By Susan Howard
A client of mine having great success in both fitness and weight loss, goes to a Weight Watchers meeting once a week to weigh in and to hear words of inspiration. Although she has maintained her weight loss for over two years, she goes to be reminded of good habits and to support a friend in his weight loss endeavor. At one meeting, her leader explained that every meal you eat doesn’t have to be sexy. To those of you that are foodies this may ring a bell. To my client, who is an excellent gourmet cook, this idea floored her. No amuse-bouche? No farm to table? No burrata pizza with a balsamic reduction?
As the Food Network has transformed food into porn, we tend to obsess about our next meal or feel the need to try the newest snout to tail eatery. To maintain a healthy weight, it’s easier to just come up with some nutritious choices and push repeat. That’s why I say on Sunday night get yourself set up for the week by hard boiling a dozen eggs, sautéing some chicken breasts and make a yummy grain, quinoa or brown rice. So you are ready with quick easy fix ups when you are hungry. Sometimes for a meal you just got to get it done. Success favors the prepared. At any given time I have on hand string cheese, Greek yogurt, raw almonds, chopped greens, and various fruits.
Sometimes I don’t have the extra time to make a whole meal, but I can grab a string cheese and an apple and off I go. Don’t expect every meal to be the most delicious fried crispy saucy morsel you may crave, remember you are feeding your body. Think protein, carbs, and fat, some of which should be in most meals and snacks, the less processed the better. If you find a meal that is fairly good tasting and healthy, push repeat.
Let me take this notion a step further and say every workout doesn’t have to be sexy. I used to think if I didn’t max out weight training or run it wasn’t worth doing it at all. Now my goal is consistency over intensity. Which isn’t to say a hard ass session isn’t useful, merely that it’s better to make it to the gym than to worry you only have thirty minutes to workout. Just go and turn in the best workout you can do that day.
Above all be kind to yourself. You’re all you got.
By Susan Howard
Instead of my usual blog about health and fitness, I wanted to take this moment to honor one of my clients who in the past 6 months has melted away over 40 pounds. My clients are constantly inspiring me to do better and I thought it would be nice to highlight her journey. She is, I must let you know a busy mom of 2, a full time doctor, as well as a women that goes out on girls weekends and dinner dates with her husband. I’ve heard about these profound weight losses and have watched the shows where someone drops half their body weight, but I want to give the regular busy Joe or Jane an insight to how it’s really done. She asked to remain anonymous, but here it is in her words.
Me: “What is the most significant thing you’ve changed?”
Her: It is impossible to isolate one, single change. So, I will take a minute to ramble on about a few key differences in my attitude towards food and exercise, and in my daily habits.
1) I think I’ve had significant weight loss success because I made important changes to both my eating habits and exercise routine. I know people who go to the gym religiously, but do not change what or how much they are eating, and then act surprised when they don’t lose weight. Conversely, some people calorie restrict but remain completely sedentary, again without achieving significant results. I felt it was important for me to approach this as a complete lifestyle overhaul and to make healthy changes both in my eating AND exercise habits simultaneously.
2) I did not immediately over-restrict, but gradually decreased my food intake over time. I started out by cutting back to 1700 kcal/day, which is actually still quite a bit of food, and was able to loose a good deal of weight without feeling deprived or hungry. After a few months of eating 1700 calories and feeling quite satisfied with this regimen, I cut back to 1500 kcal/day by making just a few small changes (dropped 1 yogurt and 1 serving of almonds), easy. A few months later, I dropped down to 1200 kcal/day on most days, and 1500 kcal/day on days when I exercise, which is the routine that I maintain today. I like the variation and the idea of a little reward for exercising (a frozen yogurt and a serving of rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds.)
3) I found ways to keep eating my favorite foods, just in smaller portions. For instance, having a large latte with low fat milk (not skim!) is something that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each morning. I have easily incorporated it into my diet such that I have one every single day. Likewise, I have a 150 kcal dessert every day – Cadbury cream egg? Why not? Handful of goldfish (55 to be exact)? Of course! Small wedge of decadent cheese? Absolutely. I’ve come to a place in my thinking about food where I am satisfied having 1 cream egg, and no longer feel a compulsion to eat 5 or 6. I can have 3 bites of Trader Joe’s chocolate pudding and feel content. I never thought I would be the person who could stop eating after 1 or 2 bites, but that is exactly who I’ve become. I have complete control over my intake of food now. I’m not sure how I was able to make this profound attitude change it just came gradually over time with lots and lots of practice.
4) I threw out the “must do a solid 45 minutes of cardio” mentality, and replaced it with a love for and understanding of the importance of strength training. This is where you, Susan Howard, have been an invaluable and completely integral part of my weight loss journey. My body feels and looks different because for the first time in my life, I have lost weight by routinely engaging in light to moderate strength/resistance training in combination with moderate cardiovascular exercise. My husband has commented several times on how I seem more fit and look different/better than I have after previous weight losses. He maintains that my overall body composition is different/more toned/healthier looking than it has been in the past, even when I weighed less than I do now.
5) I gave up my gym membership! Susan told me, “The best gym is the one that you use.” Well, I wasn’t using mine at all, due to a serious time crunch with a full time job and 2 kids. So, for the first time in 25 years, I gave up my gym membership and started working out at home, this was the best fitness change I’ve ever made. I now know that I can achieve better results at home with a spin bike (for 10-30 minutes of cardio) plus a mat, a set of 5, 8, 10 and 12 pound weights, a 4 pound medicine ball and a resistance band than I ever achieved pounding away for 45 minutes on an elliptical machine at the gym. By working out at home I am able to take advantage of golden opportunities for exercise (do it while the baby is napping! Or while the kids are gardening with dad), prefect for a 30-60 minute home workout, but would not have allowed for a time-sucking trip to the gym. I also vary my workout every time I exercise, so as to avoid boredom and to be challenging different muscle groups. This is where having a regular meeting with Susan has been invaluable, because it allows me to constantly be adding new exercises and to be tweaking old ones as I grow stronger. My years of extreme gym boredom and monotony are forever gone!
Summary: Eat 1200-1500 kcal/day
Exercise 30-60 min, 3-4 times per week
20 min cardio + 30 min strength
Typical day’s food:
Morning: Large low fat latte
200 kcal breakfast muffin/bar
Lunch: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
1 string cheese
Afternoon snack: 110 kcal Fiber one bar + 1 fruit
Late afternoon snack: Carrots + Light Laughing Cow cheese (35 kcal)
Dinner: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
Spinach/Arugula Salad with 1 Tbl Girard’s Light Champagne Dressing
Dessert: 100 kcal Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar
Optional (if exercised): 130 kcal yogurt (frozen or regular) OR 1 oz goat cheese on salad and 10 almonds
That’s all folks, not too confusing. That was her trail and she travels on to this day. Right on!
By: Susan Howard
I love my wife, so when she asks her health obsessed trainer (that’s me) to pick her up a Mc Flurry from McDonald’s, I comply. She is breastfeeding twins after all and who am I to deny her? She keeps it together, it’s the least I could do.
Newsflash: apparently there is a Rolo Mc Flurry that has been added to the fast food giant’s list of high caloric items. I drive through and order my Rolo Mc Flurry and before I pull away am asked by the voice on the intercom, “Would you like the snack size?” “What, uh yeah I want that.” Just then in that exact moment I saw a small flickering light at the end of our country’s obesity epidemic.
Snack size means small, a reasonable portion, a snack, a treat. If you recall in the 2003 documentary Super Size Me, the staff had been trained to try and up sell items costing merely a quarter more for two times the amount. Now, in 2012 I was asked if I wanted a SMALL at McDonald’s.
Yes, yes I do.
Upon further inspection of the menu there is a list of items under 300 calories. Yes I am still at the Mc Donald’s drive through window. On that list includes the egg mc muffin which I have long told clients is a win, if you can bypass the belly busting hash browns.
Was it Paula Deans Diabetic scare? Michelle Obama’s awesome arms? Did someone in corporate just start to feel bad for helping to make our children super sized with a Sponge Bob toy, chicken nuggets, a wink, and a smile? Maybe they just felt so ultimately dumb being singled out as promoters of obesity. Even with the charitable work Ronald Mc Donald House has done, it’s definitely overshadowed by the Big-Mac-eating-coke-a-cola-drinking-XXL-children of our generation.
I try and keep an open mind and while I am not saying Mc Donald’s is the new Whole Foods, any flag waving in the breeze of wellness makes me smile. You deserve a break today.
Yoga For Tight Guys
This is Move One in a series of moves that I will be showing you so you can do cool yoga poses even if you are tight.
Come onto your hands and feet putting yourself in a V position, butt to the sky on a decline with your feet low, hands high (you could also put your hands on a stair). Lengthen your legs and offer your chest through your arms towards your thighs. Take your feet wide apart if you are super tight. To work your back, bend your knees and straighten your spine.
By: Susan Howard
I am going to get a bit existential on you here so crack open your high school literature book for a reference and fasten in.
My family just got back from a weekend away and I made some sketchy food choices, from pop tarts to ice cream to mojitos at night,
I definitely got derailed. Yeah it was Sea World, yeah it’s tough when you are on vacation, but really it was I who made all the choices ultimately.
I don’t regret loosening my vacation strings, or belt buckle for that matter, but I do notice, now that I am back, I still crave the junk. It’s so easy to rationalize that once you’ve jumped the food ship you might as well just keep riding the white flour waves right into sugar-coated bay.
Then I thought this: Today is Today. I can start today. I can grab a bowl of oatmeal and make some chicken and rice and cauliflower and start again.
When making lifestyle changes it is vital to concern yourself with what you are doing now, today. If we spend too long dwelling on past pitfalls then we become that failure and we fulfill that life. Each morning we start again, rising up fresh to face the new day. I can make changes, I am in control of the decisions I make, I am not a victim of my past.
I am new. We all are.
It’s summer, fly a kite, toss water balloons, get a frisbee, try a new hike, bike up somewhere you’ve never been.
Make your own salad dressing.
Start with shallots finely chopped.
One clove of garlic minced.
Toss on some salt and the juice of a lemon.
Put in a spoonful of mustard, two spoons of olive oil, and pepper.
Add your favorite spices -basil, tarragon or rosemary.
Stir it all together, add a splash of balsamic if it needs an extra kick.
It’s better if you can give this an hour or more to sit and let everything soak.
Song pick: “Hannah” by Freelance Whales gets you ready for the SUMMER
[Photo Image Dessert: Flickr Member Punkjr]
[Photo Image Dressing: Flickr Member Jasmine and Roses]
By: Susan Howard
I always laugh when I do a consultation with a client and they tell me they have a dog walker.
Not that these aren’t super useful for the over-scheduled full-time working people, but really, this is L.A.
Nobody works right?
I have told clients sincerely to fire me, fire their dog walker and start by walking their own dog.
Sometimes we are so disassociated from our own lives, gardening, cleaning, and yes, walking, that
Nobody walks in L.A.
Grab a leash. If you don’t have a dog, leash up your cat, hamster, or stroll your child.
Create a habit of walking with someone or alone on a set route.
Think about your day. Is there any place you already drive to that you could swap out walking?
You’ll be happier and I think little Fido will be too.
If you’ve ever noticed when your dog hasn’t been out in a while he starts to get antsy and pace around –YOU ARE YOUR DOG.
Lately I’ve been going out alone with my headphones on, extra fun.
Song :Crimson and Clover by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Rewind!
Best Move Ever
Put your feet in first position, heels together, toes out, and raise up to your toes then back down.
You can do this one while waiting in line at the post office.
Am I a total geek or what?
I am really into beans lately. Great fiber and good source of protein.
Weird I know. Stomach bloating, friends ditching beans.
Here’s the trick. Make them yourself.
They are not near as much of a train wreck on your inner tracts and they taste so much better.
Here’s the part that scared me: you have to soak the beans the night before.
Somehow that much planning was enough to derail all my hopes. Finally I jumped the hurdle.
Just throw some beans in a bowl with water. Done. Pinto, red, black, whichever you got.
Once you do it you’ll be thinking, “oh, that took 30 seconds, whatever.”
Then the next day, when you have some time, chop up a half an onion (red if you have it).
Sauté in a pan with olive oil, then throw in some smashed whole garlic cloves and a hint of sea salt. (If you have a jalapeno you can de-seed and add here)
Then drain out the water from the beans and dump them in the pan.
Add water (6 cups of water for about 2 cups of beans) and simmer. (If you have cilantro, chili powder, or red chili flakes you can add after an hour or so of cooking)
The truth is, the time consuming part of this is that the beans take an hour plus to cook, but once they’re in, there is nothing more to do except make sure they don’t burn.
They will burn, so make sure there is enough water in there, like 1 part bean to 3 parts water. [this equation differed from the water/bean equation above, so I changed the one above to 6 cups water instead of 5]
This is a good one to make if it’s laundry day at your house, because you just peek in on it every 15 minutes or so.
If you get busy and don’t feel like being a slave to your beans, turn them off, throw a lid on top, and come back later.
Once they are done throw your favorite salsa on top and slice up some avocado for some omega 3 action and EAT.
Put some beans sprinkled with cheddar and add beef or chicken if you’d like in a corn tortilla and toss that in the oven or on your stovetop.
I think you will be delightfully surprised.