Review: MyFitnessPal

myfitnesspal

Diets are for Failures

Restricting yourself from the foods you crave and desire almost certainly will lead to over-indulgence down the road. An effective way to combat fat gain is to be aware of what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising. Did you really work that hard at the gym, or is it the principle that’s getting you to think you deserve a Krispy Kreme later that night after the workout?

The state of Michigan’s website gives a comprehensive list on why diets are just no good,

  • Diets deprive us. Many diets involve eliminating certain foods or even whole food groups. This is not only unhealthy but also unrealistic for the long term.
  • Diets are temporary. Once they have reached their goal, most people go back to “normal” eating, so the weight comes back.
  • Diets often don’t fit into normal life. Weighing and measuring food may help you lose weight, but aren’t practical as long-term strategies for most people.
  • Diets can be expensive. Buying special foods can rack up a big bill quickly.
  • Diets can actually lower your metabolism. When you drastically cut back on calories, your metabolism tends to slow down. You burn fewer calories and the diet becomes less effective.
  • Diet is only half of the equation. Lifetime weight management is not just about what you eat. It requires physical activity as well. Experts recommend 60-90 minutes a day most days of the week.

 

MyFitnessPal

The best kind of pal out there is someone who can hold you accountable for your actions. This app has helped me track what I eat, how much I exercise and truly changed my life in small ways that have added up to big success. Maybe you’ve seen MyFitnessPal users tapping away at their phones vigorously after a meal,  logging exactly what they ate into the application. Extensive food options allow you to literally get as specific as “Panera Bread BBQ Chopped Salad without Ranch Dressing”. Plus, you can portion out a full bowl of soup if you only had half a container or 1/8th of that banana.

Today, I’ve had breakfast and lunch and the screenshot below shows me how I’m tracking on my % daily values.  I’m over on my vitamin A and C, and dinner should consist of more calcium and iron if I’m going to meet my goal. You can even track back weekly and examine how you’re doing. Making small adjustments here and there will get you to your overall weight.

 

myfitnesspal

 

If you can stay within the calorie guidelines for your height, weight and weight-loss goals, there’s no easier way to reach success! Have experience with myfitnesspal? Share it in our comments section.

You can find myfitnesspal for free at the Apple app store.

Since We’ve Been Gone

Fist Pump for FFL!

Back in Article Action

FFL took a brief hiatus and we’re back, mainly because there are just too many juicy stories for us to keep our little paws out of. Thanks to all the followers who’ve been asking “hey, where’d you go?” And for the ones who haven’t, well, we’re back anyway with a determination to gain more readership loyalty. Who wouldn’t want to read articles from a site that had two apples and a banana as their logo?

Future Topics to Explore:

1. GMO Labeling
2. Bloomberg’s failed soda ban
3. Seafood mislabeling in the US
4. Exercising while traveling
5. Food pricing war

Other topic ideas? Let us know!

Stay Fit During Winter Blues

 Does the cold weather have you down? We all know that the chilly temperature and the dark dreary days are prone to making us a little lethargic and crave a nice big helping of your favorite comfort food. Though it’s tempting, don’t let all that hard work you put into your health fall apart during the winter months. Here are some fun workouts that you can use to spice up a winter work out!

Hot Yoga: What’s better than a nice steam room in sub zero temperature? Invigorate your frozen muscles with a light vinyasa or bikram yoga class. Hot yoga studios are popping up all over, as the trend and the relaxing methods are catching on. LiveStrong.com suggests that hot yoga, not only increases muscle flexibility but allows for a quick detox of the body, helping you feel more revitalized in the winter season.

Snowboarding/Skiing: Ask any skier or snowboarder about the type of work out they receive while gliding down the mountain and they are sure to tell you it’s like spending hours at the gym, but way more fun. If you are a beginner, lessons are available on the cheap at almost any ski and snowboarding facility and they will teach you how to control your muscle movements to keep you balanced and offer the best work out.Check out RealBuzz.com for more tips.

Winter Hiking/Snowshoeing: Though being outside might sound daunting at this time of year, trying a new activity is always a good way to beat the winter blues. According to SparkPeople.com,

you will burn more calories exercising outdoors this winter, because your body must work harder to keep you warm!

Snowshoeing is a great cardio workout for any fitness level and is a simple and fun workout solo or with friends. The snow shoes add a bit of resistance, toning your legs and butt, and the activity itself has similar qualities to running in sand.

Reflective Clothing: If you are outside, running, jogging or just walking the dog, be sure to wear reflective clothing. Daylight savings time has cast dark shadows by 5pm, and reflective shoes, jackets and pants will keep you safe—they even make attire for your pet!

Let us know how you keep fit during the cold months below!

Emily contributes articles on FFL geared towards the website’s mission: A healthy standard of living rather than useless diets and unhealthy habits. She’s a firm believer in finding ways to maintain a balanced and healthy eating and exercising routine without extreme sacrifices and commitments.

Obesity in Poor Neighborhoods: Break the Chain

 

Obesity in Poor Neighborhoods

 

Waiting until something good happens to your body when you abuse it every day is like waiting to win the lottery when you keep using your credit card (and not paying it off). Chances are slim anything will change for the better at this rate.

The income level of a particular neighborhood can generally be a good indicator of the type of lifestyle people may live– but it’s not a tell-all. Just today, a poor rural school district made Yahoo! headlines for having top test scores. So no, not all poor kids suck at math and it’s not always true that poor people are overweight and have diabetes. There are factors to consider when making such bold statements. One factor is truth.

These are common misconceptions about people in poorer neighborhoods:

  1. All buy junk food
  2. All are less educated
  3. All are involved in crime/drugs/violence

These statements are all absolute (do you think this way?). By saying “all poor families buy junk food”  is incorrect. Almost any statement that’s absolute is incorrect. In fact, saying 5 is a prime number with 100% certainty is still foolish. We know math is based on theory, and until proven wrong we “go with it”. Let’s say that theory was found invalid, and 5 wasn’t a prime number. Now what?

In an article titled ” Moving out of high-poverty areas may lower obesity, diabetes risk” MacMillan, a writer for Health.com explores the nature of poor neighborhoods. And although poorer families tend to have higher risks of obesity, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it. Poor neighborhoods doesn’t equal obesity. With the proper education, motivation/passion, anyone can become physically fit.

Poor neighborhoods doesn’t equal obesity.

Yes, maybe the trend is such that, however there’s no theory that’s true because it can be changed. MacMillan reports,

Despite the study’s limitations, Ludwig and his colleagues conclude that public health programs that target obesity and diabetes in high-poverty neighborhoods “could generate substantial social benefits.” This message is important for policymakers and community organizers, but also for individuals living in these neighborhoods, Blanchard says.

After generations of poor eating behavior, it’s only natural that the next offspring develop the same habits. Can we change this? Yes. How? With the right people getting involved who are willing to spend the time to make a difference. Educators and parents, a child’s primary influencers have the power to break the chain.

Visit here for a beginner’s guide to breaking the chain.

Walking to Improve Your Fitness

Walking to Improve Your Fitness

Get The World Moving

My adult metabolism kicked in right after college. I was used to the relaxed atmosphere of living the student life and suddenly thrown into a high stress office environment. I became more lethargic and too tired to motivate myself to head to the gym.  I was a bit concerned about how to get back on track with a healthier lifestyle and coincidentally,  my company introduced me to the Global Corporate Challenge. They supplied me with a pedometer and challenged me walk 10,000 steps a day for the next 16 weeks.

10,000 Steps a Day

You may think “that doesn’t sound very hard,” but keep in mind the average person working a desk job takes about 4,000 steps a day.  My first day, I took 3,000, and was shocked.  Embarrassed by my first day’s results, I set a goal for myself to increase my steps the next day. Shortly, I found out just how challenging it is to hit the 10,000 mark.  As you make some adjustments to your habits, you’ll find that the 10,000 step marker is easier to get to as you become more active.  For example, a 45 minute Zumba class equals around 8,865 steps for the average individual—and just by that short 45 minutes, you’re almost 90% of the way there!  Any sort of physical activity can be added to increase your daily step count—biking, swimming (but don’t go into the pool with your pedometer on) Find conversions of your activities to steps here.

The benefits of walking are as valuable as any other exercise  The Mayo Clinic lists not only the health benefits, but compares walking to jogging:

Research shows that regular brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.

When you add brisk walking to your exercise routine or use it as a starting point for a brand new routine, you will build up endurance to power through tough workouts, see a drop in blood pressure, be able to maintain your weight, and improve your mood. Best of all, walling is unlikely to aggravate previous injuries. Previous injuries that you’ve sustained will remain relatively unharmed—brisk walking rarely leads to any physical injury, but also strengthens the body to prevent getting hurt while participating in more strenuous activities like jogging or weight lifting.

You, a Pedometer, and Goals

If you are looking for a new, and conveniently low key, change to your fitness regime, add walking to your “off” days at the gym.  It’s a great way to keep you active without agitating sore or tight muscles from the previous day’s workout.  If you’ve just started your exercise routine, begin with walking and keep track of your steps with a pedometer throughout your usual day to day activities as well as during your designated walks.  Want to pick the right pedometer? About.com lists some important tips before you run, or walk right out and get one! You’ll be surprised how this little gadget can motivate you to park a little farther away, take the stairs or stay on your feet in the office.

Spinning Class: A Beginner’s Guide

Spinning Class

Spinning classes such as SoulCycle may be intimidating to the rookie. If you’re like me, you’ve thought about taking a class but were concerned about how to properly get into spinning. A few months ago I took the plunge and after fumbling around for a bit, I realized spin is very intense and also slightly addicting. There are a few tips and tricks necessary to be able to make it through your first few classes.

What Spinning is About

In a 45 minute class you are burning mega calories—about 450 calories for the average 150lb individual.  The best part? It’s a full body workout.  It focuses on your legs and the repetitive, constant motion is great for your quads, hamstrings and outer thigh muscles. With proper resistance for your athletic level, spin also works out your lower abs, shoulders and back.  This faced-paced, intensive, aerobic workout also gets your heart pumping and you will definitely break a sweat.

You may find yourself  struggling through the first few classes but spin is a class that you CAN get through with a positive mental attitude regardless of your ability!  Beginners: start at your own pace.  Keep a resistance that you are comfortable with, and do what you can—as with any aerobic sport or exercise, starting slow and building up your resistance is key to becoming better.  Here are some ideas and tips for being able to get through your first class and beyond!

Tips for Your First Spin Class

  • Find a good spin instructor: I find the best instructors are the motivating kind with a great, upbeat playlist—they push you to your limit without overdoing it or making you feel bad about your abilities.  And they know how to switch up the class to make it different every time.
    What to bring:  To have happy spin classes there are a few musts that should be in your gym bag.
  • Bring a towel: You are going to sweat! The towel is great for not only wiping the sweat out of your eyes but to place over the handlebars so your hands don’t slip or slide.
  • Have plenty of water: One bottle doesn’t cut it—and you will be thirstier for more than just one bottle. I recommend purchasing a canteen or reusable water bottle that holds more than just the average 16oz.  A squirt bottle or something that flips open easily is a good idea because you don’t need more than one hand to open it, such as a screw on top.
  • Hard soled shoes: Most bikes are equipped with locks for SPD cleats, however I recommend beginning with regular sneakers until you get a better handle for the bike: these fit right into toe clips which are strapped onto the pedals.  A hard soled sneaker will keep you balanced a bit better and your feet in a steadfast position in the pedal.  When using a shoe with a softer sole such as your typical running or aerobic shoe, your feet tend to get numb or hurt by the end of class, making it more difficult to concentrate on the workout.

Arrive 15 Minutes Early

  • Adjust: You’ll need to adjust your bike and ensure that it’s the proper height for you—having an incorrectly set up bike can lead to discomfort and injuries.  Most instructors will help you out with this, but it’s good to also know the basics for yourself.  Your seat height should be at hip height.  When you sit in the saddle and extend one leg down, your leg should be straight with only a slight bend at the knee: your knee should not be locked.  The seat moves forwards and backwards. You know you have the correct adjustment when you are able to rest your arms comfortably on the handles with a slight bend in your elbows.  Your back should be flat and your hands should have a good grip on the handles without leaning or putting your weight on them.  Keep a straight wrist—do not let the wrist fall or bend to either side or drop downwards.  Handle bar height can also be adjusted to ease in this process.  Check with your instructor if you are still unsure of your set up.
  • Stretching: want to stretch and ride the bike (without resistance or with very little) before hand. Stretching will loosen up your muscles and allow for an easier ride.  Riding the bike before class will get your heart pumping and prepare you for the intense session ahead.

Tips While Riding

  • Keep a flat back: This lessens the strain on your upper body and focuses the work out on your legs and butt.  This will also ensure you aren’t resting your weight on your arms.  Keep your weight back for the best workout.
  • Climbing out of the saddle: Its’ imperative to have enough resistance to feel a small strain, even for beginners.  Without resistance, you have very little control over the bike when getting into the two and three positions, and run the risk of falling or seriously injuring yourself.
  • Keep your forehead relaxed: This is a trick I learned just recently and it really works. If you have the -tendency to furrow your brow when you are doing a strenuous work out—relax!  This takes a great deal of tension out of the exercise and allows you to focus.
  • Pain Relief: There are three things you can do: Slow your pace, lighten your resistance or climb into second.  Second position is an easier ride than sitting in the saddle, believe it or not, and relieves some of the tension in your legs.

Spin to Win

Along with the health benefits of a solid cardiovascular workout, you’re also reducing stress in the body and chances are, you’ll sleep more soundly at night. Spinning isn’t just for the professional so don’t let the gear intimidate you. Follow these tips and tricks and you’ll go from rookie to pro in no time!

Emily Tamburri writes for CBS New York.

Response: 5 Ways TV Can Hurt Your Health

A recent article featured on Yahoo! titled 5 Ways TV Can Hurt Your Health by Lisa Collier Cool is far from cool.

Check out the opening paragraph,

Couch potatoes beware: Watching the tube for two to three hours a day or more is linked to higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and higher rates of early death from all causes, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The culprit is the couch potato lifestyle that frequently accompanies excessive viewing, the researchers report. With the average American logging five hours a day in front of the tube, sitting is replacing exercise.

Ms. Cool, your article targets a population that performs very specific activities. They are the following:

  1. Eating too much while watching TV
  2. Replacing TV for exercise
  3. Watching TV when people should be sleeping
  4. A bunch of stuff about being too close to the TV

When I’m up for work at 5:30am, out the door by 6:30am and not home until 4pm, I check emails and I’m out the door to the gym. While at the gym, I’m usually there for at least an hour doing cardio/weights.

I’m going to list the Top 5 Ways TV Can Improve Your Life.

  1. TV shows can provide a step back from the daily monotony
  2. TV with friends/family is a great way to spend a few minutes together laughing, talking and learning (so that’s what tuna tartare is?)
  3. TV in moderation, like anything else is perfectly normal, even if you’re watching two hour long shows you love a night
  4. Popular TV shows are great conversation starters for people at work. Jessica loves baseball? Good thing you saw the game last night
  5. Shows, similar to those on HGTV can inspire people to DO things. No crime committed there.

When TV gets in the way, there are serious consequences. Overeating issues? Stop eating at the couch. Eat regular meals throughout the day and make it a habit not to bring them to the TV. Everyone knows you’re not paying close attention to the amount you’re consuming when you’re occupied by MasterChef.

Ms. Cool, for those of us who use TV in our lives to enhance it, rather than harm it, give us a break. We don’t need the Journal of the American Medical Association to tell us too much sedentary action leads to obesity. And those who need to learn, your article isn’t something I’d categorize as an authoritative call to action to change behavior.

Up for work at 5am, check emails and head out for the day. That’s my plan for tomorrow. After the gym for an hour, I’m really looking forward to relaxing, and watching a bit of TV.

 

Folding Bikes: More Space, Less Bike

A young child no older than 10 pointed and said “It’s broken” while looking at my Dahon d7 Mariner, fully folded. While folding bikes may be new to some, those of us itching for a quality ride but lacking the space necessary for storage (aka apartment dwellers) are in for a treat. Folding bikes offer the convenience of a full size bike to get you around town while maintaining chic style suitable for both men and women. Before purchasing a folding bike, I was weary of the quality of a folding bike and how it would ride in relation to a full size bike.

Test Ride

I took a Dahon d7 Mariner out for a spin at a local bike shop. The bike’s wheels are 20″, but although smaller than the standard full size mountain bike I could barely tell the difference. The Dahon website lists specs of the d7 Mariner,

  • Speeds: 7
  • Weight: 11.8 kg (26 lb)
  • Folding Time: 15 sec
  • Folding Size: 29 x 80 x 66 cm (11.3″ x 31.2″ x 25.7″)

The seat and handlebars are fully adjustable adding to the convenience and comfort during the ride. The 7 speed Dahon I tried is called the “Mariner”, specifically because of it’s rust resistant chain and frame. Dahon claims it’s not rustproof but the Mariner is an excellent choice for anyone riding close to the ocean or hitting the occasional raincloud.

After riding for about 5 minutes, I felt the bike would be perfect for my needs. There is no suspension, so this isn’t a bike you’d take on the mountain. For the paved streets however, it’s a perfect match. I can’t comment on the quality of other models Dahon makes or other companies who provide bikes that fold, though I can tell you after two weeks and  over 20 miles put on the Mariner, it’s a quality piece of work.

MSRP*

I purchased the Mariner at an authorized retailer for $515. I highly recommend avoiding an online purchase for a couple reasons:

1. An authorized retailer will offer tuneups free of charge. Usually 30, 60, and 90 day periods or as verbally agreed upon.

2 An authorized retailer will put together the bike for free in most cases and install additional accessories such as front and rear lights, a water bottle holder, basket etc.

*At the store, some bike shops offer deals on Yelp! For 10% off. If yours doesn’t, mention the bike shop down the street that does, and if they’ll match the price.

 

Interested in a folding bike? Check out reviews, and our favorite sites that will help you land the perfect folding bike:

 

Goodbye Food Pyramid, Hello MyPlate

MyPlate, your plate

Does a plate of food more closely relate with Americans than a pyramid of food? The most recent version of the food pyramid, with colored striped on the triangle was unclear and a massive step back from the original food pyramid. The Obama administration introduced MyPlate, a dinner plate that looks like a 7th grader’s uneven pie chart,

Some who have seen the logo compared it with a pie chart, though dessert is hardly the association that the administration would like to conjure up. Others likened it to a pizza cut into slices (equally unpalatable for officials). One person said it called to mind a painting by the artist Mark Rothko, who was known for canvases with blocks of color. Those who had seen it would speak only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the administration to discuss it.

How many people find this chart to be new information? The people who need help with their weight control, or who are learning about food need more detailed information than a section on a plate. Portion control is important when dieting, but the old tiered pyramid showing exactly what foods classified and their serving sizes could be interpreted in less ways. Keeping things simple is effective, but with too much simplicity and not enough facts, their is less consistency when determining the proper way to go about a healthy eating style.

Dr. Post believes it was the right step

You paid $2 million dollars to change the old pyramid, according to the Washington Post, Dr. Post who developed this concept had a few words of his own about MyPlate,

It’s grabbing the consumers’ attention that we are after this time, not making it so complicated that perhaps it is a turnoff,” said Robert Post of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “There is something really inviting about this familiar setting for meal time.”

Why wouldn’t this grab people’s attention? It’s radically different than the food pyramid guide we’ve known for years. The fact it grabs attention doesn’t mean it’s effective or educational. Like when Janet Jackson grabbed the attention of millions of Americans during the superbowl, it meant nothing besides something that was risque.

Attention grabbing or not, we’ll have to see how the next few years plays out. The Obama administration is proactive with efforts to improve the health of Americans — something that should be commended. Skeptics and supports alike must wait to measure the changes/effectiveness in our health brought about by MyPlate.

The Family That Plays Together

Kids learn most of what they know from the biggest influence in their lives, their parents. With childhood obesity rates rising faster than ever parents must lead the charge to raise healthier and happier children.

{Family activities teach kids how to live healthy lives!}

The family that plays together, stays together, or something like that, right? Today that saying is more important than ever, with childhood diabetes rates on the rise. In the spirit of helping busy parents find ways to stay active as a family, we’ve come up with a few activities.

Playtime

Grab the kids and hit the yard or park for playtime. Pack the car full of Frisbees, balls, skates, ropes and any other equipment needed to keep the entire family active. When the kids see you out there being active–with no electronic devices to distract them–they’ll be happy to join dear old dad & mom for a competitive game of touch football.
Although very few studies have been done on the influence of family on a healthy diet and exercise, plenty of literature indicates that a strong family influence can teach children to form a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Chores

Next time the family dog needs his walk, grab one of the kids and get moving! When its time for housework—that the kids can help with, of course—put them to work. They’ll love to help and they’ll be active while learning how to be responsible for their environment. Of course chores aren’t the most exciting activities on the planet, but children look to their parents for guidance on how to act and if they see mom & dad having fun doing chores, they will have fun too!

This doesn’t mean 9-year old Suzie should be attempting to clean pots and pans, but household activities like picking up leaves, putting toys away or even folding laundry requires movement. The key to getting your kids and entire family more active is to lead the way. Children learn best by example, so it is up to you to be that positive influence…not to mention it’ll keep you healthy as well.

Family Meals

With parents working longer hours than they did 20 years ago, many families don’t enjoy the benefit of nightly family dinners. This means that children are not getting enough nutrient rich meals that will help them maintain a healthy weight. When you set the table with lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and fiber-rich foods, your kids are picking up healthy eating habits from YOU.

What they learn at the dinner table will transfer into their daily lives so they make healthy food choices even when you aren’t around. According to Kathleen T. Morgan, Department Chair of Family & Community Health Sciences at Rutgers University:

Children who have more family meals get more of the nutrient-rich foods that build strong muscles and smart brains…

Family meals can also have another health benefit for families. Make cooking meals together part of family time to make sure you instill healthy eating habits in your children. Give each member of the family responsibility for one part of the meal so everyone is involved. This will teach children what are healthy foods to eat and which should be eaten in moderation. The more information they have, the better chance your children have of maintaining a healthy bodyweight and an active lifestyle.

Old-Fashioned Exercise

Introducing your children to regular exercise doesn’t mean purchasing baby dumbbells for the kids; what it does mean is that you can find creative ways to teach your children how to maintain a healthy bodyweight. The more you encourage your children to be active, the less time they are spending in front of the television or computer.
Family exercises you can do together include bike rides around the neighborhood and what kids would say no to that? Your backyard can be transformed into a playground that includes activities like skipping, hopscotch, jumping on a trampoline, swimming or even a game of tag.

The family that plays together is a healthy family not susceptible to obesity related illnesses. By taking steps now to give your children the information they need to become healthy adults, you can reduce the chances that they’ll have to learn how to lose weight rather than maintain a healthy body weight. It’s never too late for you to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and pass it on to your children.

Get more information on losing weight and keeping it off at The Fat Loss Authority!