Sadness

After I came in from my walk at lunch, the whole staff was called into our large conference room for an emergency meeting. Some people looked worried, others looked irritated, some even looked amused. I partially expected to hear that someone had quit to move onto another job somewhere else. I wish it would have been that. When I walked into the large room, I noticed one of the girls was crying, no sobbing. This can’t be good, I thought.

Then the bad news came. Our CEO announced that we had “lost” one of our family today – one of our own. Our beloved friend Marie had suddenly died earlier today. We don’t know how or why. The men just stared in disbelief while the women all cried. I cried then and on and off for the next few hours. She was only 32. She left behind a husband and a 2 year old son. I knew Marie since I started working at my office 9 years ago. I knew her before she had kids, before she was married. We talked about Disney World and Harry Potter, which we both loved, and how much fun our toddlers were. I’m still in shock that she’s gone. She will be dearly missed by all of us.

Later on in the day, I learned that Marie’s mother died when she was very young. Marie herself had been raised by her father alone. Now the same thing will happen to Marie’s son. The irony is chilling. I know he is only 2, but I hope that he will remember how wonderful his mother was.

I’m sad and tired from all of the crying. Thank you for understanding. Good night.

Easy Ways to Add Movement to Your Day

When it comes to exercise, I am first and foremost, a runner. I run for many reasons – for exercise, the freedom it gives me, etc, but I also love to run because it is a great calorie-burning sport. Running truly is one of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight, but it is definitely not the only way.

To burn calories and eventually lose weight, you can walk, bike, swim, or do anything that keeps you moving at a moderate to fast pace for at least 30 minutes a day. And the exercise doesn’t have to be a dedicated sport either. It can simply be adding in more moderate intensity movement throughout your day. For instance, even though I burn plenty of calories running, I still try to move as much as I can throughout the day to give my metabolism and my heart an extra boost. Here are some of my favorite ways to move and burn extra calories at work and at home…

At Work

  • A few times a week, I try to take a brisk walk at lunch, whether it’s at a nearby mall or around the neighborhoods near my office.
  • Instead of or in addition to instant messaging or sending an email, I try to take a quick walk to deliver a colleague’s message. In most cases, more face time with other co-workers, especially those at the senior level, is a good thing.
  • When coworkers suggest heading out for lunch, I try to find a place that’s close enough for all of us to walk.
  • If I’m feeling sluggish at work and don’t have time for a walk, I’ll do a few standing leg raises (lift your leg straight back while holding onto the back of a chair) or stretches in my office or in a closed conference room.
  • Any excuse I have to go out to my car, I take it. I park at the far end of the lot so it’s a fast 10 minutes roundtrip. It’s a great energy boost, while burning calories at the same time.

At Home

  • I have very thick wavy hair that takes forever to dry, even with a blow dryer. To add extra movement during these 15 minutes, I do lunges and squats while drying my hair. If you’re not used to these, take it easy because you WILL feel it the next day!
  • Whenever my husband and I go out to eat, we try to add in some type of activity before or after our meal, ie. walking around at the bookstore or the mall.
  • When eating at home, I like to take a walk with my husband and the kids before or after the meal. It’s a great way to relax and reconnect. If it’s bad weather, I crank up the music and dance around with the kids in the living room. They love it and I still get to burn extra calories.
  • When we look for weekend family activities, we try to incorporate movement in some way. This could be swimming at our YMCA, walking around at the city museum or zoo, going for a hike, or going to the play park.
  • I walk up and down my stairs an much as I can – with or without laundry or a child in tow.

How do you fit in extra movement throughout the day?

Practice Self-Indulgence with Self-Control

At 5′ 1”, I really have to watch what I eat. If I have a so called “bad week” of overeating or eating mostly foods that are high in fat and calories, then it really shows on the scale. But, this doesn’t mean that I do not indulge in the foods that I like. I eat plenty of things that are “not good for me” – ice cream, cupcakes, frozen drinks, french fries, etc. Of course I don’t eat like this every day, but when I do, I try to exercise what I call the self-indulgence-self-method.

Remember Spiderman? With great power comes great responsibility. Well, I believe that if you want to engage in great self-indulgence you must also exercise great self-control. Point blank – I plan ahead to eat self-indulgent foods and then I eat them in moderation. So the next time you’re wanting to indulge, consider the following principles of self-indulgence-self-control method…

4 Principles of the Self-Indulgence-Self-Control Method

Daily Compensation – If I know I’m going to overindulge at some point in the day or week, ie. drinks with friends or a dessert reception at work, then I compensate throughout the day and/or week by eating fewer calories and/or going for an extra run. Eating fewer calories or burning extra calories helps to compensate for those extra calories I’m taking in.

Rule of 1/3’s – When I do order something completely indulgence, like lemon cream cake or fried chicken, I try to eat 1/3-1/2 of what I really want to eat (the eyes are bigger than your stomach syndrome). If I’m at a restaurant, I will box up the rest and take it home. Or if I’m already at home, I’ll save the rest for my lunch or a treat the next day. This way, I can get a taste of the great food I want (self-indulgence) only I’m eating less of it (self-control) and fewer calories to boot.

Try a lighter option – Although I don’t do this often, I occasionally try to eat a lower calorie version of the food I really want, such as low-calorie ice cream, chips, or a muffin. However, a word of caution, many low-fat and low-calorie products are full of artificial ingredients. They also may not be as filling or tasty as the full-fat or full-calorie version, which could leave us hungry and unsatisfied. Also, because we are in the mindset that the food is low-fat or low-calorie, we may think we can eat more of the food, ie. a whole bag of low-fat chips. This mindset may actually cause us to consume more calories than what we would have eating with the normal version.

Challenge Yourself – When I think I want something indulgent, I try to challenge myself to:

  1. Wait 30 minutes before eating it – sometimes after I wait, I end up not eating it after all, which means I probably never wanted it in the first place.
  2. Drink 4 8oz glasses of water beforehand – because sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re really thirsty.
  3. Eat something healthy right before I eat my indulgence food. By eating a banana or a few almonds before eating my indulgence food, I’m less likely to overindulge.

So, these are the principles that I follow to eat what I want and still lose weight. What’s your go-to tip for eating your indulgent food but still staying on track with your weight loss/maintenance?

5 Easy and Healthy Weekday Breakfasts

Hey Everyone!

In my last post about why breakfast is so important, I mentioned my Fab Five breakfast ingredients that I try to include in my breakfast each day: protein, monounsaturated fat (MUFA), fruit/veggie, dairy, and fiber. As an avid runner, mother to two young children, and a full-time communications professional, I also need breakfast to be EASY and FAST! Although there are days when I can’t seem to fill more than one of my criteria, I make the best attempt that I can. So, let’s see how I did this week:

5 Easy Weekday Breakfasts Under 300 Calories

Monday:

  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats (fiber)
  • 1/8 cup skim milk (dairy)
  • 2 tsp walnuts (protein, MUFA, and fiber)
  • 2 chopped strawberries (fruit and fiber)

Tuesday:

  • 5 oz. Dannon fat-free blueberry Greek yogurt (protein and dairy)
  • 2 tsp walnuts (protein, MUFA, and fiber)
  • 2 strawberries, chopped (fruit and fiber)

Wednesday:

  • 1/2 cup Galaxy Granola low-fat vanilla granola (fiber)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (dairy)
  • 2 tsp walnuts (protein, MUFA, and fiber)
  • 2 strawberries, chopped (fruit and fiber)

Thursday:

  • 5 oz Dannon fat-free strawberry yogurt (protein and dairy)
  • 2 tsp walnuts (protein, MUFA, and fiber)
  • 2 strawberries, chopped (fruit and fiber)

Friday:

  • 2 oz sliced baguette
  • 1 1/2 tbs all-natural raspeberry preserves (fruit)
  • 2 tsp all-natural peanut butter (protein and MUFA)
  • 1 slice all-natural, nitrate free bacon (protein)
  • 3/4 orange, medium (fruit and fiber)

In addition to eating a combination of my Fab Five ingredients, I try to avoid eating the same breakfast two days in a row. This forces me to change things up a bit with my nutrition and keeps me from getting bored. I also try to keep my breakfasts under 300 calories. This is usually enough fuel to get me to lunch, with or without a 100-150 calorie snack if I need it.

And the QOTD (Question of the Day) is: what is your go-to healthy breakfast?

Why Is Breakfast So Important?

Most people have heard the saying, Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As a runner and personal trainer, I truly believe in this piece of wisdom and try to follow it as much as possible. Honestly, I can’t imagine running 4-6 miles in the AM and not eating breakfast before heading out to work. I think I’d pass out!

So, why is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Many of you who are reading this already eat breakfast daily, but probably out of habit more than anything. When you eat breakfast, you’re more likely to eat more vitamins and minerals, eat less fat and cholesterol, have better concentration and productivity in the morning, and control your weight. According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, breakfast helps us lose weight by doing the following three things:

Breakfast and Weight Loss

  1. Breakfast reduces hunger – Eating breakfast reduces hunger later in the day, making us less likely to overeat.
  2. Breakfast helps us make better choices – Eating breakfast gets us on the right track for making healthier choices the rest of the day. People who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier throughout the day. Breakfast skippers tend to also skip fruits and veggies the rest of the day.
  3. Breakfast gives us all-day energy – Eating gives us an energy boost all day long. When waking after 7-8 hours of sleep, our blood sugar levels are low. If we do not refuel and replenish our glycogen stores that supply blood sugar, we may feel sluggish all day and, consequently, decrease our physical activity.

Although I am not trying to lose weight, I still think breakfast is important. But I also believe that what you eat for breakfast is just as important as actually eating breakfast. Breakfasts come in all shapes and sizes. So it is unfair for me to recommend one specific breakfast over another. However, as runner, I tend to make sure my breakfast includes a combination of the following Fab Five Breakfast Ingredients:

RWC Fab Five Breakfast

  • Protein – This gives us energy in the morning and all day long. My protein usually comes in the form Greek yogurt, nuts, or peanut butter, but could also include lean ham, sausage, or bacon.
  • MUFA – Monounsaturated fats, or MUFA, are healthy fats found in nuts and oils, among other things. Research shows that eating MUFA at every meal can help us reduce fat storage in our stomachs.
  • Fruit or Veggie – With respect to my age, gender, and activity level, the Centers for Disease Control says I should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day. I find that if I can sneak in a cup or two of fruit/veggies at breakfast, I’m more likely to do the same later in the day. To find out your recommended intake for fruits and veggies, check out Fruits and Veggies Matter.
  • Dairy – I love eating dairy in the morning and late at night. A small glass of milk (or milk in my cereal) leaves me feeling refreshed and takes the edge of my hunger.
  • Fiber – This is usually in the form of whole grains, like oatmeal, high-fiber cereal, granola, etc. Fiber keeps us feeling fuller longer and helps regulate the digestive system.

And there you have it. Breakfast – the most important meal of the day. It keeps us energized, productive, and at a healthy weight. So, if you’re not eating breakfast on a regular basis, as yourself, why?

And, what did RWC personal trainer eat for breakfast this week? Stay tuned to find out!

Got Stress? Eat This.

We all have our stressful times of the year. You may have stress associated with an annual project at work, final exams, planning a wedding, or the holiday season. While most of these stressors are short-lived, some people are prone to stress more consistently throughout the year.

I know that when I’m stressed I tend to do one of two things:

  1. Eat bad food
  2. Spend money

Both of these reactions to stress can leave me feeling even more stressed in the end – eating bad food makes us feel bad eventually and spending lots of money, although a temporary mood booster, may leave us with buyer’s remorse. If you’re like me and find yourself eating and shopping in times of stress, it may be time to take action.

Pencil erasing the word "stress"

I came across a recent article in Woman’s Day magazine about foods that help you fight stress. I don’t normally read Woman’s Day, online or in print, but the title intrigued me. What should I be eating to reduce stress? I wondered. Before I get to this, let’s look at the culprit itself – STRESS!

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, stress is the  normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of daily life. When we’re stressed, our bodies release two hormones:

  • Adrenaline – a hormone that increases our heart rate and blood pressure, and boosts our energy.
  • Cortisol – the primary stress hormone. It increases sugars in the blood stream, alters immune system responses, and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. Research suggests that cortisol directly influences food consumption, stimulating a person to eat food that is high in fat and/or sugar.

So, if we are naturally conditioned to eat when we are stressed, why not eat something healthy? Makes sense, right?

Thank goodness Woman’s Day has identified 8 mood-boosting foods that are not only healthy but can help us lower our overall anxiety. Let’s take a look at the top stress-fighting foods:

8 Foods to Help Fight Stress

(adapted from Woman’s Day)

  1. Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is high in the flavonoids, which are known for their relaxing properties. And, the darker chocolate, the better – aim for 70% cacao or higher.
  2. Skim Milk – Studies have shown that women who drink four or more glass of milk a day are less likely to experience stress than those who don’t.
  3. Oatmeal – This should be an easy one for all you food bloggers out there! As mentioned above, when we’re stressed, we crave carbs. You can indulge these carb cravings with healthy carbs like oatmeal, which is high in fiber and keeps you feeling full longer.
  4. Salmon – Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, help reverse stress by boosting serotonin levels. An omega-3 rich diet may also help suppress cortisol and adrenaline production.
  5. Walnuts – As we all know, stress can have a significant impact on our blood pressure. Walnuts help keep our blood press in check.
  6. Sunflower Seeds – These folate-rich seeds help the body produce dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical in the brain.
  7. Spinach – This leafy green is high in magnesium which helps to improve the body’s response to stress.
  8. Blueberries – These little berries pack a huge punch with all of their antioxidants, which counteract the effects of stress hormones.

Although there’s no proof that combining all of these foods in one sitting will make you a stress-fighting superhero, combining these foods may make it a littler easier to get your stress-free food fix throughout the day. But, if you are really feeling stressed – you could always try this super-charged, stress-reducing breakfast:

Stress-Free Breakfast: Steel-cut oats made with skim milk, topped with blueberries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chips – oh yeah, and don’t forget the spinach wrapped salmon on the side!

A Two-Step Approach to Weight Loss

Hey ladies!

This just in – exercise is great for the body, but don’t rely on exercise alone to lose weight. A new study in JAMA found that in over 34,000 non-dieting women, exercise was associated with not gaining weight over time, but only in women who weren’t overweight to begin with. The overweight/obese women in the study had a much harder time losing weight if they relied on exercise alone to shed pounds.

Weight Loss Thoughts from the Personal Trainer

Just as exercise alone will make it hard for you to lose weight, relying only on calorie intake (your diet) for weight loss is not the best approach either. If there is one thing I stress as a personal trainer it is that healthy weight loss comes from a combined approach – calorie restriction + exercise. And, whether that exercise is in the form of running, strength training, or yoga, exercise is still a major factor in what keeps our heart and our whole body healthy.

For those of you who are overweight or are obese and are struggling with weight loss – Weight loss is hard – there’s no doubt about that. But, when people ask me what is the one thing they can do to lose weight, I tell them that they need to focus on taking in fewer calories than they burn or

Calorie burn > calorie intake.

Although this is a good rule of thumb to follow, the exact amount of calories a person must burn and omit from their diet to lose 1-2 pounds a week varies from person to person. When I coach someone on how to lose weight, I use a 2-step approach:

Two-Step Approach to Weight Loss

  • STEP 1 – Establish Calorie Baseline: Determine  your baseline for both calorie intake – how many calories you eat a day – and your calorie expenditure – how many calories you burn during exercise and regular daily activities. This baseline is what your body is used to and what is probably making you gain your unwanted weight.
  • STEP 2 – Adjust Baseline: Decrease your daily baseline calorie intake while also increasing your calorie expenditure so that the total amount of calories you are “giving up” equals 500-600 calories a day. For instance, you may choose to increase your activity level/exercise so that you burn 250 calories more than your baseline per day, while also eating 250 fewer calories a day. Therefore, your total daily calorie deficit is 500 calories. This deficit can fluctuate from day to day or week to week. You may feel like exercising more one week or eating fewer calories the next. With this approach, a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day equals 3,500 calories a week, or a loss of 1 pound per week.

Again, this Two-Step Approach to Weight Loss does not rely on exercise or diet alone to lose weight – it’s a combination approach. And this approach does not apply to those with special circumstances, such as those with thyroid issues. As always, before starting any exercise routine or weight loss method, check with your primary care clinician to make sure the strategy is right for you.

Fitbloggin: Exploring Baltimore

Hey all! Yesterday in my Fitbloggin: Saturday in Review, I talked about all the great things from the conference as well as post-conference fun on Saturday night. Now, on to Sunday!!

Rude Wake-up Call at the Baltimore Marriott

Scott and I attempted to get up at 6:45 AM in order to get a head start on our last morning there. But, around 2:30 AM we were rudely awaken (is that proper grammar?) by a party of some sort on our floor which lasted for over an hour! We were so incredibly annoyed!!! So, when we woke up at 6:45, we hit snooze and woke up 45 minutes later!

Pre-Breakfast Run Around Baltimore Harbor

Before breakfast, Scott and I went for an awesome run around the harbor – we went for 40 minutes! Scott is not really a runner but is training for the Chicago triathlon in August. He’s doing such a great job with his training 🙂 On our way back into the hotel we ran into Bookieboo who said that she had the same “party” problem on her floor. She suggested we complain and that’s just what I did. We ended up getting 1/2 off our room from the previous night – awesome! Thanks for the tip Bookieboo! Once we were freshened up and packed, we headed down to walk to breakfast in Fells Point. Unfortunately, the Blue Moon Cafe was a 45 minute wait, so we came back to the Marriott and had an outstanding champagne brunch!

Fantastic Baltimore Marriott Brunch

Although expensive, the brunch included an unbelievable amount of food and all drinks! No kidding – at one point, we had 8 drinks on our table –

  • 2 glass of water
  • 2 glasses champagne
  • 2 glasses of orange juice
  • 1 cup of tea
  • 1 glass of iced tea

Crazy! The food was fantastic! I tried to stick with all healthy things like low-fat yogurt, granola, fruit, etc.

Hmm…not sure how that vanilla pound cake got on my plate 😉 I was pretty full after my first plate, but wanted to sample a few other things, including the oatmeal, breakfast potatoes, and banana bread pudding…

Oh my, that banana bread pudding was dangerous!! If I wasn’t so full, I probably would have eaten a whole bowl of it complete with the vanilla cream sauce – ha!

After breakfast, we had to rush to the airport to catch our 1 PM flight back to chilly Chicago. Back to reality!

Wow, what a fantastic, whirlwind weekend. Loved Fitbloggin and all of the attendees/speakers and loved Baltimore!

Now, I need to get some sleep 🙂

Have a great night!

Fitbloggin: Saturday in Review

Hey All! I’m back from Fitbloggin and had a fantastic time! Saturday morning was the official start of the conference. Instead of going through every detail, here are the highlights. The morning started with a 5K run that was attended by about 50 women. Although it was not a competitive run, I am very happy to say that I was in the top 6-8 of those who finished first!

The run was followed by a fab oatmeal breakfast sponsored by Quaker and then two sessions – one on SEO and one on how to get noticed by traditional media. The morning sessions were followed by a fabulous lunch spread…

We had small sandwiches, fresh fruit, and some awesome mushroom bisque!

After lunch, my husband Scott (who was the Fitbloggin speaker on SEO) and I took a walk around the harbor in Baltimore. We even tried out our new New Balance running shoes…

His and her shoes for his and her bloggers – perfect! My husband is a loyal New Balance customer. I, on the other hand, have been loyal to Nike for YEARS. I’ve been running for a very long time and have been through many brands and styles of running shoes. Years ago when I tried New Balance, I felt that they were clunky and didn’t really offer much support for runners – hence my loyalty to Nike. However, I may be a changed runner! New Balance so generously gave away a pair of their 740 shoes to all conference attendees -woo hoo! They were much lighter than I remember and had more cushion. I really like these shoes and will definitely consider the New Balance brand on my next running shoe purchase. Thanks New Balance for letting us try out your shoes!

On our walk, we headed to the Italian pastry shop in the harbor area…

My obsession with patisseries/bakeries has enable me to sniff out any that are in a 1 mile radius…

I just had to sample a few of the homemade Italian cookies – naturally.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off a the historic lighthouse…

The afternoon sessions and keynote by nutrition author Dave Grotto went by so fast! Then it was time to let loose a little with some Jell-o shots!

Ok, not really Jell-o shots, but it was definitely a reception sponsored by Jell-o. There were several flavors of Jell-o as well as their new mousse in caramel, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate – so good!

Scott and I left the reception early to make our dinner reservations at the Mediterranean/tapas restaurant Pazo. We were really torn between restaurants. This one actually had mixed reviews – some people loved it and some people didn’t like it at all. When I first walked into the restaurant I knew I would like it. It had a strong Spanish feel to it which I love!

After ordering some vino, we perused the menu, which was a mix of traditional and modern tapas and main entrees. Scott and I love to eat tapas style, so we focused on the small plates…

We had eggplant puree with some super yummy and salty bread followed by a salad made with hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, and vinaigrette.

I almost forgot to mention the fantastic sunflower flatbreads that we had for a starter…

This is by far the BEST flatbread I have EVER tasted!! We liked it so much we took two containers of the bread home with us!

We opted not to eat dessert there, but instead, walked around Fells Point to scope out the bars and desserts places. I loved Fells Point! The cobblestone/brick streets gave the area so much character. Although there were many dessert places to choose from, we decided on gelato from Pitango and we were not disappointed in our choice…

They had at least a dozen flavors of gelato on display. It was so hard to decide! But the staff were great and were very open to let you test any or even all of the flavors. Thanks guys! Loved the bourbon vanilla and milk chocolate with chocolate chips! We also enjoyed some authentic Italian hot chocolate…

Seriously, this is NOT your mother’s hot chocolate. The consistency was thicker than cream and had a mild, milk chocolate flavor – wonderful! The only thing I would recommend is to have cookies or biscotti in the cafe for purchase so that customers can dunk them in their chocolate!

Ok, that’s all for now. See you all tomorrow with a recap of Sunday – Exploring Baltimore!

Live From Fitbloggin – It's Friday Night

Hey All! I made it to Baltimore for Fitbloggin! Scott is here with me which is so awesome – kind of like a mini-break sans kids. The weather here is fantastic – 70-75 degrees and sunny all weekend. That’s warmer than it was in Orlando when I was there 2 weeks ago! I was so excited by the warm weather, that as soon as we checked into the hotel we went for a walk around the harbor area.

We stopped off at a restaurant on the water for some fruity drinks (ok, I had the fruity drink 😉 ) – a mango-pineapple smoothie…

We also had a few “snacks” for lunch, including a small Greek salad, cheese quesadillas, and cheese stuffed mushrooms…

We continued to walk all around the harbor and just soaked in the gorgeous day. Then, it was time to head back for the first Fitbloggin event – the POMtini cocktail reception. Even though we arrived about an hour late for the reception, there were still so many bloggers (yes, mostly women) there and plenty of martinis too! I’m not a huge pomegranate fan, but the martini was actually very good.

Next, it was off to dinner in Little Italy at Cafe Gia…

Cafe Gia serves old school Italian food. The building looks a little shady, but the inside decor has a lot of character. The “boss”, an older Italian woman, was completely charming to all the customers, including us. She was very sweet, but looked so tired – obviously working too hard 🙁

Seeing as it was a Friday during lent, I was limited on what I could order – so it was the Penne Primavera for me. The pasta was good, but nothing spectacular. But, there were many other chicken and meat dishes on the menu that sounded really good – guess I’ll have to head back there sometime to try them!

Ok, time to hit the sack. The 5K run around the harbor is going to come awfully early – 6:30 AM (but that’s 5:30 AM Chicago time).

Have a great night everyone, especially all of the Fitbloggin ladies (and the 3-4 gents that I saw) 🙂