Accountability – The Key to Success

One of the questions I get a lot of the time is, “Why am I not seeing success in ………..(fill in the blank). Whether it is a fitness goal, a strength goal, or even a weight loss goal. Most of the time I can narrow it down to one thing. That one thing is accountability.

Accountability is key. It doesn’t matter how many times a week you work out, how long you work out, your intent to eat clean, or even what quick fix diet you are on that promises the moon. If you are not accountable you are not going to see results. You have to take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are committed to the goal. Are you willing to do and sacrifice the things necessary to be successful.

This past week we lost 9 beautiful lives in a horrible helicopter crash. One of those was basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. This week in my Monday Motivation I posted one of his quotes that I heard over the week-end that I fell in love with. The quote should apply to anything we do that we see as worth while. Kobe Bryant said, “I was blessed with talent but I worked as if I didn’t.” The thing I got out of his quote was no matter what we are doing, whether it comes easy or not, we have to be willing to work hard at it and commit.

So what does being accountable look like? Well, to start with sit down and prepare. Know what you are going to do before you do it. Plan your workouts. Don’t just show up and figure it out as you go. Be deliberate. Monitor how hard you are working. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor get one and then figure out your specific heart rate zones. Then use it!!!!! Plan your meals. Plan those meals and your eating around your macros (Protein, Carbs, Fats). Then track the things you are eating. Write it down and be honest. If you are going out to eat decide ahead of time what you can and cannot have. Don’t wait until you get there it will be much easier to make a poor choice.

Another way to be more accountable is to know the things that sabotage your success. If it’s alcohol make the deliberate choice to not to have the glass of wine with dinner or the after dinner drink. Don’t open the dessert menu if that is your weakness. Watch what you keep at home in your pantry. Quit buying and keeping the things you have a hard time staying away from. Those small choices we make can be the difference between success and failure.

On a quick side note, if you think or know that your eating habits are tied to emotions or stress don’t be ashamed to seek help. There are many great counselors out there. One place to start might be your local church or if you are working with a personal trainer they may have resources they can give you. Your physician is a great source as well. Be deliberate about your health.

Finally, if you have a bad meal, a bad day, or bad week, etc. Don’t give up!!!! Keep at it. If you stick with it and make accountability a lifestyle you will be more likely to see success. Failure is really a word that should not be in our vocabulary because it takes many failures to see success. None of us are perfect AND THAT IS OK!!!! Keep working at being fit and healthy. It’s worth it.

Tips to Survive The Holidays!

As is usually the case with many people the holidays approach and the worry begins about the extra 5 pounds that might be gained. You are not alone in that thought. Even I, as a trainer and nutrition specialist, worry about the dreaded weight gain. Here are a few tips that I have found that help me to keep my weight and overall health in check as I navigate through the months of November and December.

#1. Make yourself accountable to someone. I always do a holiday “Maintain” challenge with my workout class. The goal is to be accountable to each other with the exercise and food choices we are making as well as what the scales are showing . If we stay within a pound of where we started we consider that a success and we celebrate with some type of reward. As we go through the holiday months we encourage and lift each other up. It makes for a great incentive to stay on track.

#2 . NEVER SKIP A WORKOUT!!!! Make sure to be deliberate about scheduling your workouts. Put them in your calendar and treat them as VERY important meetings. Not only will you feel better but you will, also, burn more of those extra calories you may take in.

#3. Write down what you are eating. This helps you keep track of what you are putting in your body. It ,also, will help you see when you are about to make a poor choice.

#4. Be deliberate. Don’t deprive yourself but plan. If you know you are going to be having a large meal then account for that during your day. If you know you are going to be drinking alcohol decide ahead of time how many you will have. This will help keep you from over-indulging.

#5. Finally DON’T STRESS! Take time to relax and reflect. Try not to let yourself get stressed. Take short walks. Do a Bible study. Meditate. Take a hot bubble bath. Watch a Hallmark movie!!!! Something to relax you. Make sure if you have lots of activities that you put them in a calendar and don’t wait until the last minute.

Hopefully these five things will help you think less about those 5 pounds and more about the magic and joy of the holiday season. Enjoy your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!!! (Some of us already have our decorations going up!!! Ha! Ha!))

October: The Month Dedicated to Fighting Breast Cancer and How 3 Days Changed My Life

This article is dedicated to: Lisa, Janice, Stacey, Tracie, Joy, Sharon, Michelle, Amy, Laurie, Beth, Ellen, Sabrina, and Auntie and all those who have fought and won, are fighting now, or lost their battle with Breast Cancer. As we end the month of October may they and their families know how much they are loved.

When my family moved to the small Texas town or Argyle in 2006 I never realized what an impact Breast Cancer would have on my life. Prior to moving to Argyle I had already seen my sister-in-law fight it and beat it and I’d experienced the wife of a business associate of my husband lose her battle with it. I never realized just how many people I would come across in my little Texas town who would fight it and win or would lose their battle with it nor the effect it would have on me personally.

Although our little town of Argyle is growing in leaps and bounds these days it is still a very close-knit community where everyone knows most everyone…….or at least knows of each othere. It’s the kind of community that rallies around each other when there is a need, especially when it comes to Breast Cancer. Even our high school gets in on the action having a “Pink Out” night at one of the home football games where money is raised for Breast Cancer and survivors are honored. Instead a sea of red and black (our school colors) you see a sea of pink!

I have had the honor in my time living in Argyle to get to know several survivors and to know several who lost their battle. While my heart was very sad at the loss of those that didn’t make it, the fight I saw in them was so inspiring. I think of them often especially during the month of October.

Just as inspiring as the fight of those that lost their battles are the stories behind those who are survivors and those who are currently battling this disease. If you’ve never sat down and actually talked to and gotten to know someone who has fought or who is currently fighting I encourage you to do so. Not only will your time give them encouragement but you will receive a blessing you never imagined.

Several years ago I embarked on one of the hardest things I had ever done. A new friend of mine I had known about a year was a breast cancer survivor. Her story of courage and faith inspired me. After her breast cancer she completed the Komen 3-day Walk. If you are not aware of what the Komen 3-day Walk is it is a walk-a-thon that lasts 3 days and covers 60 miles about 20 miles per day. You are required to raise a certain amount of donations to participate. Her story about completing the walk was so inspiring we decided to do it again together. Over the next several months we raised donations and trained for the event. I’m so glad she insisted on training because if we hadn’t we never would have made it……….and left to me I wouldn’t have trained or known to train. Thank goodness she did! I would have thought to myself, “I’m in good shape. I don’t need to train.” That would have been a terrible mistake. We trained several days a week walking around 5 miles at a time. We walked at the high school track. We walked in neighborhoods. We walked and walked. During those walks we became very close friends. As I spend more time with her, she inspired me more and more. Finally the day arrived. It started VERY early on a cold Friday morning in November in Texas and would go through Sunday evening. She had matching sweatshirts and tshirts made for us and I was so proud to wear mine. The first day we walked about 22 miles. It took us about 8 hours to finish. We felt great. Our legs and feet a little tired but not bad at all. Day 2 we were on a mission. My son was playing in his pee-wee football super bowl about an hour away and we needed to be done by 3 pm in order to make the game. We had 6 hours to get 18 miles done. We got it done by 2 pm and even had time for a complimentary foot massage. She went to the game with me that evening and unfortunately my son’s team did not win but what a time we had together. By this time both she and I were beginning to get a blister or two and we still had another 20 miles to walk to the finish on Sunday. As we began the day on Sunday we were excited to know we had almost finished but as the day wore on and the blisters became larger and more painful we knew finishing was not going to be an easy thing. The last 5 miles were the toughest. We must have stopped every half mile to take socks off and rest our aching feet. As we approached the last mile the anticipations was almost unbearable. People were cheering and the streets were lined with fans congratulating us. All of a sudden our feet didn’t hurt anymore. I can remember dancing down the street! Walking into Dallas Fair Park, where the finish was, left a sense of accomplishment but at the same time a somber memory of those we had lost to the awful disease of breast cancer. My friend and I walked arm in arm as we finished the last little bit of the walk and proudly took our picture with the 60 mile marker. We hugged and shared a few tears. We had done it. Waiting for us at the finish were are families with hugs and smiles. You could see the pride in their eyes. I will never forget this three days nor the friend I shared those 3 days with and the bond we will forever share. While what we had done was the hardest thing I had ever done, I knew it didn’t begin to compare with the fight she and so many others had and are having with breast cancer.

So as the month of October comes to a close tonight with little ones trick-or-treating be sure to take a moment and say a little prayer for those fighting this fight. If you feel the urge to do the Komen 3 Day Walk or a Race for the Cure I can assure you it will be something you won’t regret and will never forget. May God bless you all.

Why Breath Is So Important

Lying in bed one night I found myself trying to go to sleep.  As I tried to focus on why I was feeling so anxious I realized I’d been going 100 to nothing all day and hadn’t taken time to relax.  My breath was shallow and quick.  My heart seemed to be beating a million miles per hour.  As I tried to take deep breaths and slow my breathing I found it almost uncomfortable to do.  What I didn’t realize is I had been training myself for months to breath that way because of the lifestyle I was living. 

Having 4 kids ages 21 to 14 life can be quite busy and challenging at times.  Not to mention stressful.  While I always take time to exercise and eat right, I don’t take a lot of breaks just to slow down and relax.  Even vacations are full of activities and things to do.  Many times I return from vacation more tired than I was when I left.  LOL!

So why is training our bodies to breathe properly important?  The way we breathe affects every part of and system in our bodies.  Breathing incorrectly can lead to problems such as dizziness, anxiety, chest pain, digestive issues, neck and shoulder pain just to name a few.  If we are under constant stress or if we continue to run our bodies ragged we may find we begin experiencing these things.  I know I was.  I even went to my physician for a complete physical.  When everything seemed to check out just fine I began to pay attention to what was going on when I would begin to feel certain things.  Usually it was at the end of a crazy day when I hadn’t taken the time to sit down and relax a little.  So I started a few times a day to work on re-training my breathing to be slower and deeper.

It only takes about 5 minutes 3 or 4 times a day to retrain your breathing.  Yoga & pilates classes are great ways to work on this as well.  The best way at home to work on this is to lie on your back with your hands on your stomach.  Breathe in through your nose for about 4 seconds and then hold it for a few seconds.  You should feel your stomach rise as you breathe in.  Exhale slowly through your mouth again for about 4 seconds.  Continue to repeat this for about 5 minutes.  While you may not notice changes immediately in your breath, over time you will.  I will say it definitely will help you immediately to relax a little and that is a good thing too.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms my first advice is to see your physician for a complete physical.  If everything checks out you may have the same issues as I did.  Even if you are not experiencing these things, learning to breathe properly in our fast-paced world can make a huge difference in the way you feel and your overall health. 

March Into Health

The month of March is definitely known for March Madness and centers around college basketball.  At my house in the month of March you will usually find the entire family creating their own brackets in hopes of having the most wins and eventually be the one who picks the winner of the NCAA Tournament.  We all have our favorite team and none of us usually has the same Final Four.  While all the basketball is fun during the month of March it is, also, the month known as “March Into Health” month.  There are many health days celebrated in March.  All you have to do is google “national health days in March” and you will see a different one for almost every day.

  In the last few weeks there have been many things happen making me want to take a serious look at health issues and share that information.  The fast pace of life and instant gratification life we lead, I believe, are costing us our health.  Society has gone away from the home cooked meal to fast food, take-out, and processed food.  Even when a meal is home cooked it usually is only semi-homemade.  The cost?  Our health.  I have to be honest I am as guilty as anyone of leaning on their convenience.

  One concern of late is visceral fat. It is different from subcutaneous fat which is the fat just under the skin that none of us likes to see on ourselves. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is found around the internal organs such as the liver, stomach, gall bladder, spleen, etc. and can’t be seen. Visceral fat releases inflammatory substance called cytokines which can damage your organs leaving you at risk for many health issues.  Some of these include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart  disease, stroke, insulin sensitivity, diabetes, cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and even Alzheimer’s Disease. 

  There is only one way to know for sure how much visceral fat you may have and that is to have a CT scan.  However, there are scales that can estimate your level and you can, also, use your waist circumference to estimate.  For women a waist circumference of 35 inches and for men 40 inches or more is a good indicator that you may have high amounts of visceral fat and are at a higher risk for the above health problems.

  The good news is that visceral fat disappears twice as fast as subcutaneous fat.  By changing you eating and exercise habits you can make big strides to improving your health.  Reducing stress and getting the proper amount of sleep can, also, help.

   Daily exercise is important to decrease body fat.  Exercise should be high intensity.  Interval training is a great way to increase the intensity in your exercise.  Strength training is important as well.  Strength training will increase resting metabolism.  A higher resting metabolism means you will burn more calories at rest and this will help with reducing fat. 

   As far as your diet goes you should be doing your best to eat as healthy as possible.  Know your numbers and by this I mean know your Basal Metabolism Rate (amount of calories your body burns in a day without activity) and know what macronutrient splits ( % of protein, fat, carbohydrate) you should be eating.  There are formulas out there to help with this or if you can’t figure it out you can always contact a nutrition specialist and they can help you.  Your diet should include plenty of protein and fiber rich foods and your fat and carbohydrate intake should be lower.  Be sure your diet is balanced and full of veggies and fruits.

  Finally, sleep and stress both can effect your levels of visceral fat.  You should be getting more than 5 hours of sleep and no more than 9 hours.  For stress try meditation and deep breathing exercises such as yoga.  Spend less time on your smart devices or in front of television. 

Making a few changes in your lifestyle can immediately start helping to reduce levels of visceral fat and get you headed towards a healthier you.  Make it a priority this month to March to Health!  Oh and don’t forget to do your bracket as the NCAA tournament is beginning.  It’s a fun way to enjoy the games.

Oh My Heart!

The month of February is a month that is spent celebrating love. There are images of hearts, cards with sweet sayings, roses, the colors pink & red, boxes of chocolates in heart shaped boxes, and I could go on and on. I love those things as any girl would, but for me it is, also, a month I reflect on Heart Disease and my Daddy.

Growing up my daddy always had a card and a box of chocolates in a heart shaped box for me and my sisters every Valentine’s Day. He would proudly give them to us every year in the morning before we left for school. I don’t remember ever not getting a heart shaped box of chocolate from him on this special day. I received one every year…….even well into adulthood.

You see Daddy, being born in 1926, grew up in the Depression in a single parent family. His father was killed in a farming accident when he was 8 years old leaving his mother with 4 children and one on the way. He was taught from a very young age how to love others by his own mother. She chose to keep the family together when others wanted to split them up. She taught him a love for family that to this day I try my best to to show mine.

Growing up during that time period was quite different than today. They didn’t have access to the information that we have today. They didn’t know about eating healthy or the dangers of smoking. During that time everyone ate lots of fried foods and smoking was looked at as cool or glamorous and was a part of normal every day life. My dad smoked his first cigarette at a very young age and it continued until just a few years before he died.

My dad passed away Easter Sunday in 2004. If he were alive today he’d be 92 years old. Because he smoked he had his first open heart surgery when I was in grade school. I still remember it to this day. Over the course of his life he had a second open heart surgery (this time a quadruple by-pass), a heart cath where they placed a stint in his artery, lung cancer (removed half of one lung), and then 3 years later he died of a second type of lung can. I still miss him very much and that is why this subject is so dear to my heart.

Based on a study by the American Heart Association, Cardiovascular disease accounts for about 1 in every 3 deaths in the United States. About 2300 Americans die each day from Cardiovascular disease, which is about 1 every 38 seconds. 92.1 million adults in America live with some form of cardiovascular disease. Leading the way is Coronary Heart Disease which accounts for about 44% of those attributed to Coronary Heart Disease.

The sad part about these statistics is that this is a preventable disease. Yes, some are more prone to it than others due to hereditary factors, but at the same time just by adjusting your life style you can help to prevent heart disease. The following are things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease.

First of all DO NOT SMOKE!!!!!! I truly believe had my daddy not smoked he’d still be here today at 92 years of age going strong. Smoking is one of the top 3 leading risk factors and contributes to more than 480,000 deaths in America each year…….41,000 of those due to second hand smoke.

The second risk factor is physical inactivity. We live in a world of sedentary individuals and my fear is the next generation will suffer even more due to the obsession with video games and activities which require not activity. Based on the research done by the American Heart Association in students grades 9-12 only 27% got the recommended amount of exercise being 60 minutes per day. Also, according to that study girls got less exercise than boys. So…….get up and EXERCISE!!!!! Be active and find something you enjoy doing.

Another risk factor is nutrtition. Being the mother of 4 active boys I understand this. It is so much easier to run through the drive-thru than take the time to pack a more nutritious lunch or dinner. Being on the go there are not a lot of healthy “take-out” options out there. The other problem is processed food. Yes, just like take-out, it is much easier but the affects on our heath far out-weigh the benefits. In moderation these things are not a bad option……..but as a replacement for whole foods……well lets just say there is no comparison. If you look at a label and can’t pronounce it……’s probably not good for you.

Other risk factors include obesity, high-cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If you suffer from any of these things your risk for heart disease increases. If you have a family history you should be checked regularly for these things by your physician. Also, during a pregnancy, if you have had gestational diabetes you are at a higher risk for developing Type II Diabetes and should have your blood sugar levels check periodically…….even if you appear to be in good shape.

Taking care of ourselves by not smoking, eating right, exercising, and having regular check-ups can reduce the risk of heart disease tremendously. We owe it to the loves of our lives………our family. This Valentine’s Day one of the best gift you can give those you love is to take care of your heart and to be healthy for them for a long time to come. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and give those you love a HUGE hug.

(All statistics from “Heart disease and stroke statistics 2018 update: a report from the American Heart Association,” published online ahead of print January 31, 2018. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.000000000000058.)

American Heart Month

What are you doing this month to show your support for a healthy heart? Will you be wearing red? Will you be taking your significant other on a Valentine’s Day date that includes doing something active? Are you getting a heart screening? Let me hear from you.

Why Is Fitness Important In Menopause

Recently I was asked by a client if it was possible to build muscle in menopause. This lead me to do a little more research…….especially since I am approaching that stage in life as well and more and more of my clients are facing this. My initial thought was, “yes,” but it does become more difficult.

During menopause your body goes through so many changes. As we age we start losing muscle and we tend to gain fat around our middle. This begins around the age of 30……well before menopause begins for most. So, it is important that we be conscious of a healthy lifestyle long before menopause begins. However, too many of us don’t and then menopause hits and we wonder what happened.

Once perimenopause and menopause begin our body undergoes natural hormonal changes. These changes lead to muscle loss, bone loss, and a slowed metabolism. The muscle loss and slowed metabolism are the main things that contribute to the weight gain. I will make a side note here. If you notice that your lifestyle has not changed and you have put on a serious amount of weight I would advise you to check with your doctor. There could be some other serious issues causing the gain.

While this may sound odd my next bit of advice would be to embrace the change your body is going through. It is the natural cycle of life that God created……therefore it can’t be all that bad, right?  Aging is difficult, and Lord knows I would love to be in my 20’s again……especially knowing what I know now.  Also, if you are stressing about this next stage of life, this can contribute to weight gain and muscle loss as well because your body produces Cortisol when you are under stress.  So do your best to embrace this part of your life……inconveniences and all.  Each day God gives you is a gift to enjoy.

If this is a natural part of life,then its normal to question, “Then why bother doing anything about it?”  First of all you want to be able to enjoy life and to be as healthy as possible for those you love and care about. Not to mention the older and more experience you have the more fun things you can do.  You want to be healthy enough and have the energy you need to do those things.  If you exercise and have a healthy eating lifestyle the benefits during menopause are tremendous. It will help to prevent weight gain, reduce the risk of cancer, make your bones stronger, reduce the risk of other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and it will boost your mood, make you feel better, reduce stress, and give you more energy.

Before starting any training program you should check with your doctor and/or have a complete physical.  Then the question becomes how does one go about building muscle during menopause if it is more difficult and muscle mass is decreasing. Strength training 2-3 days a week and having a healthy diet is one of the best ways to do that. It is key to building muscle. Strength training involves resistance through either weights, kettle bells, resistance bands, etc.  Also, to build muscle your body must have protein. Many people as they get older tend to cut their protein intake but you can not build muscle without it.  Good sources of protein are dairy, poultry, beef, fish, and eggs. You can, also, get protein through beans, yogurt (watch added sugar here and make sure it is the greek yogurt), and whey protein.

Other things you can do to help build muscle are to reduce your calorie intake. It is a good idea to find out what your Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) is. Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns daily before added exercise. Limit your cardio to a couple of times a week. This is sufficient to train your heart but not so much you will burn the muscle you are trying to build. Reduce sugar, alcohol, and don’t smoke!!!! Some supplements that aid in building muscle are D3 and Omega 3s. Finally, add some flexability, stability, and balance exercise to your workouts.  Yoga is a great way to add all 3 at once.

Finally, you need to find ways to stay motivated. Why? It will keep you going when you get tired and want to quit. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to find a group to workout with…..people you are accountable to and who care about you. Sharing life and the interest of getting healthier together makes it more fun. Let’s face it not everyone is like me and is a fanatic about working out (and I still have days I don’t want to).  God made us for relationships and I have found those relationships and doing life with those special people make whatever I’m doing or going through that much easier.

Why I Can’t Seem to Lose Weight

So much of the time I hear statements like “As hard as I try I just can’t seem to drop any weight,” or “I try to eat right and I exercise but I can’t lose weight,” or something very similar to that.  That’s when I want to sit down and have a REAL conversation with them.  I have (even as a trainer & nutrition specialist) said those words myself.  That’s when honesty with myself comes into play and it must with you as well.

The first thing you need to look at is your actual eating habits.  Do you keep track of what you actually eat, how much, and what the macros are?  Do you tend to eat more because you have worked out?  Do you drink alcohol?  If you don’t keep track of what you eat I strongly suggest you do.  Take a couple of days and actually write it down…….both what you eat and what you drink.  Yes it can be a pain but the information you will get will be quite useful.  BE HONEST!  If you eat a Fun Size Snickers write it down……you will be surprised by the calories in one of those little boogers.  The next thing I highly recommend is that you find out your Basal Metabolism Rate which will tell you about how many calories you burn in a day based on your activity, age, weight, etc.  This can really be an eye opener for you.  Once you know your BMR it can be very easy to track your calories in a day especially with the technology out there.  My favorite app for tracking my daily food intake is “My Fitness Pal”.  It is very inclusive……even many restaurants have the food on their menu on this app.   Take the time to track your food but realize not tracking our food consumptions is not the only problem we may have.

Is it possible when you work out you are not working as hard as you think?  It is very easy to think we are working out a lot harder than we actually are.  Are you getting your heart rate up to burn those extra calories and are you lifting the weight you should to get the muscle you desire?  The best way to track this is to use a heart rate monitor.  There are many different brands out there from Fitbit, Apple, and Polar.  My personal favorite is Polar.  There are different ones for different activities.  My 2 favs are the Polar 600 or the Polar 800.  I have both.  A heart rate monitor will tell you how active you are being as well ad how hard you are working.  I hardly go any where without mine.  Here are links for Amazon to purchase either of these 2 monitors.  It is well worth the investment.

A couple of other hints I would give is know what your macros should be……protein, carbs, and fat intake.  Based on the results you want you should eat certain percentages of each of those.  A trainer/nutrition specialist can help you with this or if that is not in your budget you can do the research on your own.  The information is out there.  Another thing is to stay away from the processed foods if you can.  Know portion size….understand just because you order it doesn’t mean you have to eat it all.

Finally, if you have done all of these things and still no results (if you are being totally honest) I would suggest a trip to your primary care physician for some blood work.  Hormones can sometimes be the culprit for gaining weight or not seeing progress. A simple blood work-up can quickly answer that question.

I hope this information has been helpful for you.  Trying to lose weight can be a very trying and discouraging experience.  Understand its ok to not be perfect and that who you are is more important than what you look like.  Take getting healthier one day at a time and even sometimes one moment at a time.  Be honest with yourself.  My final suggestion would be to find someone or a group you can be accountable to.  Don’t be afraid to tell them what your goals are and don’t hold it against them when they actually hold you accountable.  You are on the right track just by being aware of what your body is going through.  You are amazing!!!!  Keep fighting the good fight to be healthier and happier for those you love and care about.