Spring Training

By Aliza Beer

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Get Your Body Back Into Healthy Shape

Pesach is behind us, and now is the perfect time to get back into healthy eating and exercising.  The spring and summer months are optimal times of the year to lose extra pounds and increase physical strength.  There are a number of reasons why this time of year is more conducive to weight loss and increased levels of activity.  The weather will warm up, (eventually!) and the days are getting longer.  This, in turn, will lead more people to start walking and biking after work or school.  Warm weather directly affects water consumption.  The more water you drink, the more full you will feel and therefore you will consume a little less food.  The spring and summer seasons also brings with it a plethora of delicious fruits and veggies to snack on.  The beautiful weather and sunshine helps many with their emotional health, as they feel less depressed and are not seeking comfort foods like mac ‘n’ cheese.  Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the colder months and try to eat their way out of the depression.  

 

Whether or not you gained weight over the winter or Pesach, now is the best time to get back into healthy eating habits.   

  • Eat Less Red Meat:   We had more than our fill of lamb and roasts over Pesach.  Red meat is higher in fat and calories than chicken.  Try to keep your red meat consumption to no more than two servings a week and choose lean meats.  Always cut or trim off any visible fats. 
  • Eat More Fiber:  Fiber expands in your stomach and makes you feel full.  It also slows the rise of your blood sugar and helps keep your bowel movements regular.  Every meal should include some kind of fiber, either from vegetables or whole grains.  Some high fiber veggies are Brussels sprouts, artichokes and broccoli. Roast them in the oven with a little olive oil or Pam and season with your favorite seasonings like salt and pepper and throw in some fresh garlic for extra flavor.   
  • Avoid White Flour:  This is one of the fundamental basics for good health. Banish white flour from your life.  White flour converts into sugar quickly and will spike your blood sugar, which in turn spikes your insulin level.   Only eat high fiber, whole grain, or whole wheat breads/crackers/cereals.  Some examples are Fiber One or All Bran cereals, steel cut oatmeal, Ezekiel bread or Dave’s Killer bread, Wasa crackers, or GG Bran Crispbread crackers. 
  • Avoid Sugar:  Sugar is the poison in the American diet.  By eliminating sugar, you will also eliminate most baked goods that contain tremendously unhealthy fats as well.  If you must have a treat like a cookie or biscotti, bake it with applesauce, stevia or agave and use whole wheat flour, oats or almond flour.  Add blueberries or a little bit of dark chocolate shavings.   
  • Fill Up on Fruit:  We will now have a variety of vitamin-packed, high fiber fruits to choose from.  Your snacks should consist mostly of fruits.  Everyone should eat an apple a day.  They are extremely rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber. Berries are also super healthy, being high in antioxidants and fiber, and blueberries and strawberries contain compounds that help widen the arteries. 
  • Drink Water:  Don’t touch soda or juice! They are pure sugar and a complete waste of calories. Everyone should be drinking 8 cups of water a day.  If you don’t love water, then try seltzer or flavored seltzer.  You can flavor your water by buying a special cup with a “cage” in it for frozen fruit. This can be purchased in Bed, Bath, and Beyond or on Amazon.  Put in your favorite frozen fruit like strawberries or mango and fill the bottle with water. The frozen fruit will naturally flavor your water. Helpful hint: drink a full glass of water right before each meal and you will lose weight.  The water acts like an appetite suppressant and you will eat less at each meal.  
  • Portion Control:  Over yom tov we get accustomed to eating larger portions.  It’s OK to cut back now and eat a little less.  Our dinner plate is called a portion plate, and half of the plate should consist of vegetables, a quarter of it the protein, and a quarter of it the whole grain carb.  If you cannot fit all of your food onto one plate, then you are taking too much food.  Diet tip: eat until you are satisfied, not until you feel full.  Once you are no longer hungry, walk away – you are done!  
  • Get Moving:  Exercise will burn off those unwanted calories, strengthen your heart and bones, and release endorphins that will elevate your mood and general feeling of wellbeing.  There is no downside to it.  Not everyone is cut out for boot camps or spinning classes.  Just do something every day, whether it’s walking, biking, or swimming.  Participate is some kind of cardio for at least 30 minutes a day.   

This is the perfect time of the year to change your life by addressing your diet and exercise habits. Starting to eat healthier now will have a lasting impact on your mind and body in the longterm. By transitioning into the warmer weathered seasons, your body is poised to move more, drink more water, and eat healthier. However, in order to succeed, you must start with a plan to take advantage of this time of year. Be persistent and focused.  Some days will be better than others, and that’s OK.  Life is not perfect.   

Implement my suggestions, but don’t view this as a diet, only as a way of life. A gitten zimmer!