The Twelve Myths of Fitness – Day 8: Cleanses are good for you

The cleanse/juicing/toxin myth is a topic that fuels some strong opinions and emotions. Why this topic fuels such passion (and bad research and advice) has surprised me over the years. It certainly is a topic many talk shows (hello, Dr. Oz) spend lots of time promoting. And while “rebooting” your nutrition for a day or a week usually isn’t a bad thing, there’s little evidence there’s any good to come from extreme measures.

We’ve all been there – we get to a breaking point where nutrition has spiraled out of control. It can be as simple as realizing you’ve consumed french fries every day for the last week or month, or have been seriously skimping on your fruit and veggie consumption. Or maybe you have gotten into a habit of skipping breakfast but feasting on the office baked goods midmorning, and you want to break that cycle. Often we want to do something epic, something to shake things up and to make the change seem “real.” Perhaps that’s why extreme measures like cleanses are so popular.

To understand the whole theory behind cleanses, you need to understand toxins. Most cleanses are advertised and credited with flushing our bodies of toxins. Toxins sound bad, right? Like, ewe. So without doing any research, you’d probably be on board and eager to “cleanse” yourself. But here’s the thing, if you spend 5 minutes actually reading something medically and scientifically backed up, you’ll quickly understand why the whole cleanse/toxin thing is complete BS and simply a great way for the health industry to make a fortune. The toxins that naturally exist in our bodies are processed by our liver and colon. And they do a pretty awesome job. In fact, unless you have an extreme medical condition, or were somehow poisoned, our bodies are equipped to handle and process everything in an extremely effective manner. So the whole idea of fasting or a cleanse of some sort is silly. Still wanting to read more on toxins? Here’s a good read.

Now if you are still interesting in juicing or fasting, and understand that there’s no guaranteed benefits, keep in mind that these extreme measures are not sustainable. And while you will drop weight (you’ll lose the weight of food in your stomach, for one thing), you may also end up losing muscle mass and no fat. So the number on the scale will go down, but is that the end game? Here’s an interesting view on juicing, fasting and some recent research.

So if you now understand toxins, fasting and cleanses, and want to overhaul your habits or nutritional choices, try to eliminate processed foods for a week. You’ll reset your relationship with food, and be very aware of the choices you are making. You will also never risk being deficient in your macro’s – so your blood sugar and energy levels won’t be all over the place, and you shouldn’t feel starved.

Self-esteem and Expectations

80878c12b0a0c28265093158861948c8This week I’d like to talk about body image. While many of my clients are driven by race-day goals, PRs, and breaking through their athletic barriers, I have some clients who are also driven by toning up, feeling confident in their skin, and sometimes simply dropping pounds – ranging from 10lbs. to 50lbs. While I absolutely love helping my clients with their goals, sometimes my heart breaks for those who they compare themselves to or how bad they feel about themselves. Having a client want to lose 15lbs. by next week is like having a new runner expect they can race a 5K tomorrow – it’s unrealistic. Not to say those goals aren’t achievable, they may absolutely be, but tomorrow. Change takes time.

I am a firm believer that everyone deserves to feel good in their own skin – and is capable of achieving that. For some of us, it takes longer than others. One thing that often sabotages folks is their expectations. And who can blame them – we are bombarded by “standards” every single day. Thanks to Hollywood’s standards, our concept of beauty, aging, and fitness are completely unrealistic. Courteney Cox, Marisa Tomei, Sandra Bullock, Demi Moore – do these look like 50-year-old women in your life? Nope. Not unless you live in Miami or LA. Yet that’s a standard thrown upon us and one we assume upon ourselves. We are dooming ourselves to fail.

Personally, my self-esteem finally changed when I stopped reading tabloid magazines and watching Hollywood-related news. I couldn’t let go of the images I’d see, and the “secret diet” of some star. Or watching celebrity after celebrity in interviews or on the red carpet credit their genetics and a healthy lifestyle for their appearance. I call bullshit. They should be thanking the folks truly responsible for their appearance: their personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs, makeup and hair stylists, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons. I don’t doubt some have good genetics, but good genetics alone aren’t responsible for most of what we see – or are told we should try to attain.

So if you are struggling with your goals and your self-esteem, please be kind to yourself. We cannot change Hollywood standards, but we can change our expectations of ourselves. Compare yourself to you, and no one else. Mark your progress by you and your starting point, no one else’s. Once you let go of all that pressure, success is that much closer.

Resolution Road

img_6959-editI cannot believe how neglected my blog has been the last few months. I am changing that, starting NOW. For some reason it became less of a priority, which isn’t like me. Even when I am super busy, I alway make time for my blog. No excuses. I’m back at it.

It’s the time of the year when everyone is extremely busy with holiday parties, gift shopping and wrapping, baking, end of year work responsibilities, kids home from school for Winter Break, travel to see family – this time of the year is often one filled with love, laughter, and a whole lot of things on the calendar. It’s also the time of year many folks start thinking about the new year, and the new hopes, dreams and goals they see with it. And that’s where I come in.

I am a firm believer that we can all turn over a new leaf, set new goals, and choose to change habits TODAY. We don’t need a fresh month or new year to finally make ourselves do something, but that seems to be the trend. As you probably know, New Years brings with it more fitness, weight loss and physical goals and resolutions than anything else. Sure, there are people who set career goals, finance goals, travel goals, etc – but fitness is the overwhelming winner of resolutions.

It never fails that the first few weeks of the new year my email and my phone will be filled with inquiries from new people with big goals. I love those emails and calls. I am excited to meet new people, hear about their goals, and discuss how I can help them. It’s part of what I love about what I do – helping people achieve something for themselves that betters them and their quality of life. The excitement, motivation and energy each person brings with their call or email is something I wish I could bottle and save for them. It’s infectious. And yes, out of all the messages, calls, meetings and even a few weeks into training, a certain percent of those hopeful, motivated New Years Resolution clients fall of the face of the earth. The motivation and focus slip once they realize how much effort it takes to train or eat the way they need to, or they become impatient when the scale doesn’t show a magical number within the first week, and so on. The excuses start rolling in, and I know it’s a matter of time before they are off the Resolution Ride, and they will move off my roster. Look at the gym on January 1-5 compared to February 1-5 and you’ll see just how few people stuck with their plan for a month. One month. Thirty-one days, people.

I don’t think any less of the people who can’t commit to their training goals than the ones that do. I get it. It’s hard. It’s also really frustrating to continue that cycle of training/dieting and falling off the wagon. I want to hug and shake and give a pep-talk to the people who fall off. I know that progress takes time, and it takes WEEKS to form new habits, and a lot of work, focus and persistence to make the changes often necessary to achieve goals so momentous that they are saved for the New Year.

I know how hard change can be, but the hardest part is starting. I know I can help people who are willing and capable to make their health and goals a priority. I know anyone can make the changes they desire – but it takes a hell of a lot of willpower, support, knowledge and the acceptance that not every day will be easy for feel good. If say you don’t have time, I will call you out. Bull shit. You have no idea what I’ve made myself accomplish with VERY little time. You have no idea how many clients have succeeded with their goals while juggling an incredibly busy, stressful schedule. Yes, change often involves struggle and some setbacks, but again I will call you out. A setback or struggle doesn’t ruin all the progress or make you a weak person or a failure. It makes you human, silly. And if you find a trainer or gym hard to afford, I suggest you check out how much you are spending to eat out, have drinks with friends, and on medical bills. If you cut back on eating and drinking out, that’s money and calories saved. We almost always eat a better diet when preparing our own food. Cocktails with your girlfriends or with the guys at the bar add up pretty quickly. And if you get yourself healthier, in theory you’ll be spending less money on doctors appointments and medications.

So if you are looking to 2015 with fitness-related goals, be prepared to work hard and to also be in it for the long run. Look towards April, and what goals will be accomplished by then, not January 15th. A ton of progress can happen within four months, but very little will show for it the first two weeks. But the only way to get to April and those goals is to stick with the plan every day between January 1st and April 1st. I wish everyone with high hopes and big goals all the success in the world. There is no better gift to yourself than health, self-confidence and strength. And if you need help, there are tons of great trainers, gyms and programs out there in every city. The road to progress can be hard, but it is never impossible.

The F Word (Failure)

A snap shot of my Ultra. So ill at this point.

A snap shot of my Ultra. So ill at this point.

This week I want to talk about failure. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced some sense of the word in our lives. In terms of fitness and weight loss, “failure” is the F word that plagues most of our minds. Many people are so scared of failing at a goal that they never start. Having failed many times at things, I can tell you that it’s not so scary once you embrace that little F word and make it into something positive.

The last week or so, I have referred to my Ultra on July 19/20th as a “failure.’ Why? Because it was. I didn’t achieve my goal of 100 miles. However, I also know I pushed further than before, and that “failure” is sometimes objective. I suppose when you fail at an Ultra, and still mange to run over 75 miles, everyone around you still thinks that’s super-human awesome. While I don’t really see it that way, I understand that my achievement was still something the average person cannot do. Therefore, I have taken that “failure” and somehow decided to own it as mine.

The same is true for past races, ones where I tanked during a race and a time goal slipped away. Weight loss failure a few years ago plagued me and defined my sense of self. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a fat, worthless failure, who couldn’t succeed at the simple task of dropping some body fat. Was I ever really fat or worthless? No, I don’t think so now. But then I did. Every time I “failed” at a diet or workout plan, I labeled myself as weak. When you tell yourself you are weak, you believe it. At some point, something snapped for me and I realized that I wasn’t weak, and my knowledge of nutrition, fitness and health were WAY off base. I was also too caught up in what I thought I needed to look like, thanks to time spent reading beauty magazines and watching too much E! News. Once I finally said “fuck it!” and made choices around my happiness, I stopped sweating my failure and started to see it as something else – BEING HUMAN.

Being human means we are capable of awesome things. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t tried. Really, truly tried. Being human also means we fail. Why are we all so scared of failing and therefore being human? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be this ideal person? I don’t know about you, but that kind of pressure will make most of us crack.

So if you are sitting there, reading my blog and feeling incapable of getting off the couch and going for a walk, a run, to the gym, or to clean out your kitchen of all your junk “feel better” food, I have news for you – you are not alone. And here’s some more news – you will never succeed if you don’t try. True, you will also never fail, but aren’t you already failing by passively not being proactive in your life?

In college, I remember one of my choral directors told us to sing with confidence. It’s better to make a huge mistake and own it than to passively “sing” your part. Go big or go home. If you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it and realize that note needs to be corrected. But if you get it right, it will not only be the correct pitch, it will have your breath, diction and voice all working the way the composer intended – creating something beautiful.

Don’t be scared to fail. Failure makes us stronger. You’ll never know how strong, fast, smart, beautiful or fit you may be unless you try. That goes for everything in life.

Navigating Holiday Season Indulgences

Egg Nog, not out of a carton.

Egg Nog, not out of a carton.

The holiday season is upon us! Okay, I’m a *little* early to the party, but you know your radio stations will soon be blasting those holiday songs 24/7, and every shopping store will be filled with holiday razzle-dazzle. What does the holiday season have to do with fitness, running, and nutrition? Um, EVERYTHING! Luckily, your coach will help you get through the holiday season without gaining a ton of lb.s, or feeling like a couch-potato.

First off, let’s all get a little real: whether you want to or not, we ALL will be tempted to gorge ourselves on Thanksgiving. Most likely, we will all do the same thing at office parties, holiday parties, family events – between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. That’s a lot of days of pigging out. All the pigging out WILL make you gain weight. So, what can you do other than accept the added lb.s and dig out your fat pants? I have a few tips that will keep you sane, and allow you to enjoy some tasty treats too!

If it hasn’t become clear at this point, I LOVE FOOD. I love to eat, bake and cook. So the holiday season is one of my favorites. In fact, I am usually that person who arrives at parties with home-made baked goodies, chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint and heath bark, pies – I embrace the holiday goodies! Personally, I know I’ll gain a few lb.s, but I also know I am okay with that and am quick to drop them as soon as the holiday season is over. That being said, I pick and choose my indulgences.

For example: for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are “no rules” days. I eat whatever I want and as much of it as I can stuff in my face. But besides those two days, I pick and choose at holiday events. I *try* to stick to snacks that are high in protein (like shrimp cocktail, cheese, a handful of nuts) or veggies and dip or fresh fruit. I avoid anything cooked, baked, or otherwise calorically dense. This way I can graze at a party, still eat, without leaving every party feeling more and more round.

I also stay active during the holiday season, and love running or hitting the gym when the cool, crisp air hits New York City. Being active means I can indulge without gaining as much weight as if I were just sitting on my butt all day. Get outside a run a Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Jog with your family! Or go for brisk walks, or run with friends and families. Trust me, that yummy food will taste even better after some exercise!

Booze cupcakes. YUM.

Booze cupcakes. YUM.

To balance out those parties (let’s face it – sometimes I DO eat tons of the bad stuff at a party!) I load my diet with seasonal, nutritious foods – like baked sweet potatoes, butternut squash soup, lentil soup, and other “comfort foods” that are full of good-for-you calories. These things will also help keep your immune system happy when lots of colds go around.

If you are trying to LOSE weight during the holiday season, best of luck! My advice is to stay as active as possible, and to minimize the amount of holiday parties you attend, to reduce temptation. I know, missing social events sucks, but unless you walk in there with self control made of steel, you are not doing yourself any service. Signing up for a race or fitness goal (maybe a bikini body for a January trip to the Caribbean?), can also keep your eye on the prize and your focus on what happens AFTER those yummy, tempting noshes are history.

And remember, a few lb.s aren’t the end of the world – especially if you are already fit. Pick and choose your battles, and you’ll get to 2014 without any extra weight, and some yummy holiday indulgences too.

In-Season Noshing

1400673_502331099862528_1688462209_oI don’t know about you, but after a sweaty summer run I crave fresh fruits and veggies. I often visualize a big bowl of blueberries or pineapple, or a giant slice of watermelon.

The lovely thing about summer running is that these cravings are happily met when I get home. This time of year, I stock my kitchen with all kinds of in season treats. Strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, big salads – the list goes on.

I often wash and prepare a big bowl of seasonal goodness before I run, so that when I get home I can dive right in. The bonus: fruits and veggies offer tons of nutrients that runners need, and are also a great way to rehydrate. Yes, I still have a tall glass of chocolate milk and lots of water, but consuming fruits and veggies aids rehydrating too.

A go-to snack this time of year: fresh mozzarella sliced with basil and red tomato slices. Add a little salt and pepper, and you have a fresh, nutrient-dense party on a plate!

Go out to the farmers market or store near you, and stock up on nature’s delights. I promise you that you won’t be sorry. Extra bonus? If you are trying to cut down those sweet temptations, some fruit is a great way to satisfy those cravings.

Caloric Cocktails and Naughty Noshes

In honor of summer, and the many garden parties, social events, happy hours, vacations, and other celebratory events on your calendar, I have decided to write a blog in honor of the lovely cocktails and noshes that we will all be consuming.

Many people sabotage their diet plans and weight-loss goals without knowing they are doing it. Social gatherings alway involve food and drink, and can cause a person to feel in a bit of a trap: how to partake in social events without completely sabotaging a weight-loss goal?!?

Fear not, I have a few tips to help.

Avoid fried foods. Yes, they are delicious, and very popular at social events. They also pack an extremely high caloric-punch. Stick to non-fried alternatives and you can eat more while consuming fewer calories.

Beware of cheese. This one makes me want to cry, since cheese is one of my top five foods. If you aren’t looking to lose weight, I say go ahead and have your cheese. If you are looking to drop some weight, avoid cheese. You don’t know how much cheese went into that yummy, melted dish, and knowledge is power. If there are cheese slices out, you can eyeball what an ounce is, and indulge a *little.*

Avoid “salads.” chicken salad. Potato salad. Lobster salad, yada, yada, yada. Why? These summer staples are often loaded with mayonaise and/or sour cream, which are extremely high in calories and fat. If you choose to have some salads, be honest with how much you are eating. One cup of chicken salad can easily pack 400-500 calories. One cup. Yeah.

Avoid sugary cocktails. I love a good pina colada as much as the next gal. Margaritas are delicious. Mojitos? Divine. If you are watching your figure, don’t have any of them. One margarita can pack 400-600 calories. One cocktail. Do you know how many vodka cranberries or glasses of wine you could consume for those same calories? Try 2-3. look, if you want to have one sugary cocktail it won’t completely ruin your diet goals, but combine that margarita with fried mozzarella sticks and a cup or two of chicken or potato salad, and you start to see the whole picture.

What should you indulge in while at your dozens of summer social events? My advice: for beverages, stick to wine, beer (careful, a 6 pack of beer is over 1000 calories!!!!), martinis, rum and diet coke, vodka cranberries – cocktails that contain 150-250 calories per drink. That way, you can still partake in the party, but at a fraction of the calories you’d consume if you have the same amount of margaritas.

For food, stick to what’s raw. Veggies and hummus. Fruit salads. Cheese slices (remember, you can keep an honest eye as to how much cheese you are nibbling), tossed salads, grilled chicken.

251443_660133989274_8009646_nI know it’s hard to “behave” while most friends will be loading up their plates without a care in the world, but remember the big picture. You have some sort of fitness goal, which is way more important than that damn tray of mozzarella sticks, right? Think of that number on the scale, that target dress size, that string bikini, that goal race – whatever your goal may be.

I’ll raise a martini glass to you, being fit and fabulous!

Veggie and Fruit Monster

img_6337-editMost people are unsuccessful at weight-loss for different reasons, though a common trend is diet. Often people think they must starve themselves or give up everything yummy, and end up bingeing after a given time of sacrifice.

Tired of that cycle? I don’t blame you, it’s a bad cycle and one I fought for a long time. What worked for me, and what I recommend to those looking to lose a few pounds is not focus on what you “can’t” have, but to instead focus on what you should be eating. Nobody likes to be told what they cannot do, and the same is true when it comes to our food choices. Therefore, if you focus on what you should be adding to your diet, you aren’t actually depriving yourself of anything.

I am a firm believer in the consumption of fruits and veggies. In fact, personally, I try to eat at least ten servings per day. If you focus on getting those nutrient-packed fruits and veggies into your meals everyday, you’ll be surprised how little you will be craving all of the other stuff and how full you will feel. Combine all of those yummy fruits and veggies with the amount of protein and complex carbs you’ll need for fueling and refueling for your workouts, and you won’t have room for much else.

Find fruits and veggies you like. Pack fresh veggies in a bag to take to work as a healthy snack at your desk, or pack a couple pieces of fruit. Saute veggies if you want a hot meal, and mix it up. Eating salads everyday can get boring, and all of the added “goodies” on a salad can add a lot of fat and calories without realizing it. Salads don’t always equal “healthy.” Sweet potatoes are an awesome complex carb, full of all kinds of nutrients.

Adding fruits and veggies to your diet, regardless of goals, will make you feel better and energized. Whether you are completely happy with your physique and athletic performance, or looking to improve, fruits and veggies can be your secret weapon. Bonus: they will also keep your immune system strong.

Fad Diets

img_6239-editLadies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – I am going to tell you the truth, which you probably already know but are still hoping isn’t true – Fad Diets do not work and should be avoided at all cost.

Magic pills, fasting, cleansing, juicing, Atkins, Paleo, the Acai Berry Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, Medifast, hCG, The Tapeworm Diet (yes folks, that’s a real thing!) – DO NOT DO IT!!!! There is NO factual evidence that any extreme diet or lifestyle has any benefit at all. On the flip side, they could all be extremely dangerous.

Yes, you will probably lose weight from one of the above diets, but it will be water weight, or worse yet – muscle weight. If you are training, you need water weight (dehydration is very dangerous), and you should be aiming to gain muscle, not lose it.

At the end of the day, a balanced diet is all you need. What does that mean? Well, you’d have to go into that with your coach in greater detail.

The point is, unless you KNOW that a diet is healthy, it’s probably too good to be true. By all means, add juicing to your already-balanced diet, or incorporate some aspects of the Paleo diet – but jumping on the bandwagon is bad. And stupid.

Commercial, magazines, ads in magazines – they are all out to make money, not to help you lead a healthy life style. Got it? Good.