December 30, 2012

Two Easy Ways To Lose Belly Fat

OK, to lose belly fat you need to do all of the below, but “two easy and two hard ways to lose belly fat” is not quite as catchy.

  • Eat and drink less.  You already know this, but you cannot lose weight or fat without it.  Pay special attention to your liquid intake.  Whatever you think of Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative, he is correct about the detrimental effect of empty calories.  Soda, juice, lattes, and all types of alcohol (there is a reason it is called “beer belly”) can add up to major calories. Cutting back can make a significant difference in how you look and feel.
  • Do HIIT (high intensity interval training) at least twice a week. Start slowly, just ten second intervals followed by thirty to sixty seconds of active rest, and build up to high intensity intervals of one minute.  Almost any type of activity will do; walking, running, biking, plyometrics or swimming.  Try ten seconds of going as fast or hard as you can.  Keep in mind that what is high intensity for you will not be the same for someone else.  My running “sprint” is probably equivalent to my triathlete daughter’s warm-up.  You should get close to breathless, then recover at a slower pace and repeat.  This type of training helps the body stay in a higher gear; you will burn more calories the rest of the day.  This greater metabolic demand will help you get rid of that stubborn belly fat. You can also workout for a shorter period; ten to twenty minutes of true HIIT can replace up to forty minutes of steady state endurance training. 
The two easy ways:
  • Get more sleep.  Study after study has shown that rest is critical to weight loss.  Many attribute it to a hormonal change caused by sleep deprivation.  Decrease in one (leptin) makes it harder to stop eating, and the increase in another (ghrelin) causes you to want to eat more.  Many of us also eat more when we feel tired.  Getting enough sleep will help your body crave only the calories it really needs.
  • Get a massage. Stress causes an increase in cortisol, another hormone, which makes us hold onto fat.  Women in particular are prone to high cortisol levels in response to stress.  It does not have to be a massage, but search out ways to decrease your stress level.  A walk, book or hug may work for you; just make sure it is not food!  Take time to treat yourself, and you may see your waist decrease as your energy goes up and your stress goes down.

December 16, 2012

No Fitness Post This Week

There is nothing I could write this week that would not seem senseless or trivial.  I cry for pain that I can only imagine.  There will always be sick and evil people in the world; however, we need to ask why our country leads the world in such senseless tragedies. Guns are not the only problem; look at the violence in our tv shows, movies and games.  How many children are playing shoot to kill video games right now?  When did pretending to kill in graphic violent games become considered fun? We may blame it on the mentally ill, but with funding decreased, how can we identify and help those who are sick?  Look at the media and the coverage of mass murders; you know the killers, but do you know the names of the victims?
No one is talking about taking guns from sane and responsible gun owners, but opponents of gun control block laws to keep them from the criminal and mentally ill. I have yet to see anyone come up with a remotely plausible need for assault rifles.  
These are the names of the adults killed by the shooter at the school.  All were school employees, who died protecting their students. I cannot even contemplate writing the names of the children.  Remember also the unnamed teachers who helped keep so many others safe. 
Mary Sherlach,
Anne Marie Murphy
Lauren Rousseau
Dawn Hochsprung
Rachel Davino
Victoria Soto
Perhaps we can honor their memory with a civil discourse on our problems.  Take responsibility for your own words and behavior.  May we all hug our loved ones and seek to make this a better world.    

December 9, 2012

Eight More Holiday Survival Tips

In honor of Chanukah (a happy one to all who celebrate), here are eight easy ways to stay healthy:
  1. Park further away: You will burn a few more calories, and save yourself the frustration of circling for a space.
  2. Shop locally: You will save gas, help the local economy and get some fresh air.
  3. Drink one glass of water before each meal: You will eat less and stay hydrated.
  4. Share a fun activity after a big meal: If you can’t convince everyone to go for a walk, suggest flag football, ice skating or turn on the music and dance.
  5. Choose a slinky dress or snug pants:  Your clothes will tell you when you have eaten enough.
  6. Limit alcohol consumption: You will avoid empty calories and the reduction in willpower.
  7. Chew gum while cooking: It will be harder to consume extra “tasting” calories.
  8. Do just ten minutes of exercise: Even ten minutes can burn a few calories and help keep blood pressure and blood sugar in check.

December 2, 2012

Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Okay, I admit I never quite got this cliché (I mean really, if I have my cake why can’t I eat it?), but the reverse seems appropriate for this time of year.  Defend yourself against the onslaught of fattening goodies by making a healthier version yourself.  Volunteer to bring it to a party or dinner, so you CAN have cake and eat it too.
Most baked goods can be made with fewer calories and less fat with little change in flavor:

  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce for an equal amount of butter or oil in muffins, quick breads and cakes.  (This does not work in cookies or pies).  Experiment with switching out up to 75%, the texture may be a bit denser, but the flavor will not change. 
  • Use skim milk instead of whole; this is another switch that will pass unnoticed.
  • Try using less sugar or one of the sugar blends.  Most baked goods can handle a reduction in sweetness.
  • Substitute two egg whites for one egg, you will save fat and calories.
  • Brownies are an easy place to hide healthy ingredients.  You can blend in pureed white or black beans in place of up to half the shortening.  Try an equal amount of pureed silken tofu to replace half the oil without shortchanging the flavor. 
Of course, you do not want to incorporate all these changes at once, but each of them can make treats a little healthier, while leaving the deliciousness.  Just don’t make the mistake of advertising your ingredients in advance: Wait until everyone has complimented your black bean brownies, then you can let them know the secret ingredient.