Diet

A Personal Trainer’s Answers to your 4 Biggest Health and Fitness Questions

Trying to unravel the complicated approach to achieving your best health? A Chicago personal trainer answers your 4 biggest health and fitness questions.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about getting in shape?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: The most common misconception about getting in shape is the primary importance of fitness. While fitness plays a pivotal role in your strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, and cardio endurance, it still relies heavily on your nutrition. Without the proper nutrition for your body type, you will not have the energy or building blocks to sculpt the healthy body you want. Any nutritional deficit or inflammation will certainly affect your ability to get in shape, live to 100, or reduce injury.

What single piece of personal training advice do you have regarding form and technique?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: With the endless circus act of exercises found online and in magazines, it would take years to point out every little piece of the form you should keep in mind while exercising. While you should study your body's response to different positions and movements, there are basic rules you should keep in mind for whatever you approach:

-Keep your feet hip width and straight to maximize stability and glute/abdominal activation.
-Keep your shoulders above your hips to maintain a neutral position and reduce pelvic tilting.
-Maintain a neutral spine by periodically checking your lumbar curve (lower back) and cervical spine (neck).

There are certainly exceptions to these rules. Nevertheless, they will generally guide through a safe workout routine.

What is the best way to get a personal training client motivated when they feel like giving up?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Considering that each person is different, there isn't a single strategy to motivate a personal training client when he or she wants to give up. While some personal training clients persevere when given a strict structure to follow, other clients are intimidated and will less likely push themselves. Add in societal pressures, personality traits, family and work demands, and natural limitations, it's surprising that anyone has the strength to sift through these factors and push through. The best advice is to help your personal training client become a human scientist - to study their physical selves and their habits, decision-making process, and problem-solving approach. By utilizing this strategy, you are reducing the ambiguity of the process in the most simple way and identifying the personal training client's strength and weaknesses for the most efficient approach. The personal training client will feel more control over his or her situation and will be able to target the undermining reasons for giving up with more confidence.

What is the best advice you’ve ever learned about staying in shape?

Personal Trainer Wisdom: After nearly 15 years of personal training and research in Chicago, I have learned that your mental approach is the steering factor of staying in shape. You will most likely reach your goal but whether or not you maintain this success is questionable. Who can blame you! There are too many distractions and pulls in life, including holidays, work, and family, that easily pull you from your new healthy routine. The best advice is to clearly define boundaries based on your needs-not your wants-and use this set of rules as you approach the unknowns of life. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that you'll make perfect choices each day. With reasonable boundaries based on your body and habits (not anyone else's), you'll keep yourself in check and stay in shape.

 

My 10 Favorite Life-Guiding Quotes from the Stoic, Marcus Aurelius

Where do you look for the answer to the question, “How do I live a good life?” Naturally, you refer to 165 AD for a perspective that transcends time. To shape my philosophical self, I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (one of the earliest self-improvement transcripts). The following 10 quotes are taken directly from this great work. While I typically offer commentary on their meaning, they are left to your interpretation (everybody could use a break from a pundit).

1. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”


2. “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”


3. “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”


4. “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”


5. “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”


6. “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”


7. “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”


8. “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”


9. “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”


10. “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”


Photo Credit: Matthias Giezendanner and Wealth sf .com-Whether considering weight loss or optimal health, a personal trainer’s client’s real transformation begins at a deeper level.

 

How to Turn Your 13 Favorite Midwestern Meals into a Weight Loss Diet

Recently, my personal training client wanted to ramp up her weight loss efforts. Our first step was examining her current slate of meals (the typical Midwestern diet) and identifying the healthy alternatives. Take a look…the same meals are probably in your diet too!!

Quick Swap/General Changes to Your Typical Meals


-Organic ingredients only (more flavor!).
-Reduced sodium for all canned products (less bloatedness!).
-No lard in any of the canned bean products (less of the unnecessary bad fat!).
-Meat (including all red meat, white meat, fish, seafood, etc.) should not be more than 25% of any dish (vegan is preferred for ALL 3-4 meals).
-Eliminate cheese or swap it for a SMALL amount of Diya's Chopping Block Cheddar Cheese Shreds. I still hesitate to recommend a cheese substitute since it's still highly processed and you will continue the craving (which will be dangerous when the substitute isn't available).
-No butter.
-The portion of vegetables must always double the size of meat at a minimum.

Common Meals (and their Healthy Alternatives)


Chili mac


-Healthy Alternative: Mexican mix (below) using the taco seasoning recipe (below) with Banza Chickpea Elbows Pasta (boil until el dente, and then quickly rinse with cold water). Meal Ratio: 1/4 ground chicken (2-4 oz), 1/2 veggies, 1/4 pasta.

Pizza


-Healthy Alternative: 365 Everyday Value Cauliflower Pizza Crust, 8 oz (frozen), tomato sauce, Diya's Chopping Block Cheddar Cheese Shreds, roasted red bell peppers, fresh garlic cloves, basil.

Lemon garlic sauce chicken, veggies, and pasta


-Healthy Alternative: 1/4 chicken (2-4 oz), 1/2 veggies, 1/4 Banza Chickpea Penne Pasta (or substitute with boiled and drained cauliflower rice).

Grilled chicken breast and veggies


-Healthy Alternative: 1/4 chicken (2-4 oz), 3/4 veggies (grilled asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.).

Grilled cheese


-Healthy Alternative: Whole grain bread with Diya's Chopping Block Cheddar Cheese Shreds but this still isn’t a nutrient-dense option alone. Make this a 1/4 of your meal and add veggies for the rest.

Lasagna


-Healthy Alternative: Mexican mix recipe (below) using the taco seasoning recipe (below). Meal Ratio: 1/4 ground chicken (2-4 oz), 1/2 veggies (beans, corn, sauteed onions, bell peppers), 1/4 El Milagro Corn Tortillas (only ingredients: corn, water, lime).

Beef chili


-Healthy Alternative: 1 diced medium yellow onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tbs tomato paste, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 cup dry green lentils, 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce, 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, 1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles or hot Rotel, 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, 2 green peppers, 3 tbs of Worcestershire, 1 can of drained kidney beans, and 1 can of drained pinto beans.

Crockpot BBQ chicken


-Healthy Alternative: Chicken breasts, green pepper strips, strips of sautéed onions and diced garlic, and Annie's Original BBQ Sauce. The chicken is only 1/4 of your meal and veggies for the rest.

Tuna salad


-Healthy Alternative: Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna Pouch (No Salt), 1 tbs of Real Mayo, 1tsp of Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper seasoning, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp onion powder, lemon garnish, and 1-2 tsp of diced pickle or relish.

Chicken casserole (chicken, peas, cream of chicken soup, breadcrumbs)


-Healthy Alternative: Chicken breasts, peas, vegan cashew sauce (https://cookieandkate.com/vegan-mac-and-cheese-recipe/), and oats or quinoa (instead of breadcrumbs). The chicken is only 1/4 of your meal and veggies for the rest.

Tacos (chicken, lettuce, cheese, shells)


-Healthy Alternative: Mexican mix using the taco seasoning recipe. Meal Ratio: 1/4 ground chicken (2-4 oz), 1/2 veggies (beans, corn, lettuce as well as chopped spinach and green peppers marinated in squeezed lime juice), and 1/4 El Milagro Corn Tortillas (only ingredients: corn, water, lime)…no cheese.

Taco salad (same as above but in a salad)


-Healthy Alternative: Mexican mix using the taco seasoning recipe. 1/4 Ground chicken (2-4 oz), 3/4 Veggies (beans, corn, lettuce as well as chopped spinach and green peppers marinated in squeezed lime juice)…no cheese.

Beef meatloaf


-Healthy Alternative: Ground chicken, diced green peppers, diced sautéed onions and garlic, oats or quinoa (instead of breadcrumbs), Organic Large Omega-3 Brown Grade A Eggs, Heinz Simply Tomato Ketchup, and Annie's Original BBQ Sauce…..but this still isn’t a nutrient-dense option alone. Make the meatloaf a 1/4 of your meal and add veggies for the rest.

Base recipes


Mexican mix


-1 lb ground organic chicken breast sauteed with 1 chopped medium onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves
-2 cans of Bushes black beans
-1 can Hot Rotel (or any diced tomatoes)
-1 can Mexican corn

Taco seasoning


-2 tbs chili powder
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
-1/2 tsp oregano
-1 tsp paprika
-3 tsp cumin
-2 tsp salt
-2 tsp pepper

Photo Credit: Bon Appetit. com: Can grilled cheese ever be healthy?

 

My Personal Training Client’s SPECIFIC Plan to Lose Weight

After a frustrating stream of weight fluctuations, I couldn’t be prouder of my personal training client’s new plan to lose 20 lbs for good! This is a great template for anyone serious about long-term weight loss.

WEIGHT LOSS MILESTONES


-Get Down to 187 Pounds on my Home Scale by 7/1/2019
-Get Down to 181 Pounds on my Home Scale by 8/1/2019
-Get Down to 176 Pounds on my Home Scale by 8/31/2019
-Get Down to 171 Pounds on my Home Scale by 10/15/2019

Personal Trainer Wisdom: Losing 1-2 lbs per week is the most sustainable way to achieve weight loss. Matt is taking a realistic, achievable approach to reaching his ultimate goal. Setting milestones is a great way to carry this out at a micro level. While the actual results may vary slightly depending on unexpected factors, Matt has set the intent. Since most people seek to change life every 3-4 weeks, the dates are appropriate.

WEIGHT LOSS APPROACH PHASE 1


Personal Trainer Wisdom: As a human scientist, I am constantly testing the body’s sensitivity to food and movement. When developing a weight loss plan, the same approach applies. Matt has created guidelines below based on his true physical needs and the principles of cleaning eating for optimal health (the weight loss is just a result). While each line seems strict, it is adaptable. Most important, it sets the intent once again. All choices will extend from this list. This approach is a stark contrast from the most common effort of extending choices from one’s wants instead (which doesn’t necessarily reflect a person’s needs and most likely leads to faulty guesses with unsuccessful, long-term results).

Foods Ill Eliminate Until I Reach my Goals


• Eliminate BREAD, PROCESSED STARCHES, CHIPS, PRETZELS, ALL SALTY SNACKS, and ALL BAKED SWEET GOODS
• Eliminate STARCHY VEGETABLES (Potatoes, Rice, etc.)
• Eliminate 80%+ of DAIRY PRODUCTS
• Eliminate Specifically: PIZZA, FRENCH FRIES, CHINESE FOOD, ITALIAN SANDWICHES, BURGERS WITH BUNS, WENDY’S, and Other FAST FOOD
• Eliminate Fried Foods like Chicken Fingers, Fried Chicken, Fried Appetizers, Fatty Foods: Bacon, Chicken Wings, etc.
• Eliminate Energy Bars of All Kinds (Except in Super Emergencies/Damage Control)
• Eliminate All BEER, and any Indulgent, High-Cal Booze Drinks
• All NUTS Except Pistachios in Shell, Counting When I Eat
• Popcorn in Emergencies
• BBQ Sauce on Meat
• Cereal
• Candy
• Peanut Butter

Foods Ill Keep in my Diet but May Eventually Eliminate for Clean Eating


• Diet Coke – try to limit to 24 oz a day, MAX
• Splenda – Do not use willy nilly
• Diet Soft Drink Squirts
• Turkey Jerky & Beef Jerky
• “Lean” Mixed Drinks & Wine – Always Attempt Moderation. Only get drunk “if necessary”
• Arctic Zero Ice Cream (the Extreme Low-Cal Ice Cream) – 1 Pint, 2-3x per week max
• Sugar-Free Creamer for Coffee, in moderation

At-Home “Yes” List


• My Smoothies w/ Almond Milk, Pea Protein Powder, Frozen Fruit, Spinach, Carrots, Bananas, Flax Seeds
• Fruit of All Kinds
• Powdered Peanut Butter in Moderation
• All Raw Vegetables
• Non-Starchy Cooked Vegetables
• Chicken, Shrimp, Jerky
• Dry Soaked Cooked Beans
• Edamame
• Pistachios with Shells

Partying, Dining Out, etc.


• I will drink Canned Seltzer Alcohol Drinks like Truly, Spiked Seltzer, Aqua Fierte
• I will drink Rum or Vodka + Club Soda or Sometimes Diet Coke
• I will have NO BEER EVER, NO BEER, NO BEER, NO BEER
• I will NOT eat any heavy, junk foods after drinking
• I will eat the best option on the menu when I dine with my girlfriend
• I will eat in great moderation when there are no good choices
• I will eat SLOWLY and MINDFULLY
• I will NOT eat bread that comes out beforehand
• I will NOT eat Chips & Salsa that comes out beforehand

Photo Credit:
Love One Today .com: What guidelines will you set to lose weight?

 

What to Keep in Mind When Adding Treats to a Weight Loss Diet

The Big Challenge:


It's very difficult to eat healthy and/or lose weight while eating treats.

Assumption: I need to eliminate everything I love (especially the biggest culprits: dairy, meat, grains, refined sugar, processed foods, and alcohol).

The Breakdown: Well, yes and no. Our bodies are adaptive systems that fight unruly environments, diseases, and relationships 😊 There’s always a perfect combination of factors, including dietary choices and type of movement, for a given point that helps it operate efficiently and effectively. The further I skew from this beautiful recipe the less efficient and effective my body operates (comparable to the different grades of gasoline and car performance). What does this mean for eating treats? The answer is simple and not always fun to recognize: I need to figure out what I can get away with, accept the consequences of going beyond my boundaries, and adapt appropriately. Here’s what I specifically consider when I’m in the mood for treats:

What I Keep in Minding When Eating Treats


Personal Trainer Wisdom: The first key to cheating in any diet (diet as in one’s eating regiment…weight loss or not) is establishing a consistent structure of habits. This is my foundation….my day-to-day approach, my go-to. A treat every once in a while is an outlier that won’t skew my results….as long as my every daily approach is consistent and nutrient dense. I define a treat as a choice that doesn’t provide whole nutritional value, and most often counters my health in one form or another. Examples of treats include bread, ice cream, braised beef, chocolate, alcohol, and pretty much everything I grew to love over a lifetime. Similar to many economic principles, random treats in my diet are just small dents in the vehicle of life. It won’t stop this car from moving! It is an outlier and won’t affect my health goals.

On the other hand, if I eat my treats 5-7 days per week, this behavior is now a habit-a part of my foundation. The difference is a hail storm pounding my car to a total wreck instead of Preston’s baseball accidentally dinging my bumper. Can I still drive my car after a hail storm? Most likely, yes (but maybe not well). My body is a machine that can withstand many illnesses, bone breaks, and Snickers bars. It’s important that I’m always mindful of my body so that I can be aware of its boundary lines, though. I can run when I have a headache, but should I run a marathon when I have a migraine? I can lift weights with a sore shoulder, but should I perform a chest fly with a torn rotator cuff? I can eat a Snickers bar every night, but should I eat a treat every night after eating tasty crackers, cheese, and meat all day?

Choosing to eat a treat isn’t an isolated experience. This choice must be evaluated with all of my dietary habits, physical boundaries (think: a diabetic and his relationship to blood sugar level spiking foods), and other choices in mind. My choices outside of that moment can determine whether or not I’m pushing past my dietary boundary line. Ideally, I will develop an autopilot system that unconsciously evaluates these decisions and helps me adhere to important nutritional guidelines, including the choice of non-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods as well as the dedication to a consistent eating schedule. I feel lucky that my generation doesn’t need to think about survival every waking moment. My life usually isn’t threatened daily, and food will be on my table. I can’t imagine living life under that type of scrutiny! It’s a good reminder for me when I do need to increase the focus on myself, though. The scrutiny isn’t always fun, but it’s necessary.

I see the reasons why many people avoid this awareness. I’m often frustrated facing the change I need to make (especially if I don’t understand how to adapt the situation). I guess that’s what is often missing from my goals: Acceptance. Accepting that I sometimes need to think about what I’m doing, who I am, and why I am doing something. And accepting the answers I discover and the things and situations that I can’t change now (or ever).

It’s especially frustrating when I’ve made a great change, and the results are the same. For instance, I finally substituted that delicious Snickers bar for a bar half of the calories at 4 pm every day, and it still isn’t enough to lose weight or body fat. Or I continue this healthful exchange, and I find myself back to the Snickers bar after 4-6 weeks. Emotionally, this is tough to face. It feels like a failure. Is it a failure, though? Times likes these are important lessons of what I still may need to change. Maybe eating at the same time creates a craving. When my low calorie, low sugar option isn’t available I still pursue a sweet (or sweeter) alternative. This can often be a dangerous line to tip-toe on if it is a trigger food (like chocolate). No wonder I eventually went back to the Snickers bar!

Losing weight. Focusing on myself. It’s a frustrating process that I was never prepared for by school. By becoming a human scientist as an adult now, though, I will finally receive the anatomy, nutrition, and behavioral lessons that have been missing from my life. I will finally learn about “Me.” With an objective and curious mind throughout this process, I will truly figure out what I need as well as what I can get away with.