It’s no secret that Americans are much heavier now than we were in the past. People like to blame it on a host of things, from fast food to plain laziness. But it goes much deeper than that. And there are many differences in modern society that we don’t have a lot of control over, such as office jobs and hectic schedules. Fortunately, there are some habits women had in the past that we can learn from in order to be leaner and healthier.
1.) Instead of high-intensity cardio, they walked everywhere
It seems they were ahead of their time in knowing that steady-state cardio could be more effective. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not always practical to walk everywhere, especially if you lived in a spread-out area. But there are still many practical ways to incorporate more walking into your daily routines. Bring your own lunch to work and use your break for a stroll instead. Take the stairs. Take a walk around the block whenever you’re early or stuck waiting (appointments shouldn’t be a waste).
2.) They exercised for fun instead of out of obligation
Instead of pushing themselves through that workout class, activities like tennis, biking, and ballet were more common. And since they were done for fun instead of out of obligation they were probably easier to stick too!
3.) Going out to eat was an event
It wasn’t an everyday thing. And take-out/delivery was nearly nonexistent. Plus, the focus on celebration and social gathering ensured that people focused more on their company rather than overeating. And appetizers/desserts were a rarity.
4.) They didn’t diet!
Dieting doesn’t work. It ultimately leads to gaining more weight than before. In decades past, people didn’t always eat the healthiest foods, but everything was more in moderation and more natural than “diet” foods. In fact, many researchers attribute the obesity epidemic to the low-fat diet craze which started around the same time. This makes sense and we now know that fat doesn’t make you fat. Still many people avoid full-fat foods. Unfortunately, diet foods are more likely to be high in sugar, which is much more likely to cause weight gain than fat.
5.) They consumed fewer processed foods
In the past, regular consumption of processed food was mostly limited to dairy and deli meats. Everything else was cooked or prepared. That’s not to say that they didn’t occasionally eat cereal, but shelf-stable foods made up a much smaller portion of their grocery lists.
6.) They got more sleep
Sure, you could always argue that your life is too hectic and you don’t have time to get enough shut-eye. But if you make it a priority I think you can fit it in somewhere. In almost every other time and culture, napping was a regular habit. Study after study has found that adequate sleep is necessary for weight loss.
I read a ton of fitness/nutrition news every week so I figured why not share it all in one place? I don’t always agree with the findings and health research results are never black and white. Nonetheless, it’s always a fun read and you may just learn something new!
How much sugar is too much?
The FDA has declared a recommended cap of 50 grams of sugar a day for adults. In addition, they have plans to make nutrition labels start differentiating between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. While I’m not a fan of processed foods in general, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Walking vs Running
A new study found that walking could actually be more beneficial for weight loss and weight maintenance than running. More proof that it’s simply not necessary to force yourself to be a running person.
“Skinny Fat” may be more deadly than obesity
The term “skinny fat” resurfaces and this time it’s deadly. Another study confirms that carrying weight around your midsection is dangerous for your health. This study also suggests that it could even be more dangerous for a skinny person with a fat stomach than a generally obese person.
Is working out harder really better?
Is our obsession with bootcamp and military style workouts healthy? Maybe not. While I don’t personally see anything wrong with it, this article makes a good point that you shouldn’t have to force yourself to do a workout you hate. You should find a workout you enjoy.
Do stronger legs mean a stronger brain?
A new study confirms previous findings that exercise works more than just your muscles. It can also improve brain health! Exercise your body and exercise your mind.
It’s time for a bit of a rant, but I think it’s something that doesn’t get said enough.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I share how proud I am of myself and my progress and someone responds with, “But…you were always skinny.” Or if I’m showing someone my “before” photo and they say “But…you still weren’t fat.” I’m definitely not bragging in either situation and I don’t bring it up often. But sometimes I just want to share my excitement and get some support! How come it’s okay for a formerly overweight girl to post a before photo and get hundreds of comments of encouragement, but someone’s progress is smaller it goes unrecognized? I know that I should be proud of my own accomplishments and not need that recognition. And that’s all fine and good because I do this for myself. But sometimes, it would be nice! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
This brings me to another related pet peeve. And I think that all women who focus on fitness and nutrition probably get this. When I’m out and refuse to get dessert or eat something unhealthy, without fail, at least one person will make a comment. They’ll ask “Why do you need to diet? You’re so thin” or they might even go as far as to hint towards an eating disorder. First of all, I don’t diet, and I don’t think anyone should. I just try to eat healthy. And I do still indulge at least once a week. But if I were to indulge everytime someone said “It’s just one night,” I wouldn’t be so thin and I definitely wouldn’t be healthy.
And this goes both ways. There are plenty of people who work their asses off and don’t see results. Generally, this means they may not be doing something right (i.e.: too much cardio and not enough strength training), but other times it can be due to a medical condition that drastically slows metabolism. Either way, seeing someone who is overweight does not mean that they’re lazy! They could be working out every day while some thin girls don’t work out at all. You just never know!
Basically, don’t judge anyone else’s progress. Support everyone. Keep it positive.
Workout clothes are expensive. It’s crazy to think that I spend more on a top that I sweat in for an hour than I do on business clothes I wear all day. And while I used to workout in Soffe shorts I quickly learned that wasn’t practical in public (especially not for any exercise that requires bending down). Quality workout clothes are important and here are my favorite places to find affordable versions!
Courtesy of Old Navy
Old Navy has some of the best deals around on activewear! They regularly have low prices, but look out for their sales which are pretty amazing. I bought most of my clothes there when I started working out and they’ve all held up and are still in great shape. These compression cropped pants are on sale now for as low as $10.97 (depending on the color).
Courtesy of TJ Maxx
While Old Navy definitely has quality workout clothes, TJ Maxx is the best if you want the big brands at an affordable price. This Reebok tank top (with padded support) is just $16.99. In addition to your typical sportswear designers, they also offer a great selection of active gear from top fashion designers if that’s what you’re into!
Courtesy of Target
Target is a little bit more expensive than some of the other places, but you can still find some good deals if you look hard enough. For instance, this sports bra is only $6.48!
Courtesy of DSW
DSW offers good quality, affordable sneakers. But keep in mind that it varies by location. Some places have rows upon rows of sneakers and others might only have a few pairs. These Nike Revolution sneakers are just $39.94.
Courtesy of me :)
Sure, it sounds sketchy. But quality thrift and consignment shops often have never-before-worn workout clothes with the original tags still on them. If you live in NYC, my favorite is Housing Works (which is where I got the top in the above photo for $10- never used!)
First of all, my posts may be a bit sporadic for the next couple of weeks as I adjust since I have a new job! Woohoo!
To celebrate this new beginning, I spent a lovely weekend upstate. I spent some time relaxing by the lake, warming up by the fire pit, and “sampling” at the winery, but the main purpose of the trip was hiking! I think active get-aways are so important for both mental and physical health (especially when you live in a hectic city) so I’m trying to do this more often.
View from the deck at the B&B
We stayed in a lovely B&B in the small town of Greenwood Lake (where Babe Ruth used to stay!) It was beautiful and, more importantly, quiet! It was cold, but so peaceful by the fire pit. We spent the first day at Warwick Winery. $5 for wine tasting? Count me in! It was a great day, although we may have had a bit too much!
The next day we went hiking on the Appalachian Trail! The views were amazing and the bright colors of the Fall foliage were unreal. Seriously, some of the leaves were so pink they looked like they had been painted. I’ve said it before, but I honestly think that hiking is one of the best workouts there is! In addition to being a social activity that puts you in touch with nature, it’s also challenging. It combines cardio with strength training due to the steep hills and mountains. This part of the trail was definitely steep and a bit tricky! And it’s hard to want to stop when the views are so pretty.
After the trail, we stumbled upon a schoolyard playground. After reading Autumn’s post on active recess, I was inspired to sneak in! I’m not sure if that’s what she had in mind when she emphasized the importance of just letting loose and playing, but it was so much fun! After running through the jungle gym and swinging on the swings I was surprised that I was out of breath because I had completely let myself go. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was exercising at all.
This weekend really taught me the importance of active rest for the body and soul. I didn’t have any formal workouts, but I was probably more active than I would be on days where I just had one prescheduled workout. And I completely let go of all the stress I was feeling the week before.
What does an active rest day look like for you?
I generally don’t trust women’s magazines and I think a lot of the articles they put out there are BS (I’m looking at you, Cosmo!) So I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in this month’s Self that said strength training is more vital to weight loss than cardio. I’m glad this was finally put out there in such a mainstream place since so many women still mistakenly believe that they need to do hours of cardio and that weight lifting will make them bulk up. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I almost never do cardio. Sure, I bike and hike for fun, but I never run or do cardio just for the sake of exercise. I prefer strength-based exercises, whether that means body weight drills or pure weight lifting. Here’s why.
I should note that there are MANY more health benefits to weight lifting (and to cardio, as well), but this post is purely focused on weight loss/maintenance. In addition, any healthy individual should also be getting some cardio in, but if you live a healthy lifestyle that involves a lot of walking and activity, your workout time will be more effectively spent doing strength training.
1. Say Goodbye to “Skinny-Fat”
You’ll look toned instead of “skinny-fat.” Sure you can lose a lot of weight with cardio, but if you’re burning muscle instead of fat you’re not going to look so good. Lifting weights burns fat almost exclusively.
2. Shrink In Size
You’ll slim your waistline. Dear women, unless you’re eating over 3000 calories a day, you’re probably not going to bulk up from weight lifting. Our bodies just aren’t built that way. In fact, you’ll slim down. Since muscle weighs more than fat, you might gain weight but you’ll look smaller since the muslce takes up less space.
3. Up The Burn
You’ll be able to eat and burn more calories. Muscle mass plays a big part in determining your metabolism and how many calories you burn. By developing more lean muscle, you’ll burn more calories even while you’re just sitting down.
4. All About That Bass
You’ll retain more of your beloved curves. Ok, so some of us aren’t blessed with curves to begin with (ahem!) But women tend to lose a lot of fat from their butt and boobs first. Yet, if you focus some strength training exercises on your glutes and chest, you can maximize the appearance of those areas.
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So I finally tried out Citi Bike last night after getting a membership for my birthday. And yes, it was terrifying! The streets of New York are not for the weak. But it was also a lot of fun and a great workout. Here’s my little review and a few tips for bike riding in the city!
It’s actually a really cheap workout. It costs about $150 for the year for unlimited rides. That’s cheaper than the cost of your own bike, which in a big city like New York, is likely to be stolen/damaged anyway. There’s a ton of drop-off/pick-up locations and they’re relatively easy to find thanks to the app. If Citi Bike continues to expand the way it has been, that means even more locations and a huge decrease in traffic. Plus, it’s environmentally friendly. You can take them for a spin for leisurely rides along the Hudson River (like me!) or in Central Park. Or you can use them as a quick way to get from one place to another or for your morning commute. It’s very easy to get around if you travel within areas with bike lanes!
My biggest complaint is the quality and safety of the bikes. I quickly found out that these bikes were definitely not built with anyone under 5’5″ in mind! I could barely touch the ground, which is very dangerous. I emailed them today to see if they’re working on this. The gears are also a little flimsy so it can sometimes be difficult to speed up or slow down.
- Learn the rules of the road. There’s a lot of great info on the web!
- Take advantage of the Citi Bike app.
- Do as I say and not as I do: wear a helmet!
- Avoid areas without designated bike lanes. Check out bike maps here.
- Surprisingly enough my biggest obstacles weren’t cars. They were pedestrians that wander into the bike lane. Watch out for them.
- Likewise, there’s a ton of potholes, litter, and other obstacles. Keep your eye out.
- I made the mistake of going down a cobblestone road. Pay attention to avoid this before you’re on one.
- Be visible and predictable.
Back when working out was still something I had to force myself to do, I was at the doctor’s when I was absent-mindedly skimming an article about celebrity fitness. I was struck by something that Reese Witherspoon said. When asked how she fits exercise into her busy schedule, she said that she’ll get together with friends for a hike or run rather than having a lunch date. This really resonated with me because I felt like my need to workout was interfering with my social life. But you can have it both ways and it makes it so much more fun!
Make New Friends
Biking with Tone It Up girls
Not only is fitness a great way to bond with your existing friends, but it’s a great way to connect with new friends, too. Through the Tone It Up community, I was able to find girls who wanted to do the activities I wanted to do, like going bike riding on Governor’s Island. We had so much fun and instantly bonded over our love of leading a healthy lifestyle.
Hiking upstate with my roommate
I never knew how much I loved nature until I moved to New York. Now I miss it all the time even though I rarely did outdoor activities when I actually lived in my small, rural hometown. Hiking and other outdoor adventures are amazing. They don’t feel like workouts because you want to go as far as you can to explore the beauty.
Find New Hobbies
Girl Date: Kayaking on the Hudson River
There are so many fun and unique ways to workout with friends. Rock climbing, hiking, biking, running, swimming… even pole dancing classes! You’re sure to find a workout you enjoy. And even if you try something you don’t like (I was NOT a fan of the military boot camp class I took!) at least you had fun with your friends. Working out shouldn’t be a chore. There really is something out there for everyone.
Photo Credit: ToneItUp.com
Like many (probably most) women, I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food for most of my life. I would go through periods of emotional eating and weight gain, followed by seriously restrictive calorie counting where I would eat just 1200 calories a day (sometimes much less). At the time I thought this was normal. It’s not. And it isn’t necessary to go on a strict diet to lose weight.
When I joined Tone It Up, I learned the value of intuitive eating. For the first time I was neither bingeing nor restricting. I learned how to pick out healthy foods and eat moderate amounts without counting calories. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking about food (or food avoidance) 24/7. The website and the powerful community of TIU women on Instagram really changed my life.
I also learned the importance of strength training. Back when I was counting calories, I would do endless cardio on top of that. It didn’t get me the results I wanted. Yet, once I started eating intuitively and incorporating strength training routines 3-4 days a week, the pounds fell off and I look better than I’ve EVER looked. I realized that by forgetting to do strength training, you may lose weight, but you’ll mostly lose muscle. I’d rather look toned and healthy rather than just plain skinny. I highly recommend their videos, which you can find on Youtube.
The amazing community of girls on their website and throughout Instagram and Facebook are inspiring, dedicated, and incredibly supportive. I’ve also had the fortune to meet many of them and become friends. I couldn’t ask for better motivation. I felt that this post was necessary because Tone It Up inspired me to start this blog and one day I hope my blog can be as helpful to others as TIU was to me!
If you’re a runner, then this probably isn’t a concern for you. Or if you’re a machine person then Planet Fitness is a very affordable option. But if you prefer classes like I do, then it can be hard when you can’t afford to shell out over $100 a month on ClassPass. Yet, I work out at least 4-5 days a week without spending a dime.
As One Fitness on the Upper West Side
Most gyms and fitness studios have free trials for as little as a day to as long as a week or two. So why not try out some classes? You may actually find one you really like that’s a good price for you. If not, you at least got some free workouts in!
Big cities (and many towns) often offer free workout classes at local rec centers or outside in the summer. In New York, we have Shape Up NYC, which offers classes like Pilates, Bootcamp, Zumba, and even Bellydancing all year long!
One of my favorite ways to workout is by using free videos on YouTube. Most of them don’t require much space or equipment besides a few dumbbells (hey, if I can do it in my tiny NYC apartment, you can do it!) Some of my favorite videos are from Tone It Up, Blogilates, and FitnessBlender.
Many companies, like Athleta, lululemon, and Nike, are now hosting free fitness events to attract new customers. Check your local store for schedules. I’ve gone to a few hosted by Athleta and they’ve all been great!
Another great option is to go to Meetups! There are plenty of fitness groups, which often host free classes or hikes. It’s also a great way to meet new friends!