Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Want to Know and More

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Nicole Dell’Aquila. Nicole has been a Registered Dietitian for 14 years and is here today to share her insights and resources on intermittent fasting (IF). Intermittent fasting has become a hot topic in the health and wellness space recently, but it’s surprising how few people know what’s really involved with it (including yours truly).

I decided it was time to bring in a professional to answer all of our burning questions. And WOW – I’m amazed by everything she has to share on the topic! I’ve never been a fan of saying everyone should adhere to the same workout or nutrition plan, but I always thought of intermittent fasting as a trend, and a bit dangerous. But my eyes have been opened! And truth be told, I will definitely consider giving this a try at some point.

 

 

1) What is intermittent fasting? Are there different kinds?

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a way of eating that alternates windows of fasting (not eating) and feeding (taking in nutrition).  It’s not a diet or a trend, but a lifestyle.  There are no lists of foods to avoid; no measuring points or portions, and no counting calories.  It’s not about WHAT you eat but more about WHEN you eat!

If you think about it, all of us “fast” every single day – you do sleep… don’t you? Intermittent fasting just means extending that fasting window and making your nutrition count during your feeding/eating window. There are a few different methods of incorporating IF into you lifestyle.  No one way is right for everyone and a combination of methods actually becomes rather easy when you restore the ability to listen to and recognize bodily cues.  All of the methods combine splitting days and weeks into fasting and feeding windows.  During your fasting window, you are not eating or drinking anything that contains calories or induces an insulin response.  During your eating window, you are not tied to a list of forbidden foods but are encouraged to focus on good quality nutrition.

You may be wondering… Is this the same as starvation?  Absolutely not.  Fasting is a completely voluntary restriction of nutrition for spiritual, health, and/or other reasons.  Starvation, on the other hand, is not voluntary, controlled or deliberate.  There is a lack of available food with starvation versus our 24/7 access to plentiful calories in modern day, developed countries.

 

2) How is intermittent fasting done?

There are a number of methods to IF but today we will discuss the three most common: The 16:8 Method, The OMAD Method, and The 5:2 Method.

16:8 Method:

The 16:8 Method requires you to fast 16 hours out of a 24 hour day, leaving an 8-hour feeding window. Most people find this method the easiest to incorporate into their initial introduction to IF. For example, you finish eating dinner by 8 pm, skip breakfast the next morning, and have your first meal after 12 pm the next day. Based on your lifestyle needs, you can move the window earlier or later but need to maintain that 16:8 pattern. If 16 hours is too difficult at first, push the window to 12-hour fasting and 12-hour feeding windows.

The OMAD Method or “One Meal A Day”:

With this method,  you eat dinner (or any meal of your choosing) and then start your fasting window for a full 24 hours, ending your fast with dinner the next day. Some refer to it as the 23:1 method. It’s simple; you eat all your calories in one setting. No fancy meal plan or confusing dietary advice, just eat one meal a day, 24 hours apart.

You’re probably wondering how you could get through a whole day without eating… I mean, where will you get your energy? In fact, many OMAD participants report feeling more energized and focused on their tasks, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. They don’t find themselves slumped over their desk at 2 pm craving coffee and cookies (sound familiar?). For the fasting period, hydration is very important. You can drink water, black coffee, tea, mineral water, and bone broths.

*Avoid diet soda, tonic water, coconut water, or fruit juice to make your OMAD fast a success. These beverages contain sugar and will void your fast.

5:2 method:

This method requires some planning and measuring. You eat 500-600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days of the week and eat your normal diet the remaining 5 days. I don’t recommend this method often since it involves calorie counting; most people tend to underestimate the calories they eat and drink.

You are probably wondering what you could eat when restricted to 500-600 calories for the day. Well, in theory, you can have whatever you’d like, as long as you don’t go over the calorie limit.  To prevent those pesky hunger pangs, we suggest you eat foods that are high in fiber and water, and which are lower in calories. Pick foods like green leafy veggies; salads with vinegar or lemon juice dressings, soups with a heavy vegetable base, small portions of lean proteins like chicken/salmon, and/or eggs. Avoid highly processed carbohydrates and sugary foods to reduce insulin spikes and intense cravings. If you need something sweet on your fasting days, have a small bowl of berries. Just like the other fasting methods mentioned, hydration is very important.

 

3) What are the benefits to intermittent fasting? Is there any research that currently supports this?

One major benefit of IF includes a simplified lifestyle. Imagine waking up for work, drinking your coffee or tea, and leaving without scrambling around looking for something to eat before you get stuck in rush hour traffic. Not focusing on the clock to schedule your “6 smalls meals a day” can be liberating for some people.

Another benefit is that IF is more biologically how we are supposed to eat rather than the 3-4+ meals we have become accustomed to. This style of eating can result in effortless weight loss, improved brain health, reduced chronic inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and even longevity benefits.

The most common reason people are interested in fasting is for the weight loss benefits.  Because of the fasting windows, you naturally take in less calories overall. In addition to taking in fewer calories on average, your hormone levels begin to normalize. This contributes to weight loss, too. IF can decrease insulin levels and allow more stored fat to be mobilized and converted to ketone bodies for energy use. IF can also increase your human growth hormone or HGH. The levels of HGH skyrocket, increasing as much as 5 times during intermittent fasting. This benefits both muscle growth and fat loss, and has a favorable effect on metabolism; increasing it anywhere from 3.6-14%!

Intermittent Fasting can have a profound impact on the health of your brain, too. We once believed that we were stuck with the brain we had… Once brain cells died…well, that’s it…  Through science, we now know that the brain CAN repair itself through a process called neuroplasticity. Decreasing your energy intake by fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood through an increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.  When your brain senses ketones being used for energy, an increase in BDNF takes place. Ketone production has been shown to improve memory in people with early signs of dementia in as soon as 6 weeks.

As you are likely aware, chronic inflammation, often a result of poor lifestyle choices, is the cornerstone of many preventable diseases. It’s believed fasting may assist in managing inflammation by changing how certain compounds and proteins interact with each other, inhibiting inflammatory pathways. We see a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, homocysteine and cholesterol ratios. There’s also increasing research supporting the effectiveness of fasting in helping to manage inflammatory conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune conditions such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis.

The head of the National Institute on Aging’s neuroscience laboratory, Mark Mattson, says the mild stress that intermittent fasting puts on the body provides a constant threat. This increases the body’s powerful cellular defenses against potential molecular damage. Intermittent fasting also stimulates the body to maintain and repair tissues. Its anti-aging benefits keep every organ and cell functioning effectively and efficiently.

 

 

4) Are there any risks to intermittent fasting? If so, what are they?

While getting used to this way of eating, you may initially experience some not-so-pleasant symptoms, namely hunger… or what you initially think is hunger. You may feel a little sluggish, irritable, weak, or even sense a lack of brain power. These symptoms are all common when starting IF, but they will pass. Your body has been programmed for so long to eat breakfast at 8 am, so by 9 am the entire room can hear your belly growling. Just like you adapt to a new workout or even a time zone change, your body gets used to being nourished on a different schedule. Work at it until it becomes natural!

With that being said, there are a few problems that occur with fasting, though. The most common are constipation, headaches and hunger pangs. There are strategies to deal with these symptoms. For example, I recommend initiating a low-carbohydrate diet leading up to your fasting window and using your feeding windows to consume fiber-rich foods that reduce the risk of constipation and hunger pangs.

There are also a number of medications that need to be taken with food and need to be discussed with your physician. For those with Type 2 diabetes, who are taking medications to control blood sugar levels, intermittent fasting of any kind will increase risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Working with your physician or dietitian on safely reducing medications and receiving proper education significantly reduces the risk of hypoglycemic episodes. Anything more serious than that is not part of normal fasting and should be discussed with your physician or dietitian.

 

5) Who is intermittent fasting appropriate for? Why?

IF can safely be done by most healthy people.  It is biologically how we were designed to receive nutrition.

It’s also great for people with a busy schedule, freeing up time for more productive things in your life. You can take the focus away from constantly planning for meals and snacks, and make more time for exercise (that you can also do in a fasted state… wink wink). Remember, IF isn’t a diet but a way of life! It’s not a fad or a trend, and has been around for as long as humankind has existed. If you’ve tried other methods of weight loss without much success, IF may be right for you.

 

6) Who should NOT do intermittent fasting? Why?

There are situations in which you should not partake in IF.  Those include:

  • If you are underweight or malnourished. In those with a BMI <20 or with suspected malnutrition, it is more important to correct nutrient deficiencies and maintain/attain a healthy weight. Lifestyle changes that include better nutrition take time and coaching. It is important to understand the body’s need for good quality nutrition, and not think of fasting as a magic cure.
  • Have a history of an eating disorder. IF may trigger negative behaviors in individuals with a history of unhealthy calorie restriction (anorexia), over eating, binge/purge cycles (bulemia) or body dysmorphia.
  • Take certain medications like those to lower your blood glucose. IF can be done with these types of medications but you need to be closely monitored for potentially dangerous hypoglycemic episodes.
  • Are pregnant, trying to conceive, or nursing. Your body needs regular consistent calorie intake to support a growing fetus and the demands of nursing. Women also react differently to IF when their hormones are not is a state of homeostasis. It would be unethical to conduct research of the effects of fasting on pregnant women so there is limited information on the effects fasting has on the fetus.
  • If you are a female with amenorrhea. In this case, it is imperative you get to the root cause of the loss of menstruation before any intermittent fasting can be done safely.

 

 

7) Why is intermittent fasting becoming so popular? Why now?

I think we once looked at fasting as something we only did for religious reasons or if our doctors told us to fast after midnight before surgery or blood work. Thankfully there are some forward-thinking physicians out there who challenged conventional medicine and said… “What if there’s a way to reverse chronic diseases, promote effortless weight loss, and improve brain health – and do it without a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical industry pill? What if the answer is not only FREE, but also easy to follow? AND puts money back into our wallets??” Dr. Jason Fung once said of intermittent fasting: “It is perhaps the oldest and most powerful dietary intervention imaginable. Yet somehow we have forgotten its awesome power and ignored its therapeutic potential.”

I truly believe IF is becoming more popular simply because we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and demand better!  We are not afraid to try something new and when it gives us incredible results, we share it like crazy on social media! Who doesn’t love a good before and after? The power of social media has helped bring these “unconventional” approaches to health and wellness to the masses, and then Registered Dietitians (like me) help people implement these easy-to-follow plans to achieve their health goals.

 

8) What is the historical context of fasting? What can we learn from its evolution in history?

Fasting has been around as long as humans have been on this earth; the absence of food during our sleep cycles; extended fasts related to food scarcity; refraining from eating when sick. We survived as a species because we were able to use our bodies’ stored food (fat or adipose tissue) to provide energy for our brain and other parts of our body. Paracelsus, the founder of toxicology, wrote “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.” Plutarch, an ancient Greek writer and historian, wrote, “Instead of using medicine, better fast today.” Ancient Greek thinkers like Plato and Aristotle embraced the ritual of fasting and wrote about how clear, sharp and focused they were when abstaining from nutrition.

Humans, like most animals, don’t eat when they become sick. This natural desire to not eat is certainly familiar to everyone. Think about the last time you were in bed with a cold or the flu. I bet the last thing you wanted to do was eat, right? So, therefore, fasting is a natural human instinct to protect and heal from multiple forms of illness. Even Benjamin Franklin, known for his broad knowledge in many areas, once wrote of fasting, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”

 

 

9) Do you find that intermittent fasting is a spiritual experience in addition to a physical one?

Fasting has deep-rooted traditions in most cultures throughout the centuries. Those who partake in it claim that it brings both physical and spiritual resilience. It remains a part of religious traditions even today and is believed to be beneficial to both the body and the spirit! For example. it is common in Buddhism to eat a morning meal and fast from noon until the next morning, in addition to many water fasts for days or even weeks on end. In the Greek Orthodox religion, many followers fast for as much as 200 days in a year! Muslims often fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, a holy month. Ramadan is actually one of the most widely studies fasting periods.

Two studies in particular, from 2007 and 2012, assessed people during a month of Ramadan fasting. The researchers compared the study participants taking part in the spiritual Ramadan fasting to a control group eating 3 meals a day. Both studies found that the individuals who were fasting had significant reductions in inflammation markers including interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and homocysteine. In simpler terms, by participating in fasting they ultimately reduced inflammation in their body. One important piece to note when reviewing these studies: There was no difference in the energy intake between the two groups.  When the fasting group ate, they consumed as many calories as the group eating three meals a day, leading us to conclude that it was the changes seen during the fasting window that prompted the improved inflammation markers.

 

A HUGE THANK YOU TO NICOLE!! I’ve learned a lot about intermittent fasting that I never knew and I’m excited to try it once I’m out of my childbearing years. Nicole, thanks for giving us all guidance and an excellent foundation of understanding about intermittent fasting!

(Ahem…and if you’re interested in learning more about Nicole and/or her services then please see her bio and contact info below.)

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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Meet our guest Registered Dietitian, Nicole:

My name is Nicole Dell’Aquila and I have been a Registered Dietitian for close to 14 years. My health was not always a good as it is now. I suffered from many GI troubles that I sought medical care from doctors. Never once did anyone ask me “What are you eating?” and never once was diet thought to be the cause of my digestive woes. I was given a nonspecific diagnosis and a prescription to treat my symptoms. No investigation into the root cause of WHY my body was fighting against itself. I took my health into my own hands, challenged the conventional medical model, and used food as my medicine (or lack of food). I had a wake-up call one day and knew I needed to switch my focus as a dietitian from reactionary care to preventative care, using my own personal struggles and triumph as a motivation to help others feel as great as I do now. That’s when I found Simplex Health! We believe the path to better health, effortless weight loss, reversing ‘dis-ease’ and igniting your energy levels must move beyond conventional thinking. SIMPLEX HEALTH unites a fresh approach applying our doctor-approved, integrative programs to re-balance and harmonize the whole person. Take a look at our website to learn more! www.simplexhealthcorp.com

For more information, call or email us at 484-450-8488 and info@simplexhealthcorp.com

We take most major insurance plans and offer both in person and virtual appointments.

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Who Should Do HIIT? (and who should NOT)

 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been extremely popular in the exercise realm for the last five or so years. High-intensity interval training consists of exerting maximal physical effort for an exercise set or period of time (typically less than two minutes) followed by a period of active recovery. The back-and-forth cycling between tough exertion and lighter movements has been proven to be a time-efficient way to exercise. HIIT can be done for anywhere between 15-45 minutes, meaning you “get it done” in a short period of time. Most notably, HIIT workouts produce excellent results because they target lots of muscles and burn calories both during and after the actual exercise bout. Not too shabby, I must say. 

While HIIT workouts seem like a sure-fire answer for quick weight loss and time efficiency, they’re not for everyone. Let’s review who should do HIIT workouts and who should approach them with caution (or avoid them entirely).

 

 

Who Should Participate in HIIT?

HIIT is an excellent workout option for people of all ages who are in good physical health. Generally speaking, as long as someone doesn’t have an injury or medical reason to abstain from exercise, they can do HIIT.

Most of the time when people hear the word “HIIT,” it conjures up thoughts of doing box jumps, wind sprints, burpees and squat jumps. Ahhh, the glory days of every athlete. But HIIT encompasses a scope much broader than this. A”HIIT workout” may look very different for a 50-year old woman who is working with a trainer to get her heart rate up and down. She may power walk on a treadmill incline for her high-intensity portion and then do slow hip bridges lying on a mat as her active recovery. A 20-something group exercise participant may comfortably do lunge jumps with dumbbells for the high-intensity portion followed by sit-ups for the active recovery. Everything about HIIT, and exercise at large, is subjective.

What feels tough for one person is not the same for the next person. Just because HIIT can be modified for an individual’s personal level of fitness doesn’t mean it’s the best idea for certain people. I’ve seen too many folks walk into HIIT-style workouts and overexert themselves to the point where they risk injury. No bueno. I’ve also seen plenty of people come out of HIIT workouts hating life. Well…hating exercise, at least. Sometimes that’s just what people need to get jump-started in fitness and, at other times, that’s exactly why people walk out of the gym and never return. The point remains: HIIT is great, but isn’t ideal for everyone.

 

 

Who Should NOT Participate in HIIT?

The following groups of people should probably avoid HIIT workouts, at least until their health changes:

  • People who are injured
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who are in the first 3-6 months postpartum
  • People who are immune suppressed and/or sick
  • People who have a heart condition or have recently undergone cardiac surgery
  • People suffering from osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • People with any form of incontinence, prolapse or pelvic floor weakness
  • *People who are brand new to exercise
  • *People who have no foundation of knowledge for how to perform exercise basics in proper form (ex: squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, etc.)

Most of these groups are relatively self-explanatory. The last two groups of individuals, marked by the asterisk (*) are up for a bit more debate…

People who are very out of shape or brand new to exercise can greatly benefit from HIIT programs. In fact, throngs of women line up to participate in Instagram-famous personal trainer Kayla Itsines’ Beach Body Guide (which focuses on HIIT workouts) and see fabulous results. More power to ’em! The challenge is that a lot of people will embark on HIIT workout programs that are overly grueling and unsustainable for the long-term. HIIT workouts must be done responsibly to avoid burnout and over-training. Trust me, I’m a professional AND I’ve overtrained! Unfortunately, too many people do too much HIIT, suffer the negative consequences, and subsequently get turned off from exercise.

The last group of individuals; “people who have no foundation of knowledge for how to perform exercise basics in proper form,” must approach HIIT workouts with caution. If the instructor isn’t giving cues for how to keep the body aligned and safe during each exercise and doesn’t offer any modifications to make exercises easier or harder, then it may be best to find a new instructor or workout. While it may seem like you’re getting a great workout if you sweat a lot, there can be long-term, significant repercussions from inappropriately stressing your knees, neck, wrists and back. Sweat is not the only indicator of an excellent workout. Can you tell that I’m the exercise world’s policewoman about proper form?! 

Just remember: Exercises done the wrong way break down your body. Exercises done the right way build it up.  

Stay strong, friends! Sweat hard. And treat your body with respect.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

PS – If you have more HIIT questions, please don’t be afraid to ask! 

 

5 Health Buzzwords in 2018

Every year there’s a new flurry of health and fitness buzzwords that give rise to a mix of curiosity and anxiety. We’re tossed into the sea of second-guessing and confusion as trends ebb and flow, and the definition of wellness races forward in a new direction. Our minds spin over how to incorporate all the new information. Detox is out and “pretox” is in? Wait…what’s a mitochondria and why should I care? Sometimes, we’re sidetracked for months trying the latest trend in fitness or nutrition.

We’re going to break down five of the latest buzzwords in health today; Femtech, Microbiome, Mitochondria, Pretox and Recomposition, and we’re going to cover practical, non-intimidating ways they can fit into your lifestyle. Begone stress in 2018! Begone!

Femtech

Am I the only woman who is starting to think she may never become pregnant (again) without the help of the Ava Bracelet? Some time around the holidays, when social media was already blowing up with engagement and baby announcements, I started seeing numerous Facebook and Instagram ads featuring well-known Bachelor and Bachelorette stars with their spouses (“casually” lounging around in their pjs at home…while filming ads for millions of viewers, of course). The stars raved to cameras about getting pregnant thanks to the Ava Bracelet. The wearable device helps women track their cycles and become familiar with the timing of ovulation. Is it just me, or is that not what peeing on the stick is for? One Ava customer says:

“I had migraine headaches randomly throughout the month. With Ava, I realized that I always get them like clockwork right after I ovulate. Ava didn’t solve my headaches (if only!) but it does help me be more prepared for them, so they never take me by surprise anymore.”

This is the first of many examples of technology aimed specifically at women. And all of our many complex, men-suck-because-they-don’t-have-’em hormonal and physiological ebbs and flows. Fun, fun, fun. 

Femtech is becoming a billion dollar industry and encompasses technology designed to help women with “fertility solutions, period-tracking apps, pregnancy and nursing care, sexual wellness, and reproductive system health care.” According to Wikipedia…and who doesn’t trust Wiki? All I can say is: IT’S ABOUT TIME. Finally, we’re living in an age where public dialogue over women’s health isn’t quite as taboo. I’m not talking about women’s fitness and weight loss, I’m talking about the tough stuff. Miscarriage. Incontinence. Prolapse. STDs. IVF. Breastfeeding. Egg freezing. Cysts. Fibroids. Menopause. You name it. We’ve likely all dealt with something a bit sensitive and felt like we didn’t have *quite* as much support as we needed at times. With femtech, that just might change.

Not only are there apps and gadgets helping you learn more about your body’s rhythms but there are also some that help you troubleshoot and improve them. For example, MyFlo is a mobile app that helps with menstrual cycle tracking. It goes a step beyond telling you when to expect ovulation and “The Flo,” and offers up interesting tips for how to exercise and eat to nourish your body through the four unique hormonal changes a woman experiences in each cycle. This is what we call “functional medicine.” In other words, lifestyle changes that can impact your health all the way down to the hormonal and cellular level.

Lifestyle Fix:

Don’t worry about trying to track every single aspect of your health through Femtech products because 1) you may break the bank, and 2) you might not need to go overboard. Hone in on the one thing you care about most; fixing PMS headaches, tracking your baby’s heart rate while pregnant, improving your sex life, or curing pelvic pain and dysfunction. You may find that by tackling just one aspect of your health, many other components of wellness fall into place too.

 

Microbiome

What IS this thing called the “microbiome?” So scientific sounding but I promise it’s not an untouchable topic for us common folk. The simplistic definition for microbiome is: “a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body.” In short, “microbiome” encompasses the bacteria/fungi/viruses that colonize your skin, gut, colon, mouth and more.

There are emerging, evidence-based theories that the microbiome develops during the birthing process. MICROBIRTH, a film released in 2014, explains that a baby is exposed to its mom’s vaginal bacteria (cough cough, and sometimes fecal bacteria, cough cough) followed by skin and breastmilk bacteria at birth. The exposure to all this foreign stuff ramps up the baby’s immune system and sets them up for fewer non-communicable diseases later in life, such as Type-I Diabetes, Celiacs Disease, Asthma, etc. This is considered a “seed-and-feed” theory for how our microbiome gets its start.

While the diversity of the microbiome has been studied since as early as the 1600s, we’re still learning about it. Scientists are discovering new revelations that change the way they approach the use of molecular techniques and the study of the microbiome. They understand that there are differences in the microbiome between healthy individuals and those with diseases, and that the makeup of bacteria/fungi changes from site of the body to the next, just as it can from one individual to the next. Perhaps most compellingly, scientists now believe that the microbiome is extremely plastic, not just diverse.  In other words, it can change over time. Thank goodness…because my tummy is still a wreck from the flu last week.

Most recently, “microbiome” has been at the edge of every health fanatics’ lips because it has been discovered that gut fungi serve a very important role in our overall health. That’s right, fungus is officially good. Apparently, the growth of good bacteria in our gut is aided by the good fungus in it. Moving forward we’re going to hear a lot more about probiotic supplements that incorporate fungus and “prebiotics” (supplements and foods containing fiber that properly nourishes gut bacteria). Stay on the lookout! 

Lifestyle Fix:

I’m not going to tell everyone to go out and buy the next probiotic overstuffed with prebiotics and fungi (might not hurt, though). But what I will say is that we can all take a moment to consider how out gut health impacts our mood, energy and overall health. So, a simple lifestyle fix is asking yourself which foods/beverages/supplements you regularly consume which might hurt vs aid your gut health. Making simple adjustments in your dietary choices is easy and it might change the makeup of all those bacteria/fungi that you’d rather not think about on a daily basis.

 

Mitochondria

I’ve talked about mitochondria more than any of my clients and friends know. If you’ve studied kinesiology or exercise physiology then you have too. If you stretch your mind back to high school biology class and can remember anything about the Krebs Cycle or ATP, then you’re getting warm. To refresh your memory; the mitochondria are organelles (had to look it up to remember that word, haha) in the cell which regulate cellular metabolism. Think of them as tiny power generators in every cell of your body.

“Mitochondria” rarely comes up during coffee break. But that’s all starting to change. Prominent doctors such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Frank Lipman and Dr. Vincent Pedre are educating the public on how these organelles impact all aspects of our health. According to these doctors, when people suffer from “Feel-Like-Crap Syndrome,” their mitochondria aren’t functioning well and aren’t receiving proper support.

Lifestyle Fix:

So how do we support these microscopic organelle thingys? Answer: Healthy fats. This is part of what spurred the popular ketogenic diet in 2017. But I’m not telling you to start counting macros and making every dietary choice a high-fat one. If you reeeeaaalllly want to go down that path, talk to a registered dietitian about your options (don’t come to me – I’m not a raving fan of any extremist diet). If you want to help nourish your mitochondria through simple but powerful ways, just stock up on healthy fats in your weekly meals. Don’t worry about counting macros or eating all fats, just make sure you’re eating some or all of the following on a regular basis:

Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Olives, Nuts, Seeds, Avocados, Salmon/Fish, Eggs, Edamame, Ground Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, Lean Grass-Fed Beef & Pork, Full-Fat Milk, Full-Fat Yogurt (And guess what?! Dark Chocolate and Parmesan Cheese make the cut, too. YAAAAAASSSS!)

 

Pretox

“Pretox is the new detox.” Apparently. Instead of focusing on detoxifying one’s body from all the bad junk one ate and drank, some health professionals [and supplement companies] are recommending that people “pretox.” It sounds very oh-la-la, fancy, elusive and, like many health trends, expensive. But it’s not! For once. 

“Pretoxing” is simply giving your healthy lifestyle a gentle makeover. It’s getting those extra hours of sleep, exercising, drinking enough water, cutting back on processed foods, caffeine and alcohol, and all those tried-and-true steps towards a healthier lifestyle. These measures are called a pretox because they’re given even more attention and focus preceding a big event or vacation where one knows overindulgence will be involved. Supposedly, these measures make the detox phase of getting back on track easier.

While I certainly haven’t seen any scientific studies backing up these assertions (i.e., that the detoxing after partying is easier done if pretoxing has taken place), these steps certainly can’t hurt. If anything, they probably make someone more aware of the negative effects of too much alcohol or too little sleep, and cause the individual to curb their behavior mid-wedding reception or beach vacation.

I’ve often found that the healthier we are, the more sensitive we are. What I mean by this is that we are more aware of the negative effects of toxic substances and choices. For example, someone who strips common food allergens like soy, alcohol, gluten, eggs and dairy out of their diet will be more capable of telling whether or not they have a negative reaction after reintroducing them. The body’s reaction will be more loud and clear versus when they’re immune suppressed and experiencing the aforementioned Feel-Like-Crap Syndrome due to assaulting their body with things they’re sensitive to.

Ironically, this goes hand-in-hand with the urban dictionary’s definition of pretox: “When you know you’re going have a ridiculous amount of alcohol over the weekend and you decide to go out for a few drinks the night before as preparation – it’s the drinking equivalent of stretching.” The fact that this is a real definition kind of kills me. But to sum, drink more = less sensitive to effects of alcohol. Drink less = more sensitive. And so it can go with other things, too. 

Lifestyle Fix:

There’s no need for anyone to get their feathers ruffled over this buzzword. Just stick to the health basics for “pretoxing” and “detoxing.” Get sleep. Eat plenty of fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, antioxidant rich fruits and veggies. Drink a crap ton of water every day. Exercise and get out of your desk chair from time to time. Reduce stress. Overcome and banish negative thought patterns like guilt and shame. Curb caffeine and alcohol. Stuff like that. Please don’t feel the need to overspend on some fancy supplement or juice diet that boasts it can reclaim your youth. Just don’t. 

 

 

Recomposition

I was recently interviewed by Shape on the ins-and-outs of this buzzword. Definitely check that article out for a full explanation of “recomp.” A few highlights:

Recomposition is a fancy term for losing fat at the same time as putting on muscle. This is done to achieve a “lean and strong” body with overall improved fat:muscle ratios. The fat loss and muscle acquisition processes are very different but can be achieved together. The rate of muscle acquisition will not be quite as fast for someone trying to simultaneously lose weight but that’s okay.

For general nutrition, we need around .8 grams of protein per kg body weight every day (1 kg = 2.2 lbs). When trying to acquire muscle, this amount should be closer to 1 gram or higher. If someone is trying to lose weight by cutting calories at the same time as trying to gain muscle then they should aim even higher for protein intake; 1.5-2.0 grams protein per kg body weight a day. This amount of protein is easiest achieved through animal sources such as lean meats, fish and eggs since they have a high quality and quantity of amino acids. But a balanced diet incorporates a variety of whole foods so yogurt, quinoa, beans, lentils and other foods are healthful and contribute to the grams of protein, too. To sum, protein is essential for muscle growth and thereby altering body composition. A low-protein diet will not yield impressive muscle-gain adaptations, especially if there is a lack of exercise.

As for the exercise component to recomp, strength training via machines, free weights or body weight is an important part. This is not to say that cardiovascular exercise can’t add muscle to a person’s body (have you ever seen how impressively strong and dense an Olympic sprinter’s thighs are?!) but that strength training is a surefire way to add lean mass thanks to tapping into Type II muscle fibers (ironically, the same muscle fibers utilized by the aforementioned sprinters). Type II fibers are highly responsive to overload and will quickly adapt in size and contractile efficiency. These muscle fibers are best stimulated through reps in the range of 6-12, with muscle failure happening in that range. Muscle failure is a key element to building muscle. If you could keep going for a few more reps above the 6-12 rep range then you need to increase the amount of weight. True muscle failure is often accompanied by the inability to maintain form or continue working. So, when you reach that point, it’s the end of the set. Don’t compromise form for a few more reps because 1) you might hurt yourself and 2) there actually isn’t much of a point if your target muscle has reached fatigue.

There are a lot of ways to train for strength; supersets, circuits, alternating upper/lower body days, super slow or eccentric training, explosive exercises, and more. What’s important is that there is both a frequency to the training and adequate recovery. Muscle regeneration isn’t very effective when the body is chronically stressed (this can apply to mental stress or a lack of sleep, too!) so recovery days are critical. As for frequency of training, three times a week for strength is typically sufficient for the general population with basic weight loss and toning goals. For women looking to really lean down below 16-18% body fat, it will take a lot more dedication. Typically, women with these goals are athletes and/or competing in bikini or bodybuilding competitions. These individuals are usually on tight regimens, lifting 4-6 days/week and carefully monitoring their macronutrients with “bulking” and “cutting” phases built in.

Lifestyle Fix:

If you want to put on lean muscle in an effort to improve body composition then simply try to gradually increase the amount of protein you consume and increase strength training volume, frequency and/or intensity. If counting macro-nutrients isn’t your thing then just focus on getting some quality protein at least two out of your main three meals. If strength training isn’t your favorite, try some explosive sprints or HIIT exercises that push your muscles to the point of fatigue. Even just two workout days a week that focus on explosive or strength movements will guarantee some margin of results and health improvements!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

NEW Training Services (and press!)

New Training Services

 

 

I’m excited to announce that after a six-month hiatus following my family’s move from Washington, DC to Richmond, VA that I’m back at it. Training, that is. Yup. I’m officially taking both old and new clients for virtual and in-person training services. So, if you’re in the central Virginia region and want to work with me in person, let’s do it! If you’re ANYWHERE ELSE, be that Los Angeles, New York, England, China or Mars, you can still connect with me via virtual training. I promise, it’s quite effective. You won’t regret it. I’m currently offering four types of training (all are offered both virtually and in person, whichever works best for you!):

 

Women’s Fitness

Race Training

Wellness Coaching

Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise

 

To learn more about training offerings, pricing and FREE consultations please check out the Services page. Or contact me directly to chat: Train with Maggie!

 

New Press

Recently, I’ve been honored to be interviewed by Shape Magazine, Spark People, MyFitnessPal and Prevention Magazine! Below are the two articles that have already hit the press. More to come. Please feel free to take a look, learn a little, and become inspired for your new, *HEALTHY*, and inspired year ahead!

 

Why Body Recomposition is the New Weight Loss

Featured in Shape.com

 

wide-body-recomposition.jpg

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, chances are you relied—at least in part—on the scale to measure your progress. While there’s nothing wrong with tracking your scale weight, which can give you a concrete idea of where you stand, experts agree that it shouldn’t be the *only* way you track your progress. Why? Because body composition, or the amount of fat your body has compared to other stuff like muscles, bones, water, and organs, is also an important indicator of how healthy and fit you are. (To see what we’re talking about, check out this fitness blogger who proves weight is just a number.)

That’s why many fitness professionals, social media influencers, and regular exercisers are focusing on something called body recomposition (“recomp”) instead of simply trying to lose weight. After all, body recomposition is the phenomenon behind many those side-by-side transformation photos that have become so popular on social media. But just because you see something all over the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. That’s why we talked to experts in the field to find out why the focus on body composition over weight loss is on the rise—and importantly, is this way of training right for you?

Read More: Recomposition

 

8 Trainers Share Their Favorite Resistance Band Exercises

Featured in SparkPeople.com

You’re eating more of the right foods than the wrong ones. You’re getting plenty of cardio, whether it’s walking at lunch, running on the treadmill or sweating it out at spin class. But you’re still not seeing the results you want in terms of weight loss and body composition.

You keep hearing how strength training is the key, the missing puzzle piece that will help you burn more calories, build muscle definition and even boost your heart health, mood and bone density. But the idea of lifting heavy weights or navigating those complicated-looking machines at the gym scares you a little—okay, maybe more than a little.

The good news? You can start an easy and effective strength training regimen without touching a single weight.

At first glance, it might not seem like there’s much to a resistance band. Some of them are stretchy, tube-like cables with handles on both ends, and other versions are wide, flat bands in the shape of a circle.. Can you really get an effective, full-body workout with a single piece of stretchy rubber?

The short answer: Yes! Instead of relying on heavy, cumbersome weights, resistance bands use your own body weight to create resistance. They also allow you to perform more precise movements that target specific muscle groups that are difficult to work with weights. Plus, because you have to work harder to maintain balance and stability when exercising with a band, you’ll use more muscles than you would on a traditional machine.

As an added bonus, resistance bands are practically weightless and perfectly portable. You can easily toss a band in your briefcase or suitcase, making on-the-go workouts a breeze. They’re even affordable enough to keep one at home, one in your gym bag and one at the office.

Although all bands look alike, the various colors indicate different levels of difficulty. Bands are available in various tension levels, with some colors more difficult than others.

Ready to hop on the BANDwagon? To help you get started, we asked some trainers to share their favorite resistance band exercises.

Read More: BANDwagon

 

Happy New Year!

Okay, if you’ve made it to here, I’m impressed (ESP if you clicked through to read the articles – woo!). So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And one last shameless plug – if you’re even just slightly curious about what benefits you would gain from a single session (or several) with me, then check out my Services page: Train with Maggie!

Seriously, I can’t wait.

Cheers to 2018!

Maggie

 

 

 

 

New Research: Is Strength or Cardio Better?

Common Questions: Is strength or cardio training better? Where should I spend my time and energy for optimal health results?

The Answer: Both are important. But for different reasons. And now we finally know which types of diseases and mortality are reduced by strength vs. cardio training.

The Research

The American Journal of Epidemiology published an observational study that followed over 80,000 adults to compare mortality outcomes associated with different types of exercise.

The Findings

The main takeaway from this research is that *STRENGTH TRAINING* REDUCES CANCER-RELATED DEATH!

The numbers… In the study, strength training exercises were found to be associated with a 23% reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31% reduction in cancer mortality. (WOW!!! Go pick up some weights. Like ASAP.)

Also, good news… The benefits of strength training can be achieved via traditional equipment-based exercises in a gym OR through using one’s own body weight to work out (ex: push-ups, squats, lunges, pull-ups, planks, tricep dips, etc.).

But… Strength training was NOT associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality (this is where cardio training comes in, people!).

Summary of Findings

Optimal health and reduction of all-cause mortality is highest for people who commit to the World Health Organization’s cardio AND strength guidelines; 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise every week, plus two strength-training days. Exclusive strength training is positively associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality and cancer mortality, while exclusive cardiovascular training is positively associated with reductions in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality.

What We Still Don’t Know:

More research should be done to determine the appropriate intensity and duration of the strength-training days for optimal health benefits. Additionally, it may be interesting to see whether or not upper vs. lower-body exclusive training days confer different benefits from an internal health standpoint. We already know how changing training focus and intensity affects muscle growth and strength, but it’s time we learned about what’s going on deeper.

Lastly, why exactly does strength training have such a profound impact on cancer mortality? Is it because of metabolic adaptations, endocrine adaptations or changes in body composition? Are there additional benefits for women if they increase the intensity or frequency of strength training since, in general, women’s sex hormones suppress optimal expression of proteins in their bloodstream which increase muscle mass? I would love to know…  

How to Balance Cardio vs. Strength Training

Based on these findings, my suggestion for *disease prevention* is to attempt to keep cardio and strength sessions separate. In general, I love mixing the two from time-to-time; throwing in some lifting after a cardio session or ending a strength-training day with 10-15 minutes of HIIT training. My gut instinct and background in exercise physiology tells me this isn’t bad for health; it’s quite good for keeping the body sharp and incorporating a variety of movements and challenges into one’s routine – HOWEVER – I’ve also always known that for BEST strength-training results, let strength days stand on their own. Give them your full attention and reap the benefits. Like whoa. 

But, here’s the thing…if exercising is a challenge and you’re feeling like all these overarching guidelines overwhelm and discourage you, just do something – anything – for exercise that feels good and motivates you. Drop the rules and just GET AFTER IT!!!! 🙂

(Psst… hit me up if you have questions about “proper” strength and/or cardio training. I don’t ignore messages or leave them unanswered. Just not my thing.)

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

The Controversy Over Fit Moms

Whether you love ’em or love to hate ’em, there’s little doubt that a big splash has been made in the blogosphere and on social media by self-professed “fit moms.” The cliche image of a fit mom is that of a woman stripped down to her sports bra, wearing tight-fitting spandex, working out while her little ones run around her, sit on top of her, and tag-along as she does her errands and chores. Why the fuss over these healthy mamas? What is it about them that’s so alluring, intimidating and inspiring all at once?

 

Here’s the truth about “fit moms”…they’re NORMAL. Yes, I promise. They are.

They’re normal women who are trying their best, through controversial posts and all, to inspire other women to improve their health. And even though their posts might look picture *perfect* their lives most certainly are not, and neither are their bodies, regardless of the glam poses they strike while they flash their six-packs. Every mom, dare I say every WOMAN, is imperfect, even when striving to appear the opposite way.

There are thousands of Instagram celebrities who strut their hot stuff while manipulating their body angles to look their best, deleting all the flawed and REAL trial runs before selecting the most flattering video or picture for a post. This is all phony, it’s true. BUT, I will also say that *most* of these women (although certainly not all) are trying to figure out how to inspire others. The problem is that not every woman is positively influenced by these images.

As a fitness professional, even I can feel intimidated and shamed by these posts when I’m having a bad day. Or even a good one. I can feel self-conscious, wondering if I should be working out harder even though I have vowed not to overdo it on exercise during years of my life where childbearing and a healthy balance for my body are essential. But then I take a step back and ask myself what these feelings say about ME instead of “THEM.”

 

 

The thing is…in our society, and particularly in all forms of media, image is glorified. Obviously. But when I ask myself who I am without my image, and without the typical titles of wife, mom, daughter, fitness professional, writer, UVA and Georgetown graduate, and lover of interior design, I come up with something more authentic. When I strip away the materialistic, the aesthetics, and the titles, I’m so much more. And so are you.

I’m a spiritual being. I’m positive energy. I’m a woman who pours out her heart to strangers because it seems better to connect than disconnect. I’m a listening ear because I believe everyone has a story to tell. I’m a believer in God, even when there are a thousand reasons to doubt and buy into all the lies this world tells me about who I am and who I should be. I’m a hopeless romantic because I believe wholeheartedly in love itself rising above all things. I’m a constant giver-to-others who has been learning to return some of that love to herself….by reminding myself who I am, not relying on the world to do it for me.

 

 

When we only look at the surface of fit mom posts we see the following…

Amy Updike

A fit mom who competes in beauty/fitness pro competitions, baring her sculpted, bikini-clad body before judges to be pitted against other ripped and lean women.

When we look deeper and listen we see…

A woman who desired to live a healthy lifestyle through fitness competitions and who was faced with feelings of stress when she began competing with “deflated” boobs post-breastfeeding her first child. Amy explains that her chest wasn’t just flat but wrinkled too, making it impossible to “push up” anything in her bikini competitions. Amy states that she actually liked her athletic-looking body (flat chest and all) and enjoyed the freedom of lifting weights without her chest in the way, but felt pressured by her competitions to take action. She decided to get implants and underwent multiple surgeries that caused complications and ongoing pain. Amy finally decided to “explant” and tell her network about the news. Amy explains in a video confessional that she knew the implants were for shallow reasons but she thought it would make her feel a little better about herself. See…even people who win bikini competitions can be self-conscious at times.

Sia Cooper

A mom of two whose Instagram following is gigantic and who is sought-after for endorsements. Sia’s beach life and abs are swoon-worthy but there’s more to the story…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Sia is a woman who has overcome a tough childhood and a mother telling her that she was never good or pretty enough. She is a woman who has suffered from body dysmorphia, depression and gender disappointment. She is a woman of grit who is trying to prop up others through honesty and humility. And yes, maybe a little oversharing, but when you have 630K+ followers…that’s what they demand. So they can’t complain! Plus, oversharing the bare truth is where we find meaning and empathy.

Maria Kang

Mom of three boys, Maria was slammed for posing for a picture in a sports bra alongside her sons as babies/toddlers (3 yrs, 2 yrs, 8 months), with a caption over the photo saying “What’s Your Excuse?” To some people, the photo appears intimidating and arrogant, until you learn more…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Maria has suffered from depression and bulimia, and was filled with fear when she was unemployed, lacking health insurance and pregnant with her first child out of wedlock. She experienced all the feelings you would imagine for a woman in this position, but as she started pushing forward and hoping a little harder, her fear gave way to perseverance. And a self-created mini empire for fitness fanatics. 

 

 

You see…just like Maria Kang’s burning question, “What’s Your Excuse?” all of these fit moms are confessing to be filled with the same excuses, fears and challenges as the rest of us are, yet they find a way to harness their self-doubt and become proactive for their health. None of them has a perfect life or perfect body. Heck, I’m sure many of them battle old demons regarding their body images, but they still try. They still try to find “healthy” in the middle of their snot-smeared, toddler-tantrum, sunrise-to-sunset days.

When I ask myself if I’m a “fit mom” I guess the answer is yes. I may not have a million followers…or even feel entirely comfortable with social media, to be honest…but I’m proactive about taking care of my health, in and out of the gym. So yea, in addition to being a fitness professional, I’m also a fit mom, a tired mom, a reaching-for-a-glass-of-red mom, a bath-time-singing mom, a trying-hard-to-work-hard mom, and a NORMAL mom. Just like ALL of us. Toned abs or not. And the sooner we lift each other up, instead of size each other up, the faster we all rise.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

How to Overcome Obstacles and Negative Thinking

Hands down, the biggest obstacle in my life sits right between my ears. The discouraging inner monologue and negative spiral my mind can go down at times is incredible (in a bad way, to be clear). Oftentimes, I dwell on the things I haven’t accomplished yet. I let mom guilt overwhelm me as I attempt to be present for my child but fret over a lack of productivity for my career. I feel it creep up again when I frantically play catch up on work during my son’s naps and days at school, not wanting the solitude and “me time” to end, yet simultaneously glancing at the clock every hour wondering when I can pick him up and snuggle him close again. Gosh, I need him just as much as he needs me. 

I know I’m not alone in being hard on myself because I’ve heard my clients and friends open up in similar ways; pouring out frustrations that are born primarily from internal strife. A lot of people who come to me for personal training frequently fall into discouraging self-talk. At first, they don’t admit it. But as our relationship and trust grow, they share their insecurities and reveal the ways they get trapped in their minds while pursuing things like exercise and professional goals. The fact that these people are accomplished CEOs, lawyers, celebrities and government officials shows me that this propensity to feel insecure is a common human experience. But just because something is common doesn’t mean it should be normal. I like to think that we DESERVE to feel empowered to overcome obstacles and negative thinking.

It can be scary to tackle our goals with confidence. It’s easiest to talk ourselves into all the reasons why things WON’T work out the way we dream. I’ve been there. I have recently shifted from the manuscript-writing phase of a book to the pursuing-publishing phase. The two couldn’t be more different. While I savor the feeling of sitting at my desk and writing for hours, I don’t necessarily feel exalted at the prospects of getting turned down by potentially a LOT of literary agents. Time will tell…I’ve only just started. EEeekk! If I allowed discouraging thoughts to run my decisions then I would freeze before ever moving forward.

How do we conquer such deflating feelings? How do we ensure we’re in charge of our own minds, in a positive way?

Whether you’re tackling a new professional endeavor or stepping into the gym during a vulnerable time for your body or mind, there are effective ways to coach yourself through the process. Here are some strategies you can try…

 

1) Get Out of Your Head

Avoid Comparisons

Women seem especially prone to comparing themselves against one another. I’ve done it, too. It’s such an awful trap to fall into. Unfortunately, there’s no way we can “win” doing this. When we compare our lows to other people’s highs (a.k.a. the world of social media) we feel that we are perpetually failing. We badger ourselves over our perceived inability to be as successful as the woman we know who is dominating her executive position at a fast-growing company. We feel deflated when we have children that are a mess (and who are showing us who’s the real boss) when we see images of moms with a whole brood of little ones who are pristine, groomed and on good behavior. We feel silly for being proud of ourselves for lacing up our sneakers on a Saturday morning for a brisk walk when we are confronted by women boasting photos of their sculpted bodies after hours of hitting the weights.

I’m already feeling a little depressed after writing that last paragraph. Yuck! The thing is, we have to stop with comparisons. We have to hold ourselves back from them because they get us nowhere. A pastor I know said “Just play your own position. Know your own role.” In other words, know your “lane” in life and own it. Be proud of what YOU bring to the table and remember that you can’t be or do everything at once. The world is blessed with people of diverse talents for a reason; it’s how we keep the whole thing moving.

Recognize Negative Thought Patterns

One of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves is to openly acknowledge negative thought patterns. These are repetitive and unproductive thoughts that leave us stressed and/or depleted. They don’t serve any purpose, yet they can fill our minds and bodies with disease. If we start to recognize these negative thought patterns then we can choose how we react to them. For example, one of my clients used to say “I’m sorry” any time I corrected her form during a workout. There was no need for her to apologize – my entire job was to help guide her towards better success and health! Yet every time “I’m sorry” escaped from her lips without her thinking. We talked it out over time and finally managed to keep her from going down a negative path in her mind. Instead of allowing thoughts of failure and inferiority to dominate any time she received constructive feedback, she took it in stride. She kept her head high and didn’t divert her gaze with a defeated sigh. It was a huge win for us in our training relationship. Thereafter, both her body language and communication exuded better confidence.

A good place to start improving your mental process is writing down your most obvious and common negative thoughts. Next, list out several positive reactions or thoughts you can counter them with. The reason this is important is because negative thoughts are like quicksand; the more we struggle in them, the faster we sink. We need something hopeful to turn to.

Address Discontent

Another way we need to get out of our heads is by getting rid of discontent. In order to move forward in a healthy and happy life, we can’t focus incessantly on what we don’t have or what we want more of. This way of thinking causes people to feel that their lives aren’t good enough. You can see how this is a negative thing, right?!?!

It seems painfully obvious that this kind of thinking leads up down a bad path, yet we do it anyway. ALL. THE. TIME. Often, we focus our energy on what we don’t have or what we crave to have without even thinking. To be questing after a status or promotion seems purposeful in life, maybe even positive and healthy! The challenge is where our mindset is rooted. If happiness hinges on your “not-there-yet,” “some-day-I-hope-to” aspirations, then there isn’t enough joy available in the present to fulfill you. Turn your focus to gratitude. What do you have right now that you’re grateful for? Who are you and why is that enough to sustain you here, today?

 

 

2) Gain Confidence

Act the Part

As we shed negative thinking and pursue our goals with the right intentions, we can gain confidence in simple ways. Acting confident (even if you don’t feel it at first) and expressing yourself with upright posture will impress upon those around you that you’re a force to be reckoned with. It can also affect your brain chemistry. Tall, confident posture can stimulate the release of hormones that keep you feeling good. Hence, if you act confident then you just might become confident.

Accept that Obstacles Happen

Obstacles happen. They do. In my fitness career I’ve had many; one major accident that made my body feel like it belonged to a 90-year old, numerous setbacks with fitness startup companies, managers telling me to pick a niche focus in fitness even though my passions encompass a lot of areas (apparently that’s not very conducive to creating a “brand”), and more. In writing, I had a professional offer me feedback on my first manuscript that made me take pause for the next decade. A whole decade while I waited for that “aha” moment when I could revisit the book with fresh, mature eyes.

We can look at obstacles as unfair or frustrating if we believe they shouldn’t happen, but obstacles are a part of life’s growing pains. We should anticipate them so that we can bounce back from the inevitable way they will trip us up. We don’t have to give them power to make us insecure.

Find Meaning

When you’re having trouble staying confident because of setbacks, try to find meaning in the tough times. This sounds full of cheese, I know. For example, getting hit by a car years ago helped me become a well-rounded fitness professional because I became more capable of addressing people’s old injuries and back pains. In the moment it wasn’t always evident that I was growing in a positive way from the pain, but in time it became crystal clear. In fact, over the course of my life I have grown and learned the most through hardships, not good times.

Random Aside… This is similar to trees when you bring them home from the nursery. Removing them from a supported environment causes them stress. They might look weak and lean over after you plant them. But in response to the stress of having to support themselves, the roots shoot out and create a broad base. This allows the tree to slowly right itself and shoot up towards the sky. Similarly, we can thrive if we respond to stress by growing our roots deep, making it harder for the next big storm to tip us over in its wind.

 

3) Tackle Your Goals

Break Things into Small Tasks

Procrastinators and perfectionists alike can benefit from taking broad, longer-term goals and breaking them down into simple, actionable steps. For example, if I’m training someone to run a marathon we can’t focus immediately on the long runs. We have to start with the short and intermediate runs to build up stamina and train the muscles for the stress to come. We can’t think for too long about the total mileage that will be logged over the course of the training program or we may never begin. It’s intimidating to go from running a couple times a week for fun to logging 30-50 miles per week! My runners simply need to trust that each run will have a cumulative effect as we head in the direction of the race.

STOP Method

Per Psychology Today‘s recommendation, we can use the STOP Method to effectively move past emotions of fear, shame and self-doubt when we’re tackling our goals. STOP stands for:

STOP

Take a Step Back

Observe

Proceed Mindfully

By taking a moment to calm our emotions, we can look at our feelings from a different perspective. For example, if someone else had a similar emotional reaction, what would it look like to you? What would advice would you give them?

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of approaching our life, goals and relationships with better appreciation, service and enjoyment. Mindfulness allows us to better discern what’s worth our time and effort. As we make better, more confident and healthful decisions, we become productive in the ways that matter and fulfill our authentic selves. When our goals are aligned with what we truly care about, there’s no stopping us.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie