Why Those Pounds Are Stickin' Around

Summer's almost here, and I'm in a mad scramble to slim down for swimsuit season. Despite my many years as a fitness guru, I'm a real girl who struggles with those last few stubborn pounds, and I understand how frustrating it can be to feel stuck, unable to shed that warm winter weight as the days grow hotter.

So read on to discover 5 of the Top 10 Reasons Why Those Pounds Are Sticking Around. With just a few small changes, it will be so much easier to lose weight, exercise with loads of energy, and feel strong, sleek & sexy, just in time for summer.

# I: YOU’RE DRINKING YOUR CALORIES

The average American consumes up to 500 extra calories per day in SWEETENED BEVERAGESYIKES! These excess calories come from refined sugar - highly addictive and the primary factor in our current diabetes epidemic. So the first and most important thing to do for weight loss, and your health, is to ditch the soda, juice, alcohol, coffee concoctions, vitamin waters, and other beverages with added sugar. Some alternatives: naturally flavored filtered or sparkling water, herbal or green tea, black coffee, kombucha, and unsweetened coconut water. 

# 2: YOUR FOOD COMES FROM A BOX OR BAG

Our greatest obstacle to weight loss is the consumption of shiny colored, cleverly packaged food-like products lining the shelves of our grocery stores. PROCESSED FOODS are steeped in additives, preservatives and chemicals, compounds that pollute our body’s hormonal, metabolic and immune systems. These foreign substances disrupt our body’s ability to properly metabolize energy, resulting in lethargy and weight gain. 

CLEAN EATING is the real key to weight loss. Eat whole foods without a package or label, and with just one ingredient - itself! Ditching the junk food will help you shed layers easily without going on a calorie-restricted “diet.”

# 3: YOU’RE STRESSED OUT!!!

Back when we were being chased by saber-toothed tigers, stress was an awesome evolutionary response. A rush of adrenaline and cortisol endowed us with a burst of energy so that we made it to the safest refuge. Our muscles flooded with glucose to provide us the strength to escape danger. MODERN STRESS is a more chronic and insidious bedfellow. The same physiological responses occur, but now we sit at our desks, rub our temples and scrunch our faces. Stress hormones become toxic in our system & disable our ability to burn energy. The body tells the brain to replenish the energy stores it thinks it burned off fleeing from that tiger, so we overeat. Then we grow even more stressed that we’re gaining weight, and the vigorous face scrunching continues!!

So how do we reverse the harmful effects of stress? Meditation, self-care, breathing exercises, vacation - but my favorite stress reducer? EXERCISE. Which brings us to #4...

# 4: EXERCISE IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Making time to exercise is HARD. We spend 12 hours a day building our career, 16 hours a day raising our kids, and if we’re lucky we manage to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before we do it all over again. How do we fit in fitness? The only way to stick to a regular routine is to do things you enjoy. Think about what you loved to do as a kid, and look for an adult equivalent. Here are some creative ideas to get your body moving and your blood flowing:

GARDENING . BOOT CAMP . MARTIAL ARTS . SWIMMING . BALLET . SOCCER . BALLROOM DANCING . HIKING . KITE FLYING . ROCK CLIMBING . FOOTBALL . FRISBEE . TWISTER!

Our bodies are designed to move, stretch, leap, play, twist, reach, romp - otherwise we stagnate and suffer. Beyond building strength and promoting weight loss, EXERCISE reduces stress, promotes quality sleep, improves mood, sharpens the mind and boosts self-confidence. WIN, WIN, WIN! So do whatever it takes - get up earlier, store workout gear in your work desk, recruit a friend to help you stay accountable. Embrace exercise not as an afterthought, but as an essential act of love for your body, heart and soul.

# 5: YOU'RE STUCK IN YOUR STORY

The most miraculous - and terrifying - power we have is CHOICE. And it’s not just the choice to embrace a healthy lifestyle. It’s about choosing to the leave behind the STORIES that hold us back. It’s about tearing down the walls of self-doubt, walls we built against the traumas of past experiences, walls that now keep us trapped and unable to unlock the door to a different, better life. It’s scary to lay down the crutches and walk with your own two feet. But those crutches are as much a burden as a bolster. Although you may fall more than once, taking hold of your destiny helps you build the self-trust necessary to get back up and move forward. Then, and only then, will treating yourself with respect be the ONLY choice for you. You’ll instinctively choose nourishing foods, prioritize your exercise regimen, and make time for self-care. You’ll never again need to “diet,” for those pounds will come off naturally, like a blanket you no longer need in the warmth of a new sun.

Acknowledge the stories, good and bad, that have brought you to this moment, and then commit to making a new story, one where the choices are all yours. Break down the wall, see the glimmering possibility of change, and CHOOSE YOU.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER 5 REASONS, DOGGONE IT?
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"10 REASONS THOSE POUNDS ARE STICKIN' AROUND"

 

 

Fat, Sick, Tired... And Tired of It!

I'm the first to admit my healthy eating habits are fairly new. I was the high school kid who dumped three tablespoons of white sugar on her morning Grape Nuts. I’m the college undergrad who microwaved a Velveeta-Pace Picante Salsa concoction (hurl-worthy, I know), served with a bag of Tostitos, a beer and an episode of ‘Melrose Place.’ I was the professional dancer who ate a bowl of pasta AFTER rehearsal, engaged in a continuous and futile battle to lose ‘those last five pounds.’

Eating poorly for the greater portion of my life was neither deliberate nor rebellious. It was due to ignorance, plain and simple. I unwittingly bought shiny, processed food-like products because they looked good, not because they were good for my health. I spent most of my life ‘eating blind,’ baffled and bamboozled by the food industry, and despite my countless years as an athlete, I paid the price in weight gain, low energy, chronic colds and mood swings.

BUT TIMES, THEY ARE A’ CHANGIN’!

I can safely speak for us all when I say WE ARE SO TIRED OF BEING FAT AND TIRED! We are sickened, literally and figuratively, by the rampant disease in our bodies and the bodies of our children. We are coming to recognize the immense power of food on our well-being, and taking action against those who have heretofore cared more about their fiscal margins than those of us barely surviving in the bleak margins of health..

(this, my friends, will not do.)

Food Industry Giants?  Are you listening?

YES! YOU ARE!

The 3 articles below prove that America's food industry is stepping up to the plate:

Your Healthy Habits are Eating into the Packaged Foods Industry

Brands like Kraft, Kellog Company, Chef Boyardee and Swiss Miss have all reported falling profits, some by as much as 62%, because our eating habits are changing for the better. They must adapt, or perish.

McDonald's Chicken Gets New Standard: No Human Antibiotics

The consumption of factory meat treated with human antibiotics has rendered those same antibiotics less effective in treating human disease. Although not a perfect solution, McDonald’s has taken a step in the right direction by discontinuing its use of human antibiotics in their poultry. They are also phasing out dairy products manufactured with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH), which causes cows to produce higher volumes of milk at a faster rate but comes with deleterious side effects, both for the cows and us.

Nestlé USA to Remove Artificial Ingredients From Candy

Most countries in Europe have been free of artificial ingredients and colorings for years. We are just beginning to recognize the egregiously high level of synthetic colors and chemicals consumed by our children, and to understand its adverse effect on cognitive processing, concentration, hyperactivity and impulse regulation.

To wrap it up…

Am I implying that processed, packaged foods are now healthy? No.

Am I recommending you run to your nearest Micky D's and order a big helping of chicken nuggets? Uh, no.

Am I suggesting that fruit gummies are just as wholesome for our kids as real fruit, since the added color is now culled from natural sources? Nay, people.

As much as these articles reflect a positive change in our common desire to adopt a healthier American lifestyle, it is only the first step in a long journey back to our birthright. We are born to be vibrant, to possess an abundance of energy, to live a robust, disease-free and fulfilling life. We have the power to reclaim our health, but we have quite a way to go.

It is our personal responsibility to continue to push the needle by making the best nutritional decisions for ourselves and our family, setting an example the entire country can get behind.

I am simply happy that the journey has begun.

Xoxoxo - Lara

How to Lose Weight without Dieting

There’s no getting around it - weight loss is 80% what you eat and 20% how you exercise. The older I get, the less I can get away with eating junky foods and thinking I can “work off” the calories by jumping around a little extra.

Cleaning up my act requires me to clean up my food choices, and I am so excited to share my time-tested strategies so you, too, can lose weight without going on some fad “diet” science has proven just doesn’t stick.

When I need to slim down for a video shoot, when I’m prepping for a tropical vacation, or when I’ve veered off the Health Highway and need to grab the steering wheel, I use the following 14 tips that always help me lose weight without feeling deprived. With these proven nutritional strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel amazing, your body will become a superhuman fat burning machine, and did I mention weight loss?

LARA’S 14 LAWS TO LIVE BY

1. DRINK 20oz OF WATER right when you wake up - add a squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of Grade B maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper. This mini Master Cleanse kick starts your metabolism and wakes up your digestive system.

2. DON'T DRINK CALORIES. Remove soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, alcohol, sugary coffee concoctions and added sweeteners from your diet. If you love coffee, get good quality joe at your local artisanal roaster, invest in a French Press, and drink 1 big cup in the morning, black.

(Perfect the art of mining your morning "Black Gold" with this tutorial.)

3. CONTROL YOUR ENVIRONMENT. Remove all processed and sugary foods from your cabinet. Donate or ditch the boxes, bags, cans and containers of food-like products. If it’s white, it ain’t right, so lose the pasta, white rice, refined flour & sugar, white bread, and any other food leached of its nutrients through processing.

4. EAT WHOLE FOODS. Organic fruits & vegetables, lean meats, eggs, legumes, organic yogurt, whole grains, nuts and seeds will satisfy your hunger and nourish your body!

5. BRIGHTEN YOUR PLATE WITH COLOR to get the full spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants. At each meal, vegetables should cover at least half your plate. Green is King, but yellow, orange and red veggies are awesome, too.

6. BUY ORGANIC, GRASS FED MEATS & PASTURED EGGS so you increase the pros of eating animal products (high protein content, fills you up) and reduce the cons (added hormones & antibiotics, highly acidic, less heart-healthy). Check out EAT WILD and LOCAL HARVEST for all the sustainable resources you need.

(This chicken is stoked! Happy chickens mean healthy eggs and meat.)

7. CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS to help support the brain and body’s many functions: almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, avocado, olive oil & coconut oil are great choices.

8. COOK AT HOME 5 days a week, where you can control what goes into your meals, you control portion size, and you get the satisfaction of making something delicious and nourishing, just for you. Use these inexpensive HEALTHY RECIPES and have fun!

9. BREAKFAST LIKE A KING, LUNCH LIKE A PRINCE, DINNER LIKE A PAUPER. Gradually reduce the size of your meals throughout the day. Finish a small dinner by 7pm. Make some herbal tea before bed to soothe your stomach and make you sleepy.

10. CHEW! Minimize distractions, give thanks, and chew each bite 30-40 times. Chewing promotes easier digestion, heightens flavors, and gives your body time to register when it’s full so you don’t mindlessly overeat.

11. BRUSH YOUR TEETH. If you’re not really hungry but tempted to graze, a minty fresh mouth usually crushes the craving.

12. EAT ONLY WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY. We often eat food to avoid, distract or procrastinate. Employ the H.A.L.T. Method: Am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Slow down and think about why you want to eat at this moment. If your reason is NOT hunger, write down your thoughts about why you might be using food for something other than nourishment. Often this is all it takes to re-focus.

13. SPLURGE ON A HIGH-QUALITY DARK CHOCOLATE BAR (at least 70% cacao) and eat 1 square after dinner. Dark chocolate is super healthy and enjoying a nibble every night feels like a treat!

14. BREAK A SWEAT EVERYDAY. Run, walk, bike, go to the gym, take a class, pop in one of my videos, play with your kids, dance in your living room. Get creative and move that body by doing something you enjoy!

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Thanks for joining my Wellness Community, where we work together to take the absolute best care of ourselves, without taking it all too seriously!

Xoxoxo – Lara

Muscle Definition is About More than Just Fitness

Last week I wrote about how FORM is the key to getting the body you've always wanted. But I received several comments that asked, "But what about FOOD?"

So my next piece for MINDBODYGREEN is all about eating smarter so your muscles pop and your fat cells shrink. Some of my suggestions may surprise you:

Eat fat. Eat less meat. Eat more plants.

WHAT???

Click below to read more...

MUSCLE DEFINITION IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST FITNESS

Please LIKE it, Tweet it, Pin it, Share it, send it around your virtual community!

With gratitude, Lara

The Bacon Dilemma

Back in October, when I began my journey through the vast nutritional hinterland, my mentors at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition stressed the importance of bio-individuality and encouraged me to explore how different foods affect me personally. I was also intrigued early on by the Blood Type Diet, and since my Blood Type A emerged out of the agricultural age, it is said that we do better on a vegetarian diet. So to kick start my subjective nutritional experiment, I took meat off the menu and observed what happened.

I was surprised to discover that forgoing flesh was incredibly easy. Firstly, I've never been a fan of handling raw meat. Perhaps my Pilates background ruined it for me - holding a disturbingly slimy chicken breast in hand, I can't help but imagine that this poor dead muscle, just days before, was vigorously contracting and releasing inside a squawking little bird. Super creepy. Historically I've allowed my husband to do the cooking, and I have suspended my disbelief just long enough to finish my plate and wipe the grease off my face.

Secondly, removing meat from my diet makes me feel lighter, more clear, more digestively functional, with my energy reserves free to do something other than push that porterhouse through my body over the course of 4 days (yes, folks, that's how long it takes to digest meat). I also feel better about decreasing the size of my footprint on the planet - I'm doing what I can to opt out of our country's environmentally destructive mega-meat-manufacturing machine.

I had been a vegetarian for two weeks, and my self-righteousness was in full effect. I swaggered about town thinner, sharper, healthier, snapping a carrot between my teeth and floating a "HA! TAKE THAT, CARNIVORES!" thought-bubble above my head.

And then... this happens.

My husband went to the Logan Square Farmer's Market and brought back bacon from a local farm in Wisconsin. Bacon for which he paid top dollar, in support of the farm who took care of its animals, who raised happy hogs that roamed, foraged, played in the mud. Bacon that one Sunday morning sizzled in the oven and permeated every corner of the house with its tenacious, tantalizing aroma.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

What is a newly conformed vegetarian to do? What is it about bacon that renders all those who catch a whiff of its insidious goodness completely powerless to resist? What is it about its salty, meaty, fatty, crunchy constitution that is so potent as to compel me to chuck (in about 3 seconds) this whole vegetarian malarkey in favor of a few precious strips?

I must suffer from Bacon-olism. This meat is MAGIC. And have you ever paired a piece of bacon with a nice cup of Dark Matter coffee? RE-LI-GIOUS.

All kidding aside, did I feel guilty about falling off the Kale Wagon? Not really. Our primal taste buds are literally programmed to favor foods high in salt, sugar and fat. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, we were in constant search of caloric sufficiency. Walking just shy of the shadow of starvation, we moved our wiry frames toward the all-consuming idea of our next meal. If we had the good fortune of a successful hunt and could feast on animal meat, we ate every part with the hope that we earned enough body fat to procreate and pass on our genes. In a way, this powerful dietary predilection toward, salty, sugary, fatty foods enabled the strongest of our species to survive.

Has bacon saved the world? A hyperbolic but not so far-fetched claim.

Of course, this primal predilection has now sabotaged a third of our country, and that number is growing fast. With a subsidized surplus of commodity foods (think corn, soy, meat) and the explosion of the fast food industry, the days of famine are over and our culture is in constant feast mode, eating salty, sugary, fatty food at every meal, and suffering the consequences - obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer.

So...what lessons did I learn during my Sunday morning, endorphin-drenched bacon frenzy?

Well, I learned that eating meat is okay. I learned that I'm okay with being a vegetarian during the week and a carnivore on the weekend, eating meat 1-2 times per week versus the American average of 2-3 times per day (check out this "Weekday Vegetarian" TED Talk for inspiration). As long as I commit to supporting local farms who uphold humane practices in the raising and handling of their animals, I am okay with my Sunday morning bacon.

I invite you, too, to be okay with being a meat eater. But perhaps consider reducing your consumption just a little, which will go a long way toward improving your health and taking some heat off the environment. Meatless Mondays? Foliage Fridays? Choose one day to leave meat off the menu and see how you feel. Then increase it to 2 or even 3 days per week.

By decreasing your meat consumption and increasing your intake of plant-based foods, you will be living more in alignment with the truth of your body, flooding it with nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits on your "off" days and giving your digestive system the critical enzymes it needs to process the meat you consume on your "on" days.

Good luck, and enjoy that bacon...just a little less often!

The Energetics of Food - Trip on This!

I'm knee deep in nutrition school, and we recently completed a course on the energetics of food. Food energetics stems from the field of macrobiotics, and is loosely defined as the study of a food's distinct energy and how that energy transforms within the body to either make us healthy or throw us out of balance. 

At first I wasn't too sure about this subject, as it sounded a bit hippie-dippy, but I promised myself to keep an open mind. And I was blown away by the hints that nature offers us, hints we can no longer see in our hyper-processed culture. Read on and may your eyes open.

Below is a photo of chard. What internal organ do these leafy greens remind you of?

Don't they look a little like lungs?  Amongst the other myriad benefits eating leafy greens provides, one of their primary functions within the body is to STRENGTHEN THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM. These lung-like plants directly promote lung health! Now let's take it a step further.

Green plants are, in essence, the earth's lungs. They draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, a perfect counterpoint to we humans, who do the opposite. Isn't is fair to say that we and leafy greens are each other's yin and yang? Leafy greens teach us how to breathe, they support us, they nourish us, they improve our ability to thrive in this world. Don't ignore the signs!

Okay, here's another trippy thing I learned. Below is a photo of a walnut. Doesn't the meat of the nut look like a brain?

For hundreds of years, before anyone analyzed its biotic compounds, the walnut was considered by many ancient cultures to be "brain food." Our ancestors looked at the characteristics of this little nut and knew instinctively that it would improve their ability to think. We only recently discovered that the walnut is the only nut that contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential to brain development and nervous system function. TRIP OUT ON THAT! How did our ancenstors know that this was the nut to eat? Have we strayed so much from our primal intuition that we can't see the signs nature provides?

I've now morphed into a frenzied food energetics investigator, working to peel away the layers of numbness so that I can see with my primal eyes all the miraculous connections between my body and the natural world around me.

  • Feeling anxious or ungrounded? Roast root vegetables, so strong they can grow underground without sunlight, and so centered they remain stable through the worst of storms.

  • Want to protect your eyes? Eat grapes, oysters, carrots, all possessing eye-like characteristics (shape, texture) and all promoting healthy vision while slowing down macular degeneration.

  • Kidney issues? Replace animal protein with kidney-shaped beans, high in protein but much easier for the kidneys to process than animal protein (a by-product of which is uric acid which can lead to painful kidney stones).

I invite you to become your own food investigator - stroll the aisles of the produce section and ruminate on the shape, color, texture and energy of the whole foods around you. Get intimate - feel, touch, smell - and be open to the metaphors and the poetry of the natural world. Chances are you'll begin to better understand that profound turn of phrase "you are what you eat", and your ancestral intelligence will emerge to help you see the signs, read the clues, and make better food choices so that you truly thrive, body, mind and spirit...