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Enjoy Summer Without Weight Gain

Summer is finally here!

The blissful sun-drenched days we’ve been waiting for have finally arrived here in Toronto (it was a LONG wait!).

A belated Happy Canada Day to all the Canadians and an early Happy Fourth of July to my American friends!

The sunny season has begun.

But wait!

Summer brings many temptations that can stall your weight loss goals.

BBQs, weddings, and cottage weekends put pressure on you to eat foods that don’t do your body any favours.

Who doesn’t love ice cream on hot day?

Or perhaps your taste is more for Rib Fests and a cold pint?

It’s all happening now, my friend.

And the chilled-out vibe of the summer makes us all the more likely that we’ll indulge.

As a Nutrition Coach, my view is that you should enjoy yourself in the summer.

Revel in the particular joys that the season brings.

Even if that means some crappy amusement park food once in a while.

Many people assume that because I’m a Nutrition Coach I avoid treats (summer and otherwise).

No way!

Last week after my son finished his last day of Junior Kindergarten we joined a group of families from our condo building for a 20 minute walk to get some fancy ice cream:

We enjoyed the walk and the treat, joined in the fun with friends, and nothing bad happened.

This long weekend my husband and I celebrated eleven years together in Niagara Falls and indulged in cheesecake, cookies, and freshly made s’mores.

We also ate our protein (mostly seafood) and veggies and did enough walking to make our legs ache for a massage…so it worked out.

If you increase your calorie expenditure significantly, those high-calorie treats won’t make as much of a difference.

And summer is the perfect time to get outside for a stroll, or go bike riding, rollerblading, or swimming.

There’s tons of fun to be had at this time of year!

How do you keep from piling on the pounds while not feeling left out this summer?

Balance, of course.

It’s not necessary to keep yourself from special occasions or avoid treats altogether.

If you’ve been following a sensible nutrition plan of lean protein, some starchy carbs, and veggies/fruit with some treats (a fairly ideal scenario), don’t just switch to beer, mojitos, burgers, ribs, and sausages.

Choose what you really enjoy and add in some healthier options to keep you satisfied.

Pick your favourite fruits and veggies and have plenty of them.

Although I’m not a big salad person, they seem more enjoyable when consumed on a patio on a sunny day with a bottle of Corona.

You don’t need those heavy comfort foods like stews, mac and cheese, pot roast, and lasagne right now.

Chances are that your spirits are a bit lifted at this time of year.

The extra vitamin D you’re getting may even improve your mood.

Remember that summer also brings fresh local fruit (watermelon and strawberries…yay!), corn on the cob, and grilled fish and veggies.

When you’re at a special event, survey the scene first and decide what’s really worth it.

When you’re not at a BBQ, the cottage, beer fest, party, or wedding, keep your nutrition lower in calories, carbs, and fat (because that’s what’s in most treat foods!).

I normally tell my Online Coaching clients to stick to lean protein (fish, eggs, chicken, lower-fat cheeses and yogurt, whey protein, turkey, lean red meat) and veggies before special occasions…and also eat that way the next day to help balance things out.

If you overindulge by 1000 extra calories one day, for example, you need to find a way of reducing your calories by 1000 calories over the next couple of days. 

Don’t starve yourself, but make sure you do a little “trimming” to even things out.

That way you won’t be adding pounds.

I don’t consider that moderation (yawn!).

It’s actually just smart planning.

With a sensible strategy, you can enjoy the fun of summer, without any guilt or added pounds.

Ivana Chapman

 

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6 Tips For Coping With The Winter Blues

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This has been a tough couple of weeks on the weather front.

Things went from “pleasantly wintery” to “ridiculously frightening” last week, resulting in snow days and cancellations here in Toronto.

Three snow days in 3 weeks – yikes!

The Polar Vortex hit Canada and the US Midwest and we were facing -35 degree Celsius (-30 Fahrenheit).

Although I enjoy skiing and skating, I’m generally a summer person.

The extreme weather certainly didn’t help my mood.

Around this time of year, many people in the Northern Hemisphere start to struggle a bit.

We’re just over a week past the day labelled “Blue Monday”, supposedly the saddest day of the year.

Blue Monday is a hoax made up by a PR firm in 2005.

There’s an interesting VIDEO that explains how it came about and why it’s BS.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t think that this tine of year sucks.

We did recently pass February 2, the halfway point between the Winter Solistice and the Spring Equinox…otherwise known as Groundhog Day.

Right in the thick of winter!

There’s no denying that this season can be tough on many people in the Northern Hemisphere.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) involves major depressive episodes on an annual basis and treatments include light (phototherapy) or medications and psychological therapy.

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Many of us experience a milder form of the “Winter Blues”, which involves bad moods, irritability, fatigue, poor sleep, and carb cravings.

While you may want to crawl back under the covers and hope it will go away, you probably have some things you need to do.

So somehow you must soldier on.

Here Are 6 Tips For Coping With The Winter Blues:

1) Exercise Daily

Your usual weight training workouts 2-5 days a week are your foundation.

While a gym session is great, it doesn’t make up from hours spent at your desk.

It’s important to keep moving as much as you can.

Exercise helps you cope with stress and reduces your risk of depression.

Something as simple as daily walking can make a big difference to your mood.

While I don’t tend to give my Online Coaching clients much (if any) cardio in their weekly workout plans, I do encourage regular daily movement.

It’s a great way to keep your motivation for weight training strong.

An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

2) Get Some Light

The main problem with winter is that there isn’t as much sun and it isn’t as strong as it is during other seasons.

Light therapy, which involves looking at a light box for 30-60 minutes a day, is used clinically to treat SAD.

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Ideally, you would get outside for some exercise most days, but it’s not always possible in the winter.

One of the positives of the frigid -30 days we recently experienced was that there was often sunlight despite the cold.

Sitting by a window for short periods during the day can be a great way to give yourself a rest from your computer screen.

It can also help you fight your low mood.

3) Add Healthy Fats

While you’re probably craving carbs to raise your serotonin (feel-good hormones), it’s fats that your body probably needs.

Omega 3 fats particularly, have been shown to improve mood.

You can get them from fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) or nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds).

Fats also help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

Vitamin D is particularly important, because it’s produced when the sun shines on your skin…something that rarely happens in winter.

It’s responsible for keeping your immune system functioning well.

And we all know that getting sick is a big downer!

Food sources of Vitamin D include egg yolks, dairy products, beef liver, and fatty fish.

4) Pump Up The Tunes

Music has been shown to be an effect therapy for depression in various populations.

You can certainly work on playing an instrument, if that’s your thing, but it’s easy enough to just listen to your favourite tunes.

Spotify even has playlists called “Happy Times” or just “Happy Music”.

Even better, come up with a playlist of your favourite happy music to pick you up when you’re lacking pep.

You can even get up and dance around for a few minutes at home, adding the mood-enhancing benefits of exercise to the mix.

Family kitchen dance party, anyone?

I love listening to steel pan, soca, reggae or Latin music when I’m feeling a bit down in the winter.

It makes me think of warm summer days and picturesque beaches.

Ahhhh.

5) Eat Chocolate

Although the research is mixed, chocolate has shown some evidence of being able to improve mood.

This is not free rein to eat bar after bar of chocolate, but you might enjoy a few reasonable portions each week.

Certainly the more you enjoy chocolate, the better it’s likely to work.

I personally love chocolate and a few pieces on a dreary day do have a positive impact on me.

For optimal health benefits, make sure you chose the right kind of chocolate.

6) Plan A Vacation

It’s not always possible, but planning a winter vacation can be a great way to get through the winter.

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An interesting study showed that the anticipation of a vacation can help increase happiness.

In this case, the vacationers happiness wasn’t greater than non-vacationers after the holiday unless it was a very relaxing trip.

If you can’t get away, plan a fun event a few weeks from now (like a day trip or a course) that you can look forward to.

It might just be enough to get you through the winter.

Be Brave!

I know winter can be tough for some people (yes, I’m one of them!).

Do what you can to stay moving and be productive when the weather’s not to your liking.

We’ll be through this before we know it.

Ivana Chapman

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Your Fitness And Nutrition Strategy for 2019

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Happy new year!

I hope that 2019 has started off on a bright note for you.

And if it didn’t…there’s still plenty of time to have an awesome year.

My holiday break was surprisingly busy and I didn’t get as much downtime as I expected.

I had a couple of weeks of quality time with family and friends, including several days of skating and a day of skiing.

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For many of us, things are just starting to get organized.

I know, I know, you’re supposed to start being “perfect” on January 1, but in most cases it’s not practical.

Especially if your new year’s celebrations involved a little alcohol consumption, as mine did. 😉

My son was back at kindergarten this week and that means that it’s time for me to pick up the pace.

How are you feeling about the start of the new year?

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Maybe you’ve hit the ground running, working out regularly and eating reasonably-sized nutritious meals.

Great!

Perhaps you’ve been rushing around and have just realized that it’s a new year and you should get organized.

Personally I’m more in the latter category!

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Either way, remember that long-term success with fat loss is the result of consistent progress with your nutrition and training…not some 12-week challenge or (heaven-forbid) a 14-day juice detox.

Please don’t let all those aggressive ads for quick-fix diets and extreme workouts lead you astray.

I know it’s tempting, but making reasonable lifestyle changes that make sense for you is the real way to succeed.

Getting on the bandwagon isn’t what this is about.

Extreme calorie cutting or daily 2-hour workouts aren’t the answer.

Pace yourself.

Work with what you have now and build from there.

You can make big changes in 2019, if you make a commitment and maintain your progress.

If you need help with some knowledge and accountability, my Online Coaching program could be the answer.

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It might just be the decision that changes everything for you.

For real this year.

You don’t need to make an all-or-nothing commitment.

Taking that strategy means that you’re more likely to fail at achieving your goals.

Being able to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life will finally let you get control of your weight and health.

I teach my Online Coaching clients how to get through holidays, parties, and vacations without feeling deprived…or losing progress towards their goals.

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Most people take approaches that are doomed to fail eventually.

Forcing yourself to give up particular foods (dairy, wheat, gluten, sugar, meat) isn’t necessary unless you have genuine allergies or intolerances to those things.

It may help you lose weight initially, but it’s primarily through calorie reduction and not some mysterious “fattening” force in any of those foods.

And unless you plan on giving those foods up long-term…don’t worry about it.

Let’s make 2019 the year of practical, reasonable, sustainable nutrition and exercise.

Tune out the noise and focus on the basics.

You’ll still be standing proud when most people are burnt out by March.

Ivana Chapman

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A Quick Message About The Holiday Season

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Hopefully you’re enjoying a bit of rest in the next week or so.

While many of us are still working (sometimes with the added constraint of having our kids around!), with any luck you’re having a bit of down time too.

I’m reducing my gym workouts a bit to spend time with my family.

We’re keeping active though.

We went rock climbing with friends last Sunday and we’ve been doing some ice skating as well.

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In fact, that’s what we did after our big turkey lunch on Christmas Day.

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Skating with my husband, son, mom, sister and niece on Christmas Day

It’s nice to do something a little different.

Especially since there was plenty of time spent sitting around eating (a perfectly good activity too!).

The holidays are a great time to hit pause and recognize where you’re at.

I’m taking a bit of time to reflect on things and make some plans for 2019.

When it comes to all the extra treats I’m having right now (cookies, chocolate, stuffing), I’m trying to be reasonable and combine them with lean protein and plenty of veggies.

I’m enjoying whatever food I want, but I’m not forcing myself to stuff everything in like it’s going out of style.

The main thing is, I’m not letting myself feel any GUILT.

And I don’t want you to either!

Enjoy what you want in reasonable quantities and try to keep your nutrition plan generally in balance.

The last thing you want to do is fall for The New Year’s Fallacy and think everything will becoming easier next week (Read this BLOG POST for a full explanation).

Remember that what you do for a few days (or even two weeks) doesn’t matter as much as what you do for the rest of the year.

It isn’t the holidays that make or break your weight loss.

It’s all those days in between that really make the difference.

So be mindful of what you’re doing most of the time.

Don’t panic about what you do for a few days in a row.

Once you have a good system in place for eating, you’ll be able to manage your nutrition all year round without any issue.

I can even help you with that through my Online Coaching program.

Just get in touch and I’ll show you how I can guide you through it.Anyway, I don’t want to keep you from your celebrations.

I just want to wish you a very happy holiday season from my family to yours.

We’ll chat again in 2019.

Ivana Chapman

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The New Year’s Fallacy

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The holiday season is here.

Yay!

We’re now in the middle of December so that makes it pretty official.

While this is super-exciting on many levels, you want to be wary of some things that happen at this time of year.

There are an endless array of festive events, shindigs, get-togethers, holiday dos, and bashes (can we say party in any other way?).

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Most of these special occasions include food, and some may involve alcohol too.

This presents a challenge when planning your nutrition.

Some people decide, “Screw it! I’m going to live it up because it’s the holidays!”

Other people start to slack off as they get closer to the end of December, but decide that they’ll “get back on track” in the new year.

Here’s the problem.

All that extra revelry (without any plan) is going to result in extra pounds and a lot more work to do in the new year.

The New Year’s fallacy is that you can go crazy with food/drink and skip your workouts now because you’ll be able to make the massive lifestyle changes you need to lose weight in January.

It’s not going to happen.

This “Future You” that you envision isn’t any more committed than the current you.

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All of your stresses and pressures aren’t just magically go away in 2019.

You won’t have a bunch of free time all of a sudden.

That’s why the best time to start working on that fitness and nutrition plan is now.

I actually prefer that my Online Coaching clients start any other month than January.

Not only because if you’re a great potential client then I can’t wait to work with you, but also because it gives me the chance to guide you through a challenging period.

Many people put off coaching until January when they think they’ll be better prepared to take on the changes required.

And you’ll have more time in January, right?

What inevitably happens is that January isn’t a whole lot different than now.

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You may have fewer parties to go to, but you’re still going to be busy.

You’re always busy.

Everybody’s busy.

Especially if you have a career, a family, and a social life.

While there may be some slight peaks and troughs in your overall workload, few people get to the point where they don’t feel busy.

Maybe it’s just the way modern Western society works, I don’t know.

I’m not here to get philosophical about whether we should spend our lives meditating on a beach somewhere (probably not as great a lifestyle as you’re picturing!).

Personally, I’m happy with my busy urban lifestyle.

I love my work, spending time with family and friends, going out to special events, and traveling.

And yes, I’m busy.

I keep my workouts short and efficient, and that’s the type of plan I give to my Online Coaching clients too.

They’ve got a lot on their plates and they can’t spend all day in the gym.

They don’t have hours to spend making gourmet meals…nor do they want to do that.

Eating out is inevitable too, so I help them make the right decisions for their goals.

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I work with what they want and what they need to get the results they want.

Let me be clear.

When I give an Online Coaching client a nutrition plan, it isn’t one of those silly, “No sugar, no dairy, no fried food, no fun” diets.

My nutrition advice is based on making small changes to what you’re currently eating.

You don’t need to give up sugar over the holidays.

I’m not going to tell you to give up alcohol for a month.

You won’t need to spend every day at the gym.

Why?

Because NONE of those things are necessary for you to lose weight, get fit, or feel better.

Is it wise to be a bit more selective about what you eat at those parties you’re going to right now?

Sure.

But it’s not about all-or-nothing.

The process is about finding a lifestyle that’s enjoyable, sustainable, and gets you the results you want.

So whether you do it on your own or with my help, remember that you don’t have to give up all the foods you love.

You don’t have to cardio your brains out every day to get lean.

Start making the changes you need to make now so you’ll be heading into 2019 with some momentum.

Your future self will thank you.

Ivana Chapman

Holiday-Challenges-Christmas

How To Cope With Holiday Challenges

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Put Your Feet Up…You Got This!

We’re right in the thick of the holiday season.

The weather here in Toronto is definitely feeling “wintery”, even though it’s not officially winter yet.

I’ve already been ice skating with my family – four times!

A nice outdoor workout, by the way.

The other thing that happens at this time of year is parties.

Gatherings with friends.

Visits to Christmas markets and holiday fairs.

Apple cider and hot chocolate may become more regular drink choices, as well as wine and beer and various holiday tipples. 

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Maybe those Starbucks Peppermint or Caramel Brulee lattes have been calling your name.

Perhaps you’re even thinking of indulging in egg nog (although I personally think it’s pretty gross!).

I LOVE this time of year.

I do, however, realize that it presents some extra challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Sugar intake is going up.

Alcohol intake may be higher than usual.

Protein and veggies can get crowded out by baked goods and party hor d’oeuvres.

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Now I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun.

I certainly have my share of treats at this time of year.

We bought shortbread cookies at the Christmas Market near us a couple of weeks ago, as well as a 100-truffle bag of Lindt chocolates.

The cookies are gone.

The Lindt truffles are nearly there.

And more chocolate will be consumed before Santa comes down our proverbial chimney.

Why am I not in a total panic about all this?

Have I resigned myself to putting on about ten pounds and then “getting back on track” in January?

Absolutely not!

That’s the way I used to do things, back in the days when I wasn’t managing my lifestyle and weight the way I am now.

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The biggest change I’ve made is remembering that it’s not “all-or-nothing” at this time of year.

You don’t need to go nuts every day to enjoy the holidays, nor do you have to skip all your favourite treats.

Getting the right balance has taken me YEARS…probably more than a decade in reality.

With the benefit of that experience, I guide my Online Coaching clients to manage their food intake now for less work later on.

It’s not easy, but taking a few basics steps will make things easier for you next month.

Here’s How To Cope With The Challenges Of The Holidays:

1) Fit Workouts In 

Put those weight training sessions into your calendar, if you need to.

Make them shorter, if necessary, but don’t just start skipping all your workouts.

If you need some guidelines, I wrote a blog post HERE about working out during the holidays.

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2) Stay Active

It’s tempting to just lie around with a book and Lindt truffles for hours at a time.

Hmmmm, that actually sounds like a nice plan. 😉

While a bit of extra rest is good for you, particularly if you’re a tired parent, it’s also great to stay moving and keep your energy flowing.

Take a walk with your family, whether it’s outdoors or while doing a marathon shopping trip to the mall.

I’ve been enjoying the ice skating that I’ve been doing with my family and it’s a good supplement to my weights sessions.

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More movement also means less time spent shovelling cookies into your mouth!

3) Enjoy The Treats That Are Worth It For You

The aforementioned egg nog is high in calories and fat, and I’m certainly not interested.lindt-chocolate-holiday-challenges

Lindt truffles are also quite high in calories and fat (and sugar), but they’re worth every single one.

I skip one and allow myself to indulge in the other, in reasonable portions.

The Lindt will still be there in January, if I want it.

There’s no need to eat those truffles like they’re discontinuing them (that would be a travesty!).

4) Take Time For Yourself

You have a lot to do at this time of year, I know.

But taking care of yourself by managing your stress, hitting the gym, and eating nutritious food will pay off for everyone.

You’ll be a calmer, happier person to deal with at all those get-togethers.

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5) Skip The Guilt

Don’t feel bad if you eat a few too many Lindt truffles one night (yup, that was me!).

The next meal gives you an opportunity to make a different choice.

Eat lean protein and vegetables and keep the calories lower for a couple of meals afterwards.

You’ll be back in balance without having to berate yourself for not following your plan exactly.

Keep it flexible.

Move on after “slip-ups”.

Embrace the season, but don’t forget your goals.

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Now is NOT the time to give up and give in.

It’s also not the time to hide yourself away and eat chicken breasts and broccoli.

Enjoy this magical period.

Make the most of this time of year.

Follow a plan that makes you feel good about your progress, and doesn’t make you feel horrible in the new year.

The challenges of the season are here.

You’re in charge of how you manage them.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Beat The Parent Trap

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I’m sure we’re all familiar with the stereotype of the overworked, exhausted parent of young kids.

They’re always tired and have a hard time focusing on their work.

They seem to get by by pumping themselves full of caffeine and end up frazzled and stressed more than energized.

They’re burnt out and not themselves anymore.

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Obviously there’s an element of reality to that vision, although some of us fight hard to overcome it.

Parents of infants and toddlers tend to feel the pain more, but things don’t necessarily get easier as your baby becomes a preschooler.

Then if you add another child (or two!) the complications seem to multiple.

When you have a child, a lot of things change.

If you’re not careful, the person you were can become a tired/stressed/irritated version of what you were.

You may give up things that are important to you.

Change is ok and you can’t expect things to always be the same.

Your time is more precious than ever and you need to be more efficient to get things done.

With more attention to your priorities, you can still be an energetic, functional human being even after having kids.

Here’s How To Beat The Parent Trap:

1) Exercise With Weights

I know, I know.

You don’t feel like you have the time or energy to exercise.

Your kid needs you to feed him or read to him or help him build a giant Lego set.

Making time to exercise will give you more energy and the strength to keep up with the little guy (or gal).

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Weight training is the perfect workout for any parent.

You’ll be able to lift your child without hurting your back or bend over to pick up a million toys without running out of strength.

With regular weight training, you’ll feel stronger and more physically capable.

And that becomes more essential as your child gets bigger and stronger too.

So find a time to train with weights, at least two or three days a week.

Even 30-45 minutes will do.

You’ll soon feel like the superhero that you hope your kids think you are.

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2) Simplify Your Food Preparation

Early parenthood is probably not the time to start experimenting with two-day meat marinades and 20 ingredient dishes (unless that’s your thing!).

Heck, cooking at all can be a chore when you have a family of different preferences to cater to.

Cooking can be a time-consuming daily activity that you wish would go away.

So simplify, simplify, simplify!

I’ve never been much of a cook myself and becoming a parent means I started focusing on the basics of food preparation even more.

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Get that lean protein cooked up in batches (chicken, lean beef, pork, fish, eggs), add roasted or steamed veggies, and support it with small amounts of nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, whole grains).

Refrigerate and freeze what you don’t need so you’ll be prepared for snack attacks (yours, or your kids’) later on.

While making food at home tends to result in healthier choices, don’t worry if you have to make the choice for convenience occasionally.

Those grocery store roast chickens can be a good option, and are often my choice when time is short.

Frozen veggies are just as nutritious and you won’t have to worry that they’ll spoil before someone eats them.

Keeping fruit and nuts (if your family can have them) readily available means you’ve got something around when the cries of, “I’m hungry!” inevitably start.

Be prepared with food, but keep it simple.

Time is too short to make Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska (apparently some of the toughest dishes to make!).

3) Get Help!

Whether it’s your spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or hired help, you need support to be a good parent.

Admit that you can’t do it all and find a way of asking for help.

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Even if you’re on parental leave, getting short periods of time away from your munchkin can be helpful for your sanity.

Taking care of children can be a thankless, draining task.

It can also be pretty damn spectacular and make your heart feel like it’s going to burst.

If it seems like parenting has become a bit more “draining” and a lot less “spectacular”, find a way to get some help so you can shift the balance back.

That trip to the gym can be your “ME Time.”

And chose activities with your kids that YOU enjoy, rather than always doing what you think they’ll like.

A happy parent tends to mean a happy kid.

4) Make Sleep A Priority

It’s not always possible to get the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep when you have an infant waking up every 2 or 3 hours throughout the night.

Even as your child gets older, they’ll probably have sleep disturbances in the form of nightmares or bedwetting or illness that interrupt your sleep.

I know it’s hard, but sleep needs to be a top priority.

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Get as much as you can, whenever you can.

Skip TV or Internet time and go to bed earlier.

Take naps on the weekends, if you can.

Without the right amount of sleep you’ll never feel amazing.

5) Take Care Of Yourself

Acting like a martyr to parenthood isn’t doing you any favours.

Some people thrive on living the “stressed out parent” image, but it’s not helpful.

And kids need you to be calm under pressure….not always easy when you occasionally feel like you want to burst out in a fit of exhausted rage.

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The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others.

When you’re good to yourself, you’ll have a more positive version of you to share with the people who rely on you.

It might mean taking a bit of time to do something just for you: reading that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages, having a long bath, or watching a trashy TV show without feeling guilt.

Reducing your stress levels, even a little, will make you less likely to snap when you step on a piece of Lego in your living room.

And of course, the most important self-care goes back to the basics: sleep, exercise, and eating well.

You Can Be A Parent…And A Healthy, Happy Human

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Priorities are the biggest shift that most parents experience.

Maybe you used to spend a considerable amount of time watching TV or on YouTube.

Or perhaps you stayed out late and slept in on weekends (ahhh, those days!).

Without making adjustments, you’d have a hard time with parenting.

Getting older probably means that some of the stuff you thought was important isn’t that important anymore anyway.

As your kids grow up, you’ll start to get more of your time back.

It’s not always easy to get back into things if you’ve left a lot of good habits behind.

Still, it’s never too late to improve the way you conduct your day-to-day life.

No matter what your age or how many kids you have, you can have a better life than ever before.

Take small steps to get YOU back.

You’ll be a better parent for it.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Minimize Weight Gain On Vacation

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I’ve been back from my holiday in the Czech Republic for three weeks and I’m right in the thick of things.

Back to school (for my 4-year-old son), back to (more serious) work for most of us, and back to a more regular routine.

I was away with my husband and 4-year-old son for ten days and something very interesting happened.

Or should I say, didn’t happen.

I didn’t put on any weight.

For many people, a week or two away from their usual routine will almost always include some weight gain.

You want to enjoy all that amazing food that you don’t get at home, right?

And who has time to go the the gym when you’ve got amazing historical cities to explore?

I certainly didn’t skimp on food and I didn’t even bother to look for a gym.

So why wasn’t the trip a disaster?

(Not that weight gain is really a “disaster”, but I think you know what I mean).

I’ve got a bit of experience staying lean after years of yo-yo dieting, and being able to manage my lifestyle no matter where I go or what I do is a big part of that.

I generally travel 2-3 times per year and I’ve written about my nutrition and fitness routine on a Caribbean vacation before.

Based on my experiences, I’ve found a way of vacationing that allows me to follow the “lean lifestyle” without feeling deprived or sacrificing any of the fun of traveling.

Here Are My 5 Tips To Minimize Weight Gain On Vacation:

1) Enjoy Your Food, But Decide If It’s Really Worth It

We all have different food tastes and personal preferences.

Know your favourites and skip the things that you’re not interested in.

If you want to try some exotic local favourites or just a country’s speciality, go ahead.

minimize-weight-gain-on-vacation-beerA vacation in the Czech Republic without beer? Naaaaaah.

Enjoy a little drink, if that’s your thing.

I consider myself a bit of a foodie and I like to try new foods.

Feel free to explore the local cuisine.

Try a little bit and if it’s not to your liking then stop.

Share it with your family or get rid of it (if it’s truly terrible!).

Since I’m not a big fan of the bread in the Czech Republic, I usually left that sitting on the table.

It’s not worth the calories for me.

My husband tried the local goulash, but it didn’t interest me so I skipped it.

Just like in your day-to-day life, you have lots of daily choices to make about food.

Be true to what you value and don’t just become a glutton because you’re in a different country.

If you’re looking for specific tips for a tropical all-inclusive vacation, check out my BLOG POST HERE.

2) Do As Much Physical Activity As You Can

When you’re exploring new places, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up doing more daily physical activity than you do at home.

Bonus!

If you can plan fun outdoor activities that get you moving, even better.

As part of our holiday, we did a 10K hike up the tallest mountain in the Czech Republic, Sniezka, with my Czech cousin.

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That was definitely a bigger effort than even our usual day sightseeing.

Our days in Prague were spent walking all around the beautiful city.

I can only imagine how many steps we took on our explorations.

We also did a canoe trip on the Vltava River in the town of Cesky Krumlov, just to mix it up a little.

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So we tried to stay active (and keep our 4-year-old entertained!), but there wasn’t any formal exercise program.

I know there are people who like to hit the gym first thing in the morning when they go on vacation.

If that’s your thing, cool.

For me, I’d rather spend that time exploring the place I’m visiting or spending more time with my family.

The gym will be there when I get back home.

3) Keep Your Nutrition Basics in Place

My meals were generally based around protein and vegetables, as they are when I’m at home.

I don’t eat red meat (I don’t like it and it doesn’t help my acid reflux) so my options are generally poultry and seafood.

Here are a few examples of food I had on my vacation:

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Grilled monk fish with grilled veggies, roasted potatoes, and truffle sauce. The vegetables were a mix of okra, yellow beets, zucchini, eggplant, heirloom carrots, fennel, and purple cauliflower.

chicken-ratatouille-minimize-fat-gain-vacationRoasted Chicken Leg with Ratatouille (tomato, pepper, eggplant, and herbs)

salmon-risotto-minimize-fat-gain-vacationGrilled salmon with asparagus, mushroom and cheese risotto.

minimize-weight-gain-on-vacation-mealChicken breast with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and sweet potato and green pea puree

Now I certainly didn’t feel deprived eating like this on vacation.

In fact, these were some of the tastiest meals I’ve had in a while.

The protein was there and most of the time there were veggies involved too.

I kept the starchy carbs (bread, potatoes, rice, grains) to a minimum, for the most part, because I wanted to enjoy some other higher-calorie treats, like the chocolate my grandmother bought me, or the ice cream on a hot day.

minimize-weight-gain-on-vacation-ice-creamThis black chocolate ice cream was totally worth every calorie!

minimize-weight-gain-on-vacation-dessertSo was this mascarpone and fruit dessert!

minimize-weight-gain-on-vacation-burger-fitdadMy boys enjoyed sharing this burger and fries. I wasn’t interested.

Eat what really satisfies you and only add treats when they’re going to add value to your experience.

Make an active choice…don’t just let yourself get led astray by every food option that crosses your path.

4) Pack Food For Travel

When you want to minimize weight gain on vacation, it all starts with the plane journey.

I’m not suggesting that you only eat food from home, far from it, but planes don’t offer the best options so it’s good to bring something.

I generally bring nuts, some cut veggies and fruit, and perhaps some protein bars to keep me from the worst of the airplane food.

And of course, water – lots of water – for the dehydrating plane journey.

I even packed a tub of protein powder and had a serving every day before breakfast to make sure that I was getting enough protein.

That way I had protein covered every day without having to think about it.

And considering that this salty meat pie is considered a “Hot Meal” by Air Canada, it’s worth being prepared:

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5) Make A Plan For Your Return Home

Getting back from vacation can be tough.

You’re tired, there’s so much laundry to be done, and you haven’t got much fresh food in the fridge because you had to clean it out before you left.

You’re out of your gym routine and you’re feeling less-than-eager to push yourself.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan for your return from holiday.

If you leave things open for when you get back home, you may find that the gym habit disappears for longer than you expected.

You may rely too much on less-ideal convenience foods when you come back.

I made a plan for my first session back at the gym (a couple of days after our return because we had things to do).

We relied on some easy food, like whole roasted chickens, to make sure that we were getting our protein in.

Honestly, it took about a week to get things back in order after our vacation.

Our son was going to Kindergarten, which brought its own challenges, and we took some time to get organized and enjoy some end-of-summer activities (like an air show and a couple of amusement parks!).

Still, the result was good.

Since I kept my basics in place and had a plan for my gym return, there was no progress lost.

My legs were a bit more sore for the first few sessions, but I’m now feeling better than ever.

And that’s what holidays are supposed to do for you, right?

Ivana Chapman

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How To Make A Fresh Start When The Kids Go Back To School

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Yesterday my 4-year-old son had his first day of Junior Kindergarten.

It was a day of new routines, new friends, and a little bit of nervousness (perhaps on the part of both the parents and the child!).

September is a special time of year.

Some people even call it “the second New Year”.

September is generally the second busiest time at gyms (next to January, of course!).

When the kids go back to school, most parents start to get a bit more serious about their work.

As the warm weather of the summer starts to fade away (not quite yet, but I know the cooler temperatures are coming), we start to get a bit more focussed on our productivity and goals.

Although I’m a huge (HUGE!) fan of summer, I find that the autumn and winter are more productive times for me work-wise.

I spend a lot more time writing articles and researching studies for my blog posts.

Many people start looking for Online Coaching to help them get back on track with their fitness and nutrition goals.

I’ve heard many parents in my community talking about how they overindulged in the weeks of the summer holidays and are now ready to get back into things and focus on themselves.

That’s great!

I mean, it would be even better if they were able to be consistent with their exercise and nutrition habits all year round.

In fact, that’s what I help my Online Coaching clients do – stay CONSISTENT with their nutrition plans and their workouts.

We’re not all there yet…and that’s ok.

It’s something to strive for.

September brings a nice opportunity to focus on yourself, if you’ve let things slide a little over the past few weeks (months?).

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For those of you who want a “fresh start”, now’s the time to do it.

Although I graduated from University over a decade ago, I still think of September as the start of the year in many ways.

I make a focussed plan for the months ahead.

I put more structure into my life.

I’ve taken it a bit easier over the summer, spending after-school time with my son and husband to enjoy the weather.

I’ll be easing my way back into things over the next couple of weeks.

So expect to hear more from me in September and October.

I’ll be writing blog posts about topics that you want to know about and I’ll be sharing more evidence-based fitness and nutrition knowledge on my social media.

To get back on track with your fitness and nutrition at this time of year, here are a few tips:

1) Start Small

If you haven’t worked out all summer, don’t decide to go to the gym every day.

Try going 2 or 3 times this week.

Every other day is fine.

You just need to build your momentum without risking burnout.

So make some progress and don’t expect perfection.

2) Quit The Diet Cycle

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On the nutrition side, nothing makes me cringe more than hearing someone saying they’re going to have a few more “cheat meals” or “gorge days” and then the diet starts tomorrow (or next week).

Arghhhhhh.

That’s exactly why so many people live on the diet roller coaster their entire lives, gaining ten pounds (or 20 or 30) and then losing 10 pounds and then starting the Diet Cycle again.

That’s no way to live.

I spent about 15 years stuck in that cycle before I finally figured out how to live my life without the anxiety of dieting or feeling guilty about “being bad”.

3) Determine Your Goals

Losing weight doesn’t have to be your goal.

Even if you know you could benefit from some weight loss, focusing on just your weight can sometimes be demoralizing and boring.

Perhaps you want to get to a healthy weight and be able to stay that way year round.

Maybe you just want to stop fluctuating.

Would you like to hit the gym consistently 3 times a week so you feel stronger and have more energy?

Do you want to finally figure out how to make easy, healthy meals or put together healthy snacks for yourself or your kids?

Or maybe you want to have a visible 6-pack for your 40th birthday.

Whatever your goal, make sure that it makes sense for YOU.

4) Figure Out What Your Reasons For Doing This

I almost consider REASONS more important than GOALS when it comes to someone’s success with weight loss.

Sure, you can decide that you want to lose 10 pounds or fit into a certain size of jeans, but WHY do you want that to happen?

Do you want to feel stronger so you can lift your kids and spin them around?

Maybe you want to get healthier so you avoid the heart disease that runs in your family?

Would you like to eat better to improve the digestive issues that have been slowing you down and making you feel uncomfortable?

Do you want to be a role model for your kids, your family, and your friends?

Make sure that you have a strong reason for doing what you’re doing and you’ll be less likely to stop when the going gets tough (and it will get tough at some point!).

5) Be Accountable To Someone

You’ve probably tried to do it on your own…many times.

How does that usually work out for you?

We all go through periods when we lose focus and don’t feel like our fitness and nutrition goal is all that important.

The temptation to stand around eating chips and/or binge-watching Game Of Thrones can be overwhelming at times.

chips-back-to-school

And yes, sometimes it’s nice to try to get support from like-minded friends who share the same goal.

The problem is that you often get bad advice, and some members of these groups bring others down when things start to fall apart for them.

I always recommend professional guidance to help you with your fitness and nutrition journey.

Admittedly, this sounds self-serving since I offer Online Coaching, but I do it because it works.

Having an experienced professional with the knowledge and expertise to help you along the way is the best investment in your success.

If you’re using a group setting or are trying to do this with a friend, make sure that the group/person helping you is having a positive impact on you.

Otherwise, be willing to try a different approach.

Get Ready…It’s Time!

I hope you’re looking forward to a refreshing start to the “new year”.

Ease yourself into it.

Give yourself time to adjust.

This can be the start of something really exciting.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Get Back Into Exercise And Healthy Eating

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As a fitness and nutrition professional, there are a few phrases that I’m used to hearing.

And there’s one that always has me struggling to suppress an eye roll.

“I need to get back into it.”

It’s a surprisingly common refrain (I’ve heard it twice in the last week alone!), and one that doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

Usually people are referring to exercise or to eating well, as in:

“I need to get back into exercise.”

And/or,

“I need to start eating better again.”

It’s not a very productive thing to say.

When most people think of “getting back into it”, it makes the process seem somehow insurmountable.

The other issue is that you’re using the word need.

That makes it sound about as fun as getting a root canal, like “I need to get my teeth drilled so that the abscess in my mouth doesn’t take over my entire head.”

Even if you say, “I want to get into it.” you still make it seem like a vague wish that will never be realized.

Don’t make such a big deal out of working out.

Go to the gym.

Do a 30-minute weight circuit.

You’re back into it!

I recently had the 40-year-old dad of two 4-year-old twin girls tell me he needed to “get back into exercise”.

He hasn’t worked out for over two years and it feels like the day he’s planning to do it again is sometime in the distant future (after his kids are off to University, perhaps!).

Even if he went to the gym for 30 minutes today, he would break through that mental barrier.

Many people are stuck in the “All-or-Nothing” mentality.

“I need to be going to the gym every day…or not bother going at all.”

“I need to be eating perfectly “clean” (I can’t stand that term!) or perfectly “healthy”…or I might as well eat crap all day long.”

Come on!

Aiming for perfection is just an excuse to not do anything at all.

When people come to me for Online Coaching, they’ve often spent months contemplating the decision and deciding that they’re ready to get started again.

It’s a shame that so much time gets wasted.

Many people will spend hours on the Internet looking for the perfect workout program, evaluating the benefits and drawbacks.

They’ll scour the web for the latest diet trend, hoping that this new way of eating will miraculously change their lifelong food issues (SPOILER ALERT: it won’t!).

Maybe you’ve had to take a break from the gym.

You got busy with a big project at work, your kids got sick one after the other (and then you did too!), or you had an injury that limited what you could do.

It happens.

Don’t feel guilty and don’t worry that it’s going to be a huge mission.

Start small and work your way up.

One gym session a week means you can call yourself “a person who goes to the gym”.

Changing your perception of yourself from a person with doesn’t have time or energy for the gym to “someone who works out to stay healthy and strong” is as easy (or as hard, depending on how you look at it!) as a mindset shift.

You are the person who eats well…right after that first bite of broccoli or wild cod.

You are the person who exercises…as soon as you’re in the gym doing that first set.

Change how you think of yourself and you’ll be more likely to do the things that will keep you perceiving yourself that way.

And please…don’t put it off.

Life is too short.

A healthier, stronger version of you is only one small step away.

Ivana Chapman

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My Year End Review

Looking back at 2017…literally (haha)

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on how things have gone the year before and decide how to make things better this year. I don’t like to dwell on the past (it can hold me back!), but I find looking at the lessons learned and nuggets of wisdom picked up from various places can help me move forward more productively.

With that in mind, I’m going to get a little personal and share some of my insights from last year. Maybe some of them will help you make 2018 more successful. And yeah, you’ll get to know me a little better too.

The Power Of Knowledge

I like to call myself a lifelong learner and I’m always striving to find out more about things that interest me. Any successful person I know has always continued educating themselves long after they graduated from school or university.

There’s no better way to keep your mind young than to keep learning.

I love to read and I never feel like I have quite enough time to do it, but I do my best to keep up-to-date with the latest in fitness, nutrition, and sports psychology. I’ve always been a fan of the self-help realm and also enjoy reading biographies of famous people that I admire. Elon Musk’s biography by Ashlee Vance was a highlight in 2017.

Two of the most helpful books I read last year were “Fluent in 3 Months” by Benny Lewis and “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. The former helped me realize some of the limitations I felt about re-learning my first language, Czech, and got me inspired to take action on the big goal of becoming more fluent.

Carol Dweck’s book is one of the most important of the “self-help” genre, as it’s science-based info about what it really takes to achieve success. I’m planning a blog post about mindset, as well as other psychological strategies to get lean permanently, for later in the year…so stay tuned.

2017 was the end of the 3-year period required to get my credits to keep my CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) qualification active, so I watched a lot of webinars and did a few courses. I studied Bodybuilding Anatomy and finally completed Scientific Back Training from the CHEK Institute, which I’ve had lying around for about 3 years.

I also did short courses on Ginseng, Fiber and Cardiovascular Health, Metabolic Training For Fat Loss,  Nutrition and Supplements for Injury Recovery, and Protein Benefits. I promised myself I wouldn’t leave so many CEUs on the table the next time my re-certification comes around too!

On the weight training front, I read “Programming” by Mark Rippetoe and “High Intensity Training” by Mike Mentzer.

Cardio…Really?

I’ve been a big proponent of weight training for a long time. I started doing it myself when I was 15, and I’ve based my career on helping people learn how to lift weights effectively.

I still believe that weight training is the most efficient and effective way for someone to get the lean physique they want.

The importance of cardio came back to me this year though. Not that I mean spending hours slowly peddling on a stationary bike, but regular physical activity makes you feel good. And telling people that they don’t need to do it to be lean is a little different from advising people against it (yes, there are small fitness communities that advocate avoiding cardio altogether).

A few of my coaching clients reminded me this year that they enjoy cardio. They find it helps them relieve stress and clear their minds. I don’t doubt that.

Years ago, when I was living in Bondi Beach in Australia, I used to love going for jogs along the water from Bondi to Coogee Beach. And if you don’t think it looks inspiring/beautiful/stress-relieving then you’re clearly messing with me:

Whether that’s HIIT, Metabolic resistance training, or outdoor workouts, some cardiovascular exercise is helpful. Yes, you can get that with weight training by doing things “circuit style” and limiting your rest, but sometimes you want a break from weights in your week. Other times you want to get outdoors and just feel your body move in the way it’s designed to.

Some form of cardiovascular activity is important.

So while it’s rare to catch me on a cardio machine at the gym (although I’ve done the odd bit of Step Mill to finish off weights sessions in the last few months), I spend the warmer months cycling, rollerblading, and walking whenever I can.

I don’t worry about whether it’s in the “target heart rate zone” (which I believe is an outdated method of assessing an exercise’s value), but it gets the blood flowing and makes me feel good.

Loving the way your body moves and feels is a key component of fitness.

Nutrition Lies Are Everywhere

I learned this important info from a marketing course that I did, but it’s actually the sad reality of the nutrition world on the internet:

People will believe anything if you have confidence in yourself.

That’s NOT a positive thing. 

There are several notable Internet nutrition “experts” who are making ridiculous claims, but saying it with so much confidence that thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands!) of people believe them. 

I won’t name these “experts” because I don’t want to increase their already over-inflated popularity.

Science got dealt a pretty hard blow this year.

Prominent people denied climate change is happening, and many people are even trying to prove that the earth is flat.

I’ve been shaking my head so hard sometimes that my neck hurts.

Admittedly, there are plenty of things that science doesn’t know for sure.

These gaps are where charlatans move in for the kill.

Actually, they also go directly against the body of scientific evidence without once acknowledging that there could be another truth (like, you know, the actual truth).

In a year when fake news was ubiquitous, nutrition is packed with it.

Going through all the nutrition nonsense on the internet would take several blog posts, but here’s a few of the current truths:

  • No pill/supplement/lotion will make you lean without effort
  • The cure for cancer HAS NOT been found
  • Toxins ARE NOT keeping you from losing weight
  • Carbs ARE NOT killing you
  • Protein IS NOT killing you
  • Vegetables probably WON’T save your life, but they should be a major part of your nutrition plan

Meditation Is The Thing Most People Realize They SHOULD Do, But Don’t

Most extremely successful people (billionaires, CEOs, Oprah) have some form of meditation practice in their lives. Many feel that it’s an ideal start to their hectic day. Meditation relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, increases focus, and can even lower your blood sugar levels!

So why isn’t EVERYONE doing it?

Most people don’t see the value, despite the scientific evidence.

Some people try and don’t see the effects fast enough so they give up.

In a time-pressured world, meditation gets left behind.

The irony is that the people who need it the most (the busiest and most stressed) are often the ones who are least likely to do it.

Nope, it doesn’t have to be this fancy. Just sit quietly and focus on your breath and you’re MEDITATING

I’ve had my own relationship with meditation over the years, somewhat bumpy at times.

I started doing meditation as a young martial arts student, then used visualization and focussing techniques as an international karate competitor for many years (while I studied Sports Psychology at University). I practiced mindfulness and self-hypnosis for my drug-free labour with my son almost 4 years ago (yes, it still hurt!).

I haven’t been consistent with meditation over the years and it’s one of the things I’m going to be working on for 2018.

What helped me when I was consistent with meditation?

Using the Calm app on my iPhone.

I did daily meditation for months last year, then it fizzled out when I stopped using the Calm app and thought I would do it on my own.

Everything is gamified these days, even meditation.

It doesn’t matter how you get yourself meditating regularly, just do it.

If you want a simple way to start, check out my blog post about meditation HERE.

Be patient and don’t expect too much and you’ll find it’s a worthwhile way to spend 10 minutes (or more) of your day. I’m back on the app and on a 9-day streak for 2018.

It works!

Personal Stuff

This is the first year in as long as I can remember that I didn’t go on a vacation! We moved to a new place in downtown Toronto, my son started daycare, and it all went way too fast.

The only trip I took was to Quebec to compete in the IFBB (Bodybuilding) International Events Qualifier.

In 2016, my husband Ryan, son Kai, and I had gone to Australia, The Czech Republic, and Holland…so it was a bit disappointed that 2017 was vacation-free.

I’m long overdue for a holiday so the plan is to have a couple of those in 2018.

Onwards and Upwards

I admit, 2017 wasn’t the best year of my life.

While some things moved forward, it wasn’t at the pace that I was hoping for. My plan now is to accelerate my growth by working my butt off in 2018.

And yes, I hope they’ll be at least one trip to the Caribbean!

If you’ve been on this journey with me for a while, thanks for being here.

I hope 2018 is the year where you make big things happen for yourself (and others).

Let’s make magic happen.

Ivana Chapman

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How To Cope With Holiday Stress

“Did I just accidentally wrap my earrings into that package for my brother?”

It’s hard to deny that this time of year can be stressful. Yes, it’s wonderful, with the fun gatherings and merriness and all that, but sometimes it’s all a bit much. Buying presents, having holiday treats, and running around to visit friends and relatives can make it feel pretty hectic.

And the stores are overrun with people racing around to try to buy the hottest holiday gift.

You could curl up in a ball on your couch and wait for the season to pass (you’re thinking about it, aren’t you?), or you can get smart about how you spend your time while the calendar is showing December.

Stress Is Inevitable

Some people claim that they’re not under any stress and that they’re managing just fine.

Yup, there are some people who take vacations at this time of year or find themselves with a lighter workload as the holidays approach. If that’s you, great.

Hit the gym every day, plan your meals so you get in plenty of protein and vegetables, and get set to rocket launch that lean bod into 2018!

For the rest of us, we need to find some strategies that will get us through the holidays without turning into nervous wrecks.

Find Ways to Deal With the Stress

Managing stress in a positive way (No, alcohol and binge-watching “Game of Thrones” DOES NOT count) is really important.

Being overwhelmed affects the decisions you make every day.

You’re more likely to eat a lot of food, particularly sweet and fatty comfort food, when you’re under stress. And there’s going to be a lot more of that kind of food around right now!

Here Are A Few Useful Ways Of Coping With Holiday Stress:

Keep It Simple

The holidays should be about spending quality time with friends and family, not an excuse to have fits whenever things don’t go exactly the way you want them to.

You don’t need to buy all the gifts that your kids want, especially if trying to obtaining those toys is time-consuming and expensive (I’m looking at you, Hatchimal).

Most kids will appreciate having parents who are relaxed and more accepting of their faults at this time of year.

Try to spend a limited time in the stores at this time of year. Even if you’re feeling relaxed and singing carols under your breath, many people passing you will likely be feeling a bit tense and will only get annoyed by your slow feet and zen-like calm. Although online shopping also has it’s pitfalls (late deliveries and wrong sizes), it’s generally a lot more relaxed than venturing into the world to fight over the last red cashmere scarf.

Make Sleep A Priority

Get as much sleep as you can. Late parties and varying schedules can leave you short on sleep. Grab naps when you can, and think about skipping a non-essential party or two so that you can have an earlier night. Yes, you want to be social and enjoy yourself, but if you’re stretched too thin it’s going to show.

Getting enough sleep is also important to keep your immune system performing well, which is essential during cold/flu season. There’s so much going around at this time of year and getting your sleep provides the first line of defence. It also helps you recover if you do manage to catch something nasty.

Meditate To Help You SLOW DOWN

If you don’t already practice meditation, now might be a good time to incorporate it into your routine.

I’ve written a blog post HERE that describes an easy 5-minute meditation you can do if you start to feel a bit frazzled.

You need to take care of yourself first or you won’t be much fun at parties.

Even 5 minutes of calm breathing when things are getting overwhelming can be a big help. You don’t have to call it meditation if the term freaks you out.

Deep breathing or focussed attention (mindfulness) for a short period of time will reduce your blood pressure and make it easier to deal with the next holiday challenge that comes your way.

Don’t Forget Exercise!

Exercise is another great way to deal with stress so getting your workouts in has extra benefit over the festive season. Not only do you build muscle and help yourself stay lean, but you’ll reduce your stress levels and be more likely to make better food choices. Sounds like a win-win.

Your weight training workout is the key, but keeping yourself moving (and not behind a desk all day long) will help too. Get up as much as you can…and not just to grab more holiday cookies or Lindor truffles from a co-workers’ desk!

If you’re looking for specific guidelines about working out during the holidays, I wrote an entire blog post about it HERE.

On weekends, try to spend time outdoors and do some physical activity. I’m not a huge fan of winter myself, so if you’re living in a cold climate it can be hard to push yourself outdoors to do some walking, skating, or skiing. Bundle up and get out there and enjoy the joys of the season. For those of you in warmer climates, go swimming, surfing hiking, cycling, or rollerblading. And know that I am jealous of the milder temperatures you get to experience at this time of year.

Remind Yourself That It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Having impossible standards for gift-giving, decorating, and serving food, takes all the fun out of the holidays.

Enjoy the process, laugh at any silly mistakes that happen (so that Hatchimal isn’t arriving until January?!), and remember that the holidays are about YOU enjoying  yourself too.

We all have that one relative who’s always obsessed with making everything perfect at this time of year.

My favourite example is Clark Griswold from the classic film, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, that I’ve watched every year since I was a kid (Yes, it’s a classic. Don’t argue with me on this one.)

Clark’s wife Ellen points out, “You set standards that no family event can live up to.” And most of us remember how things turned out for Clark:

So chill out already!

You’ll be happier…and so will your loved ones.

Get Support From Other People

I talk to my Online Coaching clients a lot about the challenges of the holidays. I help them find solutions.

Having people to support you through these times can make a difference to how successful you are at managing a balanced lifestyle. On-going support through challenging times can be the key to keeping you consistent.

So make sure you have someone (or a few people) around you to help you stick to your healthy lifestyle of working out and eating well when the roadblocks increase.

You Can Do This!

Acknowledge your holiday stress and do what you can to manage it.

Remember that it will all be over soon.

Ivana Chapman

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7 Tips For Staying Lean Over The Holidays

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It feels like it’s really started, doesn’t it? Now that December is here, the holiday season comes in with the force of a snow storm (I’m really hoping we won’t be having one of those soon!).

The Santa Parades have come and gone, the lights and Christmas trees are up everywhere, and all the stores are decorated with sparkly things to encourage us to spend our hard-earned cash. The holidays have truly arrived!

Between official parties and special events for the season, trying to catch up with friends, and all that shopping…it can be a hectic time of year.

The general vibe is what my husband repeatedly says from about mid-November:

‘Tis the season!

For him, that means eating 75 Lindor Truffles in just over a week. For many people, it means more drinking, less time for the gym, and more eating of treat foods. So should you just give up right now and vow to start in the new year?

Please don’t.

You’ll feel worse and you’ll have a harder time when January 1 hits.

This may indeed be the time of year when you’re thinking about weight maintenance, rather than getting leaner.

That’s fine. We’re less than a month away from when it seems a lot more socially acceptable to spend every day in the gym (unnecessary!) and eat nothing but chicken and broccoli (also unnecessary!) or doing juice detoxes (unnecessary and unhealthy!).

In the meantime, let me guide you through some tips to minimize the damage to your physique over the holidays:

1) Adjust Your Food Intake

If you know you’re going out and having more food on the weekend, try to stick to lean proteins (chicken breast, fish, lean beef & good-quality meat or seafood) and vegetables for any meals that you’re still eating at home.

So whenever you’re not attending a food-related event, keep your meals lean (low fat) and packed with protein and vegetables.

So maybe it’s an egg or two with extra egg whites and tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach for breakfast. You can even turn those ingredients into a delicious omelette. You might then have some chicken or fish and roasted vegetables for lunch.

Most treat foods are high in carbs and fat, so you want to keep those low throughout the day so you have some to spare for the evening’s festivities.

Get your protein in early to keep you satisfied and your blood sugar level throughout the day.

That’s not to say you should starve yourself the day before or early in the day. This never goes well! Usually what happens is a monumental binge that leaves you feeling bloated and completely disgusted with yourself. Not the smart way to go.

A pre-event snack like a protein shake, nuts, and some fruit can help take the edge off your appetite so you make wiser decisions.

2) Get Your Workout In Early

It can be really easy to skip workouts when your holiday schedule is jam-packed. Get it in early in the day, if you can, before the holiday eating and festivities begin. Not only will you keep working at building muscle (the best way to stay lean!), but the higher post-workout insulin levels allow you to utilize the extra carbs you’re eating for muscle recover and repair.

In my experience, you also tend to make more sensible eating decisions after working out because you don’t want to destroy all your efforts in the gym by going nuts at the Christmas party. By making the trip to the gym first, you’ll feel like a health conscious and body-aware person that wants to nourish his or her body with good food.

Occasionally people get so proud of hitting the gym that they decide to reward themselves with some hefty eating. Be aware if that’s something that seems to be true for you and make a conscious effort to resist that urge.

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Don’t try to fight those “calories in” by hitting the treadmill though. While cardio increases your calorie expenditure slightly, you won’t be able to outpace your meager calorie burn from jogging (or cycling or rowing or the elliptical) with the speed that you’re able to deliver excess calories to your mouth with a fork.

Do a weight training workout instead.

Building muscle will help boost your metabolic rate in a sustainable way because muscle burns more energy (calories) than fat.

That’s not to say that traditional “cardio” is a waste of time, but its benefits pale in comparison to weight training or HIIT (high intensity interval training).

As a bonus, weight training sessions can be done more quickly, especially if you do shorter rest intervals or work in a circuit. HIIT is designed to be fast and challenging, and is an efficient way of burning fat in a short period of time. And time is definitely something you’re limited with during the holidays.

3) Make the Right Drink Choice

If you drink alcohol, this is the time when it seems to be most socially-acceptable and the pressure can be the greatest. Alcohol can be very damaging for fat loss, not only because of what it contains, but because it tends to loosen your inhibition to devour the contents of the buffet table.

Your body puts off all metabolic processes, like fat-burning, until it deals with processing the alcohol you’ve consumed. Throw in excess calorie consumption in the form of cookies, stuffing, chips, samosas, brownies, and pumpkin pie and you’re heading for trouble.

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Choose the type of alcohol that you enjoy, but be wary if what you enjoy is egg nog or sweet rum mixes. Those drinks have sugar and fat in addition to alcohol so they’re more likely to add up quickly.

Plain drinks without added sugar like vodka or gin with water or soda water (or on the rocks) are the best option. You can add lemon, lime or mint for flavour and festive spirit.

Wine and beer are popular and reasonable choices too, but remember that the quantity adds up fast.

Before heading out to a party where you want to drink (you don’t always have to!), decide how much you’re planning to have and try to stick to that number. If nothing else, it sends a subconscious signal to your mind to keep track of what you’re consuming.

Lastly, try to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Not only will you fill up faster, but you’re less likely to get dehydrated and end up with a hangover.

Always a bonus for post-party recovery!

4) Choose Your Treats Carefully!

Whether it’s the holidays or any other time, it’s always your choice what you consume. I enjoy a treat as much as anyone (believe me!), but you won’t catch me wasting my calories on fruit cake (yuck!), egg nog (double yuck!), or fresh-baked cookies if there anything less than delicious. Now you may very well LOVE fruit cake and egg nog, and that’s fine. Pick your treat and really appreciate it.

santa-lean-over-the-holidays“Those cookies look good…I’ll skip the candies at the back.”

You don’t need to nibble from every item that’s sitting on the table just to avoid talking to your boss about why you can’t get that project done by the time you leave work for the holidays. Have a look at what treats are available, decide which ones are really worth it…and leave the rest to add a layer of fat to someone else’s belly.

5) Drink Water To Recover

Drinking water can help decrease your appetite overall, since thirst can often masquerade as hunger. When you’ve been overindulging, drinking more water can prevent the dehydration that comes with drinking alcohol and dancing until 2am to silly Christmas songs. Plus, if you’re dehydrated you might be tired and suffer from headaches, which is not going to make it easier to hit the gym or make good food choices.kermit-lean-over-the-holidays“Ok, Kermit, time for a glass of water!”

Getting water in will also help get your digestive system back in gear if you’ve overtaxed it with a bit too much food. Sometimes just getting your fluid balance right will make you feel a lot better.

6) Don’t Feel Guilty

Feeling guilty about what you ate and punishing yourself, either by starving yourself or spending excess time on a useless cardio machine spinning for hours, isn’t healthy.

Trying to solve your leanness issues by burning off more calories only ends badly and leaves you feeling exhausted.

Yes, make some minor modifications to your activity levels to account for the excess calories (perhaps a 30 minute walk with your family), but don’t do it as punishment for anything.

Moving more will make you feel better anyway so think of it as a fun, festive activity. If you make your food choices carefully, you won’t do your body much damage.

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If for some reason you venture a little outside your desired plan, don’t feel guilty about it. Admit that you enjoyed it (if you did) or that you’re not perfect (because no one is) and move on the next day without feeling bad about yourself.

Too many people give up on their plans to get lean altogether because they think one bad day – or week – will ruin everything.

It won’t.

7) Take The Focus Off Food

Holidays are about more than just food. There’s also the alcohol. 😉
No, really, there are plenty of other things that the holidays are about.

This time of year is about spending time with family and friends.

Try more chatting and less snacking.

You get to watch Christmas movies on TV, like “A Christmas Carol” and “Love Actually”. I feel like my Christmas isn’t complete until I’ve watched “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, now’s a great time to get outdoors and do traditional winter activities like sledding, skiing, hockey, skating, snowshoeing, or just to go for a brisk walk.

If you’re not in an outdoorsy mood, you can spend quiet time indoors reading or relaxing with your family in front of a fireplace (real or on your TV screen).

For some people, this is a religious time and they attend church or temple.

Fascinating, right?

While it often seems that the holidays are all about food, try to focus on other things that you enjoy as well. While sitting around stuffing your face is fine for a day or two, much more than that is going to impact your physique…and make you feel like crap.

What’s YOUR Plan?

If you enter the holiday season without a reasonable plan of attack, you’ll likely throw in the towel on your fat-loss efforts long before the menorah’s lit or Santa slides down any chimneys. If you plan to “go with the flow”, then you’ll probably find that you won’t get to the gym and you’ll end up overeating – many times.

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Plan to have some treats. Don’t force yourself to skip the hot chocolate at the Holiday Market if you really want it. Have a couple of glasses of wine at the annual office party.

Just don’t inhale the entire contents of your overly-stocked fridge before the rest of your family arrives for the festivities.

Put your workouts into your schedule and do your best to stick to your plan. Maybe your workouts need to be shorter than usual to accommodate the limited time you have right now.

When you hit the gym, stay focussed, push yourself hard, and then get out of there!

Enjoy Yourself!

This goes along with the whole guilt thing, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. If you go a little overboard one day or two, don’t berate yourself for being bad or decide to throw in the towel on your fat loss efforts altogether.

Each day is a new one, and how your body looks is not the result of what you do on any one day. It’s the sum of all the days of the year.

Having a few days throughout the year when you consume excess calories and sugar isn’t going to hurt your physique, but be honest about how many days fitting that description there actually are.

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If you do it right, you can maintain your physique during the holiday and still enjoy all the pleasures that this season brings. Remember that the holidays aren’t all about food (it just feels that way!).

Enjoy some fun, festive time with your friends, colleagues, and family. And make those trips to the buffet or cookie table a little less frequent than last year.

You’ll be thankful for it in January.

Ivana Chapman

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Why I Gave Up Cardio

gave-up-cardio-woman-runningIt looks so relaxing, doesn’t it? But if you don’t love cardio you can safely skip it

There was a time when I used to do cardio on a regular basis. You know what I mean: spending an hour on the cross-trainer at the gym (often while watching the TVs located conveniently above my head or reading a trashy fashion magazine) at a moderate pace. I did it for years, getting a bit leaner, then getting less lean again, and then getting a tiny bit leaner again.

Cardio Can Be A Mistake

Now that I’ve finally got my workout game sorted out (and yes, the exact guidelines change all the time), I know that focussing on cardio is the WRONG thing to do.

Every time you walk into a commercial gym you’ll likely see the same people occupying the cross-trainers, stationary bikes, and treadmills. Most of them are bored out of their minds, and they’re not seeing changes in their bodies, despite the regular cardio that everyone tells them they should be doing.

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Now please don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m against getting your heart rate up for the sake of your health.

Far from it!

I spend my weekends going on bike rides, or roller blading, or walking with my family around town or in nature. When I’m with my husband and our young son we’re always walking around somewhere.

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Doing some hiking with the other Chapmans!

Physical Activity Is A Family Tradition

I was lucky enough to grow up in an active household, where physical activity was always part of our family time. Maybe it’s the mountain-dwelling Czech genes or just the “let’s get out and do something!” vibe that my parents instilled, but walking, hiking, skiing, and cycling were always family pastimes. And I’ve done martial arts since I was a kid and have always found that to be an amazing workout.

Although I might do the occasional 20 minutes on the Step Mill or interval work on a treadmill for a bit of variety, I keep my gym cardio to a minimum.

Like you, I’m busy, and I haven’t got all day to work out.

If I’ve got less than an hour to workout (which is almost always the case), I prefer to focus on the most impactful form of workout – weight training!

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Not only does working out with weights build strength and muscle (that’s how we build the shape we want), but focusing on building your body and nourishing your muscles is a more healthy mindset than constantly trying to burn off the food that you’ve eaten. More muscle means that your body becomes a fat-burning machine, and you don’t constantly have to wear yourself down with punishing cardio.

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Performing weight training with short periods of rest (say, 30 seconds) or in circuit-training fashion with several weight training exercises in a row, can elevate your heart rate and give you the same health benefits as cardio workouts. The term Peripheral Heart Action refers to the work that the heart does while doing weight training exercises with limited rest, and it’s the main way that I train my heart these days.

My Specific Limitation With Cardio

Although running has been a part of my life for a long time, for pleasure and for conditioning for my karate competitions, I haven’t done any running since I was pregnant with my son. At that point, I was experiencing a mechanical hip/glute issue that running made worse and the loose ligaments of pregnancy made running a risk.

I’ve also discovered in recent years that running aggravates my acid reflux issues (check out recommendations for acid reflux and GERD here). Running and other high-impact activities make my acid reflux worse so I keep them to a minimum.

Do What You Love…Even If It’s Cardio

Again, I don’t want to overstate this point and upset my cardio-loving friends and clients. If you enjoy doing 2-3 sessions a week of 20-30 minutes of steady-state (as opposed to interval) cardio each week, it probably won’t do you harm.

Many of my clients swear that the occasionally-mind-numbing boredom of continuous cardio helps them clear their heads and reduce stress.

For sure! I’ve experienced that feeling too. I even ran a Marathon in 2012 and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

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Running a race back in 2012

Steady-state cardio becomes a form of moving meditation when you’re moving your body and your mind doesn’t have to get involved too much (except perhaps to keep you from falling off the treadmill!).

So do a bit of cardio, if you really enjoy it. But don’t feel compelled to waste hours in the gym on traditional cardio machines if it isn’t your thing. The cardio section of the gym isn’t the only place to improve your heart health or get lean.

Ivana Chapman

How To Drink Alcohol And Stay Lean

Coming off a weekend, it’s probably not surprising that I felt the need to talk about alcohol. There’s often some controversy about whether alcohol can be consumed while trying to get lean, The short answer is YES, but as with all things quantity and quality matter.

I haven’t been much of a “drinker” for the past few years (pregnancy and breastfeeding )and I’ve only had the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner most of the time. But drinking is an issue I talk to my clients about A LOT. For many people, alcohol consumption can be a real limiting in getting control of their nutrition plan.

Although one glass of wine or a beer once in a while aren’t a big deal, when alcohol consumption becomes habitual (like a binge every weekend or during frequent work lunches/dinners) it can be a major hinderance to your physique progress. And regular binge drinking (defined in research as more than 5 drinks for a male and 4 drinks for a female) damages your liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, intestine, and your brain. So alcohol consumption is best kept at more reasonable levels for the sake of your health.

As far as getting lean is concerned, even moderate alcohol consumption can hold you back. Not only do alcoholic drinks have their own caloric issues (7 calories per gram), but your body has to metabolize the alcohol before burning off all the other food you’ve eaten. So your body is processing the alcohol and won’t get around to that burger and fries you had while fairly tipsy.

The occasional alcoholic drink can be healthy and relaxing. And research does seem to indicate that moderate alcohol consumption is actually healthier than not drinking at all (although these are epidemiological studies where a lot of other lifestyle factors may have an influence).

The real danger of alcohol, when it comes to physique goals, is that it lowers your inhibitions. This might seem like a good idea if you’re working up the courage to hit the dance floor, but it’s not nearly as useful when it comes to food. You know how appealing food seems to be when you’ve been drinking? Those greasy fries you normally wouldn’t touch suddenly become enormously enticing.

And think about how you feel the day after a night of heavy drinking. You’re tired, don’t feel like doing much, and probably aren’t very motivated to be careful with your food intake. So you’ll probably skip your workout and opt for some easy, comforting food to get you through the day. Which means that after a night of extra alcohol calories (and perhaps extra food), you follow up with a lazy day and more extra calories.

Do that most weekends and you’ll keep getting held back from making real progress with your physique, even if you’re totally on track with your workouts and nutrition throughout the week.

So be aware of alcohol’s impact on your behaviour. Try to manage your alcohol intake so that you enjoy yourself, but don’t totally screw up everything else. I got through my own post-drinking day yesterday and I feel pretty ok today. Plenty of fluids, balanced meals, and a gentle bike ride in the sunshine helped me recover. I’m ready to tackle a productive week.

Alcohol can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Just be aware of its effects and drink it wisely.

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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How To Re-Launch Your Motivation

Are you ready to get the results you want?

This week all the kiddies went back to school and our Facebook feeds were packed with pics of adorable cherubs wearing backpacks. Even before I had a kid of my own (my 3-year-old entered preschool on Tuesday!), I always loved seeing those photos of the children of my friends beginning their school year. They always looked so excited and their eyes were lit up with the possibilities for a new school year (either that, or someone gave them too much sugar that morning!).

Nothing like a kid on his first day of school (this one’s mine!).

Even for adults, this time of year can be really exciting and productive.

If you’re a parent, your kids are spending more time away from you in the care of others…so you can take more time for yourself (yes, yes, yes!).

Most businesses start to get more serious about their goals and targets, as employees leave “summer vacation mode” and enter a more productive time.

And let’s not forget that those new year’s resolutions are now only a few months away!

So what if you’ve let things slack for a little while?

Maybe a summer of weddings and BBQs has meant that your workout routine AND your nutrition plan has been far from optimal.

All that eating and resting has left you feeling a bit BLAH, and you’re not sure how to become an unstoppable machine again (or for the first time).

How do you get your mojo back?

First things first.

Even if you don’t feel like doing it, you have to start going through the motions.

Head to the gym even if the first few sessions are a bit lacklustre.

Prepare food in advance (particularly your proteins and veggies!) so that you don’t give yourself an excuse to give in to laziness or fatigue.

Perhaps get some professional guidance in the form of a coach or by (shameless plug) joining my Lean365 program to get your workouts and nutrition on track.

Whatever gets you moving forward in the right direction.

The other key element is to remind yourself of your WHY.

Why do you want to get lean?

Is it because you want to live longer, feel sexy on your Caribbean holiday, or so you have the energy to play with your kids?

If you don’t have a strong enough reason for doing what you’re doing, you won’t do it.

Well, you might at first.

But sooner or later you’ll be wondering if you need to re-watch old episodes of Game of Thrones instead of hitting the gym.

So find your WHY.

Keep reminding yourself WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

Get yourself in motion, no matter how hard it seems at first, and focus on why you want to achieve your particular goal.

It’s great to have goals, for sure, but if you don’t have a compelling reason to achieve them you won’t stay consistent and you’ll have a hard time getting off your butt to do the things you need to do.

When you know why you’re working towards your goal, you’ll keep moving forward even when the inevitable obstacles hit.

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! Check out the details HERE.

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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