Trying to eat right? It's all in the planning

Does this sound familiar? You vow to start eating better. You go to the store and pick out healthy & nutritious foods. You omit the old ones that were making you feel tired and weighing you down. The week goes by and you're actually feeling lighter and more energetic. But then, oh-oh, you're out of the salad mix and down to your last broccoli spear. The lean chicken breast that's been fueling your workouts is gone and you don't have time to defrost another package. You're in a rush and you need to eat NOW. So you make a quick batch of mac and cheese. You come home after work and make something else that's less than virtuous. It's not you fault you think; I had nothing left to eat and I'm starving! 

If I had a dollar every time a client of mine tells me this story. Yes, it's true. Life happens in the midst of your pursuit for a better body. That is why YOU HAVE TO PLAN if you want to succeed. Unless you can afford a personal chef and shopper, then healthy well-balanced meals are not going to miraculously appear in your kitchen. You need to prioritize your time and make sure you have what you need for the week ahead. It may cut into your Facebook time a bit, but you will be rewarded with a thinner and healthier you.


Make a list and check it twice:
Before heading to the store go through your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards to make sure you have everything you'll need. When in doubt buy extra of things you can freeze like lean proteins, spinach, and broccoli and healthy canned goods like beans and tuna fish. Fruits like apples and oranges last a long time and once bananas get too ripe you can peel them and store in the freezer for smoothies. It's also a good idea to have plenty of food storage containers and plastic sandwich & freezer bags on hand.

Storing food:
Instead of just shoving veggies in the crisper, take an extra couple of minutes to wash and cut things like celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. Dice an onion and bell pepper. Having these veggies ready to go will make salads a snap and give you fewer excuses to eat poorly. If it's in your budget, you can always buy things pre-prepped such as bagged salad mix, pre-washed spinach and kale or cleaned and sliced zucchini.

Protein prep:
Having lean protein on hand can be a challenge if you don't prepare. Do what I do: Make extra portions of things like chicken breast, salmon or hardboiled eggs- proteins that will be good cold on things like salads or in wraps. To take it an extra step, slice up that chicken into 4-6oz portions and put in little individual sandwich baggies so you can just grab and go. Make sure the fridge is also stocked with high-protein Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Make snack bags:
Anyone who knows me will see me pull out my insulated lunch bag from time to time. Since I eat small frequent meals, I need to have snacks when out and about. The night before, prep your bag with things like grass-fed cottage cheese, chopped veggies, hummus, turkey breast,  a small apple, 1/4 cup of nuts and a couple of bottles of water. No excuses! Now, I live in the real world too. I try to eat whole foods whenever possible, but I always have a stash of low-sugar, high protein bars in my car and purse for those times when I just have no time to prepare. 

Learn to love your freezer:
I rely heavily on my freezer. Sometimes I don't have time to go to the store, so it's great to have plenty of healthy food that just needs a little defrosting. I make batches of things like brown rice, quinoa, black beans and store them in 1/2 cup containers in the freezer. All it takes is a quick reheating. Plus It's so much easier to make things once (that will last you weeks) as opposed to daily. Instead of putting a whole pack of raw ground turkey in the refrigerator when I get home from the grocery store, I make 4 oz patties and store them in freezer bags in the freezer. This way I'm not stuck eating turkey 5 days in a row! I do this with all my proteins (chicken thighs, chicken breasts, fish, beef, etc) The day before, I take out a couple of proteins to make for lunch or dinner and let defrost overnight in the refrigerator.  Also, when I'm out of my fresh veggies, I can heat up some healthy frozen ones like peas, edamame, spinach, etc, to round out my meals.

Yes, this all takes some time. But sabotaging your diet over and over because you're not prepared is so much worse. Put in the extra time. I promise you it's worth it.

Brain & Body Stimulating "At Work-Outs"

I know, I know, you're too busy to exercise.  You've got obligations, family to attend to, and not to mention that full time job.  You're stuck behind a desk most of the day, so suiting up to go to the gym just ain't happening. Ok then, why not get a little exercise right there at work?  I'm not talking about sweating your butt off trying to burn mega calories. This is about being stronger, healthy, less stressed out and feeling good in your skin.  Even just 10 minutes can give you a mood boost. And we all just want to be happy, right?  Also getting in some physical activity will make you a more productive employee.  You'll return to your work recharged, with a clear mind, and with a burst of new energy!Here are 7 Exercises and 3 Stretches that you can do right at your desk
  1. MARCHING IN PLACE- Just simply bring your knees up and down for 1 minute.  To get your heart rate up a little more, pump your arms up and down over your head ("raising the roof" if you were dancing)  Anytime your arms are over your head, your heart rate goes up.
  2. PUSH-UPS AGAINST YOUR DESK- You don't have to drop and give me 20.  But you can get a little chest workout if you do push-ups against your desk or a wall.  Place your hands shoulder width apart and place your feet about 3 feet away from the desk or wall. Go as far down as you can.  Aim for 10-20 
  3. LEG LIFTS- Here's a great way to get a little tush toning.  Hold the back of your chair and raise your right leg up as far as you can (straight behind you) while pointing your toe. Each time you do, your glutes will contract. Repeat 30 times. Then hold your leg up as high as you can and do 30 little micro lifts or "pulses" for an extra butt burn.  Repeat both exercises on the left leg.
  4. TRICEP DIPS- To get rid of those turkey arms you need to work your triceps.  A very effective way to target them is to do dips. Here's how to do them: Sit with the heels of your hands on the edge of a sturdy chair seat. Slide your butt off the seat, and support your weight with your hands. Bend your elbows back, and slowly lower your butt toward the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in.  (You might only be able to go down a small amount in the beginning until you get stronger.  But the goal is to lower your body so that the elbows are bent at 90 degree angle)  Then push back up until your elbows are straight. You can also modify this exercise even more if it's too challenging. Simply do the same thing but on the floor instead of off a chair. Aim for 1-20 dips 
  5. CHAIR SQUATS- These work your quadriceps and butt big time.  Step about a foot away from your chair with your legs shoulder width apart.  Bend your knees as if you were about to sit down in the chair.  But just before your butt hits the seat, stand back up.  Aim for 10-15
  6. OVER HEAD SIDE REACHES- This exercise with help strengthen your obliques, aka your "love handles." Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and arms at your sides. Now reach your right arm over your head and to the side as far as it will go (you'll know your reaching far enough when it feels like there's a vice grip on your the love handle area) Then return back to the resting position.  Repeat 15-20 times on the right side and then do the left side.
  7. MODIFIED JUMPING JACKS- Feel free to do regular old jumping jacks, but if you want a less intense version to do at work, try the modified kind.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms up and out at your sides.  Step your left foot in so that it meets the right while bringing both arms down.  Then step that left foot back out and bring your arms back up to your side.  Next bring your right foot in so that it meets the left foot while bringing your arms down again.  Repeat back and forth as quickly as you can for 1 minute
  8. HAMSTRING STRETCH- Tight hamstrings not only effect your range of motion but also can cause lower back pain.  A great hamstring stretch is to place your heel on something elevated (your desk or chair will do) and then straighten that leg.  Lean in as much as possible so you feel the stretch in the back of your leg.  Hold for at least 30 seconds per side
  9. REACH FOR YOUR TOES- Slightly bend your knees and let your body just hang over with your arms hanging loose.  You'll feel a nice stretch in your upper back and behind your legs as well. Hold for 30 seconds. To stretch your shoulders, gently pull your wrist with the other hand for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.  Make sure you come back up slowly to avoid getting dizzy
  10. CHEST STRETCH- Clasp your hands behind your back and stick your chest out.  If you lean back slightly, you'll also get a nice little lower back stretch in too. Hold for 30 seconds
The whole series should take about 10 minutes to complete.  Try building up to two times per day. You'll feel better and and get a little definition to boot!   

Gluten-free diet lead to weight loss? Only if you do it right…

“Gluten-Free!” If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that this label is being touted on more and more food products- from cereals and breads to cookies and protein bars.  If you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, these products may look like a godsend.  Finally, you can eat your favorite foods again without the stomach aches, diarrhea, skin rashes (or host of other ailments that gluten can cause)

Or maybe you may have heard that eliminating gluten can lead to weight loss so you’re thinking “Ok, I’ll buy the gluten-free pizza.  It must be better for me, right?”  Yes and no. Yes, if you have gluten intolerance or Celiac disease having the gluten free pizza is going to be much better on your system.  Consuming something that doesn’t cause you pain and suffering is always better in my book.  However… If you’re looking to lose weight, then these wonderful substitutes aren’t so wonderful.  In fact (gasp) they’re worse!

What the heck is gluten anyway?  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other “ancient” grains such as spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkhorn.  Oats don’t technically contain gluten but they’re almost always crossed-contaminated with wheat.  So if your oatmeal doesn’t specifically say “gluten-free” you can assume it has gluten in it.

The majority of the gluten we consume comes from wheat.  However, today’s breads and muffins aren’t the same our grandmother used to bake.  Due to hybridization to produce stronger, more plentiful crops, wheat (particularly wheat gluten) has undergone considerable structural changes.  Today’s bread has hundreds of more gluten proteins that yesteryear.  This could be why Celiac disease is four times more common now then it was 50 years ago.

The reason why a gluten-free diet can lead to weight loss is because of the significant amount of carbohydrates removed.  Low carbohydrate diets are lower glycemic and thus don’t raise insulin levels as much.  They are proven to be an effective way to lose weight and keep it off.

If you’re eating gluten-free by removing these high carbohydrate foods you will lose weight.  However, if you’re now replacing bread, bagels, pastas, cereals, etc. with gluten-free products you will gain weight!  That’s because the substances they’re replacing the gluten with will spike your insulin levels even more! 

You should steer clear from the following gluten replacements if you don’t want to put on the pounds: Cornstarch, Rice starch, Potato starch, Tapioca starch

If you can’t remember the list,  just remember to avoid anything with “starch” after it.  These starches are rapidly absorbed by the body and actually increase blood sugar levels higher then sugar!

In conclusion, if you're looking to lose weight by going gluten-free, just remember, you should avoid the gluten-free substitute products.  Sadly, you can't have your gluten-free pizza (and eat it too) 



Coconut Oil and Fat Loss


Consuming coconut oil can do many wonders for the body from boosting brain function in Alzheimer patients to killing off bacteria, viruses and fungi.  The list of benefits is extensive, but I want to focus on how coconut oil can help you lose body fat.

Coconut oil consists mostly of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).  This is vastly different than most other fats which predominantly contain long-chain fatty acids. The MCFAs found in coconut oil are metabolized differently in the body.  They do not raise blood sugar levels and are are sent straight to the liver from the digestive tract where they are used for energy.  Coconut oil is one of the most abundant sources of MCFAs.

What does this mean?  Two things... 

When you consume coconut oil you will be less hungry and your metabolism will get a boost! One study found that 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day could increase calorie expenditure by 150 calories. Even though other fats like olive oil, avocados and almond butter are healthy, you will NOT get the same calorie burn. With a reduction in hunger, you could be taking in less calories as well. This could lead to significant fat loss, especially around the middle. Studies show that MFCAs mostly reduce dangerous visceral fat from the abdomen. Goodbye pot belly!

I wouldn't recommend just adding coconut oil to your diet on top of the other fats you're already consuming.  You could possibly gain weight since you'll be adding calories (It's possible you may still lose weight though since coconut oil decreases hunger which could result in eating less) To be on the safe side (and lose even more fat) I would instead recommend replacing some of those fats with coconut oil.  

Below is some yummy ways to use coconut oil-

  • Pan frying or roasting meats and fish
  • Replacing butter or oil in baking
  • Spreading on toast or a bagel (it's delicious on raisin brown rice toast sprinkled with cinnamon!)
  • Stirring in smoothies
  • Melted over steel-cut oatmeal

One last thing- make sure you buy organic VIRGIN coconut oil.  Refined coconut oil has been bleached and deodorized.  Hight heat (and often chemicals) are used to do this which removes a lot of the health benefits.  Many companies also partially hydrogenate the oil, too, which means it will contain trans-fats.  Very bad! 

You can find organic virgin coconut oil at almost any grocery store these days including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Ralphs. And, of course, you can always buy it online.  



Should You Do a Juice Cleanse?


It's that time of year again.  Time to undue the damage caused by all those holiday treats and libations.  Sigh… Anyway, you're determined to lose the weight and thinking about doing a juice cleanse to get things started.  You might want to reconsider.

A juice cleanse consists of drinking only fresh vegetable and fruit juices anywhere from a few days to several weeks.  You can make your own unpasteurized, fresh juice at home, but most people buy their juices for the cleanse at a local juicery (No, you can't just drink orange juice from the store)  The cleanses contain about 1,000 calories per day.

Going on a juice cleanse for a couple of days probably won't hurt you.  It may actually give you a sense of focus and accomplishment and get you into the right mind set for once the cleanse is over.  However, the weight you lose will mostly be water weight and will come right back on if you don't change your eating habits.  

The danger comes when you do a cleanse for longer.  Yes, you will lose weight.  You do whenever you take in less calories then you burn in a day.  This "diet" however is lacking so many vital nutrients and is protein deficient.  Insufficient protein leads to muscle loss which causes your metabolism to slow down.  This means some of the weight you lose is muscle, not fat. Once you're done with the cleanse, you are likely to gain the weight back and MORE!

You may feel very light headed and dizzy, not to mention ravenous, even if only cleansing for a few days. One reason is that you are simply not taking in enough calories.  The other reason is that the juices may adversely affect your blood sugar levels.  Since you are only consuming juice on a cleanse, there is no fiber, fat or protein to help slow the absorption of the natural sugars. This can make you shaky and bring on that feeling of crashing and burning. This is also why juicing can be particularly dangerous for those who are diabetic or hypoglycemic.  

A major concern with juice cleanses is the practicality of them.  It's tough to go to work, take care of the kids, deal with your spouse, etc when you're hungry, cranky, dizzy or lacking strength and stamina.  Exercise might be too difficult as well, which means less calories burned and a slower metabolism. Juice cleanses can also set you back a pretty penny.  A three day cleanse will run you about $300.

Personally, I would not do a long-term juice cleanse.  I believe clean eating and fitness training is the healthy way to get lasting results.  If you want to do a very short term juice cleanse,  make sure you proceed with caution. 

Powdered Peanut Butter? Yes, Please!


I was at GNC the other day when I stumbled upon PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter.  The label, which touted 85% less calories and fat than traditional peanut butter, caught my eye.  I thought it was a bit strange, but the lady behind the counter asked me if I'd like a sample.  Being a peanut butter junkie, I had to try it.  And to my surprise , it was pretty damn yummy.

Powdered peanut butter is made by squeezing the oil out of roasted peanuts.  When you're ready to eat it, you mix a little bit of water and you get the same consistency as full-fat peanut butter.  Regular peanut butter is roughly 200 calories and 16grams of fat per 2 Tbs.   Powdered peanut butter weighs in at only 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat for the same portion!  

Powdered peanut butter is great for so much more than just making peanut butter.  It's also great right out of the canister sprinkled on yogurt, mixed into smoothies, or to top off your oatmeal.  I put it on rice noodles with peas and scallions for a quick asian-style side dish.  

I really love the brand PB2.  If you don't have a GNC near by you can buy it on Amazon.  Here's the link: PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

Strategies to Combat Disordered Eating

Eating disorders are a very serious problem and take a lot of work to overcome.  I should know, because I struggled with one for years.  I'm happy to report that I no longer have conflict with eating.  I have made peace with food and my body.  Now, not everybody has an eating disorder, but many of us still have disordered eating.  As we strive for that perfect body, we often do a lot of harm to ourselves both mentally and physically by trying crash diets & alternating between starving and bingeing which causes a vicious and unhealthy cycle.  We are left hating ourselves and usually no thinner.  Here are a few strategies to maintain a healthy relationship with food and our bodies.
  • EAT BREAKFAST- As the word breakfast implies, when you eat breakfast you are "breaking the fast." Breakfast not only increases your metabolism for the day but skipping breakfast will set you up for binging later. Most people make the mistake (as I did) of "saving up" calories for later.  Not only does this slow your metabolism, but it physically and psychologically sets you up for overeating later
  • EAT FREQUENTLY- Don't let yourself get too hungry.  Eat (even if it's just a small snack) once you start getting hungry.  Once you're at a point of being ravenous, your brain won't register quickly enough when food is consumed. You end up eating too much and that starts the vicious cycle of disordered eating
  • PAY ATTENTION TO TRIGGER FOODS- Maybe you really can't eat just one potato chip or a little ice cream.  If certain foods set you off in a downward spiral, stay away from them.  Or try eating these foods occasionally out of the house.  For instance, you might be able to handle having a scoop of ice cream at the shop down the street, but keeping a quart in your freezer might be too much for you to handle
  • JOURNAL- Journaling is a good way to notice patterns- like trigger foods, how certain people & events effect you, when you're eating due to emotions and not hunger.  Write down what you eat, the time, and how you feel.  Keeping a log can help you discover any disordered eating patterns you may have
  • FIND DISTRACTIONS- Once you realize you're being set off or tempted, sometimes just distracting yourself for 15 minutes can cause the cravings to lessen.  Go for a walk, call a friend, meditate, read a book, or just get out of the house
  • CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOODS- Certain foods will help your brain function better and reduce cravings.  A high protein and low refined carbohydrate diet will help you immensely.  This means staying away from sugar and increasing vegetables, meats and some fruit
  • PLAN YOUR MEALS AND SNACKS- Most people fail because they don't have healthy food choices available when they get hungry.  Stash snacks in your car like nuts and protein bars.  Have veggies already cut up in your refrigerator.  Stock the fridge with Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Cook up a big batch of chicken breasts that can be easily made  into chicken salad or tossed into a salad.  

Delicious Nutritional Yeast

I just discovered Nutritional Yeast and have no idea why I hadn't heard about it before. Apparently, it's a staple in vegan diets because, not only is it a good source of protein, but it tastes like cheese! I'm not a vegan (or even a vegetarian for that matter) but I love trying new things, especially if they're low in calories. So I trotted over to my local Whole Foods where they sell Nutritional Yeast in their dry bulk section. I scooped about a 2 cups into my bag (which only cost about $1.50) and headed home. 

Nutritional Yeast is yellow with little flakes in it. (It's deactivated yeast so it won't make dough rise) One tablespoon only has 25 calories and is chock full of goodness:
4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and only .5 grams of fat and 2mg of sodium.

What's really impressive is the amount of B vitamins one teeny tablespoon provides. Here are the % of Daily Values (DV)
Thiamin 320%, Riboflavin 285%, Niacin 140%, Vitamin B6 240%, Vitamin B 12 65%, Folate 30% 

Again this is for only one tablespoon! I love it so much, I usually have 2 tablespoons per day. The extra B Vitamins have been giving me more energy and I can see the difference in my workouts too. Don't be concerned about getting extra Bs. Whatever your body doesn't use, it will expel through your urine.

Now most importantly, Nutritional Yeast tastes really good! It actually does taste like cheese. Think of it as yellow parmesan. I sprinkle it on salads, popcorn, toast, and eggs and mix it into greek yogurt, cottage cheese and soup. Go get some. Your tummy and body will be happy.

FIBER- more is not necessarily better

I've always eaten a reasonably high fiber diet (plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains) But it seems like everyone was preaching to eat even more. Everything from yogurt, beverages, and cereal bars are being fortified with more and more fiber. High fiber diets are the prescription for lowering cholesterol, relieving constipation, and even losing weight.

I'm all for increasing my health when I can and started consuming more of these high fiber foods. However, I noticed that my weight was actually increasing and going to the bathroom was becoming errr... a bit of a problem. But fiber is supposed to relieve constipation, right? Everywhere I searched for constipation remedies told me so. Maybe my constipation was just as a result of getting older. I started eating prunes and taking Metamucil thinking those would help. Isn't getting older fun? Well, they didn't work, and I was getting cranky.

Then one day I came across a book called "Fiber Menace" by Konstantin Monastyrsky. His studies found that too much fiber can not only plug you up but be very damaging to your body. He claims that ailments not limited to IBS, diet failure, Crohn's Disease, Colon Cancer, and hemorrhoids are caused by a high fiber diet. At first I thought it was "kooky talk" but was willing to give it a try. Basically, he advises to eat no more than 15 grams of fiber each day. If I ate my normal fruits and veggies (and no additional fortified products) it was easy to do. I noticed a change in two days. No more constipation! And within a couple of weeks I even lost 2 pounds.

My recommendation to anyone feeling less than stellar, is to start tracking the grams of fiber you're eating. You may be eating way too many. For example, I used to eat a low carb tortilla with my eggs each morning that had 12 grams of fiber in it! Only 3 more grams and I'd be at my day's allotment. If you're eating more than 15 grams per day, start cutting back. You may be surprised how much better you look and feel. For more info check out "Fiber Menace" or the website

Not All Decaf Coffee is Better For You

Recently I eliminated coffee from my morning routine.  Gasp! Right?  Caffeine affects your insulin levels the same way sugar does so I figured I should practice what I preach. Also, I did it gradually. Little by little, I replaced small amounts of caffeinated coffee with decaf.  However, after a little research not all decaf is the same.  Most decaf on the market is made extracting the caffeine through a chemical process.  The beans are steamed or warmed to open up their pores and then they are rinsed in methylene chloride (a known carcinogen). The caffeine in the beans binds to the methylene chloride and then is flushed away.  Um, call me crazy but drinking carcinogens seems worse than caffeine. 

However, there is good news!  A process called the Swiss Method (also known as water extraction) is completely different and safe.  In this method the beans are soaked in hot water for several hours and then filtered through activated charcoal to remove the caffeine.  The only catch is that it's more expensive.  Obviously, it's worth it though.  Stores like Whole Foods carry decaf coffee made with the Swiss Method. Mount Hagen Organic-Cafe
is an instant brand I've found at Whole Foods that I love and retails for about $10.

Reduced guilt Thanksgiving desserts

Thanksgiving dinner... You know you're going to indulge a little. I know I am! And it's perfectly ok to do so. What's the point of working out hard if you can't live a little? However, for those of you who aren't at your goal weight and still trying to lose, you may want to shave a few calories here and there. One easy way to do this is to lighten up your desserts without compromising on flavor.

Here are some easy suggestions:

-Replace half of the sugar called for with Truvia (stevia based sweetener)

-Make pies using only a single crust instead of double. (Apple pies are great for this) Each slice will save you approximately 250 calories per slice

- With baked goods such as cakes, substitute apple sauce for oil. Your dessert will still be moist and delicious

- Make homemade pudding pies (like chocolate cream) with 2% milk instead of whole. You'll never miss the fat.

If you're not doing the baking yourself (or going to dinner at a friend's or family member's home) there are a couple of guidelines you should adhere to.

1.) Eat only one dessert. You're more likely to overdue it if you sample several desserts. Just think of buffets!

2.) Stay away from pecan pie. It's the worst in fat, calories and sugar.

3.) When in doubt, go with pumpkin pie. It's almost always single crust and relatively light in calories.


Perfect Summer Drink

Looking for something refreshing, calorie free and full of antioxidants? Iced tea is the drink for you! It contains 115mg of flavonoids per 8 fl oz serving. That's more than cranberry juice, orange juice, and coffee combined. And it' so easy to make.

Get a 2 quart pitcher and steep 4 tea bags (I prefer good old Lipton) in 4 cups of boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Remove tea bags and mix in 2 heaping tablespoons of (calorie and artificial free) Truvia sweetener
Next add 4 cups of cold water
Refrigerate or serve over ice
(Squeeze fresh lemons for a powerful liver cleanser as well)

Don't be tempted to buy bottled tea for their convenience. Most of these beverages contain very few of freshly brewed tea's benefits and are loaded with sugar and calories. Even the diet ones don't contain the same antioxidant benefits and usually have artificial sweeteners.

Energy Drink Before Exercise?

A lot of people turn to energy drinks such as Red Bull to give them a boost of energy. But how safe are these drinks? Are they safe to drink before exercise?

Let's first take a look at where the "energy" comes from. Most of these drinks contain high amounts of caffeine and taurine. Caffeine and taurine are not similar substances. Caffeine is a stimulant, and taurine is an amino acid. Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk, and it's commonly found as a dietary supplement. Some studies suggest that taurine supplementation may improve athletic performance, which may be why it's used in energy drinks. Up to 3,000 mg of supplemental taurine a day is considered safe. However, little is known about the effects of long-term taurine use.

A great deal though is known about the effects of caffeine. Excess caffeine consumption can lead to a whole host of issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety, rapid heart beat, and in extreme cases death. According to current FDA regulations, energy drink manufacturers must label drinks as containing caffeine, but do not have to specify the exact amount. So a lot of consumers don't know how much they're really drinking. Pair that with your morning coffee and you can be consuming way too much.

Where you can really get into trouble is when you consume an energy drink before or after exercise. Energy drinks really dehydrate the body; this puts a strain on the heart. Most of the deaths allegedly due to energy drinks occurred when a person consumed them before and/ or after performing strenous activity.

All that aside, too much caffeine (and the sugar that accompanies most of these drinks) are not good for the waist line. This is because caffeine stimulates insulin secretion which in turn increases hunger. There is a fascinating article about weight gain and caffeine consumption that explains it in detail

So if you're going to have caffeine, keep it to one cup of coffee or an energy drink with very little caffeine (which may be impossible to find). Tea is the better to option to both since it contains only 15-60 mg of caffeine depending on the varietal. (White and green tea having less caffeine than black) And lastly, it's always best to have food when consuming caffeine since this reduces the spike on your insulin levels.

Burn Your Booty Camp!

Since bathing suit season is approaching fast (yikes!) I decided to start a weekend bootcamp. It will be a great way to burn some extra calories and tone those tushies... and abs, thighs, biceps, triceps and more. All fitness levels are welcome.

If you decide to try out a session here's what you should bring:

* 1 set of free weights (around 4-5lbs for the ladies and 10lbs for the men)
* Exercise mat or towel
* Water
* $20

Saturdays 8:00am and Sundays 7:00am (weather permitting)
Woodbridge Park 11240 Moorpark St. Studio City (cross st. Elmer)

Email to let me know you're coming or with any questions!

Just appeared on KTLA!

I had the wonderful opportunity to appear on Los Angeles' hit KTLA morning show. I was showing off some great workout wear from I Am Beyond The designers made these garments specifically for the fitness girl who's on the go. In other words me! These clothes are so versatile. I can train a client and then hit the grocery store without looking like I just came from working out. Most of us are so busy and always multi-tasking. These adorable outfits will keep keep us looking great along the way!

Genetically Modified Food: Why You Should Avoid It

Genetically modified food is infiltrating our food and you probably don't even know you're eating it. The term GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. Genes from other plants, viruses, bacteria, animals, etc. are inserted into the genes of certain products (such as corn or soy) to make them more stable and resistant to drought, disease, and pesticides.

Are they safe?

Well before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.

Here is a summary of crops, foods and food ingredients have been genetically modified as of May, 2010:

Currently Commercialized GM Crops in the U.S.:

(Number in parentheses represents the estimated percentage that is genetically modified.)

Soy(91%) Canola(88%) Corn(85%) Sugar Beets(90%) Hawaiian papaya(more than 50%) Alfalfa, Zucchini and Yellow Squash(small amount) Tobacco(Quest® brand)

Other Sources of GMOs:

• Dairy products from cows injected with the GM hormone rbGH
• Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame
(NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
• Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed
• Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen
• Contamination or pollination caused by GM seeds or pollen

Some of the Ingredients That May Be Genetically Modified: Vegetable oil, vegetable fat and margarines (made with soy, corn, cottonseed, and/or canola)

Ingredients derived from soybeans: Soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy isoflavones, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, tamari, tempeh, and soy protein supplements.

Ingredients derived from corn: Corn flour, corn gluten, corn masa, corn starch, corn syrup, cornmeal, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

Complete List of Invisible Ingredients

Some of the Foods That May Contain GM Ingredients:

Infant formula
Salad dressing
Hamburgers and hotdogs
Fried food
Veggie burgers
Meat substitutes
Ice cream

Frozen yogurt
Tamari and Soy sauce
Soy cheese
Tomato sauce
Protein powder
Baking powder
Any sugar not 100% Cane
Confectioner's glaze
Vanilla (may contain corn syrup)
Peanut butter
Enriched flour
White vinegar

As you can see GMOs are everywhere! So how can you avoid them?

The easiest way is to eat organic. Organic foods do NOT use GMOs. The next best thing is to look for Non-GMO product seals. This food may not be certified organic, but it does not contain GMOs. Otherwise, you can probably bet there's GMOs in your food. The FDA doesn't require manufactures to label for GMOs which is so scary. To learn what manufacturers & farmers are committed to making healthy food without GMOs download this shopping list:

Why Breakfast Is So Important For Weight Loss

Mom always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She was right. This is particularly true if you're trying to lose weight. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are generally thinner than those who skip. Believe me, I understand a dieter's rationale for skipping breakfast. They think that they'll be "saving" calories for later. Not only does that plan usually backfire (since you get so ravenous later that you end up overeating) but eating breakfast makes your body more efficient in losing fat.

Let's break it down: You've just been asleep for 7-9 hours and haven't eaten anything for at least that long, most likely a couple of hours more. Right now you're body is in starvation mode. You're blood sugar (aka glucose) levels have plummeted and your metabolism has slowed to a crawl. If you're trying to lose weight, the last thing you want to do is keep your metabolism at this lowered state. "Breaking the fast" by eating breakfast will rev up your fat burning ability.

Eating a little complex carbohydrates is important since the body requires them to utilize fat. However, it is also crucial to eat some protein too. The body requires protein approximately every 8 hours (athletes and those who train a lot require more) or else it starts to eat its' own muscle mass for fuel. Less muscle mass= lowered metabolism and increased body fat. By not eating after a night's sleep, you are unknowingly aiding in this process, and losing the lean muscle you've worked hard to build up.

What should you eat? Like I just mentioned, protein and a little complex carbs is the way to go. If you're not used to eating breakfast start of with a small amount and you will get used to it in no time. Here are some great suggestions:

* 1 cup of Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup berries

* 2 whole eggs an 1 piece of whole grain bread (Ezekiel 4:9 is my personal recommendation)

* Omelette made with 1 whole egg and 3 extra whites, peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach & topped with a sprinkle of cheese and avocado

* 1/2 cottage cheese with 1/2 handful of nuts

* 1 cup cooked steel-cut oats and 1 cup 1% or skim milk

* Protein shake made with whey protein powder, 1/2 cup berries, 2 tbs ground flax seeds, water

As you can see you don't have to eat a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast (and please don't!) to get your metabolism off to the right start. Just 200-300 calories will do you just fine :-)

Could Your Thyroid Be Making You Fat?

If you've tried EVERYTHING you can to lose weight and the pounds still won't budge, you should get your thyroid checked. Healthy thyroid functioning is crucial to regulating metabolism. Even if your thyroid is just a little on the low side, it may still be very hard to lose weight. I found this to be the case with me. Even with an impeccable diet and fitness regimen, I found it harder and harder to keep my weight under control. I had other issues too that made me go see an endocrinologist: extreme fatigue being the biggest one. The lab results showed that I had mild hypothyroidism.

I am now taking Armour Thyroid (a natural thyroid replacement) and go see my doctor every few months to monitor my progress. There are some adjustments that need to be made before you find the right medicine and dose that works for you. When your thyroid is functioning properly, you will still need to eat right and exercise to keep your weight under control. But the difference is that this time your efforts will work!

Unfortunately some doctors are not sympathetic to individuals who have mild hypothyroidism, instead dismissing them as lazy. If this is the case, find a doctor who is willing to help you. If any of these symptoms ring true to you, go get your blood work checked...

Common Hypothroidism Symtpoms

* Inappropriate weight gain
* Chronic fatigue/ sluggish, feeling run down
* Muscle weekness
* Frequent constipation
* Brain fog
* Feeling cold (especially in hands & feet) when others are hot
* Low blood pressure/ slow pulse
* Thinning, dry hair
* Husky, hoarse or gravelly voice
* Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
* Having trouble conceiving
* Mood swings/ depression
* No/low sex drive
* Developed allergies or they have become worse
* Dizziness or vertigo
* Heart palpitations

A great resource to pick up is LIVING WELL WITH HYPOTHYROIDISM by Mary J. Shoman