Unconventional Motivational Tips to Get or Stay Fit


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week104I am often asked how I stay so motivated to go to the gym and remain fit. With me, it’s easy since going to a fitness center and working out is actually a pure passion of mine. In this sense, I realize I am fortunate, and it also chimes in perfectly with the saying, ‘Do what you love and never work.’ Hence, “working out” isn’t work to me; it’s fun. I have always loved it and love seeing the results on my body.

While I am very self-motivated and self-disciplined, I also expose myself to self-created motivational goodies, no matter how big or how small, that pass in front of my very eyes during any given day of the week, if not all. It’s a means of surrounding myself with positive images that reinforce my chosen path to live, eat, sleep, and breath a healthy and fit lifestyle and keep me in the mental state of mind over matter. Not that I need to be encouraged, but with temptations everywhere, it’s just nice to have an added third-party support.

Below are just a few unconventional motivational ways you can incorporate into you everyday life and surround yourself to stay inspired you and remain on track – may it to be lose weight, change your eating habits, or just to maintain – as staying in shape is much mental as it is physical.

Swimsuit Catalogs – Great for when at home!
These are just not for the female shopper or guy gawker! Turn the pages of these booklets and get inspired and motivated by the fit models clad in skimpy bikinis. Leave the catalogs open to the pages of the model(s) that inspire you most. Tear a few out pages and place them strategically on your fridge’s door, bathroom mirror, closet entrance, or other location(s) in your home.

Social Media – Great when on the go!
Are you a social media user? If so, this will be easy for you. Pick your favorite network – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ or other – and follow users who post, tweet, and pin tips and tricks to staying fit … including videos of exercises, diet recipes, links to informative articles, motivational quotes, and photos of inspirational end results.

Trophy Clothing – Great when grabbing a snack!
Dying to get into a pair of favorite old jeans or a certain bikini for an upcoming trip? Is your top feeling snug or no longer fitting? Place that article of clothing upfront and right inside your refrigerator so when you open the fridge door – bingo! – it’s the first thing you see. Just its mere presence will immediate remind you of your goal and remind you to choose your food wisely when in the fridge.

Bathroom Scale – Great to stay on track!
You may prefer not to, but getting on the bathroom scale every day at the same time is another means to staying on track with losing weight or maintaining your goal. Keep in mind it’s natural for your body to fluctuate by a few pounds, but, by getting on the scale, it will assist you to stay in check and help prevent you from gaining any unsuspecting weight.

The Sports Bra – Great reality check!
This is easily accomplished if you live alone or with a partner. Walk around your home a little bit longer, prior to getting fully dressed for the day, in your bra and panties, sports bra and shorts/sweat pants, or another motivating combination that reveals yourself. This forces you to see your body as it is right now and should help motivate you to lose the pounds or continue to maintain your goal weight.

The Wristband – Great reminder!
Some of us eat right-handed, others left. Whichever hand you naturally gravitate to when grabbing a utensil, this is the one you wear either a special wristband or bracelet as another visual reminder you are what you eat and you need to stay true to your fitness goal. Perhaps it’s a present to yourself for reaching your fitness goal. Whatever you choose to wear, keep it on to keep you going.

It’s all mind over matter as the purpose for all of these tactics listed below is to simply surround yourself with positive and encouraging reinforcements and influences as an extra built-in support system and to top off your already existing diet plan and regular workouts. Just sneak in the above visual motivators into your days and soon you, too, will be the one your friends turn to and ask, “How do stay motivated to workout and stay fit?”

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Health Benefits from Riding a Horse



week100I have loved horses as long as I can remember. To me, there is something alluring about these large mammals where you can whip your leg around their high backs and feel like you are flying across fields and sailing through the wind. It’s the feeling of total detachment from the world, a sensation of total freedom. When you are on a horse, the world is at your feet and all feels obtainable.

My passion for horses is most likely why I had my son start to ride horses on a leadline by the age of two at the barn right down the street from my parents’ house and my daughter soon after she could walk. Cassandra would hang onto the horn of the Western saddle and smile with great glee. By two, she was taking weekly leadline rides on “Sunshine,” by four weekly English riding lessons, and on her fifth birthday, Cassandra competed in her very first horseshow on “Penny.” Today, my daughter proudly and lovingly cares for her horse “Emma,” a grey Connemara and Irish Sport Horse mix breed, and rides as a junior on Stonehill College’s varsity equestrian team.

To some, saddling up and riding a horse may seem more like a fun time on the back of a horse in the fresh air than an actual workout. After all, the great strong horse is doing most of the work, right, with its cantering and jumping plus carrying the weight of the rider?

My daughter would quickly tell you “no” and rightly so. The rider actually benefits just as much, if not more, than the four-legged mount, as horseback riding offers the rider both physical and mental perks like many mainstream sports.

The psychological benefits from riding horses are plentiful. It reduces stress levels of the rider, improves self-confidence and concentration abilities, teaches and instills self-discipline and patience, encourages risk-taking, and offers socializing and comradely just by the mere interaction with fellow riders, instructors, vets, barn help, and others.

In addition to the mental benefits, the physical health perks are just as rewarding. Let’s start with calorie loss. You can burn a decent amount of calories when riding horses, depending on your age, body mass, and the intensity of your ride. At a walk, you can burn 150-200 calories per hour, trot 400-550, and a full gallop can burn off 700 calories for a full hour!

Riding horses provides great muscle development and conditioning in the rider and requires intense muscle use and memory. Riders strengthen their arms, legs, thighs, back, and pelvis muscles, especially from the contracting and relaxing of their muscles in an attempt to stay on the horse and remain balanced. They develop a stronger core, better sense of balance, and enhanced eye hand coordination; hence why riding horses is often offered as a therapeutic exercise from those suffering from physical challenges. Moreover, riding increases the range of the motion of the rider’s joints and improves their upper respiration and circulation of blood flow in their body.

There is additional muscle strengthening and extra calories burned also from carrying saddles around, hauling hay and feed, carrying buckets of water, shoveling droppings, repositioning jumps, moving trunks, and more. Let’s face it; riding horses is a very physical and demanding activity.

So when given the opportunity to ride a horse, get your boots on, grab a riding helmet, and saddle up! Your joy ride will give back to your body, heart, and mind immensely not to mention put a big smile on you inside and out.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Working Out While You’re at Work


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week99Over the years, I often come in contact with individuals who right off the bat tell me they just don’t have time to go to the gym or can’t find any time during the day for a workout. I often smile and listen to their various excuses as why they can’t. For some reason, they feel a need to confess and confide in me.

For the most part, it’s hogwash. There are NO excuses as it’s all about priorities, remaining discipline and focused, and being true to you.

But let’s just say one is really too busy to find the time to work out, especially during the workweek with juggling work, family, and home. Well then I say, get creative! Find ways to whittle it in with easy moves that will yield results.

Below are 20 simple exercises, including isometrics and cardio, you can discreetly sneak in during the day to boost your energy levels, relieve stress, and burn extra calories.

1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to walk and down the steps in your home for 15 minutes. Increase the time if you can.

2. Park your car the furthest spot away from your office building, grocery story, shopping mall, etc. and briskly walk to your destination.

3. Always skip the elevator and take the stairs instead, both ways, up and down.

4. Replace your desk chair with a height appropriate, stability ball. It’s great for your core!

5. Neck rotations at your desk by dropping your chin and rolling your neck then raise your chin up and bend your neck to each side.

6. Shoulder raises; raise them up to your ears, hold, and then relax.

7. Wrist stretches while sitting. Extend one arm out with your palm up. With your other hand, grab your fingers and lightly pull them down to give your forearm with a good stretch.

8. Clench your fists and flex your forearms and count to 10.

9. Hand stretches; squeeze a pen and focus on your forearm muscles.

10. Push your palms together, positioned in opposite directions, and hold for 20 seconds.

11. Ab crunches; sit up in your chair with feet flat on floor and arms to your sides. Tighten your abs and keep tightening them for 5 seconds. Release and then repeat again.

12. Glut squeezes while sitting or standing. Lift your butt about a full inch off your seat squeeze your butt cheeks together. Hold for a full 30-60 seconds and then relax. Repeat.

13. Thigh squeezes while sitting in your chair. Place your fist between your knees and squeeze your knees together. Hold for a count of 10.

14. Just for the ladies … kegels … whenever you are sitting.

15, Leg extensions while sitting in your chair. Lift one leg off the floor and extend it straight out. Hold for two seconds. Lower the foot, but stop a few inches before you reach the floor. Hold for five seconds, and then switch to the opposite side. Repeat 15 times on each side.

16. Toe raises with your heels firmly on the ground when sitting at your desk for a full 30-60 seconds. Repeat.

17. Spend at least half of your lunch break taking a brisk walk outside.

18. Walk to the restroom that is the furthest away in the building.

19. Walk to a co-worker’s area to deliver a message instead of sending an email.

20. Keep your leg muscles stretched. Every time your finish a task or once every hour, stand up and walk for 5 minutes.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Healthy Banana Desserts



week98Who doesn’t love bananas? Who doesn’t love desserts? Combine them together and it’s a win-win sweet ending to any meal or a delicious treat when snacking in-between.

Perhaps you remember my mentioning how bananas are my Mother’s favorite fruit. In “The Bulging Benefits of Bananas,” I shared how Mom would always buy a bunch or two from the grocer, encourage us to snack on these white soft fruits every day, and how she would add several into delicious homemade meals and, better yet, desserts.

I also cited how bananas are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, fiber, B vitamins, tryptophan, and the good sugars – glucose, fructose and sucrose. And how eating this fruit daily has ample health benefits, such as fighting depression, curing hangovers, relieving morning sickness, and helping to protect against kidney cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and blindness, and more. Plus benefits one who never think of – reducing the itch and swell of a mosquito bite by placing the inside of the banana peel against it and the same for removing warts.

But let’s get back to the desserts. Bananas make an excellent ingredient to add to cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, and more. They are especially delish when paired up with peanut butter, oats, apples, or dark chocolate.

Since healthy desserts are often hard to find, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite banana desserts. Try one or try them all!

Banana, Apple and Almond Butter Smoothie
In a blender, add 2 frozen bananas (peeled and cut in chunks), 1 medium apple (cored and quartered), 1/4 cup almond butter, 1/2 cup almond milk (or soy milk, non-fat milk, or coconut water), and 1 pinch nutmeg (optional). Blend until smooth. Add ice for additional thickness.

Banana, Apple and Walnut Bread
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch loaf pan. In a medium-sized bowl, mash 2 ripe bananas with a fork. Add 1 peeled and diced apple, 1/2 cup Sucanat or Stevia, 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup applesauce, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the bowl, and mix well. Pour into greased pan, and sprinkle with chopped 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Banana Carrot Cake with Blackberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash 2 large and ripe
 bananas with a fork, add 3 eggs and 2 tablespoons coconut oil and whisk together. Add 3/4 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional), 1 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of saffron. Stir. Shred two carrots and ground 1 cup walnuts. Add to the mixture and stir. Grease the inside of 2 large 8-inch tartlet tins with coconut oil. Pour the batter into the tins and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve the cake while warm and top each with fresh blackberries and roasted almonds.

Banana Cream Pie
Peel 4-6 ripe bananas and cut in half. Place in a Ziploc bag or container and freeze overnight. For the crust, add 2 cups of unroasted, unsalted almonds into a food processor and process until ground. With processor still running, add a touch of maple syrup in a slow thin drizzle. Press crust mixture into a medium size pie plate with your finger, spatula, or wooden spoon. Next, fill crust with a generous amount of banana ice cream using a spatula or wooden spoon to evenly distribute and smooth out. Top pie with fresh fruit – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries.

Banana Foster
Peel 3 large firm ripe bananas and cut into medallions. Heat one tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add bananas. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until tender and turns brown. Serve warm over banana ice cream or Greek yogurt.

Banana Ice Cream
Peel 2 medium bananas and cut into medallions. Freeze until it hardens, about an hour or two. Remove and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Add 3 tablespoons almond butter and teaspoons honey and blend OR add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Both combos are delish or toss in fresh berries. You can also just eat just plain. Transfer to freezable container and freeze for a few more hours. Then serve and indulge!

Banana Muffins
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mash 2 very ripe bananas with a fork until mostly smooth. Stir in 2 eggs, coconut 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon and apple cider vinegar. Additional optional add-ins include: 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/4 cup chopped nuts or seeds, 1/4 cup shredded carrot or shredded zucchini, 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins, or 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. Mix together 1 cup almond flour, sifted 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add to mixture until well blended. Let batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb the liquids. Fill paper-lined or well-greased muffin tins 2/3 full and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes then remove muffins to a wire rack. Makes 12 regular-size muffins.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mash 3 ripe bananas and mix with the 3 cups oats (preferably not instant), 1/2 cup skim milk and 1 egg. Add in 2 tablespoons Stevia (or other sugar substitute), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter (optional). Other optional add-ins area 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or raisins. Grease a cookie tray with cooking spray and spoon the mixture on to make around 9 large cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Store in an airtight container.

Banana Peanut Butter Pudding
Puree 15 ounces chickpeas (or 15 ounces garbanzo beans), 1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon honey in a blender, food processor, or hand blender. Spoon into serving bowls and refrigerate before serving.

Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Peel and cut 4 large ripe bananas into thirds crosswise. Insert a Popsicle stick into each piece of banana. Cover each piece with melted dark chocolate using a rubber spatula and sprinkle with shredded coconut or crushed nuts. Place the bananas on the baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours. Indulge or store airtight in the freezer for up to one week.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Right Foods for a Healthy Heart


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week95You workout, you eat well, but do you also include foods that are especially good for your heart? Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of American deaths in and stroke is number four?

My own father had high blood pressure and passed away at age 79 after his second stroke. We thought he would outlive us all by his disciplined way of life through exercise and staying on top of his weight plus his exuberant zest for life. But he never told of us of his first stroke – probably not to worry us – for if he had I would have watched his diet choices closely and checked in on his daily exercise and activities.

Mom had low blood pressure practically her entire life until she hit her mid-70s when high blood pressure just genetically kicked in. Mom also began to slow down in her later years (she’s now 89) and exercises less. But shortly after Dad passed, Mom began having a series of strokes but survived them all most likely due to heart-healthy diet.

So while coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease may be in the genes handed to you, you can control your daily diet, which can help prevent, avoid, and stop a serious outcome. Keeping your heart healthy and strong and giving it the added nutritional boost it needs and deserves is in your hands by choosing to eat the right foods for excellent vascular health. Luckily, there are many. Below is just for starters.

Apples are rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol levels and contain a wonderful antioxidant flavonoid mixture of quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol and other compounds to stop the “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and prevent plaque built up in arteries.

One of the world’s healthiest foods, avocados are crammed with monounsaturated fat and two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene. The fruit, which is often mistaken for a vegetable, will help reduce your LDL levels while raising the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. The greatest source of carotenoids in the avocado is in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin so be certain not to slice into that dark green portion any more than necessary when peeling.

Bananas are loaded with potassium and potassium helps to maintain your normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in your body. Potassium also helps your kidneys excrete excess sodium, which in turn balances your blood pressure. Just one banana has 422 milligrams, about 12 percent of your recommended daily amount.

“Beans, beans; they are good for the heart, the more you eat, the more …” Healthier you are! Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber, just a half-cup of cooked beans daily helps to lower your cholesterol and prevents absorption. Beans also have flavonoids, which help to reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke by hindering the adhesion of platelets in the blood. Choose chickpeas or black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto beans, and legumes.

Full of anti-inflammatories, just a cup a day of berries — blueberries, strawberries, black berries, raspberries, cranberries, or bilberries — will help to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer by increasing your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while also lowering your blood pressure. Eat your favorites!

Dark Chocolate
Ahhh, the health benefits when indulging in dark chocolate! Eating moderate amounts of flavanol-rich dark chocolate — just one-ounce daily of 70 percent cocoa solids — has a blood-thinning effect, benefiting your cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation while also lowering your blood pressure due to its plentiful levels of nitric oxide.

Top your morning oatmeal or sprinkle into your shakes as just a little goes a long way for your heart with flaxseed! Multiple published researches indicate flaxseed reduces the risk and fight everything from heart and lung disease to diabetes and certain cancers with its soluble and insoluble fibers, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and lignans.

Green Tea
Drink up! Studies show drinking 12 ounces a day reduces your heart attack chances by 50 percent thanks to the catechins (antioxidants) found in green tea by expanding your heart artery and keeping them clear hence improving your blood flow. It also reduces your cholesterol and triglycerides levels and lowers your risk of developing gum disease, which is often linked to heart problems.

Leafy Greens
The darker the better when it comes to leafy greens, which are highest in magnesium, lutein, folate, potassium, fiber, and Vitamin E. The combination helps to lower your blood pressure, triglycerides while increasing the good HDL cholesterol. Fresh spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are your best bets! Increase your daily servings for an added boost.

A great source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats with low levels of saturated fats, nuts provide much needed fiber in the daily diet. Also filled with of vitamins and minerals. Go for the walnuts if picking just one. Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts are also excellent.

Full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium, this fiber-rich superfood contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber that lowers your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. The oats also helps to keep your digestive system healthy and keep your arteries clear. Add oats to smoothies for an extra lift.

Oily Fish
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are all super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain astaxanthin, a very powerful antioxidant. All help to reduce blood pressure and clotting plus help prevent irregular heart rhythms. Eat two servings a week to reduce risk of a heart attack by up to 30 percent. Choose wild over farm-raised.

Olive Oil
Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil reduces your bad LDL cholesterol and lowers your risk of developing heart disease. Only two tablespoons a day is all you need. Extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that reduce inflammation and help prevent certain cancers. Remember to store your olive oil in a dark, cool spot in a tightly covered container.

Don’t buy or eat pomegranates? You might want to start now. Their powerful punch of polyphenols — including anthocyanins and tannins — help to reduce the buildup of the plaque in your arteries and lower your blood pressure.

Who would have guessed? Unsalted and unbuttered popcorn, which also happens to be a whole grain, is packed with polyphenols — antioxidants linked to improving your heart and cardiovascular health — and boasting three times more polyphenols than beans and four times more than berries.

An excellent protein substitute for red meat, soy is a high-quality protein containing high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is also low in saturated fat, helping to reduce your triglycerides, preventing cardiovascular disease and keep your heart strong and healthy. Eat natural sources of soy, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu.

Whole Grains
Just 25 grams of whole grains a day is all you need to reduce your risk of heart disease. Whole grains contain bran, germ, and the starchy endosperm and provide and high soluble fiber to help to keep your heart healthy by lowering your “bad” LDL plus the antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols found in whole grains protect your against coronary disease.

Countless studies have findings showing people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who don’t. Up to one glass for women and two for men can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by raising the “good” HDL cholesterol while decreasing inflammation and “thinning the blood.”

Yogurt? Yes, yogurt! Older women who regularly eat four ounces of yogurt have less thickening of the carotid arteries’ walls, lowering the risk of a stroke and heart attack. Yogurt eaters also have healthier gums due to the probiotics.

Changing your diet is a great start.  A good rule of thumb for a healthy heart is to also control your portion size and eat more of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods. This means more fruits and vegetables and eliminating refine, processed, and fast foods. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry and fresh water fish. Select low-fat dairy products and chow down on egg whites versus whole.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Biggest Loser Resort – A Fit and Fun Getaway


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week97When it comes time to book some R&R, the choices are endless. In addition to the typical island and European holidays, there are bicycle tours, family vacations, ski trips, honeymoons, sailing adventures, girls’/guys’ weekends, kayaking excursions, dream destinations, golf outings, spa retreats, tennis resorts, safari expeditions, hiking treks, maiden voyages, ski trips, boot camps … and getaways just for weight loss.

A weight loss vacation might not sound alluring or all that exciting, but for those who are serious but dropping the pounds and need a little assistance to jump start their journey, today’s programs have advanced to have a pampering feel. Now in breathtaking destinations, these luxurious getaways include beautiful four- and five-start accommodations, delicious low-calorie meals from world-class chefs, expert advice from the best, engaging group activities, scenic outdoor excursions, rejuvenating spa treatments, new friendships, unforgettable memories, and more in addition to losing those unwanted pounds – the whole point of this getaway in case one almost forgot.

One popular weight loss escape is the Biggest Loser Resort – yes, as in the TV reality show, and yes, it truly does exit – but minus the cameras, lights, and Hollywood hoopla. But you do get to live out the fantasy! You do still get an attentive crew to help with your transformation and will receive the utmost attention and support from certified trainers, registered dietitians, holistic nutritionists, life coaches, and licensed professional counselors. Participants as young 14 are welcome.

For those who are overweight and are better off losing the weight for multiple reasons, the supportive environment at the Biggest Loser Resort is ideal. The award-winning program (see special note below) is designed to help their guests not only to succeed and become lighter on the scale but improve their aerobic endurance, tone their muscles, increase their flexibility, detoxify, and most of all gain the much needed confidence – a CAN DO attitude – that they CAN lose the weight and they CAN keep it off … for good. They learn which exercises work best for them, the correct forms, how to prepare healthy meals, and more empowering instructions.

Guests receive an outlined itinerary daily that includes seven hours of exercise, educational lectures, and three meals and dessert for 1200 calories. Days start early at 6:00 a.m. and are jam-packed throughout and into the early evening with the various workouts such as stretching classes, toning sessions, circuit training, core work, strength training, yoga, aerobics, water aerobics, Pilates, Zumba®, kickboxing, scenic hikes, indoor cycling, and more plus. The educational classes discuss weight loss strategies, meal planning, emotional eating, cooking demos, and more plus how to continue with the Biggest Loser program once they return home. Nighttime is free downtime where guests can indulge in spa treatments, time with newly discovered friends, or kicking back poolside with a good book.

Also worth mentioning is the spa cuisine, which is a welcome dining experience in itself. Organic vegetable omelets, oatmeal with berries or fruit and granola are just some of the delicious healthy choices for breakfast. Wraps, soups, and salads for lunch. Shakes, hummus and veggies, or homemade granola nut bars for a snack. Guests can choose mouth-watering fresh fish or free-range chicken for dinner and heavenly cinnamon apples or coconut haystacks for dessert. All just delish and will make you forget you are actually dieting.

There are all four all-inclusive Biggest Loser Resort locations in four very different settings – the Spa at Eaglewood in Chicago, IL; the Spa at Fitness in Ridge Ivins, UT; the Spa at Fitness Ridge in Malibu, CA; and Spa Alexis in Niagara, NY. Pick the destination that suits you best and will inspire you most! Guests may choose private, semi-private, and double occupancy accommodations priced by the number of selected weeks. Two weeks is an ideal minimum stay. All locations, except for Niagara, also offer the “Town Program” to local residents who do not need the overnights. Costs include meals, daily activities, and educational series. Spa treatments are additional. Amenities at each location vary. Review each location before deciding. Financing is offered American Health Care Lending. For reservations, call 877-550-1786 or visit BiggestLoserResort.com.

Nearby Activities
Well, you are on a mission here; to learn new fitness and nutritional ways for a healthier you. Clearly this is your main focus so any nearby activities and attractions may only be distractions and should not be of top of mind on this getway. My advice is put all your eggs into one basket. Maximize your time and attention to achieving your goal at the resort and learning how to best continue the path of success after you return home.

Getting There
This of course depends of which Biggest Loser Resort location you select. If you are flying to the Spa at Eaglewood in hoping to find time to play on its championship golf course, Chicago has two international airports, O’Hare (ORD), 12.9 miles from the resort, and Midway (MDW), 25 miles. When choosing the Spa at Fitness Ridge Ivins with its glorious location near the Big Red Mountains, your best bet is to fly into St. George Municipal (SGU), only 22 miles away. If the Pacific Ocean is calling your name and you have your heart set on the Spa Fitness Ridge in Malibu, Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is your closest airport, 34 miles from the resort. You may also chose to fly into Los Angeles (LAX), 46 miles away, or Long Beach (LGB), 55 miles. Book your flight to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF) if you are headed to the Spa Alexis nestled in a 300-acre outdoor wonderland complete with it’s own private lake. Car rental, taxi, and shuttle service are available from all above airports once you arrive.

Special Note
The Biggest Loser Resort is award-winning! It received Spa Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Silver Sage Award for “Best Weight Loss Spa,” placed second in Spas of America’s Top 50 Spas, and voted Best for Hiking in the SpaFinder Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award competition. The resort also won SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Awards in multiple categories, including “Best Fitness Program,” “Best for Weight Loss,” “Best for Hiking,” and “Best for Affordability,” and other awards.

So if buddying up and working with a trainer has always produced the best results for you, then pack up your sneakers, workout clothes, and bathing suit and head to the closest airport for the most alluring Biggest Loser Resort. The time is now to get a kick-start on your weight loss program. If you do, you’ll never look back.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Fitness Zest of Zumba


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week96Several years ago, my longtime friend Jennifer O. sent me a text telling me to meet her at her gym to join in a Zumba® class. At the time, I never heard of it the class. All I knew is it was some type of Latin-inspired aerobic dance-fitness class. Like always, I was up for a new endeavor and so I met her.

I positioned myself a couple behind the instructor so I could follow along easier. The upbeat music started pumping and so did the dance moves. I felt like I was playing Simon Says as I was constantly one step behind the teacher as she wiggled, twisted, turned, spun, and shook. What had I gotten myself into? While I am very athletically inclined and have excellent hand eye coordination, moving my body naturally to music and memorizing choreographed dance moves was never one of my personal fortes. But I carried on and noticed others simply loving the class, easily mastering the moves as Zumba veterans.

Created in the 1990s by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez, the word “Zumba” derives from a Colombian word meaning to move quickly and have fun! The energizing group exercise is growing in popularity with over 14 million people partaking in weekly classes in over 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries. The fun motto of the program is “Ditch the workout; join the party!” – ideal for those who don’t like to workout. Classes are typically one hour long and fuses aerobic activity with contemporary dance moves from various Latin styles – hip hop, samba, salsa, flamenco, soca, merengue, mambo, tango, and others – to nightclub-style choreography and heart-pumping music.

A great FYI is that there are several different types of classes of Zumba available; hence there is a class for every age and every ability level. In addition to the regular Zumba fitness classes, there is Zumba Core, which focuses solely on strengthening your mid body. Zumba Toning targets your abs, thighs, arms, and other muscles while Zumba Circuit features strength exercises on various circuit-training stations in timed intervals. ZumbaKids is specifically for kids, 4 to 12. Zumba Gold and Zumba Gold-Toning are both designed with the older generation in mind. Zumba Sentao is a chair workout, focusing on using your body weight to strengthen and tone.

The benefits of Zumba are many. Participates burn an average of 400 or more calories during an hour-long class. That tops step aerobics, hooping, power yoga and cardio kickboxing! Other benefits of the full body workout include better cardiovascular health, improved coordination, and increased mobility. It’s a total body toner, relieves tension and stress, and releases your blissful endorphins. Best of all, you don’t even feel like your exercising!

If you have yet to take a Zumba class, join in the next time your gym has one scheduled. You will quickly forget you where you are as you are mentally transported to a tropical oasis while you wiggle, twist, turn, spin, and shake to better health.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

How Fast is Too Fast for Weight Loss


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week94When The Biggest Loser contestant Rachel Frederickson won Season 15 of the television reality show, the public and the media went on a frenzy – her weight loss gone too far. During the taping of the show and the three months proceeding, the voice-over artist from Los Angeles dropped from 260 to an unrecognizable 105 pounds to claim the season’s crown and $250,000 cash prize. Her astonishing 155-pound weight lost, equivalent to 59.62% of her starting body weight, was achieved from daily six hours workouts and limiting her diet to 1,600 calories a day.

At 5’4” and 105 pounds, 24-year-old Rachel is now the exact same size of me. So of course, I will disagree with the self-claim body critics who will say she’s too thin and that she is anorexic. I like my size. And I think Rachel looks great! I believe it’s perhaps more about the shock of going from an unhealthy, obese body size to where she is today in the rapid speed of time to complete. In just under eight months. Wow! Now that is motivation and discipline. Or is it insanity and starvation?

To be fair, a swift weight loss can occur when a person of obese size stops eating poorly, frequently, and in overly amounts with little or no exercise in their day-to-day life and instead switches to eating wisely and healthy with the right foods in the right amounts and with an exercise program approved by their physician or personal trainer. The pounds can drop off. Easily 10 or more a week initially, depending on your starting size, and less as time passes. And of course, results are even quicker when you are on a national television show and have the constant support and guidance from a personal trainer and dietician.

So for those who aren’t cast on a weight lose show, what is a good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to losing weight? How much is too much and how much is too little? How much should you lose versus can lose?

There is no perfect answer to these questions since there are several baseline factors to consider. Starting weight. Goal weight. Metabolism. Genetics. Health conditions. Diet restrictions. Discipline. Exercise regimen. Support system. Lifestyle. Environment. And more.

However, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, your goal should be just one to two pounds a week. That’s all. It may not sound like a lot, but remain patient, dedicated, and consistent and you will see your hard work will pay off over time. Plus losing weight at a slow steady pace reduces the risk of unwanted side effects and increases the likelihood that you will be able to keep the weight off long term, like with The Biggest Loser Season 1 winner Ryan Benson, who started at 330, dropped to 208 and is now at 300 and Season 3 winner Erik Chopin, who began at 407, plummeted to 193 and is back up to 368.

Rapid weight loss is unhealthy and ineffective. It can cause dehydration, fatigue, dry skin and nails, hair loss, bloating, constipation, gallstones, iron and nutrient deficiencies, mineral loss, liver damage, heart disease, osteoporosis, and more. And if you are losing more than a couple of pounds a week, your body perceives it’s in starvation and will start burning muscle for needed fuel and energy. With less muscle mass, your metabolism automatically slows down and burns fewer calories.

As with any weight loss plan, consult with your primary physician first and request a complete physical before dieting. He or she can help you select a diet plan that is right for you and the correct amount of calories. Discuss an exercise program that is appropriate for your age, existing, fitness level, and goal. Finally, keep a dairy to help with your own personal weight loss journey. Track your daily food intakes and times along with the triggers that cause you to want to eat outside your meals and snacks. Document your exercise regimen, nightly hours of sleep, and your daily stress levels. Collectively, this will reveal your best recipe for your weight loss.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Birthdays – A Time to Set Goals in 5 Easy Steps



week93Today is my birthday. Like many, I have stopped counting years ago, as age is just a number and numbers don’t matter. It’s all about how you live your life and how well you care for your self well-being.

Some of us love our special days and enjoy it with great festive celebrations. Dinners. Parties. Gifts. Trips. Others keep it on the down low and treat it as just another ordinary day.

Birthdays are milestone markers. They wrap up one chapter and start a new one. A clean upcoming year. A fresh slate. A new beginning. And if you weren’t happy where you were yesterday or yesteryears, well, here’s your chance. No one can argue otherwise, after all, it is your one and only day a year; the one day where no one can, or should, challenge you.

So what will I be doing this year on my special day? No big parties with friends. No celebratory trip planned, as of yet, however since I do love to travel, perhaps a later trip I will label a post birthday celebration. Actually, right now I’m working from home – snowed in from a nor’easter snowstorm – with birthday wishes from family and friends via texts, phone calls, emails, and social media mentions starting since the day before. If it weren’t for the snowfall, it would be the gym and the office in that order, followed by ideally an aerobics class afterward and then dinner at a favorite restaurant with one of my two brothers. Dinner with my other brother occurred a few nights ago as an early celebration since I was near his town.

Like both my brothers, I love to achieve – a born driven go-getter – and there is no better time then now to create some new goals to achieve than on a birthday. It’s an idea time to reflect and reminisce the years gone by then plot and plan the next upcoming bright ones ahead tagged with new aspiring goals. And if the years don’t seem bright at the moment, now is the perfect time to make certain they will be.

Setting and obtaining goals first takes a true steadfast mindset filled with determination and disciplinary actions to make your efforts and hard work pay off. The following are five steps to make your goals reality.

1. Commitment.
When planning your goals, select the one that is your highest priority and focus on that goal first. Concentrating on one goal at a time gives you the clarity you will need to achieve it. Then develop a realistic plan of action with a timeframe and benchmarks.

2. Discipline.
Stay focus with your eye on the prize and keep it going. Find the time. Every day, every week, whatever it takes to make it happen! This is the period that divides the go-getting achievers and the no-drive couch potatoes. First go at it didn’t work? Try again. Try another. Just make it materialize.

3. Consistent.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Never waver. Don’t back off. Staying consistent is a key ingredient to achieving your goal. Keep it going and stay persistent with your efforts and eventually you will achieve the results you are seeking.

4. Faith in Self.
Believe. It will happen with time and your hard work. Thicken your skin and resist listening to those who say that you will fail. Show them wrong. Prove it to yourself. There have been many before you that were told they won’t succeed and they do. Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Stephen King, Isaac Newton, J.K. Rowling, KFC Colonel Harvard David Sanders, Jerry Seinfeld, Dr. Seuss, Steven Spielberg, Socrates, Vincent Van Gogh, Vera Wang, Oprah Winfrey, F.W. Woolworth and others who believed in themselves and, despite of the odds against them, went on to find great success.

5. Have Heart.
Movie character Rocky Balboa once said, “Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.” You must have heart and passion. You have to want it and want it bad. The achiever may not always be the one who finishes first or at the first go but often the person who fell down a few downs along the way, brushed him or herself off, and got back up to finish what they started – all because they had heart.

Stay committed, remain discipline, be consistent, keep faith in yourself, and have heart and you will achieve your goal.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Book Review: “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner


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week92As long as I can remember, I love to travel. Getting on a plane and taking off is a pure rush for me as much as exploring a new destination and meeting fellow travelers and residents. This is greatly due in part to my father who was a world traveler. Traveling was his biggest passion and it mine as well.

Another love of mine is nutrition and I can get never enough of learning more about it. What are the latest news, trends, and change of thinking? Hottest diet? I read about it and perhaps dabbled. Controversy over a vitamin – too much or too little? I can weigh in. Calories over volume? Tried both. This side of me is hands down inherited from my mother who has studied and practiced good nutrition her entire lifetime. Her findings put into her eating ways have been to her great benefit and good fortune, as my mother will turn 90 years young this year.

Needless to say what a joy it was to find and read a book that combines both of these two passions of mine, travel and nutrition.

In Dan Buetter’s “The Blue Zones,” he globe hops around the world to explore the homelands and secrets of how to successfully live a long healthy life from centenarians – from what they eat, how they exercise, and ways to cope with stress – and then shares his findings with his readers.

A National Geographic explorer and researcher, Buetter is an award-winning author and writer who had a deep interest in demographics and longevity. How one can turn back the biological clock, or better yet, beat it? He wanted to learn this and know how people remained mentally and physically vibrant as they aged, how they lived longer and lived better. So he formed a team of physicians and demographers and began traveling to the “blue zones” of the word, regions with the longest life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy or concentration of persons over 100.

In his book, Buetter takes you Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rico where you’ll meet a 94-year-old farmer, a 102-year-old grandmother, a 102-year-old hiker and others who share their daily healthy and lifelong habits. By observing their lifestyles extensively, Buettner’s team of professionals identifies critical everyday choices. These choices are practical tips for living long and well and include a diet of plenty of fresh fresh, unchilled fresh water, lots of fresh vegetables, limited red meat, limited fats and sweets, and a commitment to hard farm work or exercising. This is all in addition to having a richly entwined family life and close group of friends as a support system.

Buetter’s book is an interesting read, one you will find yourself dog-earing page after page. It provides the essential components of a healthy lifestyle, reinforcing life choices and priorities you may already practice – eat less, exercise daily, banish stress, and make family a priority – and others you have not. He has shared his “Blue Zone” research and discoveries on national level as well, through the media, including with appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, NBC Nightly News, Oprah Winfrey, and David Letterman plus delivering over 500 keynote speeches.

To learn of more of Buetter’s research and discoveries, pick up a hard or digital copy of “Blue Zone.” It’s a must read for all those who are health conscious and want to discover new ways from the old and wise as to stay young and healthier as well as live life longer.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.