The dark side of wearable fitness trackers

*** This blog post evolved out of a conservation I had with some friends in my Facebook community. They have given me permission to share their thoughts below***

Pedometers. Smartwatches. Health monitors. Wearable fitness trackers. They’re all part of the emerging landscape of wearable technology. A landscape which promises to change the way we exercise and communicate with one another about fitness.

wearable fitness trackers

A tracker for every mood…

 

Many will keep track of your daily steps, calories burned and pattern of sleeping. Most can connect with your phone, be it Android or OS. Some can track your heart rate in real time and even provide statistics on elevation gained and distance travelled during exercise.

While I love that more and more people are wearing these devices and becoming increasingly aware of their daily level of physical activity, and that many devices have built in accountability and support communitiesI do think that there’s a dark side to wearable fitness trackers.

I recently participated in a two-week ‘step challenge’ with a dozen other bloggers. Despite my relatively active lifestyle, I finished near the middle of the pack, literally hundreds of thousands of steps behind the winners.

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This experience made me stop and question the general value of wearable fitness trackers.

While I appreciate the potential benefits of tracking one’s daily activity (heck, my favourite way to use mine is as a reminder to get up and move on those days when I’ve been sitting at my computer too long), I also believe there’s the possibility that they may discourage some people from making appropriate fitness choices.

The dark side of wearable fitness trackers
  • Might some people benefit more from them than others? I think wearable fitness trackers are a fantastic accountability tool for those just getting started with fitness (or those who have no idea what their day’s activity looks like). But for those who are already fairly active, the information they provide is unlikely to result in behaviour change. Sure, it’s nice to feel that little vibration when you’ve hit your daily step count and great to see your weekly activity report showing that you’re ‘in the blue’ most days, but are there other ways you can measure your progress that don’t involve counting steps?

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  • Is the emphasis on step count, above all other activity, misleading when it comes to improving health and fitness? Although there are numerous studies linking increased daily step counts with a variety of health improvements (increased weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, decreased blood cholesterol levels, to name a few), the same benefits (and more) can also be achieved by swimming, cycling, yoga and lifting weights. Does encouraging people to achieve 10 000 steps a day (which requires most of us to include at least an hour long walk in our already full days) lead to them prioritizing walking over other activities? Activities whose contributions to health and fitness might be more important to them, depending on age, health and goals.

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  • Is it useful to categorize a person’s activity level by simply the number of steps they take in a day? According to the activity categories of the ’10 000 steps a day’ campaign, many very physically fit people would be categorized as ‘sedentary’ or only ‘moderately active’ only because they choose to spend their daily exercise time doing something other than walking. Take me, for example. After an hour of heavy strength training, I’ll typically have racked up only 1000 or so steps. If I had spent the same 60 minutes walking the treadmill (without building muscle or improving bone density), my count would have been pushing my daily 10 000 steps goal. Given the push to share one’s activity tracker data via social media, there’s the potential for feelings of shame or inadequacy. Or even worse, the feeling like one needs to do more to avoid appearing slothful.

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  • Is there the potential for wearable fitness trackers to trigger the same ‘compulsiveness’ some experience around calorie counting and the bathroom scales? As a scientist, I value data. It allows us to quantify our behaviour and make changes if that behaviour is not leading us towards our goals. Not everyone is capable of such an un-emotional response to numbers. Many people, women in particular, become obsessive about tracking the number of calories they consume and let the number on the bathroom scale dictate their mood for the day (I know, I’ve been there). I believe there’s a real possibility that fitness activity trackers could trigger the same response in some individuals, resulting in a negative effect on physical activity and fitness in general.

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  • Is there a subconscious tendency to consume more calories later in the day because our wearable fitness tracker says we burned ‘x’ number of calories? I believe so, given the ‘how many burpees do I need to do to burn off a Mars bar’ mindset I see so often on social media. Combine this ‘reward’ philosophy with the notoriously inaccurate counts generated by most calorie counters (i.e., they almost always over-estimate how many calories burned and we, as humans, tend to under-estimate how many we consume…) it’s easy to undermine the metabolic benefits of exercise.
  • Are people actually using all the data they’re generating to make changes to their behaviour? While data is great to have, unless you’re actually doing something with it, what’s the point? When scientists design experiments, they collect only the data they need to test their hypothesis (collecting more is expensive and often, it’s impossible to determine outcomes and effects if there are too many variables to include in the analysis). Other than using their pedometers as a reminder to get up and walk around the office, I’ve seen very little evidence that the massive amounts of data being collected are actually changing people’s behaviour around fitness.

I’m curious what a longer term study of the effects of wearable activity trackers on health and obesity will reveal. Given the challenge of working with human subjects (we’re terrible at sticking to plans and have a lot of correlational variables that need to be statistically accounted for), I’m betting we won’t have a clear answer for many years to come…

Do you wear an activity tracker?

Which metrics do you pay attention to and how do they affect your behaviour?

 

Everything you need to know to be a fitness success

High rep strength training, cardio intervals, HIIT, Tabata, Crossfit, Bootcamp, Insanity, P90X, 21-DayFix, hot yoga, barre, Piyo, Zumba. What type of exercise should you do to improve your fitness?

Should you follow a low carb diet? Eat paleo? Attend Weight Watchers? Cycle your carbs? Fast intermittently? Exercise on an empty stomach? Stock up on Shakeology?

With so many options out there, is it any wonder that newcomers to exercise (or those returning to healthy living after a hiatus…) have no idea where to start?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably tried more than a few of the above approaches. Perhaps you’ve stuck with one long enough to see results. More than likely though, you’ve jumped from program to program, attracted by the ‘next best thing’ and it’s promises of fat loss, muscle gains, more energy, six-pack abs and dropped dress sizes.

fitness success

Shhh!

 I’m going to tell you a secret.

There’s nothing magical about any of the programs I listed above. (Think about it, if there were, everybody would be doing that program to the exclusion of all other programs and those of us espousing a different approach would be out of business ;-) ).

Unless you’re a long-time exerciser with very specific performance goals, it doesn’t really matter which approach you take. Stick with any program long enough and you’re bound to become a fitness success.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-hiking-success-happy-woman-mountains-young-female-backpacker-celebrating-mountain-top-fitness-healthy-lifestyle-image47462877

Everything you need to know to be a fitness success

  • It doesn’t really matter what workout program you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. For general fitness improvement, the best thing you can do is find something you enjoy and will do regularly. Take a look at the fittest women you follow on Facebook. Chances are some of them are runners, some are barre fanatics and some lift weights exclusively. There’s more than one path to fitness. Find yours.
  • It doesn’t really matter what diet plan you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. When it comes to eating for health (including weight loss and performance gains), the biggest predictor of success is adherence. Find an approach that you enjoy and can see yourself following for years to come. If it feels too restrictive, it probably is.
  • Own your choices and the consequences. Remind yourself that you have control over every single fitness-related decision you make. Those 24-hours in the day? Yours to spend as you choose. What to put in your grocery cart? Entirely your decision. There’s nobody who can do this for you. The good news? When you’re successful, there’s nobody else to share the credit with!
  • Be confident in the knowledge that you’re the expert of you. Who’s know you longer than you? If you’ve tried a variety of exercise and nutrition programs, you’ll already know which approaches suit your lifestyle best and are most likely to be sustainable. Pay attention to how your body responds to food and exercise. Don’t be afraid to do things differently than the ‘experts’ suggest. You’re the expert of you.
Although I offer an online fitness program catering to the specific needs and goals of women in their 40’s and 50’s, my clients don’t follow a cookie-cutter program. Together, we learn to listen to our bodies and practice ‘being the detective’ to determine our own specific formula for fitness success.
If this sounds like a group of women you need to be a part of, consider joining in for the last two months of the current session. Details and registration info can be found here >> #40plusfitness Online Training Program.

 

Three things my Fitbit Charge taught me {sponsored post & giveaway}

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably already know that I’m the proud new owner of a Fitbit Charge.

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It was given to me by Telus as part of their #EveryStepCounts campaign (along with a second Fitbit Charge for me to give to one of my readers… more on that later). To be totally honest, I had no real need or want for the device, given that I already possess two perfectly functional (although admittedly, less attractive) pieces of wearable tech.

What did catch my attention was the possibility of winning one of three Samsung Galaxy tablets (thereby making me ‘supermom’ when I gifted my 10-year old son with it on his upcoming birthday). Fifteen bloggers were invited to participate in the campaign, with the three accumulating the most steps over a two-week period claiming the prize. Given that I lead a pretty active lifestyle, I joined in thinking (mistakenly) the whole thing would be a ‘walk in the park’.  Fast forward to the end of the challenge and notice my position on the leaderboard;

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Sixth place and waaaaaay behind the top walkers (and winners; congrats guys!). While sad that I didn’t win the tablet (and scrambling to come up with another idea for a birthday present), upon reflection I realized that I learned three important lessons from the #EveryStepCounts challenge.

Three things my Fitbit Charge taught me
    • I’m a pretty competitive person (for better or for worse). Comparing my progress to the progress of my challengers kept me going on days where I could very easily have chosen to pass on an after dinner walk. For the first week, I hovered around the third place mark, neck in neck with another blogger. Every time I saw her cumulative step count surpass mine, I hustled to get more steps in. Even when this meant passing up mother-daughter time, an evening out with friends or a strength training workout (this is probably the only time in my life where I prioritized cardio over weights…). About half-way through the challenge I realized that obsessing about steps was undermining my every-day approach to health and fitness, hence the 6th place finish (and the DOMS I’m still feeling from my first day back on the strength training floor…).
    • I am not nearly as active as I think I am. Given that I teach (and participate in) several group fitness classes each week, hit the gym another 3 or 4 times for my own workouts and am on my feet most of the day with clients and children, I assumed that my activity level would be fairly high. I very quickly discovered that without hitting the treadmill at the gym for a 45 minute walk before I started work AND heading out again in the evening for a neighbourhood stroll, I’d barely make my 10K daily step goal. This realization made me wonder how many steps people who work in more sedentary jobs get in a day. And how on earth the leaders in this challenge were racking up so many steps (I’m thinking treadmill desks?).
    • I long to live in a more pedestrian-friendly community. My family lives in suburbia. While I’m grateful for the home and property we’ve been able to purchase, there are no services or amenities a walk-able distance from our home. All three of my children need to be driven to school. The gym where I work, as well as coffee shops, grocery stores and the public library are all 4 km away. The #EveryStepCounts challenge made me realize that I do very little walking other than for the explicit purpose of taking a walk. My husband and I are about 10 years away from our youngest child leaving the nest. We’ve already starting talking about what we’d like our life to be like then. Living closer to amenities, in a more pedestrian-friendly community is top of the list. Someplace where it’s easy to get 10K+ steps a day, just by going about your neighbourly business.

Now for the giveaway.

Telus has generously offered to send one of my Canadian readers (apologies to my US friends) their very own Fitbit Charge.

Enter by telling me, in the comments section at the bottom of the page, how many steps you THINK you get in a day, then completing the Rafflecopter entry form below.

I’ll be closing this giveaway at 12 am PST Monday, February 23rd, 2015. The winner will be notified via email (so make sure you leave one) and will have until 5 pm PST Tuesday, February 24th to respond (otherwise, I’ll choose another winner). Your Fitbit Charge will be shipped directly from Telus, once I’ve handed over your contact info.

Wishing you all the best of luck! And looking forward to hearing what your Fitbit Charge teaches you!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Body part splits or whole body workouts | the pros and cons

The other day (a very observant) someone asked me why I give most of my clients whole body workouts when they see me performing body part splits.

  • Do I think one type of workout is intrinsically better than the other? (No)
  • Is one ‘harder’ than the other? (Not necessarily)
  • Under what circumstances would I provide a client with a body part split? (Read on…)

body part splits or whole body workouts: which is better? via http://fitknitchick.com

Whole body workouts are exactly what they sound like.

A workout in which all of the major muscles of the body are trained. Whole body workouts tend to focus on compound, multi-joint exercises, exercises which are often described as ‘functional’ in nature (meaning that they mimic the types of movements our bodies were designed to engage in daily). Smaller muscles (think triceps and calves) are trained in conjunction with bigger muscles, rather than via isolation or ‘vanity’ exercises (e.g., tricep kickbacks and seated calf raises).

In contrast, body part splits involve splitting the major muscle groups up and training them on separate days.

Upper-lower splits are common; all of the muscles of the upper body are trained together, with lower body muscles trained on a separate days. Core training can be done on either the upper or lower body day, although most people prefer to train core and legs together to equalize training time across days.

Push-pull, movement pattern splits are popular too; muscles involved with pushing exercises (e.g., chest, anterior delts, quads, calves and triceps) are trained on the same day, pulling muscle (e.g., back, biceps, hamstrings, posterior delts and abs) exercises are trained on another.

Other configurations of body part splits can be created depending on the exerciser’s goals, their desired frequency of training and how much experience they have in the gym. (My last 3-day body part split had me training chest and back on day 1, legs and core on day 2 and shoulders, biceps and triceps on day 3).

Whole body training has many benefits:
  • it’s generally more metabolic in nature than body part splits (i.e., burns more calories)
  • it’s typically a more functional type of workout and can easily incorporate speed, agility and balance training in addition to muscular strength and endurance
  • you don’t necessarily need dumbbells, barbells and a weight bench to get a good workout; Google ‘body weight exercises’ and see how much variety there is
  • missing a workout isn’t as much of a concern when you’re training all muscle groups each time you exercise
The downside of whole body training?
  • workout length tends to be longer than for body part splits, as you’re targeting all of the major muscle groups in one workout
  • you may not be physically able to perform the same workout on two adjacent days (when you train a muscle to near failure or fatigue, it may require 48 hours before it’s ready to be trained again)
  • doing the same workout 3, 4 or 5 days a week can get boring and potentially lead to injury and over-training
Whole body training is perfect for people who…
  • have only 2 or 3 days a week for exercise
  • are new to strength training and need to focus on learning form and creating an exercise habit
  • have weight or fat loss as their primary goal

The majority of my personal training clients fall into the above category, hence the reason why I create whole body training programs for them.

Body part training has many benefits too:
  • workouts can be as short as 30 minutes; great if you’re pressed to find time for exercise in your day
  • there’s adequate time to train each muscle from a variety of different angles; body part workouts typically include 2 to 3 exercises per body part within the same training session (no more having to choose between chest presses and flys)
  • when carefully designed, you can completely rest a muscle group before working it again; for example, an upper/lower split might have you training legs on Monday and Thursday (great for building muscle size as most growth happens during the recovery phase)
  • depending on your body part split, you can train up to 6 days per week (some of us need our daily stress reliever…)
The downside of body part splits?
  • if you miss a workout day, you miss a body part (and may not end up training it again for another whole week)
  • if your goals include fat loss, you may not create enough of a ‘metabolic disturbance’ to see an effect on the scales
  • muscles may be quite sore the day following the workout, especially if you’ve performed 3 or 4 different exercises and worked to fatigue
  • you may need to train 4 or 6 days each week to fit all of your exercises in
Body part splits are perfect for people who…
  • have muscular hypertrophy as their primary training goal
  • prefer more frequent, shorter workouts to less frequent, longer sessions
  • are disciplined enough not to miss a workout (or be able to make it up immediately so as not to leave a body part behind… ;-) )
  • have sufficient experience with strength training to choose appropriate combinations of exercises (and know how many reps and sets of each to perform)

A few of my clients fall into the above category (you know who you are :-) ). Depending on their preference (and their primary hypertrophy goals), I tend to favour upper/lower and push/pull splits.

Body part splits or whole body workouts: what’s best for you depends on…
  • your goals (hypertrophy, fat loss, health, aesthetics, overall fitness)
  • how much time you have available for exercise (both workout length and how many days a week you’ll be training)
  • your experience level (beginners often do better with whole body workouts while more experienced lifters can get great results from body part splits)
  • how much variety you require in your workouts to maintain your exercise habit (note that those following a whole body training style can alternate between 2 or 3 different whole body workouts to keep their interest level and motivation high)
One final thought…

In my own training, I use a mix of the two. Twice a week I participate in whole body training while teaching Bootcamp and Group Step. The three or four days I’m in the gym, my workouts consist of body part splits.

For me, it’s a great balance between hypertrophy training and training for fat loss. It also keeps me from getting bored. And because the strength workouts are each only performed once a week, I only have to write myself a new program once every 2nd month.

Some might argue that by combining the two, I’m undermining the separate effects of each type of training. But experimenting with my body and learning what works best for ME has shown me the exact opposite!

body part splits and whole body training

Body part splits AND whole body training FTW

 

Do you have a preference for body part splits of whole body training?

What’s your current body part split?

10 ‘crunch-free’ exercises for a stronger core

Physiotherapists, kinesiologists, strength and conditioning coaches and pelvic floor specialists are all in agreement; regular and excessive performance of sit-ups and abdominal crunches can place un-due stress on the lumbar spine, exacerbate tight hip flexors and lead to destabilization of the pelvic floor.

Just what we fabulous over-40 women need right? Lower back pain, poor posture, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ (i.e., vaginal) prolapse (as if hot flashes, muscle loss and menopot weren’t indignities enough…).

Still not convinced to give sit-ups a rest (or at least downplay their role in your workouts)?

What if I told you that sit-ups and crunches will only lead to a visible ‘six pack’ if you’re able to get your body fat percentage down into the mid-teens. (For reference sake, female body builders are around 10-12 %.)

And that they won’t really improve your athletic performance or prevent those injuries caused by the activities of every day life?

Suddenly crunches aren’t sounding all that great, are they?

Try working the muscles of your core the way nature intended them to be used; as spinal stabilizers (both with and without movement), spinal flexors and extenders and rotational powerhouses.

Below you’ll find 10 of my favourite “crunch-free” exercises for a stronger core; two for each of the five primary core functions.

Choose one exercise from each category. Hold the static stabilization move as long as you can, then perform 8 to 10 repetitions (on each side, where applicable) of each of the other four exercises, one after the other, circuit-style. Beginners may find one round challenging enough. More advanced exercisers can repeat a second and even a third time.

10 ‘crunch-free’ exercises for a stronger core

Static stabilization:

1. Plank: Planks can be performed on forearms or hands (aka ‘high’ plank) and from knees (less challenging) or toes (more challenging). When holding a plank, concentrate on bracing through your midsection, squeezing your glute cheeks tight, pulling shoulders back and down and maintaining a straight line from your knees (or heels, depending on the variation) to your neck. If your lower back starts to curve or your shoulders creep up towards your ears, come on down. Never sacrifice good form just for the sake of extending your plank another few seconds.

Plank options - exercises for a stronger core

 

2. Resistance band anti-rotation hold: Loop a resistance band around a pole, post or other sturdy, vertical support. Stand at 90 degrees to the anchor point, feet shoulder width apart and with a slight bend in your knees. Grab both handles of the band in your hands, extend arms in front of you at belly button height and step away from the post to create resistance on the band. The greater the resistance, the more you’ll be working your anti-rotation muscles. Concentrate on keeping your torso upright, without leaning in towards the post. Hold for as long as you can. Switch sides and repeat. You can perform a variation of this exercise on a cable and pulley machine, using a standard D-ring and adding as much weight to the stack as necessary to generate an appropriate resistance on your obliques.

Dynamic stabilization:

3. Walk-up-walk-down plank: The exercise can be performed on the floor or with hands placed on either a weight bench (less challenging) or the dome side of a Bosu (more challenging). Come into forearm plank position, on either knees or toes. Bracing through your midsection, ‘walk’ your hands, one at a time, up until you’re in a high plank position. Without rotating through your torso, ‘walk’ your hands, one at a time, back down into forearm plank. Continue ‘walking’ up and down, alternating which hand you’re leading with.

'Walking' plank - exercises for a stronger core

4. Side plank and row: Loop a resistance band around a pole, post or other sturdy support at floor level (I’ve used the leg of a heavy sofa, in a pinch). Come into side plank, with either your legs fully extended and stacked one on top of the other (more challenging) or with knees bent and feet behind you (less challenging), forearm on the floor, with elbow directly under your shoulder  Make sure you’re far enough from your anchor point that when you grab the handle of the resistance band and extend your arm directly out in front of you, there’s already considerable resistance on the band. Maintain a perfect side plank (shoulders stacked one on top of the other, hips stacked one on top of the other, lower hip up and off the floor) and row the handle of the band in towards your underarm. Slowly return to starting position and repeat, making sure that you’re not giving in to the urge to rotate the upper body towards the anchor point. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other. This exercise can also be performed on a standard cable and pulley machine, using a D-ring and with the cable set at the lowest position.

Flexion:

5. Stability ball roll-in or pike: Come into a high plank, with hands directly underneath shoulders and feet resting atop a stability ball (make this exercise a little easier by placing the ball under your shins or even your thighs). Keeping upper body stationary, roll ball in towards your chest, either bending at the knees (a roll-in’) or keeping legs straight and lifting hips up into an inverted ‘V’ (pike). Return ball to starting position and repeat.

Stability ball roll-in - exercises for a stronger core

6. Lateral trunk flexion: Start by standing with feet hip distance apart holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate in each hand, down by your sides. Hinging at the hip, lean upper body down and to the right, feeling a pinch between rib and hip. Engage through your core and use the muscles on the opposite side of your body to pull yourself back up to the starting position. Concentrate on slow, controlled, full range of motion movements, resisting the urge to lean forward or backwards.

Extension:

7. Prone chest raise: Lay on your mat, face down, with arms at your sides, hands directly underneath shoulders. Spread your legs slightly, placing the tops of your feet firmly on the mat. Take a deep breath as you tighten your quads and glutes, lifting your chest up and off the floor with the muscles of your lower back. Avoid pushing with your hands and hyper-extending the back; you needn’t lift more than six inches off the floor to feel the effects of this movement. Slowly lower yourself to the ground, pause and repeat.

Prone chest raise - exercises for a stronger core

8. Back extension machine: Position yourself over the back extension machine, such that the cushions rest just below your hip bones. Lock your heels under the foot rest. Placing hands across your chest (or holding a weight plate at chest level, for more challenge), relax your calves, hamstrings and glutes as you bend at the hip to lower your upper body towards the floor. Engage the muscles of the lower back to lift your torso just high enough that your body forms a straight line from the back of your ankles to the back of your neck. Avoid lifting more than 10 degrees about 180; hyperextending the back can lead to rapid fatigue and injury.

Rotation:

9. Medicine ball diagonal rotation: Start by standing with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed forward or a little bit out. Holding a medicine ball (or dumbbell if you don’t have access to a ball) between your hands, bend slightly at the knees and rotate your torso to the left. Energetically lift the ball diagonally across your body, from outside the left knee to above and beyond the right shoulder. Pivot on the left foot and rotate the torso as you do so. Return to the starting position and complete all reps before switching sides. The focus of this move should be on the upwards phase of the lift.

10. Russian twist on the ball: Start by coming into ‘table-top’ position on a stability ball; your head and shoulders will be resting on the ball, feet will be on the floor with knees bent and hips pressed up towards the ceiling. Holding a single dumbbell between your hands, extend arms directly up and over your chest. Rotate arms and torso down to the right, shifting your weight so that the ball rolls under the right shoulder.  Brace your core and return arms and weight to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating until all repetitions have been completed. Concentrate on keeping your arms long and holding the weight as far from your body as you can. Beginners should limit their range of motion until they become confident in their ability not to fall off the ball.

Russian twist on the ball - exercises for a stronger core

The above essay is part of YakkaFit’s monthly “10 on the 10th” blog link-up series. I’m looking forward to seeing what my fellow bloggers came up with this month!

I regularly share fitness tips, exercise tricks and nutritional information with my readers and blog subscribers. Get on the list, avoid FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) and grab a copy of my FREE e-book (“5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”) by leaving your name and email below.

Taming evening food cravings and the after-dinner munchies

Eat breakfast like a queen*, lunch like a princess*, and dinner like a pauper.

*With apologies to Adelle Davis

taming evening food cravings

Recent studies have shown that eating the lioness’s share of your daily calories early in the day is a sound strategy for weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Turns out that the body’s circadian rhythms (the biological processes that the body follows over a 24-hour period) influence hormone release, which has implications for fat burning, fat storage and perceived hunger levels.

Not only do big breakfast eaters have an easier time losing and maintaining their weight, they also exhibit  lower levels of insulin, glucose, and fat in their blood, which may help reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease.

I’m a strong advocate of this ‘inverted’ approach to meals and often suggest it to weight-loss clients whose food journals reveal that they typically consume most of their calories after 5 pm.

Their biggest challenge in making the switch? Evening food cravings and the feeling that they’re going to bed hungry.

Tips for taming evening food cravings and the after-dinner munchies

1. Spend a day or two tracking your food. Compare your total caloric intake to your goal (remembering that cutting calories by more than 500 per day below maintenance can, counterintuitively, undermine weight loss). If you’re not eating enough, you’ll be hungry in the evening, regardless of when, during the day, you’re consuming the bulk of your calories. Add those extra calories in at breakfast and lunch.

2. Increase your protein intake. Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, a few ounces of roast chicken breast will satisfy you longer than a cup of rice or sweet potatoes. In addition, protein has less of an effect on your body’s blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the likelihood that you’ll crave starchy carbs later in the evening. Pretend you’re a lucky pauper who’s just come across a chicken in the road.

3. Drink more water. Sometimes our brains mix up our body’s hydration and hunger signals. Try increasing your water intake throughout the day. Don’t wait until the after-dinner munchies strike to grab an extra glass or two; chances are your sleep will be interrupted by a middle-of-the-night trip to the loo.

4. Make TV-time, veggie-time. It’s easy to fall into the mindless eating trap when you’re marathoning through Game of Thrones. Swap cold, crunchy, raw veggies for your usual TV snack. In addition to helping you increase your daily water intake, the fibre they provide will fill you up without adding extra calories.

5. Sip on flavoured, decaffeinated tea. Sometimes all we’re really craving is flavour. I keep a stash of flavoured herbal teas on hand to satisfy flavour cravings and give my hands something to do when I’m not really hungry, but thinking about food, none-the-less (knitting helps with this too). My current favourite? A black, decaf chocolate mint tea; particularly helpful with PMS chocolate cravings!

6. Go to bed earlier. If you eat dinner at 6, but don’t go to bed until midnight, chances are you’ll end up hungry before bed. Six hours is a long time to go without eating. Try hitting the sack an hour or two earlier. Not only will it prevent you from heading to the pantry, studies have shown that chronic, short-duration sleep is linked to sugar cravings and middle-of-the-body fat deposition. If you can’t possibly go to sleep any earlier, consider shifting your dinner hour closer to bedtime.

What’s your favourite tip for taming the after-dinner munchies?  

 

Tips for choosing a sports bra that fits

Disclaimer: The following is a sponsored post. Classic Shapewear compensated me for sharing my thoughts about what to wear under workout clothes. The pseudo-scientific poll results and tongue-in-‘cheek’ comments are entirely my own ;-)

Next to sweaty machines, dirty change rooms and grunting men, the number one complaint women have about exercising is undergarments that get in the way of a good workout.

Last week, I asked my Facebook community to share their biggest exercise undergarment pet peeves:

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Their five main exercise undergarment concerns?

  • Comfort; they want their workout bras to be comfortable enough to wear all day, without constricting underwires or straps and bands that ‘dig in’ (as someone who teaches a class, then runs off to train clients, grocery shop and pick up kids from school, all without showering or changing clothes, I completely agree with this).
  • Compression; compressive enough to keep ‘the girls’ from bouncing during cardio and the glutes looking tight (long after the dead lift muscle pump has worn off), all while remaining comfortable and without generating ‘uni-boob’.
  • Coverage; bras need to be high enough both in front, to avoid ‘show and tell’ during bent-over exercises and spinning class (as a former spin instructor, I can attest to the ‘eye full’ that well-endowed, front row participants proffer during hovers and forward-leaning drills) and under the arms (nobody likes ‘side boobage’). Cups need to be thick enough to hide cold-temperature induced ‘head lights’.
  • Creep-resistant; workout underwear needs to stay put. ‘Whale-tail’ and ‘creeping crotch’ get in the way of a good workout (note that regardless of the undergarments you choose to sport, there may still be the odd ‘creep’ that finds you irresistible ;-) ).
  • Cost; although we all know that ‘you get what you pay for’, spending a ton of money on an article of clothing that nobody ever sees (outside of the locker room, that is) is tough for many. Finding a well-fitting, reasonably-priced workout bra with a long lifespan is akin to winning the lottery.
  • Cute; just because they’re covered up doesn’t mean women don’t want to feel pretty and confident and sexy in their sports bras and thongs!

Choosing a sports bra that fits

The relative importance of the above five issues depended, in part, on the respondent’s ‘endowedness’. No surprise, bigger-breasted women cared most about compression and coverage, while those of us with a ‘little less to cover’ wanted things to be cute and comfortable.

Given the variability in women’s individuals needs and the wide range of exercise bras and panties available, I thought I’d share a list of tips for choosing a sports bra that fits both your body and workout type.

Tips for choosing a sports bra that fits:

Small cup sizes and/or low impact workouts: Compression bras can work well for women with A or B cups, in particular when participating in low impact exercise activities, including yoga, weight training and indoor cycling. The higher the impact, the more likely you’ll need to switch to a full-encapsulation model (each breast rests in a separate ‘cup’). Strap thickness is primarily based on comfort. The less the straps have to support and the lower the impact, the thinner they can be.

Medium cup sizes and/or moderate impact workouts: Women with C cups may need to choose bras with individual cups, regardless of the intensity of their workout. Most women in this size range make two mistakes when it comes to purchasing a sports bra; they choose a cup size that’s too small and a band that’s too loose. Together, these contribute to excessive bounce and ‘spillage’. For a better fit, try going up a cup size and down an inch or two in the band. If you can pull the band out more than an inch from your chest, it’s still too big.

Large cup sizes and/or high intensity workouts: If you’re a D or larger and plan on performing squat jumps and burpees without giving your fellow gym-goers a show (or knocking yourself out…), full-encapsulation plus size bras are your friends. Choose a wider strap to help distribute the weight of ‘your girls’ and a model that has a clasp in back. Clasps allow you to tighten the strap, giving you an individualized fit and better control.

Do you have any funny workout undergarment stories to share?

A favourite brand that fits perfectly with your body type?

Please leave me a comment below about your experience with ‘floppy female parts’ and exercise!

Disclosure: I have an Affiliate Marketing relationship with the sponsor of this post. When you click on one of the above links and make a purchase from their website, I receive a small referral fee. Thanks for the cup of coffee ;-)

The psychology of eating | small behavioural changes add up to big results

I am a student of the human brain. Honestly, I love learning about what goes on inside my own head, especially when I’m not even aware there’s anything happening :-)

Humans are exposed to hundreds of thousands of pieces of information about their surroundings each and every day. Even though we pick up on fewer than 5% of them (okay, if we’re really observant, perhaps it’s as high as 10%…), they’re all processed by the brain and together, effect the way we behave and the choices that we make.

psychology of eating

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to food.

Last week, my husband (who’s also a student of the human brain) dropped a journal article on my desk. He knew I’d be fascinated and (unlike most of the articles he shares with me), due to the topic, would actually read it.

“Easy as pie”** is a review paper written by psychologist Brian Wansink (the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab).

It describes the fascinating results of a number of studies linking dining behaviours with over-eating. He argues that by making subtle changes in our surroundings, we need no longer rely on willpower to keep us from mindless eating.

And that learning a bit about the psychology of eating may result, over time, in big changes in behaviour and weight.

His philosophies about weight loss, weight loss maintenance and habit formation echo my own;

My favourite actionable items from the post?

  • Simply serving food on plates that contrast in colour with your food can reduce calorie consumption by up to 18%; apparently white food gets lost on white plates and our brains have difficulty determining how much is actually there. Creating more visual contrast highlights portion size and results in us eating less!
  • Women who store packaged foods (especially breakfast cereals and potato chips) behind closed doors weigh (on average) 9.5 kilograms less than those who leave them on the counter top; out of sight definitely means out of mind when it comes to food. Turn this subconscious behaviour to your advantage by leaving a bowl of fruits and veggies out, in plain sight.
  • Families whose meals are served from the stove or counter eat 19% fewer calories than those serving themselves at the table; when we have to walk to the kitchen for a second helping, most of us don’t (which is great for ‘calories in’, but rather sad when you realize it reflects our general attitude about daily movement…). As a corollary, the author suggests that serving salad at the table is a great way to increase your intake of greens.
  • Big plates result in bigger portions. Same thing goes for serving spoons, especially when food is served ‘family style’ at the dinner table; purchasing smaller dinner plates (25-cm rather than the standard 30-cm) will not only shrink your waistline, it’ll also shrink your grocery bill.
  • People pour 12% less liquid into tall, thin glasses than they do into short, squat glasses. (Bartenders do this too, so if you’re looking to score a larger drink at the bar, ask for a tumbler rather than a highball glass ;-) ); Why? People tend to focus on the height of the glass when pouring, rather than its width. Want to reduce your serving size by another 12%? Either pour standing, or place your glass on the table; looking down at a glass makes it appear fuller so we stop pouring sooner.

I love that none of the above suggestions require any exertion of willpower at meal time. Just committing to a different way of storing and serving the foods you already eat. I’m always happy for an excuse to purchase new tableware!

Did you know about any of the above patterns?

Which of the above will you put into practice today?

** You can find the entire article in the January 10-16th, 2015, issue of NewScientist magazine. Volume 225 No. 3003.

40 plus fitness online training | spring session registration now open

Wanted: 10 inspiring, motivated, fitness-and-health-seeking, eager-to-succeed women in their 40’s and 50’s to expand and enhance a well-established and energetic online training community. No need to be fit, thin or nutritionally virtuous. This 40 plus fitness program focuses on exercise, diet and mindset shifts specifically for the hormonal challenges of midlife. Serious enquiries only.

 

TamaraGrand

I’m Tamara and I run an online 40 plus fitness training community for menopausal and peri-menopausal women.

Why?

  • Because the exercise and nutrition programs that many of us found success with in our 20’s and 30’s stopped working somewhere between 40 and 45.
  • Because we value the support and motivation a group of grown-up, like-minded women provides.
  • Because we still want to look good, but aren’t willing to completely give up wine or chocolate and don’t want to risk injury by performing ‘balls-to-the-walls’ workouts.
  • Because we don’t believe that programs promising that we’ll “lose 10 pounds in a week” or “drop 2 dresses in a month” or “get a bikini body in 21 days” are based on sustainable workout schedules and nutrition plans.
Sound like your kind of women? Welcome home!

 

Registration for the next 4-month session of my #40 plus fitness Online Group Training Program is now open.

For the low price of $115 ($135 if you choose to purchase the optional course syllabus) you get:

  • an individually customizable workout plan specifically designed for women dealing with the challenges of mid-life hormonal change (including modifications for varying fitness levels and abilities; I’ll help you determine the best options for you, but do not create individualized plans for participants)
  • access to a participants-only video exercise demonstration library (so you can make sure you’re doing the exercises properly)
  • membership in a private Facebook group (to get quick answers to questions and to provide accountability and a sense of community; some feel that this community alone, is worth the price of admission)
  • summaries of the latest scientific research about fitness, nutrition, lifestyle and hormonal change (translated into every day language :) )
  • 24/7 e-support (or as close to it as I can manage given that one of the most important tools for dealing with hormonal issues is adequate sleep!)
  • *NEW* weekly coaching emails to help keep you motivated, inspired and ‘in the know’
  • *NEW* optional meal plans (via email) and exercise form correction (via Skype) available upon request (note that these are NOT included in the cost of the program)

Click here for more details about the 40 plus fitness program and answers to frequently asked questions. Have a question that I didn’t answer? Fire me an email (tgrand@telus.net) or leave a comment in the comments section below.

I’d love to have you join us, but do it soon. Registration closes Wednesday, January 28th at 6:00 pm PST.

RegisterNow