Always Learning

Lenny's

Photo from Lennysnyc.com

One of my favorite quotes is one attributed to Socrates, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Even when we think we know it all; there is more to learn. That goes for fitness and nutrition, even for a health coach.

This morning, I was trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner. I have a bootcamp style class at 5:30 and I’m running  to an event at 6:30, so I need something that’s quick, easy, and healthy. I decided I would stop at a Lenny’s (a NYC chain) for a quick salad or sandwich. I looked on their website to see what the choices were and found that they provide a handy nutrition counter so you can try different options and their nutritional value. I looked at the bread choices and immediately went to the whole-wheat wrap. I was surprised to see it was so high in calories! The bigger surprise was that the whole wheat roll was less than half the calories and much less fat.

As I played around with the website a little more, I was surprised to see how much I didn’t really know about the nutrition in bread. Bread is one of those things that I generally avoid; choosing whole grains when I do indulge. Clearly, I never paid close attention.

Learning something new doesn’t mean you weren’t doing well before; it just means you have one more tool in your arsenal to help you make the best choices possible. For me, this is one more lesson that I can give to my clients, one more tip to help them on their weight-loss and fitness journey.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to take a look for yourself. What I love about resources like this is you can use it for other restaurants that don’t do such a great job of posting information.

Have you ever been surprised by the nutrition information in your favorite foods? What’s one small thing you’ve learned that’s made a big impact?

3 Tips to Beat Your Sweet Tooth + 10 Low-Sugar Sweets

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SUGAR. One of the biggest challenges to anyone trying to lose weight or just be healthy. Why is it so hard to give up sweets? Whether your cravings tend towards Snickers, brownies, or Sweet Tarts, why is it so hard to say no? Well, there’s actually a reason for it and it isn’t that you lack willpower. According to the ADA, ‘sweet’ is the first taste that humans prefer. Carbohydrates actually stimulate the release of the chemical serotonin which is one of the chemicals responsible for happiness. The catch is that carbs come in many forms like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And while these are much healthier options, it doesn’t change the fact that we crave sugar. So what’s a girl to do?

I’m a little over half-way through with my two-week challenge to cut down on my sugar intake, and it’s been tough. One obstacle I’ve had is that many sweet, low-sugar processed foods are made with sugar substitutes. That means lots of chemicals that I don’t want in my body. Another obstacle is the high sugar content in fruit. A banana has 16 grams of sugar! The truth is, I haven’t hit my 25 gram goal every day, but I have learned some valuable lessons that will help me stay low-sugar even after my challenge is done.

  1. Naturally occurring sugar can be ok. If cutting down on sugar means cutting fruit out of your diet, there’s a problem. Fruits have important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and it’s much healthier to get these from real foods than a supplement. You still need to keep portion control in mind and not go overboard, but don’t stop eating apples and oranges. Focus on reducing your added sugar.
  1. Find a balance. I try to cut down on my chemical sugar substitutes as much as possible, but I’m not perfect.Therefore, I try to stick with foods that use the plant-based Stevia instead of saccharin and aspartame. The tick here is to limit them (especially the chemicals) and not beat myself up if I indulge every once in a while.
  1. Sugar hides in a lot of unexpected places. When I started paying attention to my sugar intake, I was shocked to see where it was lurking. From soups to yogurts to sauces, even your savory packaged and restaurant foods probably have more added sugar than you realize. Start looking at the sugar content when looking at nutritional information and you’ll be one step closer to making smarter sugar decisions.

So with that, here are 10 snacks that have helped me through my two-week challenge.  Just make sure to read the packaging before buying and make sure you get a version without added sugars!

  1. Cut up pineapple and shredded coconut
  2. Frozen grapes
  3. Trail mix with dark chocolate chips
  4. Oatmeal made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, and dried fruit
  5. Light yogurt (but make sure you check the sugar count and the ingredients! Not all yogurts are created equal. I suggest Siggi’s if you want a flavored yogurt, but your better off buying plain and flavoring yourself with fresh fruit)
  6. 100% fruit popsicle
  7. Banana ice cream – you just blend a frozen banana until it’s smooth. You can add cocoa powder or peanut butter for a little extra punch
  8. Fat free pudding
  9. Enlightened Ice Cream (this can be found in health food stores)
  10. A spoonful of natural peanut butter. (or on a banana, or apple, or celery, etc)

How do you beat your sugar cravings??

Listen To Your Body; It Knows You Best

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Last week, I was so excited to get back into my workouts. I signed up for classes early and if you saw my post on Friday, you know I had a workout planned for every day of the week. Here’s how my week progressed:

-After my HIIT (high intensity interval training) on Monday, I was sore, but I felt great.

-Tuesday was a dance class and afterwards, the soreness from the previous day persisted but I still felt good.

-Wednesday was a full body rowing class and at this point, I started to feel a little draggy. The soreness hadn’t subsided at all and I felt like my energy wasn’t where it had been on Monday.

-Thursday was yoga, which is usually a stress free workout for me where I can let go, stretch out my body and feel great. This week, I felt agitated when I couldn’t get the poses right, I kept losing my balance, and my sore muscles made it hard to hold the poses correctly.

-Friday was one of my favorite classes, barre. I was psyched to go because it had been awhile but as soon as we started, I felt the pain. My muscles ached so badly that I couldn’t keep up. I was sweating more than usual and my feet kept slipping. I felt pretty miserable.

I’ve heard people say ‘you never regret a workout’ or ‘there’s no such thing as overtraining’. But I couldn’t disagree more. The most important thing when engaging in any type of fitness routine is to listen to your body and know your limits. The results will be better workouts and it will help you avoid injury. Yes, you should push yourself and yes, your workouts should be a challenge, but your body will tell you when you’ve crossed that threshold.

After more than a week off from my regular workout routine, I should have started out slower and given myself more rest. My yoga class on Thursday should have been a sign to myself that I needed a day off. This week, I’m going to be a little smarter, rest more, and listen to my body when it’s trying to tell me something.

What’s Your Motivation?

When it comes to motivation, there really isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. People are motivated by different ideas and different messages. Some respond well to extrinsic motivation – when behavior is driven by external rewards like money, fame, or praise. And some people respond better to intrinsic motivation – when a behavior is driven by internal rewards. For many people, it’s a mixture of both, but most of us lean more towards one or the other. One of the keys to being successful in anything is understanding what motivates you so you can use that to your advantage.

When I look to Pinterest for motivation (as I often do) I get a great mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Depending on the day and how I’m feeling, I might lean more towards one or another but I find these words of encouragement are great mantras that I use to keep me going strong when I need an extra push.

Here are some of my favorites:

Intrinsic

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Extrinsic

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Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, has a great little quiz to help you figure out which way you lean. You can check it out here.

What type of motivations works best for you?

Happy New Year + SMARTer Resolutions

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Happy New Year everyone! Whether you were relaxing at home or out on the town, I hope you had a wonderful New Year and holiday season. I had an amazing vacation with Jared to Vegas and Dallas (two cities that always go together!) We gambled a little, saw Jerry Seinfeld, ate a lot of delicious food, and caught up with friends. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things after a long time off, but I’m so excited to be back on my blog, back at work, and back to my normal workout routine.

With 2015 finally here, it seems like everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions and I’m no exception.

It can be tempting to make sweeping resolutions like “be a better friend” or “eat healthy and exercise” but I’ve always found that being specific with my resolutions (and goals in general) is the best way to keep them. One easy way to think about resolutions is to ask yourself if they’re SMART. SMART is an acronym that’s often used in project management, but it can really be used for any type of goal. It stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – achievable

R – results focused

T – time bound

If your resolutions fit these criteria, you’re off to a great start! If not, how can you break them down so that they’re SMARTer?

Jared and I decided to start of the year on a physically clean slate by cutting out caffeine and alcohol for the first two weeks of the year. Depending on how our bodies feel at the end of two weeks, we may add them back into our diets, but in a more limited way. I’ve decided to challenge myself a step further and cut out added sugar for the two weeks, as well. The American Heart Association suggests women have no more than 25 grams of sugar a day which is surprisingly low. It’s going to be tough, but my goal is to stick to 25 grams daily for two weeks and see how I feel at the end of it.

This resolution is:

Specific – cut down on sugar

Measurable – 25 grams a day

Achievable – It will be tough, but it’s totally in my control

Results Focused – By January 19th, I’ll hopefully have less sugar cravings and more energy

Time Bound – 2 weeks

What are some of your resolutions for 2015? Are they SMART?

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

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My vacation is in full swing and so far, I’ve been enjoying every moment of it. Everyone needs a break once in a while and I’m trying to really turn off work and relax. On Thursday, Jared and I leave for a 5 night trip to Vegas, and I can’t wait!

I know for me, it’s easy for diet and exercise to fall to the wayside when I’m away. I don’t beat myself up over it because you SHOULD indulge, that’s what vacations are for. But falling off the wagon completely always makes me feel worse, so I try to get a bit of exercise in when I can. For me, it’s all about preparation. When I’m home, my workouts are in the calendar so I do the same thing on vacation. Maybe not as specific, but I plan in advance which days I’m going to work out and which days I have off. I call the hotel ahead of time to find out if there’s a gym. If there isn’t one, I decide ahead of time what ‘in the room’ workout I’m going to do (for this trip, I’m using a barre video from Gina at The Fitnessista). It takes a little extra planning, but I’m always glad I did it. And everyone is ALWAYS impressed when they hear you worked out over vacation!

**Click here for Gina’s awesome workout!

Happy Hanukkah! +3 Tips for Staying on Track this Season

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Happy Hanukkah everyone! Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the decorations, the festivities, the candles, and of course, the latkes and donuts.

This month, my monthly pot-luck dinner with the girls fell on the first night of Hanukkah and I was thrilled.  I immediately offered to make latkes. They make your entire house smell like fried oil, but it’s always worth it. Our dinner included latkes, pistachio chicken, an apple and cranberry salad, plus a yummy tofu dish and sides of brussel sprouts and broccoli. We ended the meal with hot-from-the-skillet munchkins. It was a feast and we enjoyed every single bite.

Photo Dec 17, 11 28 27 AM

There was a time when I meal like this would have caused me a ton of stress. First of all, how are you supposed to track all of this food? And more importantly, aren’t the latkes and donuts going to completely derail my diet? But I look forward to them every single year, so what am I supposed to do?

Photo Dec 17, 11 29 29 AM

I’m a big fan of tracking calories and nutrition and there can be so much stress when you know you can’t track everything perfectly. I’ve learned a couple of lessons over the years to help me stay on track (and stay sane) in these types of situations. Because at the end of the day, celebrations should be just that – CELEBRATIONS! Not added stress in our lives. Here are my tips to help you track your way through the holidays.

  1. Be aware of portion sizes and make your best nutrition estimate based on what the dishes are and whatever food database you choose to use.
  1. Ask your friends for their recipes and use them to track what you ate. Again, you’ll have to be aware of portion size and try to estimate the best you can. I do this one all the time and have collected some of my favorite recipes this way!
  1. This one might be a shocker, but consider disregarding your tracking for one night. Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch and kept my snacks minimal. I didn’t have time for the gym because the dinner was at my apartment so I tried to get extra steps in. And I relaxed. I kept my portions reasonable and I tracked what I could (like the latkas, which I made and the donuts, which I got the recipe for) and this morning, I’m right back to tracking again.

Not every tip will work for everyone and that’s ok. If you have an all-or-nothing personality, tip #3 might not be your best choice. If you’re going to a party where you don’t know people well enough to ask for recipes, tip #2 might not work for you. But remember, what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. And enjoy the holidays!

Nobody’s Perfect

whatyoudoeveryday

Do you have a guru? Perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word, but maybe someone you consider as a master or teacher? For a long time, I’ve admired and respected the teachings and insights of author, Gretchen Rubin. Rubin has written a number of books on a variety of subjects and it’s her two books on happiness, The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home that led me to jokingly (and not so jokingly) refer to her as my guru.

As a lover of quotes, lists, and mantras, it’s no surprise that Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood resonate with me. One of my absolute favorites is, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

No one is perfect and it’s silly to try to be. Sometimes we have an extra drink when we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes we accidentally leave someone on an email that we meant to take off. Sometimes we miss a workout because watching the latest episode of Modern Family just can’t wait any longer. What’s important is to remember that if those mistakes truly only happen once in a while, it’s ok.

I keep this hanging on the wall as a reminder to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them – but to also let them go and not beat myself up. We all deserve a pass once in a while.

 

**This post has not been sponsored by Gretchen Rubin in any way; I’m simply a fan. If you’d like to read more, check out www.gretchenrubin.com.

4 Tips for Working Out in the Cold

winter workout

Happy December! I hope you all had a great weekend whether you were celebrating Thanksgiving or not. I loved spending time with family and getting some time off to rest and recharge.

Every year, December sneaks up on me.  I have a love/hate relationship with December because I can’t stand the cold but I love the holiday season. Hanukkah is my favorite holiday of the year (I decorate our apartment thoroughly and throw a Hanukkah party almost every year) and I love Christmas in New York.  Even though I don’t celebrate; I love the festive cheer, the lights, the craft markets, and the carols.

Winter is also the season when people start hibernating. It’s tempting to stay bundled up on your couch all winter, but imagine how great you’ll feel if you can motivate yourself to keep working out even when it’s cold outside.  You’ll be invigorated, energized, and have a feeling of accomplishment. Not to mention that each winter-workout will bring you one step closer to your fitness goals!  Here are a few tips to keep you safe, happy, and feeling great during your winter-workouts!

  1. Wear the right gear. Check out this fantastic page on Runnersworld.com. You put in your information (like the weather conditions, time of day, how you like to feel when you run) and Runners World suggests what to wear to keep comfortable. A hint: layers are always a good choice. Click Here.
  1. Warm-up and Cool-down the right way. Before your workout, jog in place or do some jumping jacks indoors. You’ll want your body to be warmed up before you head into the cold. After your workout, keep your cool-down brief and go back inside to stretch.
  1. Drink. You might not seem to sweat as much during a cold-weather workout, but it’s just not as obvious. Make sure to stay hydrated the same way you would in when you sweat a lot.
  1. Know your Limits. Sometimes it really is just too cold and outside workouts can become unsafe. If the wind chill is extreme or the temperature is well below zero, keep your workout inside.

3 Tips to Win the Willpower War at your Thanksgiving Table

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Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to avoid snacking in the morning than after dinner? Or if you’re really sad about something you care less about getting to the gym? Well, there’s a reason for it and it’s not that you’re lazy.  It’s called the Principal of Limited Self Control or Ego Depletion – the idea that self-control and willpower are limited resources that can actually be used up and need to be replenished by rest. That’s why when you’re tired after a long day of work; it seems harder to resist that cookie. Or when you’re stressed out by family issues it’s harder to get to the gym. When you’re using all of your willpower just to get through the day, you have little left over for things like exercise and healthy food.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many, that means potentially stressful travel, potentially stressful family time, and a lot of tempting food – things that can easily deplete your self-control. Here are a few tips to help you win the willpower war this Thanksgiving with just a little advanced planning:

  1. Plan Ahead. Planning for obstacles in advance means you’ll need less willpower when the situation comes up because you won’t have to think about it. Find out what will be on the menu ahead of time and create a game plan. Decide in advance what you’ll fill up on (like roasted veggies and lean turkey) and what you’ll indulge in. You won’t feel like you’re missing out and you won’t go crazy when you see all of the delicious food out in front of you.
  1. Develop an ‘If-Then’ Strategy. For example, “If Aunt Martha asks me to try one of her cookies that she made just for me; I will take one, eat half of it, and put the other half back on the table.” Or, “If everyone has a drink in their hand before dinner, I will have a glass of club soda and put a lemon in it.” Like the first tip, if you’ve already developed a plan, you won’t have to think about it when the time comes.
  1. Offer to make something. What’s your weakness at the Thanksgiving table? Whatever it is, you can make a healthy version to bring with you so that you can indulge without the guilt. I have a sweet tooth, so this year, I offered to make dessert. I know exactly how much is in a serving size and I can enjoy without having to worry.

Another tip that’s been shown to help with willpower is exercising in the morning, before the meal.  Studies have shown that when you work out before eating, you tend to eat less because you’re more aware of the work you just did.  Another tip is to not starve yourself before you sit down for dinner.  You’ll be wasting that valuable resource of self-control and won’t have as much left for the actual meal.

And remember, that no matter what happens this Thursday, it’s only one day. So even if you’re not the picture of perfect nutrition, give yourself a break, enjoy the holiday, and jump back on that horse on Friday.