10 Foods for Weight Gain and Loss

The Harvard School of Public Health released findings from a huge federally funded study that analyzed data collected from 120,000+ men and women over the last 12-20 years on how various foods and beverages, exercise, sleep patterns and lifestyle choices impacted one's weight.  Their findings revealed the notion that it's not just a matter of how many calories you eat, it's also about the nutritional make-up of those calories.  Below is a list of the five foods that have contributed to the steady weight gain as well as the five foods that have contributed to noted weight loss of the study's participants:

5 Foods that Contribute to Weight Gain

1.  Potato chips

2.  Potatoes (baked, mashed or boiled)

3.  Sugar-sweetened beverages

4.  Unprocessed red meat

5.  Processed meat (lunch meat)

5 Foods that Contribute to Weight Loss

1.  Vegetables

2.  Fruit

3.  Whole, unprocessed grains

4.  Nuts

5.  Yogurt

Core - Your Powerhouse!

Your core is considered your "powerhouse" as it is the foundation for movement and in some exercises, such as Pilates, it is the focus of each movement.  There are four muscle systems that work together to stabilize the pelvis and lumbar (lower) spine to efficiently execute movement such as lifting, bending, sitting, twisting, walking, running or jumping.  When your spine is supported and strong, your posture improves. Good spinal health and posture has a direct impact on your general health as well.

Think of your core as a cylinder with muscles forming the top, bottom and sides.  These muscle systems are:

  • Transverse abdominals - abdominal muscles that wrap around the front of your torso from the top of the hip bones to the bottom of your rib cage.
  • Multifidi - small muscles running along the spinal column.  When you contract the transverse abdominals, the slight squeeze you feel around your spine are the multifidi muscles at work.  The transverse abdominals and multifidi make up the sides of your core.
  • Pelvic Floor - The pelvic floor muscles hold the pelvis together, connecting it to the thigh bones. Also known as the "bathroom" muscles - you know them from when you have to hold it.   They work together with the diaphragm and form the bottom of the cylinder. 
  • Diaphragm - The primary muscle for breathing.  Located inside the rib cage, it forms a dome through its attachment to the ribs, spine and sternum.  Breathing techniques can be used to facilitate movement, improve strength, increase mobility during exercise and help focus the mind.  The diaphragm works with the pelvic floor muscles to form the top of the cylinder.

Push ups:  Why You Should Be Doing Them

Love them or hate them, push ups are an exercise that everyone should be doing.  They are one of the oldest exercises and remain a standard of many exercise programs because they are effective.  Push ups build upper body strength in the chest, shoulders, upper arms, and back.   Your core muscles (abdominals and muscles surrounding the spine) are working and also getting stronger as they help keep your body aligned throughout the exercise as are your hips and legs.  So in reality, every muscle from your shoulders to your toes (or knees) is working.   What if you can’t get down on the floor?  No problem - do them against a wall or a counter top; just make sure you’re on your toes and at an angle so that the majority of your body weight is suspended against gravity.   

For proper push up form, follow this guideline:  Whether you’re on your toes or knees, maintain a straight line from your neck to your hips – no sagging.  Hands should be slightly shoulder-width apart.  When lowering your body,, keep abdominals engaged for maintaining optimal form.  As you bend your elbows to lower yourself, try to go about 3 inches from the floor (use book about this size as a guide to give you an idea of where that is).  Fully extend your arms to come back up to the start position.  Repeat as many times as you can while maintaining good form.  Have someone watch you to make sure you’re doing it correctly or if you have a mirror, check out your form yourself.   If you plan to do more than one set successively, rest for 1-2 minutes in between sets.

Is there a proper breathing technique for doing pushups?  There is not.  Some people believe it works best if you exhale as you lower your body and inhale as you lift your body.  This doesn’t work as well for me and I instruct my clients to do the reverse.  I find that I have much more power if I exhale to push myself up and inhale to lower back down.  Try both ways yourself to see what works best for you. 


Kettlebells Put to the Test!

In the American Council on Exercise's Fitness Matters (Jan/Feb 2010), the lead article examined one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment - the kettlebell.  I incorporated kettlebells into my own fitness routine several years ago as well as made them a part of many of my clients' workouts.  ACE's article, "Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?" published the results of their study which examined the "energy cost and exercise intensity" of kettlebell workouts to see if the cardio/strength training combination from kettlebell use can save time as well as provide an excellent workout.

The test subjects were required to perform a 20 minute workout using one exercise (the snatch) in timed sequences that included short rest periods.  The results were impressive to say the least.  John Porcari, Ph.D, a lead researcher had this to say of the results:

"We estimated oxygen consumption and how many calories they were burning aerobically, and it was 13.6 calories per minute. But we also measured the blood lactate, so anaerobically they were burning another 6.6 calories per minute.  So, they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts.  That's equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace. The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is cross-country skiing up hill at a fast pace."

Researchers conclude that the workout produced such high results due to the total body movement of the exercise done to a quick pace in an interval (timed) format.  Including kettlebells can cleary help maximize your results in shorter periods of time - good news for those already looking for time-friendly workouts to fit into their busy schedules! 



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