The Twelve Myths of Fitness – Day 12: You should eat 5 meals per day

The theory that there’s a magic number of meals per day for weight loss, muscle gain, etc. is something doctors, nutritionists and celebrities have varying opinions about. While you’d think we’d take an educated and certified professional’s advice over a celebrity, that sadly isn’t always the case. The media and we as a culture often admire and adore folks in the limelight, and give them perhaps far more credibility than we should. And so many myths becomes “facts” in some warped way.

The advice that 5 small meals per day will lead to weight loss is somewhat both a myth and sometimes a fact. When we go long periods of time without eating, it can be common to feel a dip in energy, mood and focus. Maintaining somewhat consistent blood sugar can prevent dips and spikes in energy. So it makes sense that continuously fueling your body at a slow burn would keep your energy, metabolism, and blood sugar all happy and in check. Here’s the danger with that: it can be easy to overeat and consume far more calories if you are actually eating 5 “meals.” And if you are eating around the clock, your body will be using the fuel in your stomach for energy, not the body fat you are hoping to lose. Remember that insulin plays in a big role in how we use what we put in our mouths – and when.

The best way to eat for weight loss, maintaining weight, and feeling fueled tends to trend with the concept of 3 meals per day, and some snacks throughout the day. Now, snacks of donuts or candy probably aren’t what doctors are recommending. Instead, something nutritionally dense, and in the 100-300 calorie range. Think of a piece of fruit, a container of greek yogurt, sliced veggies with hummus – that kind of thing. Another thing to keep in mind is portion size for the meals. In general, portions are way too big in America. So that means we are consuming more calories at a sitting than necessary but assuming that’s “normal.”

It’s also important to remember that we are all different. While our bodies are all quite similar, we have different variables. Working different hours, sleep, age, activity level. Some of us are naturally grazers. Others need the ritual of sitting down to a “real meal” in order to feel satisfied. While some people like to drink their calories (smoothie, shake, etc.) others feel the need to chew their food. It is common that when hangry, we will reach for the most available and desirable item. This scenario rarely leads to good choices. So preventing that hangry state from occurring can help.

So while there may be no magic number of meals for us across the boards, a balance in macros throughout the day and at each meal can help. And if you are consuming the amount of calories needed, weight gain won’t be an issue. If you are looking to lose weight, stay away from temptations, and keep your macros in check.

The Twelve Myths of Fitness – Day 1: Spot Reduction

For the 12 days leading up to Christmas, I am releasing a blog debunking and discussing 12 commonly believed myths that are fitness, health, and running related. Day 1 features the topic that gave me the idea, thanks to the behavior of some folks in my gym. So here we go.

Spot reduction. It was a big fad for a long time. Apparently many folks still buy into it. Essentially, many people think you can focus on and target specific body parts for fat loss. While we can certainly target certain muscle groups for strength and muscle gain, fat loss doesn’t work that way. So while a thousand crunches may make your core muscles stronger, you will not specifically lose fat in your core or see those muscles unless you lower your body fat percentage.

When thinking of body fat, picture your body as one big organism. You can lose body fat from your overall body, and in that process see and feel reduction in the spots desired, but you cannot control where you’ll lose your body fat first. If you are looking to drop fat, you need to reassess your nutrition and exercise habits. It’s also a good idea to look at your genetics. We are genetically made differently. If your family members tend to carry their weight in their upper body, the odds are you may too, or that it will be the hardest place for you to lose it. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible. But it may take a whole lot of discipline in both training and nutrition then say losing fat and seeing definition elsewhere.

If you are looking to drop body fat, a combination of weight training, cardio, and a good nutrition plan will help you achieve your goals. Just try not to focus on your “target area,” or you’ll lose your mind and wind up frustrated. Remember your genetics. For example, I will never have a super tiny waist. Part of that is bone structure, the other part is that I can easily gain weight in the love handle region. But on the flip side, genetically I will probably never have heavy legs. Know your body. Embrace it’s strengths. Acknowledge your weaknesses or imperfections. And stop spending time doing a thousand crunches or buying miracle gimmicks. There are literally a hundred better ways to improve your body in the gym than crunches. If you are interested in some additional reading, here’s a good option.

Racing Weight, Body Image and the Scale

Summer 2007, going to guess 135-140lbs. I was running a little at the time, but also on diet pills, birth control, and stress eating at a theater gig.

Summer 2007, going to guess 135-140lbs. I was running a little at the time, but also on diet pills, birth control, and stress eating at a theater gig.

Clothing size and the number on the scale can often torment or define the happiness of many of us. I’ve been very open about my relationships with food, body image, and an obsession at times with my size and the number on the scale. In today’s blog I’d like to discuss that number on the scale in regards to running and athletic performance, but also to address the human struggle.

I’m asked all the time about body weight and speed. It makes sense that the lighter the runner, the faster and more efficient the athlete. This is true in a lot of ways. Runners chasing down a specific time goal often look for the lightest shoe they can handle. Every step, stride, arm swing – that takes energy. When every second counts, so does every ounce. HOWEVER, athletes need to be careful to not lose too much muscle. An athlete who is under fueled and lacking good strength will be prone to injury, poor form, and can feel their training plateau because they are not fueled for training or racing. So there needs to be a safe, realistic, and honest assessment of finding that sweet spot. Extra weight isn’t good, but neither is being under weight. For my athletes, I always promote eating to support their training needs. Usually extra weight tends to disappear, but the athlete is also successfully fueled to knock those hard runs out of the park. This isn’t to say that runners always lose weight. Some can gain weight, as their appetite increases and perhaps they get a little carried away. It’s a balance. And a process.

A post-race photo in 2011. Just ran a new Half Marathon PR. My lightest weight of my adult life - 119-122lbs.

A post-race photo in 2011. Just ran a new Half Marathon PR. My lightest weight of my adult life – 119-122lbs.

There have been times in my running career where I gained weight while training (and no, not muscle), and times where I have dropped a lot of weight. I’ve experienced the consequences of both. I’ve lost some speed when heavier. I’ve also been injury prone when lighter. It was a journey for a long time. But after my lowest weight, in 2011-2012 – about 119-123lbs., and suffering an injury, a few things changed for me. One, I started weight training in 2013. Not stupid 5lb. shit. Seriously lifting weights. This was also when I got my Personal Training and Nutrition certifications, and my view on the human body changed. But most importantly, this was when I STOPPED weighing myself every damn day. It had become an obsession. A game. Something I could control. I never starved myself to be super skinny, but I trained to lose weight, period. I trained stupid. Once I stopped training like an idiot and weighing myself, a few things changed. I gained muscle from head to toe. I had muscles in my upper body I’d never seen before. And you know what? That was fucking awesome.

Since 2013, I have been consistently (more or less – there are certainly weeks where I don’t make it to the gym!) lifting heavy. In early 2015, I added heavy lifting for my lower body. Not only have I become a much more efficient runner, my aches, pains and injuries have thankfully been almost non-existent. I hop on the scale every few months (maybe, if that?), and have been a consistent 131lbs. for the last 3 years. I’ve been proud to be 131lbs., 5’7″, and strong. I want to be an example that the number on the scale doesn’t define shit. Strength does.

June 2016, after a race. Probably weighing 128-130lbs.

June 2016, after a race. Probably weighing 128-130lbs.

One thing that has been consistent since 2011 – I track my calories and activity. Like a hawk. I measure and weigh most food I prepare. I read serving sizes. I’ve gotten really good at eyeballing food that I don’t prepare. I track it all. I also track all my activity. Not just the training, but sleep, standing and sitting. I know exactly what I’ve consumed/burned per day, the average per week, month and year. That knowledge means I am always accountable. Yes, it helped me to drop to an unhealthy weight/composition in 2011, but it also helped me gain weight back in the form of mostly muscle, and fuel my training needs appropriately. And yes, it means I have to hold myself accountable and enter in all that data, but for my training, goals and general health, it’s worth it.

Now, I found myself taking a hard look at my goals for 2016. My goal for Berlin Marathon (EIGHT weeks away!) is fucking ambitious. So I looked at my data. A hard look. The amount of miles I can safely run per week. The types of workouts. The best way to fit in strength training. And my current body. I stepped on the scale in May, and clocked in my consistent 131lbs. I looked in the mirror and was honest. Not “self loathing, wah I wanna be skinny” assessment, but a purely “how do I do everything I can to be my best” assessment. I decided if I could drop 5lbs. carefully between May and September, losing body fat and minimal muscle, I would be improving my odds for achieving my goal on race day. And so, I have been working for weeks to whittle that number down. This week the scale has read 126lbs. and 125.4lbs. on days where I was well hydrated and fed. Goal achieved! Now I need to maintain that number. There’s a part of me that is eager to take that control of the scale to the next level, and try to drop more. I’ll be carb loaded on marathon day, and that will mean gained weight. But there’s the sane and rational side of me that knows my body and that I need to stay injury-free, and fueled for my training.

My relationship with the scale is rarely healthy or happy for long. Which is why I rarely use it. I’d feel bad when that number went up, or happy and in control when it would hit a new low. Which is silly. And so I usually measure myself by my athletic abilities, and how clothes fit.

I joke and brag about my love for pizza, Chinese food, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I do genuinely love them all. So very much. And I eat all three quite frequently. But I also fuel my body with lots of fresh fruit, veggies, dairy and lean proteins. Those calorically high loves are accounted for and tracked. And I train like a beast. My body doesn’t look or act like it does because I sit on my butt or train sporadically. There is a ton of sacrifice (sleep and a social life), and sweat, tears, frustration and grunt work that goes into what I look like and what I accomplish. I’m a work horse. Plain and simple. What I lack in talent, I make up for with effort. I also have learned to value rest days. Those are the days we are actually rebuilding and getting stronger!

That scale. That number or letter in every article of clothes. They do not define any of us. We often let them drive our motivation, confidence, and our self worth. Often those numbers sabotage us in achieving our goals. But those numbers can change. One way or another. Take that control. Take your body and recognize that you can do anything you want to with it. Anything. It’s pretty fucking incredible. You could train it for anything and everything. Sure, it takes time, sometimes failure, and always hard work – but it’s possible. Once we begin to see our bodies as anything other than the obstacle, the sky is the limit.

Debunking Diet Delusions

Today’s blog is about nutrition habits. Many folks looking to hire a trainer or sign up for a marathon are hopeful that with committing to something physical, they will magically be able to eat everything they want and lose weight. It’s a nice thought, but usually not true. In fact, it’s not uncommon for folks to gain weight during their first season of training – because it is really easy to say “hey, I ran today!” and eat everything. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that burning 500 calories on a run doesn’t erase the calories in a burger and fries.

Did you know that many elite athletes are very careful about their caloric intake and nutrition habits? It may sound silly and unnecessary, but it’s quite often true. Folks who may be running 120+ miles per week are careful to not gain any weight. Yes, someone running 120 miles per week can afford to eat a hell of a lot more calories than the folks running 20 mile weeks, but my point is that to be their best, they need to be strong and as light as safely possible. The same is true with you and your goals, if they are based on pace and a time. If your goal is to lose weight, nutrition when training becomes incredibly important.

When I meet with new clients, I am sometimes told they want my physique. They joke to “sign them up” for whatever I am personally doing. I should also say that many friends and family assume I eat anything and everything all the time. I don’t. When I am visiting friends and family, I am often choosing to indulge. We are at a party, a celebration, out at a restaurant, a family get-together, or they simply see me on a day I am indulging because I simply want to. These same family and friends don’t believe me when I say that what they see me consume isn’t the norm. Do I eat bagels, cake or pizza everyday? Nope. Not even close. Do I talk about food, blog about it, dream about it and love it? Yes, guilty as charged. So I wanted this blog to showcase the reality of what it takes for me to be fit, strong, and extremely goal-driven – and perhaps you can apply some of what I do to your own life and goals.

Here are a few facts about me you may not know:

  • I very rarely weigh myself. In fact, in the last year I have only weighed myself to keep track of dehydration levels when training and racing Ultra Marathons (12-24 hour races).
  • I keep track of everything I eat, every day. I use an app. on my phone. I want to know what I am consuming and I find I need to keep myself accountable – be it calories, grams of protein, servings of fruits that day – I track EVERYTHING.
  • I also track my activity. Hours of sleep, time standing, running, weight training. I keep all the data.

To show you what my nutrition usually looks like, I am listing below 2 random days from the past few weeks. One day is an “average” day for me, the other is a “rest day,” – and I tend to eat more calories and junk on rest days. I’ll also make note of my training on the “average” day.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015: an example of an “average” day for Coach Corky.

  • Breakfast: Coffee, 2 TBS. Half/Half, 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, 1 cup fresh blueberries, 4 tsp. brown sugar
  • Lunch: 1 large sweet potato, 5 tbs. parmesan cheese, 2 links of turkey sausage
  • Dinner: 1 cup Goya black beans, 2 whole wheat tortillas, 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • Snacks: 1 orange, 1 Gala apple, 1/2 fresh pineapple
  • Total calories consumed: 2084
  • Training: weight trained for 1 hour, ran at a moderate pace for 1 hour
  • Total calories burned: 2837

Saturday, May 9, 2015: an example of an indulgence day

  • Breakfast: Coffee, 2 TBS. Half/Half, 1 large avocado, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • Lunch: 1 Larabar protein bar, 1 pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food FroYo
  • Dinner: Whole wheat pasta
  • Snacks: 1 brownie, 1 orange, 1 Gala apple, 1 banana, 3 bottles of Sierra Nevada beer
  • Total calories consumed: 3902
  • Training: ran for easy coaching miles for 50 minutes
  • Total calories burned: 2513

As you can see, some days I burn more than I eat and other days it’s the opposite. I usually try to focus on consuming fuel that makes me feel good – I want to be strong and healthy for my training. But I am also human, and am a really great stress eater.

A month or two ago, I decided I want to drop a little bit of body fat. Why? Well because if I want to be my fastest and my best out there for goal races, I need to be light. Trying to drop what little excess weight I have is tough. It’s like that last little bit your body is hanging on to and doesn’t want to give up. So I made sure to focus on weight training, running, and eating less than I burned. Did I lose the fat? Probably a little bit. But I am not going to lose sleep over it. I feel stronger, and am lifting more than ever before in my life, and am getting back to some speedy running and so things are going in the right direction.

Your journey and your goals are your own. Just be aware that when you see a coach, athlete or person on the street you don’t know – you have no idea what goes into their training and what genetics, sacrifices and dedication may have been necessary for what you see to be possible. Am I going to torture myself to be the lightest I can be? Nope. It’s not worth it to me. And as long as I feel healthy and capable of achieving what I want, the rest is gravy. Mmmm…gravy. No, I don’t eat gravy frequently. But it is damn delicious.

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 Biggest Loser” loses big

Liz-Corkum-516Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard about the recent “Biggest Loser” scandal. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, kudos to you for being too busy with more important things! Let me preface this blog by saying that though I have watched seasons in the past, I did NOT see this season, so all of my information is from news articles, video clips, twitter, Facebook and conversations with clients. I should also be clear that I don’t personally know any of the trainers or contestants who have ever appeared on the show.

What I like about “The Biggest Loser” – the show has motivated thousands of people to get off of the couch and to get active. That’s a great thing. I am a fan of anything that positively motivates people to do something to better their health, life, priorities and mental state. There’s no denying that ‘The Biggest Loser” has become a vehicle for weight loss. I remember watching “The Biggest Loser” before I was a personal trainer, before I had run my first marathon, and before I had run my first race. I also remember feeling inspired to never cut a workout short or to give any less than my best. I’m sure part of that inspiration came from inside me, but the show always gave me a kick in the butt.

That’s where the warm and fuzzies stop.

First, let’s talk about the role of a Personal Trainer. A personal trainer’s job is to educate, motivate, create a training/nutrition plan, and to SAFELY guide their client to their goals. The trainer is a teacher. They are the expert, often educating their trainee on basic nutrition, exercise and health. This is a huge responsibility. I can personally say that as a Personal Trainer myself, I take my responsibility extremely seriously. I realize that another human being is entrusting me with their health, goals, and life. I educate my clients on nutrition, workouts, rest and recovery. I make sure they understand basic nutrition, how to correctly use machines and go through drills and workouts, and I explain the purpose of the workouts and the training plan. Fitness and nutrition succeed when they become part of your lifestyle. There is no magic pill or crash diet that will give my client what they want in a healthy, sustainable way. As a Personal Trainer, not only do I worry about injury and injury prevention, but also the mental state of my client. Yes, being a good Personal Trainer takes a lot of care and work, but it is worth it. There are lots of excellent trainers out there, changing the lives of people everyday. Personal Trainers also motivate their clients. Personally, I am a believer in positive reinforcement. I will NEVER call somebody fat, lazy or slow. If I need to be firm, I tell them to dig deep, focus on that workout, and remember how far they’ve come and how far they want to go. Positive energy is contagious. The trainers who yell and belittle their clients are assholes. Period. Personal trainers create workout and nutrition plans, often looking at the big picture and not what can be achieved in the first few weeks or months. The clients dietary needs, likes, dislikes, and workout demands are factors that go into the plans I create. As you can see, being a Personal Trainer has to be a labor of love. A Personal Trainer also needs sound scientific, nutrition and medical knowledge – even if just on a basic level.

On the “The Biggest Loser” Ranch, the contestants live an extreme lifestyle. If you think people can safely drop the percent of bodyweight achieved in the amount of time the contestants are on the show, you’re wrong. Consuming an extremely reduced caloric intake – around 1,200 for women, 1,800 for men, and sweating out calories for SEVEN HOURS per day is simply not sustainable or safe. Yes, that insane combination will make for drastic weight loss and captivating television. Sure it can be done, but should it be done? No. Besides, no sane person left to their own devices would put themselves through that lifestyle on their own.

As far as Rachel’s scary weight loss, she played the game. Yes, if she were my client I would be very concerned about her wellbeing – both physically and mentally. No, I don’t know all of the details regarding who she is, how she trained, and what she’s eating or not eating. I can guess and speculate, but that’s not fair to her. Frankly, I feel bad for her. She transformed from an obese, self conscious young woman into a thin woman under fire. She felt judged for being fat and now she’s judged for being thin. Let us remember that “The Biggest Loser” is a game show with a cash prize. It is also a show where people put their lives in the trusting hands of health professionals. As far as the game goes, she did what she had to do to win. Arguably, if I were in her shoes I might do the same thing. Again, there’s a big cash prize. Perhaps the problem is at the core of the show’s concept: its a game show first and foremost, and the health and wellbeing of the contestants is not the priority.

Let’s also dig up the motivation of the personal trainers on the show. All of the trainers have book deal, workout videos, cook books, guest appearances, and huge endorsement deals with unproven and potentially dangerous weight loss supplements. They have all created fitness empires. Folks look up to them as experts, and will buy anything with their faces and names on them. They are brands. Part of me says “good for them.” They have used their platforms to educate and motivate others. They have also used their platforms to make a lot of money. All the trainers also have decent contracts with NBC and “The Biggest Loser” brand. So I think it’s fair to say that while as trainers their #1 priority should be their trainees, the trainers on the show have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

I’m sure everyone over at NBC and “The Biggest Loser” will say that the contestant’s wellbeing was their first priority. Let’s get real: ratings and the future of the show is the first priority. And perhaps that’s the problem. I am shocked that as of the date I am writing this blog, none of the trainers have come forward or spoken out about Rachel’s health, training or nutrition, or to voice their concern. Instead, the entire team has kept quiet. I cannot honestly believe that if this woman’s health is the priority they would keep quiet. As a trainer, it would be irresponsible, especially when you have such a platform and fitness empire, to keep quiet at a time like this. It’s not the pleasant part of being a trainer, but it is our job to voice concerns, praise progress, and keep our trainees healthy. Especially with the platform they have built, if these trainers spoke out, everyone would listen.

Now I understand that many people love “The Biggest Loser” and admire the contestants and the trainers. If you are still trying to defend the show, here are a few more ugly facts: This season, Jillian Michaels cheated by giving her contestants caffeine pills without doctor’s permission or clearance. Michaels and Harper claim to advocate “diet and exercise” on the show, yet both are endorsing weight loss pills. You can read more about that here. How can you have it both ways?!? Numerous accounts of the contestants using diuretics and other forms of dehydrating themselves during their time at the Ranch have surfaced many times over the years. Stress fractures, heat stroke, mental breakdowns, hospitalization, peeing blood – just a few of the dangerous conditions that have happened on the show. The trainers are often shouting in the faces of the contestants, bringing them physically and mentally to their breaking points.

I suppose we all need to remember that “The Biggest Loser” is a game. It was a show created for ratings. Sadly, contestants like Rachel are the folks who are perhaps no better off than the day they showed up on the Ranch. That poor young lady has been torn apart every day since the finale. I sincerely wish her well. And perhaps if we choose to watch “The Biggest Loser” we need to remember that the trainers on the show are using it as a cash cow, laughing all the way to the bank. I’m not saying that the trainers don’t care about the contestants. I hope to god they do. However, I think their credibility and motivation as trainers can be questioned. Yes, they are brands and the face of an extremely successful television show. All it cost them was their reputation as Personal Trainers.

Seasonal Noshes – Autumn Edition

PumpkinsIf you live in the northeast, you have said goodbye to Summer and have taken out your comfy sweaters. As blueberry season has come and gone, there are some great seasonal foods that are yummy, filling, good for you, and comfort-food like.

Here are some of my favorites:

Sweet potatoes – incredibly nutrient-dense, easy to bake whole or slice and bake in olive oil and topped with some parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash – great for soup, roasting, and more. Easy to store, nutrient dense, and savory.

Apples – I love to toss some peanut butter on fresh apples after a workout, or before a workout. Sweet, crisp, and the peanut butter adds some protein and good fat.

Pears – refreshing, sweet, and a great snack. Just be careful when packing a pear to go, as they bruise easily.

Pumpkins – so fun to bake with! I love making pumpkin pancakes, but you can find recipes for pumpkin muffins, ravioli, and more!

Apple cider – drink it chilled, warm it on top of the stove, toss in a cinnamon stick, or spike it for an “adult twist” – it’s delicious a million ways!

Lentil soup – easy to make, inexpensive ingredients, protein and fiber dense – this soup is perfect for dinner. Serve up with a hearty slice of bread and a glass of red wine – perfection!

These are only a few suggestions. There are tons of great Autumn options out there, many of which won’t tax your wallet or the scale. As cold/flu season raises it’s ugly head, stay healthy by consuming foods high in nutrients.

Bonus: eating well most of the time makes those indulgent holidays that much sweeter, and that much more fun!

Cruise Control

IMG_2916I recently left dry land, my cell phone, email, and normal life in NYC for eight beautiful days sailing and exploring the Western Caribbean. I documented my trip, and will post the video blog in a few weeks. That blog will give some tips of staying active and on track with a training plan, and unfortunately how difficult that was. More on that later.

Folks, I think we can all agree that America is, in general, an overweight culture. If you don’t agree, go on a cruise. Seriously. The health risks so many of the passengers are putting on themselves due to what they put in their mouths – it’s so sad.

I am not saying that everyone should be thin, or feel pressured to look a certain way. The stigma if what is “attractive” causes so much emotional damage, and is never positive even as weight loss motivation. Frankly, looks have little to do with it. I am not talking about people carrying around an extra 10-20lbs., but those carrying around an extra 100-200lbs. You cannot hide the evidence of your lifestyle while walking around in swim wear.

Perhaps I was so baffled by the reality of just how out of control the obesity issue is because in NYC, though there are certainly obese people, the number of obese or morbidly obese was nothing like it was on the ship.

I am not judging those who are obese, morbidly obese, or even over weight. However, as someone who is passionate about health (physical and mental), and reversing this obesity epidemic, my heart breaks to see folks slowly kill themselves. If anything, the cruise reaffirmed how strongly I feel about the need to reverse the course Americans are taking, and how I want to be a leader in that movement.

The first step is recognizing and acknowledging that we need to change. How we manufacture, market, understand and prepare food needs to be questioned and examined. Education regarding nutrition and exercise are practically non-existent, and many medications (which are dished out left and right!) have many side effects that can contribute to depression, change in mood, and difficulty losing weight. How we view happiness, self worth, confidence – so many of us turn to food for these things. I’m part of the class, folks. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent blog entry “Comfort Food” where I share my own personal struggle with food, body image and self worth. We are all in this together.

I guess what I am taking back from the cruise is this: America is fat. Liking “going to slowly kill ourselves while stressing the health care system” fat. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. Not at the fat people, but at the manufacturers, advertisers, and media. It makes me want to help.

If YOU need help, it’s out there. Yes, it takes some major work to admit you need help, ask for help, and follow through with the plan. It’s much easier to ignore it. But I PROMISE you, if you can extend your life by a few decades, and more importantly the QUALITY of your life, isn’t it worth a little work?

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.