5 Reasons Counting Calories Helps You Lose Weight – And It’s Not What You Think.

Since the first of the year I have been committed to tracking my calories. While it can be tedious and at times slightly time consuming the benefits have far outweighed the inconveniences.

Counting calories reveals more than you think

Counting calories reveals more than you think

Here’s what I’ve learned.

One: I more accurately know what I am eating and when

While I know in my mind that a breakfast that includes protein is extremely important, I often struggle to eat in the morning. I’m about as far from a morning person as you can imagine, yet I teach and train four to five days a week starting between 530 and 6am.

Needless to say, I get every last minute of sleep I can before walking out the door. So breakfast prior to teaching and training simply does not happen. Some mornings, if there’s time I even grab some more sleep before dropping off at school.

Depending on my class/training schedule I have to be careful about what I eat so I don’t get sick when jumping around. This not only goes for mornings but evenings as well.

I discovered I was eating far too few calories early in the day and was left with a great number to consume at the end of the day – the worst time to consume a lot. Think about it, how many hours do you have to actually ‘burn off’ your dinner and evening snacking calories before going to bed. Sleeping on a full stomach just doesn’t make sense.

Two: I more accurately understand my caloric burn

I invested in a heartrate monitor that gives me an idea of the number of calories I am burning during my workouts. Is it foolproof? I’m sure it’s not, but it does give me a measure to know what my burn rate is.

Weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance is all based on calories in and out. Want to lose? Consume less and burn more. Want to gain? Eat more and burn less. Want to maintain? Find a balance.

The point I want to emphasize here is that while weight loss is accomplished through consuming less and burning more, if you eat too few calories, you slow your metabolism down and impede your efforts to lose and tone.

This is a problem I was experiencing. I wasn’t necessarily ‘gaining’ weight, but I wasn’t seeing the results that I should from the amount of effort I was putting in each week. Since tracking my calories and maintaining a good balance, I am noticeably more toned. Don’t believe me…I got into a pair of skinny jeans I was ready to donate (A Pair of Jeans that Fit Just Right).

Don’t starve yourself to lose – because in the end it won’t be pounds that you lose, rather you’ll lose a functioning metabolic rate, strength, and ultimately willpower.

Three: I recognize the entire weekend isn’t a free for all

So whether I recognized it or not, by unintentionally ‘starving’ myself during the week, when the weekend hit I was up for anything. Pizza? Sure! Cocktails? Sure! You name it, I pretty much let go on the weekend and indulged.

Part of this is because I was consuming too little of food during the week that my body was crying out for nutrition. Without eating what I should have I was giving myself a pass to ‘enjoy’ everything.

My willpower was shot because I was hungry. Seriously, it takes some strong mind power to choose chicken breast with zucchini noodles in an avocado sauce, over piping hot pepperoni pizza. (Note: I used chicken instead of shrimp for this dish and served the sauce on the side.)

But by feeding my body better throughout the week, I find the weekends are much easier to stay on track. I’m not only making better choices, but even splitting meals with my husband when we eat out. And eating out has actually diminished quite a bit, I’d rather eat at home and have control over my choices.

Four: I’ve learned to plan better

Now please hear me, I wasn’t under-consuming intentionally. I’d get busy, and more often than not after looking at the clock I’d realize that if I ate something I’d no doubt get sick teaching my classes.

So I now plan my breakfast for mid-morning. I don’t get up early enough to eat before my classes – should I? Yes. But the reality is I want every last minute of sleep I can get. I make sure that my breakfast includes protein and a good amount of calories.

My lunch happens early afternoon, usually before school pick-ups. Again, I try and get protein in and the necessary calories that are going to give me a good balance after my evening classes.

Dinner time is sometimes late for me so I do my best to keep the caloric intake to a minimum and as clean as possible. Clean meaning fresh veggies and lean protein.

I could be better about consuming snacks during the day, and that’s something that I need to work on. But for now, getting my meals balanced is something worth celebrating.

Five: I more accurately understand the breakdown of my nutrients

Can you eat ‘clean’ and still consume too much fat? Yes! Avocados and raw nuts are both excellent healthy fats for you but consuming too much of them can get you off track. Do fruits provide quality natural nutrients? Of course! But consuming too many fruits can lead you down a road of entirely too much sugar in your diet. Are carbs good for you? Yes, because they are your body’s preferred energy source, but your carbs need to come from nature not from a factory. What about protein? It’s essential to build lean muscle tissue.

I’m not going to get into a science lesson here on the necessary breakdown of nutrients because it will vary depending on body size and type, but what I will say is that in general you need a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

I was guilty of days that were entirely too high in fat, even though they were healthy fats. I was guilty of eating far too few carbs at times and too little protein other times. Not every day will turn out to have the perfect balance, they key is to take it day by day and do your best to find the right balance for you.

So can counting calories be a pain, no doubt. But since committing to it, I am seeing and feeling the difference. I’m only doing it 4 days a week, but I am finding that now I am used to what I should be eating and when, even when I’m not tracking, I’m staying on track. If you’re not currently keeping a food log to better understand your nutritional health, I encourage you to start. Start slow, commit to two days a week, then add a day at a time until you are comfortable with the schedule. You’re going to see differences. I have.

A Pair of Jeans that Fit Just Right

A couple weeks ago I wrote about breaking up with my scale and ways you can measure success without being attached to a number on the scale:

  • Tracking calories
  • Using tape measurements and
  • Keying in to how your clothes feel

I’ll be honest, I haven’t done much with tracking my tape measurements…but I have been regularly using MyFitnessPal and being honest with myself about how I feel in the things I wear.

This morning we were getting ready for church and I glanced over at a pile of clothes that I had set aside to give away. I’ve ignored that pile for a couple weeks now. One, because I’m disappointed that I’ve spent money on things I didn’t really like, Two, that I’ve somehow outgrown some of the things that I love and Three, that I’ve been too lazy over the last few weeks to scoop it all up and donate it.


Then, for whatever reason, I grabbed a pair of jeans out of the pile. I remembered how much I loved those jeans – so much, in fact, there were two identical pair in the pile. But it had been months since I had even attempted to wear them. The last time I tried them on I felt restricted, I felt fat, I felt uncomfortable.

These jeans were just a reminder of the smaller me. They were a reminder of who I wasn’t now. They were a reminder that I had failed myself.

So why I even bothered to pick them up this morning I really don’t know. But they fit. And they felt good. And I felt good about myself. Have I had a perfectly clean diet? No. But have I been conscious about making good choices. Have I made every personal workout I’ve intended for myself. No. But I’ve made the best of the one’s that I was able to get in.

Again, it goes back to taking small steps to appreciate the big reward of achieving your goals. I had given up on getting back into those jeans, it no longer seemed possible. But once I set my mind to being accountable for my calories in and out on a daily basis things changed.

I still don’t know what I weigh – and to be honest – I don’t care. My jeans fit again and that’s all that matters.

The Best Way To Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals

It’s no surprise that the gym population grows in January and soon starts to dwindle in the following months.

Most people go into a new year thinking about a new self. We set resolutions about lifestyle changes – whether it be adding exercise, quitting bad habits or setting your sights on a new job, it’s going to take dedication to get there.

All to often what happens is we set our long term goals without thinking about all the steps in between that are going to get us there. When there is no preset plan, you set yourself up for a very bumpy and possibly messy path to reach your goals.

It's not just the end goal that matters, intentionally take steps towards your goal.

It’s not just the end goal that matters, intentionally take steps towards your goal.

Has this ever happened to you? You set a weight loss goal for an important event in two months. The first few weeks you start out strong, drinking water, sticking to your caloric intake, incorporating exercise and you are feeling good. Then you step on the scale to see the same number from the week before and you get discouraged. Because you’re discouraged you have a cheat meal, that cheat meal feels like a good way to feel sorry for yourself and before you know it, that one cheat meals takes you totally off course for a week or more. You take a look at the calendar and realize the event is now only a couple weeks away and you are no where near your goal.


Now let’s look at the same scenario in a slightly different way.

LONG TERM GOAL: Lose x amount of pounds in two months.  (By the way, weight loss goals should never be more than 2lbs per week – so the MAXIMUM amount of loss assigned to a 2 month period should be 16 lbs – a more realistic goal would be 10 – 12 lbs. Click here to learn more about realistic losses.)

Instead of only focusing on the end result of let’s say a 10 pound loss over 8 weeks, set your mind to think about it one week at a time. What can you do THIS week to take a step towards your ultimate goal?

This week you can increase water consumption to 1/2 your body weight in ounces, you can track your calories, and you can incorporate exercise. Set some specific goals around those actions.

At the end of the week evaluate where you were with accomplishing those goals. If you achieved them – fantastic! You are inspired to take on week two and possibly even take your weekly goals to the next level. If you didn’t succeed, you can quickly evaluate where you failed, what changes you have to make and recommit to your goals. The end goal is still within reach and hope is not lost!

My point is, when we only focus on the end and not the steps in between it makes achieving our goals incredibly more challenging. Incremental accomplishments keep us motivated! Just the same as incremental failures give us the opportunity to reset more quickly than to completely give up on our goals and revert back to our old way of living.

Each week I encourage you to set 3 goals – each of which will lead to a healthier you:

  1. Nutritional – a goal surrounding tracking caloric intake, increasing fruit and veggie consumption, increasing water consumption, etc.
  2. Physical – go to the gym for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week, run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, complete 2 cardio workouts of 30 minutes and 3 resistance training workouts of 45 minutes
  3. Personal: go to bed at 10pm, read for 20 minutes every day, call a friend and invite them to coffee

There are important factors to consider when writing goals that I didn’t tap into today. To learn more about writing goals I encourage you to take the time to read these two blog posts:

Are Your Goals SMART?

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Sensitive

3 Questions to Consider When Writing Goals

  • Am you ready to make the change?
  • How will this change impact your quality of life?
  • Are you willing to make this a lifestyle change?

Top 3 Ways to Replace your Bathroom Scale

Earlier this week I wrote about breaking up with my bathroom scale. After years of allowing the number that appeared on the scale to take away the joy I should have felt from my healthy choices in the kitchen and hard work in the gym, it was time to part ways.

That said, I think it’s still very important to find ways to remain accountable to a healthy lifestyle. So moving forward these are the three methods that I will use to measure my progress.

You don't need your scale to stay accountable.

You don’t need your scale to stay accountable.

Caloric Tracking

There are a number of free apps available to use to track both calories and exercise. Two of the most popular are LoseIt and MyFitnessPal. Both connect with many other gadgets like FitBits or heart rate monitors for more accurate readings on activity levels.

By entering your caloric intake and keeping up with the exercise log you can easily see if there is an imbalance in the two. For some, tracking this information may reveal that caloric intake far exceeds the amount burned, for others it can be eye-opening how many snacks are consumed during the day.

The reason tracking is important is because we often underestimate the calories we consume and overestimate the calories we burn. Weight gain, loss and maintaining all comes down to calories in, calories out. Consuming more than you are burning will result in weight gain, creating a caloric deficit will allow you to lose, and clearly a good balance will help you maintain.

I’m not suggesting you become obsessed with tracking calories and activities – this can prove to be as harmful as being a slave to a number on the scale – but I do suggest that tracking even just a few days a week will open your eyes to your choices in the kitchen and the results of your workouts in the gym.

I’m not going to dive any deeper into this topic today, but I invite you to visit a blog post I wrote about ‘The Reality of Calories and Portions.’

Tape Measurements

Another method to track progress is using a good old fashioned tape measure. Whether you are trying to lose weight and tone or trying to build muscle this is a great way to measure your changes.

Here are some major areas that you should measure and how to do it properly:

  • Chest: measure right across the nipple line on your chest
  • Bicep: measure half way between the shoulder and elbow
  • Waist: measure about one inch above the navel
  • Hips: measure the largest area around the glutes
  • Thigh: measure half way between the knee and hip bone

I recommend remeasuring about every 4 – 6 weeks and tracking your results.


Jeans never lie. We all know the feeling of trying to jump into them or inhaling to get them buttoned. Start to use your clothing as a measurement of your progress. Are you comfortable in your clothes or are they tight? Despite how much we all wish it were true, we can’t always blame the dryer.

Speaking to the point of clothing, it’s certainly okay to have a goal outfit, but be realistic. If you are saving a pair of jeans from 10 years ago, and have since had 3 children, those jeans might not be realistic. Over time our bodies change, so when choosing (or keeping) a ‘goal’ piece of clothing be realistic.

I also suggest that if something is baggy or unflattering, get rid of it! Wear things that show off your best because the better you feel about the way you look, the more motivated you will be to stick to your plan.

So dump that scale, adopt some new ways to measure and celebrate your successes in 2016!

Overcoming Addiction – A Changed Life

I can’t tell you how excited I am to share this story with you. James and I were classmates all through middle and high school. We were in band together and many years after graduation we both lived in Indianapolis and got together from time to time.

Over the years he has completely transformed both inside and out. I always loved James, who wouldn’t – he’s a great guy. But seeing his transformation through hard work, self-reflection and determination makes me respect him even more.

If you read one thing today, make it this. He’s found his own path to health and his story is an inspiration to find yours.

'Started from the bottom, now I'm here.' ~ Drake

‘Started from the bottom, now I’m here.’ ~ Drake

Addiction–My Story of Health Progress….Not Perfection

by James Cohen II

I grew up in a time without organics. Nobody worried about carbs, trans fats, or preservatives. Moms bought us sweets for the weekends, and we ate a balanced diet during the week. My parents always put a strong focus fitness and sports. Me and my brother were running track, playing tee ball, and way active at the YMCA at an early age. I remember lifting weights with my best friend Ray everyday in the 7th and 8th grade.

I’m addicted to food. I can always remember a struggle with food from an early age. My parents nickname for me was “garbage disposal” because I ate any and everything. I remember days where I would skip school lunch in high school to try to loose some pounds. Then I would turn around and binge eat microwave popcorn and cakes on the weekend. I always used food as a comfort. If I was stressed, sick, worried, happy, or sad…all emotions triggered me to eat. But somehow, my active high school lifestyle enabled me to never become obese.

There is a joke, that teachers and preachers kids are always the wildest because their parents are so strict. This joke rang real true for me and my brother. Once I got to college, I broke every rule I could. I quit playing sports, and began a relationship with the dark side. I’m part rebel, a huge risk taker, extremely confident with deep rooted self hatred, and blessed with the genes of an addict. I become addicted to whatever I do. Sports, studies, games, drugs, food, alcohol, or even this article about my progress. So when I got to college, I started experimenting with illegal drugs, drank at every party I attended, took up smoking squares (aka cigarettes) and ate whatever and whenever I wanted.

There came a point late in college where I no longer even cared about my body. I was the epitome of bad health. I was putting weight on at ridiculous amount. I remember going to dinner on the weekends and eating Multiple Whoppers, ordering large pizzas with the homies for midnight snacks and eating it by myself, and waking up in the middle of the night to pee and eating 2 bowls of Fruity Pebbles with coffee creamer instead of milk cuz it taste better.

I always said I would enjoy smoking in college and quit afterwards….but my unhealthy lifestyle continued when I graduated. I started working at a local credit union. Smoked every break, ate fast food every lunch hour, drank bottles of whiskey ever week, and used drugs on the weekends. I went to the dentist, and had an insane amount of cavities.

At the same time I went to the doctor. He said I was tipping the scale at about 270 lbs and would need to diet. He suggested the South Beach Diet. He also gave me some pills to stop smoking. I remember this was in October. I planned on quitting cigs and starting the diet the beginning of the new year. Out of coincidence, in October one of my dads friends asked me mentor a student at her middle school. Kewl. I started mentoring the kid toward the end of November. The first weekend after I meet him I used drugs. The next time I saw the kid, I could hardly look him in his eyes. No way I could use drugs and tell this kid if he studied hard and did the right thing he could grow up to be well respected loser like myself. He probably saved my life. I dropped the drugs immediately and became an after school special.

New year came, I successfully quit smoking and started the diet. Let me take a sidebar here. In my opinion, when you care nothing about your body or health…and start to become in shape….you have to do it in steps. You cant do everything at once, its too big a step. You wont be happy, and you won’t stick too it. I found that I became healthy in steps. The So Beach Diet was perfect for me, because I could still eat massive amounts, and I could still binge drink straight whiskey every weekend. I don’t think I could have committed to this long term without those factors.

I cut carbs out of my diet, and the pounds started shredding. This diet also divorced me from the dreaded fast food restaurants. I remember feeling like I was the a skinny guy when I hit 230 lbs. This was just about the time that spring rolled around. People were noticing my weight loss, and wanting to join in. I remember I was able to recruit one of these individuals to become my first workout partner.

Sha’Von agreed to start jogging with me. Although I had lost a lot of pounds, I still had low self confidence. I remember thinking I didn’t wanna be one of those fat asses that I laughed at jogging down the street. So I found a secluded baseball park about 20 minutes away from where I lived for me and Sha’Von to jog at. Nobody would know me there, so I started by walking half a lap around the baseball field, and jogging the other half. Every week I would walk less and jog more. I think that having a workout partner at my level kept me responsible and committed. I recommend anyone starting a new fitness routine to get a partner….but most importantly a partner on the same fitness level as themselves.

I remember I finally got under 200 lbs. I loved how I looked naked. I had not looked at myself naked in the mirror since I was in high school. This was a huge step for me. I would have loved it to be the end of this story. But ummm….unfortunately no.

As a kid, I remember watching In Living Color skits making fun of Oprah and her weight fluctuations. I think I always have a special place in my heart for her because of these. I can identify with her. My body type puts on fat easily. And I became a seesaw on the weight scale for the next 2 years. I would diet hard the beginning of each year, go hard running in the summer, workout on the elliptical in the fall/winter and pack on tons of pounds on over the holidays. I measured one year. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, I put on 15 pounds. And then it would take me 3 months to recover from that. After 2 years I was getting sick of the seesaw.

I was a binge eater and drinker…a weekend warrior. I would measure my calories all week, having no more than 1500 a day, Monday thru Thursday. But Friday and Saturday….were my “cheat” days. I remember going out one evening with my friends Robb and Sara. We drank all night. On the way home, we got a Big Mac and large fries each. By the time we got to my pad, Robb and Sara were both throwing up everywhere and couldn’t fathom eating anything. So I ate all three Big Macs and all 3 fries. This was not an unusual weekend for me. I fluctuated from 200 lb to 230 lbs constantly over these years.

Hindsight, I have learned many lessons over that period of time. Yes, the South Beach Diet helped me. But it was not a total success. To me, a successful diet has to be something you can live with for the rest of your life…or it will not work. Whether it Atkins, Weight Watchers, The Ab Diet or Paleo….if you do it for a short amount of time and come off, your gonna put the weight back on afterward. I appreciate the South Beach Diet because it killed my sweet tooth, and I have absolutely hated noodles and pasta ever since the diet. But I could not do without bread or peanut butter for the rest of my life.

Even more important, is knowing your body, and acceptance of your body type. I wanted so bad to be skinny and it never happened. No matter what I did I was a 20% body fat 200 lb man. I could eat carrots and veggies all week long, and jog 7 miles a day. Never went under 195lbs.

Three years after my initial weight loss, I decided to try something new. Last February I decided to start back lifting weights. Just to add some chest and arms…and I would still keep my cardio routine. I did bench-press, flyes, curls and dips everyday before an hour on the elliptical. (They say you can’t lift the same thing everyday and gain muscle…but they don’t know) Within two months I was swole (buff). And within 5 months, my focus had changed. I was now 50/50. Spending an hour on weights and an hour on cardio everyday.

What I didn’t know was this, by adding muscle, I was burning hella calories all day. I had unknowingly started to embrace by body type. I was a big guy, and by not trying to be a skinny guy…by adding muscle I no longer fluctuated in weight like the years before. By the end of the year, I stayed a constant 215lbs….but my body fat fell to 13%, and I haven’t looked back.

Once I started lifting more, I started doing a lot of reading. I had spend a lotta time in the weight room in middle and high school, but never had any real instruction. I spent tons of time reading up on different exercises, and how to perform good form. I worked out with every guerrilla and powerlifter I could. Learning everything I could, but more importantly, loving it. I learned how to eat for me. I couldn’t eat like any of my body builder cohorts. They all had to eat as many calories as possible….while my body required me to eat clean and didn’t need much protein to stay swole. I read many articles on eating. I learned how to cook healthy. I read the whole series of “Eat This, Not That.”

And my knowledge physical fitness and healthy living soared. I tired to make sure that anything I put in my mouth had a purpose to be used by my body…and eliminated empty calories. My body morphed into a physical specimen that I had never dreamed I would have. It had never even been a goal. In fact my only goal I ever had was to be skinny. The life of a fat kid. Its kinda funny, because I was falsely accused of using steroids many of times at this point…but because of where I had been…it was an honor each time. I always tell people who ask me how I did it and what can they do…I always stress finding a physical fitness routine that you enjoy. You have to do something you like, or you won’t stick too it. Whether is lifting, crossfit, boot-camp, boxing, swimming, basketball or dancing….it has to be something you love to do. Around 8 years after my initial diet I finally cut the alcohol abuse out of my life. For most people, a couple of drinks a week is healthy. But for my addictive personality, I could never stop at two. This was a sign that I had finally become healthy.

Up until this point, I kept my routine of 60 minutes of weights and 60 minutes of cardio a day. I did it year in year out. Loving lifting weights, but dreading the boring hour of carido. About 9 years after my diet…I became a firefighter and my coworkers introduced me to “functional” strength. I started working out with guys that were into crossfit. And I started incorporating what I learned from them into my workouts. I became a guy who did bodybuilding and crossfit all in one. I was both, but neither. I loved this new workout. I no longer had to do the boring hour of cardio machine. I now got all my cardio blended into my weightlifting. It was a whole new challenge…and I loved every painful moment.

My most recent accomplishment has been cutting salt out of my diet. I have seen my blood pressure fall 15 digits since this latest step. I have always loved food. But I had no idea the effect salt was having on my food addiction. Removing salt has totally unshackled the chains from my eating disorder. I no longer want to eat huge amounts of food. Now a days, I eat very little processed foods.

My entire diet is almost exclusively made up of the outside isles in the supermarket. I no longer worry about carbs, calories, or wight fluctuations.

If you would have told me 11 years ago, when I was 270 lbs and 25% body fat, that I would be eating organic, eliminating salt out of my diet, doing crossfit, and a role model of fitness to many….I could have never imagined it. I still get called fat by some, and skinny by others…but more importantly, I’m happy with who I have become. Being healthy is not an overnight success. Its a multitude of steps I have taken to improve my body, inside and out. And I have always held the motto that were all babies, so I never quit learning. I went from being a food addict who abused drugs and alcohol, to a buff athlete that eats to fuel the machine.

Drake said it the best, “Started from the bottom, now I’m here.”

Top Five Reasons Shakeology is Worth It…

I’ve been an ACE certified Personal Trainer for over 4 years. During that time I have been approached by many people who used Shakeology and wanted me to give it a try. I always said no. Sometimes it was because I felt like it wasn’t worth the money when I could buy other protein powders for much cheaper, other times I said no because I never wanted to associate myself with a product.

About two months ago that all changed. I finally said, ‘Yes, I’ll give Shakeology a try.’ In the back of my mind I thought, I’ll try it for a month and then just cancel, no biggie. But I didn’t cancel. Instead I signed up as a BeachBody Coach and Shakeology is a regular part of my day. Here’s why…

1. I need the nutritional benefits of Shakeology to start out my day.

I’m always running two steps behind in the morning trying to get the kiddos out the door for school and me on my way to work. Partially because I don’t like mornings but also because, as we all well know, things happen. As a result I found myself constantly skipping breakfast. What made it worse was most days I would get caught up with projects and find myself leaving the office late afternoon famished because I hadn’t eaten anything. I don’t deny it all revolved around poor planning on my part, however, things weren’t changing and I was really messing with my metabolism.

Introduce Shakeology. I now had a very quick and easy solution to breakfast that was packed with nutrients. On most days I choose to add a fruit to my Shakeology for a delicious breakfast treat that I can easily drink on the way to work.

2. Shakeology keeps me full during the workday.

As I mentioned above, most days I don’t take the time, or have the time to eat lunch. I work a shortened day so that I can be off in time to pick my children up from school so I have to make the most of the 5 hours I have in the office. By drinking a Shakeology on my way to work in the morning, I stay full until I get home in the late afternoon. Sure, there are times that I have a light snack during the day (if I remember to pack it), but my Shakeology holds me over until I get home. No more leaving the office famished and ready to eat anything that is within arms reach when I get home.

3. Shakeology helps me to avoid bad choices. 

Again, my failure to plan or take the time to eat was working against me in a big way. I would have just enough time to grab a quick bite before picking my children up from school and many days that meant the quickest, easiest thing – not necessarily the most healthy choice. Because I’m no longer ‘starving’ when I get home I logically look at my choices and select things like a turkey breast sandwich, or carrots and hummus, or a salad. I’ve also found that because I am eating more during the day I’m not as tempted in the evening to mindlessly enjoy unhealthy snacks.

4. Shakeology tastes yummy!

When I worked full time as a personal trainer/group fitness instructor I often drank protein shakes at the end of the day for my recovery. I used a variety of powders throughout the years but got to the point that I just couldn’t stand the taste of any of them anymore. They all seemed to have a weird aftertaste and I just couldn’t get passed it. So before long, I dropped them completely. I was hesitant to try Shakeology because I assumed it would have the same gritty taste. I was wrong. Whether mixed with water or milk, I find all of the flavors to be rich and flavorful and lacking in a bad aftertaste.

5. I’ve lost 10 pounds and been able to maintain the loss.

Just like many others I have ten pounds that over the years I have lost and found multiple times. By adding Shakeology, and all of the other benefits mentioned above, I have also been able to drop the ten pounds and keep it off. I’m not starving myself, I feel adequately full throughout the day, and I know I am ‘nutritionally full’ by starting my day with a Shakeology that is packed with quality vitamins and minerals. I balance that out by eating healthy portions at both lunch and dinner and minimizing my intake of ‘junk.’

So why not give Shakeology a try and see what your top five reasons are? I resisted for years and wish that I hadn’t. Questions? Want to give it a try? Contact me! I can even help you get signed up as a BeachBody Coach so you can start helping others too!

The Reality of Calories and Portions

realityLast night I had two women approach me at my Boot Camp Class at Glass Courts asking about what they needed to do for weight loss. Both regularly exercise, but are discouraged by their results.

My first question to anyone interested in losing weight is, “Are you tracking your food?” Now I know I myself have gone back and forth on this issue. There are times that I have become so obsessed with the calories, portions and the breakdown of my nutrients that I’ve had to walk away from tracking. I get how it can become more unhealthy than productive. However, if you’ve never tracked your calories and portions before this can be a very eye opening experience.

I’d like to use my husband as an example of the eye opening experience. I finally convinced him to start using MyFitnessPal with the promise that I would also track my intake. Last night he had several calories still left in the evening (not exactly what I would recommend, since you want to consume your calories early in the day) so he was of course still hungry. It started with salted shelled peanuts, “I can have 14 peanuts.” To which I asked, “Did you ever know before what a portion of shelled peanuts was?” His response, “No, I’d just pour a bowl and eat what was in there.”

Still a little later he was still hungry and made a small plate of cheese, sausage and crackers. As he sat down with me on the sofa he said, “Man, over 400 calories for this little bit.” His eyes are opening to the value of calories for both meals and snacks, as is his awareness of portion sizes.

As someone who does personal training and group fitness, it’s a bit of a professional hazard for me to say this but weight loss and management is 80% about diet and only 20% about your activity levels.

As an example for you, I regularly wear a FitBit Flex. My Boot Camp class was curious how many calories it logged for me while teaching the hour long class which is a combination of exercises with dumbbells, high and low intensity cardio and of course, some abdominal exercises. Last night I checked at the end of the hour long class and it had logged a whopping 282 calories – less than 300 calories for an hour of an intense, sweaty workout! They couldn’t believe it, but I did.

We have to stop believing that an hour in the gym gives us freedom to eat what we want, when we want, with no true regard to portion sizes. Exercise WILL help you build muscle and burn fat, exercise will NOT erase poor choices.

Now I’d like to flip the discussion to those who maybe aren’t necessarily consuming the wrong things, but those who aren’t consuming enough. If you want to lose weight you cannot starve your body of the calories it needs to function. Cutting your caloric intake below your estimated minimum requirements can result in weight loss, however, cutting too many calories may result in your body hoarding all that you eat and storing more fat to prevent ‘starvation.’ Now you know you aren’t starving, but your organs don’t know that and they are designed to do everything they can to keep you alive.

Eating too few calories can be just as damaging to your weight loss goals and metabolism as eating too many.

So what should you do?

  1. Start tracking your intake to get a baseline for where you are. There are tons of free apps and websites, you don’t have to pay money for these tools. Commit to at least a couple weeks to understand your eating habits and caloric consumption.
  2. In tracking your food, check the nutritional breakdown of your overall day. You should be consuming about 50% carbs (these are fruits and veggie carbs – not breads and pastas), 30% healthy fats (avocado, hummus, olive oil, nuts, etc) and 20% protein (lean meats, egg whites).
  3. Start an exercise log. Now I caution, some of the caloric burns that the tracking apps and websites give seem inflated to me. Use these with caution, but again, get a baseline for your true activity levels.
  4. Keep in mind that to lose one pound you must create a deficit of 3,500 calories. That means in a week you need to eat less, burn more or a combination of the two to equate 500 calories a day. Losing 2 pounds a week would mean a 7,000 calorie deficit = 1,000 calories/day!! So stop beating yourself up if you only lose a pound in a week – you’ve done it the right way.

Once you have a sense of where you are, you will have a more realistic idea about how to get to where you want to be. There is no single magic formula that will work for everyone. I personally have found what works for me. But it’s taken some trial and error, I’ve lapsed into bad habits along the way, and I’ve rebounded into healthy eating as well.

Let’s face it, none of us like a reality check, but without one, you could be sabotaging your own efforts for a healthy body.



It’s Not Change…It’s Transformation

When I think of the word ‘change’ I think about things that happen quickly like:

  • Changing my clothes
  • Receiving change from a payment and
  • Changes in the weather (if you live anywhere near South Bend, IN you know what I’m talking about)
From my experience there’s really nothing quick about making the necessary changes to achieve weight loss and fitness goals so instead I like to think about it as a transformation.
Transformation: a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
Rather than getting down about the time it takes for the transformation to happen, let’s talk about what it means to thoroughly transform your body and why the time itself shouldn’t be the focus.

Self Image

Health isn’t just about what your body looks like and readings like blood pressure and cholesterol. Having total health involves developing a positive dialog with yourself and respecting your body for the unique qualities you were blessed with. Believe me, if you don’t like yourself at your current weight shedding 10 or 20 pounds isn’t going to make you love yourself any more.

Think of it this way…is your opinion changed about someone who doesn’t treat you well just because they lose weight or get new clothes? Probably not. So why would your opinion of yourself change over night just because you lost weight?

As your body changes you have the opportunity to write a new script about what you tell yourself when you look in the mirror. Start complimenting yourself, start noticing the things that make you unlike anyone else and love yourself for those qualities, start being thankful for your current abilities and improvements, and start recognizing that you were wonderfully made.


If no training or true effort is required to achieve physical fitness goals what’s the point in even setting them? If hard work isn’t required what actually differentiates a couch potato from an olympic athlete?

Increasing ability is a process of training and preparing your mind and body to achieve limits you never thought were possible. It has just as much to do with gradually increasing your strength and endurance as it does developing the ‘mentality’ to keep you in the game.

Let’s take distance running as an example. It goes without saying that you can’t go from the la-z-boy to the start line of a half marathon without some training. A solid training program for a half marathon will include a mix of interval and strength training along with gradually increasing the mileage during endurance runs. The gradual increases and mix of exercises help to protect your body against injury while increasing your cardiac and muscle endurance for the race.

But there’s also the mental portion of the race that your body needs time to prepare for. You need time to develop the “I can do this!” attitude. You need the confidence and the courage to push through when it gets hard and all you want to do is stop. And just like developing muscle and endurance – being mentally prepared doesn’t happen over night.

Healthy Choices

Milkshake or apple? Fries or broccoli? Pasta or a salad?

For some of you the ‘right’ choice may be easy. They may be foods that you actually prefer. But for those who need a dietary transformation it can be daunting to give up all the ‘good stuff’ for the ‘right stuff.’

In order to achieve sustained weight loss you need to re-train your taste buds so that you appreciate the taste of foods without all the fat, sodium and added preservatives. If you think you can go from eating burgers to broccoli overnight and enjoy it, I think you’ll probably find yourself bingeing on a burger and anything else you can get your hands on in the not too distant future.

Slowly incorporating better choices will allow you to adjust without complete deprivation of everything you’ve become accustomed to eating. It will also help you to identify the true differences in taste between foods heavily laden with additives versus those with pure and natural flavors.

Sustained Loss

If you haven’t done it yourself you know of someone who has tried the latest weight loss fad and has experienced significant loss. At first everything is great! The weight is dropping off and compliments are abound! But it’s only a matter of time before the new clothes are suddenly ‘shrinking in the wash.’

Any diet or fitness program that guarantees immediate results should also caution of how quickly those pounds will come back on (and then some) when you deviate even just slightly from their program.

Quick weight loss is usually the result of starvation and deprivation and not a reflection of learning how to live within your limits. Where as sustained weight loss is accomplished by learning about portions, understanding calories in versus the calories you are burning and fueling your body with the right combination of nutrients.

Think about it this way…you lose a dramatic 10 pounds in one week. Great! But now you have to sustain that loss and possibly lose more. What happens the next week when you step on the scale to discover a loss of only a couple of pounds or worse none. You then will likely do one of two things – starve and deprive more (sending your body into a metabolic shutdown) or give up and pack back on the 10 you lost.

You didn’t gain it overnight and it’s not going to come off that quickly either. Accept the process and celebrate the gradual decrease because maintaining and building on a 1 – 2 pound weekly loss is much easier to do than a 10 pound loss.

These are only a few of the reasons that ‘time’ shouldn’t matter when transforming your body. If you are willing to change be willing to do it for all the right reasons. Embrace the process, but more importantly, learn to embrace yourself along the way so you experience a thorough, lasting transformation.

Learning to Love


Think about the people and the things that you love. Certainly there’s a difference in the type of love you have for people than what you have for objects but every ‘love’ is founded in the relationship you have with the person or thing.

As you think about your ‘loves’ let me share with you a little about mine…

  • I love my God because He is my source of hope
  • I love my husband because we share a friendship and a bond deeper than any other person on Earth
  • I love my children because each of them uniquely challenges me every day to be a better person 
  • I love my friends because they help me to see the world through their eyes

Now for the ‘shallow’ loves in my life:

  • I love my truck – it’s big, it comes in handy and it has seat warmers
  • I love shoes – all kinds, can’t get enough of them
  • I love raspberry gelato – there are very few sweets that tempt me but I have a hard time resisting this one

I think it’s fairly easy to make a list of the things we love and why we love them. But have you considered the love you have for yourself? Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about indulging yourself with greediness or allowing your ego to get the best of you. I’m talking about the kind of self-love that allows you to look past the mistakes you’ve made and the perceived imperfections in the mirror. It’s the kind of love that isn’t tied up in actions or appearances but in the relationship you have with yourself.

Losing weight and improving physical fitness takes a lot of hard work. If your relationship with yourself isn’t founded in love excuses will be easy and perceptions will be difficult to change.

First, if you don’t love yourself you aren’t going to take the time necessary to see changes in your life. Aside from the time you need to exercise you also need to consider the adjustments you may need to make to shopping and food preparation time, as well as a potential increase in sleep and rest time. If you don’t love yourself it will be easy to find excuses to skip workouts, grab fast food or stay up late watching tv. A person with self-love stops putting poor excuses ahead of the quality decisions that will improve their life.

Secondly, without self-love it’s going to be difficult to make weight loss mean anything more than just a number on the scale. Let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds because you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Over a period of 3 months you modify your exercise routine and eating habits and you achieve your weight loss goal but you are still disappointed in the reflection in the mirror. While your physical fitness has benefited from the loss, your self-image didn’t improve so now the 20 pound loss isn’t a celebration rather a big let down because you’re still unhappy.

My suggestion is to keep that goal of 20 pounds because there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the goal. But to achieve satisfaction with the reflection in the mirror you will need to look at yourself EVERY DAY and find something you ‘love.’ At the beginning it might start with loving your eyes or hair but as your body begins to transform you will start loving the look of your bare arms or the trimming of your thighs. This exercise is not meant for you to become obsessed with the look of your body rather that you begin to become comfortable with it and you embrace the changes as they are happening.

Lastly, I would suggest that self-love is what will keep you from obsessing about comparing your look to those images promoted in the media. Instead of idealizing yourself through the images of celebrity air-brushed photos you will feel empowered to see the beauty in the uniqueness of your own body. We are all truly blessed with unique shapes and characteristics and I believe the more we learn to embrace them the more beautiful our world becomes.

So take some time today to love who you are now and with each passing day work on growing that love just the same way you find new ways to love the people and things in your life that mean the most.

Realistic Losses

In the age of The Biggest Loser, countless commercial diets and exercise programs and surgical weight loss procedures I have concerns that as a society we are losing sight of healthy sustainable weight loss.

Most people gain weight at a slow and steady pace over time and the best way to reverse that gain is to create goals and a plan that results in a slow and steady loss.

Sustainable weight loss goals should be based on losing a maximum of 2 pounds per week.

Did you know that one pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories?  That means if your goal is to lose 2 pounds in a given week you have to create a 1000 calorie deficit every day to reach your goal.

Caloric deficits are created through limiting your caloric intake combined with your caloric expenditure through physical activity. These things go hand-in-hand and you need to incorporate both of them to achieve sustained weight loss.

If you think you can just create a caloric deficit by just cutting calories you will likely run into two things:

1)   If you aren’t consuming enough calories your body will begin to hoard everything you take in to prevent you from starving – as a result this slows your metabolism and weight loss suddenly becomes much more difficult

2)   Your will power to severely limit your caloric intake is difficult to sustain and has the potential to result in binge eating episodes

Pairing physical activity with reduced caloric intake can ultimately bring about better results because:

1)   As you build lean muscle and lose body fat your metabolism increases (muscle is a metabolic tissue), which supports better weight loss and management

2)   You are not totally dependent upon your intake to create the deficit

Now that you know what it takes to lose a pound can you see why it’s not only unrealistic but dangerous to think about losing 5 pounds, 10 pounds or more in just one week?