Know Your Numbers and…

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Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear a registered dietitian, Robin Rood, give a presentation about diets at the Mandel JCC to our Big Weight Loss Challenge participants. I was curious as to the content of the presentation since I had not been one of the organizers of the event, and discussing diets can be a tricky thing.

Robin went over a number of different diets, explaining what they are, the science behind them, as well as the pros and cons. This was informative for most of the crowd. There is a lot of talk out there about various diets and it is difficult to know what they are and which is the best.

What Robin emphasized to us from the beginning was that not every diet is right for everyone. It is important for us to know our numbers. By that she meant not just our weight, but our blood pressure and blood sugar. Knowing where there are imbalances in our systems should guide us to the diet that is most appropriate if we seek to trim our body fat percentage.

Numbers aren’t the only thing we need to consider. She cautioned us to also be aware of family medical history. If there is a history of diabetes or coronary disease, that will have bearing on which diets are even safe to try. Certain diets are risky for those with a history of eating disorders (like intermittent fasting). Having the history and the numbers can narrow down the choices quite a bit.

The overall message was that the most effective way to find a healthy way to eat is to know ourselves first. We need to know our numbers, our health history, and even our own emotions and shortcomings. We know what we are capable of doing and what will be too difficult.

Of course, diet is only part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Robin shared with us as well the importance of exercise, getting enough rest/sleep, and finding ways to de-stress.

Choosing a diet isn’t as easy as selecting what a certain celebrity is doing, or what you’ve heard about on the news, or even seen in a magazine. It is a personal decision….and how you choose will determine your success and your overall health too.

Water…water…

Desert, Jordan

The Weight Loss Challenge where I work is now in full swing. Last night was the first group fitness class offered by one of the other coaches. It was a big group and notable that many had not brought water with them. This is not a formula for success.

We hear a lot about keeping hydrated. We are not like camels who are able to store water for long periods and long distances. We use water to nourish our bodies and we lose water through sweating which helps to keep us cool. We must continually replenish. So what are the rules for water consumption with exercise?

Generall speaking the following guidelines apply:

  • 2-3 cups of fluid 2 hours BEFORE the start of exercise
  • 1 cup of fluid every 10-20 minutes DURING exercise
  • 2-3 cups of fluid for every pound of body weight lost AFTER exercise

You’ll notice that I put “fluid” instead of “water.” Water is always excellent, but there are sports drinks that work as well. It is also better to drink something cool that something hot; this improves the speed of absorption. We also know that there are some liquids that actually accelerate dehydration: coffee and alcohol are two prime examples. This is not to say that you cannot have a glass of wine at dinner after exercising; just remember that this cannot be your primary form of hydration.

Dehydration is not pretty. It can lead to dizziness, loss of conscience, nausea and headaches. Bring a water bottle to the gym or to your class; this will help ensure that you are drinking enough.

Get your exercise on, but remember to get your hydration on as well!

How To Keep Your Fitness Resolution

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It is that time of the year. At gyms across the country, the “resolutionaries” are making their presence known…for the next few weeks anyhow.

If this is the year when you really want to work on a “new you,” remember that there is no such thing as a “new you.” At best, we can only hope for a better version of ourselves. Total transformations are rare; incremental long-term change is more realistic.

How can we best keep our resolutions? As I have blogged in the past, we should focus less on a weight we want to get to or a size we want to fit into. The emphasis should be on building a healthy lifestyle. When we focus on lifestyle, we are more likely to make a sustained change than simply starting a diet…and falling off of it in a week.

Another way to stick to the resolution to get healthier is to surround oneself with others who can give us positive encouragement or who are on the same journey as we are. That is why joining a gym is so popular…but it is important to take advantage of the professionals there to help build a program that is safe, effective and keeps us motivated. It is easy to give up if we feel we are in this alone.

Try to keep goals as specific as possible so that there is a way to measure success. “I will go to the gym” is not as effective as “I will go to the gym 3 times a week,” which is not as effective as “I will go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before I go to work.” Create simple rules that are easy to stick by that are specific as well like: “no eating after dinner,” or “limit desserts to Friday and Saturday dinner only, ” etc. When we keep our goals fuzzy we have no way to really see if we are making headway. Even if we may not see the results in terms of weight loss, when we keep our gaols specific we will see that we are building a healthy lifestyle–which is the best for our health in the long run.

Finally, look back at past attempts to get healthy. Why did they fail? What were the obstacles? Take some time and strategize how to overcome them. If we realize that we are too tired to work out in the evening, figure out a better time to do it. If we always feel like we are in it by ourselves, find a friend or family member to engage in the journey too. We should not expect to do the same things that failed before over and over again and get different results. Plan ahead for success.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and fit 2020!

Weight Lifting on a Salad and a Piece of Cheese

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Twice today at the gym I had conversations with individuals that came back to questions of nutrition and fitness goals.

In the first case, it was someone who signed up for an indoor triathlon. He and I were discussing the best strategies to prepare for a race that is just over a month away. During our talk, he mentioned that he is trying to lose weight and that he is starting a diet in January that is basically all animal-based proteins, fruits and vegetables (and nothing else!). Under other circumstances, such a diet might be a great way to lose weight, but while training for a triathlon it may not be the best approach. It is essential to make sure that we are properly fueling our bodies for the intense training we are doing. By the way, most folks training for races find that the rigorous regimen causes them to lose weight in any case. I directed him toward resources about how to best train for the triathlon and what would be the best way to fuel his body. That diet may have to wait until after the race.

Just as I was about to leave the gym a person came to the trainer’s office and asked for a cup to get some water for her husband who was feeling dizzy. I went out onto the floor to find a young man lying on an incline bench looking pretty pale; he had been doing incline dumbbell presses. I adjusted the bench to put his head down and then we put his legs (knees up) on the bench as well. After some water, he began to feel better. I asked him what he had eaten that day. “Salad and some cheese. Oh, wait, I think a piece of fruit. Maybe a slice of bread.” Yikes! This was the early evening and that was his total consumption for the day. I understand that young men and women want to get that “cut” look and try to eat very lean, but again, we have to make sure our bodies are properly fueled for what we are asking them to do. Lifting weights on that few calories–and carb-free–was not a good idea.

I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but my education as a personal trainer does include the background science on how we digest foods, how we fuel our bodies and how we build muscle.

There are lots of resources on the web; before you embark on a serious exercise regimen or training for a race check those our or talk to a nutrition expert. This second young man was lucky that he was with someone else and that he wasn’t on a piece of equipment where he could have really hurt himself had he passed out.

Here are a couple of good articles on the topic:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/food-as-fuel-before-during-and-after-workouts

https://www.self.com/story/signs-youre-not-eating-enough-before-a-workout

With the New Year approaching and lots of resolutions to consider–including weight loss–do not forget that we need to eat smart and make sure that our bodies get what they need.

Will We Fight the Evil Influences Around Us?

Menorah

Why is this Hanukkah different than all other Hanukkahs?

While many people around us think that Hanukkah is all about oil that should have only lasted for one day but lasted for eight, we know that there is much more to this holiday.  It is a celebration of the Maccabee’s defeat of the Syrians.  More than just a military victory, Hanukkah recognizes the miraculous efforts of our ancestors to keep Judaism alive in the face of growing Greek influence.  Hanukkah is really about the miracle of Jewish survival and thriving throughout the millennia.

We now live at a time when we face threats as individual Jews and as a community that are unprecedented in this country.  It seems that every day there is another news story about attacks on Jews or Jewish institutions; in the last few days we have seen a deadly shooting at a Kosher supermarket in New Jersey, an assault of a Jewish woman on a New York subway, vandalization of a synagogue in California, and the desecration of cemeteries and the American Jewish University.What should be our response?  Throughout the centuries Jews have always been ready to move, to head to the next place that would take us in after our adopted homelands became too dangerous.  Are we there yet?  Is it time for us to pick up and leave?  Or do we look to the Maccabees as an example and come together to battle the forces that would seek to destroy us?

We cannot wait any longer.  On this Hanukkah, as a community we must confront the very real threats that exist.  This year, it’s not just about the menorah, the latkes, and the jelly donuts; it is about what we will do to ensure a thriving Jewish future.  May the Maccabees inspire us to fight for what is right; our very lives depend on it.

Too Much Truth in Advertising?

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I am old enough to remember when cigarettes did not have health warnings and when they were regularly advertised on TV. I also remember when food products did not have nutrition information on their packaging. Much has changed over the decades–overwhelmingly for the good of our health. Now, it is possible to find many restaurants–especially fast food establishments–that list calorie amounts for everything on the menu.

Researchers in the United Kingdom are suggesting that yet another level of labeling on food products could help to combat obesity. They studied the effect of PACE (Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent) labeling on calorie consumption. PACE is a fancy way of saying what activity, with how much intensity and for how long would a person need to do in order to burn off the calories in the product they are eating. For instance, PACE labeling could tell you that a cupcake has X number of calories and that a person would need to run for 15 minutes at 4 miles/hour to burn off those calories.

Here is a link to the press release on the study: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2019/december/labelling-foods-amount-of-physical-activity-needed/ and here is the link to the article on http://www.cnn.com: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/11/health/physical-activity-food-labels-wellness-scli-intl-gbr/index.html .

The research seems to indicate that when people have a greater sense of what those calories actually mean, they will make wiser choices about the food they eat. This is similar to the way that many weight loss apps allow users to know the exact number of calories in what they are eating while also “crediting” users for exercise they do.

There is some concern that this information could have a negative effect–in particular on those with or vulnerable to eating disorders. The PACE labeling could be used incorrectly and force such individuals to feel that they must burn off all or most of what they eat.

It will be interesting to see if this trend makes its way to other side of “the pond.” What will the reaction be here in the US? There was opposition to cigarette labeling and nutritional information on packaging–mostly by those who had the most to lose when the public knew the true health impact of their products. What the public think though? Too much info, or information is power?

How to Keep the Weight Off

Christmas Break 2008 10

This time of the year, many people are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and a popular one is to lose weight. Just ask anyone who is a regular gym-goer and they can tell you that the first few weeks of January are always the busiest; fitness facilities are loaded with what I call “resolutionaries.”

Of course, a better way to look at this is to go beyond the mere number on the scale. While weight as a number is a data point, our fitness level depends on other factors as well: endurance, strength, power, cardiovascular health, etc. A better resolution might be to “become more fit” or “pursue a healthier lifestyle.” What both of those mean is up to individual interpretation, so it is important to come up with goals that are beyond merely a number on a scale such as “I want to be able to run a mile without stopping” or “I will do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times per week” or “I will begin training regularly with a Personal Trainer.”

Numerous studies have pointed out that we should take a more holistic approach rather than simply focusing on the readout on the scale. In fact, when we focus more on overall health we actually have greater success at weight loss and especially keeping the weight off.

Research shows that those who put an end to their sedentary lifestyle and become more active will do a better job of losing weight and keeping it off compared to those who simply diet. Studies show that dieting can take the pounds off but unless we engage in a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and other healthy habits (not smoking, getting enough rest, etc.) , there is a higher chance that the pounds will return.

There is no easy fix to getting healthier. Diet alone or exercise alone won’t cut it for the long term. It is all about a lifestyle that promotes healthy habits. A lifestyle isn’t just something that lasts for a month or six months or a year until we achieve our goal weight; a lifestyle is about what we do from this point forward.

As the New Year approaches consider not only the changes you want to see right now, but also how to make them last for a long and healthy lifetime!