Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Sleep Like a Baby!

That persistent car alarm. Your man's late night TV habit. The added stress from your work day. Face it, there's a lot to keep you up at night. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of all women have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week? The resulting bloodshot eyes and Starbucks addiction are annoying enough, but more and more exercise links a lack of sleep to health problems like extra pounds, depression, even cancer. A Duke University study found that women who had trouble falling asleep more than twice a week or took longer than 30 minutes to drift off had a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease than men who couldn't sleep. Don't take insomnia lying down- a few tweaks can get your sheep count to, maybe, one...

Footnote the Day

Does just the thought of sleep medicine in your cabinet make you feel more relaxed? Maybe the benefits of sleeping pills is just all in your head. Making small changes to your pre-bed routine (like forgoing after-dinner espresso or moving your evening run to mid-afternoon) can help you conk out as well as-if not better than- pills.
To see what's keeping you awake, break out the Bic. Each day, note all of your activities: Did you work out? Make a coffee run at 4pm? Take a power nap? Include everything you ate and drank, as well as any meds you took. At night, write down what time you went to bed, then follow up in the morning with notes on how long it took you to fall asleep and the number of times you woke up. Once you can identify a pattern, you can start making changes to help you log in more shut-eye.

*Lightbulb Idea* Keep a notepad on your night table. Whenever you remember yet another thing to do, simply write it down and tell yourself you'll deal with the new and improved "to-do" list in the morning. My favorite notebooks? Vera Bradley! Hint, hint- Giveaway!!

Get to Bed Earlier

Most experts agree that 7-8 hours of sleep a night if best for most people. To start getting the sleep you need, add the time gradually. Start by getting into bed 15 minutes earlier in a 24 hour period. Each week, add another 15 minutes, and after a month, you're up to an extra hour. Sooner or later, you will have to come to realize that it's impossible to squeeze 30 hours of work into a 24 hour day.

*Lightbulb Idea* Replace or refill your pillow every 12-18 months. Why? The fill breaks down-and because dust mites inside breed like rabbits...Yuck!

Stick to a Schedule

If you go to bed and get up at the same time every day, it's a form of conditioning. On weekends, try not to sleep in more than an hour past your weekday rise time. You will throw off your body;s rhythms to the point where you might as well be in Paris. You will be exhausted on Monday and the rest of the week is downhill from there.

Upgrade Your Bedroom

Make your bedroom a sacred spot. Use it for sleep and sex-period. Move anything that might make you anxious , such as a computer, out of sight. In addition, try these to improve your environment:

Fade to Black: A room that glows in the dark-whether from the neat "Eat Here" sign flashing across the street or a full moon-is the second most common reason people have trouble dozing off. (Anxiety is No. 1) Light shuts down your body's production of sleep-signaling melatonin; so keep things as dark as possible, use a sleep mask, install blackout shades, or pick a darker shade for your bedroom walls.

Get a Hue: Clocks with blue-toned digital displays block melatonin production and keep you up.

Conk Out Cold: Your body temp varies by as much as two degrees during your daily 24. You're warmest mid-afternoon, but in the evening, your brain signals a cool-down process that sleep researchers believe may help you get to dreamland faster. Dialing down the thermostat to somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees helps you reach that perfect core temperature more easily.

Sniff This: Studies show a whiff of lavender before bed helps you doze more deeply. The scent seems to increase the amount of restorative sleep during each slumber cycle. For better sack time, spritz your pillowcase with a lavender-scented spray.

Down Your Dog: This one kills me but I agree with it. Man's best friend may be sleep's worst enemy. Almost one fourth of the patients in a recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, copped to sharing their bed with their furry friends. If you can't bear to shut Fluffy out of the bedroom, give him a resting spot he can't resist. Just don't try to wean him off the bed gradually. As soon as your dog jumps up, tell him "No" amd take him back to his own sleeping area. If you're inconsistent, he'll learn that he can eventually wear you down and get his way. To sweeten the deal, leave a tasty treat on the doggie bed to reward puppy after he nests there for the night.

White Out: You'll never make it to dreamland with frogs croaking or the upstairs neighbors going for the Guinness record in headboard banging. So drown it all out with the white noise of a waterfall or a rain forest. Even though the sound of rushing water is loud enough to cancel out other sounds, the white noise doesn't keep you awake because your brain becomes used to the repitition, and you stop hearing it. Just stay away from sounds associated with daytime like birds chirping.

Press Play: People who listen to music that falls in the range of 60 to 80 beats per minute (a close match to your resting heartbeat) before bedtime report more satisfying sleep. Pick a CD that sets the perfect tempo or drift off to this playlist:

"Drift Away" Dobie Gray
"Dream Weaver" Gary Wright
"(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow" Tony! Toni! Tone!
"Come Away With Me" Norah Jones
"The Scientist" Coldplay
"Until the End of Time" Justin Timberlake, featuring Beyonce
"Landslide" Dixie Chicks
"Bubbly" Colbie Caillat
"In the Waiting Line" Zero 7
"Hallelujah" Jeff Buckley

Remake Your Bed

Score a New Pad: If you snore in the same Serta you moved out of your college dorm, it's time for an upgrade. Mattresses accumulate sweat, oil, and dust mites, so you might want to replace yours after 5 to 10 years. Look for one made of natural rubber, which will discourage mites and absorb motion- good news for the 34% of sleepers whose partner's every move jolts them awake.

Study Pillow Talk: A description of the pillow selection at Bed, Bath, and Beyond can sound like a Seussian rhyme; one with holes, and one with bumps; thin ones, fat ones, ones with lumps. Though some of the fluffy options may look as kooky as they sounds, they can help reduce stiff necks and snoring. The way you lie down every night can determine which pillow is best for you.

  • If you have allergies- Synthetic materials are an alternative to down and feathers, which can cause allergies and are a breeding hotbed for dust mites.
  • If you sleep on your back- Thick, stuff pillows can push a back sleeper's head too far up. Down pillows are best for squishability, but they aren't always supportive. Look for a pillow with a firm latex edge to support and relax your neck and a soft down area in the middle that lets your noggin rest in a neutral position. 
  • If you sleep on your stomach (ME!)- Tummy sleepers need a thinner, flatter cushion-elevate your head too much and sleeping becomes like holding cobra pose. 
  • If you sleep on your side (Me sometimes!)- A plumper pillow fills up the space between your neck and your shoulder, keeping your spine perfectly aligned. 

Natural Remedies that Really Work! 

  1. Just Say Om- Kundalini yoga, which emphasizes meditation and breathing techniques, helps ward off insomnia. After doing this type of yoga before bed for 10 weeks, women can sleep 36 minutes more. One move to try at home: Sit cross-legged, with your arms extending upward at a 60 degree angle to the floor with your palms facing upward. Hold for three minutes, taking long, deep breaths through your nose. 
  2. Go for an early morning walk- Reset your body clock by going for a quick morning stroll outdoors. Sunlight suppresses your melatonin levels  so you are more likely to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night.  

*Disclaimer- I am NOT a sleep therapist or study sleep patterns. These are only ideas and thoughts based on studies, research, etc.*

So now that you know all the tricks and trades on how to get the best sleep possible answer me this...

How many hours of sleep do you get a night on average??

So here is to a good night's sleep, everyone, and hopefully you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on a new day...on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Friday, July 29, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: 44 Ways to Cut 100 Calories!

"Calories can be cruel and mean. Sweat through a 30-minute workout and torch 200 of them. Take three gulps of a sweet and foamy coffee drink and you're right back where you started! Slashing those suckers can be as effortless as piling them on though. From picking the right slice of pizza to skipping the whip on your latte, you can avoid hundreds of calories without missing a thing- until poof!- those love handles are gone!

At Breakfast

  • Ditch the PopTart for a slice of high-fiber toast with strawberry jam.
  • Drink your two cups o' joe black. Or order a single espresso instead of your usual latte.
  • Swap OJ for the real deal- one fresh orange.
  • Top your waffles with Reddi-Whip instead of syrup (or use fresh fruit!)
  • Eat your granola from a 4 oz. mug, not an 8 oz. bowl.

At Lunch

  • Leave the Swiss cheese off your sandwich.
  • Slather your bread with mustard instead of mayo and save 80 calories per tablespoon!
  • Use up to 10 pumps of ranch dressing spray instead of pouring two tablespoons from a bottle.
  • Devour a slice of Pizza Hut cheese pan pizza instead of the Meat Lover's variety.
  • Take your iced tea unsweetened.
  • Reach for a bottle of Snapple raspberry white tea instead of Snapple raspberry iced tea.
  • Stuff chicken salad into a whole-wheat pita, not between two slices of multi-grain bread.

Presto Pasta Soup (170 cal, 470mg sodium)

1 cup low-sodium vegetable juice
1 cup frozen pesto-flavored pasta- vegetable mix

In a saucepan, heat vegetable juice on medium-low. Microwave pasta-vegetable mix according to package directions, then stir into vegetable juice. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At Dinner

  • Use chicken broth (low-sodium) instead of oil to saute meat or veggies.
  • Making mac & cheese?? Cut two tablespoons of butter from the recipe.
  • Next time you make meatballs or meatloaf, make them with half ground beef and half turkey.
  • Swap low-fat cottage cheese for whole-milk ricotta when you make lasagna or stuffed shells.
Shrimp Pasta Florentine (331 cal, 801mg sodium)

1 package fettuccine Alfredo frozen entree
1 1/2 cup tightly packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 tsp minced garlic
6 medium-size frozen shrimp

Microwave the pasta entree according to package instructions. Meanwhile, lightly coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, then heat skillet to medium. Toss the spinach, garlic, and thawed shrimp into heated skillet, turning frequently with tongs until leaves are wilted (about 2 min.) Stir spinach-shrimp mixture into the pasta.

At Happy Hour

  • Drink one glass of wine instead of two beers.
  • Ask for your rum and coke to be poured in a highball glass. Bartenders pour nearly 20% less liquid into taller tumblers, so you'll swig less per round.
  • Drizzle extra hot sauce, not bleu cheese or ranch, on those wings.
  • Ordering a cocktail? Make it on the rocks instead of frozen. Slushy fruity drinks tend to be made with bottled mixers that contain added sugar and syrups.
  • Pop the cap off an MGD 64 instead of a Killian's Irish Red.
  • Sip a glass of water between drinks-pacing yourself can help you cut back on a glass or more.
  • Sip wine from a champagne flute instead of an oversize goblet.
  • Mix your vodka with Red Bull Sugarfree instead of cranberry juice. 

At the Drive-Thru

  • Pass up a Wendy's baked potato with sour cream and chives and chow down on Value Fries instead. Amazing but true.
  • Have a McDonald's cheeseburger instead of a quarter pounder with cheese. 
  • Go for grill marks. Order a flame-broiled chicken sandwich rather than one that's breaded (and usually fried in oil).
  • Treat yourself to an ice cream cone at McDonald's instead of Dairy Queen.
  • Make your daily pick-me-up at Starbucks a skinny vanilla latte, not a regular. 

On your Snack Break

  • Drink sparkling water instead of soda. Move your stash of Hershey's kisses six feet away from your desk- you'll dip in half as often. 
  • Have half a cup of fresh grapes inside that little snack box of raisins. 
  • Lay off the Lay's potato chips and go for the Rold Gold Pretzels.
  • Chase down the ice-cream man for a Good Humor vanilla sandwich, not a King Cone.

When You're at a Restaurant

  • Skip the crunchy noodles with your wonton soup.
  • Request the lemon chicken with brown rice, not fried. 
  • Go with the baked potato (butter only) instead of mashed as your side. 
  • Dip your bread in marinara sauce instead of olive oil. 
  •  Pop 12 pieces of sashimi and a third of a cup of edamame instead of 12 pieces of spicy tuna roll.
  • Indulge in beef stroganoff, not meat lasagna.

During Dessert

  • Stop eating when you hit the crust. The edges and bottoms of baked goods are especially caloric-they absorb the butter used to grease the pan.
  • Eat sorbet instead of ice cream-you can have an extra half cup of the former and still slash calories!
  • Have sugar-free Jell-O instead of pudding.
  • Can the cone. Have your ice cream in a bowl.
  • Eat five meringue cookies instead of two chocolate chip ones.

Ice Queen Sandwiches (75 cal, 92 mg sodium)

2 Tbl. reduced-fat butter pecan ice cream
4 ginger cookies

Let ice cream sit out on the counter for a little bit to soften up. Scoop out 1 Tbl. of ice cream and place onto cookie. Top with the second cookie, pressing lightly. Place sandwiches in a zip-top plastic bag and return to freezer to firm up. Enjoy!"

See? Cutting calories can be easy and a no-brainer! You will feel good about the decisions you make and feel better about on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

30 Days of Blogging: The Antidote for Anxiety, Anger, and Stress

You know those moments when you're so furious you could just....AARRRGGHHH!! We've all been there. It is healthiest not to rage to begin with-when you're angry, adrenaline pumps into your bloodstream, your heart rate jumps, and blood pressure surges (not good!). But swallowing anger can have invisible, damaging effects too. What it leads to over time can lead to either an explosion of emotion or a depression.

How to Go From Type A to Type B

Wanna know how to keep your daily frusterations in check? Follow these simple painless ideas!

Write Your Memoirs

Carry a small notebook with you for a week and jot down every annoyed, angry, and aggressive thought. Not just moments when you're truly mad, but all your vaguely hostile or critical feelings. This hostility log (okay maybe a small notebook won't do) will make you more self-aware and able to detect patterns.

Be a Thought-Stopper

The moment you become aware of having a pointless, hostile thought about an unimportant situation over which you have no control, short-circuit it by actually shouting, "STOP!" This is surprisingly effective in getting rid of inappropriate angry feelings.

Think of Sex

Your consciousness has a hard time focusing on two subjects at once. When you feel yourself getting annoyed, try out that little Johnny Depp fantasy you have. ;o)

Cut Smokes, Cokes, Coffees, and Cakes

The less dependence on nicotine, caffeine, and sugar, the greater the chance of conquering hostility.

What, You Worry?

I hear the voices, too. You know the ones I mean. They nudge you awake in the middle of the night, sounding perhaps vaguely like your mother, or your former boss, an ex-boyfriend, or that evil girl from freshman year. They gnaw at your confidence (you're not good enough), prey on your insecurities (you said what??), and make you fear the worst about the future (it's all going to end horribly...).

Life isn't always easy. But many of the things we fret about, from small insecurities to big, ugly fears actually have simple solutions. How simple? Keep reading. Then finally start enjoying the peace and quiet in your head...

Am I ever going to fit into my "skinny jeans"  again?

Damn straight you will. But you have to get over the notion that Big Helpings of Cardio + Tiny Portions of Food= Thin. The key to losing weight is to build muscle so skipping meals or weights is not the answer. To get skinny-jeans lean, commit yourself to two 30-minute strength sessions a week, and a diet of 1,200 to 1,500 calories spread throughout the day. The idea is to never feel hungry.

Does my best friend secretly call me a bitch behind my back?

Women are conditioned to be good girls-and to avoid confrontation. This can lead to duplicity and refusal to take responsibility. You may only know when your friend has a problem with you when you hear it from someone else. If your friend is throwing around the b-word, help rebuild trust with these:

  • PUT YOUR CLAWS AWAY Both sides may need to do some apologizing. Self-righteousness will block you from saying sorry, too.
  • VERIFY SHE SAID IT Tell her exactly what you heard she said, then how it made you feel (angry, hurt, confused, etc.) More than likely, she didn't say it or it was taken out of context.
  • AFFIRM THE RELATIONSHIP Conflict does not mean a social apocalypse. Peppering the chat with nice-isms like "I love you" or "This friendship really means a lot to me" will alleviate the fear in the female DNA that conflict means terminating the friendship.
  • PUT HER ON NOTICE Women go into denial. Withought being aggressive, be very clear about the recourse if an affront happens again. "I'll take your word for it this time, but if it happens again, it's going to be very hard for me to know what's the truth and what isn't."

Am I Good in Bed?

Well, let me you have a bed? Is there a man in it? Do you occasionally have sex with that man? Congratulations, you are officially good in bed! The whole idea of thinking whether you are good or bad in bed is purely thinking like a woman. Men are just delighted that women are willing to have sex with them. Dr. Drew says nothing turns a man on more than the idea that he's turning you on, so if what he is doing feels great- let him know it with all the verve, energy, and playfulness you can muster.

Will I Ever Be Able to Afford my Dream Home?

You spy a house you love, see the price- and freak! How do people afford this? The truth: They don't. At least not when they're buying their first house. They key to getting your dream home is to buy a first home, and then let the market- and equity- go to work for you. Once you own a home it appreciates and you can leverage that to buy a bigger, better home.

  • GET A FISCAL PHYSICAL Set up an appointment with a certified financial planner. Like any good coach, a planner will give you advice- and motivation- you need to reach your goals.
  • STOP THROWING MONEY AWAY Firgure out exactly what you want and what you can afford. If you skip your tall soy latter ($3) and brown bag your lunch ($7), within a year you dream-home savings fund will be roughly $2,500 strong on those savings alone.
  • HOOK UP WITH HUD The US Department of Housing and Urban Development's American Dream Downpayment Initiative offers qualifying first-time homebuyers as much as $10,000 in assistance! Check out their website to see if you qualify!

Do my Coworkers Hate Me Because I Say What I Think?

Wait, you don't always say what you think? You should start, because it will probably get you promoted. You earn people's respect when your straightforward.

  • BE BRIEF People like candor and honesty, but not if it goes on for 25 minutes. This is especially true with your boss. Treat meetings with him/her like shark-infested waters: Make a big splash, but get the hell out before he/she eats you alive.
  • ASK THEIR OPINION Invite others to respond. "I feel strongly that this whole computer thing is not just a fad, but I'd like to hear what all of you think."
  • GO POSITIVE If your boss dumps something on you, don't say, "I hate your last minute assignments." But instead say, "The Ferguson report will be great, but I'll need until Tuesday to make sure it's as thorough as you want."

Am I Smart Enough?

What is smart, anyway? There are plenty of overeducated derelicts (heck, I've dated some), but smart actually comes in a bunch of flavors. Which type of intelligence do you best match up with? Linguistuc? Inter/intrapersonal? Naturalist? Bodily-kinesthetic?

So, calm those nerves and destress a little bit, will ya?? Things could always be worse... Make sure you live a stress-free, calm, friendly life...on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: The 60 Second Health Makeover

Sometimes people are scared of the "healthier lifestyle" because it may mean a major investment either for a gym membership, buying organic food, or perhaps eventually buying a new wardrobe. But sometimes you can make the biggest strides towards a healthier lifestyle with baby steps. These minor investments could pay huge dividends in your future!

  1. When you get out of bed, stand up and stretch your hamstrings for 30 seconds. You will have a 27% increase in flexibility in just 6 weeks!
  2. Before you brush your teeth, have one regular aspirin. Studies show that women who pop one of these pills a day have a 20% lower incidence of breast cancer!
  3. At breakfast, pop a vitamin C pill. Studies show that taking a 1,000mg of VitC a day can reduce the severity of cold symptoms by 19%!
  4. At the office, walk to your coworkers' office instead of sending an email. More than 1 lb. of weight lost per year from the extra calorie burn! Plus, walking an extra 4,000-5,000 steps could reduce your blood pressure by 11 points!
  5. With every meal, drink ice water. A pound lost every 8 weeks; you'll expend 123 calories of heat daily to warm the water.
  6. At lunch, swap your ham sandwich for tuna. The omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help raise your HDL (good cholesterol) to help clean out your arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease by 28%!
  7. At the gym, pedal the stationary bike with one leg. Target those hamstrings! Pedal with one leg for 60 seconds, then switch. Then spin easily with both legs for 30 seconds. Repeat 6-8 times.
  8. At Happy Hour, drink red wine from Chile instead of France. Chilean Cabernet sauvignon is 38% higher in flavonols (antioxidants that fight cancer-causing cells) than French wine!
  9. While watching TV, eat two bananas. A study showed that low potassium levels can be linked to increased incidence of stroke.
  10. When you reach for a drink, reach for the milk instead of the soda. Carbonated drinks produce carbonic acid which dissolves bone mass.
  11. Before bed, have a piece of chocolate. One study showed that women who ate chocolate reported more satisfying sex lives than those who didn't!
  12. In bed, plug your ears. Research found people who routinely endured sound levels higher than 55 decibels (snoring is usually 60-80 decibels) were twice as likely to be treated for high blood pressure!

Pretty interesting, huh? Leading a healthier lifestyle can be difficult but it all starts with YOU! You have to want to do it for YOURSELF!

10 Self-Checks to do Before Breakfast

If the only time you zoom in on your anatomy is when you're tweezing your eyebrows or popping a zit, you could be missing out on crucial information about your health. Your body is an amazing thing in that, it has built-in sickness sensors. You can spot early warning signs of potentially serious conditions simply by bonding with yourself in front of a mirror for a few minutes. Go ahead, take a closer look...

You Nails

If You See: Dark lines on the nail beds
What It Could Mean: Huge abnormally colored moles on your back are not the only evidence of skin cancer- it can also develop under your nails. Yellowish, brown, or black stripes are a sign of cell damage (like a bruise) but it could be melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. With early detection and treatment though, about 95% of cases are curable! Talk to your dermatologist.

If You See: Bright white stripes
What It Could Mean: Everyone gets white spots on their nails from time to time (usually a sign you banged your finger on a corner or in your desk drawer), but if you see long, horizontal bands of discoloration on the nail's surface and you been fatigued lately? It could be bad news for your kidneys. These bands can be a signal that the kidneys aren't able to filter out protein from your urine. This means your body is losing protein faster than you can shovel filet mignon into your mouth-and that can lead to kidney failure. Ask your doctor for a urine test.

Your Armpits

If You See: A patch of rough, dark skin
What It Could Mean: Unless you've gone overboard with self-tanner (an awful look in itself), you could have diabetes. Excess insulin in your bloodstream can cause skin cells to multiply abnormally fast, leading to a build up of tissue and melanin. This makes the skin look darker and feel thicker. Most common places you'll notice it? Armpits, neck, and groin. A simple blood test can determine the disease, which affects about 24 million Americans- nearly a quarter aren't even diagnosed!

Your Eyelids, Knees, and Elbows

If You See: Small, soft lumps that look white or waxy
What It Could Mean: Good news! It's not a zit... Bad news? These could be small deposits of cholesterol. Unfortunately by the time these little suckers appear, your cholesterol is probably sky high which is a serious risk factor for heart disease.

Your Scalp

If You See: Thinning hair
What It Could Mean: Sure, eventually hair falls out. As we get older, our hair thins and changes texture and color. However, excessive hair loss could be an indicator of a thyroid disorder. Your thyroid is a gland in the back of your neck and when it is out of whack, it affects male and female sex hormones. The result: more strands in your brush and hair that feels course and brittle. Medication is out there to help control thyroid levels.

If You See: Your scalp shedding like a snake
What It Could Mean: If skin flakes are making your shoulders look like the Alps in February, it could be because of your "to-do" list. An intense load in stress causes your body to produce excess cortisol. In addition to wreaking havoc on your immune system and your metabolism, cortisol can also dry out your scalp. Try getting more sleep, meditate, and loosen up your packed schedule.

Your Eyes

If You See: A yellowish bump on your eyeball
What It Could Mean: A slightly raised nodule on the white of your eye is a symptom of a harmless condition called pinguecula. This is an overgrowth of collagen triggered by damage from sun, wind, or dust. Keep your eyes moist with lubricating drops and don shades anytime you're outdoors to prevent the bump from growing.

If You See: Undereye circles that won't go away
What It Could Mean: Unless you have taken a second job as a midnight trucker, a sudden onset of dark rings could be chalked up by allergies. When an allergen hits your body, it's response is to release histamine; this chemical makes blood vessels swell with blood and other fluids. Hence the dark patches where the skin is the thinnest. Ask your doctor for an allergen skin test.

Your Belly

If You See: Thick, dark hair (or stubble) in a diamond shape
What It Could Mean: Dense, coarse hair that extends up toward your belly button (rather than grow downward from the top of the pubic bone) could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Caused by overproduction of androgens, the condition can lead to irregular or heavy periods (Ugh!), weight gain, acne, and thick, dark hair on the belly, face, chest, and back. This can be a serious risk factor for things like infertility and heart disease. Your OB-GYN can prescribe birth control that can get your hormones back in check.

Your Tongue

If You See: A white, yellow, or orange coating
What It Could Mean: If your tongue looks like someone painted on it, you could be spilling your guts in your sleep. Normally, a one-way valve at the bottom of your esophagus makes sure whatever does down does not come back up. Acid reflux occurs when the valve opens spontaneously and the contents of your stomach make a break for your throat, leaving your tongue coated in digestive acids and you have a serious case of Godzilla breath. Most reflux can be treated with antacids or simply by avoiding spicy and acidic foods.

What is one interesting thing you learned from this post??

Make sure you and your body are bff. All you have is each other and you will be together...walking on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Last-Minute Weight Loss!

"So you haven't been working out like it's your job the last couple months like you promised yourself you would...I understand. But I know that all it takes is one good cram session to change your body. It will be hard but a rapid slim-down can tone you in three weeks. Yes I said it...3 WEEKS! By combining proper nutrition with an intense (but totally doable) 21 day exercise program, the average woman can lose around 15 pounds. Holy cow!

Week One

Prepare your Body to Work

To get that metabolism moving, you need to get your muscles working. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Aim for four days of resistance training in this week along with 30-45 minutes of cardio on your "off days." Then use these tips to maximize your strength building in the short amount of time you have so you can build a foundation fast.

Power Your Pump

Add weights and lower reps when lifting. You will be working power v. endurance. Women have little testosterone, the hormone making it possible to bulk up. But some women have more than others. If you have a stockier body type (like myself...hey, being a soccer player/dancer my whole life has given me the "man legs" and being Greek and Italian gives me the curves including big butt, big boobs, and wide hips. *sigh*) stick to your regular amount of weight. If you are an average build, lift weights heavy enough that you can only do eight reps, then keep adding weight with each set until you can only do four or five. Do this every other strength session so your muscles stay challenged.

Push Your Muscles

Organize strength sessions so that you do two of them on consecutive days. Your muscles will get shocked into shape and will work harder. Just like the military-if you break them down, they will repair and build up again even more. Need an example? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You'll have enough time on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday to recover, but if you're sore, do difference exercises to challenge your muscles. You'll benefit since your muscles will constantly be challenged and you'll burn more calories because you'll be forced to work harder.

Stay Fueled

Insulin levels drop when you are into your intense workouts. When these levels become irregular, your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that breaks down muscle and has even been linked to excess belly fat. Replenish those glycogen stores as you exercise! Sipping a sports drink during a tough workout is a great answer! Water is great for moderate workouts but for the intense days? You need the calories and electrolytes!

Make Use of the Window

The 45-minute period after exercising is the best time for your body to metabolize nutrients. Since your metabolism is already elevated from working out, if you refuel correctly, you can keep the fire burning. Eat something that has carbs to restore glycogen and protein to help build muscle. You want to eat within the first 20 minutes after exercising because your blood sugar can be regulated faster.

Mix Your Meals

You should always mix protein, carbs, and fat when you eat. You will need this blend to keep your body fueled and staying satiated. If you only have one, you are more prone to feeling hungrier sooner and consume more food. Don't fear those good fats! They take longer to break down in your gut=feeling fuller, longer!

Week Two

Max Your Metabolism

Now that you have gotten into a small groove and built some muscle, you should increase your intensity to further boost your metabolism. Swap one of your strength workouts with an extra cardio day to give yourself more time to burn calories at a higher level and add a session of intervals to make your cardio more intense!  To learn more about cranking up your metabolism, go here.

Flood Yourself

Drinking more water throughout the day can give your metabolism a major boost. Dehydration (from sweating) can slow your resting metabolism by 2%.Water increases energy and your desire to exercise.

Stop and Go

Instead of jogging for 30 minutes, do intervals. Sprint for one minute, then rest for one minute. The change in intensity will increase metabolism and allow you to work harder while also giving you time to breathe. Here is a trick: Use one or two dice, multiply the number you roll by 10 and sprint for that many seconds (then rest for double that amount). You can also use the dice for circuit intervals during weight routines. If you roll and odd number, do crunches-the number of the roll is the number of reps. If you get an even number, do pushups, lunges, or squats. It's a simple way to vary the workout and also keep yourself moving!

Rest Actively

When resting between sets, stay active to keep your heart rate up. Work a different muscle group-if you are doing lunges, do pushups between sets. You can also add cardio to your workout by performing jumping jacks or jogging in place. A cumulative 10 minutes of active rest will burn 85 calories.

Add Protein

Increase protein intake to rev that metabolism. Adding an extra 30g of protein to your diet will make your body work harder and burn more calories. Try adding 1/2 cup cottage cheese (15g) and 8 oz. of lowfat yogurt (11g), or 8oz. of skim milk (8g) and 3 oz. of tuna (22g). Taking a protein shake will also benefit. Make sure you RESEARCH the ingredients in the protein powder/shake you are about to take before consuming it. Not all protein powder is the best for you! Personally, after researching many different brands and even trying some, the one that works best for me is Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60. I have both chocolate and vanilla flavors (vanilla I will put in a smoothie, chocolate I drink after a workout).

Sleep Well

Get at least six hours of sleep each night. Your body releases growth hormones after six hours of sleep, which is when your muscles actually get toned. If you get enough rest to release these, you'll be able to push harder the next day. Add a slow day to give your muscles a break and a chance to grow even more. Go for a long walk or an easy jog instead of your normal routine.

Week Three

Kick in the Afterburners

Now it's time! Time to burn as many calories as you can in your workout! Replace another strength session with cardio, which will increase your heart rate. Now your time is best spent doing cardio since you've already built muscle during the first two weeks.

Try Not to Talk

If you can hold a conversation for 20 minutes while jogging, you're fine. But to speed that metabolism up, get to the point where you can't talk. This is a great way to monitor your interval intensity levels. Go hard enough so you can't talk for two minutes. To burn the most fat, go as hard as you can for as long as you can.

Add Resistance

Amplify your intervals by adding resistance. Hill repeats! Sprint up a hill and walk back down. Do five reps after a 5-10 minute warm-up. You can also increase the incline on a treadmill or crank the knob on that spin bike!

Extend Your Intervals

Do tempo runs, which are essentially long intervals, to maximize calorie burn both during and after your workouts. Run hard for 5 minutes, then jog for 5 minutes. If you can, push yourself to go harder than your regular pace for 15 minutes. Hint: If you run for 15 minutes at 7mph (check yourself on a treadmill), you will burn about 180 calories compared to the 110 you would burn if you ran at 4mph for the same amount of time. Warm-up and cool down by jogging for 10 minutes before and after your tempo run.

Control Your Hunger

When you exercise harder, you feel hungrier after you sweat. Drink a fruit and protein smoothie after your workouts. Blend 8oz. of plain lowfat yogurt, a banana, berries, and a cup of lowfat milk. (You can also add peanut butter instead of berries or protein powder).

Keep Your Body Wondering

Play with your work-to-rest ratios when doing intervals. When your body can't adapt to your plan, it's forced to work harder so you're always working in your fat-burning capacity. Run or pedal hard for two minutes, then rest for 30 seconds. Go hard for two minutes, then rest for one minute. Extend your rest periods by 30 seconds until you reach two minutes, then work your way back up to 30 second rest periods.

Pain Proof your Workout

Just because you are going hard, doesn't mean it should hurt. There is a good chance that your muscles will be feeling sore, stiff, and tired. (For more information about how to deal with pain during workouts, check out this post!) Use these tips to help prevent injuries, speed up recovery time, and stay pain-free!

WARM YOUR MUSCLES BEFORE A WORKOUT Do dynamic stretches (those that take your body through a full range of motion). Try walking lunges or a set of 10 squats. Want to prevent muscle soreness? Your cool down is key! Walk or bike for 10 minutes to flush lactic acid from our muscles. Be sure to do static stretches (your body stays in one place while you stretch a particular muscle), which relax your muscle and increase your flexibility. To relax your spine, shoulders, neck, back, hips, and thighs; lie on the floor on your back, bring your right knee to your chest, and then pull it across your body so that it's facing left. Extend your right arm to the side and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.

RUB ARNICA GEL OR CREAM onto your muscles after a workout. It is a classic homeopathic remedy that works on a cellular level to help muscles repair themselves. Topical arnica can be found at any health-food store and not to worry- it's fragrance free!

ADD EPSOM SALTS TO YOUR BATH WATER or use a mixture of 1 cup sea salt and 2 cups baking soda. The salt relaxes your muscles and help remove toxins.

RINSE WITH COLD WATER. You'll reduce inflammation and promote healing. You can also do self hydrotherapy by alternating your shower so that it runs hot then cold. This can help improve your circulation.

POP SOME IBUPROFEN OR ASPIRIN especially after hard workouts.

HEAL YOUR MUSCLES WITH A MASSAGE at the end of each week. This helps improve circulation and helps reduce soreness. Either look for a therapist that practices deep tissue massage (which can unkink and smooth out muscle fibers) or get that significant other to put their hands to work!

Last-Minute Weight Loss Plan...Literally

Whether they are doing photo shoots or on the red carpet, models and actresses are accustomed to showing lots of skin. Often they use these  that I found common to help their bodies look their best!

PUMP FAST Do a quick strength training workout before hitting the beach. Do moves that tax your whole body. Increase your reps and speed to force your blood into your muscles. Decrease the weight so that you can do sets of 15 reps. The more blood you have in your muscles, the more toned you'll look.

DRINK LOTS Guzzling water before heading to the beach will help flush your system and relieve bloating.

KNOW YOUR BLOAT FOODS Avoid beans if they are hard for you to digest and make you bloat. Minimize your sodium intake. Most Americans consume 5,500mg each day. While there is no recommended dietary allowance, most nutritionists suggest a range of 2,500 to 3,000mg per day. Staying under 3,000 will help avoid bloating."

For more information about a five day diet plan from Women's Health to jump start your recipe book (or dust it off), visit a previous post.

What are some ways you try to drop those last 5 lbs. quick and fast?!

With a combination of these tricks and ideas for the 5 Day Meal Plan, you'll be slim in no time and you would have done it...on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Exercise Anywhere!

"Sometimes, we get so used to our normal workout routines, that we cannot imagine going a day without our dumbbells, treadmills, or stairclimber. But this summer, whether you are heading overseas for a historic sightseeing adventure or heading to a warm, sunny beach somewhere, you will need to be more flexible than a gymnast if you want to maintain your fitness. So here they are...exercises you can do anytime, anywhere...

At The Beach

The beach is probably nature's best gym. The sand provides the unstable surface with some resistance, which means doing any exercise will strengthen the small muscles in your ankles and feet and work your core.

On the Sand

Jump: Stand and leap to the side with you right leg, landing on the ball of your right foot. Absorb your landing, sinking into a one-legged squat. Then, leap to the left and land on your left foot.  Repeat for 10 jumps. Lateral bounds strengthen thighs and glutes as well as stabilize hips, knees, and ankles.

Slide: Stand with your feet together. Keeping your heels together and feet flat in the sand, slide your toes out to the side. Return to start and repeat for 10 reps to tone your hips, glutes, and thighs.

On a Boogie Board

Pose: Stand on the center of a boogie board in the wet sand where the waves roll up. Bring your left leg toward your chest. Hold it for 15 seconds, then switch legs and repeat. Complete three sets, trying to balance longer each time.

Paddle and kick: Lie on the board and paddle and kick out using this: 10 frog kicks to work your quads, 10 traditional kicks with elongated and slow motions to work your hamstrings, and then 10 short, traditional traditional kicks as fast as you can to increase your heart rate.

With Buckets

Curl: Fill two buckets with sand and use them as weights for arm curls and front and lateral shoulder raises. To make it harder? Stand on a boogie board and do the moves with water in the buckets.

With a Towel

Isometric shoulder pull: Hold a towel in front of you, pull it as taut as you can, and hold for 15 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds, and then pull for 15 more. Do six sets.

Ab rock: Lie on your back, bend your knees toward your chest, and curl your torso up. Slowly rock back so your shoulders touch the ground, then forward so your butt, then toes, touch the ground. Reverse it so that your toes touch the ground first, then your butt, then your shoulders.

In the Country

If you find yourself in Vermont, Ireland, or even on a large plot of land this summer, you can do a lot more than hike or run from those pesky mosquitoes. A park provides everything you need for that total-body workout.

On a Grassy Hill

Decline situps: The slope provides resistance during crunches. Sit with your legs uphill, knees bent, and fingers lightly supporting your head. Do 25 crunches.

Decline and incline pushups: In pushup position, put your feet uphill and your arms downhill. With each set, switch positions so you alternate the location of your arms and feet. Complete three sets of as many reps as you can.

On a Park Bench

Balance squats: Face away from the bench and place the top of your right foot in the seat. Hop forward a bit so that when you lower yourself toward the ground you'll be in a lunge. Do three sets of 10 on each leg.

On a Trail

Hiking lunges: On a flat or uphill trail, take two long steps; on the third, sink into a lunge so that your knee is forward and your back knee nearly touches the ground. It'll increase the quad, hamstring, and glute burn you feel- especially on ascents. Do 16 lunges, walk for five minutes, and then repeat the lunge-walk sequence twice.

In the City

On the Hotel Stairs

Varied stair run: Instead of just running up and down, pick one flight of stairs and do quick intervals. But every time up, go a different way: Do every step fast, two steps at a time, slow, backward, hopping with your left foot, jumping with both feet, sideways, etc. You'll get your heart rate up, working on toning the whole leg, and will be surprising those muscles with the variety!

On the Sidewalk

The stealth squeeze: When you're hoofing it, take strides a few inches longer than usual. With each step, squeeze your butt. This will give your hamstrings and glutes a little extra workout.

On the Hotel Bed

The dead bug: Lie on your back with your hands and legs straight up in the air, pointing toward the ceiling. As you slowly lower your right arm behind you, lower your left leg-end with both about six inches off the bed and then slowly raise them to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Road Rules

When booking your travel plans, consider the fitness facilities as much as the continental breakfasts! You should find out which places will give you the space, equipment, and athletic accommodations that you want.

On Finding a Good Hotel Gym

Why ask the front desk about what kind of equipment is in their gym when they rarely know what a treadmill may be? Instead, ask for the hotel engineer. They are the ones who service the equipment so they will know the equipment available.

On Finding a Good Hotel Pool

Ask the engineer for the length of the pool. Thinking of swimming laps? The pool should be at least 20 yards and for the best fitness results, its temperature should be warm (about 78 degrees).

On Finding a Good Running Path

Visit the Run the Planet website. This amazing tool lists and describes running paths all over the world as well as international race calenders. You can find out the length of the path, difficulty of the terrain, and often the scenery around your journey.

Calorie Burn-Off Count

Here is what you will burn every hour...

Swimming in the ocean: 540 calories
Waterskiing: 480 calories
Playing beach volleyball: 480 calories
Playing frisbee with your dog: 240 calories
Building a sand castle: 120 calories
Reading a book: 60 calories
Applying sunscreen: 30 calories"

What are some ways you stay in shape while on vacation??

So now, there is no excuse for not being able to get your workout in while trying to enjoy yourself! You may think you can't live without your gym membership, but in reality the world if your own gym. So join in and enjoy nature while toning up that bod and of course...make sure it is on your OWN two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Monday, July 25, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Five Flat-Belly Days

Here it is! I have finally decided on a food plan to try to help all of you stay trim and tummies feeling satisfied! At around 1,500 calories for each day, your taste buds will be happy with your choices! I will be the first to tell you that eating right ALL the time, is very difficult. So each day deserves a treat (non-skimpy snacks) plus possibly dessert? Wine? Yum!

Day One


Guiltless Egg Sandwich (336 calories, 31g protein, 4.5g fiber)

1 whole wheat English muffin, fork-split
2 egg whites
2 turkey sausage links (may substitute ham)
1 slice low-fat cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Toast English Muffin. Cook turkey sausage in microwave according to directions. Place the egg, meat, and cheddar on English muffin and cook for another 10 seconds or until cheese has melted.


3/4 cup cottage cheese* with 1 Tbl. unsalted peanuts (140 calories)

*Cottage cheese is low in calories and high in filling protein and calcium. Try it mixed with vanilla extract and cinnamon, or white horseradish and scallions. If you really despise cottage cheese, eat some low-fat Greek yogurt.


Open-Faced Tuna Sandwich (355 calories)

3 oz. canned chunk light tuna mixed with 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 Tbl. plain nonfat yogurt, and 1/4 tsp dill
1 slice seven-grain bread*

Side Salad

1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup sliced carrot
1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup quartered artichoke hearts (in water)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small Granny Smith apple, sliced and served on the side

*Don't skimp on the carbs. A diet rich in whole grains has been associated with a lower BMI along with a smaller waist circumference.


(185 calories)

1 cup sliced raw veggies (carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers...)
2 Tbl salsa*
2 crackers
2 wedges Laughing Cow light cheese

*Go as hot as you can stand. The hot peppers in salsa contain the antioxidant capsaicin, which can temporarily boost calorie burn.


Salmon with Veggies (460 calories)

4 oz. grilled salmon (seasoned with dried oregano)
1 cup grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers) drizzled with 1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup brown rice with 1 Tbl pumpkin seeds*
1 cup blueberries for dessert

*Add crunch and texture with pumpkin seeds, which contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids that may help decrease belly fat.

Indulge Without the Bulge:

Add: 2 chocolate chip cookies (140 calories)
Subtract: At breakfast, have only one egg white and one turkey sausage

Day Two


Barley with Walnuts and Maple Syrup (345 calories)

3/4 cup barley, cooked*
1/2 cup nonfat milk
10 walnut halves
1/2 Tbl. maple syrup

*Give barley a shot. This whole grain is better than whole-wheat flakes at reducing hunger.

Snack (211 calories)

Make a smoothie by blending...

1 small peach, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup 0% Chobani yogurt
1 Tbl. sunflower-seed butter*

*Sunflower-seed butter has all satisfying protein and fiber of peanut butter but only a third of the saturated fat.


Salmon Salad (446 calories)

4 oz. canned sockeye salmon*
2 Tbl. nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp fresh dill
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup mixed greens
1 Thomas' 100 calorie English muffin

Avocado and Tomato Salad

1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup diced tomato
1 Tbl. lemon juice
1/4 clove garlic, minced

*Salmon is a belly-flattening powerfood. People on a calorie-controlled diet who eat salmon are satisfied for two hours longer. It contains the fish's omega-3 fatty acids which helps keep you full!

Snack (182 calories)

1 carrot, sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced
5 Tbl. black bean dip*
2 Thin Crisp crackers

*Black beans have appetite-suppressing fiber and protein.


Chicken Kebabs (316 calories)

4 oz. lean boneless chicken breast, cubed*
1/2 medium red pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
3/4 Vidalia onion, cut into 1 inch squares
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1 inch squares
1 Tbl. olive oil

Lightly brush chicken, pepper, onion, and mushrooms, with olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Grill or cook in the oven at 320 degrees for 8-10 minutes, rotating 2-3 minutes.

*Lean protein such as chicken is vital when you are cutting calories because it fills you up without a lot of fat and helps build muscle too.

Indulge Without the Bulge:

Add: 100 calorie Hershey's Pretzel Bar
Subtract: Thomas' English muffin

Day Three


Oatmeal with Pecans and Berries (351 calories)

1 packet Original Quaker Oats instant oatmeal* made with 1 cup skim milk (or 1 cup Quaker Oats)
2 Tbl. chopped pecans
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries

*Soluble fiber in oatmeal will help keep you full well past the time when you should be thinking about lunch!

Snack (167 calories)

1 medium banana
2 tsp peanut butter*

*Natural nut butters provide filling protein and healthy fats. Consuming nuts in the AM causes you to eat fewer calories throughout the rest of the day.


Turkey Pita (395 calories)

4 oz. fresh roasted turkey (about 4 medium slices)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup spinach
4 small tomato slices
1/8 cup sprouts
1 small whole-wheat pita
1/2 cup strawberries for dessert

Side Salad

1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup heart of palm*
1 tsp olive oil

*Tossing surprising ingredients into a salad is the key to preventing "same-old salad" syndrome. Spice up your greens with unexpected extras such as hearts of palm, artichokes, capers, etc.

Snack (150 calories)

1 skim latte (6oz. skim milk* and 6 oz. coffee) sprinkled with cinnamon
1/2 oz. 70% cacao dark chocolate

*Skim milk is your best friend! Not only is it fat-free and low-cal but the calcium you get from two daily servings of dairy is associated with lower body weight!


Healthy Chicken Parmigiana with Penne (437 calories)

4 oz. grilled chicken, diced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup cooked spinach* (sauteed in 1 tsp olive oil)
1/2 cup whole-wheat penne
1 1/2 Tbl. grated Parmesan

*Spinach contains lipoic acid, which plays a role in energy production and may help regulate blood sugar levels.

Indulge Without the Bulge:

Add: 1/2 cup Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla Bean Light Ice Cream
Subtract: The penne and 1 Tbl. Parmesan at dinner. Sprinkle 1/2 Tbl cheese on veggies or chicken

Day Four


Egg and Lox on an English Muffin (389 calories)

3 egg whites and 1 whole egg* scrambled with 2 oz. lox and 1/4 cup chopped onion
1 whole-wheat English muffin
1 cup blackberries (on the side)

*The protein in eggs can help build muscle, plus eggs contain vitamin B12, which is vital for breaking down fat. People who eat two eggs in the morning eat an average of 164 fewer calories for lunch.

Snack (180 calories)

5 1/2 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt
20 shelled pistachios*
1 tsp agave or honey

*Eating nuts twice a week may help keep off weight gain. Pistachios have less fat than most other nuts.


Taco Salad (344 calories)

4 oz. lean ground turkey cooked with taco seasoning
1/4 cup black beans
2 Tbl. salsa
1 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce*
1/4 cup chopped yellow pepper
1/4 cup chopped tomato
2 Tbl guacamole

*Romaine is rich in nutrients- and water! Water helps fill you up and may reduce the overall number of your caloric intake.

Snack (170 calories)

1/2 head endive
1/4 cup hummus*
6 olives

*Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are high in fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar and ward off cravings.


Pork and Veggies (417 calories)

4 oz. roasted pork tenderloin
12 spears roasted asparagus, brushed with 2 tsp olive oil
1/2 baked sweet potato


1 small baked apple (core apple, pour 1 tsp lemon juice on top and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp cinnamon, then bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes)

Indulge Without the Bulge:

Add: 4 oz. red wine (My favorite is Pinot Noir!)
Subtract: The nuts and honey from your Greek yogurt snack. Just simply sprinkle it with cinnamon.

Day Five


Yogurt and Grapefruit Parfait (252 calories)

8 oz. Greek yogurt
1 Tbl. wheat germ
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
1 medium grapefruit*

*Most of grapefruit's three grams of fiber is found in the walls (thin skin between segments). Keep the walls intact for a more filling meal!


Garlic Parmesan Popcorn (116 calories)

2 cups air-popped popcorn
1 Tbl. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. garlic powder
10 sprays of nonstick butter-flavored spray

Place 1/2 cup of whole popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch sack. Fold over a few times to seal bag shut. Microwave 1-2 minutes, depending on your microwave. Note: Not all kernels will pop. Once they're popped, add nonstick butter flavored spray, Parmesan, and garlic powder. Shake bag well and serve.


Tuna and Bean Salad (353 calories)

3 oz. chunk light tuna packed in water
1/3 cup cannellini beans
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup canned corn
2 hearts of palm (canned), sliced
1 tsp fresh parsley
2 tsp olive oil*

*Monounsaturated fat, the kind found in olive oil, can increase fat oxidation.


Trail Mix (224 calories)

3 dried apricot halves
15 raw almonds*
1/2 cup Health Valley organic oat bran flakes

*Take your time with this treat. The longer you chew almonds, the more of their satiety-boosting healthy fats you may absorb.


Butternut Squash Soup and Beef Stir-Fry with Bulgur (450 calories)


1/2 cup Pacific Natural Foods organic light-sodium butternut squash soup


3 oz. steak tenderloin fillet, sliced thin
1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 onion, sliced
2 tsp olive oil

Serve over 1/3 cup cooked bulgur.*

*Bulgur is quick-cooking, nutty-tasting whole grain that's lower in calories and fat than brown rice.

Indulge Without the Bulge:

Add: Chocolate VitaMuffin
Subtract: Garlic, Parmesan, and spray from AM snack

What are some of your favorite healthy recipes?? How do you indulge without the bulge??

**Disclaimer: I am not a dietician  or nutritionist. These are recipes found/modified from my own personal interest as well as the Ultimate Shape-Up Guide from Women's Health.

Get cooking everyone for the weekend party you want to rock your new jeans or sexy top! Today is the start of your new and healthy life...and living on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Crank Up That Metabolism!

Ok so I go through this myself but I think we all find ourselves going through days dragging, tired, and just want to stay in our beds and have a "me" day. And sometimes this is okay to do to give our bodies the rest they need. However, doing too much of this could cause you to lose that momentum that you strive so hard to maintain! Well, don't curse that sluggish system- boost your calorie-burning potential with these tips!

Have you ever watched someone down an entire bowl of ice cream or a big plate of nachos but they have that body that makes you wonder, "Where the heck does she put it?!" Most likely, she doesn't put it anywhere. She probably has a Ferrari fast metabolism that incinerates fat before it takes up a residence on her hips.

Jealous of those girls? Don't be. Genetics can play a part of you metabolic efficiency, but you can give Mother Nature a swift kick in the you-know-what by simply tweaking your fitness regime. Your body will adapt to exercise over time and this can cause your metabolism to fall into a lull. Adding a variety of workouts, resistance, and weight can help break through plateaus so results will continue to knock on your door!

Yes, intensity matters! Harder exercising promotes growth of lean muscle, which burns more calories during and after your workout. These three strength training techniques will help inject a powerful shot of variety and intensity into your normal routine. Replace one of your workouts each week with one of these training methods and watch those five extra pounds melt away!

Contrast Training

This involves doing a resistance exercise with weights, then immediately following it with an explosive body-weight exercise that works the same muscle group. The movement pattern of the second exercise should mimic the first one. Example? Chest presses should be followed by explosive push ups, or dumbbell squats followed by squat jumps.

Trimming Trick: Busting out an explosive move after a strength exercise trains your body to recruit more muscle fibers to join in on the action. Research found this technique to help increase lean muscle mass while decreasing body-fat percentage.
Try It: Hold a 10-20lb. dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart, and lower into a squat (as if you're sitting in a chair) for 5-10 reps. Then ditch the dumbbells and do 5-10 jump squats: Lower into a squat, then push through your heels to jump off the ground; land softly! Rest for one to three minutes, then repeat the sequence, working your way up to 5 or 6 sets!

Pyramid Method

Do three or more sets of the same exercise, starting with light resistance and high reps, then increasing weight and decreasing the reps with each set. A full workout of pyramid sets can be tough so start by working one upper-bod and one lower-body exercise into the end of your routine. This way, you won't exhaust key muscle groups you need to complete your usual routine.

Trimming Trick: Unlike other intense workouts, this technique emphasizes muscular endurance (rate at which your body can continually produce force) which can increase your fat-burning rate.
Try It: Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side and step forward with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge, making sure your knee creates a 90 degree angle. Return to standing and continue for a total of 15 reps. Repeat with the left leg, then rest for 20 seconds before doing a second set; 10-12 reps, using a slightly heavier weight. Rest, then increase your weight again and do 6-8 reps.

Tabata Method

This technique is probably my favorite. "Fast and Furious" intervals- 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest- and repeated eight times (about 4 minutes). Research found exercising as hard as you can for short periods of time is as effective at improving muscle strength and boosting metabolism as sweating it out longer at a lower intensity.

Trimming Trick: All-out effort keeps the heart rate pumping for the entire workout (even during the rest period) and for hours after you kick off those sneakers. End result? Extra calories burned.
Try It: Start with lunges with a bicep curl. Do as many reps as you can with proper form in 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds then continue for a total of eight intervals. Rest for two minutes, then move onto squats with overhead presses and do eight intervals. Take another two-minute breather, then do eight intervals of push ups.

Want to know more ways to trim excess fat?
  • Eat (a Good) Breakfast:  Your body will go into starvation mode if you don't, and your metabolism slows to a dragging crawl to conserve energy. Try to eat a mix of lean protein and complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. This will keep you full longer! 
Toad in the Hole with Turkey Sausage (320 calories, 26g protein, 2g fiber)

1 slice whole wheat bread
1 egg
3 turkey sausage links, ready-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, optional

Use a round cookie cutter to cut out the center of the bread. Spray nonstick cooking spray on the wheat toast and place on a skillet. Crack egg and drop it into the hole in the bread. Cook for 1 minute and flip the wheat-egg toast and cook for another minute. For a runny yolk, don't flip. Sprinkle wheat-egg toast with paprika if desired. Microwave ready-made turkey sausage links according to directions on package.

  • Guzzle Your Water: Research found that people who drank 8-12 eight-ounce glasses of eater a day had higher metabolic rates than those who drank only four glasses. (Want a summertime drink treat? I like to add fresh berries, mint, and a touch of Splenda to my water. Or just throw some cucumber slices in my Frita filter pitcher! Very refreshing!)
  • Hit the Sack---Early: When you sleep fewer hours than you should, you throw off amounts of leptin and ghrelin-hormones that regulate energy use and appetite- that your own body produces. Studies found that people who snoozed fewer than 7 1/2 hours a night experienced an increase in their BMI.    

How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Have you ever tried some of these metabolism increasing techniques??

So get to bed and drink up and your body will be energized to take on the day with style...and on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...

Friday, July 22, 2011

30 Days of Blogging: Cleansing- it's Not THAT Crazy!

{One in 20 women would rather give up a limb than be obese.}

"Hmmm...interesting. Hearing this today makes me think it makes sense that rational women want to believe in the power of a detox diet. Wouldn't it be nice to simply flush away fat away because you drink so much liquid you spend half the day in the bathroom? Ahhhh... *Wishful thinking*

The reality is that some of these diets are not just literally hard to swallow, but they may be BAD to swallow. A cleanse that offers few calories in yucky-tasting liquid form may help shed weight- but it's not sustainable.

Recipe for Danger?

The term "fasting" (drastically reducing caloric intake or following a liquid diet) is not new to the public. Did you know that detox has existed since the 1930's with the grapefruit diet fad. Most commercial diets promote a combination of minimal nutrients and calories along with some "fat-melting" powder, such as vinegar or cayenne pepper. However, no science supports the idea that following a specific diet for a week/month or eating only one type of food with release your body of "toxins." Your body actually has the power to do that on its own- enter kidneys, liver, and digestive system!

As a matter of fact, most of the "detox" supplements and diets on the market aren't even regulated by the FDA and are potentially harmful. With these real, big risks come minimal rewards. Much of what you would be losing on this kind of extreme diet is water weight, which lasts only until you refill on fluids. If you see a permanent drop on the scale, it's most likely muscle, not fat. Without adequate protein, your body takes it from its most reliable and available source: your own muscle tissue!

This is not good, obviously! Muscle is your built-in calorie furnace, torching muffin-top makers even when you're not moving! The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, which is why dramatically slashing calories can actually slow your metabolism. You are making your body think you are starving and it starts to panic. It will try to preserve muscle and basic body functions. Whenever you go back to a regular diet, you will gain weight faster and from few calories.

Detoxes Debunked

Research has found that after just a few days of drastically slashing calorie consumption (even a very petite woman needs at least 1,200 calories) your body stops producing a hormone called IGF1 and reduces thyroid, other hormone, and even insulin levels! Over time, these can lead to bone loss and menstrual disruptions.

PLUS, when you eat that little, your sex-drive disappears, you feel tired all the time, and are always hungry. What good is a hot body if you don't even have the energy to use it??

A Healthier Head Start

Don't get the wrong idea though: not every cleanse is bad. Done in a healthy sane way, detoxing can feel like an intervention and a fresh beginning. A healthy detox can give your digestive system a break, but by eliminating added sugar, saturated fats, and alcohol, it also rids your diet of things that can exacerbate health issues.

A good plan provides enough calories and nutrients to sustain you (the average woman needs 1,200- 1,800) and includes fiber and lean protein. You may need to adjust for your own height, weight, age, and activity level. Following it for at least three days will kick-start weight loss but safe at the same time.

Because you will be eating every four hours while drinking as much water and decaffeinated tea as you want (YES!), you will beat the bloat while keeping our blood sugar steady and your energy high. You'll be able to cut back then without feeling hungry, exhausted, or cranky.

The Cleansing Plan (created by Jennifer Ventrelle, R.D., nutrition counselor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago)


  • 8 oz. water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Scrambled egg whites with chopped fresh herbs (basil or oregano), topped with a dollop of salsa; 1 slice whole wheat toast or 1 cup cooked oatmeal topped with 1/2 berries or 2 Tbl. nuts
  • 8 oz. decaffeinated green or herbal tea


  • Sliced apple with 1 Tbl. natural peanut butter or 1/3 cup natural trail mix

  • 1 cup fresh spinach or lightly sauteed spinach or kale, sprinkled with fresh lemon or orange juice or 1 cup asparagus with 1 tsp olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice
  • 4 oz. grilled, baked, or broiled salmon, chicken, or pork-tenderloin, seasoned with spices such as lemon pepper
  • 1/2 cup edamame beans, steamed
  • 8 oz. water or decaffeinated green or herbal tea
  • 8 pecan halves

  • 1/2 sweet potato or one citrus fruit (orange or grapefruit)
  • 4 oz. low-fat yogurt

  • Large spinach or romaine salad with vegetables. Dress with 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil mixed with lemon juice or vinegar
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup asparagus or artichoke hearts, steamed
  • 4 oz. lean chicken with spices, baked or grilled
  • 1/2 cup brown rice, barley, bulgur, or quinoa
  • 8 oz. water or decaffeinated green or herbal tea

  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup blueberries or 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 4 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt or low-fat organic yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese"

Have you ever gone on a "detox" diet?? What kind of food did you wish you would have incorporated??

So get clean, get mean, and get that hot body...on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...