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The main reason I started this blog is to help educate people who want to live happier and healthier lives. There is so much information floating around these days, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. I will be the first to admit that I had some unrealistic expectations of myself postpartum. I assumed that being fit and eating healthy, all of my weight would just fall off. Sure the last 10 lbs would probably be “tricky”, but nothing I couldn’t handle and certainly they wouldn’t stay on longer than about 4 months. I am currently 4 months postpartum, and here to tell you the truth about baby weight.

My Midwife put it to me this way, “There are two types of women that breastfeed, those that can’t keep weight on, and those that can’t lose the weight until they’re done breastfeeding. Unfortunately you will probably fall into the latter group.” Awesome. After 42 LONG weeks of watching the numbers on the scale increase, there was nothing more I wanted than my “body back.” I know all the Moms reading this right now are nodding in agreement. Being a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor adds some extra stress as well, since I feel like people have high expectations of me. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but I definitely strive to be the best example for them that I can. So now, at 4 months postpartum, I have an extra 14 lbs that just WILL NOT BUDGE and although it’s not what I thought would happen…I’m finally okay with it.

After labor and delivery, you are left with a beautiful child and…a still slightly enormous belly. Except it’s not hard and there’s nothing moving inside of it anymore. It’s just all soft, squishy uterus. Ewww. They say it takes about 6 weeks for your uterus to return to it’s “normal” size. Your organs also have to shift back into place—there’s a lot happening in there. So it’s expected that it takes some time for things to return to normal. I lost more than half of the weight I gained in the first 10 days. I got compliment after compliment and I thought to myself “Oh yeah, this is so easy.” Everything I heard about breastfeeding made me believe that the weight was just going to fall off. And it did…but it was mostly water weight, and it stopped after about three weeks. From 3 weeks postpartum until now, I have lost a whopping 4 lbs. and let me tell you, my diet has been ON POINT. I’ve been exercising and eating right, so what is the dang deal?! It’s frustrating to say the least. I walk around “sucking in” because I feel I can no longer get away with saying I “just” had a baby. I feel like others judge me and honestly, those without kids probably do. I’m sure they assume I’m just not putting in the work to take care of it. And I now realize that that’s just not the way postpartum baby weight works when you’re breastfeeding. At least not for me.

So, you’ve had a baby, you’re breastfeeding and your hormones are still super out of whack—I mean come on, when is my hair going to STOP falling out already? And there’s this other thing—you are the sole food source for a little tiny human being that you just grew inside of you. I’d say that’s kind of a big deal. Truthfully, it is absolutely normal for your body to hang on to an extra 10-20 lbs while breastfeeding. Your body is AMAZING, and it is going to do exactly what it needs to do to ensure that you can produce and supply enough milk to nuture your child. I think that’s pretty freakin’ amazing. It’s just like in pregnancy. I remember agonizing over every pound I gained, wondering if it was true “baby weight” or if it was because all I felt like eating were carbohydrates. Looking back…I shouldn’t have stressed nearly as much as I did. My body was creating life!

I see other women’s posts online about how all of the baby weight just “fell off” and how happy they are, and I find myself wishing that was me. But it’s not me, and there’s a darn good reason that’s not me. My body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing. Having birthed a child (sans epidural, at that), I now have so much more respect for my body. If it wants to hang onto 14 lbs, well so be it! I’m fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed, which I know is more than a lot of women can say. Although there are lots of crappy side effects, I am truly grateful that I am able to provide food for my sweet baby. I know that my body will get rid of the weight when it is time. Right now, I am eating a super clean, healthy diet not because I want the weight to come off, but because that is what my body needs to provide the most nutritious milk for my son. I also know that the healthier I eat—the healthier I feel. The healthier I feel— the more I want to exercise, the better my relationships are and the better wife, mom and friend I am.

Instead of looking at these last 14 lbs. as being “stubborn baby weight” pounds, I look at them as “necessary milk supply” pounds, and that changes everything. Attitude is everything, so make it positive. Act positively, think positively, be positive. You created life, and now your supplying your baby with the nutrients he/she needs to grow and be healthy and happy. STOP thinking about this baby weight RIGHT THIS MINUTE and be PROUD of yourself.

Here’s to all the breastfeeding Mommas out there! You are amazing! Here’s to positive thinking, healthy milk supplies and healthy, happy babies!

Melissa

I am humbled, proud and excited to finally OFFICIALLY announce that I am one of the newest Primary Trainers with Camp Gladiator! Now that my location has been nailed down, I can give everyone all of the details you need to put this on your calendars, share with friends, family, loved ones and strangers and of course SHOW UP TO CAMP!

I have been running boot camps for quite some time now, and I have to say, this opportunity is truly an amazing one! This company is filled with so many positive and influential people, I’m so excited to become part of this movement! I also couldn’t be happier to work for owner and American Gladiator Grand Champion, Ally Davidson. I met Ally several years ago, when we both took the same boxing boot camp class. She later went on to win American Gladiator, started CG here in Dallas then moved to Austin, and I went on to eventually teach that same boxing boot camp class (along with about a dozen others), move the ‘burbs, etc., so it’s truly awesome that our paths are crossing again. Now that I’ve moved to the suburbs of Dallas, I am so excited to be able to bring my knowledge, passion and enthusiasm to the Frisco/Plano community through CG! And it all starts next week!

If you’ve taken classes of mine before, they’ve likely been in the downtown Dallas area. However, I’ve recently made the move to the suburbs where I know…no one! That’s where you come in. I desperately need your help spreading the word to the Frisco/Plano community that there is a new CG location in the area ready to take their health and fitness to the next level! If you have family, friends, coworkers, etc. in the North Dallas area, please share this post with them and let’s get them to attend my FREE Preview week happening Tuesday, 4/16 and Thursday 4/18 at 5:30am at the Sports Authority in Frisco! (Camp officially starts Tues 4/23).

Info on Camp Gladiator

Camp Gladiator is the best outdoor fitness experience in the nation. No, seriously. It is a four week adult boot camp that provides a motivating and challenging environment for men and women of ALL ages and fitness levels to improve their physical and mental states. CG provides exercises to fit each individual camper, regardless of fitness level, experience or age. Campers can expect a total body workout that includes strength, cardiovascular, balance and functional training in the form of interval training, sprint and agility drills, plyometrics and more. CG is designed to increase your functional strength, speed, stamina as well as help you lose weight, tone muscle, burn fat, relieve stress and make friends! CG delivers results regardless of your goals! Check out this one of many inspiring videos!

My camp will run every Tuesday/Thursday beginning Tuesday, April 16th from 5:30-6:30am at the Sports Authority (parking lot) in Frisco. The first Tuesday and Thursday (4/16 and 4/18) are actually free workouts considered “Preview Week”. They do not count towards the 4-week camp, therefore if you were to attend you could actually get a 5-week camp out of the deal! Bonus! Camp actually starts on Tuesday, April 23 and will run for 4 weeks. If you miss Preview Week you can still try CG for free one time, but I can tell you that I will be offering a SUPER sweet deal to those that attend a Preview Week session. 🙂

What is the deal? I’m glad you asked! If you bring 3 people to Preview Week, I will give you a FREE CAMP. Totally serious. A four week camp normally runs $170 for a new camper, but I’ll waive that entirely.

All you need for camp is a mat, a set of dumbells, and a smile. Actually, you can come without the smile if you’d like—I know 5:30am is early—because I know you’ll leave with a smile regardless. 🙂 If you have questions, comments, concerns or just want to chat, you can reach me directly via cell at 214-794-3378 or via email at melissa@livewholebefree.com (my CG email is not quite set up yet). Let’s get as many people out to Preview Week as we can!

I can’t wait to see all of you on Tuesday, April 16th!

I Like How It Feels Video from campGladiator on Vimeo.

DIRECTIONS

South Frisco/North Plano CG

Tuesday + Thursdays, 5:30am-6:30am, starting 4/16

Sports Authority (Frisco)
2930 Preston Rd #200-B, Frisco, TX

Sports Authority is on the East side of Preston Road just North of 121 (and just South of Gaylord). It’s very close to Buy Buy Baby, Office Depot, etc., in a strip mall set back off the road a bit.

Coming from the North (North of 121)
Take the Tollway South to 121
Go East on 121 to Preston
Exit Preston, go North (turn left)
Turn Right on Stone Crest Rd. and turn Left into the Sports Authority Parking Lot
Coming from the South (South of 121)
Take the Tollway North to 121
Go East on 121 (right exit), Exit Preston
Go North (left) on Preston Rd.
Turn Right on Stone Crest Rd. and turn Left into the Sports Authority Parking Lot* 
Coming from the East (East of Preston)
Take 121 West to Preston
Exit Preston, go North (turn right)
Turn Right on Stone Crest Rd. and turn Left into the Sports Authority Parking Lot*
Coming from the West (West of Preston)
Take 121 East to Preston
Exit Preston, go North (turn left)
Turn Right on Stone Crest Rd. and turn Left into the Sports Authority Parking Lot*
 
*You can also turn Right on Gaylord
Turn Right into the strip mall parking lot
Follow the parking lot all the way down until you reach Sports Authority on the end

—–

I’ve attached a quick map for your reference, since if you google Sports Authority it doesn’t put you in the exact correct spot. For more information you can visit Camp Gladiator online. Please note that this new location has not been added to the website just yet.

See you April 16th, bright and early!

Facebook Event Link: Tuesday, 4/16

Facebook Event Link: Thursday, 4/18

Camp Gladiator Frisco Plano Sports Authority

I am so humbled and excited to announce this very exciting news. Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, the New York City consulting firm responsible for programming for the new Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, has asked me to teach boot camp classes at The Park coming this Fall!

This park is unlike any other in the city of Dallas. Spanning 5.2 acres in the heart of Dallas, Klyde Warren Park covers several city blocks between Pearl and St. Paul Streets over Woodall Rodgers Freeway. It includes a performance stage, restaurant (coming soon), shaded walking paths, dog park, children’s garden, great lawn (i.e. boot camp area), water features, an area for games and much more. I am so excited to have access to such a beautiful space bringing people together downtown! The Park’s programming is truly outstanding and includes music, fitness, education, games and art, with a constant stream of free daily activities open to the public, complemented by signature special events. There will be something for everyone at The Park, and I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of it!

The free grand opening of the Park will be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 27th and 28th, followed by Live Whole Be Free’s first FREE Boot Camp class on Monday, October 29th (and every Monday after that) at 5:30pm! As far as what you can expect from LWBF’s Boot Camp—you can expect to get 60 minutes of “you” time that you will not regret! Those of you that have taken my classes for years know that I offer a fun and challenging workout regardless of your fitness level.

I hope that you will join me every Monday at 5:30pm! This is an amazing opportunity to make a commitment to yourself and to your health/wellness without costing you a dime. It’s also a great way to support the City of Dallas and small businesses like myself. Although not required, participants are encouraged to bring a set of dumbbells in a weight appropriate for them as well as a small towel and some water. If you do not have dumbbells—not to worry—you can still participate in boot camp and you will still get a terrific workout! Read more about what you can expect at Boot Camp!

I can’t wait to see you all at Klyde Warren Park on Monday, October 29th! If you plan on attending, please RSVP to melissa [at] livewholebefree.com, as the first 20 people that RSVP (and show up on Monday, 10/29) will receive a free gift!*

* An RSVP for boot camp is not required but sure is helpful!

Peace, love, health and fitness,

Melissa

Growing up I witnessed my mom struggle through numerous fad diets – Cabbage Soup Diet, No Carbs Diet, Fat-Free Foods Diet, etc. I also noticed that although she may have reached a goal weight utilizing these fad diet methods, but she could never maintain it.

90-95% of the people that go on a diet will add more weight than what they started with.” – Hungry For Change

However, no matter what fad diet my mom was trying, she and my dad continued to prepare healthy, balanced meals for the rest of the family that included vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy starches. For that, I can’t thank my parents enough. They helped me learn the importance of including a variety of foods and nutrients into my every day eating.

The struggle that my mom, and millions of men and woman across the country have encountered, is keeping the weight off while maintaining a normal lifestyle. The origins of the word diet comes from the Greek word díaita, which means, “way of living.” We have to re-train ourselves to make good food choices on a daily basis, which means buying and cooking whole, nutrient-rich foods as part of our lifestyle.

Another pitfall that my mom and many others face when it comes to eating well consistently is treating food as a reward. I grew-up thinking I could eat as much as I wanted as long as I stayed active and “worked it off.” To an extent, I believe this is true. Your body definitely needs sufficient fuel stores to perform strenuous physical activity, however, the kind of calories you are putting into your body is what matters most.

Healthy eating is a never-ending journey and should be viewed as a continuous education. The more you learn the better off you will be to make informed choices and do what’s best for your body. As I’ve stated before, I love food. I do not enjoy eating strictly as a means to fuel my body, but rather as an opportunity to indulge in nature’s most delicious offerings. Let fresh, whole foods be your reward and be sure to balance your díaita with activity and movement.

Happy Eating!

Holly

I’ve been teaching Group Exercise classes for quite a while now and I have to say—the thing that irks me the most—is when the same people find excuse after excuse not to try your class when they actually really want to. I know people that for over three years now have used the “I have to get in shape before I come to your class” excuse. Or there’s the ever-popular “your class is too far away”…(I teach all over the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex), or “I’m busy that day”…(I teach 10 classes a week, you can’t honestly tell me you cannot make any of those), the list goes on and on.

Three years ago, these people were overweight, out of shape, unhealthy and unhappy. Their plan was to “get in shape”, and then come to my class. Again, that was three years ago. If they had just come to classes regardless of being “in shape” or not, I can guarantee you that they would not be in the same physical and mental condition that they are today—stuck.

I think sometimes the classes and instructors are taken for granted. Not in a bad way, just that it is assumed that certain classes will always be on the schedule and these instructors will forever teach classes at that particular club. Nothing is ever certain. Lives change, people change, the needs of the gym change, the only thing that is not changing—is you.

Yesterday you said tomorrow nike

If you live your life saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”, you’ll have to accept the possibility that there might not be a chance tomorrow, for whatever reason. I urge you to do it today. No more excuses, no more waiting. It’s funny—it wasn’t that long ago that I considered myself quite the procrastinator when it came to silly day-to-day duties. Call the plumber, return so-and-so’s phone call, pay this bill, return an email. I would hit ignore on the phone because I was too busy to deal with whatever phone call was incoming. But the truth is, that only created MORE stress in my life. Now not only did I need to return that email, but I needed to remember to return the email, put it on my to-do list so I wouldn’t forget, but then I would forget to put it on the list, so it would get missed entirely! Today, I’m much better about handing things as they come. It’s easier to get them crossed off the list before they even make it to the list!

Nike says it best…”Yesterday You Said Tomorrow.”

A quick reminder of my current group exercise class schedule, which may soon change…who knows! 🙂 Please inquire for personal training schedule. (Revised 12/31/12)

Peace, love and action,

Melissa

For up-to-the-minute updates on classes, follow Live Whole Be Free on Facebook!

Reason #97 why you can’t lose weight…because let’s face it, there are potentially quite a few things contributing to the fact that you can’t lose weight. It’s supposed to be easy, right? Burn more calories than you consume and you “should”, in theory, lose weight. But what if you don’t? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons why this could be happening. Without a full blood panel, it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly why that is, since it could be related to thyroid issues, hormone imbalances, etc.). However, something you may or may not have heard of as being a culprit is called homeostasis.

Human homeostasis is derived from the Greek, homeo or “same”, and stasis or “stable” and means remaining stable or remaining the same. In other words, your body is going to attempt to maintain stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes. This is most often discussed in terms of survival, whereas the liver, the kidneys and the brain help maintain homeostasis by metabolizing toxic substances, regulating blood water levels and excreting wastes. Another example occurs as our body regulates temperature in an effort to maintain an internal temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. We sweat to cool off when we are hot and we shiver to produce heat when we are cold.

However, homeostasis also plays a role in terms of weight loss. As your body starts to change, it will also try to “hold on” to what it’s known for so long. For example, if you have been 30 lbs. overweight for the last say…10 years and you are beginning to lose that weight, your body will fight to get back to that 30 lb. overweight “place” because that’s what it’s known for so long. This is just one more reason why to truly lose weight and keep it off for good, you have to make lasting lifestyle changes, not temporary fixes. Short-term, lose weight quick diets will only hurt you in the end, messing with your mental state as well as your hormones and metabolism.

We all know that there are a bizillion (yes, a “bizillion”) reasons why it’s difficult to lose weight. However, the more responsible, knowledgable and committed you are as you embark on your weight loss journey, the more successful you will be. There will be roadblocks, obstacles, plateaus and the like, but be aware, be smart and be persistent and you will minimize this homeostasis issue.

Peace, love and responsible weight loss,

Melissa Villamizar, CPT

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