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.

DIY

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?

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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. Bodybuilding.com 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.

Get Your Mind Behind Your Fitness and Weight Loss Goals

Retrain your brain to support your fitness and weight loss goals.

If you’ve always had a tough time sticking with a fitness workout program, it’s probably your mind that’s standing in your way. Many people make a New Year’s resolution, join a gym or start running outdoors at the first sign of spring with every intention to lose weight and get fit. They start out strong but, as time drags on, their resolve wanes and within a few months many quit altogether. According to PT Direct, just under half of the people who join a gym as part of a New Year’s resolution quit within the first six months only to start the cycle over again the following year, or whenever they get a wild hair to “do something” about their physical condition. Only this time, they weigh more and are in worse shape.

 

When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, the workout is the easy part.

You may not immediately see the connection to your mind but consider that even if you stumble across the best workouts to lose weight, knowing what to do isn’t enough to get you into shape. You have to actually do the workout consistently. However, once your workout motivation has lost steam, even a team of wild horses couldn’t drag you into the gym and make you work out. That’s where mentally preparing comes in, whether it’s for weight loss workouts, bodybuilding workouts or any fitness workout program. Knowing what you’re going to do and why accounts for 90 percent of the workout. Physically doing the workout is actually the easiest part.

Start With Why

Write down ALL the benefits you’ll get from your workout. List your personal goals, but also include all of the extra rewards you’ll reap.

Having a plan for your workout is vital, but even before you hit the gym or the greenbelt or turn on the kickboxing DVD, you need to be aware of why you’re doing it all. If you have no reason, there’s no motivation, right? Review the positive things you’ll get from working out. Don’t just focus on your specific goal, such as gaining muscle or a desire to lose weight. Of course those benefits are important, but take a look at the big picture and all of the bonus bennies such as improved fitness, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, increased energy, and better heart health. It’s like getting several gifts with purchase: you start a workout and weight loss program for one reason and reap a boatload of  extra rewards. Write it all down and tape it to your mirror, paint it on the wall, or embroider it on a pillow. That way, you can refer to it before each workout or, at the very least, whenever your resolve starts to dissolve.

Now Comes the How

By applying the technique in the Harvard study to your workouts, imagine the results you’ll get!

This part is probably more involved than you’d like it to be, at first, anyway. After you’ve disciplined yourself to stick with your fitness workout program long-term, you won’t have to rely on it as often. Once you know the big “why” of your fitness program, then you set your goals and plan your workouts. Don’t roll your eyes, especially if you’re one of the on-again-off-again worker-outers. Setting goals is useful, but writing them down borders on magical. Need the proof? An article in Forbes outlines a study in which Harvard MBA students were asked about their goals and if they had them written down. The majority, 84 percent, had no goals; 13 percent had specific goals in mind but hadn’t written them down; 3 percent had their goals in mind and on paper. Fast forward 10 years, and the results are mind-blowing:

  • The small percentage of the class who had goals but hadn’t written them down was earning double the income of the majority who had no goals at all.
  • The tiny 3 percent who took the time to write out their goals was averaging 10 times the earnings of the entire rest of the class — and that includes the 13 percent who had goals and were doing fairly well themselves.

So! If writing down your long term and short term weight loss goals is the key to success — and in spades! — then it’s well worth it to spend the timing doing it.

Start with the long-term goal, where you want to be in a year, then set smaller goals for 6 months, 3 months, 1 month, next week. Next, write out your workout routine. Set it down on notebook paper or create a chart on the computer. Just get it down in print, so you have a plan to stick to. Each day, only consider what you’re going to do that day, whether it’s running a mile, working your upper body in the weight room, or attending a TargitFit class. Tackling your workouts and your goals one at a time keeps them manageable.

Focus, Focus, Focus

You don’t have to reach a full meditative state, but clearing your mind and focusing on your workout will improve your results.

Focus is vital for your workout and having a written plan for each workout helps. However, the importance of maintaining that focus and tuning out distractions while working out can’t be overstated. If your mind isn’t on the workout, your heart won’t be in the workout. Author and fitness expert Drew Baye recommends having a pre-workout ritual for quieting your mind, visualizing the exercises and activating your workout mindset. For just a few minutes, sit quietly (preferably alone and in a place with no distractions) and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, concentrating on nothing more than the breath entering and leaving your body. After about 10 breaths, start reviewing in your mind the exercises you’re going to perform, how much weight you’ll use and how many sets and reps you’ll do. Mentally move from one exercise to the next until you’ve gone through the entire routine. Baye’s technique for activating his workout mindset is to repeat three motivating phrases. You can pick one or two, and they don’t have to be the same as Drew’s.

“You know what you can do, do what you can’t.”

“Give it everything you got.”

“Train serious, train hard.”

Whether you use a well-known motto or one you made up on your own, if it means something to you, it will effectively get you through the workout. Plus, sometimes, it will push you past what you thought were your barriers.

You really are capable of increasing muscle mass or losing however many pounds you want to. In the end, though, no one else can do it for you. So, take control over your mind and get it working for you instead of against you.

How Alcohol Affects Your Workout

Even fitness-conscious people like to indulge in a happy hour now and then but, if you’re serious about building muscle or burning fat, those two-for-one well drinks will get in the way of your goals, not to mention all the holiday cheer at Christmas and New Years parties this time of year. While we’d like to tell you that boozing it up won’t affect your health and fitness goals, that would be a lie. Your body won’t perform optimally, and your workout attitude might not be in top form, either. That’s not to say that you should quit drinking altogether, but consider strategizing how and when you imbibe this holiday season.

Interferes With Muscle Building

Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to synthesize protein and build muscle.

In order to build muscle, your body has to synthesize protein. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption has shown to mess that process up. In a study published on PLOS.org, researchers found that drinking reduced the rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis, even when subjects ate extra protein before and/or after working out. That means eating more protein to try to encourage muscle building can’t overcome the way alcohol negatively affects muscle building.

Fogs Your Brain

The American Addiction Centers offers a short list of the ways the brain of even an occasional or moderate drinker can be affected by alcohol including short-term memory loss, impaired decision-making, and possible blackouts. While you might not feel drunk the day after, there’s no telling how long the effects of the night before will last. It’s different for everyone and depends on things like how much you drank, how often you drink in general, your age, your family history, your health, and more. That’s why you might not be able to work up the enthusiasm for a workout the day after partying it up.

Obstructs Recovery

A snootful may make you drowsy but it interferes with regenerative, restful sleep vital for building muscle and weight loss.

Everyone knows that muscle building takes place outside of the gym–when you’re resting and not working out. The problem is that, even though a few glasses of wine or a beer or two might relax you, they don’t promote deep, restorative sleep. On top of that, the American Council on Exercise points out that alcohol consumption also strains your immune system, another vital link in the health chain that’s essential for building muscle.

Hinders Hydration

Alcohol draws water out of your cells, so you’ll need to drink more water to replenish your body for a workout.

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, encouraging your body to flush fluids. You need those fluids, though, especially if you’re hitting the gym for an intense cardio or resistance workout. Plus, according to Women’s Health, drinking can also interfere with nutrient absorption as it irritates the lining of your stomach. That means even if you eat healthily and clean the day after drinking, your body still won’t get everything it needs to build muscle.

Derails Fat Loss

Alcohol itself carries extra calories that your body will burn before it uses other types of fuel. Plus, drinking usually comes with a side of extra food.

When you’re counting calories, drinking alcohol will send your daily tally through the roof. Mens’ Fitness says that a typical drink has roughly 100 to 165 calories, but that’s not including mixed drinks that are made with sugar-packed fruit juices or pre-made mixers. Plus, how many holiday revelers stop with one drink? What’s more, alcohol relaxes your inhibitions, so you’re likely to eat more and worry about it less, another way your diet gets derailed when you drink.

The Balancing Act

Hit the gym first before joining friends for some holiday cheer.

There’s nothing wrong with drinking as long as you do it in moderation and time it with your workouts. In fact, alcohol can actually be beneficial to your health. Still, folks who are fond of the drink need to find a way to have their beer and drink it too. Muscle and Fitness advises starting with keeping antioxidants up to safeguard your liver by supplementing with N-acetyl cysteine. You can also improve muscle building after a day of drinking by taking leucine. Alcohol tends to cancel the effects of this BCA, so taking extra the day after will help. Also, back to the research that showed alcohol consumption reduces protein synthesis, remember that particular effect occurs during the 24 hours after you’ve had your drinks. That means it’s better to exercise before hitting holiday parties on the same night rather than partying or heading to the bar the evening after you’ve worked out.

7 Tips for Eating Healthy in Recovery

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

Eating healthy can make all the difference for a healthy and successful recovery.

Diet and exercise affect many health issues. Eating right and working out are essential for keeping your body healthy and changing those habits can make all the difference in how well you respond to illness and disease. That’s especially true for someone recovering from substance abuse. It’s not easy being in recovery. It takes a lot of willpower to avoid the bad substances you crave. Putting your focus on exercise and eating right can help make sure you stay on the right path toward health and wellness.

  1. Hydrate

Any expert would tell you that hydration is one key factor in your journey toward health, especially when you’re in detox and recovery. It is highly recommended that you drink around half an ounce to an ounce of water for each pound of body weight. But you’re not limited to just drinking water, there are other sources of liquid that are almost as beneficial as water. You can make infused water by adding fruits and herbs to a pitcher of water and refrigerating it for a few hours.

  1. Eat your veggies and fruits

It is recommended that you fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits at each meal. This advice applies to everyone but more so for people in recovery. Fruits, particularly citrus fruits are rich in antioxidants which helps to increase your immunity against diseases. Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, romaine, and spinach help to rid the body of toxins and also help it to detoxify the liver from harmful toxins created as a byproduct of metabolism.

  1. Go for whole grains

Whole grains contain the endosperm, germ, and bran which are normally removed from grains during refinement. These parts contain a lot of nutrients including insoluble fiber which helps control appetite and promote digestion. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, and wheat bread. Other less common sources of whole grains include quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.

  1. Wild salmon for protein

Protein is essential for those recovering from substance abuse as it helps repair damaged cells. Wild salmon is exceptionally rich in protein and it also contains omega-3 fatty acid which has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Salmon can be broiled, baked, or grilled and served with a side of vegetables or brown rice.

 

  1. Seeds and nuts for snacks

Throughout the day, getting hungry in between meal times can’t be helped, especially when we are in treatment centers. No matter how conscious we might be about the food that we eat during mealtime, the temptation snack on junk is real and very strong. Turning to nuts and seeds for snacks is not only a healthier option but also affords us protein that we need to help repair our bodies and help regulate our blood sugar levels. It also helps to keep our mood stable throughout the day.

  1. Avoid fast foods, sugar, and caffeine

When we are in recovery, the most common mistake that people make when it comes to their nutrition is turning to fast foods and sugary food to replace their addiction. Treatment centers like The Beaches Rehab Center try to mitigate this unhealthy compulsion by encouraging people to turn to other constructive ways such as art and fitness. Fast foods are considered junk and don’t actually offer that much nutritional value other than empty calories. They are also packed with processed ingredients that only help to reverse the hard work that many recovering patients have worked so hard to achieve.

  1. Start a food journal

 

You might be surprised how much junk and bad food we eat throughout the day, especially if we don’t keep proper track. The same goes for those in recovery, which is keeping a food journal is helpful. Such a detailed account of what we eat allows us to immediately see a pattern of unhealthy food choices that we can learn to avoid in the future.

 

Lily Brooks is an avid blogger. She writes about a variety of topics including health, science, and literature. She is currently working with The Beaches Rehab Center, a fully accredited & licensed Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center.

Ditch the Diet for Thanksgiving

The standard advice this time of year usually centers around ways to enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving meal while sticking to your diet. Included in the suggestions are the usual substitution recommendations and instructions to share one serving of dessert between four people. As if! Finally, here is the Thanksgiving dieting advice you’ve always wanted to hear: don’t sweat the diet on Thanksgiving Day. Make it your cheat day for the week. That takes the pressure off so you can enjoy the holiday for once.

Cheat Day Wisdom

Most diets fail because it doesn’t take long before you start feeling deprived. That can lead to bingeing on portions and restricted foods and once that happens, the next step is throwing your hands up in defeat and giving up on your health and weight loss goals. That is why most experts recommend allowing yourself at least one cheat day per week. WebMD says cheat days actually boost the likelihood of successful weight loss with a diet. If you know you have a day coming up when you don’t have to measure portions, count calories, or say no to the punkin cheesecake, it’s easier to do all those things the other six days of the week. Plus, many diets can throw your system out of whack. According to Muscle and Fitness, essential things like leptin, thyroid hormones, and something called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF)–all essential for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight–decline when you’re limiting dietary elements such as fat. However, indulging occasionally can get those levels back to normal.

No Regrets, No Guilt

Pass the turkey and help yourself to all the other tasty Thanksgiving treats without guilting yourself.

Possibly the best thing about considering Thanksgiving a cheat day is the mental block it busts through. As an official, “legal” day of indulgence, you won’t feel guilty about every little bite you take. You can legitimately enjoy the mashed potatoes and gravy and have an entire slice of pumpkin pie all to yourself. It’s your cheat day, so WomensHealth says avoid the guilt trip. Eat what you want, reveling in and savoring every last bite, lick your lips, and go back to counting calories and limiting your carbs on Friday.

Be Reasonable

You don’t need to over-load your plate to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.

OK, there is one caveat to this long-awaited advice, and that is that although you can throw away the guidelines and limits for a day, you really do need to be reasonable. A cheat day isn’t a license to eat yourself into a food coma. The goal is to treat yourself, not try to eat a years-worth of calories in one sitting. Don’t eat just for the sake of eating. Don’t load up your plate with double the amount of everything just because it’s your cheat day. Take a deep breath, really see all the food set before you, and remember that, no matter how good it all tastes, your body is only capable of holding so much. Overeating on this wonderful, food-centered holiday won’t do any permanent damage to your dieting aspirations, but it will make you miserable. Eat what you want, but take your time doing it so you can really enjoy the flavors. Taking your time will also give your brain a chance to recognize when you’re full, so you can stop eating before you have to unbuckle your belt or slip into Phoebe’s old maternity pants. And give thanks that you live in a country where food is so abundant that weight is actually an issue.

Eat, drink, and be merry–and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Have Time to Workout!

No time to exercise? There’s always a way to work in a workout.

As busy as life is, even the most dedicated fitness fans will sometimes come up against such a full day that there just really aren’t enough hours in to include working out. Exercise shouldn’t be all-or-nothing so when those days hit, it’s useful to already have a Plan B in place and a mindset that is flexible enough to accommodate alternative ways to get exercise. When you realize that your scheduled workout simply isn’t going to happen, there are small adjustments you can make throughout the day and even a few easy tricks you can use to get your move on, so to speak, so you don’t lose out on the benefits of exercising. 

Multitasking Sneaks Exercise Into Your Day

Waiting in line? Don’t just stand there–get those legs movin’!

Everyone has heard the advice to take the stairs instead of the elevator as a way to get more exercise, so we won’t even go there. Instead, let’s look at how your talent for multitasking can be used to incorporate a workout into your already over-scheduled schedule. Cosmopolitan recommends the genius idea of using your handbag (or briefcase or backpack) as a dumbbell to do biceps curls while you walk or even while you’re waiting in line. And speaking of waiting in line, use that time to march in place, do calf raises, or glute tensing and flexing exercises. Who cares what that would look like? No one is paying attention to anything other than their mobile phones, anyway. Also, you can work your abs anytime, anywhere by concentrating on pulling your bellybutton toward your backbone. Try it. Do it now. Do it right now.  

Fitness pros advocate multitasking workout ideas such as doing wall pushups whenever you get a phone call and standing instead of sitting during your workday. According to LIVESTRONG, standing can burn up to 50 calories more per hour than sitting, and that can add up over an 8 hour day. It might be worth it to switch over to a standing-height desk to boost your calorie burn anytime, rather than only standing to work when you know you aren’t going to be able to exercise. 

Do You Have a Few Minutes?

Since time is the issue, it might stress you out more than help to do things like park your car a distance from your office or taking the long way around the park on the way to work. If you can manage to do things that require extra walking, though, you can count it all as exercise, even if it’s speed-walking to the bathroom at the other end of the building.  

Mountain climbers, jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups are great exercises for a quick and effective AMRAP workout. Image via Evolve Fitness & Health/YouTube

If you do have 10 minutes or more, however, you really do have time for an actual workout. Choose four or five bodyweight exercises and perform an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) workout. For example, if you pick squats, lunges, pushups, and jumping jacks, set a timer for 2 minutes and do as many reps as you can of each exercise for 30 seconds each, then take a 20-second break before doing another 2 minutes. Going through that progression three to four times will give you an intense 10-minute workout.  

The Huffington Post recommends a similar workout, but the 20-second intervals are supposed to be spent going all-out, working your hardest, and the 2-minute intervals are spent still moving, though at a slower pace. That type of workout is more geared toward cardio equipment like treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals and won’t offer many resistance benefits, but it’s still an effective cardio workout that is easier to fit into a hectic day than a 45-minute aerobics class.

 

Timing Carbohydrate Consumption for Optimal Fat Loss

You think you know the rules, then the game changes.

Carbs–they’re what’s for dinner.

In our quest to find effective health, fitness, and weight loss advice for you, we occasionally come across information that contradicts the “rules” as we know them. For years we’ve been on the Limited-Carbs-and-Only-Early-in-the-Day bandwagon along with loads of personal trainers and other experts. An innovative diet has been making the rounds, however, that turns everything we’ve come to believe about eating carbohydrates inside out. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, we kinda like having science-backed permission to eat carbs at night.

New(er) Studies Show…

Sounds too good to be true, but eating carbs in the evening can cut that pesky belly fat.

Okay, so it’s not like these studies were just released yesterday, but they haven’t been around for decades, either. In 2011, the Obesity Journal published a study done by researchers in Israel that showed that eating carbohydrates at night resulted in greater weight loss than spreading out carb intake throughout the day. Not only did saving carbs for the evening meal make people lose more weight, but much of it was body fat, and a lot of that was likely belly fat since another nice surprise result was smaller waists.

If you read the study, you’ll see that part of the title also addresses hormonal changes, and those are directly linked to the weight loss people in the evening carbs group enjoyed. It turns out that eating carbs at night increases hunger-controlling hormones like adiponectin and leptin, and it banishes the ghrelin gremlin, the hormone that drives hunger. In an entirely separate study that focused on the hormone element of eating carbs at dinner, researchers found that the way it affected those important hormones benefits you throughout the day because the resulting balance staves off hunger during the day. That means you’re less likely to snack irresponsibly and will have a better chance of sticking to a calorie-restricted diet.

What About Insulin Sensitivity?

Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, but cutting back on carbs in the morning means you can have them for dinner.

Studies that have shown that blood glucose levels stay elevated longer after an evening meal are one factor that convinced people to avoid carbs at night. However, our friends at Bodybuilding.com have busted that myth. While it’s true that glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity are better in the morning, the myth part is that they’re at their worst at night. Layne Norton, Ph.D. points out that if you compare those two elements after mid-day and evening meals, there is no difference. Dr. Norton prefers to simply rephrase the comparison to say glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity are enhanced by your overnight fast, rather than impaired after a carb-heavy evening meal.

The Fitness Factor

Jen working out

Whatever type of exercise you prefer to stay fit and healthy, it’s raising your metabolic rate while you sleep to increase your overall fat and calorie burn.

People who work out are probably the most likely to be avoiding carbohydrates at night, but research shows that they’re the ones who are most likely to actually benefit from saving the majority of their carbs for dinner. For example, one study published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology found that the sleeping heart rate for people who exercise consistently is elevated, meaning that, though it sounds too good to be true, if you exercise, you’ll burn more calories while you sleep than if you don’t work out. Ready for even more good news? Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that your sleeping heart rate will even be higher than your resting heart rate if your BMI is below 29. (Here’s a handy calculator for figuring that out.)

Yes, that means people who are considered obese need to lose weight before the benefits of eating carbs at night will really kick in. If you’re more than overweight, you’ll need to get your body to a place where it is burning more calories sleeping than does while sitting and staring into space. It’s an attainable goal, however, and the facts shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a baked potato with dinner, provided it’s dressed with low-fat plain yogurt and a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese instead of loaded with sour cream, butter, and bacon bits. 😉

Adjusting Your Habits

If salad for dinner doesn’t satisfy you, have it for lunch and save the more enjoyable meal–carbs and all–for the evening.

This is some terrific news for many people, but it’s not permission to overload your evening eating with bread, pasta, and cake. Sure, it will be nice not to have to be so strict at dinner time, but Renegade Gym Owner Jason Ferruggia says it means limiting your carbohydrate intake throughout the rest of the day. If you’re on a 1500 calorie diet, adding carbs to your evening meal shouldn’t kick you over your max. Since eating carbs at night helps control hunger during the day, at least that will work in your favor to help you resist an extra hard roll at lunch or an afternoon snack of cookies or chips. Just keep your eye on your reward, a delicious dinner that includes a satisfying serving of carbs. Remember, though, that you’ll sleep better if you allow a few hours between your last meal of the night and bedtime, so try to avoid eating late, more for the digestion time than to avoid stowing away the calories.