Sunday, March 28, 2010

Understanding the concept of calories

Calories can be difficult to understand because you hear so many different things from different sources. But here is the basic idea: your body needs a certain amount of energy per day to function properly .i.e. to digest food, walk, talk, exercise, etc. The amount of energy your body needs depends on your weight, age, gender, and how active you are. We get calories from food, and through metabolism, these calories are converted into energy. So the amount of energy your body needs is directly proportionate to how many calories you need.

If you consume more calories than your body needs, your body stores the excess as fat. When you work out, you burn the excess calories; which means you are essentially burning off the fat. This is how you maintain your body fat ratio. This is why it’s important to understand that there's no magical way to lose weight. It comes down to two things: exercise and diet.

To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in every day. Visit for a tool to help estimate how many calories you burn per day based on your age, weight, gender, and level of activity. Note: it’s just an estimate. The amount of time it’ll take you to lose weight just depends on how many calories you eat minus how many calories you burn daily. When this value - i.e. amount you take in minus amount you burn - gets to about 3,500 calories, you have effectively lost about 1 pound or 0.45 kilograms (since 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat).

Different levels of physical activity burn different number of calories depending on intensity. Please visit for a summary of about how many calories are burned with different types of exercises.

If you have more questions, please leave a comment or start a discussion on the Eights and Weights Facebook page here. Also, if there are individual fitness topics you'd like to hear more about, please leave a note on the Facebook page.

My motto for the week: To truly live better, strive to understand what your body needs.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Key to Exercise is: "Start Doing Something"

Well, here we are! This one is difficult especially if you live in a city with limited access to gyms, or you work really late. It’s hard to exercise, but exercise is an important part of our overall health so we should find a way to fit it into our daily lives. Here are a few things we can do to push ourselves:

Get excited: First, get excited about it! Working out can be fun if you make it so. Get excited about possibly meeting your goals!
Sweat it out: Start some sort of physical activity. Whether it is walking more often, jogging on the beach, or playing with your dog, start something. Do something until you sweat. But again, don't overdo it the first time. For example, if you run 10 km (or 6.2 miles) during your first few workouts, you may strain yourself and kill your drive to continue.
Do your own chores: Yes, it’s hard if you have a maid, house-help, or if you have equipment that makes it easier to clean your home without actually bending over. But doing your housework gives you a good workout. If you have a backyard, do some gardening. Scrub your floors. Clean your windows.
Sit-ups alone equals nothing: If you’ve been doing 100 sit-ups every morning, and you have fat in your abdominal region, guess what? Your muscles may have been building under that fat, but to see those abs, you need to lose the fat on top. You cannot reduce fat in only one area of our body, so you need to do cardio exercises that help to lose weight all over. Some examples of cardio include running, walking, aerobics, and skipping.
Try new things: If there’s a class at your local gym, try it out. Buy a skipping rope and skip it out. Run or play volleyball on the beach. Buy some fitness DVDs and invite your fitness-minded friends over. Buy a bicycle. Whatever you do, have fun trying out something new that makes you exert energy. Remember to have fun with it!
Play a sport: If you know how to play a sport, fabulous! Sports are a great way to work out. Every corner in every city, there’s a football field, basketball court, or some playing field. Gather your friends together, and go play a sport. You will not only work out your body, but you’ll increase your coordination as well.
Dance your ass off: Whatever type of music or dancing you’re into, dancing is a great way to lose some weight, increase flexibility, and stay active. Plus, you’re having fun while you’re shedding pounds. So the next time you’re in the club, don’t sit at the bar; migrate to the dance floor.
Routine: Try to set aside a time period for working out. If it’s part of your routine, the chances are that it’ll become a part of your life. If you don’t set a time period for it, it’s easier to procrastinate.
Get a partner: If you surround yourself with people that want to stay active and healthy, you would be inspired to do so yourself.

If you have more tips on how you fit exercise into your daily life, please share it with our readers by leaving a comment. And don't forget, you can join the Eights and Weights facebook page by clicking here. There, you'll receive fitness tips, and have the chance to start a discussion on questions or ideas you may have. Next week, we will talk about understanding calories and how calorie counting really ties into weight maintenance.

My motto for the week: Your body is a temple; treat it that way.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Create a Nutrition Lifestyle

Most people seem to have trouble with where to start when it comes to diet and exercise. Because we live in a world of instant gratification, we are constantly looking for quick-fixes when it comes to our bodies and our health. But we have to accept that for any process to actually last a lifetime, it will probably begin pretty slowly. Also, no matter what the commercials on the television say, it cannot possibly be so easy or everyone would be doing it.

I was meant to write about how to jump-start both your nutrition and exercise regimen, but there is so much within each category, that I will split them into two weeks. This week, we will focus on the diet portion. I have documented some steps that I believe will help to jump-start a healthy diet (and of course hopefully avoid slacking off within the first week).

1.      Eat a healthy breakfast: Your breakfast kind of sets the tone for the day, so don’t eat a load of rubbish in the morning. And try not to skip breakfast. It just makes you hungrier so you eat much more during the day.
2.      You love what you love: Don’t give up food you cannot live without or you’ll be back where you started in a matter of time. Cut down, not out. For example, if you absolutely adore bread, you should probably not be on a protein-only diet. So many people think “If I cut out all food that seems ‘bad’, I’ll be fine”. But I don’t agree. Everything should be done in moderation. Cut out things that you know you can live without. Think about it. You'd be surprised to discover how much bad food you eat that you actually don't care too much for.
3.      The ‘Fast’ diet fad: Diet programs are exactly that – ‘programs’. People forget this and believe they can drink a Slim Fast, Muscle Fast or basically anything with ‘fast’ on the end of its name, and just shrink. Understand that these are created as part of a diet program, and if you do not follow the program to the letter, stay away from it entirely. If you look at the nutrition information on a can of Slim Fast, you will see that it is actually not that fantastic on its own. But as part of the program, it’s fine. Now, the program does require that you give up a lot of meals, so we’re back to item 1.
4.      Food Replacement: If you can replace something you eat for a healthier version, this is an easy way to lose some weight. Examples would be to replace white bread with whole grain, replace sugary cereal with a brand that includes whole grain or oats, replace white rice with brown, etc.
5.      Portions: We’ve heard this before. Just eat less. Don’t starve yourself, but don’t pile that jollof rice on your plate like your life depends on it. This is not boarding school; there will be more food tomorrow. And I know your mother said you must finish whatever is on your plate or in the pot, but you’re older now so you don’t have to keep doing that. Form the habit of eating till you’re satisfied, not till you’re about to blow up. This may take a few weeks to get used to, but your stomach will definitely adjust. I’ve read that it takes about 3 weeks for your body to adjust to a habit. 
      Also, sometimes, people believe because something is healthy, they should eat as much of it as they want. No. Everything has calories. Some have less, but the more you eat, the more calories you consume.
6.      Cut back on the booze: While you’re drinking that beer or martini, realize that alcohol has a lot of calories. Although you want to have a good time, you could wipe out days of working out by drinking too much. Beer and abs don't go together, no matter how much we wish they did.
7.      Water is the source of all things good: Reduce your intake of soda (Coke, Pepsi, etc.), and replace it with tons of water. Soda is a very sugary type of drink, and we all know that. On the other hand, water helps to replenish the muscles, helps with digestion, regulates body temperature, and does a ton of other great things to your body. There is a reason most of the world and most of our bodies consist of water. It is good for you. Period.

These are the main tips to jump-start your diet. Remember to go slow because if you shock yourself, you may start craving food even more and be right back where you started.

Next week, we’ll talk about jump-starting your exercise program. Sign up as a ‘Follower’ or join the Eights and Weights Facebook page here to get notifications when a new blog comes out every week. Please leave feedback, comments and questions.

Have a lovely week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Benefits of a Good Diet and Exercise

I spent this week researching easy diet and exercise tips, and realized one thing: There are so many fads out there, but very little information on practical and easy application of how to apply this information. So I thought before we start to go into details about what to do, and how to do it, we need to understand why nutrition and exercise are important. Every individual may have a very different reason for staying healthy, but ultimately, there are a few general reasons why a healthy diet and exercise program are good for us.

Body image: Research shows that people that eat well and exercise have higher self confidence. And we are not talking about people who starve themselves. This is about people who make an effort to understand what they are putting into their bodies and how to keep themselves healthy. This is what this blog is striving to achieve; to allow people to understand the fundamentals of a good diet and exercise, and how to implement it for themselves to build a better body image. A good body image often does not depend on your weight or size.

Health Benefits: We all don't just want to live long, we also want to live well. Being African, we are prone to heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other diseases. Exercise and proper nutrition makes the heart stronger, decreases body fat, lowers blood pressure, increases bone health, and helps give the body more energy.

Relaxation and Stress Relief: It seems weird to put exercise in the same category as relaxation, but eating well and staying fit does make you happier and generally more relaxed. It could be a hormonal thing, or just because you are putting all your negative energy into something that is actually producing results. Exercise also helps us sleep better, so to all the insomniacs reading, hop on this train!

Brain Activity: I have read several research papers where the writers talk about how bad eating and lack of physical activity negatively impacts the brain. Some people just have great genes when it comes to mental activity, but most of us would benefit greatly from a good diet, exercise, and a good night's sleep. You might notice that your learning speed and memory are improving, and you are able to think better on your feet.

There is so much more you can benefit from a healthy diet and physical activity, but these were the ones I found most interesting. If you have any questions, or would like more information, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Next week, we will talk about how to easily jump-start your diet and exercise regimen, even if you do not yet know anything about diet and exercise.


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Fitness Drama of Eights and Weights

Hi readers!

This is the first blog post so I thought I'd give a little insight into what this blog is about. On one hand, I am very passionate about fitness, and on the other, very passionate about Africans. So I thought I could combine the two and provide fitness tips for Africans. Being an African woman, I understand the feeling of trying to work out and eat right, but finding that the food and tools available to us do not really give us much of an option. Our diet is full of things that are terrible for us. We were not raised with information about what foods are good for our bodies, only our souls. The diet and nutrition programs, although plentiful, are full of meals with ingredients we can't pronounce, and will only use once in our lifetime.

So if you are an African man or woman who has no idea what half of the items in the gym are for, this is for you. If you have no idea what oregano looks like, this is for you. If you don't play a sport, don't know what softball is, and you get involved in teasing contests with your family about whose butt is bigger, this blog is definitely for you.

Blog posts will be up once a week, so please check back every Sunday for new fitness tips. Leave feedback and comments.

Till next week!
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