Healthy Byte: Three Steps to Eating Healthier for Life

A happy couple eating in Stockholm, Sweden.Maridav/Shutterstock

Every January, people making resolutions to lose weight are peppered with loads of free dieting advice. Most of it is absolutely terrible, or plain lies. Even worse, many weight loss hucksters over complicate the very simple truths we know about eating for health.

That’s why I love this chart from the Swedish National Food Agency. Its succinct (and still impressively science-based) advice is summed up in this nice graphic:

Sweden’s dietary guidelines summed up in “one minute.”

While American guideline makers are reluctant to urge the public to eat less of anything (lest they offend powerful industry lobby groups), the Swedes are clear about what people really need to cut back on: red and processed meat, salt, and sugar.

Likewise, while fad diet peddlers often suggest people eat a certain “superfood,” avoid some overly specific substance like gluten, or follow a fat-busting workout routine to stay fit, the Swedes keep it real: Just eat more plants and exercise. Instead of suggesting people do the impossible and banish fat from their diets, these Scandinavians are advised to seek out “fabulous fats” in vegetable oils and nuts. (Again, these findings jibe with what researchers have found.)

 “In truth,” the experts at the Swedish food agency write, “most people know perfectly well what they should eat. It’s no secret that vegetables are good for you and sugar isn’t.”
So here’s an idea: Save your money, and tune out the fads you’ll be inundated with this year. Ignore the unreasonable diet plans that time has shown will fail, and forget the punishing workouts. Instead, eat like a Swede.
Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Weight Loss Strategies for the Everyday Folks

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For some reason, people treat changing calendars as an event that marks the beginning of a new lifestyle, usually one that includes a focus on health. Sure enough, the two most popular resolutions are “losing weight” and “staying fit and healthy.” It’s pretty much a given that come January 1, gyms will be slammed and salad bars will be crammed.

But what about the folks who aren’t ready to dive into something extremely demanding, like CrossFit five days a week or a seriously restrictive diet plan? Are there less-challenging, yet still effective ways to lose weight? Absolutely!

 

Nix the sodas and fruit juices
Here’s something to think about: if you currently drink two servings of soda or juice a day, and you simply stopped drinking it right now, opting instead for healthier alternatives like sparkling water or just plain water, you’d easily be able to eliminate 300+ calories from your day and shed almost 1lb a week without any additional exercise.

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Simplify your coffee
Since coffee contains caffeine, it can stimulate fat burn and weight loss. Unfortunately, coffee loses all of its weight-loss potential when you cram it with unhealthy additives like super-sweet syrups and sugars. End result: a once-healthy black coffee becomes a fattening sugarbomb. So here’s a simple solution for coffee-lovers who also want to lose weight: start taking your coffee black, and if you really can’t stand the bitterness, go for a naturally low-calorie sweetener, like stevia. Bottom line, by going au natural with your coffee, you’ll tighten up your waistline.

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Reduce your carbs three days per week
Not all carbs are the devil, but eating a diet high in refined carbs (think white rice, pasta, cereal, bread) can cause elevated blood sugar and insulin. End result: eating a diet high in refined carbs can make you fat and sick— and it can make it harder to lose weight.

 

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Turn Fitness Goal to Lifetime of Good Health

NOTE: If you are like me and you simply don’t like to exercise then perhaps finding something that you “love” may be too far of a stretch. Try finding something that you don’t hate and can be consistent with and you may just end up with something you can tolerate for the long term. 🙂

While you’re working on your fitness resolutions, let’s clear up a few misconceptions:

●Your weight will fluctuate, even after hitting that feel-good goal. It happens to everyone, even elite athletes.

●At some point, you will hit a plateau.

●Your running pace will regress after initial gains.

●You will get stuck on a weight-lifting benchmark.

None of this means your work is done and you should quit. In fact, it means the work is just beginning.

Many people who accomplish short-term goals get a rush of achievement in the moment but don’t create the behavioral changes needed to maintain and improve, said Tom Raedeke, a professor of kinesiology at East Carolina University who specializes in exercise psychology. “Somehow, we have to help people go beyond . . . just meeting the New Year’s resolutions or just accomplishing this goal,” Raedeke said.

MAKE YOUR SYSTEM WORK FOR YOU

The main difference between an average adult and a high-level athlete isn’t a lack of talent or willpower but rather a lack of a system.

Sam Zizzi, professor of exercise and sports psychology at West Virginia University, points out that athletes succeed because of the infrastructure created for them: coaches and trainers, set practice times, and a methodical approach to nutrition.

All that’s left for them is to, well, just do it.

The vast majority of adults, however, do not have that in place.

“We’re competing with a wide variety of priorities, and things kind of get lost in the mix,” Zizzi said. Individuals have to either make their fitness goals a top priority and pivot their life to accommodate that goal, or merge a goal with something or someone that already is a top priority.

“There’s not this coherent goal where everyone is on board with you walking 10,000 steps a day,” Zizzi said. “You have to put the structure in place. You have to hold yourself accountable.”

Creating that structure takes accountability and support, something Evan Hakalir is building for himself. Hakalir, a 35-year-old New Yorker, lost 70 pounds in his early 20s and was physically active. During the Great Recession, he lost his real estate equity job and decided to start a new children’s clothing line, Andy & Evan, with his partner.

“With a baby on the way, I felt, ‘Oh my God, this has gotten out of control,’ ” Hakalir said. “So instead of buying the larger suit size, I decided to recommit myself to being fit.”

To keep himself accountable, Hakalir joined Weight Watchers. Wanting to use the in-person weigh-ins (and the embarrassment of a bad weigh-in) as initial motivation, he’s instead found a supportive environment.

“What I actually found were nice, like-minded people of all shapes and sizes who were on this journey. Some were much thinner than I ever was, and some were heavier. They all were on this lifelong struggle of staying healthy and fit,” Hakalir said.

Zizzi said making a plan is key. He encourages his clients to have a Plan A and a Plan B so they are prepared when life intervenes.

Raedeke recommends that individuals focus on planning an activity with details a reporter wants to know: the who, what, when, where and how. Instead of saying, “I want to walk more,” make a plan: “I will walk one mile every Monday and Wednesday at 1 p.m. with my co-worker.”

An action plan shifts the “Why?” from the outcome to the process.

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CULTIVATE CONFIDENCE

Just as in other areas of life, competency is a key marker when it comes to long-term health. “People are very good at their jobs and feel good and competent as a parent, but they don’t feel competent as a healthy person,” Zizzi said. “We invest and take time to do things we are good at.”

With his clients, Raedeke starts by finding out whether they have been successful in making a change in the past. “If you have, what things helped? Then, I know right away I can build on what’s worked for them in the past. It can be something unrelated to diet, but what worked for them may work for diet and exercise,” Raedeke said.

To keep the momentum going, you have to be dedicated to educating yourself (perhaps taking a healthful-cooking class or hiring a personal trainer) and to experimenting.

“Even when I first started out in my journey, I’ve had confidence to try things. I started out with workout videos, and now I have more of an idea about what I can do,” Williams said. “And I had a personal trainer a few years ago, and it was extremely helpful to get me comfortable with the gym.”

When the weight fluctuates or the running pace slows, people often get discouraged and give up or overcompensate in training, which can lead to burnout and injury. Self-sabotage is the pathway to undercutting confidence. Raedeke said individuals start viewing the regression “as a failure and also a reflection of their underlying ability versus it’s just a process.”

Understanding the science and psychology behind fitness regression and plateaus — even understanding that plateauing is a natural component of getting stronger and faster — can save a person a lot of frustration.

Experimentation not only combats boredom but also allows short-term goals to grow into long-term behavior. Williams said her goals evolved from losing weight to being healthier to becoming stronger, an activity Williams said is particularly hard for women.

Women are “fine doing a group fitness class but shy away from lifting weights, and I’ve heard so many say, ‘I want to get into weights, but I don’t know how. I’m too embarrassed.’ That’s frustrating for me,” Williams said.

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DO WHAT YOU LOVE

In 2012, Mike Stollenwerk, a Philadelphia-based chef, made the decision to get healthy.

On a friend’s advice, he took up the martial arts discipline of muay thai. “The first month was hard because you don’t see results right away,” Stollenwerk said. “I couldn’t do a push-up, I couldn’t do a pull-up, I couldn’t jump rope. I was really out of shape. After the first two to three months, I started seeing results. I lost 10 pounds. It was getting exciting.”

In a year, Stollenwerk lost 160 pounds and was going to muay thai five days a week. But life intervened: He was in the process of opening a new restaurant in Philadelphia, which consumed the majority of his time and disrupted his eating schedule of six small meals a day.

Stollenwerk had to cut back on his hobby because it didn’t fit his schedule. As a supplement, he took up hot yoga because it “keeps the chi correct and keeps you feeling good.” It also fit his schedule; he goes to hot yoga at 6 a.m., then goes to work. Now that the restaurant, 26 North, is up and running, he’s looking forward to working more muay thai back into his weekly routine.

A sense of enjoyment is key to staying motivated for the long haul, Raedeke said. “If they can grit through it for a week or two, that’s not a lifestyle change.”

Ultimately, the goal of living healthfully is to find meaning and to embrace, rather than fight, all the peaks and valleys.

“In the process, there’s going to be natural fluctuations, and it’s part of the journey,” Raedeke said. “And the delicate nature is how to help people find meaning in the process of change, not just the outcome.”

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Stop the Diets – Try Real Life Tips

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Foundry via Pixabay

How is your diet working for you?

I spent years trying to perfect my eating. Admittedly, I was a nutritional fundamentalist. There were a few reasons for that, some foods gave me brain fog and I had a bad case of IBS. My bloating would get so past the stage of “has she gained a few pounds?” people would boldly ask me if I was pregnant. But truth is, I feared food, and in trying to keep my symptoms at bay I created a self fulfilling prophecy.

I was not one to sit on the sidelines watching my health spiraling downhill. So I tested, researched, chuck some “nutritional truths” out of the window and made of nutrition my life’s work. Eventually I found that there are as many perspectives on diet as there are people on the planet, but in the end, it all comes down to 3 fundamental guidelines I work with, and suggest you try. Experience tells me they work:

1. Be an emotional eater

In other words, embrace who you already are. We all are emotional eaters, but not in the way we usually speak of, tail between our legs as if it were a shameful thing. Your body is sensitive to the chemistry of your emotions, and very much so. Depending on what’s going on inside you will digest food differently, metabolize differently, burn calories differently and use energy differently. You will be more, or less pone to falling ill, and to developing a health condition.

It’s not about taking emotions out of the equation, it’s about learning to manage them. For this reason, learning to relax your body during a meal is vital for a healthy metabolism, and deep breathing is one of the simplest, most effective ways to relax. Don’t discard simple, it’s often the most powerful.

 

2. Stay curious about your eating behaviors

Binge eating, overeating, emotional eating, shopping sprees, one drink too many… Our most disconcerting actions can be stepping stones to our deepest insights. Exploring the driving force behind them gives us the understanding, wisdom and maturity we are being called to develop. Addiction taught me that what you resist, persists. Rather than control, observation, curiosity and inquiry will ‘unlock’ an unwanted behavior. Try to beat it it’ll beat you. Invite it to the table, you’ll be surprised at what it has to say.

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3. Let your diet evolve

This — is important. Your health mirrors how you do life and your life mirrors how you care for your health. You move through periods that require from you new choices in food as they do in your life, and the healthy diet that worked miracles 5 years ago may have reached its expiration date.

We can outgrow a diet like we outgrow a jumper. Does this mean the diet was bad? No. Even a life saving medicine works until it does. Your ability to listen to your changing needs and move into what best supports you right now keeps you awake. It keeps you healthy in body and sharp in your thoughts, open in your beliefs and elastic in your ability to change them.

Because a diet made you feel superhuman doesn’t mean it will continue to do so. While there are long term preferences you stick to because they work, it’s important to stay aware of your body senses, keep an open mind and continue to assess whether yesterday’s choice is still the right one.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Which of the above 3 tips did you resonate with the most, and why?

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Keeping 40 the New 20

Keeping healthy and active through regular exercise and eating sensibly is important at any age. But let’s be real — health in your 40s is even more important than your 30s. If you didn’t lay a good foundation in your 30s, you will most likely be paying for it later on in life — or maybe feeling it now… hello, bloat and acid reflux. As we hit our 40s and beyond, it becomes vital to our well-being to eat nutrient-dense foods and move daily. A combination of a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition increases the risk of premature aging, illness and disease — ultimately shortening life expectancy. The good news is, we can reverse the signs of aging through small dietary changes!

There are numerous physiological changes associated with aging. These include a decrease in heart efficiency and bone density, and cholesterol and blood pressure may start to increase, as does your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. No matter how you slice it, none of the above symptoms are good for longevity at any age. So, here are five tips to be fabulous over 40 (or at any age).

1. Ditch the Diet

Diets wreck your metabolism and result in yo-yo weight gain and loss. The key to successful weight management is adopting a healthy eating plan and sticking with it — for life. A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, calcium and water. Eat fresh and unprocessed foods as much as possible, since most processed foods will contain calorie-laden, unhealthy ingredients, like saturated fats and sugar. Reduce saturated fat in your diet and include more calcium-rich foods — such as low-fat dairy, spinach and white beans to stay healthy. Stick to low-glycemic foods — nonstarch vegetables and minimal sugar — to ensure long-lasting satiety and minimize the likelihood of hunger pangs or sudden drops in energy levels.

2. Eat for Energy

Eating for energy, rather than pleasure, is key to any successful dietary plan. Being fabulous over 40 doesn’t just happen — we have to make it happen! Pleasure eating happens when foods are available to you, rather than out of real need. Would you really take the time to make and eat those bacon wrapped tater tots if they weren’t staring you in the face on the buffet table? You crave those chips in your pantry because they are there and readily available. You may have kids and may not be able to get rid of all temptations, but why not buy yourself some veggie chips (low salt) so you can snack smartly? Once you begin to think of all food as energy, rather than as cravings, you will be on the cornerstone of health success.

3. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Satisfying your sweet tooth is another great obstacle for many of us. We all have cravings, but it is how we manage and respond to those cravings that keep us healthy. Have an occasional sweet treat, but be mindful and keep your health goals intact. So, choose the pear over the piece of cake. For those times when a piece of fruit simply won’t do (talking to you, PMS), studies show that after three bites our cravings are satisfied. If you must have the refined sugar treat, make it the treat you actually want and have three bites. Test this theory and let me know your results. You will be amazed at how well it works to satisfy your sweet tooth.

4. Hormone Havoc

Hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies — and never is that truer than in our 40s. Most women hit perimenopause (the time four to five years prior to menopause) and start experiencing hormonal fluctuations and symptoms, such as mood swings, low libido, hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness and cognitive problems. Listen to your body. Take note of and avoid your triggers, such as heat, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Track your emotions and your periods to help determine if the two are connected — there are great phone apps that can help you keep track. Studies show excess weight, stress and smoking can increase the frequency and intensity of symptoms. Listen to your body and your hormones will wreak less havoc on you.

5. Plan and Prepare

The best laid plans are forgotten if you’re not prepared. Has this ever happened to you: It is 4 o’clock and you ate a decent lunch at about noon, but you find yourself starving and know you won’t make it until dinner. You go to the pantry, only to find your kids’ Rice Krispies Treats or other processed treats, and you’re so hungry, you gobble it down in record time. You’re hungry again 20 minutes later. So frustrating, right? The truth is, those empty calories have no nutritional value, so they can’t possibly fill you up. If you have fruit with fiber on hand with a smear of natural nut butter (protein), that will get you through those hunger periods much better. Plan ahead and be prepared for those times when hunger strikes.

The body’s ability to heal and recover can take longer as we age and stress, and lack of sleep can result in faster aging and an inability to fight infection or disease — your body’s way of saying it is at “dis-ease.” Don’t ignore a pain or problem that persists beyond a few days. As always, if in doubt, seek medical advice.

Starting today, you can make small changes so you can live your best life possible and be fabulous over 40. After all, age is just a number, right? We can turn back our body clocks by taking control of our health and making small changes each and every day that make a big impact on our health for our 40s and beyond.

 

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte:What You Don’t Know May Hurt You

(Photo: Corbis)

If the Terminator movies have taught us anything, it’s that machines can’t be trusted. This is especially true when discussing the exercise machines in your gym, which aren’t designed to accommodate individual differences in body types, such as limb length and joint structure. As a result, training with machines, unlike with free weights, can fail to stimulate your muscles optimally and put you at risk for injury. The following are three of the worst offenders, per John Rusin, D.P.T., a physical therapist and strength coach to pro athletes (drjohnrusin.com), and our picks for more effective alternatives.

1) Preacher Curl

THE PROBLEM: The free-weight bench version of the preacher curl has its drawbacks, but the machine version is “orthopedically evil,” says Rusin, because you can’t reposition your body to use it safely. It forces your shoulders into a protracted position, “and in some cases even internally rotates and elevates them, putting unwanted stress on the shoulder complex.” It can also lead to an extreme stretch on the lower part of the biceps, where it inserts into the elbow, which can result in a biceps tear.

THE UPGRADE: The prone incline dumbbell curl. Set a bench to 45 degrees and lie on it chest down with a dumbbell in each hand; curl with palms facing up, bringing your elbows forward slightly as the weights rise.

“This movement allows the shoulders to remain in a neutral position,” Rusin says, “while also taking advantage of the more natural movement paths that dumbbells offer.”

2) Seated Ab Rotation

THE PROBLEM: This is the Chubby Checker–inspired ab machine you sit in to do a twistlike dance move. “Combining flexion, rotation, and side bending simultaneously at the lumbar spine is a terrible triad,” says Rusin. Not only do the position and added weight put your back at risk, but the element of increasing speed (the machine allows you to swing your legs violently side to side) and sudden direction changes prompt Rusin to call the ab rotation “the most debilitating machine in the gym.”

THE UPGRADE: The Pallof press. Attach a band to a sturdy object at chest height and grasp it with both hands. Stand perpendicular to the machine and press the band out to arms’ length in front of you. Don’t let it twist your body. Resisting rotation, rather than training it directly, integrates the shoulders and hips to strengthen the core.

3) Seated Leg Curl

THE PROBLEM: Sitting down tilts your pelvis backward, which flattens out the arch in your lumbar spine. An unnatural position to work the hamstrings in, it actually increases the compressive forces on the hams where they insert into the back of the knees. “The heavier you go, the more likely the compensation at the pelvis,” says Rusin—and that could cause a knee injury.

THE UPGRADE: The Swiss ball leg curl. It’s one of the few hamstring exercises that train the muscles’ two functions simultaneously—extending the hips and bending the knees. Lie on your back on the floor and extend your legs so that your heels rest on a Swiss ball. Brace your abs and drive through your heels to bridge your hips up. Now bend your knees and roll the ball in toward your butt. Extend your knees again and begin your next rep.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Maintenance 3rd Anniversary (Day 1318)

Today started out like any other Saturday; the house was quiet, still full of sleepy heads, and two hungry pups. I laid in bed for a brief moment before I propelled myself out of the comforts of the warm covers and into the chill of the air conditioned room.

I glanced briefly down at my Fitbit and it stated “0930, SA 13.” The pups wagged their tails excitedly waiting for their breakfast and as they chowed down I retrieved my standard weekend breakfast of protein bar and cup of hot tea. Something about the date drew me to tap on the Fitbit again and I read “0947, SA 13.” Then it suddenly dawned on me, Aug 13 is the day. The day that I reach my goal weight three years ago from years of being overweight.

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This is what unhealthy looks like

This was me in 2000. I was 30 years old, 163 lbs at 4’10”, had a BMI of 34.1 (obese), hated photographs of myself, hated shopping for clothes, was the heaviest I have ever been in my entire life, and had accepted that this is how a mother is suppose to look. It wasn’t until 12 years later at an annual physical when my blood work came back declaring that I was pre-diabetic that I finally was scared enough to actually skip all the quick fix diets or miracle diet supplements and just settle down to put in the work.

Weight loss compared to was a breeze. The first two years of maintenance blew by with very little hiccup largely due to my fear of falling prey to the statistics regaining. I remained hyper vigilant on nutrition and gymming regularly. The only time I skipped gym was for a child’s sporting event. My weight remained constant within +/- 1-2 lbs and life was good.

This third year however, has been a series of challenges and it was the first time my weight fluxed back over 100 lbs. I was horrified, frustrated, and was in borderline panic mode. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong or what has changed or why is that stupid fucking number on the scale going in the wrong direction?!

Of course I knew all the answers but just became quite comfortable with what I am calling the ‘maintenance blinders’ squarely over my eyes. And that is exactly why I religiously log everything and anything other than water pass my little devil lips into MyFitnessPal. It is an incredible source of data to find the self-sabotaging pattern of eating. I can summarize my top pitfalls which has made my 3rd year of maintenance a bit of a roller coaster.

  1. I looked at my daily caloric allotment and felt it was time to increase it from what has made me successful in the previous two years. Instead of 1230 I increased it to 1450 – regardless if I gymmed or not, often eating over it, and abandoned my TDEE #s.
  2. I increased my strength training and reduced my cardio drastically.
  3. Due to increased strength training I was more hungry so I ate more. I became a huge fan of Peanut Butter … on everything!
  4. I associated the consistent weight gain to gaining muscle and rationalized that my pants were getting tight around my waist due to muscle – yes I really did quite an excellent job convincing myself of this one.
  5. A few days before my cycle I have always been famished but since I was doing more ‘strength training’ to ‘build more muscle’ which naturally ‘burns more fat’ I quenched my insatiable appetite with everything and anything with little regard to the quality of what I was consuming. The power of self rationalization is incredibly powerful.

Thanks to my MFP pals and a mishap on the elliptical severely injuring my wrist, I refocused on getting back on track.  

  1. I have NO idea why I veered away from TDEE. I think subconsciously I reflected how easy the previous 2 years of maintaining was and just got a little cocky. I thought ‘hey maybe I can’t get fat again!’ I was sadly mistaken. LOL I dialed my daily baseline caloric allotment to a reasonable 1350, did not eat over it except for once a week on family pizza night, and I have strictly adhered to eating on plan during the workweek and loosening the reigns on the weekend (80/20 Rule).
  2. I did a bit of research and apparently there are studies which alludes that some people are physically built to respond better to cardio and some to strength training when it comes to weight loss. So I have tweaked my physical routine to strength training to be half of my cardio 5 days a week. While on the weekends I bump up the cardio and the strength training to a 60:40 ratio in favor of cardio.
  3. I have made peace with that peanut butter can be addictive for me, so I have tapper off on it and magically I no longer crave it on everything. lol
  4. I have also had to face the hard truth that if my weight is creeping up and my clothes are getting tight around the waist, it is NOT muscle weight but F-A-T. That was a very difficult truth to acknowledge because I no longer could use strength training/more muscle as an excuse to eat like a crazy person. Cuz let’s face it, eating like a crazy person with zero regard to outcome sometimes is just flat out enjoyable. But too much ‘enjoying’ resulted in a reality that I did not like. SO instead having ice cream 4 days a night I limit it to 1 on a non-pizza night. Instead of drowning my protein bar in PB I put it in the fridge so that it doesn’t need ‘something extra’ to make it more palatable.
  5. I still feed my insatiable appetite days before my cycle, but now I do so with the least amount of carbs & sugar with the most nutritional value. This little standard allowed me to make much better choices to satisfy without falling into the carbs & sugar addictive cycle.
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Purrty colors no?

Oddly enough the horrific wrist injury refocused me on nutrition because I knew my physical activities had to be highly curtail to accommodate my lack of mobility. I literally could not even walk on the treadmill because the vibration sent sharp shooting pain up my arm. Therefore without the reliance to ‘out-gym’ poor eating choices I was inadvertently forced back on track. As my wrist healed and I was able to slowly incorporate strength training again back into my cardio while being more proactive about my nutrition – not only did I not gain weight but lost. It was the first time this 3rd year of maintenance that I have regularly included strength training without gaining and I am elated.

I am back under 100 and 1.8 lbs from goal. I have been focusing on my shoulders and triceps and with the continued reduction in fat, I am finally seeing results.

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Happy 3rd Maintenance Anniversary to Me!

So thanks universe for my mishap on the elliptical to get back on track. hahaha

HB Sig