Dec 27, 2009

New Year’s Resolution: Weight Loss Again in 2010?

Success begins with a reality check, followed by goal setting and the design and execution of a comprehensive strategy.

We've made it through Christmas and are quickly approaching the end of 2009 and even the end of a decade. With the beginning of each year come those New Year’s resolutions, whether in a brief thought or a more deliberate plan. What’s interesting is that we seem to choose the same topics when we make our list, like family, finance, career, character flaws, and life goals. And every year weight loss, health, or fitness becomes one of our main targets to resolve.

While it’s obvious to most that proper diet and exercise are the master keys to realizing our weight loss, health and fitness ambitions, there are other things we can do to ensure we succeed this year, 2010.

Success Begins with a “Reality Check”
First we can be more specific with our weight loss, health and fitness goals and write them down. But before we can be clear on what those goals are, a personal assessment is a must. Every smart and successful person who truly wants to improve significant personal areas of their life—the development of character, relationships, spiritual life—or who wants to see progress in more pragmatic areas—career, financial, and time management—will always begin with a thorough evaluation of their current condition. It is no different for anyone who wants to transform his or her bodies into a lean, firm, healthy, and more functional machine.

This brings me to that dreaded body fat test. When you’re serious about reducing fat, the most important thing to consider is not your total body weight but rather what makes up that weight. This is referred to as your “body composition”, which is a combination of your lean body mass (LBM) — muscle, bones, organs, and water — and your body fat. Your own ideal weight is the weight at which your lean mass and fat mass are combined in the correct proportion for health, wellness, and aesthetics. When you are in shape, you have a proportionally higher amount of LBM and a lower amount of body fat, regardless of what you weigh.

Due to the fact that your body weight can fluctuate anywhere from two to ten pounds in a given day, bathroom scales will only make you crazy. They are best used once per week and under the same conditions (i.e.; early morning, on an empty stomach). Also, traditional weight scales can’t differentiate between how many pounds of LBM or fat are on your body, which is more relevant to health and fitness than what you weigh.

In seeking out an accurate body fat test reading, there are quite a few methods for measuring body composition, each with its own margin of error, advantages, and disadvantages, as well as special devices, attire, restrictions, and costs. The Hydrostatic Weighing method is the most accurate and considered the “gold standard”, but it requires special and extensive equipment, can be quite intrusive to some people, and somewhat costly. Due to its convenience (both portability and fee) and its accuracy, I would recommend using the skin fold method. However, if your body fat level is over 30%, you might consider Bioelectrical Impedance. The most important thing to remember is to use the same method each time you take your body fat test.

After you know your body fat percentage, compare it the American Council and Exercise (ACE) chart and see where you fit in. With this information you will also be able to calculate how many pounds of LBM and fat your body is carrying. To get a more accurate review of your physique, take measurements, noting your size in clothes and a possible "before" photo. These are much better monitors when tracking fat loss and appearance then the scale.

Consider a thorough medical checkup to get an insight into your health and to see if you have any medical issues brewing. Note all your medications and maybe as you get more healthy and fit, you will be able to reduce or eliminate them altogether. A fitness assessment is a great way to test your strength, endurance, flexibility, core conditioning, functional capabilities and any possible, yet highly overlooked postural defects.

Create a visual aid by keeping all of your data in a special notebook and updating as you advance toward you goals. Every four to six weeks retest your body fat and measurements. Knowing your percentage of body fat and reassessing it periodically, is very useful in gauging progress during an exercise and weight-loss program. Your medical and fitness evaluations can be done every three to six months, unless you are under a doctor’s care for a particular medical problem.

Set Realistic and Specific Goals with a Timeline
Since you have completed your health and fitness "reality check" and have it all compiled in a special place, you may be feeling discouraged because sometimes reality sucks, but don’t despair; now you can set some realistic and specific goals for each category: weight, body fat, measurements, clothes size as well as health. If you are more interested in improving you fitness levels, you can set goals for strength, endurance, flexibility and all the rest. Include a timeline comprised of your long-term goals broken down into short-term, more obtainable ones. This will help keep from losing your motivation and affecting your momentum.

Design a Comprehensive Diet and Exercise Strategy
Design and write out a comprehensive diet and exercise strategy. This means choosing a diet plan that is based on a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix solution. Also, a work out regimen should incorporate all the components of exercise: cardiovascular conditioning, strength and endurance training, flexibility training, core and balance training, corrective exercises and functional training. The good news is that when you eat right and exercise, your health goals will fall into place most of the time.

Execute Your Strategy
You have your notebook full of data, goals, and your weight loss and/or "get fit and healthy" strategy ready to be implemented––now what? Following through is the most difficult part of all and is where discipline and motivation take over. A "get fit" buddy or a personal trainer may come in handy to either put or keep you on the right track. And the best motivating factor when trying to lose weight, get fit or healthier is when you experience results––consistency is key.

View wellness as a journey not a final destination. You can re-evaluate your notes and at anytime adjust your goals and timeline. Leave yourself some latitude and if you fall off your "get fit and healthy" wagon, dust yourself off and get back on immediately.

Seize this year and don’t leave your health and fitness for next year's resolution list. Succeeding at this one New Year's resolution will have a positive impact on your entire list by increasing your energy, productivity, attitude, and so much more, making 2010 one of the best years ever!

First on Blogcritics: Sci/Tech
New Year’s Resolution: Weight Loss Again in 2010?

Dec 4, 2009

Christmas is Coming: Are You Getting Fat?

The "goose" and people around you may be getting plumper this holiday season, but you don’t have to!

The "goose" is not the only one who gets fat during Christmas-time. The average person gains up to seven to ten pounds every holiday season, while some studies show that is it closer to one to two pounds. Whatever study you subscribe to, it is your own personal reality that really counts. The real issue is whether we ever lose those extra pounds or do we just keep adding weight on each year, making us fatter, unhealthy and frustrated?

Since the holidays are a time for parties, gourmet dinners and other festive events surrounding food, cookies, candy and alcohol, it means that we increase our caloric intake quite substantially––usually empty calories (void of nutritional value) that are full of fat, sugar, sodium and white flour. Moreover, we tend to throw discipline out the chimney, neglecting exercise and other important dietary regulations.

There's no getting around it, those extra holiday calories, especially carbohydrates, added sodium, excessive alcohol consumption, as well as other variables will put more weight on your body. But there is some good news here: those extra pounds might not be all fat. Holiday weight gain may stem from glycogen storage and/or water weight, which can cause you to think you are getting fat.

Because there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, you would need to consume 3500 calories over and above your metabolic rate and activity level in order to gain that pound of fat and vise versa; 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Although it is more complex than that, this tidbit of information is timely and should give you a little peace in regards to your holiday eating habits.

Don't get too jolly yet; when you consume excessive amount of calories (food and liquid) over an extended period of time you will get fat. And poor eating habits will mess with your health especially if you are obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other health predicament.

As a fitness expert for over 29 years, it has become somewhat futile to place weight-loss in a News Year’s resolution list, so I’m proposing a different strategy this year: a preemptive attack against "holiday fat". You don’t have to start your new year with the goal of losing the weight that you had planned on losing last year plus the ten pounds you just gained over the holiday season.

The simplest thing you can do over the holidays is to increase your water intake, especially if you are drinking alcohol. The health benefits of water are already well known, but did you know it has a profound impact on weight loss? Most of us retain water because we do not drink enough water. We even mistake thirst for hunger, so we eat more instead of drinking water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, start early in the day and make sure you have access to water all day long. Keep in mind, dehydration not only has health consequences but also affects our mood and can make us lethargic, making it impossible to function, exercise and shop.

Second, you can exercise –– either add an exercise routine or increase your activity level during this time of the year, especially if you don’t want to give up your holiday eating habits. This is key to keeping your body intact, will help burn those extra holiday calories, increase your energy level, do wonders for your holiday cheer, not to mention all the other rewards you'll reap from exercise.

I’ve heard all of the excuses why people don't exercise and I have even used a few from time to time. Exercise doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation –– a little goes a long way. And if it prevents you from that dreaded holiday weight gain, it's worth it –– "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Power walking, running, biking, swimming, and other cardiovascular activities are easy to do and only take about 30 minutes or so. Weight training is one of the best activities you can do to prevent weight gain and will not only shape and firm your physique, but will increase your lean body mass, which means a faster metabolic rate. Again, time should not be an obstacle because a weight-training workout can be done in about 20 minutes or so. And since the goal is to maintain your weight, we can always add more to your exercise regimen later, like core conditioning, functional training, as well as corrective and flexibility exercises.

OK, so you don't wan to join gym…you don’t have to. All you will need for walking or running are a decent pair of tennis shoes, and as far as a home workout routine, there are some inexpensive pieces of exercise equipment that you can use for a great workout; a Swiss Ball, a foam roller, dumbbells and exercise bands.

By implementing just two tactics, more water and exercise, you'll escape the holiday weight-gain forecast. You can also monitor your diet a little by using these "Twelve diet tips for Christmas":
  1. Watch the alcohol; these empty calories add up quickly.
  2. Eliminate or decrease intake of sugary, unhealthy drinks like soda. Why waste all of your calories on liquids that have no nutritional value.
  3. Limit the cookies, candy, pies and other holiday treats.
  4. Increase your fiber during the holidays: this will give you that feeling of fullness and you will be less likely to overeat. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and legumes.
  5. Don’t go to a Christmas party or dinner famished; have a snack an hour or so prior. This will keep you from eating everything in sight.
  6. When dining out or attending a Christmas party, skip or be selective with the hors d'œuvres. It is hard to know what's in them. Stick to the veggie and fruit platters; they are safer due to the fact they have nutrients without all of the fattening stuff.
  7. Don't salt your food; there is plenty of sodium in prepared meals.
  8. Always have your sauces on the side; this is where extra, unneeded calories, sugar, sodium, fat, and white flour is found.
  9. As a main course at a dinner party, avoid the fancy, creamy, saucy type dishes and if possible and without offending anyone, only eat dishes that have a clean look to them (like plain fish, beef, chicken, etc.). Do what I do: sneak the bad stuff to the dog “Fido” and pretend you ate it!
  10. If you are the chef for a party or dinner, find some decorative, healthy (low fat, low sugar and low sodium) recipes to add to the menu.
  11. Pace yourself; the holiday season is quit long and each day you will be able to enjoy foods that are normally diet taboos.
  12. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, not uptight, so don’t stress out. Take pleasure in all that the holiday season has to offer, especially ones that don’t involve food –– family, friends, faith, and charity.
Remember this is not a comprehensive weight-loss strategy –– it is a preemptive attack against "holiday fat", yet it does include an array of expertise that you can incorporate into your lifestyle year round, if you haven’t already. This approach will prevent you from gaining those extra pounds this holiday season and, who knows, maybe you will lose a few and start 2010 leaner than you left 2009!

BlogCritics in Culture: Christmas is Coming: Are You Getting Fat?
Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 05, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Just in case: lyrics to "Christmas is Coming: The Goose is Getting Fat"

Happy Holidays to all my blogger friends!
May you have a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

Dec 1, 2009

Christmas Gift Idea: Chocolate for All

Everyone loves chocolate, since as far back as 2000 BC. Why not “gift it” this Christmas?

Everyone loves chocolate and it’s one of the best and easiest Christmas gifts to buy. We show our love for chocolate by eating billions of pounds of it each year. And I’m not just talking about Snickers and M&Ms, although they are my favorites. I’m talking gourmet––prepared in a sophisticated and meticulous fashion, using high quality ingredients. Gourmet chocolate makes a rich, creamy, luxurious gift, and is an all-time favorite holiday present to give and receive.

Chocolate dates back as far as 2000 BC and is thought to have originated in the Amazon. It is derived from the cacao tree and was used by the Maya culture, where they would harvest, ferment, roast, and grind the seeds into a paste. When mixed with water and other ingredients, “this paste made a frothy, spicy chocolate drink," yet the taste was very bitter.

In both the Maya and Aztec cultures, chocolate, then called xocoatl or cacahuatl (meaning “bitter water"), played an important role in religious and social lives. To the Maya, the cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility, and were often used in religious rituals; they were referred to as the gods' food. The Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree, and that it had nourishing, fortifying and aphrodisiac qualities. Interesting too is the fact that cocoa beans were used as currency.

Chocolate has evolved throughout history from a bitter drink to its current forms today, creating a multi-billion dollar industry with plenty of controversy surrounding its "dark side". History also tells us that at the end of the fourteenth century, Columbus was the first to bring back cocoa beans from the New World to Europe and he presented them to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, yet their potential was overlooked. It was Hernando Cortez who brought cocoa beans to Spain in the fifteenth century and saw their value. We can also credit Cortez and the Spanish for being the first to blend the bitter drink with sugar and other ingredients, moving us toward the mixture that we enjoy today. However, it was the French who were the first to package chocolate as a gift, when in 1643, the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa was betrothed to Louis XIV of France. She gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an elegantly ornate chest.

Christmas is a time for giving and chocolate is a centerpiece each holiday season. So if you're like most holiday shoppers, who frantically need ideas for Christmas presents or need to buy “last minute” Christmas gifts, don't forget about chocolate. Why not “gift it” this Christmas? When you give a gift of chocolate, you’re not just giving a piece of candy, but a piece of history –– if it is good enough for kings, queens and other royalty, it’s good enough for all, especially those you love. With Christmas right around the corner you may need more ideas for giving chocolate gifts –– try these to make the 2009 holiday season the sweetest, most luscious to date.

  1. For a Christmas party or dinner.
  2. A corporate gift for a customer or business associate.
  3. Your boss or employee whom you don’t know very well.
  4. A teacher or other school official.
  5. Your neighbor.
  6. Your friendly Postal Service worker.
  7. Your picky, unpredictable in-laws.
  8. A distant relative, figuratively or literally.
  9. That person who "has everything" — we all know a few of those.
  10. A Christmas treat for you and your family. Just don't eat the whole box by yourself.
You don’t have to wrap a candy kiss or a Hershey bar in a bow; you can buy ready-made and beautifully packaged chocolate (gourmet and more) in a holiday chocolate gift basket and you don't have to leave your home to shop. The Internet offers a global marketplace when it comes to online Christmas shopping; just make sure you select a safe and convenient site that offers enticing Christmas gift ideas as well as a holiday gift guide so you can be confident that you find that perfect chocolate gift for all on your gift list, making it a very special Christmas.

Author: Christine Lakatos — Published: Dec 01, 2009 at 6:29 pm
Tastes in BlogCritics

By the way: Holiday Chocolate Gift Baskets are brought to you by my friend Alie James and is "Fair Trade Chocolate"!!