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Function and Fitness Blog
Function and Fitness Blog
Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Training the Willpower Muscle

“I just have no willpower.”

It’s a phrase we’ve all said. And newsflash - no one has willpower.

Whether it’s Salt-and-Vinegar flavored potato chips, Halloween candy, or those awesome bakery-fresh croissants with a Sunday brunch mimosa, we all have those triggers that cause us to exclaim “what’s willpower?!”

But guess what?!

We all have willpower and we can strengthen it!

First, we have to know what it is. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “willpower is the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” What that means is resisting that urge to open a bottle of wine on a Friday (who are we kidding?! More like a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… you get my drift) night so that we can fit into that dress for our best friend’s wedding.

Sound impossible? Maybe. But maybe just because your “willpower muscle” just hasn’t done enough overhead dumbbell presses.

Willpower researcher Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., a psychologist at Florida State University, breaks it down like this: First, establish the motivation for change and set a clear goal. Second, monitor your behavior toward that goal.

As you see, once again we’re back to that idea of “what’s your why?” Why do you get up at 4:30 every morning to get to the gym? Why decide to reach for an apple instead of a chocolate covered almond? Is it because you want to be around for your grandkids? Is it because your doctor just told you that you’re pre-diabetic?

Is Willpower a Limited Resource?

Even more interesting/annoying is the fact that willpower has also been shown to be a limited resource. So after resisting all the temptations you might run into at work - those doughnuts that Mary brought in, or that always M&M filled bowl on John’s desk - you come home and binge on that box of Famous Amos that has been burning a hole in the back of your pantry.

As explained by APA, there are a number of different studies that have been done that show willpower might be a limited resource. I won’t go into all of those studies (you can check them out here) but it’s been shown that people whose willpower was depleted by self-control tasks had decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex part of the brain, a region involved with cognition. In another study, subjects asked to exert they willpower during lab tests had lower glucose levels (glucose fuels all of our functions) than the subjects who did not go through willpower lab tests.

So What Can You Do?

So now that we’ve gone over how it’s not your fault that you “don’t have willpower,” let’s figure out what we can do to train the little willpower that you DO have. So here’s your program for training that willpower muscle:
Employ the “out of sight, out of mind” principle - keep the snacks in the pantry, or better yet, in the grocery store (see what I did there?)
Set one goal at a time
Plan for “dangerous situations” with “if-then” statements. For example, "IF I go out to dinner with my friends and they all order martinis, THEN I’m going to order a soda water with lime."
Find your motivation - remember that “WHY?”
Eat regularly. If you make sure you’re eating healthy foods at regular times, you’ll be less likely to have that “I’m so hungry I’m going to literally eat everything in my kitchen, even those disgusting 3 year-old jelly beans that my mother-in-law bought me that one Christmas that I keep saving for who knows why.”
Exercise. And I’m going to quote APA directly here: “Regularly exercising their willpower with physical exercise, it seemed, led to better willpower in nearly all areas of their lives.” So, literally - you CAN flex your willpower muscle!

So yes, you DO have willpower - you just need to load it up with some “strategy weights” and get to flexing it!

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

What to Look for in a Protein Powder

We all know that not all protein powders are created equal. So how do you know which one you should go with? As with most all things that you eat, it comes down to ingredients.

Building muscle means upping the weights and upping your protein intake. Sounds easy enough, except for when you’re walking down the protein powder aisle. If you’ve taken a stroll through your local GNC or even just your local grocery store’s health aisle, it’s plain to see that the protein powder industry has exploded. Here’s how to weed through the junk:

Whey. You’ll want to look for Whey protein. Why? Because Whey is a complete protein (meaning it has all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle) and it’s also been shown to be the most easily digestible (unless you’re lactose intolerant). You’ll want to look for a high quality - typically “grass fed” whey. One side note: because Whey is a milk protein, you’ll need to turn to plant-based protein if you’re body can’t handle milk-products.

NO GMO. When it comes to genetically modified organisms or foods we all know to say “no.” The same rule should be applied to your protein.

Say “No” to Sugar. A lot of protein powders add in sugar to make it taste better. But sugar induces the release of insulin in your body. High periods of insulin can lead to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and vascular abnormalities. Take a look at how much sugar is in your protein and then aim to go as low as possible. Remember that sugar can come in other names too, such as maltodextrin, xylitol, and sucralose just to name a few.


Since we should all be taking in a protein shake post-workout, it’s important to know you're drinking a good one. Check out our selection of high-quality protein shake options next time you’re in the gym!

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Reading Food Labels: Sugar

You’re trying hard to “clean” up your eating game, but when it comes to those labels, where do you start? This week we’re starting a series on how to read food labels. Today I’m going to sweet talk you - with the 411 on Sugar.

It’s no wonder that food-makers create confusing labels - if our customers are confused they’ll just give up and buy our product. But there are ways we can outsmart these witty marketers - you just have to know the tricks they use.

Why is Sugar so Bad?

Let’s talk about why you need to be on the lookout. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, endometrial, and colon cancers. And that’s just to name a few things. If you want to read a little more on exactly HOW sugar is processed by your body, take a look at this article from Women’s Health

As Robert Lustig, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California – San Francisco, explains, "You could make dog poop taste good with enough sugar, and the food industry does.” The truth is food-makers add a ton of sugar to things - even when we don’t need them to! That translates to you getting way more sugar than your body actually needs.

How Much is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization, sugar should be 5% of your diet - that equates to 6 teaspoons per day. Yup! That isn’t a lot!

All the Different Names for Sugar

Before we eliminate all the unnecessary sugar in our diets, we’re going to need to know what to look for. Here are just a few of sugar’s “altar egos” you’ll want to look for when you’re perusing those labels:
  • Agave Nectar
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastase
  • Diastatic Malt
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Invert Sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Muscovado
  • Rice Syrup
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
Now that you know what you’re looking for you can tackle the sugar part of reading your labels!

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Can A Cheat Meal Ruin It All?

You’ve been eating clean and balanced all week - protein, fat, carbs at every meal - their correct proportions - and without dipping into the pantry for a late night snack. Then the weekend arrives and it’s three pieces of pizza, some wine, but just a small, okay maybe not really small at all, dessert. So the question is - can a cheat meal ruin all that good work you’ve put in?

Sadly, the answer is “yes.”

And it’s “yes” for a lot of reasons.

Number one: If that “cheat” means eating a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, guess what? You’ve just turned your 7 days of eating into 8 days of eating. And no, there are NOT 8 days in a week.

Number two: That one “cheat” often turns into two cheats, three cheats, four cheats, blown week. If that cheat meal is going to turn you to the dark side for the rest of the weekend and/or week, then it’s for sure going to ruin that past week of good work.

Number two point five: Just a caveat to the above note - turning on all the “bad cravings” can only trigger more. For example, a lot of people will say that once they stop eating sugar they don’t crave it, but even just one Cadbury Caramel Egg can turn on those cravings. While some lucky people out there are able to have one doughnut and then call it quits, the majority of us are apt to dive into the whole box - so just don’t start in the first place.

Number three: You’re most likely to “cheat” because you’re out with friends at a restaurant. The problem there? All the hidden things that are being put in your food. When you cook at home you know what ingredients you’re using. And if you’re a label checker, you know what’s really in those ingredients. At a restaurant, unless you’re besties with the chef, you can never be 100% of what’s going in your food or how it’s being prepared. What that translates to is a lot of hidden junk that you weren’t even calculating into your cheat meal dreams.

Now I’m not saying never cheat - that’s almost 1 million percent impossible! But if you’re going to cheat, try to be mindful about it. Is there a reason you feel compelled to have a cheat meal? Maybe a long week at work or you want to fit in with the rest of the people sitting around the table. Know the WHY behind that piece of pizza. Then put a limit on that cheat. A realistic limit. You can also make it a “not-so-cheat” meal - add a salad before that slice or two of pizza. Or have a glass of fizzy flavored water for every glass of wine. And lastly, finish off the “cheat” with a healthy treat as a way of resetting your mind and reminding it to return to the good stuff. An apple or a handful of vegetables after the pizza/pasta/deliciousness can often be a good way to “re-trigger” the clean eater in you.

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

So How Much Water Do You Really Need?

Oh, water. We all need it. But when it comes to determining “how much,” it really depends on you (and no, that doesn’t mean you can get away with a teeny tiny glass of water a day).

How much water your body needs depends on various factors including how active you are, what you eat, and where you live. So if you’re attending our Team Training class (link to the Team Training page) or a Semi-Private session (link to the page), then you need to drink up!

As explained by Jessica Fishman Levinson, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of nutrition counseling company Nutritioulicious for SELF (http://www.self.com/story/how-much-water-should-you-drink-a-day), "Fluid requirements vary among individuals based on age, sex, activity level, and even where you live.”

According to the Institute of Medicine, women should drink 2.7 liters (11 cups) of liquid per day and men should drink 3 liters (13 cups). But all that liquid doesn't have to be “water” exactly. You can get your water from lots of sources including coffee and the water content in foods you eat. Your body will absorb the water from the food that you eat like cucumbers, watermelon, and oranges. See! It IS important to eat your fruit and vegetables!

Just remember that some foods can create a need for more or less water - such as alcohol (like that Friday night margarita) or high-sodium foods (you KNOW what those are). In cases like this, remembering to chug down that H20 can help dilute your system to keep your fluids moving regularly.

So what’s the best way to gauge your hydration? Check in with how you feel. Thirsty? That might mean your body is trying to tell you to drink more water. As Levinson suggests, another way to determine how hydrated you are is to take a look at the toilet after you pee. "If your urine is light yellow, you're probably getting enough fluids,” she says. “If it's dark or smells strongly, you probably need more water.”

Bottom line: That “8 eight ounce glasses of water a day” law really depends on you, and in fact, it should be re-phrased as “eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid.” If you’re working out, you’ll need more - before and after you workout. If you live in the Sahara, you’ll need more. If you’re dealing will illnesses or other health conditions, you’ll want to talk with your doctor. So while it’s up to you to determine, just remember to base that determination on what your body needs.

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Coach Jess
5:00 AM

Healthy Snacks You HAVEN’T Thought Of

We all kind of get burnt out on our snacks. Seriously, how many times can you eat apples and almond butter?

Okay, maybe forever. But if you’re running out of snack ideas, here’s a few we know taste pretty darn good:
  • Grapefruit and Cashews
  • Bone Broth
  • Hummus and Carrots
  • Honey, Peanut Butter, Yogurt Fruit Dip (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/56787645276972646/)
  • Watermelon and Almonds
  • Pistachios and Banana
  • Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Roll Ups (http://www.flatoutbread.com/recipes/banana-peanut-butter-and-honey-roll-ups/?pp=1)
  • Cinnamon Apple Chips http://www.carriesexperimentalkitchen.com/cinnamon-apple-chips/
  • Avocado Toast
  • Cucumber Roll Ups http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/986629/cucumber-roll-ups-with-greek-yogurt
  • Fruit Pops http://www.foodiefun.net/bare-necessities-fresh-fruit-pops
  • Frozen Yogurt Bark http://www.myfussyeater.com/frozen-yogurt-bark/
  • Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding http://hungrybynature.com/2016/10/pumpkin-pie-chia-pudding/
  • Date Bars - 2 parts dates, 1 part almond flour, 1 part shredded coconut. Mix it all together in a food processor
And yeah, in a pinch, there is ALWAYS Apples and Almond Butter.

Happy Snacking!

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Coach Jess
6:45 PM

Playing the Accountability Game

It’s always a hard question to answer when people ask me about how I lost my own thirty pounds of “fluff.” For so many of us, we’re looking for that one size fits all “solve” - the “oh, I just ate grapefruit,” or “I started taking this awesome supplement.” I always wish I had “the magic pill” to just hand out, but the honest to goodness truth is I just committed.

And honestly, I know how annoying that sounds.

Weight loss is hard until it’s not hard. And I say that because truthfully, deep down inside we can all admit that we know what it takes to lose weight. Barring any health issues (like thyroid issues, etc…), weight loss comes down to what you are feeding yourself and how much you are moving.  If you put the good stuff in, in the right amounts, and you move often, your body is going to lose weight.

For years I yo-yo’ed between a size 6 and a size 14. I’d have three weeks of “good” and then weekends that devolved into weeks of bad.  Any progress I made was literally eaten away. And I did that - for years - until I finally (and fully and completely) decided I’m not going to do that anymore. Sure, I had said that countless times before, but I was just soooo over feeling and looking the way I did.

In the past, I had done Weight Watchers and been successful, so I knew writing stuff down would be important. There’s just something about having to “fess up” about what you’re eating that keeps you in check. Knowing that, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. While the app will give you a calorie number to aim for (based off of your height and weight), I suggest you get an InBody Assessment that can give you an accurate number based on your body composition. You can do it at the gym! It’s easy! You just stand on something for like 3 minutes. Once you have that calorie goal number, make sure you track everything. The app makes it so easy - you can even scan the barcodes!!

Track Your Workouts

In addition to food, I suggest tracking the calories you burn during your workouts with a heart-rate monitor. The great thing about heart-rate monitors is that most of them can show you what level you are working in during your workouts. It’s a great way to check in with how hard you might be working. And actually - a lot of the time (or rather, most of the time) I see that I work the hardest when I’m lifting weights. Woohoo #girlswholift!

You might also want to consider wearing a pedometer - or something that tracks your daily steps. I actually burst through some of my plateaus by just making sure that I was getting in my 10,000 steps. It’s a great way to remind you to get moving!

For me, I found that keeping myself accountable was the only way I was going to be able to keep myself honest. As coaches, we can make sure you’re doing the work in the gym, but we can’t be there when you’re sitting in the drive-through line at McDonald's or standing in that freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s (that’s my downfall). In so many ways you have to be your own coach or ref when you’re out in the grocery/restaurant/real-life field. Finding a way to make yourself and keep yourself accountable (over the months and maybe years it takes to lost the weight) is the first step in winning the weightloss game!

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Coach Jess
2:05 PM

Surviving the Holiday Season

’Tis the season - of treats.

As we round the corner into the most festive time of the year it can feel almost impossible to stay away from all the treats. To help keep you in check, we’ve put together a little list of reminders to help you survive the holiday season.

  • Eat two healthy, satiating meals before the “big meal.” For whatever reason, we all seem to starve ourselves the morning of Thanksgiving/Christmas/etc… so that we can “eat more” during the actual meal. Um… what?! Make sure you get some healthy in there.
  • Remember that most holidays are JUST ONE DAY. Think about this: if you limit your “splurge” to JUST Thanksgiving dinner, it’s really not that bad. Just because we’re going to “go big” at one meal, that doesn’t mean you need to eat poorly all season.
  • Eat a healthy snack before the party. Something about a buffet turns us all into plate-piling-monsters. Fill up on the good stuff at home before you hit the party, or just commit to only eating one plate of food… and not three.
  • Remember your last year’s New Year’s Resolution.
  • Wear tight pants. This one sounds a little silly, but wearing tighter clothes can help to remind you to not stuff your gullet at the holiday party.
  • Remember that you can still make macaroni and cheese/casserole/stuffing at any time of year. Sometimes we think “oh, I’m not going to have this again for a while so I’m gonna fill up on it now.” Remind yourself that you can make those foods at any time of year.
  • Bring the healthy option. Fear there won’t be anything “safe” for you to eat? Why not bring the “safety” food? You might just inspire healthy habits in your fellow party attendees.
  • Make a healthy meal. Just because it’s a “holiday” that doesn’t mean you have to eat badly. There are so many ways to create your favorite foods out of real ingredients that feed your tastebuds as well as your “feel goods.” Think: sweet potatoes without all the brown sugar on top, or actual cranberries instead of that gelatinous tin-shaped guck, asparagus that tastes like asparagus instead of a pound of butter, you get the idea.
  • Exercise. Sure, we want to see you in the gym, but we know how scheduling around the holidays can get tight. If you can’t make it to a team training or a semi-private because you're with family and friends, why not suggest a walk around the neighborhood that everyone can do?At the same time, remember that exercise can help keep you on track, or at least keep you in check.
  • Balance out your plate with the green stuff.
  • Remember it’s not about the food. Sure, the food is a really awesome part of the holidays, but it’s really about getting everyone together. It’s hard to stuff your mouth if you’re too busy catching up with everyone.

Getting through the holidays without gaining weight is hard, but it’s completely doable! And remember: we’re always here to help! For example, we’ve got our “Burn the Bird” workout at 8am on Thanksgiving morning! You can also join Coach Ara for the Turkey Trot!

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Coach Ara
11:38 PM

Diet or Lifestyle?

52% of consumers said figuring out how to eat a healthy diet is more difficult than tax, and based on this concept nutrition always changed thru the decades.
in 1950's we had the grape fruit diet which you need to eat grape fruit three times a day, 1960's that changed to vegetarian type phase which we had more options rather than grape fruit. 1970's was called little calorie diet. 1980's was low fat diet which was famous with snacks such as "SnackWell's" which was fat free but super high in sugar. Then in 1990's the direction of diet changed and it went towards low carb which that didn't went well and this pendulum was always goes back and forth till we get on todays concept which is eat clean, and that means no white sugar, no white flour, no processed food no artificial ingredients. But it still there is some problem on the 2000's eat clean concept and thats pretty much whatever we eat is a processed food (a bite from a steak is way different a bite from actual cow).
Today we need to act smart and we can have this quote that says " NO DIET WORKS FOR EVERYONE, EVERY DIET WORKS FOR SOMEONE". There is no magical solution it's a LIFE STYLE that you need to change and find the those clean foods and add it to your daily nutrition.
Drink less alcohol, eat minimum sugar, eat healthy fats, eat healthy carbs and protein, exercise and that's how you will have a healthy lifestyle and you don't need a diet. 

Thank you Dr. Chris Mohr that share this amazing lecture with us at TRX Summit 2016 Baltimore

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