5 simple tips to stay fit during holidays

5 simple ways to stay fit during holidays
If you want to stay fit during your holiday follow these 5 easy steps

You have done so well lately and now the holiday season is right around the corner. What I find personally difficult is to go and enjoy the well deserved holiday without jeopardising all the hard work I put in to get fit. Usually end of the holiday I go home with couple of extra kilograms not even fitting into my nice holiday pants. Do not understand me wrong holidays are there to enjoy, let out the steam, relax and not to worry about diet. However with a small effort the after holiday frustration can be avoided.

I put together this bucket list which I take with me for my next holiday just to remind myself that small things can lead to a big change to make sure you stay fit:

  1. Keep hydrated but avoid any sweetened drinks: so much better option to tap into the great variety of fruits which is available for a quick shake. You need only crashed ice, fresh fruits and a blender. In case you do not trust the ice (in some holiday destinations could be a problem) you can do wonder with simply putting some lime and mint leaves into ice cold water. Do not forget, many times you are really just thirsty and not hungry, so before you reach for food DRINK.
  2. Do not completely give up your exercise plans: exercises can be easily added into your holiday plans, you just have to WANT it. Be creative even if you do not have a gym, you can do so much with your own body weight. It also prevents you from eating too much. What works really good for me is an early morning run before the sun comes up and gets really humid and hot. It does not have to be very long, just add some lunges and sprint at the end and you are fully refreshed and ready for the day. I also noticed that I’m much better avoiding temptation at the breakfast buffet after the exercise, I do not crave for food that much.
  3. Try out new activities for an active holiday: the best thing to avoid unnecessary eating and drinking is to keep yourself busy with fun and interesting activities. Holidays are good opportunities to try out new things. If you spend your holidays close to the water, do not be shy to go for some water activities. Stand-up paddling, kayaking, surfing or diving are really fun and great work-out options.
  4. Watch the portion: what I keep telling myself is just because I’m in holidays I do not need to eat double the portion than at home. I’m surviving pretty well at home without breakfast buffet or three course menu for each dinner. So why I’m doing it during the holidays? The variety of choices, this must be it. Why do you need to try everything in the breakfast buffet, you will have the same choices tomorrow. Rule of the thumb, starter must go. The main course is perfectly fine to satisfy your appetite, starters just added calorie. You can also go wrong with healthy choices like salad if you take it with a dressing which is a calorie bomb. The simplest to ask your waiter for olive oil and vinegar. Deserts, either share it or skip it. No compromise.
  5. Get the right combination: you love steak, no problem go for it but drop those potatoes. You have a great grilled fish do not spoil your appetite with fries, reach for the fresh salad. Finish up with a good glass of vine, sugary cocktails just add to much calories.
Do these workouts during your holiday to stay fit
Easy no gym exercises using your own body weight or be creative and find a substitute… like a coconut. Morning jogging at the beach is unbeatable.

I would be very interested to hear whether you find the list useful. Share with us what is your trick to keep fit during holidays!

Most importantly, enjoy your holiday! You deserve it!

 

Learn how to control your food portion to achieve your weight goals

Portion control for weigh loss

In the Oh mighty food – eating good is half the job blog post I have written about the 7 simple food rules to keep your weight under control on a sustainable basis. One of these food rules which is in my view the most important and might be the hardest to get it right is the portion control.

Why is it so hard to know what is the right portion to reach your weight loss goals without measuring every single calorie you put on your plate? You see, everybody understands something else under small and big portions, dependent on the habits we learned from our parents, our genetics or even the country we are living in. We do not always carry around a scale or a calculator to know exactly the calorie intake and to be fair this would be a pretty exhausting activity (and in my view totally contra-productive being obsessed with calorie counting).

I’m not a nutrition consultant and do not have scientifically proven methods but I did spend a lot of time observing my own body how it changes when I took control over the portions. And this is a pretty powerful tool, if you master it you can be sure that weight will not be your problem. This being said, you have to realise that this is a try and error process, not everything works for everybody the same way. You have to start observing your own body along the way…

Before we start I want you to think first about the most common pitfalls which prevents you today to stick to the healthy portion your body needs. At the first glance it might sounds trivial but these pitfalls rooted deep inside us without us being conscious about them.

Pitfall 1:

Your eyes are always bigger than your hunger.

We do eat and take portions based on our routine we learned throughout our childhood and younger years. I’m coming from a culture where food is playing an important role in the social interaction. For every family celebration we had just way too much food on the table. I really loved it when I was a child and could not really control myself when it was about sweets. I was lucky enough that I did not have a weight problem and it only caught up with me in my adult years. I was just simply not used to think twice if I can take another portion. We were all told to finish our plates and take more. It is now coded inside us and our eyes just got customised to it.

Pitfall 2:

Your plate size also matters.

I read about a very interesting experiment they made with two different groups of students. The students were invited to a lecture and during the break they were served food. They were not aware of the purpose of the experiment and therefore behaved in a natural manner. The food was served in buffet style (the real fat maker), the only difference between the two groups was the plate size. It does not come as a surprise that the group with the smaller plate size generally ate less then the group with bigger plates. So why is that, they could have taken equally the same. It is somehow coded into our brain that it is ok to fill our plate once max twice but our brain does not say anything about the size of the plate. If you are living in a country where the serving sizes are bigger you will eat more automatically.

Pitfall 3:

The rest is also food / be aware of the package size.

The next pitfall I observed on myself is my shopping and cooking habits. Somehow I was hardwired to buy enough food at once, so I do not have to go shopping again or just to make sure we do not run out of ingredients. I mean who buys two pieces of tomato at once? We are encouraged to get bigger and more “economical” package sizes. However if you are not cooking for an army or having a really big family you do not really need that. Think about it this way, it always creates rest which we do not want to throw away (who throws away food?) so you just eat it even though you would not need to.

To sum it up, these pitfalls create eating habits which we do not realise, do not question and therefore do not control. It is much harder to stop munching on your favorite food and leave the half plate aside than just get the right portion and be happily satisfied with it.

Let’s establish the ground rules:

Rule 1: 

Stick to your receipt book.

Nowadays there are so many sources of healthy receipts available which also indicate calories and serving sizes. You do not need to think about it just follow the instructions. But most importantly you have to stick to the quantities the receipt advises. Do not get tempted to cook for 1 person the portion which meant for 2. Also, do not feel ridiculous in the shop to buy two pieces of tomato if the receipt requires only that much, even though you could get a best bargain package. Think about it this way, food is much better fresh and at the end of the day you will spend even less if you follow this strategy.

Rule 2:

Keep the cups or use your palm.

Healthy_portion_fruits_vegetablesWhen I eat fruits and vegetables (which is forming a big part of my food intake) I have adopted two really simple rules. A hand full of fruits after each meal which translates into approximately half a cup. When it comes to vegetables I take 1 cup or 2 hand full of my favourite veggies as a side dish besides protein and carbs.  I apply exactly these measures in the morning when I prepare my favorite muesli with blueberries or in the evening when I have my mango chicken with green beans. I find 1 apple a day rule also brilliant, I normally eat it in the afternoon when I start getting a small hunger.

Rule 3:

Get the right quantity of  the clean carbohydrates.

Carb_healthy_serving_sizeThere is a whole paranoia about eating carbs. Carbs are known as real fat maker and I still recommend them to eat? Yes, if you stick to the clean carbs which do not spike up your insulin but convert them to glucose over a longer period of time (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, sweet potatoes, whole grain oatmeal). Low carbs diets just do not work long term, you might lose weight at the first instance, however when you want to live a healthy and fit lifestyle (which I assume if you are reading this post) you need to fuel your sport activity. If you stop eating them your body will use protein to keep going and you would eventually lose your muscle mass which you definitely do not want. Instead you should take the right portion of the clean carbs. As a rule of the thumb I take 1/3 cup from quinoa, bulgur or brown rice for lunch as a side dish beside protein and vegetables. For breakfast I usually take 1/4 cup or 2 tbsp of whole grain oatmeal besides fruits and yoghurt.

Rule 4:

Take your lean proteins to build muscle.

Proteins are extremely important especially when you are living an active life and do regular sports as they are the main building blocks of your muscles. What is also important that you go for the lean proteins to keep your fat intake under control (e.g. eggs, chicken, fish, seafood, lean beef, greek yoghurt). Try to eat for each meal a portion of  lean protein but like with everything keep a healthy balance. As a general rule I normally take from fish and chicken 110-120 gram for one meal.  This is also how I shop, I go for the small package or ask for the exact size at the counter. 3 big tbsp (70 gram) from cottage cheese or greek yoghurt is perfect to start my day. I generally eat eggs on the weekends after my long run but no more than two. I keep cheese consumption rather low, taking mainly feta or halloumi cheese to my salad but keep it max 4 slices (approx. 40gram) for 1 serving.

The next is your turn…

Enjoy

 

On the road – simple tips how to stay fit during business travel

Stay_fit_and_active_while_business_travel

I used to travel a lot back at the time, staying several weeks in hotels and commuting between offices and airports. I always found very difficult to find a healthy balance and stay fit next to all the travel. There were just way to many uncontrollable factors (at least this is how I felt). For example the food in the airplane, local food in the country I visited, regular company dinners, breakfast buffet, long office hours and no adequate canteen. Eating out and not being able to prepare food for myself was the real issue. I also could not keep the regular exercise routine anymore. It was just too hard to stick to a fix schedule with all the appointments.

During my most busiest time of traveling I started putting on weight, little by little added up. I was really frustrated about it and did not know what to do until I changed my job and stopped travelling. Of course this is not always an option, it must be some other solution to make business travel more healthy. This week I was back on the road again. When I was packing my luggage I was keep telling myself that I will do everything this time not to fall back to the old routine.

I started to think about these uncontrollable factors and how I can take them out of the way. Let’s just go through the list what makes business travel so unhealthy and find a way to deal with it:

Airplane food: dependent on the time of travel have your proper meal before the flight and skip the food entirely. Take the water to get properly hydrated. If it is not a practical choice (which in my case was not an option due to flight times) take the time to order a healthier option. Airline firms offer nowadays many food options to choose from especially in long haul flight. I have  a vegetarian in my profile which works for me.

Business lounge: while it is really practical to spend your waiting time in the lounge, do not get tempted by all the free food just to pass the time until boarding. Instead take a good book with you or do a rehearsal of your presentation and stay with your refreshing water.

Wending machines: you have been traveling and had a lot of meeting, no time for lunch? Do not grab sweets from the wending machine. Instead bring your apple and nuts with you to fight your hunger until you can bite into something better. It is generally a good idea to take with you your favourite healthy bar too for traveling.

Business dinner: it is almost inevitable to go for dinner with your clients or colleagues and no question networking is key for your business. However think it through and organise it according to your schedule. Do not skip your gym time entirely to have a bite, keep some evenings empty for yourself. Also, when you eat out remember the 7 simple food rules, they also apply when you are not at home!!

Lack of sport: sport is a must while traveling therefore pick your hotel wisely. Do some research before you book, a nice and inviting gym can support your motivation. Go there on the morning before breakfast to make sure your workout does not get skipped in case you have obligation in the evening. You can also do some exercises in your room directly, you only need your body weight and a towel, perfect for planking, jumping jacks, burpee, squads or crunches. Walk the streets, great start of the day to collect your thoughts before you arrive to the office or meet your client.

Challenge is up! Let’s go girls!

Oh mighty food – eating good is half of the job

Good_food_7_rules

 

Once my personal trainer told me that weight loss is a very easy formula, you burn more calories than you take in. Simple… So why is it so difficult to lose weight? There are bunch of books written on different theories and kick-ass diets.

Ok, I admit that I have tried couple of these diets but my problem was sticking to them long term. One of my success was the metabolic balance but going around with the list of things I can and can’t eat, measuring each gram of food I take in just made me tired. Also, I tend to stick to the diet during less stressful times and skip it during the stress phases.

There are many cool apps out there where you can record the food intake and it shows the number of calories consumed per meal.  If you belong to the group who says: “It can’t be that I gained weight again, I hardly ate something”, I really encourage you to try one of these apps (count calories apps) because weigh loss starts with the realisation. My personal favourite is MyFitnessPal free application. While I find really good to make myself aware how much I ate and how much I burned doing sport, I still have difficulty to find time to update it on a consistent basis.

Therefore I decided to put my energy into finding simple rules which I can stick to long term, basically changing my habits which influences my choices to strike a healthy 80/20 balance in a consistent way.


7 simple food rules to follow for sustainable weight control:

  1. Drinking, drinking, drinking but only water and tea – no additional sugar intake with drinks. Sorry to say but smoothies are also out, they just contain way to many calories. Smoothies should be integrated into the meal plans, replacing fruits or vegetables.
  2. Take a portion of fruit after every meal. I will come back to what it means a portion.
  3. Eat a meal 3 times a day, do not skip breakfast. After a long time finally I started taking my time in a morning to have breakfast. Even though I’m not very hungry in the mornings, it helps me to bridge the time until lunch. I feel much less hungry and makes it easier to take the right choice.
  4. Keep dinner slim, in case you have family try to eat in time and have a light lunch. During the years, I have noticed that my weight loss is directly linked to what and how much I ate for dinner. If I wanted to drop a few kilos before an important event, I started to cut back on my dinner. It really works…
  5. Portion control, in fact it should be at the first place of this list. This is the heart of every diet and weight loss effort. You might be eating healthy food, lots of fruits and vegetables but this might be a problem “a lot”. I had a same feeling before I started metabolic balance, this program really gave me a lesson about the power of portions. Without going into the details as this topic deserves a dedicated post, I would like to raise your awareness with the following comparison: 1 cup blueberries 11o kcal – 1 hour walking 195 kcal burned / 1 cup grapes 115 kcal – 1 hour moderate breast swimming 236 kcal burned / 1 apple 100 kcal – 1 hour aerobic 384 kcal burned. 
  6. Leave the bread aside, this is a bad habit of mine to take the complementary bread placed in front of my nose in the restaurants. I really do not need to fill my stomach with refined carbohydrates. In fact I stopped buying bread for home completely. I replace it with healthy options like oat, quinoa or bulgur. They keep me going the whole day.
  7. Cut back the sweets, this is personally one of the hardest rule to follow. I love sweets, I live in Switzerland where every corner a delicious treat is waiting for you. Therefore I do not keep any sweets at home, they would not be safe. Only exceptions are dark chocolates with over 70% cacao content. I also keep unsalted and unsweetened nuts like almond and walnuts, they do the trick when I crave for sweets. Lastly, keeping the 80/20 rule in mind, I allow myself time to time a small treat of my most loved one.

Try these simple rules for the next two weeks to change your eating habits and let us know how you feel. Share with all of us if you have a secret weapon against craving, we want to hear all!

Fruits & VegetablesAli Karimian on flickrand reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0