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Diet And Lifestyle Changes For Acid Reflux And GERD

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Many people know the pain of acid reflux. The burning pain in your throat and chest after eating, the acid taste in your mouth, and the occasional wrenching pain in your stomach. Acid reflux, one of the symptoms of which is heartburn, can seem benign, but it can drastically affect your life and keep you from your most vibrant self. And while there’s no cure for reflux, there are plenty of ways to manage the symptoms and prevent recurrence.

This Can’t Be Me!

When I was first diagnosed with GERD twenty years ago while living in England, I was handed a pamphlet from the Gastroenterologist with a picture of an obese man engaging in behaviours that are likely to cause acid reflux. Something like this photo:

fat-man-smoking-eating

Needless to say, as a 21-year-old international karate athlete, non-smoker, and healthy eater who rarely drank (maybe a few times a year after competitions), I couldn’t relate to this portrayal of the typical sufferer of this strange disease that a doctor told me I had.

Since then I’ve learned a lot more about the condition and have found that it can happen to people of all ages and sizes.

Symptoms of heartburn, also called acid indigestion, are more common in pregnant women and the elderly, but some people are just more predisposed to having a dysfunctional stomach (that’s me!).

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the contents the gastroduodenal area come up into the esophagus and cause chronic symptoms. The most common symptoms are heartburn, acid regurgitation, and chest pain, and less-typical symptoms include abdominal discomfort, chronic cough, and asthma.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Most people have probably experienced the burning sensation after a big or spicy meal at some point. That feeling is acid reflux, which is your stomach acid pushing its way up into your esophagus where it doesn’t belong.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a bundle of muscles at the top of the stomach that open up to allow food to go down and then close to prevent acid from coming back up into the esophagus:

stomach-les-acid reflux

Sometimes the LES doesn’t do its job well and the acid comes up the wrong way, leading to acid reflux symptoms.

How Common Is Acid Reflux?

The American College of Gastroenterology  states that more than 60 million Americans experience symptoms once a month and the worldwide prevalence of GERD, defined as at-least weekly heartburn and/or acid regurgitation, is thought to be between 10-20%.

That’s a serious problem!

Over time, acid reflux can lead to erosion of the esophagus.

My Personal Experience with Acid Reflux

After several months without an issue, I started to get a recurrence of my acid reflux symptoms about a month ago. I had visited an ENT not long before and found out that the nighttime coughing I had been experiencing was the result of acid reflux and not sinus issues, as I had believed. It was a reminder that I had to do more to manage my reflux if I was going to feel better. 

As I usually do when I want to get more informed about my health or that of my clients, I did my research. 

heartburn-acid-reflux

Typical Symptoms Of GERD

  • acid reflux/heartburn
  • indigestion
  • burning pain in esophagus
  • burning pain in throat
  • burping
  • hiccups
  • acid taste in mouth

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Symptoms You Might Not Have Associated With GERD

  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • lump in your throat
  • frequent throat clearing
  • sensation of post-nasal drip
  • hoarse voice

For me, these less-typical symptoms have also been present in the past year or so and I didn’t associate them with GERD until my ENT Doctor recently pronounced my sinuses perfectly healthy through examination and CT scan.

Many people don’t realize that gastroesophageal reflux is a common cause of chronic coughing. Many people who suffer with a chronic cough but never have any digestive symptoms like heartburn won’t realize that they have acid reflux. So taking nutrition and lifestyle measures to treat GERD may help you in unexpected ways.

Nutrition Changes To Relieve GERD

The standard recommendation by National Institutes of Health and the American College of Gastroenterology is that patients with GERD reduce their intakes of chocolate, alcohol, citrus and tomato products, fat, coffee, tea, and large meals. Smoking is another risk factor so if you need another reason to quit, here it is.

While certain foods are not the cause of acid reflux, they can trigger the issue in susceptible people and make the condition worse once it’s started. It doesn’t mean that you have to give up these foods forever, but it’s a good idea to keep your intake in check to prevent a recurrence of symptoms.

Foods To Avoid

Caffeine

Caffeine is acidic and has been shown in research to decrease the pressure of the LES (remember those are the muscles that are supposed to keep the acid where it belongs!). I personally can’t tolerate coffee, but a cup or two of tea a day doesn’t trigger reflux symptoms for me.

Alcohol

Alcohol is very acidic and is a notorious LES loosener (so I guess it’s not just your tongue that loosens up when you drink!). Wine is one of the most acidic options, while tequila and vodka are a little better. 

Fried & Fatty Foods

These foods cause the LES to relax, which allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Most fried and fatty foods aren’t a great choice health-wise anyway, so they’re probably worth skipping most of the time.

And no, the same rule doesn’t apply to healthy fats like avocado or olive oil. Eating smaller amounts of fat at one time is probably helpful. Fat takes a longer time to digest than protein or carbs and the longer food is in the stomach the more likely it is to reflux back upwards.

Citrus fruits and Tomatoes

Limit your intake of lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, as well as tomatoes and their sauces. Highly acidic, these foods are more likely to cause a burning sensation.

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Spicy Foods

Foods that are very spicy can irritate the stomach, so if you already know you have a reflux problem you might want to be more careful.

Soft Drinks

Not only are soft drinks full of sugar, but they’re also extremely acidic. Either citric (found in citrus fruits), carbonic, and/or phosphoric acid can be contained in these drinks, even those drinks that are labelled “Diet”. The carbonation itself (bubbles!) can cause digestive issues for some people.

Vinegar

Vinegar isn’t on the official “ban list” from most gastroenterologists, but it may be something to be wary of. A few “natural health gurus” advocate apple cider vinegar for just about everything. Most evidence points to vinegar (even apple cider vinegar!) being acidic and actually causing problems for people with GERD.

Not only is vinegar aciditic, but it also activates pepsin, a digestive enzyme that can damage the lining of the esophagus.

Chocolate

My personal favourite food is a bad choice for reflux so these days I try to minimize it when I’m having symptoms. It contains methylxanthine, a stimulant which loosens the LES and increases HCL production.

Mint

Although mint is generally considered good for digestion, it can irritate the esophagus and make acid reflux worse.

Garlic and Onions

Both garlic and onions can loosen the LES. Raw garlic and onions tend to be worse, but many people with acid reflux (myself included!) don’t tolerate cooked garlic or onions either.

Foods That May Help Acid Reflux

Lean Meats

This is where most of your protein should be coming from. Choose chicken breasts, lean turkey, pork, fish, and cut down on processed meat and fatty cuts of meat, which can exacerbate your reflux symptoms.

Non-Citrus fruits

Bananas, melons, papaya, guava, watermelon, cantaloupe and pears are good choices for acid reflux sufferers.papaya-watermelon

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is high in fibre, which helps your digestion, and may help neutralize acid.

Whole Grains

Although they’re not always an awesome choice for other people, whole grains or even plain, processed, dry crackers can be a good choice for “soaking up” some of the acid from the stomach in GERD sufferers.

Egg Whites

Yes, the yolk is awesome and contains tons of nutrients, but if you have GERD it’s more likely to trigger symptoms. Have the occasional egg, but have egg whites more often.

Dairy

This is a tricky one.

While dairy delays gastric emptying, and the longer the food is in your stomach the more likely it is to move back up the esophagus, dairy products can actually help to neutralize acidity. Whether dairy products are helpful or harmful depends on how YOUR body responds to it.

Pay attention to symptoms to see if dairy is right for you.

What Am I Supposed To Eat?!

I don’t blame you if you’re thinking that there aren’t many options left. There are, but if the foods you regularly eat fall into the “avoid” categories above then the first couple of weeks of following a GERD nutrition plan can be really hard.

Since you also want to make sure that you’re eating enough protein because it’s best for maintaining muscle and staying lean, eating to prevent acid reflux can be tricky.

Meal Ideas For Acid Reflux

It can be a struggle to put together healthy meals with adequate protein that are tolerable when my reflux symptoms are raging. I usually keep things simple for a few days until the burning sensation subsides and then gradually increase the variety of food that I’m eating as my symptoms improve.

Here are a few meal ideas for you to try:

egg-whites-avocado-acid-refluxOne egg, egg whites, with mushrooms, avocado buckwheat toast and raw pea shoots

chicken-zucchini-carrotsChicken breast with roasted carrots and zucchini

haddock-carrots-corianderWild haddock with roasted carrots and coriander

chicken-sweet-potato-broccoliChicken breast with sweet potatoes, broccoli, parsley, and mushrooms

egg-whites-avocado-toast-bananaEgg whites with avocado quinoa toast and a banana

 salmon-roasted-potatoes-broccoliSalmon with herbs, roasted potatoes in olive oil, and broccoli

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Oatmeal with macadamia nuts and blueberries in almond milk with whey protein

Eat Mindfully

Remember, how you eat is as important as what you eat. Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and take your time. Eating on the run, or having a meal and then running to catch the train to work, is going to make your reflux worse.

Lifestyle Changes For GERD

Lifestyle modifications are the first point of call for reducing symptoms. Although scientific evidence isn’t conclusive on how much nutrition and lifestyle changes can actually improve GERD, it’s worth making a few adjustments and seeing whether they help you. Everyone is different in their response to these changes.

Chew Gum

Chewing gum after meals was shown in a study to reduce the amount of acid that refluxes up the esophagus. The study used a one hour period after meals to reduce acid.

Walk After Meals

Although it’s not always possible to walk after meals, it’s a good idea to do it after your larger meals. The same study that tested gum after eating also showed a slight (albeit small) decrease in acid reflux when walking for one hour after a meal.

Eat Smaller Meals Regularly

Although frequent meals don’t “stoke your metabolism” and get you lean, for GERD sufferers they can be helpful for reducing the pressure on the LES. Small, frequent meals are best because they’re less likely to release the LES.

Wear Loose Clothing

If you put pressure on your stomach area from the outside, in the form of tight and restrictive clothing, you can aggravate acid reflux.

So skip the Spanx or skintight jeans and wear more comfortable clothing most of the time.

Avoid Lying Down 2-3 Hours After Eating, Especially Before Bed

Lying down with a full stomach causes food to push up against the lower esophageal sphincter and can significantly up your chances of experiencing acid reflux. Those holiday post-meal naps can be particularly harmful for GERD sufferers. Extra food in the lying position means that acid is more likely to get pushed up.

Weight Loss

Obesity is a known risk factor for GERD. This association is not causal, so it doesn’t mean that everyone who is obese has GERD or that everyone with GERD is obese. Many behaviours associated with obesity, however, like overeating, eating large quantities of food, and eating fried and fatty foods, can exacerbate the symptoms of GERD.

That stereotypical beer-bellied guy IS more likely to suffer from reflux, partly because of what he eats and also because of how much he eats. The tools you use to lose weight will help you with GERD. Both obesity and GERD can cause sleep disturbances so treating both root causes can improve your sleep.

Elevate The Head Of Your Bed

Having your body in a slightly inclined position while you’re sleeping makes it more difficult. Putting 4×4 blocks at the head of your bed is recommended, or just find something (I’ve been using a large pillow underneath the top of my mattress) that will elevate the upper part of your bed a bit.

Don’t try to cheat with a big pillow right under your head. The angle won’t be better for your stomach and you’ll probably just end up with a sore neck!

Exercise Guidelines For Acid Reflux

Avoid High-Impact Activities

While exercise is usually helpful for reflux symptoms, certain kinds of exercise can actually make your symptoms worse. Any high-impact exercise (like running, skipping, jumping, plyometrics) can force acid upwards through the esophagus. Imagine holding a glass of almost-full water while doing your activity and think about your stomach acid splashing up the same way.

When my GERD was at it’s worst in my 20s when I was an international karate competitor, I had to leave many sparring classes because of terrible stomach pains. I finished a couple of karate tournaments feeling like I was going to throw up.

Weight Training Guidelines

Even weight training, which I rely on as the mainstay of my program, can be a challenge for GERD. Bentover positions put the stomach in a disadvantageous position and the intra abdominal pressure created from heavier lifts can be stressful. Do your exercises in a standing or seated position and breath slowly and carefully to avoid putting excess pressure on the stomach.

That’s not to say that you need to give up your favourite high impact activities, but when your symptoms are starting to appear it’s best to change your workout to prevent more serious development.

Walk, rather than jog or run. As much as I enjoy my HIIT, skipping, and sprint training, I know it’s not helpful for my reflux symptoms when they’re playing up.

Stress Management With Meditation

The most ignored method of treatment can make a huge difference, but because it’s so difficult to define progress. We all have stress in our lives, but it effect everyone differently. A simple 5-Minute Meditation routine can be a good way to start your stress reduction practice. You can increase your time as you get more committed to the practice. 

Acid Reflux Treatments That May Work

PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors)

PPIs are the standard medical treatment for acid reflux and GERD. They work by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach and tightening the LES. Unfortunately, they don’t work for everyone and long-term use may have side effects.

Acupuncture

I’ve used this traditional Chinese modality in conjunction with chiropractic treatment to good effect over the years. Although the scientific evidence for acupuncture for acid reflux isn’t completely convincing, I think the relaxation that I experience during treatment contributes to its effectiveness.

Do What You Can To Help Yourself…And Get Medical Help, If Necessary

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I’m a nutrition and lifestyle coach and I’ve suffered from GERD for twenty years. Although I’m not not qualified to diagnosis and treat any illness, if you’ve been diagnosed with GERD or just have acid reflux issues that you’d like to relieve, these guidelines are likely to follow what you’ll hear from most Gastroenterologists and ENT specialists.

Living With GERD

I’m not going to have a life without chocolate and a cup or two of tea. I’m just not. But when my symptoms are bad I know that I’m overdoing it.

A couple of pieces of chocolate may be ok, if you’ve been following the nutritional guidelines for a while and your symptoms have resolved. The occasional glass of wine when you’ve been symptom-free for a while, is probably not going to hurt you. As with all of life, it’s about finding the right balance between enjoying the foods/drinks you love and the effect they have on your body.

Acid reflux can have a big effect on your enjoyment of life and it doesn’t pay to ignore the symptoms. When you manage reflux effectively, you’ll feel a lot better. And that’s what true health is about.

Ivana Chapman

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Are Toxins The Cause Of Your Weight Gain?

Pretty scary, right? Are toxins really the huge threat we’re led to believe?

You’ll often hear people talking about what a menace toxins are. They make you sick, they cause cancer, and maybe even stop you from losing weight.

Technically, a toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms, like snake venom. So the chemicals in plastic (like BPA) or inorganic substances like lead or mercury are actually called toxicants. Let’s not worry about the linguistic technicalities. This isn’t going to be a complicated, science-intensive blog post.

Calling something TOXIC is scary because it means that the substance can cause damage to your body. Yet practically any substance can become toxic to the human body at the right dosage. Consume too much water and you may develop hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and DIE.

Toxic substances are dose-dependent. A small amount may cause no harm at all and a large amount can kill you.

There are lots of claims out there, mostly by people peddling scam detox diets and products, that ridding your body of toxic substances (in general) can help you lose weight. While it’s certainly true that chemical exposures to substances like asbestos, mercury, or lead are harmful to your health, the question of certain chemicals promoting weight gain is a little more complicated. Some evidence does seem to show that chemical exposure to BPA (found in dental resins, food cans, and some plastics) can affect energy balance. The actual material effect of that is very minimal, perhaps an additional 1/1000 of a pound of fat on a 200 pound body. So not much really. While avoiding this type of chemical exposure is probably helpful for your health, the impact on weight loss is probably very minimal.

Well then, why do detox diets “work”? You did a juice detox for a week and you lost weight. Wasn’t it because it helped your body get rid of toxins?

Nope!

Detox juices…so pretty! And pretty unnecessary.

Juice detox diets force you to consume a limited amount of calories over the course of several days. And getting light-headed and dizzy doesn’t mean you’re “detoxing”. It means that apart from pumping your body full of sugar throughout the day (that’s what juice is, after all!) and causing yourself drastic insulin surges and crashes, you’re starving yourself as well. Reducing your calories leads to weight loss, at least initially.

So are chemicals the cause of people’s weight gain? Highly unlikely. It might not be exciting, but it really does come down to the basics for most people. The fundamentals are what you eat and the physical activity you do.

If someone’s eating a lot of crappy food and not exercising, toxins may be impacting their health, but they’re not a big part of the fat loss issue. It’s kind of like looking for ghosts in the attic when you hear a dripping sound in your home, rather than addressing the leaky pipes in the house. Ghosts may be causing strange noises in your household, but it’s probably best to address the obvious (and less supernatural) stuff first.

Are these ghosts the problem? Probably not.

The most important thing holding back fat loss is eating the wrong quantity and quality of foods. And while many people spend a lot of time looking for obscure solutions, in most cases the key to fat loss is relatively simple (although not always easy to carry out!).

Eat the right amount of food, with adequate protein, move as much as you can throughout the day, and work out with weights consistently to build muscle.

It may not be sexy, but it works. And you can stop being afraid of toxins holding you back at every turn.

Ivana Chapman

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The Scary Link Between Belly Fat And Your Health

Reducing your belly size can make big improvements to your health (who knew?!)

Most of us are generally happy with the state of our bodies, particularly when they’re hidden under clothes. Our arms aren’t bad (although maybe seeing a bit more muscle definition wouldn’t hurt) and our legs look reasonable good. The one area that somehow seems like the last to respond to all our exercising and nutrition changes is the belly. It’s usually the first place that we notice getting a little “chunkier” when we go a bit off the rails. It’s also the area that even very fit and lean people often struggle with.

Why?

Well, it’s often hormonal.

Men can suffer more with belly fat than women. Male hormones like testosterone tend to store excess fat in the stomach area while female hormones like estrogen and progesterone store excess fat in the hips and thighs. That’s not to say that men have it much harder when it comes to fat loss. Since most men have higher levels of muscle and overall body size they’re able to stay leaner with less effort. And don’t forget that testosterone is a muscle-building and fat-burning hormone.

But there’s another hormone that’s most relevant to belly fat and that’s CORTISOL.

Cortisol is commonly called the “stress hormone”, but as with most things it’s not all bad.

Like all hormones, the key element is BALANCE. If cortisol gets too low, you’ll be lethargic all the time. You want your cortisol levels to be high in the morning and when you’re exercising because it gives you energy. If cortisol is chronically high, you can end up anxious and “stressed out”. Chronically high cortisol levels will eventually lead to fatigue as they interfere with sleep and recovery.

That’s the state that many of us are in. We’re overworked, with not enough quality relaxation time where we’re just living in the moment and enjoying ourselves without being “plugged in” to our electronic devices. And these high levels of stress that your body faces keep your cortisol levels elevated, which causes your body to store more fat in the abdominal area.

“Ok great, Ivana, I’ll just give up my job to meditate in a monastery for a few months and then I’ll reduce my belly fat.”

Stress isn’t an easy problem to fix, I’ll admit.

And to be clear, belly fat doesn’t always mean that your levels of cortisol are chronically high.

You may just be eating too much (and the wrong type of food) and not exercising enough, or the right way.

But if you’re lean all over and can’t shrink that stubborn belly fat, then stress is an area to look at.

We all have some stress, but the key is finding a way to manage it.

Getting more sleep is the best place to start.

Meditating regularly (even if it’s just 10 minutes a day) can be really helpful if you give it an honest effort (a few weeks). Mostly it’s about getting the balance right in your life, between nutrition, exercise, and relaxation.

If you’re carrying a bit too much fat around your belly, there’s something in your life that needs to be addressed. So work to get yourself back on an even keel.

If you’re not motivated enough by the physical appearance benefits of having a flat stomach, consider that belly fat is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Abdominal obesity, which is a combination of subcutaneous (under the skin) and visceral (around the organs) fat, can significantly increase your risk of heart disease, diabetic symptoms, and perhaps even some forms of cancer.

So get working on trimming that stomach, with the right nutrition plan, exercise program, and stress management techniques.

Because even if you don’t care about having sexy six-pack abs, I’m fairly sure you want to live a long and healthy life.

Ivana Chapman

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Get Lean By Changing Your Relationship With Food

Don’t feel guilty…it’s OK to eat treats once in a while.

There’s a theme that comes up with nearly every client I’ve ever had over the course of my 17-year fitness coaching career. Many people like exercising, or at least don’t mind it, and have developed a fondness for getting stronger with weight training over time. And then we get to the nutrition side and there’s a groan, followed by statements like:

“Food is my weakness.”

“I love food too much.”

“I can be good with my diet for a while, but then I crave chocolate/fries/chips/burgers, etc.”

And if you’re looking for why most people aren’t able to stay lean consistently, nutrition is almost always the answer.

Exercise is important, for sure, and it helps you develop the muscle shape you want while increasing important physiological factors like insulin sensitivity.

But you won’t find your long-term solution to leanness until you fix your nutrition game.

I know this personally since I’ve exercised consistently pretty much my whole life (primarily martial arts and weight training) and my level of leanness has varied considerably over that time. In my adult years, I’ve varied from about 130lbs (right before a fitness competition) to a high of over 165lbs. My normal weight these days hovers at 134-138lbs (at 5’10). And believe it or not, that highest weight WAS NOT during my pregnancy.

It was in my early 20s when I was struggling with an unidentified digestive disorder (later labelled IBS and GERD), periods of mild depression, and binge eating.

It wasn’t until my 30s, when I discovered a higher-protein and lower-carb lifestyle that I finally developed a healthy relationship with food. Gone was the “all-or-nothing” mentality, the overly-restrictive diets, and the use of food as therapy for everything that hurt me emotionally.

Food is fuel. Food is for enjoyment, including to enhance social experiences.The right quantity and quality of food helps you feel good, stay lean, and adds to your enjoyment of life.

When your eating balance gets tipped in either direction, either too careless or too restrictive, negative things happen.

I got thinking about this after a visit to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), a massive two-week celebration in Toronto that has a midway, exhibits, shopping, and a lot of (often completely outrageous) food. Think Fried Mac and Curd Chimichangas, massive heavily-loaded burgers, deep-fried spaghetti balls, and cheesesteaks that use donuts instead of a bun and topped with whipped cream.

I actually feel kind of nauseous thinking about it!

People rush to the CNE to get their crazy-food fix and many people leave having consumed several thousand more calories than they should in a day…and with very upset stomachs.

And that’s not the end of the world, as long as they don’t do it every day.

Sometimes eating too much (like on special occasions) and eating food that doesn’t make us feel that well is a good reminder of why it’s better to eat well most of the time.

I love food.

But food isn’t the only thing that brings me enjoyment in life, and I don’t use it to try to soothe any of the pain or hurt that I may endure anymore.

Your relationship with food is what makes or breaks your success in staying lean long-term.

As long as you keep thinking of yourself as “being good” when you’re eating a certain way and “being bad” when you eat in another manner, you’ll never really have a healthy relationship with food.

That roller coaster ride of restrictive dieting followed by binge eating is what keeps most people from long term success with fat loss…and makes them unhappier each time it happens.

So do what you can to break the cycle.

I wish there was a magical solution to change your psychological food associations, but there isn’t. I’d love to be able to recommend a specific diet that will stop your desire to eat crappy food when you’re feeling down. There’s no quick-fix for a lifetime of bad food habits and you’ll have setbacks as you try to heal your negative relationship with food.

Here are the important points:

  1. Never feel guilty about the food you eat.
  2. Move on quickly after you’ve had too much food, or if you’ve had a period where it was hard to keep your nutrition plan on track.
  3. Practice mindfulness when you’re eating, and do a daily short 5-10 minute meditation (HERE is a simple way to get started) to help you reduce the stress that can lead to making bad choices with food.
  4. If you suffer from frequent binge eating episodes, think obsessively about food, or feel that you have a chronic lack of control around food, seek out professional help in the form of a psychologist that specializes in eating disorders.

You can move forward into a healthier, happier mindset by taking your lifestyle changes one step at a time, and by not making yourself feel bad because you don’t have superhuman discipline.

This isn’t about discipline at all; it’s about the impact of your emotional state on your eating habits.

You can hop from diet to diet, but if you don’t find a way to manage the emotional side of your eating you’ll never make a permanent change in your life.

When you learn to appreciate and accept food for what it is, and for what it’s not, you’re on your way to a lifetime of leanness, and a more positive outlook.

Ivana Chapman

woman-whipped-cream

5 Unhealthy Habits To Stop Doing Now

This one’s a bit obvious, but there are probably some other unhealthy habits you haven’t thought of.

Just coming off a weekend, you can probably think of a few habits you have that aren’t all that healthy. I mean, yeah, it’s not a great idea to drink a bit too much wine or beer, devour a lot of deep fried and/or BBQ’d food, or lie around all day on the couch watching sports. But all those habits are a bit obvious and I barely think they’re worth mentioning.

You know what to do when it comes to the basic things. Drink more water, eat more vegetables, drink alcohol only in moderation (if at all), and workout regularly.

Not very enlightening, right?

So what habits should you give up that will make an impact on your health?

Here are 5 unhealthy habits that can be especially damaging:

1) Feeling guilty about what you’re eating – Whether it’s eating gluten or dairy when it doesn’t agree with you or just succumbing to your favourite treat that doesn’t align with your goals (whether that’s chocolate cake, donuts, french fries, pork pie, or chicken wings), adding guilt to the mix doesn’t do you any favours.

In fact, many people are likely to go on a food “bender” when they feel guilty about their eating.
So skip the guilt and just move on when you haven’t been eating exactly the way you’d like.

2) Not sleeping enough – It almost seems like a badge of honour to say that you only slept 5 or 6 hours…or that’s all you need. People love to bring up examples of successful people who sleep very little and talk about hustling to get what you want. I get it. Sometimes it feels like you’re slacking if you actually get the 7 or 8 hours you need (I personally think 8 and 1/4 would be my ideal).

Sleep, or lack thereof, affects every system in your body. You’ll perform worse at everything you do if you don’t have enough sleep, and you’ll also increase your chances of getting sick and having to take time off.

And not getting enough sleep can significantly increase your appetite and your motivation to eat well.

Prioritize sleep and other things will fall into place easier.

3) Not dealing with stress – Yes, we all face stress. Usually daily. But walking around thinking about how busy are and how much pressure you’re under while saying “everything’s fine” doesn’t help you. Take the time you need to take care of yourself, whether that’s exercise, meditation, or just taking 20 minutes to read a book.

If you don’t deal with stress, your body will fight back, perhaps by making you sick or bringing you chronic anxiety or depression. And chronically high levels of cortisol brought about by stress can actually increase your fat levels, especially belly fat…if you need another reason to motivate yourself to deal with stress.

4) Using food as a reward – You’ve had a tough day at work so it’s time to reward yourself with a giant burger and fries in front of the TV. You just completed a major project so you want to go out and celebrate at your favourite dessert place. Or the worst one, in that it really leads to a longtime battle with fat and a bad relationship with both food and exercise, is rewarding yourself with a massive meal because you hit the gym.

As I raise a 3-year-old, I’m becoming more aware of how early the use of food as a reward begins.

“If you’re good, you’ll get ice cream!”

“If you eat all your dinner, you can have dessert!”

Many of us have internalized those types of comments from our childhoods and turned them into the reason we just can’t seem to stay lean.

Being aware of it is the first step. The next thing you want to do is find other rewards that you can give yourself when you achieve something. Maybe it’s 20 minutes curled up with a book you’ve been dying to read, a new pair of gym shorts, or tickets to a concert (depending on the size of the goal).

5) Not making physical activity part of your day – You make time for an hour at the gym a few times a week so you’re all good, right? Unfortunately not.

Sitting all day at a desk, which the majority of us do, can raise your risk of cardiovascular issues and makes it harder to get lean. If you can, try to walk at least part of the way to work. Get up and take breaks from the computer as much as possible. Take a real lunch break and go outside for a walk.

On the weekends, try to find fun activities to do that don’t involve sitting around. Explore your city, investigate a local market or festival, or go for a hike with your family. Get moving as much as you can.

So as you begin your week, think about the habits that you want to acquire and the ones you want to eliminate.

Keep in mind that it’s all a process.

Take your time and be patient with yourself, but keep working towards the healthy life you want to have.

There’s no better time than now.

Ivana Chapman

P.S. If you want to get lean (and stay lean!) for a lifetime, my Lean365 Online Membership Program can help! $47 a month gets you all the nutrition, exercise, and psychology & lifestyle guidance you need to get the body you want. Check out the details HERE.

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How To Stop Easter From Screwing Up Your Nutrition Plan

Uh oh. It looks like the poor chocolate bunny was too tempting to skip!

It’s fairly safe to say that most people’s weakness when it comes to getting and maintaining a lean physique is food. Many people are willing to put in the time at the gym, but they feel weak when it comes to food.

The old cliché, “You can’t out-train a bad diet”, is absolutely right.

Exercise burns relatively low amounts of calories when you’re doing it, although weight training and HIIT increase the rate of excess-post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and have more significant fat loss implications.

Still, the muscle building and hormonal implications of weight training are more important with than the calorie burn.

Especially since it takes nearly an hour of walking for most people to burn off a single donut!

So keeping your nutrition plan on track is essential if you want to get lean, and stay lean.

And most of the time you’re ok, right?

You plan your meals, make sure you get in your protein, and find ways of adding more filling vegetables to your meals.

And then a special occasion comes along, let’s say Easter, and all of a sudden there are all sorts of foods hanging around that you really LOVE and really want to stuff in your face immediately.

I feel your pain.

Tomorrow I’m heading to my mom’s to celebrate Easter with the family and there will definitely be chocolate.

I LOVE CHOCOLATE.

My mom also said she was baking her famous raspberry cheesecake.

I LOVE CHEESECAKE.

And my husband requested that she make extra servings of stuffing.

STUFFING IS YUMMY.

Given that I’m 3 weeks out from competing at the Natural Nationals for the CBBF (Canadian Bodybuilding Federation), I’m just going to steel myself, be very disciplined, and sit around drooling while everybody eats, right?

No.

I realize that what I do isn’t common for most physique competitors, many of whom will indeed be packing their chicken breasts and broccoli for Easter festivities.

Well, a lot of stuff that I do isn’t common for the fitness industry…but it works.

So what’s my plan for tomorrow?

I’ll have a very lean breakfast of mostly protein (maybe some eggs/egg whites or some wild haddock), some vegetables, and maybe a little bit of fruit.

This leaves more room for the extra carbs and fat from the chocolate (I’ll have about 100g or so), stuffing (about a cup), and cheesecake (1 slice).

In the days when I used to deprive myself of certain foods that I love, I would end up eating all the chocolate I could find in my mom’s house and nearly always had 2 or 3 very large slices of cheesecake.

Now I stay lean and enjoy the foods I love.

It’s a revelation.

Because your nutrition plan should be about balance.

The right amount of protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and carbs for your activity level and your goals need to be there.

There’s room in your nutrition plan for all foods (except perhaps those that you have an allergy or intolerance to).

I’m not fond of the term moderation, mainly because too many people whose diets are terrible constantly use it whenever someone questions their food choices (No, it’s not moderation, your whole diet sucks!).

Design a nutrition plan that includes treat foods that you love, which may mean sacrifice in other areas.

The quantity of treat foods matters.

Four tiny chocolate Easter eggs are pretty easy to fit into your nutrition plan.

A dozen Easter eggs, a chocolate bunny, and two slices of cheesecake?

Probably not.

So, for this long weekend, devise your plan of attack.

Be realistic, but don’t leave it all to chance.

And no matter what happens, don’t feel guilty.

Plan ahead and make the necessary adjustments.

Because life’s to short not to have a chocolate egg or two once a year.

Ivana Chapman

P.S. Want help putting together a nutrition and workout plan to get you lean – and keep you lean – 365 days of the year? My Lean365 Online Membership Program can help! $47 a month gets you all the nutrition, exercise, and psychology & lifestyle guidance you need to get the body you want. Check out the details HERE.

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The Life Lesson You Should Never Ignore

There’s something important you need to think about before time runs out.

Today would have been my dad’s 71st birthday. Sadly, he passed away of a sudden heart attack at the age of only 58 over a dozen years ago.

If you’re thinking this is one of those “my dad wasn’t in good shape, died early, and that’s why I’m so passionate about health and fitness” stories, you’d be wrong.

My dad was an athlete all his life, a downhill skier in his youth and a marathoner (with the occasional 10K, duathlon, and triathlon thrown in) in later years. He gave up running in his late 40s (I think) and focussed on weights and karate.

For relaxation, he meditated, did tai chi, and studied Buddhism and Japanese.

With my dad in one of the few photos we have together (this was before digital was common!)

My dad was teaching a karate class for kids when he stopped the sparring session to take a drink. That’s when he collapsed and we’re told his heart stopped. At the time we were told that it was bad genetics and the coroner actually told me that if he didn’t take care of himself as well as he did (eating well and exercising), he might have been gone at 48, rather than 58.

It turns out that the story was a bit more complicated than that.

My dad suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis and an autoimmune disease that primarily attacks the lower spine and eventually causes spinal fusion. But AS also causes a general inflammatory state in the body and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The heart’s blood supply is blocked by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart).

The result, in my dad’s case, was a fatal heart attack.


We didn’t know any of this at the time; it just seemed inexplicable that a man like my dad who appeared to be so healthy and basically had a 6-pack late into his 50s could have a heart attack and die.

Does it make me feel better to know that there was an underlying cause to his early death?

Not particularly.

I’d much rather still have him around to spend time with his grandkids. Still, as a health professional I find it interesting that there are so many things that can be affecting the state of your body.

It’s important to take care of yourself on a day-to-day basis.

Eat the right quantity and quality of food, get to a healthy weight, exercise regularly, sleep adequately, and destress as needed. Deal with any medical issues you have and don’t leave any suspicious ailments uninvestigated.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll live to be 70, 80, 90, or 100 years old, even if you do all the “right” things.

One thing I do know is that if you do follow all those practices, you’ll feel better and look better for whatever amount of years that you’re on this earth.

Living an active, energetic life is its own reward.

Being able to run around with your kids without getting winded or play the same sport you did in high school with energy and enthusiasm is what a satisfying life is all about.

Maybe it means that you finally get your act together, eat right, do weight training regularly, and build the body you’ve always wanted.

Many people grumble about getting older, but it’s a gift to be able to grow older, outpacing other people your age (and even those much younger!) with your energy, strength, and youthful vigor.

I’m a big believer in sucking all the juice out of life that’s possible.

Run, jump, play, travel, and discover new things.

When you start on a fitness journey, it’s often about the initial result you get with your body.

You want to be leaner and look better. Maybe you appreciate being stronger or having bigger biceps.

Eating well, with plenty of protein and vegetables, and strength training 3-5 days a week is the key to building the amazing body that you want.

The added benefit is that you feel stronger and more energetic and able to conquer the inevitable challenges that you face in your daily life.

Yes, you’ll be healthier and probably live a bit longer. What’s more important than adding years to your life through a healthy lifestyle is having a lot more life in your years.

That’s one thing that my dad knew a lot about.

Ivana Chapman

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Vitamin D Prevents Colds And Flu

vitamin-D-cold-flu

Nobody likes to get sick.

Yesterday a new study was published in the British Medical Journal. The results indicate that supplementation with Vitamin D may reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infection.

To anyone in the nutrition field, this isn’t really news.

We’ve been talking about vitamin D to support the immune system for many years.

I started supplementing with vitamin D after completing a nutrition course in 2012 that emphasized the importance of vitamin D for immune health (among other things).

Let’s look at the latest study that’s assessed the benefits of Vitamin D:

The Study

vitamin-D-capsulesThere wasn’t any experimentation done in this study, as this was a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous studies done on vitamin D supplementation.

A meta-analysis evaluates previous research to try to find the general consensus about a topic using relevant criteria.

In this case, the authors used double-blind (the researcher and the subjects didn’t know whether or not they were getting the supplement) placebo-controlled (some subjects didn’t get any supplements) studies.

They used Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D2, two forms of supplemental vitamin D.

This study analyzed 25 previous studies that fit the criteria. Nearly 11,000 people from ages 0 to 95 were part of these studies.

What Does This Study Tell Us?

Certainly, a deficiency of any nutrient will have side effects.

In the case of vitamin D, low blood levels of the nutrient result in a depressed immune system and an increased risk of of acute respiratory tract infections.

The doses used in all of the studies (If you’re so inclined, the full reference list is HERE) were found to be safe.

What Did The Researchers Conclude?

vitamin-D-studyThe authors concluded that the observed benefits of vitamin D for acute respiratory infection support the need for public health measures like vitamin D fortification.

This may be better at the public level, but I prefer recommending foods naturally high in vitamin D.

Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon), liver, egg yolks, and cheese fit the bill.

The fat fears of the 1990s, and the prevailing myth that fat is bad, may have contributed to lower vitamin D intakes.

Limitations Of The Study

I find it interesting that there was no separation between the two forms of vitamin D, D2 and D3.

D3 is the preferred form, as it’s more easily absorbed by the body.

Perhaps the results would be even more convincing if only D3 was used.

The researchers admit that they only focussed on larger trials of vitamin D.

Small studies showing adverse effects from Vitamin D may have escaped their attention. They felt these studies would not have numerically affected the overall outcome.

Who Benefits Most?

Based on the body of research, it appears that vitamin D deficiency depresses the immune system and leaves the body weak against viral infections. No one wants to be sick, and it results in lost work productivity (not to mention miserable moods!).vitamin-D-Study

The best way to get vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight.

Your skin produces vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin.

This presents a problem for those of us in Northern Latitudes that don’t get sun exposure for the winter months of the year.

Even during the summer season, many people don’t get outside regularly. The elderly or incapacitated, who are usually indoors, are most likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

They are also most likely to suffer poor outcomes, and potentially even death, from flu or anther viral infection.

People with darker skin are more likely to have issues with vitamin D.

The skin pigment, melanin, absorbs UVB and determines the number of photons that reach the lower cellular layers of the skin. That’s where vitamin D3 synthesis takes place.

In one study, 60% of urban schoolchildren in the US were found to have deficient blood levels of Vitamin D. The problem was greatest in blacks (74.5%), Asians (Chinese, Indian, Nepalese – 88.9%), and Hispanics (64.7%). Whites and multi-racial/other were at 52.7%.

Cautions!

Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, you don’t want to take too much.

An excess of any nutrient (even water!) can be dangerous.

It’s always best to have your blood levels of vitamin D tested before supplementing.

If your blood levels are good you can save yourself some cash.

If your blood levels are low, you notice a reduction in colds and flu when you start supplementing with vitamin D.

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The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamin D is ridiculously low in most countries.

Health Canada, for instance, recommends 600IU of vitamin D per day for children over 1 year old and adults up to age 70.

They allow 800IU for adults over 70.

The recognized safe daily upper limit is 4,000IU.

Most multivitamins have at least the 600IU.

Whether you should take additional vitamin D depends on your blood level. It also depends on your (and your doctor’s) level of comfort.

The Last Word

Vitamin D’s role in strengthening the immune system isn’t new.

We’ve been aware that having adequate Vitamin D levels decreases the risk of viral infections for a while.

The latest study is a good summary of the body of evidence with respect to Vitamin D. If you suffer from frequent respiratory tract infections like colds and flu, you might want to see your doctor to get your blood levels of Vitamin D tested.

It may be the supplement that makes the difference for you.

Ivana Chapman

Training When You’re Sick

Training When You’re Sick

Hi, I’m Ivana Chapman and today I’m gonna talk to you about training when you’re sick. So first of all, how sick are you? If you’re bedridden and you have a high fever, your body is aching, whatever, you’re obviously not going to work out. It’s gonna do your body a lot more good if you just rest and recover and take a few days. You’ll probably come back stronger after that. However if you just have a cold and you don’t feel too badly, maybe it’s not the first day of the cold and you’re gonna do your weight work out and that’s what I recommend. Get in there and do your weights work out. Probably keep the weights the same if you can, but increase the rest periods that you’re taking. So you might have a hard time breathing so give yourself a chance just to recover. Keep the weights as heavy as you can without causing yourself any injury. It’s not the time to go for a personal best or anything with the weights, but just take it a little bit easier, but as I said maintain the weight, lots of rest in between.

The other thing that you want to avoid during this time is sprint training or high intensity interval training, anything that’s gonna push you too hard. Just keep it to the weight training and give yourself lots of rest and you’ll be back fully functioning in no time.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed today’s tips. If you want more great tips check out my website, IvanaChapman.com. I’ll see you next time.

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5 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick This Season

sick man lying in bed face down

Being sick isn’t any fun. Try to avoid it this year.

No one wants to get sick.

You’re busy enough already…can you really afford to take time off?

I’m sure just thinking about it gives you a headache.

I can’t promise you’ll never get sick, and maybe you’ve been sick already this season, but these tips can certainly improve your chances of spending fewer days feeling miserable…and trying to catch-up when you feel better.

To strengthen your immune system:

1) Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Sugar depresses your immune system by making it harder for your white blood cells to fight off potential infections. You probably already know that you should be cutting down on your sugar intake, especially refined sugar in baked goods, soda, desserts, candy, and syrups.

What you might not be taking into account is that your body essentially treats refined grain products like bread, cereal, and granola essentially the same way as sugar.

Most dairy products also contain a significant amount of sugar in the form of lactose.

2) Avoid Chronic Cardio 

You certainly want to walk and move around on a daily basis, but moderate-to-high intensity cardio exercise too often can actually compromise your immune system and increase oxidative stress. You’re also increasing your cortisol (stress hormone) levels if you push yourself too often for too long.

Weight training workouts are more effective and less likely to have those effects.

3) Get Enough Sleep

You probably don’t need to be told – AGAIN! – that you’re not getting enough sleep, but I have to do it anyway. Not sleeping enough (7-9hrs) makes your more susceptible to illness.

4) Eat More Vegetables

It’s the most boring nutrition advice out there, but it’s almost universally agreed that vegetables improve your health. They contain antioxidants and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a strong immune system.

5) Take Vitamin D

A couple of decades ago there was lots of talk about vitamin C helping your immune system, but vitamin D actually appears to be the nutrient that matters more. Vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight, something that’s unlikely to happen in the winter if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.

Although you can probably safely take more than the recommended amounts of vitamin D (some Functional Medicine doctors believe the guidelines are 10X too low!), it’s a good idea to get a blood test done initially to assess your vitamin D levels.

Follow the tips I’ve given you and you’ll be less likely to end up in bed feeling as weak as a kitten (a kitten that also coughs, sneezes, and perhaps even vomits!).

Let’s make it a healthier winter season this year.Get enough sleep
Eat more vegetables
Take vitamin D

Ivana Chapman

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Dad Bod Trend…Please Go Away

fat hairy man's body holding soccer ball in hand

This “soccer dad” is actually a 24-year-old college student.

The “Dad bod” is supposedly the hottest trend for college men’s physiques right now.

What is it?

Well, based on the blog by Mackenzie Pearson that has helped popularize it, “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.”

Hmmmm…. Doesn’t really seem like something that any man should aspire to or any woman should want. I’m not saying a guy has to have shredded abs, biceps the size of beachballs, and an ass that can crack walnuts (although if you want to do that, guys, be my guest!), but this melted candle look is neither a physical ideal nor is it healthy.

Young guys, really?

One of the dumbest assumptions the American college student who wrote the blog makes is: “…if he already has the dad bod going on, we can get used to it before we date him, marry him, have three kids. We know what we are getting into when he’s got the same exact body type at the age of 22 that he’s going to have at 45.”

Good luck with that. A guy who has a beer gut at 22 is going to wind up with an entire keg around his middle by the time he’s 45. I’m not saying people can’t improve their bodies with age – they certainly can – but the type of guy who guzzles beer and eat entire pizzas every weekend is only going downhill fast.

Leonardo doesn’t have a Dad Bod

Somehow Leonardo DiCaprio has become the poster child for the Dad Bod. This is ironic, given that he’s not a dad. He’s also not the kind of twenty-something schlub that needs the Dad Bod label to make him feel good. He’s a 40-year-old enormously talented Oscar-nominated actor who the girls loved in Titanic and the guys loved in The Departed.  His net worth is in the hundred millions.

He could have Gerard Depardieu’s body: gerarddepardieu2x

and he’d still be dating supermodels.

Different Physical Ideals

Everyone has a different physical ideal when it come to the perfect male body. I understand that, and I respect it. Some girls lusted over Edward Cullen’s body in Twilight and some girls prefer Jacob Black. Werewolves seem more cuddly to me…but that’s beside the point.

He’s Worse Off Than Me

One of the reasons Ms Pearson gives for girls wanting a guy with a Dad Bod is that it’s not intimidating:“We don’t want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our body. We are insecure enough as it is.” That is so sad. Lusting after a out-of-shape body simply because it’s more out-of-shape than your own is pathetic. So you can’t be bothered to eat right and exercise and you want a guy who makes you feel ok about that? Lame. It may also explain why North America is getting fatter and fatter (68.7% of the US is overweight or obese). We all feel ok about ourselves because all the out-of-shape people around make us feel better.

The New Dad Bod

I look forward to the day when the Dad Bod is a positive expression that brings to mind the athletic bodies of men who are doting dads and still make confident women’s hearts race.

Here are a few actual dads with bodies that are worth emulating or lusting after, depending on your preference:

chris  will-smith-in-irobot  matthew  usher

And, of course, my personal favourite:

IMG_5570

Yup, that’s my Husby. Bringing it home for the legit Dad Bods. Let’s see if we can turn this trend around…or make it go away.

Ivana Chapman 

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Why Yoga isn’t the Way to Get Lean

three people stretching in yoga class

Can you be doing something better for your body than yoga?

Ahhhh, yoga. That time-honoured practice of physical and mental discipline. Also, the inspiration for all of Lululemon’s sexy booty-enhancing pants.

The History

I’m not going to claim to know anything about yoga history. I could certainly copy and paste the info from the Wiki page, but if you’re really that interested then you can do that yourself. Yes, yoga has a long history. It’s been practiced over the millennia by everyone from children to the very elderly. Is that enough reason for you to take it up? That’s totally up to you.

The Benefits

Depending on the type of yoga, you have a range of physical and mental benefits. Certainly if you’ve never done any exercise then yoga will be extremely challenging. Many people think of yoga as a great way to deal with stress. Maybe. If you enjoy a workout it’s a great way to deal with stress, whether it’s yoga or weight training or skiing.

What are you trying to achieve?

If you’re primarily interested in physique benefits like muscle gain and fat loss, then yoga wouldn’t be your first point of call. That’s not to say that yoga won’t do those things, but unless you’ve been sedentary for a while yoga won’t be the best way to achieve those goals. You probably guessed that weight training is the best way!

The Yin to Weight Training’s Yang

Some people (myself included) are naturally drawn to more intense exercise like weight training, martial arts, and sprinting. In Chinese philosophy, the harder physical elements are considered “yang” and the softer elements are “yin”. Yoga is generally a yin practice and can help balance the harder training that you do. Sometimes you feel frazzled and overwhelmed and yoga can indeed provide a welcome reprieve from the tougher workouts you’ve been doing.

Efficiency

I’m not saying that yoga is useless, by any means, but if you’re pressed for time and only have 2 or 3 days a week to work out – and your primary goal is physique-based – then yoga isn’t the best use of your precious time. I try to incorporate some elements of yoga/stretching into my workouts when necessary or desired, but I just don’t have the time to do an hour (or even 90min, as in Bikram!) yoga class.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done it before and that I won’t do it again, but right now my goal is to maintain my physique in an enjoyable way in the shortest time possible.

If you love yoga, great! Do it, enjoy it, and get all the happiness you can from it.

If your main goal is to get lean and ripped, yoga a couple of times a week just isn’t going to cut it.

Ivana Chapman 

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Tis the Season to be Fat & Jolly?

santa lying in bed smiling with hand on belly

Being fat and jolly is for the big guy dressed in red and white – not you!

It’s that time of year again; the month or so of eating, drinking, and general celebration that proceeds Christmas. Whether you’re celebrating Xmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, there’s sure to be an abundance of unhealthy food and fattening drinks involved. I’m not one to spoil a celebration (this is the girl who celebrates her birthday for a whole week!), but what are you supposed to do when you’re trying to maintain a lean physique during this time of year?

Choose Carefully

You can partake in the egg nog, mulled wine, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, candied yams, chocolates, christmas cake, or latkes, but probably not all of them…and not all at once! In fact, pick 2 or 3 favourite foods and stick to those. I skip the egg nog and stuffing, but no one’s keeping me from the chocolate and truffles at Christmas time! It’s fun to be glutinous once in a while, but your stomach – and your physique – will thank you for not going over the edge.

Remind Yourself of Your Goals

If you’re working on losing that last 10 pounds you probably don’t want to set your goal date for a couple of days after Christmas. That’s just setting yourself up for trouble! If you can’t bear the thought of skipping all those treats then you’ll feel nothing but guilt in the new year. Be realistic about what you can achieve during this time of year. Plan ahead so that you’re not starving when you hit another party. If I know I’m going to be indulging at a particular meal, I make a point of eating as lean (protein and veggies) as possible for the rest of my meals. I tend to have a couple lean days before and after the Christmas period.

Enjoy Stuff…Besides Food!

Holidays are about more than just food. There’s the drink too. Kidding!

There’s plenty of other things that the holidays are about:

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Watching cheesy Christmas specials on TV
  • Getting outdoors to do winter activities like sledding and skating (unless you live in Australia. Then you spend time on the beach)
  • Spending quiet time indoors reading or chatting with your family in front of a fireplace
  • Some people consider it a religious time of year and they head to church and temple…go figure!

I hope you and your loved ones have a fabulously festive time over the holidays.

Revel in this special time of year.

Just don’t forget that only Santa is supposed to be fat and jolly.

Ivana Chapman 

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Save Time and Stress With This Easy Nutrition Tip

man delivering groceries to door

This guy can save you a lot of time.

Everybody’s looking to save a bit of time, right? You’re in a perpetually busy state and don’t have time for all those things that you want to do (spend more time with your family, hit the gym one extra time a week, watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show).

Don’t Neglect Nutrition!

Ignore nutrition at your peril. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your body you won’t get the results you’re after, no matter how much exercise you do. Food is important. It can energize you and help you sleep and recover better, or it can make you feel sluggish and sick.

So what’s a busy person to do?

Get it delivered! I’ve been getting my groceries delivered to my door with Grocery Gateway for months now and it’s saved me a lot of time, especially as a new mom. I’m currently exploring the many organic produce and meat delivery services in the area too. It’s not that I never go to the grocery store, but it’s for fun stuff when I have a bit of time. All the staples (meat, veggies, fruit, yogurt, butter) are taken care of on a weekly basis. I do the same for my toiletries too. Who wants to spend time running around drugstores looking for tissues and paper towels? I have better things to do with my time.

Don’t you?

Holiday Season Chaos

Especially during the busy holiday season, the stores are packed with people and the lines are long for just about everything (including the washrooms in the malls!). It can be a stressful part of this time of year. I do most of my Christmas shopping online and just go out for the stuff that’s fun to look for (clothes! Although I do tons of that online too). That way I’m not running around the stores in a panic with all the other frantic shoppers.

Not worth it.

I’m heading to the gym!

Ivana Chapman 

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How to Move Forward in Life

man stepping forward onto road near arrow

Keeping moving in the right direction in life.

I learned a very unhelpful habit from my mom many years ago and I’ve been trying to correct it in recent years. She has a habit of thinking about what “could have” been and stressing herself out about it. Most of the time it’s related to money and spending it unnecessarily.

You know the pain of booking a holiday and then finding out that the price has dropped shortly afterwards? Or buying a dress only to have it go on sale the next day? That’s what I’m talking about.

Your Lifestyle

So how exactly does this same attitude effect your lifestyle (ie. your workouts and nutrition)?

Have you ever eaten way too much and felt so bad afterwards that you continued medicating yourself with food later in the day?

Did you beat yourself up about not having a great workout and it discouraged you from going to the gym the next day?

Have you ever eaten something that you felt bad about and used it as an excuse to binge on bad food all day?

Stop it!

It’s not worth it. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about what you might have done or what you could have done. You’re filling your head with unnecessary worry. Worry only makes life difficult. And life is difficult enough.

Can You Do Anything About it?

Let’s say you’ve made a blunder. Can you fix it? Let’s assume that in most cases you can’t. What’s the point in beating yourself up over it? You need to treat yourself with respect and allow yourself to make mistakes occasionally. The more you focus on your mistakes, the less energy you’ll have to devote to improving yourself in the future.

The Past is Past

Don’t worry about anything that you can’t change. Once the issue has past there’s no point in dwelling.

Free yourself…and move on.

You’ll be glad you did. And so will everyone else around you.

Ivana Chapman

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How to Have a Healthier Halloween

apples carved with faces with witch hats on top

Making healthy and fun food treats for Halloween is easy.

It’s a scary time of year for all us fitness folks.

People all around us are offering us pint-sized pieces of candy and chocolate that we don’t usually partake in. It’s all in the spirit of Halloween, of course, and it gives both kids and adults an excuse to overdo the sweetness on one day of the year.

If you want to have a few other options this year, here’s a quick guide.

Making it Festive

I am all about the scary decorations and fun food to get you (and the kids, if there are any) into the Halloween spirit.

How about some eggs topped with spiders made of olives to get the day off to a spooky start. Plenty of protein and healthy fats in these little babies:

eggs with spiders made of olives on top

Or make some fruity banana ghosts and pumpkins made of clementines to put a smile on the little ones’ faces:

ghosts made of bananas and tangerines made to look like pumpkins

Anything you make with pumpkin is automatically considered “Halloweeny” so carve one up, bake it up, and make sure you roast those seeds in the oven for a tasty snack.

Try Something Different

You can be that house that gives out the something besides candy. I know, I know, you don’t want to deprive the kids of their cavity-inducing treats. They’ll get plenty anyway, but at least you can give them something a little more interesting.

What kid wouldn’t love some pumpkin temporary tattoos, zombie stickers, glow-in-the-dark fangs, or a spider back scratcher? Don’t forget, Halloween is about the fun and the joy of the experience, not just the sugar rush.

Have a healthy Halloween!

Ivana Chapman

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Why Age is an Attitude

blonde woman in field of grass and flowers

A positive, adventurous attitude is the best anti-aging remedy you’ll find.

I’m 37 years old.

There was a time when I wouldn’t be able to tell you that.

My age. Eeeeek!

Having dabbled in modelling since my teens and enjoying a few sincere years in my late 20s of trying to be an Oscar-winning actress (I managed a few infomercials and some student films), I have long been acutely aware of a woman’s need to hide her age.

A Range of Ages

An actress is never supposed to say how old she is, just the range she plays…let’s say “20-25” or “35-45”. That’s how commercials, TV, and movie are cast, by identifying an age range for a character and then finding an actress who looks that age.

As you can imagine, it’s often a source of great pride for an actress that she plays in a younger age range than she is.

Being 5’10, I was able to buy alcohol without ID at the age of 16 so playing my age was more likely early on.

What You Put In…

By the time you hit your 30s though, I think that changes. The lifestyle choices you’ve made (eating right, exercising, not smoking) in the past start to bring you benefits.

Many people would guess that I’m a bit younger than my age now.

What does it matter?

It doesn’t.

Most people’s idea of what a particular age looks like is based on a norm created by their immediate circle. If you’re in a circle of healthy fitness people you probably realize that 40 or 45 still looks pretty damn fine. Yet if you make your judgements based on the average customer at McDonalds then you might have a different perception of age.

Who Cares?

I honestly feel better than I did in my 20s. I’m energetic, have more confidence and knowledge, and have more to show for my life than ever before. I haven’t felt the physical and mental decline that many acquaintances of mine claim. Taking care of myself, body and mind, must be an important part of that.

Believe it or not, I’m actually about 30lbs lighter than I was at my peak weight at the age of 24. I didn’t even exceed that weight during my pregnancy! There’s a story there (for another blog), but you get my point.

Age Isn’t Just a Number

Age is an attitude. Youth carries the spirit of adventure and feels awe and wonder with the world. You can be youthful at any age. You can be old before your time by being stuck in a rut and disenchanted by life.

Whatever age you are, promise yourself that you’ll do the best you can to take care of your body and mind. Eat well, exercise and move daily, learn inspiring things, and meet amazing people.

Then you’ll never feel old.

Ivana Chapman 

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How to Keep Up to Date with Fitness and Nutrition Information

woman listening for information

If you pay attention, there’s a lot out there to be learned. 

 “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune”

Jim Rohm

No one likes a know-it-all. When you’ve been in the fitness and nutrition world for as long as I have – over 14 years, not including my years as a karate instructor prior to that – you could probably argue that you know quite a bit about the game. When I start to think of all the potential knowledge to be had about health, exercise, weight training, and nutrition, I realise that I will only ever skim the surface and have a millionth of the potential information out there.

And that’s ok.

Where I came from

My personal beliefs have changed significantly since I started weight training at the age of 15 and first began reading fitness, karate, and bodybuilding magazines. I used to soak up the status quo. Now I’m a bit more of a rebel and I’m outside the normal everyday advice you get from most government organizations related to health and fitness. A lot of my information initially came from my Sports Science degree, which I completed in 2003. The rehabilitation, anatomy, nutrition, physiology and psychology courses were amazing and I built a base of understanding of these areas.

Keeping an open mind

Keeping my mind open to new ideas – including accepting that what I believed to be true for many years is wrong – has been the biggest factor in my progress. If you stick with the same concepts you learned in University a decade ago, you probably aren’t going to be on top of the game in an ever-evolving field like health and fitness. So I decided to listen to new concepts, research them, and come to a conclusion, rather than just outright dismissing something that conflicts with my current view.

Too many coaches get locked into their beliefs and it impedes their progress, and the progress of those that they work with. Something new might come along that’s better than what you’ve done before. Maybe there’s a new way of eating that might work better for you or your clients. Maybe there’s some exercises you haven’t done before that can result in greater leg development.

Learning from others

Much of what I’ve learned in the past decade has been from other fitness professionals. Some of it has been through structured courses, but a lot has come from fitness blogs and reading original research (although I usually don’t get too bogged down with too much research unless I’m writing a scholarly article. I use trusted sources to disseminate the info for me).

One of the most valuable sources of insight has been trading notes with fellow fitness professionals. I try to get outside my general knowledge and interest zone too, which is why I recently chatted up a vegan fitness competitor about how she manages to get enough protein (quinoa, nuts, some protein powders).

Keeping Up

If I just stuck with the information I learned years ago, I wouldn’t be the fitness and nutrition coach that I am today. I’d probably still be preaching about eating plenty of “healthy” whole grains and keeping fat in the diet as low as possible.

Scary thought!

Ivana Chapman