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3 Easy Steps to Get Fit in 2014

1381532_648223808555104_266900310_nIf you have been anywhere around a TV set, a radio, or a computer, you have noticed the great abundance of “get fit now”. It is that time of the year again. The time when supplement companies and larger than though trainers are pushing their miracle cure all product on the unsuspecting consumers with low self-esteem. Do these products work? Some of them. Do they work safely and for a prolonged period of time? No.

We live in a society that is largely driven by instant gratification and impulse. No one wants to work to be fit, but everyone wants to have a fit body of a fitness model. After all, it is much easier to pop a pill and eat a pizza while watching football, than working out and eating clean. Does anyone think about the consequences of taking these drugs? Does anyone stop to ask why they work so quickly and so effectively? No. Why? Because blissful ignorance with a skinny fat body is significantly safer than a challenging and at times difficult reality in which one has to find information, process it, and work to get the results that they want. In short, half-baked approaches breed half-baked results and a lot of disappointed, misinformed consumers. So, what can you do to get lasting weight loss results? Read on.

What I have to say right now may not be what you want to hear, but I am not in the business of cuddling and propagating fitness myths. I am here to give you the hard truth and save you the time you’ll spend doing research on your own. Here’s the deal. Most “magic” weight loss pills, shakes, and powders are unsafe. If you have to order your food premade, you’ll gain all of your weight back after you stop eating “out of the box”. There is no such thing as getting “toned and fit” without changing your daily lives.

The only way to get true and lasting results is by keeping a clean and sustainable diet, maintaining a healthy attitude, and exercising daily.

Keeping a Clean and Sustainable Diet:

1238363_644675618909923_1184660794_nLet’s face it, if you drastically cut calories, completely cut out certain food groups or expect perfect rigid compliance to a dietary plan, you will eventually slip. In fact, when you slip you will binge, feel guilty, get down on yourself, and try to maintain the same diet with even more restrictions than before to make up for your pitfall. Does that sound like a healthy relationship with food? No. To me, that sounds more like an eating disorder and we all know that eating disorders are very unhealthy.

A sustainable diet should revolve around a lifestyle. When you decide to get in shape, you have to realize that you are on a journey and just like any journey, this one will have peaks and valleys. The secret to sustainable, healthy weight loss is realizing that a valley isn’t going to undo everything you worked for. So, if you make it a priority to eat healthy 90% of the time, that one piece of cake on your birthday, a plate full of delicious food on Thanksgiving, and a bowl of macaroni and cheese every other month aren’t going to send you on an express train to fat town.

A clean sustainable diet should involve all of the major food groups (unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating certain things) in moderation. Eating for weight loss is an art form that will take time to master fully, there is no diet that perfectly fits all, and there are no shortcuts. A clean, healthy diet with proper caloric intake (you can’t starve yourself!!!) takes time to develop and perfect.

I encourage you to do your research, look at various food plans, study strategic eating, and custom design your own eating plan. It will take time, but in the end you will be rewarded with energy, better health, and a lean, strong body.

Healthy Attitude:

quoteWe briefly touched on this subject in the previous section when we discussed a healthy relationship with food. You can’t punish yourself for slip-ups and deviations of off the plan, but you also have to hold yourself accountable for what you do in daily basis. Having a support group helps, but at the end of the day it is between you and your refrigerator, or between you and your bed.

You have to make a plan and stick to it regardless of what the world around you wants. If you know that what you are doing is right for you, then no one else has the right to keep you away from your goals and your dreams. Not even you. You have to push yourself every day. I wish I could tell you that it gets to a point where going to the gym or out on a run is automatic. No. I still have days when I question why I am up at 5 am on a cold winter morning. There are days when the last thing that I want to do is drive to the gym and lift a bunch of weights when the laundry is piled up, dinner needs to be cooked, and I still have a mound of paperwork to get through. However, I don’t make excuses. I put on my big girl pants, lace up my shoes, and I tell myself that it is better that way. I can say with full confidence,  I am yet to regret a workout that I did.

However, healthy attitude goes far beyond building a healthy relationship with food and regular, hard workouts. A healthy attitude also encompasses how you view the world. It is easy to be mad and sad about your circumstances, but when you make a decision to take control and change, you become empowered. Feeling strong and in control is what gets people in the gym initially, but most quickly get discouraged because the results didn’t come fast enough. Here’s the hard part: you have to remain positive and have faith in the fact that the results will come if you actually follow a program that you set for yourself. You have to force yourself to become an optimist on those days when you just want to quit because the pudgy feeling isn’t going away fast enough.

Again, I wish I could tell you that feeling discouraged goes away with time – it doesn’t. But if you keep at it long enough, you will learn that the voice inside your head that tells you “it’s not working”, “you don’t have the body for this”, “you are too old” etc. is a total liar. With time, you learn to ignore your own little critic and you learn that when the voice rears its ugly head, you are closer than you ever were before to achieving that one goal that you set for yourself.

Exercising Daily:

Khloe-Kardashian-Fitness-MotivationA good diet and a great attitude aren’t going to get you far without exercise. Consistent, challenging, daily exercise paired with a great diet is a sure recipe for a fabulous body. Now, let me clarify, I am not telling you to go out and do Zumba (although it is a fun way to initially lose some extra weight). The exercise that I am talking about involves 3-4 heavy weight training sessions and 3 cardio sessions a week. You can’t be a cardio queen and expect a toned body of a fitness model. You have to lift HEAVY weights. Let me say this right now: there is no way that you are going to end up looking like a she Hulk unless you are SPECIFICALLY working to attain that aesthetic. So, no, don’t tell me that lifting heavy turns women into men. It is a total myths that is propagated by men who are scared of strong women, women who are scared of hard work, and skinny fat models who would be out of a job if the rest of us woke up and realized that having the ability to pick up more than 5 lbs at a time makes you more attractive and gives you the lean, toned look you actually want. Yes, I’m talking to you ladies.

Gentlemen, I have to caution you against trying to show off. Heavy training means lifting the weight you can ACTUALLY lift with PROPER form. Allow me to elaborate: that means that you shouldn’t be squirming under a barbell during your bench press like a deranged worm because you loaded the bar too heavy. You are not a hero if you get hurt, so why set yourself up for failure? Take it easy, maintain proper tension throughout your exercises and watch your body bulge with awesome rippliness faster than the guy who has been trying to “out lift” you all alone and has been doing it wrong.

trustI don’t know about you, but for me, a fit strong body is a status symbol. You can’t buy it, you can pay someone to surgically make it. You have to invest the time, the sweat, the tears and the doubts to achieve it. There are challenges to achieving your perfect physique at any age and in any circumstance, so don’t discount the efforts of the younger crowd just because of their age or the older crowd just because of their experience. We all face different struggles, have different body types, and respond to different things better than others. Building a body you want takes time, it takes trial and error and you have to be willing to invest in your journey fully in order to rip the perfect results.

Getting Fit For the Holidays

GrowSet Up a Schedule

Most of us have incredibly full schedules, family responsibilities and things that we would rather be doing instead of spending the time in the gym. However, if you want to look your best and impress your friends and family this holiday season, you have to dedicate the time to achieve your goals.

Setting up a schedule is one of the key parts on a successful weight loss journey. You need to know when you are going to be shopping, cooking, and working out. Here are a few factors to consider in order to set up the best schedule for you:

Make sure that the time fits your routine:

Developing new habits takes time and effort. Make sure that you are not setting yourself up for failure by playing to your weaknesses. For example: If you are not a morning person, it is probably not a good idea to commit to an early morning workout. If you know that you will have a hard Wednesday at work, it may not be the best day to shop for groceries.

Look at your schedule, figure out what times work best for you and play to your strengths. If you are at your best, you will enjoy your time at the gym more and will be more likely to keep your commitment than if you are tired, hungry, and have a million other things to do.

Plan Ahead:

Planning ahead is the best way to insure that you will actually keep your commitments. If you have food that is already cooked, prepped, portioned, and ready to go, you will be less likely to eat something that you will regret later. If your gym bag is already packed, you are more likely to go to the gym, etc. Set aside at least half of one day a week for planning and prep.

From my experience the best planning and prep day is Sunday. That’s when I usually cook all of my food, organize my workout clothes, write my workouts and get ready for the week.

Your Time is Your Time:

Make sure that people around you understand that you will require time that is only yours for the next few months. During that time you will be training, planning, and prepping. That time is none negotiable. That time is YOURS! In addition to staying on plan, setting time aside that is meant just for you can make you feel better about yourself and your goals. After all, your time with you is long overdue.

 Discipline

You Get What You Put In

Let’s be realistic for a moment. If you really want to achieve your weight and fat loss goals, you can’t be eating junk, skipping workouts, and then wonder why you only lost three pounds when you should have lost twenty.  You need to keep yourself accountable.

The best way to do that is to embark on this journey with a partner, get a trainer, or join and online group of people whose goals are similar to yours. Yes, you can do it alone, but it will be harder and you will need to have the iron will to succeed.

I find that a combination of a training partner, tracking your food, and working with a personal trainer seems to be the best way to succeed, especially when you are just starting out.

Abs Are Made In the Kitchen

I say this time and time again: your fitness goals will be achieved only if you are eating right. Dieting is not a quick fix, it is a life style. That means that you have to have a diet that is sustainable long term, that isn’t crazily restrictive, and that you can deviate from. That means that you should eat carbs, fats, and protein from healthy sources with a reasonable amount of calories a day. An 800 calorie diet is NOT going to work! Eating 10000 calories from healthy sources isn’t going to work either. You need to research and find a diet that is right for you and is sustainable.

Go-lift1

Cardio Is Not Always King

Yes, sure you can get on the treadmill and run until you are blue in the face and the weight will initially come off. However, regardless of how hard you try, you will never get that “toned” look you are going for unless you lift some weights. Don’t worry, you won’t get “bulky” after a few months of weight training unless that is what you are trying to do. Despite the common misconception, a woman will not look “manly” after lifting without some serious dedication to muscle building and diet.

Lifting heavy will however help you build stronger muscle that will burn more fat (yes, imagine that!) than just cardio alone. Not to mention it’ll tighten everything that is loose preventing you from having that “skinny fat”, malnourished look.

Another benefit of heavy weight training is that you get to eat more calories. Imagine actually being able to eat a scoop of ice cream every once in a while without feeling guilty the next day because your body can sustain it!

 

Supplements

Now that you have set your schedule, researched your diet, and are working with a trainer, it might be tempting to go to the store and get any one of the “help me get skinny” products that you can get over the counter.  But before you do, ask yourself this: do you want to be looking fit for 12 weeks or do you want to actually be fit for life? Do you want short term results and almost instant gratification at the expanse of your health, or do you want to accomplish your goals and be healthier as a result? That’s what I though.

There isn’t enough research to support the effectiveness and safety of the over the counter fat burners, but there is enough research and evidence to support that they are an ineffective way to remain tight and lean year round.

 

Don’t sell yourself short by taking a short cut, instead, bite the bullet and take the time to build new, healthy habits that are guaranteed to keep you in shape and on track long after the Holidays are over.

Free Yourself by Learning How to Say “No”

life-motivation-0706-03We are all busy, at times stressed out, and occasionally extremely close to losing our minds.  We tend to begin engaging in creative procrastination just to get ourselves some breathing room and eventually end up even more stressed because the to-do pile didn’t get any lighter. Then the guilt kicks in. Why didn’t I go to the gym yesterday instead of sitting on the couch watching TV? You know I could have made some baked chicken instead of eating Chinese. Why didn’t I do that? Oh man, I wish I wasn’t so tired so I can play tea party with my kids! The list goes on. So, what can we do to prevent guilt, remain sane, and stay a little bit more rested, fit and healthy?

The answer is: learning to prioritize and, above all, learning to say “NO”.

Getting our priorities straight is the first step to breaking free from the endless cycle of being behind. Personally, I am a list person. Every day I sit down and I make a list of things that need to be completed by the end of the next day. I make the same list for every week and for every month. It puts my schedule into perspective. I know exactly how much I can take on and when I can do it without cutting into something that is important to me or my family. The list also prevents me from forgetting to do the small things that end up turning into frustrations and inconveniences (like forgetting to get the dry-cleaning, or picking up some milk at the grocery store). That’s my way, and I know that this may not be the optimal way for everybody. Some may stress out over the list and the sheer amount of things that are on it, others may find it liberating to check things of and see how much was done at the end of the day.

When I was talking to my friend about my prioritization strategy, she commented that she would be completely overwhelmed by the sheer idea of making lists everyday even if they weren’t written down. Her approach to setting priorities involved breaking her time into segments: Self, Family, Work, and Other. I know, some of you are looking at this and wondering what selfish person would put themselves before their family. I asked about that. My friend told me that the wellbeing of her family depends on her and if she is can’t be the “rock” for them, everything else will fall apart which is why she takes care of her health and mental wellbeing first.

Regardless of how you choose to prioritize your life, until you do so, your stress levels will not diminish. Now, I am not saying that through prioritization you will completely get rid of stress. That’s just impossible. However you will significantly decrease the amount of it. It won’t be easy, you will have to choose between things and people who seem equally as important and tasks that seem equally urgent which brings me to my next point.

No one likes to say “No” because no one likes to hear “No”. We, women, are especially guilty of that. We are the caretakers, we nurture and protect, we are the lionesses of our dens and god forbid someone tells us that we can’t do it all. But you know what, ladies? We can’t do it all and the sooner we understand that, the better of we will be.

The first few times you put your foot down and unapologetically say no to something, it will be hard and you will feel guilty, but after a while of staying true to that practice you will notice two things: 1) you feel better about everything that you do because you are not stretched so thin 2) the things you do carry more meaning, the product of your labors is of a better quality which in turn makes you a happier person. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the cycle described above over stressed, unhappy, and unhealthy.

Now, knowing when to say “no” will largely depend on the priorities you set. When you are absolutely sure about what is important in your life, saying “no” becomes easier. And like with any other art form, the longer you practice the art of “No”, the better at it you will become and the more liberated you will feel.

I encourage everyone to take control of their lives and their stress levels because we are not the helpless victims of circumstance. We create our own realities and whether we choose to be miserable and exhausted or happy and motivated, the amount of work that goes into it is the same. Break the cycle, take control, and put your foot down in protest, stand tall and proud because you are strong and capable.

8 Tools For Fit Kitchen Success

I find myself constantly looking for a faster, better, and easier way to eat clean while removing all the guess-work out of the equation. I have to admit, when I first started on my fitness journey, I was overwhelmed by the amount of nutrition information out there and overlooked the most important part of eating for fitness: eating clean.

I mentioned in my other posts that diet is a very individual thing. What works for you may not work for someone else. However,  what  works for EVERYONE is sticking to the concept of “everything in moderation”,  and planning for success.  Below are some of the tools I find indispensable on my own fitness journey and I hope that you will find them just as useful as I have:

MISTO

misto

This has to be one of my favorite kitchen tools. This little gadget allows you to evenly spread olive oil (or any other oil) on your salads, pans, and baking dishes without accidentally getting heavy-handed with your pour. We have all been there! Misto is also cheaper than expensive oil aerosol cans, considerably healthier, environmentally friendly, and can be used to spray any other liquid. Just make sure that there are no solids in you concoction to clog the spray nozzle and tubes.

SLOW COOKER

slow cooker

I absolutely love my slow cooker. I get so tired of eating the same old roasted or grilled chicken and every once in a while I want something new, exciting, that I really don’t have to pay attention to while it cooks.  I find that a slow cooker full of protein, various spices, and sweet potatoes can go a long way to help you out with your weekday dinners and maybe even your weekday lunch. Follow my recipe for  chicken broth and you will have chicken to put in your chicken salad and an amazing broth that you can add to your other recipes. The best part is, there is no stove required and the cleanup is minimal!

FOOD SCALE

foodscale

In my opinion a scale is a must. I measure out and weigh all of my pre packaged dinners, lunches, and snacks. At first it was very hard to have the discipline to measure, but now it is almost second nature. A food scale will help you stay on track, especially when you are just beginning your fitness journey, it’ll allow your body to properly adapt to the amount of food you should be consuming, as well as help you track your calories better.  A scale removes the guesswork, so when your trainer asks you how many grams of protein you had yesterday, you will be able to give them a solid number.

MANDOLIN

 mandolin

There are times when I am just dying to have a some potato chips. Are they worth   throwing out an hour in the gym? No. So, I figured out a way to get my salty, crunchy fix with the help of this wonderful tool. I use a sweet potato, slice it into paper-thin slices to mimic potato chips, lightly spray them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt or Cajun seasoning and herbs and bake them at 400 degrees until they are crispy. I also use this helpful tool to quickly prep my salads and cut veggies for stir-fry and soups.

HERB SAVERS

herbs

I love cooking with fresh herbs. They bring out flavor of various proteins and bring salads together. To me, herbs are the equivalent of kitchen duct tape — a good mix of herbs fixes everything.  However, keeping fresh herbs on hand can be a tall order. Considering that only a small quantity is required to bring big flavor to any dish, we are left with a lot of leftovers that tend to wilt and spoil quickly. Of course, if you have access to a garden, patio, or a sunny window, you can always grow your own, but what if you don’t have that luxury or just simply lack a green thumb? Well, this little invention keeps herbs fresh and ready to use for a considerably longer period of time. Although I have a garden and grow a lot of produce year round, these containers get a lot of use in my kitchen especially during the winter months. I found that, it is significantly harder to keep basil and cilantro growing on your windowsill in the winter with two curious felines who love munching on herbs.

INDOOR GRILL

grill

Have you ever craved BBQ in the middle of a winter snowstorm? Have you ever sat and stared out of your window, waiting for the downpour to end just so you could go and grill your dinner? Yep, me too. Which is why the day I discovered indoor grills, I never looked back. I still prefer the flavor and the char that my protein and veggies get on the outdoor, charcoal grill, but in a pinch this is an indispensable tool.

BLENDER

vitamix

I can’t say enough about blenders. Simply put, they are amazing!  I make smoothies, creamy soups, sauces, drinks and I love every minute of it. If you don’t have time to cook, throw some berries into the blender with some almond milk and protein powder and, viola, you have a nutritious snack! Tired of the chemicals in your salad dressing? Combine some herb infused olive oil, citrus juice,  salt and pepper and give it quick blend. You’ll never buy another bottle of dressing again. There are plenty of shake and treat recipes out there for healthy and sinfully delicious treats. My favorite one is the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie from bodybuilding.com. Check it out! You don’t have to consume food that is bad for you to get satisfy your sweet tooth if you have a blender and a little imagination!

FOOD STORAGE CONTAINERS

foodstorageThese are not your mothers Tupperware containers! Previously boring food storage containers now come in easy to organize, fun, bright, and unusual designs. Usually I am very busy during the week and rarely have time to cook my food. In order to stay on track and avoid falling victim to hunger and bad food choices I spend my Sunday prepping  and portioning my weekday meals. In the long run, it saves me time, money, and I feel better knowing that I stuck to my macros during the week.