Tag Archives: fitness tips

Get Fit in 4 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide

As I write this post I’m sitting here drinking the World’s Most Gargantuous Cup of Unsweetened Iced Tea. What I really want is coffee. As it is, it’s already mid-afternoon and I know a coffee would seriously screw with my sleep cycle even more than the 24-hour non-drowsy allergy pills I’m taking already do. Turns out, while incredibly efficient at putting a stop to my hacking fits, marathon snot-blowing pity parties and blood-shot peeps (I cannot count on all my appendages how many times the hubs has asked me “Are you high?”), allergy meds can make normal nightmares feel like a meditation retreat. I mean, has anyone else dreamt about witnessing a car run over a polka-dot dress-wearing ghost in a cemetery conveniently located next to the haunted mansion where “babysitters” are watching your two precious offspring who each suddenly know how to break into things with crowbars? Now I know how M. Night Shyamalan gets his material.

Nevertheless, I’m on a mission. In fact I’m on Week 3 of a mission. In approximately three months I’ll be on the sands of Maui with my whole family, dancing to the tune of whatever-the-heck-I-want-to. In a swim suit. The kind of outfit I haven’t worn since I was pregnant in the biggest of ways and taking my then-toddler to mommy-and-me swim lessons. So there’s that. And of course it involves a two-piece which I purchased during my pre-allergy medication status when I was questionably delirious. So let’s just say some things need to happen if that whole bikini-on-the-beach situation is going to play out well.

Now let me be clear, I’m the type of person who will wear that swim suit regardless of whether I put myself on a 4-month fitness program. I’m happy either way. But hey, just for fun – because it’s part of what I love to do for money – let’s see what I can accomplish in four months, shall we? And maybe you follow along because you’re interested too. Because you won’t say it out loud but you’ve gained a few pounds this summer and you feel like maybe you’d rather be in a better place fitness-wise (and all of your people want you to stop talking about how icky you feel). And the holidays are around the corner (yep, I said it) and you’d like to lose some lb’s before that. Or maybe you’re where I’m at and you feel healthy overall but you want to take it to the next level – just for kicks.

But hold the phone: You’d also like to keep some wine in there somewhere because life is hard and diets suck. I’m with you. In fact I’m so with you that I’m three weeks ahead of you just to be sure it’s going to work. You see, I put myself on my own Get Fit in 4 Plan at the end of July and I’m happy to say I’m down three pounds AND still drinking wine (although not as much – I gave myself an intervention *sigh*). But I’m not just looking to lose a few pounds. I’m looking to see what I can accomplish in 120 days. Why? Because everybody needs a goal or we get complacent.

If you’re feeling like it’s that time for you but don’t know which actions to take in order to begin, follow along. I’ll be posting this as a series, so in a few weeks I’ll give you the Get Fit in 4: Month Two plan I’ve designed for myself. No diets, no shakes, just some accountability to and for yourself. That’s going to be the HARDEST PART in this, folks. Losing accountability is ridiculously easy, that’s one of the primary reasons I’m employed. So you’re going to have to dig deep and stay committed – because all the flakes are still waiting for the “right time” to start.

Get Fit in 4: Month One

*Please remember I’m giving you MY plan for MYSELF, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they might be necessary, but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m talking about in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*

1.  Limit yourself to one glass wine/night, Sunday through Thursday.

Okay let’s chat for a moment. I’m admittedly not perfect and obviously the wife of a winemaker, so I enjoy my wine. Typically I try to limit myself to one glass of wine a night on the week days (for lots of reasons encompassing my health, my ability to appreciate early mornings a tad more, the quality of my workouts, etc.). However, sometimes summer happens. Suddenly I’m drinking two glasses a night and the calories begin adding up. I’m no longer a cheap date and Mint.com tells me we have exceeded our wine budget. Boo! I’m back on track and, funny how this happens, it appears that even on the weekends where I’ve allowed myself more than one glass of wine I’ve been stopping around two or three simply because that’s all I want. Tolerance is a silly beast that way. If you find you’ve been throwing back a bit more alcohol than usual this summer, now’s your time to start taking it down a notch (but still enjoy a lovely glass of Petite Syrah/beer/etc.). I’ll be dialing it waaayyyy back in about three months, so let’s save the drastic measures for then, shall we?

2.  Log your food as often as possible.

Remember what I said before about accountability being critical in this step-by-step process? This is one of those things. I don’t typically log my food every day or count calories because, frankly, it’s time-consuming. But it’s also incredibly effective if you want to really see where your calories are going and be honest with yourself about how much you’re eating. Usually my M.O. is to log my calories for a few days whenever I feel like I’ve gotten off-track. It always opens my eyes to where I’ve been sneaking in the excess. Right now though, I’m going on three weeks of logging my food MOST days of the week and in addition to adhering to step #1 up there, I believe this is what’s caused a 3-pound weight loss already.

The easiest way I’ve found to log my food is to use the My Fitness Pal app on my phone. It’s free, and once you know how many calories you should be aiming for each day (check out the handy calculators at Freedieting.com), it’ll help you track what you’re putting in and what you’re putting out (through workouts and daily activities like walking). It’ll also give you a great idea of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) so you can see if you’re overdoing it on the breads and cheeses and under-doing it on the lean proteins (a key issue most of us face). Lastly, it has an impressive database of foods and you can always scan a barcode if you’re eating something store-bought. Here’s a screenshot of what the Diary section looks like:

My FitnessPal Screenshot

3.  Run or simply workout more.

If you like to run and you’re not doing it already, start. This is one of those things that as soon as I start doing it again I instantly lose weight thanks to the calorie burn it provides. If you’re already running a lot, change this to weight-lifting or high intensity interval training (HIIT) or even fast walking or hiking if running is too hard on your joints. Basically, whatever you’re not doing enough of, do more of this month to get a bigger calorie output. I’ve been really great about my strength-training and HIIT sessions but as the temps reached triple digits this summer I let running drop off. I keep my runs to about 3 miles now because I find I’m a much better and faster runner when I do shorter distances. Keep in mind you only need about 30 minutes of high-quality cardio to see some benefits, so squeeze it in where you can. Or, perhaps you’re not working out at all. Here’s your kick in the @$$. Aim for at least 3 days a week. Don’t tell me how hard it is – I’m aware.

4Watch portion sizes.

A no-brainer, right? Not so much. Turns out “watching portion sizes” is too vague for most of us Americans. “I’m watching this portion size become unmeasurable” seems to be our general attitude. I’m not saying we have to weigh everything and become obnoxious to our family and friends. I’m saying maybe we don’t have to eat EVERYTHING on our plates. Or mayyybe we don’t need seconds. Even too much of a healthy thing is no longer a healthy thing. If a portion of peanut butter is one tablespoon – how often do you just eat one tablespoon? I already know that answer because I have lived that answer (Ahem: Post-pregnancy #1 and my affair with nutella/peanut butter/bananas).

5. Take a new fitness class.

Oddly enough, this one is proving to be the hardest for me to do this month. It’s a time thing, as I’m sure most everyone understands. I did manage to sneak away from my chaotic schedule one day for a noon Pure Barre class and was immediately thankful I had. Trying new fitness classes breaks up the ho-hum of a fitness routine and also helps shock our bodies into Go-Mode. I’m hoping to visit “the barre” again in the next couple weeks (for those of you interested in the Barre movement, check out Purebarre.com).

6.  No food two hours before bed.

This one really works for me. If I can give my digestion that two-hour head start before I lie down for the night it helps me feel lighter and ready for breakfast the next morning. This applies to beverages as well. Soooo, basically just some good ‘ol fashion H2O, friends. I know this one is difficult sometimes when we’re rushing around with the kids or getting home late from work or going out to dinner with friends, so just employ it on the nights you can. Extra credit: Follow my steadfast rule and ALWAYS drink warm lemon water upon waking. (Check out this post for further explanation).

So there’s the first installment of Get Fit in 4! Are you in?

How to Stay Fit…and Still Drink Wine

Look at me! I’m blogging! Hard to believe my last post occurred almost a month ago, who let that happen? If you could freeze this sentence in time you’d see that as I write this, I sit in the middle of a newly-laminated living room among freshly painted walls and a bright white ceiling and lovely natural light beaming through our temporarily-bare windows and…$#*% everywhere.

There’s a bit of a situation at home base. We decided to remodel our tiny space before we eventually leave it for good. Do you know the best way to clean your house? Answer: Tear it DOWWN. Really. Just start pulling boards from your walls and don’t feel surprised when you see the photo your spouse sends you of the massive mound of dirt (See also: Newly discovered planet where it appears living organisms could safely dwell.) he swept up after he ripped out the carpet.

Until this past weekend there was no way I was pulling our oven away from the wall to Dawn dish soap the crap out of it. But look at me twice: Did it! The upside and downside: We’re going on day 4 of no oven because we still need to install the flooring underneath it. This means lots of salads and grilling and picnics (both indoors and out). This also means I’ve had to get creative at cooking my eggs. FYI: Cooking eggs over-easy in the microwave is a ridiculous concept to tackle, especially before 7 AM.

In related news: Wine. There’s been that over here too. I know, you didn’t see that coming. I’ve got that post – so cleverly titled “A Wino’s Wine List: Part 2” – coming at you next week (see Part 1 here). But in the meantime, I was luckily contacted by Fix several weeks ago regarding an article they wrote for their fun site, called “Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass…or Two.” They thought that post might be a good fit for this blog and, truth be told, it took me weeks to read over it and get back to them. Typically these kinds of things end with me saying “thanks but no thanks” because the content rarely fits what I rant about here. But this one makes all kinds of sense! I think you’ll agree, unless you’re only here for the housecleaning tips and flawless child-rearing lessons. In which case, you really need to look into using a different search engine.

So without further disjointedness, I bring you the real portion of this blog post, written by food and wine writer Maggie Unzueta, who you can also find over at In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen (I’ll bet her kitchen doesn’t look like a cross between Home Depot and an episode of Hoarders.)

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Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass… or Two

Any good dieter knows to stay away from wine when trying to shed the pounds, but we all know that’s not always a realistic option. With so many amazing wines out there, it’s hard not to have a glass of wine or two after a long day of work from time to time. Instead, let’s look at how you can modify your wine-drinking habits to avoid gaining weight.

What’s the Whine About?

In case you don’t know why you should limit your wine when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s simply because our bodies digest alcohol differently than food. Excess alcohol (or ethanol) is sent through a complex metabolic process. This involves the liver, which potentially can be harmed if too much wine is consumed. The body will burn the alcohol first as energy and store other nutrients as fat.1

Know Your Limits

For safety reasons, drinking too much alcohol is not recommended. We often hear the phrase: “Everything in moderation.” The same applies to wine. With wine calories varying from 110 to 300+ for just four ounces, you should determine your calorie budget before hitting the wine bar.

Photo Credit: Fix.com
Photo Credit: Fix.com

Some restaurants serve six- to eight-ounce glasses of wine. So when you think you’re just having one, you could possibly be having two glasses of wine. Try using this general rule: For every ounce, calculate 25 calories. Next time you are eating out, try to gauge how much you have been poured by ounces, and from there you can estimate the calories in your glass. If you’re not sure how to measure ounces, ask the waiter or bartender how many ounces they are serving. They usually know.2

Calories, Calories, and More Calories

Knowing the caloric content in wines is the key. The highest-calorie wines tend to have the highest alcohol content. Most red and white wines range anywhere from 110 to 175 calories per four-ounce glass, but there are some sweet wines that go up to 300 calories per glass. If you are at home, you can easily search online for the exact calories. If you are hanging out with friends, it might be a little more difficult to figure out the calorie count. Since most of us tend to prefer one wine varietal to another, here is a breakdown of calories by wines to help you:

Wine from Least to Most Calories
Source: Fix.com

To compare, here are the caloric contents of other adult drinks:12 oz wine spritzer: 100-120 calories

  • 12 oz wine cooler: 215 calories
  • 12 oz can of beer: 146 calories
  • 2.5 oz shot of rum, vodka, etc: Approximately 100-120 calories

Sweet wines like Port, Tawny Port and Banyuls not only have very high alcohol levels, but they also hit you with high sugar carb calories. That’s probably why these wines are normally served in relatively small amounts.3

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

When you go to a wine bar, it‘s standard to order a cheese plate with a variety of cheeses, nuts, and dried fruit. Translation: fat, calories, and sugar. With 650 calories per serving in a normal cheese plate, this is not necessarily the healthiest option on the menu. Yes, there is the matter of pairing delicious cheeses with wines. You can’t argue against that, but you can pair wine with healthier alternatives.4

Healthy Snack Options with Wine
Source: Fix.com

If you are going out for a happy-hour hangout, one very good tip is to eat something before you go out. It will prevent you from overindulging and from having more than you should.5

Burn, Baby, Burn

We all know that exercising is a great way to lose weight. It’s also the best way not to gain weight while drinking. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a gym rat to have a glass of wine. Here are some examples of typical 30-minute exercises for a 125-pound woman, and how many glasses of wine she can have as a result.

Half Hour Till Wine
Source: Fix.com

In short, the more you exercise you do, the more wine you can have. Also, know that alcohol causes dehydration and stunts muscle growth. Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated and your organs functioning normally. Although we do burn calories doing activities like gardening and walking to and from the car, we don’t burn enough to consume even one glass of wine guilt-free.

Other Tips and Wine Bits

  • One of the easiest and best ways to cut down on calories is to make a wine spritzer. Take half a glass of wine and pour it over ice. Top it off with club soda. Club soda has zero calories. A typical wine spritzer is roughly 100-120 calories.6
  • Be a wine snob. Most studies show that people buy wine according to price. If you pay for an expensive glass of wine, you are more likely to have only two unless you are related to Donald Trump.7
  • Drink water in between drinks. Water has zero calories and will make you feel full. Not only that, but it will also help lessen the next day’s after-drinking effects.

There are plenty of ways to keep from adding the pounds while still enjoying the wines you love. It does not have to be a dieter’s downfall. Additionally, wine is good for blood circulation and has stress-relieving benefits. Just for those reasons alone, you should not let the fear of adding weight stop you from drinking a glass of wine. Cheers!

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You can view the article at its original source here.

10 Super Easy Healthy Changes You Can Make Now

I had a completely different post topic planned for this week entailing the inside scoop from our recent winery operations, but our family got a little sidetracked and, well, here it’s Thursday and I haven’t pulled it together. Instead, I’m following my gut’s lead (somewhat literally) and posting some health and fitness tips that have been idling in my mind lately.

You know how January goes – personal health seems to finally take a priority for at least 31 days. As a personal trainer I have big mixed emotions about this time of year. The kind that make me grin and say, “Ah…January.” For one, I’m always happy to see people think about their health and wellness and make changes. On the other hand, watching some sprint out of the gate and then hit the wall by March gets tiresome. I applaud all efforts, I do. I would just love to see them stick. I feel like my kids when they see a freshly wrapped present and get all spring-happy and then I have to tell them it’s for someone else. All hopes: Thrown down, stepped on and crushed. “But whyyy?”

I tend to call myself a real-world trainer, which simply means I don’t jump on diet trends, I don’t prescribe cleanses and extreme fitness fads and my specialty is helping people learn how to be healthy and still enjoy life’s little pleasures without the guilt associations. But hey, if you want to read all about that rant, check out this post. Otherwise, let’s dive in for some real-world tips!

I thought about all the things I could recommend you do but when it comes down to it, there are 10 super easy tips I have for getting your health on-track. Even if you’re a moderately healthy and fit person, I think these are great reminders for staying the course. With that said, this is in no way an exhaustive list. I would love to hear: What are YOUR tricks and tips for making easy changes to your health? Leave a comment below if you’ve got some for us!

10 Super Easy Healthy Changes You Can Make Now

1.  Drink warm lemon water. If you’ve been following this blog at all you’ve likely read this a few times. That’s because I swear by it. First thing every morning, pour yourself a cup of warm water and add a wedge of lemon. How much lemon juice? It depends on the lemons you get. I prefer using Meyer lemons because they yield so much more juice, so I only need to use one wedge. But Meyers can be hard to find. If I’m using a typical lemon I’ll use about a fourth of it per cup. Do this before you drink your coffee or eat anything. If you try it for a few days, you’ll understand why it’s so great based on digestive reasons alone. But if you want to know now why I’m so obsessed with it, read all about the metabolic and overall health benefits here.

2.  Make a green smoothie for breakfast.  If you really want to give your digestive system a boost, combine the above tip with a green smoothie for breakfast. I know you’re thinking you don’t have time to make a smoothie in the mornings. As it is I’m lucky if I get to make them once or twice a week. But eventually you get pretty good at it, which means you’ll spend less time making breakfast than you do scanning your Facebook feed. Also, you get a bit addicted to the feeling of being nourished by one. So with that said, try out some recipes and start by using spinach, since it’s the most versatile green for smoothie-making. If you have protein powder you can throw that in, or use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead. One of my staple green smoothies is made with a handful of baby spinach, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a frozen banana, 1/2 cup of frozen dark cherries, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, a few ice cubes and maybe a drizzle of honey.

My smoothie this morning, made with egg white protein I'm sampling, almond milk, spinach, banana, strawberries, coconut oil and ice. Excuse the time stamp, I'm such a rookie.
My smoothie this morning, made with egg white protein I’m sampling, almond milk, spinach, banana, strawberries, coconut oil and ice. Excuse the time stamp, I’m such a rookie.

3.  Switch to a food-based multivitamin. This is actually something I just did, as did one of my good friends. So far I’m loving it. After years of taking a generic women’s one-a-day during my 20s, then spending the last three years on a prescription prenatal, I had no clue what to start taking. I knew I didn’t want a bunch of unknowable stuff in my body (that I would consequently pee out anyway) and I knew I needed something to complement my already vitamin-rich way of eating (iron and probiotics are the two I need extra of the most). After much searching and price-comparing I landed on the Rainbow Light brand (which I found at Fred Meyer in the natural section). If you’re in need of a natural way to get in some complementary vitamins, minerals and enzymes, check it out or just do a Google search for “food based multivitamin.”

4.  Walk 2 miles a day.  Seriously? Okay so this is something I’ve just started doing this week. Yes, it’s winter and yes, it’s cold outside. But those are excuses. My kids appreciate the air time and my body appreciates the extra cardio. Plus this takes me about 18 minutes if I decide to run or 30 minutes if I walk, so even on extremely busy days I can’t complain about the time it takes. If I already worked out that day, it’s an extra calorie burner. If I haven’t (like today), it’s a sanity saver.

5.  Buy a fitness/health/wellness magazine to refresh your outlook.  I don’t subscribe to many magazines anymore (other than Food & Wine, ha), but I do enjoy buying the occasional magazine to boost my knowledge/see what’s new in the health and fitness world/try new recipes and workouts. Sure this stuff is also all over the web, but I find magazines are such a concentrated wealth of information even in this era of smart phones we live in. I have plans for a post about my favorite magazines, so more on that another time. In the meantime, check out Oxygen or Natural Living for a start.

6.  Try a new health food.  You can do this once a week or once a month, but I find that trying out a new healthy item every once in a while keeps me from getting bored. Sometimes I’ll try a new cooking oil (like pistachio), or a snack (recently it was crunchy roasted broccoli florets – so good!), or a new fruit (ever had a dragon fruit?). Places like Trader Joe’s or Rosauers are perfect for finding this kind of stuff.

A Trader Joe's find. Super convenient for quick weeknight dinners, smoothies and pesto!
A Trader Joe’s find. Super convenient for quick weeknight dinners, smoothies and pesto!

basil squares2.jpg

7.  Stop eating two hours before bed.  If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how I’ve ate or drank throughout the day, my body does best when I give it some alone time. While I don’t necessarily think people who eat late gain more weight than people who don’t, I do think you’re better off metabolically if you don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Also, if you’re like me and you eat around 6:30-7:00 pm and have a glass of wine, you might be tempted to reach for the dark chocolate somewhere around 9 pm (after the kiddos go to bed).  I find I do far better if I have a piece of dark chocolate at, say, 8 pm and call it. That way if I’m in bed at 10 pm I’m not miserable and I’ve also fixed the issue of eating more than I truly need (too much alcohol and sugar tend to cause us to wake up hours later and have trouble falling back to sleep). Try it and see what you notice.

8.  Drink 2-3 cups of green tea a day. This is far easier to do in the winter months, but as it turns warmer you can simply switch to unsweetened iced green tea.  There are all sorts of reasons this is good for you. Metabolically speaking again, green tea is a pretty superior force. It does have a small amount of caffeine in it naturally (unless you specifically buy the decaf kind), so I would recommend not drinking it past 3 or 4 pm so as not to interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. To read about the health benefits of this stuff, check this out.

9.  Go meatless one day a week.  You’ve likely heard health and fitness professionals recommend doing this, or at least recommend eating meat-free one night a week. I suggest one whole day simply to let your body detox from it. You probably noticed I’m no stranger to lean meats and I would likely be divorced if I told my husband we need to stop eating meat altogether. But I find a good compromise is this rule. Thanks to the web and magazines and cookbooks, there are tons of great meat-free recipes you can experiment with.

10. Set a small, realistic goal for the immediate future.  Everyone needs accountability. I think the best way to get that is by setting 4-week goals. Maybe those goals are stepping stones to a much bigger goal, or maybe not. I find this time of year particularly motivating because my birthday is in February and even if my goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s always my goal to feel my best. So I have no trouble fueling my body, mind and spirit right now. After my birthday month comes and goes it’ll be a different goal, something to keep me on the path. Maybe your 4-week goal is to lose 3 pounds, maybe it’s to see your cholesterol numbers drop or sleep better or lose some inches or workout more. Maybe it’s to walk two miles a day. Set your goal and work daily to reach it.