The Diabolical Diet: Your Drastic Weight Loss Plan is Probably Working Against You

It’s a vicious cycle:

  • diet
  • lose weight
  • drop off diet
  • gain weight back
  • repeat

If this describes your failed attempts at controlling your weight long-term, you’re not alone. It’s a disheartening sequence that most people have experienced. Would it surprise you to know that it’s those crash diets that can cause weight gain? Restricting calories has a negative effect on metabolism that makes your body want to hold onto stored energy. In fact, your body will fight harder against weight loss than it will against excessive gain. While a stringent diet may be effective for short-term weight loss, it will also be short-lived.

Your Metabolism Plays a Part

Your metabolism is a process that describes how efficiently your body burns calories. The fact that you burn calories just by being alive is one that largely gets overlooked. Your organs burn calories by functioning, and the amount that’s utilized even if you were to sit inert 24 hours a day is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The surprising thing is that your BMR burns anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of the total calories your body uses each day, depending on how efficient it is. Naturally, a range of different factors go into determining what each individual’s BMR is, but you can get a pretty good idea of what yours is by using a BMR calculator.

Additionally, you’ll use another 10 percent breaking down, digesting, and absorbing food. So, that’s a total of 70 to 90 percent of your calorie use burned on just “being.” Sounds like good news, right? It can be, but remember that in order to avoid weight gain, your metabolism has to burn all the calories you take in and to lose weight, it has to use more calories than you take in.  The disappointing part is that you don’t have much control over your metabolism. Exercise and some foods can increase your overall calorie burn, but it’s difficult to speed up your BMR.

…And the Really Bad News

It can be hard to speed up your metabolism, but researchers have found that things like hormone imbalances and aging can slow it down. Plus, severe calorie restriction tends to slow it down, too. Scientists from the National Institutes of Health interviewed contestants from The Biggest Loser immediately after they completed their challenge and again 6 years later. The goal was to see how their drastic weight loss had affected their metabolisms and if they’d been able to keep the weight off. The research findings showed that most of the contestants (13 out of 14) re-gained a considerable amount of weight after their dramatic losses. Plus, four of them ended up weighing more than they had before appearing on the show. ☹

Neuroscientists believe the phenomenon is due to our bodies having a “set point,” a comfort zone that your body believes your weight should fall into, no matter what you’d like to weigh. If you cut your caloric intake drastically, your body will slow down the metabolism to keep you near that set point and to prevent you from dropping too much weight.

A Glimmer of a Silver Lining

Keep in mind that it’s when you lose weight with a crash diet or extremely low-calorie eating plan that you are more likely to kick your body into that “set point” mode. A modest reduction in calories coupled with an increase in physical activity (yes, we mean exercise) doesn’t tend to make your BMR drop. That means gradual weight loss (dropping 1 to 2 pounds per month) is a better plan that will stick long-term. The goal is to ease your body toward burning a moderate amount of calories more than it takes in so that it has a chance to get comfortable with a new set point.

Yep, admittedly that’s a bummer for those of us who want it all off now. But an uncomfortable truth for most is that successful long-term weight loss means making lifestyle changes. Things like:

  • adjusting portion sizes—pay attention to how you feel after eating half your dinner, for instance. You might be surprised to find that you feel sated and don’t need to clean your plate. It’s a way to cut calories without actually counting them.
  • weigh yourself weekly—frequent weighing has been proven to help with weight loss because having an actual number acts as an incentive to keep going.
  • exercise often—even walking daily counts toward physical activity. But remember: the more intense the activity, the more calories you will burn.
  • don’t skip breakfast—breaking the fast has shown to help keep weight off because it reassures your body you aren’t going to starve it away from its set point.

Commit to cultivating just these few good weight loss habits for…well, forever. They’re all fairly small, simple changes anyone can make. None are life-altering in themselves but, over time, they can affect your weight and your health in better ways than a crash diet can.

Sweet Treats That Won’t Derail Weight Loss

When you have a sweet tooth, having to forgo your favorite treats is torture if you’re trying to lose weight. The good news is that there are a number of sweet things you can snack on that won’t work against you. In fact, there are some that will actually help with your weight loss goal. How awesome is that? This Valentine’s Day, satisfy your craving for something sweet and still stay on track for losing weight.

Honey Almonds

If your downfall is sweet and crunchy snacks, honey roasted almonds will be your go-to treat. The almonds provide protein and fiber, both of which are essential for weight loss. The weight loss secret to this treat, however, is in the honey. A study in the Journal of American Nutrition found that honey has an appetite-suppressing effect, so you’ll feel satisfied faster and won’t feel hungry again for awhile.

Chilly Cherries

No, not chili cherries–these are frozen, not spicy, and will help you lose weight because they’re low in calories and full of fiber, according to LIVESTRONG. An important part of this snack is to freeze the cherries. That will encourage you to eat them slower (no one likes brain-freeze!) plus, Prevention says that it makes them taste like an Italian ice.


Skim Milk Shake

Substitute half of the milk in a protein shake with cold coffee for a tasty sweet snack with a kick.

There’s a reason supplement companies build their products around sweet-tasting foods, and that’s to help you trick yourself into eating what you should while enjoying it. It’s the enjoying it part that some drop the ball on, but there are a few protein shake mixes out there that taste great. Beverly International‘s chocolate and rocky road Ultimate Muscle Protein shakes are good examples. Mixed with a cup of skim milk, both taste rich and decadent, giving you a real chocolate milk or milkshake experience while sneaking in necessary protein and nutrients. As you know, eating protein helps curb your appetite plus it actually burns calories to digest it, so you get a two-fer when you opt for a protein shake.

Want an energy-boosting trick to enhance a cardio session for more fat burning? Mix the Muscle Provider with 1/2 cup of skim milk and 1/2 cup of cold coffee left over from breakfast. It will taste like a Frappucino, and the caffeine in the coffee will give you the oomph you need for an effective workout.

Berries and Yogurt

Don’t confuse this snack with yogurt that comes with the fruit in the bottom. Buy your own fresh berries and mix them into a cup of Greek yogurt yourself.

Opt for Greek-style yogurt for this snack to cash in on the extra protein. It doesn’t hurt, either that the yogurt will provide healthy bacteria to keep your digestive system working optimally for weight loss. The berries bring the actual “loss” factor to the table. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the anthocyanins in strawberries, blueberries, and many other berries stop your body from storing fat.

Chia Seed Pudding

Throw some berries in with a basic chia seed pudding to get the added weight loss benefits the fruit provides.


Chia seeds’ secret weapon is that they’re high in fiber, so they’ll fill you up and keep you feeling full. In fact, according to Healthline, just 2 tablespoons contain almost 40 percent of your daily fiber needs. They are a bit heavy on calories for such a small amount, but that shouldn’t matter if you stick to one serving and factor it into your total daily calorie count. A simple recipe for the sweetly satisfying pudding is to mix coconut or almond milk with chia seeds and a splash of vanilla and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, DailyBurn has a collection of chia seed pudding recipes to appease your sweet tooth.


Don’t Forget Chocolate!

Dark chocolate seems to offer the most health benefits, but lighter versions still have healthy side effects such as improving memory and fighting inflammation.

Valentine’s Day and Chocolate go hand-in-hand–can you really have one without the other? The good news is that you don’t have to, even if you’re working on a fitness and weight loss resolution. According to Prevention, chocolate is healthier than we’ve traditionally been led to believe. Moderately indulging in chocolate offers benefits ranging from improved memory to lowering bad cholesterol, keeping blood vessels healthy, and reducing your risk for diabetes. A good, quality chocolate, in general, should provide the positive results you’re looking for in a healthy sweet treat, but dark chocolate appears to be associated with the most health benefits, including aiding weight loss. It’s been found to cause you to feel full faster and longer and also reduces how much carbs and fats you digest and absorb.

You Already Have This Free Tool for Weight Loss and Muscle-Building Success

Ali convinced himself and showed the world that he was the greatest. Image via ElTerribleProduction/YouTube

Athletes often aren’t given much credit for their intellectual prowess, but the most successful ones rely heavily on their brains to reach their goals and achieve success. An article1 in Flex points out that, although Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous for his physique, it was his brain that pushed him past his peers and propelled him to success in many areas. Mohammed Ali is another ideal example of a successful athlete who used his brain to convince himself that he was the greatest–and the results of his mind-over-muscle “experiment” are well-documented in the annals of sports history.

Although there are basic, common factors for reaching a fitness goal, whether it’s losing weight or building muscle, Shape points out that there is no one best way for anyone because everyone has a different physical makeup and genetics. However, we all have brains and, even the smartest ones typically can’t differentiate the fine line between real and imagination. So, if you’ve been struggling to lose weight or gain muscle and nothing seems to make a difference, put your brain to work.

You Can’t Argue With Results

Picture yourself stronger than ordinary, and you will become stronger than ordinary.

Some may scoff at visualization as a fitness tool, but research and anecdotal evidence have proven over and over that it works. Studies on using visualization with weight training, for example, have consistently shown significant increases in strength when participants visualized exercises before performing them. Additionally, people have lost hundreds of pounds using visualization. On the Huffington Post website, Stephen Mariani chronicled his visualization weight loss journey that took him from 475 pounds down to 184–that’s some significant weight loss, people!

Visualization is One Part of the Plan

Visualization delivers the best results when you use it along with a diet and/or exercise, depending on what your goal is.

You will probably see some progress using visualization alone, but people who have lost weight the quickest or who have gained the most strength use it along with other proven techniques, specifically diet and exercise. Sure, it might feel good to increase your strength by 15 percent or lose 5 pounds in a month, but wouldn’t it be more satisfying to have a strength increase of over 50 percent, or lose over 30 pounds in 30 days? Those aren’t imaginary numbers. They are actual, attainable goals if you combine visualization with a new or existing fitness regimen.

See Yourself Fit

Just as with any weight loss or strength building technique, consistency is the key to thinking yourself thin or strong.

Getting your brain to cooperate in your weight loss plan or muscle-building objective may be the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do. You’ll have to be disciplined enough to block out everything else for several minutes at a time, several times a day. David Hamilton, Ph.D., a doctor of chemistry who is also a mind-power specialist, reveals in one successful weight-loss-through-visualization story that the subject was visualizing five times a day. She wasn’t just thinking about it that often, but actually shutting out all outside distractions and imagining little Pac Man-like creatures nibbling away at her fat cells. Other people have successfully dieted down their weight by picturing themselves eating smaller, healthier meals and imagined how full and satisfied they felt afterward. If five times in one day doesn’t seem doable, give two or three times a try, setting a timer for 5 minutes each time. First thing in the morning, before you get out of bed, and last thing at night, before you go to sleep, are often perfect times when nothing else will interfere.

How can you doubt a technique that worked so well for Arnold? Image via BestClips/YouTube

Visualizing for strength-gains can be done several times a day, but doing it right before and even during your workout is a sure-fire way to get quicker results. See yourself easily lifting more than you currently lift, even if it’s just 5 to 10 pounds heavier. Then, while you’re actually doing an exercise, concentrate on your muscles, visualizing them growing and getting stronger. It’s the technique used by the Terminator himself, and there’s no denying that it worked for him.


1FLEX, “Mental Muscle,” Joe Weider’s FLEX, November 2016, 38.


Is Your Job Killing You?: Counteracting a Sedentary Lifestyle

Technology is great. It’s used across every industry to automate and expedite everything including manufacturing, construction, and delivering food from farm to table. It’s made life easier. So much easier, in fact, that it’s killing us–literally causing our bodies to atrophy and shutting down organs and cardiorespiratory systems. Some people have taken to a sedentary lifestyle readily, but if you get antsy after sitting for several hours straight that’s probably your body remembering that it was made to move. There is a lot of advice on how much exercise people need to stay healthy or lose weight, but it turns out that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Why You Need to Exercise

Sitting hunched over your computer all day interferes with circulation, breathing, and doesn’t burn many calories.

Medical Daily details what happens to your body over time after hours, days, weeks, months, and years of sitting, sitting, sitting. Constant sitting affects your posture which, in turn, inhibits your lungs from expanding. Incomplete expansion means ineffective breathing which ultimately means insufficient oxygen getting into your body. Additionally, circulation slows down when you’re not moving, so less of your oxygen-depleted blood gets distributed throughout your body to organs and tissue. All of that results in poor physical health as well as diminished mental performance. Plus, people with sedentary lifestyles don’t tend to reduce their caloric intake to compensate for the calories they’re not using. Naturally, that results in weight gain which increases health risks and aggravates the ones already present.

Get Moving!

Traditional exercise doesn’t interest you? Go bowling, golfing, or play tennis. Anything that gets you moving is beneficial.

The answer is as simple as it is obvious: if sitting is killing you, getting active will save your life. In an effort to do the bare minimum of activity that is required to remain somewhat healthy and possibly lose weight, many constantly ask the question, “How much exercise do I really need?” Thrilled that people are even considering activity as an alternative lifestyle, the government published guidelines that give general recommendations for various age groups. Healthy adults, for instance, are advised to get 75 to 90 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity each week, along with at least two sessions of resistance training. The unfortunate fact is, however, that advice won’t necessarily work for everyone. Some jobs require more sitting and less activity than others so, logically, some people may require more movement to offset the negative effects of their extra-sedentary lifestyle.

A Winning Formula


With home exercise equipment, you can spend your time in front of the TV working out instead of vegging out.

Harvard Health notes that any activity is better than none at all, so if all you can fit into your schedule is the recommended minimum, do it! However, if you want to get as much exercise as you really need, a recent study reveals a formula for determining how much exercise your body requires based on how many hours per day you’re sedentary. The Lancet-published study reveals different exercise-to-sitting time ratios, and that includes hours spent sitting while watching TV. For example, someone who spends their entire eight-hour workday sitting should get at least one full hour of exercise. If you add on two hours or more of television at night, you need to tack on anywhere from 15 to 30 additional minutes to compensate, a rough estimate based on the study’s recommended 8:60 and 6:30 sitting-hours-to-exercise-minutes ratio. Of course, you could jump rope, jog on the treadmill, or lift weights while watching the boob-tube. It’s a win-win that puts those TV-watching hours in the exercise column instead of on the sitting side. The bonus is that it will help you get enough movement to start getting healthy again and even lose weight in the process.

The Really, Really Good News

Take a walk on your breaks during work, or take the dog for a walk after dinner–it all adds up and contributes to your total exercise minutes.

Before you stress out about trying to fit a full hour of exercise into your already jam-packed day, remember that you don’t need to exercise for 60 minutes straight to make it count. Back in 2012, researchers found that breaking up exercise into small 10-minute increments did not reduce the positive benefits. So here’s how your hour of exercise each day can go down:

  • Use morning and afternoon breaks at work to take a brisk 10 to 15-minute walk.
  • Spend 20 minutes on a cardio machine or doing aerobics before or after work, whenever it’s most convenient.
  • Take a 10 to 20-minute walk after dinner instead of vegging out in front of the TV or computer–or at least before vegging out.

A couple of times a week, you can replace your daytime walks or your evening walk with a resistance training session. Perform it as a HIIT workout to get both resistance and cardio at the same time to maximize benefits.

5 Ways to Incorporate CBD Into Your Fitness Plan

This week, Targitfit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Lily Brooks:


The perception of CBD has changed and it’s become exceedingly acceptable to consume it in some capacity. In my case, I use it together with my fitness routine.



1) Morning pick-me-up

CBD tones down the jitters from that vital morning cup of coffee.

I have long known that I would never be a morning person. My brain refuses to function in the early hours but remains active well past midnight. However, my job requires that I get up early so, like most night owls, I consume coffee to perk me up and keep me awake during the day. Caffeine, unfortunately, sometimes gives me migraine headaches and I become a tad irritable. Luckily, I’ve discovered that one or two drops of CBD in my morning coffee help keep my brain alert and active while taking away some of the jitteriness that caffeine can cause.

2) Supercharged workout

I think any gym-goers would understand that, while working out offers an overall boost to our health, there are aspects about it that we don’t necessarily like. In my case, it’s doing cardio. I find treadmills and stationary bikes dull and repetitive. Even running outdoors is too stressful for my liking. To motivate myself on cardio days, I’ve started using CBD with my exercise. I normally add 3 to 5 drops of CBD oil into the smoothie I drink before my cardio workout and, since starting that, I now look forward to cardio days and workout time seems to pass a lot quicker than when I don’t use CBD.

3) Workout Recovery

Apart from perking me up in the morning, I’ve also begun to use CBD oil as a means of recovery after my workout sessions. After a particularly intense workout, I usually suffer from muscle aches for the next couple of days. A few drops of CBD oil into my morning smoothie or right before bedtime eases some of the pain and tension. With this routine, I am able to get back to the gym a lot sooner than when I didn’t include CBD oil into my recovery. Also, my productivity previously suffered days after an intense workout. My mind isn’t as active when my muscles are sore, so I tend to take time off work to recover. Suffice it to say I don’t do that anymore.


4) Relaxation

I make it a point not to do any office work during the weekend. I even avoid going to yoga classes or working out in the gym on weekends. It’s my time to relax and recuperate. But with so much going on in my life and at work, I sometimes find it hard to calm my senses and just relax. Naturally, I turned to a little herbal help in the form of CBD. I take a few drops, 3 to 5 right after meals on weekends so I wake up bright and early the following day ready to complete all my weekend tasks. With its help, I am still able to function normally, run errands, pay bills, meet friends–all a little more calmly and peacefully.

5) Sleep

I’ve already mentioned my difficulty quieting my mind. This is even more challenging at night when I want to get to sleep early and my brain is just too over-excited to let me sleep. So I started taking CBD pills or edibles to help me enjoy a night of deep sleep. It’s been quite successful. It’s helped me to retrain my mind to sleep earlier than usual and, now, some nights I don’t even need to take CBD to fall asleep.


Lily Brooks, a passionate blogger who loves to write about innovative ideas on promoting physical and mental health. She is currently working with GreenSociety which offers top quality CBD online.


Buh-Bye Arm Flab: Build Those Tri’s


Toned triceps add to the overall look and strength of your arms.

It’s easy to forget to work a muscle group you don’t see a lot. The triceps are just such muscles, because they’re located at the back of the arm, conveniently out of sight. They’re a small muscle group, too, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need working. You need strong triceps to be able to bend your elbow and straighten it out to extend and contract your forearm. That’s useful in everyday life, but Stack points out that strong triceps are the key to busting through a bench press plateau. Additionally, HealthLine says that the triceps are important shoulder joint stabilizers, adding strength and control to what would otherwise be an unstable joint. Yes, even those who aren’t bodybuilders or athletes still need to work on their tri’s. If you’ve ever been dismayed at the flab on the backside of your arm wobbling when you wave, you already know why.

Anatomy of the Triceps

Triceps are plural because there are actually three parts, or “heads,” that make up the muscle. does a thorough job of diagramming the long head, lateral head, and medial head of the triceps, illustrating why it’s vital to include exercises in your workout that strengthen all three triceps muscles. The lateral and medial heads are the ones that usually get the most attention when anyone has the presence of mind to include triceps exercises in their workout, but working the long head is just as important. Overhead movements, such as the French press, will tone and strengthen that long head which will also reduce embarrassing arm-jiggle.

Working Triceps Into a Workout

You could dedicate an entire workout to your triceps, but doing so isn’t necessary when working this small but significant muscle group. Because they’re stabilizing muscles in many chest exercises, it’s efficient to include them on chest day, as training and nutrition expert Dr. Jim Stoppani does. Teaming up various press movements with dips, triceps kickbacks, and extension moves will give you a thorough workout that hits all three heads of your triceps. An effective way to approach working triceps with chest is to go through all your chest exercises and hit them heavy, followed up by more reps and lighter weight for the tris, all in one workout. Then, for the next chest/tris day (at least 72 hours later) hit the triceps heavy, working those exercises first and then do your chest exercises using lighter weight and more reps. Alternating workouts that way will allow you to give each muscle group the intense focus it needs to get stronger.

Triceps Exercises

You probably already have a list of go-to chest exercises for chest/tri’s day, but if you need some help with ideas for the triceps part of the workout, we have a few for you. Everyone should be familiar with triceps kickbacks and a variety of overhead triceps extensions, including cable extensions. Prevention recommends working in the dumbell French press, which is also an overhead extension, and skull crushers, too.

Dips are another great exercise for hitting the backs of your arms, but you need to be sure you’re focusing on working your triceps when you do them because it’s easy to extend the range of motion so that they’re working your chest and shoulders more than your tri’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for the purposes of strengthening triceps you need to focus on them. All dip exercises will engage your tri’s, but doing dips off a bench is the best way for anyone–especially beginners–to focus on working the backs of their arms. As you dip down, pay close attention to the point where you stop feeling the movement in your triceps and start feeling it more in your shoulders. That means you’ve dipped too low, and don’t want to go quite that low on the next rep.

What’s Up With Commercial Weight Loss Plans?

Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem…you’ve seen the commercials and heard celebrities swear to their effectiveness for weight loss, but do they really work? If so, how well and, maybe the bigger question is why? The truth is that pretty much all of the commercial weight loss plans you’ve heard of from Atkins to the Zone and including the top three plans can be effective, but they can also be expensive and, at times, inconvenient. It’s true, weight loss isn’t necessarily about convenience but you will be more likely to stick with a plan that fits easily into your life so, logically, that would be the best weight loss plan for you. Since there is no question that these commercial plans can work, let’s look at how they work and why.

The How

Food from top commercial diet programs can be purchased online or at your local grocery store, making it as easy as possible to stick to their plan. Image by Mike Mozart/Flickr

Many times, the biggest obstacle to hitting your goals is lack of knowledge. No matter which commercial weight loss plan you go with, they’re all based on the same principal: teaching you how to eat. More specifically, they give you guidelines on daily caloric intake, and many get even more precise by addressing what types of food you can eat. For example, according to CBS News, meal replacement plans such as Optifast and Medifast restrict daily calories to 1,000 or less and require that you substitute one of their shakes or meal replacement bars for one or two of your meals each day.

The trend of most recent healthy weight loss advice is not skipping meals, though, and Web MD points out that eating regular meals along with controlling calories is the healthiest way to lose weight. That’s how the Big Three (Jenny, WW, and Nutrisystem) designed their individual plans, recommending that clients eat three meals a day plus one or two snacks. Additionally, all three offer prepared food, and the calories and nutrition have already been taken care of so you don’t have to do any weighing or calculations, though Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem rely heavily on the food they provide. Food can be purchased from Weight Watchers to take some of the guesswork out of dieting, but that plan focuses more on teaching you to make healthy choices on your own. The bottom line of how any of these plans work is that they walk you through eating every day and, if you are consistent and follow their advice closely, any of them will produce results.

The Why

Meetings and counseling are important parts of commercial diet plans that improve their effectiveness over dieting alone. Image by Mike Mozart/Flickr

For any of these weight loss plans, the “why” and the “how” are almost the same: you have someone else telling you how to eat. However, there’s a reason the most effective plans include support such as group meetings and counseling, and that’s because they increase those plans’ effectiveness. Both are a large part of why the top three plans are the top three, and they’re useful resources for information and guidance for people who need hand-holding. Not to disparage anyone who needs help sticking to a weight loss plan and managing a diet because that’s completely understandable in a world where more people eat out than at home and meals can be super-sized for a couple of bucks.

The meetings and counseling also keep you accountable. It’s easy to talk yourself into scarfing half a German chocolate cake when you’re feeling munchy at 11 o’clock at night if you don’t have to see your counselor or weigh in at a meeting the next day. The support and encouragement those resources provide are as important as the accountability factor. Knowing that those people understand you, have been or are where you’re at in the weight loss battle, and are rooting for you to succeed makes it a little easier to pass on the late-night cake-fest.


TargitFit class

You have to get more active for any diet plan to work optimally, whether you take a fitness class, start jogging in the park, or find other ways to work exercise into your life.

You can always study up on healthy dieting and design your own. Maybe even talk to a doctor, dietician, or personal trainer for advice. Cost is the factor that U.S. News and World Report says discourages a lot of dieters from giving Jenny a go, so it makes financial sense to do it yourself. However, since most people try dieting at one point or another in their lifetimes, maybe an unsuccessful attempt is what has you considering commercial weight loss plans. If you have the money and want to try any of them, definitely do that. They’ll introduce you to a new way of eating, and shifting your mindset to eat differently than you have most of your life is really the first step. If you know you don’t want or can’t commit to paying for the plan long-term (if not for life), then set a limit, and quit the plan after you’ve spent a certain dollar amount, lost a certain number of pounds, or simply after a specific amount of time. But don’t quit using what you’ve learned.

Apply what you learn during that introductory period to the rest of your life. Eat healthier, smaller portions more frequently, and take advantage of any recipes the plan provides while you’re on it so you can build your own menus and meals once you’re on your own. Enlist a friend or family member for support. Even if they don’t want to do the diet with you, it will be valuable to have someone to talk to and to be accountable to.

Finally, like it or not, you have to get moving. In an assessment of Weight Watchers, U.S. News noted that the program added fitness to their plan to encourage clients to become more active. Though many other plans don’t prescribe exercise along with the diet they’ve built empires on, they still recommend it because it helps clients get the most out of the programs and see faster, more permanent results. Working out and exercise classes are obvious ways to get moving but there are a million little ways you can increase your calorie burn, and some of them can even be fun. The best part is that however you choose to work more activity into your days, whether it’s switching to a standing-height desk or going dancing once a week, it all counts toward calorie-burning physical activity that will help any diet plan work better. You can’t go wrong with that!

Keep Your Resolutions With Ease–Hygge!

With this New Year also being the dawn of a new decade, we wanted to revisit the idea of balance and ease as a way to supercharge your resolutions:

No matter what the goal is, pushing yourself too hard leads to stress and, eventually, burnout.

Most people like to hit the ground running at the first of the year, putting all or most of their focus on their resolutions and goals. The thought is that the more time that’s spent trying to force results, the quicker those results will come. In reality, that mindset can lead to stress and burnout faster than it will accomplish your goals, whether they’re weight loss and fitness, career-related, or some other objective.

Take a look at your track record. If your MO is to jump into a New Year’s resolution with both feet leaving all other parts of your life in the dust, you probably cycle through excitement and determination, then frustration, and, eventually, you abandon your goals only to pick them up and go through it all again later. This year, take some advice from Signe Johansen and take a gentler, more balanced approach to your ambitions. In her book How to Hygge, Signe explains how the Nordic philosophy can bring more balance into your life. Put your focus on hygge, and you might be surprised at how quickly everything else falls into place.

Did You Say “Hookah?”

Hygge advocates coziness and comfort to create balance.

Unless you’re fluent in Danish, you might find it difficult say “hygge.” Depending on which website you reference, it can be pronounced “hue-gah” or “hoo-ga.” No matter how you say it, the concept is the same: balancing your life by taking time to enjoy the simple things. Cutting through all the suggestions that various hygge experts have for practicing the philosophy, the bottom line is slowing down enough to appreciate the world around you.

Benefits of Hygge

When your life is all about work, working out, or taking care of the family without scheduling in time for relaxing, your stress levels go off the charts, and you may find yourself barely functioning and living in the burnout zone. In addition to making it next to impossible to achieve anything, especially new and aggressive goals, stress undermines your health. According to Healthline, stress can cause:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart problems
  • impaired immune system
  • depression
  • insomnia

…and it can affect your breathing and digestion as well as complicate your condition if you have diabetes.

That’s where hygge comes in. NetDoctor explains that many elements of practicing hygge are balancing and ultimately good for your health. Some of these include getting as much sleep as you need rather than what you have time for, getting outdoors any time of year, exercising as part of your lifestyle (not as your entire lifestyle), and taking some “you” time every day instead of once a decade. Also, appreciating the simple parts of life requires putting things into perspective, which also helps bring balance into your life. Any one of these will reduce stress, but imagine how calm and tranquil your life would be if you incorporated them all.

Okay, Let’s Not Skip the Suggestions

Hiking with friends is the hygge way to workout. Bonus: it creates balance in your life and it makes reaching goals seem effortless.

If you read a brief explanation of hygge, you could come away with the impression that it’s not a precise concept, and that’s partially true. Even the simple definition listed above isn’t comprehensive. Some say hygge is living in an atmosphere of coziness. Others focus on the idea of relaxing. However you see hygge, you might be at a loss for implementing it.

It sounds counterintuitive to schedule time for relaxing into your day but, at first, that may be the only way you can get started. Living in such a driven society, it feels wrong to not be doing something viewed as productive all the time. Adjust your mindset to see hygge as productive and then set some goals every day. Forbes recommends blocking out time to spend with friends or family, taking a walk or bike ride, enjoying a soak in the tub complete with lighted candles and relaxing music, or sitting down with some comfort food and truly enjoying every minute of eating it, sans all electronics including your laptop, smartphone, and the TV. Yes, even your workout can count as hygge if it’s truly “you” time and feeds your soul. Need a more comprehensive guide to hygge? Get Johansen’s book, or simply follow this Scandanavian adage:

Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.”

Myth Busting: You Don’t Have to be a Carnivore to Build Muscle

Many people think you have to eat meat in order to get enough protein to build or maintain muscle mass, but that’s a myth that needs busting. While it’s true that protein from meat is one of the most common components in athletes’ diets, it is not the only way to get it. Before any carnivores start posting hateful comments, the purpose of this article isn’t to convince anyone to go veg. Instead, the focus is to give people options. After all, there truly is such a thing as too much meat in a diet. Excessive protein can cause kidney stones and too much dietary protein can also result in weight gain, excess bacteria and yeast, and can even fuel cancer growth, according to Dr. Mercola.

Dr. M also points out, however, that completely eliminating animal-based protein can lead to health problems, too, and even the great and powerful Schwarzenegger touts a reduced-meat diet these days. So! Apparently, our Moderation Mantra is being recognized by more and more people. In lieu of lean meat, here are some guidelines for getting protein from alternative sources.

How Much Protein do You Need?


In addition to protein, supplement each meal with the amino acid leucine. Image by Bioreg images/flickr

Fitness trainers recommend that you get about 1/2 of a gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight per day, and athletes and bodybuilders can take in up to .7 grams per pound without overdoing it. It’s best for your body if you divide the total amount up over all your meals in a day, ideally getting about 1/3 of your daily protein intake and supplementing 1 to 2 grams of the amino acid leucine with each meal.

Non-Meat Protein

Whey is the most common source of protein in shake supplements, but you can find ones made from soy, hemp, and even peas.

If you’re going to give meat-reduction a go, you’ll have to be open to the alternatives. Because of allergies as well as lifestyle choices, the use of some of these suggestions depends on whether you can consume dairy products. That’s because the easiest way to work protein into your diet without eating meat is to eat eggs or mix up a whey shake using skim milk. If those options are off the table, for whatever reason, pea protein and hemp protein are effective choices, and it’s easier than ever to find protein supplements made from either one.

Of course, soy is the tried and true standby, and it is a terrific option for women because of the estrogen-like benefits. However, that is also the reason men tend to steer clear of soy protein, but that’s the second myth that needs busting today. According to the Huffington Post, clinical studies have found no evidence that soy has any feminizing effects on men and because soy has been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, it’s an excellent meat-alternative protein for men.

Alternative Snacking

Oatmeal and almonds are a tasty protein duo when you’re looking for meat alternatives.

Protein supplements aren’t the only way to get protein into your diet. Health helps out with a list of high protein foods that are easy to eat on the go such as:

  • single-serve oatmeal or cottage cheese
  • string cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • protein bars
  • single-serve hummus (perfect for dipping whole-grain crackers or carrot and celery sticks)
  • almonds
  • roasted chick peas
  • edamame
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • pumpkin seeds

Quinoa, lentils, peanut butter, broccoli, and asparagus are also good sources of non-meat protein.

Take Your Supps

When you cut back on meat consumption, vitamin and mineral supplements help replace important nutrients.

Unless you have a licensed dietician structure your new reduced-meat diet, cutting back on your meat consumption will likely affect the amounts you get of some nutrients. That’s good reason to take a quality multi-vitamin. says that people who cut meat from their diets tend to end up with deficiencies in four key nutrients, so you should at least make sure to supplement these:

  • iron
  • calcium
  • vitamin B12
  • zinc

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

Last week we discussed the impact your mind has on your workout, and it can’t be denied that a positive attitude can help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals. But there’s more to be said for the mind/body/spirit connection. When you’re in a positive place mentally and emotionally, you’re more likely to engage in a healthy lifestyle. What if we told you that getting to that sweet spot was as easy as regularly performing random acts of kindness?

It might sound like a New Age idiom, but there’s actually scientific proof that being kind has mental and emotional benefits. When you do something kind, the very act releases dopamine into your system. That’s the “happy hormone” you hear so much about that makes you feel good and it’s a motivator, so that’s a plus when it comes to getting your mind on board with working out. Being kind also causes your brain to produce serotonin, which alleviates depression and produces feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction. Additionally, serotonin reduces anxiety and both dopamine and serotonin help reduce stress. However, there’s more to it than that: although being kind can help you get in the right mindset to start and stick with a workout plan, it affects your physical health in a more direct way, as well.

Compassion Aids Digestion

Being kind to others is also an act of kindness for your digestive tract.

It turns out kindness is a solution for tummy trouble. The dopamine and serotonin that performing an altruistic act produces assists in the digestion process. Dopamine protects your stomach lining, a useful element for preventing peptic ulcers. What’s more, both serotonin and dopamine get your intestines working to move food through your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, medications containing serotonin are given to chemotherapy patients to treat vomiting and nausea. Plus, studies have found that those same meds are also effective for irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal issues.

A Charitable Heart is a Healthy Heart

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from doing something nice for someone? That’s the physical feeling of your brain producing oxytocin and flooding your body with it. The feeling is a nice enough side-effect, but that hormone also feeds nitric oxide into your system. Also known as “NO,” nitric oxide offers a host of health benefits including enhanced weight loss. It’s also important for heart health, too. NO dilates blood vessels which improves blood flow for lower blood pressure.

A Cure for the Common Cold

Kind acts boost your immune system to ward off illness, but being on the receiving end of kindness can help you heal faster, too.

When it comes to treating illness, kindness works two ways. First, boosting that NO we just talked about through kind acts also boosts your immune system and helps your body fight infection. However, being on the receiving end of kindness can help you recover from an illness quicker. A 2011 study showed that when care providers showed greater empathy to patients, those patients’ common cold symptoms were less severe, and the duration of the illness was decreased. That says a lot for giving and receiving kindness, and it should give you a whole new take on being good to yourself when you’re under the weather.

Empathy is an Anti-Inflammatory

In a way, kindness is Nature’s aspirin, acting as an anti-inflammatory to alleviate chronic pain, migraines, and help with other issues associated with inflammation such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. It’s that amazing oxytocin at work once again, and research has proven it. In a 2013 study, researchers found that out of an assortment of typical activities such as working, managing a household, and volunteering, the volunteering affected inflammation the most, producing the lowest levels across the board. Sure, you can sign up at a soup kitchen or commit to coaching a kids soccer team, but every little act is effective, even paying for the order of the person behind you in line at the coffee shop or giving the last grocery cart to another shopper can offer anti-inflammatory benefits, as well.

Is Kindness the Key to Aging?

Inflammation not only contributes to a range of health problems, but it ages you, too. On top of that, free radicals assault your cells, speeding up the process. However, adding kind acts to your daily life actually reduces both aging causes. Research has revealed that the oxytocin produced when you get the warm fuzzies from doing something nice slows the corrosive effects of inflammation and free radicals. Plus, studies suggest the link between compassion and the vagus nerve, which helps manage inflammation and regulates the heart, also plays a part in slowing the aging process.


Make Time for Kindness

If being kind can improve your physical and mental health and enhance your exercise goals, it’s certainly worth making time for. It starts with recognizing opportunities for action, like helping a stranger loaded with shopping bags or stacking firewood for your neighbor. If it’s not part of your routine, you probably miss a thousand chances every day to do the nice thing. Just like any habit, it will take time to firmly embed it in your life, but there are things you can do to help kindness take hold quicker.

Print out little reminders like the ones in this article and tape them to your mirror and other various places like your car and your office. Use one as a bookmark. Or write kindness quotes in your journal or day planner. You can even find calendars and planners dedicated to keeping kindness in the front of your mind, like the free planner you can get here. And when you’re making time for kindness, be sure to schedule yourself in for a generous dose. When you know what it’s like to receive, you can give all the more whole-heartedly.