Got Belly Fat?

The link between belly fat and heart health has been well established. So instead of presenting you with the science, I’m giving you three tips to reduce belly fat, which will then increase your heart health.

I’m guessing we all know that if you want to have a heart attack, drink a lot of soda, eat French fries, and build your belly fat. Studies show that belly fat, known as visceral fat, is the most dangerous fat of all.

Visceral belly fat secretes inflammatory compounds, and inflammation is associated with heart disease.

If you have excess belly fat, a change is in order. But what to change? Here are three simple steps you can take.

  1. First, start eating fewer calories than you need by eliminating sugars and foods that come in a bag or a box. Replace them with whole, natural foods, focusing on fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts.
  2. Second, do short burst exercises focusing on total-body resistance training and interval training. Research shows that interval training is better than long cardio workouts for losing belly fat.
  3. Third, get social support. You’ll lose more belly fat if you exercise with a friend who is also losing belly fat.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for women. Anything we can do to prevent it needs to be done!

“Be Here Now” To Improve Your Daily Life

“Be here now.” Three short words that when linked together can create a powerful message. It’s been used as a book title and I’m sure as the title for many inspirational speeches.

I was at a conference a few months ago and the crowd was getting rather rowdy and off topic. The workshop leader told everyone to please pay attention to her and to “be here now!

I think that phrase reminds us that we are often NOT in the moment but that staying in the moment over an extended period of time, free of distractions, is what we need to do to accomplish our goals.

It’s true that if we want to achieve our goals we’ll have to learn to apply “Be here now” in our daily lives.

Here’s how to apply it to your goals:

Rule #1. Concentrate on defining your objective.

What do you want to accomplish? What matters to you? Why do you want to achieve that particular goal?

Rule #2. Concentrate on one part of your goal at a time.

Break down your ultimate goal into smaller chunks. Keeping an eye on the big picture is great. However, you have to focus on the individual steps that will get you there.

Rule #3. Concentrate on controlling your situation. Here’s where the “be here now” resolve must be strongest.

When focusing on those individual steps, control your natural tendencies (we all have them) to drift away from the task at hand and/or stop trying if it becomes too challenging or takes too long.

Rule #4. Concentrate on completion.

To achieve any goal, you have to make a commitment to reach the finish line. Strengthen your resolve and keep yourself motivated by visualizing the end result. Think about how excited you’ll be and how great you’ll feel when you reap the rewards of your hard work.

If you’re already practiced in the “be here now” idea, then that’s great. I know for most of us, myself included, it’s a challenge so I thought I’d remind myself of this practice and remind you all as well, too.

Coping With Stress: Top 10 Ways!

Raise your hand if you have stress on a daily basis! If there’s anyone out there whose hand isn’t in the air, please contact me as I’d like you to write these articles from now on!!!

We all feel stress, so I thought I’d send you 10 ways to cope with stress on a daily basis. They are in no particular order so read through them and use them as you wish.

  1. Visualization. Relaxing images calm your mind and body. Visualize a soothing setting and take some slow deep breaths.
  2. Speaking slowly. This can be helpful when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. When we speak slowly we can think more clearly and respond better.
  3. Recharging. Set aside some time each day for energizing your mind. Purposely plan these relaxation break times in your hectic schedule. And keep these dates with yourself.
  4. Check your posture. This is one of my favorite ones. Poor posture while sitting or standing brings tension, pain, and increased stress to your muscles. Develop a healthy sitting, standing, and working environment.
  5. Eat healthy food, and drink to avoid dehydration. Drinking plenty of water and eating a nutritious diet reduces stress.
  6. Create a positive and helpful support system. Having this makes it easier to manage stress more effectively.
  7. Learn to manage your time. I think poor time management may create more stress than just about anything. Learn to prioritize tasks and avoid overcommitting yourself. Identify regular time wasting activities and eliminate them. Work on procrastinating less. Seeing your time management skills improve will lower your stress level!
  8. Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This means tightening and then relaxing your muscles. Do this laying down and scanning through your entire body. Mental relaxation follows physical relaxation, so give this a try.
  9. Meditation. Meditation quiets your mind and emotions. This helps relax tension in your body.
  10. Exercise. Exercise can be a wonderful outlet. In many ways it acts as a buffer to the overflow of hormones that accumulate during stress. Don’t forget to combine cardiovascular exercise with resistance training.

Give some or all of these a try and see if you can’t get a handle on your daily stress. Then maybe next time I ask you to raise your hand if your feel stress on a daily basis your hand won’t go up quite as fast or quite as high!!

Will Running Help You Lose Weight?

As a health and fitness professional I field a lot of questions that revolve around the “what’s the BEST” topic. Everyone wants to know the BEST, but it’s an awkward question to answer and maybe even the wrong question to be asking. The best for what? The best for whom? And for each best recommendation that you might hear about or read about in the media, even if it’s wrong for you, there might be some truth in it.

So you may be exercising and eating all wrong, for YOU and your goals.

And the fitness field sure does lead to some interesting ideas posing as “the truth”.

For instance, here’s a sample taken from questions I receive:

  1. Is running several miles per day the key to getting fit?
  2. Is doing a ton of long, slow distance (LSD) running absolutely necessary?
  3. Is lifting the heaviest weights you possibly can the best way to get really strong and fit?
  4. Will eating five or six times per day crank up my metabolism?
  5. Will training one part of my body today and another part tomorrow prevent over-training?
  6. Is working out only 2-3 times per week the fastest way to make progress?

While there are pieces of truth in all these questions, there are also pieces of untruths. Let’s take one of these, the one about running and metabolism, which is one of the most frequent questions I get. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people tell me they are training for a marathon, or even a half marathon, and yet they aren’t losing any weight.

For example, long, slow cardio may make you feel good, but if you want to “STEP UP” your metabolism, you’re far better off doing a very hard, very vigorous workout that calls upon all your physical and mental reserves. You’re better off with a short workout that will never get easy, no matter how often you do it.

Consider the sprinter. Her body is lean, muscular, and powerful. But it is rare to find a long-distance cardio person who is well muscled. They may be lean, but there’s no power. Not only that, after a period of time they may end up suffering from hip, knee, ankle, and lower-back pain, particularly if their technique isn’t good.

Why? All the pounding on the joints takes a tremendous toll on the body.

And as I suggested, it depends on YOU and your goals. Running a lot of miles isn’t the best approach if your goal is fat loss or a change in body composition.

Try these 5 approaches instead:

  1. Begin doing vigorous bodyweight exercises that force you to lose control of your breathing. If you aren’t getting out of breath when you train, your system is NOT being forced to adapt and change. The harder you are breathing, the more shock to the system. The more “shock” there is, the greater the shake-up in your metabolism.
  2. Instead of running or bicycling several miles per day for cardio exercise, train like a cheetah. No I didn’t say train eating Cheetos, I said train like a cheetah! Run as hard as you can, at full blast, for as long as you can. Run with all your might. When finished, you’ll be gasping for oxygen. And this gasping is what turns on the fat-burning furnace within. Make sure you’re in appropriate shape before you tackle this one.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen in your system. The more oxygen in your system, the faster your metabolism. Don’t just get your deep breathing from vigorous exercise. Get if from the act of deep breathing itself, done all day long.
  4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich, water-content foods while avoiding starchy foods most of the time.
  5. Change the mental picture you have of yourself. As you see yourself in your mind’s eye, so you become.

While #4 and #5 aren’t about exercising per se, coupled with the first three suggestions, they’ll surely help you make progress.

So always remember, it’s about you and your goals and what exercise and diet plans will help you reach them in the safest, most efficient ways possible.

Easiest Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Health

After the last blog post about cardiovascular disease, I received an interesting question. The reader asked me, “From the list of ten recommendations you gave us, which one should I start with?”

Great question! Hard to pick just one, but here’s what I suggested.

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to improve your health in general and heart health in particular, is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

I found a recent study where researchers from Iran’s Obesity Research Center examined fruit and vegetable intake in 840 men and women from Tehran, and the results were dramatic. The subjects who ate a lot of different fruits and vegetables were significantly and inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Specifically, it appears that eating a VARIETY of fruits and vegetables leads to lower LDL cholesterol in a dose-responsive manner. That means you’ll get more benefits from eating an apple, an orange, a banana, and some broccoli than you will from just eating an apple and an orange.

So every time you are at the grocery store, add at least one new fruit and one new vegetable to your cart. You can choose from kiwi fruit, avocados, asparagus, pears, spinach, and so many other amazing and delicious foods. This past month two foods I’ve added to my salads are radishes and jicama. I guess I was craving crunchy foods! And for fruits, let’s just say that lately I’ve been going gaga over grapefruit!

Try to be a little better every week with your fruit and vegetable intake and you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease in one of the simplest possible ways.

As you know I’m all for extending my life and living out my years in tip-top health, and I really do think that it’s a matter of making simple lifestyle choices, like eating a wider variety of fruits and veggies!

What’s The Big Deal About Chia Seeds?

Last week a client asked me if there were any health benefits in chia seeds. Good question, as it seems like multi-level marketing of chia seeds has SPROUTED!

Chia seeds were made popular by the Chia pet product. Strange but true. Turns out these tiny black seeds are a good source of fiber and are rich in antioxidants, and plant based omega-3 fatty acids. More than flaxseed even. And they provide you with iron and calcium.

Chia seeds were a staple food in Aztec and Mayan cultures.

Recently they’ve been shown to help people with diabetes manage blood sugar and protect heart health too.

Unlike flax seeds, you do not need to grind chia seeds. Eaten raw they are light and easily digestible. You can sprinkle them into yogurt, cereal, salads, and smoothies.

So there you have it. Hope this helps answer the question!

Great Way To Eat Beans!

On a trip to Italy, I found myself enjoying cannellini beans. I’ve been meaning to write about this white bean native to the Tuscany region of Italy, so no time like now!

In Italy they are known as fagioli. They are a great source of fiber and protein and are perfect for a low-glycemic diet. They also contain iron, folate, and magnesium.

You can find them in bulk or canned. You can use them in any recipe that calls for navy beans or northern beans. They have a nutty flavor and are creamy in texture after cooking them. If you puree the beans with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and sea salt you’ll have a creamy dip similar to hummus. You can also use them in salads the same way you would use kidney or garbanzo beans.

Here’s a white bean soup recipe for you. In Italy they would pair up this soup with a crusty bread, a salad, and of course some wine!

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces lean, ground turkey breast
  • 2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 1 16 ounce jar green salsa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Saute the onion in the olive oil. Add the turkey and cook the meat through. Add all the other ingredients. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. This will serve four. Each portion has 38 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber!

See what you think!

Antioxidants: Don’t Leave This One Out!

We hear the message about antioxidant supplementation and how good they are for us. Yet there’s still a controversy as to whether they have benefits or have harmful effects.

Yet research supports that one kind of antioxidant is GREAT for us. It’s called regular, moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise. Combine that with a diet high in natural antioxidants and you have a winning combo.

Food choices such as fruits, particularly berries, vegetables (like beans and artichokes), nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), and spices (cloves, cinnamon, oregano) are high in natural antioxidants.

So stay committed to your exercise programs and be creative in your antioxidant food choices and enjoy abundant long-term health!

Spending Money On Healthy Foods Now Will Save You Money In The Future!

Penny wise, pound foolish is an interesting way to look at the financial costs of maintaining a diet full of fresh healthy foods.

When I go over food choices with my clients, I often sense a resistance to my advice to shop more selectively for healthy items. They tell me about their budgetary constraints. I understand this.

However now, besides just presenting them with anecdotal evidence about how eating well and spending wisely on the best possible diet will save them money in the long run in terms of stress and potential medical costs, I have some scientific evidence to back me up. I thought I’d share it with you as well.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that the healthiest female eaters spent 24% more on groceries, BUT had lower rates of angina, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. So while it’s more expensive to eat well, it’s clearly better for one’s health profile.

And here’s some more statistical evidence for you. A recent analysis of previous studies that looked at the economic impact of obesity found that for obese women, annually $4,879 was spent, and for obese men annually $2,646 was spent out of pocket for extra medical costs and lost income. When they figure lost years of life, the dollar values jumped to $8,365 for women and $6,518 for men. These costs go for higher medical bills, sick days, lost productivity and wage differences.

Yes, I know there are no guarantees, but I’m willing to bet that by investing in fresh, healthy foods now, I’m saving myself not only money every year, but in the future as well. I’ve been making this choice for years and at 60 I’d say it’s paying off rather well!

I hope it is for you too!

What’s So Special About Greek Style Yogurt?

I was in Greece recently! I’ve always loved Greek food and eating Greek food in Greece was beyond fantastic!

Each morning for breakfast I enjoyed a Greek yogurt and fruit cup. So I thought I’d write about Greek Yogurt.

In general, yogurt is a healthy food to include in your diet, but Greek yogurt……OPA! It’s a superstar. Up until a few years ago it seemed hard to locate Greek yogurt, but these days it’s readily available.

Let’s look at regular yogurt vs. Greek yogurt.

In Greece, yogurt is made with sheep’s milk, and this style of yogurt can be found in the United States. In the states, however, most yogurt, including Greek style, is made with cow’s milk. The process is the same, but Greek style strains even more of the whey from the solids producing a creamy texture that often feels more like sour cream. Greek yogurt has slightly more calories than regular yogurt (about 100 vs. 80 for 6 ounces) and 18 grams of protein compared with 8 grams in regular yogurt.

Here are some ways to use Greek style yogurt.

  1. In any dish you can substitute it for regular yogurt.
  2. Substitute it for sour cream on potatoes, in dips, or on tacos/burritos.
  3. Try it as a substitute for cream cheese.
  4. Mix it with fruit and/or drizzle some honey into it, creating a delicious dessert.

My favorite way to use Greek yogurt is as TZATZIKI. Tzatziki is a creamy cooling salad that can be used as a topping, a dip, or with roasted meats in the Greek style. I had tzatziki every day in Greece.

Here’s a recipe for tzatziki.

  • 1 1/2 cups of quality Greek yogurt, strained
  • 2 English cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • A few stems of dill, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbs of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs of red wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

After you combine all the ingredients, refrigerate it and let the flavors blend.