Tag Archives: fitness

The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet & Exercise

I’m a big fan of all of the following:
  • Maria Menunos
  • practical weight loss
  • good television hosts
  • inspiration/encouragement/positivity
And so, when Maria came out with her recent book: The EveryGirls’ Guide to Diet and Fitness, I was actually in need of some fitness inspiration and snatched it right up!
Maria: Before & After 40-lb weight loss
Maria: before & after 40-lb weight loss
Let me begin by asking you “Did you know that the Maria that we see on TV today is 40 pounds slimmer than her former self?!  I was impressed to learn that she was formerly much rounder before she slimmed down on her own, but wait, it. gets. better! My biggest takeaway from her story was the fact that Maria was always happy – round or thin.  She was also successful – round or thin.  Her decision to change her lifestyle was for the purpose of better health and in the process, she found her muscles. But I was inspired to learn that Maria won a beauty pageant and a hosting award before she ever even counted a calorie!  And then, when she decided to change her lifestyle, she opted for small changes over a long haul and thus, has never had to look back!  Immensely interested, I read the bulk of her book during the course of my plane ride from NY to LA and the following are my cliff notes.  Take from it what you desire! My approach to this book, as is the case with many books that I read, is to simply walk away with a few concepts affirmed (because nothing is new anymore, it’s more about at which turn you heard it that it stuck) and resolved to incorporate into my life.  Take away as much or as little as you’d like from the the following solid advice from Maria’s book: The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness! the fifty year plan This is something that Maria and her partner use (I believe it was his invention) to gauge whether or not any behavior is sustainable.  Whether it’s leaving dishes unwashed or inhaling junk food or not moving, putting your behavior under the lens of a fifty-year projection will give you insight to make the judgement call on what type of behavior should be edited out or implemented.  So Maria encourages us to “get on the fifty year plan!”
log 1 week of food This is one of Maria’s keys to shaping up her diet anytime: in the beginning of her journey and whenever she wanted to achieve a new level of fitness.  She personally wears a FitBit wristband to log her activity and sleep and endorses the MyFitnessPal app as an effective tool for food journaling. From this, I was reminded of the effectiveness of MyFitnessPal when I used it and have committed to logging my food and exercise everyday.  It’s a free app and Maria even recommends this as a tool.
Chinese people love their hot water!
Chinese people love their hot water!
drink hot water
This is an interesting tip that actually reminds me of my parents and Chinese culture in general – the older generations love to drink boiled water (gwun soi).  Maria swears by the effectiveness of drinking hot water – she says that she and her partner dropped weight as soon as they incorporated this into their lifestyle.  I don’t know if there is science behind the benefits over drinking hot water – especially over cold water – but this is something that I haven’t and probably won’t do.
always be exercising This is great and is a step up from her first tip to “always be moving.”  I’ve heard another version of this before: “fidget.”  And I read somewhere that Jack LaLane used to do pushups while he was waiting for the elevator, etc.  And one of my fitness friends recommends habits such as doing calf raises while waiting in line at Starbucks. I have taken this to heart and have started to take the stairs in my building more, have swapped my Metrocard for a Citibike Membership, have opted for the “harder” route, in general, whether that meant taking the stairs, walking, standing, or calf-raising in line.  What I’ve found that it does for me is keep me in a constant state of motion, where a little bit of sweat is normal, where I’m more so in a state of activity rather than a state of rest – and so it’s easier to just keep moving.  I love this concept.  
bond over fitness
Maria talks about inviting pals over for a basketball game, having a meeting while hiking, and basically swapping activities in for our default form for socializing – eating and drinking – both of which are healthy lifestyle dangers!   I have long adopted this way of being.  As a spin instructor, I extend an open invitation to anyone I feel compelled to do so to.  I also love to do fun activities with friends – movies in the park, working out together, attending church together – and we’ve all got to eat! but even then, I love trying out themed places and healthy places and maintain a balanced mixture of activities with friends.     
try not to eat after 7pm 
Maria advocates this and I am far from this.  This is apparently something that she practices in her lifestyle and I agree that lighter eating at night is certainly the protocol, but if you are hungry, you’ve got to eat – just lightly.  She has a saying, “Sleep it off,” and I agree that many times, sleeping early can nip midnight snacking and hitting the sack can stave the munchies.  Ultimately, if you’re logging your food, however, the one and only rule is staying within your calorie limits, whether it’s 7pm or 11pm and I believe you can’t go wrong based on that.
This is ok - just earn it!
This is ok – just earn it!
earn your food I just did this when I worked out like a maniac yesterday and kept saying to my spin class “Earn your BBQ!”  It feels good to go into some planned overeating knowing that you worked out to create a calorie deficit and will work out the next day to address any difference still residing.  It comes down to science and calories-out must exceed calories-in to lose weight and must be equal to maintain weight.  Snacking counts, free samples count, and fortunately, exercise counts!  I love the feeling of chowing down on a healthy meal when I’m famished and sweaty after a workout!  I think it’s important to hold off on eating until you can get to a healthy meal and then eat up, cuz you “earned it!”
soup before meals
This is an easy habit that anyone can incorporate into their eating routine.  I personally love to load up on vegetables so am not holding myself to practicing this – I would rather chow down on extra salad or cooked veggies over soup and they both accomplish the same goal: filling up on low-calorie food items.
Below are Maria’s phases and steps that she realized she took – upon looking back at her gradual weight loss – to get to her current fabulous state.  She has broken it down and I think this is solid commonsense advice that you already know but may engage with because of her presentation.  Check it out!
This woman's worked hard and accomplished a lot - and so can you!
This woman’s worked hard and accomplished a lot – and so can you!
  1. set a deadline
  2. weigh yourself
  3. buy a journal
  4. log a week’s worth of food
  5. review and assess
  6. cut back slowly
to avoid overeating:
  • talk a walk
  • drink hot water
  • sleep it off
  • munch on something better
  1. weigh again
  2. go back to journaling
  3. fine-tune your diet
  4. exercise
  5. drink lots of water
  6. rejoice and reward
  • eat mostly foods from the ground
  • eat only when hungry
  • eat only as much as you need in the moment

Fitness and Faith: for optimal results, approach as prescribed!

I’ve noticed for some time now, that when I am speaking about God or Christianity, that I can often use exercise as an analogy.  It struck me the other day because I’m on a training regimen with so many components that building them into my lifestyle is the key to it’s existence and success; just like my faith.  I’ll unpack that a bit for you, along with some other correlations that I find helpful. IT’S A LIFESTYLE: To me, there is a 3-Pronged approach to creating a lifestyle: habits, schedule, community.  Neither faith or fitness is something that you can implement part of the time and experience measurable results.  Your faith and your fitness, if you want to be a warrior in either, have to be lifestyles that include daily practices, recurring calendar appointments, and people. for me: this means that I have certain habits that I do daily: I drink [a gallon] of water a day, I cook my own meals, I pray as soon as I wake up, then I eat breakfast.  I also have chosen to be a fitness instructor so that exercise is literally a non-negotiable appointment on my calendar several times a week.  “Church” is also on repeat in my calendar.  It’s the people who have people at the gym and church who are more apt to stick with the program.  Don’t be a loner in a  lifestyle that you want to go after.  There’s still much more to improve upon, but I live fitness and I live in faith.  They are lifestyles. THE PAIN BECOMES GAIN: When you lift weights, you are literally tearing the muscle fibers.  Muscles grow larger and stronger when they repair themselves after being torn; so, the situation has to get worse before it gets better.  Interesting, huh?!  In the same way, God grows our character through trials: periods of loneliness during which we grow closer to Him, temptations that strengthen our character, hopelessness that sends us into intercessory prayer.  On the other side of this: we are physically stronger from pushing those weights, feeling that soreness, and bearing that pain.  And we are spiritually stronger from the trials that we have endured. for me: this means that I am exhausted at the end of a weight-lifting session, but then I get to see and feel the growth in my muscles and I witness progress with the amount of weight I can lift.  I feel accomplished when I move up the weight rack!  In my spiritual life, it means that when I look back at the bleak times in my life, I can appreciate how far I’ve come, and I can see the contrast between that and a life with God’s presence in it. THERE IS A DEVIL TO RESISTshieldsofstrength2 Both faith and fitness require staying on the narrow path in order to achieve the results or the life we want.  These narrow paths are choked by temptations that we must resist.  In fitness, it’s chocolate cake, alcohol, and french fries.  In faith, it’s sex before marriage, gossip, and unforgiveness.  It is in the resisting of these temptations that we can experience the fullness of the body and spirit that we are seeking.  Resisting temptation also becomes easier over time. for me: this means that my home is filled with healthy food and Bible verses.  I don’t bring things into my home that will thwart my goals.  I admire and drink from sources that are respectable leaders in both industries so that my mind stays on track. ACCOUNTABILITY IS KEY Group fitness classes and community worship simply have better success rates than going at these things alone.  Even if we’re talking about one additional person, having someone to go to the gym or go to church with will oftentimes mean the difference between doing it or not.  Announcing that you’re going on a diet or surrendering something to God increases the success rate as well.  Man was not made to go at life alone; hook up with a buddy for the things that are important. for me: this doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a buddy to do everything with, but it does mean that I become related to the people around me: trainers, students, fellow gym rats, pastors, fellow church go-ers, in order to build a community and have accountability. shieldsofstrength3IT TAKES FAITH, TRUST THE PROCESS Anything worth having is worth waiting for, right?!  It’s usually around after one month of compliance with a diet and exercise plan that I begin to notice results.  That’s one month of just eating and moving in faith.  In the same way, we have to take a leap of faith to jump into a life with God and be vulnerable in order to experience His fullness.  We have to move into his calling, sometimes against all logic, without seeing any hope, and just believe that He is for us. for me: this means that I operate on faith and that I gobble up fitness success stories and testimonies from faithful Christians to fuel that faith.  I live my Christian life based on principle, not emotion and I eat for nutrition, not to feed my feelings. These photos are from Shields of Strength, a company that has fused faith and fitness into fantastic jewelry designs.  I love the concept, obviously, and shall be buying one!

Get Fit New York!

Get Fit New York just had the pleasure of interviewing two Olympic athletes who live and train right here in NYC!  Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad-Tabago (2nd from R)  and Paul Kim Williams of Granada (far R) sat down [on the ground] with me to divulge their Olympic stories.  Then I took it to the gym w/ their strength and conditioning coach to see how I’d measure up next to these guys.  They were extremely gracious in sharing their experience, they were gentle on me during their workout, and they really showed both their humility and their athleticism between their interviews and workouts…I was and remain in awe! For those of you who don’t know, I have just launched my very first fitness web series, titled Get Fit NY!  We profile the fitness culture in NYC to spur its residents on to the incredible events and opportunities pulsating right here in NYC!  We release new videos every Wednesday, so you’ll have to wait to see our interview w/ the Olympians.  But for now, you can get caught up on the past three episodes right here!


…according to Jackie Warner.  The host of “Thintervention” breaks it down in her book.  Here’s why I love what she has to say.  We all know what to do, but we don’t all know why we should do it.  For example, I know that more sleep, less protein, less carbs at night, dynamic training, etc have contributed to my fitness high points, but ask me why and I’d be strapped for anything more than a general, generic answer. Warner devotes an entire chapter in her book to education on hormones because at the core of weight issues is an imbalance in hormones.  Ultimately, out-of-whack hormones are at the helm of obesity.  The hormones that keep you thin are Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone, & Progesterone.  And so, as a general rule of thumb, all efforts should be circulating around maximizing the production of these hormones.  The harsh truth is, the aging process carries with it a decline in these good hormones.  But this doesn’t mean that we are helpless.  You can naturally raise your hormone levels. Human Growth Hormone: The Fountain of Youth HGH directs your body to burn fat before burning sugar, essentially creating a fat-burning machine out of you.  It also gives you more energy, a higher sex drive, and youthful skin and hair.  It’s a superhero of a hormone.  Now, the question is, how do we manipulate it?!  Cutting back on carbs at night lowers blood sugar, which promotes HGH, so that it will then be at work while you sleep.  In addition, HGH requires deep sleep for production.  Hence, why we should get our beauty sleep.  As for eating, HGH-building foods are the ones which are constantly preached to us: lean proteins, veggies, whole grains, etc.  And why go organic?  We hear that it’s because pesticides are bad for us.  But why exactly are they bad for us?  Well, in the context of weight management, pesticides and chemicals lower HGH.  And the final way to preserve HGH is by training hard.  Weightlifting and sprinting trigger HGH release, improving metabolism. Testosterone:  The Muscle Builder Mistakenly associated solely with men, testosterone is critical for women, in building muscle, burning fat, boosting energy, increasing sex drive, strengthening bone, lifting depression, increasing optimism, and if present in large doses, producing assertiveness.  The ways in which to promote testosterone growth include eating certain veggies, fruits, nuts, & legumes, and limiting fat, caffeine, and alcohol intake. Progesterone: the Slim and Trim Hormone This hormone burns calories-as much as 100-300/day.  Progesterone also decreases bloating, prevents cancer, improves libido, and boosts mental clarity.  When progesterone drops, it brings its friends metabolism and energy along for the ride too.  So, for optimal progesterone production, your body needs vitamin B and magnesium, which are found in beans, meat, poultry, fish, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, eggs, seeds, etc. On the flip side, there are also hormones that make you fat: Insulin, Estrogen, Cortisol, and Leptin.  And so many of the habits that we are encouraged to adapt are conducive to balancing these hormones. Jackie Warner’s diet recognizes that cheat foods are enjoyable foods and so she allows for two cheat meals (up to 1,500 calories each!) after a week of 5 clean-eating days.  I don’t know about you, but the idea of indulging in a day’s worth of calories in one meal gets me wondrously excited.  She has some hard-core circuit training programs that I’m excited to tackle as well.  It all starts off with a 2-week jumpstart, which I’m in right now.  So, incorporating certain nutrients into my diet and performing her cardio routines is the simple name of the game.  I hope to have amazing results to report soon!

13.1 miles behind me…the world before me!

A month ago, I said to myself, “I need to do something to change my body” (This may have marked the 100th time that I have said this!). But nevertheless, my strategy this time was going to be running…not running on the treadmill for 30 minutes, but something different, something perhaps more involved, almost like a sport. And so, I signed up for two NYC half-marathons, set one month apart. I had never run more than 6 miles…and those were not all-out runs. This was going to be new ground being broken, but I never let that stop me. I figured, “how hard can it be to continue moving one foot in front of the other once I reach the mileage that I usually clock?” And so, I started running with the Nike running club, quickly learned that I was quite an impressive runner (that’s what they said!), became savvier on the technical aspects of running (clocking mileage, time, pace, etc), and learned exactly what the right type of sneaker was for me (a structured sneaker with cushioning). I ran 10 miles on each of my three Saturdays with the club. The fourth Saturday was the half-marathon. I rose at 4:30am in order to get to the starting line at 7am. It was insane. I had only slept for 2 hours the night before. And not only did I not sleep, but I also chose to munch all night! I was a mess that morning: bloated, tired, and feeling far from ready. Nevertheless, I had too much invested to do anything less than complete what I had started. It was going to be a learning experience: learning how much I could do in such a screwed up situation. The next few hours were just as messy. In short, the New York Road Runners had done a pathetic job of organizing transportation for the runners to the starting line. There we all were, clad in sneakers and Underarmour, dressed to take on the road, with no where to go. A line of runners, three blocks long, waited listlessly as the 7am start time crept closer. It wasn’t until 6:55am that I stepped onto the bus and 15 minutes later, we saw the race well underway as runners sped past us at the 2 mile mark. The bus driver idiotically dropped us off at the 2 mile mark and we were abandoned with the sole solution to WALK TWO MILES to the starting line! As Tamara (my fellow pissed off runner) and I walked in disbelief, we half-joked, half-cried about the surreal scenario that had unfolded over the past two hours. At 8am, a full hour late, she and I stood at our starting positions and off we went. It was strange, running the race with one person beside me…not much of a race atmosphere, if you know what I mean. I soon learned, however, that a race is truly a race against yourself; it’s your own time to reach your own goals; it’s very much an individual sport. And so, I didn’t mind when Tamara ran ahead of me. Here’s how the following 90 minutes transpired. At mile 2.5, I was ready to give up. I had all the excuses to justify quitting and I was ready to allow myself to throw in the towel. Half a mile later, I came up on the 3-mile marker, grabbed a cup of Gatorade, and walked. As I walked, I recovered physically and mentally. I looked at my watch and realized that I had a fighting chance to redeem myself. I threw away my cup and started running again. I started passing people, always looking to the next person ahead each time to establish a short term goal. I passed the 4 mile marker, then 5, then 6, then 7, and it was coming easily. I was watching my watch closely and committing myself to stay at an 8 minute-mile pace…I would never forgive myself if I ran much slower than that. (Two years ago, I ran a 6-mile race at a 7:38 pace). And hang on to the pace I did, passing more mile markers, passing more runners, throwing more cups of Gatorade down my throat, loving each child, cop and spectator who cheered as I ran past, and discovering that I was reaching my goal, stride by stride. At the 10 mile mark, my feet started hurting, but I forged on, determined to finish without losing my pace, promising myself a frozen yogurt when it was all over. I was ecstatic as I passed the 11 and 12 mile markers still within my desired pace! I passed the 13 mile mark, ready to celebrate and quickly realized that there was .1 miles to go! (fun fact: a marathon is actually 26.2 miles!) And so, .1 miles later, it was all over and I grabbed a Gatorade, french toast bagel, and a plum. I walked around, stretched, and just relished in the fact that I had “done it.” I have to admit that I am proud of myself. Like Forest Gump, I just kept “going and going and going.” And you all know how much we love Forest! The only downside now is, “Where’s the six-pack that is supposed to come with all this work?!” Maybe next week I have to run 18 miles to start seeing it. Stay posted and enjoy the visuals I captured of this amazing experience!  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=111279&id=686433068&saved