Monthly Archives for May 2013

Archives for May 2013

What is Mind-Muscle Control?

MMCLogo1When performing a given exercise, we sometimes fall into the rut of simply going through the motions without paying attention to what we’re really doing.

Bicycle crunches can be a perfect example. As you bring in that opposite knee to the opposite armpit, are you really feeling your core and oblique muscles contract? Or are you just using momentum to peddle your legs in and out?

Mind-muscle control refers to the feeling of connection between your mind and the muscles that are being worked. In the above example of bicycle crunches, you’d bring awareness to the contraction of the oblique as you pull your knee into the opposite armpit. This ensures that you’re working the muscle that you’re intending to work.

When you focus on the contraction, you’ll discover that you’re producing stronger contractions than if you were just mindlessly going through the movements. In turn, you get a better and more effective workout. A bicycle crunch is only as good as you’ll let it be!

There are other mental techniques that you may wish to explore. Some exercisers find it helpful to visualize a workout before they complete it. Or they’ll see themselves completing a new, higher level of resistance – or an extra repetition or two. Doing so may help you to clear your mind, build confidence and boost performance.

Needless to say, tapping into mind-muscle control requires focus and present moment awareness. To do this, you’ll need to leave your cell phone in the locker room and commit yourself to your workout. You may even find that it means turning down (or off) any music/iPods to reduce distractions. And you certainly can’t do it while chatting with friends or socializing.

The mind is a very powerful tool. Put it to use for your workout.

Healthy Energy Bar [Recipe]

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 9.42.45 AMI just got back from a visit to Kalani on the Big Island of Hawaii, and they were nice enough to share their healthy Honu Energy Bar recipe with all of you! I’m absolutely addicted and I think you will be, too.

Check out the video below!

Embrace the Burn.

keep-calm-and-feel-the-burn-2If you’ve ever pushed yourself hard at the gym, you’ve felt the burn.

Maybe you ran on the treadmill faster than you’ve ever run before. Or maybe you got two extra repetitions in on the bench press. The burn is like a fire swirling through your muscles – and it activates a nagging voice inside your head that tells you to stop.

I’m all about being in tune with your body and the messages that it gives you, but this isn’t your voice of inner wisdom. It’s a defense mechanism that activates automatically.

“You can’t go any further,” the voice warns.

“You can’t do another repetition,” it demands.

“You need to stop,” it orders.

That small but powerful voice sounds the alarm for one reason. Because it knows that if you continue, your body will need to change. Our bodies like being in a state of homeostasis. For the body to change it takes energy and resources – and your body, through millions of years of evolution, has become a very efficient machine. It wants what it easy and efficient.

But you don’t listen to that nagging voice, and you press on. You know that you can go higher, faster, stronger or harder – and that you can be more. After all, if you stay where you’re at, you’ll get more of what you already got. So you don’t just feel the burn, you embrace it. It’s your muscles firing. It’s your fat melting. It’s your body transforming.

When you feel the burn, it’s not a reason to stop. It’s a reason to give it your all and to redefine your limits.

How Much Time Should I Spend in the Gym?

fitness-model-workout-routine-1People often ask me how much time they should spend in the gym.

The truth is, the answer varies from person to person and it depends on your goals, your schedule and your current gym commitment. There’s certainly no short answer, but a new study by researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University is shedding some new light.

Most people understand that exercise is associated not just with improved physical health, but also improved mental health. But is more exercise always better? The answer may be a bit surprising.

After examining data from 7,674 adults, researchers determined that 2.5 – 7.5 hours of exercise per week may be the sweet spot. Exercising more than 7.5 hours was associated with diminished mental health and sharp increases in depression or anxiety.

Because this is the first study confirming that too much exercise can be related to poor mental health, more research is needed. It’s unclear if the poor mental health is because of the excessive exercise (perhaps a symptom of overtraining) or if people with poor mental health exercise excessively as a way to elevate their mood. In other words, it remains to be seen whether or not there is a causal relationship.

It’s also worth noting that more exercise may not be better for improved physical health either. A handful of new studies speculate, for example, that running more than 30 miles per week may diminish its longevity benefits. These findings are especially troubling for endurance athletes and marathoners who may train upwards of 100 miles per week.

In a nutshell, spending time exercising is a good thing – and it can help boost your mental and physical health. But, like anything else, exercise is best in moderation.

Is Juicing Healthy?

Dear Davey,

What is your take on juice fasting? Is it a good option for those wishing to lose weight?

Sincerely,
Julio

155352030Dear Julio,

The long and short of it is that juicing to lose weight is a fad diet. It’s not sustainable long term – and it’s not something that I’d recommend.

There are a few issues with juicing.

For one, the act of juicing strips the fruit or vegetable of its fiber content. Most of us don’t get enough fiber as it is, and juicing doesn’t help. Without the fiber-rich skin that the juicer leaves behind, juice acts a lot like soda. Stripped of fiber, juice can result in unhealthy blood sugar spikes. And fiber also helps you feel full longer.

Many juice diets also lack protein. Much like fiber, protein helps you feel full; without it, you’ll can be subject to extreme hunger pangs that may sabotage your diet. Moreover, inadequate protein intake can cause reductions in muscle mass during weight loss. Protein performs many other important functions – like helping to control blood glucose and providing a boost to your metabolic rate.

Extreme dieting and radical calorie restrictions may result in initial weight loss. But keep in mind that the body is very resilient – and if it goes into starvation mode, it will fight like hell to preserve any fat stores. Starvation diets result in large decreases in the body’s metabolism – and are thus are generally associated with equally large increases in weight once food consumption resumes.

Juicing fans claim a number of benefits including decreased cancer risk, lower risk of heart disease and a boost to the body’s immune system. They also espouse the detoxifying properties of juicing. Though I’ve yet to see any scientifically valid evidence supporting the detox claim (your liver and kidney detoxify your body with or without juicing), the other benefits likely have more to do with eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables rather than juicing. Indeed, plant-based diets to lower the risk of many cancers and diseases – but it has nothing to do with juicing.

In moderation, consuming fruit or vegetable juices can be perfectly healthy and part of a balanced diet. Many of the juices are rich in nutrients – but juicing isn’t a weight loss or diet program in and of itself. Moreover, nothing beats eating the whole fruit or vegetable – skin and all.

Is Agave Nectar Bad for You?

content_img.1485.imgIn the last few decades, it seems that no stone will be left unturned in the search for a healthy sweetener. Lately, agave nectar has been getting a lot of buzz. So what’s the deal? Is it as healthy as marketers claim?

In a nutshell, agave nectar is derived from the agave plant and contains a mixture of primarily fructose and some glucose. Though it’s sweeter than sugar, it has a lower glycemic index – and so it doesn’t result in the same blood sugar spike as other sweeteners. As such, it has been hailed by marketers as a miracle sweetener.

First things first, the glycemic index is a number representing the ability of a food, relative to that of glucose, to increase the level of glucose in the blood. Low glycemic foods lead to increased energy, improved focus and help you feel full longer.

The glycemic index of table sugar, for example, is around 68. For agave nectar, the number is 30. In other words, there is some truth to the claim that agave nectar doesn’t result in blood sugar spikes. But eating plywood also won’t result in a blood sugar spike. A low glycemic rating, in and of itself, doesn’t mean a food is healthy.

One of the big problems with agave nectar is that the sugar content is primarily fructose. In a great article by Dr. Jonny Bowden, the good doctor writes:

Research shows that it’s the fructose part of sweeteners that’s the most dangerous. Fructose causes insulin resistance and significantly raises triglycerides (a risk factor for heart disease). It also increases fat around the middle which in turn puts you at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and Metabolic Syndrome (AKA pre-diabetes)… And fructose has been linked to non-alcoholic, fatty-liver disease. Rats that were given high fructose diets developed a number of undesirable metabolic abnormalities including elevated triglycerides, weight gain and extra abdominal fat.

Sadly, agave nectar is far from a miracle sweetener. Fructose issues aside, agave nectar is still sugar. It’s not nourishing. It’s not what your body needs. And it’s certainly not healthy.

Moderation is still the best policy.

How to Lose Weight with Forgiveness.

Today’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

Forgive-yourselfIf you’ve struggled with your weight for a very long time, the solution probably lies not in finding the right diet or exercise. Been there, done that, right? Unless medical concerns affect your weight, chances are you’re using food to quell your feelings. If you can relate to this, have faith. Nourish your mind and body with a diet of forgiveness and release your pain along with the pounds.

Free Yourself

While seemingly unrelated on the surface, a lack of forgiveness for self and others is sometimes related to emotional eating and to achieving permanent weight loss. Here’s why:

When you’re struggling with energy draining emotions of guilt, shame, anger and resentment, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and find ways to safely experience and release them. The problem comes from never letting them go and using food to cope. When they build up for a long time, they stay stored in your body. As you carry the weight of heavy feelings in your heart, you carry the weight of excess pounds on your body.

Forgiveness calms your emotions, releases anger from your mind and body, and transforms resentment into acceptance. You literally lighten your mind and body with a calming energy that sets you free. For example, when you forgive yourself for overeating, overeating claims less power over you. This helps you stop the cycle because self-forgiveness eliminates guilt and shame that perpetuate emotional eating. When you forgive others, you emotionally free yourself from them and their behavior. You no longer feel triggered because you stop ruminating about what hurt you.

Meet Charlene

Charlene struggled with emotional eating for many years. It intensified during her difficult divorce and she gained weight in the process. Filled with anger and resentment, contact with her ex-husband often prompted an impulsive urge to overeat. She felt guilty after binging and blamed him for her behavior, often saying, “He makes me so mad I can’t help myself!”

Charlene initially recoiled at my suggestion to forgive her ex-husband. While she knew there was a connection between reacting to her ex-husband and overeating, she wanted tools to stop her behavior. While coping strategies helped, they only addressed what was happening on the surface. Opening her heart to forgiveness helped Charlene on a deeper level and offered a lasting solution.

While Charlene still feels triggered at times, food no longer holds the power it once did. “I didn’t speak with my ex-husband directly, but after I forgave him in my heart, I felt free. I then realized I needed to forgive others from my past.  When I was a child, food was the only way I knew how to deal with anger and sadness. Now that I see the freedom in forgiveness, I want to be a more forgiving person and stop hurting myself with food. Living a healthy lifestyle is easier now. And I’m finally losing weight in the process.”

How to Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t always come easily, especially in a society often intent on revenge. It may feel hard at first and it takes time, but you can become a more forgiving person simply by being willing to be so. It takes commitment and persistence. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse others’ bad behavior or that you stop taking responsibility for your own. Forgiveness is about your state of mind and heart. It’s a gift to others, but mostly, it’s the gift of inner peace to yourself.

Here’s a simple release and forgiveness affirmation to help with emotional eating.

When you’re upset with someone and you feel the urge to eat, pause for a few moments, breathe and say to yourself or write down, “I release these feelings (or, this anger, resentment, etc.) and choose to no longer hold onto this pain. I release this for my highest good as I forgive _____(specific person) or, all involved in this situation, and allow the healing power of forgiveness to soothe my heart.” Even if it doesn’t seem to make a difference right away, you’re creating space between the urge to eat and eating. Adding forgiveness to this space helps liberate you to make a different choice.

How to Make a Healthier Smoothie: 7 Tips.

ingredients-for-kale-smoothieI’m the first to admit that I LOVE smoothies. Not only are they refreshing and satisfying, but they’re also a great way to fuel your body with a whole slew of nutrients.

The problem is, not all smoothies are created equal. And many of the smoothies that you might buy at a local mall kiosk are actually terribly unhealthy. They can be loaded with calories, sugar and unhealthy fats. For example, a medium strawberry hulk smoothie from Smoothie King has nearly 1,000 calories and 125 grams of sugar. Yikes!

To upgrade your smoothie, here are a few tips:

  1. Never use fruit syrups. If you’re buying a smoothie, ask if it’s made with real fruit. Many smoothie shops and cafes blend their smoothies with a sweetened, sugar-rich syrup that is anything but healthy. Only drink smoothies made with fresh or frozen (but unsweetened) fruit.
  2. Stay away from smoothies made with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Again, ask the cashier if the smoothie contains frozen yogurt or ice cream. You’d be surprised to learn that many do. Unfortunately, it turns your smoothie into a milkshake and dramatically increases calories, sugar and unhealthy fats. Don’t do it!
  3. Replace base with water and ice. Many smoothies are blended with either a dairy base of skim milk, almond milk, soy milk or fruit juice. For one, fruit juice is nearly as bad as soda. And while the various milks may be healthier, they’re still rich in calories and unnecessary for an enjoyable smoothie. As an experiment, try replacing whatever base you use for your smoothie with water. It sounds completely unsatisfying – but you’ll discover the exact opposite. The smoothie is still really good!
  4. Don’t add sweeteners. Many recipes call for a touch of honey, agave nectar, etc. When you’re already blending a smoothie with naturally sweet fruit, added sweeteners are really unnecessary. In exchange for a bit of sweetness, they crank up the smoothie’s calorie content. Avoid them.
  5. Nix unhealthy add-ons. Chocolate syrup, cool whip and the like are delicious. But they’ll sabotage your smoothie’s nutrition. Moreover, smoothies are still totally delicious without them. They’re definitely not needed.
  6. Try mixing in some vegetables. Though most people stick with fruit smoothies, add some vegetables into the mix. Vegetables are often lower in sugar and less calorie-dense, but still packed with flavor and nutrients. Kale is always a favorite! Avocados are also good – though technically they are a fruit.
  7. Pack in some protein. If you want to make your smoothie a bit hardier or if you need help meeting your daily protein requirement, add in a scoop of powdered protein. Though powdered protein isn’t typically known for tasting good, all the fruity goodness of your smoothie will drown out the protein’s undesirable flavor.

By putting these 7 tips into practice, you’ll never be tricked into drinking an unhealthy smoothie again! And if you have any additional tips, please share them in the comments below!

How to Get Rid of Belly Fat in Skinny Guys: 3 Tips.

Dear Davey,

I’m a really skinny guy that can eat pretty much anything. I rarely eat fruits and vegetables and never seem to gain any weight. The problem is, I have a bit of a belly and really want to get rid of the fat. What should I do?

Sincerely,
Mario

twotypes

Two different types of skinny fat.

Hey Mario,

Being blessed with a fast metabolism is a great thing – but it’s not an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Even skinny guys are susceptible to diseases and ailments like heart disease, high blood pressure and the like. Skinny isn’t necessarily a synonym for healthy.

When it comes to reducing excess belly fat in skinny guys, there’s really no magic to it. It’s about eating smarter and moving more. To that end, here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Upgrade your diet. Cut out the crap. That means reducing or eliminating processed foods, added sugar, refined grains, butter, cream and fried foods. Opt for appropriate quantities of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats. By eating healthier foods, you’ll also supercharge your energy levels and dramatically improve the quality of your life.
  2. Get active. Being skinny doesn’t give you a free pass to skip the gym. Even skinny people should engage in regular cardio. I’d recommend short sessions of high intensity interval training. Beyond cardio, spend time strength training with machines or free weights. To really reshape your body, I’d recommend heavy weights, low repetitions and progressively overloading your resistance. A combination of cardio and strength training is a strategy for gut-busting success.
  3. Eliminate stress. Cotrisol is a stress hormone that, in part, causes people to retain fat around their bellies. Try yoga or even meditation. Spend some quiet time outside and take a walk. By reducing stress and cortisol, you’re less likely to retain stubborn fat around your body’s midsection.

Are you a skinny guy with belly fat? In the comments below, let me know what you’ve tried.

Love,
Davey

 

Coca-Cola’s “Get The Ball Rolling” Fail.

sticker,375x360Earlier this week, Coca-Cola announced an initiative to help people get active and set a goal of inspiring 3 million individuals. According to the press release, Coca-Cola’s “Get The Ball Rolling” effort underscores the company’s global commitments to fight obesity and be part of the solution.

Oh, the irony.

Each year, the average American consumes 43 pounds of sugar from soft drinks alone. If Coca-Cola wants to educate people about health and nutrition, maybe they should publicize the links between refined sugar and violent behavior, fatigue, stiffening of arteries, headaches, depression, skin irritation, acne, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, nervous tension and obesity. Or maybe they should do a public service announcement about how, according to brain scans, sugar is as addictive as cocaine.

Coca-Cola’s press release notes that the company offers low or no calorie options in every market. What the press release doesn’t mention is that even artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity in that they increase cravings for other sugary, unhealthy foods.

The company commends itself for putting caloric information on the front of all packaging. However, Coca-Cola does nothing to educate consumers that not all calories are alike. Unlike the calories in many of the foods we eat, soft drink calories are “empty” and come without any nutritional benefit.

Moreover, the press release goes on to say that the company markets “responsibly.” Coca-Cola and I must have different understandings of marketing responsibly, as a recent billboard near my home featured an Olympic swimmer reaching for a Coke. It implies a connection between Coca-Cola and health that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s reminiscent of those decades-old cigarette ads featuring endorsements by athletes like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

On one hand, it’s great that Coca-cola wants to help people be active. Getting people to move is a good thing. But on the other hand, if Coca-Cola wants to do something to help improve the health of Americans, it should close its doors and go out of business.

No One Likes a Fat-Talker.

fattalkfreeIf you have ears, then you’ve probably heard someone talk about how fat they are – even if they aren’t overweight.

“I look like a cow today.”

“I don’t even know why you’re with me… I’m so fat.”

“These jeans give me a muffin top.”

Though this so-called “fat talk” has become a regular part of conversation and possibly a way for people to build social bonds, a new study finds quite the opposite.

Researchers from Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab conducted a study with college-age women. Each participant was presented with either a noticeably thin or overweight woman engaging in “fat talk” or positive body talk. The participants were then asked to rate the women on a number of dimensions – including likeability.

Regardless of weight, the “fat talkers” were rated as significantly less likeable. On the other hand, overweight women who made positive statements about their bodies were rated as the most likeable. Contrary to popular belief, fat talking may actually be hurting our relationships with other people.

According to the lead researcher:

These findings are important because they raise awareness about how women actually are being perceived when they engage in this self-abasing kind of talk.

Beyond hurting your relationship with other people, “fat talk” can also damage your relationship with yourself. The researchers noted that fat talk has been strongly associated with – and can even cause – body dissatisfaction, which is a risk factor for eating disorders.

As it turns out, words are very powerful. Words become thoughts. Thoughts become beliefs. Beliefs become reality. So choose words that lift you up – and that help, encourage and inspire you to reach your fitness goals.

How to Get Skinny: 13 Rules.

masl09b_eat_skinny_foodsI think “athletic” or “healthy” are more worthwhile goals than the pursuit of skinniness, but let’s face it – “skinny” is a popular fitness goal to which many people aspire. So if you are looking to slim down and drop some body fat, I’ve put together these simple and straightforward guidelines:

  1. Reduce (or eliminate) added sugar. Even though sugar provides virtually no nutritional benefits, Americans eat 500 calories of a day worth of added sugar. Cut it out.
  2. Don’t deprive yourself of unhealthy foods you love. The more you try to resist unhealthy foods, the more you think about unhealthy foods – and the more you crave them. Allow yourself an occasional treat to break the cycle. It’s about balance.
  3. Cook your own meals. You’ll know exactly what goes into the foods you eat.
  4. If you do eat out, avoid the watch words. Don’t order foods that are described as crispy, fried, creamed, crunchy, battered, bottomless, giant, loaded, cheesy or breaded.
  5. And if you do eat out, opt for steamed vegetables as your side.
  6. Seep well. People who don’t get enough sleep consume more calories.
  7. Start your day with a real breakfast. Boiled eggs, no sugar added cereals, fruits and Greek yogurt all count. Danishes, doughnuts, pastries or a cup of coffee do not.
  8. Replace simple carbs with complex carbs. That means substituting white rice with brown rice and white bread with whole wheat bread.
  9. Get 30+ grams of fiber a day. 95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber; eat fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. In addition to many other important benefits, fiber helps you feel fuller longer.
  10. Don’t drink your calories. High calorie alcohol beverages or sugar drinks are calorie-dense but devoid of nutrients. Save your calories for foods that nourish your body and keep you feeling full.
  11. Learn to read nutrition labels.
  12. Never eat a food directly from the box or bag. Put it in a bowl; you’ll eat less and avoid the mindless munchies.
  13. Move more. Combine a healthy diet with an active lifestyle and exercise. Take the stairs. Join a gym. Go for a walk.

At its core, losing weight is really about creating a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than you burn. All the above guidelines are helpful in supporting a calorie deficit through nutrition and exercise. So have at it!

Do you have any additional skinny guidelines? Share them in the comments below!

Is It Okay to Cheat on Your Diet Sometimes?

stackOfDoughnutsI get a lot of emails and questions about cheating on a diet or nutrition plan.

First things first, I’m not a big fan of the word “cheating.” It’s a loaded word and one that we often associate with dishonesty in a relationship. After the cheating comes the guilt, and then the guilt inspires nothing but feelings of shame and more negativity. Such downward cycles can be very destructive in any aspect of life – and food is no exception.

In fact, many people turn to food as a way to soothe and comfort, and thus the very act of cheating can create a cycle of binging, unhealthy choices and even more guilt. And even more binging.

You get the idea.

Instead of giving yourself cheat days, I’ve always said that it’s really about creating balance. Most of the time, eat the nourishing foods that your body needs. Eat the lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that provide the nutrients and energy to fuel your life. And then some of the time, indulge in those foods that you crave.

I’ve always espoused the 80/20 rule for newbies. Eat healthy 80% of the time. It’s a great way to create balance in your life. After all, if you resist an unhealthy food that you crave – you’ll probably just crave it even more. The more you say to yourself, “I can’t eat ice cream,” the more you’re thinking about ice cream. And the more you think about ice cream, the more you’ll crave it.

Here’s the catch. Pay attention to how your body feels after the indulgence. How does your body feel after you eat the ice cream? Even without feelings of guilt or shame, our bodies don’t respond well to unhealthy foods. You may feel sluggish, tired or even slightly ill. When you pay attention to how unhealthy foods make your body feel, you may discover that you crave those unhealthy foods a little less.

Over time, the 80/20 rule may even become the 90/10 rule. Who knows?

In the comments below, share your favorite cheat balance food. Mine is pepperoni pizza. Mmm.