5 Lessons About Exercise You Can Learn From Your Dog

by | Apr 9, 2014

The same thing happens every day. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining. Whether we had a late night encounter with raccoons or we’re well-rested. Shortly after lunch every afternoon my dog Toaster wanders into my office and puts his little head on my lap.

It’s time to go to the park.

While it’s clear that Mother Nature plays a roll in his timing (potty time is a an excellent trigger), it doesn’t take more than a glance to realize that there is a deeper motivation under all that fluffy fur.

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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 21, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week saturated fat is exonerated (again), a simple trick to motivate yourself to exercise, and how dad’s diet affects baby’s health.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).
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6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Actually Go to the Gym

by | Sep 2, 2013

Photo by Abdullah AL-Naser

Joshua Hardwick is a fitness enthusiast from the small town of Chesterfield, UK. He loves the internet and runs his own fitness blog over at www.iwantasixpack.com. You can keep up-to-date with his posts on Twitter or Facebook.

6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Actually Go to the Gym

by Joshua Hardwick

If you’re anything like me working out makes you feel energized and clear-minded, but actually gathering enough motivation to go can be difficult. While it isn’t so bad in the summer months, I find it extremely difficult to make it to the gym on cold winter mornings when I know it’s well below zero outside.

When I manage to drag myself to the gym in the evenings I usually feel exhausted from work, and more often than not I’d rather just go home, watch some TV and go to bed.

When I don’t workout though, I always regret it. Here are some tips I’ve found that keep me motivated.
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Wedding Worries and Weight Loss: Eating for the Big Day

by | Apr 3, 2013
Photo courtesy of Ryan Vance

Photo courtesy of Ryan Vance (to make her dance)

Almost every bride I’ve known has put herself on some sort of special eating regimen in preparation for the big day. Though weight loss is often the goal, it is certainly not the only reason both brides and grooms should eat well on their path to the altar.

As a longtime foodist, I was not even remotely concerned about fitting into my dress. It fit beautifully, and I expect it will fit this time next year as well.

My biggest concern leading up to the big day was stress management. I almost never get sick, but with the pressure of a book launch and impending nuptials it has been harder than normal to get a restful night’s sleep. The last thing I wanted was to come down with the flu or some other bug from all the stress and travel.

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9 Surefire Ways To Sabotage Your Weight Loss

by | Jan 16, 2013

Photo by Tomas Sobek

There are thousands of ways to fail at meeting your health and weight loss goals, but some are so reliable you may as well give up before you start.

If your plan includes any of the following strategies, you may want to reevaluate your tactics.

9 Surefire Ways To Sabotage Your Weight Loss

1. Rely on willpower

Even if you’re one of those people with an iron will, no one can hold out forever. Willpower is notoriously unreliable, and if you’re ever sleepy, hungry, tipsy, grumpy, sad, happy, lazy or all of the above, your weakness will eventually win.

2. Forget the difference between temporary and permanent

Is your goal to fit into a size 4? Almost anyone can get there if they follow a strict enough diet and workout regimen for a set amount of time—the question is, how long do you want to stay there? If your goals are intended to be permanent, your dietary and fitness modifications need to be as well.

3. Start a really hard workout regimen

Having someone kick your ass in boot camp may sound like what you need to get in shape, but how long do you really think you will subject yourself to pain and suffering before you give up on exercise completely? Most people don’t last 2 months.

4. Never learn to eat mindfully

One of the biggest differences between the US and less obese cultures (e.g. France) is our complete and utter lack of food culture. In healthier cultures, meal time is an important event of people gathering to share good food and stories from the day. And with these habits come standards for portion sizes, eating speed and nutritional balance.

Sadly, it’s unlikely the US will suddenly establish a healthy food culture in time to help the majority of the population. But you can get a lot of the benefits yourself by learning to eat mindfully. Mindful eating helps you slow down, savor your food and appreciate each bite. For these reasons it is incredibly effective at helping with portion control–but without any feelings of deprivation.

In our culture, mindful eating is very difficult and takes some practice. It’s hard to slow down when your friends are wolfing down food by the handful. But it is possible. Practice when you’re alone and it will be easier when you’re with friends.

5. Ignore how much you miss your favorite foods

Love ice cream? Can you go your entire life without it? What about 6 months? Or do you just plan to hold out as long as you can before the next inevitable binge? Cold turkey isn’t necessary if you develop a healthy relationship with your favorite treats.

6. Assume that what worked for someone else will work for you

Have a friend who lost a ton of weight on the Atkins diet? Me too. I also have friends who lost weight doing the master cleanse or going vegan. Typically only the ones who make permanent habit changes can maintain it, so a plan that works for someone else will only work for you if you enjoy it and can incorporate it into your life. Everyone is different.

7. Dramatically restrict your eating

Starving is not fun. Nor are cravings. Nor is malnutrition. Limiting your calories to unrealistic lows is a great way to begin the cycle of yo-yo dieting that we all know and love. Enjoy!

8. Don’t find deeper purpose in what and why you eat

This one may sound a bit esoteric, but bear with me. If your goals are to build healthy habits (which they should be), the people who have the most success are those that want to achieve more than a change in their appearance. Vegans believe so deeply that harming animals is wrong that they never stray from their diets. Locavores want to know and trace the source of all their foods. For some people, being told you will die if you do not change your habits is enough.

For myself, it’s good to know that my habits are healthy and effective, but I’ve come to understand that how I eat is a way of life that has deeper political, philosophical and environmental impact than I ever imagined. It’s also super tasty. For inspiration, check out the film Food, Inc. or read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. You won’t regret it.

9. Pick a diet that is super inconvenient

We all have our limits on how far we’ll go to stick to an eating plan. Be sure to know yours. If you’re too busy (or have too many taste buds) to eat a specific combination of foods every 3 hours–I know I couldn’t–then don’t pretend like you can. Pick dietary changes you can handle, the little things do add up if you can maintain them for the long haul.

Have you lost weight and kept it off for years? Tell us how.

Originally published January 19, 2011.

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How To Start Working Out When You Don’t Like To Exercise

by | Jan 9, 2013

Photo by kirainet

You know who you are. As hard as you’ve tried, you’ve never liked going to the gym. Maybe you’ve even hired a personal trainer a few times, hoping the added expense and accountability would be enough motivation to turn you into a regular gym rat.

But it didn’t work.

Every time you’ve started an ambitious workout program with the goal of getting in shape, something–you’re not even sure what–cuts you short before you’ve reached your goal.

Deep down though, you know what the problem is: you don’t like working out. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, it’s sweaty and the weight room has a weird smell. You don’t like how you look in those stupid clothes, and who even has time for that sorta thing anyway?

But still you wonder about those people who are in the gym all the time. What’s their secret? How do they stay motivated day after day and year after year? Are they a different species? Or is there something they know that you don’t?

Few people on this earth were born with an innate love of the gym. But what generally separates people who like working out from those who don’t is pretty simple: fitness.

Working out sucks when you aren’t in shape. But the good news is that you don’t need to become a complete meathead to get to a place where exercise is no longer a pain. Just like learning to cook, once you reach a minimum proficiency level–in this case fitness level–exercise stops feeling bad and starts feeling good. And just like with cooking, the only way to get there is to Just Do It*.

If you’re just starting a workout program your goal shouldn’t be to get buff or lose weight. The first step is getting to a fitness level where you no longer hate to exercise. And for that all you need is consistency.

When you first start your program don’t force yourself to do anything too hard or unpleasant, just make sure that you stick with it and never quit. I hated running my entire life, so the first time I went jogging after years without any cardio training I told myself I would just run until I got tired. I literally made it about 4 blocks and went home. After a week or two I was up to 8 blocks. That was over 10 years ago and I’ve since completed three marathons. Running is no longer my go-to sport, but I’m now the fit person I’ve always wanted to be.

There’s no reason to torture yourself at the gym. Once you’re in better shape you will enjoy pushing yourself a little harder every now and then. But until you get there, just make yourself do something. Anything. Just do it regularly and don’t make excuses.

The key to being consistent is making your workout so easy/convenient/fun/awesome that not doing it just feels stupid. Here are a few tips to set you up for a lifetime of fitness.

10 Tips For Starting & Sticking With Exercise

1. Commit to consistency

This is worth repeating. Make a commitment to sticking with your plan. If you find yourself not able to meet your goals, change them so they’re easier.

2. Take baby steps

I jogged around the block for years before I got lost one day, accidentally ran 8 miles and decided marathon training no longer seemed so ridiculous. Don’t expect to turn into Superman overnight. For now just try to stop being Hedonism Bot.

3. Pick an exercise that’s fun

Not all exercise happens in the gym. Like to climb rocks? Shoot hoops? Swing the bat? Start with the fun stuff and work your way up.

4. Bring a friend, make it competitive

Having a workout partner is one of the most effective ways to be accountable and make your workout fun. Making it a competition is also great for motivation.

5. Join a sports team

Even better than one friend is a group of friends. Intramural sports teams are a fantastic way to get a few weekly workouts.

6. Get into music, podcasts and audiobooks

If your schedule isn’t conducive to group activities, your iPod still got your back. Put together an inspiring workout mix, download some of your favorite podcasts and audiobooks and whistle while you work.

7. Get a dog

You know what takes a lot of energy? Puppies! If you can’t motivate to exercise for yourself, at least do it for Fluff Fluff.

8. Caffeine charge

Sometimes a long day can make an evening workout seem impossibly difficult. At times like these, caffeine is your friend. After about half an hour you’ll need to workout to burn off that extra energy.

9. Get some nice workout clothes, shoes and mp3 player

New toys are fun. Sometimes it’s the little things that help the most.

10. Reward yourself

Doing something consistently is an accomplishment, even if your actual task seems small and insignificant. If you’ve been exercising regularly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for many jobs well done.

*Dear Nike, please don’t sue me.

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Originally published Jan 3, 2011.

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Healthy Snacks For After Your Workout

by | Nov 5, 2012
Delicious Nuts

Delicious Nuts

“When I work out at the gym, I am there for a couple of hours and by the end of the first hour, I am still energized but start getting hungry. I read your article on packing food for lunch but wanted to specifically ask if you recommend any specific store bought bars.”

I frequently get questions about different nutrition and energy bars. Generally I think they are a bad idea, since they are usually just processed food with added vitamins and/or other trendy diet ingredients—a hallmark of food from the Matrix.

Energy and meal replacement bars serve only one purpose: convenience. Some may be better than others (check the ingredients to be sure), but don’t fool yourself into thinking these are health foods.

That said, I understand that quick calories can be incredibly useful, particularly when intense workouts are a regular part of your day. If you get hungry and don’t have anything around to eat, the chances of you breaking down and eating something you’ll really regret increase substantially. But I think there are better things to carry around than energy bars.

My quick snack of choice is nuts or trail mix. I always have a small stash of nuts hidden somewhere in my gym bag (which comes with me everywhere). My personal favorites are almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. When I’m feeling ambitious I’ll combine a few different kinds together in a plastic zipper bag along with some dried fruit, just to mix things up.

One of the only drawbacks of snacking on nuts is if you are really hungry it is easy to eat too many and ruin your appetite for dinner. Too many nuts can also be difficult to digest. To avoid this I recommend getting into the habit of counting the nuts you eat, drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before eating more. The protein and fat in nuts can be very satisfying, but it takes awhile for the satiety signals to reach your brain.

For almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts 10 is a good number to start with. For shelled pistachios and peanuts, 15-20 nuts is more realistic. You are aiming for a single serving size of 1/4 cup. After some practice, eating the proper amount will come naturally to you. But at the beginning you should either count the nuts or measure them out in advance so it is easier to make good decisions.

There are a few other easily transportable foods that can serve as good substitutes for energy bars. Fruit is a great option, particularly filling fruits with lots of fiber like apples and oranges. Be careful with soft fruits, however, or you may end up with a gym bag filled with goo. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

(Read: How to transport soft fruits and vegetables)

Another option that I don’t often use but am not opposed to is jerky. Beef and turkey jerky are generally high in protein and very satisfying. Just be careful about the teriyaki flavor that is often high in added sugar.

As a final thought, I wonder if you are maybe spending too much time in the gym? For weight loss and fat burning, more than an hour is really overkill and may actually work against you. If you are training for a specific athletic event, you’ve gotta do what you gotta do. But for the rest of us mortals one hour in the gym is more than enough to accomplish our goals. Maybe your hunger is a signal to you that it’s time to shower up and head home?

One of the most essential aspects of a great healthstyle is planning for moments of hunger throughout your day, but processed foods are hardly ever the answer, no matter how convenient.

What are your favorite post-workout snacks?

Originally published November 16, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 27, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m back! Sorry I haven’t posted any link love in the past couple weeks, I travelled to British Columbia and then Hawaii for some much needed relaxation and quiet time to get some work done. The finish line is finally in sight for the big project I’ve been working on. More details soon.

This week sitting may be as bad as smoking, health journalists fail again, and a simple tip to boost willpower.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this month?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Feb 17, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week McDonald’s comes up with a game changer, Dr. Oz proves once again that he’s a scumbag, and science gives us a few more reasons to eat fish.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Exercise & Weight Loss Live – Episode 7 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | May 17, 2011

Big thanks to Travis Saunders and all of you who participated in this episode Exercise & Weight Loss. Everyone really enjoyed the show, and we had some great discussions. Show notes are below.

My apologies that the audio quality is still not ideal, the technical stuff gets a lot more complicated when you add another host (working on it). We also lost about 2 minutes of recording at the end (for an entirely different reason I didn’t anticipate). But all the important points were captured, and you’re welcome to ask any remaining questions you have here in the comments.

The next episode is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24 at 6:30pm PST, and the topic is Weight Loss Tips & Tricks. I’ve extended the free trial and today is the last day to get the first month of Tomato Slice for free.

May 9, 20111 | Think your regular workouts are enough to keep you fit? Wondering if extra time on the treadmill will counter your weekend splurges? Find out why you might be putting your eggs in the wrong basket tonight here at 6:30pm PST on Summer Tomato Live.

Join me and Travis Saunders from the PLoS Obesity Panacea blog. Travis is a Ph.D student studying the effects of sedentary behavior. We’ll be discussing The Role of Exercise In Weight Loss, along with his work and more.

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

As a special thanks to Obesity Panacea readers, I’m offering a free trial membership for anyone who signs up by Friday, May 13. You can cancel at any time.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

Show notes:

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