Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 9-5 Woman - Fit and Fabulous?

Working a 9-5, while maintaining a home and social life, is challenging enough. 

Throw in the expectation of a daily workout and you’re veering towards downright absurd.  Who has time to do all that?

How is a modern, do-it-all woman… a superhero, if we’re perfectly honest here… supposed to maintain her health? 

It’s not like we can add more hours to the day. 

Yet, we all know something has to give. 

According to Mayo Clinic cardiologist, Martha Grogan,  "for people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking." 

It turns out this detrimental effect is more profound for women than men.  

According to a new research study, spearheaded by Allard Dembe, an Ohio State University professor of health services management and policy,

women who worked an average of 60 hours or more over the three decades of the study had three times the risk of getting diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis than those who worked 40-hour weeks. 

In fact, those that have dedicated their lives to the corporate lifestyle, are now facing their very own disease.  “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease” (James Levine, MD, PhD).

Infographic from

I am happy to report that it is entirely possible to maintain your superhero status.  

Exercise CAN be worked into your day.  

Top 8 ways for busy corporate women to work fitness into their daily lives.

1. Wear a pedometer

This step tracking device is a great accountability tool and will push you to take more steps throughout the day.  10,000 steps is the distance most often recommended, which equates to almost 5 miles for a woman of average height.  In reality, this is the minimum that we should all be walking each day.  Use this a yardstick and strive to increase your number of steps each day.  All movement helps!

2. Move every chance you can

Take the stairs, park farther away, walk to a colleague’s desk rather than sending an email.  It all helps.  Find little ways to incorporate more movement throughout your day.

3.  Set daily goals/ challenges for yourself

Whether it’s to take 10,000 steps, make that water aerobics class after work, or complete 10 squats every time you get up to go the bathroom, setting daily goals will give you something to work towards.  If you do it right, it can even make the whole “moving more” thing kind of fun.  Try to beat your previous goal. Challenge yourself!

4. 10-minute exercise bouts

Recent research has shown that getting 30 minutes of exercise via 3 separate 10 minute bouts can be just as effective as one longer session.   This is helpful for the woman that just can’t fit in that full 30 minute workout session after a long day.  A 10 minute ride on a stationary bike in the morning, 10 minutes walking around the office building at lunch and a quick 10 minute low-impact You Tube video when you get home at the end of the day can make a huge  difference.

5. Experiment, find something you love

Let’s face it: if you hate your workout, you won’t do it.  You will find every excuse under the sun to come home and crawl under the blankets for a well-deserved nap.  It is essential to experiment until you find something that you enjoy.  It is possible to find a workout that you will look forward to.  This will look different for everyone.  The workout that your best friend swears by, just may not do it for you.  Some may love going to barre classes, others may thrive by joining a soccer league, still others may really love the bootcamp atmosphere.  Though that couch and blanket will still be appealing, finding your “fitness home” can greatly improve your overall motivation. 

6. Start an office challenge

Get an accountability buddy and find other co-workers that are interested in moving more.  Start a workplace challenge, it can be as simple as who takes more steps over the course of a week (fitbit has a great app for this), or create a support group in which you each take a moment to check in and see how others are doing that week.  Having a support system and even a little friendly competition can be just the push you need.

7. Try an office workout

Can’t work out after work?  No problem.  It is entirely possible to get a great workout in throughout your workday.

Shut your office door and complete these moves  from the Washington Post at your desk.  They even include a rating for level of difficulty, sweatiness and humiliation factor!  All of the moves can be completed in work clothes and won’t leave you dripping sweat.  They will, however, get you moving and your heart rate pumping. 

Even better?  Complete the moves a couple times throughout the day.

I’ve had several clients enjoy setting daily office workout challenges, i.e. Monday’s challenge might be 100 squats.  Every time they get up from their desk they complete 10 squats.  They mark it off until they reach their goal of 100 (or whatever that day's goal might be).  Tuesdays could be desk pushups, 20 second planks, or reverse lunges.  You get the idea! 

Extra points if you bring in a light pair of dumbbells to keep in the bottom drawer of your desk.  You can do so much for your muscles and overall health if you work some light resistance work into your day.

8. Speak to your HR department about setting up a wellness program at your office

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Chronic diseases such as depression and hypertension can lead to a decline in the overall health of employees in a workplace, contribute to an increase in health-related expenses for employers and employees, and lead to lower productivity and/or days of work missed. Many businesses have realized the benefits of health promotion, and to curb the costs of rising health care offer workplace health programs to their employees.

Many companies are recognizing the incredible benefits in employee productivity and work satisfaction when they bring a culture of health and wellness into the office.  Approach your HR department, boss or CEO with the idea.  Check out the corporate page at Life True To You for statistics and some selling points to use when talking to the head honcho.

Give a few of these strategies a try to discover what works for you and then go be the fierce superwoman that we all know you are!

Yours in wellness,

Monday, February 6, 2017

Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong

-- And it could be making you fat and tired! 

Oh my goodness!  I see diet and nutrition information every turn I make!

Each expert wants to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you.  Perhaps, it is something they've tried and it worked for them.  Maybe, it's what all the current research says.  

So, if it worked for someone else, it will work for you too.  Right?

Well, maybe…

Each person is unique and that is why an individualized approach to health and fitness is essential. 

Case in point: 

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat.  While this does affect your weight and energy level, it's certainly not the “holy grail” of health.  Many people will lose weight by simply counting calories; however, many will still find they struggle with this method alone, and, to top it off, they feel sluggish and zapped because of the restricted calories. 

Let's focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and yet proven) benefits of what and how you eat and drink.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is drowning out research on other factors that may be just as important.  Don't get me wrong, limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that's simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone. 

When the intense focus on how much we consume wasn't working in the long-run for everyone, it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn't we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don't forget to also pay attention to what you are eating

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods).  This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day you should aim for:
     A colorful array of fruits and veggies.  You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals these foods provide.
     Enough protein.  Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
     Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones).  There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” - you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads.  Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible.  You don't need to overdo it here.  Just make sure you're getting some high-quality fats.

How you eat and drink

It's also important to pay attention to how you eat and drink.

Studies show that this could have more of an impact than previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let's first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means taking smaller bites, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and savoring every bite.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture of your food.  Breathe!  Don’t inhale your meal while standing over the kitchen sink, responding to work email on your cellphone.

By eating slowly and mindfully, your digestive system will have time to prepare for digestion and to secrete the necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.  Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

If you've scarfed down an entire meal in less than 20 minutes, you're not allowing the brain to kick in and register that full feeling. 

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.  That means your body will more readily absorb the vital nutrition it needs.

And don't forget about drinking your food. 

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness. 

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of a delicious green smoothie.  They can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for the dangerously convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal and not a snack.  And don't gulp it down too fast!

If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

Today's Lesson:

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

Until next time!

Be well,

Monday, January 16, 2017

What is Metabolism?

The word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  You also know that your friend that is lucky enough to have “fast” metabolism can eat anything she wants and never seem to put on a pound.
But what exactly does all this mean?

Technically, “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
     Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
     Allow activities you can't control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
     Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together and combine it with your own unique biochemistry and hormonal makeup, you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”. 

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those pesky calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
     Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
     Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
     Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.

But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts too! 

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial! 

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you're not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. 

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down as they lose valuable muscle mass, which you don't want to happen. 

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”. 

The type of food you eat also impacts your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently. 

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don't forget the mind-body connection.  There is an abundance of research that demonstrates connections between high stress and lack of sleep to a lower metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Additional Sources of Interest on Metabolism: 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Truth About Running in a Race – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ah, race season!  Nothing quite compares to the euphoric feeling you get when crossing that finish line, particularly when you’ve been training for months. 

Running in races, from 5ks and mud runs to marathons and triathlons, provides huge health benefits and an incredible feeling of accomplishment when finished.  

Many races provide an opportunity to raise money for charities and organizations you believe in while also allowing you to get involved in your community and meet new people.  

You can find a ton of local races at Eventbrite and RunningintheUSA.

Eventbrite even allows you or your organization to create your own events and sell tickets. What a great way to get involved in your community and take your love of racing to a whole new level!  I’ve often thought it would be an exciting challenge to plan a running event and donate the proceeds to a local cause. 

Of course, anyone who’s participated in a race knows it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  Here I share the good, the bad and the ugly of racing.  

I always like to end on a positive note so let’s go ahead and get the bad and ugly out of the way.

The Bad

There is no way around it; training for any running event is difficult.  It requires dedication to get out there and hit the pavement day after day as you prepare for your big event.  If we're all truly honest here, some days you simply won't feel like going on that training run.

Running in a race is difficult especially those that cover longer distances.  Running a full marathon is a true mental battle, particularly at mile 18.  That is always when I hit the infamous brick wall and my body screams at me to stop torturing it.

I can literally hear my legs sending messages to my brain, “Take a seat on that curb there, guzzle down that mini cup of water those nice volunteers are thrusting in your face and don’t you dare move for at least 24 hours.”

It is true test of mental fortitude to continue pumping those arms and keep your legs plodding along. I can’t think of a single race in which I didn’t at some point find myself thinking, “Why on earth did I do this… again?” 

Of course there are countless reasons throngs of people continue to run in races, but when your body is aching and sore it’s often difficult to keep those cheerier “Wow, this is so good for me and I am such a badass” thoughts in mind.

Another struggle I always find myself dealing with is nerves.  I know the nervous, jittery, butterflies in the stomach feeling actually helps get the body ready and pumped for a race, but I still hate the constant feeling of nervous tension which often begins as early as the night before an event. 

Yet, those nerves quickly disappear once you get started and quickly morph into a sheer adrenaline rush!

The Ugly

Now let’s talk about some of the things during a race that aren’t just bad, they’re plain ugly. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bloody nipples I got from my sports bra chaffing during my first marathon (this was when I was a newbie and before I knew about the glorious benefits of Body Glide). 

I must also mention the blisters that will most certainly develop during any endurance event, no matter how many preventative measures you take.  That pinky toe blister will leave you limping across the finish line and for the entire week after, but hey you still made it!

Oh, and that mud run?  You will most certainly be cleaning the mud from places the sun don't shine for days!

Then there are the times you get peed on. 

Yes, this actually happened to me. 

I was in high school and was running in our Cross Country State Championships.  The girl in front of me must have had a serious case of nerves (see above in “the Bad”) and must’ve missed the opportunity to relieve herself before the gun fired. 

As soon as we left the starting line, I felt something warm hit me.  Ah, yes now that’s a wake up call. Warm urine was seeping through my very thin green jersey to cover my stomach, arms and legs.

What can you do?  You just have to keep moving, right? 

That’s exactly what she did after peeing her pants and that’s precisely what I did after having pee whip back onto my upper extremities right at the start of a 3.1 mile run. 

That’s got to give me some type of tough girl points, right? 

Side Note:  I changed shirts very quickly at the end of that race.

So, after all the bloody nipples, blisters and urine attacks, you might be wondering why on earth a person would even want to run in a race.

Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?

The Good

You can’t deny the health benefits of training for a race.  I know that I am never as dedicated to my workouts as I am when I have an event coming up.  It keeps you accountable and makes you push harder because you know you have a deadline looming.  That dedication ultimately helps you progress toward your larger health goals.

Training for a race is also a great way to meet new people.  The Internet is full of training groups and many races will offer their own. Participating in one of these groups gets you moving and interacting with new people whom you have an immediate connection with. Double win!

My first marathon was the Inaugural Blue Ridge Mountain Marathon in Virginia, which would later be ranked as America’s Toughest Road Marathon (of course that would be the first marathon I would pick).  Needless to say, this marathon included running up and down several mountains. 

Many think that running up a mountain sounds awful.  Well let me tell you it’s actually the running down the mountain that is far worse. 

I trained for this marathon in the relatively flat landscape of Raleigh, NC.  I of course incorporated hills into my training but nothing could’ve prepared me for the run down that first mountain. 

I remember coming up the crest of that first mountain, feeling winded, but strong.  Halfway down the mountain my tune changed.  Each step jarred my knees and though I knew my pace was great as I was using the momentum gained from sheer gravity, I was already feeling a great deal of pain. 

The grimace on my face was apparent and the grunts I emitted were verbal cues for all of my fellow marathoners.  They all gave words of encouragement and friendly smiles, but one grey haired Herculean woman stepped up and came to my rescue. 

She was wearing a purple tank top that showed off her tanned rippling biceps and I immediately thought of her as my knight in shining armor.  She made a grab for my arm and said I needed to run in zigzags down the mountain.  The Herculean Bicep Woman showed me what she meant and we ran down the remainder of that mountain weaving back and forth, exchanging smiles and supportive grunts. 

She didn’t just save my knees on that first ever marathon, she showed me that in races, you are never alone.  You are a part of a community of people that support you.  It truly doesn’t matter if you are the fastest or slowest person on that course.  It’s the fact that you are out there running that makes you worthy. 

You are a part of this community because you are trying.

There are other "good" aspects of participating in these events aside from fellow runners. The feeling you get when you run through one of the clusters of spectators and they start cheering for you is indescribable.  It’s even better if you have your name written on your race bib, shirt or somewhere else on your body.  When someone hollers and cheers for you by name you get another very unique adrenaline rush.

Of course, you can’t forget the feeling of crossing that finish line or the feeling of complete and utter relief when you finally sit for the first time after finishing the race.  The volunteers at these events are a constant reminder of how supportive and friendly people can be. 

Finally, how can you forget the after-party that typically accompanies these events?  That cold crisp beer is greatly deserved and those carbs are a life saver!

Though participating in a race has its share of “bad and ugly” the “good” far outweighs any negatives.

So what race are you going to sign up for next?

Better yet, what type of racing event will you create for your local community?  Share in the comments so we can follow along on your journey too!


P.S.  Are you ready to take a plunge and start living a healthier life?  Healthy living doesn't have to be hard or complicated.  Snag your free guide detailing 10 Simple Hacks you can implement today to begin living a healthier life!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Train Your Brain

Week 8 Challenge – Train Your Brain

I firmly believe that anyone can train for a marathon.

Yes, it is physically challenging.  However, the physical aspect of running is not the hardest part of running a marathon. 

The real challenge is harnessing the mental toughness required when you reach mile 18 and your legs are aching, the sun is beating down on your back, you feel a blister forming on your little toe and your bra is chafing so badly you can see blood seeping through your shirt (yes, this is my story).  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Eat Your Colors!

Week 7 Challenge: Go Color Crazy

Food is medicine! 

We don’t hesitate for one second to put pills and drugs into our body in order to heal faster.  Yet we don’t take the time to put into our body the foods that actually make us healthier to begin with.  If we did, we wouldn’t need all of these pills and surgeries!

By eating with the intent of incorporating as much of the color spectrum as possible, you know you are getting all of the vital nutrients and antioxidants your body needs for peak performance.  It is typically the brightest fruits and vegetables that will give us the biggest dose of healthy, disease-fighting nutrients. Don’t get stuck in the meat and potato rut!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mix Up Your Training

Week 6 Challenge: Mix up Your Training

I remember preparing for my wedding in 2010. 

I had picked out the dress from a catalog and knew it was the one I wanted before I had even tried it on.  In fact, it was the only dress I tried on once we arrived at the store.

I didn’t even consider that perhaps another dress would be better suited for my body type or that I should try a few other dresses on just for the sake of variety.

I got the dress, though it really would have been better suited for a person that was slightly taller with a longer torso.

It didn’t matter to me though!  I was going to lose several pounds, get a beautiful tan and be the most beautiful woman my fiancĂ©e had ever seen.