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Exercise and Good Nutrition: Why You Need Both

The first time I trained for a half-marathon, I thought, “Okay, this is good.  I’ll be burning a ton of calories running all these miles and I’ll probably drop a few pounds. Awesome!”

And, yeah, I burned lots of calories, but I didn’t lose weight. Not at all.

The saying goes: You can’t outrun (or out-lift, out-train) a bad diet.

Salad phot courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

That means, exercise alone isn’t enough.

If you really want results, you need both: regular exercise and good nutrition.

How can it possible that even when you’re burning a lot more calories you don’t lose weight?

One possibility is a phenomenon called “The Halo Effect”

The Halo Effect

In a nutshell, it’s when you think something or some one is so good it’s hard for you to be objective.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

When it comes to fitness, the halo effect is:
I work out so I can eat whatever I want.

Sure, I can have dessert and a jumbo margarita! I just ran 10 miles.

 

I’m running a 5k tomorrow. I can have an extra serving.

The Halo Effect results in a person losing objectivity and allowing herself more high calorie indulgences or “rewards” because she worked out.

Thus the saying: You can’t outrun, out-lift, or out-train a bad diet.

In my experience, nutrition is way more critical in losing and maintaining a healthy weight than exercise, but it’s also the more challenging component.

And, it seems that the nutrition piece becomes even more important with age. You may be thinking, “I used to be able to eat whatever I want and never gain a pound.” [I’ve never said that, personally.]

So how do you do it? What’s the easiest way to get the best results from all your hours at the gym?

Here are a few tips on how to incorporate exercise and nutrition for the best results

Eat clean

Photo of apple courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Simply put, eating clean means eating whole foods in their most natural form as possible. For example, if you have a choice between an apple, apple sauce, and an apple flavored, gluten-free fruit chew, the apple’s the best choice. Choose minimally processed food with no added sugar whenever possible.

Eat more vegetables

At every meal, have at least one serving of vegetables, and shoot for 2 – 3 servings each meal. Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes don’t count. 

Drink water to stay hydrated

The standard recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces every day and even more than that if you’ve been sweating. Adequate hydration improves all bodily functions. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration which can result in problems such as headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and more.

Be aware of added sugar in beverages and choose accordingly

Sugar photo courtesy of Pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Sports drinks, soda, fruit juice, adult beverages, and sweetened coffee drinks often have a ton of added sugar and a ton of extra calories.

Many restaurants now have calories per serving listed right on the menu and others have nutrition information on their website. It’s worth taking a look.

Read labels for ingredients and serving size

When you look for calories on the label, don’t forget to check the serving size.

For more information, read How to Read a Food Label

The most important thing is to find what works for you and then stick with it. For more recommendations and nutrition tips at How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It

Over the past few years of working out and finding what works best for me, I discovered that exercise has many benefits but losing weight isn’t one of them. Maybe that’s because of the Halo Effect. I don’t know for sure.

What I know for sure is that making good nutrition choices improves my overall feeling of health, wellness, and fitness. I make my share of bad choices and I’m not anywhere near perfect, but when I do these things most of the time:

  • Eat clean
  • Eat my veggies
  • Drink water
  • Avoid added sugar
  • Pay attention to food labels

I get better results. It’s most likely, you will too.

How about you? Do you agree with the statement: “You can’t outrun a bad diet”? What works best for you?

Pic of strength training published on strong-woman.com

How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It

Years ago, I struggled with several health concerns, including having a very tough time losing weight. I was frustrated and confused because I was physically active at that time – worked out regularly – and it seemed like I was always training for some event, like a half-marathon or sprint triathlon.

Pic of strength training published on strong-woman.com

But when I realized how nutrition was impacting my health, I knew had a lot to learn. I tried all the nutrition hacks I could find, like low carb, no white stuff (rice, bread, sugar), eat breakfast, don’t eat breakfast, nutrition pyramid, etc.

Nothing helped very much and I was frustrated with my results. I thought something was wrong with me and that maybe my body just wanted to carry that extra weight. Or maybe I was just weak and lacked will power.

Then I realized that one of the reasons I didn’t have long-term success was because I hadn’t found what works for me, not just to lose weight, but for overall better health.

Choose a variety of vegetables and flavors picture published on strong-woman.com

That’s when I learned that some nutrition and inflammation and that, for whatever reason, some types of food aren’t good for me. I also learned about the glycemic index and how eating low glycemic food can help me lose weight. (Read Use Low Glycemic Approach to Lose Weight and Keep It Off for more information.)

Finally!

There’s a lot of confusion about what works best when you’re trying to eat healthy. Should you have fat or not have fat?

Is sugar really that bad for you?

What about breakfast? I heard the old saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” is a myth. Is it?

If you’re ready to start eating healthy and want some direction, here are 5 easy steps to get started.

Find what works for you.

The saying goes: The best diet is the one you can stick to.

We’re all different so what works for you may not work for me. And vice-versa.

Do you have to stay away from bread? For me, whole grains like quinoa and steel cut oats are okay for me, but most other grains aren’t. You may be fine with most grains.

Should you eat breakfast or skip it? Some people, like my husband, practice “intermittent fasting” and skip breakfast. It works for them. If I skip breakfast, I feel ravenous and tend to eat more or whatever’s on hand.

Should you snack or not? For me, small snacks throughout the day help keep me from getting over-hungry and helps me stay on track.

Is dairy okay? For some people even a little dairy is too much.

Is low-carb a good option? If you like fruits and vegetables, low carb is probably not going to be the best option for you.

For more information, go to webmd.com’s 10 Tips for Finding the Best Diet That Works for You

Practice portion control.

A couple of tricks to keep portions reasonable:

Drink choices are as important as food choices published on strong-woman.com

Use a smaller bowl/plate.

Use a small spoon.

When at home, keep extra food away from the table so second helpings aren’t as convenient.

When eating out:

Share an entree with a friend.

Pack half your entree in a to-go container.

Make water your drink of choice.photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Energy drinks, fruit drinks, alcohol, and sweet and creamy coffee drinks often have little nutrition and lots of added sugar. If you choose to indulge, stick with the small size.

Unsweetened tea or coffee or fruit-infused water are good options.

Eat mindfully.

Fast eating usually means unsatisfied eating. like when you’re eating so fast you don’t even remember what you ate?

Take your time and eat slowly. This is a lot easier to do if you’re not over-hungry.

Learn about food labels.

The simple way to read a food label is to look at the ingredients.

food label published on strong-woman.com

Watch for added sugar and make the best choice you can. For more information about food labels, read How to Read a Food Label

We’re all different. What works for some people may not work for you.

It may be helpful to keep a food journal so you can note how certain foods make you feel. Which food leave you feeling satisfied and which leave you hungry right away.

It takes trial and error, but it’s well worth the effort when you discover which foods help you feel healthy and well instead of sick and worn out.

Choose a variety of vegetables and flavors picture published on strong-woman.com

Why Oprah’s Message Matters More Than Her Weight Loss

January’s the time of year when you can’t get away from commercials for gyms, diet programs, and diet pills.

photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

You may have seen Oprah’s new commercial in which she gives us an itty-bitty glimpse of her life and shows off her 40 pound weight loss. If you haven’t, you can watch it here.

It’s hard to say what effect the new commercial will have on Weight Watchers’ sales, because that’s the real objective of this ad campaign.

Increased sales or not, congratulations to Oprah! She’s lost 40 pounds! That’s a great accomplishment. And yet, she doesn’t look thin, slender, or super fit.

What’s the selling point? Other than Oprah saying the product is great.

The underlying message here is to live well while losing weight without feeling deprived.

If you’ve watched Oprah for a while, you know that she’s struggled with her weight for years. Imagine having that kind of history and doing this program publicly.

It took courage for her to put herself out there and make herself vulnerable, even if she is getting paid for it. And even if she is Oprah.

No, she’s not skinny.

Has she reached her goal? Does she really cook her own food? (Really?!)

Is she okay with her current weight and ready to maintain it?

For anybody who’s ever lost weight and then gained it all back, you know that’s the hard part.

 

I heard this advice years ago and it’s changed my way of looking at losing weight and dieting: “Pick a weight loss plan you can live with to maintain a healthy weight, not just to lose weight.”

That’s the tricky part – maintaining a healthy weight.

The secret? Find what works for you and then make it a lifestyle.

For me, low-glycemic eating put an end to years of yo-yo dieting. Read more about yo-yo dieting and low-glycemic here.

Oprah’s message is about more than losing weight and being thin.

It’s really about making healthy-living a lifestyle.
Being happy and healthy.
And then getting on with the business of living your life.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t the easiest thing to do. But it’s do-able and well worth the effort.

Does seeing a celebrity endorsing a weight loss plan or product motivate you to try it? I’d love to hear your take. Feel free to post in the comments below.

photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Did you gain weight over the holidays? You’re not alone.

If you gained weight over the holidays, you’re not alone. Studies show that most people tend to gain at least a couple of pounds.

Actually, I’ve been a little lax since Thanksgiving, and when Christmas rolled around I showed no restraint.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
Holiday indulgence.
I ate what I wanted for 2 weeks over the holidays and here’s what I learned.
  • 5 pounds makes a difference. I can feel it. If it makes a difference when I gain it, it’ll make a difference when I lose it.
  • I’m an “all or nothing” kind of person. I have a hard time with just a little bit. Does that say something negative about my character? Maybe. All I know is that once I start, it’s really hard for me to stop.

(My husband’s an “everything in moderation” kind of person. He can be eating something delicious and just say, “I’m done.” And stop eating. It’s fascinating.)

  • Sugar is a problem for me. The more I have, the more I want. I guess that’s true for most people.

Sugar photo courtesy of Pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Time to put on the brakes

I want to get back to eating nutritious food and lose the weight I gained because I don’t feel my best carrying this extra 5 – 6 …okay 7 pounds.

And the other thing is, this is how it starts for me. If I don’t put the brakes on now, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have gained a lot more. I don’t want that. (Read more about my yo-yo weight here.)

My plan of action to lose this holiday weight:

  • Keep a food journal. This really helps. And now there are mobile apps that I find a lot more convenient than keeping a notebook. I use MyFitnessPal, but if you’d like to find out about others, read The Best Nutrition Apps of 2016 for a comparison.
  • Minimize sugar and processed carbs, like crackers and tortilla chips (one of my weaknesses).
  • Eat more vegetables, preferably raw. They’re rich in nutrients and fiber.
  • Eat breakfast. Sometimes I get busy and before I know it, it’s time for lunch, but by then I’m really hungry. I do much better when I eat breakfast.
  • Drink water throughout the day and especially before meals.
  • Avoid getting over-hungry by eating small meals and snacks throughout the day and make some of those raw vegetables, like carrots, grape tomatoes, or cut up vegetables.
  • Re-visit my “why”. Clarifying the bare bones motivation for me to lose the weight I’ve gained and get back on track is really important. I’m a rationalization queen. I can reason away 7 pounds in my sleep and be quite alright with it in the morning. But the truth is, I don’t feel my best and that’s reason enough for me to get clear on my “why”. 

    Older couple romantic published on strong-woman.com

My goal is to age well, to be strong and fit well into my 70s and 80s, if I’m fortunate to live that long. I wish to travel lightly though life, not only by having a heart of gratitude and forgiveness, but by living and acting as if I eat to live, not live to eat.

I want food to help sustain my health, not bring me down. 

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t easy for most of people. It’s like life. There’ll be ups and downs. Time to re-focus and re-commit.

And truly, in the big picture, with all that’s going on in the world, it doesn’t matter how much I weigh. Except that, I have work to do and I’m better able to do it when I feel my best: healthy, strong, and happy.

How did you do over the holidays? Did you gain a couple or a few pounds? Maybe you lost weight. I’d love to hear your take. Please post in the comments below.