Tag Archives: Nutrition

The One Muscle You Should Exercise Everyday

The One Muscle You Should Exercise Everyday

Posted on 31. Jan, 2010 by .


Let’s face it – many people fall off and on the healthy lifestyle wagon all the time. There are many so called “yo-yo dieters” who lose the weight only to go back to their old habits and gain double the weight they lost before they started a diet in the first place. I, myself, have experienced this “diet” roller coaster and lately, I have been thinking why this is.

I have come to the conclusion that fat loss or living a healthy lifestyle has a lot to do with your mind/brain and/or how you think. I may have realized this awhile ago but I just never thought about it as deeply as I have at this very moment.

I can train my mind to always come to this place whenever I get stressed. It's a nice place to go to.

I can train my mind to always come to this place whenever I get stressed. It's a nice place to go to.

Ok, so the brain is not a muscle (I just thought it would be a cool title) but it is worth exercising everyday because your success, in fat loss or anything in your life, depends A LOT upon it. If you were to look at people who are successful in anything, you would find that they are usually optimistic, motivated, and disciplined (among other things) people. The important thing to note here is that these successful people did not get like this overnight. Everyone sucks in the beginnning – at anything. What you and I need to know is: perfect practice makes perfect.

How do you do this? Recently, a client of mine brought to my attention a book called The Beck Diet Solution. It is a book created by Dr. Judith Beck who is a psychiatrist that specializes in Cognitive Therapy. The book teaches you many ways to deal with “dieting” and the many pitfalls associated with it. [Note: if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you would know that I like diets because they help you practice the skills you need to succceed but I don’t recommend having the diet mentality in the long run.]

Here are some tips that would help you stay on track and help “train your brain” in terms of “dieting.”

#1 Practice Your Resistance Muscles

If you are starting a new diet plan, it may be difficult for you to resist food temptations in the beginning or maybe even towards the end. The key to being successful during this time is to practice resisting these temptations. Just like in working out, you need to exercise your resistance consistently so that it will get easier later. This could be something simple as saying, “No, thank you,” over and over again to the foods that are offered to you at a party.

Dr. Beck says that it takes at least 20 times for people to practice resistance before it gets easier or becomes a habit. So, the next time you feel that you need to have a midnight snack or buy that candy bar at the cashier counter, resist the urge and keep doing so until you don’t want to do it anymore.

#2 Prepare for Bumps Along the Road

We all have it, we get stressed, we get emotional, we get busy, etc. That’s life. Life will always throw things at you and catch you off guard. This reminds me of my recent experience of starting my own business while my husband was deployed in Kuwait. I didn’t realize the emotional and physical toll that it will have on my body. These events have caught me off guard which caused me to lose sight of some of my fitness goals and some weight gain. At the time, I didn’t realize what was happening until I was able to pin point the things that are causing the change in my behavior and decided to deal with it.

You may get stressed by a new job, a looming deadline for a big project, adapting to a new place after moving, getting married, etc. Name it and I’m sure it will affect your behavior in terms of your fitness goals. The key to staying strong during these times is to recognize that they will pass and you don’t need food to make you feel better or that you need to keep doing your workouts to de-stress. Really pay attention to how your behavior is changed by an event and stick to your plan even when you don’t feel like it.

#3 Fight Cravings with an Alternative Habit

Dr. Beck describes cravings as a physiological and emotionally intense urge to eat. Usually cravings can occur even when you’re not hungry and they usually occur during emotional depressions or arousals. She suggests dealing with cravings by having an alternative habit when you have them such as walking your dog, drinking hot tea, listening to your favorite music, going for a swim, reading a good book, etc. This strategy will greatly help you if you find something that you enjoy doing. At the same time, it also requires practice on your part and some trial and error to find and form these new habits.

#4 Tell a friend

Our friends/family can be a source of strength during times of weakness. Recruit the help of your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or best friend to help you accountable for your actions. You would want to either e-mail, text, or call this person whenever you have a craving or desire to eat something that’s not on your plan. Sometimes, the simple act of just telling someone about your craving (or any diet difficulty) and having them talk you out of it or having them remind you of why you’re doing this in the first place will help you get out of that mindset that you have to give in. This is a great tool and one that everyone should practice whenever the situation occurs.

#5 Understand that Hunger is not an emergency

Many people tend to get moody or easily angered when they are hungry. One thing that I learned from practicing Eat Stop Eat (ESE) is that my hunger usually only lasts about 5-10 minutes. I have been through more worse physical discomfort in the past such as a tooth ache, strong headache, back pain, etc. The discomfort from hunger is nothing compared to the discomfort I’ve felt with these. Thankfully, I haven’t been injured as I can imagine that a broken leg or arm would be even worse.

The one thing to realize here is that most people tend to confuse hunger with a desire to eat. If you just ate a meal or a snack and you feel “hungry” again, chances are you just want to eat. If you want to distinguish between feeling hungry and just having a desire to eat, try fasting for 24 hours. Then, you would really know what real hunger feels like.

#6 The Advantages List

One tool that Dr. Beck has you do on the The Beck Diet Solution is to create an “Advantages List” on day 1. Basically, you would create a list of at least 20 things that you will have once you have reached your goal and read them first thing in the morning and during times of weaknesses. Here is a sample list:

  • I want to have more self-confidence.
  • I want to look better.
  • I want to be healthier.
  • I want to have more energy.
  • I want to be less self-conscious.
  • I want to wear more fashionable clothes.
  • I want to wear size 5 jeans and feel great about it.
  • I want to look great in a bikini.
  • I want to feel strong.
  • I want to be able to keep up with my kids.
  • I want to look younger than my real age.
  • I want to have a strong immune system.
  • I want to look HOT!

Take note that each advantage should be written in a positive light instead of a negative tone such as “I don’t want to get sick.”

Having been able to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle, I realize that simply having a nutrition and workout plan is not enough. You also have to have a plan for dealing with the way you think and undoing your old, mostly destructible habits. Also, finding a balanced, healthy lifestyle, knowing that you can make mistakes, and eat the not-so-healthy foods every now and then is what would really help you maintain your success in the long run.

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3 Ways to Break the Fat Loss Plateau

3 Ways to Break the Fat Loss Plateau

Posted on 24. Jun, 2009 by .


I want to pull my hair everytime I overhear someone say that people reach a fat loss plateau because they are gaining muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. While this is true – this little known fact has been misconstrued over and over again because people want to believe that they are not losing weight because they are gaining muscle.

First, I’m a firm advocate of taking your body fat measurements as an added assessment of your progress besides your weight. You can read more about this topic in this post –>
“3 Reasons Why the BMI is obsolete”. In short, measuring your body fat gives you a more accurate idea of whether your losing or gaining fat and losing or gaining muscle mass.

So, what can you do when you reach a fat loss plateau?

It all goes down to your calorie deficit. Despite all the hype on fat loss, new fitness equipments, diet pills, fad diets, etc., fat loss only occurs when you are spending more calories than you are consuming – a very basic principle yet it is also very powerful.

Below, you will read about 2 simple guidelines that would be perfect for people who have been doing structured workouts and who have a good idea of their daily calorie intake. If you’re not one of those people, don’t despair. Read all the way to the end and I have a few suggestions for you as well.

#1 Increase Your Physical Activity

For people who have a structured exercise routine, increasing physical activity just might be the answer to create a deeper calorie deficit. For instance, I do my kettlebell training 3 times a week and perform some type of light activity on my light days. In order to burn more calories than I am eating without changing my calorie intake, I can add 2 additional days in which I can do high intensity intervals on the treadmill or at the local park. I can do these intervals either on my days off or at the end of my kettlebell training. Either way, adding the intervals would not likely impair me for my actual workouts but, in the end, I will be burning more calories than usual.

Intervals Outdoors

Intervals Outdoors

Besides burning more calories, increasing and adding a different type of physical activity will add variety to the stress that is place on your body. By doing this, you are sort of putting your body into “shock” and giving it a nice surprise to boost your metabolism. Every now and then, your body needs a different type of activity because it is an efficient system that can adapt to stress especially if that stress is exercise.

If you decide to add your extra activity on your off days, you will also take advantage of the effect called, “Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.” Basically, after the stress caused by any form of physical activity, EPOC is the body’s response to bring your body back to where is was before the exercise – this stage is called “homeostasis” which means everything is on the “same, stable condition.” In order to do this, your body needs to use your body’s “stored energy” to restore your normal bodily functions which will increase your metabolism and, ultimately, the calories you burn.

#2 Reduce Your Food Portions

So, nothing has changed in your diet. You’ve been keeping it “clean.” How come you’re still not losing weight? I would suggest doing #1 first and see what happens. If after you’ve increased your physical activity and you reached a plateau again or your body fat measurements are still not moving then, it’s time to look at your nutrition.

At some point, even people who have developed a healthy eating lifestyle or whose nutrition does not deviate much from healthy eating (i.e. eat the right foods, know how many calories are in each meal, eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fat etc.) will reach a fat loss plateau.

One reason why this happens is: they are no longer in a calorie deficit. Ok, let me explain by giving an example from my own experience. When I initially calculated by calorie deficit at 130 lbs, I was eating 1,690 (130 lbs x 13 – for simplicity purposes) calories per day. But, once I lost some weight and I’m down to 117 lbs, this calorie deficit requirement also goes down to 1,521 (117 lbs x 13) calories per day. So, if I kept eating as if I was still 130 lbs, my calorie deficit obviously gets smaller to the point that I’m eating closer to maintenance.

So, if this sounds like your situation, it might be time to calculate your calorie deficit again. You can do that by going –> here.

If you’re not the calorie counting type, you can simply reduce your food portions. For example, if you’re used to eating 1 cup of brown rice, reduce it to 1/2 a cup. If you eat a small snack at night, it might be good to take that out for a little bit. These are simple ways to cut your calories without being too obsessive compulsive with calorie counting.

#3 Start a workout and nutrition log

This is the tip for those who don’t follow structured workouts or don’t have a good idea of their calorie intake. There’s really no easy way to put this – you’ve got to find a structured workout and at least have an idea about the calorie contents in food. These logs are a way for you to track your progress or drawbacks because if you have a record of what you did, you will be able to tweak certain parts of it in order to generate change (then, do #1 and #2).

Finding structured workouts is not difficult these days. Besides Turbulence Training, there are many web sites out there that give away free workouts that are effective for fat loss. So, there’s really no excuse to scratch your head at the gym anymore because you’re wondering which exercise to do next (been there, done that, never going back).

As far as nutrition goes, Sparkpeople.com is a great place to find healthy recipes, count your calories, and keep a log of your nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to count calories all the time (I don’t like to do it either) but it is the only way to develop a keen sense of the calorie contents in foods. Once you’re familiar with this, you won’t have to do it at all if you don’t want to.

Fat loss is not easy but it can be simple. There is a learning curve in this journey but if you educate yourself and follow the right advice, you will be ahead of the game and you will save yourself a lot of headache and frustrations in the long run. I always say that the “hard way” is usually not the easiest way but its probably the shortest, most effective way to getting results.

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The 90% Rule

Posted on 04. Mar, 2009 by .


Lately, I have been reading in other blogs and forum threads about nutrition mishaps – meaning that they either binged or just made some bad food choices. Just like them, I also have a bit of trouble in this deparment (don’t we all?) and so as one of my strategies in approaching this issue is to closely monitor my “cheat meals” by following the 90% rule.

What is the 90% rule?

I originally heard of the 90% rule from Dr. John Berardi, creator of Precision Nutrition. The rule states that you can still have amazing results if you follow a good nutrition plan 90% of the time. To be more specific, I’ll give you my example.

On the nutrition stand point

I routinely eat 5 meals a day (on the days that I’m not fasting – that is) which give me a total of 35 (5 meals/day x 7 days) meals per week. I just use this number even on the days that I fast. So, this means that I can eat 3.5 (35 x .1 or 10%) cheat meals and still get great results! The idea is the 10% leeway will not affect your results heavily because you are in 90% compliance anyway. Isn’t that great news? I mean even the most disciplined person in the world needs a little wiggle room every once in awhile right? So, why do it 100% when you can still get the same results at 90%? The one problem with this though is that some people will take this 10% and make it into 20% or even 50%. This is one reason why I want to track my meals in some way (more on this later).

From the workouts stand point

The 90% rule applies to your workouts as well. Since I go to the gym 3x a week and follow a specific program for 4 weeks, I can miss one workout and still see some nice changes. Now, working out and eating are two totally different creatures for me. I love working out – I like the high that I get from it. I see it as a way for me to keep the stress levels down as well. Even on some days when I’m just feeling blah and not really motivated to get my butt to the gym – I still end up going because I look forward to that feeling after a great workout. Now, if you talk to me about the nutrition side of things – that’s totally different story, my friend.

So why did I bring up the 90% rule?

Partly because, I really want to start actually marking off my meal chart with my cheat meals so that I’ll know that I’m really in 90% compliance and not 85% or 75%. I got a chart from my Precision Nutrition purchase but if you want a poor man’s (or woman’s) version, Maggie Wang, created one here. You’d have scroll to the bottom of the post to download the pdf file. I need a chart like this because I have a hard time remembering what I eat/ate unless I write it down or track it in some way (can’t imagine how sharp I would be several years down the road…lol). It may sound tedious but it really isn’t. Think of it as a way to see your progress just as you would your % body fat or other measurements.

Before I conclude, I’d like to add that the 90% rule is helpful in terms of eating healthy and not thinking of fat loss in terms of “dieting.” Incorporate the 90% rule all the time and not just when you’re trying to lose weight. This way of thinking makes it a longer term plan instead of having the “yo-yo dieting” mindset. Remember that losing the weight is just as difficult as maintaining it so keep the rewards forever – you already worked hard for it, you might as well keep it.

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Eat Stop Eat and Protein

Posted on 23. Feb, 2009 by .


If you have been following my blog for some time now, chances are you’ve probably read about my amazing results with Eat Stop Eat (ESE). But, it just dawned on me that I actually haven’t talked about my actual experience with intermittent fasting as described by Brad Pilon in this e-book.

Eat Stop Eat

Eat Stop Eat

While I can’t go into details as to how the ESE style of intermittent fasting is carried out, I will talk about how I incorporate this lifestyle into my daily life and what feelings/effects I experience during the process.

Here we go…

On my fast days, I usually plan to fast from lunch to lunch. This means that if I plan to fast on Monday until Tuesday, my last meal on Monday is lunch. Then, my next meal on Tuesday is not until lunch time. So, if I normally eat breakfast, a morning snack and a lunch, I would eat these meals as usual. In the same sense, if I normally eat lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner, I would resume this normal eating schedule after my fast.

While the situation I just described seems simple enough, a lot of people are afraid of the fact that they would go for several hours without eating anything. I was one of those people. Knowing myself and how much I loved food, I didn’t think I can do it either. Fortunately, I already knew some people in the Turbulence Training Forums who were actually doing it so I thought that if they can do it, so can I.

My first fast was no problem at all. I wouldn’t say that it was easy but it was definitely doable. My day would go like this:

  • Afternoon – start to get hungry
  • Late afternoon to dinner time – hunger would go away
  • Before bed time – my hunger would return but it’s tolerable
  • Early morning (right after I wake up) – not hungry at all
  • All morning – I don’t even get the chance to think about/feel my hunger because I’m busy too with work

For me, hunger really is not a problem during my fast days. I even cook dinner for my husband while I’m fasting. So, it is definitely something you can get used to. The one big problem for me is that my extremities (hands and feet) get cold during the last few hours of my fast. Usually, if I fast once a week, the cold is not bad. But, if I fast for a second time during the same week then, I get really cold. I find this to be a problem for me especially during the winter time as I get cold easily to begin with. But, because I know and expect to be colder than usual, I usually try to wear something warm or bring a scarf or fingerless gloves with me during my second fast. Other than that, my fast days usually go pretty well and have some pretty nice benefits because:

  • I have some extra time in the morning because I don’t have to prepare and eat breakfast.
  • I prepare fewer meals since I won’t be eating my usual number of meals.
  • I save money on food.
  • I save time on food preparation and meal planning for the whole week.
  • I sleep better at night – this is a nice effect. I’m not sure why but I do get tired during my fasting nights.

As for my results with ESE, the pictures in my video really do speak for themselves. But, if you want some concrete numbers, I have lost 14 pounds and 8.2% body fat since I started practicing intermittent fasting on a regular basis. Of course, I still had to go to the gym 3 times a week and do my Turbulence Training workouts on top of intermittent fasting but ESE really helped make fat loss an easier goal to achieve. While, I also try to eat healthier on days that I’m not fasting, ESE gives me more room to “cheat” or eat “normal” foods than any other eating lifestyle available out there.

So, other than an easier way to lose fat, what more can a girl ask for? Well, I would like to know how much protein I really need to feed my muscles or which foods are the best sources to get it. To my delight, Brad wrote another e-book entitled, “How Much Protein?” and he even sent me a free copy through my e-mail just because I already purchased ESE. I was busy this past weekend and I didn’t get the chance to read the book yet but I know for sure that Brad has some great stuff to say.

How Much Protein?

How Much Protein?

If you’re curious as to how much protein you need, you can grab a copy of “How Much Protein?” by purchasing Eat Stop Eat. But, you gotta hurry because this promotion ends on Wednesday, February 25th.

If you have been on the fence about Eat Stop Eat, now is the time to finally try it for yourself. Besides myself, other TT Members and fitness bloggers have also found success with Eat Stop Eat. So what do you have to lose? A a few (or several) pounds of fat maybe?

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Reminiscing About My Fat Loss Journey

Posted on 22. Feb, 2009 by .


This past weekend, I really got into thinking about how far I have come in terms of my fitness journey. I am definitely way stronger, more disciplined, and more knowledgeable about health and fitness compared to when I first started.

There was one fact that really struck me today and which I still remember vividly. I remember that when I decided to finally get my butt back in the gym, I slowly shed my first 10 lbs without even changing my diet. So, just the added strength training and cardio activities helped jump start my fat loss in the right direction.

Why am I telling you this?

A lot of people who decide to lose weight for the first time get overwhelmed by the many diet supplements in addition to the many contradicting diet and exercise research data from the media (i.e. television, internet, newspapers, magazines, etc.) today. But, one thing that many people overlook is the power of action. “Just DO it” – the Nike ad says.

The worst thing that a person can do when a person is overwhelmed is inaction. So even if you don’t have an exercise and nutrition plan in hand, the little actions that you start today can help get you started in your weight loss journey. Then, once you’re done with your first step, take each day or each week as an opportunity to try and learn new things such as cooking healthy meals, finding free fitness routines, joining a fitness class, etc. The key is to take baby steps. Things don’t happen overnight – you didn’t gain the weight overnight, you won’t lose it overnight, and you can definitely not learn everything overnight.

Now, do I wish that I knew a lot of the things that I know today when I first started? Yes, I really wish I did. But, because I learned things in little pieces, I was also able to find which strategies worked for me and which ones didn’t. By learning things on a day to day basis, I was able to more effectively incorporate little changes into my life. The result? I eventually developed healthier habits instead of jumping on and off the latest diet fad that came up. In the end, I am glad at where I am now even though it was, and still is, a slow, trial and error process.

So, if you’re a beginner and don’t know where to start – just DO something even if you’re not sure it’s going to work or not. In terms of nutrition, here’s an article that can get you started in the right direction:

Best Foods for Fat Burning
By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Turbulence Training for Fat Loss

I couldn’t be any simpler with my nutrition recommendations for fat burning. You will get have the most energy and the best body and fitness level possible if you eat whole, natural foods. I always ask Dr. Chris Mohr, author of the Turbulence Training for Fat Loss Nutrition Guidelines if I ever need help with nutrition information.

You must avoid processed foods, which is pretty much anything in a bag or a box. So cut out muffins, donuts, pre-packaged cereals, white bread, pasta, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.

We need to return to a time of simpler eating, focusing on fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It will take some “bad habit breaking” to rid yourself of your addiction to processed foods, but in your journey you will learn to appreciate the taste of REAL food again.

You don’t have to eat meat to lose fat and build muscle, but it’s not unhealthy to eat beef, chicken, and fish. In fact, fish contains essential fatty acids we can’t do without.

You might have heard about the importance of healthy fats, which is a big turn-around from the low-fat mentality of the 80’s and 90’s. We now know eating fish and nuts won’t make us fat, but will in fact make us healthy and help control our appetite.

So just focus on foods that haven’t been processed, and you’ll start to see changes in your body and energy levels in a matter of days. Get rid of the processed foods and you won’t be tired anymore!

I strongly believe nutrition is the MOST important factor in fat loss and in health. If you’re eating processed foods, trans-fats, and too many calories, you won’t get maximum benefits from your exercise program, no matter what you are doing. Nutrition can either heal you or kill you, so choose wisely. Fortunately, the right choices are the simple choices.

I’ve had clients that switched to whole, natural foods and almost overnight they’ve reported changes in their bodies and huge increases in mental energy. So stick with the simple nutrition approach for fat burning.

About the Author

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training Fat Loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit Turbulence Training for Fat Loss.

Still stumped? Check out this comprehensive article by Chris over at Zen to Fitness – Zen to Fitness for the Busy Person. He really does a great job of summarizing a lot of important and effective health and fitness information in this article.

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