Tried & Tested: The Best Water Workouts

Written by: on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Water Workouts

No wonder water workouts make me happy: studies show that water-based exercise boosts mood and decreases stress and anxiety.

I’m not much of a swimming fan, so I never really considered the pool when it came to regular exercise. But then someone suggested I try aqua aerobics. And what I’ve found is that by adding the water to my workouts, I’ve gotten in amazing shape—and I’m never bored because there are plenty of workout options for any mood I’m in!

So what exactly is aqua aerobics?

Any exercise in the water that gets your heart rate up can qualify as aqua aerobics. The water has plenty of advantages, the first of which is that your heart has to work less in the water (thanks to the zero gravity). But, even in spite of this, you’re still able to get a great cardio workout because of water’s natural resistance. The buoyancy of the water also provides a lightness you can really feel, because you’re only supporting a fraction of your body’s weight in the water (which is why this workout is amazing for pregnant women—and for people prone to, or recovering from, injuries). In fact, studies show that people can exercise longer in water than on land without increased joint or muscle pain. What’s not to like?!

Looking for more information about aqua exercise? Try My Ultimate Guide To Aqua Aerobic.

Water weights

Movement in water offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than in air, which means your muscles get a better toning workout in the water.

My All-Time Favorite Aqua Workouts

I choose different water workouts depending on my exercise needs/goals. Here are my favorites:

Aqua jogging: This is my absolute favorite water exercise. In the summer, I get in the water when it’s too hot to exercise outside. I go to the community pool when the lap lanes are open, jump in one, and begin moving up and down with my best running posture. I have to lean forward like I’m sprinting to push through the resistance. I wear old tennis shoes to protect my feet, and keep a water bottle at the end of the lane to stay hydrated. I was surprised at how hard I worked in the water. No wonder competitive runners use aqua jogging for cross training!

Aqua kickboxing: If I’m having a hectic week, kickboxing in the water is my secret stress buster. Kicking through water works my legs really hard. Combine that with punching routines and it’s like I’m doing a weight workout in the water. I tried a kickboxing class in the gym, and I kept falling off balance, but in the water, it’s much easier to stay grounded. The instructor will work us hard for an hour, and when I finish, I know I’ve done a super effective workout—and I feel pretty relaxed afterward too.

Aqua Zumba: I didn’t want to try this workout at first (I’m too shy to do all those hip-swinging moves in front of people). But then I realized that with a water Zumba class most of my body would be underwater during the workout. That changed everything, so I got my friend Marsha to go with me, and we tried a class. Talk about a great workout to get in shape! The teacher didn’t stop for most of the hour. The best part was that the whole experience was a blast—and thanks to it, I’m doing it more often and getting in much better shape.

The best part about water workouts: I look forward to them— and I always leave my workouts with a smile. They make me feel great!

 

The Right (& Wrong) Ways to Lose Weight

Written by: on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
woman strength training

Remember: cardio and strength training are both important parts of your exercise regimen.

Exercise is medicine, what you put into your mouth matters, and there are no quick fixes. These are the key messages worth a reminder as everyone is getting on the weight-loss bandwagon for the New Year. Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs (to say nothing of quality-of-life costs) are staggering, we need to figure out how to turn this ship around. Here are eight truths about diet and exercise that anyone trying to lose weight (or even maintain weight) and stay fit should know:

1) Miracle slim-down diets (aka “crash diets”) do not work. Is it true the less you eat, the more weight you will lose? No. A big slashing of calories poorly predicts how much weight you will lose because your body adapts to perceived “famine” conditions by conserving energy.

close up of broccoli

The secret to weight loss: a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (like broccoli), whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean meat and dairy (if you eat dairy).

In a three-month study, young, healthy women were given a diet to lose weight. One diet had a moderate (-400) calorie deficit; this group lost six pounds in 3 months. The other diet had a severe (-850) calorie deficit; that group lost only 8 pounds. This was far less than predicted and related to a drop in resting metabolic rate. The body’s ability to conserve energy is quite powerful! If you want to lose weight, plan to chip off just a few hundred calories at the end of the day, rather than starve yourself by under eating all day.

In fact, men who want to lose weight should not crash diet, either. They will lose not only muscle but also testosterone (a muscle-building hormone). In a three-week study, soldiers ate a high-protein diet (3 x the RDA; 2.4 g pro/kg/day) but under ate calories by 40% below the amount needed to maintain weight. While the very high-protein intake helped counter loss of muscle, it did not maintain testosterone levels. Remember: chipping off a few hundred calories is preferable to a chopping off a thousand. Two fewer cans of soda or beer a day can make a difference in weight!

2) It doesn’t matter how often you eat; what matters is calories. Are dieters better off eating three small meals plus three small snacks—or eating the same amount of calories but in just two meals? For two weeks, obese middle-age women ate calorie-controlled packets of food either two or six times a day. Either way, the subjects reported being hungry. Eating six smaller meals did not appear to improve appetite response. So take your choice how often you want to eat, being sure to keep the total calories within your daily calorie budget.

Cup of coffee

Coffee has many health benefits—thanks to its antioxidants—but weight loss is not one of them.

3) No, coffee can’t curb your appetite (sorry!). Many dieters drink coffee for breakfast, swearing it curbs their morning hunger pangs. Yet, a study with 12 subjects reported no differences in appetite (and subsequent food intake) when their breakfast and mid-morning beverages were 1) water, 2) water+caffeine, 3) decaffeinated coffee or 4) decaf+caffeine. At lunch (4.5 hours after breakfast), the subjects reported similar amounts of hunger and ate similar amount of calories, regardless of their caffeine intake. The coffee did not effectively curb their appetites.

4) Listen to your body. What happens to food intake when healthy college men who exercise regularly are told to sit for 10 additional hours a week for 8 weeks?  They naturally eat less! At baseline, the subjects ate about 2,600 calories a day (47% carb, 18% protein, 32% fat). When they were told to be more sedentary, they intuitively ate less than baseline. They chose the same foods, just smaller portions. Only 1 of the 8 subjects ate more than at baseline. The moral of the study: If you get injured and cannot exercise, your body can naturally desire fewer calories. The trick is to listen to your body’s cues.

5) Regular exercise does more than just keep you fit. Exercise can impact not only weight but also the kinds of microbes that grow in the gut. In mice, the kinds of microbes differ by 40% between sedentary lean and obese mice. Even mice made obese by a high-fat diet—but allowed to use an exercise wheel—had a lean phenotype compared to the sedentary obese mice with no access to the exercise wheel. The exercised mice had distinctly different gut microbes. We need more research to understand how exercise impacts gut microbes in humans and how those microbes impact metabolism and weight.

Dumbbells

Lifting weights boosts bone density and your resting metabolism (which is key to how many calories you burn a day).

6) You’ve got to lift weights. Female athletes commonly have low bone mineral density. Is this related to their being light in weight? Having low body fat? Less muscle? A study of 44 female D-1 athletes (from cross-country, tennis, basketball, and soccer teams) suggests that bone mineral density significantly relates to muscle mass. The more muscle, the better the bone density. Keep lifting those weights!

7) Any exercise is better than no exercise. Does very slow walking (1 mile/hour) on a treadmill desk offer any health benefits? Yes. In a study, 32 college students consumed 300 calories of glucose and then either 1) remained sedentary for two hours or 2) for two hours, alternated walking on a treadmill workstation for 30 minutes then sitting for 30 minutes. The results suggest even very slow walking helped with blood glucose control. Bottom line: being sedentary is deleterious to health.

8) Getting older? Make it a point to move more. Regular leisure-time exercise patterns drop from childhood to adolescence and become unacceptably low in adulthood. One reason may be that we spend many hours at our desks working—with little time for leisure or even vacation. This is why it’s even more important to make an effort to fit in exercise as often as possible. And try to get up from your desk at regular intervals….and walk (even around the office) if you can. Remember, every little bit helps!

Why I am still OBSESSED with SoulCycle

Written by: on Friday, June 27th, 2014
Indoor Cycling Class

Get ready to turn off the lights: SoulCycle classes are illuminated by candlelight, which adds to their aura.

By now, most people know about SoulCycle and their fiercely loyal pack of followers (of which, I admit, am one). Riders can be spotted from miles away with SoulCycle apparel and those telltale metallic shopping bags. Riders ‘like’ SoulCycle’s Instagram and Facebook posts religiously, enthusiastically share their success stories on the website, attend events where everyone is just as obsessed as they are, and rarely skip even just one regular cycling session (doing so has been known to provoke anxiety in even the most sane riders among us).

You definitely don’t see this kind of crazy obsessive enthusiasm in a gym. And that’s how—and why—SoulCycle (which has 29 studios across America) differs from your average workout.

The mantra of SoulCycle—which came onto the scene in 2006 thanks to founders Julie Rice and Elizbeth Cutler—is “Take your journey, change your body, find your soul”. This is what makes it unlike any other cycling studio or class. According to New York City-based rider-turned-instructor Amy Warshaw, “SoulCycle is about training your body, mind, and soul. In a city, which is all about competition, SoulCycle is about allowing yourself to be selfish during your ride. When an individual feels better about themselves they interact better with all those around them.”

Indoor Cycling

You can burn up to 500 (and sometimes more) calories in one 45-minute class.

In every 45- to 60-minute class, the instructor guides riders through steep hills, fast sprints, and arm-strengthening moves with one-, two-, three-, or five-pound hand weights. The playlists are always different—but inspiring—filling the studio with energy, power, and strength. Unlike most other cycling classes, SoulCycle promotes itself as an emotional experience that encourages self-improvement and discovery. A crystal is placed behind each instructor bike to encourage balance…a little out there, I admit, but it seems to work as there’s plenty of good energy in each class—and I always leave feeling energized and balanced.

I ride at the West 77th street SoulCycle four times a week—and yes, you could say it, I am literally obsessed just like everyone else who signs on for this workout. It makes me feel fit, healthy, strong—and happy (most likely the result of the feel-good hormones, called endorphins, that literally race through your body when you’re on a super-fast free ride).

There’s an energy, too, that makes you work harder—in both the class and in life. When you push yourself to get through a really tough ride, you just feel better about yourself. Since I started riding consistently at SoulCycle, I have a newfound sense of confidence and commitment to myself and what I can—and want to—do. Not surprising, says Warshaw, who says her favorite part of teaching is the feeling she gets when she walks into the room. “I have the opportunity to touch someone’s life,” she says, “to inspire them, make them smile, and push them harder than they ever thought possible.”

And that’s reason enough to get your butt off the couch and to class as often as possible. It’s also why—in a world where fitness fads come and go—SoulCycle is here to stay.

 

Mom of Four: “I Never Thought I Could Be an Athlete”

Written by: on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
TriathleteAuroraGonzalezColello

Aurora with her four children and husband.

Just five years ago, San Diego-based Aurora Gonzalez Colello—now 40—was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis); 10 lesions were discovered on her brain, through an MRI, after excruciating pain caused vision loss in one eye. She was told by her doctor not to exercise (heating up the body during exercise has been known to trigger MS symptoms like vision loss, fatigue, numbness, dizziness, memory problems, and balance problems) and to accept the fact that she had a progressive incurable disease and might never gain her full vision back.

This year, on Saturday, September 7—along with 5, 499 other athletes—she’ll swim almost a mile in the Pacific Ocean, bike almost 25 miles along

AuroraGonzalezColelloRunningDuringaTriathlon

Aurora finds time to train whenever she can—sometimes fitting it in while her kids are at sports practice.

the Pacific Coast Highway in California, and run more than 6 miles along the sands of Zuma Beach—one of the largest beaches in Los Angeles County. Despite her doctor’s warnings about exercise and accepting her “fate”, Aurora is planning on finishing strong in the 27th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon presented by Equinox.

“This is a race that I’ve been wanting to do. It’s a great race; it’s a beautiful place to race. I’ve been training hard for it,” says Aurora, who has taken not one of the 21 triathlons she’s already participated in for granted. “I started off with a sprint distance triathlon in a bay and gradually worked my way up to this point, with ocean swims.” Last year, she did a half IronMan (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run).

But ask this mom of four kids (ages 12, 10, 7, and 5)—all of whom are home-schooled by her—how she finds the time to train for an event like this, and she says: “If you want something bad enough, you’ll let go of the stuff that’s not important and fit it in.”

How she transformed her body—and took charge of her disease

Before she was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 2008, at the age of 35, Aurora never worried much about her body—or her health. “I was thin. I ate whatever I wanted (and didn’t really eat well) and never really needed to work out,” she says. “I thought: ‘I’m skinny so I’m healthy’. I couldn’t run a mile without stopping.”

AuroraGonzalezColello

Aurora finishing the ocean swim part of a triathlon (not easy!).

And then everything changed. Aurora started getting a pain in the back of her right eye that became excruciating. Then she lost her vision in that same eye.

After her diagnosis, she panicked. “I was scared,” she says. “I was in this constant paranoia about my health—and about what was going to happen to me and my body.”

Having been told she has a progressive incurable disease—and might never get her vision back—Aurora sent an e-mail to everyone she knew, asking their advice, experts they knew of who treated MS, and anyone they knew of with the disease. “I got a list of 15 to 20 names of people who I could talk to,” she explains. “One of those people was going to a holistic center. Another recommended an Ayurvedic neurologist. I went to see both.” That decision to break out of her box with regard to what could help her is what changed the course of Aurora’s illness—and her health—for the better.

“I had a lot of blood tests—and they came back saying I was deficient in just about every vitamin and mineral, including vitamin D and all the B vitamins,” says Aurora, who explains that’s what prompted her to radically change her diet and her lifestyle.

Exercise: While her conventional doctor told to be careful with exercise, Aurora researched the benefits of exercise and found that it could help MS patients. (One study, in particular, found that highly fit MS patients perform significantly better on tests of cognitive function

AuroraGonzalezColelloTriathlete

Fit, happy, and healthy—Aurora's whole life changed when she overhauled her diet and started training for triathlons.

than those less fit peers. The study, published in the journal Brain Research, found that highly fit MS patients actually had fewer brain lesions—which could account for the cognitive differences.

“The truth is I started training for a triathlon because my doctors told me I couldn’t,” she says. “I was very scared when I started training, but I started slow.” She also overhauled her diet with the help of the holistic medical center—and her Ayurvedic neurologist.

Diet:“My Ayurvedic neurologist taught me about herbs and eating to

TriathleteAuroraGonzalezColello

Crossing the finish line with her kids!

prevent inflammation,” says Aurora. “Now I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet—no boxed or processed foods, only natural whole foods. It’s a Paleo way of eating.”

“I used to be addicted to sugar,” she says.  “I used to need my coffee with tons of sugar—and candy bars every day at 3 p.m. But the first thing I noticed when I changed my diet is that I wasn’t craving sugar any more.” (Sugar has been shown to create inflammation in the body.)

Lifestyle: “I have to get enough sleep,” says Aurora. “Sleep is huge for me. My neurologist told me I need to be in bed by 10 every night and get 11 or 12 hours of sleep. When I start slacking off on sleep, on my diet, on my supplements, the symptoms start: my arms get numb, I get shooting pain along the side of my face. As a result, I don’t slack off any more. I can’t.”

“It’s been 5 years now,” says Aurora. “All my lesions, every single one of them, are gone right now—and I know exactly what I need to do to keep the disease at bay. But the lesions and symptoms will come back if I start slacking off.”

“I didn’t know what healthy was until I experienced true health,” says Aurora, who founded a blog healthyinheels.net about living a healthy lifestyle. “I just wish more women would be open to this fact—so much of it is fitness and diet and how you’re living; just make these changes and you’ll see big benefits.”

“I’m an athlete now but I’d never thought I’d be this person,” says Aurora. “My husband even told me, ‘I can’t believe this is you.’”

Aurora’s Healthy Living Tips:

 • Re-think your mindset. “When I was first diagnosed, I was crying and so upset after hearing about the course of the disease and all the symptoms I’d be experiencing,” says Aurora. “But what I quickly came to realize is that having an illness is so much about your mindset. All the experts tell you what to expect; they put you in a box with symptoms. But each disease is unique to each individual; you don’t have to experience those symptoms.”

• Be open to things. “Whether you’re diagnosed with a disease or not, live a preventive life,” says Aurora. “Be open to things that may seem weird or out of the box like Ayurveda and natural or holistic or integrative medicine. These may be the things that can really help you; they’re about finding the root cause of your problem. They look at the whole person.”

Don’t be intimated by fitness. “Don’t ever say, “I could never run or do a race.’ Anyone can do it. Anyone can improve their fitness level,” says Aurora, who adds: “Work toward something. So many of us don’t ever give ourselves a chance to be what we want in the future. We limit ourselves. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

The quote I live my life by: “Life your life today like no one else so you’re not regretting it later on; don’t follow what everyone else is doing.”

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m Exercising…So Why Can’t I Lose Weight!?”

Written by: on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
woman running

You run, therefore you should be losing weight. Not true! There's much more to the weight-loss story than that.

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???

Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?

For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight-loss efforts.

woman standing on a scale

Even if you're an athlete, you cannot eat anything you want and expect to still lose weight.

MYTH You must exercise in order to lose body fat. 

TRUTH To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories. Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”

Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and—as a result—they saw no changes in body fatness. The bottom line: creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed? Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

woman running in race

Just because you're in training for a race doesn't mean you earned those chocolate chip cookies!

MYTH If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. 

TRUTH Wishful thinking. If you’re an endurance athlete who complains:“For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day, found another study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.

TRUTH Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56 to 78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62 percent less active the rest of their day, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

woman doing a lunge stretch

Four workouts a week with cardio, strength (and a bit of stretching) might be better for weight control than six workouts a week.

MYTH You should exercise six days a week to lose weight. 

TRUTH Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. Another study—published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

man and woman running together outdoors

Woman will always lose weight at a slower pace than guys...it's just the way we're built.

MYTH Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.

TRUTH Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss—and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise. In another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at New York’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line

If you’re exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

Copyright©Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

 

 

 

 

“What it REALLY takes to become a Weight-Loss Success Story”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Friday, May 11th, 2012
woman on scale with arms up in triumph

It takes a lot of hard work—and a hard look at your reality—to become a success story.

Have you looked at the success stories on this website?  Have you seen the doctor who lost 120 pounds? Brenda wrote some very worthwhile advice in her story: eat right, surround yourself with active healthy people, stop obsessing about weight loss but keep your eye on the simple math of calories in versus calories out, and be committed to your goals.

Looking at Brenda’s advice and knowing how she succeeded by following those simple philosophies, made me realize I have to do more.

I credit myself with eating right, being active and staying committed even though I am not (at this moment) losing.  That is all true, but not true enough.

I finally had to take a cold, hard look at what I was doing—and as much as I hate to admit it, I could be doing better.

What it takes to be a Success Story  

Exercising 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week

Occasional sugary treats 1-2 times/week

Daily activity beyond exercise

Maintain nutrition program instead

of regularly giving yourself permission to eat what someone else is eating

My reality 

Fits and spurts of exercise with gaps of 2 to 4 days at times with no exercise

Daily sugary treats (although they’re written down & counted in my calories)

Taking the elevator up or down 1 floor at the hospital and parking as close to the door as possible

I never say dietI’m don’t think I THINK it enough either. And by that I mean making conscious better choices instead of letting myself believe my hips won’t notice the French fries.

How many of you have a reality that differs from what is truly necessary to succeed?  Please share with me and any little tips or revelations that have helped you get your reality closer to what is required. I can’t emphasize enough how interested I am in what has worked for you!

 

 

“How to overcome a frustrating weight-loss plateau”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Consistency is key to successI don’t know if I believe this anymore, but I will act as if I do. My dietary transgressions are small—or at least they are to me. But they are apparently substantial enough that my scale does not move.

How is it possible???

I eat mostly right.

I exercise often.

Shouldn’t I see at least something?  But this week, my scale has not moved. Still 204. Last week I spent 200 minutes doing cardio. 200 minutes! How many calories is that? Must be thousands. Sunday, I did 80 minutes on the elliptical. That alone was 1,200 calories. Don’t you have to burn 3,600 calories to lose a pound?

How can this be? Well, rather than getting completely and utterly frustrated (and believe me, I am just about there), I decided to do a little research and here’s what I discovered:

1) Weight-loss plateaus happen to everyone who’s ever tried to lose weight. They are not just happening to me (as I thought). They occur because, as we lose weight, the metabolism slows down. That means that…get this…I’m burning FEWER calories than I did when I was heavier doing the EXACT SAME ACTIVITIES! The reason: the body is achieving a state of equilibrium. Great. *$#@! Insert a string of profanities here!

2) Once you reach a plateau, things have to be changed up—or no more progress will be made. This means, that despite all the hard effort I’m putting in, all the exercise, all the eating right…I still have to do more. To lose more weight, I need to cut my calories further and/or increase the amount of exercise I’m doing. If I still with what I’m doing now, I will stay the same weight…just as I have been doing.

3) You have to cut 200 more calories a day. This is what seems to be the typical recommendation to start; don’t go overboard with calorie cutting (and never say diet!), but it seems that I have to cut just a bit more.

4) Do even more exercise! I find this hard to believe—and find it harder to fathom how I’ll fit any more exercise into my day, but this is what all the experts say. Some recommend not doing any additional “formal” exercise, but just to add more walking, moving, etc every day to burn more calories.

I must admit, I do feel defeated sometimes, but just hearing that I’m not the only person who has experienced a plateau makes me feel a bit better. But it seems I just have more work to do.

Have you ever experienced a plateau? Can you please share with me what worked (or what is working for you)? I need all the advice and support possible to get me through this! Write to me at melissa@valerielatona.com.

 

“Tell me the one thing that helps YOU lose weight”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, May 7th, 2012
Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser

Bob Harper is one reason I am glued to my iPad while working out!

I have a new favorite workout gadget: the iPad!

I use it to download The Biggest Loser—and watch it, mesmerized, while sweating away. It makes the time pass so much more quickly…and I find that I can exercise for a lot longer than I could with just music! I am usually not much of a TV watcher; this is my first season, ever, watching The Biggest Loser (I download it from iTunes for just $20)—and I am hooked! It is so motivating! Plus, truth be told, I think I have a little crush on Bob Harper….

I know the iPad is expensive, but it’s absolutely worth it. I already spent 80 minutes on the elliptical doing hills and adding resistance while watching the contestants do the same. I don’t know about you, but I will gladly spend my money on anything that helps me get healthier and more fit!

Tell me the one thing that helps YOU lose weight.

“How I’m Ramping Up My Exercise”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Nobody is impressed by how good your excuses areI am feeling a little bit punchy today.  Yesterday I ran 55 minutes at an average pace of 12 minutes 32 seconds per mile for 4.40 miles. That was a workout. Remember I said I tried to avoid suffering? Well, it has become apparent to me that I will not move into the 100’s on the scale unless I do some suffering.

Lauren, my nutrition advisor from FOODTRAINERS, wants me to do more cardio. I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Today I did 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser that I downloaded from iTunes onto my iPad. Technology can be just plain cool. I would have felt guilty if I wasn’t suffering while watching this show. I followed the elliptical with about 20 minutes of weight work with my medicine ball, hand weights, and weighted bar. There was an Usher marathon on Pandora and my energy level was high.

Very early this morning while at work, I ate not 1 but 2 bowls of some sort of shepherds-pie-like-casserole concoction that the nursing supervisor’s husband made.  I ate it with gusto and had to STOP myself from going for a 3rd because it was so darn tasty and I was STARVING.  I could only estimate the calories…somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. That means the rest of the day is going to require a bit more vigilence in the calorie department. But it was well worth it!

 

 

“Nonfat is nonsense…and other great weight-loss nutrition tips!”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 19th, 2012

My first question is where did April go? I had such plans, so many goals. April got swallowed up by a series of unfortunate events in my life, but I have the reins on my weight-loss program again.

I have been eagerly awaiting my first bit of advice and direction from Lauren, my personal nutrition advisor, of FOODTRAINERS and it is here!

fresh whole strawberries in a cup

Moderation is key when eating anything, including fruit!

1. Fruit but don’t Overfruit. Fruit is low in calories and a part of any healthy regime. However, fruit is sugar and it’s possible to overdo it. I would stick to 2, max 3 1-cup portions of fruit a day. Additionally try to choose lower glycemic fruits such as berries, citrus, cantaloupe, apples, and pears. Also important given family history (and by that she means the diabetes on my father’s side).

I will struggle the most with limiting my fruit. It is just so handy, portable, and satisfying. Clearly, I “overfruit” now. 

2. Nonfat is often nonsense. I would switch nonfat yogurt to low fat. Nonfat to our bodies is higher in sugar. You also aren’t satiated with nonfat in the same way. Same for fat free half and half.

This is surprising, but not shocking. I always believed this but switched to non-fat to shave off precious calories. Fat back in my yogurt and half and half will be delightful and delectable!

3. Try a 3/4 day for portions. I told Lauren that portion sizes were difficult for me, so she recommended I pick 1 day (a non-work day) and do what she calls a “3/4 day”: Eat slowly, chew well and stop yourself 3/4 through your regular portion. Wait 3 to 5 minutes. If you can, stop the meal there. If you cannot, keep going. The goal is to stop and assess, that’s the first skill.

This piece of advice will also be tough but I am trying to model the eating behavior of my daughters who gloriously and unconsciously walk away when done —whether it is scrambled eggs or chocolate cake. I never want them to learn to clean the plate or finish it off just because it tastes  good. Somehow, I never learned to recognize or acknowledge being full enough and satisfied, but it is never too late!

how many grains you should be eating a day

This is how big your daily serving of grains should be...no more!

4. Trade off grains. Keep carbs/grains, cereal, bread, potatoes, rice, etc to 1 meal a day “fist” size (makes me wish I had a bigger hand!)

Prior to a number of stints with the Atkins Diet, I was a card-carrying carb loader. Thankfully, even though that was an impossible lifestyle to maintain, I did take a way a (nearly) firm control over grains, especially cereal. I should have no problem limiting my grains. They are more like treats to me anyway.

5. Drink plenty of water! Get 48 to 64 ounces per day plus 1 to 2 cups green tea (I will need a catheter!)

Water. Well, I guess I will just have to do it even it I don’t like it. I like unsweetened ice tea and make it by the gallons. Even my girls drink it. I will have to ask Lauren if that would be an acceptable substitute. I could always make iced green tea. Of course I don’t want to start out my nutrition tutoring with complaints!

4. Exercise. Work out 150 to 180 minutes a week (total as you go) with one day “longer” 50 to 60 min.

I have come a long, long way in terms of what I can accomplish physically and how often.  Lauren is advising I ramp it up for weight loss.  There are some days that will be very difficult to achieve but One Hour Workout on ValerieLatona.com