If you’re trying to get fitter, stronger, leaner and healthier, it’s all too easy to beat yourself up when you accidentally fall off the wagon.
Sometimes your willpower just isn’t strong enough to order a salad instead of a burger, sometimes you just don’t have the motivation to go to the gym on a Thursday evening instead of the pub, and sometimes the birthday cake is just too damn delicious you can’t not have three slices.
But that’s OK, and, in the scheme of things, it really won’t make too much difference, as one personal trainer has explained.
It’s all about thinking long-term and developing consistency across the whole. What’s more, if you try and make your diet too extreme, cutting out all the foods you really enjoy, and exercising every day, you won’t be able to maintain that lifestyle.
Here’s what actually does make you gain fat:
“CONSISTENTLY eating too much, too many meals out, and too many takeaways over TIME,” PT Anna Rhodes wrote
“Maybe there’s been lots of life stuff going on, work events, moving house, whatever it is, but there’s no doubt that eating lots of chef made or processed food eventually leads to an excess of calories that you might not normally have.
“CONSISTENTLY drinking too much. Alcohol has calories in. It also makes you make less smart food choices, especially if you’re hungover and your body is craving sugars to combat tiredness.
“CONSISTENTLY not moving enough. If you’ve spent the last few months sitting at a desk, on a train or in a car, or on a sofa, then no s*** you’ve been expending less energy. Combine that with the prior two and yes you may have gained some extra lbs.”
Rhodes says she regularly sees people getting upset because the scales say they’ve gained “weight,” when in reality the number going up is often down to other reasons such as eating a big meal late at night, consuming too much salt, stress, tiredness, constipation, water retention and hormones.
She adds: “So what DOESN’T cause weight gain:
- “A few days off training
- “A few days of eating more
- “A few days not moving that much.”
“Learning that a few days off track doesn’t derail your progress is one of the best learning curves you can make in any fitness journey! So don’t lose your s*** and keep it together Susan. S’all good.”
Don’t be an Ostrich this Holiday Season!
If there’s any time for excuses, it’s during the holidays when sweaters come out, socializing heats up and the overindulging begins.
With so much to do, it can be hard to imagine a way to squeeze in the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommended fitness guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous cardio three times a week, plus strength training and stretching. So many simply abandon their exercise routine until the new year, says Los Angeles-based trainer Mike Donavanik, making it harder on themselves in January.
“They start out defeated, already shutting down the possibility of staying active and fit during the holidays,” Donavanik said.
Research shows that half the weight you gain over the holidays takes until the summer months to come off — if it comes off at all.
Rather than giving up and giving in to the Spanx, Donavanik advises his clients who have an existing fitness routine to compress their workouts into short but intense sessions that get your heart rate up and build strength.
“if you can fit in 20 minutes [of circuits] three or four times a week, that will hold you over until January,” Donavanik says, when you have more time and energy to tackle those fitness goals.
Here are some pro tips for getting the maximum fitness benefits in the shortest amount of time over the holidays:
If that hourlong cardio class doesn’t seem likely given your to-do list, try squeezing in 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on the treadmill or at the park, raising your heart rate to 80% of maximum in one running interval for three minutes, then lowering it to 60% in the following three-minute recovery period by walking or slowing to a light jog, says Walt Thompson, the American College of Sports Medicine’s president. Repeat the sprint-and-recover intervals three or four times each workout.
When you travel over the holidays, it’s hard to keep up with your strength routine. Donavanik recommends picking a handful of basic bodyweight-based strength exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups and plank-ups that can be done anywhere — at your mom’s house or between stints on Amazon.com. Set a timer on your phone and crank out 15 reps of each, rest for the remainder of the minute and then switch to the next exercise. Repeat the exercises in this every minute on the minute (EMOM) circuit three times a session at least three times each week.
Just because you can’t manage a big workout doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in mini-workouts throughout the day. Called “exercise snacking” in the fitness industry, it means squeezing in at least 10 minutes of exercise at a time two or three times a day when you can find the time, such as a few calisthenics when you wake up, a brisk walk at lunch, and a longer walk or jog when you take the dog out in the evening. You will get the same benefits of a longer session, Donvanik said, if you commit to it.
During the holidays it’s easy to prioritize shopping, cooking and cleaning above all else. “We need to make sure that during this holiday period we make appointments for ourselves for exercise,” Thompson said. If you know you have a party or family gathering coming up on a Saturday evening, make sure to schedule an exercise session on your calendar for that afternoon. Then you feel better and can indulge without all the guilt, Thompson said.
When in doubt, just move. It’s easy to say you don’t have time, Thompson said, but everyone has a few minutes that he or she can devote to feeling better, even if it’s parking far from the store where you’re shopping, dropping into pushups during that Christmas special or walking through neighborhoods looking at holiday lights. “Any time you can devote to a structured exercise program is beneficial,” Thompson said.
Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
For those of us stuck at a desk all day, snacking can be more like grazing – non‐stop eating between meals. Now that you’re tracking your meals using an online journal (*cough cough*), try to focus on coming up with better strategies to determine what you’re going to eat, how much, and why.
Here’s the focus: Come up with a concrete plan of attack for meals and snacks.
The first step to gaining control is knowing what you are going to eat. And by that I mean – how many snack calories or points do you have a day?
Most of us wouldn’t eat steak and mashed potatoes and consider it a snack. That’s because certain foods and portions are meals. Snacks are similar. What’s the maximum number of calories you want to spend on a snack and what does that look like?
After tracking your meals for a while, you should have a good idea of what your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner contain calorie-wise. What you have left is your snack/beverage budget.
Once you have your snack budget, you need to schedule your snacks. Eating at regular intervals ensures that you won’t be famished by nightfall but also helps you avoid constant grazing. Aim to have one snack between each meal so you’re never starving when you sit down to eat. Just make sure your snacks pack protein, healthful fats, and/or carbs for extra staying power (think apples with peanut butter or nuts with yogurt). If you know that snack time is at 11am, you can refrain from grazing before then.
Know your snack limits!
Here are some common snacks and the number of calories they contain.
Banana, medium: 105
Chocolate chip cookie (from packaged dough): 59
Peanut butter (creamy, 2 tablespoons): 180
Granola bar (chewy, with raisins, 1.5‐ounce bar): 193
Potato chips (plain, salted, 1 ounce): 155
1 Piece of String Cheese: 80
Snickers, fun size: 80
Baby Carrots: 25
We already know that knowing how much we’re supposed to consume and how much we actually consume is the only way to realistically track our food and beverage intake. In my experience, there are some fairly common mistakes we make while tracking. I want to discuss a few of those below and some ways you can avoid them as you take steps to a healthier you.
What are you drinking?
You do realize that beverages can contain calories, right? You can’t adequately track your daily caloric intake if you don’t include the calories that you drink. The most common missed calories in this category include cream and sugar put in coffee, alcohol and mixers, and sports drinks.
I am so excited that you tracked that you ate a hamburger. I’m a little less enthused to see you skipped the ketchup and the mustard and mayonnaise and the cheese and the lettuce and tomato and onion and pickle on it. All of those things have calories, and in some cases the calories in the condiments can be equal to or greater than what it is that you’re eating. Also included in this category – salad dressing.
How comfortable are you eyeballing 3 oz of meat? An ounce of cheese? Do you know the difference between 8 tablespoons in 1/4 cup? I once had a client put 8 tablespoons of salad dressing on a salad. When I asked her, slightly incredulously – you put a quarter of a cup of salad dressing on a salad?? She wrote back and said no, I only put 8 tablespoons. She didn’t realize that 8 tablespoons in 1/4 of a cup are the same. She seemed much more comfortable with 8 tablespoons, then she did with a quarter of a cup (which also makes me think she was guessing). Get yourself a good set of measuring spoons and measuring cups or a food scale.
Eating before you track
I’m sure Panera Bread is a lovely restaurant. But I can’t begin to tell you how many of my clients have eaten there and tracked the food afterwards only to find out that they have consumed all of their Weight Watchers points for the day or two thirds of their daily caloric intake on something they thought was healthy. Unless you find yourself out in the wild – and by wild I mean a downtown area with many fast food restaurants – in a moment of intense, crippling hunger hyphen you should be able to check out a menu and track some food before you eat. This will save you from realizing after the fact that you just ate an entire day’s worth of calories or points, and a chocolate chip cookie. If you meal prep, this should be really easy for you to keep track of. You know going into each meal with the calories are – you can even write them on a piece of tape on the lid of the container. You can also do the same thing with snacks. Proportion snacks and little snack bags – you can get those at the grocery store. That way you know that you’re never going to accidentally eat a bag of chips because you’re eating straight out of the bag instead of portioning them out.
Butter and Syrup
Now technically, I know, both could be in condiments. But I’m going to address them here. We track our meal, but not the butter we added to our bread or the olive oil we put in the pan to cook the chicken. I love my mother, but she wasn’t tracking butter on Bagels or butter and syrup on pancakes. I have no idea why she didn’t think these were “trackable” items. These items, often times, have more calories and more fat than the other aspects of the meal. Track your bread-and-butter people.
Waiting to the end of the day to track your food
I can’t remember what I wore yesterday and I had those close on all day. Do you remember at 9 pm what you ate at 9am? Do you remember just how much salad dressing you put on your salad and how much of the salad you actually ate? Or how many wings you ate? It is often easier to track as you go. I understand this might not be realistic for everyone, but if you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to track as you eat or before you eat, take a picture of your food before you eat and a picture afterwards. That should hopefully give you a sense of how much was on your plate and how much of what was on your plate you ate. Then when you go to track that evening you can reference the pictures to help you figure out the portions.
Mistaking a portion for serving
A serving is the amount of food that the nutritional guide line is based on. If you look on the side panel of a food package, it will tell you what the serving size is. A portion, on the other hand, is how much you eat. A serving of milk may be a cup. But the portion you put on your cereal may only be half a cup. Similarly a serving of chicken may be 4 oz., but when you go to Cheesecake Factory they serve you 20. When you track your food make sure you track the calories for portions that you eat.
The FDA continues to work on unveiling new food labels, promising an easier way to decipher them. But across the pond, the U.K. is evaluating a proposal to quickly convey just how much you’ll have to exercise to burn off a chocolate bar.
Shirley Cramer, the head of the U.K.’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), wants to put a small icon on the front of every prepared food package to help consumers better understand their diet choices.
For instance, a blueberry muffin is 265 calories. According to the RSPH, the average person would need to walk for 48 minutes or run for 25 minutes to burn that off. The idea is to show just how much the food we take in can create a “creeping obesity” (small amounts of weight gained over a long period of time) if we are not careful to expend at least the same amount of calories through exercise over the course of a day or week.
The proposed labeling uses averages—an adult man needs 2,500 calories, a woman 2,000—and it isn’t clear if the label takes into account gender differences by averaging them out.
And while we can make population-based estimates, caloric intake and caloric expenditure differs from person to person. It fluctuates depending on how tall you are and how much you weigh, in addition to how physically active you usually are. (Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes, for example, famously takes in 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day.)
It’s also true that exercise increases your caloric needs, although studies contradict one another on whether exercise suppresses or stimulates appetite. So, some argue that the focus should be on eating healthier foods that keep you fuller, longer.
The icon assumes that all calories can be treated equally. But we know that’s not so.
“In my opinion, 200 calories are 200 calories, but the vitamins and minerals that come with those calories are far different,” said Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., author of five sports nutrition books. “Your muscles don’t care if you give them 200 calories of sugar or broccoli, but quality calories [in chicken versus a candy bar] are better for your health.”
“[The icon] is not meant to scare people, or to create a society of obsessives,” Cramer writes on the BBC’s website. “But instead it is meant to show to the public very clearly just how active we need to be if we are to consume the diets we do and not put on weight. Or how we might need to readjust our diets to match our inactive lives.”
But Clark worries that people who have unhealthy views of diet and exercise may interpret the icons the wrong way, and that could lead to calorie-counting and exercise-math obsession.
“We need calories to just lie in bed, breathe, and pump blood,” Clark said. “The majority of our calorie needs are for our organs to function. The walk-run icons fail to give that message, but instead imply that we only deserve to eat if we exercise. Not the case.”
The bottom line? These proposed labels, while far from perfect, are another move in the right direction for the general public to be armed with more nutritional information, not unlike the New York City requirement that calories counts be listed on menu items.
As for runners who tend to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, these icons could shed light on whether their 10 miler really justified that bottomless brunch.