Archive | January 2014

Rollercoaster Week…Ending on a High Note!

Hey guys, sorry for the delay in a post this week. I’ve had a hard time getting into my normal groove since last Thursday when my neighbor’s house caught fire in the middle of the night. Due to the massive flames and wind, I was evacuated in case it spread to my house.

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Ultimately, 3 houses sustained damage and mine was next in line. So THANK GOD for looking out for me! In the meantime, please send out some positive vibes to my neighbors who are dealing with this unfortunate disruption to their lives.  While I fortunately did not incur any damage, it was incredibly scary and unnerving and kinda threw me off for a good week or so.

On a positive note, I’d say this experience has made me MUCH more aware of and grateful for many things I often take for granted: a roof over my head, being able to wake up and have coffee in my living room, my closet full of clothes to choose from, getting to shower in my own house after a good workout, etc.  And I have been so grateful for the therapeutic effect of the gym this week…It’s amazing how an hour or so of doing something great for your mind and body can have a positive effect on your whole day!
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Speaking of which, I had something VERY great happen at the gym today that I wanted to share with you!  Now, I may not have really mentioned it lately, but since I started focusing on weight training (roughly 6 months ago), I’ve been dedicated toward building muscle and shifting my body composition.  From everything I’ve read, I know that it’s normal to experience feelings of water retention, swelling around the muscles, etc when building muscle. Buuuuttt, for someone who has had past issues with body image, knowing this and feeling this are two different things. In other words, it can be kind of a mind f*@k!

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Anyway,  lately, I’ve been feeling like I can’t tell if my hard work is showing or not.  And in the wake of the fire I mentioned above, I’ve just been a tad out of it.  So I finished an arm/shoulder workout today and wrapped up with a 20 minute run on the treadmill. I was on my way out the door and saw my friend Carol (die-hard gym goer and fitness competitor), and as I was about to say hi she blurts out “Oh my god you have been working HARD!!! You look GREAT!!!!”  She went on to tell me how she was on the elliptical behind me and was so motivated by how toned and powerful my body looked while I was running that she wanted to get off and run beside me! Run beside ME!!! I was seriously coming out of my skin with excitement because I know she isn’t blowing smoke.

So, yeah, I’ve basically been on a high all day because I’m feeling like my usual positive, energetic self. And it’s always great to know that the hard work you’re putting in (whether it’s the gym, a relationship, a career, a hobby) is paying off.

Cheers to the weekend!

Ciao for now,

-E

 

Want a Fast Metabolism? Avoid “Starvation Mode!”

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a fantastic start!  I’ve seen lots of new faces at my gym and hope that they can keep themselves motivated for some healthy lifestyle changes in 2014!  Weight loss, fat loss, healthier eating, and getting in better shape are often at the top of many lists of resolutions. The problem though, is that there is overwhelming and conflicting information on how best to achieve these goals. Given my professional background and personal experiences, I often have many people reach out to me for tips, tricks, and recommendations…and I’m always happy to share what I know.  One of my ongoing pleas to those who ask me (and even to those who don’t), is PLEASE DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF!!  And by starve, I don’t just mean stop eating…I also mean UNDEReating.  I’ve written before about how eating less food can cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy, and I recently found an article by integrative physician, Jade Teta where this process is explained both simply and thoroughly.

In the article, Dr. Teta discusses “starvation mode” (aka adaptive thermogenesis), which is the body’s natural protective mechanism developed through millions of years of evolution to keep you from starving when food was something you had to work to get. Rather than trying to paraphrase this awesomely well-written, concise article, I think I’ll just share it as is:

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Starvation Mode? What are we really talking about

We realize there is a ton of noise out on the internet regarding “starvation mode”, “metabolic damage” and “weight loss resistance”. Because of that it is difficult to make sense of what people mean by these terms.

Whether you are a lean bodybuilder, an elite athlete or your average Jane or Joe trying to lose some weight, you will be impacted by the metabolic compensation of the body. It is a natural response of the metabolism and not some crazy disease state. Here is how it works in bullets so you can easily follow the narrative:

  • You go on a diet.  By diet I mean you do some combination of “eat less, exercise more”.
  • At the start you do just fine and may actually lose a few pounds.  You’re happy. YAY!
  • A few days or weeks in and your body starts to compensate. You start feeling more hungry, your energy becomes unstable, you start getting cravings and your metabolic rate declines. This is metabolic compensation. It’s the body’s normal protective response.  Lets called this starvation mode phase 1.
  • Because of this metabolic compensation your weight loss slows, halts or, if you have a very large drop in metabolic rate and/or can’t control the hunger and craving urge, even reverses.
  • Being a good little dieter you decide to double down on the eat less, exercise more approach. You think, “I just need to work harder”.
  • Things may change briefly.  Maybe you lose a few more pounds or at least stop the weight regain.  But the body compensates again and this time more quickly.
  • Perhaps you try even harder, but the body slowly becomes more resistant to your attempts.
  • Now you are eating like a bird and spending hours in the gym and nothing seems to be happening. We call this metabolic resistance. You can think of this as starvation mode phase 2.
  • You don’t understand what is happening, but you have an iron will.  All you need to do is work harder.  You hit the internet and immerse yourself in the best “thinspiration” you can fine.  Maybe you play some Rocky theme music.  You quadruple your effort!!
  • You see some results, but now you have other worries.  You start feeling gassy and bloated all the time.  If you’re a women, your menses becomes irregular or disappears. Your libido is shot.
  • Your sleep is disrupted and you are exhausted.  You may feel a “wired but tired sensation”. You feel sick and unwell. Anxious or depressed but usually both.
  • You just can’t keep up any more. Now you are slowly gaining weight no matter how hard you try. This is metabolic damage. Phase 3 and the final stage of starvation mode.
  • You go to a physique coach.  Tell them what is going on and they say “you are in starvation mode”.  You need to eat more and ease up on the exercise.  They tell you to move from an eat less, exercise more approach to an eat more, exercise less approach.
  • Guess what happens?  You gain so much weight so fast you could swear someone stuck an air pump in you!  Not good, not good at all.  You gain 15 pounds in 7 days and feel worse than ever.
  • You go to seek answers, but no one has them. What do you do?  You go back to the eat less, exercise more model. But it still does not work and continue the cycle doing more damage to your body and your psyche.

The escape from starvation mode

Here is the information you have never been told. Your body does not work like a calculator.  It works like a thermostat.

What happens if your heater breaks in the winter and starts pushing out cold air?  You don’t turn up the fan speed do you? You turn it off and find another way to keep warm.

When you play the game described above you are playing an UN-winnable tug-o-war game. You pull as hard as you can and the metabolism pulls back just as hard or harder. So you pull even harder and the metabolism once again responds in kind.  If you keep playing this game you will end up in a heap of exhausted rubble on the ground. You can’t win this game, so stop playing. Remember that trick in tug-o-war when you were matched against a team that you knew would beat you? When they pulled, you let the rope go and they went flailing to the ground as you looked on in laughter!  That is how you beat starvation mode.

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Fixing starvation mode

Whether you are in metabolic compensation (phase 1), metabolic resistance (phase 2) or metabolic damage (phase 3) the beginning steps are the same.

You stop the eating less, exercise more approach and instead let go of the rope by matching your intake of food with your output of energy. You either 1) eat less and exercise less OR 2) eat more and exercise more.

These are your only two options, and the only way you start to decrease the stress on your metabolism while not gaining weight in the process. If you happen to have gotten all the way to stage 3, your only real option is the eat less, exercise less approach.

Steps to take

Metabolic Compensation (phase 1):  This phase is pretty easy to deal with.  Just simply move to an eat less, exercise less OR and eat more, exercise more approach. The approach you choose does not really matter. This will almost always solve the issue. Expect to be back on track within a week.

Metabolic Resistance (Phase 2): If you find yourself in this phase you will need to cycle the diet.  Spend 2-3 weeks in the eat less, exercise less phase and then switch to an eat more, exercise more approach for a time.  You will likely need to take some other steps involving rest and recovery activities like prioritizing very low intensity activity like walking and muscle regaining activity like weight training over intervals and traditional cardio. Expect to be back on track within 1-3 months.

Metabolic Damage (Phase 3):  Here you have no choice.  It’s eat less, exercise less.  It is also relaxing and restorative activity and no intense exercise or cardio.  Even the popular short intense metabolic conditioning workouts will be too much at this stage.  You will likely also need to consult with a functional medicine doctor who can evaluate thyroid, adrenal and gonadal function. This is beyond the scope of a physique coach to deal with. Supplements and or hormones may be required at this point. Expect to be back on track within 3 to 15 months (if you get the right help).

Understand-metabolism

I hope this hit home with some of you who are struggling with weight loss and educates you as to what NOT to do. I often wish I would have had this information when I was 14, before I began the slippery slope of crash dieting that would find me in a decade longs struggle with eating disorders. Then again, now that I’ve made it through to the other side and now know how to properly nourish my body, I’m grateful for my experience, as it allows me to connect with and educate others.

If anyone has any struggles, questions, or success stories about anything mentioned in this post, please feel free to share 🙂

Ciao for now,

-E

 

 

To Snooze, or Not to Snooze…That is the Question

Well, I hope everyone is off to a great 2014.  So far, we’ve had a blizzard and an epic cold front here in NY…which, on top of usual everyday work/life stresses, has made it EXTRA difficult to get up for my 5:20am weekday alarm to get to the gym. I’ve found myself hitting the snooze button more now than in the past, and was trying to figure out why, when I stumbled on a Huffington Post article by osteopathic physician, Robert Rosenberg.

He poses a good question when his patients ask “is it okay to keep hitting the snooze button for those extra zzzz’s?” … He tells them to ask themselves why they need to do that, and does it really make them feel better.

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Naturally, this got me thinking…Why do I feel the need to hit the snooze button? Do I really think an extra 8-10 minutes will make a difference?  Does it?  And furthermore, I had to admit to myself that I actually set my alarm earlier than I tend to get up to accommodate a hit or two of “Snooze.”  Can anyone else relate to this habit?

Dr. Rosenberg goes on to explain:
When you hit the snooze alarm, you are disrupting your current stage of sleep. And unfortunately, in many ways, fragmented sleep is worse than no sleep. As an example, if you are in REM sleep and you interrupt it with the snooze alarm, this can lead to an inability to process and reconcile emotionally laden memories from the previous day. In addition, fragmented sleep can result in moodiness, cognitive problems, and trouble paying attention.

The bottom line is that if you chronically find the need to hit the snooze alarm, something is probably wrong. You may be out of sync with your internal circadian clock. You may be a night owl trying to keep the work schedule of a morning lark. You may be someone who is failing at attempting to burn the candle at both ends. Alternatively, you may have a sleep disorder that unbeknownst to you is disrupting and depriving you of quality sleep. Hitting the snooze button is a poor substitute for healthy sleep

I hated to admit it, but as I read the article, I realized that the doc is right. If I’m feeling the need to hit the snooze button during the week (I don’t even set an alarm on weekends), I’m probably not getting enough sleep. I’m already using a sleep mask, which definitely gives me a sounder sleep by keeping any light out (laptop charging light, the moon, street lights, etc).  And I set my coffee maker up the night before so that I know a fresh, steaming cup of delicious java awaits me when I finally get out of bed…but I am STILL in a snooze button habit!

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Some suggestions that Dr. Rosenberg mentioned include “putting the alarm clock where you cannot reach it; using alarm clocks that work by putting out ever-increasing amounts of light as wake-up time approaches; having a coffee maker with a timer set for ten minutes before wake time and close enough so that you can smell it. Even getting a device that can automatically increase your bedroom temperature about one hour before it is time to get up can be helpful, as rising body temperature is another signal to wake up.”

I think I’m going to try putting my alarm clock out of arms reach and actually set the time for when I want to wake up, not when I want to start hitting snooze, haha.  Moreover, I also need to make sure my phone is in “do not disturb” mode so that my sleep is not disrupted by vibrations and dings letting me know someone wants to chat.

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I’ll report back after a while of trying this and see if I can kick the snooze button habit.  If anyone has any other tips, tricks, or snooze button confessionals, feel free to share!

Ciao for now,

-E