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, Personal Trainer
Habits are often thought of in a negative way. Something to be kicked…smoking, nail biting, boozing, getting that sugar fix…the list goes on and on.
We poor mortals are victims of our habits. Unconnected to our repetitive behaviors, we simply must continue acting them out. How did it all begin?
Well let’s break it down. At one point way back when, you felt anxious (or tired or bored) and you turned to sugar, which relaxed you, or gave you a momentary burst of energy. Now that action has imprinted itself as something to help you fulfill that void. Then you become addicted to the substance, and at this point you don’t even really need a reason to turn to the habit. The habit becomes the cue.
Our brains are so overwhelmed, sifting through constant stimuli to decipher what is important and what isn’t. Once something becomes a true habit our brain goes into cruise control and doesn’t even need to think; it just repeats itself.
Knowing that we like patterns, that familiarity is comfortable to us…why not use this to our advantage? Create a routine to workout everyday (if possible the same time of day). Put out your shoes and clothes the night before, get your same water bottle ready, all of it.
At first it will take thought. But ultimately it will become such a ritual that you may not even remember doing it. Your brain goes into autopilot. Then when you miss it, you will crave it. Like a junkie.
So….I want you to have a nasty habit, a dark little secret you partake in at the crack of dawn, something that makes you jittery if you skip using it even once.
By Susan Howard, Fitness Ghuru
Often I hear clients complain about not having time to workout, which translates to not wanting to workout. I have been training long enough to know that people are only going to do what they want to do.
Why don’t people want to workout? Why not? It’s because they forget how awesome it feels. How incredible it is when your body burns through that ATP, lungs take in oxygen, the adrenal glands release epinephrine, endorphins kick in, the heart rate raises up and the blood is pumping.
When I am at my best I feel strong. Being static makes me feel lazy and like there are no possibilities. Energy equals more energy. Kind of like you get what you pay for, or you reap what you sow.
So why don’t people want to workout? Because they haven’t found the thing they love. Here are a couple photos from a hike and a run I took last week. Embracing my true spirit up in the mountains. I stand in awe of these moments in that I wonder why do I have to beg people to get moving, to commune with nature, to be who they truly are? WE ARE MOVERS! We are supposed to move. It shouldn’t be that big of a bummer to run in beauty and feel powerful. It’s amazing. It’s out there. It’s your day. Take it.
By Susan Howard
Crouched down by the bedroom closet I am hiding from my one-year-old twins. I hear them crawling and screaming; they are inside the house, coming closer and closer. My dog betrays my trust by bounding beside me loudly and noisily wagging his tail, basically giving me away. Both children have ear infections and both are certain to let me know how miserable they are by yelling, rubbing their snotty faces into my shirt, and needing to be held incessantly.
All I want to do is change clothes. The fantasy of a glass of water is a distant dream. I have to pick up their sister from school and I refused to go in slopped on sweatpants. It’s after 2 and I have not had lunch. After suffering multiple stomach issues I made it a goal not to eat meals during stressful situations. At this rate I am on the Gandhi diet.
Let’s face it. I am not good with babies. I don’t get them. They don’t get me. We agree to disagree. For the next three days we have no Au Pair, so I am trying to pitch in and take on the front lines. I had no idea how relentless the enemy was. The enemy is abound.
They come in one behind the next, invading on all fours like a pack of mini wolves. “I need to get changed. You gotta give me a second,” I plead. But my voice is drowned out by their wails. These guys are professionals.
I do have a new shirt and jeans on so perhaps I have triumphed, good over evil. In a moment, a slobbery sweet potato snot face is embedded in my new shirt and I smile, really I cry.
By: Susan Howard
A client of mine lost about ten pounds last year and is holding strong to her new fighting weight. “I am done,” she exclaimed. “I am tired of gaining and losing the same ten pounds. This time is the last.” There was something very definitive about how she pronounced the end of the games she plays with her weight. She is tossing away that habit. Gone.
Another client who is now down a full clothes size was going through her closet realizing a bunch of stuff doesn’t fit -it’s too baggy. “Give it away,” I tell her. “I know,” she laments. “But what if I gain it back, then I’ll have nothing to wear?” Exactly. First of all, the old stuff is probably out of style, and either way it fits the old you -not the one you are becoming. Also, if you are frugal like I am and hate to spend money, then it could serve as an extra incentive to keep the pounds off.
Allow yourself to change, make changes, and then step into the new version of who you’ve become.
Creating new habits takes effort, making little decisions each day that culminate into a larger metamorphosis. Only by exorcising your old self can you clear a space for the new you to be born. Can I get a Hallelujah?
Let’s stay open and also take charge of 2013. It is all inside you to have -whatever year you decide. Make a choice and stick to it, be unwavering, be fierce. You got this. Now go get a garbage bag and throw out your old stuff or, even better, donate it.
A question to you the reader: have you been successful at losing weight and keeping it off? If you have, let me know what worked in your transformation by commenting below.
By Susan Howard
It was a common, brisk afternoon when inspiration struck. The day started innocently; morning bottles, burps, tug-o-war with his sister, normal baby fare. During an unsuspecting diaper change, he did it. He reached DOWN, the first of a lifetime of reaches. Curious, he lay examining himself, eyes blank, but thinking. I wait for a moment. “This is exploration, this is normal, I am a cool mom, I’ll give him a second to process,” I think to myself. He proceeded expressionless but pointedly grabbing the balls…and the whole situation, really.
After a spell I put on the clean diaper. He grabs there, unsure where his new friend went. “That’s your weiner schnitzel,” I say out loud. “Weiner schnitzel?” Brandy later scolds me. “Well what should I call it?” Remember, I am a lesbian, not a man hating one, but somewhat dick averse. Honestly I don’t know much about the thing accept that my college boyfriend had blue balls because I held out on him so long. (Sorry Patrick.)
So ignorance becomes fear, which leads to the horror that stands between my son, his weiner, and me. Maybe there is an online class I could take. To be fair I have a close gay guy friend that is scared of boobs. In fact he had to quit his favorite spinning class because the well-endowed instructor kept bursting out of her sports bra during the hill climbs. He couldn’t take it.
“Why didn’t you just call it a penis? That’s what it’s called! People don’t say ‘privates’ or ‘binkie’. They use the correct terms.” My wife is such an adult. Maybe I am from the 50’s. I tell my older daughter to wash her “area”. “You’re such a prude,” my wife continues. She revels in any opportunity to make me feel lame, apparently that’s not super hard to do.
I have always been curious about how straight women refer to the cock. I’ve overheard women talking about girth versus length and which is more important. Women battling back and forth. I think girth won out in the end. I had nothing to contribute to the conversation, which is likely why I never get invited to girls’ weekends in Arizona poolside with nail polish and margaritas. It’s a straight girl thing. My wife is straighter than I am. For example she could tell a coworker that her boobs look great in a shirt, whereas, if I said that, Brandy would ask, “What are you looking at her for?”
Back to the package. For now we have no real activity, other than most diaper changes, which are a practice in self exploration, and all before he even turned one. I am proud of the little bugger and his little member. I don’t think I have cost him too much in therapy so far. My shrink bill, conversely, is going up.
By Susan Howard, Personal Trainer
Decades ago NIKE coined the phrase “Just Do It.” Lately my workouts have become less and less significant, in that by the afternoon I can’t totally recall having done one or not. Then I think back to the wee hour that I stumbled on to the treadmill, or up the canyon or I feel soreness in my abs and I think oh yeah I think I did workout.
For this last six months I have been committing to working out everyday for 20 to 60 minutes. I say “everyday” allowing myself flexibility to mess up, still making it 5 or 6 workouts a week. Traditionally I hate working out in the morning, but I realize that for consistency’s sake that is the only way I will get it done. Also working out on an empty stomach is my optimum, although not recommended.
If you are a child growing up in India you likely practice yoga in the morning before heading off to school. The Chinese have their Tai Chi to start their day. We have Starbucks and Frosted Flakes. In this country, it feels like there are two camps: the super fit Ultra Marathoners or the couch potatoes. So American…we want to go big or go home.
I urge you this next year to take your resolutions pen out, and commit to working out everyday 20 to 60 minutes. Each workout won’t be your hardest one. They will likely become less of a big deal either way. You will form a habit, a pattern that is just the backdrop of your everyday. As you move through life a bit sharper and resonating health and wellness, it will merely be how you roll.
Create consistency in your life and energy in your body, I promise you will feel better than last year. I wish this for you my readers if I could wish anything. It’s not a big deal, it’s not monumental, start small if you’ve been out of commission in the fitness front. Don’t ask yourself if you are in the mood or not.
Just Do It.
20 minute blast advanced:
60 jumping jacks
10 decline pushups / feet high, hands low
30 crunches / straight leg, toe reaches
40 mountain climbers / top of the push up alternate marching legs
20 deep squats / feet hips distance, slightly turned out
Rest 1 minute repeat 5 times.
By Susan Howard, Personal Trainer
Drop it like a hot potato.
A lot of times my blogs are of spirit and inspiration; this one is about getting CUT UP. So take note, print this one and take if with you to the gym.
Drop sets mean exactly that: you start with one weight, you drop them down and pick up different weights –lighter ones– and repeat the same move.
Let’s take a chest press for example. Pick up a fairly heavy weight; chicks might use 20 lb/10 lb and dudes maybe 50 lb/30 lb dumbbells. Your first set is 10 reps. Then, without stopping, drop down the heavies and grab the lighter set for 10 more reps. Rest for one minute, then go again, and then go again. Three sets in all. The first set you are working power; the drop set gets you more into muscular endurance.
You should try this pattern with rows, pull downs, curls, shoulder presses, and squats. You could even do a weighted crunch, then a drop the weight and do the same move using only your body weight.
Okay stop reading and get dropping.
By Susan Howard, Fitness Expert
After over 90 years’ of yellow “cake” and “cream” filling the Twinkie has left the building. I repeat: the Twinkie has left the building. A few years ago Wonderbread became extinct and now Hostess is taking the fall. No one seems to be bemoaning the disappearance of Ding Dongs, Zingers, or Sno Balls. Maybe the fruit pies aren’t as important as I made them out to be when I was ten years old, surveying the vending machine, hoping there was a chocolate filled pie (rare but not impossible to find).
I do look back with fondness upon all these spongy treats. When I say spongy I mean directly derived from a kitchen sponge, soaked in high fructose corn syrup, and then glazed, powdered - or in this case injected- with a white waxy chemical we have all agreed to call “cream filling”. The comforting thing about Hostess is you could search and search and never find a whole grain.
Let’s face it, there is something magical about finding a silver-wrapped Ding Dong in your lunch bag. Your mother loves you. While Little Debbies signified ordinary, a Twinkie is right up there with a Snack Pack pudding in the super legit category.
While I am deeply saddened by the loss of jobs in the U.S. plants (over 18,000 of them), I am hopeful that consumers are expecting more from their products. With all the trendy “farm to table” restaurants showing up in Los Angeles, I can only assume people are craving food that is something, that comes from somewhere with a cow or a pasture. A place much less complicated than a factory.
By Susan Howard
This is Part Two of my Tater Tot series where I suggest ways for you to keep your child at a healthy weight and instill in them good habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on her plate. Teach her to listen to her body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let her be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self-regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want? When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies (unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but that’s a different story).
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining to the kids that protein builds muscles, milk helps bones get strong, carbohydrates give energy, and veggies give vitamins to see and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex - simple stuff like “that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop.” Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers’ markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package; it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden. Herbs are an easy way to start. And let your kids help! My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler; she’s a regular Laura Ingalls. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. A fun recipe to try is basically penne pasta, veggies, and cheese in a muffin tin –super easy pasta muffins!
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule: if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day and be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved! Try to link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.