to motivate you to track your calories, steps, carbs or whatever it is you feel you need help in controlling before you’re no longer using it?  Three months?  Six months?  Five weeks?  Two days? I’ve downloaded several apps that have helped me drink more water or deliver positive affirmations to get me through a rough spot but after a few months I stop using them.

The company I work for has made an investment to provide employees with a wellness web site where we can track nearly everything we do.  We get points for healthy behaviors and a cash payout at the end of the year if we acquire enough.  You’d think everyone would sign up, but the participation rate is about 10 percent.

People lose weight and gain it back, spend money on gym membership and not go, decide to give up fast food, admit how much better they feel without it, and then end up back at McDonalds.

This question of how to stay motivated, and to me even more important – how to keep other people motivated – is perplexing.  Is this back and forth, stop and start, inspired then uninspired cycle that most of us seem to go through the trade off for having a brain that is complex enough to be able to make choices? Certainly it does have to do with our ability as humans to participate in a decision making process above and beyond basic instinct.

Why And How People Change Health Behaviors

Several years ago the book “Why and How People Change Health Behaviors” attempted to reveal the secrets to successful behavior change.  The book is written by Joseph Leutzinger, PhD and John Harris, MEd, who decided to throw off their ‘scientific research hats’ and put on their ‘curious but not judgmental’ hats to seek out individuals who had been successful at changing one or more behaviors.  The book is a collection of stories gleaned from those interviews.

Leutzinger and Harris found there were some recurring themes in the stories they heard.  Here’s what the interviewees told them:

- Do what works for you
- Be well informed about the change you are making
- Be ready – don’t go in unprepared or lacking confidence
- Set SMART goals
- Make a total commitment
- Take it one day at a time
- Plan ahead for scenarios that you find threatening
- Control your environment
- Take small steps
- Seek support from others
- Realize that compliments from others are motivating
- Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success
- Know that one successful change leads to another
- Reward yourself for success

Pick One

That’s a good list with plenty of suggestions to help with adherence. But, if I had to pick the one most critical to successful behavior change it would be “Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success.”

This darn brain of ours allows us to make choices.  Sometimes they’re good choices, sometimes not so much.  Both can gain momentum.  Once we get started practicing a ‘good’ behavior – for example taking a thirty minute walk before work four days a week – we get in the pattern of doing that.  It feels easy to do and we enjoy the aftereffects of knowing that we’ve kept our commitment and met our goal.

Then the day comes when we decide to go for a couple of birthday drinks with friends after work.  The following day we don’t feel like getting up early to walk so we stay in bed.  The next day it’s raining.  We know there are rainy day options; at home work out DVDs or the stationary bike in the spare bedroom, but we sleep in instead.  Before you know it, two weeks have passed since our last early morning workout that made us feel good all day long.

Take The Smallest Possible Step Forward

I read an interesting blog post yesterday on Daily Blog Tips about procrastination.  The author, Daniel Scocco, was working on a software development project that was overwhelming to him.  It wasn’t that he had no interest in working on the project.  Just the opposite was true, but because of very specific guidelines he had to follow he was having trouble getting started.  Day after day he pushed the project around his desk but couldn’t bring himself to tackle it.

After a couple weeks of this he decided he would try a new strategy.  He would take one small step. He would type the title of the project on a blank page.  That was all.  After he typed the words of the project into the word processor, ideas started to flow and within a couple of hours he had written over 1,000 words.  Daniel says, “Taking that first step is the hardest part for most projects and things, so if you are procrastinating with something lately, simply take the smallest possible step forward, and the rest should start flowing more easily.”

The Law Of Motion

The difficulty we have getting started again once we’ve stopped is the basic law of motion.  The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”  It may take a little more effort to get the resting body back in motion, but it can be done.

Are you letting a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success?  What is the smallest possible step you can take to initiate the law of motion?  Take that step today!

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Preparing For A Half Marathon: Thirteen Tips For A 13 Mile Run

As I was running I started thinking, “What tips can I take back that might help someone getting ready to run their first half marathon?”

Take Your Camera and Extra Clothes and Check Your Adrenalin At The Door. 

Seasoned event runners don’t give much thought to getting up on a Saturday morning to run a half, or even a full marathon.  For me it was different.

I put in some on-the-clock training hours but also considerable time figuring out how to make my training pay off so that I could enjoy the event without being too cold or warm, tired, or stressed.  The secret lies in getting organized well ahead of race day so that nothing is left to chance when the time finally arrives and your nerves are standing straight up.

Race Track

I did the Indy Mini half marathon last year. This is the Indy 500 race track that’s part of the course.

Two Weeks Before The Race

1.  Nutrition - Two weeks ahead of race day you’re still doing some good training runs so now’s the time to focus on the best nutrition possible.  Stay away from food and drinks that have simple sugars or are high in fat.  Now more than ever, you want foods that are nutritionally dense.  Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins.  A green smoothie for breakfast or lunch is a good option too.

2.  Hydration  – Increase your water intake.  You should be drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.  If it’s summer or you live in a warm climate bump it up to ten glasses a day.

3.  Game Day Shoes – Pick out the shoes you plan to wear on race day.  Running shoes should have between 40 and 50 miles on them before you race in them so if your event is two weeks away it’s probably too late to buy new shoes.  But, if your shoes are worn and don’t have enough life in them to give you proper cushioning  and good support, consider buying a new pair and wear them throughout the day for the next two weeks to get some extra miles on them.

4.  Jelly Beans – Sports jelly beans are loaded with caffeine, sodium, potassium, and carbohydrates and can provide just enough energy to give you a second wind if you start to fatigue around mile 9.  Don’t wait until race day to test them out.  Pick a couple of brands and try them while you’re out on your training runs so you’ll know that you like them and they like you. On race day save them until you really need them.

  • One word of caution.  I have a friend who popped one in his mouth while he was running an event and he sucked it into his windpipe and wasn’t able to finish the race.  I’m sure this was just bad luck for him but it doesn’t hurt to slow down, or even pull over if it’s time for a bean.

One Week Before The Race

5.  Music Is Magic - I started experiencing some nervous energy one week before the marathon. Finding new music to download and putting a play list together helped channel  that energy into something that would pay off later on.  I have a playlist with 100 songs on it that shuffle.  I know that every song on the list is one that I enjoy running to.  This works for me because I can turn the iPod on, hit play and never touch it again until I’m done.  I don’t want to be hunting down the songs that I want to hear while I’m running an event.  I have a play list that I created a few months ago (check it out here) and continue to add songs to it including Mr. Saxobeat, Who Dat Girl, Call Me Maybe and Wild Ones.

6.  Unpredictable Weather – Check the weather so you’ll know what you need to wear before, during and after the run.  For the Illinois run we hung around before the start in gloves, hoodies and wind breakers.  We left most of that behind.  I would rather be on the side of having too many clothes in the car to take on or off rather than not enough. If rain is predicted take a big green garbage bag and cut a hole in the top of it so you can put it over your head.  If you have to stand around at the start line in the rain it will keep you dry. These garbage-bag raincoats were all over the place at the event on Saturday.

7.  Clothes: Lots of Them – Pack a full change of clothes for after the race.  You’ll hang out after the race for awhile in the damp clothes you ran in but there is nothing like dry clothes – and shoes – to put on for the drive home.  I packed my drive-home-clothes in a separate bag so they would all be together and easy to grab when it was time to change.

Three Days Before the Race

8.  A Real Camera – Pack your camera and make sure it has working batteries.  You will want a picture of you at the finish line taken with a real camera, not one that is taken with a Smartphone.  You need a quality picture.  Trust me on this one.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

9.  Smart Carbs (Not A Carb Load) – Add an extra serving or two of complex carbohydrates to your diet such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, beans and fruits.  Complex carbohydrates will provide your muscles with an adequate supply of glycogen which will enhance your performance on game day.

10.  What Time Does It Start? – Double check the start time and location of the race.  If you’re not familiar with the area make sure you have a map that shows where you need to be, at what time and what arrangements there are for parking.  Is parking free?  If you have to park on a city street or metered lots you’ll need quarters.

The Big Day

11.  Early To Bed – Get to bed early and get up early so that you can eat breakfast at least three hours before the race and take your time getting ready.  I’ve read many times how important it is to eat a breakfast that you have eaten before.  Don’t try out anything new the day of the event.  If you want to find the best pre-race breakfast start working on that a few weeks before.  Oatmeal is my standard breakfast so that’s what I had.  It’s an easy, warm, comfort food that stays with me all morning.

12.  Feel The Rush? – Don’t underestimate the power of the adrenalin rush that takes place when the race starts.  That rush has the potential to throw you off of your game and leave you drained before you’ve completed the 13 miles.  Standing at a half marathon line with 10,000 other people is exciting. Look around.  No one is standing still.  You can feel the enormous energy oozing out of the crowd and into your body and it’s really cool.  But if you get taken up with it and go out of the gate too fast you’ll lost your momentum once the adrenalin level tapers off.  Start out slow and then push yourself after the halfway point if you’re feeling great and have a lot of energy left.

13.  Experience It.  You’ve worked hard and are ready to do something others can only dream of.  Take it in.  Look at the people and scenery around you.  Say thank you to the folks along the way that are cheering you on even though they have no idea who you are.  Be gracious to the volunteers handing you Gatorade or water.  Return the high five to the boy standing on the sidewalk that reaches his palm up to you as you run by him.  Have someone take your picture at the finish line with your medal on then post it on your Facebook page.  Give yourself a high five. Let it all soak in. Savor it. Celebrate. It doesn’t get any better than this.

No doubt number 13 is the most important, but if you skip 1 through 12 enjoying the race might be more of a challenge.

What tips do you have for someone that is going to run their first half marathon?

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Fitness Tip Of The Week: Increase Upper Body Strength With This One Move

Most people don’t use the muscles in their arms, chest and back nearly as much as they should.

If you go for a brisk walk or a quick run that’s great for your heart and will help keep the legs strong, but these common workouts only use the muscle groups in one half of your body.

Unless you’re doing specific strength exercises to prevent muscle loss, the upper body gets weak.  The muscles begin to atrophy and day-to-day activities become more of a challenge.  Eventually you’ll find that you look more frail and aren’t able to stand up as straight as you’d like.  This is the result of both muscle and bone loss.

Push-Up

Basic Push-Up (Flickr photo by mewall82)

You can turn that upper body muscle and bone loss around with one simple exercise. The push-up. When you do a push-up you’re working your shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps, and core.

How To Do A Basic Push-Up 

There are a number of ways to execute a push-up (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) but the same, basic rules apply to all of them.

1. Get down on the floor on your hands and toes. Position the arms so that they are wider than your shoulders.

2.  Slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. Make sure you keep your back flat and your core muscles tight. It’s important that the body stays in a straight line throughout the exercise.  If you’re able to check out your form in a mirror, that’s a good way to make sure you’re doing it right.

3.  Once your nose is almost down to the floor, slowly push back up to starting position.

4.  Try to be aware of your breathing so that you’re inhaling on the way down to the floor, and exhaling on the way up.

Push-Up Tips

If you haven’t done push-ups for a while just one will get you started.  Rest and then do one more.  Do as many as you can each day and don’t get discouraged if you can’t do many at one time.

You get the same benefits if you break up your sets and do them at different times of the day. For example, rather than trying to do 20 push-ups at a time, do 10 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon.  Make it a goal to increase the number of push-ups that you do each week.

As you progress you can add some variety to your push-ups by placing your hands in a staggered position on the floor, decrease or increase the distance between your hands, or put your feet on a box or bench that is slight higher than your hands for a decline push-up (pictured below).

Decline Push Up

Decline push up (flickr photo by shawnbrowntraining)

At first push-ups might seem hard  but in no time your upper body strength will increase and you’ll be able to handle the workload without resting.

The increase in muscle mass that you’ll gain from doing push-ups and squats every day is crucial to maintaining precious muscle and bone mass and will help keep those extra pounds away.  Plus adding muscle to your frame will improve your body composition so you’ll look and feel better.

Still Need Convincing?

New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that people that have more muscle mass live longer. One of the doctors associated with the project said that instead of worrying about weight or body mass index we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.

What’s your favorite upper body strengthening exercise?

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What You Can Learn From B.J. Fogg: B = mat

“I’m obsessed with how behavior works.  Even on vacation I’m thinking about behavior, I’m watching behavior, I’m reading stuff on it.  I’m trying to understand it systematically.” — B.J. Fogg

What desired behavior change  are you struggling with?  Maybe you want to lose those last 10 pounds or get to the gym three times a week.  It could be that you just want to increase your productivity at work or keep the house from being so cluttered.

It’s all about getting and staying motivated, right?

Not according to B.J. Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University.  Fogg says that long-term behavior change doesn’t have as much to do with motivation as you might think.  It’s more about establishing tiny habits that are anchored to already established ones.

Fogg Behavior Model 2

Motivation applies to temporary behavior change, but not long term.  Fogg says “Relying primarily on motivation to change your behavior long term is a losing strategy. Motivation is very slippery. If you set yourself up to do something really hard and you have to somehow sustain the motivation, the motivation is going to drop down and there’s going to be a point where you won’t do it.”

He says the same is true of willpower.

In Fogg’s Ted Talk, Forget Big Change, Start With A Tiny Habit, he shows you how you can change your life and change your behaviors by making a series of tiny changes. He believes that if you design your goals around the outcomes you’re deisgning at the wrong place.  You need to focus on the behaviors that lead to the desired outcome.

For example, if the desired outcome is weight loss, there are many, many behaviors that lead to that losing weight.  As we create these tiny habits, little by little we will approach the health outcome in a very reliable way.

B = mat

Fogg has created a behavior change formula that consists of three elements:  Motivation. Ability. Trigger. There has to be some level of motivation present.  You have to have the ability to do the habit. There has to be a trigger to get you to do it.

In the Ted Talk he explains how the trigger is the key to the behavior change process and explains how to set up the triggers so that they work.

About B.J.

Fogg devotes 50% of his time to his Persuasive Lab at Stanford and 50% to industry innovation.  At his lab they focus on methods for creating habits and automating behavior change.  Over the years, improving health outcomes has become a theme.

Another focus of the lab is peace innovation and they are investigating how technology can help change attitudes and behaviors in ways that bring about global harmony. While they realize that is this an “idealistic project, and [they] may fail, given the state of the world, choosing not to pursue this line of research would be irrational.”

He has a body of work that includes a Behavior Design Boot Camp which is a two-day event that takes place at his guest house in Northern California and  a book titled Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.

Fogg was chosen by Fortune Magazine as one of 10 New Gurus You Should Know.

Join Tiny Habits

B.J. can help you create new behaviors through his Tiny Habits program that he has shared with over 20,000 people around the world. This 5-day method starts every Monday and he will check in with you via email Monday through Friday of the week you’re registered for to see how you’re doing.

Space is limited. The current session is sold out, so if you’re interested in joining, you will need to check the web site on a regular basis in order to get in.

What tiny habits are you working on?

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3 Practical Weight Loss Tips, Not Tricks

Weight loss tips and gimmicks are never in short supply.  Figuring out which strategies to try and which ones are a waste of time and money can be tricky.

Here are three tips that have been in the news lately that are backed by research and can help you reach your weight loss goals.

Just say no to starvation diets.  Flickr photo by Gideon

Just say no to starvation diets. Flickr photo by Gideon

1. Healthy Gut Bacteria Aids Weight Loss – The theory that having ‘good’ bacteria in our gut keeps us healthy, improves digestion and lowers intestinal inflammation isn’t new.  Now, a couple of recent studies have tested the effects of probiotic yogurt on weight loss in women and show that healthy bacteria may also help reduce belly fat.

In one 24 week study, 125 obese men and women were divided into two groups.  During the first two weeks all participants maintained a low-calorie diet.  One group was taking a pill that consisted of one full serving of yogurt.  The other group was given a placebo. The women in the study that were taking the probiotic pills lost an average of 9.7 pounds during the two weeks.  Those taking the placebo lost approximately 5.7 pounds.

During the second half of the study all of the participants followed a specific diet regimen that helped them maintain their weight loss.  The average weight loss for women taking the probiotics was, on average, 11.5 pounds. The women on the placebo stayed at the same weight.  The men did not seem to be affected by the probiotics.

In a Japanese study 210 overweight people were divided into three groups.  For 12 weeks everyone drank a daily seven ounce serving of fermented milk.  Two of the groups had probiotics mixed in the milk. The participants that had the milk with the probiotics lost one to three percent of belly fat and eight to nine percent visceral fat.

Researchers say that to see a reduction in body fat, you will have to eat yogurt on a regular basis, maybe even every day as the subjects in the studies did.

Check the label to make sure the yogurt you buy has a graphic that says “live and active cultures” on the container and provides a list of the cultures.

Also, watch out for the added sugar that is in many yogurt brands. Your best bet is to buy plain Greek yogurt because it is low in sugar, higher in protein, and more filling.  Then add fresh or frozen fruit to sweeten it.  The active cultures found in kefir will also provide an abundance of probiotics.  Kefir can be added to yogurt, mixed into smoothies or eaten alone.

2. Structured Weekdays Can Un-do Weekend Splurges – Putting most of the efforts into staying on a structured eating plan Monday through Friday may improve your changes for weight loss even if you splurge a little on the weekend.

Dr. Brian Wansink, a researcher at Cornell University, says that there is a natural seven day weight cycle that is similar in all humans.  Almost everyone gains weight over the weekend and loses some weight during the week.  Typically people weigh the most on Sunday and the least on Friday.

Dr. Wansink and a team of researchers studied 80 adults ranging in age from 25 to 62.  He categorized them as weight losers, weight gainers, and weight maintainers.  The researchers  found that the difference between the weight losers and the weight gainers was that the ‘losers’ had a stronger compensation pattern after the weekend weight gain so their weight began dropping immediately after the weekend.

The weight ‘gainers’ had no clear decrease during the week which possibly indicates they weren’t able to recapture their discipline after the weekend.

If you’re someone that tends to overdo it on the weekend and feels depressed when you get on the scale on Monday morning the best thing to do is move on and focus on what happens next. That doesn’t mean that you can eat unabashedly every weekend  and still see many results.

But if you do have a piece of triple layer chocolate cake or a cheesy pasta entrée that’s loaded with calories, don’t beat yourself up over it. On Monday morning get your calories back under control and continue working toward you goal.

3. Lower The Thermostat To Increase Metabolism – When I first read about the theory that shivering can help you lose weight I laughed because it sounded so ridiculous. But it turns out that there may be some truth to this shiver-to-lose-weight stuff.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) claims that both moderate exercise and moderate shivering convert bad white fat into healthier brown fat. In a nutshell white fat stores fat and brown fat burns it.

The research done by the NIH found that both moderate exercise and shivering from being cold increases the level of the hormone irisin and FGF21.  Over a six day period irisin and FGF21 turned human white fat cells into brown fat cells.

This is exciting news according to Dr. Paul Lee, an endocrinologist from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia that conducted the study while at the NIH. “White fat transformation into brown fat could protect animals against diabetes, obesity and fatty liver. Glucose (blood sugar) levels are lower in humans with more brown fat,” Lee said.

Lee also says that people with more brown fat are thinner than those with less of it.

The good news is you may not have to stand out in sub-zero temperatures to reap the benefits of shivering.  A Japanese study found that people experienced a drop in body fat after spending two hours a day for six weeks at a temperature of about 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over To You

Do you have a weight-loss tip that has worked for you?

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Do It Right The First Time So You Won’t Have To Do It Twice

“People don’t have time to do it right the first time, but they always have time to do it twice.”
– Dr. David Hunnicutt, CEO, Wellness Council of America.

Attacking your weight loss goals like you’re a contestant on NBC’s Biggest Loser may be one of the worst approaches for long-term success.  When you dramatically limit calories, sacrifice eating real food for pre-packaged shakes and heat-and-eat meals, and push yourself to lose five to six pounds a week, you’ll see drastic results the first couple of weeks.

After that you burn out and stop losing weight before you reach your goal.  Most people gain the weight back, and many put on more than they lost.

Blackboard

You’re Not In A Contest

Unless you stand to win a large sum of money for losing a lot of weight fast, slow down. You’ll have better success at dropping pounds, and keeping them off, if you approach weight-loss as a long-term project that will lead you to better health.

Don Moffitt, a state representative that lives near Peoria, IL, accomplished a personal goal of losing 100 pounds by doing just that. He tackled his 100 pound weight loss goal ten pounds at a time.  He lost the weight slowly, established new and healthier habits, and has kept it off for more than a year.

“I never looked at it as losing 100 pounds.  I just looked at it as taking off 10, and then repeated it nine more times,” Moffit said.

Don also put some other tried and true practices into play.  He tracked calories and tried to not consume more than 1500 a day.  He also set a target goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, which is about three miles.

Before losing the weight he was on medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and was told by his doctor that he would soon need medications for diabetes.

Not only did he shed pounds, but he is now being phased off of all medications, no longer has sleep apnea and has “kicked diabetes to the curb”.

Setting those small, realistic goals that we discussed in Forget About Lofty Resolutions and Set Achievable Goals applies to losing weight.  Whether you have 10 pounds or 100 to lose, a weight-loss goal of one to two pounds a week is realistic.

Take time to establish different eating patterns, find the options for physical activity that work best for you, and allow some wiggle room for an occasional set-back. Do it right the first time and you won’t have to do it twice.

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Forget About Lofty Resolutions and Set Achievable Goals

Have you seen this e-card that has been circulating on Facebook?

New Year New Me

It appears some people are fed up with New Year’s resolutions.  And for good reason.

We start out the New Year with aspirations to change all of the things we don’t like about ourself. We want to lose weight, get organized, eat better, exercise more, be more productive at our job.

But by mid-January or the first of February we aren’t giving much thought to the resolutions we made a few weeks ago.

If you’ve given up on resolutions and have decided you’ll never be able to do those things that you dream about on January 1, you’re wrong.  You can change.  You can achieve many of the things that you fantasize about. You just need to apply a strategy that will work.

Here are five steps to help you put your resolutions into action.

1.  Establish Your Resolution Goal. Lose the word resolution and replace it with the word goal.  The word resolution smacks of something that’s unattainable. Resolutions are big lofty ideas that would be great if you could make them happen, but you never take the time to put a smart action plan in place to actually get them done.

Instead of resolving to change your life, set one goal that will move you towards making the change that you desire.  For example:  A resolution would be “I’m going to get in better shape this year.”  A goal is:  “I’m going to do three 15-minute workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday this week.

2.   Write it down.  Put your goal in writing.  Write it on a sticky note and put it on the fridge. Enter it as a reminder on your Smartphone.  Keep it in on a memo pad at your desk at work.

Goals that are written down are twice as likely to be achieved. There’s a sense of commitment that takes place when you put your goal in writing.  Writing it down means you mean it.

3.  Evaluate How You Did – If you’ve set attainable, realistic goals it is easy to evaluate how you did at accomplishing them.  If your goal was to do three 15-minute workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, establishing how well you met the goal is simple.

On a scale of one to 10 (with one being not at all and 10 being you hit a home run), ask yourself how you did.  Write that number down by the goal and move on.

4.  Reset the Goal Every Week – Once you’ve evaluated how you did with the goal, either reset that goal and do it again, or establish a new goal. Resetting and repeating goals will establish a pattern that, over time, will become habit to you.

Once you find that you’re easily completing the three 15-minute workouts a week, you’ve formed the habit of getting those done.  Now, it’s time to establish a new goal to challenge yourself further.

5.  Set Achievable Goals – Success breeds success which is why it is absolutely vital that you set goals that you can achieve.  The success of reaching one goal is the springboard to conquering the next one.  Over time, you’ll develop confidence in yourself and know that you are able to set goals and achieve them.

New Year, New Me Can Be Yours

Remember, there are plenty of people that do change their behavior patterns and live their dreams.  It takes hard work, commitment and a strategy beyond clinking a glass of champagne and uttering a few words on December 31.

Are you ready to make this the year for reaching your goals? Try steps one through 5 in the action plan above and see how you do this year.

If you like this article, you might also like: How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep (Part 1) and How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep (Part 2).

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2013 Look Back: My Favorite Posts From The Past Year

Tomorrow we will welcome in a new year.  Most of us greet the start of a new year with excitement and anticipation.  I know that I do.

Ushering in a new year provides an opportunity for a do-over.  We get to hit the reset button.  Each year on January 1 we have a chance to start anew on some of those resolutions and projects that, while we had the best intentions, didn’t get accomplished.Blank Book

You might decide this is the year to tackle those extras 10 pounds.  Maybe you need the motivation to get more physical activity, eat more nutritional foods and get your portions under control.  Whatever it is you undertake, you’ll need a consistent dose of inspiration and encouragement.  That’s where I come in.

I’m looking forward to providing readers a year of fresh content  that I hope will help you reach your goals. I vow to provide articles and information that is free of gimmicks.  This site doesn’t promote fad diets or weight-loss prescriptions, nor does it serve up unrealistic promises.  What it does offer is the latest health and wellness news, healthy super-food recipes, inspirational stories, and exercise expertise.

But before I start churning out a year’s worth of content with all of the stuff you need to stay healthy in a supersized world, I want to take a minute to look back at ten of the most popular articles from 2013.

1.  How You Can Up Your Game With Plyometric Training – Whether you’re looking to bust through a weight-loss plateau, or want to increase your fitness level, adding plyometrics can have a huge impact on both. Learn how it can help you here.

2.  Do You Graze Or Fast? One Might Be Better Than The Other – The concept of intermittent fasting is replacing the theory that grazing (eating every three hours) throughout the day is better for weight loss.  Not convinced?  Check out the article that explains how it works.

3.  Twenty Reasons Why You Should Get 30 Minutes of Exercise A Day – We all know that physical activity is important, but there may be reasons to exercise that you’ve not considered before.  Check out 20 reasons you should get active here.

4.   Isn’t It Time For Your To Break Up With Sugar? – In this article I state that the best thing you can do for your overall health is to reduce the amount of sugar that you eat.  If you think that should be one of your goals for 2014, be sure and read this first.

5.  Take Your Life Off Of Auto-Pilot And Go Someplace Different – Learning to be mindful and live in the moment is key to a healthy existence.  It’s not always easy to do.  Read how you can take control of your thoughts and ultimately your life here.

6.  Post Workout Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie – To date, this is my favorite smoothie recipe.  And it’s so easy, creamy and delicious.  Check out the recipe here.

7.  What You Can Learn From Sheldon Silverstein – The What You Can Learn From series highlights inspirational people that can help you reach your goals. Sheldon is one of those creative geniuses that offers the timeless message, “anything can be”.

8. Meditation Can Keep Your Anxiety From Going Off The Rails – We all have plenty of stress in our lives.  Keeping it under control is a must if we are going to be both physically and emotionally healthy. This article explains how meditation can help you get your anxiety under control.

9.  Six Bodyweight Plateau-Buster Exercises To Do Everyday – The American College of Sports Medicine predicts that bodyweight exercise programs will be trending in 2014.  This post discusses why they are good for you.  Check out the six exercises you should be doing every day here.

10  Motivation For Your Monday (or any day for that matter) – This is a slideshow I created using some of my favorite motivational quotes.  Its intent was to help people get through the Monday blues, but you  might find it helpful any day that you’re feeling less than motivated.  Watch the slideshow here.

There’s the wrap-up for 2013.  Tomorrow we will turn the page and start writing the first chapter in the new book titled “Opportunity”.

What are you going to write in your book?

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