It seems like no matter what people do, they cannot get rid of belly fat. Exercise burns only so many calories, which is why exercise doesn’t always work to eliminate unwanted belly fat. The real reason why belly fat is so hard to get rid of is that a low bodyfat percentage, usually in the low teens or, from some people, the single digits, is what it takes to get that stomach really flat.
Not all of us have the same body types, which is why some people hold fat only in their mid-section, and people like Kim Kardashian, hold fat in their buttocks and thighs. For example, a man who has a large stomach and thin legs isn’t a thin man with an extended belly; he’s an overweight man that doesn’t use his legs much. He needs to go to the gym, squat with weights to build muscle in those quads, eat better, and eat fewer calories.
The truth that no one likes to hear is that, for a super flat stomach, calories need to be reduced. The human body just doesn’t need many calories for survival. I’ve found that tracking what I’m eating, and what time I’m eating, really gives me a clear picture of what I’m doing right and wrong.
You can order my tracking worksheets, which are $9.95 for a 3 month supply, (click here for info: https://www.thehighfivediet.com/products.html) or you can use a free on-line tracker like My Fitness Pal, just make sure NOT to log in your activities in that app, because it will deduct food calories, which gives a skewed picture of calories eaten, burned, and how much is left so people end up eating more than they should.
When I saw a recent TV commercial with celebrity fitness trainer Bob Harper explaining that he’s now on medication because he had a heart attack; I was shocked. How can someone who’s so fit, only 52, who exercises all the time, and eats a clean diet, have a heart attack at 51? While, his mother died from a heart attack at 70 (1), and likely passed on a hereditary heart condition, because a high number of lipoproteins (A) were found in his blood (2), was that the definitive cause, or was it caused by his so-called clean Paleo diet (4)?
That makes me feel like no one is safe no matter what precautions they take, but a “clean diet” is not necessarily a healthy diet. A clean diet is typically one in which lean meats, whey protein shakes, mostly low-carbohydrate vegetables, sweet potatoes or yams, grains (typically rice-except this is not allowed on a paleo diet), some fruit, a little bit of oil, and a few nuts and seeds are consumed regularly. Not only is this diet limiting, but it’s really high in animal protein. In 2015, Bob Harper…”told Rachel Ray that he eats two to three eggs for breakfast each morning because he “wants the protein and the fat.” Even when you don’t eat fatty animal protein, “…there’s reason to believe that diets that are too high in protein lead to the formation of arterial plaque…” which increases the risk of plaque buildup (1). Bob Harper told NBC: “I was a big carnivore before. I worked with my cardiologist and what we came up with for me was to be more plant-based, leaning towards a Mediterranean lifestyle. I am really aware of the fats that I consume, even the good fats. Since my heart attack I haven’t had any red meat at all” (3).
But, what’s interesting is that he didn’t go back to being a vegan, or even a vegetarian. Maybe that’s because, if we cut meat out of our diet completely, we will be void of vitamin B12. If we don’t eat any animal products and don’t take supplements that fill in the gaps, the chances are likely that iron levels will be low, there will be hair loss, low energy, and illness will ensue.
While we can take vitamin B12 in pill or liquid form, omitting animal meat completely, just doesn’t work for everyone, but we can all benefit from limiting how much animal products we eat, and this is exactly what Harper did. He says, “Not only have I had to change my diet, which is much more balanced and plant based, I have changed the way that I workout, which is more balanced too. I don’t rely on super high intensity workouts any longer” (4).
Too much of anything is hard on the body. I hope that more people take to heart what Bob Harper has gone through; just because a gym rat looks healthy one day, doesn’t mean he’ll be alive the next.
Photo: Chose the vegan cheesecake over that cheat meal. Your heart will thank you.
- Ossola, Alexandra. “How Could Someone As Fit As Bob Harper Have a Heart Attack? If the Biggest Loser host can’t hack it, what the hell does that mean for the rest of us?” 27 Feb. 2017. Tonic (blog). https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/jpnea7/how-does-someone-as-fit-as-bob-harper-have-a-heart-attack
- Chen, Joyce. “Bob Harper completes cardiac rehab four months after near-fatal heart attack” 25, June 2017. Today (blog). https://www.today.com/health/bob-harper-completes-rehab-after-near-fatal-heart-attack-t113113
- Steinhilber, Brianna. “What we can all learn from Bob Harper’s shocking heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Here’s how to protect yourself.” 7 Feb. 2018. NBC. Better (blog). https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-every-single-person-needs-know-about-heart-health-ncna844881
- Aol.com Editors “Bob Harper reflects on the year since he suffered a heart attack. 9 Feb. 2018. Aol.com (blog). https://www.aol.com/article/entertainment/2018/02/09/bob-harper-reflects-on-the-year-since-he-suffered-a-heart-attack/23357918/
- Ayuda, Tiffany. “What Bob Harper Learned from His Heart Attack (And What You Can, Too)” Daily burn life. Health (blog). 2 Feb. 2018. http://dailyburn.com/life/health/bob-harper-heart-disease/
Lifting weights isn’t just for the strong, the young, or the muscular, everyone should weight-train! When people think of weightlifting, an image of a strongman may come to mind, but you don’t have to lift heavy weights to gain the many benefits of weight training. Those 3-lb and 5-lb weights that people use for warm-ups, are totally acceptable to use for a workout. The trick is to do anywhere from 15-25 repetitions, and do four sets. Give yourself 1-2 minutes rest between each set. Go slowly and really pay attention to what you’re doing.
Make sure to work each and every part of your body, not just the arms! On Mondays, I do lower-body lifting. Wednesdays I strengthen back and biceps. On Fridays, I train chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Still apprehensive? Use the machines; that way you can be seated and you don’t have to worry about losing your balance or dropping the weight.
Benefits of Lifting weights:
- Strengthens muscles & ligaments which maintain balance, which means fewer falls
- Stronger bones means a stronger heart
- Prevent or reverse osteoporosis
- Strong muscles frequently challenged lowers glucose (great for pre-diabetic/diabetics)
- Lifting weights means weight loss, lower HDL, and better blood-flow
- Weight lifting results; toned body, less flab, a more youthful appearance, feeling happy, aches and pains are lessened, or go away completely
From the list above, weight-lifting is really important, but so is daily movement. It’s rare, maybe even weird, to see an adult play hopscotch or tag, jump rope, do wheelies on a bike, run through sprinklers, swing on a swing set, or chase each other around the neighborhood (for fun). Active kids are usually agile and underweight. Older adults are typically weak, stiff and overweight, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
While I don’t jump rope anymore, since it makes me dizzy (and I hate it), I lift weights, practice yoga, stretch, walk, and make sure to move around as much as possible, which makes me feel good and look younger than my actual age (which I’m keeping secret).
Photo: Me at the gym, lifting weights to strengthen my back. Please note that you will not get big muscles from lifting light weights! My muscles only pop like this when I’m doing an exercise that really challenges me, and I tend to lift heavy weights.
This coleslaw, it’s really a salad, is not only healthy and light, it’s also flavorful with very few calories. The cilantro and mint give it a wonderful freshness. I use light vegan mayonnaise (1 T= 35 kcal) instead of oil (1 T = 125 kcal) because the calorie difference is huge. I saved 180 calories in this recipe just with this one swap! I used my mixer with three of the different attachments to shred, grate and mix the dressing, so it was really fast and easy to make.
- 1 small green cabbage, shredded
- 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, grated
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chiffonade
- 2 tablespoons tahini, level
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon liquid Truvia (or use honey or more maple syrup)
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons light vegan mayo
- 1 tsp rice vinegar (any type of vinegar should do)
- A few dashes of each: garlic powder, salt, black pepper
Optional toppings for each person:
- 1 tablespoon roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
- ¼ tsp sesame seeds, toasted
- ½ of an apple (peeled, cored, and sliced) or 1 small tangerine, peeled
In a large glass bowl, toss salad ingredients together. In a small bowl, or small mixer, blend dressing ingredients until incorporated. Spoon dressing onto salad. Using your hands (I put on gloves), massage dressing into the salad so that the cabbage, bell peppers and cilantro are coated. Give each person a large helping of the coleslaw, and top with peanuts. Arrange the apple, or tangerine segments around the plate. Lastly, sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Best eaten, same day.
P.S. You can also follow me on Instagram @FitGirlUSA and check out my products and services on my site at: http://www.thehighfivediet.com
Zucchini pancakes are similar to Potato Latkes, but instead of grated potatoes, zucchini is used instead. I’ve always considered them a treat because they are so delicious. The grocery store near me stopped carrying them so I’ve been trying to re-make them (for years!) and finally got the recipe down, so I’m excited to share them with you.
These are much healthier than traditional zucchini pancakes that are deep-fried, or fried in a lot of oil. This recipe only uses about ¼ of a teaspoon of coconut oil per pancake. You can bake these at 425 degrees for 7 minutes per side, on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, if you want to omit the oil completely, but they won’t come out as crispy (see below).
If you want to make the zucchini pancakes gluten-free, you can use gluten-free panko crumbs, or omit the panko completely. The panko adds more flavor and crispiness so I prefer the pancakes with it. Don’t omit the maple syrup, you can use honey instead if you want though, because it balances out the slight bitterness of the zucchini. You can omit the coconut flour if you don’t have it, but it holds the pancakes better together and gives it a slightly denser texture.
Fit Girl Zucchini Pancakes
- 1 medium-sized zucchini, peeled and shredded
- 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and shredded
- ¾ cup sushi rice, cooked and cooled (or any sticky rice will do)
- ¼ tsp each of: garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, black pepper
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- A few dashes of salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour, level
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tsp coconut oil, divided
In a medium-sized bowl, add the zucchini, carrot, rice, spices, and coconut flour, and mix gently with a fork. Add eggs and maple syrup. Mix with fork. Add bread crumbs, and mix again until the ingredients are combined. Put one teaspoon of coconut oil on a non-stick fry pan. When oil is warm, not hot, use ¼ cup measurer (level) to spoon out one pancake. Add four pancakes to the pan. Cook each side until light brown (about four minutes per side). Place the four cooked pancakes on a large plate. Add 1 teaspoon coconut oil to the skillet, and add the remaining three pancakes in ¼ cup portions. Cook each side until light brown. Let cool to room temperature before eating.
Serves 2-3 pancakes per person.
Three pancakes: 249 calories, 39 grams carbs, .24 grams fat, 6 grams protein
Each pancake is 83 calories, 13 grams carbs, .08 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein
There’s still so much confusion on carbs, so, hopefully this video explains it all.
If you have any questions on carbohydrates after watching this video, please post your questions below and I’ll get back to you.
Losing weight is a struggle for everyone, yes, everyone! You’ll probably lose inches and pounds if you’ve never exercised before, but it you have a lot of weight to lose, exercise won’t be enough. The reason why is that if you are exercising an hour a day, that’s only 1/24th of your day. You want to burn as many calories as possible in 24 hours, which is why weight training is most effecting for weight loss; you’re burning calories during the workout and up to five days later, while that muscle is re-building. Muscle also burns more calories at rest.
“For most people physical activity accounts for 20% of daily calories burned, but this percentage can be higher on tough workout days” (1). No wonder so many people, myself included, are hungrier on intense exercise days.
To get your daily calorie burn higher, move around as much as you can throughout the day. I’ve added daily walks on days that aren’t too cold. I’ve also upped the intensity of my cardiovascular workouts, and it’s made a difference on the scale. So, if your body naturally burns off 1600 calories a day, which is typical for an active female, exercise will burn approximately 20% of those calories (1), which amounts to only 320 calories, so it’s going to take a while to see the pounds drop off since one pound of fat equates to at least 3500 calories.
So, the next step to take, in getting that stubborn weight down, is to focus on what you’re eating. Every food product claims that it’s high in protein to help you burn calories, but adding more protein can be counterproductive if your goal is weight loss. While the process of breaking down protein does burn more calories than carbs, or fat, animal protein can be high in calories. That’s why I weigh my fish, turkey, beef, and chicken on a scale to make sure it’s no more than 3 ounces. If I’m eating vegan protein, like beans or rice, I use a measuring cup. “Since food thermogenesis only accounts for 10% of your daily calorie burn, eating more protein will only have a small effect on your metabolic rate” (1).
Most people eat too much animal protein. It’s better to reduce the amount of animal protein you eat, and add more vegetables if you want to feel fuller and lose bodyfat.
So, yes, exercise, lift weights, and move around as much as possible every single day. If you eat animal protein, choose lean meats, and weigh it on a scale, to make sure you’re not eating too much, or too little. Add more veggies and greens to your diet too. With these steps, you should be able to lose a pound a week, which is perfect!
P.S. You can find me on Instagram under @FitGirlUSA
Photo: While these pork ribs have a lot of protein, they also are high fat and high calorie. They’re one of the worst choices of protein to eat on a diet. Choose lean meats instead, like chicken or turkey breast, baked or grilled cod, tilapia, and/or select beef.
- Source: “Essential Guide to Metabolism. Food Thermogenesis; calories to digest.” Blog Post Type. My Fitness Pal Blog. Received 24, Jan. 2018. Retrieved from: http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/essential-guide-metabolism/?utm_source=mfp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MFP_Extra_EssentialsGuides_Email4%20-%2020180124_&os_ehash=55@sfmc:34164020
I posted a question on Facebook to see if anyone could recommend a sugar-free, grain-free, certified organic, vegan protein powder that tastes good, so I can add it to my fruit smoothies, and this flavor and brand was recommended by several people. I bought the sample, added it with a frozen banana, one cup of cold water, and blended it in my Ninja.
Like many other vegan protein powders, it didn’t mix well, and small clumps of protein floated to the top. No matter how many times I blended it, the protein powder still didn’t entirely dissolve. It didn’t even taste like vanilla. It just had an odd, somewhat sickeningly sweet aftertaste that ruined my favorite breakfast. I tried Vega’s Coconut Almond flavor too, but that one was gross too.
I’ll stick to my Paleo collagen protein powder I like, even though it’s not vegan and has no flavor because I’m always happy with how my smoothies taste. Here’s the link to the one I use: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Lakes-Certified-Hydrolysate-Pasture-Raised/dp/B01A1G47L0/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1516410800&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=great%2Blakes%2Bcollagen%2Bhydrolysate&smid=A069378426EHSK8AA91Z4&th=1
P.S. I’m on Instagram under @FitGirlUSA
This really healthy soup is chock-full of vegetables, is hearty, and is the perfect entrée for weight-loss because it’s low in calories and high in nutrients. Even though there’s lots of ingredients, it’s really easy to make, with minimal cutting and chopping, and makes enough for a large family to eat for several days.
Fit Girl’s Gluten-Free Vegetable Chili
- 1 ½ tablespoons certified organic olive oil
- 1 chopped yellow onion
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
- 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes
- 32 ounces vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 3 level tablespoons pure maple syrup
- ½ tsp chili powder (you can add more if you like really spicy food)
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 3 peeled medium-sized zucchini
- 1 cup frozen corn
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Sautee the onion and bell peppers in a medium-sized pot on the stove until onion is transparent. While the onion and bell peppers are cooking, make the zucchini into wide, flat noodles. If you don’t have a vegetable spiralizer, you can order the one I have from Amazon (see below) or, slice zucchini once, from end-to-end, and then into ½ inch half-moons. Place zucchini noodles (aka zoodles) or your sliced zucchini, aside, and cover with a paper towel.
Add beans, tomatoes, stock, maple syrup, and spices. Increase heat to medium-high. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially-covered for one hour for the flavors to meld. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the spinach and zucchini, and cook for about 15 minutes until both are soft. Then add the frozen corn and cilantro. Ladle out the soup in a bowl for each person. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- This is the spiralizer I have: https://www.amazon.com/Spiralizer-Vegetable-Strongest-Heaviest-Gluten-Free/dp/B00GRIR87M/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1516406694&sr=8-4&keywords=zoodle+maker
- This newer one, looks better though: https://www.amazon.com/Brieftons-Spiralizer-BR-5B-02-Strongest-Heaviest/dp/B01MSZE4YK/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1516406694&sr=8-2-spons&keywords=zoodle+maker&psc=1
P.S. If you’re looking to lose weight and eat healthier, check out my diet book with over 40 recipes at http://www.thehighfivediet.com
P.S.S. I’m on Instagram under @FitGirlUSA
There are certain items that people wear to the gym that are totally inappropriate. Here’s a short list and why:
Flip-flops. Flip-flops are great for the beach, but terrible for the gym because it’s easy to trip since there’s equipment to maneuver around, and it’s going to be a dangerous situation if a weight drops on your foot with an open-toed shoe. It also looks like you’re not serious about working out if you’re not wearing proper footwear.
Jeans. If you’ve ever tried doing squats with jeans, it’s really uncomfortable and it won’t allow you to go low, or do the movement properly since there is little give. Leggings are really cute, regardless of what size or gender you are. Yes, guys can wear leggings too. Sweat pants and tight shorts are good options too.
A jacket. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a jacket to the gym, but don’t wear it inside the gym while you’re exercising! Even the tightest, best-fitting jacket won’t let you move freely. I hate being cold too, so wear a hoodie, sweatshirt, or a long-sleeve wicking shirt to keep you warm. You can wear several layers, which allows you to remove them if you get too hot. To warm up quickly, all I need is five minutes on the stair-master, and I’m sweating and wishing I had on shorts and a tiny sleeveless top.
Wearing clothes specifically designed for exercising not only allows you to use your full range of motion, provides better stability, looks nice, but it also puts you in the right mind-set for working out; you’ll be more motivated and you’ll probably even work harder, after all, you dressed the part!
Photo: me at World Gym