February 29, 2016
The Short Answer
You’d better sit down because, believe it or not, you can—albeit not in the way you probably want.
If we’re talking spare tires, muffin tops, or that last bit of pooch covering your six-pack, then you’re S.O.L. That sort of chub (i.e., the kind you can see and pinch) is called “subcutaneous” fat, and you can’t “spot-reduce” problem areas. Instead, you need keep exercising hard and eating right to reduce overall body fat. Your genetics will determine how and at what speed the weight comes off, but rest assured that your belly will eventually shrink to more shapely (and firmer) dimensions.
However, if you’re “apple shaped” or if you’re sporting a big ol’ beer belly, that’s likely a different kind of flab called “visceral” fat. Research shows that it is, in fact, targetable, which is fortunate since it’s much more insidious than the subcutaneous variety. Residing deep within your torso, visceral fat wraps itself around your heart, liver, and other major organs, and secretes chemicals that fuel inflammation. Your best strategy for reducing it is to work out hard, stress less, sleep more, and make cleaner food choices.
The Long Answer
Subcutaneous fat is the kind you measure with calipers that flops over your jeans and adds to your chin count. It comes from the Latin for “under the skin,” and it covers most of your body. It builds up in different places in different people, although women often build it up in their thighs and rear ends, much to the appreciation of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Queen, Nicki Minaj, and Spinal Tap.
You can’t spot reduce subcutaneous fat, so if you have a problem area, you have no choice but to burn fat all over until your genes decide to focus on that area. Also keep in mind that subcutaneous fat is found between skin and muscle. Sometimes, especially if you’re new to exercise, your muscles will firm up, pushing this fat out and creating the illusion that you’re gaining more fat. If this happens, just be patient—the illusion will eventually vanish.
Generally speaking, this isn’t the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s not to say that subcutaneous fat isn’t hard on your joints or that it can’t lead to chronic health issues like arthritis. But when you read about fat being linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, chances are you’re reading about visceral fat.
Visceral fat is found deep inside your gut, and it builds up primarily around your stomach, intestines, and liver. Unlike subcutaneous fat, you can’t pinch it unless you get all medieval on yourself. Some people call it “deep belly fat” and it’s been linked to all kinds of issues including insulin resistance and cardiovascular issues.
A little visceral fat is normal. We tend to accumulate more of it later in life thanks to a dated bit of evolution that assumes we have less muscle as we age, causing fat to build up to protect our internal organs. The problems start piling up when you have too much of it. The most precise way to measure visceral fat is through an MRI or CT scan, but your waist circumference can also give you an indication of how bad (or good) the situation is. Red flag numbers are more than 35 inches for ladies and more than 40 inches for the guys.
What You Can Do
The obvious answer is to stop eating so much junk and to get some exercise, for Pete’s sake! Beyond that, visceral fat can be targeted through a handful of basic lifestyle tweaks.
One 6-year study on 293 adults ranging in age from 18 on 65 showed that when people increased their sleep from less than 6 hours a night to between 7 or 8 hours, they experienced a significant drop in visceral fat.
A study on middle-aged obese women with metabolic syndrome showed that high intensity exercise did a better job of banishing visceral fat than low intensity exercise or no exercise at all. (Duh.) The women also experienced a reduction in abdominal subcutaneous fat. (Double duh.)
Eat More Soluble Fiber
A five-year study on minorities ranging in age from 18 to 81 showed that if you add soluble fiber to your diet, and combine it with exercise, you can accelerate visceral fat loss. You’ll find soluble fiber in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables, including apples, pears, and Brussels sprouts.
Lean Towards Unsaturated Fats
Researchers in Sweden fed 39 young men 750 extra calories daily for seven weeks. (They were fed muffins—really big ones, apparently.) The group fed muffins with saturated fat in the form of palm oil gained more visceral fat (as well as subcutaneous fat and liver fat) than the group fed muffins with polyunsaturated fat in the form of sunflower oil. Given that there are many types of both saturated and unsaturated fat, it’s unfair to categorically condemn saturated fat, but it’s still worth considering. Regardless, no good has ever come from adding a giant muffin to your daily meal plan—so don’t do that.
Stop Stressing So Much
Stress triggers the production of cortisol, which increases visceral fat. The link is that simple. A little stress, like the kind your body experiences working out, is fine, but chronic stress can be problematic. Studies on both humansand monkeys confirm this. Admittedly, telling someone to stop stressing is a little like telling someone to “be funny” or “don’t look at the giant mole on my forehead” (i.e., it’s easier said than done), but de-stressing your life is possible. You just need to be patient. Look into things like meditation or yoga, or just take a couple minutes each day to stop and breathe deeply. You’ll be thinner—and saner—in no time.
February 10, 2016
So Valentine’s Day is this week! Some of you might be like “YAY”, some of you might be like “Who Cares!”. If you’re one of the “who cares” people, I get it, I’m not here to change your mind. But I am writing this blog this week because for some people Valentines Day is a day of romance and being with their significant other and based off of a conversation I had with a friend the other day, it brings up body image issues for her.
Anytime she’s intimate with her husband; she doesn’t like the way she looks, naked or otherwise. This rung true for me BIG TIME. Why, because still today, I sometimes feel like the fat guy, or I feel like the work I’ve put in isn’t enough to make me happy with what I see in the mirror. I also remember having serious body image issues when I was overweight and not liking the way I looked naked, let alone in clothes. So where am I going with this? Let’s talk about being naked! As some of you may know, I produce Shaun T’s podcast Trust and Believe and for two weeks in January, he talked about this very thing. The second part, he interviewed me, and we had a long discussion about being naked and body image issues. I invite you to take a listen and enjoy it, learn from it and open yourself up to explore it in your head. See if you have some of the same issues, or if you’re one of the ones who has no issues (and I’m extremely happy for you if you are).
Trust and Believe - Episode 17 Get Naked
Trust and Believe - Episode 18 Get Naked Part 2 (we're on this one!)
My last thing, if you are fed up with your body image issues and want to work on it, please feel free to contact Alisha or myself. We get it! We know the struggles you’re going through, and we have been there. We genuinely want to help you if you’re ready.
We want your Valentines Days to be amazing for years to come and for you to be happy in your skin!
February 9, 2016
If you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, that may mean eating breakfast, lunch, and a couple of snacks there too. Keeping the right foods stashed in your desk or your locker can stop you from getting too hungry—and prevent those visits to the vending machine, coffee shop, and drive-thru—but just because these healthy options are a drawer away doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get up and stretch your legs every thirty minutes—or at least have a good stretch.
Here’s what to keep on hand:
A perfect snack is one that is delicious, filling, and nutritious, which describes nuts, well, in a nutshell. In moderation, a daily nut habit has been found to keep your heart healthyand may even reduce abdominal fat. Reach for the raw, unsalted variety for a filling boost of protein and fiber. For portion control, count out a proper serving (find out how many nuts that is here) rather than reaching into the bag every time you want more. And once you serve yourself, put the bag back away to avoid temptation. Eat them on their own, sprinkle them on salads, or stir a few into yogurt.
If you forgot your lunch, are having a busy day at work and don’t have time to go search for something to eat, pop open a can of tuna for a high-protein meal. To avoid added fat from oil, look for tuna canned in water with no salt. Don’t want to keep a can opener at your desk? Buy cans with pull tabs or single-serving packets that you can tear open and eat. (Just make sure to open it in the kitchen and drain the water off there. Your more olfactory sensitive office mates will thank you.) Enjoy with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on whole grain crackers. (Make sure the ingredient list says 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain flour. Tricky labels can say “whole wheat” on the front of the box, when they’re really made partially from refined flour.)
Jerky has gotten a gourmet makeover. Look for all-natural, nitrate-free versions. and it’s not hard to make your own. Just keep an eye on the sodium.
Whether you’re into chicken noodle, tomato, or lentil, an individual serving box or pull-tab can of soup makes a quick nutritious and calorie-conscious lunch when you need to eat something, stat! Dress it up with the condiments featured below, or pour on top of whole grain noodles or brown rice for a bigger meal. Again, opt for low-sodium versions and read the label to make sure your soup is made from all-natural ingredients.
Fruit is so good for you! It’s rich in vitamins, fiber, and tastes incredible. And, it’s a good snack to reach for when you want something sweet. Many fruits —including apples, oranges, plums, peaches — don’t require a fridge, so keep them on your desk to remind yourself to enjoy them each day.
For a hit of sweetness, fiber, and nutrients, reach for dried fruits without added sugar (consider dehydrating your own if you’re having trouble finding them), and keep your snack portion to about ¼ cup. Combine with nuts and coconut chips for a twist on trail mix, add to salads and oatmeal, or eat plain.
CONDIMENTS & EXTRAS
Red Wine vinegar
Vinegar is almost calorie-free and it’s a tasty way to add flavor. Keep a bottle at your desk to dress salads, drizzle on sandwiches in place of mayo, or add a touch of it to soup.
Whether you fancy whole grain, Dijon, yellow, or spicy, mustard can add a kick to any lunch and as long as you stay away from honey mustard, it’s pretty low in calories. Individual packets have a longer shelf-life. Otherwise, unrefrigerated, opened bottles will keep at peak freshness for about a month.
There’s a reason why everyone’s obsessed with sriracha. This hot chili sauce goes great on everything. Squeeze a few drops on a hardboiled egg, into soup or hummus, on chicken, or wake up a quinoa salad.
Low-sodium soy sauce packets
Soy sauce packets are automatically portion controlled which is great because this is one condiment that’s pretty high in salt already and when pouring from the bottle, it’s easy to pour too much and end up with salt super overload. Use it to season a brown rice and veggie bowl or as a dip for sliced veggie strips like peppers and carrots.
Nut or seed butter
A spoonful of nut butter can stop any snack attack in its tracks. Keep some on hand to spread on whole-grain crackers, add a dollop to oatmeal, or use as a dip for celery and carrots. Look for all-natural nut butters made from only nuts and little or no salt. Avoid brands that list sugar or hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.
February 1, 2016
There’s little doubt that high-intensity training is a challenging, efficient, fat-burning, metabolism-boosting, heart-healthy way to get in the best shape of your life. That’s all well said and done until it’s time to press play — and you’re just not feeling it. No matter how prepared you are, there inevitably comes a time in every workout when the intensity is so fierce that it’s tough to keep powering through. Suddenly, you lose your confidence and determination, and you’re tired, frustrated, and you want to quit.
Don’t worry! There are two important strategies to help assure you’re maximizing you’re training. First, have some patience with yourself. It may be a matter of needing more time to physically develop the strength and stamina required to withstand the toughest part of the workout. Hang in there, continue to focus on your small improvements, and with progress, you will achieve your personal best.
The second explanation is one that is more mental than physical. Often, in high-intensity training, the mind gives in before the body needs to, leaving you a few push-ups short of what you’re really capable of. In these situations, you need to harness the Power of Association, a mental toughness technique that involves sharpening your focus to cut through the physiological static and to get the most out of your training.
The Power of Association
Top athletic and fitness performers use this technique during high-intensity training to manage pain and fatigue and power through. Association makes it possible to sustain motivation, confidence, focus, and emotional control so that you can get through even the most intense exercise. In essence, your mind allows your body to perform the way you want it to.
Here’s what to do: At any point in your training, when you begin to feel pain and fatigue, tune in on the work by focusing on bodily sensations (such as muscle tension and breathing) or a specific exercise technique or tactic. If you focus on more than one thing, you’re already off point and will have difficulty. By choosing just one technique, tactic, or bodily sensation, you block out everything else and become completely immersed in the only thing that matters — completing the task.
Here are some examples of how to use the Power of Association in your workout:
- Count your breaths or pay attention to your breathing technique (e.g. in through your nose, out through your mouth) as you perform the exercise.
- Let’s say you’re performing high knee jumps. Focus directly on a specific mark on your body where you want your knees to reach.
- When your Beachbody celebrity trainer gives you direction on technique, choose one keyword and use it to focus your energy on getting it done properly.
- If you’re holding a pose, such as plank, find a specific spot on the floor to zone in on.
- Count your reps (or the seconds) left of the exercise. I prefer to count aloud as it strengthens my focus on the work.
- Sometimes the best way to deal with pain is to focus right on it and tell your body to stay strong!
In moments of high physical exertion, when you’ve just about reached your limit, use one of these strategies. By mentally tuning in on the work, you’ll give your body the energy it needs to power through, and you’ll experience an incredible boost in your overall performance.