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Non-toxic, homemade cleaning solutions for everything (including the kitchen sink).

Over the span of your house-cleaning years, volatile organic compounds released from cleaning products can build up in your system, causing a variety of respiratory illnesses ranging from lung disease to adult-onset asthma, according to the American Lung Association. More immediate household chemical reactions can also cause dizziness, skin irritation, vomiting, fainting and even death.

For instance, if you accidentally combine ammonia and bleach you can release highly explosive compounds such as nitrogen trichloride or toxic inhalants such as chlorine gas. Or, if you’re repeatedly exposed to phenol, frequently found in furniture polish, you can sustain injuries ranging from dermatitis to central nervous system ailments such as seizures.

And don’t forget the risk of household chemical poisoning to children and animals. 

According to a 2010 study by the New York State Department of Health, women who worked cleaning jobs while pregnant had an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects, and it’s no wonder. United States law doesn’t require manufacturers to list all of the ingredients in their consumer cleaning products — not even the “green” ones. So some all-purpose cleaners, which use sudsing agents such as diethanolamine and triethanolamine, form skin-absorbable carcinogens when they come in contact with certain preservatives. Others contain preservatives such as bronopol that release formaldehyde, another known carcinogen, while you clean. And if you flush, rinse or trash your cleaning products containing nitrogen, phosphorus or ammonia, the chemicals can leach into the water supply and harm livestock and young children by restricting the transportation of oxygen in their bloodstream. So what’s a clean freak who doesn’t want to harm herself or others to do?

Well, years before the invention of toxic household cleaners, our grandmothers still had clean houses. (I remember my granny, who lived by a railroad track, used vinegar and water to clean her soot-dirtied windows — safe enough for even the little ones running around her home to drink.) And while we like to think that we have become more sophisticated when it comes to cleaning — like adding the word “disinfecting” to our products — maybe we need to take a step back to look forward.

This year, “spring clean” the chemical-free, old-fashioned way for a lemony-sweet home that’s both clean and safe.

The three most commonly used natural household cleaning agents are baking soda, lemon and white vinegar.  Add some salt, club soda, liquid castile soap, beeswax, hydrogen peroxide, olive oil and cornstarch to your arsenal and your cleaning supplies are complete.

Here Are A Few Common Household Cleaning Dilemmas And How To Tackle Them Using Just These Homemade, Non-Toxic Cleaning Solutions.

Dirty windows/countertops/appliances/etc.
Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with one gallon of hot water and clean as usual. Or combine 2 Tbsp. of liquid castile soap with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and use that on countertops. For windows, wipe with coffee filters — they leave no paper residue.

Moldy grout
To remove mold from tile grout in the bathroom, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the mold and let the mixture sit for at least one hour before rinsing.

Stinky drains and garbage disposals
Pour ½ cup of baking soda into the drain followed by ½ cup of vinegar. The fizzing action will clean the drain in about 10-15 minutes. Rinse with clear water.

Scuff marks and carpet stains
Scuff marks can be removed from floors with a sprinkle of baking soda and water, plus a little elbow grease. To tackle stains on upholstered furniture or carpet, use hydrogen peroxide. Fill a spray bottle with peroxide and spritz the stain. Then sprinkle on some cornstarch to absorb the liquid and lift the stain. Brush off the cornstarch or vacuum it up when dry. Note: peroxide is a bleaching agent, so test a small spot for colorfastness first.

Burned-on food in the oven
Oven cleaner can be made by mixing ¾ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of water into a paste. Spray the oven with diluted liquid castile soap and then apply the paste mixture to the inside of the oven and let it sit overnight. Scrape the paste mixture off with a spatula or putty knife and then give the oven a spray with an all-purpose, equal parts vinegar-and-water mixture. If there are still hard-to-remove spots, take half of a lemon, sprinkle it with baking soda and use it as a scrubber. Note: Salt makes the perfect “scrubbing agent” when baking soda isn’t quite enough.

Less-than-lustrous wood
Use olive oil and a soft rag to polish wooden furniture or wooden kitchen cabinets. Or try beeswax. The wax adds a protective coating.

Soap scum
Spray down your shower with a mixture of 4-5 Tbsp. of lemon juice in a quart of water (or just rub a cut lemon directly on the shower tiles). The citric acid in the fruit cuts soap scum and freshens your bath.

To sanitize
Keep a spray bottle of the above lemon juice mixture on hand for sanitizing cutting boards, the top of the stove, counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. 

Guaranteed fitness results through Russian Kettlebell training.

When the moniker of a workout regimen includes the phrase “boot camp,” you expect results — and probably to do hundreds of push-ups at 6 a.m. while an ex-drill sergeant yells at you. For Queen City Kettlebell’s Blushing Brides Bootcamp, only the good part of that expectation is true: the results, which are underwritten by a money-back guarantee.    

The comprehensive, personalized fitness and nutrition program at Blushing Brides Bootcamp is built around a core of Russian kettlebell training. Exercising with kettlebells — different sized cast-iron weights with handles — offers a complete, full-body strength and cardio workout. And it has been shown to burn fat and calories faster and more efficiently than the traditional blend of cardio and weight training, with an astounding average loss of 272 calories in 20 minutes, according to a University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program study.  

“[The kettlebell] is a very versatile training tool,” says boot camp instructor Carla Grimm, one of only about 2,000 Russian Kettlebell Certified (RKC) instructors in the world. “It’s ballistic, explosive and strength-training all at the same time. You’re using the largest muscle groups in your body … so it’s just an incredible tool for fat loss, fitness and strength.”   

Blushing Brides Bootcamp offers an eight- or twelve-week total body plan where brides-to-be complete an intense kettlebell interval-training program, bolstered by an intelligent nutrition plan, to help achieve the goal of looking fantastic when they walk down the aisle.   

“It’s a lifestyle approach, really,” says Grimm. “This isn’t just your Tuesday night dance club. This isn’t just your, ‘I’m dieting again because it’s Monday.’ This is, ‘Here’s how I’m going to improve my lifestyle.’ … It’s holistic in that you don’t just diet or eat a certain way and you don’t just work out. It’s both.” 

But the first thing you do when you sign up for the program is go through a consultation process with the Queen City Kettlebell instructors. “We meet with the bride, talk about what her goals are, what she would like to do and how she would like to improve her fitness and her health before she gets married,” says Grimm.   

Then, once you’re enrolled in the boot camp program, you’ll get an introductory kettlebell class to teach you basic kettlebell skills and safety followed by three, one-hour progressive small group or one-on-one workout sessions per week and personalized nutritional guidance.

“There’s no jumping, there’s no bouncing,” says Grimm. “No coordinated dance moves like Zumba to have to follow and feel silly when you can’t.”   

“There’s just some basic skills to learn which are very fundamental,” she adds. “And then once you get those, it’s just progressive — everyone’s always improving their skill.”   

The basic moves include things like a two-handed kettlebell swing, which is exactly what it sounds like; the goblet squat, which uses the kettlebell as a weight when squatting; and the Turkish Get-Up, which is a series of controlled movements that take you from the floor to your side to standing. 

“It’s both a strength and cardio workout at the same time, so that’s where you get your biggest bang for the buck,” says Grimm, who used to be an avid runner before discovering kettlebell. “There aren’t hours running on the treadmill or the cycle machine or the elliptical machine.”   

And the workout is great for any age group, even older adults, because of that focus on personalized, controlled strength and movement.   

“We do a lot of assessments with our clients on their functional movement,” says Grimm. “We try to use the kettlebell drills as corrective drills to help them move better, sit better, have better posture and increase their stability and mobility, which then allows them to increase their performance and their strength.”   

For her female clients, Grimm sees incredible gains in muscle tone. “Nothing ever bulky, of course, because that doesn’t happen — that’s a myth. But I see very leaned out brides that feel really good.” In fact, a lot of the Blushing Brides Bootcamp clients love kettlebell so much that they stay on with Queen City Kettlebell. They’ve even had a bride be so successful with her training, she had to get her dress taken in on her wedding day.   

But if for some reason a bride-to-be doesn’t meet her goal, Queen City Kettlebell offers a 50-percent money-back guarantee.    

“You know, we haven’t even had to discuss that with a client yet,” says Grimm. “But it’s there to just say we really believe in this and we really think that if you’re here and you’re serious, we’re serious and we’re going to help you meet your goals.”   

A realistic, nutrition-based approach to changing your diet for the better.

If a fad diet really worked, we’d all be on it and we’d stay on it,” says Rochelle Nardiello, a local health educator, personal trainer and the owner of Apple & Core nutritional lifestyle services. “Whether low-carb, low-calorie or low-fat, none of them are sustainable or healthy. The reality is you must burn off more calories than you consume to lose weight — it’s plain and simple arithmetic.”

Nardiello’s passion is to help people find an attainable, healthy lifestyle through custom meal plans, health risk assessments, personal training, boot camps, meal delivery and plain old nutritional education. Not only can she offer you a personal dietary analysis to figure out the exact daily amount of calories, carbs, fat, vitamins and minerals you need to maintain a healthy weight, but she can also ensure you get the correct amount to function at your optimum level of health.

“From a physiological perspective, food’s main role in our lives is as an energy source, just like gas for a car,” she says. And in an imaginary world, if we were all robots, we would only eat what we needed to function. But food also plays a role in our social lives, our family traditions and our work environments — and that’s a good thing.

“It brings people together, triggers good memories and helps us celebrate special occasions,” Nardiello says. “Food is not the enemy.”

But bad food might be.

“A big misconception is that eating healthy is expensive,” Nardiello says. But, as an example, as far as snacks go, let’s look at fresh produce versus chips. A bunch of bananas — rich in potassium, vitamin B6, fiber and vitamin C — will sell for around 67 cents per pound. A bag of Doritos, loaded with sodium and MSG, will cost you about $3. If we’re talking about just putting “gas in the car,” the nutritional benefit from a banana will far outweigh the benefit of a handful Doritos and will cost you about the same. It’s a choice thing. And that’s a lesson Nardiello wants you to remember.

“[The best way] to make better choices is by educating yourself on what you’re eating,” she says. “Read the ingredients and nutrition information.”

When you’re reading the labels on prepared foods, she says to watch out for hidden fat, salt, sugar and trans fats, which increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Eat foods with fewer ingredients and ingredients you can pronounce. And avoid packaged processed foods such as just-add-water boxed meals, chips, Pop Tarts, cake mixes, most frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, Hot Pockets and non-organic TV dinner type meals.

“These all have little to no nutrient value,” she says. “They are high in calories, bad fats, salt and refined sugars and leave you feeling hungry because your body is not getting the nutrients it needs, which leads to consuming more calories and weight gain.”

But completely and radically changing your diet isn’t easy, so Nardiello has created some principles and guidelines to follow to kickstart a nourishing lifestyle. As Nardiello says, the New Year gives people “hope to start anew and make better choices and leave old habits and indulgences behind.” So start making some of these simple changes and easy food swaps to start living a healthier life.

For more information, contact Nardiello at rochelle@appleandcore.com.

PRINCIPLES OF HEALTHY EATING: 

Follow these guidelines every day.

  • Eat within an hour of waking, even if it’s one apple or a glass of milk. This will get your metabolism moving. 
  • Eat whole foods that are not processed or refined, such as fruits, veggies, lean meat, nuts and legumes. 
  • Include a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate and a plant-based fat at every meal. 
  • Eat three balanced meals a day along with two healthy snacks to keep your metabolism burning calories all day long. 
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. 
  • Don’t drink your calories. Use skim milk, cut out sugary sodas and fruit juices and keep alcohol to a minimum. 
  • Eat foods that are in-season to get the highest nutrient content and the best flavor. For example, eat apples and pears in the fall, tomatoes and melons in summer, root vegetables and citrus in the winter, and asparagus and sweet peas in the spring. 
  • Shop mainly along the perimeter of the grocery store — this is where the fresh foods are. 

DINING OUT DOS:

When eating out, try to implement the same eating principles you would at home.

  • Choose lean proteins that are broiled, grilled or baked. 
  • Always ask if they can cook your meal with little or no oil. Even veggies are usually slathered in oil or butter. 
  • Make half your plate a veggie or a salad. 
  • Start with a broth-based soup. It helps fill you up so you don’t overeat. 
  • Order all the condiments on the side. 
  • Have one piece of bread and then have the server take the bread basket off the table. 
  • Split a meal or ask for a to-go box when your meal arrives and package half of it for lunch the next day. Most restaurant meals are two to three times the correct portion size and have enough calories for the whole day. 
  • If you have a choice, always order the small/lunch size. 
  • Educate yourself on the nutritional content of a restaurant’s food before you eat there. 
  • Indulge in dessert or a higher calorie meal only for special occasions.

EAT THIS, NOT THAT:

With these simple swaps, you will fill up faster and eat less while providing your body with essential nutrients.

  • Instead of normal pretzels, try a product like Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs Pretzels made with seeds, whole grains and brown rice. 
  • Instead of potato chips, eat chips with blended beans in them such as falafel chips made with chickpeas.  
  • Instead of off-the-menu coffee, ask for skim milk, no whipped cream and one less pump of chocolate or flavoring in a vanilla or mocha latte.
  • Instead of butter use olive oil or coconut oil. Olive oil and coconut oil are both cholesterol-free, and olive oil contains only 33 percent saturated fat while butter is composed of 66 percent saturated fat. 
  • Instead of white bread and pastas, eat ones made with whole grains such as barley, quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, millet and oats.
  • Instead of processed sugary snacks, eat fresh in-season fruit when you have a sweet tooth craving.
  • Instead of alfredo or pesto sauce, go for marinara. 

Top tips for preserving brain function.

Shrinking butts, shrinking breasts, shrinking muscles. What happens as we grow older? The things we want to shrink won’t, and the things we want to stay, don’t. And it isn’t just our outward, physical elements that shrink. Our brains also shrink as we age, and that process may be the cause of a multitude of emotional, mental and intellectual ailments. 

The more medical term for brain shrinkage is brain “atrophy.” Cells in the brain, as in other parts of the body, die. Unless we actively try to replace the cells, we can suffer from memory loss and dementia, as well as lose the ability to keep our bodies moving and functioning correctly. In degenerative cognitive diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, one of the first areas of the brain to atrophy is the hippocampus — the section of the brain where memories are formed and processed, and the understanding of spatial relations is located. This is why forgetfulness is often one of the first signs of declining mental function.

According to Dr. Ankur Bharija, a board certified physician in internal medicine, geriatric and palliative care, although we cannot stop the brain from shrinking completely, there are three simple things we can control to help slow it down: diet, exercise and mental stimulation. 

Nutrition is number one. Eating the proper foods as we age is imperative. As our bodies slow down, we require less food, but food that is still nutrient-rich. Because older adults are often cooking for one, instead of choosing fresh, vitamin-loaded vegetables and lean meat, they’ll pick pre-packaged foods, fast foods or convenience items like pudding cups and frozen meals. 

A recent study at the University of Oxford showed that the brain atrophying process slowed in the presence of folic acid, B12 and B6. These three vitamins, found in foods such as dark leafy greens, beans and poultry, aid in metabolizing homocysteine, an amino acid that may cause heart attacks, strokes and brain shrinkage if allowed to build up. 

Exercise is also critical to maintaining a healthy brain. Aerobic exercise counteracts brain shrinkage by stimulating growth proteins and encouraging new brain cell growth. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, older adults who engaged in aerobic exercise increased the volume of their hippocampus by two percent, which led to an improvement in spatial memory and a reversal of age-related size loss by one to two years. 

Lastly, mental stimulation also plays a role in brain health.

“Social engagement is very important at any age and even more so for the older adults. It provides a sense of purpose and pride. It has positive effects on all parameters of health — physical, mental, cognitive and overall quality and longevity,” Dr. Bharija says. 

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health proved that people who are connected emotionally to other people — through friendships, family, church or other groups — have 50 percent less cognitive loss than those who are socially isolated. The belief is that social interaction engages so much of the brain through conversation, thought and the challenge of just being part of something, that our brain function is increased.

By being aware of your aging body now, you can begin to slow the atrophying process before it’s too late. Good brain health begins with good physical health. Start by doing a few of the simple tasks below every day to preserve and maintain optimal brain and body functioning.

  1. Sequence your activities. Mentally list the way you do things. For example, note how to cook your favorite meal. What are the steps involved? Step out the process and record it in your mind just as you would if you were writing it down on a recipe card. 
  2. Start dancing. Dance is a mental and physical activity that uses multiple areas of your brain at the same time. You have to listen to the music, move to the rhythm and learn the steps associated with the dance. 
  3. Complete pen and paper activities. While crossword puzzles, word challenges and puzzles are beneficial, they actually require very little brain activity. Try more challenging, creative tasks like painting, scrapbooking, ceramics, sketching or writing your own life story. 
  4. Stay socially involved. Social interaction is an easy way to keep your life and brain functioning properly and to the fullest. People who are socially engaged are healthier, live longer and have a more fulfilling life, according to numerous studies.
  5. Get physical. If you believe you can’t exercise for long periods of time, Dr. Bharija says make it a goal to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75-90 minutes of brisk exercise. Moderate exercise is defined as being able to whistle while you exercise, while brisk exercise is being able to speak, but not sing while you are exercising. Make an activity calendar to keep track of what you do.

Pregnancy leads one woman to a healthy body image.

After dodging pregnancy for my entire adult life, I am pregnant. “Glee” is not the word I would use to describe my reaction to this news; “stunned silence” is more like it. When I saw that second glaring line show up on that little pink stick, everything stopped. The cell phone went unused, the blog went unwritten, and, unsure what else to do, I allowed myself to slip into many days of deep, satisfying sleep.

I did go off of birth control on purpose. I can’t say the pregnancy was exactly unplanned, but after 15 years of solid, unrelenting birth control pills, I assumed that it would take a while for an egg to drop. Not so much — my body was ready. My husband is thrilled and very proud of his “boys” for getting the job done so fast. I, on the other hand, am floating through nine months of every emotion you can imagine, from hormonally-induced peacefulness to bone-chilling dread.

I am a personal trainer, certified in Pre/Post Natal Fitness and Nutrition and Wellness Counseling. I am also a person who has faced debilitating body image issues and food addiction. I have worked with many women throughout their pregnancies, but the prospect of my own body enduring a pregnancy was beyond me. I was never the girl who dreamed about having babies; I was the girl who dreamed about seeing the Taj Mahal at daybreak. 

In all of the years I spent deeply fearing pregnancy — fearing the implications on my body, how much weight I would gain, how I would never get my body back — it never occurred to me that pregnancy might finally teach me, once and for all, not to give a damn what people think about my body. In fact, I never considered that it would teach me anything about anything, except how to endure pain, suffering and exhaustion.

But here I am, and there’s a baby boy on the way. After overcoming the initial shock, I am returning to the land of the living with a few lessons learned from this crazy thing called pregnancy. They are simple and unexpected, and I hope I can carry them with me for the rest of my life.

Food Is For Growth And Nourishment.

I have always understood, in theory, that food is fuel and should be utilized and valued as such. But somehow, it always came back to being about boredom and control, self-medicating and quelling loneliness, a sugar rush and a nice satisfying serotonin bath. In pregnancy, there is a constant awareness of exactly what is needed at the moment, and there are immediate results if I feed my body the wrong or right thing. Food is fuel, powerful and necessary, and the body is going to use that fuel down to its most minuscule resource.

There Is A Time For Rest, A Time To Give Yourself A Break. 

I am a trainer. It is my job to push people to the limits, to help them break through their boundaries to reach a higher level of strength and endurance. But when the workout is done, in order to build muscle, recovery time is needed. Rest is a crucial part of the equation. In pregnancy, there is no option: A pregnant woman is called upon to rest, and there is no negotiating. Rest is imperative for health, pregnant or not. I have learned to take heed, to pay attention when rest is needed and to make time for it. I have learned to let go of the guilt of taking a few moments for rest and to enjoy it — the remainder of the day will be so much more productive.

If You Listen Hard Enough, Your Body Will Tell You When The Resting Time Is Over. 

After days or weeks of down time, you will begin to twitch and ache for movement. You will find yourself squirming in your office chair during the day, and tossing and turning in bed at night. If you ignore the call for motion, you will slowly grow lethargic. This is the moment you must get up and go for a walk, head to the gym or call a friend to go out dancing. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get going. Give your body what it needs, and it will ask for it again the following day. The first 12 weeks I was pregnant, I needed rest, plain and simple. Then my body started telling me to move, and I slowly, tentatively ventured back to the gym and back to the sidewalks.

I won’t call pregnancy beautiful. It still seems kind of bizarre and freaky to me, but I will call it miraculous. It is miraculous that the body knows how to create another human being when called upon, no matter how freaked out the mother is! And it is miraculous for me, a lifelong body-image cripple, to be free — finally — from trying to fit the mold. Instead, I find beauty in the urgency of hunger and the clarity of purpose, in the body doing its job: eating, breathing and moving.

I look forward to taking this knowledge with me, back to the world of the non-pregnant, because the human body is no less miraculous when it is not making a baby. It just took this massive, life-altering event for me to finally disregard what the haters in my own mind have to say. I’m focusing squarely and intently on the wondrous inner workings of my physical body, loving it exactly as it is and allowing it to do its thing. 

Did You Know? Getting Pregnant Doesn’t Mean Nine Months Of All-You-Can-Eat Buffets. According To WebMD, A Pregnant Woman Of Average Weight Only Needs 100-300 Extra Calories A Day. 

Squeeze, stretch and shake your way into shape.

Leave your dancing shoes at home because you’re about to make use of the ballet barre in ways you’ve never seen.   

As I wait for my first Pure Barre class to begin, a group of women slowly file into the mirrored studio and take their places on the carpeted floor, toes pointing forward to reveal their identical Pure Barre-brand grip socks. (I would later learn that these come in handy when trying to hold tricky lunge positions for minutes at a time.) We quietly stare ahead at our reflections, anxiously awaiting owner Janna Williams to come obliterate our abs, tushes and thighs to jelly.   

Williams opened her Pure Barre location in Mason in October 2011, just after the first Cincinnati Pure Barre opened in Oakley. Pure Barre is one type of several new barre-centered workouts aimed to target women’s most tough-to-tone areas: the abs, thighs and seat. It incorporates Pilates, yoga, ballet and strength training techniques into one hardcore hour of fat-burning warfare utilizing a ballet barre along with several other props.

While the name might be a tad misleading — Pure Barre doesn’t involve dancing — the technique is still modeled to sculpt a dancer’s physique.  

“If you come three to four times a week for 30 days, you will see a change in your body,” Williams says. “It might not be on the scale; it might be that everything’s tighter, comes in and up, it’s lifted a little bit. It might be your flexibility, or it might be through strength.”   

Juggling tubing, weights, ball and mat throughout the workout keeps things from getting dull. You might even say, “A ball? That sounds like fun.” No. It is not fun. It’s work. Good work. Williams commands our group to squeeze the ball between our thighs, hold, lift and hold some more for what seems like days.   

Exercises alternate between holding positions for extended periods of time (a squat at the barre, for instance) and small, calculated muscle movements. Stretches in between the sets provide relief that might trick a participant into thinking the workout is almost over; that’s when things are only about to get tougher.   

The stretch sessions interspersed with muscle work are meant to help create long, lean muscles rather than bulk.

“You want to work to fatigue. You want the shake. That’s good; that’s when your muscles start to change,” Williams says. The act of taking those exhausted, warm muscles and stretching them is meant to elongate muscle fibers, sculpting that lean, toned exterior her clients seek.

Williams has yet to meet someone who can’t do Pure Barre; her 67-year-old mother modifies movements to suit her abilities during classes. That said, this workout is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not just for women, either. The studio was open to couples for Valentine’s Day, and boyfriends and husbands quickly realized they might have underestimated the class’ intensity.

“They come in, they grab the five-pound weights, and you know: ‘This is going to be so easy,’” Williams says. “And about five minutes into it they’re dying. They gain respect for what their wife or their girlfriend or whoever has been doing.”  

As my hour of Pure Barre dwindled to its final minutes, I actually pushed myself harder to finish strong; I truly felt the burn and love it. That endorphin-riddled sense of accomplishment I felt as I walked my wobbling spaghetti legs out the door left me already craving another round at the barre.     

Want To Test The Pure Barre Waters Before Cannonball-Ing Right In? Try Out One Of The Workout’s Signature Moves. If You’re Left Wanting More, This Form Of Fitness Might Be For You.

  1. Stand with your right side facing the barre (or a sturdy piece of furniture). Rest your right hand on the surface for balance.
  2. Stand with feet outside the hips, toes pointed outward.
  3. Bring seat toward knee level, thighs almost parallel to the ground. Keeping your back straight, raise your body up an inch, and then lower it back down in small, controlled movements for 30 seconds. Speed it up for another 30 seconds.
  4. Don’t pop out of the pose just yet! Instead, rise up on the balls of your feet, hold, and slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Continue this process for an additional 30 seconds. Thighs shaking? You’re doing it right. Release.  

Breaking out of weight-loss limbo.

It’s an old and infuriating story. You’re trying to lose weight. It seems like you’re always trying to lose weight — you’ve been trying for a year, or five years or three decades. 

Aren’t you tired of it? I know I am. I’m exhausted by my own internal monologue rambling on, “Someday, somehow I’ll lose the weight.” Can we pause for a second, take a look at the obvious causes, and change one of them? Just this once? Can we set aside the drama, and make a concrete, behavioral change? 

If you are anything like me, one of the following statements may be true:

A. You are stuck and always have been stuck; 

B. You lost some weight but now you are definitely stuck; 

C. You are killing yourself at the gym and are still very, very stuck. 

Is the fat you are trying to lose actually fat (and not just skin that you are irrationally fixating on)? Are you carrying an extra 10 pounds or more? Are you are getting exercise on a daily basis? Are you are doing everything right, yet you still can’t lose weight? 

Well, it’s your diet. 

It’s almost impossible to maintain weight loss without exercise. It’s even more impossible to lose weight in the first place if you’re eating too much junk. 

Junk food is a powerful thing. We have physiological responses that keep us coming back for more sugar, salt and fat. As a result, trying to transform your whole diet can be overwhelming. Measuring every meal — calories in vs. calories out — can be exhausting and self-defeating.

Sometimes it is much easier to choose one unhealthy ingredient and cut it out entirely. Is there something that sends you careening down the rabbit hole of a late-night binge? Find it, and banish it. If you can do it for two weeks, you will lose weight. If you can do it for three months, you will keep the weight off and begin to wonder why you were so married to it in the first place.You are looking for your trigger food.

Here are a few common culprits to consider:

  1. Sugar — This demon that haunts us in the night is the number one trigger for most women. It’s everywhere, but you can cut it out to varying degrees. You can simply stop eating dessert, which is enough for some people, but if you want to go further, look for added sugar in cereal, salad dressing, juice, bread and just about everything else that comes in a bag, box or bottle. Seek it out, and shut it down. Soda, of course, falls under this category, too. If you drink non-diet soda every day and you stop cold turkey, you’ll cut out thousands of calories a week. 
  2. Wheat — Go gluten-free, or at least wheat-free. This will automatically remove bread, crackers, pasta, cookies, cake, brownies and candy bars. You can find alternatives —rice bread or rice, corn and quinoa pastas — but they are not nearly as available or as tempting. And while I’m not talking about a low-carb diet, it’s unlikely you would eat them frequently enough to replace all of the calories lost by cutting out wheat. There many healthy carbs in the world, but wheat flour is so prevalent that cutting it out almost guarantees weight loss success. 
  3. Alcohol — Sadly, alcohol has lots of empty, pointless calories. Most of my clients have no interest in refraining from drinking, so a less extreme option is to go alcohol-free during the week, Sunday through Thursday nights. If that means you are skipping one drink per night, five nights per week, you’ll create a calorie-deficit of 1000 calories per week. You’d lose a pound every three to four weeks. Also, alcohol tends to lower your resolve for cutting other things out (like fat and sugar), so if you avoid the alcohol, you might do a better job turning down other tempting substances in your life. 

Other culprits include fried food, chips, cheese, cream in coffee, and high-calorie smoothies. Any food that is dense with calories that you eat a lot of on a regular basis is worth evaluating, especially if it is a food that triggers you to eat even more. 

I speak from experience. I have been stuck for years at a time. I have worked out like a mad-woman, watched my diet and wondered how I would ever break through. I finally cut out wheat and got incredible results.Then I hit another plateau and had to decide if I was happy there or if I wanted to take it a step further. I was still eating dark chocolate and miniature peppermint patties every day. I cut out the sweets and, within a week, went sailing past that very stubborn plateau with very little effort. 

After avoiding wheat for four months and sugar for two weeks, I went on a trip and ate bread and desserts again. I couldn’t believe how awful I felt. I’m talking nausea and headaches, lethargy and depression. I knew these foods were addictive before I quit, but I didn’t realize how much they were dragging me down. 

I still crave sugar after dinner, but I have found that if I can get through an hour without giving in, I can make it through the night. I might be grumpy about it in the moment, but the payoff is priceless. 

If you are stuck and unhappy, be honest with yourself. Find the one food that is most problematic in your diet, cut it out for one month, and watch what happens. At the very least, you will learn that you are not a slave to your cravings. At best, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling light, fit and ready to radically unstick other parts of your world.