By Amanda Thebe and Kim Schlag
This was the provocative headline a social media page, with a significant influential presence posted last week. STOP! DOING THE PLANK IF YOU’RE OVER 50!
She later updated the post to add some context, stating “the plank exercise puts pressure on the bladder, which may already be weakened without the influence of oestrogen. To prevent further damage modify the plank position by resting knees on the floor, or speak with your instructor about alternative positions. If you suffer with bladder or pelvic floor problems, prevent further damage by modifying The Plank position, such as resting knees on the floor, or speak with your instructor about alternative positions.”
Yet her stance remained firm, in all her comments and interaction on the post, she stood by her claim that women should stop doing plank after 50.
Well you can imagine the response this evoked. Women over 50 were up in arms at being told they SHOULD NOT do an exercise that had otherwise been a staple part of their exercise program.
So is this statement accurate? Should Women over 50 stop doing the plank?
The best way to address this is by telling you what we know happens during menopause. Declining estrogen has been shown to reduce the strength of our skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle is the stuff that is connected to your skeleton and is part of the mechanisms which help us move. This shows up in a number of ways as women see their strength take a bit of a nosedive and a decrease in their pelvic floor strength.
When a muscle loses strength, either from declining estrogen, from inactivity or from sarcopenia as we age, then one of the solutions to address this is to strengthen the muscle. There is enough evidence to show that we CAN still build muscle as we age, and we should actively seek to do so.
How do the pelvic floor muscles work?
The Continence Society of Australia states, “when the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten the openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxing the pelvic floor allows passage of urine and feces.”
This should happen naturally, without any conscious thought. But if we experience weakness in the pelvic floor area, it’s important for a woman to retrain the muscles to react and relax intuitively. The best way to do this is working with a pelvic floor specialist, who will help you identify what is causing the dysfunction and what the best exercises are to strengthen the area.
The pelvic floor works as part of the core, to control the internal pressure of your abdomen. These muscles include the diaphragm for breathing, the multifidus which supports your spine and the transversus abdominis (TrA) which are deep core muscles. Usually training the pelvic floor requires you to train all these areas together as a system. If you work with a pelvic health physiotherapist, they might help you learn how to activate a muscle in isolation for those not working optimally. For example, if your pelvic floor muscle is hypertonic (too tight) it maybe due to the underuse of your TrA. In this case, the physiotherapist will help you learn how to activate the TrA and then progress to include all the inner core.
What does that mean for you? Should you STOP DOING THE PLANK IF YOU'RE OVER 50?
Michelle Smith, who is a senior instructor at a national personal training college and teaches ACSM, NASM, ACE and NSCA curriculum to personal training students, argues that this type of statement is harmful. Smith states, “It doesn't matter your age or whether estrogen causes muscle weakness. Just because it can, it doesn't mean that every woman will have a compromised pelvic floor sling or have bladder issues. If a woman trains her pelvic floor and performs a well executed plank, she should not be afraid to do so because she reached 50.”
Fear-mongering and blanket statements are harmful on many fronts, but especially during menopause when many women are afraid to jump back into exercise and can lack the belief in their abilities.
Dr. Sarah Ellis Duvall, pelvic health physiotherapist, who studied her doctorate on the pelvis emphasizes that, “if you're performing a plank correctly, then it can be the best exercise you can do! I've seen a full plank from the floor help hundreds of women strengthen their pelvic floor - i.e. the bladder support system. Looking at the research, planks recruit a pelvic floor contraction the same as a kegel, showing they can be a beneficial part of rehab if done correctly. Now, I can think of 15 other exercises that are incredibly risky for the pelvic floor and must be done with great form or it can cause bladder issues, but a plank just doesn't rank high on that list.”
She continues, “if we have everyone at 50 suddenly back off from their exercise routine, it would create an epidemic of pelvic floor issues. When you stop challenging the body you are guaranteed to get weaker over time, estrogen or not. Weakness is a huge issue for pelvic floor health! So, I'm going to argue that if you're doing a plank well when you hit 50 and beyond, if you back off, it just might create a pelvic floor weakness issue that will lead to having bladder problems. Modifying planks could CAUSE a PF issue!! “
You are unique!
Not all women can and should do planks. Chana Ross, pelvic health physiotherapist advises that they first get assessed for their pelvic health.
Planks may not be for you:
Age and menopause should not be the dictator of whether you can do a plank or not. In fact, Michelle Fraser, pelvic health physiotherapist, thinks we should reframe the whole argument. “Perhaps it is not “what” exercise we are doing that is the most helpful guideline, or what age we are, but “how” we are performing the exercise. Like many effortful exercises, the plank has the potential to increase intra-abdominal pressure, which can lead to increased pressure on the bladder. This is particularly true if the person performing the exercise is unable to maintain an optimal breathing pattern because the physical demand of the exercise is beyond their current ability. A 55-year old woman may easily be able to perform plank, using their inner core optimally and with a helpful breathing pattern, while a 40-year old woman may not be able to perform a modified version (such as on the knees rather than on the feet) without holding their breath or without gripping their muscles. In these examples, plank may be appropriate in the first case, and a modified version may not be appropriate in the second case. Rather than vilifying a particular exercise or setting age parameters, it may be more helpful to assess what each individual is capable of doing while maintaining optimal mechanics and breathing.”
How to do a good plank:
There are different starting points for performing a plank and you need to determine where yours is. Our best advice is to work on different angles of incline or perform on your knees. The main focus should be to have impeccable form so that you can breathe properly, you can recruit all your inner core muscles and you are not in pain.
Here are some cues to help you:⠀
If you struggle with anything from the above list, you may benefit from seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist to ensure a balance of the individual components of the inner core. Doing plank with these excellent cues will work great as long as you can actually recruit all components of plank in the amount required (not “gripping”) and are able to relax the pelvic floor afterwards, and are able to breathe while in plank.
Other things that can help you...
You are not fragile!
Women in menopause are often represented as being weak and broken, when this is far from the truth. Lynda McClatchie, pelvic health physiotherapist wants this narrative to change. “ I don’t want any woman to believe she has become that fragile. This kind of thinking is brutal and will literally change her brain. I do think that while she is doing a plank she should engage her pelvic floor (and know that she is doing it correctly) and breathe properly. Obviously she should start at a level that is appropriate and build from there.” And we will all be at a different level, and that’s OK!
When fear-based statements like these are made, with no evidence to support them, a disservice is being done to women. Katie Taylor, runs The Latte Lounge, another large online platform for midlife women , challenged this social media influencer, “For those of us who run sizeable online platforms, or are looked upon as ‘influencers’ (a word i don’t like to associate myself with) we have a huge responsibility to look after the women who come to us for support and ensure that we are providing them with scientifically sound and evidence based advice, not scaremongering like this. Using sweeping statements like this, is totally unhelpful and confuses women further, usually the most vulnerable and desperate women who come to us often when they’ve run out of places to go. We have a duty of care to look after them and signpost them safely and correctly.”
The final word
GP and menopause expert, Dr Louise Newson couldn’t agree more, “women need to do the right exercise for them and many of my patients who are over 50 regularly do planks!!" Our advice to you is to make an informed decision on your exercise choices based on your individual goals and needs. Take these clickbait statements with a pinch of salt, and find reputable experts (like the many featured in this article) to make an informed decision about your health and wellbeing.
Finally, take some inspiration from the following photos. An army of Over 50 Women who won’t be driven to fear by sweeping statements like these. We would love to see your photos too. Post on social media using the hashtag #PlankingOver50 and we will feature you in our stories.
You're busy and losing weight is one more thing to add to your to-do list.
Believe me, I get it.
I want you to know that you're not alone.
I'm a working mom of 3 teenagers myself.
You may have found this article searching for "weight loss tips for women" and I promise I have loads of tips for you, but I want to start with a bit of a perspective shift. Without this shift all the tips in the world won't help you:
"Too busy" says more about your priorities than about your calendar.
If I told you I'd give you a million dollars to track everything you eat, get in 100 grams of protein daily, work out 2-4x per week and hit 10K steps per day for the next 3 months, I bet there's close to a 100% chance you'd do it.
Would you do it to reach your fitness goals without the incentive of a million bucks though? That's the question to ask yourself. Maybe the answer is no. Which is perfectly fine. It's just important to be clear in your head that "too busy" is really about your priorities.
Of course there's more to it, such as:
Nutrition: The Most Important Part of Any Weight Loss Program
If you literally do only this one thing you'll lose weight.
Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, it's true.
You must be in a calorie deficit consistently for an extended period of time.
Here's a quick way to find a starting number of calories:
Here's an example :
Let's say that your goal weight is 140lbs.
140 x 12=1680 calories. That's your daily target. Personally, I prefer people to use a target range. It's mentally less stressful than trying to aim for an exact number. So 50 calories below and 50 calories above will give you a range of 1630-1730 calories.
Make this your top priority.
CALORIE COUNTING EFFICIENCY TIPS:
Getting in enough protein is weight loss nutrition priority number 2. If you eat enough protein you'll stay fuller, increase your metabolism, and burn fat instead of muscle (you might even build muscle if you're new to strength training or are a person with obesity.) How much protein?
Returning to our previous example: If your goal is 140 pounds:
140 x 0.7 and 140 x 1.0 = 98-140 grams of protein per day.
Mostly Nutrient Dense Food
Most of your diet should be nutrient dense, minimally processed food: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein. The stuff that grows from the ground, had a face, or came from something that had a face. 80-90% of your diet should live here. The remaining 10-20% can come from less nutrient dense sources. Sweets, fast food, more processed food.
Eating in this way will keep you full, help you hit your targets, and allow you enough wiggle room to enjoy your favorite foods, eating out and socializing.
MEAL PLANNING/PREP EFFICIENCY TIPS
Exercise: What, When & How To Get It In
Just like with nutrition you should focus on the things that will get you the most bang for your buck.
Then let the rest go. What to focus on as far as exercise for fat loss?
Lifting weights, along with eating enough protein, is what helps you to keep your muscle while you lose fat in a calorie deficit. More muscle boosts your metabolism and is a big part of looking toned and defined. That's the why. Here's the how:
3 days =1 full body + 1 upper body + 1 lower body
4 days = 2 upper body + 2 lower body
Pick what fits into your life the best. More isn't better. Being consistent is better. Choosing 2 and being consistent with it is better than choosing four and regularly skipping one or two sessions. If you're on the fence about how many days is realistic for you, choose the lower number. Do it for a month and then reevaluate.
Calendar your workouts. You don't have to have set days if your schedule isn't set up that way (mine isn't) but every Sunday physically type into your calendar your workout appointments.
Use Supersets. Supersets pair 2 exercises together. There are multiple ways to use supersets, for our purposes here you'll pair together 2 exercises that work different muscles. In this way you'll get more work done in a shorter period of time. Here's an example for a full body day:
1A 3 x 8 Goblet Squat
1B 3 x 8 Single Arm Row
2A 3 x 10 KB Deadlift
2B 3 x 10 DB Incline Bench Press
3A 3 x 12 Single Leg Hip Thrust
3B 3 x 12 DB Overhead Press
3C 3 x 12-15 seconds Hollow Body Hold
For each number group you do A followed immediately by B (and C in the case of number 3) then rest and repeat the same moves for the given number of sets before moving on to the next superset. So for 1 you'd do 8 goblet squats followed immediately by 8 rows with the left arm and 8 rows with the right arm, rest and repeat for a total of 3 sets before moving on to number 2.
Put away your phone It is so easy to add on a significant amount of time to your workout if you're checking Instagram and texting between sets. Don't do it! Keep your phone in airplane mode or in your pocket or face down next to you until you're done.
Keep isolation moves to a minimum. You'll get more bang for your buck with those big compound moves I listed above then with isolation moves. Push ups work your triceps as they're working your chest, while tricep kickbacks just work your triceps. Deadlifts work the whole back of your body in an efficient way. Donkey kicks, while not useless, don't deliver the same value for the time they take. Of course you *can* do isolation stuff, but think of dedicated tricep/ bicep/ inner thigh/ glute/ calf exercises as the seasoning, not the main course. Sprinkle them in lightly.
Getting in as much movement as possible helps to create your calorie deficit. You don't need to do dedicated cardio, though you can. I have my online clients get a baseline of their daily steps and then we work to increase them to 10k+ over time. Some of them like to have an actual cardio session or two to get those steps in, but most don't.
MOVEMENT EFFICIENCY TIPS
Use phone time to get in steps: walk around the office if you're on a call at work or around the neighborhood if you're at home.
Listen to books on Audible while taking a walk instead of sitting down to read
Get in your steps in small pockets of time: Walk around the field while you're waiting for your kiddo to finish soccer practice. Walk around the perimeter of the store an extra time or 2 when you go to Target. Use a bathroom on a different floor at work. These small efforts add up without taking up a big chunk of your time.
Mindset: Success Starts Here
To be successful at weight loss your mindset is critical. Here are changes to consider:
I get a lot of questions from women about deadlifting:
Most importantly, I want you to know that this lift is for you. It's not just for muscley dudes or perky 20- something Insta models. You, a middle-aged bad mama jama are gonna own this lift. Let's gooo!
This is solidly middle-aged me at 48 deadlifting 270lbs at a bodyweight of 127lbs. That's well over 2x my bodyweight.
What body parts does a deadlift work anyway?
Allll the parts:)
Deadlifts train your grip, your arms, your upper, mid and lower back, your glutes, your core, and your legs.
If you're thinking purely in terms of aesthetic benefits, deadlifts are fantastic at lifting your booty, toning your thighs and chiseling your back. Of course they're useful in everyday life- moving furniture, boxes, bags, kids. You'll be stronger and safer pretty much any time you're lifting heavy stuff up off the ground as you train your deadlift.
How To Deadlift Step 1: The Hip Hinge
First things first. Before you even pick up a weight let's get you grooving the right movement here. It's important to note that the deadlift is not a squat. It is a hip hinge. I remember being supremely confused about the difference between these two movements when I first started lifting. Here's a breakdown:
When hip hingeing your butt goes back, not down. Imagine that someone wrapped a rope around your waist, stood behind you and pulled. Which direction would your hips move? Would they go down towards the floor? Of course not. They'd go back, in the direction of the pull. That's the motion of a hip hinge.
Notice that in a squat you bend both your knees and your hips maximally, whereas in a hinge you bend your hips maximally while bending your knees minimally. Also take a look at my shins in this graphic; they're almost vertical in the hinge and angled forward in the squat.
Watch the video below to learn 3 drills you can do to learn to hip hinge:
1. The dowel drill
2. The wall tap drill
3. The door shutting drill
Video yourself performing these 3 drills and compare them to my video.
Does your form look the same?
No? Keep practicing. You'll get it!
Yes? Great! Well done. Moving on...
Cable or Band Pull Through
A great exercise to practice the hip hinge movement is the cable or band pull through. I'm gonna bet you think it's a little awkward One of my clients calls it "flossing her vagina."
I promise it's worth the weird:)
Here: watch how to do it with a cable and rope attachment. You can also do it at home with a resistance band.
How To Cable Pull Through:
How to Deadlift Step 2: Kettlebell Deadlift
Once you feel confident with your hip hinge you're ready to give the first deadlift variation a try.
Let's see it!
What if I can't get into position to deadlift the KB with that form?
Try this: elevate the KB up to a height that you can lift it with proper form. You can elevate it on plates or a box.
Here's a video so you can see all the parts of a kettlebell deadlift in action:
Click to set custom HTML
How To Deadlift Step 3: Deadlifting With A Bar
If you have a trap bar available, give that a go next. If not, skip ahead to the section on sumo deadlifts (but watch the videos on breathing & bracing and how to take the slack out of the bar as those will apply to sumo and conventional as well as trap bar deadlifting.)
You'll stand inside of the bar so the weight will be closer to your center of gravity as opposed to either a sumo or conventional barbell deadlift where the the weight is out in front of you. The trap bar enables you to pull with a more upright position, which is just an easier position for many people to take. It is also less stressful on the hips, which makes it a great option for those with crankier hips.
Then you're going to take all the tension out of the bar. You'll hear people call it "taking the slack out of the bar." One way to think of it is like you're trying to bend the bar. I think this video will help you understand (it shows a barbell, but it's the same idea):
Ok, I don't want to alarm you, but things are about to get exceptionally exciting. Hold onto your hats ladies I'm about to share with you the ins and outs of my personal favorite lift, the Queen of the Deadlifts in my opinion. Her Royal Highness the Sumo Deadlift. Let's gooo...
In all seriousness, I like it so much because I'm stongest at it. You might find the same to be true for you, or maybe not. But in any case you should give both Sumo and Conventional pulling a go to see which you like best. And honestly there's room in your training for both.
A lot of what we've already discussed so far will apply to Sumo as well:
Seriously, you now know more about deadlifting than most people ever will.
Watch this sumo tutorial and then we'll chat about a couple things that are different with this lift:
Sumo Set Up:
We've arrived at our final deadlift variation, the conventional deadlift. Everything you've learned up till now is going to help you master this lift. The main difference between sumo and conventional is the position of your feet and hands. Instead of having your feet wider than shoulder width with your hands gripping the bar inside of your legs, you'll stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and your hands gripping the bar just outside of your legs. This change makes some of what we've discussed different. Here's a list of what will stay the same:
How To Deadlift: My Best Advice Yet!
Film yourself deadlifting. From the side and from the front. It's super easy to do. Just prop your phone up against a dumbbell a water bottle, or whatever's handy. Look for these common mistakes:
How To Deadlift: The Most Common Deadlifting Mistakes
by Kim Schlag
What Even Are Carbs?
If you go based on headlines you might think carbs are the superillain in the latest Marvel movie.
The real answer is far less exciting.
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients that make up our food (protein and fat are the other two.)
Carbs are categorized by how simple or complex their chemical structure is. I'd list those categories and the various carbs in each, but I actually want you to read this article while awake.
Just know this: In the end, most carbs are digested into the sugar glucose before they're absorbed into the body. So whether you eat oatmeal or poured a few teaspoons of sugar into your coffee, they'll both end up as glucose.
Carbs are your bodies main source of energy. Interestingly, if you don't eat carbs your body will use fats and protein for energy. So while you can't survive without protein and fat you can survive without carbs.
Just because you can survive without them though doesn't mean you should, or that it's better. Carbs provide much in the way of micronutrients and fiber. Yay for health & pooping!
Also, if you like lifting heavy things or running really far, or generally sportsing hard you should know that carbs can help optimize your performance in all of your hard sportsing.
Besides, I think that we can all agree with Oprah...
Which foods contain carbs?
Why are people afraid of carbs?
Can't say for sure but some good possibilities include:
So, do carbs make you fat?
There is a growing body of scientific evidence, including a large randomized clinical trial published just last year, that shows that when protein and calories are matched there are not significant differences in weight loss between low-carb and low-fat diets. The same study also found no association between insulin production and weight loss.
I'm not sure how interested you are in reading actual studies but I'm going to link them below in case you are:) In any case, here's the take home point: Both low carb and low fat diets work for weight loss, so choose what you can stick with, remembering the critical point is total calories.
But what about eating carbs at night?
It still comes down to total calories. If eating carbs at night (or protein or fat for that matter) means you eat more calories than you burn in a day than, yes, you'll gain weight. But the same would hold true whether those calories were eaten at night or not. If you eat more calories than you burn, even if you eat them earlier in the day it will have the same effect.
But I have to eat carbs low on the Glycemic Index, right?
So the GI is a ranking of carbohydrates according to how fast they cause your blood sugar to rise. The higher the ranking on the scale from 1-100, the faster the food causes your blood sugar to rise. The idea many people have is that for fat loss low GI carbs are best.
Let's talk common sense first. If you look at the index you'll find that watermelon is ranked a 77 while Peanut M&M's are ranked a 33. Now in my fantasy world Peanut M&M's are a supreme fat loss food, but realistically speaking does it seem logical that you should consider Peanut M&M's part of a fat loss diet but shun watermelon?
One of the major problems with the GI is that it looks at food in isolation, yet that's rarely how we eat food. When's the last time you sat down and just ate rice for lunch?
As to the science, in studies that control for macronutrients and fiber there is no fat loss advantage to the low GI diet vs the high-GI diet.
What should you focus on when it comes to carbs and fat loss?
First do this:
Don't overthink this.
Carbs aren't the villain.
They're also not the sexy super hero played by one of the Hemsworth brothers either.
Yes, I mostly wrote that to have a reason to share this fine picture. But seriously, its food not a summer blockbuster. We can cut way back on the drama. If you start to feel worked up about it remind yourself that food doesn't have moral value. It's just food.
Email me any time if you have questions about how to put any of this into practice:)
Gardener et al: Effect of Low-fat vs Low- CarbohydrateDiet on 12 -Month Weight Lossin Overweight Adults and the Association with Genptype Pattern or Insulin Secretio. JAMA 2018
Karl, JP et al. effects of Carbohydrate quantity and Glycemic Index on Resting Metabolic Rate and and Body Composition During Weight Loss. Obesity. 2015
Recently I came across an article by a women's fitness magazine about meal combinations that would "kick start" your metabolism and burn fat. Articles about weight loss are hardly a rarity, but this one got me in the gut because it's exactly the kind of article that for dozens of years I'd seek out and think "Yes!! This is the missing piece! This is why I'm not losing weight. I'm not combining the right foods!" or "I'm eating at the wrong time!" or "I shouldn't be eating this entire food group! That's what I'm doing wrong!"
To be fair, the foods suggested in this article are all super nutritious and the benefits listed were spot on. Buuuut. And this is a BIG but, the idea that these specific food combinations are some kind of special magical fat loss formula is a problem. What if I combine these foods in the suggested manner and eat huge portion sizes? Will I still lose fat? What if I want to eat other foods besides these 16 listed foods sometimes (crazy, I know)? Can I still lose fat?
These kinds of fat loss "secrets" often end up just distracting us from the unsexy, not-at-all secretive actual principles of fat loss. Looking for some bit of weight loss magic personally kept me stuck for years. Lean in close and I'll tell you a secret..... there IS NO SECRET. And that is The. Best. News. Ever.
Why? Because if there's no secret, no hidden formula, trick or tip out there that we need to wait to discover it puts us firmly back in a position to TAKE ACTION. And action is what makes progress happen!
What action? When it comes to weight loss there is one overriding principle. That principle is this: if you consistently eat fewer calories than you need to maintain your current weight you will lose weight. I'm betting you've heard that before, right? I told you, there really IS no secret. Calories matter when it comes to weight loss. And if someone tells you they don't, then you should never ask that person for fitness advice again. Ever:)
Here are 4 actions you can take if you're ready to lose fat and keep it off:
1. Eat in a calorie deficit: A good starting point is to multiply your body weight (in lbs) by 12, That will give you a daiily calorie target. For example, if you weigh 150lbs you would multiply 150x12 to get 1800 calories. Consistently hit that calorie target each day. (If you have 50lbs or more to lose you will need to set that multiplier lower, like at 10X bodyweight.) Use a calorie tracking app such as My Fitness Pal or Lose It to track your calories. Don't get bogged down in all of the information those apps give you (ie how much sugar, carbs, fat, etc. you are consuming.) Just pay attention to the total calories and the grams of protein ( see #2 below)
2. Eat .7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. So our 150lb person would eat between .7x150 - 1 x150= 105-150g of protein each day. Getting in enough protein helps to maintain and build muscle. This is important because the more lean muscle you have the more calories you burn even when you're sleeping or just watching TV! Eating sufficient protein also helps to keep you full, which is obviously super key to being able to stick with your plan. Need a few protein ideas? Here ya go:
lean cuts of beef
lean ground beef/chicken/turkey
3. Eat mostly whole, nutrient dense food. Vegetables, meat, fruit. You know what I'm talking about:) If 80ish% of your calories comes from these kinds of foods then you can happily enjoy whatever junk food suits you for the other 20ish% of your calories. The key is to incorporate these foods into your daily calorie target. I'm partial to cake and ice cream, but if you're a chips and dip kinda gal, go for that. Really. Eating "fun" foods in moderation helps us to be able to maintain this way of eating over the long haul. Which brings us to #4...
4. Stick with it! Consistency is the missing piece for a lot of people. Be patient and stick with these couple of action items. I don't mean just for a week or a month. And I definitely don't mean only when it's going well. The people who succeed at fat loss are the ones who keep working even if the scale doesn't seem to be moving. They get right back on track when they get off. And they don't start looking around for the "next thing" to try. Consistency+patience=results. Remember that formula!!
So there you have it. Those are the nutritional "big rocks" you need to get in place to start smashing your fat loss goals. Exercise is also an important piece of the puzzle (one which I'll be addressing soon!) But a person can make serious progress with the nutrition piece alone, while the same can not be said about exercise alone. Most of us would rather spend a few hours a week killing it in the gym rather than paying attention to what we eat day in and day out, but that just doesn't get results.
Let me add in a bonus action item: Do not wait for just the right time to get started. It's never coming!! You think it is, I know. I did too. When the kids are older, when they're back in school, after vacation, blah,blah,blah. The list of a better time to start is never-ending, and always changing. It's not going away. Ever. So what's the answer? Start now, however imperfectly. I know that feels uncomfortable. We want to start out "just right." But doing something will always get better results than doing nothing. Every Single Time.
Let me know if you have any questions about getting started losing fat. I would love to get you answers and help you in any way that I can!
Cutey fruity turkey my
kiddos and I made
It's the start of Thanksgiving week and I'm sitting at my kitchen counter up to my eyeballs in paperwork: To-do lists, shopping lists, recipes, menus, invitations. The holiday season is about to start and I'm feeling pumped! The half-dozen weeks of festivities, excitement, and goodwill that start with Thanksgiving and don't end until we've brought in the New Year are always my favorite time of year. I love the music, the food and the knowledge that at this time of year it's socially acceptable to put glitter on absolutely anything.
The one thing I don't love about the holiday season is that I often lose sight of my personal fitness goals for a good month and a half. And that is a loooong time to set aside what I typically value enough to dedicate time to day-in and day-out the rest of the year. The past two years I've tested out a few strategies to find a better balance between enjoying the holidays and making continued progress on my fitness goals. So here is My Number One Best Strategy To Enjoy the Holiday Season and Simultaneously Make Progress on Your Fitness Goals (that would sound so much more fun if it were written in gold glitter.)
Embrace this truth: When we think of our nutrition and training in all-or-nothing terms, we often end up with nothing. That is especially true at this time of year. If we are super ridged in our mindset of what success looks like for any given day and unwilling to give ourselves a break, we often just give up. This example will hopefully make clear what I mean: Let's say you usually go to the gym 3-4 times a week to workout. Maybe you take a certain class or follow a specific routine and you're there about an hour each time. Now it's December 5th and you haven't made it even once so far this month. You've been busy and don't see that letting up anytime soon. There's no way you have the hour and a half it takes to get to the gym, train and get back home. So you think to yourself "January 1st I'll get right back on it," and continue on with your busy day. All or nothing. Either 1 1/2 hours to workout as usual or wait until the holidays are over.
But aren't there loads of other choices in between? What about 30 minutes at the gym? What about a 15 minute bodyweight circuit at home? What about going outside and doing intervals for 30 minutes? Heck, what about running up and down your stairs for 10 minutes? Something isn't nothing. Consistency is so important to success in fat loss and/or muscle gain. A little bit less exercise over the course of the holiday season is still loads better than waiting until January to do things "right."
It is the same with nutrition. After a few parties we might be tempted to just think "Ugh, so many calories. I've messed up so much at this point, and there're still many more events coming up. I'll get back to my healthy eating on January 2nd." We just gave ourselves liscense to go hog-wild for weeks! It's so counter-productive to our success. I tried eating the same way I do every other day of the year last December; focused on lots of water, vegetables and lean protein. Then at holiday events I enjoyed the things that were important to me. Rolls and butter with Thanksgiving dinner? Yes, absolutely. Random tray of store-bought cookies at a caroling party? No, thank you. It's not about all or nothing for me this holiday season. It's about keeping as many good habits in place as possible, enjoying every second of the indulgences I choose to take and being ok with the "not-perfect, but not-nothing either" results that brings. Happy Thanksgiving! I'd love to hear fom you- what strategies do you use to enjoy the holidays and stay committed to your personal fitness goals as well?
What is the most effective workout for fat loss? Easy. It's the one you'll actually do!
If you know me at all I bet you thought I was going to answer that question with "lifting weights." I do believe there is nothing quite like the power of the iron when it comes to changing our physiques. But....If you're currently not exercising at all or are only exercising sporadically the most important thing you can do to improve both your health and your physique is build into your week consistent, regular exercise. Here are 3 actionable steps to get you going:
1. Figure out what you like to do in terms of exercise. Bike? Swim? Lift weights? Dance? And, no, surfing the net doesn't count;) What exercise have you done in the past that you've enjoyed? (or at least not dreaded!)
2. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being "not gonna happen" and 10 being "I can definitely do that" think about the activity you chose in step one. Consider everything from child care to comfort exercising in front of others to equipment needs. Where does this form of exercise fall on the scale? I want you to choose something that is a 9 or above. If the exercise you chose in step one is below a 9, go back to step one and choose again.
Here's an example: Let's say you chose Zumba in step one. For step two you would think about all of the various factors that could affect you successfully making it to Zumba class. Maybe you like to dance, but at your current weight you're not comfortable doing that in front of others. You give yourself a 6 or 7 on the scale. That's not high enough, so head back to step one to consider your options. This time lets say you chose biking. You would then consider the various factors that could affect you successfully getting out for a bike ride. Your bike is in good working condition. The weather is currently mild. You have child care options. You rate yourself a 9 on the scale. Great, you're ready to move on to step three. (Actually here's an important step 2 1/2: always consult with your health care provider before beginning any new exercise regimen.)
3. It's time to schedule your exercise. Really look at your upcoming week. How many times can you reasonably commit to exercising? The important thing is making it a habit, not going all-in at the start and burning out quickly. Choose somewhere between 1-3 times weekly to start.
Now get out your phone and add it to your calendar. Seriously. Just like you would schedule in a doctors visit or a lunch date with a friend you need to calendar your exercise. Once you've scheduled your exercise session hold it to the same cancellation standards you would for any other important appointment. If exercise is on your calendar and you're considering skipping it, ask yourself "Would I cancel my child's pediatrician appointment for this reason?" If the answer is "no" then keep that exercise appointment with yourself.
Look, the reality is that we are busy people with lots of balls to juggle. There are probably three or four reasons at any given time that I could give for not exercising on a particular day, yet I rarely miss a scheduled training session. Why? Because I've made my health and fitness a top priority in my life. Remember, when we make being healthy and fit a priority, everyone else in our lives benefits. Our spouse, our kids, our friends, our boss- they all benefit from us taking good care of ourselves. How? Because we show up in our lives better when we feel, move, and look better. We can serve all of the people we love so much better when we are taking care of ourselves. It's mostly a matter of making the decision to do it and cementing that habit in our lives consistently.
So, three steps: Choose an activity you find relatively enjoyable. Rate it on the scale explained above and find one that is at least a 9 or above. Calendar it as an appointment with yourself and keep that appointment. You're worth it and you deserve it. Get after it!
Top ten answers on the board. Survey says...
1. I don't have time
2. It's too expensive
3. It's too hard with small children
4. I don't know where to start
5. I'm so out of shape and I'm embarrassed for people to look at me while I work out
6. I'm waiting for a better time to get started -when my kids start full day school, after vacation/Christmas/pumpkin spice season :)
7. It's too hot/cold/dark/rainy
8. I'm tired and just want to relax
9. I'm too old
10. It's boring
Have you heard these excuses? Have you used these excuses? Now please know that I get that some of these are valid reasons that exercising is challenging. No doubt about it. But challenging doesn't have to equal impossible. The old saying "If it's important to you you'll find a way, if not you'll find an excuse," is repeated so often because it's true. It's T.R.U.E., true! The choice is ours to make. Will we encounter one of these reasons not to exercise and find a way around, over, under or through it OR will we stop short and let the challenging nature of the situation excuse us from facing it? If you want to look better and feel better there's really only one choice.
Conquering these excuses is mostly a mental endeavor. Here are three strategies that can help:
1. Discover and remember your "Why." Why do you want to get fit? Be very specific. Is it because your health is compromised because of your excess fat? If so, how? High blood pressure? Diabetes? Do you want to get fit so you can keep up with your kids at the park? Do you want to be able to go clothes shopping and find things that look good on your body? Whatever your reason or reasons are write them down and put that paper where you'll see it often. When you find yourself making an excuse not to exercise, read your "Why" list.
2. Brainstorm solutions. Think of the top 2-3 excuses you typically make for not exercising on any given day. Write those down. Underneath write every idea you can think of to overcome that challenge. Pick the combination of solutions you think has the best shot of working, make a plan and then do it. If it doesn't work, head back to your brainstorming list and try again.
3. Do something today. Sometimes what we need is just a little momentum. We need a small victory to kind of get the ball rolling. So today; that's right-today(!) I challenge you to to pick any form of exercise and just do it for 20 minutes. Who doesn't have 20 minutes? Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim. If you have a gym membership and just haven't been going- go today. It doesn't even matter what you do once you're there. Just do something! I'm a big believer in the power of planning as far as fat-loss success is concerned. Meal planning and calendaring workouts are great tools, but while you're getting that planning going, just get moving. Whatever workout you do today is a million times more effective than the best laid plans for a workout another day!
Be stronger than your excuses ladies! If you've found this article useful, please pass it on to another woman in your life who could also benefit from it. And, as always, I'd love to know how these strategies work for you or how I can be of help to you in your fitness journey. You can comment here so others can learn from your experience or message me privately. In the next few weeks I'll be blogging and vlogging about some more specific solutions to the challenging obstacles that keep us from making the nutrition and exercise related changes we know we need to make. Now, get out there and move your body!
Ahhhh.... First Grade. The kiddos are so young and excited about life. It is a time of newness and huge leaps in learning. Unfortunately for one of my sweet children it was also the year of discovering that being called fat stings. After school one day this child looked up from the kitchen counter where homework and after school snack were happening and asked with great concern "Mom, am I fat?"
"Why would you think you're fat?" I questioned.
"Because Ava poked me in the belly in class today and said that I'm fat."
I have to admit that at that moment I wanted to poke this Ava girl right back. As a woman who couldn't remember a time as a mature adult when I wasn't concerned about losing weight, I was furious. I have definite memories of wanting to lose weight as a teenager, but as a first grader? I have no memory of body self-consciousness and whether my body was fat, skinny or in between at that young age. I couldn't believe we were having this conversation.
I actually can't remember the exact words I said at the counter that afternoon, but over the years since then, my children and I have continued the conversation about bodies; both theirs and mine. I've tried to help them be more comfortable in their skin than I was for a majority of my adult life. I'm not sure I'm getting it 100% right, but that's kind of the nature of this parenting gig, isn't it?
1. I have tried to make it clear that there are a lot worse things a person can be then fat. It sure doesn't seem that way in our society sometimes, but it's true. Mean, rude, dishonest, untrustworthy, lazy... The list goes on and on. Why is fat a go-to slur?
2. I have taught my sons and daughter that no one has the right to an opinion about their bodies other than themselves and their doctor (and for the period of their childhood, their parents). Period. End of story.
3. When I have spoken about my own weight loss I have spoken about it in terms of getting healthier and feeling better. It was obvious I was making huge changes in what I ate and how I exercised and I wanted to frame those changes in the positive way I was experiencing them. I try not to say "I CAN'T eat that," or "I HAVE to work out." I want the kids to know that I am making choices and there are some things I choose not to eat ever and some I choose to eat sparingly, but that in the end they are my choices, not something that is being done to me that I'm enduring.
4. I try to focus more on what my body can do then what it looks like. As I was losing the weight I didn't make a big deal in front of the kids about dropping a clothing size. I did, however, make a big deal about my gains in the gym. First pull-up? Who wants to come watch me do one? Squatted almost twice my body weight for the first time? That was definitely discussed when the kids asked me how my day was. So much emphasis is placed on making our bodies look a certain way, but I think it's much more empowering to shine a light on what we can do with those bodies, rather than how we can make them look. I think it's particularly good for my kids to see me work and work to be able to accomplish something physically that I couldn't do before. I share my victories and struggles with them as they happen day by day. And I encourage them to focus on what their bodies can do and what they can accomplish them.
5. We talk a lot about healthy food choices. I serve healthy meals sprinkled with occasional indulgences. We talk about food as fuel, eating when we're hungry- not just when we're bored, and how our food impacts how we feel. I want them to have an awareness of what they put into their bodies, how it impacts their health, and how it makes them feel without thinking about it in terms of food "making them fat."
My hope for my children is that they won't spend nearly the amount of time thinking about the number on the scale as I have in my life. There are so many more important and interesting things to think about after all. I hope that they will experience the excitement of stretching the boundaries of what their bodies can do. And I hope that the next time someone else tries to share an opinion about the shape and size of their bodies that they feel confident in ignoring that opinion.
How have you approached discussions of weight/ body image/ your weight loss journey with your children? I'd love to hear about conversations that went well and also times where you weren't sure what would be useful to say.
If you're looking to change your body composition, i.e. lose fat and gain muscle (otherwise known as getting "toned") then protein is your new best friend! Eat some at every meal and most snacks as well. Why? Protein helps us feel satiated and it's also the building block of muscle. There are lots of great lean protein possibilities: chicken breast, tukey, ground turkey, fish, eggs, lean cuts of grass-fed beef such as sirloin and flank steak, and lean ground grass-fed beef. The key is to prepare the protein in a way that keeps it on target for your body composition goals and is delicious at the same time. So adding any kind of sauce that is cream based or filled with sugar wouldnt be ideal. Staying away from any prepackaged sauce is the best way to go in my opinion. They are usually filled with sugar, chemicals and calories. Using herbs and spices, or making easy homemade sauces (again not cream or sugar based) is my prefered way of preparing protein. To make things super easy on myself, every week I grill, bake, or crockpot a big batch of one protein for a dinner and then use the rest for my lunches for the week, My very favorite chicken recipe is Hawaiian Chicken. I adapted this recipe from 2x Figure Olympia Champion Erin Stern's Hawaiian Chicken recipe. I usually make it on the grill, but I've also just thrown all of the ingredients in a crockpot and it was delicious that way too! One 4oz piece has 188 calories, 32g protein, 6g carbs, 3g fat and 1.4g sugar.
1/4 cup pinapple juice
2 Tablespoons reduced sugar ketchup
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
2 teaspoons garlic paste or 2 minced garlic cloves
6 (4 oz) chicken breasts
Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a Ziploc bag. Mix well. Add chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 4-6 hours. Grill 6 minutes per side or until juices run clear. If you like your chicken with sauce on it, reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade before you place the chicken in the baggie and pour it on top of the grilled chicken breast.
Totally delicious and nourishing as well. Hope you love it! And if you do please pass it along to others in your life who may like it as well!
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.