December Q & A

question markDecember Question and Answer
Expert answers to your health and wellness questions

Question:  What’s the difference between someone eating vegan vs. eating vegetarian?

Answer:  Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game, slaughter by-products, fish, shellfish, and poultry) and within this practice of eating there are four categories.  Vegans only eat plant-based food, eliminate not just meat, but also dairy (and all by-products), eggs, and honey.  The most significant difference when someone says they are vegan vs. vegetarian is the philosophy behind the vegan way of life, whose adherents seek to also exclude the use of animals for clothing, or any other purpose.  Lacto-vegetarians eat plant-based foods and milk products.  Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat plant based foods, diary, and eggs.  Flexitarians eat plant-based food and occasionally or limited their frequency of eating meat.

Question:  I keep hearing that CrossFit workouts are unsafe.  What should I be aware of if I decide to try CrossFit?

Answer: The possibility of injury is an increased risk with participation in any type of exercise, especially a high-intensity fitness regimen like CrossFit.  A CrossFit workout combines strength training, explosive plyometrics, speed training, Olympic and power-style weight lifting, kettlebell work, body weight exercises, and endurance exercises. Training the CrossFit way requires you to workout 3-5 times per week at a very intense pace.  Most workouts are performed in a circuit style, moving from one exercise to another with little to no rest.  It’s best to have a sufficient strength base before starting CrossFit.  If you are new to Olympic weight lifting and plyometric exercises, don’t worry as each CrossFit affiliate has a one-month initiation course, which newcomers must complete to learn proper training technique for all of the major exercises performed in the CrossFit program (or, they SHOULD and you should participate for best results).  Ask about credentials and references for any affiliate coaches and personal trainers who will be responsible for teaching you the essential CrossFit exercises.  You’ll want a coach that is trained in sports and conditioning and has a degree in exercise science or related field of study. Not all coaches are equal. Check references, see if there have been excessive injuries. A coach that pushes to a limit that consistently see injuries is not a coach you want.

Another idea is to seek out training gyms that have Small Group and Large Team Training. These training facilities, often found in Anytime Fitness locations also, have fun and functional groups led by Personal Trainers, not just coaches. They are safe, tailored and personalized. Check out this video to see more.

The Thigh Gap Controversy

Lately if you have been watching pop culture news, you have seen some of the controversy regarding thigh gap. There is a lot of conflicting information; some that shows thigh gap is impossible for some of us to attain. While I agree that thigh gap is just another body image area that young women are focusing on instead of the big picture, I hesitate to give anyone yet another excuse about why they cannot be thin and healthy.  Don’t tell me I am genetically predisposed to have big thighs, stomach, etc.

I don’t need more excuses about why I cannot be successful. I need the tools and accurate information about what it takes to create success in my life!! I need a reason why I can and should be healthy. If the reason I find is cosmetic or vanity related, I am much less likely to find a healthy way to attain proper health and dress size.  However, if I am faced with a personal reason, i.e. to be a healthy example to those around me, to honor God by treating my body as a temple, to be able to run a marathon, or simply just to be the best me I can be, these reasons are lasting and true.

Once you have found a reason why you need to be the healthiest you, now you need to arm yourself with accurate information. This is where things get difficult. If you use the Internet for your research, there is a lot of information although not all of it is accurate or trustworthy. There are a lot of people trying to sell things that,fitspiration although they work for some, are really more scams to take your money than anything else.  The best source I have found is heavily researched and backed by thousands of people who have put the practices in place and found significant success. This information can be found here.  It does come with a price, but in my opinion it is well worth it!

You are NOT going to find the comprehensive information you need in a $3 magazine that has the ultimate goal of headlines that sell more magazines.  Although there are some good nuggets of information in here, it would take a LOT of research and time to accumulate all the information and tools that can be found in this publication.

Let me warn you, if you are not ready to make a COMMITMENT that is backed up with DESIRE, DEDICATION and DRIVE, don’t waste your money. Making a change like this where you focus on losing fat NOT weight, takes time, effort and sacrifice. You can continue making excuses by saying “I don’t want to give up everything I love in order to be healthy”, however keep in mind that EVERYTHING YOU LOVE IS KILLING YOU.  This includes, but is not limited to, soda, junk food, processed food, high fructose corn syrup, and alcohol.

So don’t tell me I can’t reach a certain goal.  Don’t tell me this is unrealistic. My goals should be high but attainable. The goal of thigh gap is attainable, however my goal is healthy and fit. My goal is to reach a certain body fat percentage, not a certain weight. My goal is to show others that it is possible, although it does take sacrifice and determination.

You can be thin and healthy. Do you have the work ethic and success mindset that it takes to get there? That is what most people lack.  It is evident in our culture and our economy that laziness is the core value among people today.  If you can overcome the excuses and laziness in your life, you can have everything you ever dreamed of.  Working to become the healthiest person you have ever been will transform you to levels of success you only dreamed of.  Don’t EVER sell yourself short. Give it your all and you will be amazed at where it will take you.

Good luck and good health!

Shut the Back Door!

As you know, I am in the business of helping others change their lives with health and fitness. However, so many times people make excuses why they fail.  Sometimes, they even expect to fail and so often, expectations become reality.  That is why I am telling you today to SHUT THE BACK DOOR.back door

What do I mean by this? Let me use a real example from my life. Over a year ago, I quit drinking. That’s right…I went alcohol free. I decided though, I did not want to be anal about it and would allow myself a sip of my husband’s beer or a drink on a special occasion (i.e. champagne at New Year’s etc). That was my back door.  I was allowing myself an excuse to drink or a way out of my non-drinker lifestyle choice.

I said it was for one reason; not wanting to be seen as “one of those people”. But truly, it was because I did not want to commit myself to a lifetime of being a non-drinker.  By not shutting this back door, I eventually got right back to where I was prior to making the decision to go alcohol free. It took over a year, but I still got there.

The great thing is that I realized I left the door opened and I slammed it shut before I did too much damage to myself.

Shut the Back Door! Don’t allow yourself any excuses. Don’t get a month-to-month gym membership; commit for whatever length your state will allow.  You are committing to YOUR HEALTH, YOUR FUTURE, YOUR FAMILY.  Don’t start a diet. Make a lifetime dedication to healthy eating. Don’t quit drinking soda for Lent. Use Lent as your start, but commit for a lifetime!

It sounds daunting, I know. However, when you are mentally and emotionally ready you will SHUT THE BACK DOOR. In fact, you will SLAM the back door in your weaker self’s face!!

Meal Planning vs. Meal Journaling

peppersincrockpotOn several occasions, I have suggested how important it is to keep a food journal. However, it is even more important to actually pre-plan your meal.  This is called Meal Planning and will do more to help you with your nutrition than a lot of other suggestions you may hear.

Meal planning does not have to be difficult.  For years, bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts simply used Excel or a notebook.  Create a blank meal plan template in Excel that has spaces for food, quantity eaten, and macronutrients (i.e. protein, carbs, fat and calories). Make sure it also has enough room for the number of meals, ideally 5 or 6, that you want to eat each day.

After you have the basic template ready, start plugging in your factors. This is the multiplier for the energy (caloric) content of the macronutrient.  

  • Protein has 4 calories per gram
  • Carbs have 4 calories per gram
  • Fat has 9 calories per gram

Use the spreadsheet’s capabilities to add up meal totals and daily totals. Get it to also give you the ratio of macronutrients for the entire day (i.e. 45% carbs, 25% fat, 30% protein).

So now you are questioning, why bother?

Well, it’s a proven fact that people who guess at their calorie intake are not only almost always wrong – they miss by a country mile! One study showed that even registered dieticians couldn’t estimate their calorie intake with even 85% accuracy when they only guessed and didn’t have a tool or method to track their numbers.

The odds are overwhelmingly against you getting your nutrition right if you don’t have a plan, by the numbers, in writing – on paper (or online, digitally).  Success is not just about having goals. Success is about having a goal and having a PLAN to achieve it… and then beginning at once to take action on your plan.

If your goal is improving fitness or body composition – half of the plan is the workout – the other part is the MEAL PLAN.  Millions of people stumble into each day with no plan for what they’re going to eat… THEY “WING IT!”  The fact is, people without a plan usually eat whatever is convenient, available and accessible.

Don’t go through life without a plan.  Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail.

Snoopy was Right!!

snoopyRemember Charles Schultz’s cartoon Charlie Brown? Of course you do. Snoopy was always positive, no matter what. On the other hand Charlie Brown could hardly ever find a positive thought or attitude. Who do you relate to? Do you seek to find a silver lining in even the darkest of clouds or are you like Chicken Little who always believes the sky in falling?

There is a saying that goes “No matter whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.”  You are in control of your emotions, your reactions to outside stimuli and therefore, the physiological effects on your body.  A positive attitude will have so many positive influences in your life and is so easy to control that I question why anyone would go through life being a “negative nelly”.

There is a scientific condition called Emotionally Induced Illness, or EII. Back in 1956, John Schindler published a book entitled How to Live 365 Days a Year. In this book, he introduces us to EII and explains how 90 percent of illnesses can be linked to emotions.  Although you may look at the fact that this book was published in 1956 and think it is now “hokum”, it still holds true today.

The question is why do physician’s not attack the problem of EII? The answer is simple. If you went to the doctor and he told you the problems you were experiencing stemmed from your reaction to outside stimuli (or attitude), you would find another doctor. Therefore our medical professionals have decided to support big pharma and throw prescriptions at the problem. The Rx solution works for, on average, two months before the “substitution therapy” makes the problem worse. In fact, only 8 percent of people who received a prescription for something that could be handled with attitude therapy showed improvement in a year. This 8 percent, more than likely, had legitimate health issues that were not EII or at least were not significantly EII.

So what is the solution? SMILE. That is right. A simple smile on your face will change your attitude AND change the physiological reaction in your body. Even if you fake a smile, not a grimace or a smile with teeth clenched, you will more than likely find a smile within. Try it. You are in control of your attitude.

I am not, of course, suggesting that all medical conditions can be solved with a positive attitude. However, before going to a doctor and taking a medication that has a laundry list of negative side effects try altering your attitude. If you need some additional book format support, check out Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. I encourage you to do your own experiment. Be your own lab rat. If it doesn’t work, by all means seek a medical professional.

Good luck and Good Health!!

The New Entitlement…

How frustrated do you get with people around you who think they are “deserving” of something just because they breath? Do you ever feel this way…even a little? Our society has become a society of people who think the world around them owes them something.  This may take many forms. This person may think the government owes them. Some may think that the corporate business world owes them. Or, someone may think the person next to them in line owes them.

The truth of the matter is that NO ONE deserves anything and NO ONE owes you anything. The best way to get what you want out of life is go out and work hard for it. Don’t expect handouts, don’t expect discounts for services for which others pay good money , don’t expect special treatment for whatever “ailment” you determine is worthy.

hard workMary Lou Retton once said “Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing yourself to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.” She should know, she was the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic gold medal in the Gymnastic Individual All-around competition.

When you first begin to put in the hard work, it will be difficult to keep going. However, as stated eloquently by Ms. Retton, it becomes a game.  It becomes fun. It is wonderful to see the fruits of your hard work.  Once you have put in the effort, it becomes standard operating procedure. You will see it in a pay raise, more business success, weight loss, a stronger family unit, better health, and so on.

Think about how much better this country and the world would be if we had less people claiming they were entitled to things and more people who actually got up every day and worked hard to earn the things they “deserve”.

A Nation at Risk

As I watch the government stalemate from the sidelines, I question what is my part in all of this? Do I have a responsibility to my nation? to myself? to my family? I believe the answer to this lies in personal responsibility. We all need to take care of ourselves and treat each other with respect, dignity and kindness. We have become a nation full of people who are self-absorbed, requiring immediate gratification, often at everyone else’s expense. However, it is our business, and your business, to take care of yourself.

It is impossible to put a price tag on good health, although we can see to some degree what poor health costs. Despite what the people on Capitol Hill will tell you, there is no simple solution to our current healthcare crisis. It is clear, however, that if everyone were physically active, the results would be dramatic.  Unfortunately, since our “healthcare” marketplace currently does not actively incentivize positive lifestyle choices, we should justifiably call it “sickcare” instead since that is what it promotes.

There is strong scientific evidence that supports that exercise:

  • reduces the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and breast cancer.
  • benefits of exercisereduces depression, anxiety and stress
  • helps control weight
  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • decreases the likelihood of falling
  • enhances self-image and promotes psychological well-being
  • increases energy
  • reduces the risk of cognitive decline
  • stimulates creative thinking

Unfortunately, the statistics show

  • one of every three adults exercise regularly
  • one in four adults does not exercise AT ALL
  • two of every three adults are OVERWEIGHT or OBESE
  • nearly 40% of adults spend the majority of the day sitting
  • eight out of 10 adults recognize the benefits of exercise, but only two exercise enough to meet physical activity guidelines
  • US adults report that they watch TV an average of 2.2 hours/day and use a computer for 1.7 hours/day outside of working hours
  • If the numbers of OBESE and OVERWEIGHT adults in the US continue to grow at its current rate, nearly 9 out of 10 adults will be considered OVERWEIGHT or OBESE by 2030.

So, although the government thinks they can fix our healthcare crisis with legislation, I ask you…

ARE YOU PART OF THE PROBLEM OR ARE YOU PART OF THE SOLUTION?!?!?!

How to Choose a Personal Trainer

personal trainerA personal trainer can be a wonderful tool in your fitness journey. However, before you sign on the dotted line and pony up the bucks, make sure you consider the following.

Not all trainers are created equal.
Make sure you find out how much experience your trainer has. How long has he/she been training others? Do they have success stories that you can see? Have their past and current clients been able to maintain their progress or even push their progress to new levels? Keep in mind that some trainers get their certification online and have no real world experience and did not even have to do a practical exam to get certified. Just because a trainer is certified, does not mean you will see progress or even avoid injury. Ask for references, go to the gym where they work and watch them with clients (you can do this while you do cardio), talk to other trainers or staff at the gym and find out what they think. I caution you on this last point; trainers are in essence a tremendously competitive lot and each trainer thinks he/she is the best trainer and all other trainers are just posers. Therefore, if you talk to other trainers about your targeted trainer, take what you hear with a grain of salt.

Consider your reason behind hiring a trainer.
Do you need some holding you accountable and constantly pushing you during your workouts? Do you lack the knowledge of what to do during your workouts? Are you trying to get ready for an event? All of these are solid reasons to hire a trainer. However, make sure your chosen trainer knows what they are doing and will not compromise form in your workout. This is the quickest way to risk injury. Good form should always come first; even if it means lifting lighter weights.

If you are trying to get ready for an event, make sure your trainer has specialized training in that area. Not all trainers can reasonably know all areas. For example, some trainers specialize in getting people ready for figure or fitness competitions. This takes a very specific skill set in which not every trainer has. Also, if you are training for distance running or triathlons, you will need a trainer that has specific knowledge about proper stretching, strength training for endurance training, etc.

The First Meeting.
Treat this first meeting with your target trainer like an interview. This first meeting should be free. It is intended to make you comfortable with the trainer, but also gives the trainer the ability to sell you training. Make sure your personalities are going to be compatible. Find out what their motivational techniques are. Find out how often they will change up your workouts and take your measurements.  Remember, you will not know if you are making progress unless you have regular assessments to see your measurements. Some trainers charge for these assessments as if it were a training session. I think that is fair because they are spending valuable time with you to provide you with necessary feedback. These assessments will also help you both determine if your training needs to be tweaked or if you need nutritional guidance.

Committing to a Package.
Make sure you understand the fee schedule. Do you have to commit to a length of time in months or just number of sessions? Are the sessions 30 minutes or an hour? If one hour in duration, will part of that time be spent doing cardio or are you expected to do that on your own? This information is needed because if you have to do it on your own, you need to build that into your gym time. Also, do you really need a trainer next to you pushing you on the cardio?

What is the cancellation policy? What hours are they available? Do they have multi-client sessions available so you can share the cost with a buddy? Do packages expire if not used in a certain time frame? What is the refund policy? What happens if you move, get injured or otherwise are unable to train? Can you buy individual sessions?

Final Notes.
Beware of a trainer who tries to sell you supplements of any kind. Many trainers earn commission for the products they sell, which could be a conflict of interest. Unless your goal is to become a professional bodybuilder, you should be able to get all of the nutrients you need from a healthy diet and a daily multi-vitamin. The average person does not need protein powders, energy drinks and other supplements to help them succeed.  Find a trainer who isn’t going to push these kinds of products.

Remember, just because someone is a personal trainer does not mean they are qualified to give advice about your diet. Many will call themselves “nutritionists,” but that does not mean they have a degree or any formal training in this area. In fact, the only person legally qualified to give specific diet advice is a Registered Dietitian. If your trainer is creating meal plans for you that are outside of the guidelines of the Food Guide Pyramid, that is irresponsible and puts your health at risk. Be careful when getting nutritional advice from a trainer. If your trainer tells you to avoid a food group or a specific macro nutrient, find another trainer. Trainers can ONLY give guidance based on sound principals of the Food Guide Pyramid, but nothing outside of that. If you need help with your diet, consult a Registered Dietitian. 

You should be able to tell that your trainer lives the life he/she recommends for you. If a trainer has a beer belly, he/she is not living the healthy lifestyle and if they cannot follow their own suggestions, how motivated are you going to be to follow their guidelines? Finally, you are not hiring a buddy; you are hiring someone that has your fitness interest and goals in mind. They should not spend your session time talking to you about things other than your fitness, they should not be sitting down while you workout, they should not be texting or on the phone during your sessions. You paid for this time. Treat the trainer as if they were an employee, because that is what they are. You are spending your disposable income on their skills and expertise. Don’t hire them to count for you; I am sure you can count to 15 yourself.

All in all, personal training is an investment in yourself. Think about it as making your time at the gym the most focused time possible. Going through the motions will get you minimal progress, but the right trainer can help you reach your goals, faster and more efficiently. I encourage you to hire a trainer, just make sure you follow my advice above. You will be happy you did when you finally find yourself with six pack abs or 4 sizes smaller with everyone around you raving how great you look!!

 

To Motivate and Inspire!

I have come under attack recently for trying to give you, the readers, some solid information. I would like for you to know that my giving you this information in no way discounts any efforts you are or have made.  If you are losing weight using Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig or Medi Weight Loss, GREAT! I encourage everyone to find what works for you. We each have our own personality which is why there are so many different plans available.

comparisonWith that said, however, I will encourage my readers to eat real food whenever possible. Avoid processed foods. Avoid fat free foods. Eat the full fat, red meat, foods; just use common sense and account for your calories.

I also encourage everyone to workout several times per week. Diet alone will not make you lean and mean AND exercise alone will not make you lean and mean.  As I have said in the past, I have tried it both ways and the only way to get lean and mean is to balance it all.

I like to think I am here to motivate and inspire others. If I sometimes get preachy, it is because I want to help and sometimes I feel like that is the only way to get through.  Once again, everyone has a different personality and different styles of communication speak to different people. I hope in some way I am helping you on your journey. Thanks for reading.