I grew up in an active family. I was taking dance classes at age 3, I played softball in middle school, and in high school I was on the varsity cheerleading squad -practices included track laps and weight lifting. My older sister grooved it out to Jane Fonda aerobics tapes (and later trained for triathlons), my dad played tennis and hit the gym, my brother played baseball and basketball, and my mom did a 5 mile walk/run daily(rain or shine).
Today, though, being a fitness professional, I know that while working out helps keep your weight down, the winning combination of exercise and proper nutrition is what keeps you healthy.
(As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian – if you're looking for a great one in the New York Area, check out Eve Kecskes and her blog for great tips! – but in this post I want to give tips on keeping your diet in check. And I’ll also say that I’m in no way perfect. I try my best to watch what I eat and how I eat, but I also enjoy life and try not to get down on myself if I enjoy the occasional indulgence. Chocolate anyone?)
· Watch your alcohol intake- This is particularly hard in New York, where having a drink after work is a pretty common thing. Living in NYC can be stressful and a glass of wine or a cocktail is a go-to for many as a stress reliever. Before you know it, one drink turns to several and you feel like crap the next day. Also, the calories in alcohol add up quickly and can add inches to your waist line. I try to reserve my wine and cocktail indulgence for the weekends. If I want a drink during the week, I try to keep it to one glass of wine (preferably red as it's been proven to have heart healthy effects).
· Portions are where it's at – You can eat what you crave as long as you do so in moderation. I'm not saying that it's best to indulge every craving you have, but if you can't seem to stop thinking about French fries, have a few and move on. If you’re the type who can’t stop at a few, think of healthy alternatives that might do the craving justice. Soy crisps for potato chips? Sure. A serving of dark chocolate for a snickers bar? Perhaps. Be smart about it!
· Eat! – Many people believe to lose weight they need to not eat or severely cut their calorie intake. What they don't realize is that the body adjusts to this lack of calories, and once you start eating normally again, you’ll store everything you take in as fat. Your body wants you to survive (believe it or not), and when it’s not getting food regularly, it starts to think that it won't ever get food again and begins storing up every calorie it can. This is why crash or fad dieting doesn't work. Eventually all the weight you lost gets stored back up, for the next crash, if there is one. So eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Eat at least every 4 hours, but watch your portions! Good snacks include a portion-size of 22 almonds, whole fruit, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, veggies with hummus, Ezekiel toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter. That’s a good start, and you can always write me for more healthy snacking tips!
· Eat breakfast – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When I first start with a new client, I ask about their diet. Many times I find that they skip breakfast, thinking it's an easy way to cut calories. But this can lead to a severe hunger by 11am, which results in snacking on candy around the office, making a bad lunch choice like a high-fat/high-carbohydrate product (French fries or chips are usually a culprit), and in general continuing the bad eating cycle for the rest of the day. When you wake up, always have something to eat. Your body has been fasting for 7-8 hours. You need to replenish it to jump start your metabolism. I usually start my day with is a half-cup of cooked oatmeal mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter and maybe half a banana. It's a great mix of carbs, protein, fats, and some fruit to get my body going. Other options include egg whites wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with salsa (a breakfast burrito option), or Greek yogurt mixed with a serving of low-fat granola (for more, check out Eve's Blog Post on breakfast here).
· Eat your veggies – Many people don't eat enough vegetables but it's oh-so-important. Vegetables fill you up more quickly than you'd think, and they are a great side dish at lunch or dinner. Instead of a high-starchy addition to your meal, think about substituting some steamed broccoli, asparagus, green beans, carrots, etc., as a side. I am not a good cook, so what I do is grab some frozen veggies, throw them in a steamer, and voila – in about 5 minutes I have a yummy side dish to my chicken for dinner. Frozen vegetables are just as good and fresh (they are usually flash frozen at the height of their freshness) so it works for me! I also can eat as many veggies as I like, and for someone who likes to eat, that's a good thing. :-)
Remember to check out Eve's Blog for more nutritional advice! Be well!