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It’s week 8 of the Biggest Achiever Program, and for the most part the challenges so far have revolved around food, and what we do or don’t put into our bodies. Good nutrition is essential for a healthy body. Also necessary, however, is exercise. Unless you are involved in some sort of rigorous/two-a-day training program, it’s probably safe to say that you could use a little more exercise in your life. So this week’s challenge will be to take your exercise up a notch.*

*There are many different ways to “take your exercise up a notch.” I would say “increase the amount of exercise you currently do”, but some of you will be at your max for the days of week that you train. For some the increase will come by increasing the amount of days per week and for others, it will be the duration or intensity of the exercise itself. There are many other acute variables that can be adjusted as well, including volume, load, rest periods, etc. If you are currently solely doing cardiorespiratory training, adding strength training into your routine is another great way to shake things up.  Since this challenge is so individualized, feel free to email me with questions on how you should safely take this to the next level. 

This challenge will obviously vary based on your current exercise regimen. Below are a few quick examples of what you can do to switch up your routine. As a Group Fitness Instructor, I highly recommend you try a Group Fitness (Group Exercise/GroupX) class. They can be intimidating at first, I understand that. I was intimidated as well. But just remember that everyone has had their first class, everyone has felt those same feelings. Take a risk, you may find that you really enjoy it. Worst case scenario is that it’s not your thing. If so, no big deal. If we all liked the same things, the world would be a terrible place to live. So embrace it, and try something else.

SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE: So let’s say you are currently doing nothing for your body in terms of exercise and/or are currently under a doctor’s care. If this is the case, you will need to start VERY slowly. In fact, I recommend you get your doctor’s approval to engage in exercise. An easy way for someone living a sedentary lifestyle to start exercising is to simply go for a short walk. Any way you can move a little bit more during the day will go a long way for you.

Couple exercising outdoors

MODERATE EXERCISER: Let’s say your current workout regimen is a run or some sort of moderate exercise 2-3 times a week. I would encourage you to add strength training to that, twice a week, and possibly one more day of cardio. If you are a runner, try adding one day of exercise on the elliptical machine, which will provide you with some cardio exercise with less of a stress on your body. Maybe you don’t want to strength train. I could go on and on about the benefits of strength training, regardless if you want to change your muscles/body or not, but I’ll save that for another post. If you prefer not to lift weights, I would recommend you try some body weight exercises, like planks, push ups, bridges, etc. As a moderate exerciser, you are shooting for 4-5 days of exercise, up from 2-3.

WORKOUT-A-HOLIC: Maybe you work out quite a bit, say… 4-6 times a week. I would encourage you to switch up what you are doing for the week. Try interval training for example? Tabata is a great way to torch calories fast, lose weight, retain lean muscle mass, and rev up that metabolism! Or if you always do interval training, try to go for a long walk or a run. Get some strength training in and try some new exercises. Or maybe you always work out in the evenings, try morning workouts this week. This is for the person who is in their groove as far as their workouts go. You never want to get too comfortable. Also, ensure you take at least one day off a week to rest and let your body recover. Hard workouts tear the body down, and you will need to let it recuperate, otherwise your body will being breaking down muscle, which of course is no good.

One week is not nearly enough time to see a difference in switching up your workout routine, but it will be good to introduce yourself to new things. It takes 21 days to make/break a habit, so I highly recommend trying to switch it up for the next 21 days. You’ll truly be amazed at what comes out of it. Contact me for me current teaching schedule! If you are not a member at 24 Hour Fitness or Equinox, please let me know, and I will get you in on a guest pass!

Eating healthy becomes much easier when we are in control of what and how we cook. It is possible to find healthy meals outside of your own home, but you lose control over how such items are cooked. Eggs cooked in oil, sweet potatoes fried instead of baked… restaurants typically take the cheap and easy approach to all things. This week, we are going to focus on cooking our own food. This is going to be an essential concept in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

This week, you will cook at least 6 meals on your own. That means you, not a spouse or anyone else. This week you will prepare breakfast twice, lunch twice and dinner twice. This should prevent folks from only preparing say, breakfast for example, and taking the easy way out of the challenge. But none of you would do that, right? After all, this program is voluntary, and the goal is to step outside your comfort zone to learn new ways to become healthier. Everyday, at a minimum, you will be preparing one meal for yourself.

For some of you, this will be easier than others. This challenge is currently geared towards those that do not prepare very many meals for themselves. If you currently cook at least 6 meals on your own each week, you’re going to need to find a way to make this challenge one you will find more difficult. For instance, say you always prepare your own breakfast, always bring a fresh lunch (prepared by you, not a frozen meal) to work, and sometimes cook dinner for yourself… this week, I challenge you to cook dinner for yourself every day. Or maybe dinner isn’t the problem, but you’re a slave to the sodium-filled Lean Cuisines at lunch. If that is the case, challenge yourself to bring your lunch every day this week.

The point of these challenges is to make them difficult for yourself. If you come across a challenge that is going to be easy for you, find a way to modify it to ensure you will be learning something and at the end you will have taken something positive away from the week’s challenge. This is all about you, don’t forget that!

Below are some helpful resources I recommend for healthy recipes. Please try some new recipes this week, and if you find one you like, please share it with us! Do exercise caution, however. Healthy recipe sites will sometimes contain recipes that might contain healthy ingredients, but could be high in calories, etc. If you have questions, please feel free to email me!

Live Whole Be Free

CLEAN Program Recipes

Whole Foods

Chef Chloe

My New Roots

The Urban Poser

Skinny Scoop

100 Days of Real Food

You are in control of what you put into your body. You are responsible for how you look on the outside, and how you feel on the inside. Think of food as fuel. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to eat going to give my body the proper nutrients to function optimally? Good luck this week!

Peace, love and responsible eating,

Melissa

 

The Biggest Achiever Program is about improving ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. In order to become happier and healthier on the outside, we have to work on the inside first. Although this week’s challenge is  bit different, it is equally important.

This week, your challenge is to give one compliment to yourself and one compliment to someone else, every single day. I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone on this, and give a complete stranger a compliment. When was the last time you remember getting a compliment from someone you’ve never met before and will likely never see again? Those compliments are very special, since the person giving them truly has nothing to gain in return. It always makes my day when I get a compliment like this, and with that knowledge, I try to do the same for others.

Now, you may give someone a compliment, and they may look at you as if you are from outer space. Forget about it. You are not giving this compliment for a sense of gratitude from them or anything in return. If they show appreciation, that’s just an added bonus. Also, try to give a compliment in regards to something about their personality, their body, their skill set, etc., instead of a material item. For example, telling someone they have beautiful eyes, a lovely smile, great muscles, a great personality, or that they are great at their job or are very well-spoken are better compliments than telling someone you like their shirt. Anyone can own that shirt, so although that is in fact a compliment, we’re seeking something a bit deeper here.

It is also important that you give yourself a compliment, every day. Find something you like about yourself, even if you think it’s tough. Maybe you did a good deed today, that is something worth complimenting. Perhaps you took the stairs instead of the elevator… that too, deserves a pat on the back. Find at least one thing that you can be proud of yourself for and say it out loud. Even better, leave it in the comments here! We want to draw attention to the positives in our lives. Doing that for ourselves and doing nice things for other people, make us feel good. When we feel good, life is better. Our worries don’t seem as big, goals seem more attainable, our stress levels decrease and the level of serotonin in our brains rises. Serotonin = good stuff.

I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I was in yoga when this challenge came to me, and wouldn’t you know it, two minutes later, a complete stranger came up to me and gave me a compliment. 🙂

Exercise Challenge — Push Ups

Every night before you go to bed, do push ups. Even better, do them in the morning and the evening! I’m not going to tell you how many, you will be dictating your own goals. To find/set your goal, do as many push ups as you can in a row, then every night, add one more to it. For example, if you can currently do 5 push ups in a row, tomorrow night, do 6. The next night you will do 7 push ups, and so on. The most important thing here is that you do the push up correctly. It is perfectly acceptable to modify the push up so that you are pushing your body up from your knees. If that is too difficult, you can do push ups in a standing position, against the wall. Doing the push up with proper form while showing control will build a solid foundation with the proper muscles. From here, you will be able to advance to other exercises, while decreasing the risk of injury. Click here to see the Mayo Clinic’s video showcasing proper form for modified push ups.

 

Good luck!

Peace, love and kind hearts,

Melissa

Congratulations on finishing the first month of the Biggest Achiever Program and welcome to month #2 of our three month program! I am proud to announce that many of you have been extremely successful on this program so far, not only with weight loss, but with an increasingly positive outlook on life in general!

I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback on the program thus far, and as expected, some folks would like the program to be tougher and some think it’s tough enough already. That’s the beauty of a program like this, everyone is different. Everyone will progress at different rates and hit plateaus at different times. Just remember, when you feel like quitting, that’s a plateau, not failure. We all hit plateaus, it is normal to feel frustrated an uncertain any time you try to make a change, regardless if it’s for the better. Stay focused.

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. – Thomas Edison

As we enter the second month of the Biggest Achiever Program, I want you to continue to take it at your own speed, a speed at which you can be successful at, but one that also pushes your limits. If you don’t experience a sense of uneasiness, you will never see a change. So welcome that uncomfortable feeling you have, as it will make the feeling of accomplishment so much greater in the end.

This month, there will be more than one challenge at a time. You can choose to do one, two or three challenges. However, whatever you decide to do on Monday, you must stick with through the entire week. For instance, if you chose to participate in two challenges, you must finish both challenges. This teaches discipline. If you select one challenge, however, you CAN decide to add on more challenges as the week progresses. Since both a healthy diet and exercise are required for optimum health, some of these new challenges will involve exercise. Please check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to participate in these exercises.

Week #5 Challenges

Main Challenge — 12 Hour Detox

This week’s challenge is to leave a 12 hour detox window between the last thing you eat at night and the first thing you eat in the morning. Yes, it requires a little planning, but mostly, it requires you to cut out unnecessary late night snacking!

The detoxification process kicks in 8 hours after your last meal and needs 4 hours to function optimally. It is after that 8 hour mark that your body has finished processing the last meal you ate. Once digestion is completed, accumulated toxins from the tissues are released into the bloodstream so that they can eventually be neutralized and eliminated with the help of nutrients. If the toxins are not eliminated, not only can they be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, but the free radicals that they contain corrode tissues and damage cells on contact. This is one reason why late night eating is discouraged. If your body never finishes processing your food before you eat again, it doesn’t have the chance to release other accumulated toxins. The reason we call that first meal of the day “breakfast” is because that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re breaking the fast that has occurred overnight.

Secondary Challenge — Get Moving!

It’s important that we train ourselves to move more often. So that whole taking the stairs for a week thing? Yeah… we’re going to try to make that more of a lifestyle instead of just a weekly challenge. Read here for ideas on how to incorporate more movement into your everyday life, burning more and more calories, leading to… you guessed it… weight loss!

For years, researchers have stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, is it? Well, yes, it just might be. It is especially important if you are trying to lose weight. Eating breakfast helps kick-start your metabolism so that you can burn more calories during the day and stabilize your blood sugar levels, leaving you less likely to crave junk food. Studies show that those that ate a healthy breakfast every morning were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those that did not eat breakfast. It’s also true that making healthier decisions first thing in the morning makes you more prone to making healthier choices throughout the remainder of the day.

People who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories during the day than people who eat a morning meal, probably because hunger drives them to make unhealthy food choices and overeat at lunchtime, says MayoClinic.com. Furthermore, skipping breakfast has been associated with decreased daily levels of physical activity.

The National Weight Control Registry shows that among those who’ve lost 30 or more pounds and have kept it off more than a year, 90 percent report eating breakfast most days of the week.

Every day this week, the challenge is to eat a healthy breakfast. What constitutes a healthy breakfast? I’m glad you asked! Click here for some examples of items you can consume for breakfast, as well as some things to watch for that might make a seemingly healthy breakfast your new worst enemy. (Enter large amounts of sugar, sodium, saturated fats, chemicals, etc.). There’s no denying that eating breakfast in the morning fires up your metabolism. What you need to make sure of though, is that you do not eat something that is going to cause your blood sugar to spike. Refined sugars/carbs from donuts and other pastries are the culprits. The sugar rush only lasts a short while and by mid-morning you may feel sluggish, hungry, crave more sugar and have difficulty concentrating.

What you’re looking for in a healthy breakfast is whole grain carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Whole grain carbohydrates (oats, barley) release sugar more slowly than refined carbohydrates (sugary cereals and pastries), providing sustained energy (low glycemic index).  Fiber (fruits, veggies) will help fill you up, warding off hunger cravings until lunch, and keeps your digestive system healthy. Foods that are high in protein (eggs, nuts, yogurt) aid in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and may also help you feel fuller longer.

As far as what to avoid for breakfast… Bacon, sausage, high sugar content cereals, pastries (including low-fat muffins, croissants, donuts and kolaches), some breakfast bars, pretty much anything from a fast food restaurant (McDonalds, Whataburger, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bueno, etc.), also exercise caution at Starbucks and even smoothie places, it’s usually best to make your own!

Peace, love and healthy breakfasts!

Melissa

What do you eat for the most important meal of the day? Is it loaded with the fiber, protein and whole grain carbohydrates your body needs to start the day off on the right foot? You want to eat something first thing in the morning that will boost your metabolism, get your engines firing on all cylinders and yes, even help kick start weight loss! Below you’ll find the seven easiest healthy breakfast items you can eat that will properly fuel your body for a productive, happy day!

Oatmeal

Get real oatmeal… with 100% real oats. The ingredients should say “whole rolled oats” and possibly also contain barley, rye and flaxseeds. Oats and barley in particular contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea. They boost immunity, speed wound healing and may help antibiotics work better. Oatmeal is high in whole grain carbohydrates, which your body needs carbohydrates to function properly. If you have time to cook them, cook steel-cut oats, they are less processed than the rolled or quick-cooking oats.

For added nutrients and flavor, add cinnamon and fruit to your oatmeal (bananas, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.). If you MUST add sugar (which I recommend avoiding), try stevia, honey or agave nectar. Also try preparing your oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk instead of water for a creamier dish.

Warnings: Watch for high sugar content and artificial ingredients. Avoid flavored oatmeal, as these tend to have added sugar, sodium and other ingredients you don’t need.

Fruit

Fruit is good, quick and easy. If you’re not eating breakfast at all right now, having a banana is a great place to start. Even better than just a banana? Adding some protein… like peanut butter! Or my personal favorite, honeycrisp apples and almond butter. Other good fruits for breakfast include strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit (do not pile on the sugar or artificial sweeteners, just eat the darn thing in it’s natural beauty. If you’re dying for some sugar, try stevia).

Warnings: Buy organic to avoid dangerous pesticides that contaminate the entire fruit, not just the outside, and to avoid genetically modified products.

Smoothie

Smoothies are a great option for breakfast. They are easy on your digestive system since your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the foods incorporated in the smoothie, and you can get lots of vitamins and minerals in one shot. I usually do a few frozen peach slices, a banana, 1/4 c. apple juice, 1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk, and a scoop of superfood powder in order to ensure I’ve incorporated my greens! Instead of superfood powder, try kale, spinach, celery (delicious in smoothies) or parsley!

Yogurt

There are a myriad of options out there when it comes to yogurt. At the grocery store, if you stand back for a moment, and look at all the available options for yogurt, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s how to find a healthy yogurt: First, if you do not eat dairy, look for an almond, soy or coconut-based yogurt. I prefer almond, myself. (Healthiest, tastiest, least amount of sugar. Soy hurts my tummy.)

If you do eat dairy, you have quite a few choices ahead of you. Look at the sugar content before anything else. It doesn’t do your body any good to eat a fat free yogurt with 30g of sugar in it. Your body has to work incredibly hard to break down all that sugar. Healthy yogurt contains only two ingredients, live cultures and milk. The more ingredients listed, the less healthy the yogurt is. In general, the higher the protein and the lower the sugar content, the more nutritious and healthy the yogurt is. The major health benefits of yogurt are derived from the live cultures they contain.

Warnings: Be wary of fruit-flavored yogurts and yogurts with the fillings you mix in, as those tend to be the worst culprits. My suggestion is to buy plain yogurt, and add your own fresh fruit and granola to it. Plain yogurt is the most nutritious variety of yogurt, containing about half the calories, twice the amount of protein, fewer fillers, more calcium, and no added sugar compared to yogurt with fruit and other flavorings.

Eggs

There are lots of options when it comes to cooking and eating eggs. Hardboiled, scrambled, or over easy, eggs contain the protein you need to help get your day started properly. If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, egg whites are a great option, especially with some added vegetables. Try sliced mushrooms and spinach, broccoli and tomatoes, green bell pepper and red onion or diced celery and parsley. The veggies provide fiber, vitamins A, K, C as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients to help fight disease-causing free radicals. If egg sandwiches are more your style, try your eggs on a slice of whole grain toast, with avocado slices instead of cheese for healthy fats.

Warnings: Be sure not to pile on the cheese and keep any addition of salt to a minimum. Try to avoid sides like bacon, but if you must, opt for low-sodium turkey bacon. Also, buy organic, cage-free eggs, they’re worth the extra cost.

Cereal

This is a tricky one, since most cereals claim to be “healthy”, “whole grain”, etc., but are really just processed crap. Keep in mind that marketing teams spend countless hours trying to make their product look as nutritious and healthy as possible. It doesn’t meant that it actually is. If you’re wondering what’s in your cereal, look at the nutrition facts and ingredients label.

Warnings: The ingredients should be things you can pronounce and the sugar content should be low (less than 5 g per serving). With your cereal, be cautious when adding milk, as it actually contains quite a bit of sugar. Try unsweetened almond milk for a nice change of pace. Choose regular cheerios instead of honey nut, corn flakes instead of frosted flakes and avoid anything with marshmallows or other “candy” in it. Avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup.

People who ate high-fiber whole grain cereal for breakfast every day had nearly a 30% lower risk of heart failure than those who chose other foods, found the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study.

Breakfast/Granola Bars

Although convenient, you really  have to know what you’re eating when consuming a breakfast/granola bar as your first source of fuel for the day. These bars concern me since they are typically just loaded with sugar. Most of them should be labeled as candy bars instead. However, if you are like two-thirds of the American population and eat these for breakfast here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Be sure to find a bar with less than 6g sugar, with at least 5g of protein and 5g of fiber. The fiber content of breakfast bars made with whole grains will be higher than multi-grain bars. Read the ingredients too. Rolled oats, wheat or barley should be listed as one of the first ingredients. Kashi typically has some good options.

Warnings: Avoid products that contain any trans fat, partially hydrogenated oils, shortening or high-fructose corn syrup, and again, watch that sugar content!

Whether you are an all-star athlete or live a sedentary lifestyle, we could all use a little more movement in our lives. In the last several decades, our technology has advanced so much that it has rendered us inactive and lazy. Here are seven ways to help increase your daily activity, burning more calories and helping put an end to the obesity epidemic. Take advantage of these opportunities as often as you can, and it will pay off in the long run!

Take the Stairs

Opt for the staircase instead of an elevator or escalator all week (and longer if you’re really committed to a lifestyle change)! On your way to and from your place of business, take the stairs. At lunch or to get your energy level back up in the mid-afternoon, hit the stairs! Many of us experience that “2:30 feeling”… a way to combat that is to get your heart pumping!

Park in the Furthest Spot From Your Destination*

Every step counts, so quit waiting for the person in the closest spot to pull out. Just park and walk! By just finding a spot and walking, you will probably arrive at your destination at the same time you would have if you had waited for the closer spot!

*Please exercise (no pun intended) caution when in dimly lit areas, at night, or when you’re alone. Use your best judgement and if you don’t feel safe parking far away, please don’t. Your safety is paramount.

Ban the Cab

For those of you in big cities, put a personal ban on taking a cab and walk the distance instead. Ladies, if you’re in heels (which are terrible for your body, by the way), bring a pair of sneakers with you, throw them on and get moving!

Clean the House

You’ll be amazed the amount of calories you can burn by cleaning your own house, andthere’s that whole “saving money” concept again, ditch the housekeeper!

Landscaping/Gardening

Same goes for the outdoors — use a push mower to mow your own lawn, rake the leaves by hand, shovel snow by hand and garden.

Start a New Routine

After dinner, instead of having dessert or plopping yourself down on the couch, go for a walk. Whether it’s by yourself, with your dog or with your family, just get up and move! It will aid in digestion as well! Bonus! You can also go for a stroll during your lunch break!

Ditch the Shopping Cart

Use a hand basket instead of the pushable shopping cart. You’ll get a nice workout from carrying your items through the store and possibly even save some money by only buying what you need, or will fit into your basket. And of course, carry your bags to the car.

Keep in mind that every little thing you do, no matter how small it might seem, will help get you towards your goal of a healthier lifestyle! Instead of thinking about the immediate gratification of the calorie burn (or lack thereof), think more long-term. I recently calculated how many calories I burn when I take the stairs to and from my office on the fifth floor. Going up and down five flights of stairs burns about 12 calories. Do it twice and you’re up around 25 calories, three times and you’re at close to 40-50 (calorie burn increases as heart rate increases). Although you’re only looking at about 50 calories for three flights of stairs, think long-term. In my time at HCK2 Partners, I have burned approximately 20,000 calories taking the stairs everyday… now that’s a lot of calories!

Peace, love and movement!

Melissa

We all know that there are two main components to a successful weight loss program… Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. But what happens when you can’t seem to get to the gym? Maybe you don’t have a membership, or maybe you’re full of excuses (pardon my straightforward-ness). Either way, in this post I’ll reveal several easy ways to increase your daily amount of exercise in order to get moving for this week’s Biggest Achiever challenge!

In today’s day and age, we work long hours, most of the time sitting still, we constantly use technology and automation, and are generally not required to move very much. Housekeepers, gardeners, cell phones, computers, remote controls and video games run our households. Our world now produces inactive and nonfunctional people physically molded by furniture, gravity and inactivity, and it’s taking a huge toll on public health. In 1985, the International Obesity Task Force deemed the prevalence of obesity an epidemic. In 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that chronic diseases were responsible for five of the leading six causes of disease. One of them, obesity, leads to other chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Physical activity has been proved to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and disorders related to lifestyle, such as increased triglycerides and cholesterol levels, obesity, glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and strokes. Regular exercise increases blood volume, which allows more blood to get to the cells. This results in greater flow of oxygen, helping the body remove waste and strengthening the heart. If that’s not enough, regular exercise also helps regulate weight, hormones, mood, sleep/wake cycles and improves your self confidence. So what are you waiting for?

For general health benefits, 30 minutes of exercise per day is recommended, 5-7 times per week. It has been shown that three 10 minute bouts of exercise are just as effective as one 30 minute continuous exercise at a moderate intensity. For improved fitness levels, on the other hand, your intensity would need to increase to 60-90% of your heart rate max (HR max) for 20-60 minutes per day, 3-5 times per week. – NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

Click here for some simple ways to include more exercise in your everyday life. Everyone can use these tips, regardless of you don’t currently exercise at all, or if you’re a “workout junkie”, everyone should take advantage of every opportunity to move more often!

Peace, love and movement!

Melissa

Welcome to the second week of our Biggest Achiever Program! Feel free to join in at any time! Each week we announce a new challenge and although I encourage you to participate every week, you can also select which weeks you would like to participate in. Just remember that every tiny change you make for the better, you will eventually realize are huge steps and very pivotal moments in your healthier lifestyle.

Last week, we tracked our calories and nutritional content of the foods and beverages we consumed and learned a lot about where the majority of our calories come from. For many of us, not surprisingly, they come from beverages. Our favorite lattes, sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks contain terrifying amounts of sugar, sodium and dangerous chemicals such as sucralose, phenylalanine, methanol and more. If you look at the ingredients in that seemingly healthy fruit juice your children love so much, you will probably be shocked to see that many of those don’t contain much fruit juice at all! Although we will dive further into fruit juices and unhealthy beverages during our 3 month voyage, this week we will be focusing on soda.

“Twenty-one percent of the sugar in the American diet comes from soft drinks. That’s more than just an unhealthy consumption of empty calories. It is a dangerous overload of caffeine and nutrient-depleting additives.” – Dr. Earl Mindell

 

The side effects of soda (including diet/zero sodas), in short:

  • Cancer, heart disease, kidney damage, depression, asthma, diabetes
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Osteoporosis in adults, high risk of bone fracture in children
  • Tooth loss, erosion of tooth enamel, periodontal disease, gingivitis, tooth discoloration
  • Stomach and reproductive issues
  • Increased cravings
  • Inability to detect sweetness in fruits/vegetables
  • Diminished nerve impulse transmission
  • Weakened immune system
  • Adverse reactions with medications such as antibiotics and antacids

This list truly goes on and on. One of the single worst products you can put into your  body is a carbonated beverage. This includes soda, beer and even sparking/carbonated water. Just one 8 ounce carbonated beverage paralyzes the immune system for up to 12 hours! The carbonation in the beverage blocks the uptake of calcium, which is needed for every single metabolic function in your body.

It has been proven that increased soda consumption is a major factor in the development of osteoporosis. Sodas lower calcium levels and increase phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate is high and calcium is low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. This issue is worse for children. Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four times higher than those that do not.

Sodas contain phosphorous and phosphoric acid, which corrode the stomach lining, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys and eat away at your liver. They also contain sodium benzoate, a sodium preservative which reduces the availability of potassium in the body. Some reported reactions to sodium benzoate include rashes, eczema and asthma. Think about it, if you get a rash, you likely run to the dermatologist and they give you some sort of cream for it. Wouldn’t you know it that all along, it’s because you’re drinking soda!

Not only are the carbonation, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, sugar, phosphorus and other ingredients in soda extremely harmful, but the sugar and acid will dissolve tooth enamel too! It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking a “full calorie” Coke, a Diet Coke, or Coke Zero, you are harming your body in more ways than you realize.

“The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.” – Marion Nestle

Many people turn to diet or “zero” sodas in order to avoid the high sugar content and carbohydrates in “regular” sodas. This is quite possibly worse for you than drinking a “regular” soda. Many diet and “zero” sodas contain aspartame, sucralose and other harmful chemicals. Studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. A 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center Study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two servings of diet soda a day. In case gaining weight wasn’t enough, aspartame and sucralose, the artificial sweeteners used in sodas, are tied to cancer and other deadly diseases! Why are you drinking this stuff?! Because it “tastes good”?! Of course it tastes good, people spend countless hours developing products that “taste good” and… wait for it… that you will become addicted to! They are obviously very good at their jobs!

The most commonly  used artificial sweeteners in soda include aspartame and sucralose. These are dangerous ingredients that have the following side effects: depression, birth defects, headaches, weight gain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, rashes, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue and seizures. That’s right, I said weight gain. DIET SODA CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT. Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar, and sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Sucralose is actually considered a zero-calorie sweetener because the human digestive tract cannot metabolize it.

For more information on aspartame and sucralose, I encourage you to read The Hidden Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners.

As a general note, it is helpful to remember that anything that is fat-free, sugar-free, “anything”-free… they have had to add artificial flavors and other chemicals in order to make that food taste good, without it being made from actual ingredients. Many dieters are unfortunate victims of marketing and product packaging. Just because something is fat-free, sugar-free, low in carbohydrates, etc., does NOT mean it is healthy! An apple is healthier than a sugar-free cookie! That and a sugar-free cookie will NEVER satisfy your appetite, but an apple will. People often gain weight when they consume fat-free and sugar-free foods because they end up consuming more calories. Consuming these foods which are void of nutrients will always leave you hungry and will possibly intensify your cravings. Your brain will not shut off its hunger signals until it gets the nutrients it needs. Therefore, if you’re hungry, and you eat a box of cookies or a loaf of white bread (common “appetizer” before meals at restaurants), you will still be hungry even though your stomach will feel full.

In short, if there is one thing you change in this 3 month program, I urge it to be giving up soda. Your immune system, your heart, your pancreas, your entire body will thank you for it! I can pretty much guarantee you that if you give up sodas entirely, you will lose weight. It’s not rocket science, it’s not magic, it’s just common sense. Sodas are one of the worst things you can put in your body, so give them up, and you will see benefits from it! Although this week’s challenge is to give us soda, I encourage you to give up aspartame, sucralose and other products that contain artificial sweeteners. You will find yourself feeling much better in the end!

Of the people that struggle with weight loss, the majority don’t understand why they can’t lose weight. That same majority is also unaware of the amount of calories they consume in one day. When you break it down, weight loss is pretty simple. Unless of course, you don’t know how many calories you are consuming to begin with, then you don’t have a starting point.

If you know how many calories you consume in a day, you can take that number, subtract the amount of calories you burn in a day, and you’re left with your net calories. 3500 calories is equivalent to 1 lb. of weight. So if you are trying to lose 1 lb. per week, you would need to cut 500 calories per day from your diet, or burn 500 additional calories.

So as we kick off the Biggest Achiever Program, my challenge to you this week is to figure out how many calories you consume. How many calories are in your favorite foods? How many calories do you consume in one day? By tracking the nutritional information in your food, you will also be able to see how much fat, sugar, protein, salt, etc. you are consuming. It’s possible that you need to limit your intake of sodium or fats, but how would you know, if you don’t know what you’re consuming in the first place?

Regardless if you have goals to lose weight on this three month program or not, I think it’s essential that you know what you’re eating. We’ll get further into ingredients, chemicals, additives and preservatives later, right now we’ll focus on the nutritional content, or lack there of, of the foods we currently consume.

Your challenge this week is to keep a food journal, logging the nutritional information of everything you eat, drink and chew. At a minimum, you should write down everything you put in your body, from glasses of water per day, to gum, to soda, to snacks and meals for one full weekday and one full weekend day. Since what you eat might vary based on where you are, I think it’s important to complete a food journal for one day at the office and one day at home. Tracking this information for 2 days out of 7 is the minimum you should do. This information will be key as you progress throughout this program, so be sure to be accurate. It will do you more harm than good to lie in this journal. Be true to yourself, it is the only way you can truly make progress. If you intentionally leave items consumed off the list… I don’t think you can expect yourself to be successful. Also, the more you track, the better. So if you can, track all of your food every single day this week. Is it time consuming? Maybe a little. But it’s one week of your life, it’s not that much time in the grand scheme of things and it will be eye-opening, regardless of your health/fitness level.

Although this is a week long challenge, I encourage you to track your food throughout the entire program. For those of you that exercise, I encourage you to track this as well! For the past several years, I have been using an online program (there’s also an app for your phone) called myfitnesspal.com. It’s free, easy to follow, has a ton of great tools and when you track your calories, many popular foods are already loaded into the system, reducing the amount of time you’ll spend looking up that information! Bonus! You can set weight loss goals, health goals and much more. They’ll even develop graphs for you to visually chart your progress, which aids in motivation. If you’d like to follow me, my username is megalitz. I too, have health and fitness goals I plan on achieving in the next three months! I encourage you to join, and keep me accountable as well! The more support we have, the better we will do!

I look forward to hearing about what you learned from your food journal. What did you find most shocking? Did you formulate any new goals from what you learned by analyzing what you put in your body? Was it the calorie count or sugar content in one specific item? Or maybe you realized you consume more snacks than you initially thought. MyFitnessPal.com allows you to create six different food categories for easy logging. Mine are breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages and treats. I find these categories helpful, and you might too. It’s interesting to see how many of your daily calories can come from things you drink and not actual meals! Time to cut sodas (hint, hint)!

I look forward to meeting with you all on Friday, and for those of you who are following along online, feel free to leave your thoughts, findings and comments below!

Peace, love and knowledge,

Melissa

For  more on the Biggest Achiever Program, click here!