You asked....I'm answering! I've created this page to share some of the questions I've gotten from you and about you, because I know so many people out there can benefit from them. THANK YOU to anyone who's had the courage to reach out and ask for advice on things they're struggling with.
To submit a question, email Emily@EmilyAlvers.com. Although I can't respond to 100% of questions received, I do my best to respond to as many as possible. Thank you for your patience with my response and understanding in the event it does not become published. The Q & A featured here addresses some of the most common questions I receive.
Q: I’ve tried so many diets in the past, and have had success a few different times. My problem is that I can't seem to keep it off. I start feeling confident and then give into temptation too freely, or I start feeling deprived and end up making bad choices because I’m so hungry. What can I do to lose weight and actually keep it off for good?
Q: I have had issues with binge eating for most of my life. My problem is sweets. It's like I can't control myself no matter how hard I try and always go overboard. Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Q: No matter how hard I try, I can’t get rid of this stubborn fat. Help!
Q: I'm a 28 year old male who's been skinny most of my life. I really want to increase the size of my muscles. What is the best kind of training for someone like me who wants to get bigger and stronger?
Q: I travel a lot and it's hard to eat clean. I want to take off some weight and eat clean when I travel. Any suggestions?
Q: Is eating healthy or working out more important?
Q: What is the best advice you can give to someone trying to get healthy but on a tight budget?
A: I hear this complaint all the time from women complaining about their legs and hips and from men complaining about their midsections. We all have areas where we carry stubborn fat according to our own specific body types, and while you might be genetically pre-disposed to a certain shape, there are definitely things you can do to improve your physique.
First and foremost, understand that targeting that body part alone isn't going to make it magically toned. For instance, doing a million crunches won't give you flat abs. In order to lose the stubborn fat, you need to use more calories than you’re consuming daily. Intense cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to create a caloric deficit, so make sure you’re doing at least 3 cardiovascular workouts each week. Cardio routines that incorporate shorts bursts of intense exercise work best to increase the metabolism and burn fat more effectively.
Don’t underestimate the power of strength training. The more muscle you’re able to build, the lower your % of body fat overall and the more calories your body will burn, even while you sleep. Make sure you’re training every major muscle group each week to build lean mass over your entire body. Try alternating your 3 days of cardio with 3 days of strength training and take one day to rest. Whether you have a little or a lot of fat to lose, strength training is a very powerful component to transforming your body. Weight lifting is the long-term solution to fat loss in my opinion…can’t stress this enough!
Of course, you want to make sure you’re fueling your body with quality nutrients and eating balanced meals frequently throughout the day to support all of these intense workouts. Really take a closer look at what you’re eating. Cut out anything processed, refined, or that contains artificial ingredients. Go back to the basics and stick to clean foods that either grow from the ground or come from the lean part of an animal. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (80-128 oz./day).
Don’t give up or buy into the idea that you just can’t overcome your genetic tendencies. You absolutely can! Make sure you have a balanced workout routine and are eating clean. Visualize the body you want, tell yourself you will get there and start believing it. You can do it!!!
A: I’m so glad you felt comfortable enough to ask me this question. I too struggled for most of my life with tendencies to binge on sugary foods. Looking back now, I understand that what began as a stress coping mechanism, became a behavior engrained in my psyche. In addition though, it was a very real physical addiction. Ingesting sugary foods changes the levels of glucose in the bloodstream and also the level of neurotransmitters like dopamine (feel good hormones) in the body. When the rush of glucose and dopamine are gone, they fall back to even lower levels than they were at before you ate the food. In the case of dopamine, the receptors for the neurotransmitter are still wide open just screaming for more, which is why after the high, you experience a low and want more. Many high fat foods induce the exact same effect and can tote a pretty hefty serving of hidden sugar in many cases as well. Food addiction is very similar to drug addiction in many aspects, and it can be difficult to overcome, but it is possible to do!
Once you understand the science behind why you're having the cravings, I think it’s easier to get an upper hand on conquering food addiction once and for all. Keeping the blood sugar levels as even as possible is THE KEY to overcoming food addiction for most people. The best way to do that is to eat a small balanced meal composed of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats every 2-3 hours. By doing this, your blood sugar never experiences extreme highs and lows which cause the cravings to grab unhealthy foods. The emotional aspect can be tough, but stick it out. Once you get into the habit of eating healthy foods often throughout the day, you should notice an almost immediate improvement in your energy levels, your mood, and in your tendency to gravitate towards unhealthy foods.
A: I understand how frustrating it can be with all the various diets out there. In order to stop yo-yo dieting, you’ve got to start treating this like a lifestyle rather than a “diet”. It doesn’t have to be rocket science either. If it’s too tough to figure out or monitor every day, you won’t want to stick with it, which is why fad diets don’t work. Keep it simple!
Eat frequent balanced meals throughout the day as a way to kick-start your metabolism and reach your desired weight, and also to maintain it. Make it part of your everyday lifestyle. Eating a small meal balanced with lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats every 2-3 hours will help fend of cravings, keep your mood positive, and will give your body the nutrition it needs to perform your workouts effectively. I’m a BIG believer in having 5-6 balanced meals each day. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water all day long too, so you aren’t mistaking dehydration for hunger. Once you get in the habit of drinking plenty of water and eating balanced meals often, you’ll never feel deprived and will train your body to become more metabolic, enabling you to keep the weight off for good.
A: For someone who wants to increase strength as quickly as possible, I recommend training with free weights such as barbells and dumbbells. Incorporate exercises that require compound movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. These types of exercises recruit the work of more than one muscle group at a time. In addition, learn to do pyramid training. This type of training uses a pattern where the weight load increases with each set and the corresponding number of repetitions drops. It will allow you to max out at higher weights than you’d typically lift if you were doing straight sets of 12 or 15 reps. You can also do multiple sets of low reps coupled with higher weights, but I'm just not a big fan of lifting super heavy on the first set, which is why I like pyramid training better. It allows you to gradually build up weight and is better at preventing injury.
Make sure you’re also backing up your workouts with clean eating and enough protein. For someone looking to gain mass, I’d recommend eating at least 1.5 g - 2 g of protein per lb. of lean body mass each day. You also want to make sure you’re getting an amount of complex carbohydrates at least equal to your protein and slightly higher at the meals surrounding your workouts in order to prevent any muscle catabolism and replenish glycogen post-workout to build muscle most effectively. These are general guidelines, but speak with a registered dietitian, preferably one who specializes in Sports Nutrition, to make a plan that is right for you.
A: Making healthy eating and regular exercise both a part of daily life is important. However, when it comes to really making a lasting change in your appearance and your ability to maintain a healthy weight over a lifetime, I think eating plays a larger role.
Eating habits are what makes or breaks any exercise program. You can exercise endlessly each day, but if you are eating poorly you aren't going to get the results you're looking for. People are always shocked when I say that 70% of the equation is eating and 30% is exercise. The fact is that what we decide to put into our mouths each day ultimately controls everything else...our mood, our energy levels, our ability to function and work out effectively, and our overall metabolism.
Wanna know the best thing about that?...There are so many things in life we can't control, but the one thing we CAN control is what we decide to put in our mouths each day. It really is something that's so simple, yet has such a profound effect on our quality of life.
A: Believe me, I realize that traveling poses challenges to eating clean. It all comes down to how badly you want to get that weight off and keep it off. You can’t blame anything on it “being hard”. Lots of stuff in life is hard, and staying fit isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. If it were, everyone would be a fitness model.
By now, you must realize that restaurants and airports aren’t going to be your ally in eating clean while traveling. It’s up to you, and only you, to make a game plan before your trips, pack foods that are portable for at least some of your meals, and commit to the plan. You can eat healthy at almost any restaurant in the world if you make a decision to do so and order food the way you’d like it prepared.
Traveling is tricky, and it takes practice, but every single time you make a good choice over a bad one, it gets easier. It actually becomes pretty empowering to want to grab a salad at the airport instead of the bag of m&m’s. If you want to reach your goal weight, decide right now that you are just going to do it and be willing to do the planning and follow-through that is required to get there. Feel free to check out more travel tips HERE.
A: Shop for and prepare food in bulk. Investing in a $30 membership to a local wholesale club might seem like more than you want to spend at first, but I guarantee it will pay off many times over in the long run. Wholesale clubs have great prices on all kinds of healthy foods. Some of my favorite things to buy in bulk are frozen vegetables, chicken breasts, seafood, whole grain tortillas, oatmeal, and produce. Even if you are cooking for one, it's easy to divide bulk foods into portions and freeze them until you need them for a recipe. Plus, you'll spend less time running back and forth to the grocery store, which means you're saving on gas.
If you keep healthy staples like brown rice, whole grain pastas, lean meats, olive oil, and vegetables on hand, you can make large batches of perfectly balanced meals and divide them into containers to have food for the entire week. If you don't want to fork over the money for a wholesale membership, then look for sales on staple items that you use often and stock up when they're on sale.
You can also look for farmer's markets, which tend to sell produce much more inexpensively than grocery stores. You'll be helping your pocket book and also the environment by buying locally grown produce.
Find recipes that you like and that use inexpensive ingredients. Just think about this the next time you're tempted to spend $5 on a drive-thru value meal...You can make an entire pot of whole grain spaghetti with marinara and turkey meatballs for about the same price. It will feed your entire family and you'll still have some left over for a meal or two later. Plus, think of all the hospital bills you'll be saving on later in life by taking care of your health now. No matter how tight your budget is, eating healthy is all about making good choices and making it a priority.
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