Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Healthy Habits Stick

Most of us start eating right and working out with the greatest enthusiasm in the world. And then, a few weeks later, it starts to dwindle, and we’re back where we started. So how exactly can we stick to the plan, and not completely fall out of love with our fitness goals? Here are a few steps you can follow:

Do it slowly: Don’t go into exercise with the “Lose 20 pounds in 30 days” mindset. You would tend to over-work your muscles and simply connect exercise to pain. If you start slowly, and work your way up, your tolerance increases, and the desire to out-do yourself might actually work in your favour.
Set the tone of your relationship with food: When you first start dieting or exercising, realize that it is a lifestyle change. This does not mean that food will not tempt you. So you may have to vary some of your routes to stay away from that doughnut shop. Or change your hang out location (though they serve the best endless martinis). Do this early on or you’ll find yourself not cutting out things you intended to avoid.
Motivate yourself: Sometimes, you feel more motivated when you say things like “I am excited to work out with my new buddy today” rather than “Ugh, I have to go the gym”. Our words affect our mindset. So start referring to your nutrition and exercise in a positive way, and increase your enthusiasm.
Make a plan: This is like my motto. Always make a nutrition and exercise plan. If you have a workout schedule, or you plan your lunch meal before you go into work, there is a higher chance you’d actually stick to it.
Kill the cravings: When we have cravings, it’s usually not that we need that particular food. It really is that we need the high that food gives us. Remind yourself the pleasure from the food is temporary. Exercise also makes us feel good, and may release hormones that control appetite. So it may be a good idea to take a walk or hit the treadmill when you have a bad craving. This way, you also don’t get the depression afterwards. However, don’t totally deprive yourself of all treats you like. Sometimes, it may be good to have a little bit of what you’re craving. For example, if you have the willpower, you can buy some candy, take a bite or two, and throw the rest away.
Build fitness accountability: It may be helpful to have someone you can call when you’re desperately craving that red velvet cake. Or just have someone who understands your fitness goals, and can give you advice when you need it. Fit friends can also increase competition, which can in turn help you stick to your fitness strategy.
Keep a diary: Okay, this does not have to be a literal diary. If you do not like to write, you can keep tags at points in your life that you remember. Remember what you usually ate for lunch and your exercise routine today, and then in a couple of months, compare it to where you will be then. You can also compare your weight, size, muscle tone, etc. When you notice the progress you have made, it gives you the drive to move forward.

Again, I’ll reinforce what I think is most important on this list. Make a plan!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Alcohol and Your Abs

So I know either you are dying to hear about this, or you are really dreading it. A lot of people don't want to hear that alcohol may not be the best thing for you when you are trying to say fit. Alcohol, especially beer, generally contains empty calories with limited or no nutritional value. If you are drinking 2 to 3 beers a day, that is 300 to 600 extra empty calories. Putting your fitness in perspective, binge drinking is definitely counter-productive because when you binge drink, you mostly consume more calories than you have eaten throughout the day. And also, when you are drunk, there is the tendency to over-eat bad food. So the summary is: Cut down your alcohol consumption to special occasions, and if possible, stick to wine.

So what else can we do to get great six-pack abs? Here are three tips to consider:
Do your cardio: Because you can't really target a spot when it comes to exercise, you have to also lose weight all over. If you're in the corner doing some crunches and not doing some cardio, you may be wasting your time because your efforts may not show.
Don't just do crunches: There are several muscles in your stomach region, and doing traditional crunches may only target a certain area. The usual up-down crunches are only one type of stomach exercise, and since your body gets used to the exercises that you do, you need to switch it up. Vary the types of crunches you do, and try to do other stomach exercises that may not be so traditional. Some examples are the "bicycle", leg raises, or push-ups. Varying your stomach exercises helps to target all muscles in that region.
Suck it in: If you stand in an upright position, and hold your stomach muscles tight as you breathe in and out, you are actually working out your muscles! So take a brisk walk and control those muscles. This helps build a good posture as well so it's definitely worth trying.

Here are a few websites showing other stomach exercises apart from the traditional crunches. Check them out and apply them to your workout:

Feel free to send me any questions you may have. Have a lovely week!
Motto for the week: Stay away from quick-fixes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Correction on "Balancing your Exercise to Maximize Output" from April 4th

A reader brought something to my attention that I had posted on March 4th (Thank you reader!). Although I had stated that you should stretch only after exercise, this is not true for all cases. If you play competitive sports, you should stretch both before and after playing these sports to maximize your game efficiency. However, if you stretch before playing sports, please make sure you warm up before you stretch. Do not stretch without any activity at all to your muscles as this can cause injury! Follow the sequence:

Warm up -- Stretch -- Play -- Cool down -- Stretch


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Healthy Option Week

As I said a few weeks ago, sometimes the easiest change to make with food is to replace something you eat with a healthier option. I figured we could challenge ourselves this week to try to make the food we eat healthier. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Replace the pork, goat meat or chicken thighs in your food with fish or lean beef
  • Boil or roast your meat rather than fry it
  • If you eat spaghetti or pasta, try to substitute it with whole wheat spaghetti or pasta
  • Replace one-quarter of your usual portion with spinach, broccoli, or any other green vegetable
  • Rather than eat a sugary cereal, eat some oats in the morning
  • Drink water or milk rather than soda
  • Eat fruits for dessert
  • Replace ice cream with frozen yogurt
  • Replace packs of chips with popcorn
  • If you’re craving chocolate, rather than have a chocolate bar, have some low-fat chocolate milk or some dark hot chocolate
  • Replace white rice for brown rice
  • Replace white bread for whole wheat or whole grain bread
  • Use brown sugar over white sugar
  • Drink green tea instead of black tea
Try these this week, and let me know how you feel at the end of the week! After one week, you're already on your way to making more little changes that can have a big effect on your health.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Africans Bringing Fit Back!

Welcome to the segment of Eights and Weights called 'Africans Bringing Fit Back!'. Today, our fit African is Kelechi Opara who is an Aviation Engineer that moonlights as a model in San Diego, California.

Eights and Weights: Hi Kelechi. So let's get right into it. I believe everyone has a different idea of what fitness is. So please explain our readers what fitness means to you.
Kelechi: When I first started working out, fitness meant being healthy, strong, and looking good. Now, fitness to me means staying healthy and maximizing my full potential. I believe that fitness does not just stop at the body, but includes the mental aspect as well; we need to align our minds to think a certain way. People separate physical from mental, but that is a mistake.

Eights and Weights: Just so most of our readers understand your point of view, did you grow up with the awareness of working out and eating right? And did you grow up with a healthy body image?
Kelechi: I grew up like many people did without any real drive or awareness about staying healthy. But I would say that I had a healthy body image. I did not have negative view of my body growing up.

Eights and Weights: So you grew up like most of us: eating unhealthy food with no real drive to stay physically active. How did you get into staying trim and healthy then?
Kelechi: When I took a break from college, I was idle and out of shape, and so exercise was a good outlet.

Eights and Weights: What are your work hours like, and what is your advice for someone working crazy hours and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Kelechi: Sometimes, I work as much as 80 - 90 hours per week, but I always make time to exercise. I believe people who say they don't have time to work out are making excuses. The most effective way to stay on track with a busy schedule is to plan ahead of time. Plan your workout routine and your meals ahead of time. You would be more efficient in the gym, avoid junk food, and see better results.

Eights and Weights: I have to ask. You told me you survive or carbohydrates and meat. Since most of us are afraid of carbs, and think meat is the enemy, can you give a little detail on your diet so we can change our way of thinking and try to apply it to our own lives?
Kelechi: My diet is non-linear, which means I eat different amounts of carbohydrates each day depending on how much I plan to work out that day. i.e. if I plan to work out more, I eat more carbs. I try to eat non-refined carbs, rather than carbs from processed foods. I also always have at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight (which is about 2 grams per kilogram). If people understood how food is utilized by the body, they wouldn't panic so much. When a person eats food, it is either converted to energy, stored as fat, or used to feed the muscles. I eat carbs early in the morning, about an hour before, and an hour after I work out. If you eat carbs about one hour before you work out, a lot of it would be expended as energy. If you eat carbs up to an hour after you work out, it would get oxidized as heat  and/or shuttled into muscles, depending on how hard you work out.

Eights and Weights: Finally, Kelechi, do you have any simple advice for our readers? I love simple practical advice because when it's realistic, people find themselves easily applying it.
Kelechi: One, plan your meal for the week ahead of time. Two, plan your workout schedule ahead of time. Three, when you eat is just as important as what you eat.

There you have it people! I hope you learned something new!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Balancing your Exercise to Maximize Output

When starting to exercise, it's good to begin with just any form of physical activity. However, to get the most out of your body, you would need to establish your focus. This involves clearly understanding the different types of exercise and how they help your body. A balanced exercise program consists of the following:

Cardio: This is short for 'cardiovascular exercise'. Cardio is important because this is where most of your fat-burning action happens. But cardio (as the name implies) also helps to prevent heart diseases and high blood pressure. The standard recommendation is that each individual should get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (such as walking, housework or gardening) about 5 days a week, or a minimum of 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio (such as running, biking or swimming) about 3 days a week.

Strength Training: Strength training is important because it also burns some calories, but mostly, it builds and strengthens muscles, makes you look toner and fitter, and increases your strength. The standard recommendation for strength training exercises (such as weight lifting) is 2 days a week on non-consecutive days. The amount you do each day depends on your body's ability.

Stretching: Please stretch after, and not before exercise. Stretching increases flexibility and reduces the tension in your muscles that comes from exercise.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Join the 'Eights and Weights' Facebook group here for daily tips on a healthy lifestyle.

My motto for the week: 'Don't just educate yourself; apply!'
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...