by guest blogger, Shaun Thompson
Oh sure, everyone always says to me, “Shaun, I swear, I eat very healthily. I have a clean diet.” But when people are experiencing “stubborn pounds” that won’t budge off their bodies, I see uncertainty and fear in their eyes when I say, “I bet it’s a common eating habit that is undermining your hard work.” Oh yeah. It’s natural for us to be less than honest with ourselves about where we’re cheating on our nutritional plans. We work out and have the best of intentions for our daily meals, but we end up falling short of our goals for having a balanced nutritional plan for various reasons. Some of the most common pitfalls can be avoided simply by being aware of them.
1. Stress eating
Hey, I readily admit that food is comforting—especially comfort food. You know, the mac and cheese; the meatloaf and buttery mashed potatoes; an entire pint of butter pecan ice cream . . . enough said. But there are so many better ways to beat stress than by eating yourself into a stupor.
Do this instead: My favorite thing to do is to get out and just take a walk. Focus on your body and forget the snacks, and get some air deep into your lungs, clear your head, feel your blood pumping, and stretch your legs out. It won’t take but a few minutes for you to reap big benefits from taking a brisk walk . . . away from the vending machine. Or if it’s raining, put on some great music and dance—that works too! You can get plenty of this done with Dance Party Series.
Many people have a complete lack of structure to their daily meals—they actually never stop nibbling throughout the day—from bits of bagels and bites of donuts in the morning all the way through to chips in front of the TV for late-night channel surfing. Grazers have absolutely no set meal times, and end up shutting down their bodies’ natural calorie-burning cycles through the constant onslaught of fat and calories.
Do this instead: Of course, avoid the bad stuff. Instead of vending-machine junk and food with a low nutritional value, pack healthy snacks for nibbling. And make time for balanced meals that will satisfy your appetite so you won’t be reaching for whatever’s near. See the action plan for #3.
3. Unconscious eating
Eating without paying attention to what you’re doing, or without even realizing that you’re consuming calories.
Do this instead: Keeping a food journal is the best way I know to determine whether you have unconscious-eating tendencies. One of my clients confessed that while keeping her journal, she would catch herself working at her desk and suddenly realize that she needed to jot down the cookie she’d just eaten at a coworker’s desk. They’d offered her a homemade cookie, and she’d eaten it without even thinking about it—much less factoring it into her daily planned food intake. Cha-CHING! Those 200 sweet calories needed to be added to her daily tally in her food journal to get an accurate picture of what she was eating.
4. Double portions
It’s not just restaurants that are offering us bigger portions to show us the value of their meals; it’s loved ones and friends and ourselves who proudly serve up much more than our bodies need for fuel at mealtime—on a regular basis. It’s because we think we’re showing love, or are being shown love, through food. We’d also feel stingy if we were to serve the plate with less on it. The sad fact is that “normal” portions in the U.S. aren’t just a fraction more food than needed for having a balanced meal—they’re like double, which is in excess of what your body requires, and WAY more than you can burn through your daily workout!
Do this instead: Ask yourself, “Do 20 bites of a huge sandwich really taste that much better than 10?” How do those 10 extra bites taste when you know you can’t burn them off that day and at least half that sandwich is going to turn into those “stubborn” pounds? Stick with sane portions; listen to your body. Yes, these are four common pitfalls. They’re all too common—but that doesn’t make them any less devastating to our fitness results and our ultimate health goals (and don’t forget that it can also be discouraging to the mental image you have of where you want to be). Be aware of where you might be defeating yourself, and take some time to form a personal plan to help you avoid these pitfalls on a daily basis.
Shaun Thompson is a personal trainer and creator of the blockbuster workout, Insanity, as well as the new hit, Focus T25.
By Steve Edwards, guest blogger
Nothing pushes your panic button quite like gaining weight, especially when you’re on a weight loss program. Unfortunately, it’s an inevitable fact of life. Luckily, you’ve got me here to tell you that, as long as you’re following a solid program, results will come. It’s a physiological certainty (unless you have an underlying issue, like hypothyroidism).
I realize this might take further convincing, considering our instant-gratification society. But this ain’t my first weight loss rodeo. I’ve seen almost every scenario you can dream up, most of which were solved by patience. That said, there are some strategies you can use to ensure you’re getting the most out of both your diet and exercise program. Let’s tackle five of the most common weight loss conundrums.
- I’m following the program perfectly. Why isn’t it working?!
Cortisol is a word you should become familiar with, as it’s a key factor here. You’ve probably heard that it makes you fat, but you have no idea why “they” say that. What is cortisol? It’s actually a performance-enhancing stress hormone that serves an important function in survival situations. Unfortunately, when we force too much daily stress on our bodies, we shift into a state of chronic cortisol release. This can cause us to store excess fat as a survival instinct. While it sounds pretty dire, it’s generally only a serious problem in those with poor lifestyle habits.The beginning of a diet and/or exercise program, however, is a survival situation. In a very simplistic sense, your body releases cortisol, which, in turn, causes excess water retention to help you rebuild broken down muscle tissue. While this is cortisol functioning properly, it does lead to a period of water weight gain as you adjust to a new program. It’s nothing to worry about. By following a solid plan, your body will adapt by repairing this muscle tissue. This results in an increase in your metabolism and leads to weight loss if that’s your goal.The trick is that there is no hard line on how long this adaptation takes. It’s based on your individual parameters. Just rest easy in the fact that it will happen, unless you force it not to, leading us to . . .
- I’m barely eating.
Severe undereating causes cortisol release, as it’s the definition of a bodily emergency. Beachbody® offers many kick-start (or express) eating plans where you undereat for a few days, but you’re always encouraged to get back to a solid maintenance calorie level quickly. A short period of strategic undereating with proper hydration will help your body dispense of unneeded food (most of us chronically overeat) and regulate bodily functions. Go too long, however, and chronic cortisol release is the result.This is a tough situation because our natural reaction to weight gain is to eat less. When you’re exercising, it’s important to keep your eye on workout performance, as opposed to how much weight you’re losing. You should be eating enough so that your daily workouts improve over time. As long as that’s happening, your body is adapting, your metabolism is increasing, and you will lose weight provided you also don’t overeat.
- I’ve been doing hard workouts for weeks.
On the performance theme, you need to continually improve, which is why workouts get harder as you move through any of Beachbody’s programs. It’s also why we add resistance (via added weight or gravity, as is the case with jumping) to workouts. If you’re doing the same workouts at the same intensity constantly, you are not forcing adaptations that lead to changes in your metabolism. This is called a plateau.A plateau, technically, isn’t gaining weight—it’s remaining the same—but a proper diet and exercise program should continually force improvements (in the form of adaptations). Otherwise, your metabolism won’t continue to increase, which is the goal of most weight loss programs.
- My friend and I are doing the exact same thing and she’s losing.
Back to adaptation. We all react differently. The only absolute is that our bodies will change over time with a healthy program. A fitness rule called the Specificity of Adaptation states that it takes the body between 3 and 12 weeks to adapt to new stimuli, which is a very broad range. This is why it’s vital that you stick to your program and not change it repeatedly based on your daily results!In our test groups, two-week results have almost no bearing on who does best in the end. In fact, many people that undereat early and get off to a fast start will stagnate, while those who stick to the plan and eat as advised will start slower but train harder over time, leading to rapid weight loss as the program wears on.
- I lost weight for a while but now it’s stopped.
For ages on the Team Beachbody® Message Boards, this was our most frequently asked question. You eat less to lose weight. Things are going great, but suddenly you plateau—or start gaining. Odds are, your metabolism has slowed down in order to deal with the decreased calories. You’re starving your now fit body, so it’s doing what it needs to do to survive. The answer to this problem is pretty simple: eat more.Again, this is a tough sell, so here’s an example. One of our early Success Stories lost 40 pounds during a round of Power 90®, eating only 1,200 calories a day. He then stagnated for a long time and was very resistant to eating more, fearing it would kick-start a regression. We talked him into adding calories until, finally at around 2,000 calories, weight loss resumed. It then became so rapid he dropped through his goal, and about 20 pounds below, until finally, at around 3,000 calories, he leveled out. Then a daily diet of around 3,500 calories a day got him to a ripped 175.
So the moral of today’s lesson is to trust your exercise program—at least if it’s a Beachbody program. We’ve been doing this a long time and we know what works. There are no magic bullets. Body transformation is based on making consistent, healthy lifestyle changes. Do that and you’ll never need to ask yourself why you’re gaining weight again.
Steve Edwards is Director of Results at Beachbody. He’s the mastermind behind all our workouts. In other words, the dude has serious know-how…
Guest Blogger Dr. Mark Cheng (L.Ac., Ph.D., Sr RKC, FMS faculty)
One of the biggest obstacles for a new fitness enthusiast to overcome is the soreness that comes with using muscles that haven’t been used in decades. During infancy, we’re learning to fire muscles all over the place. As we grow, spend increasingly more hours in flexion, and use less and less of our God-given ranges of motion, our bodies devolve from the machines of movement they were designed to be into blobs of tension, immobility, and sometimes pain.
Since you’re a part of the Beachbody® family, you know that spending the majority of your day on your duff isn’t doing your body any favors. Being able to move well is a key component of the success that you decided on and committed to!
Oh, those aching muscles!
If you’re feeling a little bit stiff and sore after your first few days of working out again, don’t despair. It’s totally natural. If you haven’t exercised in a while, then the several dozen squats, kicks, push-ups, or gingas that you did over the past day or two certainly placed a demand on your body that it hasn’t been used to. That means your muscles got a pump like they haven’t had in quite a while, unless you’ve been doing similar movements in your prior exercises or your daily life. Even if you already work out with some regularity, a significant change in your routine can be enough to leave your body nice and achy. Don’t believe me? Just ask any athlete how he or she feels when the strength and conditioning coach throws a new program into the mix.
While some will tell you that the discomfort of soreness is nothing to concern yourself with, others might use those aching muscles as an excuse to skip a day or two or three, derailing a solid start to a successful workout program. While pain is nothing to trifle with, as it can clearly lead to or indicate injury, don’t use it as justification to bail out on training. I might have a solution for you that’s simple enough to use and seriously effective when properly used!
Enter the foam roller.
When I first saw the foam roller in different exercise routines in the gym, I admit it . . . I wasn’t exactly impressed. The trainers who I saw back then were focused on using the foam roller as an instability device, training their clients to position the roller across or along the spine to perform different crunch-like exercises. Now while I absolutely recognize the worth of some core engagement exercises that rely on instability training, some of what I saw looked like little more than very poorly taught stupid human tricks.
Fast forward a few years to the Russian Kettlebell Challenge Level 2 certification workshop with former world-class gymnast, powerlifting record holder, and ultra-marathoner Mark “Rif” Reifkind. Rif was teaching a section of the workshop that centered on the foam roller, and his SMFR approach to the roller was completely different from what I’d seen before.
SMFR . . . No, it’s not what you’re thinking!
SMFR stands for Self-Myofascial Release, a rather long and fancy word for self-massage. As muscles work, they generate metabolic wastes, such as lactic acid. As those wastes build up in the muscles, they create a balloon effect, making the muscles swell up. While a larger muscle certainly might look cosmetically appealing, the congestion in the muscle tends to make its fascial envelope stretch taut, unable to contract more fully or relax more freely until the extra fluid is moved out. Light massage techniques, such as Swedish, serve to help push these metabolites out of the muscle bed, allowing for a quicker recovery and return to training.
Muscles that “knot up” have trigger points. Trigger points tend to be indicative of more chronic problems, either in movement or posture or exertion. These trigger points can occur at different depths, depending on which section of the muscle is being engaged most with the movements or exercises that are being performed. The fascial membrane that surrounds muscles or the muscle fibers themselves can contract. When the body senses that the level of exertion is above the contractile strength or endurance of the myo (muscular) or fascial tissues involved, the body knots up those fibers as a survival strategy. The only problem with that strategy is that those knots inhibit movement and cause pain.
Not all created equal?
Foam rolling helps address the problems of muscle congestion and trigger points by mechanically pressing into the muscle. That said, there are different types of rollers that best address the different problems you might face. A smooth, soft roller is generally more effective for the more superficial trigger points and for moving the metabolites out of congested muscles. A roller with uneven surfaces, such as the RumbleRoller™, is ideal for getting into the deeper trigger points and more deep tissue approaches.
If you’re someone who tends to like deep pressure in a massage, go for the RumbleRoller. If deeper pressure tends to be too uncomfortable for you, go for the smoother roller. The important thing to remember in self-myofascial release is that rolling can feel uncomfortable at the outset. When you find the muscles that are congested or triggered up, the pressure of the roller may cause a bit of discomfort. Roll your body just to the edge of the discomfort. Focus on relaxing the muscles on the roller and breathe. As your nervous system responds to the pressure, it will learn to relax the trigger points on the roller and restore the contractile ability of the muscle.
Ready, aim, fire!
The first thing I did when I started rolling was to look for every place on my body that was sore and try to roll them out . . . Bad decision. The muscles that are the most chronically uncomfortable are usually those that are paying the price for other muscles that either aren’t firing enough or are so knotted up that they’re not allowing proper movement. The trick to using your foam roller in the most effective manner is really to look for the places in your body that aren’t obviously hurting but are restricting your movement.
In one of my earliest video clips for Beachbody, I spoke about plantar fasciitis, pain along the underside of the foot. One of the key areas to roll when first trying to deal with plantar fasciitis should be the calf muscles. Using the roller, slowly go back and forth along the muscle, consciously trying to relax as much as possible and going as slowly as possible. When you find the “hot spots,” stay on them, relax some more, and go back and forth a few times until the trigger point releases. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that the chronic pain in your foot actually had its roots in your calf!
Foam rolling is used in newly released P90X2 and is also a prime feature in the upcoming Beachbody Tai Cheng™ program developed by Dr. Cheng due out in early 2012.
Here is a story by someone who went from a skeptic to a believer…
This is a unique time in history, where relationships are cultivated while sitting alone in a room at a keyboard. Some of my dearest friendships that I’ve developed in the past 10 years have begun in this way and if I hadn’t experienced it, I might be more than just a bit skeptical. Can you “hug” an email? Can you really call someone a friend whom you’ve never seen face-to-face? Some might say no, but that would not be someone who’s truly experienced the power of the Beachbody Coaching community!
I’d never been on a message board when I started posting in the Beachbody Boards (pre Facebook days) back in 2003. I didn’t even know there WERE boards to find other people going through the program I was going through until I learned of them from a fellow Beachbody member. I logged on and started posting my journey and sent this question out into the internet abyss: “Who’s with me?” It wasn’t long before someone answered. And then another. A “Challenge Group” was born. We lived in different states, different time zones, our family sizes varied, as did our lifestyles. We had different religions, different backgrounds, some worked doing manual labor, some crunched numbers for big companies, and some (like me) were stay at home moms. It didn’t matter. What drew us together was the common goal of weight loss, reclaiming our health, and going through it …TOGETHER.
Some people would drop back in participation because life pressed in, and when they did the community would reach out and tell them they were welcome back at any time, and assured them that they were missed. Because of that we didn’t lose anyone. It was a safe place to come back to; where successes were celebrated and backsliding was forgiven. Every Challenge Group brought new friends into my life, and because we went through something so personal as weight loss together, bonds were/are created and in some cases, life long friendships are made.
Yes, if you workout consistently and eat well consistently you WILL get results. But when you add the third cord to that system – the cord of accountability – not only will you see the odds of getting results climb, but you’ll feel a part of something. Something new, something good, something that will make fitness and healthy eating a lifestyle and not just a passing phase.
That’s the magic of Beachbody. People need people, and with Team Beachbody’s Challenge Groups for accountability you WILL cross the goal line. And you’ll do so linking arms with those who ran the race with you! ☺