Beware the Shady Scale

Feet_on_scaleIf there’s one thing dieters hate even more than the prospect of losing weight and altering their eating habits, it’s stepping onto the scale and obsessing over the little numbers that glare up at them. Who would think such a simple mechanism could hold so much power over our psyches and self-esteem? Taken out of context, the numbers that appear don’t mean anything-they merely represent a numerical value, but for many people trying to lose weight, those numbers are everything. Many place their entire self-worth into their weight.

Well, I have some good news. You may think that the only way you’ll ever lose weight is to keep daily tabs on the number on the scale, but I want everyone to know that’s not the case. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in their weight loss plan is to weigh themselves every day. This torturous act is both unnecessary and inaccurate.

There’s a fine line between control and compulsion. It’s good to take control of your weight, and for some, monitoring one’s weight regularly is a strategy for staying in control. But this routine can easily turn into an obsession and that’s where the scale becomes dangerous, leading to discouragement or even the development of an eating disorder.

Here are some specific reasons why checking your weight daily can be dangerous:

Discouragement: It’s easy to feel defeated when the numbers on the scale don’t reflect all the effort you put into your weight loss plan. You may think, “But that’s not fair! I gave up sweets and exercised every day this week! How have I not lost any weight?” Sometimes, when we expect the numbers on the scale to go down, they defy our expectations and go up. This is normal and, as frustrating as it may be, you’re not alone. However, if you become discouraged every time you experience a setback in your weight loss goals, you could easily decide to throw in the towel completely and give up on your diet.

Not an accurate representation: It may be easy to become discouraged, but before you give into negativity, you need to realize that daily fluctuation of your weight is completely natural. The main reason you may have lost a few pounds one day only to gain it back the next day (with no drastic changes to your diet) is water retention. Minor fluctuations are natural and occur daily, so instead of weighing yourself every day and fixating on the short-term, you should focus on long-term goals.

There are much better ways to assess if your weight loss efforts are paying off. Primarily, it comes down to how you feel. Do you feel healthy? Does your body feel a little tighter and leaner? Are your clothes fitting more loosely? Do you feel like you have more energy and strength propelling you through the day? Is exercising becoming easier. These are the questions you should be asking yourself. Becoming a healthier version of yourself isn’t all about losing weight, and it’s most often a gradual process that’s more like a marathon than a sprint. Keep in mind, muscle actually weighs more than fat and the scale won’t be able to tell if you’ve lost fat and gained muscle.

So, what can you do to monitor your weight without becoming addicted to the scale? For starters, get into the habit of weighing yourself less. Cutting your weigh-ins down to once a week rather than every day will allow you to focus on your goals without becoming discouraged. It will also help to be consistent, so weigh yourself on the same scale at the same time of day on the same day of the week. If you want the most accurate reading, you should weigh yourself in the morning before you’ve had anything to eat or drink. Make it one of the first things you do when you get up, because as you eat and drink throughout the day, your weight will fluctuate.

If there’s one piece of advice you should take away from this article, it’s not to become discouraged! Losing weight is not a competition and everyone goes at it at their own pace. What matters is that you make a concerted effort. Weight loss takes time, but if you stick to your goals and limit yourself to one weigh-in per week, you’ll start to notice results.

Stress-Eat in Style

Stress Eat, Josh BezoniSo many of us struggle with stress eating. The struggle of daily life can feel overwhelming and in an attempt to cope, we stuff our mouths and stomachs with fatty comfort foods. Yet, this only exacerbates the issue. As stress mounts, our waistlines expand and our self-esteem shrinks—but what if there were a way to eat and lose pounds? What if there was a way to eat comfort foods that make us feel don’t just make us feel comfortable, but make us feel better?

There is! Seriously. Here are some fantastic healthy alternatives to traditional ‘comfort foods:’

Oatmeal: Oatmeal has carbs, a LOT of them. Carbs tell your brain to make serotonin. Serotonin=happy hormone. Therefore, if you eat oatmeal, you will be happy. Though this is a simple explanation for why oatmeal is such an awesome substitute, it is more or less the extent of it. Oatmeal also coerces a steady blood sugar response, which one, is great for your waistline and metabolism, and two, means steady serotonin.

Oranges: The beloved fruit of Florida decreases cortisol levels in humans. Cortisol is the body’s number one stress hormone. So more oranges equal less stress. Plus, oranges have been proven to reduce blood pressure levels when people are subject to stressful circumstances.

Turkey: The staple of Thanksgiving boasts an amino acid that goes by L-tryptophan, and L-Tryptophan also triggers serotonin release which means it triggers happy for you.

Salmon: Salmon and many other types of fish have a very large count of omega-3 fatty acids. Although ‘fatty acids’ may not exude undertones of fresh, healthy, nutrition, these do. In fact, they incite a reduction in stress levels when consumed in appropriate servings. According to a study published in none other than the respected Diabetes & Metabolism, omega 3s prevent cortisol events from peaking. Another study conducted in Michigan went so far as to say that omega 3s decrease anxiety by an astounding 20%.

Avocados: Everyone’s new favorite food has wonderful nutritional benefits when consumed in moderation. Their high potassium content helps reduce stress-induced spikes in blood pressure. Although bananas may get all the credit for potassium, avocados actually have more!

These are just a few foods that provide a tremendous alternative to more generic comfort foods. The next time you open the freezer to look for a gallon of ice cream, consider eating something that not only tastes good, but is good for you.

Time to Place Whey by the Wayside

If you’ve ever even thought of lifting weights or undergoing any sort of weight training regimen, you have probably thought about purchasing the most fundamental supplement to ever grace the vitamin industry, whey protein. Known for its incredible popularity and its supposed ability to foster a more rapid development of stronger, more resilient muscle fibers, its negative associations often, all-too-often, in fact, slip under the radar.

So, in light of these aforementioned negative associations, I would like to elaborate. There are, in reality, two major hindrances to whey protein as a product:

Whey Protein Absorption: According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, the rate of protein absorption is eight grams every hour. While there are certainly a variety of factors that contribute to this, the single largest influencing factor is undoubtedly the fact that the whey is not broken down into small enough peptides by our body’s natural enzymes in order to be absorbed in time, and if the protein is not absorbed in time, then it essentially useless.

Whey protein can only be absorbed efficiently over the course of 1.5 hours, so even if a particular protein has 60g in a single serving, only about 12-20g of that 60 will be put to good use. That means the vast majority of the rest of that whey protein is bound to be excreted, nutritious value and all. It’s wasted.

Insulin Release Associated with Whey: Let’s play a game. If I presented you with a serving size of generic white Wonder bread, and a serving size of standard whey protein isolate, and asked which if these causes a greater spike in insulin, what you say? Would you choose the well-touted, known to be terrible for you, nutritionally devoid white bread, or the muscle and nutritional supplement, whey protein? Remarkably, the answer is…you guessed it! Whey protein.

As outrageous as it seems, whey protein actually causes a greater spike in insulin than white bread. According to a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism as of 2012, the specific amino acids in whey protein actually emulate beta cells to such a degree that they secrete more insulin than a similar serving of carbs from white bread.

Of course, I am only referring to insulin release in this scenario. Obviously, when taking into account nutritional value as a whole, white bread is no match for whey protein. Yet, that said, there really is no ignoring the fact that your fat-burning capability is noticeably afflicted when there is a presence of excess insulin; so ideally, choosing foods with a lower insulin response is preferable.

The fact is that whey protein is by no means the best supplement around despite whatever its incredible popularity might suggest. The next time you’re shopping around for strength training supplements, I’d recommend you check out time-released proteins where your body is able to absorb the nutritious value of whatever you’re consuming over an extended period of time, and then you will be able to gain the most out of what you buy.

The Breathing Exercise that Eats Belly Fat

In the swirling chaos of our daily lives, stress often rises to the surface and influences our mood, our attitude, and our hormones. When we try to compartmentalize this mental duress, it soon becomes physically apparent, whether we like it not. In fact, it can incite inflammation, accelerated aging, poor judgment, bad decisions, and impaired slumber. Put frankly, stress makes you fat, sick, dumb, and weak.

For example, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco have found a proven association between cortisol (the stress hormone) and belly fat content. Yet, despite this terrible news being proven (we all knew it was true anyway), there is something we can do to take control of our lives and our own fitness. We are not subject to the whim of inevitable stress.

Essentially, you can combat stress and relax through something called “deep belly breathing.” When engaging in “deep belly breathing,” you are able to overcome your body’s stress response, decrease your cortisol production, and bolster your melatonin creation (the sleep hormone that also protects against aging). Alright, alright, now here’s how you do it:

  1. Sit or lie down in a dark and quiet room. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach.
  2. Take a deep, slow breath through your nose and pay particular attention to how your stomach rises and falls underneath your hand.
  3. Exhale. Slowly, and for as long and steadily as possible (like, for at least five seconds). Breathe out until your lungs are entirely devoid of air.

And that’s it! Just repeat steps one through three every night for at least a week and I promise you will not only feel better and more energized, but you’ll even notice your waistline shrinking! Yet, that’s not all. There’s actually another trick that has been proven to burn 400% more fat when used, and it takes less than a minute!

Another study published in the Journal of International Medical Research illustrated that people who used the same aforementioned trick actually managed to lose 20% of their body fat in only 12 weeks. If you want to burn 400% more fat than you would otherwise by dedicating a simple minute, check out this neat and easy to understand video.

We All Have Our Cheat Days

Alright, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: we all have our cheat days. There. I’ve admitted it. Nothing to be ashamed about. We’re all humans, and naturally there will be times where we will get cravings that unfortunately will lead us to ditching our diets and overeating. That said, there is such a thing as “strategic cheating” or “overfeeding,” which basically allows you to eat all your favorite foods and still help you accelerate your fat loss. You see, after you overeat your metabolism runs at full speed and you can use that to your advantage! I call it my new Post-Cheat Day diet breakthrough. It’s a three-day eating program that will allow you to burn all that fat and calories consumed during your cheat day. The way it works is by controlling a fat-storing hormone called insulin. Here’s how.

The first day of the program will be your Protein Shake Day. Don’t consume anything but healthy protein powders with almond milk. Drinking nothing but shakes will help your stomach shrink naturally. That way you will get fuller and more satisfied with less calorie intake. For example, I’ll consume 4 shakes throughout the day (every 3 hours or so). Each shake should be high in protein (15-20 grams), have no artificial sweeteners, and low in carbs (less than 5 grams).

Day two will be your Protein and Veggie day. It consists of five mini meals, again about every 3 hours or so. The goal of this day is to increase your fiber intake dramatically and cleanse your bloated digestive track. Each meal should have lean protein sources like fish, turkey, chicken, or lean beef. Make sure these proteins are either broiled, baked or grilled – not fried! The meal can also have low-fat cottage cheese, eggs, and vegetables. Stay away from heavy veggies like corn, which is really a starch. You want to stick to veggies like lettuce, peas, green beans, asparagus, peppers, carrots, etc. Skip the fruit as well. Remember these have a sugar content to them. Not eating heavy carbs will make your body burn off the extra food you ate during your cheat day. Yey!

Your third and last day will be your Splurge Day. The goal here is to keep your metabolism burning at maximum speed. And after enduring day 1 and day two, you will be hungry for some of those heavy carbs. Therefore, split your day with five small meals consisting of lean meats, veggies, and about ½ cup of high energy carbs to 3 of the 5 mini meals. These high energy carbs can be beans (black, pinto, kidney, lima), sprouted grain pasta or bread, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, quinoa, and wild rice. The point is to stick to  slow-absorbing carbs that will most likely not get turned into body-fat once consumed. Lastly, for one of those five meals, splurge yourself eating whatever you want. The trick will be to not overeat and to not make it your last meal of the day. So, eat whatever you want, but keep it a mini meal.

In terms of beverages, stick to water, green tea, or coffee sweetened with stevia. After you’re done with the three-day program, repeat the cycle again until you lose all those extra pounds you gained during your cheat day(s) and then you’ll be back on track!


The Worst Workout Of The Year

Josh Bezoni -  Worst Exercise

Cardio is officially the number one worst workout ever. That’s right, that long, boring, inefficient exercise most people do thinking it’s going to help them lose weight. Well… it won’t. Here’s why:

First things first, cardio is boring. It’s not an exercise that changes over time and keeps you engaged. You keep doing the same thing over and over again. Second, cardio is way too time consuming. I mean, who has the time to spend 45-60 minutes a day on the same old exercise bike or treadmill? Nobody! Third, cardio is inefficient because you don’t really lose too much weight with it. Sure, it can boost your metabolism and overall health, but you can achieve both health goals via shorter, more engaging exercises.

If you don’t believe me, here are some disheartening facts, based on several studies, about the truth behind cardio:

  • During a 3 month trial, women did 45 minutes of cardio 5 days a week. Their results: none of them lost any more weight than women who were exclusively dieting and not doing cardio!
  • In another study, individuals did 50 minutes of cardio 5 days a week. Their results: again, no one lost more weight than the individuals who simply dieted.
  • On yet another study, subjects who did aerobics for 60 minutes 6 days a week, only lost 3.5 pounds on average over the course of a year. Do you believe the level of inefficiency now?!

But don’t be disappointed; there are plenty of exercises out there that easily trump cardio, in a good way. The reality is that you don’t need to spend so much time exercising in order to see results. You can go for shorter, more intense bouts of exercise. These kinds of exercises, even as short as 4 minutes, will not only help you shed weight, but they will also improve your metabolism.

For example, one workout you can try out is: 30 seconds of bodyweight squats, 30 seconds of pushups, and 30 seconds of jumping jacks. Then repeat all of these steps four times and call it a day. You know how long that will take you? Approximately 6 minutes! And the best part about it is that you will have burned more fat during those 6 minutes than if you chose to waste 60 minutes on cardio.

So go ahead and give take a break from cardio. Just keep in mind that aside from exercising another important component to losing weight is your diet. You must stick to a healthy diet in order to see results when you exercise.

Exercise: How to Get Twice the Results In Half The Time

treadmill-runnersYou all understand that exercise is good for you. It keeps your cardiovascular systems healthy, keeps you strong, and helps keep your weight in check (alongside a proper diet.) But, that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

It’s easy to come up with excuses when you truly dislike exercising and would rather spend your time doing just about anything else. I don’t have any secrets for never having to exercise again, but I do have some insights into what can make the process more bearable, and best of all: take less time.

There is a proven way to at least double your results from exercise while reducing the time it takes to complete your workout. Do I have your attention now? Great!

All you have to do is this: change your pace and intensity throughout your workout.

It’s really as simple as that. Researchers have found that when you change the pace or intensity of one exercise to the next you can dramatically boost your metabolism, not only during your workout, but also for hours afterwards. This means you can get more out of each workout in less time.

Next time you’re in the gym, don’t remain at one pace throughout your entire session. Hop on the treadmill, exercise bike, or stair climber, and start by moving at a moderate pace for a minute, then work up to a jog for a minute, then sprint for a minute, and repeat.

(Note: If you can’t sprint because of physical limitations such as injury or illness, that’s fine. You can still change your intensity level from low to medium to high in a way that challenges you without putting your body or health at risk.)

As you continue your workout, keep changing your pace between slow, medium, and fast until your time is up. Researchers have found that you can burn more calories in 20 to 30 minutes of varied-intensity aerobics then an hour of medium paced, consistent movement. Variety is not only the spice of life, it’s the key to your workout goals.

Another benefit of this method of exercise is that most people find the constant variation more engaging. Fighting boredom in your workout is important. If you can design your workout so that you can actually enjoy it, that’s always going to go a long way in keeping you motivated.

If you’re a beginner: start out slow. As you work your way up, the high-intensity part of your workout will get faster and you’ll be able to push yourself more and more. Pay attention to your body, and if you ever feel faint or nauseous, take a break immediately. In time, not only will you be healthier, stronger, and weigh less, but exercise will also give you “feel-good” hormones that will boost your mood and lower your overall levels of stress and depression.

Next time you workout, remember: each exercise session a victory in your quest to improve your body and your life. Give yourself the credit you deserve for showing up and putting in the work, expecially when you’re tired, grumpy, or unmotivated because even your worst workout is better than not showing up at all.