NEM Leader Transformation Winner: Jennifer Dillon of Tewksbury, MA!

In September 2016 I gave birth to my 2nd baby. As soon as I got doctor clearance to work out again I hit the ground running thinking I’ve done it before, this will be easy! The pounds flew off the first 2 months and then.. it stopped.
By January the scale still hadn’t moved, I still had 8lbs left to get back to my previous weight and I still wasn’t even coming  close to fitting in any of my pants.
The NEM leader challenge came at the perfect time for me. I had plateaued and my body was not changing so I used the challenge as my excuse to really step it up.
I went from working out 2-3x a week to 6x a week, including leading my local NEM workouts on Sunday’s. I had to find time in my busy days now with 2 children to care for. I had to dig deep to go back to waking up early and working out before work (which most days was the only time I could squeeze in exercise). I used my vision calendar and marked a big check for every day I did something active and leaving a day without a check just wasn’t acceptable to me. I was no longer making excuses for not finding some time in each  day to exercise. I even ran a 5k in the snow in 10 degree temps (with a cold) with other moms from my group!
Halfway through the challenge I had only lost a pound or 2. I was discouraged and thought I was failing. But when I tried on some pants I had been avoiding I realized I could actually start to button them when in January I could barely get them over my hips! I was excited and kept pushing myself.
Had you told me at the beginning of this challenge I was only going to lose 4lbs total I probably would have cried and thought it was a huge failure. But today, and for the first time in my life, I’m actually witnessing first hand the reason everyone says GET OFF THE SCALE!
Finally the pants I could not even get over my hips earlier this year, the pants I envisioned every workout while I was pouring sweat and thought I could not keep going, now fit me perfectly! I really never would have thought a 4lb weight loss could look so drastic. I am never going to make weight centered goals again.
In 12 weeks I lost 2 inches from my waist, lost 3% body fat, but more importantly I shaved 3 minutes off my fastest mile, I can do 8 more push-ups, 5 more pull ups, and hold a plank for 2 minutes longer than I could! This is what I am proud of.
So goodbye scale!
And thank you No Excuse Moms!

Motivation: How I learned to love my body

This is an incredible and inspiring testimony from our newest nutritionist, Lisa Danielson. She is a mom to 4 busy kiddos and at one point in her life she weighed 200 pounds. After tweaking her diet to include more plant-based protein sources, she was able to lose almost 80 pounds. As a lifelong vegetarian, she has a passion for vegetables and loves teaching others how delicious they can be! She appears on FOX 13 The Place with a monthly recipe segment, is the head nutritionist for a major protein supplement company and also helps her personal clients reach their weight loss goals. Her motto is eat good, feel good, look good!
—-
Being in the health and fitness industry, I have heard many times “Oh it must be so easy for you to stay in shape.” Or “You are just a naturally small person.” Yes, that is partially true, I have a small build and bone structure, but there was a time in my life when I was overweight, and not just 20-30 pounds, but 60 pounds overweight.
When I look back at photos during this time in my life, I am smiling in each one. It wasn’t a fake smile, I was truly happy. Did I want to be thinner? Sure. But did it affect my self-esteem? Not really. I had just become a mother to a beautiful and healthy baby boy. He was perfect in every way. I couldn’t believe that my body had created him and he was mine, to love and to take care of. Although this baby boy is now a teenager, I cherish those days of wider waistbands, bigger bras, and a body that didn’t seem quite mine.

Over the last 12 years, I have gained and lost and gained and lost the same 40 pounds with three other pregnancies. My body has changed with each one. I’ve been a size 2 and I’ve been a size 14. But with every passing year, and the new changes that I see (hello, wrinkles!) I have learned the importance of loving my body, at any stage.  Here are some things that I have learned along the way:

  •      How we look at ourselves, and how other people look at us can be very different.  A ‘flaw’ that we might focus on might be unrecognizable to others. Often what we see as insecurities, are most likely the things that others love most about us.
  •      Your self worth has nothing to do with what you look like.  Your best qualities are more than your face or body.  It’s quite possible that you have a sparkling personality, love to serve others, or can make the best homemade chocolate chip cookies ever.
  •      Be proud of your body. I have stretch marks above my hips from pregnancy. The other day I was at the gym and noticed my shirt had come up a little and they were showing. Instinctively I pulled my shirt down not wanting anyone to notice one of my “flaws.” After thinking about it, I thought I shouldn’t be ashamed, my body has gone through hell bringing four kids into the world, and here I am at the gym, despite my insecurities, to make myself better and stronger. For me that is a symbol of love, not something to be ashamed of.
  •      Media images aren’t real! I have been a part of the fitness industry long enough to know what tricks can be used, how lighting can be manipulated and what crazy diets models do to make themselves look good.  For the majority of women to have a six pack, you need to be less than 16% body fat. I did that once, and must admit I had some pretty great abs. Then my hair starting falling out and I no longer had a menstrual cycle. Not a healthy trade off.
  •      Accept compliments.  As women we are programmed to not have the focus be on ourselves. Now if someone compliments us about our children, we will gladly accept that, especially if that child is a teenager or a toddler. But when was the last time someone paid you an honest, genuine compliment and you said “thank you”? I find myself making excuses or deflecting from the attention whenever I receive a compliment. As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate them more and try to respect the fact that someone felt the need to say something nice.
  •      Loving your body doesn’t mean giving up on your goals.  I would say 99% of the female American population would like to change something about their bodies.  Does that mean they shouldn’t love it the way it is? Absolutely not. If you don’t love yourself at 190 pounds, I promise you it will be the same at 120 pounds. The scale might change, but the mind is slower to catch up. Love yourself now, love yourself through the process, and love yourself when you reach that goal.

Be patient with yourself. This can take years to accept and implement. Don’t end up in a perpetual state of body hatred. Write a list of all the things your body has done for you. Chances are it will be longer than you think.  Trust me, there is no such thing as the perfect child, the perfect marriage, or the perfect body. And when I start to get anxious about getting older, I remind myself what a privilege it is to age, experience life, and most of all, love myself.

Lisa Danielson
OFFICIAL NEM Nutritionist
Email: danielson.lisa@gmail.com
YouTube Channel:Lisa Danielson
Website: www.veggielisa.com
Instagram @veggie_lisa
Facebook: Veggie Lisa
Education
BA Dance Education, Brigham Young University
ISSA Fitness Nutrition Specialist
ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
FitTour Group Fitness Certified
High Fitness Instructor
She offers a 10% discount for any plant based protein over at www.idealraw.com using code LISA10 (feel free to include this or not) i can also do a 50 % off my ebook cookbook. I just might need a few days to get that up and running:)

Top 9 Diet Mistakes

Dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry that grows every year — right along with a large majority of the population’s waistlines. Something is wrong with that, wouldn’t you say?
What’s going on? Why do millions of people desperately want to lose weight, but fail?
In most cases, they’re making some of the following diet mistakes. Learn to not make these mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to weight-loss success.
 Mistake #1: Is following any type of extreme diet. This would be your typical low-fat, or low-carb, or extreme low-calorie diet that we hear so much about. Weight loss may be a side effect of a short-term diet, but diets can have detrimental effects on long-term health. Furthermore, many people gain back the weight they originally lost and more. This is why people should learn how to implement healthy strategies for a lifestyle, not just as short-term fix. The healthiest diet of all is one that can be maintained over the long haul and has you eating real food that doesn’t eliminate any of the three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. For weight loss, it is still important to find out what your daily estimated energy requirements are and eat below that amount, but again eliminating any particular food group is not necessary and can actually be detrimental to long-term, and many times even short-term success.
Mistake #2: Taking on too much, too soon. This is the single biggest reason why most people fail in their diets. They become so excited about starting a diet that they give up all their favorite foods on the first day. Then they grow discouraged and give up. To avoid this, try to slowly adapt yourself to new eating habits. After a month, you’ll have changed your diet drastically without experiencing the shock of a complete turnaround.
Mistake #3: Eliminating fats. In fact, you need healthy sources of fat to maintain essential body functions, sustain energy levels, slow digestion and feel fuller longer. For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But that actually proved to be a big fat lie (pun intended). It’s more than just the amount of fat; it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the waistline wars. Bad fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. Including healthy fats in your diet is good for you and can actually help you lose weight. Healthy fats include: vegetable and nut oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, fish and tofu.
Mistake #4: Eliminating carbohydrates. Carb-free diets are popular because of the dramatic weight loss that can occur. But this is typically due to several reasons. First, most of the weight lost is from water, not fat. Second, when you’re on a carb-free diet, most processed foods are eliminated — and these are the foods that tend to add the most calories. Once you return to your old eating habits, the water weight returns, as do those high-calorie processed foods that lead you to gain weight. Complex, high-fiber carbohydrates like brown rice, beans and lentils should be part of any diet regimen.
Mistake #5: Reducing calories too much. This often leads to yo-yo dieting. When you follow an extreme diet, you’ll lose a lot of weight at first — but then your body will catch on and lower your metabolism to accommodate the reduced supply of fuel. Then, when you return to your normal diet — wham! You regain that weight because you’re now consuming more calories.
Skimping on calories ultimately decreases metabolic rate as the body tries to conserve energy. This is why low-calorie eaters may feel lethargic. Furthermore, as metabolism slows, the body subsequently burns fewer calories, leading to a greater susceptibility for weight gain when more calories are inevitably consumed. To keep energy levels high and metabolism revved up, it’s important for people to meet their daily calorie needs. And since the body uses energy-yielding carbohydrates, protein, and fat in very specific ways, consuming each in proportion to the other is essential to ensure sufficient energy to complete daily tasks, feel good, and to maintain an optimal state of health.
Mistake #6: Eating too much healthy food or choosing incorrect portion sizes. Eating too much of anything leads to weight gain. No matter how healthy the food is, a calorie is still a calorie. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns, no matter the source. Also, many people aren’t aware of what an appropriate portion size really is. They eat much larger portions than they need to, which inevitably leads to weight gain.
Mistake #7: Skipping exercise. Many people are trying to lose weight — but only 15 percent exercise regularly. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here. You may not enjoy exercise very much — but if you want to lose weight, you simply have no choice.
Mistake #8: Consuming too much alcohol. Many people believe that alcohol doesn’t contain a lot of calories. This is especially the case with red wine. In fact, alcohol is loaded with empty calories (for example, five fluid ounces of red wine contains 125 calories). Limit your intake and include the calories in any alcohol you consume as part of your daily calorie count. Sorry — there are no freebies!
Mistake #9: The “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Don’t assume that what worked for Jim or Jane will work for you. Dave may be able to eat dessert after every meal without gaining a pound, while Mark gains three pounds just looking at a piece of cake. Melissa may be able to fast all afternoon with no cravings, while Judy craves sugar on the three-hour mark after her last meal. When it comes to our unique bodies, metabolism and genetics, we aren’t all created equal. What works for someone else may not work for you. Also know that people often post their successes MUCH more than they post their struggles. Just because the struggles and ups and downs aren’t posted about as much, doesn’t mean that every single person doesn’t face them. So understand there might be some trial in error and figuring out what works for you with your weight loss journey, and that is okay!
Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has recently published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FeliciaNewellNutrition
Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition

12 Best Healthy Snacks to Prevent Being ‘Hangry’

12 Healthy Snacks (4)
Note: This post is brought to you by Official No Excuse Mom Nutritionist-Dietitian Felicia Newell, and is also posted on her website.
Do we all know the dreaded feeling of being ‘hangry’? I think we do, but just in case…
Urban Dictionary definition (because that counts right?): “When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both. An amalgum of hungry and angry invented to describe that feeling when you get when you are out at a restaurant and have been waiting over an hour to get the meal that you have ordered”.
My definition of being hangry:
That point where you’ve been so busy, you keep telling yourself…“I’ll get something to eat after I finish this task…”
(one hour later) “I’ll eat after I complete this other task…”
(two hours later) “I don’t care, don’t talk to me, I’m freaking starving.” (or some variation)
Co-worker/Friend/Anyone: “I have a box of donuts, would you like to have 1…or 6?” (again, or some variation)
You: “For the love of god, give me the whole box.”
Anyway, you get the point, right? We’ve all been there. Lost track of time, didn’t get a chance to eat, and now we are at the point where it doesn’t matter if it’s a bag of Doritos or a baby donkey (kidding of course…just a metaphor) put in front of us, either way we’re going to eat it.
Well here are some of the best nutrient-packed healthy snack foods, to either grab on the go or pack for lunch, to avoid the case of those ‘hangries’.
1. Hard-boiled Eggs
I know this ones not overly exciting (it gets better, I promise), but one egg contains a measly 78 calories and six grams of protein (more protein = more full). They’re also packed with Vitamin B, which helps break down that fat for instant energy. Have some nice crunchy veggies along with it, and boom. As long as you keep hard-boiled eggs stored inside the shell, they’ll last in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, mash it up, and add some sliced pickles, olives, and feta cheese, and your taste buds certainly won’t be bored.

Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Protein Bars | Eggs | Weight Loss
2. Homemade Protein/Energy Bar

I think protein bars are great because they are an excellent on-the-go snack, that can really help tie you over until your next meal or snack, especially if they have a decent amount of protein (10g or more), and fibre (3g or more, but ideally 5-10g). I say homemade, because you can control what goes in them. Check out my blog post here, which contains some homemade protein bar/ball recipes, and you’ll find 10 more protein bar recipes here in this blog. If you do opt for a pre-packaged protein bar, aim for one that is around 200 calories, less than 5% DV saturated fats, and with the above protein and fibre recommendations. A great example is Genuine Health’s Fermented Protein Bars.
3. Frozen Yogurt Pops with Nuts and Berries

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Frozen Yogurt Pop | Weight Loss
To cool yourself during those summer afternoons you may be tempted to grab sugar-filled ice-cream and popsicles. Which is okay sometimes of course, but to help with overdoing it, try this tasty frozen treat as a lower sugar, nutrient-packed option. Chop up berries and nuts of choice (strawberries and almonds and/or walnuts are great choices), and mix in a bowl with your favourite  yogurt and some lemon or lime juice (optional). Pour the mixture in a popsicle molds and freeze for four hours. Delish! Alternatively, you can pour the mixture in a glass dish, freeze, and then break into pieces of ‘bark’, and store in a container in the freezer.
4. Smoked Wild Salmon with Crackers or Cucumber (lower calorie/carb option) and Goat Cheese

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Smoked Salmon | Weight Loss
I mean yum, who doesn’t love the whole smoked salmon and goat cheese combo? Okay sure, some people might not like fish, or cheese, but who are these people and how do they exist? (Again, kidding! If you use crackers, aim for 3g of fibre for more and stick to one serving, and a small amount of salmon and goat cheese on each. For a lower carb/calorie option (because I’m all for reducing carbs and calories sometimes, because we do tend overdo it on those guys at times, let’s be honest), use cucumber instead of crackers. Still delish, and great for entertaining as well!
5. Watermelon with Feta, Dill and Hemp Seeds

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Watermelon | Weight Loss
Watermelon on its own contains 86 calories and less than 1 gram of fat making it an excellent fruit to those working on losing some weight. Cut the fruit into cubes and place it in a bowl with some crumbled feta cheese (a little goes a long way for flava). Add a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds for added protein, fibre, and Omega 3s and other nutrients (if you haven’t tried hemp seeds before, you seriously should), sprinkle with some chopped dill and/or red onion (optional) and enjoy!
6. Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters
Nuts and seeds (unsalted), and nut butters such as no sugar-added almond butter, or low sugar peanut butter. They’re great to eat because they’re rich in healthy fats, protein, and fibre. They also contain nutrients and hard-to-get minerals like magnesium, which can help regulate sleep, digestive issues, and stress (magnesium is all the rage lately, and for good reason). Keep in mind that portion control is key with this type of food; ¼ cup nuts per serving, or one to two teaspoons of nut butter at a time. Have an apple or another type of fruit with your nuts, and you’re good to go!
7. Oatmeal with Fruit and Seeds
Oatmeal is specially served as a breakfast meal but having a smaller portion (e.g., ½ cup), and using toppings such as: chopped fruit, dates, honey, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, chia/hemp/flax seeds, etc. (the list really can go on), you can prepare a fibre and protein rich snack. Oatmeal has fibre, which has been shown to cholesterol levels and to help manage blood sugars.
8. Roasted Chickpeas
Another delicious low-calorie, high-fibre snack. It is the ‘International Year of the Pulses’, and chickpeas are a member of the pulse family! Pulses are a cost-effective, sustainable protein source that are rich in fibre, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins. Drain and pat dry a can of chickpeas, mix in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper (or any seasonings of choice). Pour the coated chickpeas onto a baking tray, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and crunchy. Alternatively, there are some delicious, pre-packaged roasted chickpeas on the market, such as The Good Bean Chickpeas.

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Roasted Chickpeas | Weight Loss9. Chicken (or Chickpea for vegetarians), and Greek Yogurt Spread on Crackers or Cucumber
This is a simple one. Chicken, or chickpeas are a great source of protein, and chickpeas even have added fibre. Greek yogurt is also a good protein source. In a bowl add 1 small cup of leftover cooked chicken or chickpeas and 3 tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt (optional: add pepper and lemon juice to taste). Mix the ingredients together and spread it on crackers or sliced cucumber.
10. Sweet Potato Protein Cookies

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Sweet Potato Protein Cookies | Weight Loss
Got a hankering for a cookie? Give these bad-boys a try (not sure why they would be considered ‘bad-boys’, it just felt right, and it’s midnight and I might be a little loopy at this point). Filled with good-for-you ingredients, pack these cookies for the perfect on-the-go alternative to candy bars or other less healthy baked goods (aka donuts). Recipe here.
11. Sweet Potato Chips

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Sweet Potato Chips | Weight Loss
Can’t live without chips? Don’t lie to me you, I know all you chip-lovers out there would never give up your chips! And you shouldn’t have to, let’s be real. There are no ‘bad’ foods, just overall ‘bad’ diets. Do your best to eat healthy 80% of the time, and include some less healthy foods in there as well (that’s where that whole moderation thing that we dietitian’s like to talk about). Getting off track a little, but ‘anywho’, these sweet potato chips aren’t exactly healthy, but making them yourself means you know exactly what goes into them. Plus, they taste better than the bagged kind, trust me. Recipe here. Have a couple unsalted nuts, and/or one serving of fruit with these, so you’re less likely to eat 3 servings of chips.
12. Healthier 4 U Popcorn
Approximately 87% of the population enjoys popcorn (disclaimer: completely made-up statistic). Instead of drenching popcorn in butter, flavour it with a creative mix of herbs and spices. Think of homemade popcorn as a canvas for pretty much whatever flavour combination you’re craving. Check out the awesome infographic below for proof. Learn more here.

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Weight Loss | Healthy Eating | Best Healthy Snacks | Popcorn
Do you struggle with knowing exactly what foods will help you reach your goals? Download the exact grocery list that I provide for my clients to help them reach their goals, for free here!
Want answers to your food, nutrition and wellness questions? Join Sustain Nutrition’s free online Facebook wellness community! Link to access the group is here.
For more information on the healthy weight management and nutrition services Sustain Nutrition offers, visit here.

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's Weight Loss | Healthy Eating | Best Healthy Snacks

Healthy Weight Management | Nutrition Counselling | Sustain Nutrition | Nutritionist | Dietitian | Weight loss | Best Healthy Snacks

 
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist. She has a Bachelor of Science in Applien Human Nutrition, and is currently working on completing a Master of Science. Felicia is a Dietitian (candidate) and a mom of 4 boys under 6. She wears many hats, and knows what it is like to live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren’t always supportive of making healthy choices. Felicia has over 10 years of education and experience in Nutrition, and is passionate about helping others.
For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; she has recently started her own nutrition counselling business titled ‘Sustain Nutrition’; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’. You can view it here.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page,  visit here website here, and follow her on Instagram: @sustain.nutritionClick here for more NEM experts.
 

Rediscover Your “Why”

A friend of mine posted on her facebook page a “Throwback Thursday” post, asking people to post a picture of when they felt like they looked their ‘best’. As I scrolled back through my old photos, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I actually ended up posting two pictures. One from 2010 when I was at my absolute fittest. I stood on stage in the bikini portion of a NPC bodybuilding contest. Even though I looked the best I have in my entire life, I wasn’t healthy. I extreme dieted and was in the gym 6 days a week for 2 hour sessions. There was no balance in my life.
lori-2010
So I had to choose a second picture. My actual healthiest and happiest was in 2013, after starting No Excuse Mom with Maria, making fitness a priority, balancing my life and making time for both eating healthy and exercising on a consistent basis.
lori-2013
As I looked at these pictures, I saw this girl that looked so familiar… at first I honestly thought, “Well, I have lost her. She’s gone. This person no longer exists.” But after a few minutes, I recognized that this wasn’t the truth. Even though life is completely different than it was in either of those two pictures, much of that girl still remains.
Then, something that a friend said to me made a lot of sense: I have lost my ‘why’.
The biggest thing that both of those old pictures had in common is that at those times in my life, I had a very deep conviction for WHY I wanted to be fit. Seeing the pictures brought those important pieces of the puzzle back to the forefront of my mind.
First and foremost, I began my fitness journey because both my mothers and my fathers side of the family have a lot of health issues. Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer… Name any of the major health problems and it is probably in my family. I had a great desire to be healthy because if I am not, I don’t have a lot to look forward to as I age.
Once my daughter was born and when No Excuse Mom began, she became a huge motivator for being healthy. I wanted more than anything to be a good role model for her.  I want her to have a chance not to struggle with her weight like I always have.
Those two things are still huge motivators for me. They never went away; I just forgot how important they were in the midst of my own life circumstances. Here is me now. Heavier. Less fit. Less healthy. But now I know my purpose for getting fitter and healthier again.
lori-2016
So, what is your “why”? If you have gotten off track, take some time to reflect and think about the biggest things that motivate you on your journey. It has to be something deeper than “I want to look good” or “I want to fit into my skinny jeans”. Your “why” has got to be something that can push you to do your workout even when you’re tired and have low motivation. It has to be something that will give you that extra push to do food prep every week so you don’t run through the drive-thru when you’re hungry and unprepared.
If you have never thought about what your “why” might be, I highly encourage you to take a few minutes and write out your own mission statement. This is what mine looks like:
“It is my goal to be fit and healthy so that I can be a good role model for my daughter and overcome the unhealthy lifestyle that is prevalent in my family.”
The best way to start figuring out your “why” is just to brainstorm all of the reasons you are even exercising already. Some of them are deep and some of them are a bit more shallow. For example, I would love to be the “hot ex”, but that is far from a deep purpose for me. It is, however a good motivator for those days when you don’t feel like pushing it at the gym!
All of our fitness stories look a bit different and so should our “Why”. So, tell me, what is your “Why”?

No More Excuses Challenge Spring 2016 winner is…..

Congrats to Chelsey Hudson-Meyer for winning the No More Excuses Challenge! We had many great entries this quarter and it was really a difficult choice. Thank you to our panel for making this hard decision, with summer around the corner, everyone who completed the challenge is a winner in our book!
Our challenge included a NEM tank, online consultation with Maria Kang, an exercise guide and recommended meal plan. For winning, Chesley will receive $1,000 worth of prizes including;
– $500 Gift Certificate (place TBD)
– $100 Gift Card to Affitnity workout clothing
– Executive Six Pack Laptop Bag ($200 value, it’s so cool, click here)
– X Bands Exercise Kit, includes suspension straps, resistance bands ($50 value)
– Quest Nutrition Bars, Shaker Cup and Protein ($50 value)
– Official NEM Apparel: Sweater, Hat, Visor, Tank ($100 value)
In 12 week she lost 24lbs and went from 220lbs to 196lbs. “That is exactly what it was. A challenge.  I thought it might have been easier than it was, but I proved myself wrong.   It was a lot of hard work and a ton of discipline.”
cheslea
Chelsea’s workout calendar.
Her story:
Let us start with my body.  My arms, legs, tummy and face all seem thinner, but that’s not the best part… I am STRONGER.  I can do things I couldn’t before.  I can LIFT, I can JOG, I can PLAY.  My fitness level has jumped from a couch potato to a mommy that plays with her kids and can run around with them without being out of breath.  I did this for them.  I am a better mom now because of this.  My daughter told me “Mom, I am proud of you.”  From my 6 year old daughter who works out with me, that meant the world to me!!
Next, my confidence…. CLOTHES FIT ME.  They don’t just sit there and make me uncomfortable.  I don’t have to pull my shirt away from my body every time I sit down…  I feel GREAT in my clothes!  Feeling confident in how I look shouldn’t matter a lot, but it does, it really does.  When I look great, I feel great and when I feel great I look great.  It goes hand in hand!
Next, and maybe most important of all, my health has improved.  I FEEL great, inside and out.  If I am not fit and healthy or if I don’t take care of myself, who will?  I did this for my family, but in the end it turned out to be my greatest physical accomplishment yet.  I am fit, I am strong, I am healthy again.  I have waited my whole adult life to feel this way again.  I am proud of me.
I am a NO EXCUSE MOM and I DID IT!!!
chelsea1
chelsea hudson chelsea hudson back

6 Tips for Self-Motivation

One of the very first (and most difficult) steps to making a lifestyle change is finding the motivation. Without it, we may know the ‘right’ things to do, but not quite be able to put that into practice.
You, like many others, might struggle with self-motivation from time to time. This means you may have a hard time getting yourself to your regularly scheduled workout, or will try and find more and more reasons to stray away from your healthy changes.
But guess what? You won’t be alone! We all struggle with motivation sometimes, but here are some tips that can help you self-motivate and reach your goals.

A healthy dose of motivation coupled with determination will get you almost anything in life (again sometimes it just takes time and effort to find it). So how do you know if you’re genuinely motivated?

  • Motivation will tell you to get to your workout no matter what.
  • Motivation will nag you to put down the doughnut.
  • Motivation makes passing on fries a reflex.
  • Motivation makes a sweat drenched workout exciting.
  • Motivation constantly reminds you why you do what you do.

The key to staying motivated is similar to fuel in a car—you don’t need the motivation tank to be full to drive, you just need to prevent it from running empty. Do not waste precious time and energy on staying highly motivated because motivation has a natural rhythm. Most people see a drop in motivation as a signal of failure, but it’s not. Weight loss and lifestyle changes are not a linear process; it is an up and down roller coaster ride – as with success in anything in life.
Self-Motivating Tip #1: Find Your Motivator.
Motivation stems from having a goal. What is your goal? Why do you want to get into great shape and/or make a lifestyle change?
Once you uncover your personal motivator you’ll find that motivation flows quickly your way.
Take a minute to really uncover the reason that you want to lose the weight. Don’t say something vague like you want to ‘Be thinner’ or ‘Look more attractive.’ Dig deeper – there is a very specific motivator in your life, you simply need to uncover it.
Here are some possible motivators…

  • I want to have more energy to keep up with the kids.
  • I want to improve my health through weight loss to extend and improve my life.
  • I want to lose 15 pounds before my vacation.
  • I want to restore my confidence to wear sleeveless shirts.
  • I want to regain my figure to impress and attract my significant other.

It’s great that you have the family wedding to motivate you in the meantime, but try and find some other motivators so that when the wedding has come and gone, you will still have that drive and determination.
Keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place, and that continuing to push forward in any way will get you further 3 months, 1 year, 5 years from now. Many people find asking the following questions help:

  • If I stop making changes, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?
  • If I stop making changes, what will my health be like?
  • If I stop making changes, how will my family and friends be affected?

Self-Motivating Tip #2: Make It Official.
When you write something down it tends to feel more official. Write down your motivator for getting into great shape, and post it where you will see it often—next to your alarm clock, on the bathroom mirror, or in your car.
Each time you see your written motivator take a moment to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Try to make the scene as clear in your mind as possible. This is a powerful tool for maintaining your focus and direction.
Even posting on Facebook your plans and goals can be a huge motivator – the more you tell people about your goals, the more drive you will have to achieve them.
Self-Motivating Tip #3: Be Practical.
It’s game plan time. You know what you want, and now you need to map out exactly how you’ll achieve it. It is important to be practical in your planning, rather than throwing out ideas that you know you won’t stick with. The secret to success is to break down your healthy living goals into mini goals that are easy to manage. Start with one small, clear goal that is right for you. This is often referred to as developing ‘SMART’ goals. SMART stands for goals that are: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-framed. Setting “SMART” goals can also help you achieve bigger goals you may want to set for yourself over time. For more info on SMART goals, visit here.
With any weight loss goal it is important to 1) maintain a healthy diet, and 2) participate in a consistent and challenging exercise program.
Plan a routine that will fit into your schedule and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It is important to sit down and find the best days and times to fit it in. Then write it in a schedule and treat it like a an important commitment!
Self-Motivating Tip #4: Call For Backup.
Enlist the support of your friends, family and co-workers if you can. Tell everyone about your goal to lose weight and get fit, you’ll be surprised how supportive most people will be. By being open about your goals you’ll likely be an encouragement to others to make healthy changes in their own lives. And if they don’t that’s okay! But finding at least one person and supporter could help significantly. Even an online community such as a local free ‘No Excuse Mom’ group, or the larger ‘No Excuse Moms’ Facebook support group could help you stay motivated.
Self-Motivating Tip #5: Be Easy on Yourself.
If you notice that your motivation is waning, give yourself a break from your diet or exercise plan for one to three days. The problem with motivation is that the more people try to ‘catch’ it, the more elusive it becomes; by allowing it to run its natural course and at the same time having a set of habit-changing skills (such as a meal plan for the week), you’ll stay on track and your motivation levels will run their natural course.
Self-Motivating Tip #6: Practice Integrity in Other Areas of Your Life.
For example, clean out your closet (finally), pay off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, or co-workers. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you’ve made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise of losing weight that you’ve made to yourself.
If you need help with developing SMART goals, finding your motivation, or someone to provide you with the knowledge and support to help you with your journey, I now offer 25% off my services for NEM members (use the promo code NEM25). Click here to see an overview of the services I offer. All counseling programs include a customized meal guide (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks), calculation of Total Estimated Energy Expenditure (daily caloric requirements to reach your goals), continuous one-on-one counseling and support, recipes, progress assessments and plan adjustments (if necessary), and more.
– Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
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Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Make Your Own Protein/Energy Bars!

Protein bars used to be more aimed for hikers who are on the go for long periods of time, or extreme athletes on the go. Now they are becoming more mainstream and used as snacks, and that’s okay, it’s just important to choose the right ones, and use them in the right way depending on your goals.
The protein and fibre in these bars, can help keep you full and satisfied if you need something quick to tie you over until your next meal. You can eat them on the go to help prevent you from getting too hangry…we all know how we can make bad decisions when we’re hangry. These types of bars are also going to manage your blood sugars and energy levels much better than a sugary chocolate bar alone, where you get a spike and energy, and then a crash, whereas the protein and fibre in the energy bars will help delay digestion and help manage blood sugar and energy levels).
If you’re choosing a store bought protein bar it should ideally be: high in protein (10g or more), high in fibre (3g or more), low in calories (150-250 cals, depending on your goals and if you’re male or female), low in saturated fat (1.5g or less), low in sugar (around 10g or less), and low in total net carb (ideally 15-30g, again depending on your goals and if you’re male or female). If you get more vitamins and minerals in there such as calcium or iron, then that’s even more nutritional bang for your buck! You also want to consider your ingredients list for things like where your protein is coming from and the types of ingredients in the bar.
Now for the recipes! The best thing? None of them have to be baked, and all can be kept in the freezer!
Chocolate Espresso Protein Balls
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Ingredients:
‌• 1 cup oats (gluten free, if needed)
‌• 2 Tbsp Chocolate Vega One Nutritional Shake
‌• ¼ cup chocolate chips
‌• 10 chopped dark chocolate covered espresso beans, OR, two tsp espresso coffee powder
‌• ½ cup almond butter
‌• ½ cup flaxseed meal
‌• 1 Tbsp chia seeds
‌• ⅓ cup maple syrup
‌• 1 tsp vanilla extract
‌• 1 pinch of salt
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together (By hand or stand mixer) in a bowl and then refrigerate for 20-45 minutes to set (optional).
Remove and make into balls, with a small scooper or your hands.
Note: You can also roll these into toasted coconut flakes or raw cacao powder, and you can also press these into a pan, chill, and then cut into bars.
Place in an airtight container to refrigerate. Will last 5-7 days but most likely they will be long gone before that!
Recipe courtesy of: Vega
Lemon Coconut Energy Balls
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Ingredients:
‌• 8 pitted Medjool dates
‌• ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
‌• Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
‌• ½ tsp vanilla extract
‌• ½ cup coconut flour
‌• 1 serving Vanilla Vega Protein & Greens, OR, Vanilla Vega One Nutritional Shake
‌• Pinch of salt
‌• 1-2 Tbsp almond milk, if needed
‌• Unsweetened shredded coconut (I used toasted coconut), for rolling
Directions:
Place dates, applesauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large food processor. Process until dates look nearly pureed and mixture is very-well combined.
Add coconut flour, protein powder, and salt. Process until mixture forms a smooth ball of “dough.” (If mixture looks too dry, add almond milk.)
Roll into 12 balls (or more).
Place about ½ cup coconut in a small bowl and roll balls in coconut, if desired. I rolled the balls in almond milk first to make coconut stick better. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, or freezer. You can also press these into a pan, chill, and then cut into bars.
Recipe Courtesy of: Vega
Raw Hemp Chia Seed Bars
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Ingredients:
‌• 3 1/2 cups oats (gluten-free, if needed)
• 1/2 cup Hemp Hearts
• 1/2 cup chia seeds
• 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
• 3/4 cups almonds (ground in tiny pieces), or almond meal
• 1/2 cup agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 3/4 cups almond or peanut butter
• 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted/liquid)
• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together (oats, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seed meal, ground almonds or almond meal).
In a medium sized bowl, mix all wet ingredients together (honey or other liquid sweetener, applesauce, almond butter, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract).
Take the wet ingredient mixture and combine in the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until well combined, using your hands if needed.
Put the mixture in an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and press the mixture firmly. Put in the refrigerator or freezer to chill or until the mixture is firm.bCut into even size bars or smaller sized squares.
Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve because they will get soft if left out at room temperature.
IMG_1575
Recipe courtesy of: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts
Enjoy!
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. She is also a Registered Dietitian (candidate). For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Make Your Own Smoothies!

Let me first tell you…you may or may not know this…but you do not need smoothies, shakes, protein drinks, meal replacement smoothies – whatever you want to call them – to lose weight, or gain muscle, etc. Okay…now that’s out of the way…but let me explain why.
All of the nutrients (and more) found in smoothies, can be also included in regular snacks and meals. In other words, a smoothie is no better than a bowl of Greek yogurt, berries, and mixed nuts and seeds; or a piece of baked chicken, ½ cup of quinoa, and half plate of veggies, etc., etc. However, smoothies are a great way to get in nutrients if you are busy, on the go, and need something quick and convenient, or if you simply enjoy having one!
What I do recommend as a healthy diet for the general population, and one that supports weight loss, is one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains or other complex carbohydrates, dairy products or dairy alternatives, seafood, lean proteins, legumes and nuts while reducing red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary foods and beverages. While also – and these are just some examples – moving more, reducing the amount of calories you eat/eating at a caloric deficit (for weight loss; which means you figure out your Total Daily Energy Requirement (TDEE) – from a professional, or a reputable online site – and eat about 5-600 less than that per day), gaining help and support from a professional if necessary (or even a supportive friend or group), getting adequate sleep, trying to manage stress, working on becoming more organized, and reducing the negativity in your life (weight loss has a psychological component as well, and when we feel better in other aspects of life, we can be more successful in reaching our goals).
Another thing I want you to know, is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on shakes per month if you would like to use smoothies/protein shakes. They can be made with as many or little ingredients as you have access to, and still pack an extreme nutrient punch and keep you full until your next meal.
Here is a list of smoothie ingredients to chose from. All you need is at least one from each category (ideally), and you will have a great smoothie!
 
Protein:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Plain, chocolate or vanilla unsweetened milk (cows, goats, almond, soy, cashew, or rice, depending on preference)
  • Plain kefir (high in probiotics)
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Tofu
  • Protein powder (whether you go for the most nutritious out there, or a more cost effective one – do what works for you and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it!)
  • Almonds, or any other type of nuts (small amount)

Fruits: (can be fresh or frozen, if fresh it is best to use some ice)

  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Peach
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Melon
  • Cherries
  • Apricot
  • Pomegranate seeds

Vegetables: (I find these are the best to use)

  • Carrot
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber

Flavour and Added Nutrition:

  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seed
  • Hemp hearts
  • Old-fashioned oats (will add complex carbs and fibre to keep you full longer)
  • Spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut water
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Mint leaves
  • If you must have added sweetness, use a small amount (1 tsp or less) of your choice of sweetener or sugar (however, the fruit, vanilla beverages and extract, and cinnamon will usually add enough): stevia, Splenda, sugar, cane sugar honey, pure maple syrup
  • Completely optional and not necessary if you’re adding your own nutrients, but some other options for added flavor and nutrients are:

Note: blend ingredients in a blender or magic bullet (easiest for cleanup).
 
Tips on Purchasing Smoothie Ingredients:
Any time you make healthy swaps in your pantry, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. You may not be used to buying all of these ingredients, and you may not the means or access to get everything right away. Here are some general tips for stocking up the pantry in general, and for smoothies:

  • Purchase 1-2 new ingredients at a time.
  • Check local flyers for sales. More and more grocery stores are having sales on healthier items such as chia, flax and hemp seeds. There are also apps such as ‘Flipp’ that check local flyers for you when you search for a specific ingredient.
  • The larger you can buy of the item the better (if possible), it will last you longer and give you more time to add other staples to the pantry. However, certain items will also have sample sizes you can buy or find (e.g., Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts small package for $2.99, and Vega One Single Protein Packages for $3.99),
  • Frozen is better for smoothies than fresh in my opinion, as they keep for a long time in your freezer, and won’t go bad in your fridge within the week.
  • Even a smoothie with 5-6 ingredients from the list above (1-2 from each category), will be delicious and nutritious.

For more tips on eating healthy on a budget, see my previous post.
 
Protein Powder Examples:
Vega One (My personal favourite, as it is high in fibre, protein, and many other nutrients; made from all natural, nutritious foods; vegan; gluten-free; 6 servings of greens; also includes probiotics and digestive enzymes)
Kaizen Naturals
Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal
LeanFit Complete Green or Whey Isolate Protein (available in some grocery stores or at Costco)
 
Tips When Choosing a Cost-Effective Protein Powder: 
Look for:

  • Low sugar (ideally 3g or less; make sure it is not top 3 in the ingredient list)
  • Low saturated fat (ideally 1.5g or less)
  • High protein (ideally 15-30g, depending on goals)
  • High fibre (ideally 3-5g)
  • Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, etc., are an added bonus).
  • Whey Protein Isolate is better than ‘Whey’ only
  • For Vegans: hemp and soy protein powders are great because they contain complete proteins, however, other options such as brown rice protein and pea protein are still great, as long as you are getting other protein sources throughout the day.

 
Smoothie Recipes:
Kale and Berry Power Smoothie
IMG_8067

  • 1/3 cup of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries
  • 1/2 cup of spinach or kale leaves (remove the hard parts of the kale stalks)
  • 1/3 of a cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition and digestive benefits)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of hemp powder or seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

 
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
IMG_8072

  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition benefits)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/2 to 1 scoop protein, or 1-2 tbsp hemp, chia, or flax seeds, or 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 I hope this helps some of you with making your own smoothies, and not feeling like you have to buy expensive smoothies or products to work towards a healthier lifestyle! 
 
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.
 

Why We Are Not Failures, And The Truth About Fad Diets

This post will discuss why changing our habits is not supposed to be easy, why we are not failures if we struggle to make changes, how to choose the right weight loss program, and how someone can lose weight in this day and age. 
A Brief Introduction – We are not failures…and why it’s not supposed to be easy.
There is a juxtaposition between the commonly held believe that weight loss is easy, and the extremely real, solid evidence that it is not. This leads many individuals to believe that weight is a reflection of personal weakness and failed character, and that success is predetermined by your ability to suffer and endure hardship (that is often required with fad/restrictive diets). Not only do these fad, and sometimes extremely restrictive diets not work, but these diets themselves may break people. Many people feel that if they cannot adhere to these restrictive diets long term, that they are failures and just can’t resist temptation. Could it simply be that in just 50 short years the world has gone from a willful place to one filled with weakness?
Here you are: you may have battled your weight possibly even since childhood, you’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on various dieting efforts, and you’re blaming your own lack of willpower? As I see it as evidenced by your ongoing commitment over the years, you have incredible amounts of willpower. I’d go so far as to wager that in all likelihood, you have spent more willpower on weight management than on any other area in your life.
So is it a lack of willpower that has led to the tripling of childhood obesity rates over the course of the past 40 years? Have we suddenly raised a generation of toddlers and elementary school kids who just don’t have the same willpower of prior generations?
Of course not.
It’s not about willpower. If it were about willpower, if it were about just wanting it badly enough, the world would be skinny. It’s about change and it’s about beliefs.
In terms of change, the world is very, very different from what it was just 50 short years ago, and there are many, many things that have an impact upon a person’s choices and weight. These days, cheap calories are everywhere and everyone’s telling us to eat them. Where we used to go to buy gas, there are now junk-food supermarkets. Where eating out used to be a rare treat, it’s now affordable and convenient enough to be a multiple-time-a-week occurrence. And, of course, there are supersized portions and tens of billions of dollars a year of food industry advertising to now contend with, coupled with the fact that high fat/sugar/salt foods light up the pleasure centres in our brains and become addictive, on top of the fact that cost of living has increased dramatically and wage rates have not increased to match inflation (leaving people less and less money to live) – and the list goes on!
It’s a different world now, and the default in this world is weight gain, and simple, brute-force willpower doesn’t stand a chance (for most individuals anyway), without the right knowledge, support, and a few ups and downs along the way.
Why Extreme Fad Diets Do Not Work
A fad diet is a weight loss plan or aid that promises dramatic results. These diets typically don’t result in long-term weight loss and they are usually not very healthy. In fact, some of these diets can actually be dangerous to your health. Examples of these include the ‘Military Diet’, the ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, extremely low calorie diets, etc.
Weight Cycling and Metabolic Slowdown
The more restrictively a person diets, the more likely they are to experience regular weight cycling. It’s like the infamous ‘yo-yo’ effect, but unlike a yo-yo, sometimes the upswing winds up at a higher location than where it started.
The biggest danger to aggressive weight cycling is metabolic slowdown. If a person undertakes an extremely restrictive diet, they are likely to lose a disproportionate amount of muscle – meaning that losing 50 pounds in a very short period of time will cause a greater loss of muscle tissue than losing the same amount of pounds slowly. Muscle is responsible for a fair amount of our total daily caloric burn, and is also of course responsible for much of our feelings of vigor and energy. Consequently, an ultra-rapid 50-pound loss may lead a person to not only lose the actual strength to continue with their efforts, but also suffer from a disproportionate loss of muscle and perhaps an amplified near-starvation adapted metabolic response.
This phenomenon may help to explain why it Is that people who lose large amounts of weight rapidly often regain more than they’d lost despite in fact not eating more than they used to. If that person goes back to the life they were living before their ultra-rapid weight loss (which many do at some point in their lifetime), even though they are not eating any more than they did prior to losing weight, they’ll gain it back more than they lost because their body now burns fewer calories than it used to. Also, the weight they gain back will primarily be fat, which is often why body fat percentages often climb higher following a weight cycle. Click here, here, here or here, for examples of research articles that explain some of the many mechanisms behind weight cycling and metabolic slowdown.
So, how do you choose the right weight loss program, you might ask?
Look for “Red Flags”
The weight loss industry is not regulated, and typically uses appealing marketing ploys, and/or anecdotal stories to make you believe that it is the be all end all weight loss solution. It is up to you to choose a safe and trustworthy weight loss program (not to say you aren’t allowed to get sucked into the wrong program once or twice – we’re all human!).
Here are some “red flags” that may tell you that a program does not meet your health needs:

  • Promises fast weight-loss (more than one kilogram (two pounds) per week).
  • Recommends a very low calorie diet plan (below 800 calories) per day) without medical supervision.
  • Does not encourage long term realistic lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a healthy diet that suits your lifestyle and overall health. E.g., diets that recommend excluding large groups of food or extreme calorie restriction such as the ‘Military Diet’, ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, etc.
  • Tries to make you dependent on their company by selling you products such as foods or supplements rather than teaching you how to make good choices from regular grocery store food.
  • Does not encourage long term realistic lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a healthy diet that suits your lifestyle and overall health. E.g., diets that recommend excluding large groups of food or extreme calorie restriction such as the ‘Military Diet’, ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, etc.
  • Employs salespeople who act as “counselors”, but are only trained on the program and the company’s products and not on healthy approaches to help you change your behaviour to help you lose weight.
  • Requires you to sign a long term, expensive contract.
  • Pressures you to sign up right away by offering a “special price”.
  • Does not tell you about risks that may go along with weight loss or their specific program (for example: if you have diabetes and take prescription medication, it may affect you differently after you lose weight).
  • Promotes weight loss aids like starch blockers, fat-burners, herbs, supplements or amino acids that have not been scientifically proven to have any health benefits. Talk to a dietitian or other health professional to find out this information.
  • Does not offer support or follow-up to help you lose weight and keep it off.

If it sounds too good or too easy to be true, it probably is.
So, even with a good weight loss program, how does a person lose weight in this day and age, when it seems that the default is to gain, the environment is toxic, and the deck is conclusively stacked against us, you might ask?
According to the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Dr. David Katz, it’s not about developing willpower, it’s about developing skillpower. The good news is that the skills required aren’t the classic triad of suffering, sacrifice, and struggle that fad diets normally require. The skills required are organization, planning, and thoughtfulness – and with those skills, it is possible not only to experience permanency with weight loss, but perhaps more important, it’s possible to enjoy a normal, healthy, and friendly relationship with food. ‘Skillpower’, while it does take time and often support to master, gets easier with time, as the more practice a person has with any particular skill, the better that person will get at it, and the more naturally it will come. It’s also about identifying what works for you and your lifestyle; which again, becomes much easier with time. We are so uniquely different – so comparing ourselves to others does not help.
– Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN, RD(c)
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.