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Wednesday

And The Winner Is....

...push ups!!!

I've decided to incorporate some daily push ups into my routine, as my fitness New Year's resolution.

In order for me to be able to stick with it, there has to be only ONE exercise. I cannot fall prey (as I have in previous years) to the trap of "oh, that was easy, what else can I do?" and then adding more exercises, and then having a tired or busy day were I don't do them all, and then giving up completely. (Welcome to my world ;)

I decided on push ups because they can really work your core, in addition to your arms and chest. If I'm only picking one thing, it has to accomplish as much as it can.  I've also discovered that there's more abdominal involvement if you place your hands further above your head.

I'll do twenty every morning while my coffee is brewing, and I'm starting with wall push ups, because on the floor I can do maybe three, tops. I'll let you know when I move up to twenty on the floor ;)

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Tuesday

What Are Your New Year's Resolutions?

Traditionally, New Year's resolutions have been a set up for failure for me. I make them, and never stick to them. I don't know if a simple date on a calendar is motivation enough to make life changes that require will power and discipline.


Still, they're fun! Why not start each year with renewed ambition and optimism? So every year I make resolutions, regardless of my success or failure with them in the past.


This time around, I am in the enviable position of approaching the magic date on the calendar with one of my goals (weight maintenance) already achieved. I have new and improved dietary habits, as well as kept up with regular cardio exercise. What next?


Muscle toning is an area that I don't make time for at the moment. I think this is something I can resolve to start in the new year.

My plan is to choose ONE, and only one, exercise (to start with). In the past I've planned out a whole routine, and given up after a week because of the new time constraints involved. This year, however, I'm going to choose ONE activity that takes about five minutes, and insert it somewhere into my routine. Push-ups before brushing my teeth? Sit-ups while dinner is cooking? Not sure yet, but I will let you know what I come up with.


Time to put my thinking cap on!


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Sunday

There Are No Excuses

A friend of mine has lost 26 pounds on the Dr. Bernstein weight loss plan.

She (with their support) is taking a three week break over the Christmas season. She knows she will "cheat" over the holiday season, and why pay for a plan she's not following?

Initially I thought how wise and realistic, both on her part and the part of the Dr. Bernstein staff. Let's not set ourselves up for failure, what with the festive season upon us.

But then I thought... isn't that the problem with weight loss programs, and with weight loss in general? There will always be a festive something or other around every corner. It's kind of like waiting for the best time to quit smoking, or the right time to get pregnant. There is no perfect time for anything - no time that things will be easy or free from the potential for setback.

There will always be a tomorrow, but if we want to accomplish our goals, we have to work on them today.


What about me - should I take a break? I'm about four pounds away from my target weight. Can I get through the Christmas season without gaining back some of the weight I've lost? Can I maintain my current progress, or better still, carry on towards my goal?

Of course I can! Just because there are more temptations around me doesn't mean I have to cave every day. Will I count calories on Christmas day? Nope!! Will I count them the day before and the day after? You bet. It's all about new habits and a more self improvment based lifestyle.

Here's to not letting the holiday season be my latest excuse!

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Monday

6 Carb Curfew Tips

I've been doing the carb curfew plan for a few days now, and here are some things I'm finding that work for me: 
  1. Have a consistent plan. I start my curfew after dinner. The time varies, depending on when we eat, but I usually start my no/low carb time anywhere from 5:00 - 6:30 pm.
  2. Plan for indulgence. If there's a food item with carbs in it that you were looking forward to (i.e. homemade cookies, hot chocolate, etc.), make sure you schedule it in before your curfew starts. I had a Rolo ice cream bar, for 130 calories toward my daily caloric allotment, by setting a timer for 3:00 pm. Later on, after my carb curfew started, I didn't feel deprived.
  3. Have no (or very low) carb food in the house that you can eat, in case you're really hungry in the evening. Last night I had 1/2 a pepperoni stick (100 cals) and a cheese string (60 cals), both somewhere between 7:00 - 9:00 pm.
  4. Make a point of eating healthy carbs earlier in the day, so that when the evening comes, you have some proper nourishment behind you. In the mornings I usually eat a banana, some yogurt, an apple, some carrots, etc. All containing carbs, and all important for good health.
  5. Don't stop eating when your carb curfew starts. (They keep telling us that fasting slows down our metabolism, so to not eat anything from 6:00 pm until breakfast the next day probably won't help!)
  6. Keep lots of sugar free gum handy to help conquer any evening sweet cravings that might make you want to cave and carb out ;)
Here are some links to pages that list the carbohydrate value of certain foods:

 Carb free food
 Carb counter

 Another carb counter
 Carb counter chart

Good luck and have fun!

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Friday

Carb Curfew Diet (No Carbs In The Evening)

The theory behind the carb curfew diet is that because carbs are used for energy, if you eat them later in the evening when you're less active, they won't be used and therefor stored as fat.

I've never been a fan of diets that eliminate carbs altogether, but I do believe that many people (including myself) probably consume too many. The carb curfew diet is a simple way of reducing your carb intake without depriving your body of this essential fuel.

Some people have enjoyed great success employing this method, and other say carbs are carbs, no matter when you consume them. I think the beauty of this method is that even if it won't work, there's no harm in trying it (unlike cutting out carbs altogether).

I'm going to try it! I'll start tonight (if I remember ;)  I'll do follow up posts of my opinions as I form them, and any tips or advice I can think of.

Stay tuned!

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Tuesday

28 Ways To Boost Your Metabolism

Everyone wants to do it - speed up your metabolism!!! (Me too ;)  There's a million web articles and blog posts about the subject, and here's mine. Enjoy!

In no particular order, here are some things that are said to help increase your metabolism:


  1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  2. Build muscle mass
  3. Drink more water (and make it cold!)
  4. Eat spicy food
  5. Fidget
  6. Eat a good breakfast
  7. Eat enough calories to avoid "starvation mode"
  8. Exercise for shorter periods, but more often
  9. Boost your EPOC "excess post-exercise oxygen consumption" by making your exercise higher intensity
  10. Eat more fibre 
  11. Eat more protein
  12. Exercise in the morning
  13. Drink green tea
  14. Increase your low fat dairy intake (to increase calcium intake)
  15. Get enough sleep (to regulate hormones)
  16. Reduce stress (to regulate hormones)
  17. Cut down on refined sugar, salt, and refined grains
  18. Cut down on caffeine (which increases insulin levels which tells your body to store fat)
  19. Limit alcohol intake
  20. Eat fruits and vegetables
  21. Eat yogurt (for the probiotics)
  22. Take a multivitamin
  23. Eat fish
  24. Don't yo-yo diet
  25. Eat fewer trans fats
  26. Try calorie shifting (so that your metabolism cannot predict how many calories it will have to burn)
  27. Avoid fad diets
  28. Be too cold or too warm (shivering and sweating increase your metabolic rate)

I'm sure there are more... stay tuned for a "part 2" post!

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Sunday

Does This Make Sense To You?

I'm all for the reduction of unhealthy food sold in public places, but only if it makes sense.

I was at the local rec centre the other day with my son, waiting for my daughter's dance class to finish. I normally bring snacks with us but hadn't that day (whole other story!!), so I decided to buy him something from their concession stand.

He wanted french fries, and since they serve absolutely nothing that's healthy anyway, I agreed. Why not - there's no harm in the occasional treat if overall your diet is healthy.

The cashier told me that they're no longer allowed to sell french fries, because "they're not healthy". Oh! OK. Cleaning up our nutritional act? I'm all for that! What else have you got?

After french fries were removed from the menu for being too unhealthy, this is what they were still allowed to sell (I swear I'm not making this up):

  • hot dogs
  • nachos and (fake) cheese
  • potato chips
  • chocolate bars
  • pop
  • popcorn with (fake) butter
(are you kidding me?)

I could go on and on about how the ingredients in the list above are just as bad for us as the oil used to deep fry the french fries, but I think that's already obvious to most people. Instead I might contact the rec centre and offer them my opinion...



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Monday

How Can I Increase My Will Power?

It's simple, really. You just have to be aware when you reach that fork in the road, where one way is continuing on towards your goal, and the other way is heading away from it.

This is it, right here.

There's a difference between people who achieve their goals and people who don't, and that difference is the ability to continue on past the challenging spots. The ability to recognize the fork in the road, and to take the right path.

When you're having a really challenging moment, and you want that ice cream so badly you can already taste it, this is a fork in your road. This is when you step back and say "here it is, right here. The difference between people who succeed with their weight loss goal and people who don't. This is where I say NO if I am to succeed."

It's easy to say no if you're not hungry, or if it's food you don't like, or if it's the beginning of the day and you're freshly motivated. However the people who succeed are the ones who can say no when it's not easy.


So the next time your will power encounters a big test, see it as an opportunity to succeed. Recognize it as the fork in the road, the choice between the path towards your goal, or the path away from it. See it as the moment where you take matters into your own hands, and choose success.

This is it, right here.


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Friday

21 Days To Make Or Break A Habit

We've all heard it - it takes 21 days to make or break a habit.

I'm noticing now how true this is, in regards to my eating habits. I am a "recovering binger" (is that a real term? ;) I say this because after years of struggling with overeating, I'm beginning to acknowledge the fact that food addiction is real. There is a biochemical component (cravings) and a behavioral component as well (hence the title of this post).

This was my old habit:

I'd wake up every day, determined to turn my eating habits around. I'd do fairly well until mid-day, at which point the snacking would go a little overboard. I'd try and compensate at dinner with smaller portions, but then in the evening would be my downfall: my craving for ice cream, at about 11:30 pm. It was a craving so in control of me that I would simply not care about the health implications, and think to myself "I'll start my diet tomorrow".  I'd then wander into the kitchen and concoct a scrumptious, 700-800 calorie bowl filled with everything from ice cream to chocolate chips to peanut butter to caramel syrup... (omg Y.U.M.M.Y.)  Did I mention I have a sweet tooth? ;)

Here's how I changed it:

I started going to bed at about 10:00 pm. Isn't that funny? Such a simple thing. Just go to bed before you would normally eat the ice cream...

So far so good - I'm about 12 pounds lighter now. I had some ice cream last night, but it was the first time in about two months, and I had to talk myself into it. Why would I do that? Because I am determined to be in control of my eating impulses. I can indulge in a sweet treat once in awhile without letting it get out of hand.

I have a new habit now.

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Saturday

My Own Cookie Diet

I called them 75 calories each (because really, my diet is calorie counting ;)  Most packaged cookies I've ever eaten average about 75, so I thought this was safe. They might be more, they might be less, but the important thing is that because I'm assigning a caloric value to them, I eat maybe one or two a day instead of ten. I was intrigued by the concept of the cookie diet - not as a meal replacement necessarily, but as a concept - eating cookies while you diet!! How cool.  The key would be that they would have to provide me with some health benefit, in order to be worth wasting precious calories on. Here's what I did. I took a recipe for pumpkin cookies and modified it:
  1. The first step was reducing the sugar. The recipe called for two cups (are you kidding me?) so I used one. (Btw, they tasted great).
  2. I then replaced half of the white flour with other stuff: wheat germ, quinoa, flax, oats, and coconut. I'm guessing the calories of these ingredients replaced the calories taken away when I reduced the sugar, but you know what? Healthy, so worth it.
  3. Just for fun, I added chocolate chips. (Hey, fun is an important component of health ;)
Delicious, nutritious, and somewhere around 75 cals each! The only problem now is that I've run out. Must do more baking...

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Sunday

A Treat Trick


Halloween is over, and we have soooo many leftovers!! I don`t know how many calories I ate yesterday (in excess of 4,000 I think), but I`m back to counting today. Which means I have to deal with all the mini chocolate bars everywhere... so much temptation!!

Not a problem (you`re my witness ;)  I`ve bagged them according to caloric values, and will allow myself maybe one or two per day. I`m optimistic that I`ll do ok, since it`s almost noon and so far I`ve had only one: a 40 calorie mini Aero bar...

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Tuesday

Sleep To Lose Weight


Less sleep = more weight gain? (But wait - you’d think that if you’re awake longer, you’re burning more calories and you’ll lose weight, right?) Apparently not. There’s a strong link between reduced sleep and increased girth. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The hormone Ghrelin regulates feelings of hunger, and when you get less sleep, your Ghrelin levels increase.
  • The hormone Leptin regulates the feeling of fullness, and when you’re sleep deprived, you guessed it: your Leptin levels decrease
  • Cortisol is another hormone affected by sleep deprivation. It’s a stress hormone that can stimulate hunger, and it’s released when you haven’t slept enough
  • Basal metabolic rate: supposedly needs adequate sleep to maintain its speed, so if you sleep less, the rate at which you burn calories while you rest decreases
  • Non-exercise associated thermogenesis: a fancy term for fidgeting. If you’re tired, you move less and burn fewer calories
  • Lack of sleep can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbs. This results in high blood glucose levels, which triggers the release of extra insulin, which then results in extra fat storage.

The last three items may account for the results of a study that monitored close to 70,000 women over 16 years, which demonstrated sleep reduction related weight gain without an increase in food eaten.  In other words, despite the change in appetite regulating hormones that resulted in less sleep, these women still did not eat more, and yet they still gained weight.

Nice. So much for the hope to get more done by sacrificing some sleep... yeesh. I guess I'll publish this post and go take a nap?

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Monday

Eat Every Hour To Lose Weight


This is something else I've tried in the past that has also melted away a few pounds: eating every hour.

You still need an awareness of caloric values, because at the end of the day weight loss, gain or maintenance is the net result of calories in vs. calories out. (When I say eat every hour, I don't mean a super sized fast food meal ;)

Here's how I did it:
  1. Have a calorie count resource, such as a website or book, which tells you the caloric value for each food.
  2. Aim for each hourly "mini meal" to be between 100 - 150 calories. 
  3. Keep a running total of what you've eaten as the day progresses. This is helpful not only so that you won't go overboard, but it increases your awareness of what you've actually eaten and reminds you to eat healthy.
  4. Use a timer: eat something as soon as you wake up, and then set a timer for an hour. Set it again each time you eat. This is so important! I'd eat and then forget, and then three hours would pass, which defeats the whole purpose.
  5. When you sit down to eat with others, don't eat the same portion size as they do. This will definitely skyrocket you into a calorie count that's too high. At dinner time, I'd sit down with my husband and kids and eat the same food, just a very very small portion (max 200 cals worth). At this point of the day I'd be close to 1,300 calories, so if I had eaten a full meal, all the benefits of eating every hour would have been negated.
Why it works:
  1. Research has shown that your metabolism increases after you eat, so the more often you eat, the more often your metabolic activity is increased.
  2. Your blood sugar and insulin levels will be more consistent, resulting in less blood sugar being stored as fat. When your insulin levels increase, after a large (high glycemic) meal, it's harder for your body to burn fat, because insulin is then released to move glucose from your blood to be stored as fat. 
What to watch out for:
  1. Make sure the hourly mini meals are small! Otherwise you'll simply end up eating too much.
  2. Pay attention to the glycemic level of each mini meal. For example, if you've already eaten some healthy stuff that day, let's say veggies at 1:00, go ahead and have a cookie (60-100 cals) at 2:00, but eat a piece of cheese with it (60-100 cals). Eating a high glycemic food (cookie) with a low glycemic food (cheese) will reduce the glycemic index (i.e. speed of increase in blood sugar) of the snack.

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Sunday

Thin For Life - Anne M. Fletcher, M.S. R.D.

I love this book.

The author, Anne M. Fletcher, talks to weight loss "masters": people who have KEPT OFF the weight they've lost, and examines the characteristics they have in common. Also featured is her "Jump Start" diet. I lost 18 pounds two years ago, thanks to adapting the common strategies used by the successful dieters featured in Thin For Life, and the Jump Start Diet got me going on the road to success.

The reason the Jump Start diet worked so well for me is because of the caloric allotment for each food type. This was my first exposure to the concept of protien staving off hunger more than carbs, and boy did it work. In this diet, your daily limit of calories is broken down into food categories (i.e. protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit, dairy, etc.), and each category has it's own limit. Then you can choose which items you eat for each category (samples of portion sizes and caloric value are listed for reference). No food category is omitted, but protein is given the highest calorie limit, to help reduce hunger.

I am a huge believer that if you want good advice, take it from someone who has been successful at what you are trying to achieve. The fact that the author has based the information in this book on the stories of people who have mastered losing and keeping weight off makes this a very informed and worthwhile read.





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Saturday

7 Reasons To Not Give Up Chocolate Cake


This is a guilt buster for me: I can't give up chocolate cake, so I'm (making it work for me ;) looking at the reasons why it's OK not too:

  1. It's a carb, which is fuel and helps your metabolism.
  2. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which slow aging and relax blood pressure, among other things.
  3. If you incorporate occasional treats into a diet, you're more likely to stick to that diet.
  4. If you bake the cake yourself, you can add grains such as flax and bran, or fruit and veggies such as applesauce and zucchini, which will increase health benefits.
  5. Cake can be frozen, so it's a treat you can make or buy and eat small portions of, without fear of waste.
  6. Chocolate has been linked to increased serotonin levels, which acts as an antidepressant.
  7. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is a stimulant similar to caffeine.
There are more, I just know it. I may be writing a "part 2" to this post in the near future...

Friday

8 Calorie Counting Tips


Since I've counted calories before (and am currently doing so), I thought I'd put together a list of some tips for anyone who is interested in trying.

  1. Determine how many calories you need to eat each day to lose weight. Here's an example of a formula you can use to calculate your caloric requirement. My personal goal is to eat somewhere between 1,300 - 1,800 calories per day, but I am quite active. If you have a desk job and drive everywhere, you may want to reduce your caloric intake below that.
  2. Have a calorie counting resource, such as a book or website that lists caloric values for the types of food you eat. I used to have a paperback book but now I simply Google "how many calories are in ____ " and take it from there.
  3. Write down what you eat.
  4. Measure what you eat and drink. This is so important for the sake of accuracy. It's very easy to get it wrong if you have to guess.
  5. If you can't measure something and must guess, overestimate how many calories it has (instead of underestimating).
  6. Record EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth: the cream in your coffee, the peanut butter you licked off the knife when you made that sandwich for your kids, etc.
  7. Be organized: I have a notebook and pen, as well as measuring spoons and cups, in a handy spot in my kitchen.
  8. Know that protein makes you feel full longer. For example, if you eat 100 calories worth of carbs, you'll be hungry sooner than if you eat 100 calories worth of protein. I personally don't believe in completely cutting out any food group - I think a diet should be balanced to be healthy - but if you raise your protein intake and lower your card intake, you'll find it easier to eat fewer calories.

When I record what I eat, I use four columns (I've arrived at this by trial and error, and this works best for me):
  1. Time - this helps me pace myself, so that over the course of the day I don't exceed my goal.
  2. Food item - I write down what I've eaten so that if I'm hungrier that normal I can analyze why (for example, protein suppresses appetite whereas carbs can stimulate it).
  3. The caloric value of each food item.
  4. A running total - this lets me know how much I've eaten so far and how many more calories I can eat.
In the beginning, calorie counting seems like a lot of work. However it does become easier as you set up your own routine, and find yourself remembering caloric values so you don't have to look them up every time. Bottom line - if it is an approach that you're comfortable with and can stick to, it will work.

Wednesday

How Exercise Can Sabotage Weight Loss


It's simple, really - exercise increases hunger, which makes cutting back on calories more difficult.

In the past, when I've tried exercising to lose weight without counting calories, it's been a dismal failure. Everyone is different, of course, but for me, exercise brings out a feeling of entitlement in regards to food. I burned a lot of calories today, I can have that extra slice of banana bread. In the end I gain weight, and it's not all from muscle building, if you get my drift.

I will never give up exercise. It strengthens your body and makes you healthier. However when I exercise solely for the purpose of losing weight, it makes losing weight difficult. So instead, I incorporate exercise into everything I do (such as walking when I can instead of driving), and focus on calorie reduction as my weight loss method.

The trick for me is being conscious about what I eat. Yes I spent an hour and a half walking today, but that does not mean I can eat my way through the fridge. Weight loss requires burning more calories than you consume, whether you're exercising or not!

Tuesday

The Problem With Take Out...

...is that it makes me crave pop. This time, in particular, Root Beer (one of my weaknesses!). I just finished a Tandoori chicken sub, which I'll call 500 calories just as a guess, and now I WANT SOME ROOT BEER. sigh. I should have known this was coming ;)

I'm not going to cave in though, because so far for today I'm at 1,630 calories, which is low enough considering all the walking I've done. If I can tough it out and resist the Root Beer, I'll be able to wake up tomorrow feeling like today was not just another delay, but instead, actual progress!

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