Crackers are, basically, cookies

crackers are cookies in disguise

Most people get hungry between lunch and dinner, but aren’t hungry enough for a meal. We look for healthy snacks, and many people think crackers and pretzels are healthy, low-calorie snacks, but they’re not.

If you look at the ingredient list of cookies, the three common ingredients are flour, salt, and sugar. Those same ingredients are in cookies! Yes, sugar, flour and salt are in crackers, pretzels, cereal, and even bread (and practically everything else in a can or a box). It doesn’t matter what the item is called (cracker vs. cookie), if it’s “natural,” or if the manufacturer lists “healthy” on the box; it’s what it’s made of, that matters.

Most people don’t eat the tiny serving size, around 150 calories, and mistakenly believe they are eating a small snack, when the calories actually add up to meal. So, it’s best just to take a small portion of a leftover lunch or dinner, and have that as your snack; this way, you’re getting protein (hopefully), a small portion of healthy fat, and some nutritious carbs (preferably in the form of vegetables).

 

The best hamstring exercise. How to make the Nordic ham curl machine for $1

 

The Nordic hamstring curl is probably one of the best exercises for strengthening the hamstrings (the backside of the upper legs). If your gym doesn’t have a Nordic hamstring curl machine, or maybe you don’t have one at home, you can make it with heavy dumbbells, a thick mat, a Bosu or a step, and pipe insulation that I bought at Home Depot and cut.

This is an advanced exercise, so start with just a few reps, with just one set; I don’t want you to pull a hammy! Make sure to foam roll your hamstrings after you perform this intense, effective exercise.

P.S. If you post this set-up on social media, make sure to give me credit!

Don’t do HIIT too often

don't do intense exercises too often

HIIT, high-intensity interval training, are popular, maximal effort cardiovascular workouts. They are available at boot camps, certain gyms, and classes. What’s great about HIIT, is that it burns a lot of calories in a short period of time, increases endurance, and strengthens the heart.

What’s not-so-great about this type of workout is that it’s extremely taxing on the central nervous system, increases cortisol, increases likelihood of injury and cellular damage (1), and can make some people hungrier so they end up eating more calories than they typically do. Doing cardio has many benefits, and everyone should do some type of cardiovascular exercise.

A lot of people do HIIT classes several days in a row, and/or it’s their only form of exercise. Since these classes have strength elements, they should be spaced out because it takes at least two days for a muscle to repair. If you don’t give your body enough time to rest, you’re not building muscle, you are continually breaking it down. What this means is, two to three days a week is the maximum you should take these classes if they include weights or body weight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups.

If you love HIIT workouts, great, do them, but space them out, and do no more than three a week. If that upsets you because you want to exercise more than that, you can still walk, stretch, practice yoga, and do lighter cardiovascular exercises that bring cortisol down, instead of up. It’s typically not exercise that will make you lose fat, it’s how much you’re eating.

If intense cardiovascular exercises tires you out, causes you to binge, and wears down your immune system, you’re not alone. Some cardio is good, too much of anything yields negative results.

You don’t need HIIT classes to lose fat and be strong, I don’t. I lift weights, practice yoga, and do short bursts of cardio between weight lifting sets every now and then, and I’m lean, fit and strong. Listen to your body, and make health and fitness a priority.

Source: Comana, Fabio. “HIIT, HVIT, or VIIT: Which IT are you doing and do you know the differences?” NASM, 1 January 2018, https://blog.nasm.org/sports-performance/hiit-hvit-viit-know-differences/

Personal training is like a massage

fitness training is like a massage

Personal fitness training is like getting a massage, in that it’s good for the body, and the mind. It’s one-on-one customized care, not cheap, but totally worth it.

If you need help with strength, mobility, and/or motivation, interview a certified personal trainer and sign up for sessions with one you like.

Group classes won’t make you strong

want strength gains.PNG

Since I’m a personal fitness trainer, people come to me for strength and fat loss. Some people just want a free consultation to get information without paying anything; others want a trainer, but can’t afford the cost of personalized sessions; or, there are those few that are ready and willing to get help from a professional, and sign up for training sessions on the spot.

One of the common explanations I get as to why people decide not to hire a personal trainer is that they are “just going to take group strength classes.” What I’ve found is that after doing many strength assessments, people who have been taking group fitness classes cannot do proper push-ups, squats, or lunges, and have poor balance. People just won’t get strong solely by taking group fitness classes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for classes, I take yoga classes and teach TRX; and these classes do increase strength, BUT, they won’t get people strong enough to do day-to-day tasks without compensating, or injury.

The reasons why group fitness classes fail to give people adequate strength is that they are designed for a general population; they are not customized to you or your goals. They are also set up in a format for enjoyment, with limited reps and sets, not strength. Even if the class instructor corrects your form every now and then, they cannot be at your side continuously, or change the exercise to suit you.

Based on a person’s strength, fitness level, injuries, flexibility, medical history, goals, and age, I give them exercises that are best suited for them. No one person gets the same workout. I won’t put someone who has back pain on a leg press machine, or put someone on the leg extension machine who has knee issues. Certain exercises are reserved for advanced lifters, and are too dangerous for beginners.

The bottom line, is that group classes are a great way to increase your cardiovascular system, burn extra calories, make friends, and increase strength. But if you want adequate strength, you need to lift heavier weights and do body weight exercises that hit every muscle, at least twice a week with proper form.

 

 

 

Tahini Flourless Sugar Cookies

flourless Tahini cookies

These gluten-free, flourless, oil-free, dairy-free cookies have only five ingredients, and are easy to make. I made a batch in the morning, and brought a bunch to the gym. Shortly thereafter, I was getting texts from people writing that they were delicious and wanted my secret recipe. My husband, who is really good about just eating one cookie a day, ate two bags-full by the time I got home at lunchtime. You might want to make more than one batch. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup tahini (crushed sesame seeds), creamy, unsalted
  • 1 cup sucanat sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on top of two cookie sheets. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Scoop out 1 tablespoon for 1 cookie and roll into a ball. Press gently so that it sticks onto the cookie sheet, but not too hard because these cookies, flatten and spread out.  You’ll need two cookie sheets to bake the cookies at one time. Keep cookies widely spaced, or you’ll get one large cookie instead of 20 or so. Bake 12 minutes. Let cool completely, about 15 minutes, for cookies to firm up.

About 100 calories per cookie

 

Reduce Shoulder Pain while Exercising

Shoulder pain doesn’t always mean you can’t do shoulder exercises. With these small tweaks shown in this video, you can still do push-ups, bench press and shoulder presses without pain. Read the information below, too, for clarification.

When performing push-ups, use a narrow stance (examples are triceps push-ups, or chaturanga push-ups.) Wide push-ups put too much pressure on the shoulders.

Barbell bench press: use a narrow grip, which should alleviate the shoulder pain compared to the traditional grip.

Dumbbell bench press: point your elbows down about 45 degrees, instead of having your elbows flared out. What also helps is to keep the bench flat, instead of raised (elevated).

Shoulder press: use a narrow stance, with your thumbs facing you. This technique will reduce that shoulder pain, and it’s much easier to do.

After you do any shoulder or chest workouts, put an ice pack on that area to cool any inflammation.

 

Stop drinking bulletproof (butter) coffee

coffee and beans

The on-going trend that needs to stop immediately is consumption of bulletproof coffee. Bulletproof coffee is a brand name, and also a high-calorie, high-fat drink that people make at home; it’s just butter and/or coconut oil, added to coffee. People claim that the butter-coffee combination gives them energy.

Butter is mostly fat, and fat is one of the three macronutrients, like protein and carbs, that have calories that are converted into energy, once consumed and broken down. In other words, any type of food = energy.

Saturated fats and oils should be limited, and saturated fats from animal sources lead to higher cholesterol levels. If your body craves fat first thing in the morning, grab a handful of nuts, or blend some almond butter in your coffee, or, better yet, eat a real breakfast with fiber, that contains nutrients.

 

 

 

it’s your parents fault you’re fat

clean your plateWhile our parents may have had good intentions, telling us, as children, to clean our plates, when we were no longer hungry, this set us up to be overweight adults. No one should be forced to eat if their body is telling them they are full.

By cleaning our plates, our stomachs expand, and our bodies get used to eating more food. When we go out to a restaurant, most people eat everything, except maybe the broccoli, that they are served, and then exclaim that they are full. Fullness is when you’ve eaten too much. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, not when you’re full.

Since we’ve been so accustomed to cleaning our plates, put an appropriated sized portion of food on a small plate, which looks like more food to our eyes. Our parents may have fed us unhealthy foods, and excessive portions, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t change our habits.

Healthy foods can be delicious, depending on the recipe, but don’t expect a vegan, gluten-free pizza to  taste anything like a cheese and pepperoni pizza. Instead of a pasta alfredo makeover, think instead, of shrimp tacos. If your healthy, lower calorie meals and snacks taste good, you’re more likely to stick to the plan.

You should be hungry when you’re eating fewer calories, that means you’re losing weight. You shouldn’t feel like you’re starving though. Drink more water and add cauliflower, broccoli and/or beans to your meals to fill you up.

Instead of dreading going on a diet, think about all the positive outcomes of weight loss: more energy, buying nicer clothes, reducing or eliminating medication, looking younger and fitter, sleeping better, having less aches and pains, feeling happier, getting compliments, and finally liking the reflection in the mirror.

Don’t feel obligated to clean your plate, no matter who served you, or how much that meal cost. You can always eat the leftovers later. And, don’t tell anyone they have to clean their plate.

 

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