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Since holidays are a great source of stress and anxiety for a lot of people, I wanted to help so I created a calming video, where you’ll see some beautiful front gardens from my walks around the luxury coastal area of Del Mar, located on the west coast of Southern California, USA. Use this time to stretch, foam roll, de-stress, relax, or as a form of mediation to focus on nature’s Zen beauty to clear and calm your mind and body.
P.S. This is my 855th blog! I’ve been publishing blog posts on this platform, consistently for over seven years now. I can’t believe it’s been that long. To prevent burnout, and to provide helpful, interesting, educational, unique content I’ll be posting videos once a week from now on instead of twice a week.
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Knee injuries account for 15-30% of all sports injuries, so if you have knee pain, you’re not alone. Knee pain can be caused by weak muscles and/or muscle imbalances. If the muscles on the front of the leg, like the vastus lateralis or the vastus medialis is weakened, the kneecap can move outside the knee joint, causing pain (1).
Exercising should not be about weight loss, or looking a certain way, it’s main purpose is to keep you strong enough to do daily tasks with ease and without injury. For these reasons, I tell my clients to do leg specific exercises at least twice a week.
Form is key when it comes to strengthening. I see valgus knees at the gym all the time, where the knees go inwards; this is not only poor form, but makes knee pain worse. You want to push your knees outwards, also known as external rotation, when doing squats and lunges. You can place a soft yoga block in between your thighs to prevent your knees from collapsing inwards (see video at the bottom of this post).
Here’s exercises you should do, in order from easiest to hardest, to strengthen the front of the legs and stop knee pain. If you’re rehabilitating, try one set of 10 box squats daily. You eventually want to do three sets of ten, which is 30 repetitions with a break in between each set, twice a week. You can then add another type of lunge or a squat, but it’s not necessary to do more than three different types of exercises that target the quads (front leg muscles) three times a week. Take a day or two off “leg day” for rest and recovery:
Exercises to strengthen the front of the legs to stop knee pain
- box squats
- TRX squats
- bodyweight squats
- TRX static lunges
- TRX reverse lunges
- static lunges
- reverse lunges
- weighted squats
- weighted static lunges
- weighted reverse lunges
If your legs are strong, your knee pain might be from tight muscles. Tight muscles decrease flexibility and cause pain because the kneecap presses harder into the femur bone 🦴(1). Tight muscles hurt, so I stretch the muscles I’ve put through a workout, at the end of every session. Flexibility is important because you want to have full ROM (range of motion) to be able to move about freely and easily. Stretch muscles at least 30 seconds and up to two minutes, but make sure to stretch muscles that have thoroughly warmed up; cold muscles that are stretched can be torn. You don’t need to do a full leg workout if your objective is to do a quick stretch. Try twenty-five split squats in a row, on each leg, and you’ll be plenty warm.
Here’s a follow-along stretch workout that I created, just for the legs and glutes.
If stretching isn’t doing the trick, foam rolling might be what you need. Sometimes the fascia, the cheesecloth-like material that covers our muscles gets tight and bound up, so a deep tissue massage, or foam rolling is what’s needed to release it. Below is a follow-along foam roller workout for the entire body.
The exercises you don’t want to do, because they can cause knee pain, are heavy leg extensions and plyometrics (when you’re jumping).
Something that a lot of people don’t think about, is how they walk and step; you shouldn’t hear your footsteps when you’re walking, or going up or down stairs. Climbing stairs is not bad for the knees, unless you’re landing too hard, or stomping, where you’re constantly putting undue pressure onto your knees; you want to land softly.
For balanced strength, you want to strengthen all of your muscles. From working with clients, the most neglected were the posterior chain muscles (the ones on the back of the body: rear shoulders, upper back, butt, and hamstrings). Any imbalances will eventually cause pain and injuries. Below is a video that specifically targets the butt (glutes), back of the legs and the core. Click the play button to workout with me in this YouTube video.
The more weight you carry, the more pressure you’re putting on your joints, so losing weight, or lifting less weight may be all that you need to do to get rid of your knee pain.
Try these suggestions, along with cold-therapy and an anti-inflammatory, and your knee pain will improve.
To watch the exercises and hear me explain what to do and why, with additional form tips, play the YouTube video below.
Let me know if you liked this post, and write to me if you have any comments or questions.
Please share this blog post with anyone you think may like it.
- Source: Fahey, EdD, Thomas. Strength and Conditioning. Carpinteria: International Sports Sciences Association. 9th ed., 2018. Print. Pg. 584, 586-589.
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You can grow your nails long and make them strong with these 12 tips:
12 tips to grow long and strong nails
1. Don’t push back your cuticles, or cut, or trim them as this can cause an infection. If your cuticles are uneven, use your fingernail to gently push the cuticle back
2. Wear gloves every time you clean. The chemicals in cleaning products are harmful to our skin, and this includes the nails and cuticles
3. Put moisturizer on your hands every time you wash them; frequent hand washing dries out hands and cuticles.
4. Remove and re-paint nail polish weekly. Polish adds a layer of protection and makes nails thicker.
5. Keep your hands out of the sun to prevent age spots. The sun also dries out the skin.
6. Take a calcium supplement nightly after dinner, which will help your nails grow stronger and faster. My nails grow so fast, I have to trim them every two weeks.
7. Use a nail polish that has fewer chemicals. I wear Pixie Dusk by Ella Mila https://www.ellamila.com/products/pixie-dust?_pos=1&_sid=2d0ba90cd&_ss=r
Another healthier nail polish brand that’s supposed to be good is Kure Bazaar which you can order from https://www.thedetoxmarket.com/collections/nail-care
8. Don’t use acetone to remove nail polish; this is too drying. I use Ella Mila’s soy nail polish; this healthier polish remover takes longer to remove nail polish, but it doesn’t dry out nails and doesn’t have that toxic chemical smell.
9. Keep your nails in a more of a square shape instead of pointy. It not only looks better, your nails will have a larger base and more strength with this shape.
10. File any rough edges right away to prevent snags and tearing of the nail.
11. Don’t use gels or acrylics; to remove the glue, part of your enamel gets stripped away, making your nail thinner
12. Don’t use your nails as tools. Your nails can chip if you use them to remove labels, or to push a hole in something. Use scissors instead of your nails.
You don’t need to go to a nail salon to have beautiful, manicured nails. I’ve been painting and shaping my nails for years; it saves time, money, and I don’t have to smell the chemicals wafting around the salon.
Watch the video below to see the nail polish I use, how my hands look, and what calcium I use:
The top five causes of breakouts:
Foundation is the probably the worst thing you can put on your face if it’s sensitive and prone to breakouts. Many cosmetics contain irritating and harmful ingredients. The ingredients in cosmetics are not regulated, and if they fall under the category of perfume, parfum or fragrance, they can include any number of harmful substances that cause damage to our skin and our DNA.
When I use foundation, which is rare, the brand that I found that doesn’t cause blemishes, is Laura Mercier’s Flawless Lumiere Radiance-Perfecting Foundation. This one-ounce bottle is pricey at $48, which I purchased from Nordstrom https://www.nordstrom.com/s/laura-mercier-flawless-lumiere-radiance-perfecting-foundation/5159291
Blush can also cause breakouts, just like any other cosmetic you put on your skin. If I want to add “blush” to my cheeks, I use Mac’s pink eyeshadow, which is the only powder that doesn’t cause blemishes on my cheeks.
2. Hair products
Hair spray and hair gel is sticky and can easily get on your face. Make sure to cover your face when using hair spray (see video below on the technique I use). Apply as little hair gel as possible and keep gels away from your forehead and cheeks so your hair gel doesn’t touch your skin.
3. Skin products
Skin products such as cleansers, toners, and moisturizers can cause havoc to our skin. Many cleansers are too harsh and strip the oils from your face, making it dry, and creating more acne. Try using a gentle cleanser and adding a moisturizing toner.
A good face toner will eliminate any residue the cleanser didn’t remove. Select a face toner that adds a little bit of moisture to your skin to counteract the drying effect of the cleanser.
I’ve heard people claim that everyone needs to put a moisturizer on, even if they don’t have dry skin. If you have oily skin, it doesn’t make sense to add more oils to it. Only add moisturizer to areas that are dry.
Some moisturizers are too heavy and can cause blemishes, even on dry skin, so pick a moisturizer that best fits your skin type.
If you have sensitive skin and are prone to breakouts, sunscreens will probably cause pimples. Pick a thin, easy-to-apply sunscreen, since thick sunscreen blocks pores even more. Take sunscreen off as soon as you can with a gentle cleanser and use toner to get rid of any leftover residue.
5. Certain foods
Pizza. If your pizza contains cheese, pepperoni and/or sausage, you may get what’s commonly heard of as pizza-face. These greasy foods cause your skin to act up.
Dairy products contain natural and synthetic hormones. Excess hormones can cause acne, among other health problems.
Fried foods. You’ve heard the term, “you are what you eat,” which means what you are consuming has an effect on your health and can show up on your skin.
Some good news: there is no conclusive evidence that chocolate causes breakouts, but for some people, omitting cocoa powder does make a difference. Typically, the sugar in chocolate chips and chocolate bars is what causes inflammation. If you want clearer skin, limit sugar as much as possible.
Sugar is in practically everything, and sugar is terribly addictive, I know how hard it is to give up sugary desserts; I used to eat candy daily, but after I was diagnosed as a type-1 diabetic, I had to change my habits. My sweet tooth wouldn’t go away, so I found ways to be creative in the kitchen to get my sweet cravings satisfied with a combination of different sweet fruits and healthy fat from nuts and nut butters.
You can take a peek at my whole-food, dessert cookbook below. Most of the recipes are oil-free and can be made vegan. Order a copy for yourself and another as a holiday gift:
If you love chocolate like I do and need your chocolate fix, I’ve included links below to three of my favorite dairy-free and sugar free chocolate recipes:
Chocolate-licorice smoothie recipe: https://realdiethelp.com/2019/10/15/dairy-free-high-protein-chocolate-licorice-smoothie-under-250-calories/
Chocolate & Liquor Protein Pops: https://realdiethelp.com/2019/06/27/chocolate-liquor-protein-pops/
Coconut Chocolate Cookies: https://realdiethelp.com/2019/06/06/coconut-chocolate-cookies-healthy/
One more thing that causes breakouts is touching your face. Try not to touch your face. Your fingertips contain natural oils, and if your fingers aren’t clean, they can add bacteria to your delicate skin.
Watch this short video below that covers these tips.
If you have any questions, please write to me below, and/or let me know what causes you to breakout, and what has worked for you.
Please share this post with anyone that would find this helpful.
Top 5 causes of breakouts:
- Make-up: foundation and blush
- Hair products: hairspray & blush
- Skin products: drying cleansers & toners, heavy moisturizers
- Certain foods: dairy, sugar, fried & greasy foods
This is going to be a different holiday experience this year because I won’t be having family over for brunch or gifts. One of my favorite things about this season is watching people open the gifts I give them and seeing their expression of surprise and delight when they receive a gift they like, and wouldn’t buy themselves. Since being the healthiest we can be is especially important this year, due to stress, cold weather, flu season and COVID-19, I’m ordering all my gifts online, and choosing presents that will reduce the amount of toxins in the environment.
I haven’t decided exactly whom I’m going to give what, but these brands and products are much cleaner than what’s typically sold in stores, are priced well (all under $40), are from small business owners, or from companies that care about people and the environment, or I just really like the product.
The best gifts don’t have to be expensive, it’s knowing what someone in interested in, and getting a gift you can afford and they would enjoy. Here’s my top picks for the ladies, moms, dads, men, fitness enthusiasts, weight lifters, the people that are hard to shop for, and those that like to read and cook.
For the ladies
A one-stop shop that carries, green beauty, healthier skin-care and make-up, that also cruelty-free, paraben and phthalates-free, from numerous brands is
They have so much to choose from, it can be overwhelming. If you’re looking for a present, check out their gift baskets: https://www.thedetoxmarket.com/pages/holiday-gift-guide-2020
I’ve had a hard time finding the right moisturizer for my face, until now. Lotions are either too heavy, too light, make me break out, or smell weird. This vitamin C moisturizer is fragrance free, adds just the right amount of hydration, contains no parabens or color additives, and is affordable at $19.99 https://gopurebeauty.com/collections/individual-products/products/gopure-vitamin-c-day-moisturizer-deep-hydration-with-jojoba-oil-shea-butter-vitamins-c-b5
Ecologically friendly plant-based NAIL POLISHES from Hype. Order their adorable $20 gift set of four (not shown) before it runs out from https://hypenail.com/collections/gift-sets
Another brand that contains fewer chemicals, is eco-friendly, vegan, cruelty-free, and made in the USA is Ella Milla. Their nail polish is $10.50 and most shades require 2-3 coats in addition to a top coat.
I’m wearing Pixie Dusk, which is a clear polish with silver glitter. This doesn’t need a base coat or a top coat. I’m wearing two coats of this polish, which lasts a week (sometimes even longer) https://www.ellamila.com/products/pixie-dust?_pos=1&_sid=2d0ba90cd&_ss=r
Instead of roses that don’t last, how about a lavender bouquet? These aromatic plants are made with 100% English lavender, which results in a much sweeter and pleasant fragrance. You can order these beautiful bouquets, that range from $10-$30, by a small business: Nature’s ZEAL. Jennifer is the owner of this small organic lavender/honey/maple syrup farm, located in central Michigan. Place your order by phone 517-699-4319 or email email@example.com
Nature’s ZEAL also sells these other lavender products: essential oil $10-$20, pillow spray $14, body mist $10, bar soap $7, body wash $12, lip balm $3.50, organic raw honey -$12, organic maple syrup $20. Support this female entrepreneur by placing your order by phone 517-699-4319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
These $39 adorable leg warmers are from a female entrepreneur Kaneta. She has many styles and colors. https://miabrazilia.com/ She has frequent promotions, so contact her directly. She also has lots of soft, sexy dresses and exercise wear, made from organic bamboo.
For the person who has everything
If you want to grow back some of the hair you’ve lost, have dandruff or you like scalp massages, this funny looking tool helps remove dead skin cells. We have one for each of us at home. You can use it to massage your scalp with shampoo on your head in the shower, but if you have long curly tangled hair like mine, I use it after I put on a deep conditioner, and gently push the brush up into my scalp (my head is so much cleaner now!).
This peppermint liquid hand soap (I have this on my bathroom counter) from https://www.drbronner.com/ smells like candy canes and it doesn’t dry my hands like traditional soap does. It’s $10.99 for 12 ounces. What I like about this brand, in addition to quality products, is that they treat their employees well, use recycled materials, support living wages, and is involved in animal advocacy.
When I put too much toothpaste on my toothbrush, it makes me gag. Did you know that you’re not supposed to swallow traditional toothpaste, not even a little bit? These heathy toothpastes contain 70% organic ingredients, are vegan, cruelty free, and without artificial flavors and colors. The spearmint tastes like spearmint gum, and the anise flavor tastes like liquorish. $6.49 for 5 ounces https://shop.drbronner.com/products/anise-all-one-toothpaste
With the cold weather, dry lips are a sure thing. One of my favorite lip balms is lemon-lime lip balm from Dr. Bronner. It’s so much better than Chapstick, which is made with petroleum…gross). Theirs is made from organic jojoba and avocado oil. A single balm is $2.95. Their gift set of four is $8.79 https://shop.drbronner.com/collections/gifts-samplers/products/joy-4-pack-lip-balms
For the baker
For the baker, this alcohol-free, certified organic, pure vanilla extract is the tastiest and cleanest I’ve found. You want an alcohol-free vanilla extract in your raw desserts and smoothies, otherwise it will have a strong alcohol flavor. My favorite from is from Simply Organic. It’s pricey at $12.49, but it made my list of affordable healthy gifts https://www.simplyorganic.com/simply-organic-non-alcoholic-vanilla-flavoring-2-fl-oz/
For the person who loves to bake, but is trying to eat healthier, order this whole-food desserts cookbook: It’s $14.95, and 90% of the recipes are vegan. No sugar, flour or dairy is in any of the recipes:
For the person that wants to lose weight
For those who want to lose weight, but don’t like diets, and wants flexibility, using a food diary to track what you eat, results in better food choices and fat loss. Support small female business women, by ordering the book for $15.95 (that’s me!)
For the person who wants to lose weight, and/or, go dairy-free and is looking for dairy-free recipes, this whole-food, dairy-free cookbook of mine for $14.95 is the perfect gift:
For the weight lifter
I use these resistance bands for leg curls, biceps curls, front raises, lateral shoulder raises, and front shoulder raises. TheFitLife Exercise Resistance Bands with Handles, which includes 5 Fitness Workout Bands, Training Tubes with Large Handles, Ankle Straps, Door Anchor Attachment, Carry Bag was under $25 last time I checked on Amazon
This 300 page weightlifting record book tracks progress, includes sample workouts, and over 200 of the best strengthening exercises. $15.99
No butt workout is complete without a glute band, here’s one that gives you lots of options and will work for anyone regardless of strength because of it’s light resistance (scroll towards the bottom of the shopping page for the NT Loop mini red band. It’s on sale for the holidays for $10.
I struggled for years to lose the excess pounds I packed on from eating fried foods, candy, and large portions. I hired trainers, exercised several times a week (sometimes daily), read weight loss books and followed their worthless tips, but nothing I tried resulted in fat loss. After earning a certification in fitness nutrition, and trying practically everything under the sun, I finally found what works for me, and, more importantly, works for everyone who tries and sticks to these tried-and-true weight-loss methods consistently. If you’d rather watch a video instead of reading this long post, scroll down this page towards the end to watch the YouTube video I created.
To lose weight fast, my top five weight loss strategies are:
Strategy #1. Omit dairy
Omitting dairy means eliminating animal milk, butter, cheese, cream, whey protein powder, ice cream and yogurt. Dairy products are high in calories and fat. Milk contains lactose which leaches calcium from your bones; drinking milk can make your bones brittle. If you are worried about not getting enough calcium, take an all-in-one calcium supplement, which contains D3 and magnesium. Cow’s milk has been shown to contain lead, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, which damage our health. Whole milk and butter contain saturated fats, which are the bad fats. Dairy causes belly bloat and acne. Once you remove dairy from your diet, you will have clearer skin, better digestion, and lose excess weight quickly.
If you’re wondering how you can possibly enjoy foods free of dairy, there’s lots of good dairy substitutes like almond and coconut milk. I use Parma instead of parmesan cheese, which is made from nutritional yeast flakes, on pasta and soups. Instead of sour cream, I buy plain vegan coconut yogurt (SoDelicious brand is my favorite vegan yogurt). If a recipe asks for cream, whole canned coconut milk, works well.
If your favorite recipes are high in calories and won’t work without cheese, and you would like dairy-free recipes, my two cookbooks, The High-Five Diet and Slimming Dairy-Free Desserts & Smoothies, have over 80 dairy-free recipes, combined. These recipes are calorie and carbohydrate-controlled, so they help with weight loss (links below).
Strategy #2. Reduce or eliminate alcohol.
Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, whereas carbs are four calories per gram. So, alcohol is almost twice the calories per gram as carbs. Protein contains four calories per gram so that busts the myth that carbs cause weight gain. It’s excess calories that cause weight gain. Alcohol suppresses fat burning, increases appetite, belly fat and breast cancer risk.
Fat and excess food accumulates in the liver. If your liver is trying to get rid of alcohol, which is a priority, because alcohol is a poison, the liver is not going to be metabolizing fat, which makes it extremely difficult to lose weight.
Strategy #3. Reduce oil consumption.
Oils contain a whopping 120 calories per tablespoon. If you cook with oil, and have a dressing that contains oil, those calories add up fast. Measure oil each and every time so you can minimize how much you put in your meals.
I make my own salad dressings with little to no oil and I like them so much better because they aren’t greasy or heavy. I can modify almost any dressing recipe to make it a lot less calories, and I can use more dressing, by using an almond milk or coconut milk beverage instead of oil.
Strategy #4. Add oil and riced cauliflower to rice.
Adding a little bit of oil to your rice while it’s cooking, letting it cool, and heating it back up, increases resistant starch. Resistant starch is indigestible, so the end result is that you end up absorbing fewer calories and fewer carbs.
In addition to adding oil to your rice, add an equal amount of riced cauliflower to your rice in the pot, five minutes prior to cooking. This will add fiber, make you fuller, and if you normally eat a cup of rice, and eat ½ cup of rice and ½ cup of cauliflower, you are cutting your calories almost in half.
Strategy #5. Keep a food diary.
It has been proven that tracking what you eat, results in better food choices and fat loss. When you write down everything you eat, you might be shocked at the findings. While people say, I hardly eat anything, when they review what they’ve eaten at the end of the day, they realize how much more food they are eating. Some people are horrified to find that they are eating eight or more times a day. You don’t want to eat more than six times a day, because eating shouldn’t become an obsessive habit, or to fill a void; it should be to provide sustenance, and make your body, not just your tastebuds, feel good.
Before I figured out what would satisfy my hunger cravings and allow me to continue my rigorous workouts, I paid for customized bikini competition diet plans, where I ate six times a day, yet I was always hungry, felt weak, didn’t have enough energy and craved carbs. After reviewing my food diary, I figured out what works best for me, which is a higher carb diet with less protein. I determined the best times to eat, before I’m starving. At 3:00pm, I was so hungry, and ate too much, so I changed the times I ate certain meals, where I don’t feel like I’m starving, yet I’m hungry and can enjoy eating.
Instead of the six small meals that bikini competitors eat, I’ve reduced eating to four times a day. I now eat four larger meals, so I finally feel satisfied after eating, which helped me lose those last tough pounds. I probably wouldn’t have come to conclusion of the best changes I needed to make if I hadn’t written down what I ate and the times I was eating.
When it comes to tracking food, it’s also important to write down what times of the day, or night, you eat. It’s no wonder you’re starving if you haven’t eaten in five hours. When you fast during the day, it’s more likely you will binge-eat at night. You’re also going to be less likely to grab a few chips or crackers if you have to write it down.
Tracking what you’re eating, how often you eat, and what times you eat, will help you figure out if you need to eat larger or smaller meals, if you need to cut back on grazing, or eat more often. You’ll find what times you’re eating the most calories, and what times you end up eating more snacks and high-calorie foods.
We are all different, so tracking what foods you are eating, how many times a day you eat, and what times you tend to binge, or grab sweet and/or salty snacks, can help you pinpoint what to change. Maybe you need to eat earlier so you’re not starving by mealtime and end up over-eating. Maybe you’re snacking instead of eating nutritious meals. When you use a food diary, you might realize that you’re eating too little for breakfast and eating too much at dinner. The simple method of writing down what you eat, takes only a few minutes a day, and will help you see a pattern to help you come up with a solution that works for you.
If you want to start a food log, you can write everything down in a binder, or log it into an app, but I found that having everything already laid out and tidy, with appropriate-length lines and sections to write down what you eat, where you can put the date at the top so you can look back at what you ate on Tuesday or Saturday, and gives you the option of tracking your carbs, protein, fat, calories, and water, makes it much easier. My paperback food tracker includes all this, and I also included my proprietary High-Five Diet program so you can track not just the foods you eat, but also your weight loss progress. Preview and order this paperback food journal: Price $15.99
EXERCISES FOR WEIGHT LOSS & FLAT ABS:
Abdominal-targeted exercises don’t use a lot of energy so you’re going to see the most results with reducing calories instead of doing crunches. Cardio is not the best exercise choice because cardio tends to make people hungrier, so they end up eating more, which is counterproductive to weight loss.
If you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you are taking in. To lose weight with exercise, choose resistance training, with bands and dumbbells, instead of cardio. Too much cardio can cause muscle loss, and the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn when you aren’t exercising.
You want to work every muscle in your body at least twice a week, but if you’re limited on time, spend more time doing lower body exercises instead of ab work or upper body exercises if your goal is to lose bodyfat. You want to perform exercises that target the thighs, butt and hamstrings, because these larger muscles burn more calories, and tone the legs.
Here’s exercises that will tone your thighs and butt:
- step-ups (not shown)
- hip thrusts
- resistance band exercises
Exercises that work the butt (the glutes) and the hamstrings (back of the legs), that you also want to include are:
I created a video, that goes over these top five diet strategies, and the best weight loss exercises that burn the most calories and tone the lower body. Press the play button below to watch this short video.
If you’re looking for more weight loss strategies that work, and/or want lower calorie dairy-free recipes your family will love, order
Price $14.99. This also makes a great gift, just in time for the holidays.
Let me know in the comments below, if you’ve tried any of these strategies and how they’ve worked for you.
To lose weight fast, the top five weight loss strategies are:
- Omit dairy
- Eliminate alcohol
- Add oil to rice to increase resistant starch and replace half the rice with riced cauliflower
- Reduce all oils
- Keep a food diary
Certain exercises can cause back pain, back injuries, and can make back pain worse. Below are exercises to avoid and why, and which exercises you can do instead, that will increase strength and should not cause back pain.
Always check with your doctor and physical therapist to confirm which exercises you should not do, and for how long you should avoid them. Doctors tell their patients not to lift weights or do squats, which many patients believe to mean that they cannot do squats or weight lifting ever again; Doctors are neglecting to explain that those exercises need to be avoided for only six months (or, for however long).
Heavy weights are not for everyone, but most people can exercise safely with light to medium weights, with correct form. Having an experienced, qualified fitness coach who will spot you is a good investment, so consider hiring a trainer to prevent future injuries.
If you’re cleared to exercise, keep reading so you know which exercises you should avoid, and which ones you can do, that shouldn’t bother your back.
Exercises that target the quadriceps (muscles on the front of the legs) and the glutes (hips and butt), that can cause back pain, injuries & make back pain worse include:
- Back squats. Even with proper form, added weight compresses the spine. When people lower too fast into a squat, they don’t have proper control, and cannot keep their abs engaged, moving the low back into an anterior tilt position, which increases the chances of injury. Going too low in a squat causes the ugly butt-wink, where the low back rounds and tailbone curves under, which is unhealthy for the lower back. Holding the bar unevenly, from having varying mobility in one shoulder compared to another, can cause twisting of the spine and misalignment.
- Leg press. In this seated position, the low back is rounded, and the added weight stresses the spine.
- Pistol squats. Just like a squat that’s lower than 90 degrees, the lowest part of the squat, where the tailbone is tucked under and rounded, can injure the lower spine.
- Machines like the hack squat place weight and pressure down the shoulders and onto the vertebrae. This extra weight compresses the spine. This is one reason why it’s a good idea to hang from a bar to decompress the spinal column after weighted leg exercises.
- Box squats (or chair squats)
- Step-ups (don’t let your leg raise above 90 degrees to prevent your tailbone from rounding)
- Wall-sits (wall-sit variations video is below)
- Heel-elevated goblet squats
- Single-leg squats
Exercises that target the hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the legs) and lower back that can cause back pain, injuries & make back pain worse include:
- Conventional deadlifts
- Straight leg deadlifts
- Sumo deadlifts
While all deadlifts include a hip-hinge variation, when both feet are firmly planted onto the floor, the low back does the majority of the lifting. The above three deadlifts are not worth the risk since there are deadlift variations that can strengthen the low back, hamstrings, and the glutes, that are easier and less risky.
- Double leg kettlebell deadlifts (don’t go too low, and don’t go too heavy)
- Single leg deadlifts
- Kickstand variation, where the heel is raised on one leg (make sure to switch with each side).
- Balance with one leg
- Hold onto a sturdy object with one hand
Exercises that target the latissimus dorsi aka lats (the largest back muscle) that can cause back pain, injuries and can make back pain worse include:
- Bent-over dumbbell rows
- Bent-over barbell rows
When performing a bent-over row, you have to master the hip-hinge, and keep the abs engaged the entire time. Not only is this tricky, but it puts extra pressure on the low back.
- Seated rows
- Seated lat pull-downs
- Standing dumbbell rows in a lunge position, with one hand on a counter or raised bench
Whenever you are lifting weights, control and proper form should be the top priority. When people swing and jerk weights they cannot control, this is not only cheating, but swinging and jerking weights can lead to pulling and/or tearing a muscle or a tendon, cause a bulging disk, or “throwing your back out.”
Abdominal exercises that can cause back pain, injuries, and can make back pain worse include:
- Crunches compress the spine and only work the upper ab muscles.
- Any ab exercise where you are leaning back or lying on the floor, can cause pain in the tailbone area, and when the abs get tired, the back typically goes into an anterior pelvic tilt position, which can aggravate and injure the spine.
- Front planks. Planks should not hurt your low back if you perform them correctly. The key to prevent low back pain when performing planks, is to make sure to squeeze your butt the entire time: this will prevent your low back from arching and will keep your abs engaged.
- Side planks. Keep your shoulder active, your elbow at 90 degrees, and push your forearm into the matt, with your shoulder back and down (don’t let your shoulder rotate inward to prevent shoulder pain).
I created a video, below, to showcase all of these exercises, so you can see how to perform box squats, step-ups, wall-sits, heel elevated goblet squats, single leg squats, double-leg kettlebell deadlifts, three different single leg deadlifts variations, rows in a lunge position, and elbow planks.
Below is a video of seven wall-sit variations:
Below is a plank workout, that you can watch and follow-along to.
Let me know if you have any questions and add your experience with back pain and/or the exercises I mentioned in this post, in the comments below.
If you’re diagnosed as a diabetic, testing blood sugar is a must, especially for Type-1 diabetics because very low blood sugar, which is what Type-1 diabetics deal with frequently, can cause falls, blackouts, a coma, and even death.
There’s several continuous glucose monitoring devices (aka CGM) and systems that test blood sugar around the clock. How it works, is that a sensor is applied to the upper back of the arm, after cleaning that area. The “gun” shoots the sensor into the arm. The sensor stays put with an adhesive glue. The way the sensor is able to give readings is through a needle in the middle of the sensor.
I did research on YouTube and watched many videos on CGMs, and people really seemed to like the convenience of the being able to test their blood sugar by swiping their phone or the reader, which looks like a small phone, near the sensor to get a reading right away.
My doctor recommended a CGM from FreeStyle Libre and called in the prescription to a pharmacy closest to me. After I picked up the two-pack of sensors and the reader, I followed the directions and was surprised by how much putting the sensor on, hurt. It felt like someone punched me in the arm with a thick needle. It stung. Literally. It felt like a bee sting, even several minutes after the sensor was applied. That was a definite negative.
A plus to continuous glucose monitoring, is how easy it is to test blood sugar, but testing became a new obsessive-compulsive habit. I wanted to know how much my blood sugar went up after a meal, how much it went down after a workout, what made it stabilize, what the numbers looked like at night, and what the numbers were, pretty much, every hour of the day.
My husband also decided he wanted to check my blood sugar without telling me. He would grab the reader and swipe it by my arm and would read the results to me. For all of you that have a loved one that wears a CGM, don’t check someone’s blood sugar without permission, it’s invasive and personal; you’re looking at the readings of someone’s fluid inside their body. If the person’s blood sugar is high, you’re going to upset them, and they will think you are blaming them for having high blood sugar.
Everyone’s blood sugar rises during exercise, and after eating food, so higher blood sugar readings are normal. It takes a diabetic’s blood sugar longer to go down and stabilize because Type-1 diabetics have to use synthetic insulin in doses estimated by calculating carbs, looking at portion sizes, and based on how we feel. A healthy pancreas spits out insulin in spurts, but synthetic insulin in given in one large dose, when needed, so it’s impossible to always have healthy blood sugar numbers.
Diabetics use glucose readings to determine if there is a need to take more insulin, to eat more carbs, or to see if we can resume going about our day. It’s really important to have accurate blood sugar readings because excess insulin can cause falls, concussions, stays in the hospital, and even death. Having blood sugar in healthy ranges is crucial because it’s the difference between life, death, and medical problems in the future.
Having accurate blood sugar readings is vital. To verify the reader’s accuracy, the instruction booklet advises to do finger sticks. A finger stick is where you test your blood sugar by inserting a needle into a finger to draw out blood. That blood is then placed, in a droplet, onto a strip. The blood on the strip gets sucked into meter to provide a number, displayed on the meter. Every time I compared the finger stick reading to the CGM reading, the numbers were never the same. Sometimes they were sort of close, ten points off, but sometimes they were extremely far off, by as much as forty-three points.
Under limitations from the company’s website, it says: “Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate“ (1).
The entire point of purchasing a CGM is to get accurate readings without having to fingerstick.
What I also didn’t like, was having to wear a medical device, in plain sight, for everyone to see. The sensor looks like a shiny white, flat button. I don’t know why the sensor is not available in shades of tans and browns to make them less obvious.
The sensor is not supposed to get in the way of activities, but I banged it against the wall a few times, and I’m not a clumsy person. Having an object protruding from my body is bound to get hit by a wall. It also hurt a lot more when I hit my arm, with the sensor in it.
The burning that I mentioned subsided, but not altogether. The area under and around the sensor stung and itched. I started to panic, wondering if the skin was dying under the sensor since it didn’t have access to free flowing air and could be undergoing necrosis.
After three days of use with the CGM, I wanted the sensor off my body, but it wouldn’t come off. My husband had to take tweezers to get underneath the sensor and pull it off my arm (the video of this is included below).
After removing the sensor, I saw, under the sensor and on my arm, was a decent amount of dried blood. On July 10, 2020, I called the manufacturer, told them about the inaccurate readings and itching and burning around the application site, I was told that the sensor might have been faulty, and I might be allergic to the latex glue they use. I’ve known for years, that I am allergic to latex, but I didn’t know the product contained latex. It doesn’t have a latex warning on the box, and it’s not listed on the website either.
Online, I found that a lot of people are having skin irritations from the sensor’s adhesive too. The company would not reveal what the needle was made of when I called them.
The system is also expensive. My co-pay was $64.99 and the two sensors cost me $59.97, out of my own pocket. My insurance didn’t cover the cost of the meter, or the sensors. Each sensor only lasts fourteen days, so you have to buy a new set every two weeks, so it’s three pennies under $60 a month, for just the sensors.
In conclusion, a CGM is not a good, or even a viable option for me, and for many people who are sensitive to the adhesive, but, there are lots of people who love their CGM and swear by it.
I created the short video below, if you’d rather hear the details instead of reading them, and to show you how to apply the sensor, how red my arm looked right after the initial application and before removing it, how my husband removed the sensor, what the needle looks like, and how much blood was under the sensor and on my arm after he removed the sensor.
If you have any questions, comments or would like to share your experience with CGM, please write to me below.
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