Friday, November 27, 2009

Exercise: The Ultimate Solution to the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be an especially depressing time for a lot of Minnesotans. Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one's family and friends all contribute the the 'Holiday Blues.' Add in overeating, alcohol, travel, and normal sleep pattern disruption, and the formula gets worse yet!

The good news is that there are plenty of remedies, and Nutrition and Exercise play a huge part! As mentioned last week in my 5 tips for making it through the holiday season, one of the most effective ways to both fight the holiday blues AND get a head start on your New Year's fitness resolutions is to start an exercise program now!

Experts from Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and others all recommend exercise as a critical part of fighting the holiday blues.

Making time for exercise, especially with extra holiday activities underway, is generally the hardest part!

Here then, are my Favorite Four Tips for getting it done:

1. Exercise quickies. While 3 or 4 resistance training workouts AND 2 or 3 cardio workouts per week are optimal for good health and weight control, planning on more frequent, shorter workouts can help get you fit it in.

2. Train with a partner, or hire a trainer to hold you accountable. Showing up is more than 90% of your grade in exercise, and you're much, much more likely to show up if some one's counting on you to be there!

3. Abandon all of your weight loss, and fitness - related goals for the month of December. You'll have plenty of time next year to work on those. Instead, merely establish attendance goals: I will exercise 3 or 4 days per week not matter what. Circle completed days on your wall calendar to help track your commitment.

4. Exercise in the morning. Not only will you avoid allowing other agenda items to trump your exercise appointment, but you'll have extra energy for the entire day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top 5 Tips for Making it Through the Holiday Season!


Soon after Halloween (the beginning of the end), many of us begin to think of the holidays and all the happiness, joy, stress and guilt that comes with them. So begins the media hype regarding eating, drinking, and overall indulgence that leads us to gaining an average of 6 pounds between Halloween and New Years Day!

It’s an emotional set up! The toxic messages begin….eat more, drink more, buy more. And a lot of us are doing enough of all that already! Those messages, along with the long standing, powerful TRADITIONS of your particular family unit may lead you to overindulge throughout the holidays and leave you feeling tired, depressed and frustrated come January.

But This Year can be Different! You CAN go through the holiday season with a spirit of joy and hope with lots of energy and enthusiasm. With just a few small “attitude adjustments”, you can sprint into January feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Here then, are my Top 5 Tips for making it through the Holiday Season WITHOUT gaining the dreaded 6 pounds of fat the average American gains between October and January.

1. Have a meal replacement shake before attending a party.

Holiday Parties are loaded with irresistible, high caloric, high fat content foods and drinks. It’s a party and it’s the Holiday Season! You will indulge. You should indulge. But the last thing you want is to show up famished and take down a quick 1000 calories before the band even starts! And that wouldn’t take much. Here are a few examples:

  • 1 Mai Tai – 310 Calories
  • 1 Strawberry Margarita – 210 Calories
  • 2 Fried Won Tons 620 calories & 20 g. fat
  • 1 Cheese Ball 155 calories & 14 g. of fat
  • 1 Bacon Wrapped Smoky Link 167 calories, 11 g fat
  • - Total: 1152 calories, all of which could easily be consumed inside of 60 minutes
So, take in a healthy, protein rich (15-20g) shake before you go to reduce your appetite to avoid the additional calories. And only have one won ton!

2. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house.

Trigger foods, which are typically high in fat, set the stage for unrestrained eating, and contain hidden calories that subvert weight loss efforts. You don’t need them and your kids don’t either.
The displays in the grocery store can be compelling, but the rule is simple: Don’t buy them and they won’t be a problem

3. Begin or Maintain a Regular Exercise Program NOW

Lots of folks conveniently defer exercise until after the 1st of the Year when the mystic weight lost elves will miraculously help solve both years of unhealthy diet and exercise and eliminate the seasonal weight gain …all within the magical month of January! Guys, gals always was and still is a fallacy. The only thing you’ll gain by waiting to begin an exercise program until January is a few more pounds. Get started in November!

4. Make your Holiday Weight Loss Goals Net Zero

That’s right – plan to loose no weight at all! But plan to gain none either – net zero. Enjoy a few extra calories during the season, but burn them all off immediately with 3 strength training workouts and 2 hours of cardio weekly. Let me know if I can help you with this!

5. Make your Holiday Fitness Goals Cardiovascular or Strength Related

Especially if your Health and Fitness Related Goals are weight loss, establish and reach NON-Weight loss goals of improved cardiovascular conditioning or improved strength in December! Improving your cardiovascular fitness levels and muscular strength now can set the stage for accelerated weight loss in January. Adding lean body mass (muscle, bone, blood) now means that you’ll burn more calories both when you exercise as well as when you’re at rest.

Cardiovascular or Strength related goals can be simple:

  • Walk every day of the week, starting with 10 minutes and add 2 minutes every day – you will be up to 90 minutes of walking by December 31st!
  • Do 3 pushups 3 times a week – you should be able to triple your repetitions in 6 weeks
  • Do sit-ups 3 times per week – you should be able to double your repetitions by boxing day

Or more complex:

  • Have a VO2 Max test done now, then …
    • Run, spin, roller ski or skate twice weekly 40 minutes at moderate intensity
    • Run, spin, roller ski or skate once weekly for 20 minutes at high intensity
    • Test again in 6 weeks
  • Have a sub max bench press and pull-up test done now, then …
    • Complete 3 full body resistance training exercises per week
    • Test again in 6 weeks

Friday, November 13, 2009

Drinking Green!

No, not St. Patrick's Day green beer, and not blended hemp and alfalfa drinks (though they are indeed quite nutritious). And certainly not your favorite mint martini.

Today, it's all about drinking green tea.

I 1st fell in love with green tea about 15 years ago on my 1st trip to China.
While Starbucks and other coffee houses are common in most Chinese cities these days, back then it was actually quite difficult for a tourist to find any cup of coffee at all, much less one that didn't look and taste a lot like watered down brown tea.

So I drank a lot of green tea on that trip, and have been ever since! Fortunately, there are lots of great health benefits to drinking green tea, so my new found habit actually turned out to be a good one! The Chinese, of course, have been drinking green tea and using it medicinally to treat ailments from headaches to depression for 4000 years!

And just when you thought that Vitamin D was the miracle Nutrient, get this:

Furthermore, Green Tea consumption ...
  1. Improves skin clarity;
  2. Reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation; and
  3. Aids in digestion
Wow. But if that weren't enough, it also assists in weight loss! Research by Japanese and other researchers suggest that five cups of green tea a day consumes an additional 70 to 80 extra calories through a process called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is, at the most basic level, the heat produced when energy sources are converted to energy. And while a good deal of green tea's thermogenetic effect can be attributed to it's caffeine content, researchers around the world have found that it's anti-oxidant content contributes more.

And that's what makes Green Tea So Special!

It is rich in catechin polyphenols, which are flavenoids. Flavenoids, of course, are well documented to be hightly effective anti-oxidants. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, antioxidants kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

With regards to green tea, the specific catechin that makes it particularly beneficial is
epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

In addition to being a powerful anti-oxidant, EGCG also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots, and, most recently, has is under investigation in the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS, and other immunity system diseases.

How much Green Tea should I drink?

Answers to this question will vary, but most scientists agree that 3 or more cups per day is the minimum you'll need to see benefit. On the upside, other than the normal side effects of too much caffeine, very little adverse effect to getting too much EGCG has been found.

EXCEPT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN, where intake should be restricted.

Another tip I learned from the Chinese nearly 20 years ago was that green tea can be infused many , many times. Add hot water to steep. Drink it down, then add more hot water to re-steep the same tea. Repeat as many times as you like. The flavor tapers off, of course, and each additional cup contains decreasing amounts of caffeine (and EGCG), but you can enjoy something hot to drink all day long without getting the jitters.

Looking for more useful tips on Eating Light, Eating Healthy, and Eating Often? Ask me about our New Nutrition Together program!