Say NO! to Dieting this 2013

Happy 2013 everyone! Yes it is that time again – the New Year’s resolutions have been made, many of which have to do with weight loss of course, so it’s no wonder that the web is littered with advice and promotions to help you drop those additional pounds…

But now that the month has kicked off with the kids back in school and the holidays officially done with for a while, many of us are already struggling to get started OR maybe even thinking about throwing in the towel! One of the biggest problems with dieting is the simple fact that it DOES NOT WORK. For as long as Fad Diets have been around, to be honest, in the 10+ years that I have worked in this profession, I have yet to come across 1 person who went on a diet, lost a ton of weight and then managed to keep it off.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of people who have lost weight and kept it off – but these people DON’T do it by DIETING, they DO IT by making changes to their eating and activity habits which become a permanent part of their lifestyles (whether or not their success involves incorporating practices from popular diets like Atkins or South Beach or DUKKAN).

Take my sister Ayesha for example, she was always picked on for being the chubby kid in school – but that all changed when she hit High School – because the prior summer she finally decided to change her eating habits (choosing to eat healthier and watching her portions) – and blossomed into this extremely beautiful teenager. Ayesha maintained a healthy weight up until her pregnancies when she again gained a LOT of weight… and low and behold, with the weight gain came the fad diets (in fact she recently told me about all the crazy things she tried – like the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet and the South Beach Diet – behind my back because she knew I would disapprove). But a few years ago, she recommitted to eating healthy, walking and taking on yoga and again she is back to a healthy weight and is maintaining it.

So my advice to you this year is to SAY NO to DIETING! I know it’s enticing when you see weight loss supplements and diets that promise to help you drop 10 pounds in just 2 days, but I can guarantee that you will be much more successful if instead of investing in these marketing ploys, you take small steps in the right direction that you think you will be able to maintain for at least  the next year.

I want you to think long term because as much as we all want to lose 5 pounds every week; or think we will make it to the gym for 2 hours everyday – being unrealistic about our goals is a sure way to guarantee failure as well.

So instead:

1) Focus on making healthy choices over worrying about the scale – It’s actually the things you do everyday (like choosing more wholesome foods and making sure your not skipping meals) that cause the shift on the scale after all.

2)  Set realistic goals – It is important to think about the time you have and make health commitments based on these. For e.g. walking for 45 min 5 days a week beats going to the gym for an hour for 2 days and then not being able to make it the rest of the week.

3) Take baby steps – Like they say “A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step”. But more importantly, if say you have a goal of losing 20 lb, you also need to have a plan of how you are going to get there. If you think baby steps on a week by week basis and get the tools and support you need to achieve these goals, in 5 months you’ll have reached that goal!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy Year!




I Used to Be Fat

No not me – the MTV reality series that profiles “teenagers desperate to shed their unwanted pounds before heading off to school”. If you’ve watched it, you know why it’s one of my favorite things, if you haven’t the word that describes it best is “inspirational”. Unfortunately I’m not quite sure when it airs here in Dubai (it’s set to record whenever its on) and considering there was a reference to graduating in 2010, I suspect we are a few seasons behind (not to mention the number of reruns one has to watch before you get a new episode). But even with all of this stacked up against it – this show really blows me away every time!

If you are currently trying to lose weight, or more importantly get healthy, and are looking for motivation this really should be one of your go-to’s.

So why do I love it so much ? It completely amazes me to see how much a teenager can accomplish in one summer, the last summer s/he has before starting college no less, with a little guidance and motivation from a personal trainer and tons of will power to succeed. As one teen, Gabby (pictured in the before and after), put it, “I gave up one summer to live the rest of my life”.

Now granted, for those of us who are no longer teenagers (so might not have that teenage stamina anymore) nor have the luxury of having 3 months off in the summer to go to the gym for an insane 8 hrs a day – or even for those of us that do – I know the program these teens follow is a bit EXTREME and unless you really are training with an expert as well as compensating appropriately with adequate nutrition, losing a pound a day can really be dangerous and unhealthy (so good thing these teens are supervised). To be more realistic, aiming for a pound or 2 a week with moderate lifestyle changes is much more like it. Still there are a few things that always shine through for me with every episode:

1) Being healthy is not easy- it requires dedication AND THEN SOME
2) Your success is relatively proportionate to YOUR effort
3) Making permanent changes to your everyday habits can really have a positive impact on your life in soooo many ways!

But the most important thing I take away is if these kids can make changes to improve their health than so can I!

To be honest, I feel blessed to be able to work with ordinary people who accomplish extra-ordinary things by making the decision to change their health. I am always inspired by my clients’ determination to achieve their health goals while juggling all the crazy things life passes their way. I feel ridiculously honored to be able to say that I had any part in their journey to better health through nutrition. For me going to work and meeting amazing people like you, keeps me inspired and motivated to be and stay healthy…

My point is that if you are thinking of making a change in your life, one of the most important things you can do, is to surround yourself with people and things that will motivate you and inspire you to continue on your path no matter how hard it may seem some days. The fact is CHANGE IS NOT EASY, it takes consistent dedication, time and effort – there really isn’t any such thing as instant results! Getting your head in the right place is really one of the most important parts of the process, and KEEPING IT THERE is the other. So it is important to think about how you will stay focused and motivated for the long haul – whether that’s by watching a TV show on a regular basis (The Biggest Loser is another great show BTW), or buddying up with a friend, or seeking help from a professional or even all of the above – so that before you know it you’ll be saying “I USED TO BE fat (and more importantly UNHEALTHY) too :).

3 Ways to Kick-Start Your Metabolism

Do you think your metabolism is as slow as molasses, and seems to be getting slower by the minute? You may have heard that as you get older your metabolism slows down, which seems to explain why the darned numbers continue to creep up on the scale every year even when everything else in your life seems to have stayed the same. So what is metabolism anyways and why is it so determined to make us fat? And more importantly is there anything we can do to make it faster rather than slower? These are questions I hear from my clients often.

As impossible as it sounds, it actually isn’t that hard to get your metabolism to pick up the pace. In fact a lot of how your metabolism works is really based on your lifestyle habits and your overall body composition- which also explains why it tapers off for most of us as we get older!

So what is metabolism anyways? A very simple explanation of metabolism is the processes by which your body breaks down food for energy. But what most of us mean when we say we want to have a faster metabolism is that we want to increase our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the energy that our body needs to burn at rest.

I know many of you are scratching your heads thinking “ok so how the heck do I get my body to burn more calories at rest”… well this is where the body composition part comes in because as most of us have heard our muscles require more energy to “survive” at rest than do our fat cells which means the more muscle mass to fat mass that we have the faster our metabolism is going to be.

Now before the skeptics role their eyes thinking these are supposed to be EASY ways to get that metabolism rolling and going to the gym to pound iron hardly sounds easy – let me restate that what I am talking about is the RATIO of muscle to fat mass, which can even be effected by the way we eat.

So what are 3 easy ways to get your metabolism back into gear?

Tip # 1: Eat small meals more often – Human beings are considered grazing mammals – which means that if food is available we should eat small amounts of food pretty much continuously – think cow on the pasture. Now if you are one of those people who eats only dinner what you’re telling your body is “DROUGHT/FAMINE!” which automatically means that your body will do it’s best to conserve energy until the next available meal which = slower metabolism and an increased storage of energy in the form of fat which effects that muscle:fat ratio we were just talking about… Eating 3 small meals and 2 snacks on the other hand means our body can be frivilous with the calories we consume and burn more for the heck of it – YAY! This also equals less fat storage which means a better muscle:fat ratio.

Tip # 2 Drink water – plenty of it (or at least your 8 glasses a day)!  Considering our body is 90% water, staying hydrated impacts how effectively our body burns food for fuel. That’s because not only is water required for metabolism, but it also makes up a big part of the blood that circulates oxygen and nutrients to our muscles – again increasing the ability of our body to burn more calories, which equals a better muscle: fat ratio. Carrying a bottle of water with you and/or taking a water break rather than a coffee break are great ways to increase your intake.

Tip #3: Build muscle mass/decrease fat mass – The first thing that most of us think about when we think about building muscle and/or losing fat is exercise. Exercise is definitely one of the best ways to positively impact our body composition, but you don’t have to go to the gym or play sports to benefit. Simply incorporating about 30 minutes of strengthening activities like push ups, sit ups, lunges and lifting light weights twice a week can build muscle mass. An easy way to do this is to do a few push ups during commercial breaks while your watching your favorite show. You can also decrease fat mass by incorporating some aerobic activities into your day like parking a bit further so you can walk and using the stairs rather than elevators, or incorporating a 10 min brisk walk during your lunch break. It may not sound like much, but even these little changes can add up over time.

Remember changing habits takes time so start slowly and be consistent. You don’t have to be at 100% right away – just make one or two changes that you know that you can maintain, and then build on it!

* Image by Ambro |

Forbidden Weight Loss Foods

Every year, around this time, when all the delicious tropical fruits start coming into season (we are in the heart of mango season right now)  – I find my clients starting to debate about whether or not they should indulge in these “forbidden fruits”. If you’ve ever been on a diet or tried to lose weight I’m sure you know which ones I’m talking about – bananas, mangos melons and pineapple are some of the most common.
But it isn’t just these fruits that have a bad rep in the weight loss world – I mean I haven’t met many people who don’t cast a weary eye towards potatoes and rice when their trying to lose those extra pounds…
So what is all the demonizing about, and does it really make sense?
 The premise is that because these foods tend to be high on the Glycemic Index (GI) – which means they have higher amounts of quickly digesting carbohydrates – they will spike your blood sugars and cause you to crave more foods or be quickly converted and stored as fat.
While I agree that highly processed foods like pop, donuts, cake, and white breads, which also show up as high GI foods, do just this mainly because they offer calories with little other nutritive value, this is not the case for naturally occurring foods which also serve as important sources of  vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
When discerning whether something is nutrition fact or fiction – I like to use logic. My personal litmus test on this one – there are many many people around the world who eat rice – and I mean a lot of rice – but they aren’t over weight.. the same goes for pretty much all the foods on the list…
As for science, it keeps changing – we are now moving from GI to GL (glycemic load) which categorizes a lot of these same foods as low. More importantly people have been enjoying these foods  for centuries without any ill effects (something we can’t say about McDonalds).
So I say the next time you’re heading out the door without any time for breakfast – go ahead and grab a banana. Your body – and your taste buds – will thank you for it, and don’t worry THEY WON’T MAKE YOU FAT…
Just remember ALL foods fit in moderation.