The scale is evil

I advise most of my clients to avoid the scale. The scale RARELY elicits happy feelings. Excitement? Joy? When is the last time you have associated either of these feelings with what you see on the scale?

More often than not the scales leads to thoughts and feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, depression, etc. So why do we continue to use the scale as a measurement?

Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with the scale – we are drawn to is, as one of the few measurements we know. And it sure is the easiest and most accessible – isn’t it?

The problems with weight

There are numerous problems with weight. It fluctuates. Your body is 70%+ water – so dehydration is a significant factor. What did you eat or not eat yesterday. How did you sleep. What time of day is it. Females, where are you in your cycle. What are the weather conditions. There are countless factors that influence weight – and cause us unnecessary frustration.

The the scientific and physical reasons aside, weighing yourself and having weight goals is psychologically defeating. This is why I emphasize the importance of having weight independent goals on your journey (also known as life).

Real-life story

I try not to weigh myself, because I know that it elicits negative thoughts that lead to negative self-talk.

I weighed myself today. I have been feeling pretty good, but I knew that my pants were getting tight. Since eliminating long runs from my training plan (I do not have any more races coming up), I have not integrated heavy leg days back into my routine. This is the primary cause for my shift. Dietary habits – of course – are a huge factor, although overall my eating has been pretty good.

But where is my mind?

Why didn’t I add leg days?

Why did I eat that ice cream when I wasn’t hungry?

Why don’t I run more? Which becomes, I should have kept my running up.

Getting on the scale is a mental, emotional, and psychological disaster. We are anxious prior to doing it. We are, more often than not, upset or frustrated afterwards. My general rule is to avoid those activities that trigger or elicit negative thoughts and feelings. This means, the scale must go!

Take an afternoon

– and work on yourself. You can follow my guidelines for goal setting. But use the following to give serious thought and consideration to your weight goals:

Please answer the following questions with your desired weight in mind.

  1. Origins of your desired weight: 
    1. Why do you want to be this specific weight?
    2. Is there anything particularly special about this weight?
  2. Other weight goals in the past:
    1. Have you had other weight goals in the past?
    2. Why were they different from your present goal?
  3. Achievability of your desired weight:
    1. When were you last at your desired weight?
    2. How hard do you think it would be to stay at this weight?
  4. Importance of reaching your desired weight:
    1. How important to you is reaching your desired weight?
    2. If it is important, why is it important?
  5. Consequences of reaching your desired weight:
    1. How would your life differ if you reached your desired weight?
    2. What could you do that you cannot do now?

Or, if you have previously been this weight, how was your life different when you were at this weight?

When answering the two parts of question 5 consider the following eight aspects of daily life:

Attractiveness (to yourself and others) Clothes size and choice
Leisure activites (e.g., sports) Health and fitness
Work Social life
Self-esteem and self-confidence Personal relationships

6. Consequences of not reaching your desired weight:

  1. How would you feel if you did not reach your desired weight?
  2. What effect would it have on your daily life?

Adapted from Cooper, Fairburn, and Hawker (2003) 

The bottomline

After completing this exercise, you may find that your weight goals are unfounded, inappropriate, or unrealistic. You may find that they are adequate. If your goal is to be the same weight as your 20-year-old self, that may or may not be a good weight at this point in your life. These questions should help you to think critically and make the best goals for YOU.

Lastly, support your journey by settings goals that focus on health, energy, and happiness.

When is the last time the scale left you thinking and feeling positively —? Or even neutral?

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What supplements do you use?

I have been thinking more about supplements. I get asked ALL the time – “What supplements do you use?”

The bare minimum. I carry more muscle than your average woman, as a result I suspect individuals assume I take something – whether it be natural or synthetic. I do not use creatine. I rarely use protein powder. I do not use energy boosters, pre-workouts, nor post-workouts. My first and foremost source is FOOD!

However, I do use FOUR supplements on a consistent basis:

  1. Multi-Vitamin
  2. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
  3. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
  4. Iron

Multi-Vitamin

The Western diet does not provide all the vitamins and minerals that the body requires to be fully functioning. I personally use Prograde Women’s VGF 25+ Multi-Vitamin. You can try the Men’s or Women’s VGF FreeIf you are not currently taking a multi-vitamin, I strongly encourage you to do so. Unfortunately, regardless of how healthy you eat, it is nearly impossible to get enough of everything your body needs for optimal functioning!

Essential Fatty Acids

The most common example of an EFA supplement is Fish Oil. The benefits of EFAs are abundant. Taking an EFA supplement can reduce your risk for heart disease, reduce inflammation, improve brain functioning, and more. I use Prograde EFA – I have tried all the products under the sun and I continually return to Prograde.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

BCAAs are designed to help you maintain the muscle you work hard to build. Naturally occurring in pork, fish, some dairy, etc., it is difficult to consume amounts adequate for our bodily and mental needs.

Iron

I take an additional iron supplement under the advisement of my physician. I have a tendency to be iron deficient and borderline anemic. It is not abnormal for a female to require an iron supplement, particularly during menstruation when iron is lost.

I am not a sales representative

I have been getting so many questions – Herbalife, Body by Vi, Advocare. Save your money! A good multi-vitamin and a fatty acid are all the average person needs. I have been approached by numerous individuals regarding Advocare – about both using the products and selling them. While I know many who use them, that is not my idea of a healthy lifestyle. I will summarize my reasons.

First, a product sold in a pyramid scheme screams red flag. If everyone in that pyramid is making a profit, then the quality of the product must be poor.

Second, I know many individuals who have replaced coffee with Spark. While I applaud them, I prefer to remain with my all natural sources for energy – coffee, fruits, vegetables, and FOOD. Plus, the ‘sugar-free’ Sparks contain a minimum of 2 sugar ingredients — something to think about.

The bottomline

Yes, you can order your Prograde products through me. And I live by the products – give them a shot and you will know why. But I will not give you this big long explanation of what they will do for you – because NOTHING can replace REAL FOOD and REAL WORK.

A supplement is just that – a supplement. A supplement to healthy lifestyle. If a product claims to allow you to continue to eat junk (ah-hem, Sensa?) – it is a gimmick. It will not work. Further, your body often does not know what to do with the chemicals and synthetics in many supplements – so it removes it through waste.

Listen. Slow down. Rest.

My body has been telling me to slow down and rest. But my mind is fighting it – NO! I have difficulty with doing nothing – both physically and mentally. As my favorite surgeon noted, I am a “Go go go girl.” (Not to be confused with a go go girl.)

My back hurts.

My hip hurts.

My hands hurts, with small blisters beneath my calluses.

My foot hurts.

My knee has been popping (not a good sign).

There is a pinching pain between my shoulder blades.

My head hurts, pulling from my shoulder blades.

And yet, my mind does not want to slow down. I share this, not to complain, or to whine, or for sympathy. But to show that I understand and that I too fall into the trap. The trap of habitual exercise and not wanting to stop – for fear that you will not start again.

Slowing down and resting is something that I have actually gotten better at these last few years. Each of my injuries forced me to slow down – each of them designed for the function of forcing me to slow down (there is a reason for everything, isn’t there?). I have since become more in-tune with my body. I listen to it. While I am pretty good at slowing down or cutting back,  I am not so good at resting completely. I go a little bit stir crazy on rest days (although I force myself to take at least 1 rest day a week).

Avoid overtraining

Some individuals may suspect I am overtraining. I am not overtraining – simply managing a chronic, mysterious condition (narrowed down to being autoimmune). Most of my pain has nothing to do with my workouts. However, minor aches and pains can be good indicators to slow down and avoid overtraining. Has your body been sore for too many days in a row? Rest. Are you getting adequate sleep but still fatigued? Rest.

Avoid Injury

If your body is fatigued or you are experiencing some pain, there is a good chance that you will workout, compensate with other areas, and incur more pain or injury. Another injury does not appeal to me – I do not think it is worth the risk.

The bottomline

Listen to your body. Slow down when it needs it. Rest when it needs it. When it doubt, if you have been working out hard, rest.

Rest —

Challenge: Strengthen your ‘no’ muscle

Many of us have difficulty saying no. I for one, have GREAT difficulty saying no.

We have difficulty setting relational boundaries – unable to say no to friends and often overcommiting ourselves or doing things we do not want to do..

We have difficulty maintaining work boundaries – unable to say no to our boss’s every request, working long hours and bringing work home.

We have difficulty with food boundaries – unable to say no to food that seem to stare us in the face daily or not knowing when to stop.

Read on to learn how I strengthened my no muscle.

Long-term potentiation

As with anything, saying no can become easier with practice. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It is like a muscle, use it and it will become stronger. There is an abundant amount of research out there supporting the notion. We call it willpower. Scientists call it long-term potentiation (LTP).

When you practice saying no, you can strengthen the nerve cell connections in the brain – when the connections are strengthened they are potentiated (Amen, 2010). Practicing over time strengthens these circuits and builds what we know as willpower. LTP occurs whenever these circuits are strengthened and practiced and the associated behaviors become almost automatic (Amen, 2010).

My ‘crazy’ experiment

I tested the LTP theory years ago. I had always felt like I had no willpower – prone to binge drinking and eating. I had begun working with a trainer and saw the weight loss benefits. Wanting to see what results I could truly obtain, I quickly modified my diet – strictly following the guidelines that I provide in my meal and snack creation post. At the time, I was having difficulty with giving up my beloved Snickers candy bars. Having read about LTP and that it is possible to increase willpower. I thought I would test it out.

I took a “Fun Size” Snickers bar to work and placed in in front of my computer monitor. At the time, I worked in publishing and sat in front of the computer for 8-10 hours a day. My goal: I will not eat the Snickers today. I sat there all day with the Snickers in front of me. I practiced saying no. Some might argue this was desensitization (it may have been). I wanted to, but I did not eat it!

I set the same goal for the next day.

And the next.

I would tell myself, I did not eat it yesterday and I do not need to eat it today.

This went on for months. More than a year. Eventually the Snickers bar was so old that it wasn’t appealing (although I am sure it has an absurd shelf life) and I threw it away. I had built willpower and the ability to say no.

It was not easy

This brief summary omits the days of stressful deadlines, when I almost ate that bar. I didn’t mention the emotional days, when I wanted the candy bar, but said no. It doesn’t mention my colleagues – who all thought I was crazy – who were nay-sayers and bullied me to eat it.

The challenge

What do you need to say no to?

For me, it was Snickers. At other times, it has been saying no to clients who want to train with me during periods that I am generally unavailable. There was also a time when I needed to learn to say no to alcohol.

I challenge you to think about what you need to say no to. Starting today, you will practice. It starts with 1 day. Then 1 day becomes 2. And if I can do it — so can you.

So tell us, to what are you going to practice saying NO?

References

Amen, D. G. (2010). Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Playlist: I say jump and you…JUMP

As I build and compile workouts, I thought that I would share this playlist. Compiled for a plyometrics workout, what would be better than a bunch of songs about jumping? Nothing.

The JUMP list

  1. Jump – Kris Kross
  2. Jump Around – House of Pain
  3. Don’t Jump – Tokio Hotel
  4. Jump for my Love – Pointer Sisters
  5. Jump – Van Halen
  6. Jump on it – Sir Mix Alot
  7. Jump on it – SugarHill Gang
  8. Jumping Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
  9. The Red Jumpsuit Aparatuts – Face Down
  10. Jump, Jive an Wail – Louis Armstrong
  11. The Jump Off – Lil Kim
  12. Crank That Jump Rope – Soulja Boy
  13. Jumping All Over The World – Scooter
  14. Hey Baby Jump Off – Bow Wow
  15. Jump Da F*ck Up – Slipknot
  16. Jumper – Third Eye Blind
  17. No Jumper Cables – Aesop
  18. Jumpin Tonight – Big Joe Turner
  19. Jumpin Jumpin – Destiny’s Child
  20. Jump Around – Cypress Hills
  21. White Men Can’t Jump – Riff
  22. Jump – Simple Plan
  23. Jump – Madonna
  24. Jump – XTC
  25. Jump – The Moffats
  26. Jump – Kylie Minogue
  27. Jump with you Baby – B B King
  28. Jump Off – Bow WOw
  29. Jump – Girls Aloud
  30. Jump Start – Jethro tull
  31. Jump in the Fire – Metallica
  32. Jump they say – David Bowie

Have any you can add to my list?

Are group fitness classes effective?

I taught two group fitness classes yesterday morning. Back to back. I do this most Saturdays. Out of curiosity, I wore my heart rate monitor this time. First, I wanted to see how high my heart rate got during some of the exercises I selected for the TABATA class. I did not intend for the heart rate to get too high, and it didn’t. Second, I was curious as to how many calories I would burn during two hours of teaching – two classes that I heavily participate in.

When I stopped my heart rate monitor at 2 hours and 2 minutes, I was disappointed: 890 calories. To give you some perspective, my average 45-60 minute workout burns 500-700 calories. Granted, this was not the same intensity, nor designed to be my workout, but it led me to think critically about whether my classes were adequate and appropriate – and about the overall effectiveness of group fitness.

Intended outcome?

Why do most individuals attend group fitness classes? Most have the goal to lose weight. Are group fitness classes targeting that goal? I believe that the answer to this question is complicated – it is both yes and no.

For example, depending on the exercise selection, TABATA can be a effective and efficient workout. I perform this form of high intensity interval training on a regular basis. I design my classes in an equally effective manner (with a lesser degree of intensity). BUT, if a member comes to my Saturday morning class and this is the 8th class she has been to this week, will it be effective? Will the intended outcome be reached? Probably not.

Desired results far too uncommon

I have been in and out of my fair share of gyms. When you are a group fitness instructor, by default you end up filling in at what seems to be every workout facility within a 30-mile radius. And unfortunately, I have seen very few members achieve their desired results. Weight loss. Improved fitness. Very few group fitness programs will get you this results. Even more disheartening, is that I would see the same faces over and over – watching some individuals attend 8-10 hours of classes a week – with no results. Sadly, most of these individuals are overtraining. Some are undernourished due to extending periods of dieting and/or yo-yo dieting. Most are frustrated and at a loss for what else to do.

Solution

It is pretty simple. While I am not a proponent of many group fitness classes, I will not suggest that you forgo the classes. I will recommend the following:

  1. Attend NO MORE than 4 group fitness classes a week. Most group fitness classes target the same muscles, energy systems, etc. and miss the same muscle groups, form, technique, and energy systems.
  2. Research your instructor – ONLY take classes led by degreed and certified professionals. This one may be tough. There are some good instructors out there who do not have degrees, they have been fanatics for years and they bring good energy and great intentions. But generally speaking, you want to work with someone who has been trained to manage situations as they arise – providing variety that is safe, efficient, and effective.
  3. Work with a qualified trainer first. While working with a qualified personal trainer long term is not always financially feasible, it is in your best interest to invest the time and money into a few (3-12) foundational sessions with a trainer. A qualified trainer will teach you form and technique that the group fitness instructor simply is unable to provide in the setting (some know your form is off but are not able to correct form on every person every hour). With this investment, you will gain valuable knowledge that you can bring with you and ensure that you get the most out of your workout.
  4. Wear a heart rate monitor. Sweat is not indicative of a good workout – however most group fitness class attendees use sweat as the measure of whether the workout was good. It is not the only indicator. Neither is soreness the only nor the best indicator of a good workout. What else can you measure? Your heart rate. Target heart rates are highly individual – for more specifics please contact me personally.
  5. Change? If you have been going to the same class for years – it is time for something new!
  6. Give it your all. Some times a group class can become social hour. While this is not all bad, remember why you are there and give it 100%!

The bottomline

Not all group fitness classes are bad. These classes can be a great way to build community support and accountability. But if you are a regular attendee, be honest as to whether you are getting the results for the time and energy you put into the work. If you go to classes every day, and are not getting the results you desire, you may be overtraining – or simply inefficiently training.

I love group fitness classes – that is how I got my start. (It is also the reason I suffered overuse injuries and eventually elected to have surgery.) Follow the 6 recommendations above and you can get the most out of those classes!

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A no-quit circuit workout

We played with video today. I have said before that I do not intend to share too many workouts, but it was on my heart to share this one.

A simple – but not easy – workout, comprised of 4 circuits. Rest 1 to 2 minutes between circuits.

Circuit 1 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Spiderman Pushups (each side)
Dumbbell Squat to Press
Chinups (or assisted Chinups)

Circuit 2 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Jump Lunge
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Goblet Squat

Circuit 3 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
DB Jump Squat
Superman Pushup

Circuit 4 (3 sets, 15 repetitions, no rest)
Dumbbell Step Up
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Squat

You can view a video tutorial on this workout on my Facebook page.

Are You Raising the Fitness Bar Too High?

Interesting perspective. And VERY true. We often compare ourselves to our best selves, or younger selves – setting unrealistic and unhealthy goals. Interesting how “fit” has changed over the years.

PFITblog

It is so easy to get our minds out of whack. We fixate on where we want to BE so much, that we often totally forget where we CAME FROM and never really allow ourselves to celebrate where we ARE.

I willl not be discouragedListen, most of the time I am about 10lbs heavier than I’d prefer to be. So it takes me about 5-6 weeks to drop the extra weight to get in shape enough for a shoot, or show up to a fitness event, and actually feel like I “look fit”. That’s my reality. I can either fixate on how much leaner I could be, or I could remind myself that, not only have I been fatter, I’ve stayed fitter longer over the last few years. Another words, I’ve been worse.

I used to do extreme yo-yoing where I didn’t workout regularly for weeks – or even months. Normally it was when…

View original post 638 more words

Muscles = You must be a bodybuilder?

It is really funny actually. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder. I have been asked by roommates. I have been asked by strangers at the mall. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I workout. I have been asked by strangers at gyms where I work. I have been asked by men, women, boys, and girls.

My friend Emily gets asked this as well. Neither of us looks like a bodybuilder. It has become a bit of a joke between us.

You must be a bodybuilder

I have narrowed it down to the fact that we are women, with muscle, who look like we know what we are doing in the gym. This accounts for the comments in the gym. And more than knowing what we are doing, we are not afraid of the heavy weights and are actually drawn to them – I would much rather do 4-6 reps of heavier weight than 12-15 reps of less weight. And for some reason, people associate heavy weights with bodybuilding – when bodybuilders actually use lighter weights for the bulk of their training.

I have determined that the everyday individual’s logic is:

If you know what you are doing in the weight room and you lift heavy weights, then you are a body builder.

Can you offer me any insight?

I am not a bodybuilder

When I let myself dwell on the comments, I can get down on myself. I have shared much about my battles with body image, and comments can trigger rampant thoughts. Out of season, bodybuilders often carry a significant amount of subcutaneous fat – a result of the considerable amount of calories required to build muscle and support the training regimen. I think, I know my body carries some subcutaneous fat, and I am okay with that – but how big do I look? 

There was a period in my life when I thought I would train for a competition. That season of thought has long since passed – there is no need for me to purposefully harm my body and risk significant metabolic damage. For what result? To stand mostly naked, in insanely high heels, and holding uncomfortable poses on a stage in front of individuals who are judging me? I will pass. While I like goals, and my body would likely adapt well to the physical training, I have no desire to put myself in the position of being judged based SOLELY on my appearance.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I am an athlete – I compete in the game called life

Opposed to bodybuilders, I train for life. I train for getting in and out of the car, impromptu hula hooping contests, unexpected basement demolitions, and so forth. While a bodybuilder may appear strong, most individuals would be surprised by their lack of functional movement and use of those big muscles (this is a broad statement and is not representative of ALL bodybuilders). This falls along the lines that models cannot do pushups – there is an overall disconnect between appearance and reality.

Compliment or insult?

When I have been asked if I am a bodybuilder, sometimes it comes across as a compliment and other times as an insult. The first few times, I let it get to me. Now, I just shake it off. Sometimes, individuals just do not know what to say and that is what comes out.

I love being strong and muscular, so I chose to take it as a compliment every time. And now every time either Emily or I hear it, we laugh and it causes a day’s worth of amusement.

The bottomline

I am not a bodybuilder. None of my friends are bodybuilders. I trained a friend for a figure competition – she is not a bodybuilder. We are strong – and have trained for life and the many obstacles it throws our way.

Further, I am not opposed to bodybuilding or figure training, it is just not for me.

The point is this: not all muscular individuals are bodybuilders. So stop asking us that! (You may give us a complex.)

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STOP rewarding yourself with food!

Rewarding oneself with food leads to an undesirable attitude towards self-treating. The extrinsic reward of food should be replaced with the intrinsic reward of treating yourself well (Lovell, 1994).

I had another conversation with a woman who views ‘treat’ foods as a reward for working out. “I workout so that I can eat that stuff,” she said. I do not know her well, but I know bodies and it is clear that she has never struggled with weight. The problem with this mentality is that the body doesn’t physiologically work that way. If your “reward” is a high fat food, your body does not turn around and use that as fuel for your workout. Further, after the workout, few “treat” foods provide the replenishing macronutrients we need for recovery. You cannot earn your calories.

And unfortunately, a calorie is not just a calorie.

Your relationship with food

Your relationship with food is cultivated from childhood. Unfortunately, parenting strategies that use candy or junk foods as rewards can teach someone at a young age that we can use these foods as rewards. For example, a parent might say, “If you are well behaved in the store, I will buy you a candy bar at the checkout.” (I guess my mom was smarter than I knew because we received Topps baseball cards.)

This has two negative implications: one, it instills a habit of rewarding with food and two, it sets a foundation to desensitization in the brain’s reward pathways (Amen, 2008; Amen, 2010).

Using food to reward exercise

Many of the benefits of exercise go unrecognized, because we too frequently consume food products that overstimulate the reward pathways of our photo (39)brain. By using a food pleasure, we are not allowing our bodies to recognize and experience the natural pleasures associated with exercise – for example, boosted dopamine and serotonin. This is particularly harmful if you reward yourself with rich foods immediately following exercise. Not only do you eliminate the opportunity to experience the immediate benefits of exercise; but also, your mind begins to build an association between exercise and food.

Your brain is powerful, and once that association is made, your physical body will come to expect the reward (in this case rewarding food) following exercise.

Further, we humans are creatures of habit. If you habitually reward yourself with food, your mind, body, and soul will come to expect this consequence. You ask, what is wrong with that? Foods can be addicting – therefore not only are you then going to need to break a habit but you will then need to break an addiction.

NOTE: It is critical to eat as immediately following exercise as possible. But there is a difference between feeding your body’s physiological needs with a post-workout snack or meal and psychologically rewarding yourself with pizza or ice cream. As I said, the brain is powerful.

The bottomline

I could delve into the neurological reasons for not rewarding yourself with food, but those complexities overwhelm the mind. If you want to understand more about the neurological and reward pathways, read Dr. Amen’s books cited below (he does a great job of speaking in layman’s terms).

Similar to training for life with your workouts and physical activities, it is important to eat for life. And there is much truth to the saying – you are what you eat.

Ask yourself – what do you want to be? 

Certainly NOT cheap and fast!

References

Amen, D. G. (2008). Change your Brain, Change Your Life. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Amen, D. G. (2010). Change your Brain, Change Your Body. Three Rivers Press: New York.

Lovell, D. B. (1994). Treatment or Punishment?. European Eating Disorders Review2(4), 192-210.

Wilson, C. (2010). Eating, eating is always there: food, consumerism and cardiovascular disease. Some evidence from Kerala, south India. Anthropology & Medicine17(3), 261-275.

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