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Vacation Eating Part 2: Eating out

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Okay, so you have prepped by having good snacks along with you, but you are still going to have to eat out. More than likely your first meal in a restaurant will be while traveling to your destination. You need to get it in your head from this very moment that you are going to make good choices! This first meal out, I've found, sets the tone for the entire rest of my vacation.

My best tip for eating out is to peruse the menu before you eat. I give it a pretty good scan before I finally hone in on a few things I feel safe choosing. Of course I look at the salads, and they are usually my choice, but I will also look at other areas of the menu, as well.

Soups: Anything that starts with the words "Cream of" I immediately reject. Broth-based soups are usually relatively safe, and I've found some marvelous chicken tortilla soups that are surprisingly healthy. And I sometimes a bowl of chili can be a good choice, but I always ask how it's cooked. What makes or breaks chili is usually whether it's swimming in fat or not, so asking about how it's prepared is really important.

Having said that, usually a bowl of soup is not enough food for me, so sometimes I will ask them to substitute a lower-fat soup for fries with a sandwich, or have the soup with a side salad, hold the crackers (I've never seen a good cracker choice in a restaurant).

Salads are pretty much my go-to meal in restaurants, but I have to be really careful to make sure that none of the meats on the salad are fried and that the lettuce is not bathed in dressing. The only time I don't ask for dressing on the side is when I forget, which has only happened once in recent history and, fortunately enough, happened on one of my splurge meals on my last little trip out of town, so I didn't bother sending the salad back (which I normally would have done, with apologies). When I get the dressing on the side I do the old trick of dipping my fork in the dressing before sticking it in the lettuce. This winds up using almost a negligible amount of dressing. It was hard to get used to having so little dressing with my salad when I first started eating it this way, but now I enjoy the flavor of the ingredients without the dressing most times and only do the fork-dip when I get down to just lettuce.

Ordering sandwiches I never choose fried meats and always ask them to leave the mayonnaise or any fattening sauces off. Mustard is my go-to sandwich lubrication, if I feel I need it. And usually I ask them to omit the cheese. Sometimes I can talk them into extra veggies on the sandwich. If I'm in a burger joint and just can't bear another grilled chicken sandwich or salad, I'll order a burger, but apply the above techniques to clean it up. And a lot of times I take off the bottom bun, because that's where a lot of the fat drains off into. Yeah, it's messy, but it's worth it to avoid the extra calories and simple carbs.

I never order fries anymore (I know too much about how damaging fried foods are to my body in more ways than one), and I never order an appetizer for my main dish. Why? They're almost always fried. A small appetizer is often more calories and fat than many of the main dishes on the menu, and it's not a healthy fat. The only appetizer I can remember seeing on a restaurant menu recently that was healthy was shrimp cocktail. Ordering Shrimp cocktail in addition to your main dish is a good way to raise the protein level of the meal, by the way.

Sirloin steak and Filet Mignon are good steak choices, but I'll ask them to leave off any toppings. Even the mushrooms are usually braised in butter.

Of course, broiled or baked fishes are good choices- just be careful of what they are coated in. And forget fried fish! You're better off health-wise getting a sirloin steak than you are any kind of fried fish (or fried anything else, for that matter).

Mexican places are about the hardest to navigate, IMHO. Fajitas are a lifesaver! I ALWAYS get the chicken fajitas and eat just the skillet, guacamole, and pico. I don't roll the contents up in the tortillas- Instead, I use one of the tortillas rolled up as a "pusher" to get the meat and veggies onto my fork, then eat only it if I am still feeling the need for a few carbs when the rest of the food is eaten. But often the skillet is enough.

For side dishes, I always get the steamed veggies and a baked sweet potato, if they are available. A baked regular spud is not a bad choice, either, but with any kind of potato be very mindful of your toppings! Butter, sour cream, and bacon bits can add tremendous amounts of calories in no time flat. I'll usually ask for sour cream OR butter (not both) on the side, then use either sparingly with salt and pepper for flavor. With sweet potatoes I ask for cinnamon only (not cinnamon sugar!), for the topping.

Breakfast is a bit trickier. I've had to learn to get aggressive with asking how my food is cooked. This can be a bit irritating to my dining companions, but it's me who has to live with my body, not them, and they'll get over it. Let them poke fun while I have the hot body! Anyhow, I always ask if they can make my eggs with either a whole egg and several egg whites, or if they have egg beaters, or if they can just use whites only. I'll either have them scramble my eggs, however I am able to get them, or sub them in a veggie omelet, hold the cheese. Breakfast calories can add up very quickly, so it's paramount to be careful!

I've also learned to inquire about oatmeal at breakfast. Most restaurants that serve breakfast have oatmeal. No, it's not a very fun breakfast food, but it sure is a good-for-me choice. I ask them to serve the butter on the side and I add a little bit along with some sugar-free sweetener. And I always ask if they have a milk that is either skim or reduced fat. Any kind is better than whole!

Ideally, my restaurant breakfast will have a whole egg with four egg-whites vegetable omelet and a serving of oatmeal as described above.

Whole-grain toast can be an acceptable choice with the eggs instead of the oatmeal (not in addition to), but when I make this choice I always ask for it dry. Usually the eggs are cooked in butter and I don't need any additional fat from the bread coursing through my body.

If I'm forced to go to a fast food restaurant for breakfast, I'll try to encourage everyone to go to McD's and I'll get the egg McMuffin without butter or cheese and a small orange juice. Not the best choice, but it could be worse. This at least gives me a fairly decend amount of protein and some nutrients. Most fast-food breakfasts are calorie laden fat-bombs with almost zero nurtients.

And dessert? Forget it- Unless it's a planned splurge, I simply don't order dessert in restaurants. I may take a bite or two of one of my kids desserts if it looks really good, but I limit myself to that. It's just food territory that is too dangerous for me to be venturing into and has the potential to open a pandora's box of bad food choices. I wish I had more control than with sweets, but I don't and I have to respect that about myself.

Staying vigilant about what I eat on vacation is not easy, and not always fun, but it IS always worth it when I come home and don't see the big jump on the scale that my travel companions often have. I guess I'd rather be careful for the short duration of the vacation than have to do weeks (or months!) of work to get the weight off that I gained over a very brief period of time.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SUNSHINE667 8/1/2010 2:22PM

    When we were at Morton's Steakhouse yesterday, I order grilled salmon WITHOUT the sauce and steamed borccoli (same foods on my meal plan)
I also survived the hotel breakfast. I told them exactly what I wanted (once again what's on meal plan) and they prepared it for me. I told them no butter or oils in my egg whites. They told me they can use Pam...I was shocked. She said we can do a lot of things people just typically don't ask. WOW. They did not have strawberries out at the buffet, but I asked for 4 and they brought those to me also. I made my oatmeal and peanut butter in the hotel room prior to going to the buffet. I thought about your blog the entire time, lol. They had a lot food, but none that was on my plan right now, so I had to ask for what I wanted and it worked...shout to the people at the Hilton in Cincinnati, Ohio!

So all in all, I have to agree with you 100 % you CAN eat clean while on vacation by preparing and telling the servers at resturants what you want. Like my Mama used to say, "You don't know 'till you ask."


Comment edited on: 8/1/2010 2:29:56 PM

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WREN67 8/1/2010 1:06PM

    I used your Mexican restaurant suggestion for my daughter! (I had a salad) She loved it - and ate healthier too! Thanks again!

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DS9KIE 8/1/2010 12:50AM

    These are great ideas and your doing great on your vacation with your diet. Good for you,cause it is very hard to do. emoticon

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SUNSHINE667 7/30/2010 11:10PM

    I love this blog Nancy Anne as it will help me prepare for my overnight trip tomorrow and our vacation to Aruba in September. I will definitely refer back to this blog... emoticon
Very informative!

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ERIN1128 7/30/2010 12:37PM

    Great blog. I find I really have to remind myself that calories count the same, whether on vacation or not! And not let myself use vacation as an excuse to binge.

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LHIEBEL 7/30/2010 11:58AM

  Great blog--as always! Reading your blogs and watching your progress has motivated me to really get back after it!!! Thank you!

I did the Eat to Live diet for awhile and really learned to love salads and veggies plain--I don't even like dressing anymore--and makes it so much easier to control eating out.

My problem is that my boyfriend has ice cream, cookies, and all the snacks around--and loves to eat out a lot--mexican food no less--the chips and salsa are always the killer temptation! When I lived alone--I didn't keep stuff around--but now I find it is a constant battle!

Thanks for all of your motivation and information sharing! ~ Leanne

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APMAC_D 7/30/2010 9:34AM

    Wow I loved reading this and it just shows that it CAN be done. With a great attitude and determination it just doesn't matter what other people think. What matters is the health of your OWN body. I want to try and adopt some of these ideas when I go out. It seems whenever I go out I give myself a get out of jail free card and eat whatever I want- totally not necessary. I have to change the way I look at food. Food does not make me happy or make an occasion more enjoyable, i have to get that through my head. Thank you emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MINIUM 7/30/2010 3:53AM

    Very informative! emoticon
I like to do the fork-dip with my salad dressing too. That works pretty well!
Have a lovely day!

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WREN67 7/30/2010 12:07AM

    Fantastic! Wish I had had this before my trip, but a copy of this will be going in my planner (along with #1) so that I have it handy for the next trip! Easy reference.

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ALESHABEE 7/29/2010 11:28PM

    Love, love, love this....though I can't promise to apply them to my honeymoon (lol) I definitely will to my other vacations I take!! Lots of great practical advice emoticon

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Vacation Eating, Part 1: Preparation

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I was originally going to do a blog on vacation eating in general, but realized it would make a very lengthy blog, so I'm going to break it down into several parts.

Today is Part 1: Preparation.

My 13-year old daughter, Lane, and I recently took a long weekend away. I brought along several things that made eating healthy and not going overboard with eating on the trip a whole lot easier:

1. My tried-and-true favorite protein bars, Wonderslim Crispy meal replacement bars:
These were a lifesaver when I got a little hungry and there was nothing healthy around (or nothing around, period).

2. Beef Jerky. We like the peppered, but you can get any flavor you prefer. Be careful to check the nutrition labels to make sure it has almost no fat. I like to keep my protein level about equal to my carbs, if not a little higher, and in a pinch beef jerky is a great way to make that happen without adding a tremendous amount of fat to my diet. The cost of Jerky can be on the high side, but I've found I can save money by looking for store brands (Wal-Mart has a good one) and buying large amounts. Regardless of cost, Jerky is always less expensive than most snacks at tourist traps. And Jerky travels well when it's hot outside.

3. Bottled water. It's a LOT less expensive to tote your own in a small cooler than it is to buy it on the road. Here in Texas it's very hot, so we were chug-a-lugging water constantly. And it's waaaaaaay healthier than soda, diet or not. If we drank it all we just refilled the bottles in a water fountain.

4. Low-fat String Cheese. This is a great way for me to meet my calcium and protein needs while still keeping carbs low. I toss it in the cooler with the water.

5. On an extended trip I'll bring protein powder, portioned out into snack-sized ziploc baggies, and a shaker cup. I'll take one of the baggies and drop it down in the cup to keep in the car. When I want to drink the protein powder I take the baggie out, pour the contents into the cup, add some of the water from one of my bottles and shake. Wa-la! I've also been known to bring the shaker cup with the baggie of powder into a restaurant at breakfast time and add milk to it. When I get back to my hotel room I rinse the cup out and dry it, ready for the next outting.

I've found it's best to bring along a bit more of the above items than I think I will need. Not only do I wind up relying on them more than I anticipate I will (amazing the rotten selection of healthy food out there!), but also that my travel companions will often snack on these foods. They get tired of eating junk, too.

I did NOT bring any exercise equipment. Not even workout shoes, even though our hotel had a workout room. Why? Because first of all, this was a short vacation of only a few days. I had managed to lift weights for my entire body the days before we left so I was able to take a break without feeling guilty. And secondly, our activities included a water park, swimming in the hotel pool, and walking a TON. I didn't need any more activity than what we already had planned.

However, if I were going to be gone more than a few days not only would I have brought along workout clothes and exercise bands, but I also would have called ahead to the hotel to find out exactly what the hotel had to offer in it's workout room (sometimes it's simply a treadmill, which doesn't do the trick for me). If what the hotel had it wasn't adequate for my needs I would have then found a nearby gym, called ahead and inquired as to a temporary membership. I did this when we went to Las Vegas for two weeks last summer. I got up before the family woke up and put in a good, hard workout.

For me personally I have discovered that it's a bad idea to bring dried fruit. I love the stuff and it's quite calorie-dense. I have a hard time stopping once I get started (I'm the exact same way with peanut butter or peanuts), so I've decided it's best to just avoid the dried fruit and get my produce requirements met through salads and fresh fruit I find at the hotel breakfasts or in most convenience stores. I find it's not hard to find fresh produce these days. For others this might be a good thing to bring, but for me it's inviting disaster.

The other tip I'll throw out in the preparation department is to plan when you will have your splurge meals. Four days of going off half-cocked and eating whatever I wanted could have seriously undermined my health and fitness goals. So I decided to plan a splurge meal each of the first two nights of the trip, then be extremely mindful of what I was eating the rest of the time. The reason I decided the first two nights was because I wanted to have a chance, through the activity we would be getting, to work off the glycogen and consequently inevitable water weight gain that would come with the splurge.

And it was worth it when at the water park, while wearing a bikini and eating a salad for lunch, my daughter said to me "Mom, I am proud of you for losing all that weight and now working so hard to stay healthy. I love having a trophy mother!"

If that's not motivation to keep up the good fight, I don't know what is!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRITTNYF 8/11/2010 1:14PM

    I'm the same way with peanut butter and dried fruit too. :) These tips were so helpful! Thanks so much!

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SUNSHINE667 7/29/2010 6:53PM

    Great blog Nancy Anne! I do some of things listed, but I wonder what in the world will I do when I go to Aruba middle of September! I do well when we eat out and when I am away. I carry the protein shake and my shaker bottle too! I really enjoy reading your blogs and learn so much from them...SHEro!

I loooove the compliment you got from your baby! That IS pure motivation in a nutshell emoticon


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BESQUIVEL 7/29/2010 9:45AM

    BEST blog I've read, gave me great ideas for my weekend away starting tomorrow, and it's a 7 hour drive which is killer on the diets. I'm going to pre-pack 1/2c oatmeal packets and plan on getting hot water each morning to make them, take cheese sticks, almonds, and apples along. I know I'll be eating at Olive Garden for the party when we get there (funny thing is, that'll probably be the healthiest meal I get) My Mother in law never saw a veggie in her life I don't think, except jalepenos. I'll do the best I can, AND I VOW here and now, to stay away from the Tortillas while I'm there!

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GONNA_BREAKAWAY 7/29/2010 9:42AM

  Great blog. Love your daughter's comment!

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HEALTHYASHLEY 7/29/2010 8:42AM

    Great blog! I am going away in a few weeks and I wouldn't have thought of beef jerky! Thanks for reminding me.

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RACHEL_MAC 7/29/2010 8:00AM

    A trophy mom!! I love it! What a compliment! Great tips, Nancyanne :)

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  Thanks! Preparation is the key!! You are an inspiration!

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WREN67 7/28/2010 6:04PM

    Thank you! Already sent you most of my comments...but the individual protein packs were so cute - I have some of the jewelry(?) bags so the powder pretty much filled it up. And I did take raisins, but I'm not a huge fan, so I would only have about 10 (at times such as after my protein to get that taste out of my mouth).
And the splurge planning did work...for the first day. Of course, so much of what went wrong on the second day had nothing to do with eating...until the wheels for everything else came off (and then the eating wasn't perfect, but wasn't terrible - thank goodness!)

Great blog!

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JAZZII4 7/28/2010 5:04PM

    Thanks for sharing, some great ideas! I'm trying to plan a weekend getaway, and your tips, are very helpful. Your daughter is right, your progress is amazing! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ERIN1128 7/28/2010 4:34PM

    Excellent blog, thanks! And I love love love your daughter's compliment.

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AMC120 7/28/2010 3:38PM

    Well, once again you give us Sparkers more & more knowledge to get healthy & stay healthy! Thank you for all your advice! You have been a life saver!!! emoticon

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MARVELOUS50S 7/28/2010 3:30PM

    I should have prepared for my family reunion a little better and I would not have done so much damage. When I was training I brought everything with me when I went on vacations, packaged tuna, lowfat string cheese, instant oatmeal and lots of protein powder.

One of the nicest compliments you can receive is from your kids, especially your daughter. I have a daughter who is 35 years old and she is always saying, "I have to stay in shape because I am not going to have my Mom look hotter then me." We also go to concerts together because I don't look like a MOM, as she says " I look like any other "HOT" women at the concert.

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MINIUM 7/28/2010 3:07PM

    Excellent pieces of advice! Thanks!
I love your daughter's comment - I want to be a trophy mum too! emoticon

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APRILBLESS 7/28/2010 3:00PM

    These are great tips. Thanks for sharing! emoticon

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MASONK 7/28/2010 2:26PM

    Those are some great tips and the words from your daughter are priceless. When I was really overweight my daughter said I "looked like a Mom." Hmmmmm I never knew how to take that but as she explained she said she didn't see me as fat or skinny, just mama.

Now, she thinks I look good!

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ALESHABEE 7/28/2010 1:57PM

    Yes those words from your daughter are some serious motivation...they make even me wanna work harder! Thanks for the tips...heading to Vegas for my honeymoon later this year and will definitely implement some of these tips emoticon

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Emulate Those You Want To Look Like

Monday, July 19, 2010

Which type of physique do you admire and wish you looked like? Is it the people who run all the time? Bike? Sit on the couch with a remote in one hand and a bag of pork skins in the other? The ones who spend all their time at the gym in cardio classes? Doing Pilate's or Yoga? Those who spend most of their workout time on weight lifting machines? Or the ones who spend their time on the grunt-end of the gym with the heavy free weights and bare-bones machines?

None of these answers are wrong (except for perhaps the couch potato one, simply because it will lead you to an early grave). The answer, though, should clearly show you what it is you need to be doing to obtain a body most closely resembling the one you desire.

Me? I took a look around many years ago and decided I'd most like to look like the gals who compete in figure and bikini competitions. Upon a little investigation I discovered those ladies spend a bulk of their exercise time lifting heavy weights, and a moderate amount of time doing both cardio and stretching, while completely avoiding steroids. (I did NOT want to look like a freaky manly-muscled she-male- Gross!) They eat really clean and keep a good amount of protein in their diets. So I decided to do what they do and see how close to looking like them I could come. I've never regretted that decision. It's yielded me results that I am really happy with.

So if you like the way gymnasts look, take a look at how they train (and eat!) and see if you can't implement some of those principles into your own exercise time. If want a runners legs, run! (And if you don't like the way runners legs look, why are you running?) Like the way yoga enthusiasts look? Yep- Do yoga! But if if you want muscle tone, even a little, you're going to have to get on down where the big boys work out and start picking up really heavy stuff. I've never seen someone with substantial muscle tone who only does group exercise classes! Am I dogging group classes? No! I love them and take them occasionally. But they aren't going to get the kinds of results alone that adding weight lifting into the equation will.

If you want to look fit, though, you're gonna have to do something more than just have low body fat. You're going to have to find time to exercise. And how you exercise will eventually dictate the way your body looks, so choose how to spend your exercise time wisely.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NEWYORKORCHIDS 7/30/2010 12:55PM

  I'm an idiot...why didn't I think of this? It's so simple.

Thank you!!!

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MINIUM 7/27/2010 2:34AM

    Great! Thanks!

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TINA5318 7/23/2010 10:42AM

    emoticon emoticon

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MICHARM 7/20/2010 6:54PM

    Perfect blog...I too am like you and loving the lifting heavier! I think I may need to find a workout partner soon, because I am afraid to go heavier without a bit of assistance! I really do not want to hurt myself- so a spotter would be nice once or twice a week.
You are looking amazing! I am following your lead!!!

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KERANCE 7/20/2010 5:07PM

    This is so true. I looked at someone and thought 'I wanna look like that' - so I started lifting and now own weights lol

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TABS17 7/20/2010 4:03PM

    Right on once again!!! :)

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KJFITNESSDUDE 7/20/2010 1:27PM

    You make a good point about having a vision of whom you'd like to look like. It's been studied that people who have the end goal/product in mind that that helps tremendously in their efforts to reach that goal. I like Steve Austin's Bad Ass shoulder ball look so I work mine hard every week and guess what? I'm getting there!!!!

I never knew what horseshoe tricpes were until YOU mentioned it. So i got pics, LOTS OF PICS of that horseshoe look and mine are getting more defined every week. I'm glad I looked it up, I LOVE 'EM!!!

Another note: I have read/heard women talk about staying the hell away from weights because they don't want to look manly. Is it true a woman, not taking steroids and just lifts on a regular workout schedule, can BECOME manly looking? I mean those manly looking women (which I sorta like that look,....) don't spend a lot of time in the gym and take supplements galore including steroids? Don't you have to do all that inorder to get that MANLY look?

NancyAnne, you exemplify the epitome of a well-trained, good looking woman, it just so happens that you lift weights as a part of your physical training which has worked for you. You in NO WAY WHATSOEVER look manly, your body shape is all woman (is it me or is it getting hot in here? *gulp*)

Bottomline: You look great and your sharing of this information is not only helpful to those of us who need guidance but a real service to helping people become healthy in our society.



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GONNA_BREAKAWAY 7/20/2010 12:56PM

  I love walking but it won't get me the definition I want. Thanks for making me think about this.

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SHAYGETSFIT 7/20/2010 11:50AM

    Like it...ALOT!!!!

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MESEATURTLE 7/20/2010 1:46AM

    u totally make sense!!!i never thought about this i will! thanx so much

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SUNSHINE667 7/20/2010 1:16AM

    I love it Nancy Anne and thanks for the reminder! Well, you will always be my SHEro! I am the first to admit, you told me the exact same get the body I want I had to get down with the big boys and watch what you put in your mouth! So true and I 'm proof it DOES make such a big difference!

Thanks girl!


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ALESHABEE 7/19/2010 11:07PM

    Amen sister! I love, love, love cardio but like you said it will not give you the toned body that you want. So I'm getting down in there with the big boys, emoticon

My problem is I want to look like the figure competitor but want to run a marathon, lol

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CDSPARK 7/19/2010 10:54PM


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Abdominal Workout Tips

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your ab exercises. All of these help to ensure that your abdominal muscles do the work and not other body parts:

1. When doing any kind of crunch, strait up or to the side for obliques, keep your elbows so far back that you can only see them in your peripheral vision.

2. Also for any kind of crunch, keep your chin well back from your chest wall. You at least want a fists-length distance between your chin and the base of your neck- more is better.

3. When doing standard crunches, focus on a spot on the ceiling slightly behind your head. You want to be looking up and back, not up and forward.

4. When doing side crunches, pull your shoulder towards your knee, not your elbow. Keep your elbow far back as in rule #1, above. Envision there is a rope or cable attaching your shoulder and opposite knee that is being pulled on to pull you up into the crunch position. And come up as far as possible on side-crunches.

5. When doing strait-leg lifts (also called ceiling stamps) for lower abs, point your toes towards the ceiling at the top of the move.

6. ALWAYS think of the part of the abs you are using (middle, upper, lower, or obliques) as the originator of the movement. The more mental focus you can put on the muscle worked, the more muscle fibers you will engage and therefore the better the workout of the muscle will be.

And remember: The best ab work you do is in how you eat. The less fat cells you have at your mid-section, the better your abs will look.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

AMERAG 6/15/2011 2:07PM

    makes a lot of sense now

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NARA87 12/10/2010 10:33PM

    Hi, just read this and it's great advice, but I have a question (I'm sorry, I know the post is old): I always shake when I do crunches. Any idea as to what I'm doing wrong? An instructor at the gym told me that I shouldn't, but he didn't tell me how to avoid it.

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DRAGONPEARL 8/4/2010 10:53AM

    Thank you! These were excellent tips!

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JAZZID 7/31/2010 5:31PM


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LOVE_2_RUN 7/25/2010 10:57PM

    Thanks for these tips!!

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GONABFIT 7/14/2010 8:10PM

    Great tips! My next goal is to make my stomach my FAVORITE body part!

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FITBECKSRN24 7/10/2010 10:40AM

    thanks for the tip! they'll deff hlep!

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NA-NA0921 7/10/2010 2:36AM

    Thanks for the tips.I really can use them in my abs workout.

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WREN67 7/9/2010 6:47PM

    Thanks - this is a huge help! I've been getting more out of my abs exercises (thank goodness), but I know that I could do more. Especially #2 and #3.

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SUNSHINE667 7/9/2010 5:46PM

    Thank you for the this post! This will help me with my ab workouts...thanks again!

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KERANCE 7/9/2010 5:01AM

Thanks for tips

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FITWITHIN 7/8/2010 10:41PM

    I'm waiting for the day I see some definition with the abs. I still have a long way to go. However, I'm very confident that day will come.

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JMCADE 7/8/2010 10:21PM

    thanks for the tips. I can really use them. Some of these I didn't realize made a difference. Thanks again

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Squatting Re-learned

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The biggest difference to my body since I've started working with personal trainers is my hips. I'm convinced that it's because they've had me squatting so much. Just about every single time we worked lower body they had me doing some kind of squat.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't really like squats. Never have. They're hard, and I've always been afraid of injuring myself. The first time I did squats many years ago I did too many reps with too much weight and employed bad technique. I literally hurt my whole body. I could barely walk for a week or so. I probably should have gone to the hospital. Ever since then I've been leery of squats. But knowing what I do now, I think squatting should always be included in a lower body workout. Even when you dislike them like I do.

My first trainer was a power lifter. Therefore, the man knew about squats! Here are some things I learned from him that might help you:

1. TAKE A WIDER STANCE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED TO (shoulder-width apart is usually a little wider than you think it is), and turn your toes slightly OUT. The way most of us learned, with toes pointing forward, isn't necessarily best. After doing some research I discovered that the toes-pointed-out version of the squat is a power-lifting stance. I'd had problems with my knees when I did squats with my toes pointed forward before, but haven't since I've started doing them with my toes out. My guess? The risk of injury to the knees is lessened in this position. I think power lifters, bearing those huge amounts of weight, discovered this long ago.

The other advantage to turning toes out is that it more recruits the inner thigh muscles. This not only involves more muscle in the exercise, therefore giving you more power, but also tones up this area faster than anything else I've tried for inner thigh to date.

2. STAY IN YOUR HEELS! That first trainer, Ross, had to work to drill it through my head to stay far, far back on my heels all the way through the move. This helps to keep the knee from jutting too far out over the toe and puts the emphasis where it needs to be- on the quads and glutes. Lean back hard on your heels on the way down and drive up through them on the way up. I'm so far back on my heels when I squat that my toes are almost lifted off the floor, and Ross often STILL told me that I was too much on the front of my foot. He harped on me about heels more than anything else. Evidently, it's a pretty important point to squatting.

3. YOU AREN'T GOING DOWN LOW ENOUGH! I'm sure you've heard of the hard and fast "Don't let your thighs go below parallel to the ground" rule. This is a very valid rule, and you should follow it. However, parallel to the ground is MUCH lower than you think it is! When I finally got myself low enough that Ross approved, I felt like my butt was going to hit the backs of my shins. When I watched Ross do it, I thought it looked like HIS butt was going to hit the backs of his shins! But here's the thing- it's the FRONT of your thigh you are wanting to have parallel to the ground, not the back. If you have thick thighs like me, parallel is a very different thing when you are considering the front of your thighs as opposed to the back. I'll be honest: Coming down low like this is uncomfortable and awkward- especially at first when your hip flexibility is still improving! But it's recruiting more muscle, and therefore giving you a much better workout.

4. YOUR KNEES AREN'T AS FAR OUT OVER YOUR TOE AS YOU THINK THEY ARE. Another thing that I worried about with squatting in the past is the position of my knee over my toe. It's a widely known fact that when doing any kind of exercise your knees should not project past your toes. However, the execution of your heels as described in point #2 above prevents your knees from coming out too far and causing damage. So.... if you employ point #2(heels), it will ensure you don't hurt yourself with point #3(thighs parallel). Make sense?

5. LOOK STRAIT AHEAD! This was probably been the hardest habit for Ross to break with me. I thought constantly looking down at my knees to ensure they weren't jutting past my toes was a good thing. But when you look to the side while squatting you subconsciously swing ever so slightly to one side, putting uneven stress on your joints, especially your knees. Pretend your neck is in a brace and look strait ahead and slightly up!

6. IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, DON'T BE AFRAID OF SQUATS! They do GREAT things for a woman's rear view!

At first, after a hard squatting workout I always found it interesting that some part of my upper body (usually shoulders) was more sore and felt better worked than it did when I work that same body part specifically. That's because, while generally targeted for the quadricep (front of thigh) and glute (butt) muscles, squats literally involve the whole body, making muscles work in ways they've never been challenged before. And THAT'S a whole lot of bang for your exercise buck!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANAJAMA 8/18/2011 8:15AM

    the only time I do squats and lunges is in the hot iron class which I got to only once a week and they've only been in the warm up during the programme we did the last three months. this entry makes me think I should do squats more often than that, maybe on my cardio days. I guess I never did them often enough in order to get considerable results. thanks!

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JANC7223 8/5/2011 12:04PM

    This was very informative. Thanks.

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BAILEYS7OF9 8/5/2011 10:59AM

    emoticonthanks so much!

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NFLDCOOPER 11/7/2010 7:11PM

    Thanks for the info. I checked it out after you replied to a message I posted in the "Gain Muscle" forum. Thanks again for the info, very helpful and enlightening. Better than anything else I've read online to date about squats.

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HEALTHY4ME 10/6/2010 5:11PM

    I have never ever ever b een able to squat, even as a kid. I always had to use my knees. well now at 53 I have had one knee surg. and today being a bad day, can't manage the stairs well. Thanks for thses tips cos I am going to try squatting but not till my knees stop throbbing. It is supposed to rain tomorrow an dbetting that is part of the issue. thanks for this blog.

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BECKY_ROWE1984 9/12/2010 8:49AM

    Love this blog. I love squats but having realised that my technique is not quite there yet I am going back to basics to get things sorted. As said this is such a powerful movement and engages the whole body. I have tried the toe out version before and they are amazing for the inner thigh. Gotta love em!

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    Oh, so glad I'm not the only one who has/had trouble with the 'look straight ahead" I don't like to look straight because there's always a blooming mirror in front of me and i can see how naff I look while lifting. I just keep telling myself one day I'm going to LOVE looking into that bloody mirror. Brilliant Blog! emoticon

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NYCFA1 7/20/2010 7:39AM

    Thanks for the tips. Especially the one about staying in your heels. I was doing No More Trouble Zones the other day and making an effort to stay in my heels and WOW! what a difference it made. Especially taking the pressure off the knees. Thanks!

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IXCHEL23 7/17/2010 9:35PM

    Thanks for the great informative blog! So there still is hope for my pear-shaped big butt and thighs to get toned!

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FINEARSESOON 7/14/2010 1:00AM

    Um...Yeah. Thumbs up to all of what you said. My 17 yr old daughter has started coming to the gym with me and I'm teaching her all these weighted lunges. There will be no falling rear ends...haha! Great tips NancyAnne!!!!!

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DREMARGRL 7/13/2010 11:14PM

    Better late than every, NancyAnne....This is a great, informative blog. Thanks...I'm sure you've helped a lot of people with form here. Squats and lunges....Fabulous for the boo-tay! XO MaryAnn

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BECCA103 7/7/2010 11:29AM

    Nancy, I just got caught up on your blog posts and I thank you for sharing so much with all of us that are new to weight training. Becca ;~)

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JSOL170 7/5/2010 4:39PM

    I am learning so much from reading your blogs today... just read your ab's one too. Thanks for all the helpful information and for being very descriptive. I'm a newby and I love trying new things. Your making my butt hurt just thinking about the workout. Hehe, Love it!

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    Hey Nancy!
Thanks for the great reminders in this blog. It is always good to go back and review what you think you have already learned. I remembered your tips this week and definitely felt it in my inner thighs and my bootay! take care!

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DS9KIE 7/4/2010 12:27AM

    great info

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BIKERCHICK74 7/3/2010 1:23AM

    Sweet!!!! Thank you!

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HARISHABAD 7/2/2010 2:14PM

    Wow, great info. I will try these tips in the gym today and refer to this again and again. I am fully convinced of the effectiveness of squats but I battle knee pain all the time so I really have to watch my technique.

emoticon emoticon

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    awesome blog! i can't wait to try these techniques in my workout tomorrow. i've never been a fan of squats either yet they target the area where i need the most work so THANK YOU!!!

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MISTYMOVIN 6/29/2010 12:25PM

    Wow, I tried the lower/wider stance today with the barbell and that is a killer. I thought I was going pretty low before, but yeoch. I managed to get 2 sets in at least with my normal weight load.

I'm thinking I'm going to do some more front squats holding a plate to really push my core stabilization and practice that lower squat.

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TKDGIRL49 6/29/2010 7:44AM

    Ok, NancyAnne,

You've become my idol! Your such an inspiration!

Love your knowledge , I hope you know how helpful you are to us.

Thank you very much for sharing*


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    I actually like squats I feel them in my booty for days:) Great blog

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MRSGOFARR 6/28/2010 11:24AM

    my but was burning just reading this. i just discovered this too with my personal trainer.

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ALIMESSA 6/27/2010 10:29PM

    AWESOME blog...thank you so much for the great info. Doing the P90X right now, and, although they don't do a ton of squats, they do enough to where it is nice to know how to get the most out of the exercise...he gives you some tips, but not to the extent that you have, that is for sure...thanks again!

As always,
Stay Strong!!

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TABS17 6/27/2010 9:01PM

    Everything you said is Right On!! I LOVE squats and the development of my derriere (sp?)is credited directly to them!! I have done smith squats, barbell squats, front squats, DB squats, sumo squats...but my ABSOLUTE favorite and current squat workout is belt squats!! Love, Love, Love them!

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HULAHOOPLA 6/27/2010 8:03PM

    after reading this i doubt if i'm going low enough. i'm going to have someone watch me this week. i always enjoy your blogs. thank you for sharing your knowledge!

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MRS.CARLY 6/27/2010 7:38PM

    Do you do squats with a smith machine, barbell or Dumbbells?

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WREN67 6/27/2010 7:03PM

    Thank you for this - it was a huge help to me! I used to be terrified of squats and have only recently (past few months) started doing them again - and only in the last month or so been actually getting low (though I'm guessing not as low as I should be getting). I had to laugh at the knees beyond toes point - I am very worried about this (and will often look!) - I swear, I feel like they are coming close to going past, but must not be - I haven't had any pain.
I will use all of these points to improve my squats - because, goodness know, I want the benefits they offer!!

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GERAPTIKO 6/27/2010 5:34PM

    Thank you for these great tips!

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STYLELADY1 6/27/2010 5:12PM

    Thanks so much for posting these informative blogs - you are a real educator! LOoking forward to reading more.

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MISTYMOVIN 6/27/2010 4:52PM

    Awesome thanks. The guy who taught me squats also had me pointing toes outward and sinking into the heels..but I'm probably not doing it enough after reading this blog. My next squat session I think I'll empty my bar and work on the technique again just to make sure I'm doing it all right.

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ABBEYCHARLIE 6/27/2010 4:51PM

    Awesome post! Jillian Michaels employs a lot of squats in her videos and I am always wondering if I am doing them right! This was a great, very descriptive intro to proper squat technique. Thanks!!

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