Informational

Healthy Lifestyle Resolutions: It’s Not Too Late to Start Over

weight-loss-transformation

Did the clock strike twelve, fireworks go off and you resolved that it was going to be a “New Year, New You” kind of year? Well, now that we’re midway into February, this is the perfect time to reflect on your progress to see how those resolutions you made are coming along .

Sticking With New Year’s Weight Loss Goals

Sadly, this time of year is about the same time that gyms and fitness clubs start to empty out — as half of all New Year’s resolutioners start to lose sight of their goals and give up.

The Stats

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute‘s 2017 survey of 1,273 online, 216 phone, and 73 in-person respondents, 41% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions.

Of those resolutioners, 32% of the resolutions were weight related.

When asked about how many actually kept with their resolutions after a month into the new year, only 58.4% of respondents felt that they kept up with their resolutions after January.

What’s more, only 9% of respondents felt that they were successful in achieving their resolutions at the end of last year. This means that 91% of the people that made New Year’s resolutions felt that they were not successful in achieving their goals — holy moly, that is a huge percentage of people that probably feel ashamed and guilty for not following through with their goals, me thinks.

The How To

So what does it take to achieve those weight loss goals? A quick google search defines New Year’s resolutions as a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior. But what I’ve learned over the years and after taking on countless new clients around this time of year, is that you need more than just resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior.

Setting Healthy Lifestyle Goals: Where to Start

  1. What is your overall objective?
  2. How much time can you invest in achieving your particular goal? (Think hours per day, per week and number of months.)
  3. How much money or resources do you want to put towards your goal?
  4. How much effort are you willing to put in to reach your goal? (Use a 1-10 scale, anything less than a 7 rating usually means your goal is not as important to you as you think.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I too have failed in keeping many a resolutions in the past — But after many years of learning about human behavior, and of course through trial and error,  I know one thing for sure, it takes a few strategic tactics for health and weight loss goals to stick.

Take for example, my client Nadia (pictured above). She was able to achieve her new year’s resolutions of meeting her weight loss goals. But what did it really take? How was she able to find herself in the coveted 9% of resolutioners that met their goals? After all, she was working full time while starting her own business on the side, as she completed her masters degree and embarked on new life experiences. As tall a feat as it may seem, I promise you, you can also meet your weight loss goals the way she did. Read more to learn how to take the 4 questions above and put them into action.

The Healthy Resolution Plan: The Follow Through

First, you really have to want it. Don’t overbook yourself. You can’t want to lose weight, but also want to work more, read more, give more work presentations and spend more time with friends. In theory all of those things sounds great and doable at the same time, but when it comes to your resolutions, you have to make your goals a top priority.

Continue reading “Healthy Lifestyle Resolutions: It’s Not Too Late to Start Over”

Food

Homemade Cold Remedy: Hot Spiced Lemonade

Best_Cold_RemedyI have an amazing cold remedy for you in the form of a hot drink. In fact it is an amazing remedy for any sort of inflammation in the body, as it is abundant in vitamin C and contains inflammation fighting spices like turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. This drink also contains ginger, honey, garlic (don’t let this little guy scare you off, garlic is the key to keeping away that cold) and fresh juice of the lovely lemon. Everyone that has ever tried this drink, has always commented that they didn’t expect it to taste so good – I promise you, it’s delicious.

Without further adieu, here is my own recipe. You can always adjust a couple of ingredients to your taste, but I recommend you first try it as it is to get a full blast of immunity building nutrients. I always make a large batch so that I can drink it throughout the day.

  • 6 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 large, juicy lemon (if your lemon is small or not very juicy, use 2 of them)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled, chopped, and let sit for 5 minutes before adding to water)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh minced ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 pinches of turmeric
  • 2 pinches of cayenne pepper

Bring six cups of water to a boil, reduce heat to medium and mix in honey. Next, add all of your ingredients and simmer back to a boil for about 10-15 minutes. Use a ladle and strain into a mason jar or directly into a cup. This recipe should give you about 4-5 servings.

I have previously written about eating well to build a strong immune system, but you can even drink this after a heavy workout, when your muscles are primed for a dose of vitamins. Follow the tea up with a good source of protein and you will have less muscle ache as your tissues rebuild. And remember, I am not a doctor, so if you are on any medication (i.e. some studies have found that blood thinners and garlic don’t mix too well) or have any allergies, please check with your physician first.

To a Positively Strong Winter,

Sunny

Food

Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of White Rice

White_Rice_vs._Brown_RiceDon’t you just hate it when just as you are about to take a bite of your food, someone decides to tell you about all the dangers lurking in that bite?

If only I had a dollar for every time someone did this to me, I would be able to buy a lifetime worth of white basmati rice! Mmm… fluffy basmati rice, I could eat that everyday, and you know what? My Persian ancestors did eat it every day, as do many people of countries where rice is a dietary staple.

I’m sad to say that before I made a commitment to learn more about the science of nutrition, I too was easily swayed by all of the food propaganda that is out there in the world. New food studies, talk shows, the news, advertisements, blog articles and new food products, they are all constantly contradicting themselves and each other by pushing new food trends and products. They cite a research study and all of a sudden a whole new “healthy” food product is created to replace what you and your ancestors were eating for eons before.

The problem with a lot of studies come down to their methodologies and they sometimes make generalization and associations between factors that aren’t always correlated. Take for example, a 2012 study that claimed white rice consumption is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Immediately people take this to mean that White Rice = Diabetes which is absolutely not true nor the case. In reality, the study was making an associates between the “risk” of diabetes and rice consumption, where a significant spike they observed was that 20% of diabetes prevalence in their study was in the United Arab Emirates, a country with high white rice consumption. Yes, they eat a lot of rice in the UAE, but because it is one of the richest countries in the world, people also tend to eat a lot of sugar, processed foods and a lot of everything else in excess. If anything, diabetes incidence goes down as rice consumption increases, which is evident in countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, where they have the highest white rice consumption and have very low rates of diabetes.

Here is a map released by the Wall Street Journal from the International Diabetes Federation that shows the 2013 prevalence of Type 2 diabetes around the world. You can see that a lot of countries who have historically eaten a lot of white rice like basmati or jasmine rice actually see much lower diabetes prevalence.

Diabetes_Map

The other problem is that people don’t realize that there are many different rice varieties (about 40,000 different varieties exist in the world) with different compounds to each one. Continue reading “Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of White Rice”

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Maximizing Weight Loss Goals

Progress-weightlossMeet my client Ali. She has been following my online coaching plan for the last two and a half months, and I am so happy to be working with her. She follows my strength and conditioning program to a T, and also eats according to her Macros (I calculate her macro-nutrient intake based on her goals and provide her with a flexible monthly meal plan).  In the past couple of months we have been working on body re-composition and muscle gain. She has experienced some weight loss, even though our focus has been on eating more and putting on muscle. Losing inches and body fat have been nice byproducts of the muscles she has been adding to her frame.

She is looking great, and from her feedback, she is enjoying the process. She definitely eats way more than she used to, and is only doing one day of cardio (I have her doing just 25 minutes) and weight training 3 times a week (she was working out about 6 times a week before working with me).

The nice thing about working with Ali is that she really pays attention to good form and follows the meal plan properly. She has cut out processed sugar and also trusts me enough to not want drastic dieting measures to just lose pounds. I could have had her drop pounds very quickly, but I didn’t want her to be miserable and skinny fat. Muscle definition helps build curves in the right places, and I wanted to give Ali the tools to live a healthier lifestyle in the long run. I wanted her to gain muscle so that she could burn fat even at rest, and I wanted her to be able to eat real food, full of nutrients and vitamins.

I find that a person has to be mentally ready to follow a healthier lifestyle plan. Most often people want to lose weight fast, and don’t actually want to put in the time for preparing healthy meals or don’t want to cut out some of the excess in their lives. They want the process to be easy, and unless they truly come to terms with some of the work that a healthy lifestyle entails, it is hard to see the kind of success that Ali is getting after 2 months. Losing weight and gaining muscle is not complicated, it just depends on how much you are willing to put into it. I can promise you, I give my one hundred percent to make the plan customized to your needs and easy to follow, but you have to be the one who wants it bad enough to put in the work.

Once you decide you want it, the sky is the limit!

If you need some time to get used to the idea of working for a stronger, healthier body, take a little bit of time to digest the following “Ways to maximize health and fitness goals” that I ask from all of my clients:

Continue reading “Maximizing Weight Loss Goals”

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5 Steps to Kicking The Sugar Habit – Part 1

Kicking-Sugar-HabitSugar addiction. It’s real and it is scary.

Have you ever tried taking a break from sugar and found that all of a sudden it felt like you were upset or angry all of the time? That waves of headaches or nausea would wash over you and life had become generally unbearable? Well it wasn’t all in your head, what you were experiencing was actual withdrawal symptoms, just like a drug addict would experience were they to be cut off from the substance they abuse.

If you attempt to quit eating sugar all in one go, you’ll probably experience withdrawal symptoms that might show as severe and intense cravings for sugary foods, or more serious conditions such as mood swings, headaches or nausea. Those symptoms probably led you to binge on whatever simple carbs you could get your hands on, and that my dear, is akin to a drug addiction. The criteria for substance dependance or “addiction” is the cycle of binging then withdrawal then cravings and sensitization. In one study, results actually showed that intense sweetness provided greater neurological reward than even cocaine! A different study found that withdrawal from sugar had similar findings indicating that getting off sugar may cause the same neurological symptoms as withdrawing from nicotine, morphine and alcohol.

Can you say “Whoa Nelly?” Though many people know that diets high in sugar are linked to an increased risk for big illnesses like type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, many people don’t know that sugar intake has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, gout and even osteoporosis. While the occasional sweet treat won’t make or break your weight loss or your health goals, many people have trouble stopping after a sensible portion or saying no to sugar when it’s around them. Think about a time a co-worker brought cupcakes or donuts to the office, it was probably a struggle for many people at the office to not get up and take a treat, even though they were probably full.

Why do you get a rush when you eat candy midday? The sugar in it, called a simple carbohydrate, is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream and your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy products, but those foods have fiber and protein that help slow down the process. Juice, soda, candy, chocolate bars and table sugars don’t have any of those fibers, and so when you eat them, your pancreas rapidly makes the hormone insulin, which moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy. You may have a short sugar rush, but then your bloodstream is quickly left depleted and you experience a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, otherwise known as a mid day crash. You may feel shaky and probably wiped out so you start searching for even more sweets to regain that sugar “high.”

Now you may think you don’t have a sweet tooth, but do you have cravings for chips, bread or french fries? These starchy foods are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars as well, and when eaten without protein and fiber rich foods, these starches can make blood sugar react the same way as regular white sugar. White flour, and potatoes do this too, as do other highly refined starches like white bread, cookies, pretzels and crackers.

Quitting Cold Turkey is Not the Answer

Is all of this information making you want to distance yourself from sugars? Well I hope you start nice and slow, because some sugar detox plans urge you to cut all sweets, which means all fruit, dairy, and refined grains are out too. Unfortunately changes like that are too drastic to keep up in the long run, and you’ll find yourself binging and falling back into the cycle of addiction all over again.

You don’t need sugar as much as you think you do and in fact you can train your taste-buds to dislike sweetness. For example, start putting less sugar in your coffee or cereal. Over time, you will notice that you will lose your need for that sugary taste. Also, you don’t have to give up sweetness, but instead get it from other sources. Instead of sugar, try fresh or dried fruit on your oatmeal or in your yogurt. If you make small, simple changes to your diet, it’s easy to keep them up in the long run. Cut out a little bit of sugar each week and after a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how little you actually miss it.

How to Kick Sugar to the Curb… In 5 Simple Steps

Continue reading “5 Steps to Kicking The Sugar Habit – Part 1”

Food

Fat Free: The Worst Weight-Loss Scam Ever

Healthy-BreakfastI’ve been pushing the benefits of whole, unprocessed foods for a while now. I’ve been preaching the consumption of healthy Fats and whole, unprocessed foods and pushing everyone to avoid low-fat versions of foods till I’ve become blue in the face. Seriously, just call me Sunny Smurfette…

If you walk down any grocery aisle, you’ll be bombarded with “Healthier Choice Now Fat Free” “Pure Goodness and Low Fat” and “Non-Fat” branding all over every package and box. These are all marketing ploys to get you to buy the over processed, sugar laden junk on the shelves. It makes sense that they are catering to our demands though, since for the last 40 years we have been brain washed about the dangers of saturated fat. It is no mystery that our misguided demand for low fat foods has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in low-fat food products touted as “healthy choices”.

New ground breaking research by Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, a director at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, has found that patients with low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets didn’t experience a reduction in heart disease. But patients eating higher levels of saturated fat, found in dairy and unprocessed meat, and less carbohydrates (such as those found in potato chips, refined sugar and pizza) were less likely to suffer heart attacks.

His findings make total sense to me. Think about it, if low fat foods are supposed to keep off the fat, then why have heart disease and obesity rates skyrocketed in North America since they were introduced to our markets in the last 20 years? Wouldn’t all those people suffering from obesity just need to switch to low fat cheese and eat all the pizza they want? That’s a big fat nope!

Eating Fat does not equate to gaining fat. Eating too much cake, fries, pop and candy are what will make you fat, along with anything else that you eat in excess of a normal serving size.

Breakfast of Champions From Around the World:

Of course, This doesn’t’ mean that we should be starting the day with 12 pieces of bacon and 6 eggs for breakfast, but a healthy breakfast of 2 organic eggs, 1 strip of real bacon fried in real lard, half an organic fried tomato and a piece of toast are actually quite good for you. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been a classic English Breakfast for eons.  In fact, you can look at the history of breakfast habits of many nations and you will see that that high fat foods are always included and necessary for starting the day right.

Take the traditional Turkish breakfast that my husband and I ate on a trip to Turkey a while back.  The platter was meant for two, and consisted of nuts, olives, fresh veggies, cheeses, some meat, butter, honey and bread. Served with tea, it provided just the right amount of energy and sustenance to keep us touring the city till well into the late afternoon. turkish-breakfast

Last week while on a business trip in Japan, my husband was complaining to me on the phone that the Japanese Breakfast offered at his hotel consisted of rice, miso soup and broiled salmon (very high in good fats by the way). He was wondering where all the sugary donuts were that he and his American colleagues were used to.traditional-japanese-breakfast-foods-aikido-retreat-japan-spring-2012

Norwegians love their smoked meats and the traditional Norwegian breakfasts doesn’t disappoint. Combine the meats with perfectly aged cheeses, organic eggs and real mayonnaise and you have a yummy and healthy breakfast that packs a punch.norwegian-breakfast-skudeneshavn

To Brazilians, a traditional Brazilian breakfast means simple and delicious. Think strong coffee, milk, bread, butter and jam, cheese, ham and sometimes accompanied with some fresh fruit.Brazilian-Breakfast

We know full well that these countries listed above don’t have issues with obesity like we do in North America. Unfortunately it is nations that have started importing and buying “American” food products labeled “fat free” that are seeing spikes in health problems.

Dietary fat doesn’t make people ‘fat’

Going back to Dr. Krauss and his research, he confirms that fat doesn’t make us fat, sugar does (even though fat has more calories—9 per gram—than carbs or sugars). Yes, saturated fat adds to our caloric intake, but our digestion breaks down food into the simple sugar glucose, which provides energy to our body tissue. This sugar triggers the release of insulin, a hormone that cries “Feed Me!!” to a body’s cells and turns unused energy into fat. Unfortunately during the fat-free craze, we just replaced saturated fat with too many starchy carbohydrates and are now constantly releasing too much insulin into our systems (can you now see why Diabetes is on the rise?)

Saturated fat helps make you feel full

If you take foods with saturated fat out of the diet, your body will hunger for a replacement—and often find it in starchy, processed carbohydrates. Dr. Krauss says that there are actually adverse results in substituting carbohydrates for fat. Recent research moves saturated fat from the “bad” to the “neutral” column because it contains both good and bad elements that appear to cancel one another out. It’s important to remember that different types of fat produce different types of cholesterol, with both good and bad effects. The ratio of “good” cholesterol to “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream is what has an effect for cardiovascular health risks.

Man-made trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils like shortening are definitely bad for the body, but fats found in eggs, olive oil and fish are rich in “good” cholesterol. Protein-rich foods like red meat and nuts, which also contain saturated fats, are best at making the stomach feel full. This is why you can eat a bag of pretzels and not feel full, even though you’ve consumed hundreds of calories.

Stick to whole foods

And by that I don’t mean the grocery chain (though it’s a great place to shop). Whole, unprocessed foods, be they beef, grains or vegetables, are always a better option than packaged foods. Try to minimize intake of processed foods, especially processed carbohydrates. Experts say while steak may be healthier than you realized, a diet heavy on vegetables is always best. Carbohydrates such as bread or rice made from whole grains rather than refined white flour like white bread and bagels are much better for you.

So nix the sugary cereals, put down that bagel and slowly back away. Instead, butter that whole-wheat bread, add veggies, cheese, eggs and meat and then you have a real breakfast of champions.

To Eating Positively Well,

Sunny

Food

Travel Tip: Eating Healthy While On The Road

What_to_eat_on_the_road_healthyThe picture I’ve posted here is of recent meals I had while on vacation in the Algarve region of Portugal. Looks simple, healthy and a bit fancy right? Well, actually the large photo was of a meal I had in a British Style Pub right on the harbor and it wasn’t a fancy place at all. When I go to the Pub here in Chicago, the only food I can find is greasy onion rings and ketchup.

Everywhere I went in Europe, I was able to find delicious and healthy meal options right on the menu. I didn’t have to ask them to hold the fries, or to go easy on the sauce, or to substitute the double battered onion rings for a salad, in Europe it always came perfectly paired with veggies or a side of salad.

I find that in North America, we are quick to settle for what is offered by restaurants. In Europe, a restaurant would go out of business if the food wasn’t made with farm fresh ingredients or simply made from scratch. In North America, the restaurants that do offer the fresh, organic and made-from-scratch options are considered fancy and usually come with a hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is so much that we do better here on our side of the pond, but when it comes to food, the Europeans know where it’s at.

Now what to do when traveling around the US and Canada and you can’t find a single thing on the menu that you deem healthy? Here are a few tips based on what I choose to eat when I’m on the road: Continue reading “Travel Tip: Eating Healthy While On The Road”

Food

3 Steps to Carb Backloading

PumpkinProteinMuffins

I often preach about the dangers of cutting carbohydrates for long periods of time. It’s true, you don’t want to be cutting carbs from your diet on a regular basis as this can lead to muscle loss, hormone disruption, weakness, fatigue, moodiness, bad skin and a plethora of other issues. With that said, I also understand that too much carbs can bring on a look of fluffiness and get stored as excess fat, covering those hard earned muscles. But I hate diets and I also hate calorie restriction, so what’s a person wanting to lean out to do?

The solution is something called carb cycling or carb backloading. Instead of weeks of food deprivation, the focus is on timing your macro nutrients and consuming carbs only after you’ve finished weight training. Consuming large amounts of carbs (particularly the sugary and starchy kind) raises your blood sugar which triggers the release of the hormone insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down. If you’ve just finished weight training, that’s good, because insulin will take the carbs you’re consuming straight to the muscle cells for rebuilding. At any other time of day, however, insulin will store those carbs as fat.

Manipulating this effect is the key to getting the perfectly lean, muscular, and strong body. I’ll now explain how it works and how I use it in my weight training.
Continue reading “3 Steps to Carb Backloading”

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The Top 5 Reasons to Drink More Water

DrinkWaterHaving once read that your body is already dehydrated if you feel yourself being thirsty, I have been pushing myself to drink more water on a more regular basis. I find the taste of water boring so I really have to force myself to drink it, especially now that I am weight training more often and looking to help muscle gain and aid with fat loss. With that said, I really wanted to know what the actual consequences of dehydration were, and what the real benefits to drinking a gallon of water a day were to keeping my body strong for body building.

Here is a list of reasons that I found convincing enough to make me drink more water every day.

1. When working out you are losing body fluids at a very high rate. Everything from the duration and intensity of the workout, the environment of the workout and type of clothing all effect water loss. Drinking water will help replenish the water your system needs just to keep bodily functions going.

2. When you are dehydrated, you will not be able to lift as heavy as usual or workout at the same intensity that you would normally workout at.  Scientists think that even a 2%reduction in body fluids could decrease your performance by a bout 15-20%!

3. Drinking water plays an important role in the digestion of the food we eat. The digestion process depends on a huge amount of water to help the acids and enzymes in the stomach break down food, extract the nutrients needed, convert it into energy and transport it all to the rest of the body.

This means that no matter how great your diet may be, it will all be wasted if you don’t take in enough water to help extract the nutrients from your diet.

4. Water dilutes the acids in the body, (acidity in the body has been associated with inflammation and some cancers) and helps carry toxins out of the body (this means water also helps with constipation). Water is an undoubted cleaner for the body, helping transport waste out of the body.

5. Dehydration can cause joint pain, stomach pain & ulcers, low energy, mental confusion & disorientation. Often times, daytime fatigue is associated with the lack of sleep, when in reality it may just be mild dehydration and drinking water could be just the solution.

I now add a slice of lemon to every glass of water to help make the taste more appealing for me. I first started wearing 10 elastic bands on my right wrist for every glass I had to drink. After every glass, I would transfer one elastic to my left wrist until I got through drinking all 10 glasses. I got so used to sipping on water, that I felt thirsty if I didn’t have anything to drink for 15 minutes and that is how I worked my way up to about a gallon of water a day. Let me know if you have any tricks that work for you, I would love to hear about them.

To living Positively Strong,

Sunny