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Daily Fit Tip – 9/18/17 – How to Eat Junk Food Everyday and Still Lose Weight

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One of the persistent myths out there in the world of weight loss concerns “clean eating”. The idea is that in order to lose weight we need to eat like bodybuilders with our diet consisting entirely of minimally processed whole foods i.e. something that was recently alive or had a face. If someone had a Frappuccino every single day some people might think it’d be impossible to lose weight because you are eating something “bad” everyday.

But that’s nonsense. First of all, sugar isn’t what’s making you gain body fat. Eating over your maintenance calories is making you gain body fat. So long as you are in a slight calorie deficit it’s perfectly possible to have “junk food” everyday as part of a healthy lifestyle. So long as you account for the caloric load it is possible to have your mocha everyday.

However, I will say that if you are already a pretty lean person or happen to be a tiny woman your total caloric budget might be low enough such that it’s not necessarily advisable to drink your calories. The reason is that you’re “wasting” your calories on stuff that won’t fill you up. Feeling full and satisfied after eating calories is an important strategy in the quest to lose body fat because if you’re in a slight caloric deficit you’re likely going to be ever so slightly hungry. And if you’re drinking 600 calories of sugary sweet beverage everyday and your maintenance level is 1800 calories that might make it difficult to stay in a deficit will also managing your hunger level.

But the solution is to not try to eat totally “clean” 24/7. Nor is the solution to go crazy on “cheat days”. Just exercise a little bit of restraint and get the tall Frappuccino instead of the venti. Learn to manage your portion sizes and you will be able to indulge a little and reward yourself after your stressful day. Incorporating small rewards into your daily life will make the overall process of weight loss far more sustainable than trying to eat “clean” 24/7.

Daily Fit Tip – 9/17/17 – Why the Microwave is Your Best Friend for Healthy Eating

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I see it all the time. Someone wants to “clean up” their diet and get serious about losing weight but doesn’t know how to cook. So what do they do? They buy a recipe book or meal plan with complex recipes involving 15 ingredients and 17 elaborate steps. They go out to the grocery store and buy dozens of expensive, fresh ingredients. They spend 30-45 minutes preparing their first meal from the meal plan and it tastes amazing. They feel good. This is going to work. Time to start their fitness journey!

A week later they are back to eating bowl after bowl of cereal and pizza rolls.

What happened? So often we believe that in order to be serious about health and nutrition we have to be amazing cooks who slave over meal prep. But are you really going to eat veggies everyday if you have to spend 45 minutes roasting them in the oven? This is where the microwave comes in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a steamable bag of veggies and popping it in the microwave for 5 minutes.

The microwave can really be your best friend if you are trying to lose weight because consistency and sustainability are way more important than optimality. And what’s more consistent and sustainable than convenience? Are you really going to find the time to prep and cook raw chicken every week for the rest of your life? It’s perfectly ok to buy frozen precooked grilled chicken and pop it in the microwave for two minutes. Is this the cheapest or tastiest way to prepare chicken? Certainly not. But it’s sure damn convenient. And when you’re fighting the temptation to throw those pizza rolls in the microwave because you don’t feel like spending 45 minutes cooking your family dinner – allowing yourself the convenience of microwaving chicken, veggies, etc. is perfectly fine. 

Just remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s better to do something 80% optimally for ten years than to crash and burn over and over trying to do something 99% optimally.

The Simple Truth About Getting Shredded

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Do you want shredded abs? Who doesn’t? In this post I will explain exactly how to get shredded abs in TWO easy steps:

Step 1: Be in a calorie deficit

Step 2: Repeat Step 1 until you are shredded

That’s it. There’s no magic. No secret. No quick fix. No super food or detox or special exercise.

To get shredded abs you have to essentially lose a lot of body fat. It also helps to actually have muscular abs underneath your fat. But I promise, even if you never work out your “core”, if you lose enough body fat you will eventually get some semblance of that “shredded” look.

But I lied. Only Step 1 is easy. To get in a calorie deficit all you have to do is eat less or move more. But Step 2 is the hard part because the key to shredded abs is to make being in a calorie deficit sustainable for months, maybe years. Therein lies the rub. If you are in a calorie deficit for a sustained period of time you are probably going to be hungry. Being hungry sucks. So the key to Step 2 is to make it such that your hunger or satiation is manageable for months if not years. People often turn to low carb diets for this purpose because filling up on fats and protein tends to keep the hunger pains manageable while you are in a calorie deficit.

The other thing that happens in a sustained calorie deficit is that your metabolism adapts to being in a deficit and makes it harder and harder to maintain Step 2. It will slow down your metabolism and it will increase your appetite. Your body was designed by evolutionary processes to make it easy to gain weight and hard to lose weight. This makes perfect adaptive sense in an environment where food was hard to come by and you had to burn a lot of calories gathering or hunting food. Now we can walk down to the local gasmart and buy thousands of calories for a few bucks with very little calorie expenditure. So the very metabolic adaptations that once made it easier for us to survive are now making us fatter, month by month, year by year. The freshman 15 is actually just the starting point for the Western tendency to get a little bit fatter every year. Because of this very real metabolic adaptation it’s critical to take intermittent “diet breaks” or “refeeds” to reset our metabolism. There’s a whole art and science to this.

However, the nature of this adaptation makes it almost inevitable that people will yo-yo diet in and out of Step 2. They will be in a calorie deficit for a week or two, lose a few pounds (mostly water weight anyway). Then they get stressed or go out to eat with their friends, get tipsy, and stop at Taco Bell on the way home to devour a 1000 calorie meal along with 3 large sodas. The drunchies are real. Temptations are real. Not all of us have the drive or motivation necessary to be restrictive in our diets 24/7 for weeks and months. We have snacks in house, start a movie, and feel like it’d be freaking awesome to munch our way through the entire movie. Then we have a huge dinner and later icecream at 11pm because “we had a long day and we deserve it”. The realities of our modern food environment make it such that we have to avoid temptation all day long. You’ve been doing awesome with your calories that day but then Carol from work brings in donuts from your favorite local gourmet donut shop. What do you do? You eat one. Then another. Then 3 hours later you sneak back in to see if there’s more left.

Not to mention how hard to is to even determine accurately whether you are in a calorie deficit since tracking calories is notoriously difficult. Nutrition labels are inaccurate, digestion absorption rates are variable, individual differences abound, and weighing out food precisely is a pain in the ass. Not to mention it’s difficult to sustain the habit of calorie counting for the months and years necessary to get shredded.

So the odds are stacked against you getting absolutely shredded, let alone in 12 weeks like so many personal trainers promise. If it was easy to get shredded abs everyone would have them. But it’s hard. Really fucking hard. You have to want it. Really bad. So bad that you are willing to sacrifice your social life and earn the scorn of your family, friends, and co-workers. You have to become that “crazy fitness person” who cares more about their sixpack than having a good time.

But the good news is that the principles behind getting shredded are absolutely basic and easy to follow: get in a calorie deficit and stay there. But the devil is in the details. I haven’t even begun to talk about the importance of developing and retaining muscle mass through strength training, which is super important. If you just starve yourself and do cardio all day you’re going to lose a lot of muscle along with fat which will slowly make it harder and harder to maintain the calorie deficit because your metabolism will be shit. So we not only have to be on point with our nutrition we have to find the time in our busy days to consistently hit the gym or workout for months or years. Like I said: it’s hard work. Real hard.


There’s a reason fitness models get paid to be fitness models: they have to basically spend their whole existence focusing on nutrition and fitness and even they don’t stay super shredded year round. It’s not even that healthy to have super low body fat percentages anyway (especially for women). So why are we so obsessed with abs? Why this cultural fixation on being absolutely shredded? My hypothesis is that it’s the rarity or novelty factor that largely drives it. Getting ripped abs is so difficult to achieve that those who do get them instantly stand out for it and are thus seen as desirable. But of course we all know that ideas about who or what counts as “hot” vary from time period to time period, culture to culture.

I hope this post illustrates both the simplicity of getting shredded and the complexity of taking that simplicity and making it sustainable for months and years. Good luck!

The Myth of Bland Chicken

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So often in the fitness world people talk about the “bodybuilder diet” which apparenty consists of broccoli, rice, and “bland chicken”. The emphasis is always on bland. As in, if you want to be maximally lean and ripped you need to sacrifice your taste buds to the god of gainz. The idea that bodybuilders are just forcing horrible tasting food down their gullets is repeated over and over. It feeds into the myth that to eat “clean” means to sacrifice flavor in favor of optimal health – that eating “clean” is a “sacrifice” that requires vast amounts of willpower. The “bland chicken” myth also makes it sound like seasonings are somehow not conducive to the goals of leanness, muscle gain, or health in general. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are two main problems with the “bland chicken” myth. First, most bland chicken is simply overcooked. Chicken has a narrow range of acceptable temperatures that are optimal in terms of texture. You want it to be around 160-165 degrees F. Too little and it’s undercooked – too much over that and the chewy texture translates into the perception of “blandness”. I don’t care how much seasoning you put on there if you have to chew it for 60 seconds to get it down you’re not going to enjoy it. Furthermore, keep in mind that if you take the chicken out of the oven at 165 degrees it’s going to keep cooking in its own juices for another 5 minutes bringing the temperature higher than 165 and thus out of the optimal texture range.

Second, most bland chicken is underseasoned. More specifically, most bland chicken is undersalted.

Why? Because of another pervasive myth in the fitness/health world: salt is bad and we need to limit our intake of salt. Very very few people have a legitimate medical condition that requires limiting salt intake. For everyone else, I would wager they are not consuming enough salt. Chicken is a low-fat meat (“lean protein”) and because of that missing fat, needs to be heavily seasoned with salt. Most people’s concept of “liberal salting” is just a small pinch. Naw. You need to smother your chicken in salt. Every available square inch of exposed surface needs to be salted. Your taste buds will thank you. Kosher salt is the best for sprinkling because it disperses evenly.

So next time you hear someone talking about “bland chicken” keep in mind that the only thing bland about chicken is your bland cooking method, either overcooking it or underseasoning it. Salt is your friend! Learn to love salt! Our brains were designed to crave salt and it is extremely tasty to normal humans. Use this to your advantage and turn boring, bland “clean” foods like veggies and chicken into delicious foods that are not a sacrifice to eat.

I want to add a bonus tip: if you want to get the protein-benefits of eating chicken but don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking raw meat then I highly suggest the more expensive but super convenient option of buying frozen pre-cooked grilled chicken at your supermarket. Walmart and Aldi both have good options (I love the Aldi ones the most). Make sure it’s not breaded (just check the carb content – should be zero).

Starting My Career as a Personal Trainer

Big news! I just got hired by Gold’s Gym as a trainer! I can’t tell you how excited I am to begin this journey in the fitness industry. Doesn’t seem that long ago that I first started studying the NASM textbook with the intention of becoming a trainer. I’m taking the “traditional route” into the fitness industry, which is working for a big box gym first in order to get experience. But I think I got lucky with the big box gym I’m starting off at! The Gold’s in Fenton, MO is amazing. They have everything. Even a deadlift platform and rubber plates for Olympic lifting! So stoked. I had been tempted to apply to personal training studios but so many of them didn’t even have squat racks or equipment for powerlifting. How could I be honest with myself as a trainer if I wasn’t even able to implement the training methods I most believe in? I think Gold’s Gym will definitely help me train in exactly the style I believe most effective for my clients, which definitely includes serious resistance training!

To be honest, I am kind of nervous about the “sales” aspect of training in a big box gym. I am not a pure extrovert – more of an “ambivert” – both introverted and extroverted depending on the context. But I think my background in psychology will help me master the sales process going forward. I also just have this burning desire to succeed. I see a path forward and I am going to take it with 100% intensity. I have always been a competitive person and the fitness industry is a perfect outlet for me insofar as it focuses so much on personal growth and independence. My success in the fitness industry is largely going to be a result of what I put into it. I have to be my own brand because “R.A.W. Fitness” is me – I am my own business.

The other thing I’m nervous about is the whole trans thing. I feel partially like I am a trailblazer in this sense. But I think how this aspect of my life influences my training career is largely going to result from my own attitude and confidence going forward. Not to say that I can just think my way out of discrimination, but simply that my own reticence could send unconscious signals that my gender matters instead of owning it and believing that I can be the best trainer, cis or trans, that my client needs in virtue of my passion, empathy, and knowledge.