Not So Tricky Halloween Treats

Halloween is here.  It’s time to carve the pumpkins, don the costumes, and buy treats for the kiddies.  But here’s the thing, if you are trying to manage your weight, do you really want 5 pounds of candy sitting around your house continuing to haunt you long after the trick or treaters have left?  Do yourself favor and try a few of these not so tricky Halloween treats.

1.) Microwave Popcorn Mini Bags

2.) Small Toys/Party Favors (Think Spider Rings, Plastic Eyeballs & Vampire Teeth)

3.) Peanut Butter & Cracker Packs

4.) Crayons/Mini Coloring Books

5.) Individually Packaged Rice Cereal Treats

6.) Stickers or Washable Tattoos

7.) Granola Bars

8.) Fun Decorated Pencils and Erasers

9.) Bubbles

10.) Mini Deck of Playing Cards

Warehouse stores and party supply houses are great sources for quantity shopping of small items.  If you’ve already bought several pounds of candy and are beginning to regret it, fear not!  Here are a few ideas to keep your little goblins happy and your waistline in check.

  • Avoid opening the candy bags until the first trick or treater arrives.  It’s all too easy to snack on an “already” open bag.
  • If you’ve already opened the bag and find yourself doing a little sampling, run back out to the store and pick up a pack of treat (favor) bags.  Fill the small bags with a few goodies and seal them up.  They not only look great in a decorative bowl, but the extra time it will take for you to get to the candy may help you to think about whether it’s worth it or not to eat it.
  • Remember, that a healthy lifestyle is not about what you can’t have.  That’s called a “diet.”  Rather, our focus should be on what we can have to support our goals.  Having healthy alternative snacks on hand is an important tool to help us not feel deprived during the holiday season and throughout the year.

As we begin moving toward all the parties and food-centered festivities, let’s make this time of year one that we can enjoy and also feel better about ourselves in January.

Can Roses Really Help You Lose Weight?

What member of the rose family is a great tool in the battle of the bulge?  If you guessed apples, you’d be right!  Believe it or not, apples truly are a member of Rosaceae or the rose family and with the Fall season in “full bloom” it’s no wonder we turn our attention to this versatile fruit Malus domestica, otherwise known as the common apple.

Quick Facts

Besides being in the rose family, here are a few other apple tid bits:

  • They are grown in all 50 states, most notably in Washington.  However 36 U.S. states actually produce apples commercially-including California
  • They are virtually fat, cholesterol, and sodium free. 
  • The most popular variety is the Red Delicious, followed by the Golden Delicious in second place.  Both of which are available year round.

Your Weight Control Partner

Apples are a sweet way to add fiber to your diet and help you feel full.  This is important if you are trying to shed a few pounds before the holidays get into full swing.  Also, pectin, a form of fiber found in apples has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels in many scientific studies.

There are a number of foods that pair well with apples including sharp cheeses, nuts and nut butters, or even a little dark chocolate.  Here’s a simple fall recipe to get you started.

Speedy Baked Apple

This is a super easy recipe using your microwave that quickly delivers a delicious fall treat with 5 grams of fabulous fiber for only 140 calories.  Makes the house smell nice too!

Serves:  1

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium apple (any variety)
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda© Brown Sugar Blend
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 tsp light butter
  • ½ tsp almond extract

Directions:

Core the apple and place it in a small covered microwave safe dish.  Mix the Splenda© Brown Sugar Blend, nutmeg, cinnamon and cranberries in another bowl.  Spoon the mixture into the center of the apple, top with the butter and almond extract; microwave on high for about 3-4 minutes.

So enjoy the bounty that apples have to offer this fall knowing that you are eating both nutritiously as well as deliciously.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

Back to School and Back to You: Recommit to Taking Care of Yourself

It’s that time of year again.  The kids are back in school, the holidays are right around the corner and it’s time to recommit to taking care of yourself.  The difficult part always begs the question, where do I begin? 

One of the first things that I ask my clients seeking weight management is why it’s important for them to manage their weight and what does it mean to them personally.  At first glance, this seems like a simple question but actually the answers are very unique for everyone.  We each have personal reasons for wanting to make lifestyle changes.  Some may be based on health issues, others on physical appearance and confidence.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a clear picture as to what motivates you and if possible to get those thoughts down on paper.  

One place to start would be with creating a simple “Top 10 List” that highlights a few of the most important reasons why you would like to lose weight.  This is your personal list and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone so it’s best to be specific and candid.  It’s amazing how different we view our thoughts and feelings when they come out of our head and put onto paper.  This simple process not only legitimizes our efforts, but also helps us sort through our priorities. You’ll know that you’ve created a meaningful list if upon re-glancing at it in the future, it takes you back to the feelings you had the day you created it.

Another strategy I use to help clients begin their journey is through a simple tool that I created called the Commitment Worksheet.  This worksheet acts as a self-contract by outlining your short term goals, exploring potential roadblocks and setting a plan for rewarding your accomplishments.  

These items are not just an exercise in listing your thoughts and goals, but tools used to help keep you on track when your motivation begins to wane.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through cycles of highs and lows in their motivation.  Much of the variance is related to your individual stress level and pressures of daily living.  Simple everyday distractions always seem to threaten our best efforts to stay on track.  Take control of your life by ensuring your goals are personally meaningful and visibly available; especially when you need a little extra help committing to taking better care of yourself.

The 5 Common Exercise Myths and the Truths That Prevail

For many, the thought of exercise makes us cringe; conjuring up negative images of being sweaty, out of breath and feeling completely out of shape.  You may also be thinking, I’m too old to be active now or too busy to find the time.  Whatever your barrier is, below are five of the biggest myths that people often cite as a reason to avoid exercise:

Myth #l – Exercise makes you tired.

Truth – As their bodies get more in shape, most people feel exercising gives them more energy than before. Regular exercise can also help fight fatigue, improve your sleep, and manage your stress.

Myth #2 – Exercising takes too much time.

Truth – To maintain a healthy weight, it can take as little as 30-40 minutes per day, most days of the week.  If your goal is to lose weight, it’s advised that you aim for about 45-60 minutes each day.  But here’s the best part; it doesn’t have to be done all at one time.  Most of us can find 5-10 minutes to spare at different points in the day.  Using these spare minutes a couple times throughout the day adds up quickly and becomes a routine part of your healthy lifestyle.    

Myth #3 – All exercise will give you similar benefits.

Truth – Not all physical activities are created equal.  Each type (cardiovascular, strength, flexibility) offer unique advantages and benefits.  A good routine incorporates all 3 types and rotates through different exercises every few weeks to prevent your muscles from becoming accustomed to the same movement.  This ensures that you’ll gain the most benefit from your program.

Myth #4 –You need less exercise as you age.

Truth – We become less active as we get older and as a result should strive to ensure that we get some physical activity into our daily routine.  Everyone benefits from exercise regardless of age.  The important thing is to find the appropriate activities and intensity level based on your physical capabilities.

Myth #5 – If I focus my exercise on certain trouble spots, I will be able to lose fat from those specific areas.

Truth – The type of exercise you do does not affect the number of fat cells in a specific area.  There is no such thing as spot reduction.  Therefore 100 sit ups a day is not going to bring about a flat stomach.  It will help develop your muscles in that respective area but this doesn’t equate to fat loss.  When the body loses fat, it does so in a systemic fashion or all throughout the body at the same time.  There is no way to direct or influence the elimination of fat from specific areas outside the use of surgical liposuction procedures. 

More Truths About Exercise

A number of studies have been conducted on people who have lost weight and kept it off for extended periods of time.  Examining their behaviors, researchers found that one of the common features is the fact that most lead active lives.  Some participate in formal exercise such as classes or regular visits to the gym, while others choose to incorporate activity into their lifestyle. 

Once you’ve made the decision that exercise is no longer a task but a part of your life, consider what exercises you may enjoy.  You are much more likely to stick to a regular activity if you enjoy it.   Whichever method you choose, it’s important to talk to your doctor first before beginning any exercise routine.

With Liberty and Fitness for All

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”     – Confucius

The journey to becoming healthier can seem like a thousand miles away.  But as Confucius emphasized, any seemingly insurmountable task starts with the first step.  Your road to fitness involves the same notion.  By simply taking that first step, you’ll find that it doesn’t require any special equipment or skill; just a bit of determination to reach your goals.

Where Do I Begin?

Walking is probably the simplest and most practical form of exercise.  It can be done just about anywhere, requires no equipment, money or skill, and yet reaps all the benefits of any other cardiovascular-type activity such as:

  • Reducing LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”)
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving flexibility and coordination
  • Decreasing body fat
  • Relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Strengthening bones
  • Decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers

Participation in some form of regular activity may not only improve your quality of life, but may also add quantity to your years.  The life expectancy of individuals who engage in activities like walking are believed to be significantly higher than those who tend to lead more sedentary lives.

Rounding Out Your Existing Routine

Besides walking which is a cardiovascular activity, there are two other main categories which include resistance (strength training), and flexibility.  Whereas cardiovascular exercises focuses on moving larger muscle groups and heart rate elevation over a period of time such as in running, swimming, or bicycling, both strength and flexibility training have a different focus. 

Strength training focuses on the repeated movement of isolated muscle groups using either external weights or one’s own body weight as resistance.  It’s extremely helpful by preventing muscle loss through the aging or weight reduction process.  It’s also a great tool to drive vital minerals back into the bone to minimize bone loss; which by the way affects both men and women.  But here’s the best part, your body composition is largely responsible for your metabolic rate.  The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.  Teenage boys are a prime example of this.  But what does this really mean to us?  Simply that if your goal is to lose weight, it’s going to be less of an uphill battle to not only lose but maintain your loss if you are able to keep as much muscle mass as possible in the process.   

Finally, the last category of exercise is flexibility.  The first thing we usually think of here is yoga.  And yes, yoga is certainly a flexibility exercise which can be done with little equipment other than a good mat.  However, there are other simple stretches that one can do each day to help with flexibility.  The biggest advantage in flexibility exercises has to do with injury prevention.  The more flexible you are, the less likely you’ll be to injure yourself from over pulled or strained muscles which can (and usually does) derail any fitness routine. 

Remember to warm up no matter what the exercise, never stretch a cold muscle, and repeat the motions smoothly.  And, if you’ve been working out for a while, you undoubtedly know the importance of changing up your routine to get the maximum benefit.  One of the most common things I see as a personal trainer is a concentration on one or two “favorite” exercises.  Avid runners are a good example.  Those who run on a regular basis often report not feeling like they’ve had a good enough workout unless they run.  Therefore, they tend to run (an obvious cardiovascular activity) most of the time while avoiding activities that involve the other two fitness categories namely strength and flexibility.

Go On- Take a Chance

It’s natural to gravitate towards things that you feel skilled in doing.  It gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride.  By the same token, we often avoid activities that challenge us or perhaps make us feel clumsy or awkward.  But if you step out of your comfort zone so to speak and take that first step, you just may find that a little variety can make a big impact on your overall health goals.

Proper Hydration: For Summertime and Beyond

Getting the proper amount of hydration is not only important in the summer months, but throughout the year as well.  Water is one of the single most important elements in our body.  It regulates our body temperature, helps our digestion and even provides a cushiony barrier around our organs.  Those who participate in regular exercise know how vital it is to be properly hydrated for performance purposes as well.   At the microscopic level, water helps get nutrients in and out of our cells and after just several days without it, we would cease to survive.Therefore it’s important to understand the correct amount of water to have onboard, the signs of dehydration, and a few strategies to ensure you are properly hydrated in any weather.

How Much?

Hydration can come from the beverages we drink (80%) as well as the food we eat (20%).  It is recommended in total that women consume 2.7 liters (91oz) of fluid through a combination of beverages and food and men 3.7 liters (125 oz) in the same manner.  If you are exercising, especially in hot weather, your needs are even greater.  In just an hour of exercise, you could potentially lose around a quart of water!  At that rate, it’s easy to understand how dehydration can creep in.  Here are some exercise hydration tips:  

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise

Of course, these are just recommendations. Other factors influence your fluid loss during exercise such as higher temperatures or workout intensity. Additionally, men sweat more than women and larger people sweat more than those who are smaller.  Also, would you believe that the well-trained athlete sweats more than the average person? It’s because the body of an athlete is very efficient at cooling itself down and sweats more as a result.

Swimming in the summertime can be great way to cool down.  However, a common misconception is that swimmers are kept cool by the water and as a result don’t require as much hydration.  The truth is that swimmers as well as children splashing around in the pool sweat more and are also in danger of dehydration.  So ensure you keep drinking water even if you are cooling off in the water.

Signs of Dehydration

How do you know if you or someone else is in danger of dehydration? In the beginning there is simple thirst.  Most of the time we could easily ignore this sign which eventually turns into flushed skin, higher body temperatures, exhaustion, and increased difficulty to perform simple exercises.  If you don’t get water soon after these symptoms, you will experience increased weakness, dizziness, heavy breathing and finally pass out. 

Your Best Strategy

It’s easy to avoid the threat of dehydration by simply sipping water throughout the day.  Remember that our hydration comes from the foods we eat as well so choosing foods with higher water content such as melons, soups, leafy greens, and even tomatoes is a great idea.

Flavored waters and other beverages such as sports drinks can contribute needed fluids but if weight loss is your goal, beware of the hidden calories some of these contain.  Also, if you are drinking beverages that contain caffeine and/or alcohol, know that these are both diuretics meaning that they cause the body to lose more fluids which can undermine your hydration efforts.

Being aware of your fluid intake will not only keep you well hydrated, but may also give you a sense of fullness which will certainly help your weight loss efforts.

Food Safety: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

A foodborne illness (more commonly called food poisoning) can occur when we eat contaminated food that contains pathogenic bacteria, viruses or actual parasites.  The statistics of occurrence are overwhelming.  According to the FDA, foodborne pathogens are responsible for 76 million gastrointestinal illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths each year in the United States.  Summertime picnics and family gatherings are common this time of year so it’s important that we understand the basics of food safety and how we can protect ourselves.

When we hear the word “bacteria” it often conjures up negative images.  But not all bacteria are pathogenic or have the ability to cause illness.  For instance, yogurt is little more than flavored milk with bacteria added.  This kind of bacteria is known as probiotic meaning that it’s introduced intentionally to the body as a means of bringing good bacteria into the gut.  This so called “good bacteria” helps keep the bad (or pathogenic) bacteria in check by using up some of the bad bacteria’s resources they need to stay alive.

In general, ideal growing conditions for bacteria are moist environments with temperatures between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit.   Food safety experts call this the “Danger Zone” meaning that if you hold foods for periods of time between those temperatures, you are more likely to propagate the growth of bacterial colonies.  Think about your recent 4th of July barbeque feast.  Moist foods such as potato and pasta salads are particularly susceptible to bacterial growth because they are either left out on the table for long periods of time at room temperature as people serve themselves, subjected to insects, or become contaminated through serving utensils and handling.  Here’s another example- have you ever thawed a piece of frozen chicken in warm water?  As that chicken sits there in a comfy warm water bath (well within danger zone temperatures), millions of bacteria have the opportunity to begin emerging which could potentially make us sick.  And if you think cooking it immediately will kill off all the germs, you’d be wrong.    

Because bacteria can be introduced into food from hands, soiled utensils, or via insects such as flies, the best defense is to wash your hands frequently-especially before handling food.  It’s a simple concept that we’ve all heard time and time again that can’t be stressed enough.  We also want to ensure that food is protected from insects by covering the dish when not in use.  Likewise, serving utensils should not be handled in the area that comes in contact with the food.  At the end of a meal, it’s best to cool your foods quickly in shallow pans in order to decrease the amount of time in those danger zone temperatures.

The symptoms of food poisoning vary greatly depending on the pathogen.  Some have a quick onset meaning you’ll begin to notice symptoms such as nausea and/or vomiting within 30 minutes after eating, while others may take as long as 2 days to emerge.  Some will produce fever and chills while others only cause gastric distress.  Foodborne illness is not only very serious but can leave a person vulnerable to dehydration which can have deadly consequences.  So if you suspect food poisoning, seek medical attention immediately. However, an easier answer is to decrease your chances of contracting it in the first place by taking the right steps to protect your food this summer and throughout the year.