Mindfulness is not just for hippies and yogis anymore. Using the practice of mindfulness in multiple areas of our lives has gained notable popularity as of late, and for good reason. Research supports the premise that connecting with the present moment with acceptance—while not dwelling on the past or fearing the future—can increase happiness and improve physical and emotional health.
Does eating mindfully work for weight loss?
But how do these benefits translate to the idea of “eating with intention”? Although more research is needed to conclusively determine the effects of mindful eating practices on weight loss, paying closer attention to how our bodies and minds are feeling before we head for the fridge can be a huge factor in overcoming emotional, mindless eating.
Let’s face it—Emotional eating is a huge barrier to weight loss. Studies tell us that emotional eating is correlated to obesity, weight gain and BMI. When we’re chronically stressed, depressed, lonely, angry or anxious, mindless bingeing becomes an easy coping mechanism. Trying to eat mindfully isn’t going to be a quick fix in terms of weight loss, but it can help you develop healthier eating habits and an overall healthier relationship with food.
How to Begin…
Ask yourself—What are your life values? Yes, we’re getting that deep. What makes you truly happy, and how is your desire to lose weight tied to this? No, it’s not because you want to fit into those jeans. Get down to the nitty-gritty reason about how and why losing weight will make you happier. Pause to think about this motivation every time you feel the need to overeat. Think about it when you want to skip your workout–and accept that you may need to experience periodic moments of physical discomfort to get to that point, ultimately becoming the fulfilled person you want to be.
When you can, put the following new habits into practice:
1. Don’t diet, and don’t “start eating well on Monday.” Right now, at this moment, begin listening to what your body is telling you about the food you put in your mouth. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re almost full. I know what you’re thinking–Easier said than done. Old habits die hard. But we did this naturally as babies, and we can do it again—with a little practice. Accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way, and try a little every day.
2. Eat well, and cook more. Eat fresh, whole foods that are made by nature, not factories. Invest time in preparing foods with protein and healthy carbs and fats. Then, pay attention to how your body feels after your meals. If you feel more energy and less fatigue, take note of it. Look forward to this feeling of well-being and use it as motivation for reaching for these foods (you can use this mindfulness technique for exercise motivation, too!).
3. Give up zombie eating. Eat at a table, sitting down. Enjoy your food. Chew slowly. Look at your food. Note its texture, complexity of taste, and aroma. Don’t talk while you’re eating. Make an event of mealtimes.
Mindfulness–and mindful eating–isn’t about perfection, but acceptance. It isn’t by any means a quick solution for weight loss. But bit by bit, practicing mindful eating habits regularly over time can help to transform your attitude about food, and can improve your emotional and physical health in the long run.
Sources: ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, Vol. 21
When you sign up for a marathon, properly train for it. This sounds pretty straight-forward, but not training is both tempting and common. Because training is hard. It’s grueling and time-consuming and takes you away from your other commitments. Some mornings I talk myself around in circles for a good 20 minutes or so before I even get out of bed for my run. And once I do, I shuffle around the house for another good 20 minutes, sighing, grumbling, ready to willingly accept any excuse that seems feasible for skipping. It’s snowing/raining/dark/windy. I’m sore/exhausted/too busy. I’ll add the miles to tomorrow’s run. One little run won’t make a difference.
But consistently skipping out on logging the miles needed to be physically (and mentally) ready for your race could set you and your body up for a cruel, rude awakening on the big day. More importantly, it increases your chances of getting caught in a vicious injury cycle that is tough to break out of.
If the whole thing seems daunting, don’t worry. Here are some simple guidelines:
1. If you have the time and desire to train, it’s a matter of scheduling it into your calendar. And then sticking to that schedule. Can you miss an occasional shorter run and still be okay? Yes. But definitely don’t miss the long runs!
2. Make sure the running plan/schedule works for you and your fitness level. Hal Higdon has training plans for various types of runners.
- Don’t drastically increase your mileage from one week to the next as a result of trying to “make up” missed runs.
4. Add strength training, stretching and yoga. It will make you a better runner and further decrease your risk of injury.
5. If this isn’t your first rodeo, try doing some speed training one or two days per week. Track running not your thing? No worries–Try some fartleks or pick up the pace for a minute or two, then take a few minutes to recover and repeat.
Everyone wants to tone their tummies, right? Try this ten minute workout to really target your abs and tush. Bonus #1: It works your upper body as well, which helps you burn more fat and calories overall. Bonus #2: It can be done anywhere! You’ll need dumbbells, a mat and a resistance band.
When is The Best Time of Day For Exercise? There are a couple of different answers to this. Let’s start with what research says.
Stability ball…Swiss ball…Yoga ball…That big round blue ball…
You can find it in every fitness center, and you can buy one for around $15-$20. It’s become a fitness staple because of its versatility and low cost (Work your core by sitting on it while you watch TV!). Your kids will love it too (Just don’t let them pop it!).
Do you have one, but aren’t sure what to do with it? Check out some of my favorite stability-ball moves. Do these as a circuit, 2-3 times. Do 10-18 reps per exercise. Click on each photo for a demonstration.
1. Pec Fly With Bridge
Bonus: Keep your glutes tight throughout these movements, lifting your butt off the ball so that your torso and thighs form a straight line (not demonstrated).
2. Ball Wall Squat With Bicep Curl
Bicep Curl is not demonstrated. Perform each curl as you squat, extending your arms and legs simultaneously as you return to standing.
3. One-Legged Static Lunge with Lat Raise
There is no demonstration with this photo. Keep your front knee behind the toe and you bend it. Bonus: Add a lat raise (not pictured), lifting your extended arms laterally to shoulder level as you bend your knee. Perform on both legs.
The closer the ball is to your feet, the harder the exercise.
5. Back Extension
5. Side Plank
This is great especially for those who find a regular side plank too challenging. Hold in this position for 15-30 seconds, to start.
6. Dumbell Reverse Flys
Begin this exercise by placing your body balanced on the Swiss ball at your core with legs straight and toes on the floor.
7. Wheelbarrow Walk
Keep your abs tight throughout this movement.
9. Hamstring Curl
Begin this exercise by lying flat on your back with a Swiss ball under your heels. Place your arms straight out to your side for support. Keep your feet flexed, digging your heels into the ball. For more of a challenge, keep your butt off the floor.
10. Jack Knife
Demonstrations courtesy of SparkPeople.
Dark chocolate covered strawberries are a perfect way to top off a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, especially if you or your significant other don’t want to splurge on sweets. They’re decadent, fairly easy to make, and provide a perfect dose of flavonoid and antioxidant-rich chocolate.
The key to making your strawberries extra delicious and nutritious? Find the ripest, freshest berries and a high-quality, low sugar, very dark melting chocolate. Melt in the microwave for small increments of time at 50% power, or melt on low on your stove (usually the package will have melting instructions; the key is not to burn the chocolate), dip, and let dry on parchment paper. Sprinkle with your favorite chopped nuts, if you wish.
A large dark chocolate covered strawberry contains 115-145 calories, so this is a great way to feel like you’re indulging without actually doing so. Actually, this dessert is quite nutritious. Four extra large strawberries give you 3.81 grams of fiber, 44.82 IU of vitamin A and 94.12 mg of vitamin C. Strawberries have more vitamin C per ounce than citrus fruits, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
Don’t have a sweetheart? Who says Valentine’s Day is just for couples? Make them for yourself, and enjoy every bite!
Trainer’s Tip #12: Use a fitness app to help you hold yourself accountable.
Have you kept your New Year’s Resolution to finally get fit and healthy, or are you losing motivation? If you’re slipping back into old habits, you’re not alone, but it’s not too late to turn it around! Maybe you just haven’t found strategies that have work for you in adapting, then keeping, healthier habits.
I often recommend apps like myfitnesspal to clients. Apps like this make it easier for people to keep their goals by a) allowing them to detect what foods/habits are sabotaging their weight-loss efforts, and finding healthier foods that are satisfying to them b) allowing them to track their progress and accomplishments, which helps keep them motivated and holds them accountable c) allowing them to be part of a supportive online community of people, just like them.
Here are my experiences with myfitnesspal. As a personal trainer, it taught me some invaluable tips: My Experience with myfitnesspal. Did it Work?
Everyone pines for a six-pack. People love to work their abs, and that’s good. Your core is the foundation from where all your power originates. Keep in mind that the core includes not only the abdominal muscles, but those of the back, glutes, spine, and hips (pelvic floor). Keeping all of your core muscles strong also helps to prevent injury in athletes.
Before I continue, let me first say that you cannot spot reduce body fat on your waist, or anywhere else, for that matter. You can strengthen your ab muscles with all of the exercises in the world, but without getting your heart-rate up through cardiovascular exercise, you won’t be able burn off the fat needed to see those strong abs you worked for. So do your cardio!
People who want that flat tummy often gravitate toward crunches, because that’s the most well-known ab move. However, research has shown that crunches are one of the worst ab moves in terms of how hard the obliques and rectus abdominus are worked. The crunch only works a small part of the core, repeatedly bends the spine, and burns few calories.
The plank, a stabilizing move, works your whole core, as well as the transverse abdominus and your upper body. It’s one of the best ab moves you can do. What’s more, the possibilities with plank variations are endless! Let’s first start with how to do a simple plank, because form is key:
With your forearms and toes on the floor:
- Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
- Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds to start.
- Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!
You can also do a plank with your arms fully extended, which works more of the upper body:
If you are a planking pro and can hold the pose for more than a couple of minutes, the simple plank is really no longer very effective for you. It’s time to ramp it up a little! Aside from the regular push-up, which is a great move, try one of these other variations below. Happy planking!
Reach & Raise
Lateral Walking Plank
- Simultaneously cross your right hand toward the left as you step your left foot out to the left. Then simultaneously step your left hand and right foot to the left, returning to the plank position. Your hands move together as your feet step apart. Take two more steps in this direction, keeping your abs pulled toward your spine and your pelvis level. This completes one rep.
- Reverse directions, taking three steps the right.
Plank on Bosu Ball
Oblique Crunch Plank
Bonus: Jack Knife on Stability Ball
Trainer’s Tip #11: Make your meals hearty.
Yes. Eat REAL FOOD, food that satisfies, and enjoy it. Create hearty, filling meals using healthy, quality ingredients, and lose weight.
A.) Calories are NOT created equal. Your body wants and needs nutrient-dense foods like nuts, legumes, whole grains, avocados, lean meat, healthy oils, etc., to fuel your workouts. Eating these foods will promote a better metabolism and better fat-burn, and you’ll feel way better. Don’t be afraid of calorie-rich food that is packed with good-for-you-fat. Just watch your portions and listen to your body’s signals, and don’t forget to give veggies and fruit a starring role in your meals.
B.) In order to stick with a healthy diet long-term, you must enjoy the food you eat, and you must feel full. Satiety is key with clean eating, and this has been illustrated through studies. Why do you think people yo-yo diet so much? They try to lose weight using short-term solutions that too severely restrict calorie consumption and eliminate complete food groups that contain vital nutrients. Rather than flip-flopping endlessly between states of deprivation and bingeing–fill your meals with whole, natural, nutrient and fiber-rich ingredients.
Here’s a super-easy “Mini Meat Loaves” recipe that even kids will love:
Combine 1 egg, 1/2 cup of (lower sugar) marinara sauce, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1lb lean organic ground beef or turkey, and 1/2 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella in a bowl. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into ovals. Place on a foil-lined baking pan. Spoon a dollop of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkle lightly with a little more cheese. Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Pair meat loaves with your favorite vegetable.
For the recipe on the above chili, click here.