All Posts tagged weight loss

The Many Benefits of Pilates Exercise

Pilates is the exercise of choice for dancers, gymnasts, and a host of famous Hollywood celebrities, and now it finds itself firmly entrenched in the mainstream.  So why is Pilates so popular?  Pilates’ incredible popularity can be traced to the fact that it provides its faithful practitioners with benefits that you simply can’t get through traditional aerobics/strength training format.  So I have come up with a list of top 10 reasons why you may want to consider pilates as your exercise program of choice.

A Top 10 List of Reasons to Do Pilates

1. Pilates is Whole-Body Fitness

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates’ workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness provides a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. Pilates also teaches you how to become efficient with your body. Very few exercises can help your body become more efficient in its movement.  Being efficient means that your body moves in a way, that is smoother, safer, and less prone to injury. By practicing pilates on a regular basis, you can train your body more to move in a much safer and more efficient manner.

 2. Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels and Needs

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

As a result, the benefits of pilates have been particularly noted in older adults.  Even adults undergoing serious rehabilitation therapy can use Pilates to increase their range of motion and overall muscle strength.

Consult your medical professional if you have any doubts about your pilates program. If you are suffering from severe degeneration or physical pain, you should take extra care before beginning a pilates program.  You should never feel pain while practicing pilates. If you do, you know that there is something wrong. Don’t be afraid to pull back if you feel overwhelmed.

3. Creates Strength Without Bulk

Long, lean muscles without the bulk but with all of the strength are one of the main benefits of pilates.  In Pilates, the goal is to build toned muscles that work perfectly within the context of the body as a whole, and the functional fitness needs of a person as they move through life.

Most conventional workouts tend to create bulky muscle.  This is because in most workouts, the emphasis is placed on repetition and building strong muscles.  This causes already-strong (or big) muscles to get even stronger, and thus bigger. Pilates does not rely on frequent repetition, and thus no overgrown muscles.

4. Increases Flexibility

Pilates works toward a safe increase in length and stretch of the muscles and range of motion within the joints. You won’t find quite as much stretching in Pilates as you might in yoga, but a body that can stretch and bend to meet the flow of life is a very realistic goal.

5. Develops Core Strength

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all wish for.   The proper breathing control that is stressed in pilates also helps contribute to the core strength

6. Improves Posture

Good posture is a reflection of good alignment supported by a strong core. It is a position from which one can move freely. Pilates increases the strength of the spinal stabilizing muscles that may not be commonly worked out in a standard exercise program.  Strengthening these muscles allows you to have proper posture

7. Increases Energy

It might seem like a paradox, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have and the more you feel like doing (to a point, of course). Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving, stimulates the spine and muscles, and floods the body with the good feelings one gets from exercising the whole body.

8. Promotes Weight Loss and Long, Lean Appearance

If you practice Pilates regularly, it will change your body. Known for creating long, strong muscles and a leaner look; Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports beautiful posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace. All of these things will make you look and feel very fit.

If you want to lose weight, the formula for weight loss remains the same: Burn more calories than you take in. As a full-body fitness method, Pilates help will help you do that. Combined with aerobic activity, Pilates becomes a prime weight loss and body toning tool.

9. Increases Awareness – Body/Mind Connection

Another benefit of Pilates is that it engages the mind and enhances body awareness.  Joseph H. Pilates studied yoga, martial arts, and other ancient mind-body activities and included a strong philosophical foundation into the practice of Pilates.  He was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.” With Pilates exercises you are to practice each movement with total attention.

The smooth, precise and flowing movements of Pilates are designed to make you more mindful of your body.  Breath movement is also emphasized to put you in touch with how breath moves through your body. Pilates has been demonstrated to reduce stress, anxiety, and helps lift depression. The mind-body connection is fundamental to the study and practice of pilates.

10. Prevents You from Future Injuries

Pilates strengthens your body and helps prevent future injuries. The fact that Pilates helps to condition the whole body and not just certain muscles helps to balance the muscle and strength of the body. Since no set of muscles is ever over or under trained, there is less risk for injury. The body becomes more fluid and supple, protecting against injury.

Other Benefits of Pilates
Create a stronger, more flexible spine.
Increase joint range of motion.
Improve circulation.
Heighten neuromuscular coordination.
Offer relief from back pain and joint stress.
Correct over-training of muscle groups which can lead to stress and injury.
Enhance mobility, agility and stamina.
Compliment sports training and develop functional fitness for daily life activity.
Improve the way your body looks and feels.


How to Make Healthier Baked Goods Recipes

If part of your New Year’s Resolution is to get healthier, one way you can do this is making some substitutions in your recipes.  If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve made “healthy” versions of some of your favorite baked goods and ended up throwing them away.  I remember last Christmas we tried to decrease the fat and sugar content in my grandmother’s pizzelle recipe.  Instead of those nice, crisp, Italian cookies I remember from childhood, we ended up with soft, rubbery, tasteless things that I wouldn’t even call a cookie.  So this year as I try to cook healthier, I started looking into ways to bake with less calories and fat but maintain the same good taste.

The more I researched this, the more I discovered that you can’t make a baked good 100% healthy and still expect it to taste ok.  It’s still a baked good after all.  However, you can make it healthier.  That’s important because, as I pointed out in a previous post – the point is to still eat a wide variety of food but in healthier ways.

To Reduce Sugar/Simple Carbohydrate Content:

  • Up to 1/2 cup of sugar may be substituted with a sugar substitute.
  • You can usually reduce sugar in a recipe by ¼ to 1/3 in cookies, pies, and quick breads.  Although, it may not work as well in cakes
  • Adding vanilla extract in baking goods gives the essence of sweetness that makes up for the reduced sugar.
  • Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of the called-for all-purpose flour.  However, whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products such as cakes and muffins.

To Reduce Fat Content:

  • You can usually reduce fat in a recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 in cookies, pies, and quick breads without affecting the product.
  • Replace half of the fat in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt, or prune puree.
  • Use lower-fat versions of the ingredients called for in a recipe, such as 1% or skim milk rather than whole, use low-fat cheeses, etc.
  • To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don’t substitute oil for butter or shortening.
  • Use cooking sprays or non-stick pans instead of butter or shortening to grease the pans.

To Reduce Salt

  • Use half the amount of salt called for in a recipe.  In some dishes, you can totally omit salt.  For example, cooking rice or pasta.  However, DO NOT eliminate salt from yeast bread or rolls; it is essential for yeast action.
  • Rather than using salt for seasoning, try spices, herbs, vinegar, flavoring extracts, fruit peal, or your own blend of seasonings.

Green Tea, A Miracle Drink? Part 2

This is a continuation from yesterdays post.  If you were unable to read yesterday’s post, y0u can read it by clicking on this link:  green tea.

Green Tea keeps your skin acne-free

Green tea has a natural astringent that makes it both soothing and healing. Steeped green tea leaves have just enough gentle exfoliation properties to help with acne.

A green tea solution is a good natural acne cleanser.  To make a solution to cleanse your face take 1 cup of pure green tea leaves and brew them in 1 quart of pure, spring water.  Heat the water until it reaches 185 degrees F and then steep the tea for about 20 minutes. After letting the liquid cool down, transfer the liquid into a clean container then keep in the refrigerator.

To treat acne: Rinse the face with the green tea solution. Splash the green tea on the face, or dot onto acne blemishes with pure cotton. Do not rinse, allow the green tea solution to do its work undiluted.

Green Tea assists in a weight loss regimen

The caffeine in green tea increases the body’s basal metabolic rate (the rate at which energy is used for the body’s basic functions such as breathing, pumping blood, and maintaining body temperature).  This increase is referred to as a thermogenic effect; it assists with a weight loss program by helping the body burn more calories during day-to-day life.

Japanese studies have been done that prove green tea can help you burn fat more efficiently and result in a weight loss boost if you hit a weight loss plateau.  One green tea weight loss study followed sixty obese middle-aged women who were placed on a diet of 1,800 calories per day. Some of the women took a green tea diet pill with breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the others took placebo pills. After two weeks on the green tea weight loss study, the women taking the diet pill had lost twice as much weight as the placebo group. Results were even more impressive after the full month of the trial; the green tea users had three times the weight loss of the women who were simply dieting.

In November, 1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

Green Tea can Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Green tea acts as an antiviral and antibacterial agent. It contains fluoride, a mineral that helps prevents cavities and strengthens tooth enamel. It can kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque.  A cup a day can help reduce plaque formation and bacterial infections in the mouth.

Other Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects that help to decrease inflammation and the effects of allergies.  Having anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, green tea can help fight infection and improve immunity.

Harmful Effects of Green Tea

To date, the only negative side effect reported from drinking green tea is insomnia due to the fact that it contains caffeine. However, green tea contains less caffeine than coffee: there are approximately 30-60 mg of caffeine in 8 ounces of tea, compared to over 100 mg in 8 ounces of coffee.

How Much Green Tea Should You Drink a Day?

There are as many answers to this question as there are researchers investigating the natural properties of green tea. For example, Herbs for Health magazine cites a Japanese report stating that men who drank ten cups of green tea per day stayed cancer-free for three years longer than men who drank less than three cups a day.  Meanwhile, a study by Cleveland’s Western Reserve University concluded that drinking four or more cups of green tea per day could help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, or reduce symptoms in individuals already suffering from the disease.  And Japanese scientists at the Saitama Cancer Research Institute discovered that there were fewer recurrances of breast cancer, and the disease spread less quickly, in women with a history of drinking five cups or more of green tea daily.

It gets more confusing.  A University of California study on the cancer-preventative qualities of green tea concluded that you could probably attain the desired level of polyphenols by drinking merely two cups per day.  On the other hand, a company selling a green tea capsule formula insists that ten cups per day are necessary to reap the maximum benefits.

How can you make sense of these conflicting claims? Given all the evidence, it is probably safe to plan on drinking four to five cups of green tea per daily. If you’re a fan of tea, by all means drink more; but whether or not you’ll derive added health benefits remains to be determined by further research.


Easy Ways to Cut Calories Without Feeling Deprived

Nutritionists agree the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to modify your eating habits in such a way that you never feel deprived. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to cut 40 to 50 calories per meal, and if you start today you will start dropping weight without “officially” going on (and off) a diet.  In fact, Trimming 100 calories a day from your current diet will save you 36,500 calories over the course of one year. That equals a loss of 10.4 pounds of fat!  And it’s not difficult to cut 100 calories without feeling deprived. Try some of the suggestions here and see what works for you!

Did you know?

In order to lose one pound of body fat, you must create a 3,500 calorie deficit. That might sound like a lot, but simply cutting 100 calories a day for 35 days will get you there. Here are some suggestions on cutting 100 calories a day

  • Don’t drink your calories. Skip the juice (at 14 calories/oz), soda (at 12 calories/oz) and wine (at 21 calories/oz) in favor of water (calorie-free!)
  • Change your coffee habit. A 16oz latte will cost you 260 calories. Switch to nonfat milk and drop the calories to 160! Take it a step further by switching to plain drip coffee and your daily dose of caffeine will only cost you 10 calories!
  • Don’t garnish with cheese. It is high in fat and calories and just one ounce can add 100-115 calories.
  • Remove the skin from your chicken breast before cooking and save 100 calories
  • Skip the mayo.  1 Tbsp of regular mayo has 100 calories whereas light mayo has 50 and mustard has just 10 calories
  • Avoid premium ice creams—they have as much as 2 or 3 times the calories as reduced fat versions
  • Focus on cutting 50-100 calories here and there throughout the day that add up to BIG caloric savings!

More Easy Ways to Cut Calories

Breakfast: It’s easier to go low-fat at breakfast than at any other meal so make the most of the following light choices.

  • In a hurry?  Grab a yogurt and an apple for a fiber and calcium rich breakfast.
  • Instead of making a three-egg omelet, use one whole egg and two egg whites.
  • Switch to fat-free dairy products (milk, yogurt, cream cheese & cottage cheese)
  • Upgrade your cereal—it can be a hidden source of sugar and fat. Do a little label reading and choose one that is low in calories and high in fiber.

Lunch: Workday lunches may be your biggest challenge. To cut calories, try the following strategies.

  • Substitute fat-free chips or pretzels for corn or potato chips in your brown-bag lunches. Or better yet, go for a piece of fruit.
  • Try low-fat cottage cheese topped with dried, herb-blend seasonings, a handful of raisins, or a tablespoon of salsa.
  • Look up the nutrition information online for fast food restaurants and plan the healthiest meal ahead of time
  • Starting with a salad? Ask the kitchen to hold the croutons, grated cheese, olives and high-fat dressings. Request a low-fat dressing on the side.
  • Make your sandwich with lean meats like turkey or chicken and spread the bread with mustard instead of mayonnaise.

Dinner: Whether you eat at home or in a restaurant, you can take steps to lighten up your meal.

  • Top baked potatoes with salsa, nonfat cottage cheese, or nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Order fresh fish poached or steamed instead of deep fried or battered & pan fried.
  • Watch your condiments. Tartar, Hollandaise and creamy cheese sauces are all high in fat and cholesterol. Better choices: ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce.
  • Steam vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, zucchini and potatoes. Top with lemon juice and herbs.
  • Halve the butter or margarine called for when preparing packaged rice, potato or macaroni dishes.

Basic Principles of a Good Fitness Program

Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a “weekend warrior”, there are basic principles of exercise that apply to everyone at all levels of physical training.  Adherence to these principles is important for developing an effective fitness program.

Basic Principles of Exercise

  1.  Regularity – To achieve good results from your training, you must exercise often.  You should exercise each of the first four components of fitness at least three times a week.  Infrequent exercise can do more harm than good.  Regularity is also important in resting, sleeping, and following a sensible diet.
  2. Progression – The intensity and duration of exercise must gradually increase to improve the level of fitness.  I usually recommend to my patients to increase repetitions or duration of their exercises before they increase the intensity in order to prevent injury.
  3. Balance – To be effective, a fitness program should include activities that address all the components of fitness.  Overemphasizing one of the components over the others will eventually hurt the other components.
  4. Variety – Providing a variety of activities reduces boredom and increases motivation and progress.
  5. Specificity – Training must be geared toward specific goals.  For example, people become better basketball players if their training emphasizes playing basketball.  Although swimming is great exercise, it doesn’t improve your free-throw as much as practicing basketball does.
  6. Recovery – A hard day of training for a given component of fitness should be followed by an easier training day or rest day for that component and/or muscle group to help permit recovery.  Another way to allow recovery is to alternate the muscle groups exercised every other day, especially when training for strength and muscle endurance.
  7. Overload – The work load of each exercise session must exceed the normal demands placed on the body in order to bring about a training effect.

I hope these principles help you develop the best fitness program for you.  The most important thing is find something that you enjoy doing and it will never become a “chore” to workout.