Archive | August, 2011

Portion Sizes: Then and Now

31 Aug

My best friend sent me a link and a quick sentence that said, “I wish food was still this small.” I was shocked when I read the article.

In the past 20 years, a bagel has doubled in standard size and more than doubled in calories.

A standard soda has tripled in size and nearly tripled in calories.

A regular blueberry muffin has quintupled ( QUINTUPLED – 5 times bigger than it used to be!!) in size and has 2.5 times as many calories.

When did giant food become acceptable? When did the masses  decide that their meal sizes just weren’t cuttin’ it anymore?

It’s crazy to see the portion sizes compared side-by-side. I just keep hearing a news anchor’s voice saying, “Studies show that ___ is among the fattest cities,” “Childhood obesity increased by XX% in the last year,” “Diabetes is on the rise.”

Well no frickin’ wonder. If you QUINTUPLE a serving size (and don’t have proportionate increases in physical activity), it only makes sense that people will quintuple in size as well.

Read the whole article here: Delish: Portion Sizes Then and Now

And when you’re done reading and finish your Andre-The-Giant-sized blueberry muffin, read this post, followed by this and this post.

Consider this your Public Service Announcement for the day. You’re welcome.

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Simple Swap: EVOO & Balsamic Vinegar

30 Aug

I may have gone to Italy to study cinema (see pretty much any post from July 2011), but some of the biggest lessons I took away were about wine and olive oil. I was taught all about them both in perhaps the world’s most revered places for these products – Chianti.

Because of this, and lack of alternatives, I came home with a newly developed taste for olive oil and vinegar as my salad dressing.

Italians love simplicity in their meals which is why you will never see salad dressing over there (let alone a variety of dressing choices). And no, they don’t use “Italian” dressing with little red and white bits of who-knows-what that settle at the bottom of the bottle. Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That’s it.

The great part about adapting to the salad style of Italians is that 1. I save money on salad dressing because a little bit of oil goes a LONG way and 2. I’ve made a lifelong simple swap.

Extra virgin olive oil has 120 calories per every tablespoon (which is really all you need for a regular salad) and balsamic vinegar has about 5 calories for every teaspoon (so feel free to use a few teaspoons!).

Granted, olive oil has more calories than a serving size of American Italian dressing, but it has 100% less salt than “Italian” dressing and 100% less sugar (that means no salt and no sugar – at all!).

On top of that, Extra Virgin Olive Oil falls in the same category as avocados – the “good fats.” It’s also full of antioxidants and vitamins. But, it is still a fat and high-ish in calories so you do have to keep in mind that a little really does go a long way (you shouldn’t eat a whole avocado in one sitting and your lettuce shouldn’t be dripping with oil).

AANNNDD, by using oil and vinegar, you can customize your dressing’s taste. Maybe you’re an oil-only person, or vinegar only, or 2 parts oil 1 part vinegar – you adjust the taste to your liking!

One important thing to remember – use high-quality olive oil as your dressing/dip for bread. Don’t use the cheapest bottle at the supermarket – that’s for cooking (sauteing, using in your pasta water, etc.). It doesn’t taste very good as a dressing. Higher quality olive oil – from a local winery or specialty company – is less processed and leaves more of the natural flavor in the finished product.

Mangiamo!

Simple Swap: Skinny Girl Margaritas

29 Aug

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but my bestie and I love us some margaritas. Unfortunately, the mix is generally loaded with sugar and the salt around the rim is not so great when trying to reduce weight/water retention.

Bethenny Frankel thought the same thing and created Skinnygirl Margaritas.

The bestie and I tried them last weekend during one of our nights in and they do a margarita justice! Only 100 calories per serving and it uses agave nectar instead of refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup. They run about $15 for a 750 ml bottle. I should say that they are more on the strong/tart side – comparable to Margaritaville’s “Perfect Margarita” or their version of a 100 calorie margarita.

Visit Skinnygirl’s website here to see other skinny products and recipes.

Give it a try the next time you’re having a girls night in – your hips will thank you.

Plyometric Exercises Are Your Friend

28 Aug

I’ve been doing plyometric-based workouts for the past few days now and let me tell you, they’re amazing. You read about them in magazines, your trainer tells you all about them at the gym but you never listen. Well, you should.

Plyometrics are basically short bursts of energy using mainly your body weight – jumps, sprints, etc.

These simple moves help you burn so many calories (and fat!) in such short amounts of time – and the little to no added weight is perfect for toning and staying lean, rather than bulking up.

Below are the workouts I did the last two days (I did add weight in some moves, as well as incorporated non-plyometric moves) and some links to sites that have great information/suggestions for other plyometric moves.

WARNING: If you’re one of those people who goes to the gym in full hair and make-up, these are not for you. You will NOT look cute after doing these.

 

Day 1

Warm-up: Half mile on the treadmill (or anywhere else) at 5.0 mph (about 6 minutes)

Circuit 1:

Lateral box jumps with 10 lb weight, 20 reps (10 each side/leg). At the peak of each rep, do a front press with the weight and bring the weight back to your chest as you land.

Box jumps – 15 reps using a chair, curb, stepper height that’s comfortable for you (I used 4 stackers under the step at the gym).

Squat jumps with 10 lb weight – 15 reps

Rest and repeat circuit

Circuit 2:

Dips – 15 reps

Push-ups – 10 reps

Rest and repeat circuit

Ab Circuit: Do two circuits of your 3 favorite ab moves. I did V-ups, bicycle crunches and legs lifts.

Cardio: 5-minute warm up, 10 minutes of intervals, 5-minute cool down.

Sauna: 5-7 minutes just for good measure (you’re dripping sweat anyway, what’s a little more?)

 

Day 2

Warm-up: half mile jog

Circuit 1:

Lateral Box jumps with 10 lb weight – 20 reps but this time do an overhead press at the peak of each rep

Box jump with 10 lb weight – 10-15 reps at the same height as the day before (it’s harder with the weight…)

Skaters/Jump Lunges 12 reps (6 reps on each leg). Try with 8 lb dumbbells in each hand.

Rest and repeat circuit.

Circuit 2:

Dips – 15 reps

Inverted push-ups – 10 reps

Rest and repeat circuit

Circuit 3/Weights

Deadlifts – 15 reps with a comfortable weight (I used 50 lbs)

Static Squat with curl – go into squat position and hold, curl weights (8-10 lbs) 15 times. (Fun Fact: I have no idea if that’s what this is called or if it’s even a ‘legit’ move, but I did it and it burns.)

Rest and repeat circuit 2 more times.

Ab Circuit: two sets of 25 crunches on the stability ball holding a 10 lb disc.

Cardio: Easy run at 6.0 mph, 1.0 incline for one mile (about 10 minutes), 2 minute walking cool down.

Sauna: Same reason as the day before.

Here are some sites that you may want to check out:

Women’s Health – Plyometrics: Jump on it!

Self Magazine – Plyometrics workout: Burn more calories in less time

Body Building – Workout of the Week

Just So You Know I’m Not Completely Full of It…

25 Aug

I did go to the gym the other night after I posted about all the horrible things I did to myself over the weekend and the following is what I’m dubbing “The Repentance Workout.”

Warm-up: Half mile jog at 5.0 mph no incline (about 6 minutes)

Legs & Hips (where I gain all of my weight and therefore focus on):

Quad extensions – 3 sets of 12, 50 lbs

Deadlifts – 3 sets of 15, 50 lbs

Squats – 3 sets of 12, 85 lbs

Lunge & Bicep Curl – 1 set of 12 (each leg) with 12 lb weights (curl at top of each lunge – total of 24 reps)

Walking lunges – Once back and forth across the gym with 12 lb weights

Hip Abduction – 3 sets of 12, 60 lbs

Arms (by this time I was pretty tired and knew I still had to do cardio, so I kept it short):

Push-up – 1 set of 10

Cardio (told you arms were quick!):

Jog at 5.0 mph at no incline for 5 min – up speed to 8.0 for 45 sec, back down to 5.0 or 6.0. Alternate speed of intervals for 1.5 miles.

Walk at a pace of 4.0 at an incline of 7.0 for remaining half-mile. Decrease incline to zero and speed to 3.5 for 5 minute cool down.

Then do 10 wide incline push-ups using the hand rail of the treadmill and 10 close-grip (tricep) push-ups (because they’re easier than regular floor push-ups and you feel guilty about not doing more arms earlier).

Then go home, go to bed and sleep 45 min past your alarm the next morning because your body hates you for a whole new set of reasons.

Feeling Gross

23 Aug

I don’t have any health tips today. I just feel like writing. And I happen to be feeling gross. So I’m going to write about just that – feeling disgusting.

First of all, I’m not writing about how ‘fat’ I feel just to hear people tell me the contrary. That’s (one of) the most annoying things women do – fish for compliments. Ick. But ladies, there is not a single one of you that has never felt fat. Defining ‘fat’ is an entirely different conversation, one that will be left for someone – anyone – but me to weigh in on. So for the sake of this post, ‘fat’ means ‘bigger than my/your personal status quo.’ Fair enough? I suppose I could say I feel BTMPSQ but I’m not going to.

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend and indulged in not only margaritas but french fries galore.  I also sat a lot (it’s a long drive to and from Las Vegas and sitting by a pool is one of my favorite past times). And instead of hitting the gym hard last night to make up for my gluttonous behavior this weekend, I attended a wine mixer with a new(er) friend with the hopes of making even more new friends and potential professional contacts. But here’s where I really did a terrible thing…

After the mixer (that did NOT have heavy hors d’oeuvres like promised) I realized I hadn’t eaten since 12:45 that afternoon. A couple cubes of cheese and some extremely thin apple slices are not dinner (nor are they heavy hors d’oeuvres…). So when I got home, I mindlessly gnoshed on pita chips and hummus in front of the TV (terrible, terrible idea and a habit I’ve GOT to break) followed by not one but two large Trader Joe chocolate chip cookies. Two. TWO!

Why? Because I felt like it. Absolutely no other reason than that. When I finished the second (good Lord why was there even a first??) cookie, I promptly went to bed.

So many things are wrong with that. SO MANY. I went too long without eating, slowing down my metabolism. I then had nothing but salt and sugar for a late-night dinner and after that, I went to sleep – further slowing my metabolism.

I also just realized that my last few posts have been themed the exact opposite of what this blog had started out as. Healthy: Party of One? My giant ass.

My body hates me right now and I don’t blame it. I can feel and see it’s tantrum. “Oh yea, you want fries with that? Have some love handles too!”

I’ve made a good faith effort to get back on track today – low-fat yogurt for breakfast, raw almonds and dried cranberries for mid-morning and afternoon snack, and a mixed greens salad with oil and vinegar for lunch. Dinner will be a Lean Cuisine (yes, a lot of salt but portion and calorie controlled nonetheless…that, and I desperately need to go grocery shopping).

Tonight I will repent even further at the gym. Cardio! Weights! Plyometrics! Sauna! Blood! Sweat! Tears! No muscle will go un-worked! No sweat gland will be dry!

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry Body! Please forgive me! I will never(ish) treat you this way again.

Just Desserts

17 Aug

The past two days I’ve spent over 45 minutes on either the treadmill or elliptical or both, followed by some weights and ab workouts. Even though it was nearly 80 degrees inside my house last night, I earned this. (Also, I hate wasting food and Lord knows how seldom I use heavy cream and I had some left over from making cheesecake, so this really had to be done.)

I made dark hot chocolate, home made whipped cream and sprinkled the final product with cinnamon. Ah-mazing.

Ingredients: Heavy cream, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, Dove dark chocolate squares, milk (not shown)

Chill beaters and a tall narrow bowl for 15 minutes in the freezer. Add 1 C heavy cream. Beat until soft peaks form. Add 2-4 tblspns of powdered sugar (depending on your desired sweetness) and 1-2 tspns vanilla extract. Beat until stiff peaks form. Voila! Whipped cream.

For the hot chocolate, I used the remaining bit of cream, some soy milk and a little bit of 2% milk. Heat milk in saucepan and add Dove dark chocolate squares (I used 8 – and some leftover semi-sweet chocolate chips I found in the fridge that weren’t enough to do anything else with.) Heat until chocolate melts stirring constantly. Delicious!

Dark hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon served in an oh-so cuddly mug

 

Delicious imperfection

The whipped cream was a little too dense to sit prettily on top like the kind that comes from an aerosol can, but oh well! Maybe a shorter whipping time would help that. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy! (Probably not on a summer night like I did, but even then – so good!)

Not-so-healthy Weekend

16 Aug

I may or may not have gone wine tasting for the better part of Saturday. Afterwards, I may or may not have had barbecued ribs and chicken. Followed by what may or may not have been a significant portion of a 9″ cheesecake. Only to possibly have had breakfast the next morning consisting of chorizo eggs and refried beans. Maybe. Possibly. Could have happened.

I plead the fifth.

The aforementioned cheesecake. It earned rave reviews and I'm proud to say that I made it 🙂

Protein Style

12 Aug

I love cheeseburgers. I love Southern California. Therefore, I love In-n-Out. I also love mystery (as you can tell from my excitement with the secret bakery) so it’s only fitting that I love In-n-Out’s secret menu (locals only, yo!)

I’ve tried a few things on their secret menu – animal style fries and burgers – but last night, I had my first protein style cheeseburger. Loved it!

Lovely picture of a cheeseburger animal style care of TheChive.com

I’m not one to shy away from carbs but I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the gym that night and I wasn’t able to go on my lunchtime walk and I was out-and-about and starving and poor so I took the opportunity to try it. Granted the cheese and ‘spread’ aren’t exactly “good for you” but taking away the bun makes this a slightly healthier burger option (only about 330 calories according to In-n-Out’s nutritional chart). And it was only about $3. Win!

Zumba!

9 Aug

I just found this article and loved the title:

“Why You Should Give In To The Zumba Craze”

It is kind of a craze – like Tae Bo or Jazzercise. And it’s been marketing itself with summer/party-themed advertisements forever (Turn up the heat! The Party’s Here! Feel the Beat! Ditch the Workout and Join the Party! …should I go on?) so it’s perfect for this time of year.

I tried it for the first time this past Sunday (because L.A. Fitness recently started offering the classes – yay! 24 Hour Fitness has been offering them for awhile now) and it was really fun. Granted, I looked like a fool but laughing at yourself works those ab muscles!

It wasn’t very intensive but it did get my heart rate up and is definitely something I would do again – probably in conjunction with higher intensity cardio and/or weights beforehand. The class I was in was small so the energy was kind of low, but I imagine a big group of people would make it even more fun. I also think the Zumba DVDs might be more intensive or incorporate more ‘workout’ moves.

Check your local gym schedule or you can go here to find a class near you.