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Flat Abs Formula in 3 Steps

Flat Abs - no reason you can't have themI have realized that moving to Dubai is like starting University… Just like you have the Freshman 15 (lb. that is – or roughly 8 kg), we here in Dubai are all too familiar with our first year’s 10 kg (which is roughly 20 lb.) weight gain.

In fact one of the first things I noticed when I walked around Dubai is the fact that even the skinniest of people seemed to sport a little pooch… now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m obsessed with flat abs – though I wouldn’t complain about having them either – but I do care about being and staying healthy, and carrying weight on your midriff is a well-known indicator that bad things are sure to follow… so it perplexed me that most of us Dubains seem to carry extra weight on our abs… and sure enough by the end of the year I had one of my very own little pot bellies to prove it too..

But then I’ve already been here for about 6 years, so why I am I writing this post now? Well because I recently left Dubai for good… And then came back unexpectedly… And it turns out you are not immune to this phenomenon the second time around either… Yep I just gained 10 lb. in less than 6 months – and it all happens to have gone straight to my tummy!

The good news is once I recognized it, I was able to figured out how to lose this weight fairly quickly the last time around – thank God I’m a dietitian who’s been working in the field for some 10+ years, it’s a skill that comes in handy every now and again ;)…

3 Step Flat Abs Formula

So this is what works:

    1. cut out the fried foods and desserts – I would have loved to tell you that you could eat particular foods to help give you wash board abs, but unfortunately while this concept is plastered across the internet, its much more effective for you to cut out foods that add weight to your belly rather than eat foods that may increase your metabolic rate slightly. And as we all know one of the biggest changes we all get into when we move to Dubai is eating out more frequently… The lifestyle is so conducive to this mainly I think because it’s so much cheaper (or more affordable I guess regardless of what socioeconomic strata you’re in) and there’s so many delicious options to choose from. In Dubai it’s easy to indulge your tastebuds. But eating out doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat unhealthy. Just remember to pass on the fries, limit the amount of free pita you ingest, opt for still water instead of drinks and save desserts for once a week. See it’s not so bad :)

 

    1. take up an activity – the other huge change we all go through when we move here is how much activity we actually do. Now I’m not a gym junky by any means… Quite the contrary in fact gyms just make me feel so out of place, but I am a walker. I can literally walk anywhere and not feel it, except for here that is… Unfortunately with the weather in Dubai, I can HARDLY walk ANYWHERE without feeling it so I usually DON’T walk as much as I normally would. But building regular activity into your day is not just good for your abs it’s good for you PERIOD. So pick an activity you enjoy, whether that’s swimming or walking, playing tennis or going to the gym, and try to do it regularly. Now that the weather’s nice I go for a 45 min. evening stroll with my sister and my little nephew on the weekdays – it’s also a great way to catch up with her and de-stress. While cardio – something that will make your heart pump a bit faster and make you sweat – is one of the best ways to lose belly fat, ANY type of additional activity is beneficial so make sure to do whatever works into your lifestyle regularly.

 

    1. drink water – I know I keep telling you this, but water REALLY does do amazing things for your body and your metabolism. I mean people weren’t kidding when they said water is the life force that differentiates earth from all the rest of the planets in our solar system. Plain and simply we need water to function – not just fluid from juice and soup or tea – so drink at least 2 L of it straight up every day.

 

Oh yeah, and as Colombo would say “there’s just one more thing…”and that is be patient – it will probably take me about 2 months to lose this weight… Now that may seem like a long time for some people, but in the big picture it really isn’t. In fact it’s less time than it took for me to gain the weight. Plus if you’re planning to procrastinate on the couch for the next 3 months+ while you’re looking for that quick fix I can guarantee that it will take you much longer to reach your goal.

Now, if I wasn’t a hijabi I’d totally share pics of my incredible inflating and deflating tummy with you to help inspire you (they certainly keep me focused) – but it’s probably a good thing that this would be completely awkward and inappropriate in the current context 😛

Good luck my soon to be flat ab’d nutriacs. Do let me know how you’re doing or if you have any other suggestions to share by leaving me a comment below.

Bonus: My Daily 5 min. Flat Abs Toning Routine

Flat Abs - Yoga_PlankPose Work up to holding this plank pose for 1 minute.
 Flat Abs - Yoga_SidePlank Work up to holding this side plank pose for 1 minute. Repeat on other side.
 Flat Abs - side-plank-rotation Work up to 10 reps of this side plank rotation. Repeat on other side.

When It’s Worth Seeing a Dietitian for Weight Loss

Seeing a Dietitian for Weight Loss - HelpAs a dietitian, who also happens to be a family member and a friend, I often find myself in an interesting position in my personal circles. The position in which people often want to talk to me about nutrition and get advice on losing weight, only to tell me they know all there is to know about eating healthy.

You know I get it, it seems really simple – calories in have to be less than calories out and eating healthy and adding activity are key.  And to be fair, thanks to all the great information available on the subject these days, to a certain extent we all do know a lot about nutrition. In fact I know a whole bunch of extremely nutrition savvy individuals who have learned everything about nutrition based purely on their own interests. And I also know a lot of people who have decided to lose weight and then done just that in a way that would make any dietitian proud.

However, there are times when even though you know everything there possibly is to know about something – you’d still benefit from having an expert on your team. Just like you would consider getting a photographer for your wedding or seeing the doctor when you need antibiotics, seeing a dietitian for weight loss could just be the key to success you’ve been looking for.

That’s because while it sounds easy, we all know that there is much much much more to losing weight than just what goes into your mouth and how much you’re working out (like just not having enough time or not knowing what to make at 5:00 when the kids are crying for dinner, etc.).  In my opinion, and I’m not saying this because I am one, there is nothing quite like having a personal nutrition expert – in particular, a dietitian – to guide you through your daily food challenges.

At the same time, when you’re paying out of pocket, which is usually the case, it may seem like an expensive luxury with the average cost per session for a dietitian running between AED 250-500 (roughly $70-140 USD) and the average weight loss package requiring that you have 12 consultations here in Dubai.

Seeing a Dietitian for Weight Loss - Keep Calm

When Seeing a Dietitian for Weight Loss is Worth It

So when should you consider shelling out the cash for counselling?

If you:

  • have been planning/trying to lose weight for a long period of time (you need to judge what this length of time is for you) without results.
  • have lost and gained the same weight over and over again.
  • are willing to put in the work but aren’t sure where that work needs to be put in exactly.
  • have a medical condition (like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, PCOS, hypothyroidism) which makes it more challenging for you to figure out what you need to do.

There are 2 caveats though:

  1. An expert can give you the road map but you’re the one who has to do the work to get there – and it will require you to make changes; so do it when you are mentally READY to put in the time and embrace change.
  2. Not all nutrition experts are alike – and not all of us have the same experience or expertise or personalities so you need to find the right fit for you. My clients have told me I’m really nice, I’m pretty firm and everything in between. And while some of us need the nice guy others prefer having a drill sergeant. The important thing is you need to be able to connect with someone that you can develop a comfortable relationship with.

The reason I say this is because, while I’ve helped my clients lose a little over 6,000 lb. and counting so far in my career, not everyone I’ve worked with has had success – mainly due to one of these 2 reasons. That being said, I personally feel that just like I work hard for my money, my clients should see/feel that their money and time are also being well spent, which is why I offer a 30-day money back guarantee and a free initial consultation. And I am sure there are other nutrition experts who do the same too. So make sure to ask!

At the end of the day, when you add up all the money you’ve spent on supplements, diets, books, exercise equipment, etc. as well as all the times you were determined to lose weight or fit into that dream dress or pair of jeans you love without success; you may just feel that the money and time you spend with a dietitian will in fact be worth it for you.

The best part about seeing a dietitian for weight loss in my opinion is, unlike solutions like healthy meal delivery, you get to take all the valuable knowledge you learn in the process with you. After all it’s like the saying goes “give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

PS. Don’t forget to check and see if your medical insurance provider covers the services of a dietitian as this is becoming more common now.

Organic Produce Home Delivery in Dubai

Organic Produce in Dubai - Ripe
Now that the organic foods movement has been around for a while, a lot of us are familiar with the benefits of choosing these foods over regular everyday grocery store alternatives.

However, the biggest challenges with  buying organic produce have and  (while this has improved a bit over the past few years) still are how much it costs and how much effort it takes to find it.

The question is, is it really worth it? Honestly speaking, the jury is divided even though there are a whole array of opinions ranging from those who feel its a waste of money to those who won’t put anything in their mouths unless it’s certified organic and everything in between.

While scientifically speaking there is still little evidence to suggest that organic foods are necessarily more nourishing than their non-organic counterparts, in my opinion if you can afford it, I would say for the most part yes it absolutely is. Truth be told, I’m not a gung-ho organic advocate. In fact there are times when I feel local is a more sensible choice than organic, but if it’s available and the price isn’t significantly restrictive I do opt for organic produce whenever I can.

That’s because even though both conventionally grown and organically grown produce may have the same amount of nutrients based on lab results, I’d venture to say that the quality of these nutrients is more than likely different. Furthermore not having the added cancer-causing chemicals, and the use of more humane and sustainable farming practices all add up to something much better for us and Mother Earth in my opinion. And my hope is that if enough of us use our consumer buying power to support the production of organic foods, then soon all food will be organic by default.

But this post isn’t about convincing you to spend an arm and a leg on expensive organic produce that’s hard to find (there are many discussions across the web that weigh out the pros and cons of these for those who are interested)…

Its about buying organic produce that is in fact affordable and super-convenient too. The amazing thing is that in the last few years Dubians, like their North American counterparts, have been blessed with a number of local farms who deliver organic produce  straight to the doorstep. And the cost – a mixed vegetable box that weighs about 5kg – costs only between AED100 -175. I’d say that’s pretty comparable to the average amount one might spend at the grocery store on a week’s worth of produce, wouldn’t you agree?

Comparing the Organic Produce Options in Dubai

Organic Produce in Dubai - Greenheart
Organic Produce in Dubai - Greenheart
Organic Produce in Dubai - Ripe
Organic Produce in Dubai - Go Organic
Organic Produce in Dubai - Go Organic
Now, from my own research I found three companies here in Dubai that offer organic produce home delivery and wanted to give you guys feedback after trying all of them in case you are thinking of doing the same. I tried ordering the:

    1. Ripe Large Vegetable Box (AED 155) approximate weight 5.5 kg plus 2 herbs.

 

    1. Go Organic Large Veggie Box (AED 175) approximate weight 6 kg plus 2 herbs.

 

    1. Greenheart Organic Mixed Box Classic (AED 100) approximate weight 4 kg plus 2 herbs.

 

And while I plan to do a more thorough post on each of the three in the upcoming weeks, here’s a summary of what I found:

    • All of these companies offer similar organic produce in their vegetable boxes and the great thing is you get what grows seasonally in the region.

 

    • The vegetables all arrived fairly fresh and were easy to clean and store. It was actually quite nice to open the door to a box full of colourful vegetables – it kind of felt like Eid/Christmas. In fact Go Organic put ice in their box to ensure their produce survived the heat during delivery (though it made a bit of a mess as it made the produce and the box a bit soggy). Also, considering they are coming fresh from the farm there is a bit more dirt (Greenheart had the most out of the three the first time I ordered from them – but thankfully since the amount of dirt has become less) on the produce compared to what you get when you buy it at the grocery store. The good news – NO BUGS.

 

    • While the boxes are filled with pre-selected veggies based on what’s growing around the region, you can ask to have items substituted. All three companies were happy to make some changes without any additional charge. The only thing is, of the three companies, only Ripe remembered to make the substitution for me.
    • On that note, all three seem to have pretty good customer service too – in fact Greenheart gave me a free box (100 AED value) for missing my substitutions – how often will a company do that?!

 

    • You do pay a deposit (5 AED) for the box with Greenheart unlike Ripe and Go Organic, but all companies will collect their boxes for reuse.

So what’s the verdict?

Overall, I would definitely recommend getting an organic produce box delivered to your doorstep. I ended up going with Greenheart because as a small family of 3 adults their box lasts us about 2 weeks, which is perfect for us.

On a side note, while I considered getting organic fruits delivered as well, the fact is most of it comes from Europe and North America. When I think about the environmental impact of shipping fruit all the way to us here in Dubai I felt that buying local produce makes more sense, especially considering a lot of farms around the region may in fact still use older farming practices.

Oh yeah, if you’re looking for organic produce delivery in America – check out www.localharvest.org.

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Drinking Water in Dubai – Bottled, Filtered or Straight from the Tap?

How safe is Drinking Water in DubaiOne of the things that we all do in Dubai is drink BOTTLED water. And even though we have been reassured by the municipality time and again that our tap water is in fact “safe to drink” – there isn’t a lot of buy in from the public (but more on this later). So for most of us bottled water is really the only  available source of drinking water in Dubai.

Now coming from Canada, where tap water is safe to drink and where drinking bottled water is considered an extravagance, having to switch to the bottle was concerning to me on a number of levels. For one thing, not a lot of companies specify that their bottles are BPA Free here. Add to that the fact that when heated, or left in the car in hot weather which is pretty much every single day in Dubai, plastic made from BPA tends to release harmful chemicals into any substance it contains. Now as careful/vigilant as one might be about leaving a bottle in the sun, the fact is all that water, whether it be from the big gallon jugs we have delivered to our homes and offices or from the smaller bottles that we get from our grocery stores or find at our restaurants, has been transported on trucks and exposed to sun and heat for an unknown number of hours – possibly even days. And then there’s the environmental impact that thousands, I’d say even MILLIONS, of these plastic bottles have on our planet, especially when you consider that we live in a country where you have to really work hard to recycle.

That being said, after doing a bunch of research on it (which involved me looking at different bottled water companies, reading up on home filtration systems – that practically don’t exist – and even seriously considering drinking straight from the tap), I figured there wasn’t much that could really be done in this situation and so I embraced chugging water from bottles like a true Dubia’n. Of course I did convince the family to pay more (and get less) for Masafi @  home – mainly because their water comes from a local spring, at least their gallon jugs are BPA Free and they do not reuse their bottles (YIKES for the environment – but luckily they do recycle the plastic, phew)

But then that was almost 5 years ago – so let’s fast forward to today…

So from time to time we’ve gotten a flyer stuck to the apartment door about having a home water purification system installed. Something I’ve been interested in looking into (particularly a carbon block one) for a while but for some reason or other couldn’t seem to coordinate a time for someone to come in and give us a demo. Well that was until last weekend anyways.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a demo for one of these units before, but Saturday was the first time I ever have so when the sales guy for Pure Tech showed up dressed in a suit and carted in a laptop case with him I really didn’t know what to expect. It turns out it’s pretty much like any sales pitch with the exception of a simple water quality test where you provide 2 (and in my case 3) samples of water and he places 2 electrodes into each glass to allow any particles to settle out of them. He also does the test using his filtered tap water and I think the results are quite awe inspiring, they kind of speak for themselves don’t they:

Drinking Water in Dubai - Pure Tech Demo

So let me give you the low down of his explanation:

  1. Yellow – is simply the minerals in the water that have reacted with the charged ions
  2. Orange scum – i.e. what you see on top of the bottled water is apparently due to chemicals that are almost always (with the exceptions being more expensive brands like Evian plus a few more which I can’t remember, sorry) added to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in it over time
  3. Blackish green – is rust, dust and other particles that get into the water from the storage tanks and the pipes.

Now I rarely take anything anyone, especially a sales rep, says at face value…and it’s a good thing too since it turns out that this “electrolysis test” is actually bogus, in fact some people are even calling it an outright scam:

As it turns out that orange scum on top of the bottled water is really the minerals it contains, which act as the electrolyte in this “experiment”. And based on the video, I’d venture to say that the tap water turns a murky greenish black probably because it’s desalinized sea water and probably still contains a bit of salt in it. As for the yellowish tint in the filtered water, from what I can gather from the Pure Tech pamphlet, unlike the systems mentioned in the video, their reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system adds a select number of minerals – but from the look of it not very many – back into the water after filtration.

You know I’m quite disappointed that this was a fake test because it made me not want to consider the Pure Tech filter at all – I mean who wants to buy something from someone who’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes, right?

But to be fair to myself, my family and all of our health in the long run, I do think that while RO filters aren’t 100% ideal, they do remove a lot of impurities including bacteria, parasites, pesticides, heavy metals like lead, mercury or arsenic and flouride (which is a controversial topic all on its own). Unfortunately they also remove essential trace minerals that our body needs and while the Pure Tech filter adds some of these back in, this is more like taking a vitamin instead of eating wholesome food.

SO the question remains, what is the best drinking water solution for Dubai residents…

While tap water is definitely the cheapest option, the fact that  while the Dubai Municipality assures us that the water leaving their purification plant is safe to drink, as recently as Aug 2013 they can’t guarantee that the water stored in your building’s water tank is still drinkable makes this option sketchy.

This leaves us with the bottled water vs the RO filtered water option. From a cost perspective installing a purifier at home requires a bit of an investment – the Pure Tech quote was AED 2500 – however over time the cost becomes quite a lot less (something like 40 fils per gallon vs about AED 10 per 4-5 gallon bottle).

But to be honest both are quite good options that have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Bottled Filtered
Advantages Filtered to meet drinking water standardsMay contain natural minerals (as per the label) Filter to meet drinking water standardsRemove harmful toxins commonly found in ground water due to pollution

Less expensive over time

Disadvantages Have no control over how long bottles are exposed to heatExpensive

Negative impact on the environment

Demineralized

At the same time, as per the information provided on bottled water safety by Health Canada, no research to date indicates that the claim that chemicals leach into bottled water are true.

While I’m still considering getting the RO filter installed @ home (though I’m still on the look out for a good carbon block filter),  surprisingly the sales guy at Pure Tech actually made me feel much more comfortable about drinking my bottled water!

If you are looking for how to choose a good bottled water here, check out Time Out’s article on Dubai’s Best Bottled Water.