Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I HATE to run, and if they are being honest instead of polite, they’ll probably tell you I am not very good at it. I have worked hard on improving this spring and summer, and while I am not going to set records of any kind any time soon, I no longer feel like I am going to die if I run for more than a mile. Part of my running program this summer involved interval work at the track where I would run a certain distance at a certain pace, then walk a set distance to bring my heart rate down, then do it over and over and over again. Over time, the distance at running pace increases and the walking time decreases. When I started, I was walking and running about the length of a football field. Now, I “get” to run as much as four football fields to walking one. It’s tedious, so during the walks, I like to people watch. A couple of weeks ago, it was over ninety degrees at eight in the morning, so there were only two other people on the track. One was walking laps when I got there, and was joined a few minutes later by another. They began to do intervals of about the same length I had been doing when I started. The person who arrived late stuck it out for about fifteen minutes, while the other kept at it even after her friend left. Watching her work brought home to me how much she must want to improve, and how far I had come on my own journey. As luck would have it, we both ended our workouts around the same time, and as we were leaving, I simply told her “Great job today.” It was - I know from recent experience just how hard it is for a non-runner to do what she had just done. The look on her face said it all - pure joy that someone believed in her as an athlete. That made my day, because I remember the first time someone called me athletic. I was forty-three, and had NEVER thought of myself as having any athletic gifts whatsoever. That moment changed the way I thought about myself (thank you, Coach Joe!) and four years later, I haven’t looked back. The moral of the story? Those few words of encouragement may just change someone’s life.
Are you over thirty? How much protein do you eat? Well, if you want to preserve your muscle as you age, unless you are already eating about a gram of protein per pound of body weight, you may want to add some extra protein at each meal. Recent research shows that as people age, there is a strong link between protein consumption and muscle wasting. Put simply, most of us don’t eat enough protein to provide our bodies with adequate building blocks to create new muscle at the rate our body breaks it down. Muscle loss begins in your 30’s and the rate of loss increases with further aging. Strength training helps, but that training won’t result in preserving or even gaining muscle unless you have adequate levels of dietary protein. Curious about whether you are eating enough protein, or how to get more into your diet? We’re happy to help!
Many people think that their trainer or nutrition coach has perfect exercise and nutrition habits. I'm here to tell you that while that's flattering, it's definitely not true. We struggle with the same things that you do, day in and day out. I'm active in a number of nutrition and exercise related Facebook groups and one of them recently had a thread on what our clients might be surprised to learn about us. Here are some of the things we confessed, grossly generalized:
We LOVE beer, wine, ice cream, pizza, burgers, bread, nut butters, cupcakes, fresh bread, cookies, chips, and donuts.
We DEAL WITH hormone cravings, sleep deprivation, and work/life balance.
We HATE meal prep and working out when we don't feel like it.
Some of us BATTLE emotional eating and eating disorders.
Our GUILTY PLEASURES include eating pints of ice cream and eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups while binge watching Netflix when we are supposed to be working or working out.
The difference between the professionals and the clients? Most of us are comfortable with an eighty-twenty lifestyle. We have worked hard to learn to be consistent in our habits so that we can enjoy the things we love in moderation. We can help you get there, too!
Many of the clients that I work with have vacillated between watching everything they eat and exercising every day, and ignoring diet and exercise completely. They really struggle with achieving balance, particularly when it comes to exercise, but they need adequate rest and recovery to meet their goals. Inadequate rest can stall weight loss and increase the risk of injury.
After a certain point, which differs for everyone, more exercise is not better. We all need some rest and recovery to maximize our performance and our nutrition goals. If you work out every day, you likely aren't going to achieve your physical or nutrition goals as quickly as if you give yourself a day to relax and recover once or twice a week. That doesn't mean you need to be a couch potato, but try to have at least one day a week where you do not elevate your heart rate or lift weights. Yoga, gentle swimming or biking, and long walks are all great for recovery days.
How do you figure out what balance is right for you? Well, take notes! Keep a log of how you feel and recover, as well as what your weight is doing if weight loss is a goal, for a week or two with one workout schedule, then add another day of recovery in and see what happens over the next two weeks. Keep tinkering with that schedule until you feel like you are maximizing your performance and your nutrition goals, and adjust as needed over time. Remember, adequate rest and recovery will allow you to make the most out of each workout and each meal.
There are a few things that are my nutritional version of Kryptonite. I can't pass them up, and they weaken my resolve to make good decisions. A nice glass of champagne or Prosecco almost always results in several, and a scoop of Ben & Jerry's Salted Caramel Core ice cream ends up becoming an entire pint. As a result, I've had to devise strategies to counter my Kryptonite to meet my nutritional goals. Here's how I do it:
First, I try not to keep any Kryptonite in the house. Much as I love it, I just don't buy it on a regular basis any longer. This prevents me from making rash decisions and binging when I am tired or stressed.
Second, when I do buy them, I make sure I buy the smallest quantity possible. I buy the splits of Prosecco rather than the large bottle, and I buy the kiddie size ice cream container rather than the entire pint. This allows me to create portion control.
Third, I allow myself to indulge in my Kryptonite regularly enough so that I don't have cravings. When I go out to dinner with my husband, I often order a glass of Prosecco. When I take the kids out for ice cream, I will buy the smallest size. This allows me to enjoy things that I love, but not overdo it.
What's your nutritional Kryptonite, and do you have a plan to counter it?
Many of us lead incredibly hectic and busy lives. We rush from work to kids' activities, grab a quick bite to eat, then go right back to work after the kids are down for the night, working until the early hours of the next day. For many, getting only four or five hours of sleep per night is the norm. One thing I work on with my clients is developing a sleep routine to help extend the amount and quality of sleep that they get because believe it or not, lack of sleep is one of the biggest things preventing many people from achieving weight loss. In fact, with all other conditions being equal, if you get less than seven hours of sleep per night, you are likely to lose only half as much weight as someone who gets more than seven hours.
Why is that, you might ask? Well, a lack of sleep disrupts our delicate hormone balance. This in turn affects our body's ability to process and utilize nutrients, in particular fatty acids, promotes the production of the hormones that regulate our appetite and hunger cues. It also decreases our ability to make good decisions surrounding food, so you are more likely to give in to cravings and make less nutritious food choices.
How do you counteract a lack of sleep? Well, there are three things that I work on with my clients. First, we establish a sleep ritual that allows them to be in the best position possible to make every second of sleep that they get restful and productive. What that ritual looks like differs from person to person, but it usually involves getting away from screens and work and doing something relaxing for at least half an hour before bedtime. Second, we work on getting a little bit better each week. If a client starts out going to bed most nights at 1:00 am and gets four hours of sleep, we push that back by fifteen minutes a week until they are getting five hours, then six hours. Third, we try to find improved efficiencies throughout their day so that they have more time for themselves and less need to be burning the candle at both ends. Once these strategies are in place, clients tend to have a much better quality of life as well as weight loss success.
Are you struggling with sleep? If so, we're happy to help.
Clients ask me all the time about intermittent fasting. They hear about it in the news and are interested in whether or not it is something we should explore as an option for them. Like just about everything else we work on, I tell them that it depends. Today we'll discuss why intermittent fasting helps some people and why it may not be the best choice for others.
Before we dive in to the issue of whether intermittent fasting might help you reach your goals, let's define what intermittent fasting is. Basically, it is a method of eating where one alternates periods of eating with periods of fasting. Some people eat freely for several days, then fast for a full day, whereas others eat only within a certain window daily. Either method can work to bring about fat loss as long as you end up in a caloric deficit. In general, I prefer utilizing the daily eating window method with my clients as I find it gives them better energy and is a more sustainable lifestyle. Again, this differs from person to person.
What might make intermittent fasting attractive to someone? There are a lot of people who simply don't feel like eating first thing in the morning, or who aren't hungry later in the day. For these people, listening to their body's natural hunger cues and designing an intermittent fasting plan around them may help them reach their goals. Intermittent fasting also works well for people who struggle with nighttime junk food cravings. Intermittent fasting is also a great way to help people recognize and understand their hunger cues again, as so many of us don't remember what it is like to really feel hungry.
What should be taken into consideration when engaging on an intermittent fasting plan? Well, it is NOT a license to eat whatever you want during your eating window. Rather, people who engage in intermittent fasting should focus on eating nutritious whole foods in appropriate quantities for their size and goals, just like everyone else. One should also consider whether your body seems to perform best when fueled regularly throughout the day, or if it doesn't really matter when you eat.
Who should not engage in intermittent fasting? Anyone with medical or metabolic conditions should consult with a physician and/or a registered dietician (preferably both) before engaging in intermittent fasting. Additionally, if you are the "hangry" type or if you lack energy if you don't eat regularly, intermittent fasting probably isn't going to be your best option.
Interested in learning more? Give us a call or drop us an email,
For a variety of reasons, we often end up eating in places that aren't our first choice. Perhaps they are the only option available to us, or perhaps we are with people who have chosen where we will eat. Either way, we can make healthy choices regardless of where we are. (It's also perfectly fine to have a once in a while treat meal as well!) Here are some hints to help you do your best when you are eating someplace that may not be your first choice.
First, do your homework. Nearly every restaurant chain posts its nutritional information on its website. Check it out in advance and find two or three options that work for your goals.
Second, AVOID THE SPECIALS. Yes, caps were necessary there. Unless the salad is poached or grilled fish with steamed vegetables or a salad where you can have the dressing on the side and can opt out of calorie laden toppings, the specials usually are not your friend from a nutritional perspective.
Third, have a plan and stick to it. Adding an appetizer or a dessert can add hundreds if not thousands of calories to your meal at most chain restaurants. For example, appetizers at the Cheesecake Factory range from 250-1670 calories, and desserts start at 250 calories for a bowl of strawberries and top out at 1780 for a slice of chocolate truffle cake.
Finally, keep your goals in mind. Are you trying to lose weight? If so, be more careful about your selections. Are you happy with how you look and feel? If you are, don't worry about an occasional meal out of monumental proportions. Remember, consistency matters more than perfection, so if you are eating well most of the time, the sporadic indulgence won't keep you from making progress toward your goals.
It's time for a road trip! Road trips are a fabulous way to see the country, but it can be hard to eat nutritious foods when you are in places where gas stations, rest stops, and diners are your only options for food. Here are a few ways that you can keep yourself heading down the highway toward nutrition success.
First, pack as much of your own food as you can. You can bring lunch for your first day as well as your favorite healthy snacks. If you have room for a cooler, think about bringing things like hard boiled eggs. They are a great source of protein and last a long time with little refrigeration required. Try to restock on the road when you find a grocery store with healthy snack options.
Second, stick to whole foods whenever you can. Gas station convenience stores carry nuts, fruit, deli meats, and whole wheat breads.
Third, scope out the options available to you in your overnight stops. Farmers markets are a great source of fresh produce, whole grain breads, and other yummy yet healthful foods. They usually open up early, so you can stock up for the day on the way out of town to your next stop.
Finally, check out the menus of fast food restaurants online before you hit the road, and perhaps even print down any nutrition information you can find. In a pinch, you can find healthier alternatives if you look carefully.
When we travel, we usually aren't lucky enough to end up staying somewhere with a stove and a fridge. Most of us end up in hotels with few of the conveniences of home available to us. How do you eat well if you are living in a hotel? Well, it's not easy, but here are a few tips that may help.
First, try to stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette. At the very least, try for one with a mini-fridge, and ask the hotel staff to have it cleared of any beverages and snacks. You can then use the mini-fridge to store your own food.
Second, make friends with the coffee maker. Seriously. Your coffee maker is capable of SO much more than making steaming cups of java. Think oatmeal, soup, steamed vegetables, and even a grilled cheese. Google coffee maker cooking. You're welcome.
Third, find the nearest grocery store with a solid salad bar and prepared foods section. This will be a lifesaver if you don't have access to a mini-fridge. Stick with lean protein, veggies, and rice. It may not be exciting, but it will keep you on track.
Finally, avoid room service unless you are ordering a salad with the dressing on the side. Room service food is usually rich and comfort food based, which means it is probably going to break the calorie bank.
Use these tips and you can sleep better, even in a hotel bed, knowing you are one step closer to your goals.
Amy Mariani is the owner of Fit & Fabulous LLC in Winchester, Massachusetts. She is also the nutrition coach at www.mountainstrength.com. Her mission is to help people eat healthy and love life.
Please note that you should consult with your physician prior to embarking on any major changes with regard to your nutrition. Unfortunately, absent authorization from a medical professional, we are unable to provide individualized nutrition coaching to anyone under the age of eighteen, or to persons with certain medical conditions. We are always happy to work with authorized medical professionals under these circumstances.