Dealing With Post-Holiday Feelings

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According to British research, January is the most depressing time of the year. Why? The weather is gloomy, your holiday high has faded, your New Year’s resolutions seem daunting, and opening your post-Christmas credit card statement can be quite frightening. As many of you have probably experienced in your life, emotions can play quite a heavy role when it comes to discipline, diet, and physical health. Therefore, it may come to no surprise that most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the month.

Below are some tips to dealing with some of the most problematic emotions you may be feeling post-holidays.

Depression – Probably the most common negative emotion people have after the holidays. Dragging yourself back to work, or a routine, after spending what seemed like only a minute of relaxation and joy. Or maybe you didn’t get a chance to really enjoy your holidays because you were too busy planning, organizing, and making sure everyone else had a wonderful holiday. Regardless of the reason why you’re depressed, life is too short to be moping around and feeling miserable.

Try eating fruits. A British and American study showed that people who ate more than two servings of fruits and vegetables daily reported higher levels of happiness than those who ate less. Moreover, the findings suggested that the more produce you eat, the more your mood can improve (Men’s Health). People who ate 7 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day were the happiest of all. Try loading your fridge with frozen berries (no added fructose). They have a long shelf-life, make great quick snacks, and retain a lot of their antioxidants, even when frozen.

Loneliness – Now that your family and friends have probably flown back home to go on with their lives, and all the wonderful parties have ended, you may be feeling quite lonely. You may be looking back at all the joyful pictures you took over the holidays and reminisce about all the great times you’ve had over the past couple of weeks, making you even more depressed that it’s over.

An effective way to stop from feeling lonely is to make new bonds with people with similar interests. Try going to one of the classes at your gym (most are usually free and are included in your membership) such as dance, yoga, aerobics, and kickboxing. You can also take a class you are passionate about at a community college such as a foreign language or a literature class. Being surrounded with like-minded people is an easy way to form friendships.

Anxiety– Are you nervous about going back to work or school? Worrying about how you are going to pay your latest credit card statements? Anxiety and stress can make us more tempted to eat food, especially junk food. This is because stress usually intensifies the taste of sweet and salty foods, making eating under stress more pleasurable. This can make counting calories and staying on a diet quite a challenge.

Try to do at least half an hour of moderate-intensity cardio three times a week.  Exercise is the best way to reduce stress and anxiety as it can provide a soothing effect similar to that of anti-anxiety meds.  Smiling can also reduce your stress and also has the added benefit of calming your heart rate. If you hate exercising and going to the gym, act like you like it. Eventually all the benefits you will reap will put a genuine smile on that face.

Sources

Kuzma, Cindy. “When Your Feelings Turn Fatal.” Men’s Health. 2012: 90-92. Print.

Make New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

This year, I’m going to lose 60 pounds before swimsuit season. I’m going to go to the gym five times a week. I’m also going to stop eating carbs and sweets. Sound familiar?

According to reports by WebMD, over 100 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year; the most popular being losing weight, eating healthier, getting fit, and quitting bad habits. However, less than half of the people that start New Year’s resolutions actually stick to their goals six months later.  Moreover, according to a 2006 study done by Time, over 60 percent of people who sign up for gym memberships go to the gym less than five times a month, sending the price-per-visit sky high.

Below are some tips to make sticking to your resolutions a little easier and a lot more successful.

Ease Into a New Lifestyle

The reason many people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions is usually because they hope to make an extreme lifestyle change in one day. To stop a bad habit cold turkey is near impossible and also completely unnecessary. You’re probably still recovering from all the amazing food you’ve been eating over the past couple of holidays, and it’d be cruel to start eating clean and healthy altogether without giving your body time to adjust. You don’t need to clean out your entire pantry and refrigerator of anything with the words carbohydrates or sugar in their labels. Instead of trying to make a complete 180 so suddenly, take things slowly. If you’ve been eating unhealthy 7 days of the week, trying planning for at least 1 or 2 days of the week where you eat lots of vegetables and lean meats. As the year progresses, you can try increasing the number of days where you eat healthy foods. This way, the change won’t be so shocking to your body and mind.

Stop Setting Yourself Up for Failure

The above principle can also be applied to going to the gym. If you are one of the many who have been going to the gym less than 5 times a month, it’d be wise to not set a goal such as going to the gym 5 times a week. Though the goal is admirable, you’re most likely setting yourself up for failure. The more you set yourself up for impossible goals, the less hope and determination you will have to succeed. Be realistic when planning your resolutions. Imagine yourself as a boss of a company. You wouldn’t expect an intern or a new hire to work as well or as efficiently as a seasoned employee, would you? And if he or she makes a mistake, you also wouldn’t fire them right away. It usually takes months, sometimes even years, to adapt and adjust, and sometimes mistakes are just lessons to be learned. If you If you’re following up on a past resolution, try analyzing why you couldn’t achieve it before. Were the goals just too extreme and unrealistic?

Make a Plan

If your resolution is to go to the gym and eat healthily “X” amount of times a week, write a detailed plan on how you are going to achieve this goal. Many people try to take on huge resolutions head on without ever figuring out how they plan to succeed. This usually makes their goals seem unattainable, and they end up giving up before they even started. Figure out what changes you need to make in your life to make it to make your resolutions a success this year. The changes must be tangible, realistic, and flexible. For example, you shouldn’t make a goal like, “I will go to the gym every day at 5 after work.” The goal is too strict and doesn’t give much wiggle room. What if you have to work overtime or have an appointment to make? You will end up not going to the gym that day and feel horrible and guilty about it. Then you will find yourself missing out on more and more days you “promised” yourself you would go. Before you know it, your procrastination and guilt will have snowballed and you will just end up giving up and planning for next year.

Do Something You Will Enjoy

Another one of the most common reasons people don’t stick with their resolutions is because it’s too taxing, difficult, and boring. Many people think the only way to get fit and healthy is to go to the gym, run on the treadmill and lift some heavy weights. When we see a Gatorade or Nike commercial, we usually get an image of an athlete with an intense, scowling facial expression drenched in big beads of sweat. You don’t have to compare yourselves to the athletes in the commercials. If you hate treadmills, stairmasters, ellipticals, and weights, find another activity that is more appealing to you. There are more ways than one to get your heart pumping and your body moving. A class like kickboxing would be a great outlet to relieve some pent up stress. If that’s too physical for your liking, maybe try tango dancing with your spouse. These classes usually have a weekly schedule that you can follow as well. As obvious as it sounds, the more enjoyment you get out of an activity, the more you will want to do it again.

Also, be sure to check out Pete’s feature in this month’s issue of O. Pete gives plenty of advice on how to stay strong and live long.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Pete Cerqua Fitness Tips Featured in The Oprah Magazine January 2013

This month The Oprah Magazine is all about living longer and getting stronger in the new year. You can download a copy of the magazine for information or check out my tips below.

Cover of Oprah Magazine January 2013

“This year, I’m going to lose 60 pounds before swimsuit season.” “I’m going to go to the gym five times a week.” “I’m also going to stop eating carbs and sweets.” Sound familiar?

According to reports by WebMD, over 100 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year; the most popular being losing weight, eating healthier, getting fit, and quitting bad habits. However, less than half of the people that start New Year’s resolutions actually stick to their goals six months later.  Moreover, according to a 2006 study done by Time, over 60 percent of people who sign up for gym memberships go to the gym less than five times a month, sending the price-per-visit sky high.

Below are some tips to make sticking to your resolutions a little easier and a lot more successful.

oprah-jan-20131. Ease Into a New Lifestyle

The reason many people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions is usually because they hope to make an extreme lifestyle change in one day. To stop a bad habit cold turkey is near impossible and also completely unnecessary.

You’re probably still recovering from all the amazing food you’ve been eating over the past couple of holidays, and it’d be cruel to start eating clean and healthy altogether without giving your body time to adjust. You don’t need to clean out your entire pantry and refrigerator of anything with the words carbohydrates or sugar in their labels.

Instead of trying to make a complete 180 so suddenly, take things slowly. If you’ve been eating unhealthy 7 days of the week, trying planning for at least 1 or 2 days of the week where you eat lots of vegetables and lean meats. As the year progresses, you can try increasing the number of days where you eat healthy foods. This way, the change won’t be so shocking to your body and mind.

2. Stop Setting Yourself Up for Failure

The above principle can also be applied to going to the gym. If you are one of the many who have been going to the gym less than 5 times a month, it’d be wise to not set a goal such as going to the gym 5 times a week. Though the goal is admirable, you’re most likely setting yourself up for failure. The more you set yourself up for impossible goals, the less hope and determination you will have to succeed.

Be realistic when planning your resolutions. Imagine yourself as a boss of a company. You wouldn’t expect an intern or a new hire to work as well or as efficiently as a seasoned employee, would you? And if he or she makes a mistake, you also wouldn’t fire them right away. It usually takes months, sometimes even years, to adapt and adjust, and sometimes mistakes are just lessons to be learned. If you’re following up on a past resolution, try analyzing why you couldn’t achieve it before. Were the goals just too extreme and unrealistic?

3. Make a Plan

If your resolution is to go to the gym and eat healthily “X” amount of times a week, write a detailed plan on how you are going to achieve this goal. Many people try to take on huge resolutions head on without ever figuring out how they plan to succeed. This usually makes their goals seem unattainable, and they end up giving up before they even started.

Figure out what changes you need to make in your life to make it to make your resolutions a success this year. The changes must be tangible, realistic, and flexible. For example, you shouldn’t make a goal like, “I will go to the gym every day at 5 after work.” The goal is too strict and doesn’t give much wiggle room. What if you have to work overtime or have an appointment to make? You will end up not going to the gym that day and feel horribly guilty about it. Then you will find yourself missing out on more and more days you “promised” yourself you would go. Before you know it, your procrastination and guilt will have snowballed, and you will just end up giving up and planning for next year.

4. Do Something You Will Enjoy

Another one of the most common reasons people don’t stick with their resolutions is because it’s too taxing, difficult, and boring. Many people think the only way to get fit and healthy is to go to the gym, run on the treadmill and lift some heavy weights. When we see a Gatorade or Nike commercial, we usually get an image of an athlete with an intense, scowling facial expression drenched in big beads of sweat.

You don’t have to compare yourselves to the athletes in the commercials. If you hate treadmills, stairmasters, ellipticals, and weights, find another activity that is more appealing to you. There are more ways than one to get your heart pumping and your body moving. A class like kickboxing would be a great outlet to relieve some pent-up stress. If that’s too physical for your liking, try tango dancing with your spouse. These classes usually have a weekly schedule that you can follow, as well. As obvious as it sounds, the more enjoyment you get out of an activity, the more you will want to do it again.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Healthy Holiday-Themed Dishes

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Happy Holidays Everyone!

Many of you have parties and potlucks planned in the upcoming few weeks and have requested some healthy alternative recipes to some of your favorite holiday-themed dishes. Some of you have waited all year to enjoy some of your own family recipes and that is totally fine. However, don’t completely give up the healthy habits and lifestyle changes you have already put so much effort into creating for yourself this year. By making small tweaks and changes to some original recipes like replacing certain ingredients with low-fat substitutes such as almond or coconut milk, Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit, you can still enjoy a very similar meal without all the guilt attached.

Holidays are a time to relax and enjoy the time spent with the great company you are with. Don’t force yourself to abstain from some of your favorite dishes this time of year. Just try keep a healthy and motivated attitude and remember to use some of the tips provided in the previous posts to keep your mind at ease.

Below is a delicious and health-conscious recipe for a roast chicken with pomegranate glaze.

More recipes can be found at http://bit.ly/UgC9tf

Roast Chicken with Pomegranate Glaze

 http://bit.ly/UgC9ti

“This sweet-tart pomegranate molasses glaze is delicious combined with the citrusy sumac spice rub, and gives the roasted chicken a dark, ruby luster. Rub the chicken earlier in the day, or overnight, for the best flavor.”

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac (see Tips)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 4-pound chicken
  • 6 cups sliced cored fennel (2-3 large bulbs)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses (see Note)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish (see Tips)

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine sumac and salt in a small bowl. Remove giblets from chicken (if included) and trim any excess skin; pat dry. Loosen the skin over the breast and thigh meat and rub the spice mixture under the skin plus a little on the skin. Tuck the wings under and tie the legs together with kitchen string, if desired.
  3. Combine fennel and onion in a large roasting pan and toss with oil to coat. Place the chicken, breast-side up, on the vegetables.
  4. Combine pomegranate molasses, honey and pepper in a small bowl. Transfer half the mixture to a small saucepan and set aside to serve with the chicken.
  5. Roast the chicken and vegetables for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over, stir the vegetables and cook for 20 minutes more.
  6. Turn the chicken over one more time (so it is breast-side up) and stir the vegetables again. Reduce oven temperature to 400°. Brush the chicken all over with the remaining pomegranate mixture, and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh without touching bone reaches 165°, 20 to 30 minutes more.
  7. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the pomegranate glaze in the saucepan over low heat. Remove the string from the chicken, if necessary, and carve the chicken. Serve with the fennel and onion, drizzled with the warm glaze. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Rub the chicken with the spice mixture (Step 2), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before roasting.
  • Tips: The tart red berries of the Mediterranean sumac bush add fruity, sour flavor to many regional dishes. Find ground sumac in Middle Eastern markets, specialty food shops and online at penzeys.com. Or use 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest in place of the sumac.
  • To seed a pomegranate, fill a large bowl with water. Lightly score the fruit into quarters from crown to stem end, cutting through the skin but not into the interior of the fruit. Hold the fruit under water, break it apart and use your hands to gently separate the plump seeds (arils) from the outer skin and white pith. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bowl and the pith will float to the surface. Discard the pith. Pour the seeds into a colander. Rinse and pat dry. Seeds can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Note: Pomegranate molasses has a bright, tangy flavor. (Don’t confuse it with grenadine syrup, which contains little or no pomegranate juice.) Find it in Middle Eastern markets and some large supermarkets near the vinegar or molasses. To make your own: Simmer 4 cups pomegranate juice, uncovered, in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 45 to 50 minutes. (Do not let the syrup reduce too much or it will darken and become very sticky.) Makes about 1/2 cup. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
  1. To prepare sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large (12-by-16 1/2-inch) rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper. Trim the paper so it covers the bottom of the pan completely, but does not curl up the sides. Coat the paper and pan sides with cooking spray. Place 5 eggs (in the shell) in a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add very warm tap water and set aside to warm the eggs and bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the white flecks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in 2 teaspoons coconut extract. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk whole-wheat pastry flour and cake flour in a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Drain the water and break the eggs into the warmed mixing bowl. Add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until tripled in volume and very pale light yellow, 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the strength of your mixer). To test if it’s beaten well enough, lift the beater from the batter: as the batter falls off the beater into the bowl, it should mound for a moment on the surface.
  5. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a whisk, in two additions, until just incorporated. Gently fold about 1 cup of the batter into the reserved butter. Then gently fold the butter mixture into the bowl of batter with a whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake the cake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan on a large wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack; remove the parchment and let cool completely.
  7. To assemble trifle: Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes. Spread about 1 cup of the custard in the bottom of a trifle dish. Top with about 3 cups cake cubes and 1 cup of the cranberry filling. Repeat the layering 3 more times.
  8. To prepare topping: Just before serving, whisk or beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Whisk in yogurt, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon coconut extract until smooth. Spread over the top of the trifle. Garnish with coconut.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the custard and cranberry filling, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days; tightly wrap the cooled cake and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or prepare the trifle through Step 10, cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. | Equipment: Trifle bowl or similar 12-cup glass serving dish; 12-by-16 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet
  • Tips: Agave syrup or nectar is the naturally sweet juice extracted from the agave plant. It has a lower glycemic index and is lower in calories than table sugar, but is even sweeter. Use it in moderation when substituting for table sugar. Look for it near other sweeteners in large supermarkets and natural foods stores.
  • Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat. It contains less gluten-forming potential than regular whole-wheat flour and helps ensure a tender result in delicate baked goods while providing the nutritional benefits of whole grains. Find it at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores.
  • Large thin flakes of dried coconut called coconut chips make attractive garnishes. Find them in the produce section of large supermarkets or at melissas.com. To toast, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 5 minutes.

 

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and happy holiday!

Staying Active and Fit This Winter

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As the year comes nearer to an end, are you finding yourself more and more absent from the gym? Are you coming up with too many excuses or reasons to not go? Is your work schedule getting too hectic? Is the weather keeping you from leaving your house? Is your willpower just depleted by now?

Winter is not really a motivating season to develop healthy habits and keep in shape. It’s not like spring where we have to drive to get ready for bathing suit season. Instead, we tend to give up, surrendering to the excuse that it’s the holidays. We convince ourselves to just wait until New Years to make the same resolutions we make every year. However, aren’t you tired of making the same New Year’s resolution year after year?

Let’s break the cycle this year. If going to the gym on a strict weekly schedule is too difficult to maintain, especially with the busyness and time-consuming stress that comes with the holidays, there are other options you have to help you keep off the holiday weight. You can go for outdoor walks or jogs. Or if the weather outside isn’t ideal, you can always do some of Pete at-home workouts to keep your body active, warm, and motivated.

Below is a video of some examples of 90-second at home workouts from Pete’s 90 Second Fitness Solution. Depending on your fitness levels and goals, Pete recommends doing at least two different workouts a day, five times a week. If you are a beginner to fitness, starting over again, or are overweight, this easy routine would only take 15 minutes out of your week!

90 Second Fitness Exercise Tips from Pete Cerqua

Plank

Planking works your arms, chest, abdominals, back, legs, glutes, calves, toes, hands, wrists, neck (nearly everything except your ear lobes). “When you get into a plank position, every passing second makes muscles weaken. As each muscle becomes more exhausted, other muscles have to get involved to keep the position. Can you do a plank without your feet? No. So, the muscles in your feet, shins and calves must be doing something. If your glutes and abs aren’t contracting, you will sag to the floor. If your shoulder blades weren’t contracting to support your chest, shoulders and triceps you would plummet to the ground. The wrists hold up the arms and the neck holds up the head. The plank works your entire beautiful body!

Kneel on your hands and knees. Extend your legs and come into a plank position, reaching back through your heels and forward through the crown of your head. Keep your shoulders relaxed and low, away from your ears and your hips up. Don’t allow your low back to cave downward. Hold, with your arms extended, up to 90 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe.” (Pete Cerqua, Chapter 2 – Shorten Your Workout, 90 Second Fitness Solution)

Wall Sit

The wall sit not only works your legs and glutes, it also firms your abs and back as you press your back into the wall. “No moving is necessary; just sit still. Press your back against a wall. Walk your feet away from the wall and then slide your back down the wall until your knees form 90 degree angles. Hold up to 90 seconds. Again, remember to breathe.” (Pete Cerqua, Chapter 2 – Shorten Your Workout, 90 Second Fitness Solution)

That’s all it takes! No gym equipment is necessary, and it only takes three minutes of your day. These fast and simple exercises can help you stay healthy and active in the comfort of your own home. They are especially handy to do if you are the type of person who hates going to the gym. Now you have no excuses to stay healthy and active during the winter. 

Sources

90 Second Fitness Solution by Pete Cerqua

Preparing Yourself for the Holidays

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Are you stressing about how your waistline is going to survive the holidays? Are you still barely crawling out of your Thanksgiving food coma? Or perhaps you’ve already surrendered all willpower to make it through the rest of the year and will be waiting to make your New Year’s resolutions…Again. Don’t give up yet! There’s is still hope for the battle of the bulges. All it takes is a little preparation!

Plan Ahead:  

Around this time of year, it’s likely your schedule changes a lot. You might have three to four day weekends, where it’s really tempting to just laze around and relax, followed by some six to seven workdays, where you’ll be too busy and stressed to even think about exercising. If you’re one of habit, these unpredictable work hours may sometimes make scheduling time to exercise a hassle. Moreover, the added stress can make your blood pressure and heart rate rise, making you feel even less motivated to get a workout in. Furthermore, your body will increase its production of cortisol, the body’s natural defense for stress, which may cause increased fluid retention and weight gain. Getting a good workout will keep your body regulated and also help dramatically reduce your stress.

In order to get time at the gym, plan ahead. Try fitting in time for a quick workout, and be sure to call the gym in advance to find out what their holiday hours are. If you think you can’t make it, plan for workouts you can do outside of the gym like out-door walks or runs or some home body weight exercises, such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and squats.  

Stay Warm:

Cold weather is usually one of the main reasons for holiday weight gain. Who wants to get out of house in layers upon layers of clothing for a quick walk when you can snuggle in the warmth of your bed and drink hot cocoa with marshmallows. Going to the gym can also be such a hassle with all the rain and snow. A good solution to the cold is to do exercises at home. As mentioned above, doing jumping jacks or push-ups, even in small sets, can help keep your body warm and your mind motivated.

Be in Control:

As if the added stress wasn’t bad enough, now you’ll be surrounded by cookies, pies, and alcohol at all the holiday events and parties you are probably anxiously dreading. Furthermore, with the added stress, you may have an increased urge to just let go and stuff your face. While we can’t control our surroundings and the situations we are in, we can control ourselves. Eating a healthy snack or working out before an event will keep your hunger and cravings in check, making you less likely to splurge. If you’re participating in a potluck, offer to bring a healthy dish such as salads, veggie or fruit tray, or low-fat pudding. By doing this, you can guarantee there will be at least be one healthy item on the table.

Also, learn to politely say no. There is a lot of peer-pressure around the holidays to constantly be eating with the company you’re surrounded with. You may feel guilty or think it’s rude to turn someone down when they offer you extra food. Don’t force yourself to eat something because you’re afraid what others might think. You can always just say, “No thank you. Everything was delicious, but I’m stuffed,” or, “everything was great but I just can’t eat another bite!”   

Keep Positive:

Do you still remember the New Year’s Resolutions you made this year? How much did you want to lose? Make a mental note of the goals you wanted to finish by the end of the year and repeat it like a mantra. Remind yourself daily how much you’ve worked so hard already to get in the shape you are now and how much better you want to continue to be. By constantly reminding yourself of the positive choices you’ve made or want to make, the less you’ll be thinking about negativity, giving up, and letting go.

Sources

1. Greenfield, Ben. “5 Reasons for Holiday Weight Gain (And What You Can Do About It).”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Dec. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.

Balancing Your Life

Balancing your life between work and play is a very difficult thing to do. Sometimes life just feels like an endless vicious cycle. You may start by stressing out about work, your family, or your health. This stress causes you to indulge in temptations such as overeating or eating “bad” food that might temporarily make you feel better. Then after the high is over, you go back to feeling bad, or maybe even worse, about yourself, and the cycles and habits repeat themselves over and over again. A good idea on how to break this chain is to make a “Life Balance Sheet”. This can help you visualize what the positive and negative things you are doing to/for yourself and assess where your time and energy is going towards.

Keep track of your sleep, your stress level (using a 1 to 10 scale), your energy, and your mood on your Scorecard. Whenever any of these dip below a 5 on the 1 to 10 scale, it’s time to take a good hard look at your Life Balance Sheet. Your Balance Sheet is a “profit or loss” report that adds up your withdrawals (overworking yourself, over exercise, marital problems, etc) and your deposits (your dedication to the 90 Second Fitness Solution, extra sleep, and incorporating the other advice in this chapter).

For good health, you want a balance with a surplus. If you allow your balance to dip below zero, you bounce a check. End result: you get sick. The more deposits you make, the greater your reserve, and the more you can play hard without suffering undesirable consequences such as fatigue and anxiety. (Chapter 5: Stress Proof Your Life, 90-Second Fitness Solution, Pete Cerqua)

The idea is to give yourself a salary of 100 weekly “points”. You can add to that amount by making deposits (shown below), but you can also make withdrawals (shown below). The idea is to keep the account “balanced”.

balance-sheet.gif

Let’s take a typical week of one of Pete’s female clients, Alexis. She is 46 years old, has a career (lawyer), a husband and 2 kids. The stress from taking care of her family while having a high-demand career causes her to excessively and toss and turn at night. She’s getting only 5 good hours of sleep each night. She doesn’t eat well and takes no supplements. She’s not overweight, but has no muscle tone on her 5’4″ 120 pound frame. She looks flabby even though she fits in a size 4 easily. Here are her withdrawals:

  • -40 units for career
  • -10 units for overtime
  • -30 units for unhelpful husband
  • -20 units (10 for each kid)
  • -11 units for being 46 years old
  • -20 units for poor sleep
  • -10 units for poor diet

Total: -141 units

This is what Pete suggested to help her balance out her life.

  • Take power naps: 10 units
  • Quiet Time: 10 units
  • Eat better: 10 units
  • Take supplements: 10 units
  • Pete’s workout: 10 units

Now Alexis has balanced her “budget” and is able to manage her stress much easily!

The scorecard is able to help you visualize the details of your life and give you a numeric perspective that can help you keep your health, stress, and sanity in balance . You are able to see exactly what things are keeping you down (such as an unhelpful spouse, unhealthy eating, overworking, etc.) and what you are doing to counterbalance them (such as healthy eating, relaxation time, exercise, etc.). Keeping a balanced life is key to helping you achieve your goals and having a healthy mind and body.

To learn more about how you can balance your life, reduce your stress, and achieve your goals, check out Pete’s books.

6 General Fitness Myths

bodybuilding.jpgThere are many myths about fitness and weight loss out there that many exercise enthusiasts out there still believe. Some of these myths might actually be quite detrimental to whatever your goals may be pertaining to weight loss, getting stronger, or just getting healthier. Have you or someone you know ever said, “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up or look like a body builder.” The truth is, lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and trim fat, and it is almost impossible to look like a bodybuilder unless that is what you are training for. Below are some common fitness myths and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: My metabolism is higher/lower/different than other people.

The short answer is yes. Metabolic rate, the amount of calories burnt a day, does vary between people. However, the difference between metabolic rates, which is usually between 200-300 calories a day, is so minimal that it is doesn’t cause obesity. To give a sense of how much calories that is, 200kcal is approximately equivalent to two tablespoons of peanut butter, a single Pop-Tart, or half of a large slice of pizza. An oreo is about 70kcal, and a chocolate bar is in the rage of 150-270kcal depending on the brand (1).  It is true some people have it easier than others when it comes to weight loss and metabolism. However, the key factor to losing weight is still burning more calories, through physical activity, than the amount of calories you consume.

Myth #2: Doing high reps of lighter weights will help me get toned.

Being “toned” is a subjective idea. When people think of toned, they think low body fat with lean muscles. However, the definition of “muscule tone” is the amount of tension a muscle maintains when it’s at rest. What most people mean when they say “toned” is certain level of muscular definition. Being “toned” is simply a matter of having enough muscle mass and low enough body fat.

Additionally, working high repetitions of exercises at low weights will increase muscular endurance more than anything else. If your goal is strength, you should be working high weight for low repetitions. If your goal is size and definition, you should be working medium weights for medium repetitions (2).

Myth #3: Ab exercises can make you lose stomach fat.

“Spot reduction” in weight loss is the idea that you can target a specific area of fat on your body by only doing exercises pertaining to that area. For example, doing ab workouts like sit-ups, crunches, and leg raises to lose your belly fat. Unfortunately, your body does not work this way. Muscle growth in the abdominal region does not reduce fat in that region. Your genes are responsible for where your body stores fat, and it’s the same thing for losing fat. It’s pretty much a “first on, last off” type situation, so if the first place you get fat is your belly, it’s probably going to be the last place to lose it (3).

Myth #4: Women will get bulky if they lift heavy things.

There are many differences between men and women when it comes to body composition, such as where your body tends to store fat, how quickly you’ll lose body fat, and how quickly you’ll add muscle. Many women fear the idea of lifting because they are afraid that they will “bulk up” or “look like a man”. However, most women will never get as bulky as guys because they lack sufficient testosterone. A good example would be to see male and female athletes of the same sport. The female professional athletes still maintain a lot of strength while not appearing as bulky as their male counterparts.

Myth #5: Lifting weights is going to make me huge like a bodybuilder

Putting on muscle is not easy. It takes years of dedicated work and maintaining a strict exercise regiment and diet. Unless you are training to pack on a lot of muscle, it is highly unlikely you will ever “accidentally” look like a bodybuilder.

Myth #6: Lifting weights makes you inflexible

The ACSM finds that full length strength training actually improves flexibility. Additionally, top weightlifters, bodybuilders, and gymnasts regularly demonstrate advanced levels of flexibility while being exceedingly strong (4). Moreover, in one of their studies, results showed that stretching before and after a series of exercises showed no statistically significant advantage over resistance exercise when it came to flexibility.

Sources

1. http://examine.com/faq/does-metabolism-vary-between-two-people.html
2. http://www.reddit.com/help/faqs/Fitness#GeneralFitnessMythsandMysteries
3. http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/Myths.html
4. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/study-strength-training-improves-flexibility-too

Give Thanks to Yourself by Eating Well this Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate with your loved ones and remember to give thanks. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy a bountiful feast filled with beautiful traditional family recipes. It may be a near-impossible task to not indulge in a mouth-watering buffet of buttered, sweetened, and stuffed delicacies, especially when everyone else at the table is gorging themselves too.

It’s okay to relax and loosen up your diet once in a while. Holidays are a time of celebration and enjoyment. People usually set themselves up for failure when they make goals to lose a significant amount of weight around the holiday season. A helpful tip to stay positive and motivated on your journey towards a healthier life is to make more realistic goals. During this season, people should change their mindset towards weight maintenance instead of weight loss. Make keeping the same weight over the next few weeks a success of its own.

Below are some delicious and health-conscious Thanksgiving recipes. (More recipes can be found at EatingWell.com)

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
  3. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, for 45 minutes.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, for about 15 minutes.

Pear Crumble

INGREDIENTS

Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger

FILLING

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir until evenly moist.
  3. To prepare filling: Combine pears, maple syrup, raisins, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears.
  4. Bake the crumble until the pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

TIPS & NOTES

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the topping (Step 2) and filling (Step 3), cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before assembling and baking.

Here are some other helpful suggestions to make your Thanksgiving Day a little healthier:

  1. Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make the gravy.
  2. Reduce oil and butter use wherever you can.
  3. Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.  
  4. Eat a healthy and filling breakfast. It will help you maintain and curb your appetite during the big feast.
  5. Participate in some physical activities with friends and family before and after the meal. Whether it’s football or just walking, always exercise more than you eat.
  6. Avoid seconds and overstuffing yourself. You can also have leftovers as a meal the next day.
  7. Ease up on the alcohol. Calories from alcohol add up quickly.
  8. Savor every bite of food. Really enjoy the wonderful food that you’ve worked so hard for. The slower you chew, the less you will eventually eat. 
  9. Remember to give thanks to yourself. You’ve worked hard and you should appreciate it. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Diet Soft Drinks: Free of Calories but Not of Consequences

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With all the variety of “zero to low” calorie diet drinks being marketed by most of the soft drink companies around the world, one would think that there is finally a feasible solution to getting your daily soda fix while staying health-conscious and losing weight. However, below are some interesting facts about these so-called “diet” drinks that might make you think twice about heading to that soda fountain.

Vascular Health

People who drink diet soft drinks on a daily basis may be at increased risk of suffering vascular events such as stroke, heart attack, and vascular death (1). In a new study by Hannah Gardener and her colleagues from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and at Columbia University Medical Center, Gardener examined data designed to determine stroke incidence, risk factors and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban population. Data was drawn from among 2,564 participants within a ten year period. Participants included individuals that drank regular soft drinks and diet soft drinks. Research found that those who drank diet soft drinks daily were 43 percent more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who drank none. It may also be interesting to note that light soft drink consumers, such as individuals that drank once a month, or even individuals that drank regular soft drinks were not more likely to suffer vascular events.

Weight Gain

In another study done by Dr. Helen Hazuda, a professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, researchers followed 474 diet soda drinkers, 65 to 74 years of age, for almost 10 years. They found that diet soda drinkers’ waists grew 70 percent more than non-drinkers (2). In another study, one group of mice was fed chow laced with aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener found in most diet soft drinks. After three months, the group of mice fed the aspartame-laced food had higher blood sugar levels than the mice eating normal food.

“Artificial sweeteners could have the effect of triggering appetite but unlike regular sugars they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite,” said Sharon Fowler, obesity researcher at UT Health Science Center at San Diego and co-author on both of the studies. Artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and inhibit brain signals that cause us to feel full. “Some studies suggest that when our taste buds sense sweetness, the body expects a calorie load to accompany it…When that doesn’t happen, it may cause us to overeat because we crave the energy rush our body was expecting,” said Cheryl Forberg R.D., author of Flavor First (3).

Teeth and Bone Loss

Diet soda, just like regular soda, usually contains phosphoric or citric acid, which is extremely harmful for your teeth. Phosphoric acid also causes calcium to be excreted from the body at an accelerated rate. This means your body loses dietary calcium at a faster rate while not being able to replenish it with something more nutritious and calcium-enriched, like milk or yogurt.

Dehydration

Most soft drinks are diuretic because of the caffeine they contain, which means more urine is excreted from the body. To make matters worse, some people drink soft drinks in lieu of water, which adds to the dehydration.

With the esclating epidemic of obesity rates around the world, soft drink companies have been marketing newer and better “diet” drinks every few months as a quick and easy solution to curb sugar cravings. However, as more and more studies are being released, new research has been suggesting that “diet” soft drinks may actually be causing the opposite effect of what they are intended to do, which is to help you lose weight. If you must have a soda, drink it sparingly. However, when it comes to beverages, water is always the safest and healthiest choice.

References

1. Gardener H et al (2012). Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of General Internal Medicine. DOI 10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2

2. Jaslow, Ryan. “CBS News.” CBS News. (2011): n. page. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.

3. Lieberman, Bari. “The Truth about Diet Soda.” Men’s Health. 07 2011: n. page. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.