Tag Archives: fat loss

These are a Few of My Favorite Fats

I’m not quite sure why the title of this blog is a play on The Sound of Music.



Oh ok I remember now!  I was watching How I Met Your Mother yesterday and it was the episode in Season 7 where they’re talking about how it’s not uncommon to end up with someone like your parents.  Then there’s a scene where Barney’s mom (in the past) and girlfriend Nora (in the present) are both singing that “Favorite Things” song.

So that’s where that came from…  Makes sense!  I know you were dying to know… :)

Anyway, on to the ACTUAL words I was planning to share.

Fat’s got a bad rap.  So many of the products we see in grocery stores these days are advertised as low-fat or fat-free.  If you are the type that looks at labels for the macronutrient breakdown (grams of protein, fat, carbs), calories or ingredients, you’ll see that these low/no fat items are often peppered with extra carbs (usually added sugar) or salt in an effort to make them palatable.

Many times, this also means they’re high in calories or other weird added chemicals, too.  So don’t be fooled by the hype – just because something is low fat, it doesn’t mean that it IS better for you.  So read the labels carefully!  Of course, I prefer to buy foods without labels or with labels that list 1 ingredient and that I can guess what the macronutrient breakdown is… but that is for another post on another day.

Ok food labels was a small tangent, but no worries.  Tangents are fun and you never know where they’ll lead.  But for the 2nd time, back to the actual subject…

Fats are not ALL bad.  I think they first starting getting looked down on in the 1990′s (someone please correct me if my timing is all off, thanks)  but in reality, they’re super important to eat when you’re trying to get the fat cells on your body to burn baby burn.  I know it seems counterintuitive but let me fill you in.  Get ready cause here at Once An Athlete, we’re in the business of blowing minds… :D

Brace yourself… Here are a few knowledge bombs for you…

– Body fat (you know, the fat that’s hanging out on your body and cushioning your vital parts like your liver and kidneys and so on) is an active, hormone-secreting organ.  Yup!  It’s true!  It can release all sorts of intense hormones like leptin, estrogen, cortisol, and inflammatory molecules into your body.  When the powers of these 4 hormones combine, the result can be the perfect storm for additional fat storage.  Crazy huh??

– Depending on where fat is stored on your body, it acts differently (in the active, hormone-secreting way).  Example – belly fat releases more “garbage” into your body than fat on your thighs does.  That’s why you hear about apple shapes being more likely to have various health issues.

– Even though dietary fats are calorie dense, meaning they have a lot of calories per serving, if you look at their hormonal effects they can be REALLY good for you!  Omega-3 fats eventually cause an increase in fat metabolism through gene regulation (remember we want to metabolize/burn the fat on our bodies… we don’t just want our body burning stored sugars).  You can get Omega-3s from supplements (like fish oil), flax and fish!

– Dietary fats help with satiety at meals because it causes the release of a hormone that helps lower hunger.  When I’m not eating as many starchy carbs (ladies tend to burn more fat when eating less starchy carbs and that approach works for me!), I’ll eat an extra serving of healthy fats each day to help me feel fuller and more satisfied at my meals.  If I have a giant salad with some chicken on top, I am sure to dice up half an avocado and throw that on top, too (I love avocados almost as much as I love bacon).

Take away message??  Consuming dietary fats is important to reducing the amount fat on your body.  So which fats do I like to eat and how much?

As I already mentioned, I like avocados, fish, and flax.  I also like nuts (almonds are my favorite and walnuts are good too), nut butters (make sure you don’t get the kind loaded with sugar – try making your own!), olive oil, seeds, and grass-fed meats.  Typically, I’ll go for 2 servings of healthy fats in addition to 4g of fish oil supplements a day (2g in the morning and 2g at night).

FYI – you get what you pay for in fish oil supplements.  The lower quality, lower purity fish oils will be more likely to result in fishy burps… so this is a supplement worth splurging on a little.  My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals.

In your quest to lose weight as an ex athlete, don’t forget that burning body fat requires that you take in healthy fats like the ones mentioned above (and a fish oil supplement wouldn’t hurt either!).  Tell me what your favorite fat is in the comments below!

<3, Lauren

Scales are from the pit of hell & other ways to track your progress

So word has it around the fitness industry that September is becoming more like January – people are paying more attention again to what they eat and wanting to workout more.  Basically, people are renewing their resolutions to get healthier.

My guess is that it’s due to school starting up again, vacations ending, and most of the summer holidays being over.  So it’s time for a fresh start with the new school year (kinda like a fresh start with a new year!  seeing the January connection?? :D ).  Totally makes sense to me!

I think I’m kinda doing that too, actually.  I’m planning on enrolling in THIS AWESOME PROGRAM from Metabolic Effect cause honestly, my nutrition could use a little more structure right now.

Between vacation and being a permanent tourist in NYC (hello unlimited bars and restaurants to try!!!), I’ve allowed myself more “treats” than I have in probably the last year.  I’m not going for a drastic overhaul – my breakfast and lunch tend to be fat loss friendly choices… but snacks and dinner have moved to foods that won’t get me to my fat loss goals.

Anyway, so the program will give me a little more structure and accountability, which I think is a critical component to any fat loss program.  I’ve done this program before back in January, and it truly was a jumpstart to my fat loss efforts.

One thing that I struggled with during the program though was keeping track of my progress.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have ways to keep track of my progress, but the way I was tracking wasn’t helping me attain my goals and creating mental tornadoes.

 Tracking your progress

No doubt, it’s important to be able to measure your progress.  As a chemist, I’m a data girl through and through.  [I can analyze the $h*t out of anything! Lol!]  I KNOW the importance of having data to analyze so that you can make adjustments if what you’re doing isn’t working.  Plus, doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity!  So you need a way to track progress.

My issue is that when I or anyone else wants to measure their progress on a new diet/exercise plan, the first thing they turn to is the bathroom scale.

Why do I have a problem with the scale?

Because it lies.

It is a number that too often gets tied to our self-worth or whether or not we’ll feel beautiful for the rest of the day or how confident we’ll feel in our afternoon meeting.

Not only is it feeding into all this negative self-talk, when used alone, it’s not an accurate way to measure fat loss or muscle gain.

All the thing does is measure your relationship with GRAVITY.  A basic scale will not make the distinction between whether you have lost fat, muscle, water or a combination there of.  All it says is that you’re exerting more/less force on the ground.  That’s it.

Too often, it’s easy to get hung up on the number on the scale.  Say for 2 weeks, I’ve been eating fat loss friendly foods, done my workouts, slept enough, and are doing cortisol lowering activities.  I feel great, I’ve had an increase in energy and I just *feel* tighter/smaller.  My attitude towards how this meal plan is working for me is SUPER positive, so I can’t wait to jump on the scale for “proof” of how well it’s working.

So I hop on and look down… and then BAM!  To my horror, the scale only reads 1 pound lighter… or worse yet, it hasn’t budged.

That’s when the mental tornado starts.  ”But I’ve been working so hard!!  I HAD to have lost more than that!  This is ridiculous!  I’ll just have to eat less/workout more…  But I have so far to go; at this rate it’ll take forever.  I’ll never get there.  Oh who the hell cares, I’ll go eat a family size bag of potato chips since eating strict isn’t getting me anywhere – besides potato chips taste WAY better.”

Ummm, has anyone else ever done this??  If you have, you know it’s a miserable feeling.  You go from super jazzed about what you’re doing to rock bottom.  Your motivation is gone and your confidence is likely shot.  One moment you felt like you could do what you were doing forever, now you’re ready to dive into a bucket of ice cream and never leave the couch.

All this because some flat, square electronic device showed a higher number than you weren’t expecting???  I say screw it.  It’s time to stop giving the scale all the power in your relationship (because yes, you are giving the scale the power to squash you and your confidence).  

There are MANY other ways to measure your progress to your health/fitness goals, so if the scale can crush you just by stepping onto it, then it’s time to choose other methods.

While I’ve never been addicted to the scale (e.g. daily weigh-ins), I found I was still addicted to what it had to say.  The thing had too much power over me, so I stopped.

Yep, you read that right.  I stopped weighing myself.  I no longer use it as a way to track because I don’t have a healthy relationship with the scale.  And why set myself up for mental tornadoes when I can use other ways of tracking?

So since September is becoming like January and there may be some of you out there deciding to eat better/workout more efficiently, you’ll likely want to track your progress, and I’m going to give you my top 3 ways of tracking that DON’T include the scale.  One thing to remember is consistency – for the things that require measuring, try to do it at the same time.  So if you measure weekly, try to do it at the same time on the same day each week (makes it more reliable).

1.  Photos of yourself in the same outfit.
I LOVE this method of tracking!  I usually pick a swimsuit or spandex shorts and sports bra, set up the self timer on my camera, and snap away!  Used to be that I took photos weekly, but I found that I got too critical too easily if I “couldn’t see progress” from last week.  So I started doing it 1x a month.  It’s really amazing to see how much your body can change over the course of a few weeks!  Definitely my top choice for tracking progress.

2.  How do my clothes fit?
Another favorite tracking method of mine!  And you can do it a couple of ways.  One is to just pay attention to how your clothes are fitting.
Good questions to ask yourself
– Is there more room in the waist than the last time I wore these pants?  Are the sleeves looser in this shirt?  How does the back of this jacket pull when I cross my arms in front of my body?  Eh-hem… Am I no longer filling out my bra?? (ALWAYS a way for me to tell I’m making progress – sorry guys!!)  –
So that’s one way to do it – just pay attention to what you’re wearing every day.  Another way is to have a single piece of clothing that you try on once every few weeks and gauge how it fits (use a scale of 1-10, 1 being crappy fit and 10 being awesome).  For me, it’s this pair of gray work pants.  Since I can get too easily hung up on the numbers, I actually put the pants on and take pics of how they fit/look.  It’s a very objective way for me to track progress.  Do they feel looser/tighter?  How do they fit through the thighs? Etc…

3.  Circumference measurements.
This was something I had to give up after a while because I started *expecting* to see certain inches lost based on how I felt that week, but for most people this is a great way to track progress objectively!  All you need is a flexible tape measure and something to write with/on, and you literally measure the circumference at different spots on your body.  The ones I say that are best for gals are the fullest part of your bust, your natural waist, the fullest part of your butt, and the fullest part of one thigh (use the same thigh each time).  I find that I tend to see changes also in my arms, so I’ll measure my right bicep at a certain freckle (helps with consistency).  Also, I measure right under my bust (where the band of my bra would sit).  For me, those tend to be good spots for tracking.  Measuring once every 1-2 weeks can be very helpful and much less mentally taxing than the scale.

There you have them!  My top 3 ways to measure your progress WITHOUT the scale.  Let me think here… Pretty sure the last time I weighed myself was mid-June.  Before then, sometime back in February or March.  It was more for curiosity’s sake, not a “I HAVE to know what I weigh”.  There were no expectations or wishes or hopes for a certain number when I got on.   The whole idea is that the scale is just a number.  I mean, you could get even more creative and not focus on something related to your size/shape at all!  Maybe you just start focusing on how much weight you’re able to throw around in the gym now.  You did your metabolic circuits a month ago with 12 lb dumbbells and now you gotta use 15′s to get your B’s and H’s?  AWESOME!  That is HUGE progress there!  The point is - No matter what method you choose to monitor progress, remember that the key is focus on your wins and be grateful for them.

Now here’s a challenge for you – toss the scale for 3 months.  Put it away in some corner of your apartment, buried in your winter clothes and stash that box under tons of other boxes so that you’re not tempted to use it.  Choose another of the 3 methods above (or all of them at once, that’s fine too!) and track your progress that way.  Then I want to hear from you how much more free you’re feeling mentally/emotionally since you’re no longer chained to a number.

If you’re with me, in the comments below say “I’m gonna #tossthescale” and then we’ll start this awesome journey to freedom from the scale together!

Super excited!!  <3, Lauren

Recipe of the Month: Happy Summer Salad

Oh man, I’m SO excited!  Memorial Day is finally here, which means we are on the cusp of a 3 day weekend!  Yayayayay!

For a lot of people this 3 day weekend means they will be cooking out, and this can present all sorts of challenges for folks trying to eat for fat loss.  There’s always so much tasty food at cookouts, and no one wants to feel deprived by not eating anything while you’re there.

I know my FAVORITE part of cook-outs are the hot dogs… and potato chips… OH and the beer!

One of my strategies for NOT stuffing my face with hot dogs, chips and beer till I’m full (which is what I really want to do) is to bring something that I know I can eat tons of.  Then I can have plenty of that and piece on the other stuff.

My mentor Jill Coleman (@jillfit – go follow her on Twitter cause she shares tons of good info!) likes to talk about playing “dessert defense” where she brings a fat loss friendly (and tasty) dessert to parties.  I think the principle can be applied to any food, and it works for me so I use it  :)

Today I give you a modified version of a favorite salad from my childhood.  I’m calling it a Happy Summer Salad because, well, my mom usually made it in the summer!  And it tastes good.  And makes my belly happy.  Therefore, Happy Summer Salad.

It makes 8-10 servings, if your portions are on the small side.  If you have dairy issues, use almond cheese (I personally like the Daiya brand) instead of the mozzarella.

Also, this recipe is for a salad as a side dish.  If you want to make it into a main dish, dice 3 cooked chicken breasts, increase the coconut milk to a full can, and now it’s a main dish!

Make it and enjoy!  Then let me know if/how you tweak it :)

Recipe for a Happy Summer Salad

Happy Summer Salad

-1 head cauliflower, grated with biggest holes on box grater
-1 large broccoli crown, diced (you want about a 50/50 mix of broccoli and cauliflower, so you may need a 2nd broccoli crown)
-1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
-1 cup mozzarella cheese or 1 cup Daiya almond cheese mozzarella flavor if you’re watching dairy
-3/4 of a 16oz can light coconut milk
-packet of Hidden Valley ranch dressing seasoning mix

Add the light coconut milk (start with 3/4 of the can) to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the entire packet of ranch seasoning.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

The mix should seem “damp” – I’m not using the word “moist” cause I know it freaks some people out… but oops, just said it :D .

Serve immediately, but it’s best if you stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors really seep into the veggies :)

Happy Memorial Day!  And don’t forget to thank the men and women who serve our country – the reason for this season ;)

Remember, let me know how you like the Happy Summer Salad!
<3, Lauren

The Best Way for Former Athletes to Lose Weight

UPDATE:  Hey y’all!!  So in the post below, I share the secret to getting in shape for good (hint: it’s your lifestyle:)).  Trust me, I know it can be overwhelming to think about changing your lifestyle cause I’ve done it myself, so I’d recommend changing one thing at a time.  As former athletes, we tend to have an affinity for exercise, so many times it’s easier for athletes to change up their workout routines FIRST before changing up other aspects of life in order to lose weight and get back in fighting shape.  

To help support you as you take your first steps towards changing your lifestyle, I created a 6 week DIY exercise program that you can learn more about by clicking here.  The workouts are ass-kicking and in a word, AWESOME.  So read on, grasshopper, then check out the DIY program :)

<3, Lauren


It’s not a magic pill.  It’s not a crazy “eat only caviar and radishes” diet.  And it’s not a workout routine from some trainer to the stars.

The secret to get back in shape is to alter HOW YOU THINK so that body change becomes a lifestyle – a journey really - instead of only a crash diet.

To adopt a new lifestyle, it’s going to require a shift in your thinking and perspective.

Maybe you just need to tweak your perspective a little – or maybe you need to tweak it a lot (**raises hand**).  But whether you’re looking to hit cardiovascular goals, strength goals or lose some body fat permanently, you’re gonna need to change up your definition of “better” options.

Change your mind, change your life

Let’s ruminate on this a bit…

Back in our heyday, “more” usually got us the results we were looking for.  More practicing, more eating whatever, more running, more studying, more partying, more late nights, more intense workouts…  It all focused on “more” in order to get results.

Welp, not anymore.

If you’re going to lose weight as a former athlete, you’re going to have to learn that “more” is not better.  BETTER is better.  That is something that my mentor’s husband and a founder of Metabolic Effect (Jade Teta) likes to say.  And it’s worth repeating.

More is not better.  BETTER is better.

This is what I mean by a change in perspective.  This is why I’ve had to look at life through different lenses.  The “more is better” perspective worked in the past, but I’m seeing that more of something doesn’t necessarily get me the results that I’m looking for.  Instead of just doing more, I can see better results when I make “better” choices.

Let me give some specific examples of what this means in my life.

It means I actually don’t need to hit up the gym every single day of the week for at least 1 hour or more.  It means I shoot for efficient workouts, not longer or more frequent workouts.

It means that instead of carb-loading like I used to the night before the game (or just eating a ton of carbs in general), I make better choices about WHICH carbs to consume and figure out my optimum amount of carbs.

I remember sometimes deliberately pacing myself during Belmont practices cause I didn’t want to be dead by the end of the session. [And subsequently have to run more because I was one of the last people to cross the finish line in sprints - ugh.]  Adopting the “better is better” approach means instead of pacing myself in order to get through the workout, I push as hard as I can until I get breathless, my muscles are burning, the weights I’m lifting feel heavy and I’m hot and sweaty.  And I rest when I need to.

[Of course I sweat at the drop of a hat so that part is not too tough for me]

It also means that instead of constantly pacing myself in life, I intentionally push myself (maybe at work or with family stuff), then I set aside time for relaxation and recovery time.  So it means I carve out time in my schedule for things that truly rejuvenate me instead of just zoning out in front of the TV or mindlessly surfing FB or Twitter.  I don’t need more downtime, it means I need better spent downtime.

It also means I set boundaries in my life and enforce them.  I don’t take on more things because I feel like I have to.  I better invest my time in things that I REALLY want to do and things I feel like I can really contribute in.  

See?  More isn’t the answer.  Our lives have changed drastically since our college or high school sports days.  Our bodies are different both inside and out.  We have stress we didn’t have before.  We have families.  We have taxing jobs.  We have bills.  So the approach we took in the past probably won’t work anymore.

We have to find better ways of doing things, and I believe that changing our thinking will allow us to do just that.  To me, that is the “better” approach.

I firmly believe that when you change your thinking, you truly can change your life.  And while it’s not easy, it’s possible.  And if you set out on a fat loss journey, I can guarantee you will learn TONS about yourself and your body in the process.  And I’m guessing lose some weight and improve your health along the way ;)

So tell me, are you in it for long haul?  Leave a smiley in the comments if you are, and if you have any questions, please feel free to find me on FB or Twitter and ask away (see right side of this page).  I’m always here for ya!

<3, Lauren


UPDATE Cont’d…. Remember if you’re interested in changing up your workout routine to something that’s BETTER (not more), then check out this awesome program I made to help you transition to a smarter lifestyle.

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 2 – Eat More to Slim Down

Food.  Ah food.  How I love it.  I love to cook it.  I love to share it.

I especially love to eat it.

I love trying new restaurants and recipes.  I like giving new ingredients a chance and old favorites new flavors.  For me, food is a source of pleasure.  And it plays a big part of my life and I’m guessing it might in yours too.

Food is also an incredibly powerful tool for body change.  Why?  Because it can drastically affect the body’s hormonal environment.  And the hormonal environment is key to determining the body’s composition (how much of your body weight is fat or muscle).

One Meal Away from Fat Loss

Do you know what this means??  This means that just by changing up what we eat, we can change how much fat we carry on our body.  We can change how we look.

We can get our athletic body back (or get beach ready) if we eat MORE of the RIGHT foods to turn on our fat burning metabolism.

Yep you heard me right – to change your body and lean out, you probably need to eat MORE food.

[The food lover in me is doing a happy dance right now]

This shocks most people because in our society the eat less, exercise more mantra is the foundation of most weight loss programs.  But notice above I said more of the RIGHT foods.

This is key because not all calories are created equal.   Here’s an example that really cleared this up for me….

Say you have a generic donut and a medium-sized chicken breast.  They both have approximately the same number of calories (around 200).  So if calories are all that matters, then it doesn’t matter whether you choose the chicken breast or the donut.

BUT let’s think about this a little more…

If calories really were the only important thing, then the donut and the chicken breast should keep you satisfied for the same amount of time, give you the same energy levels in the hours that follow and have the same impact on cravings later in the day.   (Is anyone else giggling a little at the thought of NOT crashing after a donut???)

Calories aren't created equal

If you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ll probably see that the donut and the chicken breast affect you in very different ways.

For me, about 45 min after I eat a donut (assuming I’m able to eat only one), my head starts feeling fuzzy and my energy tanks.  If I’m tracking cravings, then I’d probably notice that later that day, I’m wanting more sugary or fatty foods.  Also, if by some miracle I managed to eat only 1 donut, I probably never stopped being hungry.

Now let’s pretend I ate the chicken breast instead (a delicious one of course).  After eating the chicken breast, I don’t have any noticeable drop in energy 45 min later.  Also, I’m not hungry for another few hours, and there are no noticeable cravings later on in the day.  Plus, I don’t really see myself eating more than 1 or maybe 1 1/2 chicken breasts in one sitting…

But how is this possible if they both have the same number of calories?  Something about them has to be different because their effects on me are different.

The answer?  They are influencing my hormones in unique ways.  It’s the only way to explain differences in satiety, energy levels, cravings and hunger.

Why are they affecting hormones differently?  Because the macronutrient profiles of the foods that are different.

[Don't freak out on me... All I mean by macronutrient profile is what the food is made of - what percent of the food is fat, carbohydrates, and protein?]

In the chicken, it’s mostly protein, whereas the donut is mostly carbohydrates.  The donut signals hormones that say “Store fat!!” where the chicken breast signals “Burn fat!!”

See how just by changing what we eat, we can tell the body to do different things via our hormones?  We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the hormone world today, but it’s important to realize that body change just isn’t about calories.

Yes, you do need a caloric deficit to lose weight, but you need the right hormonal environment to make sure that weight is fat, not muscle.  (We talked last week about why we want to save our muscle.  You can read about that here.)  Plus, with the right hormonal environment, you won’t constantly be hungry, exhausted and craving junk food.

This is actually the way Metabolic Effect suggests monitoring whether or not you’re priming your body to burn fat — monitor your HEC (pronounced “heck”).
Hunger, Energy, Cravings.

If these are balanced (meaning you’re not hungry, you have high energy and you’re not craving crap food) and you’re losing fat, you’re in a longterm, fat-burning zone.  If they’re not balanced, you’re likely NOT burning fat.  Or if you are, it’s probably not sustainable for longer than a few weeks.

Alright let’s get practical now.  How can you eat to get your HEC in check?
Follow these tips below…

1.  Eat 4-6 small meals per day — Eating several smaller meals allows you to eat more frequently and never get ravenously hungry between meals since that often leads to overeating junk food.  If you choose the right foods for these meals, you can help keep your energy balanced throughout the day, too.  But a big part of frequent meals is to keep yourself from getting crazy hungry.

2.  Eat lean proteins and fibrous veggies — We want to increase our food volume without increasing the number of calories we consume (this helps keep our hunger down).  To do that choose foods high in water, fiber and protein content.  These will help you stay satisfied for longer, so include these at each small meal.  (see this post for approximate protein serving sizes)

A good way to think of it?  Eat your protein at the meal plus as many fibrous veggies as you want.

3.  Drink LOTS of water — Being dehydrated can negatively effect your energy and brain function, and by the time you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Keep a water bottle with you and drink as much as possible…. even up to 3-4L a day.  Don’t worry, your body WILL adapt to the increased fluid intake and the number of trips to the bathroom will decrease, I promise! :)

4.  Limit foods that tend to trigger cravings and hunger — I love my coffee but my early morning 2-3 cup habit tends to trigger cravings in the evening for me.  So I’ve had to reduce that a little…  Other culprits?  Artificial sweeteners and sweet snacks can do the same thing.  Limit these guys as much as possible.

5.  Get your healthy fats in — Certain dietary fats are actually required to burn fat!  So don’t be afraid of the good ones like Omega-3 fats (6 and 9 are good too!) :) Have a few servings each day of healthy fats – 1/4c nuts, 1/2 an avocado, 6oz fish,  or 2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil are each 1 serving.  Also, consider a fish oil supplement.

{This next one is a big one….}

6.  Limit starchy carbohydrates — Things like pasta, potatoes, cookies, bread, rice, crackers, etc (while very delicious) are considered starchy carbs and should be consumed in limited amounts.  Starchy carbs in general can wreak havoc on your body in the hormonal sense if you eat too many too often. Carbs aren’t to be avoided at all cost because you do need them, but you gotta be aware of how much of them you’re eating.

In general, I personally like to avoid the ones I just listed above and stick to mostly starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, all different kinds of squash (spaghetti squash is my fav), and eggplant.  If you want, you can also do oat bran, oatmeal, brown rice or quinoa.

Oh, because of how fruit breaks down in the body, I also consider fruit as starchy carbs in my diet.  They usually make an appearance in my breakfasts and “desserts”.

Anyway how much to eat?  I like to measure starchy carbs by bites.  It’s far better than weighing or measuring out your food.

Most people do well with 5-10 bites of starchy carbs at each meal.  However, everyone is different so you may do better with more at each meal or less.  This amount of carbs where your energy is high enough for a good workout and you’re burning fat is called your carbohydrate tipping point.  It takes a while to find this usually, but it’s important for shedding body fat.  You can learn more about it here (a Metabolic Effect blog on the subject).

Alright that’s probably enough for now :) As with anything, implement changes in small steps first.

It might be way too much to change your eating frequency AND what you’re eating all at once.  So consider changing 1 meal this week.  Then change up another meal next week.  Then add in a 4th to your typical 3 meals and decrease the size of all the meals slightly.

Example – maybe this week instead of cereal and orange juice, go for scrambled eggs with onions/peppers/spinach in it and your 5-10 bites of oatmeal at breakfast.  Then next week, keep those changes and change up your lunch to a big old salad with chicken breast and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Get the idea?

Keep an eye on your HEC as you make changes, and if you have questions let me know!  Ask away here in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter :)

How will you get your HEC in check this week to get bikini ready?

<3 Lauren

Be a Bombshell in a Bikini: Part 1 – Save your Muscle!

There are a few times each year when people get especially motivated to lose weight or lean out a little (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?).  Well with temperatures rising, the official start of spring, and vacation plans in the works, another one of those times is upon us. 

Brace yourself.  Swimsuit season is just around the corner. 

If you are like me, as the details of your beach vacation are starting to come together (I’ll be off to Gulf Shores in May!  yay!), you realize with slight panic that, um, you aren’t necessarily feeling ready to peel off your cover-up at the beach and reveal your somewhat soft and pale self (ok maybe pale is just me).  If you’re hoping to rock a bombshell-esque bod in that bikini, what can you do?

Well as I see it, there are a couple different options.  You can choose a crash diet that, if you really stick to it, will likely work to get you basically beach ready.  But guuurl, trust me!!  You do NOT want to do that. 

Crash diets are an eat less/exercise more approach that are unstainable longterm, meaning you eventually quit the diet, and the worst part – they result in INDISCRIMINATE weight loss.  This means that the weight lost can be water, fat or muscle, and if you’re eating less and doing lots of steady state cardio it’s likely the lost weight is mostly muscle.  Not good.

Why save your muscle?

First, muscle is responsible for giving you those shapely, goddess-like curves that many gals crave.  When you starve away your muscle, you significantly decrease the potential of sculpting a tight tush or shapely shoulders precisely because there is no muscle to sculpt

Remember, you can’t “tone” muscle that you don’t have.

Second, muscle is metabolically active tissue – this just means that it uses resources (calories) even when it’s at rest – like when you’re watching TV or sleeping. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn without doing a thing.  Uh, sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Third, when you inevitably come off the diet that probably had you exercising exorbadent amounts of willpower in order to stay on track, binging and rebound weight gain is in your future.  You will likely eat everything “bad” that you craved while on the diet and probably lots of it.  Couple this with LESS metabolically active muscle tissue and it’s a recipe for disaster.  In fact, research shows that a large percentage of people who go on crash diets are fatter than when they started 2 years after the diet ends.

[Are you starting to understand why I want you to avoid crash diets like the plague??] 

Fourth, indiscriminate weight loss will not change your body shape.  You will become a smaller version of your current shape.  But if you want to decrease the width of your hips in relation to the rest of your body, crash diets won’t do it. 

Take a look at the photo below from Metabolic Effect that illustrates just this.  If you’re a pear and lose “weight” on a crash diet you will only shrink to be a smaller pear (green to green).  This is why you can train for a half marathon hoping to make your saddlebags disappear and all you do is shrink everything – so proportionally, the saddlebags look no smaller.  But if your focus is on fat loss, you can change your body’s shape (green to red).

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Alright, now that we are clear on why it’s good to keep muscle around (and dare I say, build some??), we still need to figure out how to get rid of excess fat while holding onto our muscle so we look friggin’ hot in our bikinis this summer, and the next, and the next…

Fat loss with muscle retention happens when you approach body change with a “hormones first, calories second” perspective.  And there are 4 big themes to think about here – nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress.

You might wonder -  How many calories do stress or sleep have??  As you’d expect, they don’t “contain” any number of calories BUT the hormones associated with sleep and stress can drastically affect whether your body decides to store fat or burn it.  The same goes for the types of foods you eat (and how much and when) and the type of exercise you engage in.

The next few posts, I want to take the time to dive deeper into each of these 4 aspects.  But since we’re on the subject of muscle right now, I want to share some ideas for what you can do to hold onto your muscle as you prep for summer.

How to save your muscle

1.  Eat plenty of lean protein.  It keeps you full and satisfied much longer than say donuts would (not to mention you won’t have the same type of sugar crash!). 

Also, the energy required to process lean proteins is pretty high too (this is known as the thermic effect of food).  The thermic effect is why something like celery is essentially negative calories – it takes more calories to break it down than the celery contains. 

Another thing is that when you’re in a lower caloric state, you don’t want your body to break down your muscles for energy.  If you make sure you’re eating enough protein, the amount of muscle chewed up will be minimal. 

How much is enough?  A generally accepted amount for women is 0.8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.  So if you weigh 150lb, your goal should be to consume 150g of protein throughout the day.  Now, I know this seems like a TON of protein, and compared to the standard Western diet (and even to what you ate in your college athlete days), IT IS a lot of protein.  But don’t fret.  When you break up that amount over several small meals through the day, it’s definitely doable. 

We’ll talk more about the why/how of meal frequency next time, but for now, think of it this way. 

All of these things have 20-30g protein per serving – 5 egg whites, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 medium chicken breast, 6oz white fish, 4oz lean beef cut.  If you have egg whites at breakfast, a salad with chicken at lunch, a protein shake in the afternoon and fish or steak for dinner, you’ve EASILY consumed at least 100g protein and probably more. 

At the minimum, include a serving of lean protein at each meal.

2.  Lift heavy weights.  And try it rest-based style.  I talked about the importance of efficeint exercise already, but it’s important enough to repeat.  As you may have experienced since you finished your college career, if you don’t use muscle you will lose it.  Thus the importance of consistently lifting heavy weights. 

In all honesty, getting to the gym regularly is something I struggle with.  It’s an easy routine for me to get out of and a tough one to get back in to, but I notice huge differences in my strength, lung capacity, and general feelings of self-confidence when I have been at the gym regularly.  

If you struggle with getting to the gym, try this Jedi mind trick that I use on myself…

Tell yourself you just have to walk into the gym and do 5 minutes of a circuit then you can leave.  Usually by the time I get myself there, warm up and get going, I’m mentally ready to do a whole 20 minute workout.  Voila!  I just worked out!

3.  Lower cortisol.  This is key because cortisol can signal to your body to eat up stored muscle for energy.  And yeah… we don’t want that.  So we need to make sure that we are not constantly in a high cortisol state. But a constant environment in the body of high cortisol can drastically impair your fat loss results, and one of those reasons is because you can end up losing muscle. 

How to control cortisol? 

Walk – leisurely (no power walking). 

Take a hot bath with delicious smelling bath soak (I love the Sleep Lavendar Vanilla scent from Bath and BodyWorks) and light some candles around the tub.  This is my go-to stress relief option.  I take at least 1 bath a week, more when I’m really stressed by work stuff (like now). 

You could also spend quality time with friends who make you laugh, get it on with your partner, read a good book, do a restorative yoga class, or journal.  Find something that relaxes you then engage in it consistently.

My Favorite Addition to a Hot Bath

4.  Sleep more!  More on this later but it is SO critically important that you sleep enough (8-10 is ideal but even 7-9 hrs is better than what most people get).  I know it’s difficult to make time for this, but sleep is prime recover/rebuild time for your muscles.  Getting enough sack time is critical to keeping your muscle around.

So this week please please PLEASE avoid the temptation to drastically cut your calories and do hours of steady state cardio.  It is bad for your muscles, your physique and your health in the long run.  Instead, show your muscles some love.  A role model of mine is bodybuilder Tom Venuto and I love his approach to body change.  He says that you want to “burn the fat” and “feed the muscle”.  LOVE that visual.   So let’s all ditch the crash diets and feed our sexy muscles!  Who’s with me??

5 Fat Loss Lessons from “The Croods”

This weekend I went to see the most recent DreamWorks spectacular called “The Croods.”  Yeah, I’m 9 years old at heart :)  It got a 65% on Rottentomatoes.com, and I (generally) tend to agree with the reviews on there.

5 Fat Loss Lessons from The Croods

I’m glad I went because I enjoyed it!  It was funny (think Ice Age type humor) for kids and adults. Even though there wasn’t as much adult humor as say Shrek had, the cast did a great job (Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds :) ), and there were some really sweet parts – especially father/daughter stuff — I might have shed a tear or two in my popcorn….


I realized later that “The Croods” also had a few lessons for me about fat loss and living a lifestyle that supports fat loss (known by many as the “fat loss lifestyle” or FLL).  Huh?!  I know, right?! I’m just as surprised as you are!

What are these lessons?  Here are the tidbits I picked up…

1.  The cavemen knew what they were doing when it comes to physical activity and balance in energy expenditure.  These people alternated between times of HIGH intensity energy expenditure (you know, running for their lives from some sort of prehistoric tiger OR chasing down their own dinner) and times of LOW or NO energy expenditure.

It was either a dead sprint or a leisure pace.

[I'm also pretty sure cavemen never decided to go do an hour of steady state cardio. :) ]

So, the caveman’s favorite “cardio” would have probably been HIIT (high intensity interval  training), and it’s also my favorite way to approach cardio equipment.  On the elliptical, I go all out for a minute and rest till I’m ready to go again for 15-20 min and wow! I am dripping sweat and feel all sorts of muscles burning!  

2.  Cavemen did a LOT of walking, and walking is a big part of living the FLL.  I don’t mean power-walking either.  The walking I’m talking about is slow, leisurely, and RELAXING.

If you’re on a treadmill, I mean a pace of 2-3 mph.

Walking is a great way to lower cortisol while still moving your body (most exercise actually   releases cortisol which is a good thing when you’re working out!  but chronically high cortisol is not good, so we gotta find things that help us relax and lower cortisol when we’re not working out).

Incorporating 30-60 minutes of leisure walking a day can be a huge benefit for anyone!

3.  Don’t let yourself get ridiculously hungry- cause then you overeat!  There’s a scene where the family hasn’t eaten in a while, then they finally catch some huge bird thing and they devour it all in about 30 seconds.

I know if I don’t eat enough during the day, I become the incredible eating woman when I get home from work.

Eating meals/snacks high in lean protein and fibrous veggies at regular intervals throughout the day often helps many people to control their hunger, energy and cravings (HEC) <– When these get out of whack (i.e. low energy, high cravings, high hunger) it’s easy to over-indulge.

4.  Caveman Guy says to girl, “You’re SO heavy.”  Girl says, “Thank you!!!”  Remember ladies, muscle weighs more than fat.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but don’t forget it when you step on the scale.

As a former athlete, there’s a good chance that you still have quite a bit of muscle on your frame, so don’t fret if you and your girlfriend are both a size 8 but you’ve got a good 15 lbs on her – that’s the muscle!

Avoid the scale. I vote pictures and circumference measurements for keeping track of progress!

5.  Don’t “never not be afraid.”  This is the opposite of what Father Caveman taught his
family in the movie initially (I think his name was Grug but whatevs).  He told his family “Never not be afraid.”

Well, I’m saying to do the opposite.  DON’T be afraid.

How does this relate to FLL?  Cause living a FLL requires changing up how you live your life if you want fat loss results to stick.

And change can be scary.  But don’t be afraid.

Make one manageable change at a time, and these little changes will add up to the FLL over time.

So there they are!  The 5 Lessons I got from The Croods :)  Leave a little love (<3) in the
comments if you’re like me and are psyched when you find lessons in unexpected places!