Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bike Two Ways for Great Abs

Believe it or not, having a nice tapered waistline and a little sexy ab muscle definition doesn't take a whole lot of work. All it takes is a combination of fat-burning cardio and muscle-building core workouts -- or as I call it "bike two ways".

The first "bike" is basically any cardio workout that helps burn the fat, letting the muscles underneath in the torso (and everywhere else) show through. Whether you choose to actually bicycle, run, kickbox or dance your way into a cardio-burn, incorporate this for at least 20 minutes a day/3 days a week to give your fat cells a run for its calories!

The second "bike" is the bicycle crunch, demonstrated below:

I absolutely
love this move since it engages all the major core muscles: front, sides, upper and lower. No surprise that it's considered one of the best ab moves to do!

While this and other targeted-muscle exercises will not "spot reduce" and shrink the fat specific to that area, it will show some really nice lean and mean cut and definition once the fat does go away (which is what the cardio is for.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Activia Experience While Running

Ugh, had a planned 10/11 mile hilly run cut short to a 7-mile due to getting an Activia experience 5 miles in. For your reference, courtesy of NBC's SNL:

First off, I didn't pull the full "Jamie Lee!" (possibly the look.) Fortunately, I made it home without incident and thankful I don't run far away enough to worry about where I have to take care of business. But now I'm just wondering what could've set me off, so to speak.

The top (or should I say bottom?) suspects are:

1) drinking coffee about half-hour before my run, which might have woken up my GI tract as well
2) having warmed milk in middle of night after unexpectedly waking up (and I'm just a tad lactose sensitive)
3) a meat and alcohol laden dinner from two days ago, VERY out of the norm for my body and probably tough to process

More likely, it's probably the combo of the three strikes that got me out. I guess lesson learned to keep a closer eye on what I eat.

And apologies for all the bad puns and possible TMI - believe me, it's way crappier experiencing it first-person.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Watch Those Portions

Bento Box
The bento box at Shojin is sensibly portioned and have great variety between the different food groups

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days (and onwards!)

Foodwise, we are definitely living in the land of plenty. Between meals with lots extras to add on, ever-larger meal plates and growing portion sizes, it's easy to lose track of what a 'serving' is. So here's a friendly reminder from me and the American Dietetic Association on what a serving looks like. (Sidenote: to clarify, servings are standardized whereas portions are variable.)

- A serving of meat is three ounces, or size of a deck of cards
- A serving of cooked veggies is half a cup, or a light bulb (raw veggies, by the way, is one cup)
- Each dairy serving is eight ounces of milk, one ounce or one slice of cheese; an ounce of cheese is about a pair of dice (and not those huge plushy ones you dangle about.)
- A serving of nuts is an ounce, or a modest handful
- One serving of cooked pasta/rice is a cup, or a tennis ball
- For breads, each serving is one slice (even less for denser, larger ones like oversized loaves or bagels)
- One drink in alcohol equals to 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz (a shot) of spirit (i.e. a full pint glass is actually 133% serving of beer, and a bottle of wine contains five servings)

I am not saying you should use a measuring spoon and cup to scrutinize everything you put in your mouth, but hopefully these visual cues will help you gauge how many servings of the various food groups you're consuming and make adjustments as needed.

Likewise, feel free to indulge occasionally in that large piece of steak, the must-have cheesy baked pasta dish or that decadent dessert, but try to compensate by cutting back on those food groups on days leading up to and following that splurgy meal. As noted recently, moderation is key.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is moderation?

Given all my talk of moderation when it comes to eating, I guess I should disclose what my idea of the word means -- which to some may feel like a near-anorexic diet and to others a gluttonous feast.

But ultimately, if the goal is to maintain or lose weight, you have to gauge the calories you take in versus calories being burned, with caloric intake equaling burn for maintenance and intake less than burn for weightloss (approximately 3,500 calories per pound.) I'm not a obsessed, precise calorie-counter, but I do a fair job of guesstimating how many I'm eating -- as for estimating calories burned, there are calculators out there like this easy-to-use one at active.com, which takes into consideration your sex, current height, weight, age and activity level.

That being said, I try to stay within 1,600-1,800 calorie range on a normal day, enough to for me to have three satisfying meals plus wiggle room for snacks/treats/alchy while still creating a signficant calorie deficit (if the calculator's guesstimated 2,400 calories burned/day is to be trusted.)

So on a given week with 4-5 days of normal eating, I'll have a weekly caloric deficit of 2,400 to 4,000 calories -- which I have to "splurge" on more indulgent and decadent meals at home or out and about. And given my love of all things sweet and fatty, two to three splurge meals will easily fill that deficit up, so that's how I moderate my indulgences: no more than three blowout meals on a given week. I think of it as my own "three strikes" rule. And it works for me in the past two and a half years at this weight, since I've never deviated more than five pounds.

Of course, this is what works for me -- unless you're identical to me in body size, activity level, eating habits and food cravings, you're probably going to have different calorie needs and probably a different regimen. If you don't eat out a whole lot, you may do better with a consistent but overall higher-calorie intake everyday. Or if you go out-of-town regularly, perhaps a "three weeks clean, one week mean" schedule is more suitable. There's definitely some room to play around as to finding what lifestyle's best for you, but just remember and use the simple calories in-calories out formula to guide your eating habits to meet your goals (word of caution: don't try to restrict yourself too much trying to get fast results; as a rule, healthy weight loss is considered 2 pounds/week maximum a.k.a. 7,000 calorie deficit.)

P.S. if 1,800 calories a day sounds like a deprivation diet to you, keep an eye out for this blog where I'll share some of my favorite recipes and products that's filling, tasty and won't blow your calorie budget.

Monday, April 20, 2009

LA Times' DIY Weight-Loss Issue Today: Check It Out

Whether you'll still trying to make good on that New Year's resolution or getting into that trim summer shape or just attempting to blast those last few unwanted pounds, today's LA Times Health section is well worthwhile read, focusing on do-it-yourself weightloss: with a well-rounded look at developing a workout routine, modifying eating habits and building a support system to stay on-track. And kudos for mentioning the doctors' visit before the lifestyle overhaul to make sure the body's a-OK to go.

And of course, one doesn't have to follow these guidelines down to the very last details -- take the tips and advice that you can use and incorporate into your lifestyle.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Good, Bad, Pretty and Ugly of my Nine-Mile Run

Good: Surprised to discover I didn't need any mid-run hydration for nine-miles (when I started running, I had to drink water at every mile!) Glad to know my body's water-regulation mechanism is improving even though I still sweat like crazy.

Bad: My right-leg IT band started acting up towards the end of my run, which I attribute to too many uneven driveway pavements from sidewalk running. Hope the mid-run and cool-down stretches (and ibuprofen) will keep that at bay. And I seriously hope this doesn't repeat itself on my next semi-long run or I may have to reconsider the LA Marathon in favor of a mere half in Laguna (and a slower paced training for the Pasadena Marathon in November).

Pretty: When changing out of workout clothes, loved how ripped I looked in the mirror...

Not-So-Pretty: Figure reverted to normal after I drank water to quench my dehydrated body.

Good #2: Actually felt myself in that zen-like zone halfway through my run; not a common occurrence for me, but always appreciated whenever I get it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Too full!

I am no saint and sometimes I don't follow my healthy eating habits to a 'T'. But boy does my body send me nasty reminder signals to keep me on track.

Totally ate too much Thai take-out today for lunch after a stressful morning of work, and now I feel totally grossed-out-bloated with a little cramping to boot. Ugh...

So there's my lesson today in not only getting proper portions of food but also eat slowly so my stomach has enough time to send satiety signals to my brain, allowing me to stop before it's too miserably late.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Trim That Fat

My coffee nut brownies are one of the few exemptions from my "trim that fat" rule

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days.

Try cutting down on the fat / oil / butter the next time you cook from a recipe, whether new or tried-and-true. With the major exception of baked goods (where exact measurements are crucial), most recipes are forgiving and you can get away trimming the butter and oil without compromising on flavor. When I cook at home, I'm usually able to reduce the fats by 33-50%. Of course, depending on the dish, you may have to make some other adjustments, such as reducing cooking time to avoid drying out a dish or substituting other liquids. And if you're wary, try cutting a little bit at a time (maybe 20%, then 25%, and so on . . .) Even a little calorie saving now can go a long way down the road.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mixing Things Up

Some exercise equipment at home

I've never been one for a regular (read: repetitive) workout schedule; as much as I would like to quickly improve how much weights I can lift, or how far/fast I can run, I'd be bored out of my gourd if I am doing the same set of exercises day after day (and I suspect that's a big reason for many folks that fell off the workout wagon.)

And so, I like mixing up my routine -- not only does it work out my entire body in all sorts of ways, it keeps it fun and challenging so I really don't mind doing it 6-7 days/week.

Some of the things I integrate into my mix:

- Running: yes, a rather mundane exercise but it's also one of the best calorie burners so I aim for two days a week. But I change up the routes and I occasionally load up a playlist of energetic, upbeat music if I am not as worried about my pacing.

- Cardio-dance: admittedly a bit dated since it's very 80s retro-aerobics, but it's a decent cardio workout and the dance moves really help keep shoulders, waist, hips and legs in shape. And who knows, maybe you can take a move or two to the club when going out.

- Athletic Intervals: whether in the form of football runs, basketball shuffles, volleyball spikes or cardio-kickbox, I like these a lot since they usually employ some plyometrics, short bursts that really builds power and endurance.

- Lifting the weights: I try to incorporate at least a little bit of strength training five days a week, muscles burn calories around the clock and helps keep me looking athletically-fit instead of overactive thyroid-emaciated. Again, like running, I give myself great versatility here so I don't get bored. In addition to classic lifts with my dumbbells, sometimes I'll do core-based moves with stability ball, or use a resistance band with my cardio workouts to give it that extra oompf!

- Pilates: better for days when I want to exercise at a more relaxed pace but still feel a burn, this is excellent for core-strengthening and developing ab/back muscles.

- Yoga: decent for developing strength, nice for relaxation, and wonderful for gaining flexibility, which is often neglected as part of fitness but very important in helping to prevent injuries.

And so that's my "routine" that's anything but (I can pretty much do a different 40-80 min. workout for three weeks with no repeats!) and works well for keeping me engaged and persistent. But whatever you want to incorporate into your regimen, be sure to keep it fresh and varied so you'll stay challenged, have fun and keep at that goal of building and maintaining fitness.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Welcome to Foodie Fitness!

Wholesome, healthful and delicious madras temeph wrap at M Cafe de Chaya

Whether you came here from my other blog, or stumbled here all your own - as my blog title implies, I'm a foodie (and quite a drinkie too, now I think about it) who's avid about fitness. In some ways I think my food/drink obsession makes me even more committed to staying in shape - since my appreciation of all things edible and potable makes me just that much more vulnerable to gaining pesky pounds and blubbery bulges, not to mention the myriad of health issues being overweight/obese brings along.

And I definitely do want to demonstrate that one doesn't have to bend over backwards to get and stay fit; I'm my own living testament, having dropped 35-40 pounds / 8-10% body fat / 6 waist inches / 2-3 clothing sizes and maintaining that loss over the last two years. (To my surprise, I even shrank a shoe size!)

And there's no crazy diet, special pills or extreme exercise here. For most part, it's about moderation and balance. So whether you're trying to lose a little or a good deal more, I hope you get encouraged and inspired by my experiences, thoughts and views. (Of course, talk to your doc before engaging in any significant lifestyle changes to make sure your body isn't medically out-of-whack first.)

I am still trying to figure out what direction I want to take this blog, but expect insights and opinions on eating and exercise habits, how to balance my indulgences and having the mindset to get and stay healthy, along with a healthy dose of links with useful and practical information. Maybe I'll even sneak in a favorite effective workout move or a tasty and healthy recipe too.

Hope you'll enjoy reading my "fitventures" and join my lifelong journey to health and wellness!