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My Top 100 Diet Tips

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Here are my top 100 Diet and Nutrition Tips.  Some are thing you should never eat like fried foods and bagels.  Some are my top supplements for a healthy lifestyle like fish oil.  Some are things you should add to your diet like spicy foods and sweet potatoes.  Some are just general tips for weight maintenance and metabolism like get 8 hours of sleep a night.  How many of my top 100 do you currently follow?  Let me know in the comments.

 

1.  What can you add to your diet not what you can subtract
2.  Read Labels!
3. 5 ingredients or less
4. Organic fruits and veggies
5.  Eat for fuel 80 percent of the time and for fun 20 percent.  80/20 rule.
6.  Only eat foods you like
7.  No processed carbs.  Bread, pasta, 
8.  Fats are your friend
9.  Eat for your activity level
10.  Vegetables should be 2/3 of your plate
11.  The more colors the better
12.  Buy in season fruits and veggies
13.  In season Fruits and Veggies are cheaper
14. Learn how to cook
15.  Only Buy what you need for the week.
16.  If it’s not in your house you won’t eat it
17.  Sugar is the enemy
18.  Use spices not sauces for flavor
19.  Salsa is a the king of all condiments 
20.  Food is fuel
21.  Beware marketing claims.  Fat Free does not mean healthy
22.  If it has a label it’s a product and not a food
23.  Real Food goes bad
24.  Spicy food helps your metabolism
25.  1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.  No questions
31.  Order salad dressing on the side
32.  Always leave something on your plate
33.  When you are done eating cover food with a napkin
34.  Drink lots of water
35.  Always have Protein for breakfast
36.  Supplement with Fish Oil
37.  You don’t need Milk
38.  Fresh Juice only
39.  Don’t drink your calories.  Shoot for less than 200 calories a day from drinks.
40.  Eat Slowly
41.  Fruits in Moderation
42. Drink coffee
43.  Don’t drink Lattes or cappuccino’s
44.  Eggs are not bad for you
45.  Eat foods in their natural state.  Whole eggs and not just egg whites
46.  Mustard instead of Mayo
47.  If a label has ingredients you can’t pronounce then don’t eat it.
48.  No Diet Cola
49.  Low Calories doesn’t mean healthy
50.  Protein shakes are for after workouts
51.  Never diet at parties or holidays
52.  Eat at home most of the time
53.  Never eat in your car
54.  NO FAST FOOD.  EVER!
55.  Try everything
56.  Read Health magazines
57.  Follow healthy people on Instagram and Twitter.  Twitter.com/JoeLopez55
58.  Eat for health and not looks
59.  Educate yourself
60.  Love Food
61.  Be prepared to spend extra money
62.  Don’t eat fried food
63.  Never go grocery shopping hungry
64.  Shop the perimeters of the grocery store
65.  Choose Oils wisely
66.  Darker is better than lighter
67.  We are all habitual eaters.  Learn your habits
68.  Don’t eliminate food groups
69.  Eat.  Don’t Diet
70.  Just because meat is on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it
71.  Once a month don’t eat meat
72.  Think Natural.  Ice Cream not frozen yogurt
73.  Have a go to snack
74.  Plan.  Don’t improvise
75.  Fat, Protein, and Carbs at every meal
76.  Drink a large glass of water first thing when you wake up
77.  Avocados are a great snack
78.  Almonds can compliment almost any sweet
79.  Not all veggies are created equal
80.  Weigh yourself in the morning
81.  Don’t eat cereal
82.  Light doesn’t mean healthy
83.  Know the difference between being full and being not hungry
84.  Mix up your proteins
85.  Eat for variety to satisfy your senses
86.  Leave the candy for the kids
87.  Set short and long term goals
88.  Buy fresh as much as possible
89.  Grill meats to save calories
90.  Don’t eat bagels
91.  Prep meals on the weekends
92.  No cream based soups or sauces
93.  No appetizers at restaurants
94.  Beware of hidden sugar
95.  Sweet Potatoes are the ultimate carbohydrate
96.  Be creative with your protein shake recipes
97.  Do your own grocery shopping
98.   Vitamin D supplement in the winter
99.  No artificial sweeteners
100. Get 8 hours sleep a night 
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What I Eat Now

The one thing that people ask me the most is what I eat.  The last time I wrote a post about what I eat was over a year ago.  I often will look for ways to improve my diet or make small changes to hopefully create some big results.  In the past year I quit drinking Diet Coke completely and I have adopted a “eat real food” mentality with my diet.  In my last post. Things I Eat,  I spoke about how I really monitor my diet during the week and then on the weekends I let go a little bit.  I still do that.  Before you all think that I am crazy I am a man of habits and almost every Saturday morning you can find me at the Swiss Chalet in Morristown having coffee and donuts before I go for my run.  I also have dessert with Saturday dinner most weeks. However, monday-friday I adhere to a strict calorie allotment and then Saturday is a cheat day and often Sunday Dinner is a cheat meal as well.  I try to eat for fuel 80% of the time and eat for enjoyment 20% of the time.  That being said I never eat anything that I don’t like.  I look forward to eating and I really enjoy everything I eat but I save the things like sweets for my cheat days.  One of the differences between what I eat now and what I ate then is my focus on eating real foods.  Nothing from a box or a bag.  Basically my motto is if it has a label it is a product and not a food.  In that previous blog I listed things like frozen meals, fast food items such as Dunkin Donuts egg white sandwiches, chips and salsa, greek yogurt, and many other things that I no longer eat.  My old mind set was that as long as I stay under my calories the food doesn’t matter.  Now, I don’t think of food as a diet but as fuel for my lifestyle.  I work out quite a bit and without proper nutrition that would not be possible.  The other switch that I have made is my protein requirements.  My goal is one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. When I wrote that last article protein wasn’t really a concern.  Since I ran the NYC Marathon in November I have cut down on the running quite a bit and been focused more on CrossFit. I still run on the weekends but primarily focus on speed and hill work rather than distance. Nutrition is about abundance and not deprivation.  In order to fuel my current workout style the protein is a major concern as well as good carbohydrate options around my workouts.  Things that I have cut out of my diet completely (Monday through Friday) are cheese, milk, soda, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and anything processed.  Because of my extremely busy schedule and time constraints I do buy frozen vegetables and pre-cooked proteins but I make sure to read the labels.  Frozen spinach needs to have one ingredient only.  Spinach!  Not all of them do.  There are a few items I will also buy in jars and boxes but I have a 5 ingredient rule.  If it has more than 5 ingredients I don’t buy it.  Another rule that I have is that I use spices to flavor food and not sauces.  Sauces have excess calories and are often heavy cream or flour based.  StoneWall Kitchen has a great Salsa Verde that I use a lot on all types of meats.  It has only 4 ingredients which is a much better option than Tostitos salsa.  Basically it is tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro pureed.  Just how you would make fresh salsa at home.  I buy Organic produce whenever I can and I am not afraid of fat.  For those of you who follow me on Twitter (JoeLopez55) you know that I often write about how sugar is the enemy when it comes to diet and health and not fat.  The worst thing for dietary fat is that it is called fat and people associate it with body fat.  I eat butter and eggs every day and steak and avocados once a week.  When I make vegetables I often cook them in bacon fat or use butter to flavor them.  My macronutrient goals are 40% fats, 35% carbohydrates, and 25% protein.  I am up 10 pounds since I ran the marathon on November 3rd but my body fat percentage has stayed the same.  I want to lost about 3 percent body fat so I am in the process of making another adjustment and experimenting with some other diet changes but more on that another day.

Here is a sample day of eating for me:

Breakfast:

5 eggs, 3 cups Kale, 3 slices Bacon, One Sweet Potato, 2 pats Butter, Double Espresso, Stevia

Lunch: 

Protein Coffee courtesy of Sparta Nutrition Store.

Dinner:

Grilled Salmon no skin 8 oz, Salsa Verde, 1 cup of Spinach, 1 cup of pureed Winter Squash, 2 pats Butter, Double Espresso, Stevia

After Dinner: 

Homemade Chia Bar, Protein Shake 2 scoops Optimum Nutrition, 1 Orange.

Totals:

Calories                          2,283

Carbohydrates            175 grams

Fat                                   98 grams

Protein                        189 Grams

Fiber                             42 grams

Sugar                            59 grams

 

 

 

Paleo Diet

The popularity of Paleo, often referred to as the “caveman” diet,  is gaining in popularity. It is also referred to as the Stone Age diet or hunter-gatherer diet, and the theory behind it is that your nutritional intake should be based on consuming plants and wild animals, just like what cavemen are presumed to have eaten during the Paleolithic Period. Based on several clinical trials, Paleo diet is shown as effective in lowering the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The American Dietetic Association also agrees that Paleo diet has a lot of great aspects; however, some people can’t sustain this type of nutrition due to lack of variety, cost, and nutrient inadequacies.

What you can eat

There are no special pills or starvation techniques involved in the Paleo diet. All you have to do is eat similar foods our Paleolithic ancestors ate long ago. Here are several foods that you could eat with Paleo diet and those that you need to stay away from:

EAT

Paleo Foods

Paleo Foods

 

✓     Grass-produced meats — poultry, turkey, steak, pork, beef, buffalo, bacon, veal, bison, rabbit, goat, goose, kangaroo, wild boar, ostrich, quail, elk and emu

✓     Fish and seafoods — crab, oysters, salmon, bass, halibut, tilapia, tuna, mackerel, clams, lobsters, scallops, mussels, squid and shrimp

✓     Vegetables — asparagus, carrots, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, eggplant, celery, Brussel sprouts, parsley and artichoke hearts

✓     Fruits — apple, avocado, raspberries, mango, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, grapes, lemon, tangerine, oranges, plums, peaches, lime, papaya and strawberries

✓     Nuts and seeds — almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, macadamia nut, walnut abd sunflower seeds

✓     Healthy oils — avocado oil, macadamia oil, , olive oil, canola oil and coconut oil

 

Paleo Pyramid

Paleo Pyramid

NOT TO EAT

✖     Dairy — butter, cheese, powdered milk, cream cheese, nonfat dairy creamer, skim milk, yogurt, pudding, ice cream and low fat milk

✖     Soft drinks — all kinds of soft drinks, since these have high fructose corn syrup and sugar content

✖     Fruit juices — are also high in sugar so try to stay away from them. Examples are apple juice, grape juice, orange juice, strawberry juice, star fruit juice and mango juice

✖     Grains — cereals, bread, toast, sandwiches, crackers, English muffins, oatmeal, corn, wheat, pancakes, pasta, lasagna and hash browns

✖     Legumes — black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, red beans, green beans, white beans, chick peas, snow peas, peanuts, peanut butter, lentils, miso, tofu, soybeans, and all soybean products and derivatives

✖     Fatty meats — spam, hot dogs and other processed meats

✖     Salty foods — French fries, ketchup

✖     Alcohol — Beer, whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka, and other alcoholic mixes

✖     Sweets — sugar, candy bars

 

Health benefits

 

  • Lose weight – Paleo diet helps your body to lose weight naturally since the stored fat in your body is being converted into energy. With Paleo diet, you are consuming foods that have a high-nutrient density without the bad calories. You also tend to lose food sensitivities and you feel more satiated because of all the healthy fats you’re consuming.
  • Increase energy levels – Several studies show that following this diet will increase your energy since you’re eating foods that are low in carbohydrates but high in fat, which provide more sustained and lasting energy.
  • Sharpen the mind – By following the Paleo diet, you are getting a well balanced meal from natural sources. It gives you more energy without having to resort to caffeinated beverages or energy drinks. It also allows you to eat until you feel full, or eat whenever you’re hungry, so you don’t risk running low on energy when you need it.
  • Detox your system – Paleo helps you detoxify your body, so you lose the unwanted substances in your food like MSG, gluten, refined sugar and caffeine. Ingesting more antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber from the fruit and vegetables you’ll be eating will help your body to purge out toxins.
  • Helps you sleep better – by cutting out the chemicals and additives in your diet, you tend to sleep better. This is because of the serotonin in the brain, which releases the signal that it’s time to sleep, is not overridden by these chemicals.
  • Leaner muscles – Because this diet plan relies heavily on consuming meat, a healthy amounts of proteins are then used to feed your muscles. This helps you have a leaner physique and better muscle development, (with the help of a little exercise.)
  • Reduce your risk of diseases – this diet allows you to eat more anti-inflammatory foods and less foods that causes inflammation. You’re also eating more foods that have antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are known to ward off diseases such as cancers and heart ailments. Naturally avoiding fast food and junk foods also help in improving your overall nutrition.

 

David Novak’s byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world.  He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline.  To visit his other stories on Healthline, visithttp://www.healthline.com/

What does Clean Eating Mean?

Eating Clean

Eating Clean

 

 

Eating clean is simply stripping your diet with unhealthy foods. It is not a diet but a lifestyle choice wherein you only eat whole, unrefined, and unprocessed foods. This allows you to eat more and weigh less by making smart food choices.

Eating clean can is the foundation for proper nutrition, weight loss and disease prevention. The concept of clean eating may seem to be overwhelming at first, especially if it involves a lot of dietary changes. Taking it one step a time and incorporating it gradually, however, can help you ease into these changes. Don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes or have slipped off the rails a few times. All it takes is the determination and patience knowing that you can eventually live a much healthier life than ever before. The keys to good health and proper nutrition are in the following concepts:

Cut down on alcohol

Several studies show that moderate consumption of alcohol (specifically red wine) has some health benefits, such as raising good HDL cholesterol and warding off dementia and Alzheimer. It is essential that consumption stays moderate, however, since excessive alcohol can affect your liver. It also weakens your immune system, making your body an easy target for diseases.

Cut down on sugar

On average, Americans consume 30 tablespoons of added sugar every day, which is higher than the recommended allowance deemed by the American Heart Association, which is only 6 tablespoons for women and 9 tablespoons for men. Excessive intake of sugar can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can also result in weight gain since excess sugar that’s not immediately required for energy is converted to triglycerides. So, avoid sugar in excess, including sugary beverages such as soda and fruit-flavored punches.

Cut down on salt

Restaurant foods and processed foods generally have high sodium content. It is best to cook food at home to be able to manage your sodium intake. Use fresh ingredients and boost flavor by using herbs and spices rather than salt. Too much salt intake can result to hypertension and may increase the risk of osteoporosis, stomach cancer, cirrhosis and kidney stones.

Avoid saturated and trans fat

Saturated fats are known to increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can damage the arteries. Trans fat is far worse that saturated fats because aside from raising bad LDL, it also lowers good HDL. Too much of these unhealthy fats can lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction and other chronic conditions.

Cut down on refined grains

As much as possible, limit your intake of refined grains such as white rice, white bread, and other foods made with all-purpose flour, such as cookies, cakes and crackers. Refined grains are easily digested into simple sugar, causing your blood sugar levels to spike or crash. These foods can also contribute to high triglycerides, which can cause inflammation and may worsen arthritis symptoms. Choose whole grains instead like whole oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and whole rye.

Avoid processed foods

Processed foods are anything that is in a box, can, bag or package that have a food label indicating more than one ingredient. All of these processed foods have loads of added sugar, salt, trans fat, and saturated fat that can be dangerous to your health. Processed foods also cause chronic inflammation, indigestion and obesity. Choosing natural, fresh foods are still the healthiest choice for everyone.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables are the best thing you could do for your body. Aside from being nutritious and rich in antioxidants, these power foods have low calories, which can minimize the risk for heart disease. They also have numerous vitamins and minerals, which are essential in keeping the body healthy and lowering the risk of contracting diseases. Fiber, which is also found in most vegetables and fruits, helps prevent diabetes, appendicitis and colon cancer. Make sure that fruits and vegetables will be the main food in your daily nutrition.

Increase your water intake

Our body is made up of 60% water, so it’s important that you replenish it by drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. Water transports nutrients and oxygen to the body. It also helps keep your metabolism healthy and flowing, as well as regulates body temperature. Dehydration or lack of water in the body can cause tiredness, migraine, constipation, kidney disease and irregular blood pressure.

David Novak is a national newspaper columnist, appearing in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and GQ Magazine, among others.  David is a health and diet enthusiast, and frequently writes on a wide array of health topics for various publications, including regular editions appearing in healthline.com.  For more of his Healthline articles, visithttp://www.healthline

My Summer in Health and Fitness

It’s back to school time for this teacher.  We started today with an in-service for all teachers so I thought I would recap my summer in health and fitness.  As always I am up to something and always trying to improve my overall health and fitness lifestyle.  This summer I added two new things into my fitness routine.  One was biking.  The other was CrossFit.   I also made a few dietary changes that I hope I can continue into the school year.   

Biking was so much fun.  I just really enjoyed getting on my bike and exploring new streets and riding through town and just enjoying being outside on a summer day.  My longest ride was 20 miles but I found that a nice 10 mile bike ride is just a nice and comfortable distance for me right now.  I am sure next summer will include more biking but with my marathon training it made it tough to not overdo it.  I also learned that I need to monitor my tire pressure so that I don’t get flats.  That probably would have been useful information ahead of time but live and learn.  

CrossFit has been great as well.  By great I mean that most days I leave there feeling like I am just useless.  For me I like having a goal or something to train for so when I am not good at something or not one of the better ones in the classes I enjoy it.  I do have to say that I have gotten slowly better and more comfortable with the workouts.  I incorporated almost all of the movements and lifts into my previous workout routines but not at that high repetition rate or that high intensity.  I really can’t wait until after the NYC Marathon to see what I can do when I completely throw myself into CrossFit and not try to serve two masters by running a marathon at the same time as I am cross-fitting.  

Other things I tried to improve my overall health were quitting certain foods. Since losing close to 100 pounds 8 years ago I kind of adopted a eat this not that philosophy.  I am always looking for small switches that I can do to improve my diet.   Perhaps the biggest was diet soda.  For everyone who knows me they know I was for years a diet coke guy.  Yes I always drank plenty of water but I had to have my diet coke with a meal.  I would maybe drink two or three a day.  I went cold turkey and to be honest I don’t even miss it.  Even though there are no calories in diet coke there are just too many studies that show how bad it is for you.  I do wonder how I will keep that up after going back to work and losing out on the caffeine.  My beverages now include coffee, water, iced tea, and beer and thats about it.  

The other things I did this summer was try to eat clean.  Or at least an 80/20 rule for eating clean.  I still have my mandatory cheat meals which are usually Saturday night dinner and one meal on Sunday.  By eating clean I mean nothing out of a box.  I grilled some meat almost every day for dinner and ate plenty of vegetables.  A typical day of eating for me this summer went something like this:

Snack 1:  (night time eating)  Don’t ask!  I have a disease.  Grapes or almonds or whatever I had in the fridge.

Breakfast:  6 eggs and an avocado sliced

Dinner:  8 ounce steak with spinach sauteed in butter and garlic

Snack 2:  Tomato sliced with salt and pepper

Snack 3: on lifting days Protein Shake on running days a sweet potato with butter

Snack 4:  Protein Shake.

This diet usually was about 40% fat, 30% protein, and 30% carbs.  My goals were to stay within my calorie allotment which for me is about 2200 calories a day while also getting close to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight which for me is at least 155 grams or 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of overall body weight on days where I did crossfit which is about 190 grams.  

Things I no longer eat at least during my 80% of the time are:

 Cheese, Milk, or any Dairy.  

Bread

Peanut Butter

Potatoes

Protein Bars or any Snack Bars

Anything out of a bag or a box.

High Starch vegetables.

Processed meats such as sandwich cold cuts.

Results:  I am about 8 pounds heavier than I was at this time last year but my body fat is down about 2%.  That tells me that I have more muscle now and have not added any fat.  I have to admit there are times when I look at the scale and see 196 and it bothers me not being at 188 like I was last year but I have to remind myself that the eight pounds gained is mostly muscle.  Although I am 8 pounds up I have had multiple people ask me if I lost weight which tells me that I look more lean despite being up 8 pounds from a year ago.  I attribute this to the fact that I am consuming more protein and the Crossfit workouts in particular the heavy leg work.  

So what can you do today to improve your health and fitness?  We are all a creature of habits.  Nothing is more habitual than food and exercise.  Look into your habits and routines and try to replace one current habit with a new one.  If you always stop at Dunkin Donuts for a coffee on your way to work try a lower calorie option off the menu.  If you have a sandwich with cheese leave the cheese off and see if you miss it.  If you always drive around the parking lot looking for the closest parking spot just park on the far end and walk.  One little insignificant change right now leads to another change down the road.  Health and Fitness is a continuous lifelong process.  One of those changes will be the tipping point that leads to a healthier you. 

What changes have you made lately from your regular habits that have led to improved diet or fitness?  

 

CrossFit Transformation.

I am now 6 weeks into CrossFit. I decided to take measurements before I started which would help me determine just how effective CrossFit was for body composition and overall fitness. While I knew that CrossFit felt different than what I was previously doing I didn’t quite know how much change would occur in just 6 weeks.
CrossFit preaches a Paleo diet which is the eat like a Caveman approach. All organic meats and fresh veggies and fruits only. No processed foods, no carbs, no sugars, no beans, and no dairy. I didn’t quite adopt the Paleo diet completely but I am slowly trying to get there as much as possible. What I have done is increase my protein intake dramatically. I was always focused on just the number of calories that I eat and trying to keep that number to help me maintain my weight. I wasn’t necessarily focused on what foods I was putting into my body. This diet helped me lose 90 pounds and it also helped me maintain that weight loss for 7 years. However, in the last 6 weeks I have been attempting to get a good 40,30,30 split. 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat. My goal now is to get 200 grams of protein a day and also particularly after a CrossFit workout to have a a protein shake with 40 grams immediately after. I stopped eating cheese, yogurt, and bread which were staples of my diet for a while. I still use Saturday and Sunday Dinners as cheat meals. I allowed myself to to eat whatever I wanted on these days. I used to eat a lot of fast food which was light on calories. I often ate dunkin donuts flat bread egg whites and things like that. Now, I am basically eating salads, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and a lot of Think Thin protein bars which I love. I also eat edamame and dried peas and lots of fruit.
My workouts these days are CrossFit twice a week, one other day a week at regular weight room which is mostly abs and core and 2 runs a week consisting of 3-6 mile runs. In about another month my runs will becomes more frequent and also more intense as the weather gets better. I am running the NYC Marathon this year so I decided to only do CrossFit twice a week so that I have enough time to train for that.
So just 6 weeks into CrossFit at only twice a week:
My weight went from 188-192. I gained 4 pounds. If I was just using a scale as my measuring tool I would not be happy. But let’s look at my other measurements.
My neck went from 15 to 15.25
My waist went from 37 to 35.5
My Hips went from 40 to 39.5
My Body Fat percentage went from 22-20%
My Chest went from 44 to 42.75
My Chest and Shoulders went from 52 to 52.5
And the most amazing number is my thighs went from 18 to 22.5.

I gained 4.5 inches in my legs in 6 weeks. Wow! I knew Crossfit was very leg heavy and I could feel my legs becoming stronger but to gain 4.5 inches was crazy. If you look at all of my numbers everything went down but my shoulders and my legs went up. This is reason number one that you can’t just use a scale as your measurement tool. I can’t wait to see how these numbers continue to change as I get more and more into my CrossFit workouts and also as I start to run more in preparation of the Marathon. The latest research shows that CrossFit increases Vo2 max which will help my oxygen uptake and I think if I take care of my body and recover properly I expect great things from my marathon times. So far CrossFit is a success and I am very happy with it.

Random thoughts from a weight loss journey.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the problem of belly fat versus fat that is collected in other areas of the body.  Belly fat is a more serious indicator of a potential health problem down the road.   Heart disease and stroke being the number one risk from fat around the abdomen.  The U.S. Army has even included waist circumference as a measure to predict healthy potential soldiers.  The used to use BMI and body fat percentage solely.

Now, how do you specifically target belly fat.  The standard answer that a lot of personal trainers will give you is that you can’t spot reduce fat.  For example, if you have fat around your bicep than doing curls will not get rid of bicep fat.  But, there is some good news for people who worry about this excess fat around the abdomen.  If you read my blog you know that I am a runner.  I am running the ING NYC Marathon this fall.  I have also said that distance running is not a way to reduce body fat.  Instead to reduce body fat high intensity sprints and power exercise such as full body olympic movements will help torch body fat.  Well here is where it gets complicated.  A recent Duke University study focused on cardio endurance training vs high intensity resistance training and their responses to visceral belly fat in particular.  Visceral fat is the fat that sits deeper in your belly.  It surrounds your organs and is much tougher to get rid of than subcutanous fat which is more superficial and lies just under your skin.  The Duke study found that endurance training actually helped get rid of the visceral fat more so than high intensity training.  This is why you can sometimes see a runner who has a very “skinny frame” with a higher body fat percentage.  If you look at them in a sweater you might say they are really skinny.  However, if you asked them to take their shirt off you might see some belly fat.  However, because their belly fat is that subcutaneous fat they are not at risk for heart disease etc.  Now. think of the olympic weightlifter with a huge belly.  This guy is powerful but he has the classic “beer belly” look.  He is at risk for a heart attack much more than the runner.

So, what does this mean for you.  If long term health is your goal.  I would try to amp up your cardio.  When I began running I could barely run a mile.  It’s just classic overload principal.  Start slowly and add on a little at a time.  Maybe add 10% a week at the most.  When you first start don’t worry about distance just run for a time.  Say 10 minutes at first.  Then the next week 11 minutes.  A good way to keep you motivated would be to sign up for a 5K or a 10K a few months down the road.  These races are everywhere and they are a lot of fun with other people running alongside you.  If you currently work out 4 days a week then maybe do 2 cardio days and 2 weight training days.  When I was 290 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week and lifted weights.  I could bench press 340 pounds.    But to work on that overall health and reduce fat you need to focus on diet and add cardio.  Keep in mind however that I didn’t start running until after I lost 60 pounds or so.  Diet is the key to all of this.

Lastly, but probably the most important is diet.  When you are lifting weights you need protein to repair muscle tissue.  However, if you trying to lose weight then you have to worry about total calories.  I always say get to your ideal weight first then worry about shaping your body the way you want it.  I use a smart phone app.  There are a bunch out there.  Loseit, MYFitnessPal, or FatSecret are all good.  MyFitnessPal is my favorite.  If you don’t have a smart phone they also have a website.  Most people will tell you that eating at home is the best way to control weight because you can control the food that you prepare.  However, with these calories trackers you can look up the calories in a menu item at say subway or Dunkin Donuts and make better choices.

This may sound obvious  but many yo-yo dieters just don’t do this.  EAT FOODS YOU LIKE!  If you are chewing carrot sticks and you just hate them then how long do you think you are going to do that?  Find lower calorie options that you actually like to eat.  I can’t answer this for you but there has to be something out there that you enjoy that is not 1000 calories.  If you don’t do this then your diet will be temporary.  You want this to be a permanent change in the way you eat and not a diet.

Cheat Days are a must.  There are things that everyone loves that they just can’t have when restricting calories.  My cheat day is usually Saturday night and sometimes Sunday if I am training for a race.  I will usually have a few beers and dessert on Saturday nights along with dinner.

Don’t diet at special events.  Christmas is not a time to worry about your weight.  If you start to live this way you will always be aware of calories and what the calorie count is.  It will always be in the back of your head.  If you feel that you have control over your diet then go ahead because you can always get back to your routine.

It takes 14 days to create a habit.  I would recommend that when you start this new lifestyle that you are extremely strict for 2 weeks.  No cheat days for at least 2 weeks.  Your body will adjust and you won’t feel as hungry after two weeks.

Eat to not be hungry.  Don’t eat until you are full.  Think about this.  I am a foodie.  I love food but biologically we eat because we need energy.  Our bodies signal hunger.  Once that signal ends than we no longer need to eat.

Eat when your hungry.  If you are hungry Eat!  Usually just a small amount of food will actually end your hunger.

Successful dieters are boring.  They tend to eat the same things over and over again.  Because they know that it is something they like and they know the calories.  It makes it easy and convenient.

Finally, crate your own Eat This not That.  Men’s health popular program that lets you make small changes to your diet that will save you calories each time.  This was probably my number one weapon for weight loss.  For example,  I stop at Dunkin Donuts everyday after work.  I used to get an Iced Coffee and a muffin.  I go from work as a school teacher right to my personal trainer job and needed something to hold me over until dinner.  After learning that a muffin at Dunkin Donuts has 600 calories and a chocolate glazed donut has only 350. I switched to a donut.  How many weight loss guys will tell you to eat donuts!?  But I just saved myself 250 calories a day 5 days a week.  In three weeks if I did nothing else I would lose a pound right there.  After a few months of ordering glazed donuts I also like egg sandwiches.  The Ham, Egg, and Cheese, on an english muffin is 290 calories.  Bam!  I just saved 60 more calories a day.  3 months later they have an egg white flatbread turkey sausage sandwich.  That is 210 calories.  It is basically the same size and it fills me up just as much.  I just saved 80 more calories a day.  From my original muffin I am down 390 calories a day every day of the week.  My original daily snack when I started going to Dunkin Donuts was an iced coffee with cream and sugar and a muffin.  700 calories.  Now I get am Iced Coffee with Skim Milk and splenda and a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap.  for 215 calories.  I did not make all of these changes at once.  That is the key.  I changed one thing and when I got used to it I then changed another thing.  Think about your daily habits and how you can make small changes one at a time.

Coffee with no cream

No cheese on a sandwich.  (would you really miss it)  that’s 150 calories.

Mustard instead of Mayo

Diet soda instead of regular soda

Brown rice instead of white rice.

Weight watcher’s bread vs your regular bread.

Lite beer instead of regular beer.  etc

Find which swaps work best for you and remember choose one thing at a time.  All of these swaps for me took place over the course of several years.  If you tried it all at once then you would miss it too much because you are too close to your old habits.  Start with one swap and then let it become a habit.

Diet, Diet, Diet

I was at a wedding last night and in the middle of the dessert my father in law asked how much I was going to run the next day to burn all this off.  If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  To lose weight or to stay thin you can’t rely on exercise.  The answer is diet alone.  Exercise is great for your heart and great for your muscle tone and great for strengthening ligaments and bones.  But weight loss is about what you eat.  If you have watched shows like “The Biggest Loser” on NBC you would think that these people just burn those calories off by working out.   They do reach a higher “burn” than most people could because they are on the show full time and not leading a normal life with work and family obligations.  However, what the show doesn’t show is what the contestants are eating.  I am sure that is a major focus of the show but it’s not exactly made for television entertainment to watch people eat their 1700 calories a day.

Italian Wedding Desserts

I did run today.  I ran 6.25 miles.  The run which lasted 53 minutes and 21 seconds caused me to burn 893 calories.  Any self respecting Italian wedding will take you over 900 calories easily.  So what does this tell us?  Either most people need to start running 15 plus miles on a daily basis or that the food is key to weight loss.  I always tell my clients to focus on the food and after they get to their desired weight they can begin to focus on shaping their bodies with exercise.  Lucky for me I am at a good weight and I can afford a cheat day.  But, if you’re trying to lose weight then remember you can’t just burn it off in the morning.  Everything you put in your body counts including drinks.  But that’s a story for another day.

Spring break and weight loss

Being a teacher has many benefits.  One of the biggest is the vacation time.  This past week was our spring break.  The weather has been beautiful here in New Jersey.  Spring has definitely started early and it even looks like summer isn’t far behind.  Lots of people are going to start a last ditch effort to lose some weight in the next few months before the summer hits.  For those people I want to share my spring break as an example of how to lose weight and also what not to do.

In my ten days off I gained 4 pounds.  I worked out even more than I normally do when I am at work.  Here was my workout schedule:

Friday – lifted chest and triceps for 1 hour and 15 minutes

Saturday – ran 7 miles

Sunday – off Easter

Monday – ran 4 miles and lifted back and biceps for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Tuesday – ran 2 miles with a weighted vest.  Lifted abs and legs for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Wednesday – Spin class for 1 hour.  Lifted abs and arms for 1 hour.

Thursday – Olympic lifts and functional movements for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Friday – Off day

Saturday – Lifted Total body for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Sunday – Ran 5 miles fartlek.

According to my Nike Fuel I burned 14, 781 calories from April 9th to April 15th.  In comparison the previous week I burned 13,620 calories.  I was more active in my week off than I was in my “typical” week.  So how did I gain 4 pounds?

Diet Diet Diet.

If you follow my blog you know how I talk about how important diet is.  I am sure not many people workout like I do.  I have the luxury of being a physical education teacher and a personal trainer.  I have easy access to gyms at all times.  In a typical week I am pretty busy and go right from school to the gym to working out.  I often don’t get home or sit down until 8 p.m.  On spring break I was home more often.  Sitting around the house leads to boredom snacking.  I definitely indulged a little more than I normally do.  The excess calories led to 4 pounds and it doesn’t matter how many weights I lifted or how many miles I ran.

Anytime you see or read something saying that lifting a certain way or doing this workout will result in weight loss I am here to tell you that will never happen.  I am living proof.  Not just for my ten days of spring break but for years.  When I was 285 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week without question or without excuses.  I didn’t run like I do now because my 285 pound frame couldn’t support running.  That would be an injury waiting to happen.  I was however, very strong.  I could bench press 345 pounds but I was very overweight.

If you want to get toned, see your abs, lose weight, get ripped, get shredded and or any of these things you need to get your diet in order.  Doing ab exercises all day long by the thousands will not help you see your abs any better.  It will strengthen your ab muscles but unless you have a low percentage of body fat you not see them because of the layer of fat above the muscles.

So, if you want to lose weight for summer focus on your diet first and foremost.  Then once you reach your target weight try to build muscle.

Now go eat some lean protein and I have to try and lose those 4 pounds.

Things I eat

Maybe the most common question I get about my weight loss and healthy living is “what do you eat”?  This post is not going to be a long winded article explaining why I choose certain foods but just a list of things I eat. Let me start by saying that I try stay under 2200 calories a day during the week and I go above that on the weekends.I also am very active.  Basically I eat what I like.  I don’t force down foods that I don’t enjoy.  I just try to find healthier options that I do like.   Saturday is usually a cheat day where I can eat whatever I want.  Then on Sundays I usually eat light until dinner time.  Of course this all depends on what the scale says on Saturday morning.        I use a website and a phone app called Fatsecret where I record my food and exercise.  I also “weigh in” every week and it graphs your weight over time so I can see how it has changed with my diet and exercise habits.  If I am at a certain weight then I can feel ok about my cheat days and if not I just make adjustments.  The other things that I concentrate on is getting at least 150 grams of protein a day.  That being said here the things I eat in no particular order.

Fage 0%

Chobain 0%

Dannon Lite and Fit yogurt

Eggs

Egg whites

Laughing cow cheese

Roasted peppers

Olives

Weight Watcher’s bread

Turkey breast

Mustard

Peanut Butter

Jelly

Oatmeal

Salsa

Dunkin Donuts.  Egg white flat breads and Ham Egg and cheese on a English Muffin

Coffee with splenda and low fat half and half

Chicken breast.

Vinegar Peppers

Subway oven roasted chicken with pickles, peppers, oil and  vinegar.  six inch double chicken no cheese

Tostitos Multi Grain chips and salsa

Frank’s red Hot sauce

Steak.

Amy’s frozen meals.  Enchiladas with Spanish Rice and Beans.

Soup.  any kind non creamy

Fiber One bars.

Thomas 100 calorie English Muffins

Butter

Sushi and Sashimi

Low sodium Soy sauce

Wasabi

Fruit.  Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, melon, pears, mango, blueberries, Bananas

Skim Milk

Peanut Butter

Jello Sugar Free

Jello Mousse Temptations

I eat the same thing over and and over until I get sick of it and then I will usually switch one of these things out for another but these are my staples of my “non cheats days”  As you can see I don’t think fat is the enemy.  I think Sugar and Bad carbs are the enemy.  If you don’t know a lot about nutrition I would suggest taking a look at Men’s health “Eat This Not That”.  I would also suggest keeping track of your diet and you begin to learn what groups things go into and also how many calories you are actually eating.