Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weight Watchers: Weighing In

If you didn’t know about Weight Watchers before, you certainly know about it now with Jennifer Hudson on practically every TV station as their spokesperson. But just like with all diet programs, we always ask, “Is this just money and advertising, or does this really work?”

I’m a fan of Weight Watchers simply because of how it started. A lady found it really difficult to lose weight, and she thought she’d gather all her friends struggling with weight loss to meet up periodically and just support each other. No judgment, no instructions, no superiority. It was all just a way to share experiences, cheer each other on, see how much progress they were all making, and support each other. Now, wouldn’t we all like that?

Now, even as Weight Watchers has grown into this amazingly successful company, they have not abandoned the premise of the system, which is meet, share experiences, give advice, and weigh in. It’s important to say that the weighing in is in private at the same time every week.

If you had questions about if Weight Watchers is worth it, check out the details of the program. I guess I look at it from a different perspective focusing on the community aspect, but there may be other reasons you’d like to try it:

Community: As I said before, this is the highest point for me. You can form a bond with people with the same goals as you, and meet them once a week to share your experiences. Rather than put your health goal on the bottom of your list somewhere, it moves to the top because you have the accountability factor to think about.

Internet: You can find so much information on the internet (I mean, I’m on the internet), but having one single point of contact for most of your weight loss questions is great. It’s like WebMD for medicine. Professionals write articles, and you can ask questions anonymously.

Eat Anything: The main premise of Weight Watchers is that there is no restriction on what specific kind of food you can eat, just how much. Everything you eat is assigned a certain number of points. For your weight loss goals, you have a pre-determined number of points you want to eat in a day. If you decide to spend all your points on cheesecake, that’s on you. But rather than tell you you cannot eat cheesecake, they just tell you cheesecake has 20 points and you’re allowed 50 points in a day (just an example). This is great news for those of us who have cravings. You won’t feel incredibly guilty afterwards because you know what choices you have to make for the rest of the day. No guilt? That’s awesome!

PointsPlus System: The way the PointsPlus system works is a little strange. Some things are easy to understand, but some are not. For example, if something is a fruit or vegetable, even if it has high calories, it may have lower points that something that has lower calories, but is refined. This is because most adults don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables and they want to encourage that we should. So don’t try to figure out the point system yourself because it may hurt your brain. But just know that a meal with higher points means you have less points for the rest of the day. And eat more vegetables… Not too much because they still have calories… Just more than you’re eating now… Unless you’re already eating a lot… Okay, moving on.

Activity points: Ha, you hoped I forgot about physical activity, didn’t you? Well, of course Weight Watchers encourages exercise. But the great part is how they incorporate physical activity into the whole program. Any exercise you do reduces your daily points so you have more to work with. So if you’re the type that doesn’t mind exercising like crazy as long as you get to eat more, it works well for you. Or if you find that you are getting close to your allowable point total for the day, you can just go work out so you have more to work with. Now, on the negative, it’s not always easy to figure out how the exercise you’re about to do translates into points, especially if you’re not good at math. But I found a good explanation on ehow about how to do the conversion. Check it out here: Calculating Exercise Points.

Reading my overall tone, you can probably tell that I’m a fan of the system. Especially since I already said it. However, it doesn’t always work for everyone. If you like to figure out how health and fitness goals alone, and not be part of some ‘group’, then this won’t really work because it’s all about community. Also, if you like to compartmentalize your life (like separate your diet from your exercise plans), it might not work for you either. The points system is great, but it might make you sluggish in the gym on the day that you find you didn’t eat too much.

In summary, I still think anyone trying to lose weight should definitely try it. It just seems to make logical sense unlike most of the diet programs we see today. Check it out at

What’s your take on the Weight Watchers program?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kicking Your A**. Literally.

People tend to get bored with their exercise routines when all they have been doing is running, running, and more running. And then maybe some weight lifting here and there. Well, if you haven’t considered boxing, you might be short-changing yourself.

Men tend to gravitate towards sports with players that women swoon over, like football, American football (see what I did there), and basketball. And women tend to gravitate towards sports that require a ton of aerobic effort and not much bleeding. Since boxing tends to get looked over as a sport, and since it does not require team effort, a lot of people don’t consider boxing when they are looking for a plain and simple way to stay fit. Well, as the girl who has tried it all, I figured I’d tell you why it is.

When I talk about boxing here, I will be focusing more on boxing using punching bags as a way to stay fit, not as a sport. So you can relax your jaws around me now.

The number of calories you burn depends on your level of intensity, but with boxing, you both burn and work on toning your muscles at the same time. It is mostly an anaerobic exercise, which means that you keep going without much oxygen for a few minutes and then you rest for a few minutes. So it’s very much an interval type of workout. And if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that interval training is a really good way to lose weight.

However, if you look at some boxers that don’t spend too much time on cardio, they may look very muscular, but their bodies are not very well defined. This is where the cardio comes in. Boxing just works on every area without the focus of other strength exercises, and so this could leave you muscular, but not evenly defined all over. Adding consistent cardio to your workout routine gives you that definition.

So it’s boxing plus some cardio.

Where do you start? Get a bag!
If your gym has a punching bag or boxing classes, that’s great. But if it doesn’t, don’t use your friend’s face as your test bag! You can buy one online. There are many different types: ones you can hang from your ceiling, ones that come on a base that you can fill with sand or water, and even ones that come with their own stands. Just remember, if you hang one in your ceiling, make sure the nuts and bolts you use can actually handle the weight of the bag. Not that I've had a bag fall of my ceiling or anything...

Since we all can’t go from zero to hero in one workout, if you consider getting into boxing, you have to gauge your level of fitness. The non-stop intense portion of the intervals are pretty hard, and so make start with a few jabs for a few seconds and then rest. Keep going until you can do the high-intensity for longer. If you skimp on your routine and don’t keep moving, you are robbing yourself of a proper workout. And since there is no treadmill to estimate the number of calories you’ve burned, you may not know that you are doing poorly.

Don’t know how to punch?
There are 4 basic types of punches. See the picture at the top of this post for a visual on all four.

Jab: The basic punch most of us know. It starts with the left foot forward (for right-handed boxers), and basically, the body does not move to much as you punch. It is a straight punch.

Cross: This involves more movement from the knees. If you are right-handed, a cross is done with the right hand. It is also a straight punch, but you move your torso forward as you jab.

The jab and the cross are usually done as a sequence; left hand with the body facing the side, and then right hand with the body facing forward.

Hook: This is a side punch. If you were boxing with an opponent, this would be one of the punches that get you the side of his face or his liver in a semi-circular type of motion. Unlike the jab, even though the hook is mostly done with the left hand, it can be done with either. Again, I’m using a right-handed person as an example so it would be different for those who are left-handed.

Uppercut: If you’ve ever played Mortal Kombat, you know what an uppercut is. It is also a side punch where you bend slightly and get your opponent in the jugular. Getting an opponent in their chin or torso can push them of balance really quickly so you can finish them off. When hitting a punching bag, it is a little hard to get the uppercut right because, well, the punching bag doesn’t have a chin. But if you act like you’re going for the torso rather than the chin, it works out better.

Any more tips?
  • The biggest mistake people make when they box is to just run right into it. Don’t do this. Make sure you practice in front of a mirror first. That way you can see if the punches “make sense”. This idea of practicing in front of a mirror is called shadow boxing.
  • You see boxers jumping rope, right? Do you ever wonder why? Jumping rope helps to improve speed and coordination, which boxers definitely need to keep punching at high intensity. So to improve your technique, buy a rope. Your consolation? You can use them to the cardio bit we talked about earlier.
  • Your footwork is very important too. You have to learn to move your feet right so that you can keep moving and not burn out. Plus, it helps with burning calories all over too.
  • After you have punched a bag the first time, you may realize you are not as strong as you thought you were. But that is what the training is for. You improve your strength, your speed, and the look of your body.

Want a sample?
Here is a beginner’s boxing training video. Check it out and try it today. You might love it.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit: 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eights & Weights Healthy Recipes: Banana Soy Protein Shake

All about natural, homemade food? A consistent “exercise-holic”? Well, I thought it would be fun to give you one of my protein shake recipes to help you recover after an intense workout.

The most important part of any protein shake is the base. You can usually use anything from milk to soy-based products. If you like thickness, the best base would be low-fat plain yoghurt. If you’re lactose intolerant, use soy yoghurt. Now, if you just want some protein, and don't care too much about the calories, you can even use a scoop of ice-cream as your base.

The next thing to think about is flavor. Usually, you can add flavor by adding a fruit. I like bananas because of their thickness, but you could use any fruit you want really, as long as it’s not too juicy. That might make the shake watery.

Even though the base holds some of the protein, you need to add additional protein. You can simply buy some plain whey protein powder or add in some chopped nuts or peanut butter. If you use peanut butter, note that it may contain more fat that if you use whey protein powder. Some people use raw eggs here, but I can’t imagine drinking raw eggs. I’ll stick to the whey protein powder, thank you very much.

Ingredients for my Super Duper Eights & Weights Banana Soy Protein Shake:
¼ cup of soy yoghurt
1 cup of soy milk
½ cup of whey protein powder
1 chopped banana 

Blend it all together to an even consistency and enjoy! This shake contains about 24g of protein. When I want more protein, I usually just add in more protein powder or come chopped nuts.

Know any potential health/fitness contributors? Have some healthy recipe ideas you’d like to share? Please contact us at

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Four Basic Exercises You Should Know

There are so many machines and workouts out there that it’s easy to overlook the basics or get thoroughly confused. But no matter what muscles you are toning this week, I believe there are four basic muscle-toning exercises everyone should know. And you can do them wherever whenever with no equipment needed.

Pushups: For a lot of guys, when they start exercising, they measure how fit they are by the number of pushups they can do. For ladies, they tend to gravitate towards the cardio equipment and stay away from the “masculine-looking” exercises. But male or female, the pushup should be more than some random exercise we do.  It is a compound exercise that works out so many upper body muscles at once.

Muscles worked: Shoulders, Back, Abs, Chest, and Arms.
Proper form: Lie flat to the floor on your stomach. Lift yourself up, and balance on just your palms (palms to fingers) and your toes. Make sure your body is in a straight line from head to butt, and then from butt to toe. Some people say your whole body should be in a straight line, but we all know our lower backs and knees curve slightly. Make sure your bum isn’t sticking out, your palms are right under your shoulders, your stomach isn’t sagging toward the floor, and your elbows are close to your body. This is the upper pushup position.

To lower down, keep your elbows close to your body, and press downward keeping your body’s form. When you get low, make sure your knees are not touching the floor. It should still just be your palms and toes.

This up and down motion continuously is the proper pushup form. If you cannot do the full pushup, you can still do the pushup on your knees. Just make sure you’re not lifting and dropping your legs as you lift and drop your upper body. So if your knees are on the ground, whether your legs are raised or on the ground, just keep them fixed in one position.

Planks: If you receive Eights & Weights daily email fitness tips, you have probably heard me rave about the plank. It is another great compound exercise that does not require movement, but requires strength and endurance.

Muscles worked: Back, Abs, Arms, and Legs.
Proper form: This is basically like the upper pushup position. There are two major ways to do the plank. You can do it in the upper pushup position on your palms (see above), or do it on your elbows. If you stay on your elbows, keep your hands (the part from your elbows to your palms) on the floor facing forward. Remain in this position for 30 to 60 seconds.

Lunges: From yoga to contemporary dance, many forms of workouts incorporate the lunge into their routines. And if you’ve ever done the lunge, you’d know why. It’s pretty painful (most lower body exercises are) and so you know you’re working hard while you’re doing it.

Muscles worked: Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, Inner and Outer Thighs, and Quads.
Proper form: Stand with one leg forward and the other leg back. Bend both knees to a 90 degree angle. The forward knee should not bend forward past your toes, and the back knee should not touch the floor. Your legs should be angled properly, so make sure your feet and knees are not flopping to the sides. Raise your knees using strength from the toes of the back leg. Switch legs and repeat. Some people jump from one foot to another to add intensity, some do the lunges forward, and some do the lunges back. Whichever way you choose, make sure your upper body is straight, your legs aren’t wobbly, and you lift carefully to not cause knee injuries.

Squats: Oh, the squat. We’ve also created various forms of this exercise, from the frog jump to the chair squat, but the fundamentals remain the same: Your butt does not thank you while you are doing it, but thanks you after. This is another compound exercise that works more than just the butt actually. So what does it work?

Muscles worked: Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, and Quads.
Proper form: There are so many ways to do the squat. The basic squat involves keeping your feet hip-width apart, your upper body straight, and lowering your butt so that your knees are in a 90 degree angle. Again, just like the lunge, your knees should not bend forward past your toes or flop to the sides. Lower, raise, lower, and raise continuously. You can stretch your palms in front of you, keep them on your waist, or just leave them hanging. As you do the squat your feet should face forward or slightly to the outer sides, but do not completely turn them out to the sides.

Other ways to do the squat involve opening up your feet wider than hip-width apart, and touching the ground when you lower your butt. Whichever way you choose, you should feel it in your butt and your thighs.

The way to get the most out of these exercises is to keep your stomach muscles tight throughout. Don’t ever forget, you are working your abs as you are working all other parts of your body!

Cheers Eights & Weights!
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