Category Archives: Health

You don’t need a detox. But I know why you want one, so do this instead.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

I didn’t set out to write about pooping today. But apparently the time has come to do just that. So I’ll talk a little about pooping – and other things that make our bodies feel good. 

Why am I talking about poop, aside from the word being fun to say? Because yesterday as I chatted with a friend about the growing popularity of detox drinks, diets, and pills, two thoughts popped into my mind.

Marketers are selling you a whole bunch of “detox” products that you don’t need. That’s a shady ploy, as my coach just recently pointed out in an excellent video. You’re being told on a daily basis that your body is full of toxins. And that if you just follow their plan, take their pill, or drink their shake, you’ll get rid of them. And then feel like a million bucks.

You don’t need this stuff. Your liver is fully capable of getting rid of toxic substances in your body.  And sometimes these products may make your health even worse.

What’s more important: there’s a reason that marketers are selling detoxes, cleanses, and other nonsense. They make you believe that you need something special. They know that the idea appeals to us. They’re just giving us what we want.But what do we want? And why?

When clients, friends, and family come to me asking about detoxes,  what they’re really sharing is something deeper. Here are the big issues. And along with that, my thoughts on how to tackle them. Without an overpriced product.

siplay

“I just came back from vacation, so I’m detoxing.”
My client Becky told me this last month. She is an excellent example of someone who exercises reasonably and regularly. And she normally eats well. After a long weekend of being whisked around to restaurant dinners, she came home feeling bloated and yuck. I asked her what her detox entailed.

“Oh, I’m eating some salads.”

That put a big smile on my face. She wasn’t doing anything bonkers.

When we get out of our routine and eat more calories, junkier food, and maybe throw back a lot more adult beverages than on average, you know what feels really, really good?

Eating a damn salad.

It feels good physically, because we get more nutrients and water. It also feels good psychologically: probably because in our heads, it’s a clear line in the sand that we’re getting back to normal. And this is a perfectly good thing.

So sometimes what we think of as a detox isn’t actually silly. It’s just a word that people use to say “stop behaving like I’m still on that beach vacation where the waiter brought me food and drink every time I gave him a sideways glance.”

bloats

“I feel bloated and gross.”
A party weekend may do this. Drinking dairy does this to me, because I’m lactose intolerant. There are a lot of reasons that we may feel bloated.

Overdo the food and drink? You most likely don’t need to do anything other than let your body get back to normal after a few days.

Certain foods may lead to extra gassiness, even if you don’t have a food intolerance. We all know about beans, but veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other foods that contain particular starches and sugars can make your stomach feel bloated.  If bloating is a regular issue, see a doctor. There are all sorts of conditions that cause chronic symptoms. 

Fizzy drinks may temporarily make you feel full and uncomfortable. That’s an easy one to replace with water or another drink like hot tea on a day when you feel blah.

And after a day of eating foods high in sodium, you may retain water that makes you look and feel puffier than normal. If you don’t normally eat a ton of processed food, most likely your daily sodium intake is just fine. But by eating mostly whole foods for a few days may help you feel less like an inflated balloon. 

Finally, some experts recommend chewing more slowly so that you don’t draw so much air into your body as you eat. Eating more slowly is a good practice for developing mindfulness around hunger. So hey, why not give that a go too? 

yay!

Yay!

“I just want to poop, okay?”
Sweet. We’re in the pooping portion of the program today.  So you know that most likely, you’ll never need a colonic cleanse to poop better. Thank God, because that sounds terrifying.

First of all, if you get plenty of water and fiber in your diet on a daily basis, things should be moving along well.

If you’re not currently eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and other sources of fiber like whole grains, but you want to begin, don’t do it by diving in hard with a detox diet you saw on Pinterest. Ease into eating more fiber. That’s because fiber just helps forms better stool. And if you suddenly go from eating no fiber to eating tons of fiber, you may feel worse. So gradually increase your intake.

Instead, begin by increasing your water intake. Fiber absorbs water, so drinking extra will help the process move along more smoothly. Avoid harsh laxatives and if you’re really backed up, try a gentler stool softener. My doctor recommends Miralax, but ask your own M.D. here.

If despite eating plenty of healthy fiber from fruits and veggies you find that you’re still having wonky issues with your digestion, see a doc. Soluble and insoluble fiber both play a role in helping food get broken down and pass through our bodies. Foods with soluble fiber attract water and firm up stool, while foods with insoluble fiber can make it easier to relieve constipation. People who have gastrointestional issues such as IBS may be particularly sensitive to what kinds of fiber they ingest. So get that checked out if you suspect you have an issue. 

Finally – try the squatty potty. Aside from having an adorable name, those stools help your stool. See what I just did there? Hahaha. Okay. Moving on.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

“I need a detox to lose this belly fat.”
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. No. You don’t need that. But sometimes going out and buying the special foods and drinks sends a message that we’re doing something. That we’re kick starting a change. Unfortunately, after the excitement wears off, people are left with some crappy drink and a burning desire to inhale an entire pizza. Screw that diet.

It’s fine to gain momentum with a more aggressive fat loss plan, but it should be one that is safe, not absolute misery, and can transition into a more moderate nutrition approach.  

I’m not opposed to a “rapid fat loss” diet. When you give yourself more structure and see big results initially, it may help you believe that you are capable of change.

But when I use these with my online coaching clients, I carefully monitor them to take note of how their bodies are functioning as they lose fat. Don’t go in blind when it comes to nutrition – partner with someone who will help you create a safe, sane plan. And remember, the more radical the approach, the more likely it will fail you. Especially if there’s nothing about it that you can take with you for long term healthy eating. 
So the bottom line – you don’t need anything special. But it’s completely normal to want to reset, recharge, and make your insides feel better.  Make sleep a priority for a few days. Drink water, put veggies (but not all the veggies) into your body, and go get a workout. You’ll be glowier than the chicks hawking detoxes on the Internet and keep more money in your bank account.

The winter blues – getting relief from seasonal depression.

photo credit: 1sock via Flickr

photo credit: 1sock via Flickr

Every year I wait for it. Do you? 

I anticipate what feels like a switch inside of me that Mother Nature controls from afar. Some years its merely a slight dimming. Other years I feel the lights go off so abruptly and harshly that it stuns me. Even though I was waiting for it. 

The feeling is a heaviness that bears down on my chest. Some call it the “winter blues”. The medical definition is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a very real kind of depression. And I get some form of it every year. Do you? 

You may have SAD if you consistently feel the blues in the fall and winter but notice that you perk up once spring arrives. 

Anyone can get SAD, but it seems to be particularly common among:

  • Women
  • People who live in places where daylight hours become shorter certain times of the year.
  • People with a history of depression. 1

You may experience a mild form of the blues or a more serious major depression.  While nobody knows exactly what causes SAD, many researchers believe it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. 

Not having enough sunlight could disrupt our normal patterns of sleeping and waking. That influences our circadian rhythms. 

It’s also possible that lowered light levels may cause our serotonin levels to dip. Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that impacts our mood. 

That’s what it is. But this is what it feels like. 

  • You may be grumpier than usual and more easily irritated by small things. 
  • You might gain weight – especially if you find yourself craving comfort foods and eating things you normally don’t.
  • You may feel lethargic. You may have less energy and want to sleep more. Or you may just want to sleep because being awake makes you sad. 

If you nodded your head to those things, here’s what I want to tell you. On a personal level. There are ways you can get relief. 

1. Exercise. 
jogs

I’m not including this just because I’m one of those fitnessy fitness people. Working out has been demonstrated to alleviate symptoms of depression. 2 I always underestimate this until I have a week like the one I’m going through right now. I caught a bad cold and couldn’t make it to the gym for a few days. 

I could feel my mood plummet. The challenge is when you feel really depressed, it’s hard to force yourself to exercise. Because you feel exhausted and paralyzed. But do something.

Move. If you can make it to the kitchen, stretch your body. If you can make it out the door, walk around the block. If you can make it around the block, do it again. And again. And eventually you’ll get into a regular routine. 

My gym time is sacred for a lot of reasons. But the reason I very rarely talk about is this one. It lets me keep going during the fall and winter. 

2. Seek the light. 

Photo credit: The Isha Foundation

Photo credit: The Isha Foundation

Get some fresh air and sunlight whenever you can. Exposure to light is a critical tool for helping alleviate symptoms of SAD. 

Just getting outside helps me a bunch if the sun is shining. Light therapy is perhaps the most effective tool for treating SAD. You use something called a light box. A light box has powerful lamps and just sits on a table in front of you while you go about your business for a certain amount of time each day. Numerous studies show the benefits of light therapy. 3

Other forms of manipulating light also exist. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to depression, though research seems to be conflicted about just exactly how. Supplementing with Vitamin D may or may not help with symptoms. So talk to a doctor or therapist to learn about next steps. 

3. Tell someone.

Photo credit: Indulgy

Photo credit: Indulgy

The kick in the pants of depression, SAD and otherwise, is that not only do we feel awful for having it; we do a few other things that make ourselves feel even worse. 

We may isolate ourselves because we don’t want anyone to know that we’re struggling. We sometimes feel like that makes us weak. Or we may discount our struggling and believe that because we’re going to work each day that it’s not actually a problem. Just suck it up, right?  

Don’t just suck it up. Reach out – even if it’s just to one person whom you trust. One of my clients is an old friend. She goes through SAD just like I do. And she now knows that it’ll be coming for her. 

The most amazing thing she did was to tell her close friends something along the lines of this:

“Hey. I know winter is going to make me feel like crap. I’m going to try to hide and stop eating well and exercising. And so I need you to keep checking on me. Because once it hits, I won’t be able to do it.”

Nobody will think you’re weak or dumb. They’ll just love you and help you through. 

4. Give yourself permission to not be a shiny happy cartoon person. Nobody is. 

Here's a meme that did make me laugh.

Here’s a meme that did make me smile. Heh. 

I think that I’m generally a positive, proactive person. Having a constantly negative mindset about the world and everyone in it is probably a sign we need to do some internal work. But when you have the blues, simply telling yourself to be positive may make you feel worse.

We see everyone post on social media. They may look like they have a radiant, perfect life. They may even be posting memes about how you should feel happy. Every time you see one you might feel worse about yourself because you enter what Mark Manson calls “the negative feedback loop.” 

You don’t feel happy because you feel depressed. Then you feel bad about yourself because you don’t feel happy. Then you feel even worse. 

Sometimes I do that. You might too. The truth is that social media is curated. It’s a collection of everyone’s best times with all the normal, day to day bullshit of dirty dishes and kids who threw tantrums and our heartbreaks left out. Nobody sees that. But it’s always in the background. 

And what is helping me on days like these is to just embrace the bad day instead of feeling guilty for not being happy. “Yeah. Today blows. That sucks. But most likely tomorrow won’t.” I just roll with it. And it surprises me how much that helps. 

5. When your squad drags you out, you go.
squad

It took me many years to get this into my skull. When you feel depressed you probably don’t want to be around people. Yet spending time with those who care about you – the friends who make you laugh and connect. Those are the people who will make that brick on your chest a little less heavy. 

Let them in. Get out of your house. Do things that help you take care of yourself. 

6. Consider medication. 
happypill

There is absolutely no shame in needing anti-depressant medication. There were times in my life when they got me out of the hole and able to actually work on the first five items on this list. See your doctor and talk about how they might help. 

You don’t need to suffer in silence. Talk to someone. Anyone. You’re normal. And worthy of feeling better. And if you made it all the way through this article and you think someone else might find it helpful – please share. Thank you!

Notes:

  1. Melrose, Sherri. “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches.” Depression Research and Treatment 2015 (2015): 1-6. Web.
  2. Cooney, Gary, Kerry Dwan, and Gillian Mead. “Exercise for Depression.” Jama311.23 (2014): 2432. Web.
  3. Magnusson, Andres, and Helgi Kritbjarnarson. “Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder with High-intensity Light.” Journal of Affective Disorders 21.2 (1991): 141-47. Web.

Leaner, stronger, faster – stop majoring in the minors to start making big progress.

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

Do you ever major in the minors? Spending too much energy on small details while neglecting the “big rocks” may not only waste your time and energy – it can prevent you from reaching your goals effectively. I also must admit that I’ve done this more times than I’d care to remember. I suppose it’s partly because I’m someone who wants to go all in once I commit to a new goal. I’ve often read every detail, absorbed way too much information, and basically got in my own way.

I did exactly that last year, when I decided to sign up for my powerlifting meet. By nature, I’m not a dabbler: once I decide I’m in, I’m all in, baby. I took mental notes at my powerlifting-focused gym, where veteran, record-winning lifters worked out. I read every damn article I could find on the intarwebz. I hired Jordan Syatt, a top notch powerlifting coach.

He gave me my program, and I followed it. I improved my strength and technique. But still, I spent an inordinate amount of time on things like researching the pros and cons of grip widths, knee sleeves, water cutting strategies for meets, and training schemes. I was, of course, excited about my sexy new sport. But when I asked Jordan if I needed squat shoes for my upcoming meet, he just said this:

“Stop worrying about that stuff and just get strong.”

ermagerd, sherz

He was right. That sucked a little, because I love any form of new footwear. There is a time to consider squat shoes, if we need them. If you dedicate yourself to a new sport or really any health pursuit for long enough, you may reach a point where delving in deeper and refining your approach will benefit you. But like I did, you may be spinning your wheels fixated on minor nuances of your training or nutrition that will make almost no difference in your outcomes if you haven’t first built a firm foundation.

I can recall some instances where friends and clients have got caught in a similar trap with training and nutrition:

  • Buying a $5000 bicycle and aerodynamic wheels that set back their retirement savings yet haven’t dedicated themselves to a consistent, well planned training program for gaining speed. I’d like to thank these guys, however, because I like to make a game out of passing dudes on fancy bikes with aerobars while riding my old steel Bianchi with big, non-aero accessories hanging from it. Am I immature? Probably.
  • Obsessing over losing a few percentage points of body fat to become faster in endurance sports yet haven’t spent any time building muscle to help power their bodies.
  • Worrying about complicated periodization schemes when you learned how to deadlift last month.
  • Investing heavily in a new superfood juice, vitamin supplement, or special powder harvested with the same technique used by ancient Mayans yet haven’t nailed down the basics of eating mostly whole foods in your day.
  • Toying with advanced nutrition strategies like intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and rapid fat loss protocols when you haven’t yet figured out how to consistently eat in a way to create a calorie deficit.
  • Researching the ins and outs of nutrient timing but you’re currently not on top of your calories, macronutrient targets, or eating nourishing foods on a regular basis.

These are just a few examples of times when we over complicate things and fixate on the trees instead of the forest. Sometimes it’s because we are excited and want to belong to the tribe. Plus, squat shoes look kind of bad-ass. We read headlines that tout the benefits of a new supplement or training strategy.

But most of the time, getting faster, stronger, and leaner is a lot simpler than we think. What we typically need more of at first is patience, time, consistency, planning, as well as willingness to dig in and do some hard work.

bigrock

So here’s to keeping things simple. Peek at these lists of the major players before you plunge into the fine details.

If you’re a strength athlete:

  • Have you followed a well-constructed training plan for a solid block of time? I’m not talking weeks – I’m talking months of consistent hard work with a plan to see the fruits of your labor.

If you’re an endurance athlete: 

  • Do you include a progressive strength and power training scheme in your yearly sport planning?
  • Are you eating nutrient dense foods for overall performance and health?
  • Do you appropriately fuel your workouts and understand the roles of protein, carbs, and fats in health and your sport?
  • Do you include workouts for endurance, tempo, and power?
  • Have you spent time building your base, and do you know how and when to plan these workouts in the scope of a training year? If not, the aerobars will not help you enough. Hire a performance coach or get mentoring from more experienced athletes in your sport.  

If you’re losing fat:

  • Have you tracked your calories if you notice that you can’t lose weight?
  • Do you weigh your food to see exactly what you’re taking in?
  • How well honed is your understanding of appropriate portions for your body’s needs, and what kinds of foods will keep you full, fueled, and in a calorie deficit?
  • Do you know how to incorporate more whole foods into your diet?
  • Are you getting adequate protein into your days?

If you want to begin lead a generally healthier life: 

  • Are you exercising regularly most days of the week?
  • Do you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains? If so, high five. If not, start working on these habits instead of worrying about minor supplementation or optimal workout designs.

There is a place for using high-level tactics in your training and nutrition. If you’ve put in the time in your sport and want to squeeze out even more improvement, small tweaks to your training, nutrition, and gear can absolutely help you. If you’re already very lean and want to achieve advanced aesthetic goals, you probably need to investigate some advanced strategies for accomplishing your goals.

Just make sure you haven’t skipped over the steps that make the biggest difference for improving your efforts. Work hard, be smart, and keep things as simple as possible.

The Big Picture of Healthy Weight Loss

 

bigpic

So you’re trying to lose weight?

I can relate: I’m nearing an end of a fat loss phase myself.

This is not my first rodeo with weight loss. I’m 41 and have been through quite a few different approaches throughout my life. Some of them have reflected a healthy mindset. Others, not so much.

I’ve written extensively on how our body composition shouldn’t define our self worth: within the greater scope of stuff that matters in life, it’s pretty small. But still, for either health or aesthetic reasons, fat loss has its place. So let’s talk about what to reasonably expect.

Today, I’m sharing with you what I instill in my own clients: the big picture of weight loss.

The big picture perspective is what takes the most time to develop and appreciate when tackling any major life change. For fat loss, the perspective emerges once we gain knowledge of how weight loss actually works and once we can also allow ourselves to trust the process.

Most of my clients seek me out because they want to improve both their overall fitness as well as their body composition. So I get them started. Many of them track their calories initially. Some of them use habit-based strategies instead. But what they all do is send me a log of their daily scale weight.

scaleweight

Why Daily Weight? 
As you’ll see in a minute, your weight on any given day changes. I want clients to lose at a moderate pace: fat loss is more sustainable and enjoyable (with some cookies) when we choose a modest deficit. So scale weight from week to week won’t change dramatically. If I look at a weight on a “heavy” day, it might not truly reflect what’s going on.

But Isn’t Scale Weight Useless?
Maybe. Maybe not. First of all, let’s distinguish two common uses of scale weight:

1. A data tool for determining overall health (as in BMI calculations).

2. A way to measure progress for fat loss.

When we speak about scale weight, tracking that number can be useful to measure as a source of progress if a person has a fairly significant amount of weight to lose. Yet once we become leaner, scale weight isn’t as useful for determining a healthy body composition: especially if you’re athletic and muscular, utilizing statistical formulas for healthy weight can be rather useless. Charts and BMI calculations don’t factor in things such as significant muscle mass. One might argue that using something like  hip to waist ratio could be a more telling indicator of obesity-related health risks.

However, let’s focus on the second use of scale weight. Using your number on the scale is a measure – but not the only or most important measure of progress for fat loss. It tells part of the story. It’s just not the whole story.

With that said, here’s what often happens a week or two into clients’ programs:

Their weight initially goes down. And then it goes up. That’s when the shit hits the fan in everyone’s heads when they’re starting a fat loss program.

I then often receive an email like this: “My weight is up! I’m going to eat 1200 calories today. (Or do extra workouts.)”

Or I hear frustration. Especially when the scale doesn’t move for an entire week. (I feel for you, by the way. It’s annoying as hell until you develop your perspective.) That’s when  understanding the factors that affect scale weight become useful.

pooped

Things that Impact Your Scale Weight
1.Your actual body weight… i.e. fat, skin, bone, muscles. Duh, right?
2. How much water you’re holding. Things like big meals with a lot of salt or extra carbs can make you hold more water. But it’s not fat, so chill out.
3.What you did the day before – this is purely anecdotal, but after leg day, my scale weight usually spikes a bit.
4. How much poop you have in you.
5. Hormones – I can tell when Aunt Flo is about to arrive from the big bounce up on the scale. As soon as I’m a day or so into my cycle, my weight drops down lower than it was the week before my period.
6. Medications.

This is why having multiple markers of progress is so important with a body composition goal. Here are things that my clients measure that help them become them less fixated on what the scale tells them.

1. Progress pictures
2. Measurements
3. Weights lifted/running speed – performance related goals that boost our morale and make the fitness journey not just about getting leaner.
4. How our clothes fit.

Scale Weight Progress Isn’t Linear
I stayed up late last night charting my progress from mid June until now. Yeah, I lead a very exciting life of late-night reheated coffee and excel spreadsheets! I nerded out on the data though, so check this out.

I have my own coach for my strength and nutrition programming: even coaches benefit from having a coach, and it’s a huge relief to have support and fresh insight. I regularly email him my weight, and it amused me to go back through early emails and see how damn impatient I was.

Even knowing all the science behind weight loss and having a healthy mindset, I got antsy – maybe even whiny. Fortunately, my coach was able to point out the obvious on the days where I felt stuck. Perspective is grand, isn’t it?

As time went on and I accumulated more scale data, I could easily see the downward trend. But during each week, my weight would fluctuate up and down by two or three pounds on a regular basis. Here is where seeing the visual reminder helps us take a deep breath and appreciate the process.

weight chart progress Amy

Looking at Trends
Even though we may rationally know all those things, looking at our weight from day to day can be initially frustrating. Yet if we can see a visible display of our weight data, we will be able to more clearly determine if the trend is moving in the direction we want it too. You see it on that chart too, right?

The day to day shows ups and down, but the line is clearly moving downward.  That is what normal, healthy weight loss looks like.

Here is another visual of what that progress looks like over a 6 month span.

amyprogress

What it required: 
1. Consistency: I had very few “yolo” days. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my favorite treats or indulge in yummy dinners on special occasions. Instead of seeing the process as being either on or off the wagon, I kicked the wagon to the curb and decided that most of the time, I’d implement the same strategies I use with clients: I found ways to fit my favorite things into my life without sacking my daily nutritional goals.

2. Patience: there was no dramatic 6 week change. This is a 6 month change. I built muscle and strength, which doesn’t happen overnight. It’s crazy how fast the time went though! I also enjoyed life a lot more by not reducing calories dramatically for most of the fat loss phase.

3. Skills: I was at an advantage because I came into this last phase having an arsenal of skills and habits that encourage fat loss: tracking, knowing how to build a healthy meal, meal prep (as I share in Fat Loss on a Budget),  as well as strategies for getting through tough days. These take time to master, one by one.

4. Perspective. This: what I wrote about today. It is a critical component to keep us on track and stay sane. It allowed me to understand what the process really looks like. Perspective helped prevent shame and guilt on days that were less than perfect. That bred consistency. Funny how they all feed each other, eh?

5. Support. Having a coach made all the difference in the world. This is someone who provides a space that enables you to discover more about why you’re stuck and helps you come up with your own solutions that both get you to your destination and fit your life.  When I did that mental work, it transformed me on the inside too. And that is truly special.

If you have your own fitness journey to share, leave a comment below.

Want to learn more about fat loss? Get my free book, Fat Loss on a Budget, by signing up below. I’ll send it to you immediately!

The Beginner’s Guide to Fat Loss: Nuts and Bolts

Lego-WorkoutOut of curiosity, I typed “what exercises to do for fat loss” into Google today. I came up with a  mish-mash of Pinterest and Instagram workouts (resplendent with hashtags),  a fair amount of nonsense like “fat burning zones” along with a mix of supplement pages and some quality training advice to boot. If I were just starting to think about putting together a plan, I’d probably get a headache. The internet is a wonderful thing, but all that information can be overwhelming. When it comes down to it, losing fat isn’t all that complicated.So why does it seem so difficult?

First of all, there isn’t only one way to go about fat loss. That complicates the stream of information hurled at us. A large percentage of it is likely garbage as well. 

photo credit: Mark Smickilas

photo credit: Mark Smickilas

Most importantly, despite knowing all of these tips, many people still get stuck. My advice is not your key to the kingdom, it just gives you more tools for your kit. The real work to be done to create change starts within your heart and your head. Successful behavior change requires learning the skill of fitness as well as gaining insight on why you want to change in the first place. 

But still, when it comes down to the process of losing fat, there are things to know that will help you succeed:

1. Do something. If you’re just starting out, you’ll notice a positive impact on your energy, health, and waistline by just moving. Read more on that here. It’s easy to take on weight loss with an all-or-nothing attitude. This will invariably backfire. The plan will fall into place. If you’ve been inactive for a really long time,  ease yourself into exercise.

2. Your nutrition is the leading lady when it comes to losing fat. It has the most important role in your body composition by a big margin. No workout is magically effective. If you’re consuming more calories than you expend, your weight loss will stall. Period.

This is unfortunately where people get tripped up the most. Conflicting advice obfuscates a clear path even further. There isn’t one nutritional approach that is better than another. As I’ve mentioned previously, the best plan is the one you can stick to. Ultimately, using methods that help you develop habits that will carry you through life work best. 

3. Lift the things and put them down. Yeah, set off that lunkhead alarm because strength training not only helps your bones and overall health, it also helps you retain precious muscle that in turn improves your overall metabolism. Aim for between 2 and 4 workouts per week, depending on your level of experience and available time.

liftthethings

4. You don’t need a specialized strength training plan for fat loss. 
How you structure your weight lifting isn’t nearly as important as just getting it done. Some advocate doing a circuit in order to keep your heart rate up and give you some extra calorie burn. Nick Tumminello’s Strength Training for Fat Loss does an excellent job of this and his workouts are fun.

Others use alternating sets of two exercises for a similar effect. Some people still just complete their sets with plenty of rest in between. I’ve had success using all of these approaches with clients. If you’re a seasoned lifter, you might need a more nuanced program, but most of the time, the biggest difference between weight lifting simply for strength and lifting for fat loss is in the diet.

5. Running will not make you fat. Every so often, the fitness pendulum swings with a published study, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon in hysterics. Doing endless cardio isn’t the most efficient means to fat loss. If you hate cardio, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to go suffer on a treadmill for an hour.  Most people attempting an exercise program aimed at losing fat probably overdo the running around and getting sweaty and under-do (is that a word?) the strength training.

jogging

However, if you enjoy running, by all means, go run. It won’t kill your progress, and will give you some extra calorie burn to enhance your program.

6. Respect rest and move your body in ways that you enjoy. If you go balls to the wall every day, your efforts will backfire. You’ll lose enthusiasm, encounter injuries, and you’ll prevent recovery that enables you to get the most out of your training. Short, high-intensity workouts can be appropriate a few days a week if you’re already fairly fit. Lighter conditioning workouts are also a good choice. Check out one of my own here.

Regardless of what kind of movement you choose, you’re aiming to get some kind of activity, both for extra caloric burn and because it’s good for your health. These bouts of extra movement are just right for improving your fitness game without getting in the way of your recovery. Or go for a walk!

So in short, here’s what your game plan might look like:

1. Eat in a way that supports your goals. Calculating a modest rather than extreme caloric deficit is important. Tracking at first is helpful, but not the only way to create habits that foster weight loss. 
2. Lift the things 2-4 days a week.
3. On your off days from lifting, move your body in a way that feels good but doesn’t leave you too exhausted to approach your weight training with gusto.
4. Rinse and repeat.
5. Keep your head screwed on straight. Fat loss can really mess with your head. It takes time and tinkering.
6. Remember that fat loss can bring you health, or aesthetic changes you might welcome. It does not, however, define your worth as a person. Keep your efforts in line with the overall task of having a life. ♥

This outline is just that; an outline, an example of what often works. The path to weight loss is different for everyone, but these truths might help you create your own winning strategy. Look for more articles soon on some of the strategies mentioned here.

Have more questions or strategies of your own that work well for you? Leave a comment below!

The nuts and bolts are the easy part. Motivation and support can be another. Looking for a coach to design a program and help you on the journey?  Apply here!

The Olds: Adventures in Perimenopause

 

she ra goes to the vag doc

I’m 40. Turning 40 wasn’t nearly as monumental as people make it out to be. Nothing magically changed overnight. I’m fitter at 40 than I have ever been in my life, and all in all, I’m in a good place. I train smarter, and as a result I’m stronger and faster than when I was 20 and 30.  In my mind, I feel more like She-Ra than what society deems as middle-aged. Sensible, motherly, and sexless are words that paint us but don’t really fit. “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” I’ve mused. Until it was.

Flash forward to last month. If you’re one of those squeamish, delicate types, stop reading here. Hey, you’ve been warned.

My period was really weird. Instead of my typical flow, I had a really light period. Normally, I’d high five nature. But it lasted for AN ENTIRE FREAKING MONTH. I felt exhausted and crampy.  My lifting felt harder. I had little energy for “gainz”. My bowels were whackadoo. Despite following a modest fat loss protocol, the scale wasn’t budging. Something felt off.

So of course I did what I can never resist: I went to Dr. Intarwebz. After browsing awhile, I deduced that I was probably fine but that I MIGHT TOTALLY HAVE CANCER and made an appointment with the gynecologist. The conversation went something like this:

ME: So, what’s up with my crazy period and symptoms? I’m worried that I might (TOTALLY HAVE) cancer. Or fibroids. Or something terrible.

GYNE: I doubt you have cancer. But you’re likely beginning perimenopause. You’re probably making less progesterone, so instead of your uterine lining shedding all at once,  you rely on estrogen to very slowly help things along.

ME: DIAGNOSIS OLDZ?

GYNE: Probably. But we can check with an ultrasound.

ME: Ok good. (I’ll show them that something is definitely amiss. Not that I want cancer. But I’m only 40! WHAT?)

GYNE: Do you have to urinate frequently?

ME: Yes. And sometimes when I jump rope, I pee a little. (Don’t judge. It happens right?)

GYNE: Ok well if it gets really bad there are options. (I feel like I’m in a bad commercial now for menopause. Or Coldwater Creek, the matronly ambassador of clothing for ladies who have given up on being cool. Sorry mom. I know you love the CC.)

ME: Oh before I forget  – *eye rolling* – my husband told me to ask about stuff for my sex drive. To, uh, obtain one.

GYNE: Oh sure. (Blah blah blah, libido cream, mentions something about a small amount of testosterone added. Jokes that maybe it’ll even help me with my strength).

ME: (Suddenly perking up) Whoa! But will I grow hair and stuff?

GYNE: No.

ME: Will I be able to Hulk smash?

GYNE:  No.

ME: That’s bullshit.

GYNE: *Emotionless stare*

menopause

So the point of all this is buckle up, ladies, shit’s about to change. It may begin as early as your mid 30s but late 30s to mid 40s is most common for adventures in perimenopause.  Not everyone has the same issues, but they’re part of the changes that come with being a woman. That sounds so mature. Bleh. But knowing that you’re normal and probably not dying is helpful, right?

I ended up following up with a friend, also a gynecolygist, who we lovingly refer to as “Vag Doc”. Vag Doc put me on some progesterone to stop the eternal period and ordered an ultrasound. It turns out I’m fine. I’m just getting older.

Always get weird stuff checked out, because ovarian cancer is often missed at early stages. It’s been named “the silent killer” and it’s no joke. Read  about common symptoms here

Thankfully, usually the symptoms we worry about are not actually cancer. Unless you look on WebMD. Then everything leads to cancer.

Here is a list of symptoms associated with perimenopause, which means “around menopause”, and is a fun-filled transition toward losing your fertility.

  • Changes in your period: it may become more irregular in flow, how frequently it visits, and how long it lasts.  This is due to the level of estrogen rising and falling unevenly.
  • Menopause-like symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep problems, and dry vagina. Good times. There are treatments to help if it gets out of hand.
  • Moodiness. I just thought I was getting crankier with time. Maybe not. I’ve been having big mood swings. They’re not fun. Sometimes women experience depression during perimenopause.  At other times, moodiness can be attributed to lack of sleep and/or hormonal shifts.mood swings
  • Vaginal and bladder issues. Hormonal shifts also can leave you with a dry cooch and needing to pee all the time. This is injustice, but it is what it is. Loss of tone can also lead to incontinence. Maybe I wear black workout pants just in case. Who’s with me?
  • No interest in sexy time. This isn’t inevitable, but it can happen.
  • You might be constipated. I’ll pay $50 to poop like a normal person. Holy hell.
  • Your babymaker packs it up: decreased fertility is the one that I already expected due to ovulation becoming less regular. I have a house full of boys, so no problem there.
  • Bone loss. Here’s where weight-bearing activity continues to be important as osteoporosis begins to set in. Because your estrogen levels decrease in the perimenopausal years, you begin to lose bone more quickly than it can be replenished.
  • LDL can go up. Again, losing estrogen unfavorably affects your cholesterol. Keep it in check by eating well, moving regularly, and getting it tested at your physical.
  • Weight gain. Your hormones are doing flip flops and your body is trying to adapt to all the changes. You may need to be patient, but weight gain isn’t insurmountable. Building muscle mass, getting more overall activity, and eating a well-balanced diet will still be effective over the long haul. However, your efforts may require more tenacity than in years past. It blows but it’s not an insurmountable hurdle.

So no, perimenopause isn’t life shattering. You can still be a bad bitch. Just be prepared for changes to come, and we can rock 40 and 50 so hard the young kids won’t even know what to do with us.

 

She-Ra-Princess-Power

 

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Perimenopause.” Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic, 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 July 2015.