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8 Ways to Be Your Best Self in 2018

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8 Ways to Be Your Best Self in 2018

Happy 2018! Here we are again at the beginning of another year. If you’re not the kind of person to make resolutions, maybe this list can change your mind. The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the previous year - a time to acknowledge your accomplishments and to begin working towards things that you still want to achieve. For me, the new year is a reset, and a time for appreciation and growth.

Below I’ve listed some guidelines on resetting your body and mind for 2018! (One could also argue that these are ranked by importance)

1. Drink Water.

This seems like an easy one, right? But have you ever truly reaped the many benefits that drinking enough water provides? A good friend of mine would tell me that the answer to all of your maladies is water. If you skin looks tired, drink water. If you’re feeling under the weather, drink water. If you feel a headache coming on, drink water. If you’re feeling lackluster, drink water - you get the point. It is recommended to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water daily. For example, a 180lb man or woman should drink 90oz water per day. Give it a go for clearer skin and a clearer mind!

2. Get Enough Sleep.

Here’s another favorite for resolution-ers. We often say that, with every new year, we’re going to sleep more and work less. But with another year gone, here it is again, making it to the top of the list. Sleep is just as crucial for peace of mind and productivity as drinking water. Without enough sleep, or without enough quality sleep, we enter the vicious cycle of relying on other substances to keep us awake, disrupting our natural sleep cycles and throwing our hormones out of whack. This creates a crabby, tired monster who never gets anything done. Let’s stray away from that in 2018.

3. Put Away Your Phone.

This one is tough. I get it. Our cellphones are our connection to the outside world, they’re our source of income, and they’re also part of our identities. Take this tip with a grain of salt - the more you’re looking at your phone, the less time you’re a part of the world around you. Start small and keep your phone away during dinner with friends. Focus your year on building solid social connections without the use of electronics - you’ll gain much more than you think.

4. Get Up and Move.

Notice how an exercise-related topic is 4th on the list? That’s because, in order to get the most out of exercise, you have to be hydrated and well rested. Now for this exercise goal, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy - just getting up and moving daily is all I ask of you. If you drink more water, you’ll also need to take more trips to the bathroom, which is more movement (see how i slipped that one in). If your movement is going for a walk at lunch, awesome! If its commiting to 3 days per week of strength training, amazing! Or even if it’s going to zumba with your mom every Saturday morning, even better! I hope to be less hard on myself in 2018 for missing a workout, and so should you!

5. Eat More Veggies and Less Donuts.

Now, here’s the food one. This year, I challenge you to have a more open mind when it comes to what you eat. I know it’s easy to fall into cycles: you eat poorly, then realize you’re eating poorly, so you eat really well for a week, only to have your flow disrupted when your coworker brings donuts into the office and you cave and eat three. Wow, can I relate to that. It’s tough to say no to sweets and treats, I know. But if you really want to eat the donut then eat it. Maybe don’t eat three donuts, and have an extra large serving of veggies during your next meal, but don’t be ashamed or discouraged if your diet hits a road bump.

6. Laugh More.

This one seems silly, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. This is just a friendly reminder to not take yourself too seriously. We’re all professionals here and we’ve worked hard to get to where we are, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t laugh until you cry every once in a while. When was the last time you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? If you don’t have an answer to that, it’s been too long.

7. Work Less.

Did you know that work days in Sweden are six hours? Can you imagine? That sounds amazing. They did this in order to allow employees to be more productive during each hour of work, and also to allow them to live fuller lives. Let’s take some advice from across the waters and start working less. If you can answer the question, “Will it make a difference if I do it tomorrow?” with a no, then it can wait until tomorrow. Just think of all of the time you’ll have if you actually stopped working when you left the office.

8. Learn Something New.

Lastly, there is evidence that continuing to learn may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Now if that isn’t enough motivation to learn more about a subject of interest, a new language, or even just read more, I don’t know what is. One of my personal goals for this year is to read one book per month. I used to love reading growing up but I’ve fallen off of the wagon. I want to use this year to learn as much as I can. What do you want to learn more about?

This list is a guideline to help you live a more fulfilling life in 2018. We aren’t getting any younger, so now is the time to stop with the excuses and stay dedicated. Who knows - maybe you’ll develop habits to continue these great behaviors forever, or at least inspire someone around you.

Happy New Year and let’s be our best selves this year!

perform-for-life-amber-movement-specialist

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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

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Hunger : An Overlooked Dieting Tool

If you’ve ever been told that you shouldn’t be hungry while dieting for fat loss, then you’ve been lied to. It sounds nice to be reassured that hunger is not a necessary part of dieting. However, if you really think about it, dieting is simply controlled starvation. You are intentionally forcing your body to eat away it’s precious fat stores, which it saves for a rainy day (a.k.a. a day that you are starving). I know that sounds terrible, but that’s only because of the plentiful lifestyles we lead. We are not used to being hungry because of how readily available food has become.

Let me clarify my earlier statements just a bit: if you’re constantly hungry while dieting, then you’re probably dieting to an unnecessary extreme. Conversely, if you never experience hunger while dieting, then you’re likely not ever creating a significant enough calorie deficit to make a noticeable change to the amount of fat you’re storing. Our body’s hunger signals are a finely-tuned mechanism that help to alert us when we start tapping into our body’s energy reserves. My suggestion is that once you start experiencing hunger signals, sit on that sensation for a couple of hours before immediately satiating yourself. I think this is one of the most underutilized dieting tools in existence. Why not use your built-in mechanism for detection of energy balance rather than using complicated formulas - formulas that are merely estimating what your body is already good at measuring?

I know this sounds crazy, extreme, or unhealthy, but being hungry isn’t dangerous. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that some amount of fasting is actually beneficial for health. Again, most people in our society just used to never experiencing hunger, so when we do, it can be very uncomfortable. Let me clarify once again: when I describe experiencing hunger, I am talking about true physiological hunger, not the psychological taste hunger that all of us experience when we have cravings for something. You know, the sensation where your stomach is growling and and feels as though it’s eating itself. That is what you want to experience for a couple of hours before eating.

There are some advantages to using this tool to help you properly moderate calorie intake. Unless you’re planning your consumption in pre-proportioned meals, it’s hard to count calories accurately. Eating out or heaping leftovers into a tupperware that you haven’t measured leads to eating an unknown amount of food. Healthy choices or not, you can gain or lose fat eating any type of food out there if the calorie balance is adjusted accordingly. With that in mind, having a tool that helps to adjust when you have an unusually small or large meal is very helpful. If you have a massive dinner out with friends, you may not be hungry first thing when you wake up the next morning. You don’t need to force breakfast down just because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” Basically, using hunger as a guide is inherently very adaptable to things that occur in our lives every day.

Hunger isn’t just a tool that can be used between meals either. Using satiety and hunger signals in the middle of eating a meal can be very helpful as well. Try to avoid eating until you feel stuffed, bloated, and gross. Slow down your eating a bit so that satiety signals can kick in, and you have time to experience the sensation of being sufficiently fed without overdoing it. Thankfully, that between meal hunger I was talking about earlier will help regulate things properly if you overdo it. If you go until you’re stuffed (Let’s be real; it’s going to happen sometimes), then you will likely not experience hunger for a longer period of time than if you ate to mere satisfaction instead.

I know this can sound a little hokey compared to all the detailed diets you can find out there. However, I truly think that this system can be very effective if you’re honest with yourself and develop the connection to your body’s built-in signaling mechanisms. The more tools that help us live the lifestyle we want while achieving our goals the better. Now go forth, and be hungry with a purpose!


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Lessons on Loving Yourself

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Lessons on Loving Yourself

A DAY IN THE LIFE

My average day looks a little like this -  It starts with a 20-30 minute commute to work. I clock in, check my inboxes, and get to work. Four hours later, I tend to get hungry, so I might go walk to a nearby cafe or grocery store to grab a quick bite to eat. Back to work, and I'm grinding until it's 5 PM, and now I'm getting "hangry" and restless, but it's almost time to go home. 6 PM -it's time to clock out. My eyes are fried from looking at the screen all day. My fingertips have probably punched thousands of keys. My index finger feels lost without my trackpad, and my body is sore from sitting at a desk.

My name is Emily, and I am the Marketing and Graphic Design Coordinator here at Perform for Life. Before I start talking about my journey to healthyness, I'll give you a little background on who I am and what my life is like. I recently graduated from the University of San Francisco, and I quickly jumped into "adulting." My way of doing that was working multiple jobs to pay for rent for the first time in my life, but working at this gym specifically has made me realize how unhealthy and unbalanced my life has been.

When you read the P4L blogs, you're used to hearing from an expert. I am just an everyday person, and honestly, I've never been fit or athletic. Let's take it back in time - I was the kid who was picked last or finished last in the mile. The other kids used to make fun of me and say, "You're skinny, why are you last?" This made me even more shy about exercising because I felt that my body type gave people the expectation that I must be fit. 

In college, I was blessed with gym membership at Koret...but I only went to eat their sandwiches. I was intimidated by all the "gym rats," and I couldn't even bring myself to work out with my friends, because I was self-conscious about the way my body moved or that I was doing it wrong. Long story short - I've never worked out and this needed to change.


THE WHY

I decided to embark on this journey for a few reasons.

  1. Simply put, I need to move more! A sedentary life makes me restless and damages my body in the process. If I'm in my twenties, why do I feel like such a grandma on the inside? 
  2. My energy tank is feeling low, and I'm going to have to start paying attention to what I'm eating. Was the food I was eating making me feel sluggish?
  3. I want to look and feel good. I want to feel confident in my body as a whole and comfortable in my own skin. My overall goal is to have a better relationship with my body.

THE PLAN

  • Personal training once a week for 3 months.
  • Swing dancing or another form of exercise at least once a week for 3 months.
  • A focus on a low-glycemic diet every day for 3 months to help me store less fat and get more complex carbohydrates instead of simple sugars. 
  • Cutting down on some of my guilty pleasures - cookies, pastries, and boba.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED IN 2 WEEKS

1. The more people there are involved, the more exciting it is. Happiness and healthyness are contagious. My boyfriend felt inspired and joined me along the way, my bosses are helping me figure out ways to eat better, and sometimes people occasionally cheer me on or check up on me. If you're doing it alone, it's harder to keep yourself accountable.

2. Being healthy is an investment in yourself and your future. Everything adds up quickly, especially as someone who didn't have a good diet or workout routine as a part of her life before. I bought new shoes, new clothes, and new food. Plus, if I wasn't already working here, I would've had to search and pay for a gym and personal trainer.

3. It's super hard to be a one woman crew with a whole lot of extras. Now, this is more on the technical side, but working out while recording myself or just editing the videos, in general, is a lot of work to manage on my own.

 
This is an example of one of my set-ups.

This is an example of one of my set-ups.

 

4. You're stronger than you believe. I'll admit, I am a carb queen! I love love love bread, and I've always loved sweets. It's been hard for me to resist sugar, because I never realized how many things had added sugars.

5. Social settings can be hard, and I feel like there's a stigma around being on a "diet." I put it in quotation marks because I'm basically weaning myself off of processed foods. I also often feel shy about telling people I'm changing my diet, because from my exterior appearance, they would assume I am trying to get skinnier. Let's face it - here in San Francisco, we've got a lot of great food, and it's hard to go out with friends and not eat all of the things I used to eat so freely. The first day of my low-glycemic diet my boyfriend decided to take me out on a date - let's just say I started the diet the next day.

6. These minor changes have fueled the foundation for a better me. It's like Emily 2.0. Upon exercising and eating healthier, I started wanting to do more to keep improving myself and taking better care of my body.

7. I really crave the taste and feeling of eating cookies. My favorite dessert is a freshly baked, chewy chocolate chip cookie, and I've been thinking about it every day since I started. Dark chocolate alone and Arctic Zero just aren't enough.

8. It's challenging to prioritize meal prepping. For one, I don't usually like eating the same thing all week. Plus, by the time I get home, I'm exhausted. As someone who works an office job, I find myself eating out more often than not, but I'm working on it!

 
 

9. I'm crooked! In high school, my godmother stopped making a dress for me, because she said my shoulders were uneven. During my first session with Brandon, I discovered she was right! One of my shoulders is higher from the other (as seen in the photos below), so we're working on correcting that.

10. Cheat day turns into cheat week, and suddenly, you've fallen off the tracks. My best friend and I went to Ghiradelli Square this past weekend, and I caved. I got a strawberry nutella crepe AND clam chowder bread bowl. From that day on, I had been craving cookies more often and found myself cheating more frequently. Justine has reminded me of the 80/20 rule (or sometimes 70/30), which allows me to eat the things that I loved before but in moderation and to not judge myself for it. We're all human. This is a process.

 
This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

This is the smile of someone who was overjoyed to be eating a crepe after over a week or not having sugar.

 

Follow Emily's P4L journey on our Instagram and Snapchat to see more videos like this!


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10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

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10-Day Ketogenic Diet Challenge

Happy July!  I hope you all are enjoying the summer months.  As an exploration for myself this weekend, I decided to try a ketogenic diet (high fat, adequate protein, very low carbohydrate). I’m one week in and I’d like to give you a day-by-day look at my experience.  But first, why subject yourself to this?  Carbs are so tasty, how have I been able to resist?

A Brief History & Overview of the Diet

There are always new fad diets circulating in popularity, and San Francisco has no shortage of people willing to try them. Ketogenic diets are different, though, because they have then been around for thousands of years. Ketogenic diets have long been present in aboriginal cultures from throughout the world.  Indeed, many native peoples have, sometimes by necessity or circumstance, had to survive on low carbohydrate, high-fat diets. The most recent and memorable introduction of the diet to the west would, of course, be the Atkins Diet.

When first confronted with this diet, I was not very intrigued - eating high amounts of fat simply sounded unpleasant.  And I looove fruit!!!  It was only after I better understood the mechanism by which it affects the body and advantages to the diet itself that I decided to give it a try.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is this: to get the body in a state of “nutritional ketosis” in which the body is safely and effectively producing and utilizing ketones as its energy source.  Ketones are an energy source that comes from fatty acids.  Your body can run on ketones much in the same way it can run on glucose. When your body is in a state of ketosis, it's essentially in fat-burning mode, instead of the usual carbohydrate-burning mode.  Obviously, this can be a great strategy for losing excess body fat, but there are many other benefits, including increased cognitive clarity, better appetite control, increased performance in endurance related events, and the list goes on.

Sounds like a great idea to try.  So why don’t more people experiment with this diet?  Well as it turns out, your body is quite reluctant to go into ketosis!  It varies person to person, but the general consensus is that it takes weeks or more to adapt after weeks of low carbohydrate consumption.  Numbers range, but 20 - 30 grams of net carbs seems to be a general consensus.  And there can be no “cheat days.”  Eating a carbohydrate-laden meal can boot you right out of ketosis and send you back to square one.  Furthermore, one must also limit the amount of protein consumed, as it can be converted into glucose, like carbs. So, your diet must be heavy in fat – somewhere in the range of 75-90% of your daily calories.  That’s a lot of fat!

I am about 10 days into the ketogenic diet.  I’d like to share my observations:

The Good:

  1. The diet has made me very aware of my carbohydrate intake.  This awareness will no doubt allow me to make better decisions about what to eat long after the diet is over.
  2. Overall, I seem to be experiencing less inflammation in my body and less bloating after meals.
  3. There has been a noticeable decrease in fat around my belly and “love handles.”

The Bad:

  1. Eating a high quantity of fat is not enjoyable for me.  I really love the taste of fruit and I wish I could have some peaches or cherries
  2. My energy levels fluctuated a lot for the first week.  Adapting to high fat, low carbohydrate can be a difficult transition, to say the least.

The Ugly:

  1. Working out has been difficult as transitioning from glucose to ketones is a BIG jump.
  2. I could feel an overall higher level of stress in my body over the first 7 days.  I really felt off.

So far, it's been an interesting journey.  The individuals I’ve met that have adopted a ketogenic diet have all raved about its benefits (increased stamina, mental clarity, etc), but have warned me that it takes some time to get there.  So far, I can say with surety that I’m not there.  The last 10 days have been interesting, but overall, not a pleasant experience.  I figure that I’ll stay on the program for another week or so, and then most likely dive headfirst into some carbs.

A final note: everyone is built differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all diet.  

Ketogenic diets are difficult to maintain, but do have some promising benefits.  That being said, it’s not an easy process, and for some, it will not be the right choice. Some people, due to their metabolism or physical routines, will do much better on a diet heavy in carbohydrates. Figuring out what’s best for you is always going to take experimentation, and it will almost always be a dynamic process - the metabolic demands of you today versus you ten years ago are quite different, and the metabolic demands of you when you’re stressed versus not stressed are also quite different.  When it comes to food, no diet book will ever compare to your own food logging and your own observation. I hope this helped clarify ketogenic diets for you all, and gave you all some insight into whether or not they could be beneficial for you!



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Gains on the Go Series: Fueling the Metabolic Fire

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Gains on the Go Series: Fueling the Metabolic Fire

Greetings P4L family! My name is Michael Phillips, and I'm a new addition to the P4L team. I'm introducing a blog series called Gains on the Go. It's all about learning new information, upending fallacies, and using that knowledge to make healthy eating and exercise more sustainable and adaptable to a busy lifestyle. I want everyone to find a way to overcome the obstacles that life likes to put in the way of your fitness goals. I've been in the industry a long time, and fads are more rampant in fitness than just about anywhere else. Thankfully, geeks like me love to sift through the data to separate fact from fad, so you don't have to. Without further ado, let's kick things off by talking about something that is very status quo in the fitness industry: meal frequency.

If you’ve been given advice on a diet for fat loss in recent years, you’ve likely been told that you need to eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism revved up and burning calories all day long. It sounds good, but I’m not even sure where this information originates. The body of literature that exists on the subject of TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) does not support this suggestion in the slightest. It is true that some portion of the calories you consume is used to power the digestion and absorption of the food itself, but the impact of meal frequency on that is virtually non-existent. If you eat 5 slices of bread in one sitting, or spread those feedings evenly throughout the day, the energy required by your digestive system to process this food is the same. This should be very empowering for you folks out there that find eating so often is incompatible with your lifestyle.

Besides constraints that work may place on your eating habits, food is also an important part of socializing. You can eat dinner with your family, have lunch with a coworker, or try the dishes at your company holiday party without sabotaging your gains (or losses). That is to say, you can eat like a normal person! If you transgress, just adjust the amount of food you consume in the subsequent meals; it's really that simple.

Similarly, you don’t have to force yourself to eat breakfast in the morning if you aren’t hungry. Again, the idea that breakfast stokes the metabolic fire is pretty pervasive, but the support for this idea simply doesn’t exist. The research surrounding the consumption of breakfast is very correlative in nature. It merely shows that those who regularly eat breakfast tend to have lower body weights. However, there are tons of confounding factors: people who are generally hungry in the morning may just regulate their appetite better, or they may eat breakfast because they consider it an important component of health, thus making them more concerned with health in general, or many other possible co-factors. How can you adjust this to help you? Well, a lot of people don't have a big appetite in the morning, have trouble getting up in the morning, or simply just want to wait until they can eat breakfast at the office. If that's you, then you can redistribute the calories to later meals (e.g. dinner with your friend from your hometown), wait a couple hours after waking up, or just have a very quick and easy snack. Make it work for your life and schedule.

The pendulum has even begun to swing the other way, with intermittent fasting diets becoming increasingly popular. Although there is some promising research to support this strategy, I still feel that more research needs to be done on humans, and it needs to be done in a more realistic way. Right now, most of the research showing the positive impact this eating pattern has on health is based on research done on rats, and using an alternating day fasting protocol where you literally skip eating every other day. However, I suggest you keep an eye out for emerging information on this topic, as it certainly shows some potential. If nothing else, this strategy seems viable; I'm just not sold on it being superior yet. A lot of people love this dietary routine because of how well it jives with social eating. If you don't eat anything for 16 hours, then you can cram a lot of food in the remaining 8 hours, relatively speaking. It's not a free pass to clean out an entire buffet, but it's easier to eat like a normal person if you have the flexibility to eat a large meal if you want or need.

My suggestion for using this information is to avoid getting caught up in adjusting your whole life to accommodate a different meal schedule. Eating is too important to our social lives and emotional well being to try and adjust it to fit an unrealistic schedule. Try to make your eating schedule as sustainable as possible. Do you like to sit down and eat a larger dinner with your friends or family in the evening? Do it! Just make sure the calorie consumption throughout the rest of the day is a bit lower to compensate for a larger dinner. Are you the type of person who wakes up starving in the morning? Then have a big ol’ breakfast and let calorie consumption taper off later in the day. Do you want to take advantage of the catered meals your company provides? Go for it. The key is to make your diet work for you.

Dieting requires enough sacrifice and behavior change already; don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

There is also a caveat to keep in mind with this piece of advice. Frequent feedings have some support for improving satiety. That is, smaller, more frequent meals may help you feel more satisfied (i.e. less hungry) than an equivalent amount of food consumed in larger and less frequent feedings. Thus, if you find through experimentation that this describes you, then it may be worth trying. As well, if you simply enjoy more frequent meals and it's not a hassle for you, then by all means go for it. I'm not suggesting it's a bad practice; I'm merely suggesting that eating every 3 hours is not a requirement for you to reach your goals. Meet your calorie requirements in the way you see fit. I promise you that finding a diet you can adhere to consistently is the most important thing you can do to set yourself up to succeed.

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Photo Credit : LUM3N


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