Category Archives: Nutrition

Healthy Holiday Jump Start 2016

vibrantWith Thanksgiving just a week away, let’s consider what we can do to stay sane, energized and fit as we roll toward the new year.

What do you want from 2017?  It’s never too early to be mindful and set the intention for your future self.  The clients I support often benefit from setting intentional, attainable process goals during this time to stay focused on their fitness, wellness, and self care.  What will you commit to intently now to keep yourself feeling good and resilient over the next few weeks?  Here are a few tried-and-true exercise ideas to get you started:

  • Move mindfully three times a week.  Choose an amount of time that’s realistic for you.  Typically, you can dedicate ten to thirty minutes to an activity that gets your blood flowing and relieves, rather than escalates, your stress levels.  It may be a walk, a yoga practice, or an at home workout.
  • Move on Mondays.  Set the tone of the week.
  • Move in the morning.  You take advantage of fresh energy and getting it done right away, setting a positive tone for the rest of your day and protecting your self care time from being imposed upon by something else.

I want to help support your journey!  From Black Friday through New Year’s, I’ll be sharing some of my best holiday mindfulness, food and travel tips with you via Primarily FIt’s Facebook home here.

I hope you feel amazing and inspired to take care of yourself.  Healthy change is always within reach.  Remember you are priceless.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season!

[Photo: California autumn]

The Truth About Weight, Genetics, and Intensity

sunsetThat guy you know from work lost forty pounds in three months by swearing off carbs.  Your spouse dropped four inches from their waist after walking three miles a day for three months.  Your best friend went vegan for three months and seemingly effortlessly melted into the best shape of their life.  But when you try to do what they did for three months, you don’t lose fat.  What gives?

It turns out that genes can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of your efforts.

Unsurprisingly, most people respond to higher intensity exercise (88%) versus a lucky 12% who will be able to lose fat and manage their weight with lower to moderate intensity work.  On the diet side, there seems to be a more even split: about half of people lose fat on a lower carb diet, while the other half responds to low fat eating.

This explains not only why so many people spend hours in the gym and get no tangible results.  Most people cannot rely on a thirty minute, steady pace elliptical workout to create change in their bodies beyond a week or two.  It’s just not intense enough.  Moreover, modes like weight training (with heavy-enough resistance) and Crossfit can deliver results because they have an inherent higher intensity that has the power to produce those results.

The caveat is, however, is that most people should NOT start with a high intensity workout.  To progress in your weight loss as well as overall fitness, you need to dedicate plenty of program time to tissue quality, mobility and stability.  Otherwise, you may be losing weight, but your high intensity moves will only be exacerbating your weaknesses further and pre-disposing you to poor structure and function as well as injury.

Do yourself a favor and work with a knowledgeable trainer who can help you shore up your weaknesses and heal imbalances on the front end.  You’ll avoid pain and injury and feel good in your body.  Then, you can build your workout intensity and continue progressing in your weight management goals.

[Photo: Beach sunset, Santa Cruz, CA]

Listen To Your Intuitive Sense of Hunger

Babies naturally have an accurate sense of when they’re hungry and when they’re not.  As we grow up, when does our ability to eat for the right reasons soften? And why?  So much of our tahoeblueeating behavior — IF done mindlessly — is dictated by our environment, culture, and society:

1) Nonstop work and activity. In American culture, a leisurely meal does not happen by default. Those who work outside the home are pretty much at the mercy of their workplace schedule.  Family life, including mealtime, can be dictated by the kids. Our culture values convenience over spending time on food prep and cooking, and fast food is often laden with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat.

2) Never-ending availability of cheap, palatable food. Not long ago with regards to evolution, food supply was scarce.  This is not so today.  We can eat whenever and whatever we think we want.  Even office supply stores have soda, candy, and junk food in highly visible spots.

3) Marketing and advertising messages to eat, eat, eat all the time.  These also play on our natural inclination to eat when there is food around.  These are signals that make us think we want to eat when oftentimes we truly aren’t hungry and don’t need to eat.

How can you work around these obstacles?  Re-train yourself to eat intuitively: that is, listen and observe your body’s hunger signals and respond properly to them, just as you did when you were a baby.  Mentally, you can approach eating with the idea that when your hunger is a 7 out of 10, you should eat. When your satisfaction is a 7 out of 10, stop.

Practically for starters, have balanced snacks on hand, and when you’re truly hungry between meals, eat one!  Raw and/or unsalted nuts could be a healthy choice, and it only takes a true portion – about 20 almonds, for example – to satiate hunger.  If you have a work fridge, you can stash string cheese or low-sugar yogurt and fruit.  For any snack, eat a portion and wait 20 minutes.  If you’re still hungry, i.e. not at a 7 out of 10 level of satiety, eat another portion and repeat.  The same principle is true for meals: take less of each food than you think you might need, eat it slowly, and re-assess your hunger after 20 minutes have passed.  Most of the time, you’ll be satisfied with what you’ve had (registering between a 7-9 satisfaction level if you stop at 7) and won’t truly need more.
Using that approach will help you be less inclined to buy and consume the ubiquitous junk food, and you’ll be less responsive to external cues telling you to eat.  The most salient example is the commercial, created by corporations whose only interest is to get you to buy, with no thought of how it could affect your health.

The 7/10 tactic has a positive effect on your health in a couple of important ways. First, you eat less food overall, and thus buy less. This is because there’s more food for days to come, and next time you shop for groceries, you won’t need as much. In the long-term, eating more healthfully not only gives you the opportunity to save and do more with the money you would’ve otherwise spent, but also arguably saves you from paying more in health care costs down the road.  It saves you money now AND later, enhancing financial health along with benefiting your physical health.  All the payoff starts with mindfulness.

[Photo: Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe, NV]

What’s Your Soul Food?

The landscape used to look very different in America.  Prior to WWI, most citizens were farmers, working and eating from the land.  Farm-to-table wasn’t a hipster movement but an actual way of life.rockyridge

When I was little, I was only allowed to eat real food for the first few years, albeit a slice of birthday cake here and there.  As I got older, fast food became more ubiquitous because of convenience and the fact that it tasted good, so everyone in the family would eat it.

As a result of the Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, pizza, and Chinese food, I got lazy.  I barely knew how to cook when I left college, and when I moved to CA I was mostly surviving on frozen food from Trader Joe’s.  Thankfully, then-boyfriend-now-husband taught me the basics of cooking, and after a few months we were regularly making dinner together.

I’ve never felt better than when I make dinner every night: fresh veggies, something with healthy fat and protein, green salad, and complex carbs.  A serving of each seems to be in perfect balance with whatever my body needs.  When I get away from that, my energy and well-being suffer.

Food is truly natural, un-processed, and has few ingredients.  Non-food is processed, probably comes in a bag or box, and may have six ingredients or sixty.  Just because something is edible doesn’t make it food.  Just because you grew up eating something, doesn’t make it food.  Just because it tastes good, doesn’t make it food.  Check your habits at the door and question everything you think you know about food and eating.  When you open your thought process, rather than chasing the latest “diet”, you’ll be able to make the choices that are best for your health and your well-being: true soul food.

I like the 80/20 guide: eighty percent of the time, eat fresh things (food) that originally came from the ground, not a factory.  The other twenty percent of the time, enjoy stuff you like that’s fast, processed (non-food) and/or not the healthiest choice.  Not 80 percent salad, though.  Change it up regularly so you and your taste buds don’t get bored.  (Plus 20 percent for whatever your cupcake equivalent is!)

Pro tip # 2: add three fresh vegetables (two green) and two fresh fruits to your daily eating.  Have fun with it by looking up healthy, delicious recipes that use in-season, thus more affordable veggies.   Simply planning more and adding produce will have you well on your way to higher-nutrient eating and more energy to live life and meet your goals.

[Photo: Santa Teresa State Park, San Jose, CA]

Diets Don’t Work! What To Do Instead

lyon1Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, vegan, juice cleanses, raw food, gluten-free…there are a lot of diets out there.  Every one of them markets itself as the “right” one for you, and does so brilliantly.  You’re unhealthy because you eat carbs (Atkins).  No, because you eat the wrong kind of carbs (South Beach). Actually, you don’t eat enough meat/animal fat (Paleo).  Whoa, you shouldn’t be eating anything from an animal ever (vegan)!  Time to “detox” (juice cleanses) and make sure your body has enough “living” enzymes (raw food).  And wheat is definitely ruining your digestive system (time to go gluten-free)!

I don’t believe in defining any food as inherently bad – REAL food, that is.  Allergies and sensitivities are one thing, but food itself is not bad.  In fact, real food is delicious, energizing and satisfying.  More to come on food vs. not food; right now we need to reclaim the four-letter D-word.

Did you know that the word “diet” comes from the Greek root “diaita” meaning “way of living”? A diet is not what you don’t eat, not a fad, and not something you “go on” to lose weight.  The way we currently use the word doesn’t work for me, and TRAINER NEWSFLASH: it doesn’t work for anyone.  “Diets” fail almost 100% of the time.  Weight is re-gained, and you have “failed”.  But a “diet” was never the answer, failure was inevitable, and it’s not your fault.   You’ve been set up.  Most people do not realize this.  The diet and weight loss industry is worth over 20 BILLION dollars for a reason, and that’s because a lot of people buy the hype.  We buy it because we need an answer to this problem of how to eat, enjoy our food, and stay healthy in the age of technology.  How on earth are we supposed to do all three at once?

Conventionally, “diets” are a temporary solution to an ongoing problem, so first we’ve got to re-define what a diet is.

Diet (n.) : what you eat.

That’s it.

Everything is permissible to eat, but not everything is beneficial to eat.

Some things, especially in large amounts, can cause metabolic harm (soda, beer, and refined sugar come to mind).  Does that mean you need to limit those things?  Absolutely.  Does it mean you can never enjoy those things?  Absolutely not.

I want eating to be a pleasurable experience and I believe it should be.   As a trainer, I often fine-tune how my clients are eating.  Recommendations always depend on lifestyle and goals, and eating is mindful and balanced with physical activity to derive maximum enjoyment.  It’s so much better than any depressing “diet” of deprivation, and all it takes is curiosity and a few simple guidelines.

The best news of all: it’s sustainable forever.

There’s no “going off the diet” and re-gaining what you’ve worked so hard to lose.  No “failing” and feeling badly about yourself.  Just simplicity and balance.  Savoring and splurging.  Feeding your body and mind what you need to function at your best.

So no more “diets”!  Eat mindfully, and be happy.

[Photo: Lyon Street; San Francisco, CA]