How Iron Supplementation May Improve Exercise Performance in Women

Iron deficiency anemia and low levels of iron, even in the absence of clinical anemia may impair athletic performance.

women running

Less iron in the body means a decrease in oxygen transport to working muscles and other tissues throughout the body. And less oxygen means you’ll feel mentally and physically drained, making it tough to concentrate and finish your last set of sprints or push ups. Yet taking iron supplements daily may reverse iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia while also improving athletic performance. 

Iron deficiency anemia is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world.  And kids and women ages 20 – 49 are the two groups that are most likely to be anemic. Women are much more likely then men to be deficient because they lose iron every month during their menstrual cycle and many women do not consume enough iron through their diet. Yet this recently published meta-analysis, which examined the results from 22 randomized controlled trials that looked at iron supplementation in women, found supplemental iron works by improving both maximal and sub-maximal exercise performance while also decreasing how hard the heart has to work during exercise. And, they found that two groups stand to benefit the most from iron supplementation: women who are iron deficient and females who are trained athletes.

Read also:  Athletic Performance and Vitamin D Supplementation

This is great news for women who have iron deficiency anemia or those with low iron stores. If you feel tired or grouchy every day or can’t get through your workouts and feel like your athletic performance isn’t as good as it could be, see your physician for a full iron panel (blood work) and talk to her about iron supplements. Also, consider a liquid iron supplement, which may be easier on the stomach and some women find liquid iron helps increase iron stores more rapidly than iron pills or tablets. 


Iron supplements may boost female physical performance: Meta-analysis

By Stephen DANIELLS, 15-Apr-2014

Scientific evidence from 22 randomized controlled trials indicates that daily iron supplements may significantly boost exercise performance for women.

photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

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Divide Your Plate, Conquer Your Meals

People always seem to be looking for simple reminders on how to eat healthy and for good reason!

When things are easy to remember, they are convenient. When they are convenient they can become sustainable! That is what we are looking for; sustainable healthy eating habits!

One easy way to remember how to eat a well-balanced meal is to divide your plate according to the food groups you should eat.
Borrowing from the philosophy of Jonathan Bailor in his book the Calorie Myth,  divide your plate according to the foods people need to eat most.  For a well balanced meal, remember your plate should be proportioned like this:

•    50% non-starchy vegetables
•    30% nutrient dense protein
•    15% low fructose fruits 
•    5% whole food fats

Non-starchy Vegetables

As you will notice veggies are the majority (50%) of your meal.  Non-starchy basically means that you can eat them raw. For instance, you can’t eat corn on the cob raw, or potatoes raw but you can eat cucumbers raw, and carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower to name a few more.

You want to be eating so many of these wonderful vegetables that you aren’t hungry for dessert and don't have room for eating junk food at all!

Nutrient Dense Protein

Around 30% of your plate should be nutrient dense proteins such as wild fish, grass fed beef, and other high-quality raised livestock. This will allow you to get a big dose of protein while staying away from antibiotics and hormones that can accompany lower quality proteins. These high quality proteins will allow you to meet your protein requirements without consuming a large amount of unhealthy fats as well.

Low Fructose Fruits

The next 15% or your plate should be low fructose fruits! This group is composed of fruits that are berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries...etc) and citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes…etc). 

Whole Food Fats

Lastly, the remainder of your plate should be made up of whole food fats. This will make up the majority of your actual caloric intake because they are so calorie dense. This includes foods like macadamia nuts, coconuts, avocados, and eggs. This small portion of your plate is where you will consume most of your calories and heart-healthy fats! SEE ALSO: Heart Healthy Grocery Shopping - Tips and Tricks

Jonathan Bailor had this to say in an Always Active Athletics interview regarding this divided plate, 
“The order of volume: non-starchy vegetables, then nutrient dense proteins, then whole food fats and low fructose fruits. Eat as much of those as you want in that order whenever you want, so that you are too full for starches and sweets…”

Having an easy way to remember what a well balanced meal looks like will allow you to hopefully make it a habit and start eating healthy all the time! When it comes to eating a healthy meal, divide your plate and thus conquer your meals. Happy eating!

For more fitness and nutrition information check out Josh at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.

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Where Do I Fit In? Average and That's OK!

I think that I'll always consider myself the "fat girl."  Even at 165 lbs and 5'7", I still define myself that way. After a lifetime of others defining me that way, it's hard to shake that definition, that mindset. Six years out, I still have to work every day at treating myself better, and it's not always an easy task.  


When I look in the mirror, I see the remnants of a former me:  rolls of extra skin around my waistline that will never go away without plastic surgery (which I cannot get covered, nor can I afford out of pocket.) I see the cellulite on my 42 year old thighs, and the loose skin under my arms.  Shapewear helps a great with that, and once I'm dressed, I can often forget about those parts of my body that I dislike.

Read Also:  The Shape of Things to Come

What Size Do I Wear?

Still, I don't know how to define my body "type" anymore.  I wear a size 10 in pants, a size L or XL in a top to cover my poochy midsection.  (Note:  if that extra skin weren't there, I'd likely be a size medium).  In dresses, I can wear a size L if it is stretchy or knit material, but if it's fitted in any way, I wear a size XL or 14. I'm not thin, but I'm also not what's considered to be a true plus size.  So where does that leave me? 

Where Do I Shop?

It's leaves me smack dab in the middle of two sections of clothing in any store.  The good news is that I can shop almost anywhere now and find something that will look cute on me.  Still, I find myself always gravitating towards the plus size clothing.  I take things from the rack and try it on, knowing that it's too big for me, but also feeling comfort in being covered up by loose, hanging clothes.  It's the part of the "former" me that I can't let go of, even six years later.

What Type of Clothes Can I Wear?

There are things that I'll never be able to wear:  crop tops, blouses or tops tucked into my pants, short-shorts (although at 42, I probably shouldn't be wearing those anyhow).  But there's things that I can wear now that I never could (or would let myself) before:  spaghetti strap tops, dresses, high heels, lingerie.  

"Average is OK!"

I've worked pretty diligently on being positive about my body, and treating myself well despite the battle scars of a former morbidly-obese me.  I love fashion, but I also hate it - because it often reminds me of the shame I felt and still feel with a body that's not "perfect."  I'm not obese, but I'm not thin.  I guess that means that I am average.  And average is ok. Average is good.  Average is healthy.  Average is me.

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."  

Also by Taunia:

Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!

What Would I Have Done Differently with My Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?

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How to Build a Better Walk Program

Starting a walking program is a great way to get in shape and get healthy anytime! 

Many adults are experiencing the joys of walking for fitness, including participation in local 5k, half and full marathon races.  Wherever you are at in your fitness level, just starting in already doing races, these tips can help you increase the benefits you get from your walking program.


Strength Walk 
As you progress in your routine don’t forget to include some complementary resistance-training exercises for the muscles you use during your walks.  By strengthening your leg and torso muscles you will reduce joint stress and muscle fatigue, giving you greater stamina.  It’s best to implement your strength-walk program a few months prior to a given race, but it’s never too late to get started. 

Below is a short series of strength moves that you can add right into your walk or perform on off days.  You should try doing them at least 2 to 3 times per week. 

1. Walking lunges (for the leg and hip muscles): start with your feet together, step forward and bend both knees until you are in a lunge position, then bring the rear foot up to meet the front foot. Repeat leading with the opposite leg.  Continue alternating legs for 10 to 15 steps on each leg.   

2. Scapular Dips (for the upper back and shoulder girdle muscles): Place your arms behind you with your hands resting on the edge of a bench or step.  Walk you feet slightly forward, hips and knees bent.  Fingers are forward and elbows are straight.  Slowly let your shoulder blades slide upward towards your ears and then press them downward in the opposite direction.  Keeping all other joints stable.  Repeat this controlled shoulder shrug and press action 10 to 15 times. 

3. Heel to toe walks (for the lower leg muscles): Stand tall, bending the knees slightly and walk on your heels (toes up) for 30 seconds.  Follow this with 30 seconds of walking on your toes (heels up).  Repeat 30-second toe to heel walk two more times for a total of 3 sets.

4. Scapular Squeeze Circuit (for the mid back, postural muscles): Walk with proper form and arm swing for 5 to 10 minutes then continue walking while performing 20 scapular squeezes.  Tuck both arms in towards your sides and pinch the muscles between your shoulder blades as though you are squeezing a tennis ball between them.  Hold the squeeze for one to two seconds then release for one to two seconds.  Go back to normal walking technique then repeat the squeeze series a total of 3 times over.

Power walk
Who wouldn’t like to make the most out of every walking workout? A simple way to increase your walking power and output is to increase the dynamics of your arm swing.  Create a fist with your thumbs resting on your knuckles and bend your elbows to right angles.  Pump your arms forward and back with your fist moving from sternum to hip in an alternating fashion.  As you pump your arms think about driving your elbows down and back right along side of your torso. Keep your arms moving in a straight line; don’t let them swing side to side or cross the body. To progress further try-adding resistance in the form of hand held weights, body vests, or walking poles.  All of these options will help you burn more calories while using them while also increasing your ability to perform a more powerful walk when you walk without them.     

Start off using the lightest increments of weight.  Restrict the time you spend using the added resistance.  Start with 5 or 10 minutes and then gradually build up to your regular workout time.  If you plan to increase your resistance, do so in small increments every 4 to 8 weeks. The maximum recommendation for hand held weights is 3 pounds and the maximum for weighted vest is 30 pounds.  Note: Controversy exists over the use of hand held weights due to the stress to the shoulder joint. 

*Keep in mind that good posture, controlled arm swing and proper overall walking form (see article on walking form) must be maintained during the use of any added resistance device. If the use of added resistance causes, neck, shoulder pain or low back pain discontinue immediately.

Speed Walk
Another great way to add a bit of spice to your walk program is with speed play.  Some times called interval or Fartlek training, it is the best way to rev up your walk and train towards faster race time.  The difference between this type of training and your continuous walk training is that the intensity and speed of the exercise varies, to train both the aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic systems (without oxygen).  Simply put, the aerobic system is the system your body uses to perform continuous activities like walking, swimming and bike riding. 

Your respiration and pulse rate increase, but you can handle it and keep going for 20 or more minutes. The anaerobic system is used for high intensity activities like sprinting and jumping, that cause you to become winded and fatigued, forcing you to stop within a 30 to 90 seconds.  By training both of these systems you will become more fit and able to walk at faster, harder paces. 

The easiest way to implement this into your existing walk routine is to perform timed bouts of fast walking followed by slow, recovery walking.  This can be accomplished using the walking techniques described in the previous walking pace articles (link).  Start with a warm up walk lasting between 10 and 15 minutes and then pick up your pace to a 30 to 60 second speed walk, followed by 1 to 3 minutes of leisurely paced, health walking.  Once you feel that you have adequately recovered you can go back to a moderate fitness paced walk.  Every time you do a 30 to 60 second speed pace, follow it up with a 1 to 2 minute recovery pace.   Start with two or three of these bouts equally disbursed within your walk, then add in another every few weeks as desired.

The ratio is the time difference between the fast, work pace and the slow, recovery pace.  Typically you begin with a 1 to 3 ratio.  That means the recovery pace is 3 times the length of the work pace.  For example:

30 seconds fast – 1.5 minutes slow (1 to 3 ratio)
or,  1 minute fast – 3 minutes slow  (1 to 3 ratio)

As you get in better condition for intervals you can reduce the ratio to 1 to 2

30 seconds fast – 1 minute slow (1 to 2 ratio)
Or, 1 minute fast – 2 minutes slow (1 to 2 ratio)

It can be a lot of fun trying different ratios. Soon you’ll be cruising down the road with greater speed and energy.  But don’t overdue it... interval training is quite intense so limit these types of training sessions to no more than a few times per week.

Many of the abilities and improvements you will be working on in this three part program go hand and hand because of the cross over between strength, power and speed... so feel free to use a variety of these suggested programs.

Don't forget to take your liquid glucosamine and chondroitin to support your joints.  This will help so you can keep on doing the activities you love. 

See Also:  Building a Better Walk Program

Have any plans for walking or running a race this year? Leave your tips or story here!

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Fill Up Your Motivation Tank

How full is your motivation tank? Is motivation more like an on/off switch for you? Do you see it as either your are motivated or you aren't? 

Perhaps it’s time to take a look at that way of thinking, and exchange it for a more comprehensive, holistic view of how motivation fluctuates in daily life.

Try thinking of motivation levels like a fuel gauge – your car never runs at a full tank all the time does it?  It fluctuates based on how many miles you've driven, what kind of driving you've done, and how many times you've filled it up on the trip.  Motivation works the same way.

Joshua C. Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of Living SMART: 5 Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever.

"I tell people not to waste precious time and energy on staying highly motivated because motivation has a natural rhythm. Most people see a drop in motivation as a signal of failure, but it's not," he says.  

Allowing motivation to run its natural cycle and at the same time having a set of habit-changing lifestyle skills (such as a meal plan for the week, or various indoor/outdoor, home/gym alternatives to exercise), you'll stay on track until the next upswing in motivation comes back around.


  POP QUIZ YOURSELF. You can plug in any behavior that requires you to stay motivated.  "Answering these questions often helps to boost motivation just enough to remind you of why you started the diet in the first place," Klapow says.

If I stop, how will I look in six months or one year from now?
If I stop, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?
If I stop, what will my health be like?
If I stop, how will my 
family and friends be affected?

 DIVERT TO OTHER AREAS. If you're struggling to stick with your original healthy intentionspractice integrity in other areas of your life, suggests Andre Farnell, a certified strength and conditioning coach and owner of Better Body Expert. Clean out your closet (finally), pay off a debt, and make good on other promises to friends, family, or co-workers.

Practice sticking with commitments you've made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promises you've made to yourself, Farnell says.  

Once you strengthen that subconscious belief in your own abilities to follow through in other areas, motivation is bound to swing back around to the healthy commitments you have made to yourself.

FOCUS ON FEELING.  Don’t sabotage your motivation by focusing on hard facts like body pounds, food ounces or days/hours in the gym, says Simon Rego, Ph.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. 

Concentrate on your mood after you've eaten a healthy meal or how you feel after a great workout—motivation doesn't always have to come before you accomplish an activity, Rego says. "If you focus on how you feel each time you exercise, you'll get all the benefits of burning calories, plus the reinforcement of remembering how good it felt to do it, which should increase your motivation to do more."

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Understanding Protein Options - Differences and Benefits

Proper Protein Consumption

Protein is probably the most commonly used nutritional supplement in the fitness industry, and for good reason too:

We all need plenty of protein (along with resistance training) in order to support lean muscle mass and prevent muscle degradation.  

You can usually get your daily protein needs from your diet, but many people still supplement in order to increase muscle growth. The most common form of protein supplementation is whey protein powder and collagen liquid protein (we won’t discuss casein protein). Let’s break down the difference between the two and figure out exactly how much protein you need to consume per day!  SEE ALSO: Top 3 Keys to Maintaining Muscle As You Age

Whey Protein

Easily the most common type of supplemented protein in the fitness industry; whey protein has also been extensively studied. Produced from the liquid resulting from cheese production, whey protein promotes muscle protein synthesis and lean muscle mass.

Although some studies refute the effectiveness of protein supplementation in general, one study found that the supplementation of whey protein increased the strength and lean muscle mass of men compared to no supplementation at all (Burke et al 2001). Some forms of whey protein can be hard to mix and result in clumpy shakes but this can be overcome with a good shaker bottle.

Collagen Protein

Usually called hydrolyzed collagen protein, collagen is the most abundant type of protein in the human body. This protein is very important for ligament, tendon, joint, and even muscle health. When offered as a supplement, collagen must first undergo an enzymatic process to break it down to easier to absorb molecules. After this process, tryptophan and asparagines (among other things) are added to make it a complete protein.

There is evidence that hydrolyzed collagen can support lean muscle mass but research is ongoing in this area! 

One of the best aspects of hydrolyzed collagen protein is that it is thoroughly absorbed by the body; at least 90% absorption. (Oesser et al 1999)

Daily Protein Recommendations

Whether you decide to take collagen or whey, it’s a good idea to know your daily recommendations! It turns out that the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends the average person consumes 0.36g protein/lb of bodyweight per day (0.8g protein/kg bodyweight). That means that a 150lb person should consume at least 54g protein per day (150lb * 0.36 = 54g).

For those of you that routinely workout or take part in intense sporting events and want to improve your lean muscle mass, it is recommended that you consume 1.2 - 1.7g or protein/kg bodyweight daily (ACSM, ADA, Dietitians of Canada). To convert bodyweight from pounds to kilograms multiply your bodyweight by 0.45. That means that a 150lb person who needs 1.7g/kg per day should consume 144.75g/day. ([150lb * 0.45] * 1.7g/kg = 114.75g/day).

Lastly, we all know that nutrition after an intense workout can be very important. To get the most out of your workouts it is recommended to consume protein post-exercise, but how much? Research tells us that immediately after a workout we need 0.2g - 0.4g protein per kilogram of body weight (150lb person needs = 13.5g to 27.2g protein) to sufficiently maximize gains (Levenhagen et al 2001).

For most people they can get their daily allotment of protein form their normal diet (vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, nuts…etc) but for others they may want to supplement their protein intake with either collagen or whey protein. Make sure you are getting the protein you need in order to promote healthy muscle growth/maintenance!

If you want more at-home fitness and nutrition information check out Josh at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.

photo credit: sldownard via photopin cc


Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davison KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T (2001) The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 11: 349-364.

Levenhagen DK, Gresham JD, Carlson MG, Maron DJ, Borel MJ, Flakoll PJ (2001) Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 280: 982-993.

Oesser S, Adam M, Babel W, Seifert J (1999) Oral administration of 14C labelled gelatine hydrolysate leads to an accumulation of radioactivity in cartilage of mice (C57/BL). Journal of Nutrition 129 (10): 1891–1895.

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Small Healthy Choices That Make A Big Impact

Small Steps

It’s amazing how implementing a few healthy changes can add up to you achieving your fitness goals. It can be as simple as drinking one less soda a day or choosing a chocolate covered strawberry over a cupcake. Small healthy steps like these are what makes a diet successful but they also need to be sustainable, going from just being practiced occasionally to evolving into a habit. 

Let’s look at some of the simple ways where you can create a calorie deficit and start achieving your fitness goals!

Better Snacks

One way to easily cut a load of calories is to eat healthier snacks. Many times people don’t bring snacks to work and can pay the consequences of either using the office vending machine or powering through until lunch, which then leads to overeating.

Either way, you may fall prey to consuming a lot of highly processed foods which can be full of unhealthy fats and calories. 

To combat this, bring your own healthy snacks (like fruit) to work. Not only will you save money, but fruits are convenient and filling.

Because they are naturally sweet, fruits tend to be more refreshing and palatable than other healthy foods such as vegetables. Let’s compare a normal snack like potato chips with a common fruit like a peach:

  • 2oz bag of potato chips=  70 total grams consumed: 310 calories, 21g fat, 3.75g protein, 28g carbs, 2.5g fiber
  • Extra large peach= 224 total grams consumed: 87 calories, 1g fat, 2g protein, 22g carbs, 3g fiber

Make a similar snack swap once a day and it will save you from consuming 223 extra calories a day or over 81,000 calories a year! That equals over 23 lbs worth of calories a year! Not to mention, the higher quality, lower calorie fruit comes with a much higher mass to make you feel fuller, plus many more vitamins and phytonutrients.

Better Beverages

Let’s face it; many of us consume bunches of calories through drinks like sweetened coffee, energy drinks, and soda. Drinking 2-3 of these beverages a day can add up to a substantial amount of useless calories!

To combat this, drink your coffee black or try to consume one less soda per day, or switch from sports drinks to water.

For example:

Just cutting out the calories of one soda a day (Classic Coke [12oz] ~140 calories) adds up to over 51,000 calories a year or over 14.5lbs worth of calories!

Personally, I recommend drinking water but many people don’t like just water. You can flavor your water with Crystal Light or Mio to have a flavored, healthy drink without the added calories.

Walk More

When people think of exercising, they usually think of working out at a packed gym. This frightens many people! Some individuals are too insecure to workout at a gym or just frankly feel like they don’t know what they are doing to begin with, which leads to them not exercising at all!

As a gym alternative, try walking! Walking can be quite effective for sedentary individuals at increasing their exercise capacity as well as creating a lasting routine. Walking just 45 minutes a day can do wonders for your cardiovascular health, muscle strength, exercise capacity, and caloric burn! 

Briskly walking for only 45 minutes a day can have you burning 300-500 calories extra calories a day (dependent on terrain, speed, and individual). 

According to a Discovery Health Newsletter a 150 lb person walking only 2 mph on a steep incline will burn a total of 336 calories in 45 minutes. Do that once a day you can burn an extra 2,350 calories a week, which equals over 35 lbs worth of calories a year!

Bringing It All Together

Clearly, even the smallest healthy habits really add up in terms of weight loss! Of course, this is all hypothetical and dependent on the individual, but the numbers don’t lie. If you were to just implement these three steps:

1.    One less 12 oz soda a day
2.    Replace one snack with fruit
3.    Walk 45 minutes a day

You could hypothetically create a calorie deficit of over 255,000 calories or over 72 pounds worth of calories a year.

Of course, this is unlikely due to calorie additions along the way, but it does help us understand that simple steps such as drinking one less soda a day can have resounding weight loss effects.

If you are afraid of implementing a healthy choice because you don’t think it will add up to weight loss, think again! It could make all the difference!

SEE ALSO:  Yes You Can Burn Calories Without Exercising! and  Sneaky Calories - Identifying them is half the battle!

If you want more at-home fitness and nutrition information check out Josh Anderson at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.


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Joint-Friendly Fitness Routines to Increase Mobility and Flexibility

The warmer weather creates a positive environment for many things, in particular increased joint mobility. And it's important to keep your joints healthy so you can continue doing the activities you love all summer long!

Stretching routine for joint health for mobility and flexibility

With that in mind it may be a great time for arthritis sufferers to re-evaluate their exercise program and get back on track with a few daily joint healthy exercises.  Daily stretching has been recommended in particular for those with compromised joints as a treatment for joint pain.  The Aerobic and Fitness Association of America lists flexibility as one of the first fitness components to be addressed when designing a functional fitness program for those with arthritic conditions .

The reason why is pretty simple.  If you can’t move with good range of motion it is pretty hard to do any exercise or daily activity with proper form and alignment.  Exercising with pore alignment is a major cause of joint stress and further joint damage, thus it is important to keep joints as mobile as possible, even when limitations exist.  

Stretching Guidelines

• Always increase your body core temperature prior to holding stretch position: performing a physical warm up including light cardiovascular or rhythmic movement can do this.  A physical warm up can be enhanced by taking a hot shower or bath prior to your session, scheduling your session toward the later and/or warmer part of the day, performing your stretches in a warm environment and/or while wearing clothing that keeps the body well insulated.

•  Ease into your stretch positions: Start at a point of very mild tension, take two or three deep breaths, then try to move into a deeper stretch position, increasing the stretching sensation to a higher degree of tension (or slight discomfort). This is very similar to yoga breathing practices. 

• Never stretch to the point of pain or high discomfort: Your muscles will actually reject the stretch and try to protect themselves by tensing up.

• Breath fluidly throughout all your stretches: at least 5 deep breaths per stretch.

• Repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times over.

The following includes an upper and lower body stretch series that should be done at least once every day:

The Upper Body Wall Stretch:

Stand facing a wall and gently position your hands a comfortable distance above your head. Work your arms up the wall, keep your abdominals tight and lean your torso towards the wall.  Next, turn around and place your backside to the wall with your arms in a ‘T’ position (elbows bent and upper arm parallel to the floor).  Try to press your head, spine and arms against the wall.  Hold both the front and back position for 3 to 5 deep breaths.

Read Also:  Stretching to the Limit for Muscle and Joint Pain

The Lower Body Chair Stretch: 

Start by standing behind a sturdy chair in a lunge position.  Gently work the back leg further away from the front leg until you feel a stretch down the hip, and then press the heel towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your lower leg/ calf muscle.  Follow this up by straightening the front leg and leaning forward with your torso until you feel a stretch down the back of the front leg (keep your spine straight as you lean forward).  Switch leg positions and repeat the series

More Joint Health Articles:

Exercises to Help Decrease Knee Pain

Soothing Exercise for Cranky Painful Joints

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Vitamins & Minerals Work Better Together


We like to think of our social communities as close, helpful and inter-connected.  We rely on one another for all sorts of daily help.  Kids help moms into the house with groceries.  Friends help each other by listening and giving support.  Friends and family help make special events successful and fun with a little help from everyone. 

Vitamins support each other in many of  the same ways.  

Different vitamin molecules interact with each other in specific body processes and biological circumstances in ways that promote and actively assist your body’s best use of each vitamin.  

SEE ALSO:  Why do Water-Soluble Vitamins Need to be Replenished Every Day?

Did you know…

  • Vitamin D3 is critical to your body’s proper use of calcium

  • Vitamin C is required for proper protein metabolism and also improves absorption of Iron from plant-based foods

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is needed to help your body convert Vitamin B6 and Folate into their active forms SEE ALSO:  What Are The Best Sources of B Vitamins?

  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) helps your body best use lots of other vitamins, including Vitamin B2

  • Vitamin B6 is necessary for the proper absorption of Vitamin B12 and helps Iron function properly in your body through its role in proper red blood cell production  SEE ALSO:  Vitamin B12 and Why You Need It

  • Folate and B12 work together to produce SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine)

It is very important to have a well-rounded vitamin and mineral program if you already have nutrient absorption issues or know you’re deficient in certain vitamins or minerals so they can help each other work within your body to give you the best each nutrient has to offer.  

SEE ALSO: Celiac Disease and a Gluten Free Diet - Watch for Nutrient Deficiencies in Both

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How to Achieve Amazing Spring Fitness

Finally!  It's Spring!  

The sun is shining, birds are singing, and flowers are blooming... what a great time to add some spring to your fitness program. Call it spring, jump, bounce or sprint... I’m talking about cardio-interval training and it is a great way to wake up and shake up your body.  

Interval Training
Interval training involves timed bouts of higher intensity movement followed by timed bouts of lower intensity recovery movement.  Typically these bouts are done in a ratio of 1 to 2 (1:2), 1 to 3(1:3) or 1 to 4 (1:4).  That would mean that if you did high intensity movement for 30 seconds, you would follow that up with 1, 1.5 or 2 minutes of low intensity movements.  

So here is an example.  Do 30 seconds of jumping jacks (that would be about 20 jacks), then follow this with a march or walk in place for 1 minute (that would be about 120 steps in place), now repeat that same work/recovery interval four times over.  During the work bout, you can choose to do any move that makes you breathe heavy, or better yet, breathless in the 30 seconds.  That would be moves like jumping rope, running in place with high knees, lateral leaps, squat jumps, etc.  

You can also choose to do any light movement that helps get your heart rate and breathing back under control during the recovery bout.  That could be knee bends, walking around the room, heel presses forward, step touches, etc.  You can use the same two moves, or change them every bout.  

Get That Heart Rate Up!
The key is to get the heart rate up fast and then bring it back down gently.  Don’t start a new work-bout until you feel that your heart rate and breathing rate are back down to a low or moderate sensation of exercise exertion.  This type of training can help you break out of a training rut.  It burns a high level of calories.  It has also been shown to lift the metabolism for longer periods post training than traditional steady state training (training at a moderate intensity).  

Read also:  Spring Into Fitness - Are You Ready to HIIT Yourself Fit? Part One

Start Slowly
Keep in mind that the less fit or accustom you are to high intensity training movements the shorter you should make your work-bouts and the longer you should make your recoveries (for example 15 seconds work to 1 or 2 minutes of recovery).  On the other hand the more fit you are the longer you can make your work-bouts and the shorter the recovery (for example 1 minute all out movement followed by 1 to 2 minutes of recovery).  You will never want to exceed 90 seconds in all out effort and your ratio should not be less than a 1:1 or 1: 2 work to recovery ratio. 

Start off by adding 2 to 4 of these bouts to your regular cardio workout time.  After a few sessions you can slowly build up to 6 to 8 intervals. For every interval bout you do you can shave off about 5 minutes of your regular workout time. So if you do 4 bouts that would be 20 minutes off a 60-minute walk.
Don't forget to take your liquid supplements like calcium and glucosamine and chondroitin to help you keep doing the activities you love!

More great articles:
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The Shape of Things to Come

I had weight loss surgery six years ago, and I've done incredibly well with it.  I've maintained a loss of 150 lbs on my 5'7" frame, became a much healthier eater, have more options for clothes, and many other wonderful things that going along with losing the equivalent of a whole other person.  BUT, I've also never had plastic surgery.  I've never been covered by insurance either on the east coast in Boston (where I had my surgery) or here on the west coast at Kaiser.  When you lose a ton of weight, some of it just "evaporates" but most of it stays there, in a different form, as a constant reminder.

excess skin after weight loss surgery

I've been extremely fortunate because I didn't have a lot of extra skin on my legs and arms.  Even at 311 lbs, I was pretty active swing and latin dancing, so those parts of my body (that were smaller to begin with) stayed pretty toned throughout the whole process.  But my stomach?  Not so much.  I look like I've had the equivalent of a small children's choir living in my gut.  It's ridiculous.  And the (innocent, but uninformed) answer from people is usually, "Why don't you try exercise?"  "OMG!  Exercise?  Geesh, I hadn't thought of that!"  There are no numbers of crunches of push ups, of sits ups, of cross-training, kickboxing, zumba ANYTHING that will get rid of this gut.  For those of you who have had several children, you may be able to relate.  The only way this is going away is with some serious plastic surgery, which we have already discovered is not an option for me without insurance coverage.

If one of more person asks me "when I'm due," I may lose it and just start shopping strictly in the maternity department and start lying about when my beautiful, talented, genius of a children will be brought forth unto this world.

"But I've found options other than straight up insanity.  It's called shapewear."

Shapewear is daunting if you've never worn it before.  There are so many pieces to choose from, each helping with a different problem area, some working with all problem areas.  So what I've decided to do is give you the solutions and shapewear that I've found works best for me, with different types of outfits.  All are very affordable, but I consider shapewear an investment in my sanity. :)  It does take some getting used to - being stuffed into something like a sausage you can't eat anymore, but you'll become used to that too, and a lot of the restriction loosens up after a wash or two.  Here are my favorites:

DRESSES:  I live in dresses in the summer.  Because of this, I need a great shaper that works all-over, so I opt for the bodysuit shaper, which is almost like a bathing suit.  My absolute favorite is "Beauty by Bali" Smoothing Lace Shaping Bodysuit.  Not only is it an amazing piece of shapewear, but it is sexy as hell.  My husband LOVES these and thinks they look like amazing lingerie. You can also find these in most department store lingerie departments.  It's the ONLY piece of shape wear I wear with dresses.  It provides great midsection coverage and the girls look pretty damn good in it!

TOPS:  For tops of any kind, I always use the Self Expressions Cami Shaper from Maidenform. It comes in a range of sizes and colors, and could really be worn all on it's own as a top.  What I like about them is the the most shaping coverage is in the midsection (where I need it most) and it doesn't smoosh the girls.  Also, another bonus for tall upper torso girls like me is that it has adjustable straps and enough length to cover the pouchy midsection below the belly button.  I also really like Slimpressions Tanks A Little because it provides coverage for the mid section, but you can wear your own bra with it.  Plus, the material is SUPER comfortable.

BOTTOMS:  When it comes to bottoms, I'm fortunate enough that I don't need any coverage around the thigh or knee area.  I know lots of folks that do, though, so I thought I'd direct you to a few great companies for that:  Slimpressions, Spanx (which I find very expensive and very uncomfortable, but lots of ladies love them), and HERROOM has tons of great selections.  You can also do some searches on Ebay, Google Shopping, and for more items to choose from.

PANTIES:  I tend to wear lightweight shape wear panties or else I feel like I'm wearing a chastity belt.  I just need enough coverage to make sure the pooch doesn't get out of control.  I tend to like boy short cuts, and I can find a ton of different options at Bare Necessities.  If you sign up for their email you get access to a ton of discounts too, so I would definitely try that route.  I also love Slimpressions Full Cut Panty.  Really great coverage without sucking every ounce of air out of my body.  Seriously, though, they're very comfortable.

SUMMER TIPS:  As summer starts to roll around, we all start to freak out about SWIMSUITS.  Have no fear!  I have some helpful hints for that as well.  There is a great company called MiracleSuit that has some seriously rocking styles, but all have really great shaping coverage.  There's a reason "Miracle" is  in the name.  Here's the one I'm coveting for this summer: Tile Style Suit and Sarong.Diva Taunia with Tim Gunn

QUICK TIP:   Remember the Bali Bodysuit Shaper I mentioned at the top?  You can wear those under nearly any bathing suit to help you feel more shapely and confident.  I did that all last summer and it made me extremely comfortable to walk around in my suit.

Another tip?  Self-tanner.  I don't advocate tanning in the sun - it's bad for you!  But self-tanner can darken your skin a few shades and hide some of the extra cellulite and icky parts that we don't love so much.

Hopefully, you found this helpful.  Have any questions about where to shop or what types of shape wear to get?  Feel free to email me at

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area." 

More Great Articles by Diva Taunia:

Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

Pizza on the Brain - Can I Ever Eat It Again?

The "Unsolicited Advice" Syndrome - Thanks but NO Thanks!

Pregnancy after Weight Loss Surgery

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Nutrition, Laughter and Vascular Health - Happy April Fools Day!

Are you still a joking and pranking kind of  person, even in adulthood?  Remember those crazy April Fool’s Day jokes you used to play on your siblings or your parents when you were a kid?  Drag all those silly things back out, if you're willing –  it could be to your benefit!

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and a report from the Society for Vascular Surgery shows filling your month with laughter can be very beneficial for your vascular health.

“Laughter increases blood flow and improves the function of blood vessels.  Reducing stress is especially beneficial for persons who have hypertension (high blood pressure).” Dr. Vivienne Halpern, from the Society for Vascular Surgery said in a press release.

Stress and high blood pressure have been shown to have a negative impact on health and wellness. The combination of pressure at work, financial issues, and personal or relationship problems can all raise blood pressure and cause hypertension, and even contribute to cardiovascular disease.

So tobalance out life's stressful and unhealthy moments, add a little fun to your April Fool’s Day!  Fake your family out with these fun and funny, but healthy trick foods! 

Get your meat-loving family to go unexpectedly meatless for a meal – replace all their favorites with all vegetarian faux-meat options and see if they’ll even notice.  Joke’s on them, and all for the better if they can’t even tell and love the meal!

Make a Meatloaf Cake (meatloaf that looks just like carrot cake? That’ll fool `em!)

Roll some Mock Sushi – rice crispies and fruit roll ups, marshmallows and twizlers in the middle, could scare your kids into not eating candy!

Even the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition is getting in on the fun with these cute tricks for your kids:

Un-Drinkable Drink - Prepare a tall glass with sugar-free gelatin mix. Put a straw in it and place in the refrigerator. When it's ready to serve to your kids, you'll get a laugh out of watching them try to drink their beverage before offering a spoon.

Rotten Apple - Use a corer to cut a small hole in the side of an apple. Put a gummy worm in the hole!  When a family member reaches for the apple, it will take them a moment to register the tasty worm treat before slurping it down, and hopefully give them quite a giggle.

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Preventing Injuries When Starting a New Exercise Program

If you are starting a new exercise program, whether it’s boxing, yoga, walking or running, your primary goals should include getting fit and having a great time. Therefore, it is important to prevent injuries so you can enjoy exercise instead of sitting on the sidelines in pain.

Here are the top things you must do to keep your body healthy and prevent injuries:

See a Strength Coach or Physical Therapist First.

A good strength coach or physical therapist should be able to evaluate your bio-mechanics (how you move your body) while also testing for muscle weakness and tightness. And, they can show you how to correct poor bio-mechanics, strengthen weak muscles and decrease muscle tightness. This is very important because many put excess stress on their knees, rotator cuff or other parts of their body due to weak hips, weak accessory muscles, poor bio-mechanics or muscle tightness. 

Warm Up.

Perform a light warm up by walking, jogging or performing active/dynamic warm-up exercises. Check out this article for a few great ideas.  

Start Slowly.

The weather may be warm and the sights around you beautiful, but take a step back and remember to start off slowly. If you haven’t walked in a while, setting out to an hour-long hike might not be the best idea. Even if you are conditioned and exercise regularly, any new form of exercise will work different muscles and tendons. So, how long should you go? 10 minutes is the rule of thumb for your first run (or first run in a while) and you can add 10% per week thereafter. Walking – start with a max of 20 minutes. Any other new sport – 10 – 20 minutes is a good guideline. 

In addition to starting slowly, make sure you take rest days so your body can recover and repair. 

Cross Train.

When you incorporate different types of exercise into each week you will not only prevent boredom but you will also work different muscles and therefore help prevent overuse injuries from doing the same repetitive motions constantly. 

Foam Roll & Trigger Point Therapy.

Foam rolling is the best way to give yourself a massage at home. Foam rolling will help loosen up tight muscles and make your body feel better. Trigger point therapy targets muscle knots – those hard lumps you get that feel like a dull pain and / or contribute to nerve pain by compressing on nerves.  I love the rumble roller because the ridges dig into the parts of my muscle that hurt. I also like TP therapy as well.

SEE ALSO:  How to stay in motion when you have joint pain and  Exercise for Healthy Bones


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Experiencing Fitness ‘Body Rut’? Here's how to beat it!

We defiantly get in a rut when it comes to our diet and exercise program, so why not try something new?

The body responds best to new stimuli. First it responds and then it adapts, this is referred to as the GAS principle  (General Adaptation Syndrome).

The goal is to keep your body in a response phase. In order to accomplish this you will need to constantly shift the demands placed on your body.  In doing so you will continue to see improvement as well as avoid burnout and overuse injury.

Think about it. If all you ever did was the same moderate intensity, 30 minute stationary cycling workout, your heart and leg muscles would be challenged for a while, but at some point you would hit a training plateau. When this happens you find yourself more engaged by the TV screen than the training session. Next thing you know you’re in the dreaded fitness ‘body rut’.

You may not realize this, but when your body gets used to what you are doing (more efficient) you are actually burning fewer calories doing it.

A training plateau occurs when your body no longer responds to the same workout. This phenomenon can happen in terms of any training goal from cardio endurance to weight loss or muscle gain. It will typically happen every 2 to 3 months, if you don’t progress or vary your training routine. Thus it will be important to find ways to throw your body ‘off track’ to get back ‘on track’ with your long-term results. Here are some simple tips to keep your body guessing and moving in the right rather than ‘rut’ direction!

  1. FOR CARDIO: Introduce a new form of cardio training every month. Once you find three or four activities you enjoy then rotate them on a weekly or monthly basis. Remember you should ideally perform 3 to 5 moderate to vigorous intensity cardio session per week. 
  2. FOR STRENGTH: Change up the combination of sets, reps, load and actual exercises every 2 to 4 workouts. You can even change the type of load or resistance. Try something new like a kettle-bell or medicine ball and add a lighter day of elastic resistance exercises to your week.
  3. FOR FLEXIBILITY: Blend both dynamic (moving or limbering) and static (held) stretches into your day. Find little ways to stretch and limber anytime you are stagnant (sitting at a desk or standing in a long line).  Try to include a new stretch every week.
  4. FOR DIET & WEIGHT LOSS: Change small things about the way you eat from simply reducing your portion sizes, to exchanging whole foods to replace processed ones. Experiment with new healthier cooking recipes or drink water with meals instead of sugary drinks. Make sure all of your critical vitamin and mineral levels are in proper ranges. If you try a new healthier eating strategy every week, you may find one that fits as part of your regular eating habits. Once it does, then you can focus on another one… and so on and so on…

SEE ALSO:  Tips to Achieve Greater Fitness Results this Spring


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A Healthy Cinnamon, Raisin Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

This smoothie tastes just like eating an oatmeal cookie fresh out of the oven. This recipe is sugar free, which makes it perfect for breakfast.  I used Liquid Protein from the Wellesse line of vitamins to create a filling, healthy smoothie, but other Wellesse liquid supplements could also be added (the liquid Calcium with Vitamin D3 especially!). 

To prepare this smoothie, put your yogurt into ice trays and freeze the night before. This is a quick and easy recipe to throw together on a busy week day morning. 

Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

•    6 Cubes of Frozen yogurt (dairy or nondairy)
•    ½ Cup Oats
•    ¼-1/2 Cup Raisins
•    2 tsp Cinnamon
•    ½ Milk (dairy or nondairy)
•    Tiny Pinch of Salt
•    ½ tsp Vanilla Extract 
•    2 TBSP Wellesse Liquid Protein Complete 
•    1 Frozen Banana
•    4 Regular ice cubes
•    Stevia to taste (or other liquid sugar of choice)

1.    Freeze dairy or nondairy yogurt of choice in ice cube trays
2.    Throw all ingredients into your blender and combine until desired consistency.
3.    Enjoy!

SEE ALSO:  Tips to Create Your Own Smoothie Recipe

Recipe by Brittany Angell of, expert allergen-free food blogger and author - see more and sign up for Club Angell at her website - like her on Facebook



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Additions and Subtractions to Your Diet After Weight Loss Surgery

"What can you eat now?"  It's one of the first questions that I get asked by people.  

chinese food

At six years out from gastric bypass surgery, my answer is "almost anything."  It wasn't always that way, of course. The first few years, I couldn't eat things like ice cream, french fries, and other former staples in my diet. There would be immediate mutiny in my stomach if I even looked at those foods. So out of necessity, I just started eating a lot healthier and it soon became my "normal" way of eating. There are some things that I still cannot eat, but mostly there are things that I choose not to eat.

"Actually, the way lots of foods tasted was dramatically different."

I know many other weight loss surgery patients have said the same thing:  many of the foods in our former pre-op lives just taste awful now.  (There is actual scientific fact to back this up, such as this great article found here on Bariatric Times.) So I thought I'd create an addiction and subtraction list to get a glimpse into my post-op life eating.  Some of these foods are healthy, some are not.  Some of these foods I eat because I have to, some are because I want to.  Some of them are subtracted from my life for good for medical reasons. In all of these cases, it may be helpful to first get a glimpse at what I used to eat regularly first.

Before Weight Loss Surgery

Pre-op:  I lived alone in a large house and I taught music out of my home.  I barely left home, as a matter of fact.  My life consisted of take out food, ice cream, and ice cold glasses of Coke (which was my absolute favorite beverage in the world: several cubes in a nice glass - ahhh, heaven!).  My take out meals were almost always either pizza (of which I would eat approx 80% of the entire large pie) or chinese food takeout - enough for at least two large meals, which I would eat as one.)

When I had to go on the liquid diet for two weeks before surgery, I thought I.  was.  going.  to.  die. I literally thought I was going insane and that maybe I was making some horrible, horrible mistake.  I had 2-3 shakes a day and allowed myself two slices of low calorie toast with butter for the last meal of the evening.  I lost 14 lbs in two weeks, enough for the go-ahead for surgery.

I think I can probably skip the portion size and shakes description for the first few months after surgery. Most of you already know that. So, I'll jump straight to me six-years-out addition and subtraction lists with notes:

Six Years After Surgery


Soda:  any soda.  I cannot STAND the taste of it - whether it's diet or regular.  It all just tastes like a giant fuzzy glass of sugar and turns my stomach.  The only exception to this is ginger ale and I have the diet version ONLY when I have an upset stomach.

Chinese Food:  I never touch it any more, and if someone suggests we go to a chinese restaurant, I begrudgingly oblige.  The oily taste just completely turns my stomach.  (You might be happy to know, though, that pizza still remains a staple in my diet. More below.)

Also Read:  Pizza on the Brain - Can I Ever Eat It Again?

Ice Cream:  In my post-op days, I have become lactose intolerant.  I can have a couple bites, but that's it. Any more than that and World War III breaks out in my gut.

Rice and Pasta:  I can't have it - of any kind.  Once it's inside my pouch, it expands and the pain is excruciating.  I love both, but I love being NOT in pain even more. Foods that are high in calcium oxalate stones can wreak havoc on a post-op who is susceptible to kidney stones. Other healthy but hurtful foods include spinach, beets, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat.  It's the spinach one that kills me. I love me some spinach.  *Note:  have questions about this?  Be sure to check with your surgeon or nutritionist!


Cottage Cheese:  I know.  Some of you are rolling your eyes right now, but honestly, it's good stuff!  Knudsen offers cottage cheese doubles with amazing flavors like pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry, and they're only 100 calories and completely fill me up in the morning with a cup of coffee.  Never in my life did I think cottage cheese would be a favorite of mine, but it is.  And speaking of cheese…

Cheese:  of all kinds, all varieties, I love, love, love it.  One of my absolute favorites is from Trader Joe's and it's called Unexpected Cheddar.  It's like cheese sent from the Gods.  It's a small square wrapped in cheese paper in the cheese section.  Buy it. You will thank me for it later.

Fruit:  my new sugar rush.  I love, love, love fruit.  In particular, I love pineapple, mango, red grapes, and bananas.  Any time I start getting a sweet tooth, I grab some good stuff.

Lean Cuisine:  I know it's a bit of a cop-out, but when I'm working at the school and need something quick to eat, this does the job. Usually the calorie count is pretty decent, and they have some great flavors like Turkey Dinner, Sesame Chicken (my favorite), steamed Asian dumplings, and even a great BBQ pizza.

Pizza:  This has never left my diet, I've only gotten more adventurous with the vegetable portions.  I love pretty much any veggie but a mushroom on my pizza.  And if it's well hidden, I'll even eat that.  I can only handle one piece of pizza on a good day, but believe me, I savor each bite.

Salad: Ok, so no dark greens like spinach, but I can create a pretty kick-ass salad with butter lettuce, romaine, or even regular iceberg.I think every salad should have veggies, cheese, egg, and some kind of small chopped meat.   And I usually add some tortilla strips for crunch.  And salad dressing?  I either make my own (lite vinaigrette) OR, I usually use a regular honey mustard as a dressing.  Trader Joe's make the BEST sweet and spicy honey mustard in the world.  Go buy it in vats.  You'll thank me later.

Vitamins and Supplements: It goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of Wellesse Liquid Supplements.  As someone who is Vitamin D deficient and also anemic, going without vitamins in my diet is NOT an options.  Check with your surgeon and dietician and make sure that you are including your vitamins as part of your new post-op world diet.

So that's about it.  I eat pretty normally now with a few exceptions.  I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician, I just go by the info they've given me and the research I've done.  Hope this helps you know what to expect.  At six years out I'm living and eating great!

Guest post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area."

Read More!

Importance of Working With Your Dietitian Before and After Weight Loss Surgery

After Weight Loss Surgery Success Tip - Check Your Dishwasher!

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Easy Tips for Improving Your Diet

Nutrition is a complex, confusing and ever changing science. Many people get stuck in the in-depth, fine details when they need to be focused on the bigger picture and fix aspects of their diet that will deliver the greatest results.

If you want to improve your diet, master each of these steps below before moving on to the next one:

Determine your biggest dietary pitfall and correct it.

For many people I counsel, fried foods and sugary drinks are their #1 issue. When foods are fried they soak up excess fat (and therefore calories) – which is the biggest problem with eating fried chicken as opposed to baked chicken. 

Sugary drinks are another problem mainly because they are loaded with calories but don’t keep your stomach full. Plus, most of these have zero nutrition value. If you want a sweet drink, opt for 100% juice and watch your portion size (drink it out of a small juice glass).  

Stick to the right portion sizes. 

It’s no secret that we overeat in America. If you want to lose or maintain your weight, pay attention size of each portion of food you eat. Generally speaking, each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) should contain the following:

For females:

  • Protein (meat, fish, poultry etc.)  - portion size should be the palm of your hand
  • Vegetables (colorful, non starchy veggies)  - as many as you want but eat at least 1 fist full with each lunch and dinner
  • Carbohydrates (rice, pasta, quinoa, cereal etc.) (– about the size of 1 - 1.5 of your fists)
  • Fat – about one thumb’s worth

For men:

  • Protein (meat, fish, poultry etc.)  - portion size should be 2x the palm of your hand (or both palms side by side)
  • Vegetables (colorful, non starchy veggies)  - as many as you want but eat at least 1 fist full with each lunch and dinner
  • Carbohydrates (rice, pasta, quinoa, cereal etc.) (– about the size of 2 fists or back down to 1 if you are trying to lose weight)
  • Fat – about two thumb’s worth

Eat less over-processed foods.

Processed foods are convenient, and I often find myself gravitating toward what is quick to prepare when I am pressed for time. However, there are many unprocessed foods you can prepare and eat in a hurry. Is it Possible to Eat Healthy Fast Food?

  • Carrots or other raw veggies paired with hummus.
  • Fruit paired with nut butter (like peanut butter).
  • Hard-boiled eggs

When you make the conscious decision to choose less processed foods, you’ll not only get more nutrition value from your foods but you’ll automatically cut calories, sugar and fat. That’s why the majority of best selling diet books will instruct you to eat whole, less processed foods.

Some research shows that we absorb fewer calories than a food contains when we eat it in its natural form (for some foods at least, this may not apply to all foods).

One study found participants absorbed only 80% of the calories from whole almonds and another study found 95% of calories from pistachios were absorbed. Why? The scientists conducting the studies believe we can’t entirely break down the cell walls in the nuts. 

So next time you're considering how to take a healthier approach to your eating habits, take these top three steps first. Guaranteed you'll see results this way!

photo credit: cproppe via photopin cc

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Jumping on the Technology Bandwagon Can Improve Your Health

For most people, technology has become a large aspect of their daily lives. For instance, instead of thumbing through a cookbook we can find recipes in 30 seconds on our smartphones or instead of going to an actual store we can order anything we want on Amazon.

One area that you may not be employing technology is an area that should matter the most; your health. The market for health apps and technologies is exploding. There are thousands of amazing health apps that can help you achieve your fitness goals. From helping you track your caloric consumption, to giving you more exercise ideas, to just getting you motivated can now all be assisted by health apps. 

Popular apps like MyFitnessPal and Couch 2 5K can help you achieve amazing results but are already well known; here is a list of 3 lesser known free health apps and 3 health apps for kids to help instill a health mindset in your children as well (all available for iOS)! 

1.    Workout Trainer – Want a personal trainer but can’t afford it? This is your personal trainer in app form. Like all personal trainer consultations you have to answer a series of questions to develop a workout appropriate for you! Not only will you get a workout appropriate for you but you can search through a massive list of other workouts and exercise (with photo examples) to get a great workout! 

2.    Tabata Timer – This is one of the apps I use the most because it is so simple and great for timing Tabata training sessions. Tabata training sessions are short term (< 10 minutes) high intensity interval training sessions (HIITs) employed to get the benefits of steady-state cardio in a short amount of time. You can perform HIITs on a bike, elliptical, treadmill, stair-stepper…etc. If you don’t have a ton of time to put into stead-state cardio, perform a Tabata session to totally blast through calories and give you a great workout!

3.    Lose It – Here’s a great nutrition app that will prescribe a daily allotted amount of calories you should consume after you answer a short series of questions. Not only that, but the app has functions to help you stay on your target caloric consumption such as a bar-code scanner for thousands of products which when scanned will tell you all the nutrition information! It also has a nifty tool in which you can see how many calories you can burn by performing specific exercises. It’s a great app to log your calories consumed/burned and fitness goals to keep you on track.

Apps for Kids 

1.    Awesome Eats – Want a fun, engaging but simple way to teach your kids about nutrition without them even knowing it? Awesome Eats might be your answer. Its 60+ levels of vegetable sorting fun which will have kids curious about the foods they see on the game and maybe trying new foods! Plus between levels the app displays a ton of healthy and interesting eating tips! Not going to lie, I sort vegetables daily because it is fun and challenging!

2.    NFL Play 60 – Getting kids up and active for 60 minutes a day is the core of the NFL Play 60 program and the app-le doesn't fall far from the tree. When kids play this app they actually have to run, jump, and make quick turns! While running through the levels your child will love collecting coins to unlock new characters and NFL team gear! This game is only available for iPhone 4S, iPod 5, iPad 2 (and above models) due to its heavy graphic requirements.

3.    Eat-And-Move-O-Matic – This is a great app for kids and adults alike! It helps kids understand how food choices correlate to exercise. It helps children understand that bad food choices require more work and energy to burn off those calories consumed. For instance, eating a large apple (77calories) requires 18 minutes of playing baseball/softball while eating a French fries (medium sized amount; 370 calories) requires playing baseball/softball for 1 hour 27 minutes. Or your child can see the difference in how much energy you burn doing different activities. For instance, it will take your 18 minutes to burn off the apple playing baseball/softball but it takes 1 hour and 4 minutes watching TV to burn that same amount of calories off! 
Do you have any other favorite health apps that I missed?

If you want more at-home fitness and nutrition information check out Josh at Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness.

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A Friendly Breakfast Reminder....Eat It!

It’s been said so many times before, but needs to be repeated often and remembered well…breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, without question.  

We all know how important it is to limit fat, cholesterol, sugar, calories and salt to lower our chances of getting high-risk diseases.  Fast food and junk food are usually found to be the biggest culprits, and with winter upon us, the urge to 'hybernate' is a huge challenge too.   But could you ever imagine, that a fast food breakfast sandwich could be better for your health than skipping breakfast altogether? 

Though a fast food breakfast sandwich is packed with extra fat, cholesterol, salt and calories, you could be doing more long term damage by not eating at all, if you consistently prefer your morning routine without any nourishment.   A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted:

Out of an amazing 29,000 men, over the course of 19 years, those who consistently did not eat breakfast had a 21% higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, which researchers believe can be linked to a morning meal helping to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. 

 Research has also found that skipping breakfast contributes to a pretty low-performance day, including:

  • less energy,
  • worse moods and
  • poorer memory
  • a 450% more likely risk of obesity 

Obesity in its own right, raises the risk for a whole list of other serious health issues.  Alternately, 80% of participants in a National Weight Control Registry study who lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off for a year or longer, eat breakfast regularly.   

Lean protein, whole grains and lots of fiber (even supplemental fiber) are the best categories to stick to for healthy breakfasts, and doing so can help you consume an average of 100 less calories per day, which is the equivalent of 10 pounds per year!

So whether you want to or have time to or not, break out the yogurt, slice a banana,  peel an orange, pour some milk over whole grain, low sugar cereal, or cook an egg.  Whatever you choose to eat for breakfast, it doesn't have to be a lot, and you’ll be doing your body a great favor (and it will be easier to control those extra cravings later in the day)!  SEE ALSO: Is it Possible to Eat Healthy Fast Food?

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The What and The Why of Fiber

Most of us know that fiber is good for our bodies. It helps us “go” (to the bathroom), therefore preventing constipation and can help lower cholesterol. But, fiber can do even more if you choose the right kind – it can help keep you full and promote the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut. Here’s a look at each type of fiber and what it can do for you:

Heart Healthy:

Soluble fiber - slows digestion and can help lower cholesterol. 
Sources: oat bran, oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, some fruits and vegetables

Prevents Constipation:

Insoluble fiber – helps you “go” (to the bathroom) by creating bulk in your digestive tract.  
Sources: wheat bran, vegetables, whole grains.

Helps Keep Your Stomach Full:

All fiber plays a role in helping you feel full. And therefore, if you want to feel more satisfied after eating a meal, add fiber rich foods such as fruit and vegetables. In addition to ramping up your total fiber intake, check out foods that naturally contain the prebiotic (prebiotic means that it promotes the growth of the healthy bacteria that live in your gut) fibers known as inulin. Animal research shows that inulin helps keep hormones that make you hungry at bay while increasing levels of hormones that help you feel full. Onions, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, leeks, garlic, oats, barley and rye all contain inulin. In addition, some packaged foods contain inulin or oligofructose (a type of inulin). Just keep in mind that some people get a little gas when they eat foods that contain inulin.  SEE ALSO:  Prebiotics 101 - Digestion Series

Promotes the Growth of Healthy Bacteria in Your Gut:

The same foods that keep you full will also promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. This is important because the bacteria in your gut keep your immune system running smoothly, metabolize cancer causing compounds found in the diet, help absorb nutrients from food, make several vitamins including K, biotin and folate and maintaining a healthy gut may help with weight management. So, be sure to get these foods in your diet onions, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, leeks, garlic, oats, barley and rye. Plus, keep your eye out for nutrition bars and other foods that contain prebiotics (mainly inulin). 

SEE ALSO: Immune Health: It Starts in Your Gut!

photo credit: jazzijava via photopin cc


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