Tagged: childhood obesity

I Don’t Count

A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case.  Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).

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After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them.  More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume.  So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:

FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT

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There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.

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In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.

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I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.

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All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”

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So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.

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Children Are Still Listening

Two years ago I posted The Children Are Listening and lately I feel strongly that it needs repeating. It is evident that how we talk about our bodies, how we talk about other people’s bodies, and how we handle our nutrition directly impacts how our children – the girls in particular – view themselves. They are listening to what we say and how we still idolize thin, plastic or enhanced women and super buff men.

We MUST make it a priority to teach the latest and future generations to view nutrition and exercise as equal priorities along with the standards like good dental hygiene and a good education. Then, and only then, will we see an entirety of young adults having healthy fat levels, and healthy self-esteems, which in turn will benefit us all (especially as health insurance issues are far from being resolved).  So read and remember, the children are listening.

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I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. Said tall girl then replied “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”

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What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has been overhearing her mother lament about her weight. It tells me that by third grade, she’s already decided that what the scale shows defines how you’re seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening society’s obsession with weight.

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It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment “wow she’s hot” by a Dad watching a Victoria Secret’s commercial to take root his son’s head.

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.

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Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy – not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner best friends, sure she seems thicker – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.

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I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.

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My hope today for those of you who read this – and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more – is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain. They’ll either see themselves as flawed, or they’ll deem other’s as flawed if they don’t match up to that perfect body expectation.

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So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their covers – beauty is not just skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.

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Kids and Postural Distortions

There’s no denying that things are very different now for kids then when I was a child. While the debate rages on as to whether the advances in technologies are beneficial or detrimental to our kids, one thing I know for sure is that there is an increase in “detrimental” physical issues suffered by our children as a direct result of 21st century technologies and merchandise.

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The first and most obvious negative change to children’s bodies comes from vast quantities of time spent being sedentary while assuming poor posture as they type, text, surf, and chat on laptops, tablets and smart phones.

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Along with the statistically proven increase in obesity in children due to their increased lack of movement, there are other physical issues such protracted shoulders – a rounding forward of shoulders which causes upper back muscles to carry undue lengthening, while the chest muscles shorten which decrease upper body flexibility and strength.

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Traveling downward, there is also a rise in weakened hips and transverse abdominus (muscles running from lower abs around to the delicate lower back region). This postural distortion comes from long periods of sitting with lower back curved and hips and knees stretched forward (like slouching in a sofa).

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Both of these poor-postures can cause a myriad of painful issues as our childrens’ bodies grow such as chronic headaches, back aches (between shoulder-blades and lower/sciatic region), and knee pain with reduced strength, speed and ability.

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But another postural negative issue recently slapped me in the face when I realized that although I had noticed my daughter’s pronated foot stance for quite some time, it wasn’t until she’d been consistently complaining of foot pain that I realized there was an issue needing correcting. When children (or adults) stand in an uneven manner on their feet, i.e., feet rolling inward (pronation) or outward (supination) not only will their ankles, knees and hips have alignment problems (which causes pain), but their arches will not be supported and their feet will grow incorrectly and suffer from chronic discomfort in and out of shoes.

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I now see that many children are suffering from pedi-postural distortions and I blame this on the plethora of cheaply made shoes with little to no arch support (think Toms with their cardboard soles or 90% of the shoes from Payless and Target).

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For all of these issues, the solutions are easy to implement, although they will take time and sometimes some money to fix, but the long-term ramifications are positive and well-worth the time and cost. There are corrective exercises for each that I can instruct you on (or you can surf the web), and there are devices that can help in the severe cases (like shoulder trainers or arch-supporting insoles).

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Clearly electronics and other devices that have helped cultivate our rampant postural distortions are not going away, but we can still counter-act their negative effects. I suggest you take a look at your kids’ postures head to toe (and yourself too), and get on fixing these issues before they suffer long-term pain and decreased use of joints and muscles.

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Break Up With Food.

All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.

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The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.

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There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.

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I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.

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As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.

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If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.

See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.

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If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!

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Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.

Are You Sure It’s Healthy?

For years Americans have turned to salads as a safe, low-calorie meal they can freely consume when trying to “lose weight” (which as you know I appropriately renamed “lose fat”). Many an office worker suffers through weeks of homemade salads or restaurant salad bars just to they can feel like they’re eating healthier and, more importantly, leaner.

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Well the truth has been out for some time that depending upon what’s on or in your salad, as well as the dressing type and quantity, salads aren’t necessarily better for you than a lean hamburger and a few fries or even a glass of diet soda.

Currently, the hottest weight-loss food trend is Juices and Smoothies. Tumblr and Pinterest are weighed-down (pun intended) with hundreds of breakfast juice recipes. Sorry to burst another bubble, but ingesting a large quantity of fruit sugars, even if they are balanced out with chia seeds and spinach, can still pack on “sugar” calories that can turn into fat.

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The point is that you really have to consider all aspects of your nutrition to know if something is healthy for you. Take the afore-mentioned morning smoothie. An average recipe might include an apple, banana, carrot, spinach, blueberries and chia seeds, and maybe even a dash of yogurt. Depending upon the size and quantity of items, there can be anywhere from 45-60 grams of sugar. The recommended daily amount of sugar an average adult should consume is about 25 grams (6 teaspoons). One smoothie and you’re double and that’s just breakfast!

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Back to the salads, here’s some perspective for you: McDonald’s Chicken Caesar Salad is your pretty run of the mill Caesar (including croutons and creamy dressing) and comes in at 425 calories and 21.4 grams of fat. Their regular burger is only 253 calories and 7.7 grams of fat. Even if you added a small fries, while your calories would be a touch higher (459), your fat grams would only be 16.7.

Perhaps you already know that Chinese Chicken and Caesar Salads are the worst salads you can eat when it comes to lean and healthy nutrition. But did you know that even without croutons or wantons and ditching cream based dressings, if you load up a salad with nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, egg, quinoa, feta cheese, etc., you’re still consuming a lot of calories, sugars, and fat grams. Undoubtedly better for your insides than a Big Mac or anything from Taco Bell, but don’t be surprised if your fat loss slows down depending upon your habits and metabolism.

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So next time you decide to clean up your nutrition, read labels and crunch numbers before you assume that juices and salads will get you to your goal. Ultimately, you’re always better off to eat moderate amounts of healthy foods, and exercise more rather than deny yourself something or over-consume something in it’s stead.

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There’s a great article in the New Yorker about the detrimental effects of too much sugar.  Click on the photo below to read it.

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http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/how-much-harm-can-sugar-do

Which Cardio Equipment Is Best For You

Cardio – you either love it or you hate it. If you are a constant follower of this blog you’ve already learned from me that unless you enjoy the feeling like a hamster on a wheel, 20 minutes three times a week on any stationary cardio equipment is enough to be effective for most fitness goals.

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If you are an outdoor running or cycling enthusiast, then you can stop reading this blog today and go out and run/bike. But if you are like me and oblige the cardio gods with a weekly dose of walking or climbing in place, then I’ve a few tips to help you decide which cardio equipment is best for you and your goals.

Treadmill Walking with Incline

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PROS: Low impact; keeps you into the fat burning zone; great at toning and lifting the glutes.

CONS: Slower on calorie burn than other options; not good if you have balance or feet pain issues.

Treadmill Running

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PROS: Burns lots of calories (depending on length of run); great way to tone legs; indifferent to the weather outside.

CONS: High impact; hard on joints; puts you into an anaerobic heart rate level which does not burn as much fat as aerobic levels (like you’ll achieve walking at an incline).

Elliptical w/Swinging Arm Handles

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PROS: Low impact; stable; incorporates upper body toning; burns fat calories.

CONS: Can be boring with so little variety in how to use the machine; easy to not push yourself so you won’t burn fat effectively.

Stationary Bike

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PROS: Can be a great cardio workout (aerobic or anaerobic) if you alternate between hills and flats and keep the tension ramped up; great leg toner too; low impact.

CONS: Very easy to just “cruise” and burn very little fat calories; risk of thigh chaffing and numbing/irritating of the glutes.

Stepper/Stair Climber

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PROS: Low impact, easy to maintain fat burning zone.

CONS: Not easy to find proper form and hence high risk of hyper-extended elbows and excessive knee pressure (my least recommended equipment).

Step Mill (Gym Escalator)

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PROS: All the benefits of walking a flight of stairs, but you can’t stop and rest; great way to get and stay in your target heart rate zone; offers different ways to step (sideways, backwards) which tone entire lower extremities.

CONS: All the benefits of walking a flight of stairs … but you can’t stop and rest; not good for weak knees; doesn’t offer any upper body toning.

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No matter which you choose – and of course my recommendation is to choose a variety throughout the week – try to stay in your target heart rate (THR) zone for 20 minutes to gain the maximum fat burn. If you don’t know what your THR is/should be ask a trainer at the gym, or write to me.

No go burn some fat, get some tone, and get on with the rest of your day!

The Children Are Listening.

I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. The taller girl then responded “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”2188610

What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has probably been overhearing her mother lament about being over-weight. It tells me that at by third grade, she’s already assumed most adults’ belief that what the scale reads, defines how you are seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening to everyone’s obsession with weight.

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It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly (albeit amongst themselves) dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment by a Dad watching a model-eating-burger commercial like “now that’s hot” to take root his son’s head. (Don’t get me started on the irony of those silly commercials!)

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.

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Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy, and not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner friends, sure she seems “thicker” – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.

I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls’ and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.

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My hope today for those of you who read this (and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more) is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain.

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So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their coverers – beauty is more than skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.

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When Fad Diets Happen to Good People

I’m still shocked these days to find a plethora of fitness-minded individuals still placing value in fad diets. A week does not go by where I don’t hear someone dissing carbs, or talking about how drinking hot-lemon-honey-cinnamon-cayenne water helped them boost their metabolism. Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites are littered with the next best superfood that we should O.D. on. On my Tumblr account this week I slammed the photo below for promoting the idea that a single food can burn belly fat.

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People people people, listen to me: no one food, or food combination will help you get those six pack abs – especially as a stand-alone concept. Granted, if you eat foods that build muscle and help your liver to keep sugars under control ALONG with consistent and effective exercise (resistance training and cardio), you will burn fat from your body. But let me also remind you that there is no way to spot reduce the fat from an area of your body. While you can tone specific muscle groups, where your body burns the fat from is still more random than you might think. If you radically curtail your food consumption while over-ramping your calorie burn, you will lose fat, but you will also lose muscle and more importantly, the fat may come from other areas of your body before the desired zone (i.e., your face or bosom before your belly or butt).

I know that all of this stems from society’s desire to do things quickly — see results fast with as little work or discomfort as possible.  Unfortunately life has proven repeatedly that, as trite as this personal trainer common quip sounds — NO PAIN NO GAIN is reality when it comes to changing your body.  That doesn’t mean abusive pain, but it does mean giving up a quantity of things you love and keeping your body moving despite soreness.

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Once again I want to remind all of you that fad diets do not work – or rather do not work for long. As I stated only last week (Success Comes with Consistency) diets are temporary. But fad diets are worse because they strictly restrict what you eat, forcing your body to try and obtain a full range of nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats from a very limited source. Their failure rate is even higher than a simple calorie restricting diet because most people find the limited fad-foods boring within a very quick period.

So back away from that Pinterest post that claims you can lose 5 lbs and increase your metabolism by eating grapefruits, almonds, and green tea exclusively for a week. It’s not worth it even if it were to work, because as soon as you reintroduce all the other foods you still crave, the 5 lbs will return, and your body will be pissed off at you and likely not let you lose 5 lbs the same way again.

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If you want to change your nutrition in a permanent way, I’ve given you lots of tips within this blog, and I offer a very affordable meal plan that will be customized to your lifestyle, and food tastes (Workouts247.com). Now go eat something healthy and stop starving your body!

How To Exercise The Kids

We all know that childhood obesity is on the rise. In fact, one-third of all American children ages 6-17 are clinically obese (more than 20% body fat). The first remedy is of course nutrition, which I have addressed more than once in this blog. But the second and equally important remedy is exercise – or movement in general. Between higher educational demands, homework loads, and video games/TV being used as babysitters or “decompress time” — our kids just aren’t moving like we used to. (Let’s not forget that 75% of public schools no longer have PE as a mandatory class.)

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The solution – we must entice, motivate, and if need be push our kids to move more. But let’s face it, if we have to push them or demand they exercise, they’ll resist and/or hate it. So we have to make it fun. Now I know from all my clients (teens to adults) that you might have to drag them along initially, but once they see true results 90% of them get inspired and motivated to continue so they can see even more results (i.e., toned thighs or bigger biceps).

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There are a myriad of exercise options that you can choose from and even rotate through to keep movement fun and challenging. Obviously there are the usual options that are great for calorie burn and muscle tone but cost for equipment and/or classes/lessons (soccer, gymnastics, etc). But here are a few examples of less common ways to get the kids moving, that don’t cost as much or require as large a time commitment:

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  • Hiking
  • Boxing (just gloves and pads are required)
  • Bike Riding (street or trails)
  • Resistance Training (Age 16+)
  • Homemade obstacle courses
  • Skateboarding / skating
  • Swimming
  • Playing Xbox Kinnect or Wii
  • Walking (with or without the dog)

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The key is 30-60 minutes five times a week. For those reluctant children, if you join them in the activity they’re more likely to engage. Give them some choices, let it be their pick. As already stated you might have to make the designated exercise time “mandatory” initially, but with consistency comes results and with results comes enthusiasm and even addiction. (Don’t let that word scare you, fitness addiction doesn’t have to mean obsession, it’s more that the individual becomes self-motivated to continue because they just don’t feel as good without exercise.)

Keep in mind that children under age 16 should avoid resistance training (weight lifting) to any great extent as their muscles are still forming and risk of injury is higher. However, body-weight exercises are fine as long as kept to a minimum (i.e., pull ups, push ups, crunches, burpees, etc.)

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For especially overweight children, any new exercise regiment needs to start slow, and have easy to reach goals so they do not get discouraged by their lack of endurance or strength.  But it is essential that you push those goals forward each day. Example: if they can only handle a five minute walk or 10 jumping jacks, the next time its six minutes or 15 jumping jacks.)

Make it fun, make it consistent, make it a family affair when possible, and make it all about health and never about scale weight!  Add in healthier nutrition (include them in shopping and cooking as well) and before you know it, the whole family will be fit and healthy.

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What Are Your Kids Drinking?

Today I am getting back on my “nutrition for kids” soap-box to address a continuing trend of parents thinking it’s okay to give kids lemonade and 7-up (or any soda) with their meals. Every time we eat out with our daughter I see other kids getting lemonade or clear soda (7-up, Sprite) with their meals. At my daughter’s school every open-house, award ceremony or celebration includes cookies and 7-up or lemonade. I want to scream out “why are you offering them sugar and sugar? Don’t you know how bad that quantity of sugar is?

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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m all about moderation, and that includes sugar. But I am astonished to see how little regard these two innocent-seeming liquids appear to have with parents.

Just on simple logic, I would think if you’re ordering high fat and carbs “kid-friendly” foods like mac n’ cheese, chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, that you’d opt for water to at least balance out these nutritionally void meals. Add into the equation that kids often get dessert after such a meal, and you’ve just given them plenty of sugar. But no, the world at large thinks nothing of sugar + sugar where kids are concerned.

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Many parents and restaurants offer fruit juices as an option, thinking that these are healthier. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. Perhaps you need an in-your face assessment of what is really in these drinks?

8 oz of Lemonade (like Minute Maid) = 27 grms Sugar

8 oz of Orange Juice = 24 grms Sugar

8 oz of Apple Juice = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of 7-Up/Sprit = 26 grms Sugar

8 oz of Coke = 26 grms Sugar

1 Capri Sun packet = 18 grms Sugar

8 oz Nesquik Chocolate milk = 29 grms Sugar

(Don’t forget, you often give them refills too!)

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Now you might be saying “so what? What’s so bad about 26 grams of sugar?” Well, besides the fact that it offers no nutritional value, it can damage their metabolism, and increase their risk of obesity and type II diabetes, among other health issues (like mood swings and hormonal spikes). I’m not even touching upon the deadly high-fructose corn syrup issue (in sodas), or the quantity of sugars in a Jamba Juice or other seemingly “healthy” juices.

The American Heart Association has set guidelines for the limits of added sugar that kids should consume each day. (Added sugar means “refined sugar or sugar substitutes” as fruit and other foods contain natural sugars.) The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis varies depending on the child’s age and caloric intake, but here’s their basic recommendation:

Preschoolers should limit added sugar to about 16 grams per day

Children ages 4 to 11 should limit added sugar to about 12 grams a day

Pre-teen and teens should not have more than 20 to 32 grams per day

Clearly you can see how one drink at lunch has already maxed out the quantity of added sugar your child consumes. Now factor in any desserts or sweet-treats they’ve consumed that day and you’ve easily overloaded their sensitive systems.

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I was criticized repeatedly when my daughter was a baby because I didn’t give her any refined sugar until she was 2. No birthday cake, ice cream, candies, fruit yogurt, or fruit juice. I was called controlling, silly, and even, albeit jokingly, evil. My Father-In-Law asked once why I didn’t give my toddler apple juice. I replied that she had a bowl-full of apple slices in front of her and a bottle of water and once in her stomach she would have “apple juice.” (He didn’t find my sarcasm funny.) I did point out that this way she was getting fiber that is missing from filtered apple juice, but he’d already tuned me out.

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The reality is that America loves it’s sugar and many well-meaning parents blindly fall into line with their children’s nutrition. But hopefully you’ll stare a little longer at the facts posted above, and at least think twice next time before giving your children that innocuous little beverage. Perhaps on another day I’ll bring up the issue of rampant use of sodium in America and how much of that harmful substance you and your children are consuming, but today my attack is on sugar. Have a sweet day!

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