Many aspects of fitness

The aspects of fitness are more than physical

Fitness is not just physical – there are many aspects of fitness.

We’ll be focusing on each of these aspects in more depth soon, but an overview might be helpful here. Because it’s the most obvious, let’s talk about the aspects of physical fitness. Health, balance, strength, cardio fitness are all elements of physical fitness. What you do to increase one aspect of physical fitness helps another.

Balance is one aspect of physical fitness

Balance moves like this one also improve strength.

As an example, by practicing your balance (and you can get a free Week of Balance by subscribing to my newsletter!) will increase your strength. By doing a cardio workout, you can also increase your strength and balance – think of hops and side-to-side leaps. Even jumping in place can improve your balance.

If you focus on improving your strength, you’ll probably also improve your balance. Those one-legged squats will definitely challenge your balance while at the same time increase your strength. Add a pair of dumbbells and you’re working upper body as well as lower body strength. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Eating clean will also improve fitness

Eating clean helps your overall fitness.

We can’t talk solely about physical fitness, because so many aspects of your life can affect it! If you focus on eating clean, you’ll improve your overall health, you’ll feel more like exercising and thereby improve your strength and cardio fitness!

And by attempting to eat a cleaner diet, you’ll not only probably lose a little weight, you’ll be cleaning out your system. More fiber in your vegetables and fewer processed foods will tend to move things along in your digestive system.

Mental fitness may be more difficult

Mental fitness is like a dresser. Here's an organized drawer. An achievement to strive for.

More complex is the aspect of mental fitness. I like to think of this as a bureau, or dresser. Currently mine is a mess. Socks are mashed in with underwear, t-shirts and pajamas. There are even swim goggles and pantyhose in there. There’s no order in those drawers. Too many ideas, problems, chores, and other things to do are running around in my head. How’s yours?

First off, a plan is probably needed. I need to figure out what to do with all those items. How best to organize them? I really should start to write everything down. Then categorize them. This is called a “brain dump.” I should really do this every month or so.

If all the aspects of fitness work together – body and mind, happiness ensues. I’ll have to try it. Let’s start together!

New Year’s Resolutions?

Have you made progress?

Turning the calendar page on your New Year's Resolution? It's not too late to make progress.How’s your weight-loss New Year’s Resolution going? We’re a week into February – have you made progress? It’s hard! I know! I want to eat bagels for breakfast, and mac & cheese for dinner too. But I know that won’t get me closer to my goal. I don’t want to get all hot, tired and sweaty exercising every day. I know those first couple of minutes are torture – so why put myself through that?

Exactly – why! The why of our weight-loss goal will keep us on track.

I want to have less pain in my knees and hips. I want to play with my dogs. I want to compete in agility.

Why do you want to stay on course with your weight-loss goal? Go on walks with your loved ones? Shop for hours? Feel good about trying on clothes? Travel? Run around with the grandkids?

Think about your “why!”

That’s the key! Thinking about your why! Your “why” will keep you on track.

I know that if I lost a couple of pounds my knees wouldn’t hurt quite so much. So I’m changing my eating habits to make that a reality. I’m sticking to my exercise schedule.

Yes, it’s hard to stick to those goals. And practically impossible to do without some help along the way.

Accountability is key!

Accountability is key. If you’re not accountable to anyone, there’s no motivation to stick to your goals. No matter how lofty your ideals, and how solid your intentions, without accountability it’s very easy to say – “tomorrow!”

There are different kinds of accountability too – and you don’t have to choose just one. You can be accountable to a coach – one-on-one or group coaching is great. Knowing that you have to report your progress is incentive to actually make some progress toward your goal.

And you can be accountable to yourself, although that runs the risk of days slipping by even though you intend to report in. Tools to keep yourself on track can include keeping a journal every day to mark progress and problems. Making entries in your calendar for your shorter-term goals, and making appointments with yourself to actually do the tasks you’ve set.

Most importantly, if you get off-track, don’t get discouraged. It happens to everyone. Get right back on track and don’t beat yourself up about it.

Fried food without the guilt

A better way to fry food

Air-fried zucchini and peppers. Delicious without extra calories from frying.What’s better than the taste of fried food? Fried food with fewer calories! Eliminate the guilt when you eat air-fried food! The air fryer gives you taste without the calories! We love our air fryer. Seriously love it. Despite its cuteness (it looks like R2D2 on our counter), our air fryer delivers yummy food in  very little time.

Technicalities

Technically, the device doesn’t “fry” food. It’s a mini-convection oven that circulates hot air around the food. You put your food in the basket along with some oil and turn the machine on. Excess oil drips down to the outer basket, where it’s easy to clean out. The result is delicious!

Zucchini and Peppers

The picture above shows a dish we made recently – just sliced zucchini and peppers. You can see the start of nice caramelization – we couldn’t wait to dig in. We put sliced vegetables in the air fryer and tossed them with a teaspoon of olive oil. Set the fryer at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or so. When it beeped, we shook the basket and reset the fryer. We could have let it go another few minutes but we were hungry! Delicious! So much more tasty than steaming, with not many more calories.

Try Sweet Potato Fries for a New Taste Sensation

We’ve sliced sweet potatoes and air-fried them. Absolutely scrumptious. And Yukon Gold Potatoes too. We’ve even re-heated gyros meat. All the fat from the meat dripped into the lower basket and the meat was crispy and delicious.

Even after a few months experimenting with our air fryer, we’re still learning new ways of using it. We’re trying new foods and, honestly, have not been disappointed.

Here’s a good choice:

Check this one out on Amazon! (I may receive some form of payment if you click this link.) You may notice some product links on the “Stuff I Love” page. I will only include products that I really do love. The air fryer? It makes me very happy, and my taste buds delirious!

Chocolate is allowed!

Chocolate contributes to a healthy lifestyle

Chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle.Chocolate can be part of a healthy lifestyle! You may have thought that healthy eating was all spinach, quinoa and kale, but that’s just not the case. While I do enjoy a good spinach and quinoa lunch on occasion, and sauteed kale is yummy, seasoned properly (I can give you recipes if you like), there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying chocolate. On occasion. Once in a while.

Old Ben was right

I abide by Ben Franklin’s motto of “Everything in moderation.” In the case of sweets, maybe a little less than moderation…

I love chocolate, and any existence that does not include chocolate is just not worth it. I enjoy chocolate – the darker the better – and try to have a little bit every day. It has to be really good chocolate, though. If it’s not truly satisfying, the temptation is to eat all of a not-so-great chocolate bar instead of just a quarter of a really good one. Chocolate is definitely part of my healthy lifestyle!

80 – 20 Rule

I try to also eat by the “80 – 20 Rule.” As long as 80% of my intake is clean and healthy, the other 20% can be chocolate! That is – 80% of my calories should be lean protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats.

Balance is key

Again – life is a balancing act. Every day we have to balance our meals, our work, play, chores. We want to eat healthy – we know it’s better for us than eating fast food all the time – but we also want our meals to taste good and satisfy us. The 80 – 20 Rule is just that. A sustainable eating plan. And if your indulgence is pizza – that’s good too! Just watch portions and make sure the rest of your diet is healthy!

Dark chocolate tastes best

Why dark chocolate? It’s my favorite. And it also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidant properties, it may improve blood flow and even lower blood pressure! And dark chocolate may improve brain function.

Snacking is inevitable …

I’ve written about snacks before. About how snacks should be avoided if at all possible.

And I’m still usually a non-snacker. I don’t think snacking is a good thing, as a rule. Especially mindless snacking. Shoving fistful after fistful of anything in your mouth without thinking about it is bad. I think that’s inarguable. Agree?

BUT – I’ve come to believe that snacking is inevitable. It will happen. And snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

So, be prepared for it!

In your refrigerator, have carrot or celery sticks (or both) front and center. Have grapes and apples all washed and ready to eat. Have snack bags of almonds ready to grab. In fact, I usually have a baggie of almonds with me – just in case!

That way, when the munchies hit, you’ll be ready.

By all means, think about what you’re doing, though. When a snack craving hits, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or are you bored? If you’re bored, go for a walk. Dance to a tune. Play with your dog. Clean up your junk drawer.

If you’re hungry, have a drink of water first before you hit the snacks. Many times you’re thirsty and don’t realize it. It’s easy to become dehydrated if you don’t have water readily available. So take a drink. Have a water bottle or a glass of water by your side all the time.

Then wait about ten minutes – do something else and don’t think about a snack.

If you decide, after those ten minutes, that you really are hungry, by all means go get a snack. And don’t feel guilty about it!

This last Saturday, I did all those things and decided that I really was hungry mid-afternoon. So I ate a fun-size Snickers bar. I was really craving junk food. I drank some water. I took the dogs out. I read a chapter of my book. And I still wanted that candy bar. So I ate it! And, at only 80 calories, it was a good snack! It satisfied my hunger, it had some protein, chocolate and was delicious!

Don’t Eliminate – Discriminate!

What’s the first thing you think of when you think “diet?”

Restrictive? Eliminate something? Cut out …? I can’t eat …?

Stop it!

I’ve told you that food is the most important thing when you’re trying to lose weight, right?

Everyone needs food to live, right?

We might as well eat food we like!

Losing weight is simple math. Consume fewer calories than you expend, and you’re bound to lose weight.

Those calories should be calories we like to consume!

Yes, in order to be healthy we need certain vitamins and minerals, and certain nutrients. In order to feel good I like to feel – if not quite full, then – satisfied. That requires a certain volume of food. And nothing equals volume like vegetables. So, lots of vegetables are good.

And, we’ve got to keep the system moving, right? (not to be indelicate…) That requires a certain amount of fiber. And nothing equals fiber like fruits and veggies – again! So, again, lots of vegetables are good.

And we’ve got to keep the muscles and bones strong – that means protein and dairy!

But, let’s get real, here. After the requisite fruits and veggies, and dairy and protein, nothing makes me happier than chocolate.

I’ve been on diets that eliminated all the good stuff. Bread and chocolate, ice cream and fats. And I stuck with them. For about two weeks. Restrictive diets just don’t work for a sustained period.

Thinking to myself, “I can’t eat that” is guaranteed to make me want it. Whether it’s chocolate ice cream, a candy bar, whatever. I know that sooner or later I’m going to succumb to temptation and eat a candy bar. And a container of ice cream. And chocolate cake.

So, build your “cheats” in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a serving of ice cream every couple of days. But if I’m going to wait a couple of days to have my ice cream, I’m going to have THE BEST ice cream around! And I’ll be satisfied with one serving every couple of days. Better to have one serving of ice cream than blowing your calorie count for the next week.

Start with food!

Summer’s coming! Summer means fewer clothes, and less material to hide in. I said it before – I hate those rolls over my waistband. And when I’m just wearing a T-shirt and jeans, those rolls can be highly visible. So now is the time to do something about it! Before it’s tank top and shorts season!

Nutrition and fitness experts all say that abs are made in the kitchen. That means that to look good we have to focus on what we eat. And nutrition experts agree that fruits and veggies are the focal point of those abs. (Not that looking good should be the main reason you lose weight! It’s certainly a factor, but health is my motivator.)

Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, nutritionist and owner of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy in St. Louis, says that we should up our intake of those fruits and lower-carb vegetables to about 10 servings a day. Figure that a serving is about a cup. Start with those first, and by the time you’re done with the fruits and veggies you won’t want many carbs or sweets.

Half of each meal should be predominantly vegetables, then fruits, and whatever’s left protein. Carbs are an afterthought.

Same for snacks. Half fruit or veggies, and perhaps a little nut butter on the apple slice.

And don’t forget to hydrate! Hardly anyone drinks enough water! I recently read a couple of sources that agree that we should each drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of water for every pound we weigh. So a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water every day. Start early and drink all day! It sounds tough, but it’s easier as the temperature gets warmer. So, start now and by summer you’ll be used to it!

Water also has the added benefit of making you feel more full. Start every meal with a chug of water.

Studies have found that people who focus on drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables without counting calories lose more weight and keep it off!

There’s incentive!

What’s the hardest thing about losing weight?

We’ve all done it – tried to lose weight. Sometimes we’re successful. Sometimes not so much.

Some of us have done it lots of times! I’ve done it! Lose weight, gain some, lose it again, gain it back. And every time it seems that much harder.

It’s hard to get up the commitment, courage, gumption, whatever you call it, to start a “diet” plan. It’s really hard to start an exercise program.

I think starting may be the hardest part of losing weight. Because, to “start,” you have to “end” something. And change is extremely difficult.

Leaving the tried and true behind. Leaving the comfortable routine and trying something new is really hard.

And yet, we know that our comfortable routine is what’s making us unhappy. I’m not happy in my clothes. I’m not happy with how I feel. I’m tired all the time.

There usually comes a sticking point. We just can’t take it any more. We’re fed up. We’re sick of ourselves. As a friend put it, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

And that’s when change happens. We get off the couch and walk around the block. We think twice about that ice cream. At the salad bar we bypass the macaroni and add a few walnuts. We choose the grilled chicken rather than the fried.

That’s hard. Making the decision to actually do something about your situation is difficult. You know that there will be difficult times ahead on your journey to fitness.

Take it one decision at a time. I’ll work out today. I’ll have a boiled egg and not a fried egg. I’ll walk the dog and not watch TV. I’m really not hungry, so I’ll have a drink of water and not a snack.

In coming days I’ll explore other hard things about losing weight, and we’ll try to work through them together.

What’s the hardest thing for you about losing weight?

Should you weigh yourself every day?

I never weigh myself. Maybe that’s a bad thing. I have absolutely no idea what I weigh. My pants fit, so I’m happy. When my pants start to get tight then I start to restrict sweets and carbs a little more, and maybe step up the intensity of my workouts.

But I know that’s not how many people operate. When my sister was losing weight, she used the scale as a tool. She would measure her progress by the scale.

It used to be that people on “diets” or weight-loss programs were taught to only weigh themselves once a week, if that. So often women, especially, can gain a pound or two of water in a day. That pound is extremely disheartening! We work so hard to lose weight that seeing the scale creep up can make all that hard work seem for nothing. Then we think, “What’s the use? I can’t lose the weight. I might as well have those chips.” I did that. It was depressing to me to weigh myself every day. It was only seeing the weekly or even biweekly numbers that motivated me to keep going.

But now a Cornell University study has found that participants who weighed themselves daily and charted their results lost significantly more weight than those who did not. They were also able to keep the weight off.

Daily self-weighing and tracking “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight,” lead study author David Levitsky said. “It used to be taught that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily, and this is just the reverse.”

The researchers found that self-weighing and tracking are simple ways to reinforce and strengthen positive behaviors such as eating less and maintaining regular exercise.

“You just need a bathroom scale and an Excel spreadsheet, or even a piece of graph paper,” said Levitsky.

Even after the weight-loss goal was achieved, if you follow this program, you should continue to track your weight.

Do you think this makes sense? Will tracking your weight every day work for you?

More reasons to exercise!

I hate working out. I do not like to exercise. You know that – I’ve told you often enough. But I like to do active things. I like to eat. So I exercise. And here are some more reasons why we need to exercise:

Exercise reduces bad moods and depression. That “exercise high” is not a myth! Regular exercise helps the brain produce a protein that seems to fortify parts of the hippocampus susceptible to depression, neuroscience has revealed. And Swedish researchers have found that exercise helps to keep your brain safe from harmful substances (one is called kynurenine) that build up during stress. Exercise produce changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of kynurenine before it has a chance to cause the brain inflammation that is linked to depression. Some doctors have even begun prescribing exercise to their patients!

Exercise also helps your muscle memory stick! Try that new skill then do some aerobic exercise for 15 minutes right afterward. A test at the University of Copenhagen showed that people who exercised right after practicing a new skill did better the following week than those who did not exercise. That same brain protein (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF) improves muscle memory as well!

Aerobic exercise also increases memory power! A six-month study at the University of British Columbia showed that older women who power-walked twice a week for 40-minutes each had better recall than those who just lifted weights or did not exercise. The power walking raised the study subjects’ heart rates to 70 – 80% of their target heart rates.

Still not convinced? Exercise can also reverse the mental decline – the effect of a long-term fatty diet. Now this shouldn’t be a license to go crazy and eat spaghetti and pizza like crazy, but there is hope! At least in rats – a University of Minnesota study found that when rats on the equivalent of a burger-stuffed-pizza diet exercised daily, their mental deterioration reversed itself after four months. At four months, these fat-fed mice who ran had better memory function than non-exercisers on a low-fat diet. And if you like the occasional adult beverage, exercise can help you there too! A new study published in Alcoholism showed that drinkers who worked out had far more white matter than their sedentary peers.

So, I guess I’ll be working out regularly for the foreseeable future. How about you?