Archives for June 2015

Why healthy eating doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss

I eat fairly healthily.

I try and ‘eat clean’.

I follow the 80/20 rule.

And yet, I can’t seem to lose any weight.

I bet the above sounds familiar. We all know somebody whose body never changes despite their claims of watching their diet and eating ‘healthily’. Heck, you may have even found yourself uttering one of the statements above; I certainly have ūüėČ

In my experience as a personal trainer and healthy living coach, it often comes down to semantics (and of course, implementation…).

One person’s definition of ‘healthy eating’ isn’t the same as another’s. I have healthy (and unhealthy) weight friends who are Paleo. Some who eat low-carb. And others who’ve adopted the ‘Mediterranean’ diet.

The 80/20 rule can be interpreted in so many ways (80% of calories from ‘healthy’ foods, making ‘healthy’ choices 80% of the time, 80% of each meal coming from lean protein and veggies…) as to be almost useless as a guideline to eating for ‘health’, much less fat loss.

And don’t even get me started on ‘clean eating’. While it used to be a useful phrase (back in the day when it was primarily used by people who read and adopted the principals of Clean Eating Magazine), the word ‘clean’ is now fraught with judgement (“if my food’s not ‘clean’, does that mean it’s ‘dirty’?”) and widely applied to anything that’s not processed, regardless of how it’s raised or farmed.

In my opinion, many of us grab onto¬†these terms and use them to identify our nutritional strategy because it makes us feel like we’re doing the right thing. Even if we never force ourselves to specifically define the approach or adhere to it on a daily basis.

Below are five reasons I commonly see ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ eaters stall in their weight loss attempts. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t¬†Necessarily Lead to Weight Loss
  • Too much of a good thing; Just because you fill your plate with lean protein, minimally dressed veggies and heart-healthy fats doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight. Weight loss depends on energy balance; if you consume more calories than your body expends in a day, you’ll gain weight. Regardless of whether those calories come from a grilled chicken breast or a piece of chocolate cake. Sure avocado and flax seed and coconut oil are all ‘healthy fats’, but add them all to your daily protein smoothie and you’re likely to end up with a super-sized meal rather than a post-workout snack. If you’ve truly managed to eliminate¬†processed food and added sugar from your diet, take a good hard look at your daily caloric intake as compared to your daily metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns in 24 hours). The easiest way to do this? MyFitnessPal. Food tracking may be a bore, but it’s always insightful and a great place to start if you truly want to understand why you’re not losing weight.
  • The devil is in the preparation; What types of methods do you use to prepare your meals? Steaming? Frying? Grilling? Marinading? Do you add dressings and sauces during the cooking process or at the table? It’s all too easy to forget about the tablespoon of oil you saut√©ed the veggies in. Or the half a can of coconut milk you added to the brown rice. Or the bottled salad dressing you used to coat the romaine lettuce with. Just because these ingredients don’t seem like ‘food’, doesn’t mean they don’t add calories to your meal. Make sure you’re including these extras when you track your food. You may find that they add up to a few hundred calories a day; the calories that make all the difference between losing a 1/2 a pound a week and maintaining your weight.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

All I had for lunch was a salad….

  • Out-of-whack macros; Our bodies require three types of macronutrients to function; carbohydrates, protein and fat. According to government nutritionist guidelines, a ‘healthy’ diet will have 45-65% of the day’s calories coming from carbs (preferably complex, like veggies and grains), 10-35% from protein (the leaner the better) and 20-35% from fat (unsaturated are better than saturated and trans are to be avoided altogether). Many midlife women find that aiming for the lower end of the carb range and upping their protein intake accordingly can jump-start a weight loss plateau. Again you’ll need to track what you’re eating now in order to decide how to proceed. And then pay attention and re-evaluate depending on how your body responds to the changes.
  • ‘Treats’*** are no longer treats; I’m all for including occasional ‘treats’ or indulgences in your meal plan. The operative word being ‘plan’. If you know¬†that you’ll be going out for dinner on Saturday night and are likely to join in a glass of wine or a piece of dessert (I always choose one over the other; that’s why you’ll find me looking at the dessert menu before the waiter comes to take our drink order…),¬†plan the rest of your day accordingly. Maybe you eat more veggies for lunch. Or pass up on the afternoon cookie-with-tea. The thing about ‘treats’ is, once they become a mainstay of your diet, they’re no longer ‘treats’. I’ve found that those who self-identify as 80/20-eaters often grossly underestimate their ‘treat’ intake.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

Definitely a ‘beer over dessert’ night out…

*** I know that some of you don’t like the word ‘treat’. Or ‘indulgence’. Or ‘cheat’. But whatever you call it, we all know that we’re talking about the same thing; foods that shouldn’t be part of our daily nutrition plan because they don’t meet our health and fitness goals. The end.***

  • You’re easily swayed by product labels; When I asked the members of my Facebook page for their definitions of ‘healthy’ eating, nearly every single response included reference to reducing one’s reliance on packaged and processed foods. Even the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Especially the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Almost all the respondents emphasized the importance of eating foods that still resembled the way they’re found in nature. Food companies are in the business of selling food. They understand that consumers care about their health. They’ve found ways to package and market their products to make them appear more health-giving than they actually are. Cereal and yogurt companies are particularly clever in this regard. Pay attention to the ingredient lists and the nutrition information, not the large font superlatives on the packaging.

Do you follow any of the nutrition approaches mentioned above? Clean eater? Healthy eating? 80/20 advocate? 

Has your approach helped you lose weight (or maintain significant weight loss)?

If so, why? If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

 

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3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts

Even though I’ve long-since graduated from university, my life still seems to ebb and flow with the academic calendar (I guess that’s what having three school-age children does for you…).

Summer is my time to kick back, take a break from the¬†hectic driving and training and teaching schedule, spend more time engaging in outdoor activities with my kids (when I can persuade them to shut off their computers ūüėČ ) and¬†focus on some big changes I’ll be making in my work life come September (details coming soon…).

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While cutting back on the time I spend training clients and teaching classes is great for my brain, it does make it a bit more challenging to maintain my usual exercise routine.

You see, my work gym is also my workout gym.

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

Recognize this place?

I typically piggy-back my own workouts on those of my clients. Without clients to see, it’s sometimes hard to work up the motivation to gather my gear, drive to the gym, check-in, walk the gauntlet of friends and clients and people I know and focus on not getting drawn into lengthy conversations or having to re-think my workout because the equipment I planned on using is already in use. All of the things that turn a 30-minute workout into a 75-minute endeavour.

I know you get this; one of the most comment obstacles to exercising isn’t the time it takes to get the workout done, but the extra travel time¬†(and cost) required to train at a gym.

The obvious answer is to exercise at home.

I know that many of you have been successful with this. Personally? I don’t have a great track record with home workouts. I have the equipment (lots of equipment!), but don’t have a dedicated workout space (small house, no basement and not even an empty storage closet to keep equipment organized and together in).

Last week, while filming exercise videos in the carport for my 40+ online women’s fitness group, I had an ‘aha’ moment. (I’ve only been doing this for two years now; not sure why it took me so long to figure out…).

LightbulbMoment

Don’t you love it when fireworks go off in your head? ūüėČ

Why not use this exact space for my own personal workouts this summer? All I need to do is have¬†hubby install the TRX mount I purchased ages ago, pump up the stability ball and Bosu and purchase a large storage tub to keep it all in (I’m thinking that with 11-year old boys around, the kettlebells will be better off out of sight and out of mind…).

Care to join me?

I’ve created 3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts.

None of them require a lot of equipment and I’ve designed them around the types of equipment you’re most likely to have (from least expensive to most expensive (and most fun, IMHO)). All three are full body workouts, designed to be done in as little as 20 minutes. Or, if you have more time, string them together, in whichever order pleases you.

Oh and make sure you start with a warmup and finish with a stretch. Here are a couple of my favourites for you to choose from:

 

Workout # 1: When all you have is a resistance band. Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #2: Have a stability ball and a set or two of hand weights? Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #3: You’ll need a Kettlebell or two for this one (more expensive, but more fun too ūüėČ ). Perform 8 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

If you enjoyed these do at home workouts, please take a moment to
  • ‘Like’ them and subscribe to my¬†YouTube¬†channel
  • Share them with your friends (see those social sharing buttons below?)
  • Leave a comment (either on YouTube or in the comments section below)
  • Subscribe to blog updates and details about upcoming online course offerings
P.S. Although I am a Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer (although I could be; check out the online services I offer here). Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

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Avoiding exercise-induced injuries | ‘Pre’-hab is better than re-hab

Recently, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges.

exercise-induced injuries

Want to see the entire email? Sign up for blog updates and advance notification of new online courses by clicking this image.

 

(Thanks to all of you who’ve responded; it’s been wonderful to get your emails and to have actual conversations with so many like-minded women; the life of a blogger can sometimes be a bit isolating. Not a new newsletter subscriber? Feel free to share your ‘pain points’ in the comments section at the bottom of the page. And you can always, you know, subscribe ūüėČ ).

One of the most common responses I’ve had to date has been about injury prevention. For example,

I’m¬†47¬†and¬†just¬†started¬†taking¬†jui¬†jitsu¬†classes. What can I do¬†to¬†minimize my risk¬†of¬†injury?

and

At 54, my days of doing air squats and burpees and jumping onto¬†benches are over. My knees just can’t handle the impact and the last thing I want to do is get hurt. Any tips for exercising without getting injured?

As a (newly) 48-year-old woman, thoughts about injury prevention are never far from my mind. Especially when trying a new activity for the very first time.

I’ve had enough of my own exercise-induced injuries (knees and achilles tendon and intercostal muscles, oh my!) to know that ‘pre-hab’ is highly preferable to ‘rehab’.

In general, injuries tend to occur when we do ‘too much, too soon’. Joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments need to be eased into new activities, giving them time to strengthen, learn new motor patterns and increase their range of motion.

Strategies for avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Start slow; Even if you exercise regularly, when¬†the activity is brand new to you, pretend you’re a beginner. Follow the FIT (Frequency-Intensity-Time) guidelines of 2-3 times per week, at low to moderate intensity (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy, 10 being full-out exhausting, aim for somewhere between 3 and 5), and for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Leave yourself wanting more (or as my hubby used to say when our kids were little, “quit while you’re still having fun”).
  • Linger with¬†your warmup;¬†A proper warmup goes a long way when it comes to avoiding exercise-induced injuries. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes on whole body movements, paying particular attention to the muscles and body parts you’ll be using¬†during the workout proper. Use your warmup to mimic the activity you’re about to partake in.¬†For example, a tennis warmup might include arm circles, side shuffles and forward and back hops. A warmup for kayaking might include torso twists, ‘air’ paddling and calf raises (if your kayak has a foot-controlled rudder). Warming up for ju jitsu or another of the martial arts? Arm and leg swings and circles, slow controlled punches and kicks and whole-body walk out to planks would be great additions to your warmup. Gradually increase the range of motion that you’re moving through as muscles, joints and ligaments become more fluid.¬†Here are some warmup moves that I like to practice before I hit the weights >> ¬†Pre-strength training warmup ideas
  • Safety first; All exercises and activities have risks associated with them. Building up a solid foundation before you attempt the riskiest version of a new activity is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue to enjoy the activity for a long time to come. That might mean choosing lighter weights, performing the activity on a stable surface, using a limited range of motion until you’re familiar with the movements or making use of supports and props, when appropriate.¬†As you get stronger and your balance and confidence improve, you can relinquish the ‘training wheels’ and take your activity out ‘on the road’.

avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Savour stretching; Post-activity stretching can aid flexibility (one of the most rapidly lost components of fitness for us 40- and 50-somethings…), which in turn can help you perform your favourite activities better and with less pain. Focus on the stretching the muscle groups you used most during the activity. Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 s, taking deeper and deeper breaths as you lengthen the muscle and increase the intensity of the pose. Not only can stretching help prevent exercise-induced injuries, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts inward, calm your mind and enjoy a few moments of quiet in your otherwise busy day. Not sure which stretches you should be doing? Check out these two posts for ideas and tips on form >> Essential Stretches for Mid-Life Exercisers and Reasons to Stretch more Frequently (with a Video Guided Stretch)
  • Do different things; Exercise-induced injuries are often caused by doing too much of the same thing. I know that in our excitement and enthusiasm for a new activity, there’s a tendency to want to repeat the activity day after day after day. While repetition helps us get better at things, it can also lead to over-use injuries. Try interspersing your new favourite activity with other sports and types of exercise. You may be surprised to find that gains and improvements in one activity translate into gains and improvements in another. Ideally, your alternate activity will target different muscles groups (for example, running and cycling are both quad-dominant activities; a better alternative for the cyclist would be to hit the pool or the boxing gym). Oh and strength training complements pretty much any activity you can think of. Just saying ūüėČ .

Of course, getting proper instruction when starting a new activity will ensure that you’re performing the movements properly and with efficiency, both necessary if you want to avoid injury. Sign up for a lesson or two or book a session with a personal trainer to identify your strengths and weaknesses and get a program designed to support you in your new ‘favourite thing’!

Found this post helpful? Learned a thing or two that a fellow newbie to exercise might benefit from?
Why not share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter? (Just click on the social sharing links below). Who knows, one of them might be tempted to join you in your latest recreational pursuit!

 

What new fitness activity are you currently excited about?

Do you worry about exercise-induced injuries?

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Fitness and nutrition rules can simplify healthy living

Structure.

 

Some people swear by it and claim that structure is¬†the reason they’re able to consistently exercise and eat well.

Others find that too much regimentation makes them crazy and increases the chance that they’ll fall off the wagon.

Personally, I’m a fan of structure, just not too much ūüėČ

(I’m kind of like Goldilocks; not too much, not too little, it’s gotta be just the right amount).

I find that having a few, key ‘rules’ around fitness and nutrition helps me stay the course when I’m tired, feeling rushed or just plain low on willpower.

My rules are personal to me; there’s a reason for each of them. And when I recite them to myself, they instantly remind me of why I’ve chosen them and how I’ll feel when I honour them.

fitness and nutrition rules

I feel strong, confident and ready to take on the world!

 

Kind of like my reasons for exercising and eating well; linking the behaviour and the feeling that the behaviour gives me is a powerful tool for both creating new habits and sticking to old ones.

In my experience, the best types of fitness and nutrition rules are specific, concise and use positive language.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or have participated in one of my online training groups will be able to recite these verbatim (perhaps you’ve even adopted one or more of them as your own?).

 

For the rest of you, here are the fitness and nutrition rules that help me re-commit daily to healthy living. There are three of each because, honestly? I couldn’t manage to consistently follow any more ūüôā

Fitknitchick’s Fitness and Nutrition Rules to Live By

  • Never miss a Monday; I consider Monday to be the start of my exercise week. Getting a great workout in, first thing Monday morning, sets the tone for the next seven days. If Monday was great (and it almost always is, thanks to my dedicated and enthusiastic Monday morning Step class…), I’m more inclined to hit the gym Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Note that I don’t train the same way (or with the same intensity) each and every day; doing so would certainly result in injury or over-training for this almost 48-year old woman.
  • Never take more than two days off in a row; I find that two days of rest and recovery is adequate for my fitness goals. Unless I’m sick (or on vacation), missing a third day makes getting back to the gym a chore. And a fourth? I’m likely write off the rest of the week (I’m still working on my all-or-none mindset…). And I personally find that de-conditioning happens much more quickly now than when I was even five years younger.
  • Just commit to 15 minutes; On days where my motivation is lagging, but I know that a workout is truly what I need to feel better, I tell myself to commit to just 15 minutes. If I’m not feeling it by the end, I’m free to leave and try again tomorrow. Most of the time 15 minutes turns into 30 or 45. And I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve hung up my running shoes early and headed to the coffee shop, knowing that at least 15 minutes was better than nothing.
  • Always eat breakfast; Many years ago, way back when I was in grad school studying animal ecology, I’d head into the lab on an empty stomach. Working long hours with nothing but cafeteria coffee in your belly was a badge of industriousness and honour. Now that my work day is full of movement, fuelling first thing is mandatory.¬†Not only am I not tempted by coffee shop pastries mid-day (okay, I am tempted by them, but I don’t CRAVE them, there’s a difference),¬†my lunch and dinner choices are much healthier than they used to be; proof that positive habits beget more positive habits!
  • Eat protein with every meal;¬†While gram for gram, carbohydrates have the same calorie content as protein, they aren’t nearly as satiating. In part because they are processed more quickly by the body, but also because they trigger an insulin response. Depending on your body’s sensitivity to sugar, that can result in a ‘sugar crash’ and a fairly rapid craving for sweet and starchy foods. And if you’re trying to build muscle (or preserve that which you already have), if you’re not eating protein with every meal, you’re probably not getting enough. Nutritionists recommend¬†that we consume¬†a minimum of¬†0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) per day, although there is much argument in the fitness community about whether this is actually enough. I personally, aim for about twice that; it seems to be the best approach to managing midlife weight gain and muscle loss for me. (And I’ve had clients who’ve been extremely successful with this approach as well…)
  • Fuel first, treats second. I love sweets as much as the next person. And if I let myself get too hungry, it’s all too easy to grab a cookie or muffin or protein bar (yes, I consider commercially-prepared protein bars a treat; or an emergency food for times when you’re caught without a healthy, home-prepared snack). I remind myself that sugary-foods rarely satiate and satisfy for long and that if I’m still hankering for one AFTER I’ve eaten my protein-filled meal or snack, I’m welcome to it. When it comes to eating, I don’t believe in deprivation. Making a food¬†off limits¬†only makes me want it more. Moderation is much easier to practice when I fuel first.

Do you follow any of my fitness and nutrition rules?

If so, does it help you maintaing consistency with exercise and healthy living?

Any other fitness and nutrition rules that you’ve adopted? I’d love to hear yours!

Did you find this post helpful? Think that a friend or two of yours might benefit from it as well? Click on one of the social sharing buttons below and be forever in their debt!

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