I Am Too Famous for Muffin Top

In 29 short days I will be dashing through the streets of downtown Baltimore in just my underwear. Unlike most people, I have no inhibitions and would probably run naked if they would let me (it is a charity run, after all). For me, it is not my bathing suit area that I am worried about showing off – it is my midsection! To steal a line from my fitness icon Tony Horton, the holidays have left me a little “loose in the cage” and I need to whip myself into shape before appearing on camera in just my skivvies.

I had a similar come-to-Jesus moment with myself last year and completely changed the way that I think about eating, exercise and my body. Although I initially dubbed my fitness regimen “The Miserable Bitch Diet”, I ultimately ended up making most of my changes permanent and was quite triumphant. Throughout 2013, I made excellent fitness progress: I significantly reduced by body fat percentage, ran my first half marathon, discovered yoga and went vegetarian. I am ready to (or, rather, the horrifying threat of muffin top in my Instagram pictures is forcing me to) take my training regimen to the next level in preparation for my almost-nude appearance.

Diet

DAIRY

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 9.48.22 PMEight months into vegetarianism, I am feeling better than ever. Although originally intended to be a temporary experiment, vegetarianism has become a way of life for me and I am not planning to ever look back. I try to eat vegan as much as possible but lately I have been slipping, especially with my dairy consumption. Cheese has slowly crept back onto my pasta, my salads and my sandwiches and I have been eating pizza with embarrassing frequency. As I have aged, I have become increasingly lactose intolerant; cheese and milk bloat me horribly and give me the shits. It is time to bid them both farewell once and farewell in the name of having a bangin’ body.

Protein

The only part of vegetarianism with which I still struggle is my protein intake – without animal proteins in the picture, eating enough protein requires a bit more effort. I love me some rice, beans, lentils, nut butter and chickpeas but I need to step up my protein game if I want to hold onto any of the muscle that I am building. I alternate between a few different protein/superfood supplement products (Shakeology being my favorite) but I need to commit to consuming them daily.

Refined Sugar

Sugar is literally the bane of my existence…all I will say is that I seriously need to cut down my sugar intake.

Exercise

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 9.47.59 PMI basically spent all of 2013 running. I barely ever picked up a weight and, although I was successful in trimming a lot of fat off of my body, I ended the year feeling rather lanky. My 2014 workout regimen needs to be much more balanced than last year’s.

For the time being, I am going to do cardio 2x/week, strength training 2x/week and yoga 2x/week. I would love to be able to do some yoga every day but my schedule this semester is packed to the brim.

Until it gets warmer outside and I can start running regularly, I have been cycling at the gym to get in my cardio fix. Those of you who know me know that I hate going to the gym; sometimes I struggle (to say the least) to find the motivation to go to spin class. The yoga class that I attend is a heated power vinyasa flow which honestly I would almost count as a strength workout – there is a lot of upper body work involved (shout out to my teacher Jessie!) and I have noticed great progress in my upper body since I started doing yoga.

Time and time again I return to P90X and this year is no different. Core Synergistics and Legs & Back are my respective upper and lower body strength workouts of choice. Tony Horton never lets me down!

handstand

By putting my fitness plan out in the world I am hoping that I will hold myself more accountable than ever. As much as fitness is about health and wellness, I am a vainglorious narcissist who works out and eats well mainly so that I look great and, as such, the next 29 days will either make or break my self confidence on race day.

PS – If you’re feeling generous, please donate to fund neurofibromatosis research. It’s for the children!!

What To Do After A Binge

We’ve all been there before: you’ve just eaten a little (or a LOT!) more than you intended to eat in one sitting. Your stomach is expanding, you feel nauseous and, if you are like me, you cannot stop burping. You feel guilty for completely blowing your diet and feel like all of the hard work that you have put into your workout regimen has suddenly come to naught.

Like I said, we have all been there before. The most important thing to realize after you binge is that the world is not ending. Although it may be a temporary setback, you are not unraveling all of the work that you’ve put into getting in shape over the past several months. No matter how sick you feel tonight, you will probably wake up tomorrow and feel fine and ready to get yourself back on track with your clean eating.

There are, however, a few things that you can do in the meantime to help your body recover from the sudden influx of food:

1. Drink plenty of water. Water is nature’s cleansing agent; the more water that you have in your system, the faster that your body will be able to flush out all of the toxins and make way for the fresh produce and lean protein that you will begin to feed it tomorrow. Since most junk foods that we tend to binge on are high in sodium, a binge episode is likely to result in dehydration. Dehydration slows body processes such as digestion and metabolism and will leave you feeling gross for longer.

2. Brush your teeth and change into loose-fitting clothing. Brush and floss away any lingering evidence of your binge and change out of any form-fitting clothing that you were wearing while you were eating. Tasting the chocolate in your mouth and feeling your waistband stretching will only wrack you with guilt and leave you feeling depressed and disillusioned. While it is important to reflect upon your areas of opportunity, it is important not to dwell upon them.

3. Evaluate your circumstances and remind yourself of your goals. Very rarely do we binge accidentally. We habitually turn to food as a way to feel a modicum of control when we feel like our life is crumbling around us. Whether we are not performing well at our job, engaged in a disagreement with a friend or colleague or having financial struggles, eating is a destructive way to cope with problems. Remind yourself why you are on the journey to wellness and think about ways to prevent these episodes from recurring in the future.

4. Get back on track as soon as possible. If you binge at night, resolve to get back on track as soon as you wake up in the morning. Do not restrict your calories the following day; this will set you tumbling down a slippery slope of depravation and overindulgence. Continue with your regular exercise and nutrition regimen as if nothing had happened. If you are up to it, it may be worth it to do an exercise the next day that is slightly more intense or longer than your regular routine but be sure not to push yourself too hard. Deviate as little as possible from your habits and getting on track permanently will be a breeze.

5. Don’t get discouraged. Like I said, it happens to the best of us. I lost 50 pounds over the past three years and, as much as I hate to admit it, one evening of binging is not going to bring back those 50 pounds. Although you may feel discouraged, your body will slowly but surely work through the food that you have ingested and life will go on. Remind yourself of your fitness achievements and re-commit yourself to being the best that you can be.

Living Well On The Weekends

“I only need to be healthy during the week!”

Every time that I hear these words spoken, I die a little bit inside. In believing that you can achieve permanent success in fitness by picking and choosing when to behave, you are cheating yourself of the success you deserve. To achieve permanent results, you must initiate permanent lifestyle changes that you intend to hold on to for the long haul.

That being said, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t have fun on the weekends while living well and treating your body with the respect that it deserves. The weekend is an opportune time to decompress and let the stress of the work week temporarily fall by the wayside. Here are a few quick ways to avoid blowing your progress on the weekends and still enjoy yourself:

1. Be conscious of your alcohol intake. Chances are that you are going to drink on the weekends. There is absolutely nothing wrong with consuming alcohol as long as you are cognizant of what you are consuming along WITH the alcohol. Mixed drinks are black holes of sugar, carbohydrates and chemicals that can easily exceed your daily allowance.

A ten ounce margarita has more calories than a BIg Mac, according to CalWineries. Other high-calorie offenders include mai tai’s, piña coladas and mudslides. Fear not: there are more nutritious alternatives. A 4 oz. glass of wine or a 6 oz. vodka & soda both come in at under 100 calories. Get your buzz but get it the right way!

2. Make exercise a social activity. Group workouts are a great way to mix up your fitness routine and get more people involved. My INSANITY Challenge Group meets every Saturday to get in a team workout – not only are we getting in shape but it’s also a great time to spend time together and catch up. Group runs are a great way to stay fit together – meet up and jog through the park! Let’s face it: friends who sweat together stay together.

Group sports are also a wonderful way to meet new people and get a great workout, especially around this time of year. There are recreational kickball leagues popping up all over the place these days (we have a great one right here in Baltimore!) and they are increasingly seeing corporate teams joining their ranks. Recreational leagues are great for all experience levels and are usually very flexible with scheduling.

3. Use the weekend to plan your meals. I am always hearing from my clients that they struggle to find time during the week to plan and prepare their meals. I totally understand: it takes time to go grocery shopping, do prep, cook and clean. I struggle with finding time to cook, too, but guess what? It’s the weekend! You have time! Use this time not only to prepare nutritious meals for Saturday & Sunday but for the entire week! I have friends who do almost all of their cooking on Sunday and then freeze their meals until they are ready to consume them later in the week. Good news: freezing food does not result in widespread loss of nutrients. The National Center for Home Food Preservation also provides a handy guide to freezing foods.

4. Stick to your sleep schedule. Inconsistencies in your sleep schedule do more harm than good. While some people think that they can sleep four hours a night during the week and then hibernate for 14 hours on Saturday, studies have proven this to be grossly ineffective. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule keeps your bodily functions (including metabolism!) regular and will make it easier to get back into your work week routine on Monday. While you certainly shouldn’t wake up at 5 a.m. on the weekends if you don’t have to, avoid laying in bed until 3 p.m.!

indulge5. Have fun! Do things that you enjoy and surround yourself with wonderful people. Indulge in small treats and put your goals and achievements into perspective. Happy people are healthier, after all.

My favorite weekend indulgence right now is natural peanut butter and dark chocolate; dark chocolate containing 70% or more cacao is low in sugar (only 3g of added sugar per serving in 90% cacao Ghiradelli chocolate!) and high in fiber. Satisfy your peanut butter cup craving the healthy way!

Have a great weekend!

Starting INSANITY

Today marked Day 1 for my INSANITY Challenge Group and I am ALREADY feeling the burn! I started my first Fit Test with pretty high expectations: I am a two-time P90X alum, I work out 6 days a week and I eat a clean flexitarian diet. Although I certainly didn’t expect the fit test to be a breeze, I didn’t imagine that I would be laying on the floor for twenty minutes trying to catch my breath!

Thanks to my P90X training, I am pretty skilled at the plyometric and karate moves. The final three moves are what really stuck it to me that I have work to do. I have always been self conscious about my upper body: I have known for a long time that I need to focus my strength training on my chest and back. I felt like I was going to die after barely inching out one minute of Push-Up Jacks. The Low Plank Obliques were also more difficult than I expected. I haven’t felt this puny in a long time!

I won’t lie, I was a little skeptical about a workout that was only 25 minutes long. I doubted that I would even break a sweat and was planning on going for a run afterwards. By the end of the 25 minutes, I was drenched in sweat and I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest! I certainly have my work cut out for me and I am so excited to see what the next 60 days will bring.

I am lucky to be going through the program with ten great friends of mine. I am already inspired by the discourse that is going on in our Facebook Challenge Group; although we are all pooped from such an intense first day, I can tell that everybody in the group is IN IT to WIN IT!

Getting Fit in 2013

“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”

-Kevin Mark Trudeau

After the overwhelmingly positive results that my diet has generated and the heightened interest from friends/family/followers, I decided to pen a comprehensive guide to my fitness plan. There are five major tenants that comprise the plan that I have devised; here they are in detail with the research to back them up. I have:

1. Cut out red meat

From my research, red meat is a hidden threat that has flown under the radar undetected. I was unaware of the potential dangers of red meat until I began to do comprehensive background research. Similarly to dairy, red meat is high in saturated fat (which raises cholesterol) and can cause digestive problems. Many foods that come from red meat also contain preservative agents and astronomically high levels of sodium. I wasn’t aware until I began researching that certain grilling techniques can also increase the amount of carcinogenic compounds in red meat.

Protein is certainly an integral part of any diet. Instead of beef, I have been substituting turkey in many cases. Turkey burgers are a frequent favorite of mine. Turkey is high in protein and vitamin B and contains very little fat. Chicken is also a go-to protein in my diet (grilled or baked, never fried). When I’m not eating meat, legumes provide and excellent source of protein.

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