Stop and Chew Your Dinner

The Benefits of Slowing Down & Chewing More
  — By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.

If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating. <pagebreak>

For food particles to even leave your stomach though, the “gates” of the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, must open. Conveniently, chewing also aids in this process, signaling this event. And speaking of signals, just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. And the longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors—the longer you chew each bite—the stronger these signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, less acid reflux, and superior nutrient absorption.

Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly has another benefit. It might shrink your waistline—and not just because you’ll have less bloating and indigestion. Eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. In a preliminary study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2004, study subjects ate less when they were instructed to eat more slowly.

Here are some practical tips for chewing more thoroughly and eating more slowly:

  • Give yourself enough time to eat—at least 20-30 minutes just to eat the meal, plus additional time to prepare it.
  • Don’t eat amidst distractions, like the TV, computer, or while driving.
  • Be fully present while you eat. Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color, and subtle flavor differences of each food you consume.
  • Take smaller portions, taking a break before refilling.
  • Put your fork down after each bite.
  • Eat mindfully, chewing each bite as many times as necessary to pulverize any texture.
  • If you’re eating in a group, be aware of the speed at which others are eating. Challenge yourself to be the last to finish.

Besides all of the physical benefits, perhaps the most pleasant benefit of all is that, if you allow yourself to slow down and chew, you’ll enjoy your food much more.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

How to Exercise Your Resiliency Muscle

6 Ways to Deal with the Ups and Downs of Weight Loss (without Giving Up)
  — By Ellen G. Goldman, Health & Wellness Coach
I sat listening quietly to the women in my monthly weight-loss support group talk amongst themselves over the conference line. Marge was sharing how happy she was to be back to her regular daily walks after months of being derailed by her broken ankle. She was sad that five pounds had crept back on but felt determined and ready to get back down to her pre-injury weight. “You can do it!” Sue cheered, “I remember you gained 20 pounds the year your mom passed away, but you got back down to maintenance. If you can take off 20 pounds, five will be a walk in the park.”

Every month, the group members reconnect to swap stories, support one another, and share anything new they have learned in the field of weight loss to help them continue their journeys. Some are maintaining at their goal weight; others are still looking to pare down. They range in age and life experiences, but what they all have in common is resiliency. Each one of them has experienced setbacks, and not a single woman has given up!

There are a lot of personal strengths that are helpful for achieving permanent weight loss: determination, perseverance, self-discipline, even organizational skills. However, the one strength I believe to be vital is resiliency.

Resiliency is the capacity of humans to come out of extreme shock, damage, injury and trauma and get back to normal life. However, Robert Brooks, author of The Power of Resilience, feels that we should not foster a resilient mindset just to safeguard against the possibility of unfathomable crisis and tragedy. His research has led him and others to believe that a resilient mindset will help us handle even the “minor” setbacks, disappointments and problems of ordinary living.

Another author and researcher in the field of developing resiliency is Emily Werner. She states, “Resilience reflects the concept of ‘reserve capacity.’ It helps us prepare for future adversity and enables the potential for change and continued personal growth.”

I particularly like this concept as it relates to permanent weight loss, which requires adjustments to one’s habits and lifestyle. Many who achieve and maintain their weight-loss goals report that they have changed not only in body size but also in mental toughness, finding strength, perseverance, and determination they didn’t know they had—and developing, sometimes for the first time in their lives, the inner belief that they can succeed at whatever they put their mind to. Along with weight-loss success came increased confidence and self-esteem, not necessarily because of their new body, but because of their success at reaching a goal.

I would define resiliency as our ability to bounce back from life’s adversities and difficulties within a reasonable time frame, and the ability to be flexible and adapt to difficult circumstances. Simply put, when we are resilient, we stand up again after falling down, learn from and evaluate our mistakes, and keep trying even if we have to change directions. When working toward a goal we find meaningful and valuable, we don’t give up. In my mind, fostering a resilient mindset is vital for permanent weight loss.

Weight loss is never a straight path. Seldom, if ever, do you hear about an individual who makes the decision to lose weight and does so without ever having setbacks. You might lose three pounds one week, and be up one the next. You do a fantastic job sticking to a healthy diet throughout the holiday season, and then lose your job and start the new year soothing yourself daily with ice cream and cake.  You were exercising consistently five times a week, and then realize you haven’t been to the gym in months because you’re overwhelmed taking care of a sick parent.

When you make a decision to try again, to get back on track after a setback or even start over, that’s resiliency! You proclaim and you believe, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!”

The National Weight Loss Registry is a large, ongoing research study of several thousand individuals who have maintained weight loss. To be part of the study, participants need to have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for five and a half years. However, most registry members didn’t permanently lose the weight on their first try. Nearly 60% of them had tried to lose weight and keep it off five times before finally achieving success. Close to 20% had dieted three to four times before finally figuring out what worked best for them. If that doesn’t demonstrate resiliency, I don’t know what does!

Successful, sustained weight loss is usually achieved despite setbacks and plateaus. Dealing with and accepting the disappointment of the scale not going in the direction you hope, or as fast as you would like, is important if you’re going to make it to the end goal. When that happens, rather than giving up, the resilient individual will re-evaluate what’s been going on, be willing to try a different approach, and keep going. They rarely feel hopeless, or if they do, they stay in that state for a very short time. They remind themselves—as the weight-loss group members reminded Marge—that they have weathered storms before, and move quickly to a place of recovery and resolution.

If you are thinking resiliency is an innate strength of a lucky few, the good news is you can definitely strengthen your resiliency muscle. Here’s how to become more resilient in the journey of weight loss—and in life.

6 Keys to Resiliency
1.   Accept and face difficult situations head on. Anticipate in advance that challenging situations will arise all the time. Almost every week is marked with a birthday party, unhealthy temptations or busy workdays at home or the office. Be proactive rather than reactive, and plan how you will handle the challenge. Learn more about developing a Plan B to stick to your goals.

2.   Believe in your own inner strengths. Take time to remind yourself of past successes in other challenging areas of your life. Identify the strengths you used then, and apply those strengths to your weight loss journey. This is a good exercise to try in the beginning of your journey. Write down those successes in a blog post or a journal. When you start doubting yourself, return to them for motivation.

3.   Reframe your thinking.  Tell yourself that setbacks are temporary, not permanent. Focus on what is still working, rather than the area where you lapsed. Remind yourself of all the things you did well before that small setback, then celebrate the next thing you did well, like getting up for your morning workout the next day rather than beating yourself up over the thing you did wrong.

4.   Talk back to your inner critic. Despite a difficult week, it doesn’t mean you are a failure, you’ll never lose weight, or all is lost. It only means you had a difficult week, and you have the opportunity to do better in the upcoming one.

5.   Try to learn from your setbacks. Mistakes and slip-ups aren’t failures; they are learning experiences.  Gather data to help you move forward in the future and avoid a similar issue. Treat them as learning opportunities.

6.   Find a cheerleader. Children who grow up to be resilient and highly successful adults report there was one person in their life who never stopped believing in them. Brooks refers to these individuals as “charismatic adults.” When it comes to weight loss, having just one supportive, significant person in your life is essential. Whether it’s a coach, your trainer, spouse or best friend—even your mom—hearing from, remembering, and receiving encouragement from someone who believes in you will help you achieve your goals and strengthen your resiliency muscle. If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have a cheerleader in your real life, you’ll find plenty of support in the SparkPeople Community.

Sources
Brooks, Robert and Sam Goldstein. 2004. The Power of Resilience. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fletcher, Anne M. 2003. Thin For Life. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

What to Eat After You Work Out

Refuel and Recover with a Post-Workout Meal or Snack
  — By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert
Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?

If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories to support your activity level, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels and experience to tell you whether you need to eat anything before or after exercise and what it should be. The basic rule here is: Find out what works best for you, and do that.

There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You have to eat fewer calories than you use up—but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.

The size, timing and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after exercise and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want.

Your Post-Exercise Fluid Needs

Most moderate exercisers will lose about one quart (four cups) of fluid per hour of exercise, so try to drink about 16-20 ounces of water shortly after your workout to aid the recovery process. If you sweat a lot or the weather is hot and/or humid, consider weighing yourself before and after exercise, and drinking an ounce of water for every ounce of weight you’ve lost. Because heavy sweating also causes loss of minerals and electrolytes, consider using a sports drink with electrolytes if you need to replace more than two or three cups of fluid.

Your Post-Exercise Meal or Snack

As long as you’re staying within your overall range for the day, you don’t need to be obsessive about matching the following calorie and nutrient ratios perfectly. Just be careful not to fall into the very common trap of thinking that it’s okay to eat anything and everything in sight because you just worked out. Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need or to choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout meal to refuel and repair your muscles. <pagebreak>

So what does the ideal meal or snack look like?

  • Calories. Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal 50 percent of what you burned during your workout. So if you burn about 600 calories, try to eat 300 calories after exercise.Don’t worry about undoing the calorie-burning benefits of your workout—that’s not how weight loss works. As long as you’re eating within your recommended calorie range (whether for weight loss or maintenance), you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals.
  • Carbohydrates. Roughly 60 percent of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace depleted muscle fuel (glycogen) and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised.If you have some favorite high-carb foods that are lacking the whole grains and fiber that are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, this is a good time to have them. Your body can digest refined carbohydrates faster during your “refueling window,” but if you prefer whole foods, don’t force yourself to eat processed foods.
  • Protein. While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25 percent of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that’s about 10-15 grams for most people.
  • Fat. Fat doesn’t play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won’t help your weight control or fitness endeavors. Only 15 percent (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat—that’s less than 10 grams.

The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next session.

But if your appetite or schedule doesn’t allow you to eat a meal right after exercise, don’t panic. Your body can still replace your muscle fuel over the next 24 hours, as long as you’re eating enough food to support your activity level. Try to have a smaller snack that contains carbs and protein as soon after exercise as possible. Liquids like smoothies, shakes or chocolate milk, and/or energy bars, can be especially effective post-workout snacks.<pagebreak>

Here are some sample food combinations for your post exercise meal:

  • Bread, a bagel or an English muffin with cheese or peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Fruit juice with cheese
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Veggie omelet with toast or roll
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk
  • Eggs and toast
  • Turkey, ham, chicken or roast beef sandwich
  • Vegetable stir-fry with chicken, shrimp, edamame or tofu
  • Crackers with low fat cheese
  • Rice or popcorn cakes with nut butter
  • Smoothie (with milk, yogurt or added protein powder)
  • A protein or energy bar
  • A protein or energy shake
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch and vegetables

Be sure to “Pin” this graphic for future reference.

As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important thing is getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so you can give it what it needs to perform at its best. Eating the right things at the right times after you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high and your body in fat-burning mode.

Now that you know what to eat after, here’s how to fuel up before you start sweating!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Are Your Fitness Goals Realistic?

Forget Failure. Set Yourself Up for Success!
  — By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor
In life, we’re told to dream big. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold. While I think everyone would agree that having big aspirations is admirable not to mention inspiring, you should take a more calculated approach when setting fitness goals. It may seem counterintuitive to start small, but remember that you want to set yourself up for success not burnout or injury.

Think about it. How many times have you or someone you know set a huge goal to lose 50 or more pounds, or exercise for an hour six days a week, only to fall off the wagon a few weeks (or days) later? The truth is that even when people have the best of intentions and the willpower to set out and do something grand, without a plan and a smart goal, they stumble—and are more likely to fail.

When you first set a goal, you’re full of energy and completely motivated, but over time those feelings can wane and your overzealousness can push you to do too much too soon. The fix is to define a progressive set of fitness goals that build on one another to help propel you toward that big dream or aspiration. Breaking a big goal into smaller, realistic goals can help you both mentally and physically. This method can also help you improve your fitness level gradually and safely, which helps to build confidence.

The first step to setting realistic goals is to really think about your goal and write it down.

Then, ask yourself these three questions:

    1. 1. How big is the goal? Is your goal only attainable in three months or more? If so, make a or goals to get you to that long-term goal. Ideally, you should be able to reach the smaller goal in two to six weeks.

 

    1. 2. What does it take to achieve the goal? This question addresses your goal’s frequency. If reaching your goal requires five workouts a week, but you can only get a babysitter two days a week, then you need to scale back your goal. Be realistic about what time you have to devote to the goal and be honest about your fitness level. Building your fitness base takes time, and being smart about increasing it will help you stay injury-free. As a general rule, never increase your weight lifted or your minutes exercised by more than 10 percent in any given week. Slow and steady really does win the race!

 

    3. Can you see yourself reaching the goal? You want a program that you can stick with for the long haul—not just this week. Be completely honest with yourself and ask if you can realistically see yourself doing what it takes to achieve the goal at hand. If you can and it meets the above criteria, then you probably have a goal !

Take a look at these common situations (and fixes) that I’ve encountered as a personal trainer:
<pagebreak>
Unrealistic Goal for a Non-Competitive Exerciser: I want to complete an endurance event in two weeks. Competitive events are an excellent way to stay motivated and a great goal, but many triathlons and running races put a lot of wear and tear on the body, and if you do too much too soon (or without proper form or footwear), you can get injured, which really puts a damper on your dreams and is just plain painful!

Realistic Goal: I will complete a shorter distance endurance event like a 5K or sprint triathlon in three to six months. If you want to begin participating in endurance events, it’s important to start building your fitness base slowly and really listen to your body. If you can walk comfortably for at least 20 minutes and can commit to working out four to five times a week for 20 to 40 minutes, then a 5K training program is a great place to start. A run/walk program is flexible and lets you see results over the course of just a few weeks, which is both exciting and motivational. Plus, if you get into it and find that you really despise running or it makes your knees hurt, you can walk and still reach your goal instead of giving up after the first week. Additionally, the time frame of two months is long enough—and the 5K itself is challenging enough—so reaching the goal is big enough to result in one of the best rewards of all: bragging rights!

Unrealistic Goal for a Sedentary Person: I want to go to the gym every day. There are two main issues with this goal. First, it’s not specific—what activities do you want to do and for how long? After all, just showing up at the gym doesn’t accomplish anything unless you get your body moving. Second, it’s not realistic. I love to work out and even I don’t want to go to the gym every day. Plus, taking a day off here and there helps give your muscles time to repair and rest, and it gives you a break mentally.

Realistic Goal: I will be active for at least 10 minutes each day. While this goal isn’t specific when it comes to the activity, it is specific and realistic with the time constraint. While going to an hourlong Spinning class every day would be impossible, not to mention not very healthy for you (cross-training is important so that no specific groups of muscles get overused), doing something active for 10 minutes a day, whether it’s a walk after work, some push-ups or sit-ups over lunch, or a full session at the gym or with a workout DVD, is very doable. Also, note the addition of “at least” in this goal, which helps to emphasize that 10 minutes is just a minimum. Over time, this goal could progress to have a minimum of 15, then 20, then 30 minutes.

Unrealistic Goal for a Novice Exerciser: I want to do the workout I did in high school. If you used to play a sport competitively when you were younger and are itching to get back into it, beware. Most sports require explosive and powerful movement that can give your body a rude awakening—such as extreme soreness or injury—especially when you try to do something that you haven’t done in years. Even if you were the high school team captain, if you haven’t practiced it in many years, start slowly and be cautious.

Realistic Goal: I will meet with a personal trainer once a week for a month and follow his or her strength routine two times a week. Even if you were MVP of your team back in the day, a lot has changed in sports performance and workouts over the last few years. Instead of going out and doing the same old workout that you remember from high school, take the time to meet with a personal trainer who specializes in your sport or regularly works with athletes. He or she can get you back in the sport saddle with a strength routine that prepares your body for competition and will help you prevent injury. A qualified personal trainer will also help you set other realistic goals once you’ve built your foundation to play. (If you’re not sure how to look for a personal trainer or what else you need to ask, read this.)

Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself
Perhaps the most important component of setting an effective and realistic fitness goal is rewarding yourself when you reach your goals, even the small ones! From buying yourself a new magazine to read, enjoying a long bath, or buying a new pair of workout shorts, the reward should be a time where you compliment yourself for your hard work and revel in your success.

Also, don’t be afraid to tweak a goal as time goes by. Life happens! Remember, the key to setting yourself up for success is to be realistic. Now, start setting those goals!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Get Fit Without Leaving the House

Home Gyms are Practical and Affordable
  — By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer

Imagine a gym you can commute to in seconds. It’s open 24-hours, so you can come and go as you please—on your time. It’s comfortable, and you feel completely at ease when you work out there. Oh, and membership is free. You may be daydreaming, but the perfect gym is a dream that can come true…in your own home.

 

There is no reason that you can’t make a home gym part of your reality. A home gym adds convenience and privacy to your workouts. When you exercise at home, you save time, money, and the rush hour headaches (on the road and in line for the elliptical). Although you might be cautious due to budget and space limitations in your house, building a home gym isn’t as impractical as you might think. After all, gym memberships can occupy a large portion of your budget at several hundred dollars per year.

The Basics

Remember, you want to build a gym based on your own personal needs and fitness level. As you progress, you can add on equipment, so don’t feel that you need to buy everything at one time. Your gym can be as simple or complex as you want.

 

  1. Dumbbells (Free weights): A good set of dumbbells will help you start a strength training routine. There are two basic options when it comes to dumbbells. You can buy single sets based on the weight you want to lift. These are often metal, but can also be covered with a rubber material to keep them from slipping out of your hands. Expect to pay $15-$20 for a pair of 5-pound weights. Prices will increase as the weight goes up. A second option is to buy an adjustable dumbbell set. This includes two handles (or bars) for you to grip, as well as plates of varying weights that can be attached. Depending how many plates you get, expect to pay at least $60 for a set like this. Fancier versions can run up to $350 or more.
  2. Resistance Bands: Bands are great because they are compact, portable, and allow for a wide range of motion. Resistance bands come in three or four different levels of resistance and usually run around $15 for one band. These can be used pretty much any way that a dumbbell can be used, so if you are in a budget crunch, these might be the better option. To learn more, read No Need to Stretch the Truth About Resistance Bands.
  3. Stability (Swiss, Balance, Physio) Ball: An exercise ball, no matter which name it goes by, is simply an oversized inflatable ball. These are extremely versatile, and not just for core workouts anymore. You can sit, lie, and balance on them during almost any exercise, rather than investing in an exercise bench. Plus, this unstable surface targets your core muscles and improves your balance and coordination. The balls come in different sizes (based on your height and weight), and a rainbow of colors, and cost around $25 apiece. Read Exercising with a Stability Ball to learn more.
  4. Exercise Mat: Place a good exercise mat on the floor to stretch comfortably, cushion your body during floor exercises (from crunches to modified pushups), and prevent slipping while lifting weights. Consider this a must if you do a lot of Pilates or yoga. Plus, they can roll up out of the way for storage if your space is limited. For about $20 you can get a sticky mat (for Pilates and yoga), which is thin—but better than a hard floor. The price goes up for larger and thicker mats.

Once you’ve purchased some or all of the basics, you’re well on your way! <pagebreak>

 

The Extras

  1. Cardio Machines: Next, consider a piece of aerobic workout equipment. Whichever you choose, make sure your machine has different resistance levels to allow for workout variety and challenge as you progress. Also available, for a price of course, are computer systems with timers, calorie counters, RPMs (for bikes, ellipticals) and even heart rate monitors. Before you make a major purchase, try one for several minutes in a store. While it might be tempting to buy the cheapest available, you’ll want to make sure you are investing in a solid piece of equipment that you are comfortable on.
    • If you like running and walking, a treadmill is a good option. Keep in mind, however, that running outside is free, while these machines are costly—at least $600 for the most basic model.
    • Stationary bikes or elliptical machines are more affordable alternatives.   Elliptical machines, which cost at least $400, are low-impact (and fun!). Bikes come in two different varieties, recumbent (like sitting in a chair with a backrest) and upright (standard seat) and also cost at least $400 for a decent model.
    • Of course, a jump rope is a cheap piece of equipment that can also get your heart pumping!
  2. Workout Bench: Space and budget allowing, a good workout bench is a solid investment. Look for one that adjusts at varying angles (incline, flat, and decline). Many benches start at around $90. Make sure to purchase a sturdy bench (test it out for length, width, weight limit) to support you effectively while you work out.
  3. Universal Gym Machine: Finally, the king of home workout equipment is an all-in-one weight machine. You’ve probably seen them on infomercials, but are also available for purchases in many stores. They will run at least $800, but are often well over $1,000. These machines include a bench and various pulleys and weights, which combine all the machines in a commercial gym into one compact unit, allowing you to do squats, presses, curls, and pull downs.

All of these pieces of gym equipment are available in a variety of places—sporting goods stores, department stores, websites, and by catalog. For a great deal, consider purchasing gently used equipment. Look through the classified ads, auction websites, and even garage sales. If possible, test it out before you buy.

<pagebreak>

Set Up

Start small. A few basic pieces of equipment are all you need. You don’t need 5 different weight machines to have a great gym, although if your budget and house allows it, consider yourself blessed. Keeping just the basics on hand will help make healthy lifestyle goals much more attainable.

 

Make sure you have enough space for your gym. Choose a room with a high ceiling (so you won’t hit your hands while working out), and a sturdy, clean floor (to prevent slipping). Finally, add some good lighting, ventilation (possibly with a fan), and a stereo to crank your favorite tunes, and you’ve created a gym that you can really enjoy!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

30 Days of Healthy Snacks

Make Better Choices, One Day at a Time
  — By Melinda Hershey, Health Educator
Do you have trouble coming up with unique and tasty snacks that are also good for you? We’ve got you covered with a new healthy snack for every day of the month! Click here for a printable PDF version to hang on your fridge for instant inspiration.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

13 Carb-Controlled Snacks

Smart Snacking Ideas for People with Diabetes
  — By Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator
Eating with diabetes can be challenging at first, but a little bit of knowledge and preparation will help you get used to making smarter snack choices in no time. Here are 13 diabetes-friendly snack ideas to incorporate into your meal plan. Don’t forget to ”Pin,” ”Like,” or ”Tweet” this graphic to share with your friends and family!

Note: Before you start using this list, make sure you understand the basics of eating with diabetes. These resources will help you along your journey:

For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association’s National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

Original Post on Spark People.com

Healthy Carb, Fat and Protein Ranges

The Numbers You Need to Know
  — By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
“Help, I am way over in protein!”
“I’m not meeting my fat goal. Is this a problem?”
“How many carbohydrates should I be eating?”

Based on years of research that examined the relationship between nutrient intake and disease prevention, generally-accepted ranges have been established for carbohydrates, fat and protein intake. These healthy ranges also help to ensure that a person is getting a sufficient intake of other essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The recommendations are:

  • 45% to 65% of calories eaten should come from carbohydrates.
  • 20% to 35% of calories eaten should come from fat.
  • 10% to 35% of calories eaten should come from protein*.

The SparkDiet takes a middle-of-the-road approach with these ranges. Our specific breakdown is approximately 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein, all of which fall into the healthy ranges above. *Because our members are striving to meet weight loss goals through calorie restriction, we also recommend a minimum level of protein—at least 60 grams daily for females and 75 grams daily for males. This requirement will help prevent muscle loss and promote feelings of fullness among dieters. Both your Nutrition Tracker and the chart below reflect this recommendation.

Your intake of carbohydrates, fat and protein may be somewhat higher or lower than the SparkDiet recommendations, due to your taste preferences, cooking style, culture, fitness routine, health conditions and day-to-day changes in diet. Does that mean that your intake is bad or dangerous? No! <pagebreak>

Do your best to meet at least the minimum recommendations for calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein as outlined on your Nutrition Tracker. The table below converts these percentages into grams needed each day based on calorie intake:

Nutrient Carbohydrates Fat Protein (Women) Protein (Men)
Healthy Range 45%-65% 20%-35% 10%-35% 10%-35%
1200 calories 135-195 g 27-47 g *60-105 g N/A
1500 calories 169-244 g 33-58 g *60-131 g *75-131 g
1800 calories 203-293 g 40-70 g *60-158 g *75-158 g
2100 calories 236-341 g 47-82 g *60-184 g *75-184 g
2400 calories 270-390 g 53-93 g *60-210 g *75-210 g

Monitor your diet in these ways:

  • Eat a healthy, nutrient-packed diet.
  • Watch your calories daily and try to keep them in your recommended range.
  • Check your carbohydrate, fat and protein intake based on your SparkDiet recommendations. As long as they fall in the healthy range listed on this chart above, you will be meeting your nutrient needs.
  • Choose whole grain carbohydrates like brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, oats, and avoid refined carbohydrates like white rice and white bread.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats and avoid trans fats found in processed foods.
  • Choose high-quality protein sources such as lean meats and plant-based proteins instead of fattier cuts of meat.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

The Truth About Juicing and Health

To Juice or Not to Juice;That is the Question
  — By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
A couple decades ago, juicing was something that only overzealously health-conscious people did.  You just knew someone was into healthy living if he or she owned a juicer or drank fresh juice regularly. Today, it’s much more popular. People are juicing to lose weight, to cleanse and to consume more nutrients. Juicers are popular sold not only via infomercials but can easily be found in department stores. Juice bars have popped up not just in hip California neighborhoods but even in the Midwest.

In the SparkPeople Community, we get questions about juicing all the time. Should I be juicing?  Will juicing improve my health?  Does juicing help with weight loss?  While you may be looking for a quick answer, it isn’t that simple.  Like many things in nutrition and weight loss, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the topic of juicing.  Read on to find out if juicing can benefit you and your goals.

What Exactly Is Juicing, Anyway?
Juicing is the process of extracting the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables.  A small kitchen appliance known as a juicer is used to extract the juice, and these can range in price from $50-$500. Drinking the juice of fruits and vegetables means consuming their water and much of their vitamin and mineral content; however, the pulp, or fiber, which also has many health benefits, is removed. (Note: Some high-powered juicers do retain most of the pulp in the juice, thus resulting in a thicker juice.)

There are a few main types of juicers out on the market today:

”Fast” Juicers
This type of juicer is one of the most common varieties you’ll find on the market. A fast juicer (or centrifugal juicer) grinds your fruits and veggies and then pushes the extracted juice through a strainer by spinning at a very high speed. The pulp is extracted and ejected into a special compartment, usually near the back of the juicer. This type of juicer produces pulp-free juice very quickly, but it also tends to extract less juice than other types of juicers. This type of juicer also generates more heat than other types, which some experts say could compromise the nutrients in the produce.

“Slow” Juicers
This juicer produces juice in two steps, using one or two gears. First, it crushes the fruits and veggies, and then it presses out the juice. These types of juicers take longer to produce juice, and they tend to be more expensive than most centrifugal juicers. However, they are said to extract more nutrients from the produce. They yield a thick juice with more pulp, yet still produce some pulp extract in a separate compartment.

”Whole Food” Juicers
These juicers are reminiscient of blenders. Using sharp blades at high speeds, they are able to pulverize whole fruits and veggies into liquid. These do not have a separate pulp compartment.

Fresh juices should not be confused with smoothies, which are usually made in a blender, food processor, or high-powered juicer and include the fibrous pulp of the fruit and vegetable ingredients (and can often contain a blend of fruit, vegetables, juice, dairy and other ingredients).

How Juice Stacks Up against Whole Foods
Proponents of juicing like to say that juice is more nutritious than simply consuming fruits and vegetables. But does that argument really hold up? To compare the nutrition of whole fruits and vegetables to juice, it is important to compare apples to apples (no pun intended).  For accuracy, this means that one must compare them based on equal portions of weight (in grams), which is what we’ve done in the chart below. If using a juicer or blender that retains the pulp, the end result will be similar to the whole fruit.  This chart is a comparison of whole fruit vs juice that does not retain the pulp.
<pagebreak>
100 Grams of Juice vs Whole Foods

Food or Juice Calories Water content Fiber Carbs Protein Vitamin A Vitamin C Potassium
Apple, 2.5” diameter

Apple juice, 3 fl. oz.

52

46

86 g

88 g

2.4 g

0.2 g

13.8 g

11.3 g

0.3 g

0.1 g

54 IU

1.0 IU

4.6 mg

1.0 mg

107 mg

101 mg

Grapes, 20 whole

Grape juice, 3 fl. oz.

69

60

81 g

85 g

0.9 g

0.2 g

18.1 g

14.8 g

0.7 g

0.4 g

66 IU

8 IU

3.2 mg

0.1 mg

191 mg

104 mg

Orange, 2.5” diameter

Orange juice, 3 fl. oz

49

45

87 g

88 g

2.2 g

0.2 g

12.5 g

10.4 g

0.9 g

0.7 g

247 IU

200 IU

59 mg

50 mg

166 mg

20 mg

Carrots, 2 (5.5” long)

Carrot juice, 3 fl. oz.

41

41

88 g

89 g

2.8 g

0.8 g

9.6 g

9.3 g

0.9 g

0.9 g

16,706 IU

19,124 IU

5.9 mg

8.5 mg

320 mg

292 mg

Kale, 1.5 C chopped

Kale juice, 3 fl. oz.

49

40

84 g

n/a

1.7 g

0 g

8.8 g

8.0 g

4.3 g

2.5 g

9990 IU

14,750 IU

120 mg

116 mg

491 mg

428 mg

Tomato, 2.5” diameter

Tomato juice, 3 fl. oz.

18

17

94 g

94 g

1.2 g

0.4 g

4.24 g

3.89 g

0.9 g

0.7 g

833 IU

450 IU

13.7 mg

18.3 mg

237 mg

229 mg

By looking at the chart, you’ll notice:

  • Whole foods usually contain more vitamins and minerals. This is most often due to the fact that many of these nutrients are in (or very near) the skin of fruits and vegetables, which gets discarded as pulp when fruits and vegetables are juiced.
  • Whole foods always provide more fiber. As expected, fiber content is always higher in the whole produce since it is primarily found in the pulp, which is removed with the traditional juicing process. Fiber is one of the key reasons that fruits and vegetable are so good for us.
  • Gram for gram, juice is slightly lower in calories due to its slightly higher water content. The calorie content of your juice will be dependent on the combination of produce used in your given juicing recipe.  However, this is only the case if you stick to the small 3-fluid ounce portion of juice listed in this chart. Many people drink large cups of juice, which can double or triple the calories listed. Notice that fruits do have a higher calorie content than most non-starchy vegetables, primarily due to their natural sugar content.
  • Both juice and whole foods provide a lot of water. No matter which option you choose, juice, whole fruits and whole vegetables all provide needed hydration for the body.
  • Whole fruits are lower in carbs than their juices.  Both fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, but fruits contain more carbs than veggies typically do.  These carbs come primarily from the natural sugars contained in the produce, but are considered ”smart carbs” because they are nutrient dense and rich in fiber, which helps slow  blood sugar response in the body. Yet, for people following a weight-loss program or a diet to control blood sugar levels, the carbs in fruits, vegetables, and their juices should all be monitored.  When making your selections, note that fruit juices are usually higher in carbohydrates. (Learn more about making smart fruit and juice choices when you have diabetes.)

    You may think that the Glycemic Index (GI) would be a helpful tool for calculating the nutritional differences between whole produce and juice.  However, for people with diabetes, counting total carbs is the most valuable tool for regulating blood sugar.  If you are having difficulty controlling blood sugar readings, work with your health care provider to adjust your eating plan.

One other concern with juicing is the cost. It takes a lot of fruits and vegetables to make a small amount of juice, and these fresh produce items don’t come cheap. Especially if you are discarding the pulp, you’re spending a lot of money on making fresh juice when your wallet (and body) may benefit more from simply eating the fresh produce. Healthy eating does not have to cost a lot of money, but if budgetary constraints are a top concern of yours, juicing isn’t the most frugal choice when it comes to getting the most nutrition for your buck.

So Why Do People Juice? What Are the Benefits?
People who juice usually fall into one or more categories based on the reason they choose to juice.

  • The Juice Cleanser uses a juice concoction with the goal of detoxing the body and giving the gut a rest.
  • The Juice Faster is typically looking to jump-start their weight loss by using fruit and vegetable juices as their main source of nutrition for up to a few days, weeks, or even months.
  • The Juice Snacker enjoys freshly squeezed juice with a meal or snack, and occasionally replaces a meal with only juice. This juicer simply likes juice or feels that fresh juice is a healthy addition to their diet on occasion.

Does juicing help people reach any of the goals above? I’ll be the first to admit that while there is a great deal of research regarding the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, there is very little research-based evidence regarding the juice of such produce. Yet, we can still use science and common sense to answer the most common questions about juicing. <pagebreak>

Will Juicing Improve My Health? 
Juicing is no healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables.  When comparing gram weights, juice is not more nutritious than the whole produce. In fact, it is often lower in many nutrients, and the beneficial fiber is near zero. Contrary to some claims, your body does not absorb the nutrients better in juice form.

That said, juice does contain nutrients. Many people prefer drinking juice to eating whole fruits and vegetables. So if juicing helps you increase your consumption of produce, that is generally a good thing for most people. However, you will get more health benefits from finding ways to increase your daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables than by only drinking their juice alone, so that should be your  main goal if health is your reason for juicing.

Will Juicing Cleanse or Detox My Body? 
In a word, no. Juice will not cleanse your body. There is no scientific evidence showing that ingredients in juices help to eliminate toxins.  In fact, your body is well-equipped with its own detoxing systems (including the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems).  To keep your organs functioning at peak performance, a balanced diet consisting of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is needed. The body cannot survive on the nutrients in fruits and vegetables (or their juice) alone.  Therefore, a juicing cleanse may actually be preventing the body from functioning optimally. In addition, healthy adults have no reason to give the gut a rest from fiber intake.  In fact, for optimal intestinal function and overall health, it is best to consume nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods every day. Learn more about the truth behind common detox diet claims.

Does Juicing Help with Weight Loss? 
Maybe… but maybe not.

First, it’s important to remember that no single food causes obesity, and the inclusion or exclusion of any single food or food group will not cause weight loss. Weight loss comes down to consuming fewer calories than you burn on a regular basis. Juicing can either help or hinder this depending on how much you’re consuming (and what else you’re eating).

Doing the math, on average, an ounce of ”mixed juice” contains about 15 calories.  If you need 1,400-1,500 calories daily to achieve weekly weight loss, you could drink a whopping 96 ounces of this juice (about 12 cups) each day and still stay in that calorie range, which should result in weight loss. On this sample juicing diet, you would, however, only be getting 9 grams of fiber (36% of your need) and 25 grams of protein (41% of your need) each day, which is far from ideal.  This unbalanced nutrient intake would result in immediate muscle mass loss and an increase in hunger and food cravings. Other nutrients such as fat, vitamins and minerals would also be severely lacking.  Successful and safe long-term weight loss would not be achievable on such a plan.  When followed for a few days, this type of juice fast would probably not harm a healthy adult. However, if followed for several weeks, or if followed by people with certain medical conditions, this type of fast could lead to dangerous complications (more on that below).

Remember that the best weight-loss plan helps you achieve balance and moderation with a wide variety of foods that you enjoy and can stick with eating for the long term. Juicing may result in some weight loss, but it’s a crash diet at best.

On the flip side, if you add juice to your current diet (and continue eating other whole foods), you could easily over-consume calories and not lose weight at all. A 12-ounce glass of juice typically contains 180 calories.  Adding a couple of these glasses on top of your regular daily intake would likely put you out of your weight-loss calorie range and could result in weight gain.

Although most of us would prefer a quick fix or weight-loss boost, remember that weight loss is not so simple. Eating more of any one food likely won’t change your weight for the better.

Health Concerns with Juicing
Juicing could have potential food-medication interactions and medical complications for some people.  For example:

  • Increasing foods high in vitamin K, such as spinach and kale, may affect anti-blood clotting medication.
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interact with more than 30 common medications.
  • Increasing fruit juice intake can increase carbohydrate intake and raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
  • The higher potassium intake from fruits and vegetables may be dangerous to someone with kidney disease.

Anyone with a health condition or taking medication, especially those with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension should consult their physician or dietitian before making significant dietary changes.

Give It a Whirl: The Right Way to Juice
While there are many reasons why one should not turn to an exclusively juicing diet, there is no need to forgo juice if you enjoy its refreshing taste and endless flavor combinations.  You just need to juice with a little common sense and know-how by practicing these tips.

  • Turn Yucky into Yummy. Juicing can be a way to incorporate produce that you normally might not eat due to flavor or texture issues.  Beets, kale, and spinach tend to be less noticeable when combined with the flavors of fruits and berries, so experiment by combining your least favorite produce items in different flavor combinations.
  • Don’t Pitch the Pulp.  You can still reap the benefits of that fiber-rich pulp by adding it to soups, stews, grain and rice dishes, pasta sauces, muffins and quick breads. Don’t let those nutrients go to waste—get creative with them in the kitchen.
  • Try a Juicy Smoothie.  Use the fresh juice you make as the liquid component in your favorite smoothie.  You can also add the discarded pulp as well.  Blend in some ground flaxseed, nut butter or avocado for healthy fats and some yogurt for protein.  You’ll end up with a complete balanced meal.
  • The Five-a-Day Challenge.  Juicing can help you meet your 5-servings-a-day minimum of fruits and vegetables; that means no more than 1 cup of juice daily, which counts as 2 produce servings.  Just make sure you are incorporating enough whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes and lentils to meet your 25 grams of fiber as well.  You may even surprise yourself by getting more than 5 servings!
  • Rotate and Renew. Instead of limiting your produce juicing selections to the same few every time, rotate in new offerings based on what’s fresh and locally available at your farmers market.  Incorporate a variety of colors into your juice, as each color represents a different nutrient profile.
  • Boost Flavor.  Use herbs, spices and extracts to add flavor to your juice blends and smoothies.  Think basil, mint, cilantro, cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon.
  • Remember Food Safety.  Wash your hands before touching the fruits and vegetables.  Then, be sure to thoroughly wash the produce. Make sure to properly clean the cutting board, knife and preparation area. Wash your juicing machine carefully after each use with hot soapy water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Just rinsing it out won’t do!
  • Drink Now, Not Later!  Freshly made juices and smoothies are highly perishable since no preservatives or pasteurization is used.  So drink or freeze your mixture shortly after juicing or blending. If you can’t consume it all, freeze the leftovers immediately in ice cube trays and then pop them into freezer bags. These make great additions to smoothies later!

The bottom line? When enjoyed in moderation, fresh-squeezed juice is a tasty way to obtain vitamins and minerals in liquid form. However, the best way to lose weight and promote optimal health is to eat a well-balanced diet that comprises all of the food groups.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

7 Times It’s Okay to Skip a Workout

Stop Feeling Guilty When You Need a Break
  — By Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer
Sometimes when we miss a workout, we know full well that we are just making “the dog ate my homework” types of excuses that wouldn’t fool anyone—not even you! But then there are the times when we have a valid reason for skipping a workout. Sometimes life really does get in the way. Sometimes you really do have to skip a workout, and don’t need the extra guilt for doing so. You shouldn’t beat yourself up for missing a day or even a week (or more) of workouts if you have a legitimate reason to opt out. But you should check in with yourself so you know whether it’s a valid excuse or whether you should be a little tougher on yourself. To help you tell the difference, we’ve come up with a list of times you can totally pass on a workout—without feeling an ounce of guilt.

7 Justifiable Reasons to Miss a Workout
1. You just had a baby.
Having a baby is maybe the most valid reason for not working out. It’s typically recommended that you wait six weeks after giving birth before you work out and even longer if you’ve had a C-section. Your body is recovering from a major physical even and not only should you cut yourself some slack, but it can be dangerous to exercise too soon. Postpartum bleeding, called lochia, can continue well past the four-week mark, and overdoing anything can cause bleeding to increase. So heed your doctor’s advice and enjoy the baby. Don’t rush getting back into fitness until your body feels ready to take it on (and you have your doc’s OK). There will be plenty of time to work out once you’ve recovered!

2. You’re injured.
It’s not only important to skip your workouts when you’re injured, but it’s a necessity if you want to feel better! Giving your injury a break is essential to letting it recuperate so you’re able to get back on the horse again soon. Putting more strain on an injury is just a recipe to get sidelined for good. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out what activities you can do with your injury. It might be possible to modify exercises so you can still work out, but there might be exercises to avoid, too. Being injured can be a positive in some ways, though. Nothing makes you miss working out more than not being able to do it, and this type of setback can also push you to discover new workouts you enjoy. If you can’t run because of a knee injury, you might be able to try Pilates. If you have a stress fracture, you could fall in love with the bike or rowing machine or try a low-impact class.

3. You had surgery (or the doctor told you to lay off exercise).
In the case of a major surgery–or even a minor one–you can skip the sweat session sans guilt. The last thing your body needs after a major medical event is to work harder: It’s working hard enough on recovering and feeling better. Work with your doctor to find out when you can safely work out again, and heed his or her advice. The last thing you want is to pass out while you’re on the treadmill.

4. You chronically get too little sleep.
Sleep is more important for your health than working out. If you didn’t sleep well (or at all), are jet-lagged or are adjusting to a new schedule, rest up before hitting the gym again. Chronically skipping sleep to exercise doesn’t do a body (or mind) a lot of good. If you’re just feeling a little tired after a night or two of poor sleep, exercise might actually give you an energy boost. But it’s up to you to know the difference between a little fatigue and the exhaustion that comes from true sleep deprivation. Odds are, if you could fall asleep at 7 p.m. for the night, it’s probably a good idea to skip the gym that day.

5. You’re sick.
The general rule is that if your illness is above the neck (e.g., runny nose, sore throat) you can safely workout. If your illness is below the neck (e.g., stomach issues, lungs, full-body aches) it’s best to rest. But in the early stages of a really bad cold, we still say it’s totally fine to skip the gym. When your body isn’t feeling it, you know it–and it’s OK to hit the couch for a couple of days instead so you can let your body focus on expending extra energy toward fighting off illness. The last thing you want is to spread the germs to others or to pick up something else during cold and flu season!

6. You just completed a major athletic/endurance event.
Just ran a marathon? Slogged through a Tough Mudder? Competed in your box’s CrossFit competition? You’re entitled to a day off from your usual workout. After a big event, you might want to go on a walk and do some mild stretching to help alleviate any soreness, but it’s probably a good idea to give yourself a break so you can properly recover.

7. You’re actually too busy.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, intentions or desires, life really does get in the way of working out. You had a dentist appointment, worked all day, hauled your kids to soccer practice, baked a cake for a birthday party at work, made dinner, paid the bills, and now it’s 9 p.m.–and you didn’t get your workout in. That’s fine! If you’re genuinely too busy, you’ll know it. But if this is always the case, try to find a plan to work more exercise into your hectic schedule, even in small bursts. Remember, too, that exercise is great stress relief and much-needed “me” time for many people; it can make all of those busy tasks seem more manageable!

You don’t have to feel guilty for skipping a workout when you genuinely have a good reason to do so. Just watch for those excuses when you know that you could have gotten to the gym or fit in a quick at-home sweat session–and then make a plan to do it the next day!

Original Post On SparkPeople.com