Monthly Archives: November 2011

Think you can let your guard down because you shop at a health food store?

When I first started shopping at Whole Foods, I caught myself mistakenly following this thought process, “Hmm, I usually wouldn’t buy this, but I’m at WF and this has “all natural ingredients” so it’s okay to buy.” They have cookies, pop tart type things, cakes, sugary granola bars, pre packaged/frozen meals, pizzas etc. I took a step back and realized that just because I was at a “health food” store, did not mean I could eat anything just because of where I was.

I do not own this image. If you do and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

It sounds obvious, but when you catch yourself walking the isles at Whole Foods or Trader Joes and looking to buy food or products you normally wouldn’t buy, stop for a second. Remember, cookies are still cookies. Cake is still cake. Pizza is still pizza. Chips are still chips.

Now, some of these products may have better or more fresh ingredients than at other stores. Granted, the higher quality and less artificial ingredients in a meal, the better. This is true. But it does not give us a free pass to eat whatever we want, just because we bought it at Whole Foods. Sugar is sugar, to our bodies. Eating too many calories, regardless, will leave us fluffier than we would like.

Instead of falling into old habbits, educate yourself about cool food options you maybe haven’t tried before. Spend some time walking around the store and seeing what kind of fruits or veggies you haven’t tried before. Look at different products that you can incorporate into your diet.  Or, you can continue with similar foods or meals you already like, but with organic ingredients or less processed ingredients.I do not own this image. If you do and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

I do talk about Whole Foods and Trader Joes a lot, but that is because I like the choices they have. As I’ve written before, I go to different stores for different reasons. I don’t mean to imply that any one store is better than any other store. These are just the place I have been shopping at lately.

Before you go calling me a junk food hater (which I guess is true if you are talking about eating junk food constantly, haha) I am not against indulgences from time to time. I do think that if you are going to treat yourself, it is worth it to get a higher quality product.

Regardless where you are shopping, continue to think critically about the food you buy and how it affects the health of you and your family.

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Home made nutrition bars

Protein bars. Energy bars. Nutrition bars. We have all bought them at one time or another. They are a great snack or meal replacement if you can’t quite sit down for a meal at that time. The problem is, the ingredient list on these bars is usually bigger than the number of dudes watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion show! As a general rule, we want to buy products that have less ingredients. Why? Because the more ingredients a food has, the less likely it is to be natural and fresh from the source. Also, many bars are filled with additives and preservatives that we know are harmful to our bodies. Not to mention artificial sweeteners that have been found to cause disease. Ew, disease. Wahh wahh wahhh.

What if you were able to make this type of bar yourself? Now that would be awesome. You would know exactly what ingredients went into the bars, because you were the one controlling them!  This way, you get the job done with good food that didn’t have unknown ingredients from random parts of the world.

I recently had a chance to catch up with my good friend Sham Sanghera, CEO of Inspired Wellness. Sham has been a big inspiration on my journey of learning about nutrition and fitness and he has changed many lives through his company. We have worked with each other to trade info about fitness, nutrition and wellness since we both worked at the ARC Fitness Center at UC Davis. We met up a couple weeks ago and he introduced me to a recipe that he personally uses, as well as shares with his clients. FitMentality and Inspired Wellness will collaborate in the future, so we figured sharing a recipe here and there would be a great way to combine forces to bring wellness to the world. Kind of like super heroes. Yup, very similar to super heroes. Our capes are in the mail; just bought them from Amazon.

So here we go, homemade bars. They are awesome. I’m not sure if they have an official name, therefore, for now I will call them

AWESOME BARS

Ingredients:

2 cups almonds
1/2 cup flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
stevia (sweet plant extract, wayyy better than artificial sweeteners that have been found to cause cancer!)
1 table spoon vanilla extract

The stevia you can get at health food stores, such as Whole Foods. I bought the coconut oil and almonds/almond butter, sea salt at Trader Joes. However, other stores carry these products as well.

Blend the almonds, flax, fruit (I liked blueberries, Sham was a fan of dried cranberries), almond butter, sea salt in a food processor. A regular blender may or may not be able to handle the thickness of the almonds and almond butter. We have found that either a food processor or high powered blender (BlendTec or VitaMix) worked the best.

Take this combination of ingredients and put into a mixing bowl. Put the coconut oil into a container and microwave it for a few seconds. This helps because it turns it into liquid form, which is easier to mix. Mix in the coconut oil, sea salt, 5 or so drops of stevia (liquid or powder), and vanilla extract all together with the rest of the ingredients. The product is a bit thick so it may take a bit of elbow grease to mix it all together by hand. But hey, exercise is good! Or, if you randomly have a mixer used for baking, that can really help. I tried this recipe at home and used my dad’s mixer. It was much easier than mixing it by hand.


Once everything is all mixed up, spread it out onto a casserole type pan or container and let it sit in the fridge for a while (a half hour or so would be fine). The size of the pan you use and how thin you spread the ingredients will determine how thick your bars will be. Once the awesome bars have sat in the fridge for a bit, you can begin to cut them into the size you prefer.

They taste great and have great nutritional ingredients. You get the protein, calories, fat and fiber that your body needs to stay strong and healthy. The great thing about these bars is that they pretty dense. If you wanted to lose weight, one of these bars can keep you full for an extended period of time. Therefore, helping you to fight cravings or unnecessary food. If weight loss is not your goal, these still work great as part of a meal or quick snack throughout the day. Careful, just like with anything, don’t go overboard all in one day. Try to make them last, killer 😉

I like to keep them in tupperware so that I can take one or two out to take with me to work, as well as snack on when I’m at home.

Go ahead and try them out. Good for you and good tasting. Doesn’t get much better. Brought to you by Inspired Wellness and FitMentality.com.

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P90X is good, right?

 

 

I do not own this image. If you do and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

 

P90X hit hard. You saw the commercials on TV and online. They were all over the place. P90X this, P90X that. The more publicity they got, the more people started to try it out. The more people tried it out, the more other people heard about it. So on, and so forth. It promises results: burn calories and build muscle. So is P90X all it’s cracked up to be? As with any question that looks for an over simplified answer, the answer is kind of yes and kind of no.

 

P90X is made up of solid fitness exercise programs. They combine strength training with cardio, often with the help of plyometrics and compound exercises. Plyo what? Compound? Ok, point of clarification.

  • Plyometrics are explosive type exercises. For example, push ups where you push up off of the ground. Squats or lunges that require you to jump up into the air before you land and go back to the down position, etc.
  • Compound exercises are exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups at once time. Examples of compound exercises are: squats, deadlifts, bench, pull ups, lunges, push ups etc. As opposed to isolation exercises, which mainly work one muscle at a time, such as a curl.

The reason why these types of exercise produce results is because they require the body to work hard. Compound exercises are great for building muscle and burning calories because they involve multiple muscle groups during that exercise than if one chose to work one muscle at a time. Plyometric exercises are made up of fast, power movement. This type of movement is very efficient at burning calories and building muscle as well. The cardio aspect of P90X comes about by pairing exercise with little to no rest during certain sections of the program.

 

This all sounds like a solid philosophy to follow in fitness, right? Yes, it does. P90X is built on solid fitness foundation, but there is a problem.

 

P90X is marketed to the general public. Yes, it is a business, and this is expected. Fair enough. However, it is made to look like anyone can purchase this product and do the program. The problem is, the general public can’t complete these intense exercise plans as they are made. The workouts in the P90X series are for people of advanced fitness levels. A regular person looking to start working out, or shed a few pounds, would not be physically prepared to complete the whole P90X series. Someone may buy the series thinking that it is a plan they can complete. For many, this is not the case.

 

This is not to say that one cannot work their way up to completing P90X in it’s entirety. This is completely possible. The problem is that the workouts are so difficult, that when most people realize they can’t complete them, they fall off the schedule and give up the series. The series is also very time consuming. It’s tough to set aside this much time for workouts that often. If you started the P90X series, did you finish?

 

To be clear, P90X is great for people who are at a high enough physical fitness level that can complete these workouts in a consistent manner. For those who are looking to become more active, or are looking to add to their fitness level, P90X may be a bit much. What I do recommend is to learn from the examples set forth by P90X. They did not invent the compound exercise or the idea of plyometric exercises. They weren’t pioneers in using these fitness theories for building muscle and burning calories. These types of exercises have been around since humans existed.

I would recommend that people try these types of exercises out, but in smaller portions. You can do a work out of 20-30 minutes with these guidelines in mind and still get a very good workout in. It would be much easier to manage a 20 minute workout 3-4 times a week, than trying to fit in long P90X workouts that most people would not be able to complete.

 

Can you get amazing results from P90X? Sure you can. Yes, you can find images online of people who changed their bodies drastically with the help of P90X. My point is, this program is not for everyone. It is more important that the general public learn the benefits of exercise, and how great and efficient it can be to add compound exercises as well as plyometrics to their fitness plan, than to start something that is too difficult to complete and therefore, leading to a stop of exercise all together.

 

If P90X has worked for you, that is great. For most people, do some research about compound exercises and plyometrics. Pick a few exercises that you think you can do safely and put them together to form a workout for yourself. If you would like to try these types of exercises, check out a previous FM POST with a workout you can follow.

This year, I’m going to stick to my new years resolution

 

 

It happens every year. The new calendar year symbolizes new beginnings. New beginnings in a whole lot of topics. For many of us, the new year marks the planned beginning of a healthier, more fit life.

 

“I’m going to start going to the gym after new years.”

“I will work out once the new year starts.”

“I’m going to start eating better on January 1st!”

 

Do any of these sound familiar? Yes they do, because most of us have had these thoughts bouncing around in our heads, at some point or another,  like the old windows computer screensaver.

 

Having a goal to live a healthier life is great. No doubt about that one. However, by excusing yourself to stay inactive and continually eat unhealthy foods until Jan 1st, you are psychologically making it less likely to actually reach those goals.

 

Wow, is he saying new years resolutions are bad? What a crazy person, I should stop reading this blog.

 

Slow down, slow down. Let me explain.

 

If you get used to the idea that you will make improvements “later”, you will not commit yourself to actually making changes till’  “later.” The problem with doing things “later”, is  that “later” can turn into “never.”

 

If you were planning on getting more active, do it this week! Plan a workout or two in the next few days. Not in a month; now. If you were planning on eating better starting the beginning of the year, move that to this next shopping trip. You will most likely need to go food shopping in the near future. That is a perfect opportunity to keep from picking up highly processed, highly refined foods, and instead pick up some fresh fruits/veggies/seeds and nuts! Instead of that hamburger at a fast food restaurant, cook some lean meat at home! Add some fresh ingredients to the meal and your body will thank you for it.

 

This way of thinking has bigger, wider implications than only wellness. This can be applied to goals outside of fitness and nutrition. If you wanted to learn to dance, take a class soon! If you wanted to go on that hike, plan it for this coming weekend. If you have a job that you would love to have, what are you doing this week to make that more likely of a reality?  The examples are endless.

 

The idea of new beginnings is great. Starting fresh can be a welcomed plan if you feel like you fell into a bit of a rut.

 

Just remember, don’t fall into the habit of planning things without actually starting them.

 

 

How to not gain weight during the holidays

 

 

It happens to the best of us. The holiday parties. The big meals. The desserts popping up from unexpected places. “It’s okay, it’s the holdays” we tell ourselves, as we down huge meal after huge meal. Dessert after greasy, salty, sweet and heavy dessert.

 

 

Mmmmmm, right? Yes. No argument there. All those foods are good times. The problem isn’t the actual act of eating those foods. The problem is how much of those foods we consume and how often. Sure a small slice of pumpkin pie is okay. A bit of stuffing is fine. Serving yourself thirds and fourths of a thanksgiving meal; that is when you begin to see  a problem. Eating a few servings of dessert, day in and day out throughout the holdays; that is the issue.

 

Eating a sensible amount during the meal and a little dessert is like this      🙂

 

Eating everything that can fit on your plate, three times, is like this      😦

 

Recap.  One is 🙂  the other is 😦

 

So. What to do? What to do?

 

Assuming you know that eating up a storm every day during the holidays can be a problem for our health, you may be wondering how in the world one is supposed to make it out of the holidays without ending up a bit fluffier than when they started. Or, maybe, a lot fluffier.

 

Have no fear, I have JUST the strategy.

 

Ready?

 

Here it is.

 

The trick is to have a nice snack BEFORE you head over to the relative’s house for the holiday meal or party. If you can have a somewhat filling snack before you head out, it can make a big difference of the total amount of not so great for you food you have at the said event. I’m not saying to stuff yourself to the point where you aren’t hungry. Go ahead and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones while having traditional meals. My point is, if you can curb your hunger just a little bit, during the holiday meals, you won’t want to go overboard. This way, you still get to enjoy the meal, but not the whole table.

 

The trick is to have a snack that will be somewhat filling so that you don’t go bananas on the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie/candy.

 

Here are a few examples of snacks you can have before the big holiday meals. These are actually great foods as part of a snack or meal any time, but work very well for this specific situation.

 

Here we have some nice Pistachios and Almonds. These are great snacks packed with nutrients and healthy fats. This will keep you from being starving when you get to the holiday events.

 

Similar to the ideas above. A bit of peanut butter or almond butter is a great snack that is good for you and will help control your appetite so you don’t go having tenth servings of meals. You can have these with fruit or veggies.

 

 

 

How can you go wrong with fruit?! Well, I guess if you ate 9879876 pounds of fruit every day, that might be a wrong way to have fruit. Other than that, you should make sure to make a variety of fruit a consistent part of your diet anyway. The fiber in fruit will help fill you up just a little bit, and the nutrients in the fruit will make your body go like this “thanks, man.”

 

 

Don’t like any of the previous ideas, Mr.Picky McPickerson Eater? I still have more ideas for you. How about some nice greek yogurt or cottage cheese with a dash of honey and cinnamon. Mmmmm, right? That’s right, right! Good way to get some protein from the yogurt or cottage cheese, blood sugar stabilizing cinnamon, and nutrient rich honey. Yum and stuff.

 

 

You may be thinking “wait a minute, he wants me to eat more food, in order to keep from gaining too much weight? This man must be crazy!”

 

Well, reader, sometimes I do question my own sanity. But it has nothing to do with this post. The reason why having one of these snacks before a big holiday meal is a good idea, is because they will purposely fill you up just enough so that you won’t binge on foods that will, in the end, be much more detrimental to your health and weight when eaten in large quantities as often as the holidays tend to encourage.

 

Don’t go running away from FitMentality because it said not to eat the foods you love during the holidays. I think it’s okay, but in smart quantities. Besides, you don’t need pounds and pounds of these meals, to enjoy the taste. Have just enough to enjoy, and then, back awayyy from the plate. Besides, you have some hefty new years resolution fitness/health goals coming up, right?

 

Happy holidays from FitMentality.com

I am so thankful

 

 

Before every workout I do the sign of the cross. Every time I finish a work out, before I walk out of the place I am exercising, again, I do the sign of the cross.

 

No, this isn’t about me pushing religion on the reader.

 

My reason for explaining this is to share how appreciative I am of the gift of being able to participate in fitness. I am thankful that I get to do these things. I am so thankful that I get to push weight around, or jump up and down off the floor, or push as hard as I can through an intense interval workout.

 

One of the first posts for this website is called “I Love This”, and it’s all about how much I love fitness. Part of what makes me feel that anyone who is lucky enough to have the ability to be active should, in their own way, take advantage of that, is because I know what it’s like to not be able to be active. There was a period in college where I was sick for an extended period of time. It was a very difficult period. Also, during the begining of my master’s program, I had some heart problems that lasted for an extended period of time as well. These situations took the gift of fitness and being active, away from me. As I sat and tried the best I could to recover, I would daydream about being able to have the strength to exercise again. There was a point where I wondered for how long, or if I would ever be able to be as active as I was before. It sounds dramatic, but it was a very real concern. These two events, along with my already strong passion for fitness, made me all the more appreciative of this gift. As I slowly started to get better, I couldn’t have been more thankful. When I run, lift, dance, climb, walk up stairs, I am reminded of how important it is to not take it all for granted.

 

We are lucky we get to do this.

 

The feeling of knowing you left everything out on the floor or gym, is priceless. The self esteem and confidence that is reinforced through a tough workout is priceless because you know you just accomplished something very difficult. That feeling that you can take on any task, that you get after a workout, is translated into the rest of your life. When you know you can set yourself to consistently push yourself through fitness (whatever fitness plan that works for you), you take that self confidence with you into performing well at work, or in school, or other projects you are a part of. I mean, shoot, if you can push through an exercise while sweating and barely being able to breath, then surely you can give a few minutes presentation. Surely you can ace that test you have been studying for. Compared to the effort you put in during a tough workout, the rest of it all is easy peasy!

 

Woops, got a bit excited and went there with the easy peasy. You’ll have to excuse the cute analogy.

 

This applies to everyone. Everyone who gets up off the couch or from behind the desk, and gets out and gets moving. I don’t want the reader to think that since I talk about “workouts” or “lifting” that I’m ignoring other activities. Definitely not! Whether your form of exercise is cycling or hiking or running or swimming or playing sports or walking. It all applies!

 

Basically, all of life gets better when we consistently move our bodies around. This, my friends, is what it’s allllll about.

 

I’ve been sitting too long as I write this. I’m gonna’ go be active somewhere!

 

Errr, it’s late and I should go to sleep. But later tomorrow, THEN, I’ll go run around and enjoy the wellness!

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