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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

NIFS’s Ramp Up to Weight Loss: Setting Goals for a Healthier Life

Ramp-up-logo-finalNO-SPACERamp Up to Weight Loss is a program designed to do exactly what the name suggests: ramp you up to weight loss. It’s a 14-week program that provides various tools to help you get a head start on achieving your goals. These tools include meeting with a Registered Dietitian, attending coaching sessions to help set and manage goals, and meeting with a trainer twice a week to walk you through workouts. As a weight-loss member, you also have access to the facility and group fitness classes every day. These resources are what makes Ramp Up one of the most popular programs at NIFS.

The Goal: To Teach You How to Reach Your Weight-Loss Goals

weight-loss-1The ultimate goal by the end of the 14 weeks is to make sure you feel confident in your own abilities to continue the journey that you are on. Whether you are struggling with nutrition, knowing what to do in the gym, sleep, or stress management, this program provides resources to teach you how to handle these situations in ways that will aid you in achieving goals. We start by setting one long-term goal, then break it down into short-term goals to act as stepping stones to get there. After all of the goals are finalized, we look at what action steps can be taken to achieve them. Setting realistic goals is essential for staying on track, and reaching them builds confidence in your abilities.

Weight loss is not always an easy thing to achieve. It can be a very slow process full of trial and error, ups and downs, and frustrations. There’s not a magic solution that will work for everyone. But, by tackling weight loss from multiple angles—including fitness, nutrition, and behavior—we can figure out what works best based on the individual.

After the Program: Long-Term Membership

So, 14 weeks have passed and you’ve successfully attended all your sessions, received nutritional guidance, and mastered goal setting. However, you’re not quite ready to be on your own yet. After Ramp Up, you can opt to become a long-term weight loss member. This program never expires, and you get one session a week with a trainer, assessments every three months, and coaching sessions. You still have access to the facility and all of the group classes. It’s an extra step to help you transition into continuing the journey on your own.

As trainers, we want not only to teach you how to work out safely and effectively, but to help you build the confidence and knowledge to be able to do it on your own. Being able to independently work out and make healthy choices is essential for long-term weight loss and maintenance. By taking advantage of all of the resurces over the course of the program, you can discover what helps you live a healthier life.

Find out more about Ramp Up to Weight Loss. Contact us today!

This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition goal setting weight loss NIFS programs dietitian

Weight-Loss Goal Setting: Focus on What Your Body Can Do

GettyImages-1131330779It’s time to get serious about goal setting. Setting goals can help you dig more deeply into fitness and think about what you truly want to accomplish. Goals can range from wanting to walk 1 mile to squatting 2 times your body weight, and absolutely everything in between and beyond. Everyone is on a different path to fitness, so whatever your goals may be is completely up to you.

The current trend in the fitness industry is to lose weight, gain muscle, and look like this girl or that guy that you see on social media. While there’s nothing wrong with setting a weight-based goal, we’re completely missing one major key of what working out can do for you: unlock your potential.

The Pitfalls of Rapid Weight Loss

When we set a goal of losing weight, we often lose sight of the importance of being strong and healthy, and this may lead to behaviors such as disordered eating or excessive exercise. All too often, people just want to get rid of the extra weight quickly. This mindset may encourage rapid weight loss that is not sustainable over the long term. Rapid weight loss can also lead to the loss of muscle mass, instead of fat loss, which is not desirable because muscle plays so many important roles in the body. It drives metabolism (having muscle increases Resting Metabolic Rate), keeps people strong as they age so that they can maintain their independence for as long as possible, and more.

Focus on Performance

The human body is capable of so much more than how much weight it can gain or lose—it has the power to perform. If you want to run a half marathon, you can train to run a half marathon. If you want to deadlift 300 pounds, you can train to do that. You can push the boundaries of your strength and endurance to do the things that may seem impossible right now. By going beyond what you think your limits are, you will adapt to the stress and become stronger. If you limit your goals to how much you would like to weigh, your focus is on what your body is, not what it can do.

It’s perfectly reasonable to have a weight-loss goal. There’s plenty of research describing how losing weight is beneficial for long-term health if one is overweight. However, it is rarely a linear process, and you must be prepared to face ups, downs, and plateaus. Having a goal that revolves around some type of strength or endurance feat will give you something to work toward even during the hurdles of a weight loss journey. You’ll be too distracted trying to do three pull ups or running five miles to notice those tiny, yet frustrating weight fluctuations that are a natural part of weight loss (and in general).

Beyond Your Weight-Loss Goal

Besides, the work doesn’t stop once you have reached your weight goal. The last thing you want to do is gain back what you spent months or years working toward. So if you haven’t yet set a goal beyond weight loss, now would be a great time to do so. The moral of this blog is to remind you that it’s okay to want to weigh “X” amount of pounds, but it’s not in your best interest to limit your body to a goal revolving around a number. You are capable of much more than just weighing a certain amount. Unlock your true potential by knocking down barriers and pushing the limits in and out of the gym.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: goal setting weight loss challenge endurance strength performance

Keep Up with NEAT: Less Sitting and More Calorie Burning

GettyImages-513205085If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably started exercising, maybe you’re trying a new diet, and maybe you’ve been super consistent for months now, but nothing’s changing. You feel like you’re doing everything right, but you haven’t seen any changes on the scale. How can this be? Weight loss is all about diet and exercise, so why aren’t the pounds just falling off? Research suggests there’s more to weight loss and weight management than diet and exercise alone.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure: The Calories You Burn

Throughout the day our bodies expend energy in the form of calories. The components of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) include Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and Physical Activity (PA). BMR accounts for about 60% of total daily energy expenditure. This is the amount of calories a body burns at rest. People who have increased muscle mass will have a higher BMR because of the amount of calories muscles use, even at rest. This is one reason why strength training is important for weight loss.

TEF results in roughly 10% of TDEE. This includes chewing food, digestion, absorption, and all other processes that go into consuming and processing food within the body.

The remaining 30% of TDEE is physical activity, which then gets broken down into exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). EAT accounts for about 5% of TDEE, while NEAT can contribute as much as 15%.

NEAT vs. EAT

NEAT are the little movements or tasks you do throughout the day, but are not considered moderate to vigorous exercise. This can include walking, taking the stairs, vacuuming, doing the dishes, playing fetch with the dog, talking, standing, tapping your foot, cooking, yard work, and so on. These small tasks vary from 50 to 200 calories per hour. All of these small movements can add up to a significant caloric deficit. On the other hand, EAT is the exercise-type activities like running, weight lifting, and so on.

Exercise is encouraged in weight loss because it can increase muscle mass, improve mood, encourage movement, and so many other benefits. However, if your workout is one hour long and you sleep for 8 hours, there’s still 15 hours of the day in which you might be completely sedentary, which is not ideal for weight loss.

We live in a society that encourages sedentary behaviors throughout the day, for example, working in an office. Meanwhile, over half of leisure time is spent watching television. This means that Americans are spending the majority of their time completely sedentary. This is thought to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

What Does This All Mean?

To be clear, increasing NEAT activities is not a replacement for exercising. Structured exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity for 150 to 300 minutes a week has countless benefits that have been researched over and over again. However, in overweight and obese patients, adherence to workout programs shows low long-term success. And those who do show success initially seem to gradually gain the weight back. Instead, replacing sedentary behaviors with NEAT-type activities can boost energy expenditure throughout the day while maintaining long-term adherence. Not only is NEAT easier to maintain, but the amount of NEAT activities seems to increase over time.

Overall, weight-loss programs should focus on a healthy diet, a structured workout program, and strategies to decrease sedentary behaviors to increase NEAT. Although the full mechanisms of NEAT still need to be explored in research, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that decreasing sedentary behavior may aid in weight loss when combined with diet and exercise.

For some ideas of increasing NEAT at work and at home, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active healthy habits weight loss calories weight management exercise at work sitting

The Carb Conundrum: Avoid Them for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating?

GettyImages-902999388In recent years, carbohydrates have seemingly been blamed for our health problems. Many of us now shun potatoes, rice, and even fruit in fear of the dreaded pounds that could come with eating carbohydrates. While many diets demonize carbohydrates, others preach the benefits of higher-carbohydrate diets. Through all of this confusion, I will try to set the record straight.

No single food or food group should be blamed for weight gain or credited with weight loss. Carbohydrates span a broad range of foods, from beans, fruits, and veggies to pizza, pasta, cookies, and French fries. While we hate to oversimplify the equation, weight gain does come down to calories in versus calories out. If we eat too much of anything—even fruits and veggies—we will gain weight. The caveat is that fruits and veggies are nearly impossible to eat too much of because they are rich in fiber and low in calories, while other foods can pack a calorie-dense punch in a very small serving.

How easy is it to eat an entire bag of Chex Mix while you might struggle to eat half a cup of carrots?

Carbohydrates and a Healthy Diet

Carbohydrate-rich foods form the foundation of a healthy diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommends people consume 45–65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equivalent to 225–335 grams daily. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy production in the body for working muscles, fuel for proper mental function, supplying vitamins and minerals, as well as providing large amounts of fiber for decreasing risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. Many foods contain carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, milk and dairy, pasta, beans, and refined/processed foods.

Should I Avoid Carbohydrates?

In recent years, many have found lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diets to be beneficial in weight loss. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are not well studied. Many “low-carb” diets can lead to an increase in foods like red meats, processed meats, and saturated fat–containing foods like cheese, butter, and cream. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide numerous health benefits and you should not avoid them. Certain areas of the world called Blue Zones offer an interesting look into the benefits of a higher-carbohydrate diet. They have not only the highest rates of longevity but also very low rates of chronic disease. Blue Zone populations consume 95% of their calories from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and eat meat sparingly.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Carbohydrates

But it is important to think about the types of carbohydrates you are consuming. Unrefined carbohydrates are unprocessed, whole foods that are high in fiber (and many other nutrients) and digest more slowly. Unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates help you feel fuller and get you through the day feeling less hungry. Processed carbohydrates lack fiber and may have added oils and sugar—they can leave you feeling low on energy as they are quickly digested and burned for fuel. Unprocessed carbs are key to long-term health and can help with weight control. They also guard against type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Try to limit most processed carbohydrates because they are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Processed Carbohydrates

  • Soda
  • Baked treats
  • Packaged sweets/snack foods
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
Did you now that in 1915 the average American consumed 17.5 pounds of added sugar in a year? As of 2011, the average American consumed over 150 pounds of sugar annually!

In summary, carbohydrates should be welcomed to not only help with weight management but also prevent disease. Make most of your carbohydrates whole, unprocessed foods for a balanced, healthy diet while enjoying the processed/refined carbohydrate foods in moderation. And if you’d like some help with figuring out what to eat, look into Nutrition Coaching at NIFS.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating calories endurance disease prevention fiber energy whole foods carbs fruits and vegetables carbohydrates longevity

Macronutrients: The What, Why, and How of Tracking for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1133846218 newA diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and help with lasting weight loss. You might have heard of others tracking their “macros” and wondered if this is something that you need to do. So, why and how do you do this tracking?

What Are Macronutrients?

The major macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All are essential to health and well-being. Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the latest science and pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations to the public. The latest recommendations were published in 2005. Some foods provide a mix of macronutrients (beans provide protein, carbohydrates, and sometimes a very small amount of fat), while others provide only one type of macronutrient (olive oil provides just fat). Whether they are a mix of macros or one type, they all serve a purpose.

Protein

Protein provides four calories per gram. Protein is vital for immune function, building and repairing tissue, cell signaling, hormones, and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four calories per gram as well. In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for immediate energy or stores in your liver and muscle for later use. Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods with the exception of oils/fats and meat—items like grains, starchy veggies, beans, dairy, and fruit contain carbohydrates.

Fat

Fat has the most calories at 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Fat is found in oils, butter, nuts, meat, and fatty fish.

What Is an Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients?

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NAS has classified the following AMDR for adults as a percentage of calories as follows:

Protein: 10–35%

Fat: 20–35%

Carbohydrates: 45–65%

For example, an individual consuming 2,000 total calories per day will aim for approximately:

2,000 calories x 10 to 35% = 200–700 calories from protein OR  200–700 calories / 4 calories per gram = 50–175 grams of protein

2,000 calories x 20–35% = 400–700 calories from fat OR 400–700 calories / 9 calories per gram = 44–78 grams of fat

2,000 calories x 45–65% = 900–1300 calories from carbohydrates OR 900–1300 calories / 4 calories per gram = 225–325 grams of carbohydrates

How to Track Macros

  1. Determine your calorie needs (many formulas online, RMR testing at NIFS, and various apps will create calorie recommendations as well).
  2. Determine your macronutrient breakdown ( for example, if you’re very active, you may need more carbohydrates and protein).
  3. Log food intake into a journal like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or My Macros+ app.

Keep in mind you might not always hit your goals precisely and the tools we have to calculate calories are not perfect. Food tracking is great for helping you get closer to your goals; but our bodies are not calculators, so give yourself a little “wiggle room” in your tracking.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

  • Improves diet quality: Instead of focusing on calories, where a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit may be equal to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you will focus on nutrients.
  • Helps with weight loss: Those who track food tend to lose more weight than those who do not track food intake.
  • Helps with specific goals: Those who are endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates than athletes who are lifting weights multiple times per week.

When Is Tracking Useful?

Those who thrive on structure may find tracking macronutrients to be something they enjoy, and very beneficial. It can help to increase your awareness of the quality of foods you are eating and the amount of healthy foods you are eating. (Those with a history of disordered eating should not track food intake.)

When first starting, you may find it overwhelming, but over time you find the foods and healthy eating patterns that help you hit your macronutrient goals. When tracking macronutrients, it is important to focus on a mainly whole-foods diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. The benefits come from making adjustments as needed—not finding the perfect ratio from the very beginning. Many can eat a well-balanced diet without tracking intake—there is no one-size-fits-all plan—but rest assured: if most of your food was grown in the ground and everything else is included in moderation, you are giving your body just what it needs.

Contact Lindsey Hehman, RD, at lhehman@nifs.org for questions or to come up with more specific macronutrient goals.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein technology carbs fat

The Keto Diet: A Registered Dietitian’s Review

GettyImages-1134020458The “keto diet,” which is short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet, and is one of today’s most popular diets. The goal of a low-carb diet is to reduce carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This puts your body into a state of ketosis. When this occurs, your body breaks down fat into ketones for energy. The main idea here is that by starving the body of carbohydrates, you will force it to break down fats, which proponents of the diet suggest results in the best weight-loss results.

There are different versions of the keto diet. Some allow for added carbs around workouts, or some keto days followed by high-carb days, high-protein keto diets, and a standard keto diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. It usually includes meat, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, oils and fats (like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and olive oil), vegetables (limited to dark leafy greens and mushrooms, and fruit (berries in moderation). Generally the diet does not include starchy veggies (potato/sweet potato, pumpkin, legumes, etc.), grains (oats, rice, quinoa, corn), or fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, apples, oranges).

Why Is This Diet So Popular?

Keto diets have become increasingly popular in the health-conscious community for a few reasons:

  • Weight loss: How many fad diets have you tried over the past few years that promise hitting your weight-loss goals in just a few weeks or even less than 6 months? Often weight loss is “water weight”: as stored carbohydrates are utilized, water is lost.
  • Reinforcement of getting to eat what we thought to be “bad” foods.
  • No calorie counting—however, many of us create a calorie deficit that results in weight loss without thinking about it when we are no longer eating favorites like pizza, donuts, cookies, chips, etc.

How Healthy Is the Keto Diet?

As a registered dietitian, my goal in nutrition counseling is to help people establish lifelong sustainable habits, and the research points us in a different direction than keto. But first, kudos to anyone who is trying to modify their lifestyle with any diet. Low-carb diets may be useful in the short term for weight loss, but in the long term (longer than a year), there are no documented benefits.

Take a look at the following research on some other healthier eating patterns.

Plant-Based Diets

A study of the eating patterns of more than 15,400 adults in the U.S. and another 432,000 people around the world found that restricted-carbohydrate levels replaced or supplemented by animal-based protein and fat sources could lead to a higher risk of premature death. The study suggests that plant-derived protein and fat such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with lower mortality.

Low-Carb Diets

A second study examined the relationship among low-carb diets, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause death in 24,825 people. Compared to those in the high-carbohydrate group, those who ate the lowest carbohydrates had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over 6 years. Risk of death from heart disease and cancer increased by 51% and 35%, respectively.

The Secrets of the Blue Zones: Living to 100

What do Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica all have in common? These places are called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are isolated areas of the world where researchers have found populations that contain a surprisingly high percentage of centenarians—people who live to age 100+. Not only are these individuals living longer, but they are doing so in phenomenal health without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Here’s what researchers have found when it comes to their diet:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 glasses of wine per night).

The Conclusion: High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Diets Are Best

There is evidence that ketogenic diets help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, but for the majority of the population, I encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes plant foods. Think of cheese, butter, and meat as garnishes to your meal and shift your plate from a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat meal to a high-fiber, lower-calorie, and nutrient-powerhouse meal!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein fiber carbs dietitian ketogenic diet keto

Walk This Way: Why You Should Walk More

GettyImages-1088123908Unless you have been on Mars for the last four or five decades, you have heard, read, and seen the benefits of walking for health and fitness. There is no new hot take on walking; it’s always been a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.

Walking is often undervalued as a great way to lose weight and feel better, mainly due to the perception that walking is not as “sexy” or intense as some of the fitness programs out there. And the popular opinion on the “interwebs” is that if you are not on your back at the end of the training session gasping for air, it’s not effective (with Prancersizing not doing walking any favors in the “sexy” department). But walking can be a great way to get and stay in awesome shape no matter what the Instagram stars may be showing.

Why You Need to Walk More

Let’s start with WHY you should be walking more:

  • It’s FREE and it’s FUNDAMENTAL.
  • A walking workout is customizable and can be done anywhere.
  • Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: cardio, endurance, balance, core strength…the list goes on and on.
  • You already have the equipment (your body).
  • It’s an easy way to get activity throughout the day.
  • It has been shown to decrease the chances for diabetes, cardio-respiratory disease, heart disease…and this list goes on and on. (Side note: It has also been shown that the best medicine for the top 10 causes of death is EXERCISE.)
  • Can be a solo or group activity.
  • No extra training needed—you already know how to walk.

Those are all pretty good reasons why we should walk more, right? Trust me, there are more reasons than listed above, but we’ll start with those.

How Can You Walk More?

So HOW can you walk more than you currently are? Hopefully you know the common ways: park far away from any building you are entering, take the stairs, walk the dog more than once a day. Here are a few other strategies you may not have thought of:

  • Walk to complete errands.
  • Take public transit and get off two or three stops before the closest stop.
  • Take a shopping cart all the way back to the store or the farthest return—and oh, grab a few on your way because leaving your cart is an epidemic.
  • Fill up your water bottle every hour during your workday, and travel as far as possible to do so.
  • Schedule a 30-minute walk as a training day.
  • Walk mow your lawn, and maybe your neighbors’, too.
  • Practice the Hawaiian wellness habit of searching for beauty.
  • Start your day with a 15–20-minute walk.

How to Ramp Up the Intensity of Your Walking Workout

For those of you who want to ratchet up the intensity on this catch-all, easy-to-use mode of exercise, here are some strategies to rock a great walk:

  • Walk with a purpose: Walk faster and with purpose whenever you are walking (unless it’s a long stroll on a beautiful beach).
  • Inclined walking: Find some hills or put some incline on the treadmill.
  • Weighted carries: Pick up something heavy and walk with it.
  • Rucking (walking with a heavy pack): Same idea as carries, just using a pack.
  • Sled pulls: Strap a sled to yourself and start walking.
  • Hiking: Undulating terrain is a built-in training mode of increasing intensity.

Exercise and fitness does not always need to be extravagant and really should never be complicated (here are some really simple workouts for students). Make walking a bigger part of your training program. No matter the intensity level you choose, just move more!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: walking weight loss workouts disease prevention wellness mindfulness steps

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into when you reach for that fluffy pink and yellow Peep. Brace yourself…this might hurt.

Sugar Is Harmful to Your Body

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Easter and it only happens once every year!” No it doesn’t! There are always going to be excuses to eat poorly. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve also “only happen once a year!”

The holidays alone aren’t the only times that we allow the excuses to take over. Daily your efforts to eat well are sidetracked by busy schedules, which include business diners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners… the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

At some point, you have to stop making excuses and start making better decisions to put your health first. Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Dried fruit (eat with protein such as nuts)
  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

Step Class: Step Up to a New Level of Fitness!

Step-new.jpgWhether you are 18 or 80, man or woman, looking to lose weight or simply maintain, step class just might be the perfect addition to your fitness program. Have you ever considered taking a step class? Perhaps you have found yourself thinking, "I'm not coordinated enough," or “that's too intense for me (or not intense enough"). Well, give me two minutes to change your mind.

Does It Burn Calories?

The bottom line is, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns calories. In fact, it burns a lot of calories. According to Self magazine, stepping up and down off of a raised platform burns more calories than doing jumping jacks, split lunges, power squats, or speed skating for the same length of time. A great exercise for weight loss? YES! Great way to maintain weight? YOU BET!

Am I Coordinated Enough?

Maybe you’re thinking that you lack the required coordination. But the reality of it is, if you can march in place, you can do step. The basic step is just that: basic. Up, up, down, down. Of course that move would get boring pretty quickly, so we add music, rhythm, and variations on that basic move. While it helps to have a little rhythm (can you clap your hands to the beat of a song?), anyone can step. It might take a few classes to really get the hang of it, but it is quite doable, and FUN! Don't be intimidated!

There is a first time for everything. At some point, every single person in the class, including the instructor, attended their very first step class. I’m not gonna lie, you probably won't pick up every single thing in the first class you take, but let's face it: what would be the fun of mastering it in the first hour? Half the fun is seeing yourself improve, seeing your cardiovascular fitness level improve, and becoming more efficient overall (more work with less effort). Step will get you there!

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Is It Too Intense?

You might be thinking that step would be too hard or too intense for you. While step is designed to be a challenging cardio workout, the intensity level can be adjusted in a number of ways to meet the needs of each participant.

  • The height of the platform is not uniform; with use of individual risers at each end, the platform can be set as low as just a few inches off the floor (or as high as 8–12 inches).
  • Another easy adjustment, which your instructor will show you, is to limit your range of movement with each step. As you become more comfortable with the format, you will be able to add intensity by increasing range of motion with the steps, and by adding arm movements to further increase your heart rate. Because of this, the challenge never ends. There is no plateau.

Is It Not Intense Enough?

On the flip side, maybe you are thinking step is not intense enough. Perhaps you’re thinking that only girls take step, or that you are too fit to benefit from it. Regardless of your fitness level, step can be a very challenging cardiovascular workout. It is a well-known fact that the US military utilizes step aerobics to improve our troops' agility, coordination, and endurance. If it's tough enough for our soldiers, then it's tough enough for me! In addition to step, I also teach Insanity, total-body conditioning, and kickboxing classes. Step meets or exceeds these other formats in intensity level and calories burned per hour.

Step is the perfect group fitness format because it accommodates all fitness levels. (And if you haven't tried group fitness, well that's a whole other conversation.) But in short, try it! The camaraderie and accountability among the participants, the music, and the FUN factor will have you hooked!

So, are you ready to take your fitness regimen to the next STEP? See you in class soon, soon, soon!

Yours in fitness,
Rachel

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This blog was written by Rachel Pfeiffer, ACE and AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and proud NIFS Step instructor since 1999. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio weight loss group fitness calories aerobic step class

Your Keys to Fitness Victory: Set a Deadline and Get Help at NIFS

GettyImages-893206214-1Have you ever told yourself you are going to lose weight and get fit in time for spring, only to be frustrated when warm weather rolls around?

It's easy to hide behind heavy winter clothes, but when the mercury starts climbing, the clothes get lighter and we can't hide anymore. "Why didn't I start working out weeks ago?" we ask ourselves. "If only I had started sooner!"

Regret-proof Your Spring: Set a Deadline

The best way to protect yourself from a regret-filled spring is to set a deadline and start NOW. Deadlines are powerful motivators. Without a deadline, you really have no set-point toward which to work. You have nothing pushing you.

We need to be pushed!

Deadlines create a sense of urgency. They help you position yourself to succeed, because that final date is always staring back at you. It forces you to prioritize and strategize. Otherwise, you will let things slide...you will keep putting off the workout and insisting that tomorrow you will start eating better.

Without a deadline, tomorrow never comes!

It’s Time to Shake Things Up

If you keep doing what you have always done, you will get the results you have always gotten. It’s time to do something different. Ask yourself this question: If I keep doing what I am doing right now, will I achieve what I want to achieve? If you answered no, it’s time for a change.

Get out your calendar and decide when you want to see your first wave of results. Be realistic; make sure you give yourself time to really dig in and see changes. But challenge yourself, too—make it a little tough so you can take full advantage of the power of urgency.

Prevent Deadline Creep: Get Competitive!

But a deadline might not be enough. Why? Because you might be tempted to move it. Deadlines are not supposed to be moving targets! The best way to prevent deadline creep is to get competitive.

Entering a competition or contest is a sure way to give you the edge you need to keep yourself on track and finish strong. There is something very motivating about competing with others. Just knowing that your effort and results are going to be measured alongside others really will give you an extra boost in motivation.

Sometimes a little peer pressure is useful! And you will find that those with whom you are in competition will also be your biggest cheerleaders: they know exactly what you are going through and will be there to encourage you to keep moving.

Here’s How to Get Started

At NIFS, we offer various activities that allow you to get out of your comfort zone, receive the support and education you need to help you on your journey, and more importantly, have the time of your life with goal-oriented individuals who will encourage and push you to become the best version of yourself.

  • Ramp Up to Weight Loss Program: This 14-week program gives you all the tools you need to reach those weight-loss goals. Not only will you be able to work with a trainer one-on-one twice a week, but you also have the option to join small-group workouts with other members. The training sessions and the small-group sessions are a great way to help keep you motivated. Commit for 14 weeks and see a brand new you at the end!
  • Small Group Training: What better way to get the competitive juices going, and have the biggest cheerleaders on your side, all while getting in a great workout with highly skilled training and support?
  • High Intensity Training (HIT): By redefining your boundaries you will discover new ways to get the most out of your workouts. HIT is designed to rev up your metabolism, burn more fat, build strength, and take your fitness to the next level!

Don’t wait until next week, next month, or even next year. Start now—you won’t regret it!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS weight loss high intensity fitness goals small group training