Archive for 'Fat loss'

Top 3 Foods that Help with Belly Fat

Top 3 Foods that Help with Belly Fat

Posted on 09. Jan, 2012 by .


The holidays are over and yet,the calories we ate during this time still linger. So, I thought I’d write about some of the foods that help with belly fat because this is usually where our weight gain shows up first. I remember a dear friend used to say, “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” whenever he ate high calorie, fattening foods. I thought it was funny. Personally, I tend to gain 5 lbs during the holidays or any vacation trip for that matter. I just know my body and this is its typical response. However, the first week I’m back, I usually get back to my pre-vacation (or pre-holiday) weight. In this post I want to share with you some of the strategies I use to do just that. At the same time, I have a feeling this may be a popular post at this time of year.

The Hidden Culprits

Typically, when we gain weight at a rate of 5 lbs a week due to overeating (such as in my case), we tend to increase inflammation in our body. This is the first culprit. Because of this inflammation, we tend to retain water and gain weight. Inflammation may be caused by various factors such as the type of foods we ate, lack of physical activity, the volume of food we ate, and so on. So it only makes sense to make changes in these areas when we are looking to get back to our pre-vacation weight.

Most of our fat cells reside around the waist and hips. They are located here because one of the functions of fat cells is to store toxins and keep them away from our vital organs like the stomach, liver, kidney, and so forth. Another hidden culprit lies in these toxins because our body’s response is to render them harmless to us and our organs by diluting them with water. As a result, we retain unnecessary water when we have toxins in our fat cells. This is also the reason the belly and hips are common problem areas for a lot of people.

Top 3 Foods that Help with Belly Fat

The most important thing we want to address when reducing inflammation and eliminating toxins is nutrition. I get better results when I choose my foods wisely. Here are my top 3 foods:

#1 Fish or Other Omega-3 sources

Omega-3 fatty acids work well with reducing inflammation. We can get them from most seafood or in raw nuts like almonds and pistachios. Most of us should already have the habit of taking omega-3 supplements as I do. But, I tend to increase my fish consumption when I feel I need the extra boost especially during times of overeating like the holidays.

When choosing fish, choosing the wild variety versus farm raised is the way to go. Farm raised fish tend to eat a lot of toxins in a smaller environment such as the container they are bred in. There is still that chance of mercury intake when you choose wild fish but as long as you do not eat it 3 times a day, 7 days a week, you will be okay.

#2 Naturally Diuretic Vegetables

There are vegetables that are naturally diuretic and detoxifying. Diuretics simply increase the amount of urine we excrete. Thus, helping with unnecessary water retention. Normally I would not recommend a diuretic but if it’s part of your diet in moderate amounts, it is fine. Plus the fiber in vegetables will also help eliminate waste from your system much quicker. Some of my favorite naturally diuretic vegetables are cucumbers, asparagus, beets, and celery.

#3 Green Leafy Vegetables

Here is an article I wrote about green leafy vegetables and why it’s good for us: The Benefits of Drinking Wheat Grass Juice. The antioxidants found in them and other fruits and veggies also help reduce inflammation and keeps our cells healthy by fighting free radicals.

If you need new ideas on meals to lose belly fat or need to overhaul your kitchen, you may want to check out this new cook book I found: Real Food Cook Book by Scott Kustes. I especially like the spice mixes towards the end of the cook book. I used the savory spice mix recipe when I roast whole cornish hens or chickens (see main post picture).

As far as nutrition goes, one of my very first go to techniques is still intermittent fasting (IF) like with Eat Stop Eat in the summer or 2 Meal Solution when the weather gets cold. The reason for my different choices with weather changes is I cannot do 24 hour fasts in the winter because I tend to get cold. Besides the fact that fasting helps reduce inflammation, it also helps me get an additional calorie deficit, especially on my non-workout days when I’m not burning extra calories through my workouts.

Eating foods that help with belly fat along with focusing on getting your calorie deficit through IF should easily get you back to your pre-holiday weight as it did for me. The route you choose will depend on your preference and what works best for you in terms of your lifestyle. But, you cannot go wrong when you incorporate the foods I listed above even if you do not practice IF.

Have a comment or question? Join the conversation by posting below.

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Wheat Grass Benefits for Weight Loss and Health

Wheat Grass Benefits for Weight Loss and Health

Posted on 17. Aug, 2011 by .


I first encountered wheatgrass at Jamba Juice a few years ago. Besides thinking that it was an interesting concept to drink juice from grass that didn’t taste good at all, I really didn’t think much about wheatgrass benefits until I started taking a green food supplement. This curiosity led me to research exactly what is in wheatgrass that could be beneficial to our body. The answers surprised me.

A Little Background on Wheatgrass

I can’t talk about Wheatgrass without mentioning Charles F. Schnabel. Schnabel was an agricultural scientist who popularized the plant in the 1930s when he fed fresh cut grass to his dying hens. After doing this, the hens recovered beautifully and even produced eggs at a much higher rate compared to the healthy hens. Schnabel then started drying the grass to make powder out of it so he can give it to his family and neighbors to supplement their diet. He even got two large corporations to sponsor more research on the plant and by 1940s, wheatgrass powder began appearing in major drug stores across America and Canada.

Wheatgrass can be grown indoors and outdoors. The plant is harvested at the jointing stage which is the time before the grass leaf begins to elongate and form a stem. The nutritional analysis I’ve seen from web sites that sell wheatgrass powder or juice show that this is the moment when the plant’s nutrients are at their peak. Nutrients like chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are just a few of the nutrients found in wheatgrass.

You can even buy wheatgrass kits and grow them indoors at home. However, mold can grow on seeds that did not germinate when the seeds are planted to close together on indoor trays. Some people have reported getting anaphylactic shock after taking a shot of its juice because of this mold. So, to be safe, either get on outdoor grown plant or make sure that the plant is tested to be mold-free when you decide to supplement with wheatgrass.

Wheatgrass Benefits

There’s still a lot of debate regarding the benefits of wheatgrass to our health. Some say that the nutrient profile is similar to just about any green vegetable you can find at the supermarket. But, my research convinced me that there is more to this plant.

The one component of wheatgrass that captured my attention the most was chlorophyll. You may have heard of chlorophyll when you studied biology in school. It is found in the leaves of green plants and is their main energy source. Chlorophyll’s structure is very similar to hemoglobin which is a material that transports oxygen in our blood.

Research also found that chlorophyll has the ability to remove toxic chemicals from our bloodstream. This makes it excellent for cleansing. even said that people who regularly drink wheatgrass juice report increased energy. This increase in energy may help you workout longer and harder while burning more calories in the process. One study on rats found that a diet high in chlorophyll from spinach juice can help prevent colon cancer(1). This finding is especially beneficial to people who eat a lot of red meat, instead of white meat, and not a lot of vegetables. But, the research doesn’t stop with rats.

One study was done on children with Thalassemia, a genetic form of anemia, who require regular blood transfusions. After taking 100 ml of wheatgrass juice daily for a year, half of the patients only needed 75% of the amount of blood they used to get in order to stay well (2). Researchers found similar results when 20 adult patients with pre-leukemia started taking 30 mls of the juice daily for 6 months. These patients were able to have longer intervals between their blood transfusions so they didn’t need to have as much blood compared to before they started taking wheatgrass juice (3).

The benefits of taking wheatgrass has also been studied in cancer patients for its cleansing and antioxidant properties. One study showed 60 breast cancer patients who took wheatgrass juice daily during their first 3 cycles of chemotherapy. The patients were able to reduce toxic chemical accumulation in their bone marrow and were able to reduce their dose of the chemicals used during their chemotherapy (4). The juice was able to give all these benefits to cancer patients without affecting the effectiveness of their chemotherapy.

Should You Take Wheat Grass?

We can see from these studies that the nutrients and other components in wheatgrass may provide recovery benefits to people who suffer from some type of illness like cancer, leukemia, anemia, etc. This just means that healthy people who do not have any apparent illness can benefit from drinking wheatgrass juice even more. But, of course, there is no substitute for eating a healthier diet.

If you decide to supplement your diet with wheatgrass juice or powder, consider making these changes as well for optimal benefits:

Eating more green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
Reducing red meat consumption and eating more lean meats.
Eating less starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars like bread, pasta, sugar, etc.
Last but not the least, get more exercise or physical activity.

  • Eating more green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
  • Reducing red meat consumption and eating more lean meats.
  • Eating less starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars like bread, pasta, sugar, etc.
  • Last but not the least, get more exercise or physical activity.

I prefer to supplement with wheatgrass powder because of the convenience it provides during times when I’m not able to eat a lot of veggies. I get my supply from Amazing Grass because they process the plant under low temperatures to preserve its nutrients. They also grow their plants outdoors which assures that there is no mold contamination. I prefer the powder compared to the juice because I get the whole leaf which means I am also getting insoluble fiber along with the other nutrients. I usually either make a green drink and sip it throughout the day or mix it in my smoothies.

(1) De Vogel, Johan; Denise S. M. L. Jonker-Termont, Martijn B. Katan,and Roelof van der Meer (August 2005). “Natural Chlorophyll but Not Chlorophyllin Prevents Heme-Induced Cytotoxic and Hyperproliferative Effects in Rat Colon”. J. Nutr. (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences) 135 (8): 1995–2000. PMID 16046728

(2) Marawaha, RK; Bansal, D; Kaur, S; Trehan, A; Wheatgrass Juice Reduces Transfusion Requirement in Patients with Thalassemia Major: A Pilot Study. Indian Pediatric 2004 Jul;41(7):716-20

(3) S. Mukhopadhyay; J. Basak; M. Kar; S. Mandal; A. Mukhopadhyay; Netaji Subhas; Chandra Bose; Cancer Research Institute, Kolkata, India; NRS Medical College, Kolkata, India; Central Institute for Research (Ayurveda), Kolkata, India. The Role of Iron Chelation Activity of Wheat Grass Juice in Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Journal of Clinical Oncology 27:15s, 2009 (suppl; abstr 7012) 2009 ASCO Annual Meeting. Presenter: Soma Mukhopadhyay, PhD

(4) Bar-Sela, Gil; Tsalic, Medy; Fried, Getta; Goldberg, Hadassah. Wheat Grass Juice May Improve Hematological Toxicity Related to Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study. Nutrition and Cancer 2007, Vol. 58, No. 1, Pages 43-48

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Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects: Real or Imagined?

Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects: Real or Imagined?

Posted on 19. Jul, 2011 by .


I’ve always wanted to find out the real deal about artificial sweeteners side effects but just never had the time. Lately though, I’ve been trying out different natural sweeteners because of their flavors and ended up researching their nutrient breakdowns and possible health benefits. So, I thought it would be great to compare natural versus artificial sweeteners as a lot of you probably have similar questions as I did.

My research started mainly because I was so intrigued by palm syrup. I encountered palm syrup a few weeks ago when I tried out the master cleanse diet by Stanley Burroughs. If you’d like to find out more about this cleansing program, you go to the distributor’s website at But, I will not discuss it in further detail here. I mentioned it because I loved the flavor of palm syrup so much, it made me want to use natural sweeteners now.

Zero to Low Calorie, Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects

The first question I wanted to address is the question about artificial sweeteners and their side effects. I will talk mainly about the two most popular artificial sweeteners, Aspartame, and Sucralose.

Aspartame received its bad reputation after several e-mail hoaxes spread throughout the internet about its alleged disease causing properties like cancer and multiple sclerosis. If you are not familiar with Aspartame, you might know it better by its most recognizable name brands, Nutrasweet and Equal. After reading several scientific studies, I found out that Aspartame is safe unless you have a genetic disease called Phenylketonuria. One of Aspartame’s byproducts in the body is phenylalanine which can cause detrimental effects to those born with this disease. Long story short, if you don’t have this disease, you can take Aspartame. The FDA has also released a statement about it and you can view the statement here: FDA Statement on Aspartame.


The next artificial sweetener is Sucralose which goes by the name brand, Splenda. Sucralose is 300 times as sweet as table sugar and is not broken down by the body which is why it is mainly a zero calorie sweetener. The FDA reviewed data from 110 safety studies in humans which looked for possible toxic, carcinogenic, reproductive, and neurological effects. After reviewing these studies, the FDA declared it to be safe for everyday use. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends an average daily intake (ADI) of 9 mg/kg of body weight. This translates to about 24 tablespoons a day for a 125 pound person which is a lot more than what most people would use in a day.

Natural Sweeteners that Make the Grade

While artificial sweeteners have the advantage of being zero to low calorie when it comes to fat loss, I like natural sweeteners for their taste. The added benefit to natural sweeteners is they usually contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our health. What are natural sweeteners? For the purpose of this post, I define natural sweeteners as those that come from nature and are minimally processed. Here is a list of some of the natural sweeteners that I like to use every now and then:


Stevia is a type of leaf from the Sunflower family. Like Aspartame and Sucralose, stevia is also non-caloric. Even though it is a plant, it still received controversy and was even banned in the Unites States and other countries. But, Stevia has been used in countries like Japan for decades and in South America for centuries without any side effects. Stevia is made by extracting the sweet compound called Rebaudioside A (or Reb A for short) from the leaf. I mostly use Stevia in my coffee or to add a hint of sweetness to my lemon water.

Pure Maple Syrup

[Maple Syrup Farm]

Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap from Maple trees and boiling it to make a thicker consistency. This makes the syrup very minimally processed. But, you have to be careful in reading the labels when buying Maple syrup. Most of them can be imitation or contains very little maple syrup like the ones you can find by the pancake mixes at the grocery store. Make sure to read the label and the ingredient list should only contain Maple syrup and nothing else. You can get this syrup in different grades. Grade A is fairly light in color and flavor while Grade B is darker and has a stronger maple flavor. I use Grade B to top pancakes or for cooking.

Maple syrup is a good source of Calcium and potassium and contains traces of vitamins like Thiamin, Riboflavin, and Niacin.


Honey is probably the most popular natural sweetener because of its great flavor and nutrient content. While still a sugar, it does have traces of antioxidants in it including Vitamin C. This means that it offers more nutrient value compared to table sugar. Like Maple syrup, Honey is minimally processed and can even be eaten in its raw form. Most types of Honey are only filtered to remove wax and pollen. But, there are also highly processed forms of it like the pasteurized kind where the honey is subject to high forms of heat which can destroy its nutrients. I like to put Honey mainly in tea or if I’m making a protein shake after a workout.

Blackstrap Molasses

I am fairly new to using Molasses but before I bought my first bottle, I did my research on it. I chose unsulfured Blackstrap Molasses because it comes from mature sugar cane. Molasses that come from young sugar cane need sulfur during the extraction process and I like my sugars as minimally processed as possible. Not having the sulfur can also result in better flavor. When I first tried it in my cereal, I thought it had a really strong caramel taste. If you’re thinking of using it for the first time, its best to try it with a recipe with the exact amounts or put smaller amounts at first. I mainly use molasses for sweetening my oatmeal but I don’t use a lot of it. I have yet to try it for baking because i don’t do much of it but it can withstand heat which makes it ideal for baking.

Molasses is a great source of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. One (1) tablespoon of it supposedly contains about 20% of our daily value for these minerals.

Palm Syrup

The syrup that started my research. I was so surprised how rich Palm Syrup tastes. To me, it has a light caramel flavor. This is probably the lowest calorie syrup amongst all the syrups I’ve mentioned in this post. It has about 40 calories per 1 tablespoon. I found that I don’t need to use a lot of it because I like it mainly for the flavor and not the sweetness. It has a dark brown color and a similar consistency as maple syrup. Like Molasses, Palm Syrup contains potassium and calcium.

Of all the sweeteners I’ve mentioned this is probably the most difficult to find and when you do find it, it is rather pricey. The one I found is left over from the cleanse I mentioned earlier in this post and costs about $47 for a 1 litre bottle. I also put this syrup in my oatmeal and it makes my pancakes tastes amazing. This would have bee the best sugar substitute in my book if not for the difficulty of finding it.

Should You Make the Switch to Natural Sweeteners?

In my opinion, moderation is the key when it comes to carbohydrates and sugars. Carbohydrates are so commonly available in our society nowadays that we have to be more aware of our carbohydrate intake. I love sweets but I’ve learned to moderate my sugar consumption. Natural sweeteners are a great alternative to sugar because you are getting some vitamins and minerals from it but we have to remember that its still sugar and it still affects our insulin and blood sugar levels just the same. Long story short, use them to add more flavor to your meals but use them moderately.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below.

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The Meal Frequency Conspiracy

The Meal Frequency Conspiracy

Posted on 19. Jun, 2011 by .


After writing about managing stress in my last post, “The Super Stealth Fat Loss Destroyer,” meal frequency came to mind. What does meal frequency have to do with stress? Since my time is very limited due to my hectic schedule, I found that I do not have time to cook more elaborate, time consuming meals. In addition, my stress makes 2 full 24-hour, Eat Stop Eat (ESE) style fasts a lot more difficult to get through. This is the reason I’ve never really been a fan of eating 5-6 meals a day. First, I don’t have time to stop, prepare, and eat those meals. Second, I’ve tried higher frequency meals before with not-so-great results. Some people, like bodybuilders, may do well in these types of protocols but I guess it’s just not suitable to my metabolism and lifestyle.

My New Favorite Fasting Protocol

So, in an effort to manage my weight and not add stress to my life (by worrying about what I’m going to eat during the day), I looked for a solution that incorporates some type of fast while also keeping my meals on the low frequency side. So, I read my previous article, “,” and figured out what fit my current situation best. While the Lean Gains protocol sounded interesting, it was too complicated for me. So, I kept looking. In that same post, I also talked about IF life by Mike O’Donnell. I was intrigued by his 2 Meal solution program and the coaching that came with it.


My immediate reaction was to e-mail Mike and asked him how his program is different from Eat Stop Eat. I was expecting some generic answer but Mike really took the time to answer my question and tailored his answer to it. Here is a copy of the response I got from him:



After his answer, it was clear that I want to find out more about the 2 Meal Solution and how it was going to help simplify my life. Two meals a day sounded really good to me. So, I signed up for the program and the coaching e-mails.

The Super Simple 2 Meal Solution Protocol

  • Low calorie days with 2 meals condensed in an eating window of your preference
  • Free eating days when you can eat whatever you want within reason

After my first 2 weeks of switching my fasting style to the 2 Meal Solution protocol, I lost 3 pounds without even trying. This means that I didn’t really go out of my way to buy groceries I would not normally buy or create a nutrition plan. I just stuck to mainly eating whole foods on my low calorie, 2 meal days.

The best part for me with this protocol is I set what Mike calls “free eating days” during the weekends. These are days when I was able to eat junk foods or not-so-healthy options at a reasonable amount because my husband and I tend to eat out on these days. Three (3) pounds or 1.5 lbs a week may not sound like a lot to most people but keep in mind that I did this with minimal effort. My workouts included about 40 minutes of interval style strength training, 3 times a week and I was at a plateau for a very long time. Given that situation, my results are quite amazing.

My experience also goes to prove that eating higher frequency or 5-6 meals per day is not necessary to lose fat/weight.

Mike has also switched his coaching e-mails to 5-minute daily videos which are so helpful as he reinforces the most important principles of the 2 Meal Solution E-book in them.

Is the 2 Meal Solution for You?

If you like ESE but haven’t been able to get your 24-hour fasts like I was, this may be a great alternative for you. The people who will do well in this program are the people who don’t like to have snacks or smaller meals throughout the day. One factor that I tend to use when it comes to incorporating new diets into my lifestyle is “compliancy.” If you are able to consistently follow it for long periods of time because it fits your lifestyle, then it will work really well for you. On that same note, if you get your hands on a well designed diet program but are not able to follow it, it will not do you any good.

How I Plan to Use the 2 Meal Solution

I plan to continually use the 2 Meal Solution protocol for as long as it fits my lifestyle at most 5 days a week. But, when I am at my ideal body weight and do not need to lose any more fat, I will practice it 3 days out of the week with more moderate eating days in between. The plan is very flexible. Just make sure that you do not bend the rules too much (which there aren’t a lot of) on your condensed eating days when you get to your goal weight or percent body fat. If you want to find out more about Mike O’Donnel’s protocol, go here: 2 Meal Solution.

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How to Look Fit and Still Look Feminine

How to Look Fit and Still Look Feminine

Posted on 13. Feb, 2011 by .


Note: The rest of the post will be talking mostly to women and how they can achieve the fit and feminine look. Guys, please feel fee to forward the information to your lady friends 🙂

Okay, I admit, I have done workouts that were designed for men before. I did not have a lot of choices back then. I was also still learning a lot of new things about fat loss, health and fitness during those days. I also did not know I can achieve a certain look with my workouts or even control how I end up looking when I reach my fitness goals. Today, thanks to John Barban and Rusty Moore, women now have many workout program choices in terms of getting the feminine look while still looking fit and without looking like you’re trying too hard in the gym. Let’s be honest – women do not want to look like a “she-male.” That is not a very attractive look.

The current trend I’m seeing is there are now more and more workout programs designed for women. If you’re a regular subscriber of my blog, you’ve probably read my blog post about one of the things I learned from the Venus Index. If you have not done that, you can read it here: “How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?”

So, instead of doing a “review” of Rusty Moore’s Visual Impact for Women (which is a wonderful resource for women of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels), I wanted to share with you one thing I learned that will help women achieve the fit but still feminine look.

How to Get Toned Muscles, Not Bigger Muscles

Rusty discusses the concept of Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy versus Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. He explains these concepts in a very simple way that everyone can understand:

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy is an increase in the muscle cell fluid (called sarcoplasm) within the muscle cell. This is a fast way to increase the size of a muscle, but since sarcoplasm is a fluid and can’t contract…it won’t make the muscle significantly stronger.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is actual muscle fiber growth. Since muscle fibers can contract, growth in this area leads to dramatic improvements in strength. This leads to very limited gains in muscle size.


By looking at these definitions, we can say that if you’re a woman who is happy with the size of your muscles but want to gain strength and increase the density of your muscles then you would want to stick to Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. In practical terms, this would translate to about 5 repetitions per exercise per muscle group.

One example that can make these concepts more clear to you would be women who are content with the size of their arm muscles but want to increase the tone and density of those muscles. These women would have to perform 5 repetitions of arm exercises for about 4-5 sets. The goal is not to go to “failure” which is the point when you can not lift a weight anymore because when you reach this point, you will be training your muscles to get bigger.

Another example that Rusty gave was one with women who may have bigger hips or thicker legs than they would like and are having trouble finding a pair of jeans that fit comfortably. If you are one of these women and you would like to decrease the circumference of your hips and legs but want to maintain the muscles in those areas, Rusty suggests you do not perform and butt and leg exercises but use the “Fat Torching Cardio” strategy which he included in the program. I’ve come to know Rusty’s cardio strategies to be very effective because I have been using them for the last 12 weeks. He takes High Intensity Intervals to the next level so you can burn off free fatty acids in your system after your workouts.

Who is Visual Impact for Women For

Besides the obvious fact that this program is designed for women, this would be a great fit for women who want to learn (and really learn) more about how they can still look fit and feminine without looking like they’re trying too hard. When I say “really learn,” I mean learning the concepts and reasons behind how the workout program is designed so you make your own tweaks to it based on how you want your body to look. If you have a thicker midsection, you will learn how you can make it smaller. If you have bigger calves than you would like, you would learn how to make it smaller. Seriously, the possibilities are endless and you will not be stuck with a generic program that’s designed for everyone else.


Besides the concepts I discussed here which I thought were really ground breaking since you will not read them on popular women’s fitness magazines, you will learn a lot more helpful strategies that will make fat loss simpler for you. Rusty specializes in techniques on how to get ready for a big event, like a wedding or a once in a lifetime vacation, and he does not skimp on the content.

Even if you don’t buy this product today, Rusty has some tips over at his blog about creating a fit, feminine look. You can check it out here: “Visual Impact for Women, Jazzed to Introduce My New Women’s Course

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How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

How Many Calories Should I Eat Daily?

Posted on 21. Nov, 2010 by .


A common question I get asked a lot is, “how many calories should I eat daily?.” This is a very good question because, as I’ve said over and over again, the basic principle of weight loss is calories in, calories out. If you violate this rule, you will have a difficult time seeing weight loss. I guarantee it.

I’ve given you a resource for calculating calorie deficit before and you can instantly download this tool from this article: “How to Calculate Your Calorie Deficit”. This tool will give you a good estimate of how many calories you should consume daily but I’ve found that, sometimes, the numbers can be way too high for people outside of the average population which most of these calculations are based on. If you are within the average population, your actual number may vary by a difference of 100-200 calories a day. In reality, this is only a rough starting point. But, after reading a recent e-book from Brad Pilon, I happened upon a better way to calculate your daily calorie intake.

You will most likely remember Brad Pilon as the author of Eat Stop Eat but recently, he came out with a joint project called, Venus Index. Pilon wrote the nutrition manual for Venus Index (VI) while his partner in crime, John Barban, created the amazing workouts. While I’m not ready to fully review the Venus Index yet, I’d like to talk about what I learned from Brad on the nutrition standpoint so far.

The nutrition manual for VI is entitled, “Body Centric Eating Manual.” Brad defines body centric eating as (his own words exactly): With Body-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is a specific body weight and shape. We simply eat to obtain then maintain this shape and weight. With Calorie-Centric Eating, the ‘end goal’ is to eat a mathematically pre-determined amount of calories with hopes that this number will lead to weight loss. Brad also goes on to say that your calorie needs are largely determined by your height and your activity level. We’d like to think that having more muscle or eating more protein will help increase our metabolism which they do, but the increase in metabolism is not significant enough to make a difference in our weight loss efforts. But, I digress…


[Just so you know, the body shape I’m going for is what Jessica Biel sports in this picture]

Brad then gave an ideal weight range for men and women based on their height and the minimum calorie intake we should be eating during extended periods of weight loss. For instance, for me (a female) with a height of 5’4″, my ideal weight range is 108 to 139 lbs. Based on my height, my minimum calorie intake is 1,250 calories a day. This number is lower than what I previously calculated since it does not take into account my activity level because this is a body centric equation. But what this number will do though is it will help me move towards my ideal body shape no matter what my activity level is. With the Venus Index, they suggest you do not go over 50% of your height. In my case, my waist should ideally be 40% of my height which is 25.5 inches.

Keep in mind that I don’t intend to eat 1,250 calories a day. I love food so much that eating as little as this is simply not sustainable. I would go off track on my 3rd day most likely…lol. It’s a great thing I use Eat Stop Eat. Brad suggests to treat 1,250 calories as a rolling average. This means I can have a 24 hour fast eating no calories at all so I can eat a lot more than 1,250 during the days I do eat. If I have confused you already, here is how my daily calorie intake looks like:

  • Monday – Start Fast after lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Tuesday – end fast at lunch, eat only 850 calories
  • Wednesday – full day of eating, eat 1,750 calories

Since I ate 400 calories less than what I’m supposed to 2 days in a row, I can eat an extra 800 calories on the days I do eat. What I tend to do is save these extra calories over the weekend when my husband and I go out to a nice restaurant or go to a social gathering of some sort. If I add in another 24-hour fast to my week, that is a whopping 1,600 calories extra I can eat over the weekend or on days I’d like to eat more. Now, you can see how I can maintain this “rolling average” of 1,250 calories a day even when I eat more on certain days. To make this simpler, if I multiplied 1,250 by 7 days, I have 8,750 calories to play with during the week and distribute it however I want. So, maybe the right question is “how many calories should I eat in a week?” instead of “how many calories should I eat daily?”.

What Brad has created here is a beautiful thing. Trying to lose weight or “dieting” no longer means canceling all your social functions or dinner with friends because “you can’t eat that stuff.” Really, this is as flexible as you can get. I wish I can post the actual table that Pilon used in the manual but I feel that I will be giving away too much information which he many not appreciate 🙂

But, if you are fully invested in getting results, I suggest you get the manual right now while it is still 40% off. You can get it here: Venus Index Systems. This is hands down, a great investment which will change the way you eat and the way you workout.

This is also one of the best programs developed for women and women only which means that you are not doing some workout designed for a dude. I don’t want to say too much about the workout yet because I am still reviewing it at this moment (i.e. actually doing the workouts in the real world which is my lab…haha) but if you just get this because you are interested in the “Body Centric Eating Manual,” you would have gotten your money’s worth already. All I can say about the workouts is I’m having fun with them.

Happy “dieting”!

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Top 2 Ab Flattening Strategies that Work

Top 2 Ab Flattening Strategies that Work

Posted on 15. Aug, 2010 by .


Let’s face it, a lot of us have stubborn areas of fat that we just can’t seem to get rid of no matter what we do. Well, that is if you haven’t tried the two strategies that I’m about to talk about. Just a note before I move on, this is not your typical fitness article telling you to eat the right foods and move more. Those help but these two strategies are even more powerful because it works from the inside. You will see what I mean as I talk about how these strategies work.

The techniques I’m talking about will not be very new to you but I will go deeper into how they work. I’m talking about fasting and the elimination diet. If you have done them before, you may know that they really work to get rid of stubborn areas of fat but you may not have known how they work. Let’s talk about that now…

Fasting and Hormones

Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat (ESE), talks about the hormonal changes that happen in our bodies during a fast. I will discuss some of the main hormones in this post but if you’d like a detailed explanation for each of the hormones involved (and there are many other besides the ones I talk about here), I suggest you read his book.

The first and very important hormone in fasting or digestion in general is insulin. Our pancreas releasse insulin after we eat a meal and our body goes into fat storing mode. During fasting or times when we do not have food in our system, our insulin levels go down which means that we go into fat burning mode. Because we do not have any food to burn for energy during this time, our body burns our stored body fat for energy instead. This is the beauty of fasting – burning stored body fat!

Fasting has also been scientificially shown to increase insulin sensitivity. This can be especially beneficial to people who have diabetes in their family like I do. Diabetes happens when the insulin hormone is no longer responsive to the changes in your blood sugar. As a result, your body would not be able to lower glucose levels in your body. When you increase insulin sensitivity through fasting, your body will become more efficient at regulating your blood sugars which lowers your risk for diabetes. This is one of the major reasons I turned to fasting because both sides of my family are prone to diabetes.

The other major hormone involved during fasting is growth hormone. Growth hormone is popular among the rich and famous because of its fat burning and muscle building effects. Celebrities pay huge amounts of money to be injected with growth hormone. But, regular folks like us can harness the power of growth hormones through fasting. During fasts, our growth hormone levels go up which means our body burns even more fat in combination with the lack of insulin in our system. Plus, we build muscle which we all know is an active tissue which burns even more calories.

As you can see, all these hormonal responses favor fat burning and because the effects are happening at the hormonal level, the changes are even more powerful. In essence, we are making long term physiological changes each time we fast at the same time that we are reducing our calorie intake.

Eliminating Toxins and Allergens

You’ve heard me talk about the elimination diet before. If you need a refresher on that, read this series starting with this post: Starting the Elimination Diet.

dairy products

For this particular diet, I eliminated wheat, dairy, caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. These are the most common foods or food components that are toxic to our body or cause allergic reactions because they are so prevalent in our food supply. In general, we store toxins in our fat cells. If you’re familiar with the process of osmosis, liquids follow the direction where there’s more solutes or toxins. For example, when we have toxins in our fat cells, liquids follow the toxins causing us to store extra fluids in our fat cells. It just so happens that these toxins mainly reside in the fat cells under our belly button (that little pooch in our lower abs that we all hate…lol). So, once we free our bodies of toxins, the fluids follow and we eliminate stubborn areas of fat.

Not everyone is sensitive to all the foods listed above but you would not be able to tell what the culprit is if you do not completely eliminate it from your diet and introduce it back to see how it affects you. For instance, I eliminated peanuts or peanut butter from my diet for several days, after just one tablespoon of peanut butter, I felt bloated and gassy. I know it’s too much information but this is very important information you’d like to know about your body since food sensitivities can cause some serious problems in the long run besides difficulty losing weight. Once you find which foods you are particularly sensitive to and avoid them, you will find that you have less bulge in stubborn areas, prevent unwanted weight gain, and reduced digestive problems.

These two strategies have been particularly helpful to me and my clients and they are highly effective once you follow them routinely. From experience, I’ve also found that they are not very difficult to follow as long as you plan your days ahead. If you have any questions about any of the ideas discussed here, please do not hesitate to post them below.

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A Lesson I learned at the Coffee Shop

A Lesson I learned at the Coffee Shop

Posted on 27. Jun, 2010 by .


I was at a coffee shop the other day while having some quality talk time with a friend. On any other day, I probably would have indulged myself with a delicious vanilla latte but this day was different. It was a fast day. So, I opted for a cup of chai tea instead. I told the barista specifically that I did not want anything added to the drink, not even milk. To my surprise, the chai tea had a sweetness to it. I’m not the type of person to complain and I didn’t want to interrupt my chat with my friend so I just proceeded to drink my tea knowing that it’s probably just a natural sweetness to the tea.


Later on, it was still bugging me that my tea was sweet so I called the coffee shop to ask if there was any added sugar to my drink. When the barista looked at the box where the chai tea came from, she said it had cane juice and honey. It had 90 calories per tea bag! I found it disappointing that when I chose not to have any calories or sweets added to my drinks, I still ended up drinking 90 calories of it. To add insult to injury, I did on a fast day!

Now, I do not want you to think that I’m this person who watches her calories strictly and have a very restricted diet. If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ll know that I am quite a foodie and fasting has given me a great way to enjoy food while also maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. So, I probaby would not have cared if this incident happened on any other day other than my fast day. But, it left me to think about just how many calories everyone else gets from their drinks. I usually drink water and the occasional latte. I rarely if ever drink sodas so this is not a big issue for me. But, for those people who has a habit of drinking sodas, even diet sodas, they might want to start thinking about it more often.

Hidden Calories in Drinks

Many people are awared of calories in foods. In fact, a new law from Obama’s health care plan mandates restaurants with more than one location to have nutrition facts available to their customers. But, a lot of people forget to count calories in their drinks. This may seem like a simple thing from the surface but with our waist lines expanding more than ever and our health risks increasing each year, we ought to start worrying about these hidden calories. Even companies who make diet sodas have a way of going around the law to say “zero calories” on ther labels.

Here is what I mean: If a serving of a food item contains less than 1 gram of a particular nutrient, it does not have to be counted on the label. In reality, if a serving of a drink has .9 grams of sugar, it is still considered “zero calories.” That is totally fine if you’re like me and you do not use artificial sweeteners all the time. But, if you’re a big time diet soda drinker and drinks them 10 times a day, those supposedly “zero calories” definitely add up. Additionally, most drinks have more than 1 serving. So, if you had the whole bottle, you’re definitely taking in more sugar than you think.

I’m not saying to abandon the whole idea of having zero calorie drinks at all. I like the fact that I can have my cake and eat it too, sometimes. Everything is fine in moderation right? But, drinking my calories does not give me that much pleasure so I would not do it too often. I guess this article talks more to those people who have the habit of drinking their calories or do not think about them. Just remember, everything is good in moderation with moderation being defined as maybe one sugary drink once or twice a month or a single serving of a zero calorie drink once a day. Really, your body will thank you later. We can increase the quality of our lives by simply eating less. I see that as the easiest thing we can do right now to lengthen our life spans. Why not do it now?

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Nutrition Plan Hacks to Control Your Calories

Nutrition Plan Hacks to Control Your Calories

Posted on 18. Apr, 2010 by .


Lately, I have been thinking about how I can save even more calories but still enjoy my favorite foods. This idea came to me when I still wanted to eat something sweet while watching “Gran Torino” which is a great movie, by the way. This lead me to think about my top 3 nutrition hacks so I can still eat without sending my calorie intake through the roof.

Reducing Calorie Content But Not the Volume

I learned this strategy from following the Precision Nutrition (PN) plan when I’m not fasting. Basically, you can eat the same food and reduce the amount of calories in it without reducing the volume. For example, if you already eat plain yogurt with your fruits, you can switch to fat-free, plain yogurt instead. One cup of regular plain yogurt has about 120 calories while the same amount of fat-free yogurt is about 90 calories. You can also apply this idea to foods like whole milk vs. fat-free milk, white rice vs. brown rice, cottage cheese, etc. This is also a great trick for your eyes and your tummy because it usually can’t tell the difference in volume but you’re still saving calories.

Heather's Farro Recipe from

Heather's Farro Recipe from

Eat High Protein Grains

Eating high protein grains is one nutrition strategy is especially helpful for vegetarians or for people who are looking to add more protein into their nutrition plans but still want to enjoy their carbohydrates. Here is a list of grains that have more protein compared to rice at a serving of 1/4 cup:

  • Farro – this a whole grain much like barley and wheatberries but it has 6 g of protein per 1/4 cup compared to brown rice which has 1 g of protein for the same amount. Check out this great Farro recipe from
  • Quinoa – we are all familiar with Quinoa by now. This grain has 7 g of protein.
  • Grain Amaranth – another grain that originated from Asia and South Americas. This grain has 7 g of protein.
  • Hemp Bread – this is a lot like Sprouted Grain Breads but is a nice change if you’ve been eating those for awhile. You can find these at the bread aisle of your local grocery store. Each slice of bread has 100 calories and 6.5 g of protein. If you want to see if your local grocery store carries them, go to and click on store locator.

When you eat high protein grains, you are also eating less carbs. That was obvious but I thought I’d still mention it.

Keeping it sweet but Reducing Sugar Content

So, I ended up getting a medium cup of French Vanilla cappuccino from 7-eleven to enjoy with Gran Torino. But, when I started giving up a lot of my sweets addiction, this cappuccino just tasted too sweet for me. So, to lessen the sweetness, I’d only pour the French Vanilla about a third of a cup and then fill up the rest with regular or decaffeinated coffee. This is a happy medium for me because I so love the flavor of French Vanilla but didn’t want all the added sugar. I haven’t actually applied this strategy to other foods since I try to avoid sugary stuff most of the time but if you want to sweeten things up without jacking up the calories, adding stevia is always a good option.

There you go, nutrition hacks that you can apply right away while still enjoying your favorite foods and not feeling like you’re depriving yourself. Thanks for reading my post and I look forward to your comments.

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Green Tea and Fat Loss: Is there a Correlation?

Green Tea and Fat Loss: Is there a Correlation?

Posted on 11. Apr, 2010 by .


The other day, I was trying to review my healthy habits and what I have changed or kept over the last several months. I realized that since I quit my desk job, I stopped drinking green tea. Before, I would drink green tea instead of water all throughout the day and always have a cup sitting by my computer screen. This keeps me warm and also helps me drink at least 5 cups of green tea a day.

So, why drink green tea?

You’ve probably heard that green tea is a great source of antioxidants. But, what you may not know is that it also contains other vitamins and minerals such as chromium, manganese, and other phytochemicals. But, the most important one is a polyphenol called epigallocatechin or EGCG. This polyphenol basically works with the caffeine in green tea to help increase fatty acid oxidation (use of fatty acids), block the development of fat cells, reduce fat absorption and increase fat secretion. Best of all, both of them combined also helps increase metabolism. As you can see, all these conditions favor fat loss. All of these benefits were proven by research and you can view the reference at the end of the post. The recommended dose that they found with the study that is effective for fat loss and good health in general is 3-10 cups per day.

So, starting this weekend, I started brewing my green tea again on a regular basis. I am now up to 2 cups per day and I’m working my way up to having more as the days pass. The other strategy that I plan to start doing is to drink cold green tea like an iced tea. Basically, I will brew at least 20 cups of tea over the weekend, put it in the fridge, and let it cool down. I will then use this “iced tea” as my water during workouts or just water in general. This will also help me increase my water consumption in general.

The other thing that I like about drinking green tea is that it helps take the edge off myy desire to eat more after having a meal. You know those times when after you eat, you still feel a little hungry? (I hope you do because then that would mean that I’m normal…LOL). It is for this reason I drink my green tea after meals too.

If you’d like more information about green tea, you can read this page about it on That article talks about the different types of green tea and the proper way of brewing it. When preparing my green tea, I turn off the heat just before boiling point so that the tea leaves would not taste burned or overcooked. I then steep the tea in the hot water for about 1-2 minutes before drinking it. I also don’t add any sugar to my tea because this will just defeat the purpose of drinking it for health 🙂

Do you practice drinking green tea? If so, what kind of benefits have you gotten from it? Let me know in the comments section below.


European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.47
“Epigallocatechin-3-gallate and postprandial fat oxidation in overweight/obese male volunteers: a pilot study”
Authors: F. Thielecke, G. Rahn, J. Böhnke, F. Adams, A.L. Birkenfeld, J. Jordan, M. Boschmann

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