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Milkshake Study: Mind Influence

Reading an MPR News article by Alex Spiegel, Mind over milkshake: How your thoughts fool your stomach, it's clear the mind can play a role in how the body metabolizes food. However, I believe the amount of activity we experience on a given day has more influence on the total calories we can consume and still lose weight than how our mind interprets and stores the information on a food label.

Below is an excerpt from Spiegel's article (select the link above to read its entirety):


"Labels are not just labels; they evoke a set of beliefs," says Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist who does research at the Columbia Business School in New York.

A couple of years ago, Crum found herself considering what seems like a pretty strange question. She wanted to know whether the information conveyed by a nutritional label could physically change what happens to you — "whether these labels get under the skin literally," she says, "and actually affect the body's physiological processing of the nutrients that are consumed."

As a student, Crum had spent years studying the placebo effect — how a sugar pill can physically alter a body if the person taking the pill believes it will. She figured food labels might work the same way. So she came up with an experiment.

Crum created a huge batch of French vanilla milkshake, then divided it into two batches that were labeled in two very different ways.

Half the stuff was put into bottles labeled as a low-calorie drink called Sensishake — advertised as having zero percent fat, zero added sugar and only 140 calories.

The other half was put into bottles that were labeled as containing an incredibly rich treat called Indulgence. According to the label, Indulgence had all kinds of things that wouldn't benefit your upper thighs — including enough sugar and fat to account for 620 calories. In truth, the shakes had 300 calories each.

Both before and after the people in the study drank their shakes, nurses measured their levels of a hormone called ghrelin.

Ghrelin is a hormone secreted in the gut. People in the medical profession call it the hunger hormone. When ghrelin levels in the stomach rise, that signals the brain that it's time to seek out food.

"It also slows metabolism," Crum says, "just in case you might not find that food."

But after your ghrelin rises, and you have a big meal (say a cheeseburger and a side of fries), then your ghrelin levels drop. That signals the mind, Crum says, that "you've had enough here, and I'm going to start revving up the metabolism so we can burn the calories we've just ingested."

On the other hand, if you only have a small salad, your ghrelin levels don't drop that much, and metabolism doesn't get triggered in the same way.

For a long time scientists thought ghrelin levels fluctuated in response to nutrients that the ghrelin met in the stomach. So put in a big meal, ghrelin responds one way; put in a small snack and it responds another way.

But that's not what Crum found in her milkshake study.

If you believed you were drinking the indulgent shake, she says, your body responded as if you had consumed much more.

"The ghrelin levels dropped about three times more when people were consuming the indulgent shake (or thought they were consuming the indulgent shake)," she says, compared to the people who drank the sensible shake (or thought that's what they were drinking).

Does that mean the facts don't matter, that it's what we think of the facts that matters?

"I don't think I would go that far yet," Crum says. More tests need to be done, she says, to figure out exactly how much influence comes from food and mindset.

"Our beliefs matter in virtually every domain, in everything we do," Crum says. "How much is a mystery, but I don't think we've given enough credit to the role of our beliefs in determining our physiology, our reality. We have this very simple metabolic science: calories in, calories out."

What do YOU  think?

Dramatic Sugar Results

Here is a great Yahoo! Shine article that mirrors my own experiences with sugar. I believe this is something we can all relate to, so I'm sharing the entire article (minus the ads, of course!).  We would all love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so please share?

Have a great week!

My Family Stopped Eating Sugar for a Year and This is What Happened By Eve O. Schaub, Special to Everyday Health

Once upon a time, I was healthy - at least I thought I was.


Group Classes; Why?

Are you a solo exerciser? Someone that scoffs at the idea of attending a group fitness class wondering, "What's the benefit: I already know how to exercise!?"

As a personal trainer, I believe the #1  benefit is to challenge your body and mind in new ways. If the instructor is seasoned and qualified, he/she puts a lot of thought into creating  a comprehensive workout focusing on all your muscles, some you may not know you have, while increasing balance and stability.

It's most common to stick to an exercise routine that you know and have time to complete. The problem is our body gets used to movements very quickly, so in order to increase physical fitness we need to throw in a curve ball to keep things interesting. (We often work harder in a group situation and apply ourselves more than we would on our own.)

Not a day goes by that my clients don't walk away astounded by our time together. It's most rewarding for me to watch a client underestimate her physical abilities and then not only achieve, but exceed them!


  • When signing up with a new program or instructor go into it cautiously

  • Modifications should be provided, even in an advanced class

  • Go early and talk with the instructor - he/she should ask whether you have any pre-existing conditions and educate you on the movements ahead of time

  • If you're skeptical, just watch the class

  • If it hurts, stop! Muscle fatigue may feel shaky = okay. Pain may feel sharp/stabbing/piercing = not okay.


Ridiculous or Awesome?

Last week, I was on vacation with my family in Florida. As part of my normal routine, I was lifting weights in the hotel gym. (Yes, I even exercise while on vacation!)

There was a man about 50 years in good condition lifting weights as well. After 30 minutes or so, he said to me "You're curling 30 pounds like it's nothing, that's just ridiculous!" He also made a statement referring to my small stature and said he'd never seen such a thing. Hmm . . .

There was another woman in the room doing light calisthenics - she just stopped and stared at us.

While I was taken back by the statement, I didn't skip a beat to inform this gentleman that it's just as important for women to increase their strength in order to maintain a youthful body as men. The heavier the weight, the more calories burned over the long-term, and the more strength gained.

I asked if it was really "ridiculous" or just awesome? He  reluctantly agreed that it's awesome. The woman smiled at me and I said, "I agree, it definitely makes me more awesome!"

This was an innocent situation that got me thinking about the stereotypes we have in the world of fitness. If you're lifting weights and seeing results, stand your ground, Ladies, and don't be afraid to say so. After all, it just makes you more awesome!


bodybuilding.com bodybuilding.com

Plank Challenge

Various media sources are hyping the plank exercise and challenging people to practice it for longer periods of time each day.

It's absolutely true that the plank is a great exercise to strengthen the abdominal and low back muscles. In order to reap the benefits, the exercise must be done correctly.

If you're new to it, I recommend getting in front of a mirror. The plank can be completed on either the forearms or hands. Either way, the purpose is to engage the abdominal muscles.

Note in the images below:

  1. Toes on the floor
  2. Head in-line with the spine = looking slightly forward and down
  3. Butt is slightly raised (NOT sinking into the hips)
  4. Belly is button pulled into the spine
  5. Smile, and keep breathing!

When the plank is done correctly, you should feel a slight tremble in the abdominal and low back muscles. This should create muscle fatigue, but NOT PAIN.

Here's an image to get you started on "the plank:"


How Sitting Can Be Deadly

Check out this article: That Thing You Do All Day May Cut Your Life Short by Elise Sole

photo by Corbis
photo by Corbis

Anyone with an office job can attest to that achy, crampy, stir-crazy feeling of being stuck sitting at your desk all day. What you may not know is that sitting all day can also be deadly, even if you work out regularly, according to the results of a forthcoming study conducted by Cornell University.

The study of 93,000 women found that those who are sedentary the longest during waking hours die earlier than those who are more active. In fact, women who logged 11 hours of sitting time had a 12 percent increase in premature mortality from causes such as cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cancer by 13, 27, and 21 percent, respectively.


Why Diets Suck!

The role “dieting” takes is deprivation of food that people enjoy, but forbid themselves to eat because of over consumption. Somewhere along the way, we’ve begun rationalizing our food intake and created a great disservice for ourselves. Most humans have evolved away from the concept of eating food to nourish the body and make it feel healthy and vibrant and begun using food as an emotional response or coping mechanism.  “Diets suck” because we end up travelling a negative emotional roller-coaster.

How’d this happen?

I’m not certain, but hold a strong suspicion it has to do with the role food plays in most cultural celebrations. As a result of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc., we've been taught to share food with loved ones and ended up regularly gorging on feasts of massive proportions. We fail to understand that when these cultural traditions were created, food naturally growing on the earth was scarce. However, in the United States and many other large countries, food is now plentiful and manufactured. Food is no longer truly “whole,” unless it’s grown by you or someone that you know.

Can we fix it?

Absolutely, but mental and physical changes need to happen:

  • Eat whole, naturally occurring foods
  • Avoid processed food at all cost
  • Think of food as medicine for the body (it has nothing to do with the soul)
  • Never reward, punish, or console yourself by eating food
  • Pay attention to how your body feels on the inside

Even though we understand most of these ideas intellectually, it’s a struggle to change. From my perspective, the best way to ingrain them in your mind and body is to surround yourself with people who foster these healthy habits. Not many people can get away with being a catalyst for drastic change, but introducing and integrating healthy eating is a good start. Everyone needs to start somewhere and applying the concept of “moderation is key” to get you moving in this direction will bring positive change for everyone you come into contact with.

Paying attention to how my body feels after eating foods, I've found that sugar of any kind is not my friend. I have negative emotional responses for a full 24 hours after eating it. (Think of a hungry bear about to lose its feast.) Aspartame gives me stomach and headaches. Wheat, well lets just say the train stops chugging for several days.

What do you think? Please share your ideas about why diets suck.