Tag Archives: fat loss

Live it up on vacation without gaining weight.

vacaySummer vacation time – the best time. My online coaching clients are making me jealous with details about all the places they plan to go this summer. It’s a stay-cation summer for my family.

They’re sharing their plans because they want to make sure they stay on track with their fitness and nutrition goals.

First, I give them the talk:

“Chill out. Have some fun, eat the things, enjoy the time away for God’s sake. Real life will be waiting for you.”

And that’s true. You can go on vacation, forget about your plan, and hop right back in. But I also know that some people, including me, feel good by taking a more moderate approach than the “YOLO” option.

I remember one trip I took to  an all-inclusive resort to Mexico 5 years ago. I’d been steadily losing weight but then faced with a 24/7 supply of food and booze I buckled. Seriously, I lost my damn mind. I mean, it’s not hard to say “screw it, I’m on vacation” and go wild.

The waiters seemed to have spidey sense about when my cocktail was nearly empty and out of nowhere they’d appear. On the beach. Asking me if I wanted another drink. After about 2 drinks I would be tipsy enough to say “um, of course” and then it went down hill. Day drunk is not a good thing 99.9% of the time.

So on my next beach vacation in Jamaica, years later, I decided to do things differently. I was in the middle of a very successful, focused training and nutrition plan and I felt really good. Sometimes when you’ve built momentum, you just want to keep it going.

So here’s what a Jamaican resort taught me about finding the middle ground between burying yourself in pina coladas and eating lettuce and chicken for every meal:

Save your calories for the good stuff. Ever notice that many resorts don’t have spectacular food? They just have a lot of choices. And it’s there all the time. It’ll still be there on day 2 and day 3. Yes, I could, in fact, have doughnuts and a cheese plate, tempura bananas, smoothies, and unlimited bacon. I’d never eat that way at home. Except maybe unlimited bacon… holy hell.

But most of us have access to those things everywhere. There was nothing special about any of them. They weren’t even Jamaican specialties. Plus even if there was no additional cost for extra nibbles, I reminded myself that this wasn’t a good reason to eat.

For breakfast, I visited the charming guy who made me an egg white and veggie omelet to order each day. I filled out my plate with the local fruits that I can’t easily get at home. Soursop is now a new favorite treat. On the first day I scoped out the joint like a pro thief from Oceans 11 and could mentally plan for what treats I’d allow myself to have each day.

After tasting a bite of a watery, tasteless dessert that marginally resembled custard, I realized that much of the food there wasn’t all that well made. I stuck to the good stuff and passed on most of their treats in order to save room for a cocktail or two each day.

Photo credit: Caribbean Pot.

Photo credit: Caribbean Pot.

Take advantage of what local food you can find. Each day on the beach the resort offered grilled Jamaican jerk chicken. It was fresh, tasted absolutely incredible, and full of healthy protein. I paired that with salad each day and felt filled up and less likely to wander back into the dining area.

The indulgent items I found weren’t banned; but usually, a few bites of a food was enough to fully enjoy it. Except coconut candy: it’s a local treat and it is completely addictive. But it’s worth the splurge, and thankfully sold in tiny bags. Like drugs. Heh.

No. Because we're not in a frat.

No. Because we’re not in a frat.

Day drinking was off limits in my mental list of “rules”. I felt better without it, and that way I could still look forward to a cocktail at night. Instead, you can order club sodas muddled with mint and a squeeze of lime juice for mock mojitos. Or a a bit of fruit juice with club soda to feel like you’re participating. 

Calorie tracking is tough to do when you don’t know much about how the food was prepped. Instead, when on vacation or on nights out, I focus on the composition of my plate – pile on quite a few vegetables, a moderately large portion of protein, and a small amount of starch. 
Give yourself choices. I made a plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks each day OR 2 cocktails a day instead of snacks. I found that I was hungry enough that I opted for the snack instead of both drinks most days.

You may fall short of your target a few times. So what? We’re human, after all. On night 2 my crew was particularly rowdy and I had major FOMO. That led to having just a bit too much to drink. Okay, a lot too much. Years ago, I would have said “oh well, I messed up. I’m going to now eat and drink it all.” But instead I just woke up the next day and got back at it. It’s one night. It’s no biggie as long as we hop back into our routine.

Photo credit: Filipe Castilhos

Photo credit: Filipe Castilhos

Staying active makes a world of difference. It’s easy to say “forget working out, it’s vacation.” Hell yeah, it is vacation – we should relax. But getting movement into our days helps our overall mindset and lets us feel even better while we’re lounging around. Every night I danced my ass off to live music. I went on walks each day to soak up the sun and get a boost of energy.

And every morning I hit the resort gym for a quickie workout: either strength or a super brief metcon routine. Be flexible when approaching a vacation workout – have a plan that doesn’t require too much equipment. Our resort had a strangely large collection of upper body machines yet nothing except dumbbells available for leg and glute work. Here’s a short workout that I did as a “tweak” of my regular leg-focused session:

1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 8
2a. Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 x 8/leg
2b. Single Leg Hip Thrust – 3 x 12/leg
3a. Goblet Step Ups – 3 x 8/leg
3b. Bent Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise – 3 x 12
3c. Seated Lateral Dumbbell Raise – 3 x 12

If you’re visiting a warm climate, you will likely find that the gym gets really hot later in the day. Get in there early (and maximize your beach time too!)

Photo credit: Trek Earth.

Photo credit: Trek Earth.

Focus on your spectacular setting. When the point of vacation is to explore a new city or relax on a beach, the food and drink become less of a thing. This is honestly a mindset I’ve had to work on, and my perspective definitely shifts a bit depending on where we’re vacationing. I’m a die-hard lover of well-made food and on trips to places with a rich culinary scene we actually plan our days around restaurants we want to visit. 

If you’re headed to somewhere with a big focus on great cooking, enjoy it. But pick one great meal each day instead of three. Stick to the one-plate strategy and make a plan. You can still stay on track with your nutrition goals!

Aim for weight maintenance, not weight loss. Look, eating at a deficit on vacation really stinks. Being on a diet usually means experiencing some hunger. It requires a much tighter rein on calories too. If you come back from vacation and you didn’t gain weight, consider it a big win. It’s a much more happy approach than trying to actually lose weight while traveling. 

So the next time you vacation, use these tips. Enjoy yourself. You can loosen the reigns without losing your mind (and fun!) 

Fat loss isn’t easy. But you can make it easier.

scalegun

Fat loss is so easy: said no one ever.

Easy. Yeah, right. But we can make it easier, both physically and mentally. Both are important, don’t you think?

I’ve tinkered with fat loss like a mad scientist for the last few years. And my online and personal training clients have taught me just as much about what works (and bombs) for them when it comes to losing body fat. Here are a few of the biggies:

You have to create a favorable environment for reducing your calories.
For me, that’s always been tracking my calories. And at first, weighing and measuring food. At least for a while. There are non-tracking tricks that work too –like limiting the number of meals you eat or having general guidelines about how much and what kinds of food go on your plate.

Having some structure will give you valuable information, builds awareness of your eating patterns and possible saboteurs, and creates overall mindfulness with eating.

wine

Identify your biggest trigger. Then stomp it out.
One of my new clients noticed that red wine was becoming her bestie during the week. Sometimes habits creep in. But first ask yourself why? As it turns out, she just really, really loves red wine. Any other booze can sit around the house and not be problematic. But if she knows the vino is there, she’ll find it hard to pass up.

So she created a rule for herself to just not keep it in the house. She can still enjoy a glass on a night out. But for now, wine is off her grocery list.

Find the sweet spot for cardio.
I used to be the cardio bunny who did nothing else except run myself ragged. And we often over estimate how many calories we burn doing cardio.

But I also got lazy for a while too and only lifted weights. For body composition, strength training is incredibly effective. But most of us could stand to get out of our chairs and infuse more physical activity into our weeks. 3-4 strength sessions, 1-2 metabolic conditioning workouts, and regular, low intensity cardio that lets me recover for the other stuff is my own sweet spot.

Your own may look a little different, and that’s fine too. And most importantly? Do what you enjoy – you’ll be way more consistent.

farmermarketstands

Find foods you like with naturally low calorie counts.

These are your secret weapons for those days when you just want to eat all the things. Mine are celery, strawberries, a pickle, a small bowl of Greek yogurt with berries, and baby sweet peppers. These typically have either protein or filling fiber and will take the edge off without zapping your progress.

Take a break some times.

You know what women’s bodies hate? Being in a calorie deficit all the time. Our hormones give us the middle finger. They put up road blocks and make it harder. Yes, that sucks. It’s a bigger deal if you’re already fairly lean and less so if you have a lot of weight to lose. One way around this is to do calorie cycling: some days you’ll eat in a more aggressive deficit. And a few days out of the week you’ll eat closer to maintenance level calories. It gives your body (and brain) a breather.

And if you’ve been dieting a really long time, it might be time to take a full diet break for 2-4 weeks. When you return to working on fat loss again, your body will be in a better spot to handle it.

Create livable rules. 
Moderation sounds great in theory. But what does that actually mean? Maybe it means ditching rigid food rules like “no bread, ever.” God, that sounds awful huh? But sometimes temporarily we can create some rigidity where we need it, and be looser where we may need it.

I know I could never live without desserts. Saying “I’m banning sugar for a month” won’t work for me, because that would make me miserable. But “dessert every Saturday” seems doable, and yet encourages me to stop inhaling baked goods on the regular.

Photo credit: pixdaus

Photo credit: pixdaus

Play the long game.

For most of us, losing fat isn’t a six week process. It’s a six month or longer journey. It can be slow at times. It doesn’t always go as planned. But don’t let that discourage you. Because the best part about the long game is that you can allow yourself to see the big picture. Screwed up your plan last night? It’s no big deal – just get right back at it.

Because when you see that night in the bigger context of many days of healthy habits, it doesn’t even cause a ripple. Be kind and patient with yourself. Not because I’m trying to sound like a motivational meme. But because people who feel shame after perceived slip ups end up sabotaging themselves. That leads to days and weeks of going backwards.

You’ll have steps forward – and a few backward. And that’s normal. We’re human, after all. 

Why?
Ask yourself this. Why do you want to make a change? There’s no right or wrong. But unless you have a reason that matters, fat loss is going to feel harder.

Flip your internal dialogue.

I used to feel pissed off that at my size and age, I had so little wiggle room for fat loss. Unlike my 6’4” husband, who can demolish a bag of Doritos and not gain an ounce, I have no such luck. I whined a lot. Then I began to just be less emotional about it. Saying “I can have all the things, just not all at once” helped me chill out.

If you tell yourself something is going to suck, it will. Funny how that works? I’m not saying you need to chant “I freaking love celery” into the mirror. But a positive attitude about the process is going to help more than you’d think.

Find beauty in your inner strength.

Find beauty in your inner strength.

Finally, remember that you’re beautiful.

You matter. And your self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with your body composition. Keep that perspective.

That’s the tough one for me. I rationally understand this and yet am sometimes still so unkind to myself. Let’s knock that off, shall we?
One thing that has always helped is focusing on improving things that have nothing to do with my body’s appearance. Enter a race. Work on a new gym PR. Find that demonstrate how you’re getting stronger. Or faster. Sleeping better, or finding more energy for life. That you’re living a life that makes you happy and healthy.  Isn’t that what matters most?

Have your own tip for making fat loss feel a wee bit easier? Or a lot easier? Leave a comment and share!

Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Healthy Meal Planning

 

Photo credit: Farmview Market

Photo credit: Farmview Market

“Could you just give me a meal plan?”

I can’t. Don’t hate me just yet! Because I can give you something even better. I think of it as a cheat sheet. So that you can make it easier to plan your meals and get on with your life. If you’re just here for the meals, scroll down to grab the PDF. But you’ll miss by big, juicy tips if you do that. Hang with me for a minute here. 

First, as I described in the article “Just tell me what to eat,” I’m not a big fan of meal plans. But I really do empathize with people who want one. Read that for a primer on the building blocks of healthy meals. 

It would take me all day to write a customized plan for each of my online nutrition clients. That’s because you are a unicorn. 

photo credit: teepublic

photo credit: teepublic

  • You have unique calorie requirements. 
  • You like certain flavors but not others.
  • You may love to cook, or you may hate it. Or just not have time to do it.
  • You may live alone or you may have to feed a huge family. 
  • Maybe you don’t even eat breakfast. That’s cool too. 

That all impacts the kinds of meals you’ll make at your house. 

While my former article lays out what a healthy meal looks like, I’d like to give you a little more of a head start for planning. Because when you’ve had a long week and are trying to change something big, nobody wants to spend three hours figuring out what they’re going to eat for the next week. 

It’s still worth planning out, don’t get me wrong. As I have talked about many times, making a menu, prepping some grab-and-go foods, and avoiding constant trips to the store saves you time, money, and ultimately calories. 

inabutter

Instead of a plan, I’m going to share the go to meals that my clients and I often use on a regular basis.

I won’t assume you’re Ina Garten here. Most of my ideas can be made in 20 minutes or less – many of them in less time than that. I’ll also link up the cheat sheet at the end of this to a PDF that you can keep on hand. 

photo credit: Precision Nutrition

photo credit: Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition does a good job of visually explaining what most of your plates will look like. Mine don’t always fit this perfectly, but I try to make them come close. Once in awhile, mama just needs a donut. 

But in general, you’ll want plenty of nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables, around 20-40 grams of lean protein per meal, and smaller amounts of healthy fats and starchy carbs.

Most of the time, 3 meals and 1-2 snacks that fit those guidelines should keep your belly satisfied and reduce your overall hunger if you’re trying to lose fat. 

How to use the cheat sheet.
If you want to get going without counting calories, cook each meal and let hunger be your guide. You may need a bigger portion or feel full before you ever finish your meal. That’s fine. Slow down when you eat. Stop eating when you’re not quite full. You likely got just enough. 

You may be someone who likes to snack – or never snacks. There isn’t one correct way to eat. But my online coaching clients often report that when they eat larger meals they are satisfied longer, often able to skip snacks, and think about food less often during the day. So play around there. 

Counting calories?
That’s fine too. You’ll adjust your portions to fit your own needs. I am sharing ideas that have recipes that tell you calories per serving size or are otherwise easily trackable. 

Badass Breakfasts
Eggs on everything.

Egg + egg whites plus greens tucked inside.

Egg + egg whites + greens tucked inside.

Scrambled, fried in nonstick spray, or poached. I eat eggs in some form nearly every day. I often put a runny egg on salad greens, sprinkle on some cherry tomatoes, and drizzle sherry vinegar over the top.  But some days it’s a mix of scrambled eggs, egg whites, and a piece of fruit. That’s not even a recipe. But it’s fast and filling. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash with Eggs

photo credit: clean eating

Get the recipe from Clean Eating

Make it faster: use veggies that you cut on the weekend and pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage or even a little bacon to boost flavor. 

High Protein Cinnabon Oatmeal

Get the recipe here.

Get the recipe here.

Blueberry nectarine overnight oats. 

Get the recipe here.

Get the recipe here.

Overnight oats are the ultimate custom breakfast. Just tinker with the base recipe and you’ll have insta-breakfast. 

Banana Blueberry Protein Pancakes 

Get my recipe here.

Get my recipe here.

Protein pancakes are so easy to play with. I usually advise people to use sugar free syrup to shave down overall calories unless it’s a special occasion. In that case, hit up a little maple syrup. 

A high protein green smoothie.

Get the recipe from The Brewer and the Baker.

Get the recipe from The Brewer and the Baker.

Yogurt Parfait
berry parfait
No recipe needed: just plain Greek yogurt -I like 2% because it’s more satisfying. Add your favorite fruit and a sprinkle of healthy fat like chia seeds or a small portion of nuts. My kids like cereal or oats sprinkled on theirs. 

Lunches to Love

Also one of our favorite dinners.

Also one of our favorite dinners.

90% of my lunches are leftovers. I usually repurpose meat from dinner and toss it into a a big salad. “Chipotle bowls” are another way I squeeze in extra greens, along with a small serving of beans, meat, salsa, and avocado.

Just dumping a jar of salsa and chicken breasts into your slow cooker or an oven will yield meat that’s fairly flavor neutral, which makes it perfect for repurposing during the week. 

Not a meat lover? Try doing the same thing with pots of chickpeas or lentils. And keep tempeh and tofu on hand for your protein source. They’ll both keep for some time in the fridge. 

Here are a few more simple solutions if your leftovers left the building. 

Mediterranean Chicken Skewers from Costco
costcochickenskewer
They’re precooked. Heat them up if you like. Put them into a lower-carb wrap (I like Flatout) with veggies and some guacamole or another small serving of dressing. Or create an easy salad with greens and whatever other toppings you like. I like to add a bit of feta and sunflower seeds to mine. 

Morningstar Chipotle Black Bean Burger

photo credit: Iowa Girl Eats

photo credit: Iowa Girl Eats

Try using these on a salad some time too. They work well. I like to saute them in a pan but you can microwave them too. 

Baked sweet potato +. 

Get the recipe for a vegetarian loaded sweet potato from SkinnyTaste.

Get the recipe for a vegetarian loaded sweet potato from Skinnytaste.

Nuke a sweet potato. Or a regular potato (they’re good for you too). Top with reheated pre-cooked meat or other lean protein that you like, along with salsa, black beans, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. 

Lower-Fat Tuna Salad. 

Get a recipe from organize yourself skinny.

Get a recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny. 

Make a bigger batch of this ahead of time for a few extra meals. I mix tuna with only a bit of mayo or avocado for flavor and then round it out with Greek yogurt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and add celery and onion for crunch. Wrap it up with salad greens and a low-carb tortilla. Throw in a piece of fruit and you’re lunch is done. 

Winner Winner, All the Dinners
I use websites like Cooking Light and SkinnyTaste for inspiration on the daily. But here are a few super easy staples that my kids barely complain about. 

Chicken sausages and fire roasted peppers. 

Get the details from @green_kale on Instagram

Get the details from @green_kale on Instagram

Two ingredients. That’s it. The peppers work well for easy breakfast veggies too. 

Slow Cooker Mu Shu Chicken Wraps

Get the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

Get the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

Save time by slow cooking your chicken with bottled stir fry sauce. Just save a bit for the end, stir in broccoli slaw, and fold it into a lower calorie tortilla. 

P.F. Chang style lettuce and chicken wraps. 

Get the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

Get the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

I use ground turkey or ground chicken for these. They take very little time to prepare – make extra meat mix to stick in your freezer. 

Weight Watchers Taco Soup

Get the recipe from Kitchme.

Get the recipe from Kitchme.

I make double batches to freeze. I choose lower-sodium canned goods, because there’s quite a bit of them in here. But it’s lightning fast, low calorie, and my family loves it. I often add zucchini or chopped bell peppers to this soup too. The serving size is 1 cup. Try it with lean ground beef or turkey. 

Mango Peanut Tempeh Tacos

Get the recipe from Love and Lemons.

Get the recipe from Love and Lemons.

If you’re craving a plant-based meal, you’ve got to try the mango peanut tempeh tacos. I pick up tempeh at the grocery store and keep it in the fridge. If I’m out of meat or just so over eating other protein sources, I like to mix it up by going meatless for a meal. These tacos are fairly fast to throw together and are completely delicious. 

Curried Tuna Burgers

tunaburge

Get the recipe here.

I call my version cakes, because I’m fancy and serve them on greens. But use a sandwich thin if you’ve got a craving for a burger. These come together really fast and the protein to calorie ratio is good. 

Chicken Zucchini Noodle Caprese

chickenzoodle

Get the recipe from Skinnytaste.

Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” make a good stand-in for pasta and increase your veggie intake. No, they don’t taste like pasta. I’d never sell you that lie. But they’re tasty. You can now buy them pre-packaged at the supermarket if you don’t own your own spiralizer. Or just chop some zucchini and ditch the zoodles. Warning: if you buy one, you may become obsessed with creating spiral veggies of all sorts. This can lead to excessive Instagram photography. #instayum. 

Snack Attacks

snack
Still hungry? I always keep a few healthy go-to snacks in my fridge or pantry. Check out these ideas. 

  • Plain Greek yogurt + half a banana or half cup berries. 
  • String cheese + apple
  • Turkey jerky + clementine. 
  • Boomchickapop lightly sweet popcorn (for crunchy needs). 
  • Roasted veggies with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and sea salt. 
  • Apple slices + a serving of cheddar cheese. 
  • A smaller protein shake.
  • Hardboiled egg + bell pepper strips. 
  • Lean turkey or ham with dijon mustard wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves. 
  • Greek yogurt cream cheese and deli ham wrapped around a dill pickle. (Midwest sushi, am I right?) 
  • Cottage cheese + fruit.
  • “Proyo” – plain Greek yogurt, 1 TBSP of PB2, 1 teaspoon of chocolate chips or low sugar jam. Freeze for 15 minutes. 
  • Halo Top ice cream. 
  • Egg white crepe – egg whites whisked with stevia, a splash of vanilla and cinnamon. Cooked in a pan. Top with berries. 
  • Guacamole + salsa + celery or mini peppers to dip. 

Take it with you. 
Here’s a nifty pdf version to keep on hand for reference. Remember, there’s no one right way to do your meals. But I hope my ideas help you get started.  

Want more inspiration? Join my free newsletter and get in on workouts, healthy eating tips, and everything else you need to be fit and fine. Just fill out the form below and you’ll be an even cooler kid. 

 

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.

Straight talk about how you gain and lose belly fat.

photo credit: smoking hot

photo credit: smoking hot

Why are we so obsessed with our midsections? Take a peek on any drugstore shelf. The one that has all the sketchy yet slightly seductive fat burners and diet products. Blast belly fat! Get six pack abs! Wander over to the magazine rack and you’ll see the same headlines.

When new clients begin working with me, they often want to know how to lose some weight around their midsections. 

That’s because people tend to store excess fat in a few common places. We lose and gain weight over time all over our bodies. I lost a huge amount of weight over the years and even lost fat in my feet. Yes, that was weird.

Our mid sections are just one spot where we tend to store extra fat.  Every one has (and should have) some abdominal fat. But sometimes we have more than we’d like or more than we should have for good health. 

Today I’ll show you what you need to know – about how we get it, when we might need to manage it, and even how six pack abs actually happen. Read on. 

1. You can’t spot reduce.
belly-fats

“Give me some exercises to work on my abs,” my client Pam asked as she gestured to her belly with a frown.
 
The bad news is that you can’t spot reduce your fat. You can strengthen your abs. That’s a smart idea for functioning better as a human. But you don’t get to choose where you lose fat. I know, that sucks.

But the good news is that you can still lose that fat through smart dieting and exercise. What’s that look like? 

Briefly: 

  • Regular strength training. 3-4 days of lifting weights each week will shape your muscles, help you burn fat faster, and keep your body healthy for life. Plus you’ll feel awesome. 
  • Extra conditioning work. To move better, burn some extra calories, and keep your heart healthy. Do short, intense sessions 1-2 days per week. 
  • A nutrition plan for fat loss puts you in a calorie deficit. It also prioritizes plenty of lean protein to keep you from losing precious muscle, healthy fats for hormonal health, and carbohydrates to fuel your mojo and muscle growth. 

2. The times, they are a changing: menopause.

photo credit scarymommy.com

photo credit scarymommy.com

One of the things Pam noticed was how much weight she packed on around her belly. She is in her late 50s and has been through menopause. There are a few things that can lead to weight gain, especially around the belly, when our bodies go through the hormonal typhoon known as perimenopause and menopause.

  • Dipping estrogen levels. Lower estrogen may favor storing fat in the belly area.
  • Poor sleep. This screws with your hormones that regulate appetite.
  • Less muscle mass. This may slightly decrease your metabolic rate. It’s not so much that you lose it because you’re getting older. It’s that many people aren’t as active as they were when they were younger.
  • More insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain. 1

These factors can all make it harder to lose weight as women age. And If you’re going through perimenopause or menopause, doing a few key things may make a difference:

  • Eat a nutrient rich diet. This will help you feel better as you transition and help regulate your weight too.
  • Be willing to decrease your calorie intake. You may require less to maintain your weight now than you imagined. 
  • Lift weights. Preserve your muscle mass and improve your bone density.
  • Make sleep and stress management a priority.
  • Consider hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) if you’re struggling. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. HRT may decrease how much fat you store around your mid section. 
  1. There is a kind of belly fat you should actually worry about.

    photo credit: live fit

    photo credit: live fit

Doctors talk about “visceral adipose tissue”. If you just blinked, read that again, because it’s important. This is a different kind of belly fat. One that does impact your health more profoundly. When someone has a very big belly but not a lot of “pincheable” fat, it may indicate that they have a lot of fat around their organs. This is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of serious health issues ranging from diabetes 2 to heart disease 3

 Doctors worry if they see three or more red flags:

1. A waist circumference over 40″ for men and 35″ for women.
2. Fasting blood sugar levels > 100mg/dl 
Triglyceride levels > 150mg/dl
3. HDL (the good cholesterol) <40mg/dl for men, <50mg/dl for women
4. Blood pressure > 130/85

Fortunately, there are many lifestyle related changes you can make to not only decrease your belly fat. You’ll also improve those other numbers.

  • Eat plenty of lean protein.
  • Get fiber through fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Lift weights.
  • Move your body often. Get more overall activity.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours per night – or more if you need it to feel well rested. 
  • Keep communicating with your doctor. 

4. Is it fat, skin, or something else?
 If you’re like me and have had some babies, you might have some extra skin waving at you too. That’s very normal – after all, our bellies expanded to grow a person. Sometimes our skin doesn’t bounce back after all that change. 

I have a lot of extra skin in my abdominal area – both from those pregnancies and losing a significant amount of weight. I remember asking my doctor about how I could get rid of it. She told me I could either sling it over my shoulder and learn to love it or have plastic surgery. So far I’m slingin’. 

If you’ve had a baby, give yourself time. Sometimes a diastasis recti is to blame. You have tissue that connects the two sides of your rectus abdominus. During times of rapid weight gain and especially pregnancy, that tissue can thin.

As a result, you may see a little pooch. You may also have some back pain. Head to a physical therapist or your doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment.  

5. The six pack fantasy

photo credit: Heath Cajandig

photo credit: Heath Cajandig

I can count on one hand the number of clients who have asked me to get them a six pack. I work with a lot of working parents, most of them in their 30’s-50’s. I think at some point we realize that we don’t care nearly as much about having chiseled abs as we might have when we were younger.

That’s a perfectly okay position to hold. First of all, a six pack isn’t really a measure of health or athletic prowess. It’s a sign of having both very low body fat and also well trained ab muscles. If you want one, you’ll need to train hard and diet down to a point where you can see them. 

abs-are-cool-but

That means a very low body fat percentage. And a whole lot of saying no to cheesecake, especially as we get older and don’t lose weight as easily as when we were young pups. You have to decide if those abs are worth what you need to sacrifice to get them.

But is a six pack a bad thing to want? Nah.

“A six pack is a symbol”.

I heard that the other day. This is worth thinking about.

We all have personal symbols of the work that makes us feel good. Day in and day out. For some people their symbol is the deadlift they pull off the floor. Or their bulging bicep. Or a six pack.

If you do want to see some actual muscular definition in your abs, you can do that. But a more realistic goal, especially if you’re a woman in your 30s or 40s, is to aim for definition and not an actual six pack. If you get relatively lean AND keep after your training you’ll see your abs peeking out at you.

Have another question about your belly or beyond? Leave a comment below or hit me up with an email at fit@amydix.com and I’ll be happy to chat! 

Notes:

  1. Proudler, Anthony J., Carl V. Felton, and John C. Stevenson. “Ageing and the Response of Plasma Insulin, Glucose and C-peptide Concentrations to Intravenous Glucose in Postmenopausal Women.” Clin. Sci. Clinical Science 83.4 (1992): 489-94. Web.
  2. Ohlson LO, Larsson B, Svardsudd K, et al. The influence of body fat distribution on the incidence of diabetes mellitus. 13.5 years of follow-up of the participants in the study of men born in 1913. Diabetes. 1985;34:1055-8.