Saturday, 31 March 2018

The 5 Best Bodyweight Ab Exercises - All in 1 Workout

You might not want to be around any funny people or watch any comedies the day after this workout, because your abs are going to be burning.

Directions: Prep your spine with some cat and cow stretches and a few twists, then perform each exercise for one minute.



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Apple Cider Vinegar Is Your Magic Potion to Help You Curb Bloating

I tell people that 99 percent of the time when I get moody, it's because I'm feeling bloated and desperately want to take off my formfitting jeans and pull on the baggiest pair of sweatpants that I own. Having a bloated stomach, whether it's from PMS, the food you're eating, or just too much stress, is an uncomfortable feeling to walk around town with. Your stomach feels like an inflated balloon, and you're passing gas when you least expect it and always at the most inconvenient times.

I've heard again and again that apple cider vinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients you can keep in your home, as it seems to be the magic potion that can cure so many things (from internal issues to external problems with your skin). I wondered if it could help with bloating and if so, how?

"One of the major benefits of ACV is its role in detoxing the body and fighting bloating. In addition to naturally lowering the body's levels of cholesterol and sugar, apple cider vinegar can also ease digestion, fight bad bacteria, and even boost metabolism," said Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. Backe explained that the high levels of acetic acid, the main chemical component in vinegar, help to lower your body's water retention, while also reducing inflammation in the abdominal cavity.

Another reason, I learned, that apple cider vinegar is the best trick to combat bloating is because it contains probiotics.

"The probiotics in the apple cider vinegar plant themselves in the small intestines as healthy bacteria," said KJ Landis, an author and creator of the Superior Self series. "Our intestines hold millions of healthy bacteria that assist with the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. ACV is a natural anti-inflammatory. When we ingest it, our stomach does feel less bloated."

So if you're going to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, Claire Martin, a registered dietitian and cofounder of Being Healthfull, said to do it before you eat. "Taking a dose of ACV before meals helps correct your stomach environment before you begin to eat, and you may find that you experience less bloating using this method," Martin said.



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These 3 Things Happened When I Drank 100 Ounces of Water a Day For 1 Week

I'm the absolute worst at drinking water. There are sometimes full days where I'll fuel myself solely on coffee, and then I'll realize come 7 p.m., when my night's winding down, that I haven't touched H20 all day. Not being the best water drinker is bad, sure, but even knowing this about myself, I haven't made any major efforts to tweak that. Until recently, that is.

I recently traveled to Kona to watch the IronMan World Championships, and while I was there I linked up with some scientists from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. After undergoing a sweat test, which involved pre-workout weighing and a few strategically placed patches that would help measure how much fluid I lost over an hour run, I got my results. They were shocking. I sweat - a lot. Like, 1.5 liters per hour, which is at the high end of the spectrum (the average is 1 liter per hour). Translation? Girl needs to start hydrating more, otherwise I could be at risk for some negative repercussions including a bad mood and increased muscle soreness.

So I made a plan. I would drink six 17-ounce bottles of water each day (the Food and Nutrition Board suggests about 91 ounces of water from both liquid and food sources daily). Here's are the three biggest takeaways from my week of better hydrating.

My Skin Cleared Up

I've heard people talk about how water helps them clear their skin up all the time. When I went in for my first facial a few months ago (I know, I'm a late skincare bloomer, too), the aesthetician at Heyday told me that the small bumps I have on my forehead are actually a direct result of my skin being dehydrated.

While there's no conclusive evidence that drinking water can clear up skin, one University of Missouri-Columbia study showed that drinking about two cups of water (500 milliliters) increased blood flow to the skin, although we don't know if that makes it healthier. For me, drinking more water caused the bumps on my forehead to decrease by the end of the week, and even the rosacea in my cheeks faded a little bit, which I was grateful for.

I Was Less Bloated

I wouldn't say that I walk around feeling bloated all of the time, but I wouldn't say I always feel stellar, either. While it did get to be a bit bothersome always lugging a water bottle place to place (it helps that I was trading off between a too-cute S'Well and a grenade looking bkr that I received endless compliments on), I did feel a whole lot lighter throughout the week. By drinking more water with my meals, as well, I felt like my food was digesting better, and I had less of that why-am-I-still-so-full feeling the next day.

I Craved Less Coffee

This was really the most interesting result. For years now I've been a two-cup sorta woman. One when I get to the office, and one by mid-morning. By day four of my week of drinking more liquids, I found that I'd sit down at my desk and opt for a glass of water before hitting that java. Dare I say it, I was even craving water. Some mornings, I'd get to 11:50 a.m. before I even realized that I hadn't had a cup of coffee.

Do I think I'll stick to drinking water at this rate? To be honest, I do. The bathroom trips aren't nearly as frequent as they were when I started my experiment. Just like when I started meditating, hydration feels like an important piece to the puzzle piece for someone who's heavily into fitness and all things health. The only question left: what fancy water bottle am I going to put on my holiday list?



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20 Deliciously Healthy Recipes Featuring Brussels Sprouts

Whether you're meal prepping for the week or making a home-cooked meal on a given night, chances are you've got your go-to sides like rice or potatoes. But if you're looking for something slightly healthier yet equally satisfying, look no further than brussels sprouts. We've got you covered with a variety of dish options, from salads to several roasted variations.



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Ready to Run? 12 Tips Newbie Runners Need to Hit the Road

Running may just be the perfect workout! Running promises weight loss, better sleep, less anxiety, and opportunities to collect medals from weekend races all year long. We've put together a list of 12 pieces of advice to get absolute newbie runners to the start line of a running program.



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Tone Your Entire Body With This 1 Move

Short on time? Don't skip the strength-training session - get playful with the plank! By doing multitasking variations of this basic move, you can target your arms, back, core, legs, and booty to chisel out a stronger, more toned you.



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Get the Sculpted Back You've Always Wanted With These Basic Exercises

When you're doing strength training at the gym, you might tend to spend the most time on your legs and arms, doing squats and bicep curls. But there's one important part of the body that gets easily overlooked: the back. Whether you're wearing a backless dress or a workout top, it's nice to know you've worked hard to make your lats and rhomboids look toned and strong. These exercises will help you shape your whole back - upper, middle, and lower. You can do these movements at the gym or at home, depending on what kind of equipment you have. And you might need a solid playlist as well.



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Whole30 Breakfast Treats You Will Be Excited to Wake Up For

Figuring out what to eat first thing in the morning when you're not quite awake can be so hard. And doing that on a diet, especially one as restrictive as Whole30, can be even worse.

However, there are so many great things you can eat for breakfast on the Whole30 diet that will definitely make you excited to get out of bed in the morning. While eggs are a go-to, there are some other tasty compliant options on the menu as well.

So from get-up-and-go breakfasts to those that require a little more time, check out these treats that will help to start your day right.



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Experts Say the Keto Diet May Have an Unexpected Emotional Benefit

We are familiar with keto, the high-fat and low-carb diet that has become the latest weight-loss trend, but were you aware that it might have emotional benefits as well? "It might sound like snake oil, but do any digging on the internet about the ketogenic diet, and you'll find personal stories of rapid weight loss and improved memory," said Emily Bartlett, a holistic health professional and founder of Real Plans, a meal-planning service that offers recipes following a keto diet plan. You'll also find a bit of science explaining how tumor cells rely on sugar for fuel and learn how with access to only ketone bodies, they die. Or how a ketogenic diet can improve mood.

The point of this diet is to avoid carbs like the plague and consume plenty of fat so that you can make ketonic fuel. "If you've got a health problem you can't hack - and this problem involves blood sugar control, brain health, or your metabolism - you may thrive on a keto meal plan," Bartlett said. The good news is that eating low-carb foods doesn't mean you leave the table unsatisfied.

"If you regularly feel hungry, tired, shaky, or have headaches and mood swings in between meals, there's a good chance you're not eating enough fat and/or overconsuming carbohydrates and sugar," said Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, bestselling author of Eat Dirt and cofounder of Ancient Nutrition.

The ketogenic diet puts the body into a state of ketosis, meaning it pushes the body to burn through glucose (sugar from carbohydrates) and forces stored fat to be used for energy. "This process creates ketone bodies, which provide the brain with a steady supply of fuel. Research shows that ketones are effective against mental-health-related pathologies associated with altered glucose metabolism," Dr. Axe said.

A study conducted by the University of Tasmania, where rats were given a keto diet, showed they had reduced levels of anxiety. Two of the main reasons the keto diet can help alleviate anxiety is due to the increase in healthy fats and the decrease in sugar. "Sugar is a culprit of many mood disorders and can be found in most everyday items, which can make it hard to stay away from. Additionally, when you are feeling stressed or anxious, your body tends to crave sugary foods because your body is looking for a quick, feel-good serotonin boost. However, sugar will only lead to a crash and can actually worsen anxiety symptoms over time," said Lindsey Smith, author of the forthcoming book Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl's Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. Additionally, with the increase in healthy fats, such as avocados or fish, a keto diet can help boost brain function, promoting new cell growth, which can help combat mood issues such as depression and anxiety.

Other animal studies have found that the ketogenic diet has many neurological effects, including an antidepressant effect. "One study conducted on mice found that ketogenic diet offspring (mice exposed to the keto diet in utero) exhibited reduced susceptibility to anxiety and depression and elevated physical activity levels," Dr. Axe said.

"These neurotransmitters play a role in anxiety and depression, which is why the ketogenic diet may offer some antidepressant and antianxiety benefits. Other benefits associated with the keto diet include increased vascular density in the brain, protection against neuronal loss, and reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and brain cancer," Dr. Axe said.

On the other hand, the link between food and mood isn't always a positive one if you're not sticking to the best food selection. "It's becoming more and more mainstream knowledge that your gut has a major impact on your overall health and mood. One study in particular showed that a high-fat diet not only affected the gut microbiota, but also caused the most weight gain when compared to other diets and had a negative impact on anxiety and behavior," according to Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Nutritious Life. "This isn't to say that a diet loaded with avocado, olive oil, and nut butter is bad for you - it's actually very good for you - especially when combined with lean protein and lots of veggies. But a diet packed with bacon, salted packaged nuts, and fried veggies are not - and they certainly can't be eaten in excess."

Eating plenty of healthy fats is important for preventing blood sugar swings and symptoms of hypoglycemia, which can trigger nervousness and other feelings of anxiety. "If possible, it's ideal to do intermittent fasting in tandem with the ketogenic diet for even more powerful effects. Intermittent fasting (or IF) involves limiting your 'eating window' to about 8-10 hours per day - in other words only consuming solid foods within a finite period of time to give your body a chance to digest, cleanse, and focus on repair work while you fast," Dr. Axe said.

While following the ketogenic diet, your meals will provide plenty of fat; in fact, up to 85 percent of your daily calories will be from sources of fat, such as coconut oil, butter, olive oil, fatty meat, etc. "Both your lunch and dinner would include several servings of fat, usually some nonstarchy veggies, and a moderate portion of protein, another important macronutrient for mood stabilization. Some people choose to skip breakfast altogether on the keto diet, to start the day with something like eggs and veggies, or to just drink coffee with coconut oil," Dr. Axe said. All of these are big improvements compared to other breakfast options, like a muffin or bowl of sugary cereal, which can lead to an energy crash and jitters later in the day.

The keto diet, especially when combined with fasting, can also be helpful for normalizing "hunger hormones," particularly ghrelin and leptin, and reducing cravings tied to low blood sugar. "Ghrelin, known as the main hunger hormone, is responsible for making you hungry so that you know it's time to eat, while leptin helps to control your appetite. During ketosis, and while in a fasted state, ghrelin levels in your body stabilize so you can more accurately respond to your hunger and fullness signals, giving you steadier energy and preventing cravings for sugar in an attempt to lift your mood," Dr. Axe said.



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If You Want to Lose Weight, Yoga Should Not Be Your Only Workout, According to Experts

One of the most consistent items on my personal to-do list is to do more yoga. It's always been something I wished I was more into, as I noticed my friends, who became die=hard yogis, seemed more mentally sane and physically fit. Yoga seemed like a great workout, since all it felt like I was doing for a full hour was playing an adult game of Twister. I left yoga classes feeling happy and a wee bit more flexible than when I came in.

But when it comes time to picking and choosing my workout for the day, I usually ditch taking a yoga class and take a high-intensity workout class instead with the thought that it will be more of a calorie burner and a body shaper than a Vinyasa.

I began to wonder: can yoga help with weight loss or should I stick with boot-camp-style classes instead?

Heather L. Tyler, an NSCA-certified personal trainer, says that even a higher-intensity power yoga class won't burn enough calories by itself to reduce weight. "However, yoga is tremendously valuable as part of an overall fitness plan by increasing muscle stamina, length, and flexibility. Pair that with resistance training, sensible cardio, and good nutrition, and you're on your way to long-term goals," Tyler says.

However, there are ways that yoga can get your body and mind in better shape. One way is by using the breathing techniques you implement during a yoga practice.

"Yoga encourages correct breathing techniques, and breathing purposefully activates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as the 'rest and digest' system," says Nicola Burt-Skinner, a coach at The Wellness Academy For Working Women. "By triggering this system, it signals to our brain that there is no present danger, and, as such, our adrenaline and cortisol levels are reduced. These hormones are responsible for storing fat to compensate for times of famine. Yoga and breathing turn this off and thus reduces fat."

If done often, Kristen Cantwell, a nurse practitioner and owner of Vitality Aesthetic Institute, says that yoga can help you lose weight. "Yoga has the ability to increase lean muscle mass in addition to its well-known benefits for flexibility," Cantwell says. "A consistent yoga practice will lead to the discovery of new, underused muscles."

Mimi Ko, a fitness instructor and yoga Instructor at Spa Pechanga, agrees. "Weight loss is rarely just about burning calories," Ko says. "In most cases, the more vital issue is the mental, emotional, and psychological reasons behind why people eat. The magic of yoga lies in its ability to address a practitioner's mental landscape - to inquire into awareness, mindfulness, and presence. These are the keys in unlocking the often confounding, frustrating, and tedious struggle of weight loss for most people."

If you are looking for quick weight loss, Dr. Alexia McClerkin, a Washington DC sports chiropractor, says that it shouldn't be your go-to activity. "Yoga is a low-intensity exercise designed to lengthen and stretch the muscles and improve core stability," Dr. McClerkin says. "On the other hand, you can expect to burn more calories in hot yoga because of the sweating and heat, but don't get too excited by the decreased number on the scale because it is mostly water weight that you've lost."



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The Best Marathons to Run in the World

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur California.

If you're looking for a good (great!) excuse for a vacation, sign up for a marathon.

[RELATED1]

These days, there are 26.2-mile races in pretty much every city in the country—and beyond. To help you narrow down the options, we selected these three postcard-perfect marathons worth signing up for.

Once you register, check out 6 things you need to know about destination marathons.  


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I Smoke Weed Every Night Before Bed, and I Don't Care What You Think

Weed has long held a negative stereotype in popular culture. When someone says the words "smoke weed," it conjures images of stoners doing nothing with their lives, sitting on the couch watching endless hours of television and ordering mountains of Taco Bell. Apart from a shared love of Taco Bell on occasion, I can assure you I am nothing like these stoners you imagine. (Not that there's anything wrong with stoners!) I'm a college grad working on a master's degree at the same time as consulting and writing freelance, and guess what? I love smoking weed.

I found that smoking weed not only helped me fall asleep quickly and quiet the anxiety in my mind, but it also gave me a bedtime routine.

I moved to Northern California when I was 18 and was plunged into the world of marijuana. It was all new to me - and I soon realized that I really enjoyed the mellowed-out feeling I got when I smoked. I have dealt with anxiety and OCD for most of my life, and I found it really quelled any stresses I was managing. Despite this, I barely smoked in college. It wasn't until I started working and managing the stresses of being in my early 20s that I considered it again.

It was actually a friend training to be a therapist who suggested it. In her learnings, she had encountered a lot of studies that had shown weed in moderate amounts was helping people sleep better, reduce anxiety, and even have better sex. I decided to try smoking a bit of weed before bed, and within days, it completely transformed my life.

Sleep and getting to bed have always been tough for me. I found it difficult to unwind after a long day of work and switch off my mind. Before I started smoking weed, I would sometimes lie in bed until 3 a.m. just going over everything I had to do the next day and not getting any rest. I found that smoking weed not only helped me fall asleep quickly and quiet the anxiety in my mind, but it also gave me a bedtime routine.

My life was suddenly running a lot more smoothly. Because I was sleeping better, I was waking up with a clear head and felt more energized in the mornings. No longer did I need a huge bagel and four cappuccinos just to get in my car. I woke up naturally sometimes even before my alarm. I also felt so much less stressed during the day because I was rested.

Soon it became my thing. A part of my life and routine that I loved and that enhanced my life. Sometimes my friends will tease me about being a pothead, but they know how important it is for my well-being.

Celebrities are being more vocal about weed use, and there is a plethora of incredible female-run weed companies popping up. It seems like there's a new benefit to smoking weed being discovered every day. I know my life would definitely not be as amazing if I didn't have my bedtime routine. I wouldn't be able to accomplish what I have without it. I'm excited the stigma is fading and that more and more people are experimenting with weed in different ways to enhance their lives. Judgment about weed use is a waste of time - trying it isn't.



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Eating Too Fast Can Seriously Mess Up Your Body - Here Are Some Tips to Slow It All Down

We're not talking about entering a hot dog eating contest. If you're downing your food at your office desk or on your commute to the office without taking time to register what you're actually eating, you're eating way too fast, and you could be putting your body in jeopardy. Speed eating might look like cleaning your plate in under four minutes (roughly), says Maggie Michalczyk, RD, a Chicago-based registered dietitian and ambassador of A Sweat Life, to POPSUGAR. It turns out, shoveling your food is actually super bad for you, so here's what can happen if you keep doing it regularly, without taking time to sit down and enjoy a meal.

You Get Pissy

Eating too fast can lead to some serious mood swings. "I know after a workout when I'm not hitting that important refueling window of 30 to 60 minutes post-workout to eat something, I start feeling that all-too-familiar 'don't talk to me cause I might bite your head off' feeling! Speed eating through that meal can lead to these same feelings because, again, your brain and body are not fully satisfied, so you might still feel that brain fog that you were feeling from extreme hunger," Michalczyk said. "I definitely can't concentrate when that happens and always end up having to eat something more to keep from still feeling famished."

Your Tummy Might Hurt

"Because the food is passing through your intestines so quickly, they might not be able to keep up, and the air mixed with the food can cause bloating, cramping, and diarrhea or vomiting in some cases," she said. "Indigestion is super common because your stomach is working hard but simply cannot keep up at that pace. So either your reflexive mechanisms will want the food to come back up, or your osmotic forces will force water into your gut to get it out the other way."

You Might Overeat

If you are eating too quickly, you're not able to take note of what you're eating, so you can take in more food than you'd like. "It can lead to overeating and weight gain because you aren't giving your body the time for natural satiety cues to kick in," explained Maggie Moon, MS, RD, and author of The MIND Diet, to POPSUGAR. If you're eating too many calories because you can't register fullness in the body, you can also gain weight over time. (More calories, more weight.)

Your Metabolism Might Suffer

If you're eating too fast, you're adding stress to your body and changing its natural metabolism. "You're adding stress to the body's digestive system by giving it a large amount of food at once to process," Moon said. "Mitochondria are not built to process that much food at once, and it leads to a backlog of work (aka food) to work through, messing with normal metabolism."

"It takes about 20 minutes for those natural feedback mechanisms to kick in (basically when you start feeling that full feeling at one point in the meal). When you bypass that process by eating at the pace of a racetrack, the feedback mechanism to your brain is compromised, so you're left feeling hungry still despite the plateful you might have had," Michalczyk added.

A Few Tips to Slow Down

"Put your fork down between bites, and take time to look around you, or make eye contact and conversation with your dining guest," Moon said. "Choose foods with natural speed bumps that slow down eating such as in-shell pistachios and foods you have to chew versus sip, such as a whole apple versus a smoothie with an apple in it."

Also, sit down. Don't stand and eat. Don't hang out in the kitchen. "You're in too close of range, making it too easy to snatch up something else to eat because you've eaten all of your other food too fast! Get out of the kitchen, sit down, look at your food, breathe, take bites, chew, and allow yourself to connect with the moment of nourishment and act of eating," Michalczyk said. Plus, stash your phone, which can be a distraction, she said.

Lastly, drink plenty of water, which will fill you up and slow you down. "Drink a glass of water (about 8 oz.) before you start eating. Oftentimes when we think we are hungry, we are in fact dehydrated. Gulping water before diving in will prime the stomach and offset some of those hunger pains, starting the filling process and helping us to eat slower because the stomach is already getting fuller," Michalczyk said.



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When Your Yoga Teacher Tells You to Stay For Savasana, You Stay For Savasana

One of my greatest pet peeves when I teach yoga is the students who skip out before Savasana. Why on earth (besides a life-saving emergency) would anyone want to leave class before Savasana? That's like buying a lotto ticket, matching the first five numbers, and turning off the TV before the sixth number is called so you can go about your day. WHY?!

Savasana is the embodiment of all the things that we seek when we hit our mats. I wish I could define it in one simple sentence: It is rest. It is relaxation. It is stillness. It is peace. But it is more than one defining characteristic of our Asana (physical) practice; it is the gushy, good stuff that fills the space we've created in our minds, bodies, and hearts at the culmination of our physical practice. At best, it's euphoria. At worst, it's a cat nap.

So much of our minutes, hours, and days are spent unintentionally thinking, moving, or doing. We form habits, patterns, and belief systems that are automatic and unconscious. We experience our five senses, but we don't feel them. Meaning, I can hear a thoughtful perspective, read an inspiring quote, or enjoy the warmth of an affectionate interaction, but like the click of a button (which we do too often), our minds jump to the next thing.

This is why, when I teach yoga, I emphasize closing the eyes and getting in touch with yourself. Not with your neighbor, not with what you see in the mirror, not with where you think the sequence is headed. I emphasize going deeper inside of yourself, which doesn't necessarily mean going deeper into the pose. I emphasize discovering what small shift you can make (mentally or physically) to create space and feel good. For some people, closing their eyes is harder than any posture I call out. For most people, doing the inner work is more challenging than mindless Vinyasas and countless Chaturangas.

Such is the human experience: thought, action, on repeat. This is why we must practice stillness - physically tiring out the mind and the body for complete and utter relaxation. We must practice grounding and breathing, space shifting, and making intentional behaviors to gain what it is we seek on our mats: enlightenment. Heck, I'd even settle for joy or a few extra moments of peace. When we practice this notion, we can fully reap the benefits that our physical practice offers us, and those benefits are found in stillness.

I know it's scary. Stopping for a moment, placing the to-do list to the side, allowing all that makes up your mental and physical space to rise to the surface of your consciousness. But when you step on your mat, when you embody the physical postures, you commit to surrendering what you want to know and open yourself up to what you need to know, and that can only be heard in silence, felt in stillness, and found in Savasana.

So do yourself a favor, and stay for the Savasana. I promise, you're worth it.



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I Tried Jennifer Aniston's Favorite Workout, and Now I Know Why She Has Arms of Steel

Image Source: Getty / JB Lacroix

I view working out in the same light that I view dating. It's something I should be doing more of, but find every excuse not to do it. Spring cleaning every inch of my apartment sounds more fun than crawling into a pair of spandex pants and hitting the gym. Researching rent control and formulating a plan to negotiate my 2018 rent with my landlord also sounds more fun than yanking on a sports bra and doing squats.

But as my 30th birthday inches closer and closer, I've started changing my mindset when it comes to working out. I want to enter a new decade as the healthiest version of myself, which means incorporating more vegetables in with my pizza-preferred diet and trying out new workout programs. Before buying a class-pack at a gym or a trendy workout spot like SoulCycle or Barry's Bootcamp, I figured I'd spend a day working out like one of my favorite celebrities. A female who gets healthier looking as she too enters new decades, takes on new acting work, and stays in the news as an advocate for women living their lives not according to any timeline or societal agenda. That celebrity is Jennifer Aniston.

Though when I found out her usual workout regime incorporates a mix of Spin classes, HIIT workout routines, and DVDs from an NYC- and LA-based studio called Body by Simone, I realized that I if wanted to go from couch potatoes to Jennifer's workout plan, I had to take baby steps. I figured since there was a Body by Simone studio less than three miles from my apartment, I'd start there, with a class that Jennifer has described openly and honestly as being so "freakin' hard, it's unbelievable."

Before signing up for a class, I did my due diligence. Body by Simone was started by retired Broadway dancer turned trainer for the stars, Simone De La Rue. She opened her first Body by Simone studio in 2011, and has since trained celebrities from Taylor Swift to Chrissy Teigan. The website describes the workout as a steady combo of dance cardio, bodyweight movements, and high-intensity strength training. The description of the class made it feel like three classes jammed into one, and even before signing up, I felt beads of sweat just dripping down my arms. My dance skills alone are enough to make me want to bow out of this workout, and the words bodyweight movement and high-intensity strength training are the kinds of things I have nightmares about. But I signed up for an 8:30 a.m. class on a Monday, figuring that taking one class would be one baby step toward my goal of entering my 30s as a healthy and strong woman.

I left class imaging how mad my arms were at me - they would refuse to do anything the next day, leaving me in severe pain if I tried to raise them to brush my hair, my teeth, or the tears off my face from repercussions of a tough workout that also taught me one thing: my dance moves should be seen by nobody, ever again.

When I arrived, I was greeted at the front desk and welcomed into the class as the only new person there for the day. The front desk associate introduced me to the teacher, telling her I was new, and while the teacher first looked at me confused as to why I was there, she later on approached me to tell me that her only rule for the class was too keep moving. If I didn't understand the dance moves, which I told her there was a good chance I wouldn't, she told me to just make sure my feet were jiving and my arms were swinging, and I'd be OK. I promised her she'd see a lot of that. But before I could rest easy on the fact that this half dance, half bootcamp class would have me looking like an overly caffeinated jellyfish moving to my own beat, the teacher loaded me up with equipment.

She handed me two sets of weights, three-pound weights and five-pound weights, a set of strap-on weights to buckle around my wrists, a body band, and a mat. Carrying all the supplies from the entrance of the studio 30 feet to my spot in the class was an arm workout in itself.

The class started immediately, with a hit pop song and dance moves that everyone else seemed to know. The teacher later told me that there are around 40 different moves that they use at Body by Simone, so the more times you go to classes, the more you'll learn them. On my first attempt at doing the dance moves, all I managed to do was side step, the grapevine, and bust out a whole lot more default dance-like movements because I just couldn't keep up with the instructor. The dance moves were intricate, and you had to be coordinated. You benefited more from the class if you had a dance background, as it wasn't easy for a beginner to just jump in and understand what was going on.

Next came a sequence of exercises with the three-pound weights, followed by a three-minute dance to another pop song, followed by another set of arm workouts, this time with the five-pound weights. The whole workout followed this pattern of dance, arm workout, dance, arm workout, until the very end. When my arms were shaking from all the bicep curls, triceps curls, and movements for the pectoral and deltoid muscles (which I just had to google to know the names of), I thought the workout was officially over. That's when it just got started. The instructor asked us to buckle these one-pound weights around each wrist, pick up a set of weights, and keep moving. The strap-on weights are what Body by Simone-lovers call BBSxTone-y-Bands, but they look and feel like a torture device. As if my arms weren't already tired, now they had weights attached to them. After a few workouts with the BBSxTone-y-Bands, a few more dance sequences, and a quick ab set, the workout was over.

Image Source: Jen Glantz

I felt too weak to pick up all my equipment and bring it back to its respective place, so I didn't. I pushed the equipment, which was laying on a mat, with my feet for 30 feet, enduring looks by BBS regulars and the instructor.

I left class imaging how mad my arms were at me - they would refuse to do anything the next day, leaving me in severe pain if I tried to raise them to brush my hair, my teeth, or the tears off my face from repercussions of a tough workout that also taught me one thing: my dance moves should be seen by nobody, ever again. Not even a room filled with strangers, all hoping to get their body looking like Simone's or Jennifer Aniston's.



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4 Surprising Benefits I Discovered After a Week of Good Sleep

When I moved to Hawaii at the beginning of January, I was utterly and completely exhausted from months of surgery recovery, emotional ups and downs, and, of course, the holidays. I felt sick constantly, and my migraines swept in with such ferocity that even making my way to the beach required superhuman strength. Obviously this is no way for anyone to live, let alone on island time.

While I have always been the early-to-bed, early-to-rise type (I've made a name for myself with my "grandma" lifestyle), sleep seemed to be the first thing out the window when the struggle to balance my job, relationships, fitness classes, side hustles, and near-weekly concerts or nights out becomes all too real. But when I step back and slow down, I see just how much my mental and physical health relied on a solid eight to nine hours of deep, uninterrupted slumber.

After re-establishing my sleep schedule, I started feeling better in just days. Here are just four surprising benefits of catching a healthy amount of zzz's I hadn't noticed before.

Goodbye, Morning Headache

Most mornings I found myself waking up with a headache hovering just behind my eyes, even if I hadn't imbibed in red wine with dinner or had one too many margaritas. On some days, these tension headaches progressed into full-on migraines, sending me back to bed with the blinds closed.

According to the American Migraine Association, too much sleep (more than nine hours) and too little sleep (under six hours) are both associated with increased headache severity. About a week after returning to my consistent eight and a half hours of sleep, my headaches and brain fog virtually disappeared.

Sayonara, Sweet Cravings

I have never been the type who is too full after my meals. In fact, I believe a separate dessert stomach exists, and its sugary-sweet cravings call to me nearly every afternoon and postdinner. But something interesting started happening when I got my eight and a half hours: I found myself reaching for the box of Girl Scout cookies in my freezer less and less. A sleeve of Thin Mints lasted me nearly two weeks instead of two hours.

There are two main hormones in control of our appetite: ghrelin increases our appetite, while leptin suppresses it, stimulating our energy. According to Health, sleep deprivation alters this delicate balance, often causing us to overeat and crave the not-so-nutritious options in our pantries. Once I slept more, my cravings diminished, and I even lost a couple of pounds overstaying themselves from the holidays.

3 P.M. Crash Is a Thing of the Past

I think it is safe to say we are all familiar with that three o'clock feeling - it's the time of day when we reach for an afternoon cup of coffee, fight to keep our eyes open during the strategy meeting, snack out of habit or boredom, and just wish we could hunker down on the break-room couch for a nap.

Well, it should come as no surprise that after a string of solid-sleep nights, this urge went away too. It certainly was not an instant benefit, as my body was taking its time to bounce back from the ordeal that was the end of my 2017. But after a few days, I barely gave the coffee maker a second glance when 2:30 p.m. rolled around.

Waking Up Naturally IS a Thing

It seems we have all split ourselves into two camps: larks and night owls. But even as a self-proclaimed lark (it's a joke watching me stay up after 11 p.m.!), I am a firm believer that a good sleep schedule isn't mutually exclusive. Whether you're setting your alarm to catch the sunrise or catch a few more zzz's after working on your side projects past 2 a.m., as long as you consistently practice the sleep cycle best for your body, you'll return to your body's natural circadian rhythm. Think falling asleep naturally and not fighting with the snooze button or stumbling toward the coffee pot in a bleary-eyed haze.

A Note About Establishing a New Sleep Schedule . . .

OK, I have a confession: after nearly three weeks of sticking to my sleep schedule almost every night, when I finally decided to chronicle how good I felt and the new benefits I experienced, I endured one of the most restless weeks ever. Suddenly I was overthinking the time, doing math in my head to calculate my alarms, stressing if I was still out and had to be up less than eight hours later, and waking up from fitful dreams in the middle of the night.

Getting ample sleep is one of the healthiest habits we can develop for our minds and bodies, but remember to give yourself grace when establishing a new routine. Of course there may be nights when tearing up the dance floor keeps you up past your bedtime or you find yourself lost in the pasture searching for sheep to count. Figure out how many hours are ideal for your body and mind, set a routine, stick to it, and reap the rewards. Sweet dreams!



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23 Insanely Healthy Brunch Recipes to Make This Easter

I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but when brunch comes to mind I don't exactly think healthy. With Easter around the corner, plan a brunch that is nutritional and also insanely delicious that will wow your family and friends! These 25 recipes include vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, and also protein-rich dishes that are all yummy and in line with whatever healthy eating routine you or your friends practice (or at least try to!).



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If You're Allergic to Nuts and Dairy, This Trendy Milk Is the One For You

You may have seen oat milk popping up in juice bars, coffee shops, and grocery store aisles. As more plant-based milks are hitting the market, each with distinct flavors and consistencies, it's becoming more popular to ditch cow's milk and try a trendy, healthy alternative instead. Oat milk is lesser known than almond or soy milk, which have long been touted as high-protein, dairy-free milks, but it certainly deserves some love. Here are a few perks to swapping out dairy milk for oat milk in your morning cereal or cappuccino.

It's High in Fiber

Oats are packed with fiber, so drinking oat milk will keep you fuller longer. "Oats are healthy eats due in large part to their fiber content," says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, and author of Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, to POPSUGAR. "Oat milk has two grams of fiber. Fiber is important for weight management because it creates a sense of fullness in the stomach, causing us to eat less between meals. Diets high in fiber have also been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer," Kailey Proctor, MPH, RDN, further explains to POPSUGAR.

It Tastes Good

It's safe to say it's pretty important that your milk of choice tastes good. "It's yummy! It has a neutral flavor and gets nice and frothy when whisked or shaken," White says. It's great for coffee, thanks to its texture, and the flavors pair well with most foods. It's also low in fat, so you're getting that frothy, creamy texture but without all the fat that's found in other milks, like coconut milk, for instance, notes White.

It's Easy to Make at Home

When you can make your own milk at home, you can limit sugar and other additives that are often in branded varieties that are looking to sweeten the milk or make it taste better to the average consumer. "You can easily make your own oat milk by blending presoaked oats and water. Then, just strain and chill," White says. Here, you're the boss when it comes to keeping oat milk pure and low in sugar.

It's Higher in Nutrients Than Cow's Milk

Keep in mind that "most alternatives are fortified with the same amounts of calcium and vitamin D, so they are all very similar in that department," White explains. But compared to cow's milk, oat milk is higher in calcium, for building strong bones. One cup of oat milk has 36 percent of the daily recommended value. It's also higher in vitamin A, of which it contains 10 percent of the daily value, which is twice the amount found in cow's milk. Vitamin A is great for bone, nail, skin, and eye health. Plus, it's higher in iron, too. "Oat milk has 10 percent of the RDA for iron. Iron is important for red blood cells to transport oxygen to your body's tissues. Iron-rich foods can prevent excessive fatigue and shortness of breath caused by iron-deficiency anemia," says Proctor.

It's also rich in a few other notable nutrients. "Thiamine helps our bodies efficiently digest carbohydrates, which is important for energy levels. Folic acid is especially important for women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or are pregnant because it reduces the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. Some studies suggest that both thiamine and folic acid might prevent memory loss," Proctor explains.

It's Nut-Free

If you can't have nuts, oat milk's here for you. "Oat milk is essentially steel-cut oats or whole groats soaked in water. This mixture is then blended together and strained, making it nut- and lactose-free. Oat milk is a suitable alternative to those with nut allergies or who are lactose intolerant," Proctor notes. What's more, it could also be good for people with Celiac disease. "Depending on the brand's facility and equipment, oat milk may also be gluten-free. However, it is always important to read the label to see if the oat milk is produced in a facility or with equipment that comes into contact with gluten-containing foods," she says.



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The 1 Thing I Gave Up in My Diet to Finally Ease My Anxiety Symptoms

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was in graduate school, although I suffered from anxiety symptoms for many years before that. I was told that I had a form of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which manifests in different ways for different people. For me, it meant that I was hardly sleeping and I often felt like I was suffocating, especially if I was in a crowded place or stressful situation. I also had a nasty habit of ripping off the skin around my fingernails and on the callouses of my feet, which resulted in a lot of blood, pain, and embarrassment. The medical term for this is dermatophagia or excoriation.

My doctor prescribed me a few different kinds of medications over the years, and while they did help me feel more relaxed in the moment, they were nothing more than a band-aid. I needed to figure out a way to quell my anxiety symptoms for good.

If you've ever felt the jitters after your morning cup of joe, imagine that feeling amplified 100 times over, to the point where you feel like your heart might beat out of your throat.

I was at a point in my life where I was doing a lot of yoga and learning more about holistic treatments, like meditation, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. I decided to go the all-natural route and change up the things in my life that I had control over. Over the course of several months, I changed my eating habits, eliminating all fried and processed foods, meditated every day, and significantly limited my time on social media. I also kept seeing my therapist regularly.

All of these definitely helped, but I was still dealing with my heart racing at inopportune times, particularly in the morning as I got my day started. I happened to stumble upon a blog post one day that spoke about the dangerous connection between caffeine and anxiety. If you've ever felt the jitters after your morning cup of joe, imagine that feeling amplified 100 times over, to the point where you feel like your heart might beat out of your throat. That's what it's like to drink coffee as someone with anxiety.

At that point in my life, I was having one or two cups of coffee a day, and it was a ritual I absolutely loved. I was a coffee snob, in fact (I blame it on my time living in Australia, which has the best coffee culture on the planet). However, I started to realize that every time I drank a cup of coffee, my hands would shake, I would get the nervous sweats, and I felt dehydrated. I just felt crappy all around. Yet somehow I just thought this was normal for people who drank coffee and that it was merely a sacrifice you had to make to enjoy the classic morning beverage.

After reading that blog post, I decided to give it up cold turkey. Unfortunately, I had ear-splitting headaches that radiated in my kneecaps for seven days straight, but after the withdrawal symptoms went away, the magic kicked in.

The longer I went without coffee, the more relaxed I felt throughout the day. I meditated in the morning instead of drinking a black coffee, which set me up to feel calm and even-keeled. As a result, I didn't get the afternoon crash and I simply felt more in control of my mind. I no longer felt frantic. My body started to produce its own energy rather than relying on caffeine to wake me up every day. Most importantly, my skin-picking habits slowly started to fall away. Because I was feeling less jittery than ever before, I had way fewer urges to peel the skin away from my fingers.

My body started to produce its own energy rather than relying on caffeine to wake me up every day. Most importantly, my skin-picking habits slowly started to fall away.

Since I've experienced these positive changes, I've spoken to quite a few people and read online that many others find relief from their intense anxiety symptoms when they give up coffee. Individuals with anxiety disorders already deal with enough excess energy as it is; our minds race for hours about the most minute things, we can't sit still, and we worry about everything until we're blue in the face. Caffeine promotes this rapid turnover of energy, so giving it up actually gives your body the chance to decompress and find its equilibrium.

I'm not saying that everyone with anxiety should give up coffee cold turkey (don't do it cold turkey, whatever you do!). But I found so much relief in my everyday life that I don't think I could ever go back to drinking caffeinated beverages. It's been two years since I gave up coffee, and my anxiety has only steadily improved over this time. I'm more in tune with what my body needs, and I'm quicker to engage in healthy self-care practices when I start to feel overwhelmed, like a Yin yoga session or a long, hot bath.

Even though I still love the smell of coffee, I don't miss it anymore. The pros have far outweighed the cons, and plus, if I feel like I need a warm, soothing beverage, I make myself a rooibos or chamomile tea. And it doesn't make my heart race a million miles an hour.



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This Workout Habit Is Holding You Back From Weight-Loss Success

One of the most motivating things to do when you embark on a weight-loss journey is visualize your life in the future, complete with your increased energy levels, crazy athleticism, and supersculpted muscles. While forward thinking is a great motivational tool, it can also be a double-edged sword, because the idea of our goals being far in the future can make us want to expedite the process. One of the most damaging ways this belief manifests itself is through overtraining.

At a recent launch for Clif Bar's latest offerings, Courtney Pruce, personal trainer and owner of fitness studio one2onelondon, mentioned that, contrary to what you may think, less is more when you're starting out on a fitness journey, especially if you're strength training with the addition of weights. She told POPSUGAR, "Overtraining and avoiding rest days can seriously impair your recovery, whereby not only are you putting yourself at risk of injury, illness, and fatigue, you're actually less likely to progress the way you set out to as you're not allowing your muscles or central nervous system any time to recover properly."

Although burnout can happen with any type of training style, if you decide to lose weight through strength training rather than cardio, it's especially important to pace yourself. According to Courtney, "If you don't allow your muscles enough time to recover in between sessions, not only are you always going to feel slightly sore and underenergized, you're less likely to progress your weights and reps, as you will never be able to give 100 percent effort to each training session."

Overtraining doesn't just impact you physically. Giving your all and then experiencing burnout "can lead to lack of progression and improvement, which is detrimental to your mental motivation, and therefore, is ultimately going to affect your long-term goals," Courtney said. If you're a fitness beginner and this all-or-nothing mindset sounds familiar, Courtney's advice is pretty clear: "Whatever your goal is, whether it's to be leaner, stronger, fitter, or faster, failure to allow yourself adequate time to rest and recover is going to constantly lead you to take five steps back for every three you take forward. Stop training more and just start training smarter!"



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Wanna Do the Splits? 9 Poses to Make It Happen

If you've always wanted to do a split, you need flexible hips and hamstrings. Practice these nine stretches, and you'll soon be on your way.



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4 Tried-and-True Tips to Lose Weight, Straight From the Experts

Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, knows a thing or two about what will really help you take the weight off. She shares tips from weight-loss experts on what you should be doing.

Keto vs. IIFYM? Whole30, Paleo, or Pegan? Forget the fad diets and go with proven advice of weight-loss experts who know what really works to win at losing.

Sleep More to Lose More

No, you're not dreaming! Getting your zzz's is proving to be one of the most important behaviors to achieve - and maintain - a healthy weight. Studies show that adults who report sleeping less than five to six hours per night gain more weight over time, have larger waistlines, and are more likely to be obese compared to those who get sufficient sleep, says Andrea Spaeth, PhD, an assistant professor at Rutgers University. The reason: when you skimp on shut-eye, your hunger hormones become elevated, which drives you to eat more calories and lights up areas of your brain that make you crave junk food.

Dr. Spaeth recommends planning your sleep schedule a week at a time in order to ensure at least seven hours of slumber each night. She also suggests creating a healthy sleep environment by limiting light and setting the temperature to around 67 degrees, as well as establishing a nighttime ritual that includes powering down phones, computers, and TVs, along with these relaxing activities to help you get more sleep.

Front-Load Your Diet

When obesity researcher Courtney Peterson, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wanted to shed 30 extra pounds and keep it off, she used time-restricted eating, one of her areas of research. Time-restricted feeding involves eating in a defined time period (say eight to 10 hours per day) followed by an extended fast of 14 to 16 hours. Several studies now show that time-restricted feeding reduces appetite, increases fat-burning, and aids weight loss.

Eating in a more time-restricted manner means that you'll eat more of your calories earlier in the day, when you're more likely to burn off those calories. In one study of 420 dieters, those who ate most of their calories before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight (22 pounds) compared to participants who ate most of their calories later in the day (17 pounds), despite both groups following the same 1,400-calorie diet and exercise program. To start a time-restricted eating plan, try shifting eating in a 10-hour window, say 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., then fast overnight. If you want to get more aggressive, switch to an eight-hour eating window.

Weigh Yourself Frequently

Your bathroom scale may be the best tool to help you lose weight - and keep it off, explains Dori Steinberg, PhD, RD, an associate director at Duke Global Health Science Center in Durham, NC. After completing a series of studies, the Duke research team discovered that overweight and obese adults who stepped on the scale each day lost an average of 13.5 pounds (some volunteers dropped up to 20 pounds!) compared to those who stepped on the scale less frequently and lost an average of seven pounds.

The research didn't show any downsides of daily weigh-ins, like feeling depressed or displaying signs of disordered eating. She adds that weighing yourself daily provides immediate feedback about your typical behaviors, which explains why it has been shown to motivate individuals to adopt more healthy weight-loss behaviors, such as eating fewer sweets and getting optimal exercise. In other words, it provides additional accountability to help you stay on track. Follow these steps to weigh in successfully. If you're haunted by your bathroom scale, learn how to use it to your advantage.

Change Your Lifestyle

Anyone can lose weight, but if the resolve to stick with it isn't there, weight loss will be only temporary. Making the commitment to change your life for the long haul is the key when it comes to lasting weight loss, explains Lisa Zucker, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who worked with weight-loss clients for nearly a decade at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. When people turn on that switch and come to a full understanding that their behaviors have to change forever, great things happen.

Working with participants of the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 successful dieters who lost significant amounts of weight and are able to keep it off, Zucker says what set registry participants apart from less successful dieters was their resolve to never go back to their old habits, no matter what barriers they faced. Even when these dieters faced challenges and slipped, they quickly got back on track with their healthier habits.



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This Is the Food Shandra Stopped Eating to Jump-Start Her 92-Pound Weight Loss

Turmeric's Benefits Are Plentiful, but What About the Negative Side Effects?

I Went Paleo For 2 Months and the Results Were, Well, Exactly What I Wanted

After coming back from a family vacation and gaining almost 15 pounds in less than two weeks, I knew I needed to get back into a strict workout schedule and back to my healthy eating habits. On vacation, I wanted to enjoy myself and eat whatever I wanted. I ate pizza and ice cream and drank alcohol. I also slacked on my workouts, compared to my rigorous five to six workouts a week. My body felt gross, and I needed to get back into action.

The Paleo diet does not always correlate with weight loss, but because I incorporated high-intensity exercise, it was exactly what I needed.

As a trainer, getting back into my workout routine was not the hard part. I had a goal, and I needed to lose the 15 pounds that I had just gained. If I wanted to see a visible change, I needed to get strict with my diet. After doing some research, I decided I would go on the Paleo diet and eat as the cavemen did. I was not quite sure how long I would last, but I would cut out all grains, dairy, and processed foods and only drink water. It sounded awful, but I needed to get back to the body I worked so hard to build.

Modifying Meal Plans

Jan. 1, 2018, I started. I made a checklist for each meal. I needed to incorporate some type of protein and vegetables at every meal and 500 milliliters of water. I still ate carbs, but they were complex carbohydrates coming from fruits and vegetables. The Paleo diet allows for sweet potato, so I learned different ways to prepare it, such as roasted, baked, and mashed. I made sure I upped my water intake and cut out ALL grains, dairy, and processed food from my diet. If the caveman couldn't eat it, then neither could I.

The First Week Was Tough

The first week was not the easiest. I had cravings for simple things like toast and pasta. I was definitely more hungry than usual, so I started eating smaller amounts throughout the day every three to four hours. There were a few times when I was going to give up, but I had too much pride. Once I start things, I do not like stopping. After the first week it definitely started to get easier. I did not eat out at all, and I really started enjoying cooking. I explored different ways to cook different proteins and vegetables so I would not get bored. I was working hard, and I was so determined to get back to my normal weight that nothing was going to stop me.

Diet Alone Can Only Get You So Far

My eating was only one factor that I needed to change to get back to my final weight. I needed to go full force and change up my workouts at the gym, too. I started going five to six times per week, and I increased my cardiovascular activity quite a bit, doing a lot of high-intensity interval training. I felt like I had so much energy. In the third week, I was noticing physical changes: my stomach was tighter, and I felt less fatigue. I was accomplishing exercises that I could not before, and I was lasting longer doing cardiovascular activity. I noticed the strong correlation between diet and my performance at the gym.

The Weight Came Off Slowly

The weight came off slowly, but it did come off. After about halfway through the second month, I finally got back to my sitting weight. It was much faster and easier to gain the 15 pounds than it was to lose it, but I did it. It took nine days for me to put on 15 pounds, and it took me 50 days of hard work and a strict diet to take it off. The Paleo diet does not always correlate with weight loss, but because I incorporated high-intensity exercise, it was exactly what I needed.

I still have not eaten any grains or dairy, and it has been three months. I have added back legumes, peanut butter, and a treat once in a while, but I eat mostly clean. It made my body and my brain stronger and clearer. The Paleo diet is not for everyone, but it worked for what I needed.



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I Know the Secret to Michelle Obama's Sleek Physique, and It's This Workout I Just Tried

Michelle Obama has many qualities I wish to emulate (class, intelligence, and humor among them), but as a health nerd, her fervor for fitness is somewhere in my top five. My current workout obsession is trying a new boutique fitness class each week, and this week, I decided to give Solidcore, reportedly Michelle's favorite workout, a try.

Before my class, I was torn between doing the beginner class and the regular one. I'd done a little bit of research on what to expect from my Solidcore workout, and from what I could gather, it was an intense series of Pilates-like exercises done on a reformer machine. I'm a yoga teacher and I lift weights, but I'm not exactly a Pilates devotee. And I'm definitely not experienced with fancy-looking reformer machines. Nevertheless, since they only recommended the beginner class for people who don't have a consistent workout routine, I opted to try the standard class.

I love waking up early to get my workout in, so I got to the studio at 5:45 for the 6 a.m. class. I was shown how to use the reformer machine by my instructor. Essentially, the machine consists of a platform between two benches, and the platform is tethered to the benches with bungee cords to provide resistance.

As the class started and the music picked up, I began to get a feel for the movements we were doing. It was actually pretty easy for me to keep up and follow along (unlike the barre class I'd tried the week prior, which moved *way* too quickly).

The music-pumped workout consisted of strengthening and toning movements, during which we used the platform and its bungee cords for resistance. For example, in one move, we took a plank position with our elbows resting on the bench and our feet on the platform, then pulsed back and forth to work our abs. In another scenario, we stood with one foot on the bench and the other on the platform, and then we moved our leg out until we came into a standing lunge with TONS of resistance. Then we pulsed back and forth to work our quads and booties. And DAMN did we work the booty!

It wasn't all lower-body work, though. We also had some free weights situated beneath the reformer machine that we used toward the end of class to work our arms. And we finished off with the toughest arm move ever, grabbing resistance bands that were anchored to the bench and pushing up into a shoulder press while seated on the weighted platform. My shoulders were literally sore for DAYS.

Essentially, this workout is all about strength through resistance. The reformer machine, upbeat music, boutique studio vibe, and friendly instructors make the workout fun and enjoyable to do. Oh, and the fact that Michelle does Solidcore doesn't hurt either.



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The Biggest Mistakes Trainers See in the Gym

We've all chuckled at the videos online. Inevitably, there's people who go to the gym who do some seriously wacky things that you can't help but laugh at. Jokes aside, imagine being a personal trainer and seeing these mistakes regularly on a daily basis. Let's be clear: perfection is not expected when you go to the gym, but knowing how you can improve is important. A good trainer has to speak up when they see potentially dangerous errors, but it's not as easy as it sounds. For this story, we polled as many trainers as we could to get a list of the most common and biggest mistakes most trainers see on a daily basis. Here's what you need to watch for next time you hit the gym.

Expecting to Look Like a Chiseled Statue

"A lot of clients come in and say 'I want to look like so and so,'" said Natalie Carey, certified trainer and sports nutritionist at DIAKADI Fitness. "But in truth, the amount of work and discipline that goes into those bodies is overwhelming to most." Celebrities and elite athletes train like beasts, eating highly regimented diets and working out for hours on end. "Their whole lives revolve around these plans to look the way they do," said Natalie.

Instead of getting down on yourself for not having a six-pack after a month of training, Natalie encourages clients to instead "focus on the changes you see in yourself!" But if you can't let go of getting abs and arms like Gwen Stefani, "be prepared to put in some very hard but extremely rewarding work!"

You Let Yourself Get Distracted

You're guilty of this. Don't deny it. We all are. With all the tech we carry around these days, it's so easy to drop out in the middle of your training to check for incoming texts, or we focus more on the person next to us at the gym.

Stopping in the middle of a workout is never a good thing. Your body is primed, your heart rate is elevated, you're in the fat-burning zone, and then you stop suddenly. This can cause a lot of strain on the heart for the same reasons a person shouldn't skip a cooldown.

One trainer we spoke with told us that when we are in the middle of a workout, the body is sending blood to the muscles to deliver nutrients. When you bluntly cut that effort and exertion off, your heart has to work extra hard to pump all of that blood back up. It is always best to keep going and then slow down gradually.

You're Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again

"Our bodies are incredibly smart," said Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of Diakadi Fitness. "You must routinely tweak your exercise program in order to avoid plateaus. I recommend changing your routine at least every six weeks." Not doings so puts you at risk for hitting a plateau and not seeing the results you want.

Some of Billy's suggestions for keeping things fresh: change up the exercises you do and the number of reps and sets performed of each movement, alter your rest periods between exercises, or change the tempo to which you move during an exercise.

You're Skipping the Warmup

Here's another one we're all guilty of: jumping right into a strenuous exercise without a proper warmup. Don't do this; it's just a bad idea. While a warmup might not seem that important, that's just not true. A proper warmup will prime your body for what's to come. It's meant to get the blood flowing and warm the muscles, making your body ready to take on exercise and help prevent injury.

Bottom line: when you warm up properly, this will help you perform better, whether you are doing cardio or weights. With weight training, working with cold muscles can really inhibit your form and range of motion, so be sure to do a few dynamic stretches before jumping into anything. For cardio, start with two minutes of light-intensity movement and your heart will thank you later.

You're Going Too Fast

We get it: sometimes you just want to get your workout over with so you can get on with your day. Time is short, and maybe your workouts are as well, but rushing through them won't get you to where you want to be.

Any trainer will tell you to take your time to do it right. Don't rush through your reps and don't take those squats halfway into the movement (you know who you are). Give it everything you've got and slow down! Keeping your muscles under tension just a bit longer will ensure progress. That's why you're there, right? Don't cut time and expect results. Do the work and see your best reflection in the mirror when you're done.

- Additional reporting by Michele Foley



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