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  • Is Fasting The Answer?

    Is Fasting The Answer?

    Fasting is a popular topic, and some believe it is hands down the best way to lose weight and improve overall health.  

    So, the question is, does fasting improve your health, and is it the best way to lose weight? 

    The answer is… it depends on who the person is, their relationship with food, and their goals. 

    What is fasting? 

    There are several styles of fasting, which all depend on the period when you can eat and when you can’t eat. Here are a few examples: 

    Time-Restricted Eating: Fasting every day for a 12-hour or longer window of time and eating within the remaining hours. This could mean eating two meals or more based on your eating habits.  

    A popular example of TRE is the 16:8 fast which calls for fasting 16 hours a day with an 8-hour eating window.  

    A 24 Hour fast is simply not eating for 24 hours and drinking water. 

    Alternate Day Fasting is fasting every other day; it could be 24 hours or eating at most 500 calories on fasting days.  

    Any of these options result in weight loss due to caloric restriction. For example, if you are usually a late-night snacker but are following a 16:8 fast, you suddenly eliminate a chunk of extra calories. 

    Will this stop you from snacking all the time? No. 

    Will it help you stop late-night snacking if you stop fasting? No.  

    Fasting is just another method for reducing calories and if your goal is weight loss, then entering a calorie deficit and maintaining it is crucial. However, if your goal is to be healthier, should you fast?  

    Fasting and Your Health 

    Quite a few books and social media influencers claim that fasting will fix most of your nutrition and wellness problems. Ah…if only it were that simple.  

    Most of the research conducted has been completed using mice, and unfortunately, you and I are humans. What works for animals doesn’t necessarily translate into the human body. A 2015 review looked at intermittent fasting and metabolic health. It noted, “there are little or no published data linking intermittent fasting regimens with clinical outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”  

    Research has looked at the benefits of alternate day fasting; however, most of those studies are too short to be conclusive, such as Ramadan-related fasting.

    Another popular term lumped in with fasting is autophagy, the body’s way of cleaning damaged cells to regenerate newer, healthier cells. You can think of this as the idea of “anti-aging,” and that’s why it sounds so darn appealing. The suggested fast length to achieve the “best results” is around 2-4 days of fasting in animals. Reducing calories allows the body to undergo this process, and again many of these studies involved rodentsThere are no conclusive studies on humans indicating an optimal fasting period to achieve autophagy. 

    Funny enough, autophagy is happening in your body right now, and doing health-promoting activities like exercising, eating a balanced diet, going for walks, and getting enough sleep all help. So, no need to do a multiday fast in your attempts to live longer. You can be pretty darn healthy without fasting, but what about weight loss? 

    Weight Loss and Fasting 

    There have been quite a few studies done trying to see if any style of fasting is more effective for weight loss. Like I mentioned above:

     Fasting is just another method for reducing calories and if your goal is weight loss, then entering a calorie deficit and maintaining it is crucial. 

    A recent randomized study, “Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss,” randomly assigned 139 patients with obesity to time-restricted eating with calorie restriction or daily calorie restriction alone. At the end of one year, they concluded: “a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction.” 

    In other words, your ability to adhere to a caloric deficit is KEY, and it doesn’t matter if you are fasting or not fasting.   It just happens to be more challenging for someone to stick with restricted eating windows vs. finding balance and tracking calories.

    Here’s why you might decide to fast. 

    πŸ‘‰ You don’t wake up hungry or enjoy breakfast

    πŸ‘‰ You do a great job of eating balanced meals

    πŸ‘‰ You do a great job of recognizing hunger and fullness signals

    πŸ‘‰ You tend not to snack between meals

    Here’s why you might not want to fast. 

    πŸ‘‰ You enjoy breakfast

    πŸ‘‰ You have a hard time balancing your plate

    πŸ‘‰ You frequently snack between meals

    πŸ‘‰ You aren’t great at acknowledging hunger and fullness

    There are pros and cons to any diet you might follow, and it’s essential to recognize what works for you. Does the thought of eating one less meal sound easy for you? Cool! Do you love breakfast and find you snack more if you skip a meal? Great, then don’t try fasting! 

    Biohacking is never going to beat finding balance. Most research has shown that all health benefits of fasting are pretty much the same as any continuous caloric restriction. This can be achieved through health-promoting activities that don’t require strict calorie counting. πŸ˜‰

    Something is better than nothing, but put balance before biohacking. 

    If you are tired of getting lost in the weeds of nutrition, click below to schedule your complimentary nutrition strategy 30-minute call. πŸ€“ 

  • Mindful Eating Is Helpful

    Mindful Eating Is Helpful

    Today is my son’s 2nd birthday. I can’t believe that my little dude is two; he is pretty cool and teaches me a lot about life.

    I want to share the most valuable lesson TJ has taught me this year.

    It’s important to enjoy what you eat and not ignore your hunger.

    TJ is the cutest kid I know; however, if he is hungry, he turns into a cave person…oh, and if it is the food he isn’t a fan of, FORGET ABOUT IT!

    Does that mean Maria and I only feed him peanut butter toast? No, of course not, but here is the approach we take.

    On TJ’s plate, you will find:

    • Protein (Usually 25% of the plate)
    • Carbs (Usually 25% of the plate)
    • Fruits and Veggies (50% of the plate)
    • Fat (a thumb or two)

    Does he eat all of it? HECK NO! But we make sure to keep things on the plate he loves, like fruit, cheese, and sweet potatoes. He is getting nutrients from the food, and kids have a funny way of knowing when they have had enough to eat.

    The one thing that makes the most significant difference for TJ is eating enough protein. We ballpark it and consider that most of his food has enough protein for him. Worst comes to worst; I will make him a super smoothie:

    • 1 banana
    • 1 handful blueberries
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
    • 1 thumb of avocado
    • 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
    • 1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
    • 1 cup milk of choice
    • 1 handful spinach

    A great snack and an excellent way to sneak in some protein/veggies!

    You and I aren’t too different from TJ. If we eat enough protein and get enough fiber in our diet, things tend to work out. 

    A common question I am asked isΒ how much protein should I be eating?

    It all depends on your goal, but a good rule for weight loss is aboutΒ 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

    Another question is,Β what are some good sources of protein? I’ve got you covered.

    Protein helps with:

    😌 Hunger and fullness between meals

    πŸ•Ί Strength development and recovery

    🦴 Happy bones.

    Plating a healthy portion of protein has been a game-changer for many clients, and it is something I have personally struggled with for a few years.

    I was vegetarian/vegan for three years, and getting enough protein to support my activity levels and goals was a challenge, but eventually, I figured it out. 

    No matter your dietary choices, remember that balanced plates are good, and so are all the food groups.

    So should you always eat when you’re hungry?Β 

    Hunger is a part of weight loss. It varies from person to person, but weight gain is caused by eating in a caloric surplus. Of course, this might not be true for everyone, but it is for the majority of people.  

    Health-promoting activities and eating in a caloric deficit are your best bet to lose weight. To achieve a deficit, you will be reducing the amount of food you usually eat and possibly replacing some of the calories with nutrient-dense whole foods.   

    You will be eating less, and you will experience moments when you are hungry. Hunger isn’t going anywhere, and it is an important cue that has kept humans alive for a long time. So, in other words, it is normal; however, you shouldn’t be hungry all the time.  

    There are a few reasons you might be experiencing frequent hunger.

    The caloric deficit might be a bit too aggressive. It depends on your current weight and the amount of weight you are trying to lose. Aggressive low, calorie dieting makes it easier to gain the weight back due to hormonal adaptations from rapid weight loss.   Slow, sustainable weight loss is a better choice. You can achieve this through health-promoting behaviors like: 

    • Sleeping 7-9 hours
    • Drinking more water 
    • Eating balanced plates with carbohydrates, protein, vegetables/fruits, and fat
    • Going for daily walks 
    • Daily dance parties…or exercise, whatever you want to call it. πŸ˜‰

    You might not be eating enough protein. Protein is your friend and aids in recovery between training sessions and overall fullness between meals. Aiming for 0.7-1.0 g/lb of protein in your diet is safe. You can try to add 1-2 palms of protein at every meal. Here’sΒ a helpful protein guide!

    If you eat balanced meals with healthy portions of protein and are frequently hungry, it might be an emotion, boredom, or exhaustion. 

    A client told me, during a recent coaching call, “I believe overeating is the crux of my problems. It doesn’t help that I am constantly rationalizing things in the moment “It’s just too good.” 

    There are a few ways to start exploring the comfort of being overly full. One that can help is giving yourself the chance to slow down. It takes time to recognize you are full, especially when eating quickly.

    There are two guidelines that you can experiment with:

    During meals: Put your fork down between bites.

    Putting your fork or hand-based food (sandwich)down between bites allows you to slow down and enjoy the food.

    The next time you pick up your fork would be after chewing and swallowing your food. Other options are to take a sip of water between bites or to talk with a friend/family member between bites. 

    During meals: Pay attention to the food you are enjoying. Practice Mindfulness.

    Try picking one thing to notice about your next meal. 

    • Taste.
    • Smell.
    • Texture.
    • Sight.
    • Sound even works, especially if you’re having rice crispy cereal. πŸ˜‰

    Mindfulness helps you distinguish between being in love with the taste vs. being full. Research has shown that you are more likely to snack or eat more at the next meal if you don’t take the time to be aware of what you are eating.

    The biggest thing to remember is that you will need to practice, which implies you will make mistakes which is a good thing. You will learn what works and what doesn’t work.

    You will figure it out along the way, and the more you practice, the more self-compassion you can develop.

    Many of the issues surrounding the ability to recognize hunger and fullness cues is a deep connection between finding comfort in food. To help you dive in and better understand stress eating, I want to share my stress eating e-book. It’s free .99; all you need to do is click below. 

  • Should You Weigh Yourself?

    Should You Weigh Yourself?

    Written by Chris McMahon

    “Should I weigh myself?” is a popular question, and my honest answer is: It depends.  

    It depends on your relationship with the scale.  

    It depends on your particular weight management goals.  

    It depends on if you even own a scale. (You can use the gym or borrow a friend’s, but they might want it back at some point. πŸ˜‰)  

    This article will dive into the reasons behind weighing yourself and what you can do if you choose not to use scale weight as a metric.  

    Your Goal

    Knowing your starting weight is a helpful metric if your goal is to lose weight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, the most extensive prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance, 75% of people who maintained their weight loss for 5.5 years or longer weigh themselves at least once a week.    

    The N.W.C.R. has tracked over 10,000 people since 1994 who’ve lost significant amounts of weight and have kept it off long-term. So, some might suggest using the scale can be helpful for weight loss/ weight maintenance. 

    But maybe you’ve had a complicated relationship with the scale in the past.   

    First and foremost, let me tell you that you aren’t alone. Many of my clients, family members, and friends have expressed their scale-based worries; after all, I am a nutrition coach and trainer πŸ€“ . 

    Why does the scale Fluctuate?   

    The scale can fluctuate for quite a few reasons; however, a weekend of cutting it loose does not cause you to gain 10 pounds of fat. It’s impossible simply because 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. To gain a pound of fat, you must eat 3,500 more calories than you use or burn in your daily life.   

    Consider the following: 

    Your basal metabolic rate (B.M.R.) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. Don’t forget to add your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.), all of the calories your burn during the day from doing activities that aren’t exercise. Please don’t be mad the next time you have to chase your toddler around or take the dog for a walk because it all counts.   Also, consider your total daily energy expenditure (T.D.E.E.), an estimation of how many calories you burn when exercise is taken into account.  

    Again, to gain 1 pound of fat requires a 3,500 calorie surplus above your B.M.R., T.D.E.E., and N.E.A.T.  

    So, if you step on the scale after a weekend at notice, you’re up 5 pounds, and you think it is all fat, that means you would have to eat an extra 17,500 calories. Unless you compete in several food-eating competitions, I doubt you have eaten that many calories.

    The scale can fluctuate because of the following: 

    A boost in carbohydrate intake. If you consume smaller portions of carbohydrates during the week and eat a few carb-heavy meals on the weekend, your body retains water. Roughly 1g of glycogen, the energy form of glucose and carbohydrates, allows the body to store 3-4g of water. 

    Don’t worry; everything evens out when it comes to water weightβ€”no need to avoid carbs, especially when it is a meal with family or friends. 

    A boost in sodium intake. Sodium, AKA salt, causes the body to retain water. If you enjoyed some fried food, the scale might reflect it. But again, it’s water and not fat.  

    Exercise. You might notice the scale jumps up after a training session, and that’s completely normal. When you train, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers, and your body goes into repair mode leading to inflammation. This is good because your muscles are growing, and the inflammation can lead to extra water retention.  

    You might notice this happens after a HEAVY leg session. So, enjoy the delayed onset muscle soreness and understand the scale can reflect the inflammation. So, it’s not fat. It can be muscle, but more likely, it’s water.  

    Water intake. This is pretty straightforward; however, if you are exercising or trying to stay hydrated, the scale reflects it.   

    Your body knows how to find a balance with water, so don’t fret. 

    Bathroom break.  It takes roughly six to eight hours for your body to digest any food you have consumed. 

    If you weigh yourself in the morning and haven’t gone to the bathroom yet, your weight will be up. You can try getting on the scale before going to the toilet, and after, you’ll see a difference.  

    So it could just be poop, and it’s not fat. 

    Hormonal Shifts. If you are about to get your period or finishing your period, you may notice a different number on the scale. This has a lot to do with your hormones.  

    Estrogen levels are higher right before you get your period. Higher estrogen levels can lead to water retention. The hormone progesterone spikes toward the end of your cycle; this too can lead to water retention. 

    Supplements. Certain supplements such as Creatine are associated with water retention. This particular supplement can draw water into your muscle cells; however, after a few weeks, it should balance out.    

    These are just a few reasons the scale can fluctuate; and some might be from a weekend out, and others are just a part of life.  

    If You Want To Weigh Yourself, Try The Following

    Randomly stepping on the scale won’t help you determine if what you’re doing is working. As you can see, many factors affect the scale’s number. I focus on using weekly averages for clients who are ready, willing, and able to use a scale. 

    By using weekly averages, you can notice trends, and it will give you more data around if what you are doing is working. If you want to give this a try, I suggest weighing yourself at the same time every day. Many folks prefer first thing in the morning after going to the restroom.   

    Write down the number and repeat it daily. You can add all the numbers together on Sunday and divide by seven to give you your weekly average. I suggest practicing this particular habit for 30 days or longer when looking for trends.  

    The hope is that tracking your weight can be viewed as a data point. It can help determine your plan needs an adjustment; however, it’s not for everyone.   

    Non-Scale Victories 

    Specific clients have a complicated relationship with the scale, and I would never force someone to do something they weren’t ready for, especially if you have a history of disordered eating or eating disorders. In that case, I suggest working with your doctor to find the best plan of action.    

    If that isn’t the case and you are frustrated by the scale, here are a few options to measure progress.   

    You are noticing When You’re Full. If you recognize when you are full and decide to stop eating, you are heading in the right direction. When you practice health-promoting skills like adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, you will have an easier time recognizing fullness. 

    You can practice tracking how many balanced plates you eat during the week. As that skill improves, your weight might change.   

    The Way Your Clothes Fit. I love getting messages from clients about how their favorite pair of jeans fit. This might seem minor to you, but for someone who has struggled with yo-yo dieting, seeing and feeling good about the clothes you are wearing is something worth celebrating.   

    It can mean having pants that you discover are now too baggy    

    or filling out a baggy t-shirt because you have been working hard on gaining muscle. 

    Side note: If you no longer fit in your clothes, consider donating them. It’s a good deed, and seeing bags of clothes that are a few sizes too big can be motivating. 

    Your Sleep Schedule.   Sleep is a significant indicator of how your health-promoting behaviors are working. Your training intensity, food choices before bed, and bedtime routine are working! 

    And just because it’s worth the reminder: eating after 8 PM doesn’t cause you to gain weight; eating in a calorie surplus does.  

    Your Energy Levels. When you eat a well-balanced diet, you will be surprised by increased energy levels. You are taking in enough calories and getting enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables to keep you moving.   

    It is interesting when a client takes an extended vacation and feels slightly more sluggish than usual. This is due to the change in their eating patterns, and when they come back from vacation, things balance out after a week or two.   

    The energy levels are essential, especially if you have a young son who likes to use you as a human jungle gym…just me? 

    Your Consistency In The Gym. Your ability to make it to your training sessions and learn new skills deserves celebration. Consistency is crucial and often gets overlooked.   

    You can’t measure progress by perfect weeks. Progress is hitting speed bumps, learning, and making adjustments. 

    Your Ability To Not Feel Restricted. The ability to not feel trapped by a rigid diet is what all of my clients strive for, and I hope you can experience this too. 

    All of these health-promoting behaviors do not exist in a bubble. You are a human, and you can not live or die by your exact macro calculations. That type of pressure creates a system of diet rules. Rigid diets might be why you have a complicated relationship with the scale in the first place. Learning to have flexibility is a skill that’s worth practicing. 

    Whether you choose to weigh yourself or not, it is essential to have some habit tracking to know what you can work on and what is going well.  

    I want to share the habit tracker I give to all my clients. It works pretty damn well, and I even have a video teaching you have to use it!  

  • How To Track Your Macros

    How To Track Your Macros

    By Chris McMahon

    When you eat, you are taking in energy. While you go about your daily life, you are burning that energy.   

    Energy balance plays a role in your weight management. This concept is referred to it as Calories-In, Calories Out. 

    • If you take in more energy than you use, you can gain weight. (Energy Surplus)
    • If you take in less energy than you use, you can lose weight. (Energy Deficit) 
    • If you take in the same amount of energy as you use, your weight will stay the same. (Energy Balance) 

    There is more to weight loss than “eating less and moving more.” That phrase often can do more harm than good and overlooks the bigger picture.   

    Here are a few things that can affect Energy Balance

    I’m diving into tracking calories because it is a part of the weight-loss equation. Of course, many other factors affect the CICO model, and you don’t necessarily have to track calories; however, clients and folks on Instagram ask about it. So, here’s how you can approach calorie tracking.  

    How To Track Calories 

    In this example, we will be looking at someone who has the goal of fat loss. Fat loss does require you to be in a calorie deficit. So here is a quick way of determining the estimated amount of calories your body needs while losing weight. 

    Step One: Use the NIH Body Weight Planner. 

    Step Two: Enter the correct information as seen below: 

    Step Three: Choose the correct physical activity level. Be conservative with this number. 

    Step Four: Enter the goal weight and goal date.

    Step Five: Review the results. 

    In this example, this person wishes to lose thirty pounds in six months. That gives them roughly 1,528 calories per day. It’s important to note that once they reach their target weight, it is suggested they move calories up to 1,997 calories per day. You can’t remain in a deficit forever.  

    Let’s chat about Macros. 

    When tracking, it is essential to consider your macronutrient intake: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If fat loss is your goal, then paying close attention to your protein intake is vital due to its ability to help with controlling hunger and maintaining muscle mass.  

    A good rule of thumb is to consume about 0.7-1.0 g/lb of protein in your diet.  

    The main goal is to look at total calories and protein intake, which means you can play around with carbohydrates and fat. The essential factor is adherence, which means if you can stick with a low-carbohydrate diet, give it a go. Remember that if you are trying to preserve muscle mass or gain muscle, this might not be the best choice. 

    Carbohydrates can range from 0.3-3.0 g/lb for fat loss, and fat intake can range from 0.3-1.0 g/lb. It depends on preference and doesn’t matter so long as you stay within your calorie target and stick to the plan.  

    Let’s continue using the 1,528 calorie example with a target weight of 120 lbs.   

    Target weight x Macronutrient g/lb = Macro Target 

    We want to be getting enough protein: 

    120 lbs x 1.0 g/lb = 120g protein 

    For fat let’s try being right in the middle: 

    120 lbs x 0.6 g/lb = 72g 

    We will wait on carbohydrates until we figure out the exact calories we are using.  

    Protein has 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram.  

    Calories for Protein: 120g x 4kcal = 480 calories 

    Calories for Fat: 72g x 9kcal = 648 calories 

    Protein and fat together equal 1,128 calories.  

    Now subtract the total of protein and fat from the total target calories: 

    1528kcal – 1128kcal = 400kcal 

    Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, so to determine your total carbohydrate perform the following: 

    400 Γ· 4kcal = 100g

    Macronutrient breakdown for 1,528 calorie goal: 

    120g Protein 72g Fat 100g Carbohydrate 

    Now that you know the numbers, you can start tracking using MyFitness Pal or Cronometer.   

    But, wait a minute…what if you don’t enjoy tracking? 

    What skill level are you? 

    Before you start tracking, you must consider your current skill level. After all, many people do track and still manage not to lose weight. It usually has more to do with inaccurate tracking and nothing to do with calorie deficits not working.  

    Tracking calories takes work and, to be honest, can be a lot of effort, so before meticulously weighing your chicken breast, ask yourself the following questions.  

    • What’s my goal? 
    • What do I know?
    • What can I already do well? 
    • Realistically how consistent can I be?  

    Answer these questions, and you will have a better idea of where to start.  

    If your goal is to feel better and lose weight, your practice skills will be slightly different from someone competing in a sport or physique competition.  

    Different options to use: 

    This is what you have been waiting for, right? Before going any further, I want to remind you of the two big goals that anyone focusing on weight loss can benefit from following. 

    During Meals: Recognize when you are full and stop eating. 

    Between Meals: Distinguishing hunger from emotions, boredom, or exhaustion. 

    If every person practiced these skills, weight management would be easier. Keep both of them in mind as we move through different tracking options. 

    Level 1: Taking Pictures of all meals and snacks 

    This is a fantastic starting point for anyone working on accountability and tracking. Think of it as dipping your toes in the water of consistently tracking. Also, there is no excuse not to take a picture; your phone is usually nearby.  

    Clients send me pictures all the time, and it is an excellent way to talk about how they might adjust their balanced plate. Taking a picture of your snacks helps you recognize what you are grabbing. Consider anything you are eating between meals as a snack. As in the skittles a co-worker has on the desk or a handful of chips from the closet.     

    Level 2: Using hand measurements 

    Building a balanced plate is an essential part of weight management and using hand measurements is another way to track and be aware of how much you are consuming. 

    Protein βœ‹ The palm of your hand, roughly 20-30g of protein 

    Carbohydrates 🀌 A cupped handful, roughly 20-30 g carbs 

    Fat πŸ‘ A Thumb length, roughly 7-12 g fat. 

    Ideally, the plate would start with 50% fruits and vegetables; most folks aren’t getting enough of these food groups and need the added fiber. From there, you can structure your plate using the hand portion guide. 

    If we use the macro split from our example, that would be: 

    40g of protein for three meals (βœ‹ or βœ‹βœ‹ per meal/ 6 palms per day) 

    33g of carbohydrate for three meals (🀌 per meal/3-4 cupped hands per day) 

    24g of fat for three meals (πŸ‘ πŸ‘ per meal/ 6 thumb lengths per day ) 

    If this seems like too much to eat in a single meal, you could try having more meals throughout the day. It all depends on what works for you.  

    My clients track their protein, carbohydrate, and fat using a simple tally mark chart. After two-four weeks, we check and adjust portions based on weight loss/gain and overall feeling. Nutrition requires adjustments along the way. That’s why rigid diets don’t work long term. 

    Level 3: Weighing and measuring food with a scale, cups, and table & teaspoons 

    Measuring, weighing, and tracking your food intake is not inherently wrong and can be a beneficial tool depending on your goals. Some of my clients aren’t ready for this, and it’s ok.   

    You might be someone who loves numbers, can stick to a plan, and geeks out over data points. Level 3 might be right up your alley. 

    What’s the best option? 

    The best choice is the one that allows for consistency. All three levels will enable you to track and notice trends as you work toward your weight goal.  

    Being aware of your choices is a big step forward. Creating plans that work requires flexibility and self-compassion. If that’s what you are missing in your effort to lose weight, I do have slots open for 1:1 nutrition coaching.  

    No matter what, remember it boils down to what works for you. 

  • Weight Loss By The Numbers

    Weight Loss By The Numbers

    Weight loss is a numbers game. I am sure you have heard this expression before, and if not, there’s a first time for everything. My thoughts on this expression have ebbed and flowed throughout my career.  

    When I was new to fitness and coaching, I believed it was more important to eliminate the temptations and stick to a rigid planβ€”technically speaking, you could estimate there are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat. So, if you wanted to lose one pound a week, it would require you to consume fewer calories at a deficit of 500 calories per day. 

    500 Calories X 7 Days = 3,500 calories 

    Tracking, measuring, and adhering are par for the course; however, it is usually more complicated and not easy.  

    There are many layers of Diet Culture, and many of them have to do with restriction.  

    If someone wants to lose weight, it is easy to view it as a subtraction game.   

    • Subtraction of favorite foods
    • Subtraction of favorite restaurants 
    • Subtraction of free time
    • Subtraction of social events 

    There are so many contradicting diets floating around the internet and bookshelves. A great meme from Dr. Spencer Nadolsky demonstrates you would eat nothing if you tried to follow multiple diets at once. 

    If you are trying to lose weight, you need to eat.

    If you are trying to gain weight, you need to eat.

    If you are trying to maintain weight, you need to eat.

    The clients I work with who see the most progress are the ones who start practicing addition. 

    Don’t Skip Practicing Addition. 

    Look at what you are currently doing and then see what simple things you can add to your daily life. Throwing everything away in an attempt to have rapid results implies that you are doing everything wrong, and that isn’t a recipe for success.

    Adding things in allows you to adjust and still enjoy the things you love.

    I wouldn’t consider a single slice of pizza a complete meal; however, a piece of pizza with some carrots, cucumbers, and an apple would be a little more balanced. So here’s an opportunity to reframe it. You are adding more nutrients to your meal(s).

    Adding protein at every meal

    Getting 1,000 extra steps

    Drinking an extra glass of water

    Getting to bed 30 minutes earlier

    Minor adjustments that can help you build momentum are lovely and work better than total elimination. 

    But, what if I am not eating clean?

    Clean eating does more harm than good and usually shifts someone to start categorizing foods as Good vs. Bad. This form of thinking lends itself to disordered eating practices, and the goal is to maintain a healthy relationship with food. 

    It all boils down to balancing your nutrition practices, regardless of the goal. 

    I love to teach clients the concept of balancing a plate/meal because it is a nice entry point and teaches someone that every type of food can fit onto your plate. 

    Most individuals will benefit from protein, carbohydrates, fruit/vegetables, and fat in their diet. You spend days arguing about macronutrient ratios; however, none of it matters if you can’t even build a balanced plate.  

    It’s like worrying about hitting a home run and having never touched a bat before. Focus on the basics and then expand your skillset. Making contact with the ball is more important than the home run. OK, enough baseball references; the point is that balance is essential.  

    You need to meet yourself where you are and if that means picking up premade meals from Trader Joe’s, go for it! If it means you eat Wendy’s two times a week, go for it! You can use the balanced plate in both situations.  

    For instance, you could pick up a nutrient-dense salad from wendy’s and get your favorite Diet soda and small fries. This might be where you start, and that is OK. Protein makes a big difference in satiety and snacking between meals too.    

    Over time you might add apple slices and find you don’t want fries. Maybe you decide to have a seltzer instead of a Diet Soda. What truly matters is consistency and flexibility.  

    Build up over time, make numerous mistakes, and learn; it’s is the only way someone can make progress. After all, weight loss is a numbers game. 

    If you want to hear the audio version of this blog post click here!

  • Sugar Isn’t The Problem

    Sugar Isn’t The Problem

    If you don’t have time to read check out the full audio here.

    Since the age of ten, I have been a type 1 diabetic, which means I have now been living longer with diabetes than with a properly functioning pancreas. People like to ask if I got diabetes because I overate sugar. Another favorite of mine is should you be eating fruit? There’s a lot of sugar in it, and you have diabetes.Β Β 

    Before diving in, I want to take a moment to remind you that I am trying my hardest to be unbiased when I say this. Fruit is good for you. The amount of research proving the statement I just made is astonishing. Such as a 2014 meta-analysis, which examined Fruit and vegetable consumption with mortality caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer, which concluded: “higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes, particularly from cardiovascular diseases.” 

    But why?  

    There are a few reasons why adding fruit and vegetables to someone’s diet can be helpful. First and foremost, fruit is a nutrient-dense food source which means it contains the vitamins, minerals, and “healthy” carbohydrates our body needs.   

    1. Fruit is lower in calories and harder to overeat 
    2. Fruit contains fiber which helps keep your gut happy and helps slow digestion. 
    3. Fruit helps you poop because…fiber. 

    In its unprocessed form, fruit is high in fiber, which acts as a gentle scrub brush to your intestines. Fiber expands in your GI tract, slowing the digestion process. This reason alone can be why individuals with more fruit and vegetables in their diets have an easier time maintaining or losing weight.   

    When you recognize you are full, it becomes easier to eat less, and when caloric intake decreases, it becomes a little easier to lose or maintain weight. 

    “But I eat a lot of fruit and can’t lose weight.”

    Be aware of what kind of fruit you are eating. Are you eating a mango, or do you have dried mango? Are you having fresh-squeezed orange juice or a big old glass of Tropicana?  

    There is nothing inherently wrong with fruit juice or dried fruit so long as you know the portion size. Dried fruit and fruit juice tend to be lower in fiber, and additional sugar can be added.  

    Sugar isn’t the problem. The lack of fiber is the issue and the ease of overconsumption. If we look at intentional weight loss and someone is unaware of the extra calories, it matters.   

    So can someone blame sugar? I wouldn’t, and here’s why.  

    Should you blame sugar? 

    The short answer is no because it is far more complicated than we like to admit. It’s not simply eliminating an entire group or additive from your diet because you will always find something else to blame. Weight management boils down to calories, and with intentional weight loss, someone needs to be in a caloric deficit. 

    Sure, you can remove processed sugar from your diet, but if you are always hungry and don’t know how to manage it, is sugar really to blame? No, it’s the current ability someone has to cope with the stressors in their life.   

    Your ability to navigate your emotions, practice health-promoting behaviors, and make small manageable changes can lead to weight loss but, more importantly, is a sustainable practice.   

    Labeling food as good or bad does little to help you understand why you make certain choices. Instead of eliminating everything, I suggest answering the following questions for yourself: 

    1. What are you eating? 
    2. When are you eating?
    3. What were you doing before eating?
    4. How did you feel while eating? 
    5. How did you feel after eating? 

    This might seem like a lot, and it’s ok. If you take the time to answer these questions, you’ll notice a trend that needs your attention.  

    Give it a try, and if you need some help, I wrote an ebook all about stress eating that teaches you more about the food you eat, the feelings you have, and why you make specific food choices. 

    Click here to get your FREE copy.

  • 8 Moves To Level Up Your Squat

    8 Moves To Level Up Your Squat

    Written by: Chris McMahon

    When I was fourteen years old, I spent the entire summer wearing black jeans. I wish I could say it was because I loved sweaty knee caps, but I would be lying. As a kid, I was teased for my “chicken legs,” and if I wore jeans, no one could see them, genius, right? 

    Eventually, I started going to the gym and tried my hand at squatting. That meant loading up the bar for heavy squats, even though I didn’t know jack squat about squatting. I didn’t have the motor control or mobility to perform barbell squats. My lower back and knees would bother me for days after every leg session.   

    My first year as a personal trainer completely transformed my squat. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by mentors who had been squatting longer than I had been alive.  

    Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

    Fast forward, and now squats are fun-ish. I want to help you avoid the same mistakes I made. All of the movements in this article can be added to your lower body routine or recovery day.    

    Let’s dive in! 

    Mobility

    To perform a “proper” squat, you will need ankle mobility (knees over toes!), hip mobility, Thoracic spine mobility (chest up!), trunk stability (chest up, again!), and strong knees (knees over toes, again!).  

    Before going further, the definition I am using for mobility is strength + flexibility. In general, strengthening the end range of specific movements, like the squat, can be considered mobility work.  

    Two birds, one stone, and strong legs!   

    I dive into each movement in the following tutorial. 

    Breathing: 

    Supine Squat Breathing is a beautiful way to prime your body for the squat pattern. This breathing pattern allows you to activate the stabilizing required for the squat.

    1 – 2 sets of 15 breaths is more than enough to get you started. 

    Rocking

    Tim Anderson, the founder of Original Strength, popularized rocking amongst the strength community with the publication of the book “Becoming Bullet Proof: An Uncommon Approach To Building A Resilient Body.”

    Here are a few reasons to add rocking to your current routine: 

    1. It is lovely for your thoracic mobility. 
    2. It acts as an assessment for hip and ankle mobility
    3. It helps you link your diaphragmatic breathing with the squat pattern. 

    You can add 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions in your next leg day warm-up or use rocking as active recovery between squats. 

    Ankles

    Happy ankles mean deep squats, and many folks tend to overlook the benefits of spending a little time mobilizing the ankle. It doesn’t need to be anything too complicated. I prefer using something like joint circles to assess the range of motion. One common mistake is moving the entire tibia while articulating the ankle. By holding the tibia in a fixed position, you can target the ankle joint.  

    Another drill that I have recently fallen in love with is the Single Leg Knees Over Toes. I couldn’t think of a better name; please let me know if you think of a better one. This mobility drill allows someone to mobilize their ankle and teaches them that it is OK if the knees go past the toes. This is a common fear amongst those new to squatting.   

    It is normal to have a more challenging time lowering the heel while performing this drill. If the heel is too far from the ground, decrease how far you lean forward. With practice, the heel will get closer to the ground. 

    Perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each ankle. 

    Wall Assisted Loaded Beast

    The Wall Assisted Loaded Beast will target your hips, quads, thoracic spine and acts as an excellent self-assessment for the squat.  

    Setting up your heels against a wall provides feedback and further body awareness. Focus on squeezing your glutes and pulling your belly button toward the spine. Push through the arms as you sit your butt back toward the wall.  

    Try performing the Loaded Beast as a part of your warm-up or active recovery for 1-2 sets of 10 repetitions. 

    Assisted Bodyweight Squat 

    The Assisted Bodyweight Squat is often overlooked and deserves its place in your leg day toolbox.   

    To perform the Assisted Bodyweight Squat, you can use a door frame, squat rack, or other sturdy objects, like a bookcase.  

    Set up with feet hip-distance apart and slightly turn out to roughly 45 degrees. Not every person will be symmetrical and will have the same hip shape. Find the best positioning that leaves you pain-free and able to squat comfortably. 

    Holding on to the frame, begin to walk yourself down as you lower into the bottom of your squat. Make sure you are spreading the floor apart with your feet and that your knees are tracking over your toes. 

    Pause at the bottom of your squat, rocking side to side. Drive your feet through the floor and return to standing. 

    Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions focusing on moving slowly with control. 

    Goblet Squat 

    The Goblet Squat is a popular movement thanks to author and strength coach Dan John. This is a movement I prefer programming for clients before any other loaded squat variation.  

    Choose an appropriate weight that allows you to maintain a tall spine while still challenging your stability. 

    Set up with your feet hip-width apart. 

    Hold the kettlebell or dumbbell chest height. Make sure to keep the elbows tight to the rib cage. 

    Focus on splitting the floor apart with your feet and allowing knees to track over the toes. 

    Initiate the movement through your hips and maintain a tall spine. 

    Squat as low as you can while keeping a tall spine. 

    Drive your feet through the floor as you return to standing. 

    3 sets of 10 repetitions will be more than enough to get started. 

    Frogger 

    Now that you have practiced, it is time to explore the range of motion and have a little fun. The frogger is one of my favorite moves from GMB Fitness, and it always leaves my hips feeling like butter.  

    Start in your squat with feet hip-width apart. Focus on keeping your heels down, which means you might not be in a deep squat, and that’s OK! 

    Reach your arms forward and place then hands on the ground with palms flat.  

    Shift your weight forward and push through the arms. 

    Pull yourself forward with your arms and take a tiny hop forward. You will end up in your squat. 

    Instead of counting repetitions, I suggest using time and focusing on exploring your entire range of motion. 3 sets of 30 seconds is a good starting point. 

    What’s next? 

    Now it’s time for you to take these moves and add them to your current squat routine. I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but I use rocking, goblet squats, and the frogger as a part of my leg day warm-up.

    The only way to know what works best is to try.

    There is no such thing as the BEST exercise. It boils down to what your goal is and how your body responds.

    Do me a favor and tag me on Instagram or shoot me a DM and let me know what you think. I love helping, and I currently have a few slots open for 1:1 coaching.

    If you want to learn more, use this link.

  • Which Came First? The Cookie or The Egg?

    Which Came First? The Cookie or The Egg?

    Written by: Chris McMahon

    My son loves Cookie Monster, and he finds it hilarious every time he devours a plate of cookies without any pause. It is funny in my son’s defense because all Cookie Monster wants is a delicious chocolate chip cookie.  

    If you come to me and say all I want to eat are cookies, I’d say, “go for it.” The truth is you are human and not a monster, so it’s a little more complicated.    

    Cravings are normal. 

    When many of my clients want to have cookies, it’s because they have a craving, and that’s OK! Cravings are normal, and I am not here to say you should never have a cookie; that’s bonkers.  

    What we need to understand is that cravings are different than hunger. 

    What’s The Difference Between Hunger & Cravings

    To boil things down, you can start to look for hunger with the following cues: 

    1. The feeling starts in your stomach 
    2. The feeling increases over time
    3. You’re hungry for a meal

    Number three is quite possibly the most important cue for hunger. We will come back to it in a second. 

    Cravings usually follow these cues: 

    1. The feel isn’t in the stomach 
    2. The feeling comes and goes in a wave
    3. You want a “treat.” 

    Cravings come and go, and if you give yourself 10-15 minutes, it usually passes.  

    What if you aren’t sure if it is a craving or hunger? 

    The best question to ask yourself is, “am I hungry for a meal?” 

    Does a piece of fruit sound good right about now? 

    Does a plate of tacos with black beans, rice, and some salsa sound good? 

    If you answered yes to either of these, chances are you are hungry.    

    Now, if the answer is no, chances are you have a craving, and it will pass. I don’t recommend sitting and staring at the cookies while you attempt to let the urge pass by. 

    What to do instead

    Many of my clients have succeeded in getting involved with what’s going on right now. Case in point: 

    A sample from a weekly client check-in email.

    Doing something engaging lets, you be with the feeling and let it pass. Sometimes cravings can be attached to an emotion, boredom, or exhaustion. Here are a few examples that clients have used: 

    • Reading a book 
    • Going for a walk 
    • Playing a board game. 
    • Playing a musical instrument 
    • Listening to a podcast 
    • Playing with a pet 
    • Talking with a friend on the phone 

    These are important to you, and spending time on them is good. It has nothing to do with dieting or trying to lose weight. These actions are just a reflection of the type of person you are trying to be.  

    So, No More Cookies…Ever? 

    HECK NO. Please eat cookies, but don’t eat cookies to bury an emotion or feeling. A good rule of thumb is to practice saying yes fifty percent of the time and no the other fifty percent. 

    Sometimes you’ll say yes to the cookie because your kids just made a batch, and you want to share one with them. Other times you will say no, like when you come home from work and usually grab a cookie, but this time you decide to go for a walk to clear your head instead.   

    As you practice, you will find that the percentages shift around. In the meantime, enjoy the cookie and the memory you are making.  

    P.S. Oatmeal raisin cookies are my favorite, and if you don’t like them…well, I’m judging you. πŸ™ƒ 

  • Why Are You Still Trying?

    Why Are You Still Trying?

    Written by: Chris McMahon

    If it didn’t work, why are you still trying it?

    I saw a post from Andrew Coates yesterday that asked the question:

    “If it worked so well, why did you stop following your preferred diet?”

    A lot of diets might seem appealing based on what social media tells you or results that a friend or co-worker experienced, but here are some things to consider:

    🀷 Your life is different from their life

    🀷 Your results will be different from their results

    😳 Your ability to adhere to “rules” will diminish over time.

    It is hard to find long-term success when you are told to lose weight by eating 1,200 calories a day, eliminating entire food groups, or marking food with a point system.

    It leads to all or nothing thinking and the belief that you can sustain restriction long term.

    Pursue The Wise Five

    What Should I Do?

    Author and Coach Josh Hillis talks about the power of the wise five while pursuing things outside of your comfort zone in his book, Lean and Strong.

    Values – Base your nutrition practice around your values.

    Skills– Practice and get better at your eating skills

    Connection– Listen to people, set healthy boundaries, be appropriately vulnerable, care about people.

    Accept Thoughts and Feelings – Accept that it’s normal to have unwanted thoughts and uncomfortable feelings about food and your body. Don’t numb your feelings with food. Feel the feelings.

    This can feel a little abstract if we don’t look at the Failure FiveΒ too:

    Reward and Punishment – Trying to control motivation

    Self-esteem – Try to control how I feel about myself

    Status – Try to control other people liking me

    Suppressing Unwanted Thoughts and Feelings – Try to control thoughts and feelings

    Force “Motivated” Thoughts and Feelings – Try to control motivation

    πŸ‘† This one sound a little familiar? πŸ˜‰

    If you feel like you hang around with the Failure Five a little too often, you’re not alone. When this happens, I suggest starting to ask yourself better questions.

    When you stay curious and question, you will get better answers to bring you closer to the Wise Five.

    πŸ‘‰ What were the significant obstacles last time?

    πŸ‘‰ What will this dietary change look like long term?

    πŸ‘‰ What result am I hoping for and why?

    Just my two cents but, restrictive practices aren’t your friend. Working on habits and practicing obstacle planning can completely transform your relationship with food and your ability to make a change.

    My number 1 tip is to remember that you are a human and not a robot. So stay curious and see what comes up for you.