When’s the best time of day to exercise? First thing in the morning of course! Morning exercisers tend to stick with their workouts because nothing else (besides sleep) has a chance to get in the way. So I designed this progressive four-week walking program specifically for morning walkers who might meet up with friends to keep their workouts social and motivating.

You can, of course, do these workouts solo, on a treadmill or outdoors, or any time of day. Each one burns about 300 calories. Coupled with a reduced-calorie diet, this plan can help jump-start your weight loss in just one month!


Day Workout Intensity Total Minutes
Sunday Practice maintaining a consistent pace. RPE: 5 30
Monday Walk briskly for 5 min; go hard for 1 min. Repeat 5 times. RPE: 5-7 30
Tuesday Ready to work? Increase your pace or incline at least 4 times along the way. RPE: 5-7 30
Wednesday Hum a song that you and your friends know and stay on pace with it. RPE: 5 30
Thursday Increase your pace or incline at least 4 times. RPE: 5-7 30
Friday Walk briskly 5 min; go all-out for 1 min. Repeat 5 times. RPE: 5-7 30
Saturday Rest today.    


Day Workout Intensity Total Minutes
Sunday Walk up and down hills as many times as possible. RPE: 6-8 35
Monday Walk as fast as you can. RPE: 8 35
Tuesday Step briskly for 6 min, then super fast for 2. Repeat 5 times. RPE: 6-8 40
Wednesday Strut at a steady, moderate pace. RPE: 5 40
Thursday Have a friendly race uphill. RPE: 6 30
Friday Step briskly for 6 min, then super fast for 2. Repeat 5 times. RPE: 6-8 40
Saturday Rest today.    


Day Workout Intensity Total Minutes
Sunday Maintain your pace and intensity. RPE: 6 40
Monday Walk as fast as you can for 5 min; recover. Repeat. RPE: 6-8 40
Tuesday Work your glutes: Climb a slight hill or incline most of the workout. RPE: 7 40
Wednesday Walk quickly for 6 min; walk your fastest for 3 min. Repeat 5 times. RPE: 6-8 45
Thursday Trek up and down a tough hill nonstop. RPE: 6-8 45
Friday Find a slight hill to climb steady and strong most of the workout. RPE: 7 45
Saturday Rest today.    


Day Workout Intensity Total Minutes
Sunday Walk 6 min; up the pace OR incline for 3 min. Repeat. RPE: 6-8 45
Monday Maintain a fast and furious speed. RPE: 7 45
Tuesday Walk up and down a hill as many times as possible. RPE: 6-8 45
Wednesday Walk briskly for 6 min; boost speed or incline for 3 min. Repeat. RPE: 6-8 45
Thursday Work your butt off today. Talking should be difficult. RPE: 7-8 45
Friday Grand finale! Go all-out. Change incline and speed at will. RPE: 8 45
Saturday Rest today. You’ve earned it!    

Going fast enough? Count your strides for one minute. Your goal is at least 55 strides per minute. For a guide to workout intensity and RPE (your rate of perceived exertion)


Are Your Weight-Loss Efforts Being Derailed by Years of Baggage?

Eat less, move more is the advice touted to the overweight ad nauseam, as if it were really that simple. I have been in the business of helping individuals take off unwanted pounds for more than 10 years. Although success usually does include cutting back on unnecessary calories and moving more, there are a myriad of other factors that are part of the equation. Sleep, stress, metabolic factors, genetics and body type can all affect how quickly or easily you lose weight. And, without a doubt, emotional factors have a huge impact as well. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and I would never attempt to analyze or prescribe solutions to a person who might have an emotional roadblock interfering with his or her weight loss goals. However, I can share with you some of the patterns and hindrances I’ve come across over many years of training and coaching my overweight clients. Perhaps a glimpse into these themes will help open your eyes to some hidden obstacles that have been holding you back.

Case #1: Whom would I be if I weren’t the fat, funny one? As long as John could remember, he was overweight. However, it never stood in the way of him having loads of friends and being happy. He could remember his elementary school teachers telling his parents how enjoyable it was to have him in the classroom; he knew how to be funny without being disruptive. His parents would beam with pride as they shared the feedback with friends and family. In high school and college, he had loads of friends. The girls adored him and thought of him as their trusted buddy and confidant. When broken-hearted by some other boy, they relied on John to cheer them up using his sense of humor. Now, happily married with two kids, he loves overhearing their friends say, “Your dad is so funny!” When John’s doctor told him he needed to lose weight to control his rising blood pressure and elevated glucose levels, he hired me to help him. Having made several failed weight-loss attempts in the past, he seriously doubted his ability to succeed. Each week he would set goals around sensible eating and making time for evening walks after dinner. The week would start off great, but by Wednesday, he was slipping back into old unhealthy eating habits and making excuses not to take his walks. Frustrated, he couldn’t seem to understand why he struggled to stick to his goals for more than a few days at a time even though he wanted to lose the weight so badly. One day I asked John, “If you were able to stick to your plan throughout the week, and you began to experience weight loss, what would that look like and feel like to you? “I don’t know who was more shocked by his response, John or me, when he stated, “If I was to actually stick to my plan, I know I would lose the excess weight. I wouldn’t be fat anymore. That idea feels so strange. Whom would I be if I weren’t the fat, funny one?

Case #2: Who am I to be perfect? Margaret had the kind of life that others envy. She was a brilliant economist, had a devoted and loving husband, two great kids who were excelling at school—even her dog was well-behaved and a joyful companion. Margaret and her husband traveled to exotic locations when on vacation and entertained friends often in their beautiful home. Being a compassionate, smart and insightful individual, family and friends came to her for advice all the time.The only area of Margaret’s life that she did not seem to have under control was her weight. She carried 30 extra pounds on her body that she had been trying to shed for many years. When we worked together, she tearfully said, “I’ve got everything I could possibly want, except a body I am comfortable in. I know what I need to do, and often do exactly that. But after a while, I fall off track and begin to self-sabotage. I find myself eating junk when no one is watching, and telling myself I just don’t care. But I do care! This extra weight is making me miserable!” I asked Margaret to spend some time visualizing herself as successful, to close her eyes and imagine a future where the self-sabotaging behavior was no longer a problem, and she was living her life in the body she desired. I told her to think about and even journal about the thoughts and feelings that come up when doing her visualizations. A few weeks later Margaret reported, “At first it felt fabulous. I imagined being in form-fitting clothing that was beautiful, looking in the mirror and feeling proud, being lighter and more energetic. But when I imagined my friends seeing me, I began to think they would be put off by the ‘new’ me or feel intimidated. After all, who am I to be  perfect?

Case #3: What if I find out I’m just not that interesting? Bob was in his mid 40s when we began working together. He had an excellent job and was highly successful and respected, yet he still felt like a failure. Bob was unmarried and experiencing many moments of loneliness. He had always been overweight and extremely shy. Wanting desperately to find a woman with whom he could have a relationship, he attempted some online dating sites. Bob went on several first dates, but they never seemed to go any further than that. He was convinced women were turned off by his size. Bob thought that if he could lose the excess weight, it would increase his possibilities of women going out with him more than once, thus getting to know him better. Despite being a highly motivated and creative goal-setter, he continued to fill lonely evenings with fattening junk foods. The pounds weren’t budging. When we explored the pros and cons of losing weight versus keeping things as is, Bob stated that “the advantage to not losing the weight is I can continue to use it as an excuse for striking out with women. If I were thin, and they still rejected me, I would find out that I’m really just not that interesting. That would feel much worse than them not liking me because I am fat!”

Case #4: I’m keeping my family safe. When Sue came to me for weight-loss coaching, she was concerned that she and her husband had steadily been gaining weight during their 15-year marriage. Particularly alarming was seeing two of her four children also show signs of rapid weight gain. Her own doctor and their pediatrician expressed concerns. She bought the groceries and cooked the meals, so Sue recognized the need to change her habits at home. We worked together on planning healthier meals and snacks for her family. Although she made a few minor changes, there seemed to be a celebratory meal, holiday or guests visiting every week. At those times, Sue couldn’t get herself to cut back on the lavish meals and treats her family was accustomed to. Although losing weight felt like an important goal, she couldn’t stand the thought of her family or guests feeling deprived. I asked Sue to chat with me about the role food played in her family when she was growing up. Sue was the only daughter of two parents who grew up during the great depression. As a child, she was told stories about the years her parents had little to eat, and how her grandparents used food stamps and rations to put meals on the table. Far surpassing their parents’ lifestyle, her dad was a highly successful businessman and her mom a stay-at-home wife. Food and money were never issues. Holidays in her home were a gathering of grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins with tons of delicious food and treats, a tradition that Sue continued in her own home. Sue could remember her grandparents saying how lucky she was to live during a time when she could feel safe and secure that there would always be enough to eat. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “I guess I am just trying to keep my family safe with food!”

Case #5: Food is love. Lois was a chubby kid and grew to be an overweight adult. A bright, fun loving young woman with a promising career, she was concerned that her weight might stand in the way of advancement. She knew that to continue climbing the ladder, it would be necessary to get in front of management and customers more often. Feeling self-conscious because of her size, she noticed that she would stay quiet during meetings rather than speak up and share her great ideas. She decided that losing weight would increase her confidence and therefore advance her career. When I asked her what she believed was her greatest obstacle to losing weight, Lois stated, “I feel happy when I indulge and miserable when I try to restrict myself. But of course, I feel more miserable after the fact. I tell myself I will abstain from the treats, but put them in front of me and I can’t resist them. I have no willpower!” When I asked her what she thought about when she was indulging, she realized most of the time she was reminiscing about her childhood. Lois’s dad left when she was only eight, so her Mom raised her alone. She remembered feeling sad and abandoned by her dad, and would cry often. Trying to cheer her up, her mom often took Lois out for ice cream or to the local candy store or bakery for treats. Those were her favorite times. Her mom unburdened by work or housekeeping, gave Lois her undivided attention, and was relaxed and fun to be with. Even if her Dad wasn’t around, Mom took care of her and she was loved through food!

Case #6: You can’t control me. Terry could not remember a time since college when she was not trying to lose weight. She had tried every diet imaginable. Despite having some success, she would always put back whatever pounds she had lost and then some. When we started working together, she said this would be her last attempt. If she was not successful this time, she swore to give up trying. We began with small lifestyle changes, building upon one another. It was slow and, at times, frustrating for Terry, but she began to consistently lose about half to one pound a week. Terry incorporated walking into her daily routine, learned to recognize when she was no longer hungry and stop eating, and modified her favorite recipes to healthier versions. When we celebrated a year of working together and a 48-pound weight loss, I asked Terry why she thought this time she had succeeded. “You never told me what I could or couldn’t eat. You helped me create a food plan that was flexible, and I could make decisions based on how I felt and what I thought I would enjoy,” she said. Terry began telling me about her parents, a topic we had never talked about before. They were well-meaning and quite loving but incredibly controlling. She grew up with strict curfews, rules around how much TV she was allowed to watch, how many hours a day she had to study, and when she was allowed to visit or talk on the phone with friends.

Being “health nuts,” her parents also had rigid restrictions regarding food. There was absolutely no junk food in the house, groceries were purchased at the health food store only and fried food and sugar were thought of as “poison.” When Terry went to friends’ homes, she would raid their fridges and pantries, indulging in all of the treats that were forbidden in her home. When she went off to the local community college (she was not allowed to go away for school), Terry purchased greasy foods in the cafeteria and always had dessert. At those times, always feeling that she was sneaking from her parents, she would think, “you can’t control me!”

From these stories, I hope you are able to see how often we have the best of intentions, yet struggle to reach our goals. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, introduce the theory of conflicting commitments in their wonderful book,Immunity to Change. Without an understanding of the reasons why we hold on to the very behaviors that keep us from getting where we so desperately want to go, sustained change will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Awareness is the first step toward breaking down the barriers. Once we are aware of why or what we are doing, and how it is in a sense protecting us and keeping us safe, we can begin taking small steps, or doing experiments to see what happens. For many, this is the road to success.

However, others will still struggle, and could benefit enormously from working with a mental health care professional. As a coach, I recognize a few signs that will tell me my client needs some additional assistance in order to move forward. When clients come to their sessions week after week having made goals but not following through, feel as if their sabotaging behaviors are uncontrollable, or are constantly blaming their situation on the past, others or circumstances, it’s time to suggest working with a therapist. So if your weight-loss journey seems more like an uphill battle that will never end, despite being highly motivated, do some thinking around what competing commitments you might be holding on to. A good coach or therapist, or even talking with a trusted friend, can help you shed some light on your situation. In the meantime, call upon your own self-compassion and recognize that you are doing the best you can, and weight loss is indeed way more complicated than just eating less and moving more.

Get Over the Excuses to Get Stronger

Remember when you were a kid and claimed that your dog ate your homework, when really you just didn’t get around to writing your book report? Of course, your teacher knew you were fibbing. While most of us are past blaming the dog instead of taking responsibility for our actions, this doesn’t mean that we’re beyond using excuses—whether we realize it or not. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor, I’ve heard almost every reason under the sun for why people “can’t” be active, let alone do something specific like lifting weights for the recommended 20 to 30 minutes twice a week. However, outside of an actual health condition and a doctor’s note saying that strength training isn’t recommended, lifting weights is so beneficial to the majority of people that all excuses are busted pretty quickly. The benefits of weight training are numerous, including increased muscle strength, balance, bone density, lean muscle mass, insulin sensitivity and cardio endurance—not to mention that strong, lean muscles simply look better! So if you’ve been making excuses and opting out of weight training, read on to get the (nice) kick in the workout pants that you need to start benefiting from regular strength training.Busting 7 Common Strength Training Excuses

Excuse #1: Strength training is boring. If you get bored easily or like activities that are a little more fast-paced and engaging, then strength training really is for you—the sky is the limit! From group classes that pair lifting weights to fun music, to suspension training with the TRX, workout DVDs, free weights,  kettlebells, circuit training (more on that below) and even using your own body weight at home while watching TV, the options are endless—and certainly not boring.

Excuse #2: I don’t have time for strength and cardio. The best thing about strength training is that it can double as cardio if you do it the right way! There are three basic ways to do this. First, you can add some cardio moves, such as mountain climbers or jumping jacks or marching in place, between different strength exercises to get your heart rate up and keep it elevated through your entire workout. Second, you can do a circuit-training type format where you have no rest between exercises and perform moves that work major muscle groups (such as lunges, squats and push-ups which target multiple muscles). This also keeps your heart rate elevated, giving you a high calorie burn and working your cardiovascular system. Third, you can do strength moves that work the lower body with the upper body (for example a lunge with a bicep curl), to really get your heart pumping.

 Excuse #3: I don’t know what to do. You didn’t think you’d get away with that excuse did you? I am all about teaching you what you need to know! Brush up your knowledge on the principles of strength training, then read this primer on what exercises you should include. Knowledge is power!

Excuse #4: I’m intimidated by the gym. The gym can be intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Any health club staff or personal trainer should be more than happy to show you around the gym, teaching you how the different strength equipment works. And even if that sounds pretty scary, you can always get your strength training on at home! In fact, you don’t need any gear to get in a good strength workout at home.

Excuse #5: I’m afraid of bulking up. Man or woman, lifting weights for 30 minutes a few times a week will not bulk you up. In order to get “beefy,” men have to lift very heavy weights for multiple times a week (the big body builders spend hours a day in the gym). Women do not even have enough testosterone to build huge muscles unless they very carefully control their diet and spend hours and hours in the gym (and possibly take unhealthy supplements and illegal drugs, as well). For the everyday person, lifting weights a few times a week will definitely not bulk you up, so don’t let that stop you from reaping all of the benefits of lifting weights!

Excuse #6: I don’t want to get hurt. Moving your body in new ways and lifting weights can certainly make you more susceptible to injury. But, if you warm up properly, lift weights using proper form, understand the difference between soreness and pain and really listen to your body (not pushing it too hard, especially in the beginning), the benefits of strength training far outweigh the risks.

7. I’m trying to lose weight, so cardio is more important. When it comes to weight loss, a calorie burned is a calorie burned, no matter how you go about it. And the whole idea behind losing weight is cutting calories through both diet and exercise—not just cardio exercise either. In fact, many strength workouts like bootcamps, kettlebell training and circuit training can count as cardio and help you burn more calories than easy- to moderate-intensity cardio does. In addition, strength training adds muscle to your body, which boosts your metabolism, as muscle burns more calories per ounce than fat. It can also help to reshape and tighten your body. Bottom line: If you’re using excuses to keep you from lifting weights, it’s time to drop the nay-saying and just try it. Strength training is an essential activity for overall health that will help your body composition, thereby making weight-loss easier. So don’t delay; try strength training today!



Are you tired of eating plain, boring chicken breast every night for dinner, or are you having a hard time eating enough protein to meet you daily needs? Studies suggest that eating protein helps you feel fuller for longer and keeps your body’s systems function properly. At the same time, many high protein recipes are also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol that work against your efforts to stay healthy. A health and balanced diet requires 10-35% protein. That’s an average of 50-175 grams daily. To find the right balance of protein and fat follow these suggestions:

  • Grill, bake, poach or broil your food to limit fat.
  • Select nonfat or low fat dairy options.
  • Use egg whites in place of the whole egg.
  • Select lean meats and trim the fat and skin before cooking.

Prepare these high protein, low fat recipes to help you stay on track and satisfied.

Healthy Chicken Vegetable Casserole

Try this inexpensive and fresh version of a chicken casserole–no need for processed soups or sauces!

CALORIES: 320.6  |  FAT: 8.9g  |  PROTEIN: 27.9g  |  CARBS: 36.1g  |  FIBER: 8.8g

Grilled BBQ Chicken Flatbreads

This recipe was created for kids, but adults will crave a slice, too. I like to add hot pepper rings for the grown-ups!

CALORIES: 223.9  |  FAT: 3.9g  |  PROTEIN: 26.2g  |  CARBS: 21.4g  |  FIBER: 2.9g

Mexican Chicken and Rice Casserole

This is a family favorite!

CALORIES: 268.9  |  FAT: 4.9g  |  PROTEIN: 34.6g  |  CARBS: 19.3g  |  FIBER: 3.8g

Vegan Chili

An easy meat and dairy free meal.

CALORIES: 348.2  | FAT: 3 g |  PROTEIN: 56.9 g |  CARBS: 44.7 g | FIBER: 18.6 g

Cottage Cheese, Spinach, and Tomato Omelet

Great option to prepare ahead and enjoy for dinner or breakfast.

CALORIES: 345.6 | FAT: 2.2 g  | PROTEIN: 59.2 g |  CARBS: 13.9 g  | FIBER: 2.5 g

Chicken & Rice with White Beans Soup

This soup is packed with nutrition and is simple to prepare.

CALORIES: 105.1 |  FAT: 0.7 g |  PROTEIN: 80.2 g |  CARBS: 31.7 g |  FIBER: 3.2 g

Authentic Fresh Mexican Tuna Salad

This is essentially pico de gallo mixed with tuna.

CALORIES: 308.8 |  FAT: 2.5 g |  PROTEIN: 53.7 g |  CARBS: 18.5 g |  FIBER: 4.3 g

Mediterranean Baked Fish

This dish is baked and flavored with a Mediterranean-style tomato, onion, and garlic sauce to make it lower in fat and salt.

CALORIES: 225.5  |  FAT: 4.4g  |  PROTEIN: 29.4g  |  CARBS: 17.3g  |  FIBER: 2.5g

Moroccan Chicken & Lentils

Quick, tasty crock pot recipe ready for something with the seasoning to match a take-out craving, but with none of the effort or fat!

CALORIES: 355  |  FAT: 2.6g  |  PROTEIN: 49.4g  |  CARBS: 32.9g  |  FIBER: 16.1g

Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breasts 

CALORIES: 282.8 | FAT: 3.2 g | PROTEIN: 55.6 g  | CARBS: 3.9 g | FIBER: 0.1 g

Tuna and White Bean Salad

A refreshing alternative to tuna salad. Pair with tomatoes and cucumber for a light lunch.

CALORIES: 219.1 |  FAT: 4.1 g | PROTEIN: 27.6 g | CARBS: 20.4 g  | FIBER: 6.1 g

Turkey Meatloaf

This is a fast, easy, and flavorful rendition of a favored food – meat loaf. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli, green beans or mixed veggies.

CALORIES: 220.6  | FAT: 2.7 g | PROTEIN: 28.5 g  | CARBS: 13.3 g  | FIBER: 0.4 g

20 Minute Chicken Creole

This quick Southern dish contains no added fat and very little added salt in its spicy tomato sauce.

CALORIES: 255.4 |  FAT: 4.5 g |  PROTEIN: 33.3 g |  CARBS: 20.7 g | FIBER: 4.3 g

The Worst Summer Calorie Traps

Posted: July 2, 2014 in Nutrition

Treats to Think Twice about This Summer

Summer is the season for back-yard barbecues, family get-together  and lots of cool treats on hot days. But if you’re not careful, a few sneaky snacks (or drinks) can derail a week’s worth of healthy eating and fitness. Be on the watch for these surprisingly high-calorie tastes of summer.

Fresh Fruit Treats
Fruit is a sweet treat you can enjoy every day as part of a healthy eating plan. But don’t let fruit-based seasonal dishes fool you into thinking that they’re healthy or low calorie. There are tons of ways to turn fresh summer fruit into delicious desserts at home, but the fruit-topped treats you’re likely to find when eating out probably aren’t what you really had in mind for a healthy meal or snack.

Food Item Calories Fat
T.G.I. Friday’s  Strawberry Fields Salad with Chicken and Balsamic Vinaigrette 800 54 grams
IHOP Berry-Berry Brioche French Toast 770 29 grams
Bob Evan’s Strawberry, Banana and Yogurt Crepe 750 14 grams
Applebee’s Seasonal Berry and Spinach Salad with Chicken and Strawberry Vinaigrette 620 31 grams
Au Bon Pain Strawberry Salad with Chicken and Balsamic Vinaigrette 440 27 grams
Au Bon Pain Blueberry Yogurt & Wild Blueberry Parfait 410 8 grams
Carnival Foods

You’re well aware that most of the food options you’ll find at summer fairs and theme parks aren’t going to do you any favors. You’ll probably be able to find a few choices that will fit into your daily calorie goals like giant dill pickles, chicken and steak kabobs or even cotton candy. But there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a once-a-year treat that you really enjoy. Just know what you’re getting into and eat a healthy meal before you go so you can limit yourself to one treat (or bites of several shared treats). Here’s how much these popular fair foods will set you back, so you can plan accordingly for your indulgence.

Food Item Calories Fat
Giant Turkey Leg 1,136 54 grams
Funnel Cake 760 44 grams
Snow Cone 550 0 grams
Walking Taco 450-900 30-60 grams
Elephant Ears 300-500 15-20 grams
Fried Snickers 450 30 grams

Entrée Salads
There’s nothing better than a cool salad for dinner on a hot evening. Just toss some leftover grilled chicken on top for a little protein and brighten it up with cherry tomatoes and carrot slices. A simple dressing of olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard or a yogurt-based ranch will add tons of flavor for a small number of calories. It makes sense to choose a salad when dining out, right? Not so fast. Many restaurant salads seem healthy but tend to skimp on the healthy, low-cal veggies and fruit and add way too much of the high-calorie salad toppings like nuts, dressing, and cheese. Sometimes a salad is the perfect choice, especially at fast-food places, but at fast-casual restaurants, salads can be hidden calorie mines.

Food Item Calories Fat
Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette 1,390 98 grams
Ruby Tuesday Carolina Chicken Salad with no dressing 1,181 52 grams
T.G.I. Friday’s Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 1,080 71 grams
Panera Chopped Chicken Cobb with Herb Vinaigrette 810 66 grams
Au Bon Pain Chicken Cobb with Light Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette 490 30 grams
Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad with Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette 460 16 grams
McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken with Low Fat Balsamic 320 11 grams

Iced Tea
Iced tea can be a refreshing no-calorie beverage or secret sugar trap depending on how it’s prepared. Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush, with different varieties depending on growing region and processing. All types of black, green and white tea provide antioxidants that are good for your heart and may be able to lower your risk for certain types of cancer. (Herbal teas, made from dried herbs and fruits, aren’t true teas, but have beneficial properties of their own, are naturally caffeine free and make delicious no-calorie drinks.) If you brew your own tea and sweeten it yourself (even with a small amount of real sugar), you can enjoy it every day without worrying about derailing your healthy eating plan. But grabbing a bottle or cup of tea on the go is a tricky proposition. What often sounds like a “natural” or healthy iced tea can be loaded with sugar and other ingredients that add calories.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Arizona Rx Energy Herbal Tea (16 oz) 240 58 grams
Arizona Raspberry Black Tea (16 oz) 180 44 grams
Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Latte (16 oz) 240 42 grams
Dunkin’ Donuts Sweet Tea (16 oz) 160 39 grams
McDonald’s Sweet Tea (16 oz) 150 36 grams
Lipton 100% Natural Green Tea with Citrus (16 oz) 140 36 grams
Starbucks  Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea (16 oz) 80 20 grams
Wendy’s Strawberry Tea (Medium) 70 16 grams

This summertime favorite is incredibly refreshing on a warm day, but this sweet treat should be enjoyed occasionally, rather than every day. And lemons are good for you, right? They are, and you can certainly squeeze all the lemon you want into water for a splash of flavor and vitamin C (and virtually zero calories), but unless you use an artificial sweetener, the calories will creep up quickly in the sweetened varieties.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Dairy Queen Lemonade Chiller (Medium) 390 99 grams
Wendy’s All-Natural Lemonade (Medium) 290 72 grams
McDonald’s McCafe Frozen Strawberry Lemonade (16 oz) 250 65 grams
Dunkin’ Donuts Strawberry Lemonade Coolatta (16 oz) 240 60 grams
Country Time Bottled Lemonade (20 oz) 230 58 grams
Arizona Lemonade (16 oz) 220 52 grams
Panera Lemonade (21 oz) 160 41 grams
Starbucks Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade (16 oz) 130 33 grams

Fruit smoothies make an excellent breakfast or afternoon snack. When you make them yourself, you can control exactly how sweet they are and how much fruit (or veggies) they really contain. When you grab one on the go, however, you need to do a little research in advance to know exactly what you’re getting. Something that sounds safe like “strawberry banana” could be a reasonable choice or it could be hiding a heap of sugar—or very little fruit at all.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Smoothie King The Hulk Strawberry (20 oz) 964 125 grams
Dairy Queen Strawberry Banana Smoothie (Medium) 810 148 grams
Smoothie King Light & Fluffy (20 oz) 395 89 grams
Au Bon Pain Peach Smoothie (16 oz) 310 41 grams
Starbucks Strawberry Smoothie (16 oz) 300 41 grams
Panera Low-Fat Strawberry Smoothie with Ginseng (16 oz) 260 53 grams
McDonald’s Strawberry Banana Smoothie (16 oz) 250 54 grams

Iced and Frozen Coffee
Everyone knows by now that iced and frozen coffee drinks can be delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day. But they’re often calorie bombs just waiting to blow up your healthy eating plan. It’s tough to tell at a glance which ones are just fine as an occasional treat and which ones you might want to skip in favor of something that will actually fill you up and satisfy your sweet tooth. In general, any coffee drink that’s blended or contains large amounts of syrup, chocolate flavoring, cream or whole milk are the ones to watch out for. If you’re not sure what’s in your favorite iced coffee, ask! You can always make substitutions to cut down on fat and calories.

Drink Item Calories Sugar
Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Coffee Coolatta (Medium) 660 69 grams
Dairy Queen Cappuccino MooLatte (Medium) 570 79 grams
Panera Frozen Mocha (16 oz) 570 77 grams
McDonald’s McCafe Frappe Mocha
(16 oz)
550 71 grams
Starbucks Bottled Dark Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino (13.7 oz) 280 48 grams
McDonald’s Premium Roast Iced Coffee (16 oz) 140 22 grams
Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Light (16 oz) 130 26 grams
Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Latte (Medium) 120 15 grams
Starbucks Orange Spiced Iced Coffee (16 oz) 90 21 grams
Starbucks Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte
(16 oz)
80 10 grams
There’s no reason not to enjoy all the tastes of summer from refreshing iced tea to a cool, filling salad. Just be aware of what you’re eating and drinking so you can make delicious and healthy choices all summer long.

Nutrition information comes from individual restaurant/brand websites on July 11, 2013. Restaurants may change their ingredients, portion sizes and nutrition information at any time. Carnival food nutrition information is estimated based on averages since sizes and recipes vary.

Turn Up the Heat for a Nutritious, Balanced Meal

An outdoor grill lets you cook up a tasty, healthful meal while creating a great atmosphere for chatting with friends and family on a warm summer evening. But after months of grilling out, you may grow tired of the same old chicken breasts and turkey burgers.

Lucky for you, grilling isn’t just for burgers, steaks and chicken! You can use this fantastic backyard appliance to cook up many other foods that you may not have considered grilling!

With so many exciting grilling options, your microwave and oven are going to gather dust during the warmer months. Below are some favorites sure to please a crowd! Get ready to fire up your propane-fueled friend to put a new spin on some of your favorite foods.

Pizza doesn’t have to be baked in an oven. Grilling your next homemade pizza will get you out of the hot kitchen. And when you choose the right toppings, your homemade pie will be both healthful and delicious! Grab a premade whole-wheat crust from your local grocer and start piling away! Use your choice of sauce, such as tomato, pesto, barbeque, or plain olive oil, and top with copious amounts of sliced veggies. To keep fat and calories in check, use a small amount of lean meat (or no meat) and watch your cheese portions. Part-skim mozzarella is an excellent choice. Here are some crowd-tested favorites:

  • Olive oil, minced garlic, diced chicken, fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Barbecue sauce, canned chunk chicken, sliced onions and diced pineapple
  • Pesto sauce, canned artichokes, mushrooms and low-fat feta cheese
  • Tomato sauce, chopped broccoli, sliced zucchini, banana peppers and sliced tomatoes

Once you’ve chosen your toppings, place the pizza directly onto the grill, close the lid and cover until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove using a large spatula and an oven mitt. Slice and enjoy!

Quesadillas can be cooked on the grill, too. Like pizza, the sky’s the limit when selecting quesadilla ingredients. Choose cheese, veggies, beans, onions, corn and more. Place one whole-wheat tortilla on the grill, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, add other toppings, then sprinkle with a bit more cheese and top it off with a second tortilla. Grilled both sides, using a spatula to flip the ‘dilla and press down slightly as the cheese melts. Remove from the grill once it’s browned and melty, cut into wedges and enjoy with salsa!

Fresh fruit from the grill is a great summertime treat! The heat of the grill caramelizes the natural sugars found in fruit, leaving you with an amazing dessertlike dish that is full of fiber and vitamins but not calories! Try placingwhole bananas (peeled), or sliced peaches directly on the grill. Skewer whole strawberries. Add your favorite fruits to a meat (or tofu) and veggie kabob for additional color and flavor. Apple, pineapple and pear slices are also great on the grill. (Remember that larger is better to prevent burning.) Pair the grilled fruits with your salad, eat them as-is for a sweet side dish, use them to top your protein source, or indulge in an after-dinner treat of frozen yogurt with grilled fruit. Some great combos are grilled apple slices over pork tenderloin cuts, grilled pears with low-fat feta cheese over a bed of salad greens, and grilled pineapple with brown rice, mushroom and grilled chicken breast. The possibilities are endless!

Corn on the cob is generally boiled in water on the stovetop, but it is delicious when prepared on the grill. The trick? Soak the corn in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then transfer them (husks intact) to the hot grill. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, then rotate 180 degrees for 3 more minutes. Then, carefully remove the ears and shuck the corn, removing husks and silk. Place the husked corn on the grill for about 5 minutes, rotating frequently. Your guests will be impressed with the fancy look of the grill marks on the corn, which will have a slightly smoky taste. The corn will be so sweet and moist, you won’t need butter or salt!

Zucchini and summer squash are delicious, vitamin-packed additions to any summer meal. Both are easy to grill. Cut them on the diagonal to create strips that won’t fall through the grates of the grill. You can also cut the veggies lengthwise into quarters (to resemble pickle spears) to ease the grilling process. Brush the sides of each strip with olive or canola oil and grill to desired tenderness. For extra flavor, you can sprinkle the veggies with your favorite dried herbs. Or try crushed red pepper for a spicy kick!

Asparagus hot off the grill is especially good. Lightly coat the washed, trimmed spears with olive or canola oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper (optional). You can lay the spears directly on the grill (crosswise) for about 5 minutes or until they reach your preferred tenderness. If you’re nervous about the spears falling into the flames below, you can make foil pockets for your asparagus (see below) or buy an asparagus basket.

Tomatoes and peppers take on a great smoky flavor when grilled. Leave them whole and place them over the hottest part of the grill. When the skin is black and blistered, the vegetables are ready. Allow them to cool, then remove the charred skin and the stem and seeds (only for peppers). Do not rinse the vegetables after grilling or you will lose flavor. Chop them and combine with other vegetables for a salsa with a smoky kick, throw them on salads or place slices of roasted peppers on sandwiches. Roasted tomatoes are especially tasty when smashed on a good piece of bread. Any sweet or hot pepper can be roasted, and Roma or plum tomatoes are sturdy enough to endure grilling.

Foil pockets are a great way to grill a variety of veggies that might be too small to place directly on the grill surface. Veggies that work well in a pocket include white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onion slices, zucchini, squash, green beans, asparagus, artichokes, garlic cloves, mushrooms, and all types of peppers—sweet or hot. When preparing your veggies for grilling, cut or slice into pieces of uniform size and thickness so they cook evenly. Root veggies (like potatoes and carrots) may need a splash of water in the pocket to help create some steam.

To make a foil pocket, use heavy-duty aluminum foil. Lay out a large single sheet, spray one side with cooking spray, and fold foil in half. Crimp or fold over two of the open sides, leaving one side open to insert your vegetables. Once you tuck the veggies inside, add seasonings, then crimp the opening so the pocket is completely closed. (Be sure to fold this side loosely to make checking in on your masterpiece a cinch.) Now you’re now ready to hit the grill! Grill the pocket on the top rack of your grill where temperatures are a bit lower. Flip the pocket once halfway through cooking using oven mitts—not tongs or a fork, which might pierce the pocket. Cooking time will vary depending on size, type and amount of veggies you grill, but most veggies will cook in a foil pocket within 25-30 minutes.

With so many dishes to choose, you’ll be itching to fire up your grill nightly to show off your new found grill skills to your family, friends and neighbors. Don’t worry—we won’t tell them it’s good for them if you don’t!

Everyone has an idea in their head when it comes to looking their fittest and healthiest. For some, it’s fitting perfectly into a certain outfit, or walking on the beach in a bikini with total confidence. For others, it may mean seeing a defined midsection reflected in the mirror, or having strong, toned shoulders or legs. We all have our own goals for how we want to look and feel. Although your specific goals may be different from those of others, almost everyone wants to look and feel toned and fit.
But what does “toned” really mean? And is it different from “bulking” up? This article sets out to define just that—and to dispel some myths about toning, strengthening and bulking up.

What Is Toning?

When most people say that they want to “tone up,” what they usually mean is that they want to become leaner. Basically, they want to lose fat, and add a little muscle definition—but not so much muscle mass that they look like a bodybuilder (much more on that later).
In the fitness world, there is no real definition for toning that is greatly recognized. Rather, toning is a term used to describe the end goal, which usually results from a combination of basic weight-lifting and fat-burning.
What about Bulking Up?
Typically, men want to “bulk up” and women usually wish to avoid building big, bulky muscles. Although there is no strict definition, “bulking up” means adding a lot of muscle mass to the body and possibly (although not always) reducing one’s body fat, too. Bulking up harkens images of bodybuilders and big football players—usually male and usually beefy!
Toning, on the other hand, typically refers to aerobics instructors and Hollywood starlets who have lower amounts of body fat and some visible muscle, but not huge muscles.
So now that we have our definitions straight, let’s move on to facts and the fallacies about toning up and bulking up.

The 5 Most Common Myths about Toning and Bulking Up

Myth #1: Lifting light weights will tone your body and lifting heavy weights will bulk you up.
The Truth: I’m not sure who first pioneered this idea that heavy weights will bulk you up, but it has stuck over the years and erroneously makes many people—both men and women—afraid of lifting heavy weights. While there is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you “tone” better than heavy weights. In fact, because heavier weights build the strength of your muscles (and the size to a small degree—no Hulk action here), thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat, lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (8 to 12 on average) and working until you’re fatigued is more effective at helping you reach your toning goals than lifting lighter weights. Not to mention that it’s more time efficient, too!

Myth #2: Building muscle and bulking up are one in the same.

The Truth: If you’ve been avoiding weights because you think that building muscle means that you’ll bulk up, think again. When you lift weights that are challenging, you actually create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired by the body (this is where soreness comes from!) and in that process the muscle becomes stronger and a little bit bigger. However, because muscle tissue is more dense than fat, adding a little bit more muscle to your body and decreasing your fat actually makes you look leaner—not bigger. To really bulk up, you have to really work with that goal in mind. Bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights, along with eating a very strict diet that promotes muscle gain. The average person’s workout and diet—especially a calorie-controlled diet—doesn’t’ result in the same effects.
Myth #3: Lifting light weights won’t help you get stronger.
The Truth: When it comes to lifting weights, the secret to really getting stronger isn’t about how much weight you’re lifting. Instead, it’s all about working your muscle to fatigue where you literally cannot lift the weight for another repetition. The August 2010 study from McMaster University that proved this found that even when subjects lifted lighter weights, they added as much muscle as those lifting heavy weights. However, the time it takes to reach fatigue with light weights is much longer than the time it takes to reach fatigue with heavier weights. So, if you’re like most people and extra time is a luxury, it makes more sense to go heavy and then go home!

Myth #4: Women and men should lift weights differently.
The Truth: I see this one all the time at the gym. It’s pretty common to see women lift 3- to 5-pound dumbbells to do biceps curls while men pick up the 20-pounders to do the same exercise. Although men are genetically stronger than women, they aren’t that much stronger. Second, most women tend to stick to the weight machines or basic leg-work that target the rear end and abs (women’s “vanity” muscles), while the guys at the gym are more likely to be seen working out with free weights or using barbells and—most often—focusing on their vanity muscles: the biceps and chest.

Myth #5: Obviously gender differences exist and everyone has different goals (like we discussed in the beginning). But if you really want to lose weight and get lean—no matter if you call that toning or bulking—people of both genders should have a strength-training plan in place that works every major muscle in the body at least 8 to 12 times, using a weight that is heavy enough that the last two repetitions are darn hard to lift. Only then is the body challenged enough to change, grow and adapt, making you stronger and leaner no matter if you’re male or female. Lifting this way is also a great way to lose weight. Myth #5: Certain forms of exercise build long, lean muscles.
The Truth: Many forms of exercise claim to lengthen the muscles or develop “lean” muscles, not bulky ones. But here’s a truth that may be shocking to some: To put it another way, no form of exercise makes muscles “longer” because your muscles do not—and will not—respond to exercise by getting longer. It’s just not how they work. Muscles are a certain length because they attach to your bones. A wide variety of movements and exercises can help you strengthen your muscles without necessarily making them bigger. In fact, you can develop a lot of muscular strength without your muscles ever increasing in size (girth).

That said, exercises such as yoga, Pilates, dance and barre classes can help to increase your flexibility (improving your range of motion at certain joints) and your posture, which can give you the illusion of feeling and looking longer or taller. But lengthening? Not possible. Claims like these are just trying to appeal to people who fear bulking up.

Tip #1: Eat breakfast every day. Breakfast-eaters tend to consume more nutrients and fewer calories than people who skip this a.m. meal. Plus eating in the morning helps boost your metabolism at the start of the day.

Tip #2: Exercise at least 10 minutes each day. Sure, you’ll want to do more than that on some days, but doing just 10 minutes of cardio, stretching or strength training each day will help you make exercise a habit in your life.

Tip #3: Write down your goals and put them in a place where you can see them. Seeing your goals will help you achieve them.

Tip #4: Make smart substitutions. Use vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing, eat an English muffin instead of a bagel, and try mustard instead of mayo. You’ll save 250 calories each day. That adds up to 5 pounds in just 10 weeks.

Tip #5: Exercise in the morning. More than 90% of people who exercise consistently have a morning fitness routine. This ensures that other things during the day won’t get in the way of your workout goals.

Tip #6: Keep a water bottle with you all day. Many times when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. Plus, drinking water can help prevent you from eating extra snacks throughout the day.
Tip #7: Find a diet buddy to check in with each day. Calling, emailing or chatting online with your buddy will help you stay accountable. After all, Sharing is Achieving.

Tip #8: Make three healthy recipes each week. You’ll know exactly what’s in your food. Plus cooking dinner yourself instead of going out will burn 125 calories!

Tip #9: Pack your snacks ahead of time. That way, when you get hungry, you’ll have a healthy choice that’s already perfectly-portioned.

Tip #10: Hire me!! LOL —it really does work!

Your metabolism has two basic modes:

  • Anabolic, which means building up or adding, and
  • Catabolic, which means breaking down or eliminating.

Losing fat occurs in catabolic mode (which includes maintaining a calorie deficit), while adding muscle requires that you be in anabolic mode (which includes maintaining a small calorie surplus). But these modes aren’t mutually exclusive; over a short period of time (like one day), the hormones and enzymes that make you catabolic or anabolic will all be active to one degree or another. In effect, you will be anabolic part of the time, and catabolic the rest.

This means you CAN design a diet and exercise program that will allow you to add some muscle and lose some fat. It will take a semi-fanatical attention to the details of planning and timing your nutrition and exercise in just the right way. It also means that you won’t be able to lose fat or gain muscle as efficiently or quickly as you could if you focused on just one of these goals at a time.

Since most people don’t have the time, knowledge or patience to settle for the slower rate of progress of this program, we usually recommend to start by aiming to lose fat and preserve existing muscle, and then, once the fat is gone, switch the priority and aim to gain muscle (and weight) while minimizing fat regain. This makes the most sense simply because all weight loss does involve some loss of muscle mass (it can be very minimal), but weight and muscle gain do not have to involve fat gain.

If you want to focus on losing fat, doing cardio AFTER strength training is not a bad idea. It does seem to increase the amount of fat burned during the workout itself—but just slightly. The most important thing is just to make sure you do cardio, regardless of when. Strength training, when done correctly, will help preserve existing muscle mass. Maintaining an overall calorie deficit forces your body to use your body fat to replace the energy used up by both forms of exercise. Higher intensity and longer duration workouts (cardio and strength) will use more energy.

Note: Neither form of exercise actually burns much fat during the exercise itself; it’s the total amount of energy expended that determines how much fat you will burn. Limit your high-intensity cardio to no more than 45-60 minutes per day. More than that can increase the rate of muscle loss. Adding extra low intensity activity like walking is usually okay.

There are limits on the amount of exercise you should do. Too much may cause excessive stress and strain, and too large of a caloric deficit interferes with normal metabolic functioning and will accelerate muscle loss and decrease fat loss

Getting and staying well-hydrated is very important to enable your body to replace glycogen (energy stores in the muscles). It’s also a good idea to eat a post-exercise meal (or snack) of about 300 calories, with a 4:1 ratio of complex carbs to protein.

If you want to focus on building muscle mass, doing cardio after your strength workout is not a good idea. The hour or two immediately following a strength training session is the best time to be in anabolic mode, which means you will be better off doing some eating right away than doing the cardio. Ideally, try to do your cardio and strength workouts on different days, or at least later on the same day, if necessary. Aiming for three to four high-intensity cardio sessions per week (about 20-40 minutes each) is your best bet for avoiding fat regain while trying to add muscle.


8 Cold, Hard Truths about Exercise

Posted: April 25, 2014 in Fitness

It’s Time for an Exercise in Tough Love

Many of you have been trying to make exercise a habit. Some of you may have already succeeded in that goal. Either way, I’m proud of you for making fitness a part of your life—even if you’re not always perfect at it. A consistent exercise routine offers so many benefits to your mind and your body, many of which you are probably already beginning to experience.

Now it’s time for some of my tough love.

We all have our own ideas about exercise: what “counts” as a workout, how much we need to do, and how it benefits us. But some of those ideas are flat our wrong (or simply misguided). If you’re exercising and not seeing the results you had hoped for, it could be that you’re missing out on these eight truths about exercise. Now they may be hard to hear, but trust that I’m sharing them with you for good reasons. Understanding these realities will only make the habit of exercise easier for you—and help you get even better results from your efforts.

8 Cold, Hard Truths about Exercise

Working out will always feel hard.
Exercise is work. It elevates your heart rate, makes you somewhat breathless, and causes your muscles to burn. It’s tiring—sometimes exhausting. Yes, exercise does get easier with time, but it will never be “easy.” If it were easy, it wouldn’t be exercise. You see, beyond just getting your body moving (which is great but will only get you so far), exercise has to challenge you. You have to work past your comfort zone in order to train your heart, lungs, and muscles to get stronger and fitter. Over time, yes it will become easier to walk at the 3 mph pace you started, but once that becomes easy, it’s time to walk faster, which brings me to another cold, hard truth: You have to work harder as you get fitter. Think of it exercise as a challenge to continuously improve on what you just accomplished.

Not every movement or activity counts as exercise.
Let me preface this one by saying that any body movement is good for you. Whether you’re fidgeting at your desk, walking across the office to talk to a co-worker, taking a single flight of stairs instead of the elevator, or playing Wii tennis—all movement is good, especially when you’re just starting out. But here’s the real truth: Not all movement is “exercise.” The two are very, very different. For any activity to count as true exercise, it has to meet certain parameters, like lasting at least 10 continuous minutes (so those stairs you took or that walk from your car to the store doesn’t count as a workout), it has to elevate your heart rate to an aerobic level (that “hard” feeling I mentioned above), and more. If you count all of these “activities” or body movements you do each day as workouts, then you are only shortchanging yourself—and you could be hurting your weight loss efforts.

One workout may not undo a sedentary lifestyle.
Working out really matters for your health and longevity, but more research these days is telling us that simply exercising—whether 10, 30, or even 60+ minutes a day—may not be enough to offset the effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Just because you exercise doesn’t mean it’s OK to be a couch potato the other 23 hours of the day. Sitting, driving, working from a computer, sleeping—all of these “inactivities” make up the bulk of many people’s days, and the longer you sit still, the worse the effects can be on your health. I talked a little about “activity” vs. exercise above. This is where those extra non-workout activities DO matter. They may not be true workouts, but they do have benefits. More movement is good—and that is how you achieve the benefits of an active lifestyle.

You’re not burning as many calories as you think. 
“Burn up to 800 calories an hour!” How often do you see phrases like that advertised on workout DVDs, group classes, and other fitness products? The truth is, most of these numbers are seriously inflated, and the average person won’t burn a fraction of that claim. This is the case for treadmills, stationary bikes and other cardio machines, too. Those “calorie burn” screens can be off by 30% or more. SparkPeople tries to be a little more conservative with the numbers we use on our Fitness Tracker, but just remember that calculators/trackers areestimates. When it comes to weight loss, you’re better off with a conservative approach to calorie burn. Assume you’re actually burning fewer calories than a tracker or machine says you are. A better way to gauge what you’re really burning is by wearing your own heart rate monitor. While a general fitness tracker would tell me that an hour of Spinning burned some 600+ calories, my HRM (using my gender, weight, and actual heart rate during the workout) showed closer to 400. That’s a big difference that could really affect one’s weight loss.

It won’t allow you to eat whatever you want.
A walk around the block doesn’t earn you a brownie. That yoga class doesn’t mean it’s OK to indulge in an ice cream sundae this weekend. How often do you “reward” yourself for working out by undoing most of your efforts with one or more dietary splurges? Remember, exercise really doesn’t burn as many calories as people assume it does, so a single workout—even a rigorous one—won’t come close to offsetting just ONE big splurge. Yet I know many people who justify their food choices by saying “I worked out today.” If weight loss is your goal, you have to keep these splurges in check; otherwise, you’ll be fighting a losing battle and never really get ahead in the calorie equation.

Exercise alone won’t change your body. 
This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I see. Most people believe that simply by exercising more, harder, or with some “magical” combination (think “muscle confusion”), they’ll get rock hard abs, chiseled arms, and toned legs. WRONG. Exercise will not change your body much at all unless you are also cutting calories. To really change your physique, you have to do both: watch your diet, consumer fewer calories than you burn, and exercise with a combination of cardio and strength training. Same goes for dieting. Cutting calories will result in some weight loss, but your body will not necessarily look more cut or toned if exercise isn’t also part of your plan.

You have to do it forever. 
A lot of people don’t like to exercise, but they manage to stick with it in order to lose weight. Once they reach that goal, it becomes easier to slack off and then lose the habit entirely. But whether your goal is to lose weight, look better, improve your health, or just plain feel good, you’re only going to reach—and maintain—that result by continuing to exercise after you reach that goal. The benefits of exercise are quickly lost, too. You actually lose your strength and endurance far faster than it took to build up (unfair, right?). You can lose muscle strength in just a couple weeks off from pumping iron, and cardiovascular endurance? It starts diminishing when you rest just 2 days! This is why it’s important to find a routine that you enjoy and can stick with for the long haul.

Routine is the exercise enemy. 
I love routine as much as the next person, but the gym is not the place for it. For the best results, you have to change up your workouts often. This is good because it can help prevent boredom so you’ll stick with it, but also prevent plateaus in your progress. For creatures of habit, or exercisers who lack creativity, it can be a real challenge. There are tons of ways you can mix up your workouts without becoming a gym rat or earning a personal training certification. The important thing is that you do it. Don’t let your workouts become stale, and don’t let your muscles get too conditioned to doing the same old thing for months on end. That’s why lifelong exercisers are always reaching for new goals and trying new things. Not only is it fun, but it challenges their bodies in new ways so they always stay fit—and have fun doing it.

There you have it. Sometimes the facts are hard to hear, but ultimately, the truth can be liberating—and help you really become your best in the gym and in life.

What do you think about these truths? Were any of them hard to hear? Would you add any more exercise truths to this list?