The End of 2009 – Are you ready for 2010?

Here it is… The end of the year. How will you make the new year count?  For many Americans health and fitness fall in the top three on their resolution list.  Unfortunately for many it falls off their New Year’s resolution list pretty fast.  What will you do to continue to reach for your fitness goals this year?

I know we have spent time discussing planning, goal setting, and getting ready to reach our resolutions in 2010 a few weeks ago. Go back and re-read the archives. There are 3 series of questions to help you reach your fitness goals in 2010.  Are you ready?

Weight loss, better fitness, more strength, greater endurance, better finish times do not just happen. They take work, they take responsibility, and they take planning. Have you done your homework, and are you ready for the new year?

If you have taken on this goal in the past, what will you do differently this year to make sure you reach it? Are you ready to move beyond what has held you back in the past and forward into the future? I advocate writing down your goals and the steps you will take to get there. This will help make your goal “real” to you. Once we see things on paper it helps us become more committed to accomplishing it.

Remember to prioritize your resolutions. Many well meaning resolutions get derailed because people are overwhelmed when they look at the long list and know they will not be able to accomplish all the worthy goals upon it. Decide what tops your list and stick to it. You will feel much better when you have accomplished a goal and are able to cross it off knowing you gave it everything you had and finished.

Are your goals realistic? If you have trouble figuring this out contact a personal trainer. If you are attempting a goal that is not realistic you are setting yourself up for failure. Although, failure usually leads to success it also leads to low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and the chance that you will pitch the whole idea and give up. Being realistic about a goal will help keep you on track from the beginning.

Once your list is pared down, you can begin to break the bigger goals into smaller ones. It is important to find small things you can do daily to complete your goal successfully. Small chunks are much easier to manage and they can be quickly adapted if needed. Remember, you are responsible for your choices, and your daily choices determine if you will make it or not. You can accomplish anything, but you must be accountable to you.

Chose positive strategies for dealing with problems. There will be some, so expect them, and be ready to deal with them. Contingency plans are important. What will you do when your day does not have twenty-six hours in it? What about when you are home with a sick child, or you suddenly have a huge project dumped on your desk? How will you handle cold days that derail your efforts at an outdoor workout? Thinking through these issues is a must because they will crop in your life.

As we move into the new year, look at the old. What would you like to give up? Create a ritual to let that habit, pattern, or whatever change go. Write down what you’ll let go of this New Year’s Eve and then dispose of it. Many like to burn the slip of paper, others make a ritual by writing it down and then throwing it away. Still others write it down and stick it in a safe place (say a box or jar) so when they go back to the habit they are able to pull it out and dispose of it again. If you make a conscious effort to make the change it is important to honor that it is part of who you are today and who you will become in the next year. Give purpose to the release of old and the acceptance of new behaviors that will help move you towards your goals this year! You are worth the extra effort.

Eat Six Meals A Day!

Try eating six small meals a day rather than three large ones. If that sounds hard – read on – here’s some ways to get it all in.Eat breakfast – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you are trying to lose weight do not skip breakfast, it helps rev up metabolism, which in turn burns more calories. No matter what your goal, eating breakfast ensures that you are ready to meet the energy requirements of your day, and usually will then make better food choices throughout the day.

Follow breakfast with a snack a few hours later, then lunch, then another snack, dinner, and possibly another snack. Wow! That seems like a lot of food, but remember it is about how many calories you consume. It will be too much if each meal is an all you can eat buffet, which you participate heavily in and each snack is a calorie dense and nutrient low choice. You’ll end up feeling worse than you did to start.

Try making the six small meals small, but balanced. Balance out your carbohydrates, protein, and fats each time. The food guide pyramid is a great resource, and you can customize your readout. Check it out at http://myplate.gov – don’t have Internet – the library offers it for free, and they’ll help you!

All six meals should be about the same size and small. Half a sandwich and soup with a good beverage and maybe a piece of fruit. Half a bagel and peanut butter with a smoothie. You have lots of choices. The key to diet is in your choices. Get educated about food choices, begin slowly, and watch what happens to your energy and your waistline!

Feed Yourself Well – Learning To Read Food Labels

Many people are more and more confused when it comes to food choices.  The majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about nutrition and pesticides.  Many base their food choices on what is in or on them. This has led to an explosion in the organic food market, and to increasingly more confusing food labels.

Studies repeatedly show the foods we eat today are not as nutrient packed as they were in the past. According to food-navigator.com, “Changes in agriculture during the last 50 years include the widespread use of pesticides, plant growth regulators, and highly soluble sources of plant nutrients, along with decreased use of humus-containing fertilizers.” Due to certain farming methods, mass planting of a single crop, and transporting foods over long distances, crops have been made to withstand depletion of soil, long journeys from vine to table, and have been bred to handle lots of handling. All this translates into less nutrients for us.

Many are willing to pay more than fifty percent more for organic food. Organic food markets have begun to grow at approximately twenty percent each year. This means organic food prices and selections have gotten better, but how do you know if you are getting organic? When confronted with the enormous amount of options how do we make good choices and not throw up our hands in overwhelming frustration? Getting educated about labels will help you make the best food choices.

Deciphering labels:

An article in the Seattle Times outlined the following label definitions:

  • If the product is labeled “100 percent organic” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.
  • If the label says, simply, “organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced. And if it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approved list.
  • Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. The reason is that no standard definition for these terms exists, except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients. The terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are similarly meaningless. U.S. government standards are weak. The rule for the label’s use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be available for “an undetermined period each day.”
  • Labeling seafood “organic” is also misleading, since the USDA has not yet developed organic-certification standards.

Why does organic cost so much more than conventionally grown foods? Organically grown foods are usually produced on much smaller farms. These farms do not receive subsidies from the government and they must follow much stricter guidelines when growing, harvesting, transporting, and storing foods. Many shy away from organic foods because they feel they cannot afford them. It is possible to eat nutritiously on a budget, I know, I do it. It takes patience as you learn to read labels and understand which foods to choose. If you have to select from both conventional and organic foods on your regular shopping list apply the following ideas.

  • 1stBuy as much organic or locally grown as possible. The farmers market season is just around the corner-we have two great ones in town. Better yet try growing your own. The Broadway Community Garden is beginning! Free plots, help, and support is here in Superior! Call: Theresa at 218-727-4820 for more information.
  • 2ndShop the perimeter of the supermarket. Whole foods or foods with the least amount of processing will help, but get educated on companies – learn how they treat the animals or what types of growing they do.
  • 3rdAvoid the dirty dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of residue on them: apples, bell peppers, spinach, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries. Although, scientists have trouble connecting all the dots between disease and long term, small dose exposure to pesticides, there is evidence that we have more in our bodies today than in the past. This is especially important for expectant mothers and small children, as proportionally they end up with more in their systems. There is also some concern over the combined effects of different pesticides in our systems even in low doses.
  • 4thLearn to read labels. Choose foods with small ingredient lists, avoid the “bad” fats, and learn what the ingredients are. Try to not to eat foods with lots of unpronounceable things in them, artificial colors, flavors, and lots of salt or sugar.

Hopefully, you have a better and not worse idea of what to put on your grocery list next time you shop – your body will thank you for choosing wisely. 

Resources:

www.foodnavigator-usa.com

www.mydna.com

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060409&slug=consumerreports09

www.shns.com

Whole Foods Co-Op, Duluth MN

Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)

Losing Weight The Healthy Way

Here is how healthy weight loss works. Extra weight is just fuel you’ve put into your tank and didn’t use up. You consumed extra calories without burning them.

Calories(kcal) in MUST EQUAL calories out to MAINTAIN your current weight. This means if you want to lose weight the healthy way you must figure out how to create a deficit. In other words calories in MUST BE LESS THAN calories out to LOSE weight.

We can cut our food intake or increase our daily calorie needs (movement or exercise). To lose weight the healthy way create a plan which combines the two. By limiting food calories and adding more exercise to your daily routine it is easier to create enough of a calorie deficit without compromising your energy or health.

For example: Cut 500kcals from your daily intake (about two 20-oz bottles of soda) and increase your exercise by 300kcals per day (30-60 min of activity depending). This creates an 800kcals deficit per day. If you could do this 5 days a week you would expend an extra 4,000kcals per week. To lose a pound of fat you must burn 3,500kcals. So under this plan you should be losing at least 1 pound a week.

Some words of caution.
Food is not the enemy – load up on nutrient dense foods (foods with low calories and lots of vitamins + nutritionist). Healthy weight loss is approximently 1-2 pounds per week. It took time to put the weight on it’ll take time to take it off. Do not cut your calories too low. Less is not always more. See a nutritionist for help. Not eating enough will put your body in conserve mode. This backfires on weight loss because instead of letting go of calories your body will slow functions down to conserve calories. You won’t be getting the workouts because you are likely to be more tired and possibly more sick. This is not where you want your healthy weight loss program to be.

How to Eat Healthy While On Vacation

Eating healthy may be a challenge at home during your regular routine. So how, you ask, am I suppose to eat healthy while on vacation out of my routines? Its not as hard as you think.

First, be prepared. Plan for your needs. Be the one to bring the raw veggie plate with a healthy dip. Or bring a fresh fruit desert.

Second, eat small portions. I for one love summer BBQs and potlucks but instead of taking heaping spoonfuls of all my favorites I just take a small bite sized portion. I can always have more if I want it but keeping it off my plate usually keeps it out of my mouth.

Third, go whole food. Look for items that are as close to their natural state as possible. The less processing foods have the better for you!

Finally, follow the 80/20 rule. If 80% of your choices are healthy options the other 20 can be less than ideal. The trick is to keep this rule in action consistently over time. So don’t panic if one day is off just remember to make it up the next day.

Healthy eating starts with choices you make every meal. Don’t get discouraged and keep coming back to your goals and habits. If you can make small changes that last a lifetime you are on track to reach your goals. Just remember fitness and health are daily things and keep moving forward!