How Do I Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy and Exercise?

Since becoming a personal trainer, I hear this from many of my clients: “I know what I changeblvdshould do.  I know what I should eat.  I know that I should exercise regularly but I just don’t do it.  I don’t know how to stay motivated.”  When it comes right down to it YOU are the only one who can make the choices for a healthier lifestyle.  The trick is to take the “willing mind” and turn those thoughts into actions.

First and foremost, if you are eating poorly and living a sedentary lifestyle you will not be able to change overnight.  If you think about it, you probably got to that point gradually (perhaps over a number of years) and you won’t go the other way in a heartbeat.

  1. Pick your one most unhealthy habit.  Maybe you drink soda at every meal. Work on changing that habit gradually.  Should you pick a “give up soda” day and quit cold turkey?  NO!  You will probably feel deprived, give up in a few days, beat yourself up for failing and not try it again for months.  Instead, pick the meal that you could most easily swap out a soda for a glass of water, and then do it.  Don’t change anything else about your diet until you start noticing results from that action.  Now, swap another soda for water and repeat. Write down what results you are seeing (more energy, a small loss on the scale, better sleep). Refer to this list if you start to waver.
  2. Add some exercise.  If you are a total couch potato, are you going to go to boot camp?  Again, NO.  Add some light exercise.  Fifteen minutes each day is fine. Walking is fine.  The important thing is to set that time aside and DO IT. When it starts feeling easier and when you start seeing benefits, add a little bit more.
  3. If you mess up, that’s all it is.  The next day you get a clean slate and you get back to business.  It is not time to give up and go back to the “old you”.
  4. Get someone else to hold you accountable.  Tell them what your goal is and ask them to check in with you at regular intervals. It’s a lot harder to blow off your workout and eat six donuts if you know you will have to tell your accountability buddy it happened.
  5. Try something new.  It’s always fun to try something different and it can keep you motivated.  Find a cookbook full of healthy recipes.  Cooking Light’s Complete Meals in Minutes is a great place to start.  Ever tried Yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, kayaking or circuit training?  The list could go on and on.  Sign up for a class or find a good DVD.  Just remember to build up to this kind of exercise (see #2)
  6. Make it social. Share your experiences (both successes and setbacks) with others.  Find a workout partner, post about your journey on Facebook or on your blog, start or join a support group, take some healthy meal prep lessons.  There’s nothing better than getting healthier except making new friends while you get there.
  7. Challenge yourself.  You may not think you will be able to ever do a push-up from your toes or run a whole mile, but if you take it one step at a time you CAN! When I did 90 days of P90X the thing that motivated me the most was seeing my ever increasing number of repetitions on my chart as the days went on.  Check out to find a challenge that will keep you going!

Research shows that if you do something for 30 days, it becomes a habit. If you trade that ONE soda for a glass of water and continue for 30 days, you will soon wonder why you ever wanted a soda. Before you know it, you won’t want any other beverage but water and all that soda and extra calories will be a distant memory.

Now I will challenge you! Post the one unhealthy habit you would like to change here. What is your plan is to change it?  Tell me.  Putting your goal and your plan in writing makes it real and that’s motivating too!

Bored With Your Current Workout?

I get happens.  I find a really great workout and I really get into it, but eventually I get bored, so I always have my eye out for new and different things to do when it comes to fitness.  I think the latest thing I ran across was supposed to be sort of a joke.  I think it’s a guy who just wanted to get a lot of hits on YouTube. Turns out it is a lot of fun and a great way to get a workout.  It’s called dancewalking.  Take a look at this video and then give it a try.


I have dancewalked twice on a trail near my house.  It’s a little embarrassing dancing around by yourself to music no one else can hear.  I waited until I was on the more wooded part of the trail where no one could see me until I got really funky.

The other thing I would like to try soon is PiYo.  There is a class available near me at TAZ fitness.  I am going to get myself there to try it. If I like it, I am going to get the new ChaLean Johnson PiYo program.

So how about you? What new workout program have you tried that might keep me from getting bored? Send me some ideas.  If I try them, I’ll give you a shout out and link to your blog.

How Hormones Affect Your Fat Burn

One premenstrual day, after snapping at my kids and my husband for the umpteenth time, I paused and thought about how much my hormones affected the way I felt and acted.  If you are a woman you know this to be true.  But did you know that your hormones affect how you store and burn fat? No? Get ready to be surprised.


Your body swims in a hormonal soup all the time.  These hormones affect what’s going on inside your body all day long.  Usually when we think about hormones, we think about sex hormones (Estrogen, testosterone and progesterone) but those are only part of the equation.

Two major hormone players in your body are insulin and cortisol.  These two have a lot of say over how your body stores, releases and burns fat.

 Insulin– If insulin levels are raised too much, fat is more likely to be stored when you are eating more calories than you should, and less likely to be burned when you cut back on your calories.

Cortisol– High cortisol levels combined with high insulin levels will block fat from being released for burning and will cause the body to hold onto stored fat. If you become insulin resistant through poor eating habits, you now enter a catch 22.  If it affects your brain it makes you feel hungrier. If it affects your muscles it leads to muscle loss and keeps fuel from getting to your muscles.  Now you are fatigued and perform poorly. So you eat too much because you’re hungry all the time, burn fewer calories because you have less muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat) and are programmed to store more fat and burn less of it.

Hey! How is that fair?

Now a word about Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone; these hormones affect how you burn and store fat as well.  If women are low on estrogen and, it causes them to burn less fat and store more, especially belly fat.  If men are low on testosterone it has the same effect. When women hit menopause this is why they tend to gain weight.

 How to fight itpants

Thankfully, there is a way to combat this hormone/fat assault on your well being and pant size. With the right combinations of food, you can reverse the hormone fat accumulation trap.

  • First, stay away from meals that are a combination of starch, sugar and fat. These meals raise insulin levels. Raised insulin levels can lean to insulin resistance and start the more hungry, less muscular downward spiral.  Combine this with stress which raises cortisol levels and it multiplies the weight gain.
  • Do eat meals that are a combination of protein sources and vegetables.  This will produce a minimum of insulin. You will feel fuller for longer periods of time.  Plus you will crave less junk food and feel more energetic.
  • Manage your stress with plenty of sleep, exercise, meditation and other forms of stress management. This will keep your cortisol levels at bay.

If you want to read about two specific eating plans to battle the hormones check out this article on belly fat. Then get to the farmer’s market!



Is a Personal Trainer Right for You?

So you are committed to getting into shape, losing some weight and doing a better job with your nutrition.  So what’s your next step?  Have you considered hiring a personal trainer? If you are serious, a personal trainer is a good idea, at least for a period of time.  Here’s why:

bit timer

  1. Accountability– An appointment with a trainer makes it a lot harder to bag your workout.  If you want to cancel, now you have to take action instead of just driving by the gym and hitting the sofa.
  2. Proper Form– A trainer will spend time making sure you do exercises correctly.  This will help avoid injury and get the most out of your workout.
  3. A One on One Consultation– Your trainer will sit down with you before you begin to find out what your goals are.  Do you want to lose weight?  Are you training for an upcoming 5K?  Trying to improve your upper body strength? Want to stay healthy as you age? The goals you have will determine what kind of a program the trainer will develop for you.
  4. A Movement Screening– Trainers can screen you to find muscles that are tight or unusually lengthened and plan workouts to improve this.  If you are someone who works at a desk all day, this screening can be crucial. Trainers can plan workouts to open up tight hip flexers and shoulders that hunch over computer screens for hours on end.
  5. A Customized Workout– Your trainer will plan a workout that meets your needs according to the goals you have and the results of your movement screening.  He/she will help your fitness level progress at the right pace.
  6. Feedback and Encouragement– It’s great to have someone at your side that knows your goals and your stumbling blocks. Your trainer will encourage you when you are struggling and will be the first to celebrate with you when you accomplish your goals.

If you are the type of person who finds it hard to stay motivated, a personal trainer may be just what you are looking for to help you turn the corner in your fitness journey.


Unusual Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

If your are someone who needs to keep your blood pressure in check, here are two unusual ways to help lower your numbers.

1.  Volunteer! You can decrease your risk of hypertension by up to 40% by volunteering for a cause about which you feel strongly. Studies showed that older adults who volunteered in ANY type of activity for at least 200 hours per year decreased the risk of hypertension.

Why? Older adults have fewer chances for social interaction because of their life circumstances. Volunteering within the community provides them with social connections they may not otherwise have.  The more connected we are to each other the healthier we stay.  Who would have thought that doing good for others would be so good for your health?

2. Practice Yoga  Studies showed that practicing yoga at least three times per week lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of three points.

Why? No specifics were given in the study, but breath work and a focusing of the mind were some possible reasons why yoga affected blood pressure in this way.


Do You Really Need a Detox Diet?

There has been a lot of buzz in recent years about detox diets. Usually they look something like this..very low calorie, a meal replacement drink or juicing, maybe some kind of cleanse, and supplements.  The big question is do they really work?

There are lots of opinions on them, but according to medical doctors nutritionists and registered dietitians, there is no hard and fast evidence that they work.

1. Extreme limited calorie detox diets can be harmful if they cause you to lose muscle mass, lower your blood sugar too much or create an electrolyte imbalance.

2. Your liver is the organ in charge of detoxifying your body.  It is designed to be self cleaning.  Your job is to feed your body healthy food on a regular basis so your liver can do its job.

3. Doing a  detox diet can trick people into thinking it’s okay to go back to an unhealthy diet once they have “detoxed”.  Concentrate on eating a healthy diet year round.

Here’s are some more common sense ways to detox:

Drink more water, drink less alcohol, stop smoking, eat more plants, eat less animal based food, eat less processed food, and last but not least..exercise!

What is your opinion on detox diets? Post your thoughts.

info condensed from IDEA Fitness Journal, October 2013


Fitbit Flex Review

I do love my technology when I can use it in my workouts.  I got my Fitbit in the beginning of September.  I wanted a way to keep track of how many steps I walk at work each day.  I was pretty sure I was walking A LOT.  I thought about buying a plain old pedometer, but then I thought, why not just step it up a little and get a Fitbit Flex?

I was never really interested in Fitbit when it was a clip for your clothing.  I knew I would wash it or lose it.  When they came out with the bracelet I knew I could keep track of that a little better.

I am not going to do the glowing review here.  I will try to give you the pros and cons on price, ease of operation, comfort etc.

Price:  At $99.00 Fitbit Flex is a little pricey.  You do get a lot of features for your money, though.  Previously, I was using Lose It, which is a free app to keep track of calories burned and calories consumed.  The deciding factor for me after doing my research was I could import my Lose It stats into Fitbit Flex.  After purchase, I realized the import feature was a premium feature (I would have to pay a fee to be able to import Lose It data to Fitbit Flex).   I also found out that if I had bought my Fitbit Flex from Verizon, I could have gotten a 25% teacher discount through PSEA.  Bummer.

Features: Fitbit Flex keeps track of your steps, miles you walk, number of “active” minutes, calories burned, amount of sleep you get each night, calories eaten, and amount of water you drink.  Steps, miles, calories burned and sleep are recorded automatically through the Fitbit  You wear it inside a bracelet on your wrist. You must input your calories eaten and water intake on your computer or your mobile device. The data base of food is not as nice as the one I was using on Lose It.  And there is no bar code scan (which is a great feature on Lose It) The data base does have lots of foods in it and you can find almost anything you need to input.  If you take part in other physical activities that won’t be recorded correctly by wrist movement, you can  input those as well. When you set up your features, you choose one as your goal.  I chose calories burned and decided my goal would be 1500 each day.  When you reach your goal, your FBF vibrates and you can celebrate!

My Fav Features:

The sleep tracker.  It subtracts minutes you were awake or restless through the night.  I know that I have been more aware of my sleep habits and have made an effort to get to bed earlier on weeknights because of my results.  The bad thing is you have to remember to put your Fitbit Flex in sleep mode.  Sometimes I forget, and sometimes I forget to take it out of sleep mode in the morning.

The Silent Alarm:  Vibrates to wake you up in the morning. Doesn’t bug anyone else.

See your calories expended in real time:  That way you can gauge how many calories you should take in throughout the day.  This was a BIG help when I broke my foot recently and was a lot less active during the day.

Ease of Operation:  This is a big plus.  My husband (an I.T. guy) and I always joke about the fact that there is no such thing as “plug and play”.  My Fitbit Flex came pretty close.  I was able to set it up and get it working all by myself.  That NEVER happens. I always need help from Computer Bob with my technology toys, but not this time. Just remember to set it up on your computer first, then on your mobile device.  I did this backwards and it took a little longer, but I was still able to do it on my own.

Comfort:  Wearing a plastic/rubber bracelet all day and night took some getting use to for me.  I do not shower with it on, although the directions say you can.  The research I did said the display fogs up from the water at times.  I figured I wouldn’t be missing too much calorie burn in the shower. When I am not going to be too active, I will take it off, because I just get sick of it after awhile.

So..bottom line.  I am sticking with the Fitbit Flex way better than I stuck with Lose It. I didn’t gain any weight while my foot was broken and keeping track of calories in and out is more like a game and less like a pain in the tukis.

Do you have a FitBit Flex?  What do you think of yours?


Strength Training for Quality of Life


This week’s post was going to be a review of my new Fitbit Flex, but something else has has become a priority in my brain these days.  I am officially a member of the sandwich generation.  You know, we’re the ones who have been taking care of children and now need to take care of aging parents as well. Over the last five years, my mother-in-law has been facing declining health.  It’s been due largely to osteoporosis.  She has fallen three times in the last five years.  In those falls, she has broken each humerus and her pelvis (twice).

Right now she is in a nursing home working hard to get better so she can come home from her latest fall.  Her days are filled with physical therapy, doctor’s appointments and pain.

According to the National Osteoporosis foundation, 60% of adults age 50 and over are at risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis.  Preventing this quality of life robbing disease includes eating foods (or taking supplements) that contain Calcium and Vitamin D as well as Magnesium, Potassium, and vitamins C and K.

Exercise is REALLY important too.  You need three types to keep your bones working like they should. You need weight bearing exercises, strength training, and balance, posture and functional exercises.

Weight bearing exercises are what we usually think of as aerobic exercise.  Running, dancing, hiking and tennis are just a few examples.  Strength training is exercise performed with resistance.  Body weight exercises, free weights, weight machines, resistance bands all are used to strength train. Balance and posture exercises will help with preventing falls. Functional exercises are designed to mimic movements you need for activities of daily living. Having more strength, stamina and balance during ADL will prevent falls that lead to broken bones.

People (especially women), the time to make these adjustments to your lifestyle is NOW. Don’t wait.  Many times the first symptom of osteoporosis is a broken bone.  By then, it may be too late to keep this disease from stealing your quality of life.


Nutrition Tools: E

Changes and transitions; we are going through a lot of those at my house lately.  My oldest daughter finished college and she’s working full time and living in Pittsburgh.  She’s planning a Fall 2014 wedding and we are currently making plans for that happy occasion.

Marla tries on wedding dresses.

My youngest daughter is heading to college in a few week.  My house is tossed up. Things for a dorm room are being stored in the basement.  Marla’s room is in transition to a guest room.

New guest room

Soon I will be heading back to my full time job teaching middle school P.E. I hope to also be working toward starting to see a few clients as a Certified Personal Trainer.  With all theses transitions happening, it could be easy to get sidetracked in regards to healthy eating.

Lucky for us, we started subscribing to e-diets a few months ago.  E diets is an affordable (we had a Groupon so it only ended up costing about $30.00 for the year) subscription, sending you healthy menus, ingredient lists and recipes.  You can choose from several diet types.  We chose “clean eating” but there are other options, like Paleo, vegetarian and Mediterranian. E diets sends you a PDF menu each week. For each day of the week you receive a recipe for one meal (entree and side) plus a grocery list of items you will need to buy.  We usually make one or two of these meals each week.  Some of them are pretty labor intensive, but some are really easy. I haven’t found one yet that hasn’t been delicious.

If you try e diets, let me know how it goes for you.  It certainly is helping us to make our life transitions.

Summer Fitness Challenge


If you have been wondering where I’ve been, I spent the summer doing some pretty serious studying for my ACE Certified Personal Trainer’s exam.  I started this whole process over a year ago and I am happy to report that yesterday I took my test and passed. I am now officially certified! I have got some more work to do before I am ready to take on clients, but I am on my way.  I was hoping Marla, my daughter, would post her Couch to 5K progress in my absence, but that didn’t happen.  Instead she got a membership to a gym and is busy losing weight and adding some muscle.

That’s not all I’ve been up to though. I tried a new activity this summer: kayaking.  I got to go on the intracoastal waterway in North Carolina and again on the Monogahela River in Pittsburgh, PA.  It’s a great upper body workout and a great way to see parts of the countryside in a whole new way.

The other cool thing I have been doing this summer is a challenge my school district started as part of their new wellness program called The Summer Bucket List Challenge.  It is a challenge that could be easily modified for any group.  All summer long we have been taking part in activities that will improve our physical, mental and social health.  They are things we can do on our own, with friends or with family. The challenge was to do as many activities on the “bucket list” as we could over the summer.  On August 19th prizes will be awarded to those who reached black, purple and silver levels of participation. I think I am going to modify this challenge and try it with my private facebook fitness group. I promise you will be hearing more from me now that my certification test is complete.  I’ll be back to giving you more fitness info more often!