Too much Right can be Wrong

Everyday my Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest pages are filled with posts promoting clean eating, paleo recipes, fat-burning smoothies, raw and vegan recipes paired with photos of girls in their early 20’s with 14% body fat and super flat tummies. The psychological ramifications of these posts are far reaching – girls and women subliminally ingest that this look is desirable and vow to strictly adhere to clean, raw, paleo, or vegan diets to obtain this ideal that most of them will probably never achieve.  They enter into a vicious cycle of strict micro-managing of their food and exercise, followed by depressed binging when they fail to achieve their goals.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that following these nutrition plans isn’t a good idea – for many Vegan or super-clean (nothing processed) diets are essential to keeping them healthy and illness-free. The problem occurs when your day is spent tenaciously focused on every minutia of what you eat. The daily glamorous photos of raw fruit and veggie smoothies, or oatmeal bowls laden with peanut butter, chocolate and chia seeds may look enticing and suggest a path to fat reduction, but don’t be fooled. Both the photos below depict a meal or snack that can be 400-600 calories each.

Piña Colada Green Smoothie | www.kitchenconfidante.com

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As always, I am not a proponent of counting calories, but I mention this to make a point. Sometimes even eating “right” can be wrong for you. The sugar in an average kale and fruit smoothie can be 35-65 grams (depending upon the size). The American Heart Association recommends only 25 grams of sugar in a day!  The facts are simple, have too much sugar in your body (i.e., fuel not spent) it will be converted and stored as fat.

Fruit-loaded, nutrient rich meals are better than any fast food meal – always, but you can still be eating too much of a good thing! Not to mention that preparing meals of raw clean food is often very time intensive (if you’re not a good time manager) and can be more costly than one’s budget may allow.  That’s not to say that eating healthy is hard or expensive like many people use as an excuse, but it does take a little more thought and energy than just grabbing whatever from wherever.

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you are well aware that my philosophy on all things fitness is moderation. While to maintain healthy lean nutrition does take some forethought, planning, and preparation, it should not occupy 40-70% of your day or mind.  Yet for many their obsession over nutrition does just that – consumes upwards of 70% of their mental energy and free time. That’s too much if you ask me.

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So please, eat clean and lean, but don’t make your world revolve around food. Life’s too short.  If you don’t have time or money to prep and enjoy a fresh kale, pineapple and chia seed smoothie – just grab a small glass of fresh OJ, a banana, and a handful of almonds. Both are great for you, though one is a clearly less time intensive, and while they both can help you get/stay leaner, neither is the secret to that flat stomach you’re desiring. That only comes from consistency and moderation with your nutrition, effective cardio, and sweat equity.

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Mid-Life Crisis Re-examined

I believe the idea of a “mid-life crises” first came into prominence in the 1970’s, stereotyped by men in their 40’s buying sports cars and/or leaving their wives for younger women. Soon women too displayed their versions, having plastic surgery on faces or breasts, and/or having affairs with younger men. This was brought about in such large numbers due to baby-boomers realizing that they had been pigeonholed by the fiercely established routines of the post-depression era generation into living lives of college, marriage, career, and retirement, whether they wanted that life or not.

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Throughout the decades this concept has changed slightly by progressing to different ages/decades – for a while people in their 50’s – now 30-something’s. I think the reason for these “crises” occurring earlier now is due to the tangential nature of our current generation.

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To me the idea of a mid-life crisis is simply the realization by someone at any age that they’re not living the life they really wanted or intended. For some, they feel unable or unwilling to manifest a significant change so they simply partake in a small “acting out” in one area of their lives. Whether it’s purchasing a sports car, obsessively picking up a new hobby, or dating multiple partners, these little actions shake things up but don’t necessarily rattle one’s entire cage. For others, a complete left turn occurs. Some go back to school, switch jobs/careers, move to new Cities or States, get divorced, etc.

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Why I’m examining this concept is that what I see since mid-life crisis became a coined term is people letting life lead them until they finally snap and decide that they want to lead their lives. Unfortunately, many people do not do this in a well-thought out manner. They react to their emotions and roll the dice taking any new direction as better than where they had been. Sadly, the new direction, while different, may be no better a fit.

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As a life coach I counsel my clients to always change what is truly not working for them (or to use a trendy buzz term “not living an authentic life”), but to do so with a plan. Soul-search and come up with what is the better choice for you and your life. Be it a new career, or a new place to live – come up with an idea and then sit with it for a little while. Mull it over, review the pros and cons. Once you’re certain, then outline the most direct path to achieving that change.

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Rocking your boat too quickly often results in too many aspects of your life spiraling out of your control. While you may want to get off the ship you’re on, you should do so in a way that doesn’t drown you.

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If any of this resonates with you, and you’d like more help in facilitating major changes in your life, please feel free to contact me.

Computer, Fitness Friend or Enemy?

A recent news report stated that 80% of us spend at least two hours a day sitting at in front of a computer, be it desktop or laptop. A large percentage of the teen and adult populations spend upwards of 5-8 hours! So how does all that time spent in a stationary and postural distorting positions affect your fitness goals?

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On the “fitness friend” side of things, many people utilize a myriad of on-line sources to assist their fitness goals in a positive way. Whether exercising to YouTube videos, entering their nutrition into MyFoodDiary, or printing healthy recipes off Pinterest, these are examples of a computer contributing to your fitness success.

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However, on the “enemy” side of things, long exposure to computer-posture along with the simple act of being sedentary for extended periods of time definitely bodes badly for your fitness goals. From neck and shoulder strain, to weakness in hips and sciatic nerves not to mention the obvious fact that you’re just not up and moving enough to burn calories and strengthen muscles — all of which sets you up for fitness failure.

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So for those of you who cannot (or will not) change their daily quantity of computer-sitting, I propose a compromise. For every hour you sit (or slouch) in front of a computer you must spend five minutes performing a rotation of “isolated-stretches,” “cardio-bursts,” and “muscle wake-ups.”

I suspect many of you are talking to your computer screens right now heatedly informing me that you don’t know what those are! or I can’t get sweaty at my job. Relax, I promise these are easy, relatively light on the sweat index, and the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of five minutes of your time spent on YOU!

ISOLATED STRETCHES:

Stand up and run through the following circuit of total body isolated (where you work one muscle group at a time) exercises:

Head rolls: gently roll your head to the right, back, left and front (chin to chest) 5 times, then reverse direction 5 times. Make sure you keep shoulders down and relaxed.

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Shoulder shrugs: with arms relaxed at your sides, bring shoulders up to your ears and then roll them back (squeezing shoulder blades together) and then down. Repeat 5 times.

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Arm circles: Take your right arm and reach (stretch) back behind you slowly circling the arm up over-head, and then down in front of you – 5 times then reverse direction starting the circle in front of you, up over head, then behind. Repeat for left arm.

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Hip Swings: standing with feet wide apart and knees slightly bent, place your hands on your hips and swing hips back and forth to the right then left, then back and front (10 each direction).

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Stationary Lunges: step back with your right leg, stretching it out behind you while keeping left knee bent to a right angle (do NOT push knee out over toe). Slowly bounce up and down stretching hips and glutes (butt) 10 times, then switch legs.

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Any and all other body parts are great to stretch at your discretion, i.e., feet/ankles, wrists, abs, back, neck, etc. I’ve given you the basic areas that get tight with lots of computer-posture sitting.

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CARDIO BURSTS:

5 minutes of any type of rapid-fire, total body cardio-based exercises are what’s recommended here. Examples: jumping jacks, burpees, jump squats, jump lunges, or a mixture of all of them.

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MUSCLE WAKE UPS:

These are exercises that utilize only body weight but allow you to wake up a large group of muscles. Recommended amount is 10-25 reps, 3-5 sets. Focus on only one, or mix and match.

Push ups (hands on the floor)

Incline push ups (hands on a desk, bench, or wall)

Air squats

Lunge walks

Triceps Dips (hands on desk, bench, or stationary chair)

 

Through The Looking Glass

In April 2013 I addressed the downfall of having unrealistic or rigid expectations on the people in your life (Great Expectations). What appears to need a little more driving home today is that many of you set unrealistic expectations upon yourself, causing serious detriment to your fitness goals.

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While most people seeking to make a change to their body due to health or appearance issues lean towards a half-hearted approach to their goals, a significant demographic errs with an expectation-driven approach that only truly tenacious athletes can “win” with. In simple terms, you set your mind on an expectation (goal) that your body can be changed in a specific amount of time and into a specific shape that is usually unrealistic and therefore unachievably.

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Now some of you might be saying without these self-imposed “rigid” expectations, I won’t push myself or hold myself accountable. While that might be true to some extent, more often then not there are more cons than pros to this approach. Having too high expectations on yourself results in problems ranging from weight/fat increase instead of loss, to injuries, and most notably emotional stress, exhaustion, and depression.

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As an example, I once had a client who was scheduled to be married one month from when I met her. She was obese and had no muscle tone to speak of. She wanted lean toned arms, and to lose 3-4 inches from her mid-section. She said “I will do whatever it takes, I’ve made a commitment to myself to achieve these goals.” The problem was clear, her goals were impossible to achieve in the time allotted. I told her so. I told her that we could make headway, but that 30-days was not enough time to achieve her specific goals.

While we started out strong as the half-way point loomed large she fell into a funk, started cancelling sessions, and even considered cancelling her wedding, all because her goals could not be achieved. She finally came to talk with me, tearfully sharing that she felt she’d disappointed everyone and let herself down.

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I know this is a very extreme example, but I really want you to look at what expectations you place upon yourself, even in a subtle everyday manner, that can cause you to feel self-doubt or disappointment all because of an imposed “need” to make something happen.

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But good news, there is a simple solution – I call it The Looking Glass perspective. When you create an expectation upon yourself, imagine placing that expectation upon someone else – someone that matters to you, like a daughter, son, sibling, or parent. Whether the goal is to get a better job, find a mate, or just be in a different shape for summer or an event, it’s always easier to ascertain if your desires are too much by imagining someone else trying to achieve them. See those goals through the eyes of someone else and you’ll very quickly know if the expectations are too high.  Then all you have to do is think about what you’d advise them to do. How you would modify those goals to fit into the realistic shape of their (and your) life.

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Give it a try, you’ve nothing to lose but stress and disappointment. As for keeping a fire lit under your butt, that’s what I’m here for. Anytime you need a little kick to stay on track, drop me a line.

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Summer’s Commin’

The month of May is three days away and there’s something about that month every year that triggers people into frantic action to get into bathing suit shape.  Perhaps it’s because Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer to so many of us, but sadly 30-days is not enough for most people to achieve their fitness goals. In fact, the biggest road block to fitness success is unrealistic goals. It took you more than 30-days to get out of shape, and the hard truth is that it takes twice as long to get that fat off or tone up unused muscles.

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With that said, here’s a few tips that can help tremendously in improving your physical state and appearance in the next month:

Stop drinking sodas, smoothies, and even alcohol! This significantly lowers your sugars which will stop your body from conversion and storage into fat. (Don’t panic about the alcohol, we’re just talking about one month here!)

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Reduce and/or watch your sodium (salt) intake. Salty snack foods, frozen, canned and overly processed foods are very high in sodium and this causes water retention and bloat.

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Start the day with a large glass of water – this jump starts the metabolism and then keep water flowing throughout the day to flush out toxins, and simultaneously allow a slight feeling of being full which will keep you from over-eating.

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Eat five to six small meals/snacks all day, being sure to stop once you’re in that evening sedentary mode (no noshing while watching TV).

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DO NOT avoid carbs! DO avoid processed carbs!

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Perform 30-minutes of medium-high intensity cardio 3-5 times a week, along with 30-minutes of total-body high intensity resistance training.

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Honestly, if you make and follow these few changes to your nutrition and daily routines between now and Memorial Day, you will see a difference in your body. If you commit NOW to consistent hard work and sustain it past May 31st, you can be outrageously fit and swim suit gorgeous by mid-summer for sure.

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What is Time Taking From You, Part 2

In July 2013 I posted this article and it has become very relevant again due to many of my clients and friends feeling overwhelmed by time management. I’ve added on to it, and I hope this helps anyone out there who feels time is their enemy.

To most of us, the passage of time is always changing. While time flies when you’re having run, it also ticks by with excruciating slowness when we are impatient for the future to arrive. Which begs the question: do we manipulate time with our perspectives, or does time manipulate our emotional state? There’s no correct answer to that except to say (as all scientifically minded people will tell you) time is a constant – it does not change in speed or value.

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There are those who strongly control time. They manage time in precise increments, being never late, always aware of how long they’ve spent at any chore or event, and place high value on how much they can get done within time.

Then there are others who allow time to float in and out of their consciousness. They use it when they need it, begrudgingly follow it when it is imposed upon them, but in general, prefer to be blissfully unaware of time. These are the types that are chronically late, and despite their good intentions, rarely get all their desired goals/chores done.

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Which ever time-personality type you are, you might want to consider what is time taking from you? If you have such a tight (and restrictive) grip on your time, you’re likely not open to the joys of spontaneity. A lot of wonderful life moments happen in between planned situations, and those are little jewels you don’t want to miss. Being flexible enough to go with the flow when life says hey, go this way will often reward you with positive “ah-ha” experiences.

Conversely, if you are so resistant to managing your time with a little more structure, you will find a lot of events and moments are missed because you were late, or too far behind in achieving things you truly wanted to achieve/see/experience. Being a touch more organized with your day will allow you more time in the long run – time to enjoy being fully lost in the moment, and enjoying every non-minute of it!

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Time is a constant, but it is also tool we can use to get the most out of our time in this life. So here are a few tips you can utilize to either manage your time more effectively or loosen up on your fierce grip of every minutia:

Prioritize no more than three must do’s for each day (i.e., eating at regular intervals, 30-minutes of exercise, and an hour of game play with the children)

Set your clocks five minutes fast, and set your alarm 5 minutes earlier than normal. You’d be surprised at how these little manipulations of time will allow you to possibly be on time, while still padding for the habitual “delaying distractions” that plague the more free spirited types.

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Plan for (schedule) at least one period of time per week (an hour or an afternoon, etc.) where you have nothing planned except to play, or be with a loved one, or hit the great outdoors for the purposes of just being.

If more structure is needed in your time management: make a chart of the must-do’s, have-to’s and want-to’s and once they are placed in an outline form that you feel is follow-able – follow it!

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If less structure is your desire: make a commitment to yourself that once a day you’ll do something completely spontaneous and even frivolous. It can be five minutes or an hour, but telling your overly-compartmentalized brain that there’s a time period with nothing to do but go with the flow will actually rejuvenate your energy for the rest of your jam-packed day/week.

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Play around with these concepts, and please let me know what works for you and what discoveries come from these experiments. Remember, time is not against you, but it can take away a lot from your life if you let it.

Why Am I Still Fat?

In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.

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I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference.  But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.

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A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?

Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.

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Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.

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So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:

  • High stress levels at work
  • Emotional stress at home
  • Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
  • Lack of sleep
  • Eating too fast
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
  • Not exercising enough or effectively
  • Eating out too much
  • Yo-yo dieting
  • Worries about money

and the list goes on!  Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.

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What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).

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In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.

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Fretting over Feet

On the whole, people who are concerned with fitness and their bodies care about their heart, joints, muscles, bones, flexibility, strength, and body fat levels. Almost every body part is fretted over, toned, built, and stretched – every body part that is except the feet. Yet the feet are the gateway to everything we do except for sitting and sleeping.

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One of the first things I noticed back when I obtained my first PT certification was the rampant postural distortions of peoples’ feet and how they walked. Millions of people walk in an unstable manner, using only a portion of their feet which results in painful or harmful ramifications throughout their bodies. For example:

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If you walk on the outside rim of your feet (supinated) you put strain on the already thin muscles of the ankles which can transfer up into your hips and back.

If you walk tilting your feet inward (pronated) onto the inside or large ball of the big toe, you again can suffer from ankle strain and also can cause series knee pain.

Those who walk almost exclusively up on the balls of their feet (heels rarely touching or bouncing as they walk) can experience tightening of the calves and hamstrings which in turn pull on the lower back as well as painful ball-joint tenderness and swelling.

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Finally there is the duck walk or pigeon-toed options (toes pointing at 10 and 2 or inward with heels at 5 and 7) both of which misaligns the hips and can cause sciatic nerve pain and other hip, back and knee issues.  (Women in particular tend to duck-walk when wearing super high heels as it eases some of the toe pain.)

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For women obsessed with high heels, the ramifications of years of putting all your weight on your toes can result in irreversible foot pain, hammer toes, bunions, and serious knee and back strain. We weren’t meant to have our feet chronically (if ever) in the same position as Barbie dolls – it’s just not good for the body.

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So take a look at how you walk. Try to notice if your feet are turned out or in, or where you feel pressure when you take a step. An easy assessment to make is to look at the heels of your shoes – are they worn evenly or on the outer or inner portions only.

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If you suffer from foot pain and/or pain radiating up from your feet (ankles, knees, etc.), you might want to spend some time diligently working on walking straight and even – stepping from heel through to toes, feet pointed forward. I would also suggest spending at least 65% of your week in comfortable, arch-supportive, flat (or no more than a 2″ heel) shoes.

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In the evening you should kneed your feet with your knuckles massaging your heels, arches, balls of the feet, and even your toes (or get a loved one to give you a well-deserved foot massage). Then spend a few minutes seated while holding your legs out and pointing your toes into a tight stretch (like ballerina feet) and then alternating with flexed feet (heels down toes up) again holding for a tight stretch.

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The feet are really the most essential body part to daily living aside from your brain and heart. Do not neglect or abuse them. You’ve only got two and if they get ruined, you’re chair-bound!

Be Nice & Work Hard

When I was growing there were two principles that my mother instilled in me. One was that all adults were to be addressed by a title – either Mr Blank and Miss So and So, or Aunt X and Uncle Y (if related, or a very close family friend). She told me that adults were not my peers and deserved the respect of a title and not just a first name. The second principle was a strong work ethic that was based on the simple rule that work/chores were to be done first and completed prior to playing. What I see currently with many kids and young adults is a lack of both of these ideals, resulting in a ruder and less accomplished society.

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Now while my soapbox preaching today may seem righteous and judgmental this is not my intent. I am actually sharing these opinions because, as demonstrated by the horrifying societal appeal of idiot-savant Donald Trump, we clearly need to raise our current and future generations to be less self-focused and self-entitled (mob mentality) and more diligent, polite, and village-supportive.

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To do this we must start with the kids. I am NOT raising my child without these ideals firmly in place. I’ve had to instruct many of my child’s friends and cousins that I am not Ariana, but Ms. Ariana, or Aunt Ariana. I insist that she address all her friend’s parents by Mr. or Miss (and their name), and all Aunts and Uncles are to be titled thusly.  She routinely grumbles when I hand her a stack of thank you cards each year after her birthday, but do them she must!

I’ve also had to deal with my child saying her friends “play first and do homework when they feel like it,” so she wants to do her homework after dinner, etc.  Despite the fact that she is a very good student, I continue to insist that homework and chores are completed prior to playing or socializing.  I want this work ethic firmly instilled by the time she’s in high school when the demands are higher and routines get fully ingrained.

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Even removing the “societal improvement” argument, I feel this is important because the key to achieving your life goals in a timely fashion is through discipline and personal networking. Remembering someone’s name when you meet them; referring to them with a respectful title; following up meetings with a thank you note; or completing a task or request in a timely fashion are all ways to up your value as you climb the career or education ladder.

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So when I hear people unhappy with their lives (or “life in America”), yet they do nothing to improve their own situations or teach their children to work hard for that obligatory “more” – I say look at your work ethic. Then stand up, treat those around you with respect, conduct yourself with respect and reliability, and with a little elbow-grease (hard work) and you’ll find things can and will improve.

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Understanding Fat

Fat has a bad rap. Yes, American’s are overall too fat, with over 34% (78 million) of adults being clinically obese (a BMI of over 30), but our response to this epidemic is to say all fat is bad. This is not true.

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Body fat exists to help us have energy when we’ve run out of food in our systems, it keeps our temperature and circulation level, it gives us healthy skin and hair, and transports essential vitamins and minerals throughout our body.

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Fat in foods helps us maintain healthy levels of body fat – provided, that the fats you are consuming are natural vs. animal based, and kept to a healthy minimum. Good nutritional fats are avocado, certain nuts, olives and their oil, and fatty fish (wild caught salmon, etc.). But with our tendency to lump everything into a “bad” or “good” column, most American’s see all fats as bad and when they’re focused on lowering their fat percentage of weight, they eliminate these essential fats.

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Another misunderstood aspect of “fat” is that sugar has no fats and therefore it’s okay to eat – especially demonstrated by fat free snack foods (cookies, etc.) that are high in sugar to compensate for the lack of creamy additives from animal fats (butter, cream). But what many adults fail to realize is that excessive sugar in their bodies (and their children’s bodies) will convert to fat for later use – said later use usually not happening because of so many American’s put exercise and activity on the non-priority list in their lives.

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Same thing has happened to carbohydrates. The fad-fitness industry decided to label all carbs as bad, and Atkins type “diets” became the rage. But ask any of my clients who come to me declaring they eat no carbs, carbs ARE essential. They usually learn this lesson after I push them just enough in a workout to cause their carb-lite systems to flip into hypoglycemia and they are reduced to a weak sweating pile on the floor. You NEED carbs – you just don’t need processed, man-manipulated carbs (i.e., white bread, white rice, crackers, cookies, mashed potatoes, etc.

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So here’s the bottom line – you’ve got to understand that fat is important and essential to a healthy body. If you keep your healthy fats, sugars (non-refined), and carbs (unprocessed), you will be able to reduce and manage your body fat percentages. Keep eating animal facts, sugar-laden goodies, and nutrition-void breads and crackers and you’ll have more fat than your body can deal with. As I always say, do NOT diet (that implies temporary) – change your nutrition to a moderate and balanced six meals/snacks per day, and enjoy an indulgent periodically (from wine to ice cream or fried chicken), and of course, exercise effectively at least 3-4 times a week.

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