Diet, Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health

Are You Living Your Dream Yet?

Clients: Check your goal sheets against this article about what it takes to meet your goals. So many of us want to be a smaller size but is it worth the lifestyle changes to maintain it? Are you living your dream yet?

Diet, Exercise, General Health

Are You Skinny Fat?

fatIt has been a colorful 2 weeks since I last posted.

I have been substitute teaching PE at an all-girls private High School.  When I took the 9th graders, split them into groups to do resistance exercises circuit-style, one group assigned to do sit-ups couldn’t execute a single sit-up with proper form.  One pretty young thing just lifted her head up and down while laying on her back. It was so sad.

I explained to them the many health benefits of exercise.  I don’t think they were incredibly impressed.

I explained how 65%+ of Americans are overweight – which puts them at all kinds of health risks from diabetes to heart attacks and cancer.  They could even quote back the statistics to me…and nobody seemed to think these numbers had anything to do with them.  If you look around, its usually like a carnival house of mirrors with all kinds of distorted bodies peering back at you – distended bellies and all, but this group was actually relatively thin looking.  From all outward appearances, you would assume they are a healthy bunch.  So I think the girls figured they don’t really need to exercise.

That’s simply not true!  There’s something called Skinny Fat – medically, the term is metabolically obese, normal weight (‘MONW’).  Not enough lean muscle.  Or your ratio of muscle to fat is off-kilter.  For instance, a body-fat of 24-39% is high by medical and health standards, but with good genes and bone structure you might appear thin.  Yes, its also true that if you fit into a size 2, but you still jiggle while you wiggle and your skin feels spongy…there’s a good chance you fit the definition of skinny fat.

Actually, a Skinny Fat person can have the same health risks as someone overweight/obese—or worse.  The shocking news published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is that nearly 1 in 4 skinny people have pre-diabetes and are metabolically obese.   Skinny people diagnosed with diabetes have twice the risk of death than heavy people with it.  Could be that having some extra muscle from lugging around that extra weight is protective?

In other words, a heavy fat person with a good amount of muscle might be healthier than you, Miss String-Bean!  Yeah, fit people come in all shapes and sizes is what I am saying.

Why am I so passionate about this subject?  Because I have been Skinny Fat myself.

Thanks to genetics and bone structure, I appear taller and slimmer than I actually am.  Many years ago, after the birth of my second child, I went for my annual physical.  The doctor looked at the results of my blood tests and asked what I did for exercise.  I told him “I chase toddlers. ” He went on to tell me that although I was active and exhausted from all the chasing of my kids all day long, I was actually 33% body-fat.  I was obese.  I gasped – but I’m not that heavy according to the scale!  He said if I were older, he would have put me on a statin drug because of my cholesterol numbers and that I should start an exercise program (I had not done regular exercise since High School) and eat oatmeal for breakfast.  I joined a gym and attended classes religiously, ate my oatmeal for breakfast, backed off on the fancy coffee dessert-drinks, and within 3-6 months I had lowered my cholesterol 13 points.  This was the start to my journey of becoming a fitness professional.

There are a number of tests your Doc can run to see if you are Skinny Fat, including a fasting glucose tolerance test, HDL, triglycerides, blood pressure, NMR lipid particle test.

So how to fix it when you are Skinny Fat?  Pair a lean protein with a healthy low GI carb at every meal in order to keep blood glucose levels steady.  For instance, an apple with some almonds, a hard boiled egg and oatmeal, celery and peanut butter, rice and beans, chicken breast and bell pepper.  Don’t drink your calories.  Get enough sleep.  Do resistance training with cardiovascular intervals…just like I have been doing with all of the classes I have been teaching at school this week.

Don’t worry – if you lift more than 2 lbs you aren’t necessarily gonna bulk up and look like a female version of the Hulk!  If you would like more help finding a fitness program to help you avoid being Skinny Fat, drop me a line or take one of my classes this week!

Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health


Nearly every one of my female personal training clients had a question about their menstrual cycle this week. Really. It hit me like a sledgehammer that this week’s blog post must address these issues.

It’s like this: “Kayla, I don’t understand, I am working my butt off and eating right and this week I gained weight.”  Another was like this: “I’m just not losing. I am doing everything, well, OK I ate a few doughnuts, well like more than a few but anyway, the scale is going in the other direction and I have no energy all day for the last two days.” “I just started the pill and I think it’s making me gain weight. Do you think that’s possible?”

Did you just get your period, or are you expecting your period like today/tomorrow? The answer 100% of the time was YES!

I’m really not sure why this was so shocking to them. I mean, I practically have 2 wardrobes depending on where I’m at in my own cycle..but it could be that once they are down enough pounds to notice the difference or maybe because they are specifically looking for changes now they notice the scale may not move, or it may move in the opposite direction you want during the time when Aunt Flo decides its time to visit.

Its normal for Auntie to add a few lbs or even more right before and sometimes during her stay. No worries. So don’t jump off the diet and exercise bandwagon. Stay the course and these lbs will just be temporary. I KNOW it feels like the end of the universe when you wake up one morning and for what appears to be no good reason, your clothes are too tight after all that hard work. I even maintain a set of clothes which fit a bit looser for “those” times.

The period can bring with it all kinds of fun – constipation, bloating, moodiness, food cravings.  The science is out there to explain all the details about why and which hormones are doing what to cause it. Bottom line to limit bloating related weight – limit salt, lay off the alcohol, drink plenty of water (yes, drinking water won’t make you retain water), and try some relaxation like tai chi or yoga (avoiding inversions like head stands for prolonged periods). If your big event that you are trying to lose the weight for is during that time of the month, plan in advance to consume foods which have a diuretic effect like watermelon, cucumber, and asparagus. Have a little extra potassium – like bananas, coconut water, leafy greens.  If you’re totally beat, maybe increase some iron, like in beef (if you eat beef).  If you need to back off on the intensity of your workouts for a day or two that’s fine, but studies show that exercising even when you have your period can alleviate some of the crampiness and moodiness that comes along with it.

Also know that gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, or exercising excessively can change your menstrual cycle – making it longer or shorter. Mostly, its temporary…so pull out your list of coping strategies and have at ‘em.

If cramping is severe or weight gain, moodiness, lack of energy is extreme, you probably want to see a Physician! Endocrinology, Gynecology etc.

Finally, as for whether the pill can make you gain weight. Yes. It can. Those based on estrogen can make you gain, and some older birth control pills had an effect on insulin resistance. Your doctor may or may not tell you that your particular brand of birth control could make it hard for you to lose weight or may make you gain weight, whether from bloating, or other hormone-based reasons and effects. I would say that in the overall scheme of your life, having a baby will make you gain more weight most likely than the pill and if every other reason you are taking this pill is fine for you maybe you need to let go of the self-imposed mandate that you should be 4 lbs lighter right?! You could also speak with a registered dietitian about whether changing up your ratio or balance of proteins to carbs might help you out while you are on the pill. Ultimately, you are the world’s foremost expert on you. So if your body is telling you a medication is having a certain affect on how you feel, you owe it to yourself to research it and consult all the experts you need to make an educated decision about whether this is the right medication for you.

Exercise, General Health

Motivation Monday May 27: 27 Great Reasons to Weight Train Today

  1. It’s the first step toward getting the body you really wantMemorial_Day_2012_freecomputerdesktopwallpaper_1600
  2. You will be that much closer to turning into your childhood superhero
  3. You wouldn’t skip out on brushing your teeth today would you—eeeewww.
  4. You want to keep the commitment you made to yourself to get healthy.  Breaking commitments is bad for your self-esteem.
  5. If you blow off your workout today you will be more likely to blow off your workout tomorrow and the hardest thing is to get back on the wagon once you have fallen off…so don’t even go there. Don’t think—just shrink!
  6. You will get weaker, fatter, and uglier if you don’t.
  7. Somewhere deep inside you will be loathing yourself if you don’t
  8. It’s the best natural anti-depressant in the world
  9. You don’t want to be one of those people that don’t work out ,do you?
  10. It’s the safest way possible for you to get rid of that pent-up aggression you have—better for everyone involved.
  11. Cuz’ you are one sexy Mamma when you train and you know it
  12. You will be so much more productive the rest of the day if you train first, so telling yourself you don’t have time is another way of saying you just don’t want to train.
  13. You don’t want to wimp out on the better existence you are planning for yourself
  14. It’s a great escape from your problems
  15. Its cheaper than therapy and often more effective
  16. Because procrastinating and thinking about all the reasons not to takes more time and is much harder than actually working out
  17. Because you are just gonna go in and lift a few light sets, or hitting play on that dvd or drive in and do the first 15 minutes of class ..and within moments you will find yourself giving it your all.
  18. You will sleep better
  19. You will probably eat better after working out hard
  20. You will have more energy
  21. You will be better able to protect yourself and your loved ones if some unexpected bad stuff should happen
  22. You will age more beautifully
  23. It’s awesome to know you are stronger, faster, and healthier now at 42 than when you were 24.
  24. You will have more better sex –‘nuf said
  25. Because right now there’s someone too sick, too paralyzed, or too dead to train. Somewhere someone’s wishing they could train. Give it your all today because you are grateful you aren’t them.
  26. It’s a great life insurance policy against diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other yucky things.
  27. There’s some Navy Seal who trains his butt off so you can speak your mind. Go to the weight room with gusto for that guy/gal out of gratitude.
Diet, Exercise, General Health

Live For Now

Pepsi launched a new ad campaign.  Maybe you have seen the billboards across town or the TV ad, which proudly demands that we “Live For Now?”

I love it!  Finally, truth in advertising!

No more live for today or live for the moment. Simply put, live for now—right now, this instant… Certainly, if you were thinking of living a long time you wouldn’t be drinking this now.  But you’re not, you’re thinking about now.  One of my personal training clients said the ad is just missing proper punctuation..”Live, for Now”…would have been more accurate, he said.  In fact, if you thought about it for even a second longer you might just decide not to have that Pepsi and drink something really hydrating and less costly in so many ways….Water!

Anyone remember the the old campaign, “the taste for a new generation?”  Forget that.  Pepsi needed a new ad campaign mostly because soda has become the four letter word of beverages.  We have heard that its not that healthy but we it really that bad for you?

Lets start by looking at what its made of: Carbonated water, caramel color, flavorings, caffeine, phosphoric acid and high-fructose corn syrup/sugar/artificial sweetner and preservatives, like sodium benzoate.

Carbonated water is plain (water infused with carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles).  The caramel color  in some brands of soda was in fact found to be carcinogenic, so it has been replaced by another one which is supposedly safer.

Phosphoric acid is a chemical that adds a tangy or sour flavor by breaking down starches into sugar.  The phosphorous can leach calcium from your bones.  Broken bones, osteoporosis—no thanks!

Then there’s the sugar issue..and we know the troubles of table sugar – weight gain, tooth decay, even cancer in rats.  I don’t mind sugar now and then though in moderation. In some ways, maybe soda should be thought of as a drinkable dessert.  For the sake of comparison, a typical sugar packet contains 2-4 grams of sugar.  A 12 oz Pepsi contains 42g  (3.5g/oz) HFCS – high fructose corn syrup is a less expensive type of sugar than cane sugar (thank you to the US corn lobby).  However, corn is one of the most genetically modified crops…and we don’t know the risks of genetically modified seeds and crops yet.  I prefer not to be the government’s guinea pig here—especially since the way to break down the DNA of the seeds is through viruses.  We simply don’t know the long term results.  If you have sugar, your body will register that at some point its full and you will stop. HFCS puts us in an even greater metabolic danger because it doesn’t register that feeling of fullness in the brain the same way.

Aha, but you may drink a sugar-free diet version of Pepsi which contains 0 grams of sugar.  According to one study, those who drank just 1 can of diet soda a day had a 34% greater incidence of metabolic syndrome.  But why?  Partly, I think its because people may indulge in other junk-foods (high calorie foods with low nutrient density) because they think the drink is saving them calories. It could also be that the brain forgets that sweetness indicates calories as you eat more and more artificially sweetened things so when you do finally break down and eat a sweet thing with sugar the body thinks it doesn’t need to burn those calories since there mustn’t be any.

Artificial sweetners like Aspartame/Nutra Sweet, are an excitotoxin, which may damage to the brain’s appetite center.   Carol Simontacchi from her book The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children states, “One liter of an aspartame-sweetened beverage can produce about fifty-six milligrams of methanol. When several of these beverages are consumed in a short period of time (one day, perhaps), as much as two hundred fifty milligrams of methanol are dumped into the bloodstream, or thirty-two times the EPA limit.”  Hm, when people characterize soda as a poison, they may not exaggerating.

Then there’s that addictive stimulant known as caffeine which is a diuretic (read: dehydrating).  At first, you feel like you have energy, but when you come down off the caffine, you can feel quite hungry—and eat more calories and put on excess weight which puts you at risk for disease.  The problem is that between the spike in blood sugar caused by the sugar (HFCS included) and the surge followed by a crash caused by the caffine, you are likely to wind up hungry…and throw off the successes you accrued in diet and exercise because it left you depleted.

Finally, there’s the sodium benzoate, which is added to prevent mold growth.  A Consumer Reports test found that when drinks with this sit in plastic bottles in sun or heat, dangerous levels of benzene can form.  Sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate and vitamin C/ascorbic acid can create the benzene.

Its really quite a campaign indeed.  The “Live for Now” campaign is so trendy and cool with its Nicki Minaj pop up concerts integrating her lyrics from the song “Moment 4 Life.” “I wish that I could have this moment for life.  ‘Cuz in this moment I just feel so alive.”  Made me think..

I feel most alive when I’m working out actually.  When do you feel most alive? Are you living for Now? What one small thing can you do right now that will help ensure you will be alive for the really important things in your life?

Blaylock, R. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, NM: Health Press 1997.

Consumer Reports staff.  “Benzene in Soft Drinks.” Consumer Reports, October 2006.

Swithers, S. and Davidson T. “A Role for Sweet Taste:Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats.”  Behavioral Neuroscience 122 no1 (February 2008)

Pierce, W. Et Al. “Over-eating by Young Obesity Prone and Lean Rats Caused by Tastes Associated with Low Energy Foods.”  Obesity 15 no8 (August 2007)

General Health

Smart People Exercise and Exercise Makes You Smarter

The New York Times Magazine published an article about new scientific findings which show that exercisers are smarter!

Yep.  No more dumb jock jokes I guess.

They say that scientists used some new technology to examine the workings of individual neurons and the makeup of brain matter itself and discovered that exercise appears to build a brain resistant to shrinkage.

Whoa!  Brain shrinkage?!  I knew that after kids and after ooh, a certain age, my boobs might head south…but now this?

I know the point was to show that exercising is good for the whole body-muscles and circulation…and now brain function…but did they need to tell me my brain is shrinking?  (Good news is its only 1%.)   Better news is that I can stop doing those boring crossword puzzles and playing board games designed to build your brain.  According to the NY times, “The latest neuroscience suggests that exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.” Aah. this IS exciting news.

Professor Rhodes, in the Psychology Dept. at the University of Illinois led a team of researchers to observe groups of mice in different living arrangements.  One group had exciting colorful environments and interesting flavorful food and drink.  Another group had access to all this plus small running wheels and a third group had no exciting environment nor extraordinary food, and the fourth group had the running wheel but no other toys or treats.

The scientists gave the mice a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and a substance was injected so the scientists could examine their brain tissues.  At the end of the study the cognitive tests were run and it turns out that the toys and tastes didn’t appear to improve the animal’s brains.  Only those who used the running wheel performed significantly better on cognitive tests.

This got me thinking…While I was sitting on my butt studying to earn my MA degree, all those girls in spandex at the gym trying to pick up dudes while working out could actually wind up smarter than me?!?  Hmm, does this mean that the undergrads who smoked pot might have actually balanced out all the brain cells they snuffed out with all the time they spent at the gym?  I’m sure the scientists weren’t trying to go there but I had to wonder….it was, after all, an animal study and I did attend the ultimate party school for a time…

The real thrilling part of the study overall is that even though the brain, like all muscles and organs does appear to decline in function with underuse and age, neurogenesis (the creation of new cells) can and does occur.  Exercise appears to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay—particularly in the hippocampus which is associated with memory and certain types of learning.  The rats who ran for a few weeks, as compared to the sedentary ones, had about 2x as many new neurons in their hipppocampi.

That said …Gotta Run..

General Health

More Proof That Being A Mommy Is Good For Your Health!

Ooh goody!

There’s a new study that backs up what I’ve known for a long time – Mommyhood is good for your health!  OK, the study didn’t exactly research mommyhood at all, but it’s precisely what came to mind when I read it.  But the fact that someone paid to do this study at all somewhat proves that common sense isn’t all that common, as they say…(who ever “They” are).

The Atlantic ran an article on a study that was done showing essentially what the title says, “He who sits the most dies the soonest.”

I know what you’re thinking… Oh, there goes the media again telling us to do something simple like “just take the stairs” again… rather than actually work out.  (I don’t mean being on the elliptical with a copy of Vogue on the screen either, when I say work out).

Actually, the study shows that getting up and moving around as part of your daily life, not necessarily just exercise time, is what’s needed to reduce the risk.  Regular exercisers did fare better than exclusive sitters, but both groups don’t do well when they sit for as long as most of us do while making a living so we can ‘um.. “survive.”

That means to me,  that stay-at-home moms should live to a nice ripe age!  Have you ever tried to complete one simple task while taking care of children.  It’s impossible.  You can’t actually sit and accomplish anything for longer than 2 hours (and you’re lucky at that) without an interruption that likely requires you to get up and do something.  Housework involves plenty of bending and moving.  Getting toddlers from point A to point B is like herding cats!  Nevertheless, a few years ago at my yearly physical, my doctor asked what I did for exercise.  I looked astonished and said, “I chase toddlers.”  He said my cholesterol numbers showed that wasn’t good enough.

What I’m saying is for optimal health, you still have to work out…but the article shows that just because you work out doesn’t mean you can sit on your butt the rest of the day!