The Tricks – Tried and True

imagesCANWR0EASo I don’t call my web site Fit Chick Tricks for nothing. Here is a list of my favorite tricks that I use almost every single day.

 ** Fit girls don’t drink their calories. If you want a sweet beverage, don’t go for a soda, juice, or sports drink. They are loaded with calories, usually 100-200 calories per serving. Water should be your number one choice. If you need something sweet, try a flavored sparkling water, iced tea/green tea with lemon or as a last result even a diet soda if you must.

** Fit girls don’t eat chips with their salsa. Carrots are a great alternative to the tortilla chip. Carrots add the crunch without the calories and fat, and you still get the great taste of the salsa.

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(a) When you know you will be going to a specific restaurant on a specific day, plan ahead. After you have had a meal, and you are feeling full, go online and look up the restaurant’s website and menu. In the privacy of your own home, on your own time, you can really read the food options and decide on the best choices. You can take all the time you need, and since you have a full stomach, you won’t be influenced by hunger. Make your choice for the next time you are dining out… and stick with it. Don’t even open the menu when you are at the restaurant.

(b)If the restaurant doesn’t have a website, or you don’t have time to look it up, when you do have to open the menu, look to see if they have heart healthy options. Most places have a little symbol that they place next to the healthy choices. Only look at those options. Don’t read through all the yummy appetizer descriptions; don’t read through all the yummy pasta dishes, etc. Choose only from the heart healthy menu items.

** Fit girls don’t eat in their car. Stop eating major meals in your car like it’s a restaurant on wheels. Skinny girls will eat things like a health bar or some fruit, but no eating burritos, sandwiches, and pizza. How much can you really enjoy your food and pay attention to your portions if you are driving around and paying attention to 10 other things. Also, because skinny girls don’t eat meals in the car, there is no need to go through any kind of drive through which typically belongs to fast food joints.

** Fit girls stop eating before they are full. This is a big one. By taking a few minutes before you feel full, you can cut serious calories from your diet without feeling deprived. You must really pay attention to how your stomach is feeling, and stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly. (I started doing this, and it has worked every time. I am always amazed that even though I don’t feel full, if I stop eating, within a few minutes I feel full and sometimes stuffed. ) Eating just enough to satisfy your hunger will help you to feel your best, rather than stuffing yourself into a “food coma”!

** Fit girls eat a meal or snack before going to the grocery store. Grocery shopping can sabotage any healthy diet, as there are yummy temptations at every turn. If you go to the grocery while hungry, it can lead to crazy, unhealthy purchases, and in some cases, binge eating when you get home.

** Fit girls don’t eat salads at fast food restaurants. We all think of salads as being healthy, but his can be very misleading, especially at fast food joints. Most Wendy’s salads have over 600 calories each. A grilled chicken breast sandwich open face (remove one of the buns) or a bowl of chili is a much better option at less than 500 calories each. Salads can be a great choice because they are filled with veggies and fiber, but once you add the restaurant dressing (even the fat free option) it can put your calories way over the top. Don’t mistakenly make salad your “healthy” default menu option, because most times there are healthier, lower calorie, higher protein options. My favorite is a broiled chicken breast sandwich. I take off the side of the bun that has the mayo, and eat it as an open faced sandwich with a knife and fork.  Trust me, as a mom with kids who love fast food, I can tell you that almost every single fast food place has a broiled chicken breast in some form or another.

** Fit girls avoid food products that make healthy claims. Generally speaking, a health claim on a food product is a strong indication that it is not really a food but a food-like substance that has been scientifically engineered. You can find any type of junk food that will have a healthy claim tied to it, but just because a bag of potato chips has “no trans fats” doesn’t mean that it is healthy or low in calories.

The Ultimate Shopping Workout – Exercise While You Shop

The holidays are here, so let the shopping begin. Shopping can be time-consuming and with the added “holiday factor”, there can a lot of stress, especially if you are missing workouts and worrying about all that yummy holiday food.

Here’s a fun and efficient way to get your shopping done while staying fit. Make your list, check it twice, then get out there and do the ultimate holiday shopper’s workout.

Here’s how you can make the best of shopping while burning some calories!

1. Eat before you shop

Never shop on an empty stomach. Eating a fat-burning, balanced meal before shopping will give you the energy and clarity you need to make wise purchases. It will also help prevent you from eating junk food while you shop, which many of us tend to do (No thank you Annies Pretzels).

2. Park farther away from the store

We often look for parking spaces that are close to the mall so we don’t have to walk too far. This year I want you to look for that parking space that is farthest from the mall — then briskly walk or jog to the front entrance of the mall. Even better, circle the perimeter a couple of times before you go in and don’t be surprised when you find a parking space quickly.

3. Take the stairs

If the mall has more than one level, go for the stairs rather than using the escalator. It will serve as an additional cardiovascular exercise.

4. Do squats

Instead of bending over to reach for items on a lower shelf, sit back into a squat as you reach for these items and repeat several times as you decide among the items you want to buy. This will strengthen and tone your legs and glutes.

5. Reaching for items on higher shelves

Do some calf raises when reaching for items. Raise your heels high off the floor and bring them down again repeatedly at least 10 times. You’ll work your shoulders and strengthen your calves.

6. Make use of the weight you carry

To strengthen and sculpt beautiful arms, make your heavy purse and those shopping bags work for you. Whether you’re browsing the aisles or waiting in line, perform a few arm curls with the shopping bags in your hands.

7. Waiting for purchase

When waiting to check out, try standing on one leg. Your knee should be slightly bent, with abs pulled in and shoulders pulled back. This will strengthen and stabilize feet and ankles, and help improve your balance.

As you can see, by making just a few alterations in the way you shop, you can sneak in a workout and burn some extra calories. These easy steps will keep your head in the game so you don’t miss a beat, or a great sale.

Making Healthy Choices – The Fewest Ingredients Wins

Is it just me, or does it seems like there are more contradictions than ever about diet and nutrition? Milk is the new super food. Milk, public enemy number one. Eat more protein. Eat less protein. Fats are bad for you. Fats are good for you. It’s making my head spin trying to keep track of it all.

There is one way to make sure to “do it right”, and that is to eat foods in their natural state. We talk about this at the dinner table quite often with the kids. We play the “which is healthier game”. For example, which is healthier a banana or a granola bar? When they are not sure, I tell them to count the ingredients. The one with the fewest ingredients wins… every time. I try to make sure and always compare a fruit or veggie to something else, so the winner is always the item with only one ingredient.

I know how easy it is to choose the processed stuff, since this type of food product has been modified to last longer, manufactured to distribute easier, and is more convenient to store and use. As moms, having access to processed foods can be a life saver.

However, we may want to re-think the way we use processed foods. Take apple juice as an example. Even the simple act of removing the pulp to make apple juice detracts from its value for both health and weight loss. A medium size apple contains just 72 calories and over 3 grams of fiber, while 8 FL Oz of apple juice contains 120 calories and no fiber at all. And I’m talking about pure, “healthy” apple juice.

What if we start using processed and pre-packaged foods more for emergencies only? For ourselves and for our kids, when we have a choice to make (and we have more than 20 seconds to get out the door), choose the apple. You will never go wrong by choosing the apple.

 

Why Do My Muscles Shake When I Exercise?

Muscles may make the body move, but it’s the connective tissue (the layer of fluid filled tissue between the skin and the muscles) that receives the signal from the brain to cause the movement. So does the brain really want the muscle to shake, or is part of the message lost in translation?

The shaking that occurs toward the end of an exercise or workout can be a signal from the brain that the muscle is exhausted. It has been worked hard enough, and it may be time to stop. The shaking can happen more often when the muscle is worked harder than normal or doing a new exercise .

It is also possible that the message from the brain gets a little garbled on its way through the connective tissue, due to other factors like level of hydration and electrolyte balance, and the timing of the muscle movement can get a little out of whack.

When the fibers in the muscle get the initial call to action, they contract to cause the correct movement (also called muscle firing).   But not all fibers are created equal—there are fast twitch and slow twitch muscles .  Like the names suggest, slow twitch muscles have a slow reaction time to contract, and are generally used for activities such as walking, maintaining posture, and most daily activities, and therefore they don’t tire out too quickly.  Whereas fast twitch muscles have a quick contraction time, and are used for short bursts of activity like sprinting, jumping, and lifting weights. They can tire out much faster.

Muscle fibers don’t all fire, or contract at the same time. Some fibers are resting while others work to make the muscle move, and then they trade off. As the muscle is challenged more and more, this changeover can get a little ragged, and there is not enough contracting going on to keep the muscle steady and moving smoothly. It begins to shake.  When the shaking begins, the muscle may be close to exhaustion so stopping is inevitable.  But recognize that the muscle has been pushed to its limits, and it might be time to back off.

No matter how hard the workout, be sure to hydrate. If the connective tissue, which is like bubble wrap and fiber optics all rolled into one, gets dehydrated, the message for the muscle to fire doesn’t get delivered, and the firing sequence can get confused, causing the muscle to shake.  To help counteract shaking due to dehydration, be sure and restore fluids while working out.

Free Weights v.s. Machines

A friend of mine recently asked me what type of workout I do. I change my workouts often, but currently I take a spinning class three times a week, I do a leg work out two times a week, and I split my upper body into two days. But one thing remains consistent no matter what kind of mix and match exercise routine I am doing. I try to stay off of the machines, and here is why:

  1. Machines control your range of motion.
    Sounds like a good thing, right? Not really. Machines often eliminate a lot of work on your part. This is great for beginners, but once you’re past the rookie stage, it is much more effective to be in control of your movement and range of motion.
  2. Many machines put you in a seated position.
    Whenever possible, a standing position is better. Standing while working with weights, pulleys, or bands loads your skeleton (good for bone health), requires you to engage your core muscles, and challenges your balance. It’s like a three for one.
  3. Many machines may isolate only one muscle group.
    Our muscles rarely work in isolation. Although there’s nothing wrong with supplementing a good workout with exercises that isolate a muscle group. But exercises likes squats, lunges, and assisted pull-ups involve several joints which develops more muscle mass (muscle burns calories all day long), improves core strength, and shortens workout time.
Of course there will always be circumstances where a machine will come in handy, and some days you may want the assistance of a machine or look forward to sitting down through parts of your workout, but if you have a choice between a machine and free weights or body weight exercises, try to go with the weights.
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