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PortionMate™ Portion Control Tools. See my review here.





Strength Training: No Equipment Necessary

I received a book to review and really liked the cover. Well, sure, the author is amazingly attractive but I also appreciated the title: You Are Your Own Gym. I'm all for gyms because I believe some people need the accountability and support that gyms offer to succeed in exercising consistently. But there are times when you can't make it to the gym, and this book offers great ideas for a home-based program. The creator, Mark Lauren, has coached almost a thousand military trainees in U.S. Special Operations forces (e.g., Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets) in the past decade. Through his training experiences, he's developed an exercise regimen that you can do in the privacy of your home without equipment. Some of his thoughts about fitness are provocative, going so far as to suggest that the current exercise recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are flawed. Mark shared his insights with me in a recent interview.

Q: What's missing from a traditional strength training class that your program offers?

A: My bodyweight exercises engage many muscles at once. Often, exercises requiring equipment have the user sitting or lying down while isolating only one or two muscle groups. This is less effective since people rarely exert themselves while lying or sitting down. Many strength training, yoga and Pilates classes fail to address all the qualities of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, power, flexibility, balance, speed and coordination. With my program these qualities are developed systematically through the use of bodyweight movements engaging several muscles in short intense interval-type workouts. The user is gradually and safely progressed to these intense workouts by beginning with longer less intense workouts.

Q: Do you disagree with the CDCs exercise recommendations for adults that include regular aerobic activity?

A: The problem with their advice is that splitting up cardiovascular training and strength training is outdated and inefficient. Through the use of short intense interval-type workouts, you get much better results in far less time, especially if you're using bodyweight exercises, and you can train anywhere. High intensity interval training (HIIT) produces incredible changes faster. Cardio can actually make you lose strength and muscle, since not all muscles are engaged, and very little muscle is needed to perform an easy movement over and over.

Q: What do you suggest for frequency and type of exercise for someone who wants to lose weight?

A: My program is effective with 16-40 minute workouts performed 4-5 times a week (or 2-3 hours total). With short intense interval-type workouts using many muscles at once, you build muscle and boost your metabolism. One study found that HIIT was 9 times as effective at burning fat as cardio. HIIT produced greater changes in body composition in less time (20 minutes of HIIT vs. 1 hour of cardio). Muscle is always active so you not only burn calories while resting, you also burn far more calories while training. It's like working with a 6-cylinder motor instead of a 4-cylinder motor. The bigger motor requires much more fuel when working, and that fuel is calories.

Q: Have you trained frail elderly and those with more limited physical function, or mainly athletes and military personnel?

A: Most of the feedback I’ve received from this book is from people 40-60+ years old but I've gotten great feedback from many elderly people. Some require advice regarding ways to train around particular injuries, usually bad knees, which I address in my website’s forum section. This program is especially beneficial for the elderly because it develops functional skills that translate to activities of day-to-day living. Through improved balance, flexibility, muscular strength, joint strength, bone density and coordination, people are able to get through life with greater mobility and safety.

Here are my two cents on this book:  

PROS: Mark is a thorough writer with clear explanations and accompanying photos. His nutrition section gets a thumbs-up with very sound advice. The exercise variations are great; for example he demonstrates 10 different kinds of push-ups! Most exercises offer basic to advanced levels. If you're a seasoned exerciser, you'll get many new ideas. It's perfect for days when you don't feel like the gym or if you're traveling.

CONS: He uses props such as phone books, food cans, backpacks and gallon jugs for weighted resistance. I question some of them simply because they're not made for weight training: your hands may not grip them properly, causing potential injury if say, a heavy can falls on your foot! Other props are downright scary: using a broomstick propped on stereo speakers for pull-ups (a cheap broom handle might not support a very heavy person), and use of plastic deck chairs, which are generally flimsy.

BEST AUDIENCE: Those who are moderate to advanced exercisers who've taken a strength training class and understand basic proper form. A benefit of a class or personal trainer is that the instructor can correct improper movements that could cause injury. If you're a novice, I'd suggest using this book along with a strength program at a gym or with a fitness trainer. Want your own free copy? Click on "Contact Me" and send your name and email address by September 21 to be entered in a random drawing. I'll contact you if you're the winner and send you Mark's book You Are Your Own Gym ASAP!

Also check out the p90x workout for an effective exercise program performed with high quality equipment in the convenience of your own home.

Below is one of Mark's exercises demonstrated by Mia, one of my Zumba students and an undergraduate at MIT studying chemistry. The movement simultaneously works the triceps, shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.

Sit upright with your back straight. Place your arms by your sides, fingertips pointed at your feet.           With straight arms, push upward and raise your hips so the soles of your feet are flat and your knees are bent 90 degrees. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly release to starting position.




How Much Food Do Preschoolers Really Need?

If you're a mom to a toddler or preschooler, you've probably experienced serving a plate of food to your child and getting frustrated that he or she wouldn't eat those last few bites of pasta or peas. "One more bite?" you beg with little success. Maybe the answer is that they just don't need it. My son Jake has finally inched away from his picky eating habits but he still has his moments. I often have to remind myself that his calorie needs are about half what I need, so his plate of food should look much smaller. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that the average 2 to 5-year-old eat about 1000-1400 calories daily, depending on how active he or she is. That's only about 300-400 calories per meal with one or two small snacks. If you're aiming high and want to get all the important nutrients in, you'll try to include some whole grains, vegetables or fruit, dairy and protein in each meal. So, the portion sizes of each food actually end up being quite small! 

Like many kids, Jake can get overwhelmed by adult sized portions. I've discovered that Bento boxes are a great way to pack a nutritious meal, with the individual compartments encouraging small portions and variety. You can google Bento boxes to find a wide range of sizes and prices. I actually found a decent one for less than $10 at a Borders bookstore, although a drawback was that the compartments were not microwaveable. Most Bento box compartments are microwave-safe. Bento box lunches can be a true art form but for my first try I kept it simple, just trying to make sure there was a nice array of healthful pickings. I included turkey slices on whole wheat bread spread with tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip with cucumbers, garlic and olive oil), carrot and cucumber sticks, and fresh fruit nibbles. Jake loved it at first sight and finished everything. He'd never tasted tzatziki before and even asked for more to dip his carrots into. If you have a young eater in the house, I highly recommend giving these a try! Here are some more helpful links on the subject:

MyPyramid for Preschoolers

10 Tips for Picky Eaters

Lunch in a Box

Kids' Bento Boxes


A Great Giveaway...with Heartfelt Thanks

I'm thrilled to offer FitMamaEats readers a really nice giveaway sponsored by CSN Stores: $80 to spend any way you like at any of their online stores from kitchenware to fitness gear to office supplies to shoes to kid stuff, and a lot more. No strings attached (meaning you don't have to add me to your blogroll or retweet this 10 times Dumb). I could have taken some or all of the money to do a product review but instead wanted to offer this giveaway along with a thank you to anyone who has checked out this blog. There are so many amazing food and nutrition blogs out there as you can see by visiting Foodbuzz and Nutrition Blog Network; the superior quality of many of those blogs is intimidating! In comparison, my blog seems quite forgettable but I stick with it because writing is my saving grace. To know that someone is clicking on this site to read my words is a real gift. So here's my token to you! To enter a random drawing for this $80 online gift certificate to any CSN Store, please click on "Contact Me" with your name and email by September 7. Note that you must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada. I'll contact you if you're the winner. Best of luck!