Have you been focusing only on upper or lower abs? You’re doing it all wrong!
It’s pretty controversial in the fitness world; especially amongst some celebrity trainers who promise the holy grail of ‘toned lower abs’ to get that six-pack look.
But I’m sorry to say that I need to bust a few myths that are perpetuated by certain individuals and companies selling the latest equipment or exercise regime that guarantees improved lower or upper abs in a crazy short space of time…
Your upper and lower abs are the same thing!!
It is one whole wall of muscle and, just like other muscles in your body, you can’t technically work one section of them without working the whole muscle. Think about it, have you ever heard of working the upper vs lower triceps??
That’s not to say that different parts of the same muscle can’t show different results based on the workout you’re doing, but the actual muscle will all be worked at the same time.
Muscles work on an all or nothing principle; they contract when a signal is sent from our nervous system, and then relax. This contracting and relaxing is what happens when you work on any muscle – whether it’s a crunch, a plank or a squat.
Also, our bodies don’t like waste – so why would you want to focus on just one area of your physique when you can work multiple??
The confusion with upper and lower abs probably stems from the way the muscle – rectus abdominis – looks. This long, flat muscle goes all the way down the abdomen, divided vertically by connective tissue (linea alba) and horizontally into smaller sections (tendinous intersections).
These ‘sections’ of the muscle can often be seen on the outside of the body and are usually visible as a six-pack, but it’s not uncommon to see four, eight and even ten-packs. While I understand where the misinformation might come from for those not involved in the medical or fitness field, anyone who is helping someone attain a better body shape or fitness level should know their facts.
The rectus abdominus muscle works as one, even if you think you’re working on just the upper or lower abs!
The way your abs look on the outside also depends on so many variables too – your body shape, your fitness goals, injury history, fitness abilities, nutrition and of course your motivation and mind-set.
So, before you rush out and buy the next gadget promising the best upper or lower abs (or any other part of your body for that matter) – just take a moment to think about whether it makes sense and if the person or company trying to make money off you really knows what they’re talking about!
Can wine be part of my healthy lifestyle? Yes… with some side notes
In my 20s, I was more of a mixed drink kind of girl. There were a few sweet white wines that I would drink but red wine was out of the question. It was just so sharp and I didn’t have the pallet for it.
Then, in my early 30s, I read somewhere red wine was better for us than other types of alcohol – and I fell for it. Now, there might be a little evidence out there that it is better for you than, let’s say, beer…but alcohol is definitely something we should have in moderation, no matter what it is.
Now, in my 40s, I have acquired quite the taste for red wine. I love to have a glass when I go out to dinner with friends and family. Since that is a super rare occasion, I also have a glass here and there at home. I think it’s written somewhere that it’s a cardinal sin to make a ribeye without accompanying it with a nice glass of red wine!
And you know me; I’ve done my research. I have favorite wines out there but it’s really based only on taste. I decided to dive in a little bit and find wine that had a really high standard for quality as well.
I have learned that there are over 76 additives approved by the FDA for US winemaking, including ammonium salt and copper sulfate.
US wine companies also use genetically modified (GMO) yeasts.
Plus, over 20 million pounds of pesticides are used on commercial vineyards in California every year. Monsanto’s synthetic herbicide “Round Up” is so commonly used in the US that even organic wines frequently test positive.
I wanted a wine to be sugar-free, low sulfite, truly organic and lower in alcohol.
I FOUND IT!
There’s a company out there called, Dry Farm Wines, that actually over delivers on what I was looking for. They are also endorsed by some people I really look up to: Mark Sisson, Dave Aspry, JJ Virgin, Abel James and Robb Wolf!
Click to try this awesome brand, and they’ll give you a great deal on your first order – Dry Farm Wines.
Now let me leave you with a few tips on making sure your occasional glass of wine is the best it can be:
And most importantly, always make a toast before that first sip!
The science bit
I feel it’s really important to understand what goes on in our own bodies, especially when it comes to what we eat and how that affects us. So here is a rundown of what diabetes is, so you don’t have any excuse now!
The cells in our bodies need fuel for energy. When we provide our body with fuel (food and drink), it is broken down into glucose, which is a simple sugar. The glucose is then transported around the body via our bloodstream and delivered to where the energy is needed – i.e. to breathe, move, walk etc.
A hormone called insulin regulates this fine balance of fuel processing and distribution that goes on in our bodies. The pancreas consistently releases small amounts of insulin; when more is needed the pancreas receives a signal so that the glucose can be delivered where it is needed. When this happens, your glucose levels drop (because it is being used by your cells).
When the body’s glucose level goes too low, the body can suffer from low blood sugar levels (you might have heard the medical term hypoglycemia). Signals are sent to the liver to release more glucose, which in turn means your brain receives a signal that it needs more fuel (i.e. food), and you start to feel hungry.
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to manage this process effectively. Either the body cannot make (enough) insulin, or the body plays a cruel trick and is resistant to it (which means that it can’t control the glucose in your body and you end up with high blood sugar levels).
Type 1 diabetes is when the body destroys the insulin-producing cells – usually people have to inject themselves regularly with insulin to manage this.
Type 2 diabetes is when the body can produce insulin, but in insufficient amounts, or the body is resistant to what is produced.
What you don’t want to know (but definitely should) about diabetes:
The bad news…
The good news…
What you can do
This doesn’t just apply to those who are at risk of diabetes, or who currently suffer from it. The eating and exercise suggestions in The M.A.D.E Diet are for everyone wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle – and for those who want the chance to live a longer life.
You can download my ebook for full information, but in a nutshell:
Sorry to be (almost) all doom and gloom but this is a serious issue… an epidemic even, for our public health, and we need to take action ourselves if we hope to stop this for future generations.
* I will never give you medical or dietary advice – these points are for generic information only and you must always consult your physician for professional medical advice.
More and more people are coming around to my way of thinking with the whole healthy fat is good for you mantra (yay!) But I get asked a lot about how to incorporate more of the good stuff into your day.
At first it sounds great to be able to eat bacon, steaks and eggs everyday – but even those can get boring after a while. And variety is the only way to ensure you stick to the higher fat, low carb way of eating for the long term.
After all, it’s a lifestyle choice, not a fad diet.
High fat foods can easily be added to almost all dishes, main meals and snacks. You just have to get creative and look for some inspiration. Lucky for you, I’ve added 8 practical ways to eat healthier fats below to get you started, but I encourage you to experiment and find your own preferences:
If you’re eating dairy, go for full fat plain yogurt (not vanilla or any other flavors because it’s full of artificial sugars) and almond milk gives you a nice extra protein hit.
Look past the typical oils and fats the next time you visit the grocery store. And don’t let the high price tag put you off – a little oil goes a long way.
Another great way to try different oils is by visiting a local farmers / organic market – they often let you try before you buy, or sell a mixture of oils in sample sizes. Chances are, they’re locally made too, which always tastes better!
But let me be clear, I’m not saying turkey ham, corn dogs, or any other processed and ‘fake’ meat is allowed. There is nothing good in those foods (I use that term loosely!)
Whether it’s the superstar of your plate, or a side accompaniment, healthy meats can give you a great source of protein. But think beyond the usual:
The additional benefit with all of these tasty ideas is that these kinds of foods help to keep you fuller for longer, so enjoy your healthy fats and know that you’re doing your body good by fuelling it with the right things.
How do you incorporate healthy fats into your diet?
Are All Carbohydrates Created Equal?
As you all know, I follow a Higher Fat Low Carbohydrate diet… I eat meat and fish as my major sources of protein (along with nuts, seeds, eggs etc.)
But low carbohydrates doesn’t mean no carbohydrates. I don’t want you to go completely carb free… that wouldn’t be good for your health either.
So here are some of the benefits of carbohydrates (the good ones!)
Are All Carbohydrates Created Equal?
In a word… no!
The good guys
Whole (or unrefined) carbohydrates are our friends. They are unprocessed and contain fiber that is found naturally in food.
These are the carbs that can be eaten in moderation (and that amount differs amongst each of us – check out my M.A.D.E Diet ebook for more details):
You might be wondering why I’ve not included other common, less refined carbohydrates to the good guys list – brown pasta, brown rice, legumes etc. Well, technically yes they are classed as the good carbs – by mainstream diets – but I would argue that even though they contain some benefits, they just don’t provide enough for you to waste your daily food intake on.
The bad guys
Refined and processed carbohydrates have had the dietary fiber stripped out of them and offer little to no nutritional value. On top of this, too many refined carbohydrates have been proven to contribute to type 2 diabetes and obesity. They cause spikes in blood sugar levels, hunger pangs, cravings and untold damage to your internal systems.
So, avoid these at all costs:
Prioritize your nutritional intake with meals made up of fresh meat and fish accompanied by healthy vegetables. I know the transition can be tough, but honestly you will feel more energetic (and less hungry) than you imagined.
Because we’re scared of fat!
That’s right – we’re scared of fat! Imagine reading a menu that said ‘high fat meals served all day long’ – if you’re trying to be healthy you might mistakenly avoid the place. But, how about your reaction to the menus that have ‘low fat’, ‘skinny’, ‘low calorie’ options? You’re doing the right thing by choosing those, right?
I’m sorry to say it but we have been duped… badly. As a nation, we are consuming low fat, low calorie and nutritionally void foods by the bucket load. And you know what??
We are getting fatter…not skinnier!! And unhealthier…. So what’s going on?
The dietary information given to us for decades is completely flawed. And now there are more and more studies proving that a diet high in healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates, is much better for our health and waistlines than we have been led to believe.
Why is low fat so bad?
I Eat Low Fat Foods. Why Am I Still Overweight and Unhealthy?
We’ve been conditioned to think that if we eat low fat foods we won’t get… fat. But when food manufacturers make a low fat product, they add in a ton of sugar (often masked as cane sugar, corn syrup or fructose) to make up for the loss of taste.
Did you know that a single serving of low fat yogurt could contain as many as 30 grams of sugar? That’s 60% of the USDA recommended daily amount!
What happens when we consume too much sugar?
There’s a lot that goes on inside our system when we consume too much sugar, but basically our bodies react to the influx by triggering the liver to start storing fat in various places around our bodies – places like your liver and heart – and over time, that build up is not good. But it also gets stored in different places in each of us – butts, hips, tummy etc. And that just doesn’t look good… ever!
When we consume too much sugar our bodies use it up first for energy (that’s why you get that ‘sugar high’ after eating a donut and then feel hungry 30 minutes later!). The more important process of burning fat is put into second place and then insulin (a major hormone in our body) takes the sugar in your system and converts it straight to fat.
As a final kicker, the signal to tell your body to make more insulin is delayed so you still feel hungry (and probably eat more food). This results in a massive destabilization of your body’s entire blood sugar system and can lead to all sorts of short and long-term health problems, including obesity, allergies, depression and diabetes.
A simple solution?
The problem might sound complex when you start looking at the science behind it, but thankfully the answer to this fear of fat problem is actually quite simple.
A diet high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates can easily and quickly set your health back on the right track.
What are healthy fats?
Despite what the marketing people at the food companies might say, the following foods are healthy forms of fat:
What about carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates contain sugar and starches which, as I mentioned above, do all sorts of bad stuff to your blood sugar levels and should be limited. Foods to limit/avoid include bread, pasta, rice, potatoes).
But eating these low carb foods ensure you feel full and they don’t put extra pressure on your body:
Vegetables (choose ones that grow above the ground i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, asparagus, eggplant etc.)
Check out the kind of foods I eat daily here.
As always, I love learning about how we can eat better to fuel ourselves and stay healthy. If you want an even more in-depth study of how the American diet got it so wrong, this is well worth a read.
Lucky for you I made the whole high fat, low carb eating super easy and you can download my free ebook for more information and tips.
For those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that I often share what we are eating for lunch or dinner that day. Now, I’m never going to be one of those amazing Instagramers who have thousands of followers because I share drool-worthy professional pictures of my food!!!
But I do always get plenty of comments and questions about what we eat, so I thought a roundup of some of the go-to meals we have in our house might help you to see that eating healthy really doesn’t need to be a chore. In fact, as much as I’d love to tell you to plan ahead and to know what you’re eating days in advance, I would be lying if I said I do that all the time myself!
And let’s face it, hardly anyone has the time to plan and prep too far in advance. I also wanted to say that it’s this easy to eat well (if I can do it, anyone can!)
Eggs and bacon with a Shakeology! Two eggs and two pieces of top quality bacon and this keeps me full for hours. I also try to add some veggies to my breakfast most days.
Shake – I usually make it with ice and water, sometimes some almond/cashew milk to mix things up.
Calorie-wise, the food is about 300 calories and my shake is always right about 250 calories. I eat 3 meals a day and if each is 550 calories…that’s 1650 (and perfect for me).
In my intermittent fasting, lunch is often my first ‘big’ meal of the day so I make sure it’s jam packed with goodness. You can’t really go wrong with a salad and a ton of veggies. One of my favorites is a micro green salad of spring mix, sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, jicama, nuts/seeds and high quality bacon.
My all time favorite dinner…
Steak and veggies. Yep, I’m a simple kinda gal when it comes to food, because simple is best and the most nutritious.
The steak must be grass fed and grass finished (read my post about this here – and get a discount voucher for some amazing meat!) and I cook the veggies in my cast iron first with a tiny bit of coconut oil, sesame oil or olive oil.
For the veggies, use whatever you have in the fridge or grab a pre cut bag for extra busy days. Eat the rainbow – so go for a nice mix of broccoli, carrots, beans, cauliflower, onions and peppers. Don’t overdo the cooking and leave a nice crunch to them.
When Wholefoods have wild caught salmon in stock I’m usually first in line to get some! I keep it simple with some smoked sea salt as seasoning and oven bake for about 30 minutes at 375°F.
Cooking a big fillet is great because you have your lunch-time salad protein good to go!
I know, I know – they can be gross, I agree! But only if you boil them to death and don’t take care of these little nutritious gems! Here’s how I love them (and I’ve converted many a sprout hater in my time too!)
Cook in the oven at 400°F. Spritz with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cook on the cast iron until the outer leaves are browned. Enjoy!
In this picture I combined the sprouts with chicken, also cooked on the cast iron (of course!)
Spritz the cast iron with coconut oil then butterfly the chicken, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and garlic and cook on medium high.
A little extra fat
I always get asked how I incorporate enough healthy fats into my diet – nuts and seeds!!
I get raw nuts and seeds and roast them at about 260°F in the oven, stirring occasionally, until you notice a slight change in color (30 minutes to an hour depending on the quantity).
I have here pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and pecans. They go in my salads everyday and in our vegetable stirfrys when I remember.
Feeling hungry now aren’t you? As always, eat more from the farm than the factory, don’t overcomplicate things, and if in doubt, add more veggies to your plate!
OK I know that might seem a little ‘in your face’ or even rude, but honestly I hear almost every day from people who want to be healthier, fitter, skinnier, have more muscle etc etc… but they are just not willing to ‘show up’.
Let me explain…
For 99.9% of us, being fit and healthy is a lifelong dedication. There are those who, on the outside at least, seem to be able to eat whatever they want, never work out and still look amazing. But as I said in last week’s post, there is always more to the story than meets the eye. Plus, those people really are in a small minority of the population.
Why you need to show up…
The rest of us have to work hard to be where we are. We have to be mindful of our food choices – every single day – each meal is an opportunity to make good or bad choices. Each time we get invited out for lunch with a colleague, or over to a friend’s place for a BBQ, or to attend a family gathering, it’s about having the willpower to pick the salad and veggies, the healthy meats, the sugar free drinks – instead of the pasta and cheese sauce, the fatty burger with fries and the pie and ice cream for dessert.
It’s a workout just for your mind to consciously make healthy choices. And sometimes it means declining those invitations if you know healthy options aren’t on the menu, or eating before you go out, or, as we do in our household, pack up a load of healthy food before a long road trip so we know we don’t have any excuse to be tempted by the drive thru.
It’s more than just food choices.
What you eat, is only part of it. And don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t meant to make you feel bad or to make you think that being healthy is a chore. But I do want to make it clear – being fit and healthy is a lifelong choice and it does mean you have to put the work in.
I hear that working out everyday is not possible for some people because of kids, work, no babysitters, unsupportive partners, back pain, leg pain, no money, no workout gear, no one to work out with, blah blah blah. I honestly could write a list as long as my arm with the excuses I hear. And believe me, I know what it’s like to be a mom, run a household, work and try to fit everything else in – I DO!
There comes a point where you have to prioritize. You have to make changes to your lifestyle, to your schedule, to your commitments to make it work. Otherwise, you’ll get to 55 and be onto your second heart attack asking me ‘why didn’t I listen to you earlier?’ Think that sounds dramatic? Here are some stats to wake you up:
The good news…
I always like to end on a positive note because I do believe the path to your health and fitness goals needs to be an enjoyable one. Working out and staying fit really doesn’t require you to live in the gym. Here are some really quick and absolutely do-able ways to keep moving during the day. Even the most busy and overworked amongst you won’t be able to avoid these:
It’s your choice whether you’re going to be strong or weak. And when you need that extra nudge, I’m here to help and kick your butt!
Come on, you have at least one friend that seems to eat and drink anything they want and manage to stay super slim, right?!
I had that friend in high school. Her name was Jenell and she was one of my best friends. She was 5 foot 6 inches but only weighed 98 pounds and actually hated that she couldn’t put on weight. Ironically, she had really big boobs (I loved her but man, I hated her…lol)!
Of course I envied her because, to some degree, I had to watch what I ate because I would gain weight if I didn’t. Since we were best friends, we always ate and drank the same things. This was usually soda with lots of chips and french fries.
Now that I’ve spent 20+ years studying nutrition and the body, I realize that amongst healthy people, being able to eat whatever you want and still stay slim is a myth.
People often greatly under or over estimate how much they eat. And when I go back and think about my friend, Jenell, she was always one of those people that would pick at food but never finish and would open a soda but only take a few sips.
Human metabolisms don’t vary by more than just a few percentages for people that are the same age, sex and height. Now, there are medical conditions that make it difficult for some people to either lose or gain weight but those are so rare that you most likely don’t know too many, if any, people like that.
Most likely you are seeing your skinny friend occasionally eat huge meals and you assume that they’re consistently that way. But what we don’t consider is that they were likely to skip breakfast, they probably don’t snack a whole lot and they actually drink lots of water instead of sugary drinks.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, our obese friend who always orders the salad when we go out, maybe snacks constantly at home, eats at least three meals a day and guzzles down lots of soda, diet soda and juice.
I read a few studies that shows that people who stay slim are just more active throughout the day as well. This doesn’t mean that they exercise a ton but more so that they are on their feet a lot throughout the day and are very fidgety.
But if you’re absolutely sure that your slim friend eats the same as you do it could possibly be their thyroid gland that plays a role in this. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are dysfunctions of your thyroid gland. Basically speaking, your thyroid controls your energy usage and sensitivity to hormones. An overly active thyroid (hyper) will increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate) while an under active thyroid (hypo) will lower your BMR, which can mean weight gain.
So the next time you see a slim person eating a ginormous cheeseburger, consider that it could just be their first meal of the day and a rare occasion. And besides that, even slim people battle disease if their diets are poor. Food can either create or prevent disease and no matter what size you are…eating healthy most of the time is just plain smart!!!
So what made me decide to write a blog about sparkling water? Well if I’m being honest here, it was constipation…
For some reason, when my body travels, I am not as regular as I am when I am at home. And for the most part, I eat and exercise exactly the same way. The only thing that seems to change for me is I think I drink more sparkling water when I’m abroad than I do when I’m at home. I thought there might be a correlation.
So I did what I do best and I researched. I was really interested, and relieved (but not literally, darn it), to learn what I did and thought I would share with you, my fine friends.
Sparkling, mineral or carbonated water is created by simply dissolving carbon dioxide in plain, still water.
It is very different then sodas and diet sodas because it does not go through any chemical process and nothing artificial is added.
I was very excited to read that sparkling water actually helps keep you hydrated. I assumed that it didn’t necessarily dehydrate you, but I always worried that it wasn’t quite as hydrating as still water…but it is!
If you happen to suffer from frequent indigestion, upset stomach or even occasional constipation (hand raised), sparkling water can help tame those tummy troubles. According to a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, patients who had a predisposition to gallstone formation, indigestion or constipation showed that their issues, overall digestion and constipation problems all improved after drinking sparkling water for two weeks. I remember as a kid my mom giving me a Seven Up to help my upset stomach… She was onto something! Did your mom do that too?
Lastly, for those of you that intermittently fast like I do, sparkling water also helps keep you feeling full. There was a study in 2012, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminogy, showing that people who drank sparkling water on an empty stomach shared that they felt fuller than when they drink still water. To avoid overeating during meals, try drinking some sparkling water about 30 minutes before you sit down to eat.
Because I do eat a diet that is higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates, I also supplement with magnesium at home. Most of the times I do forget to bring it with me and that could account for my slow moving digestion. But I truly have always wondered if sparkling water was as good of a choice as still water and it was fun to find out that it is. Add a lime and a few mint leaves and I’m in heaven!
Now, back to sunning my bum!