One of the tenets that I live by is getting creative with the moments in life that are usually done sitting down and making them as active as possible. I enjoy it, it keeps me healthy and I’m a busy professional trainer who needs to work out—many times these moments are all I get! So I bring weights to soccer practices, my phone for body weight Tabatas while waiting in between clients and a jump rope absolutely everywhere, especially to soccer games so I can get my cardio in while watching my boys kick some butt!
This is one big reason I wrote my book, The 4x4 Diet. To encourage others to do the same by taking those normally down times and make them into something special for themselves. I love seeing others walking or jogging during their kids’ activities. I always get people saying to me that they would love to do this but feel silly and self-conscious doing it in front of others. It’s hard to convince them that it’s okay and that what others think about them trying to better themselves and stay healthy shouldn’t matter. It’s something that they eventually have to become comfortable with on their own.
This past weekend was no different. After a busy week, I had a busy Saturday lined up with even more work and two kids in two different cities kicking off their spring soccer seasons. I was able to catch games for both boys and was so happy they did well! After racing from work to catch a morning game I grabbed my jump rope, put on my favorite tunes and went back to getting my cardio in and racing toward a great day of steps on my Fitbit! Unbeknownst to me (but not for long—thanks, internet), I was photographed and posted online as a warning to all those who would even dare to work out at their son’s game. I present to you the latest bully in a long line of them:
The comments that followed were actually the best part. Thanks to a couple of great voices, instantly I was being defended by people I don’t even know and one wonderful person whom I know very well.
This is exactly why many people don’t embrace an active lifestyle in ordinary situations: They are worried that they will draw attention and, even worse, ridicule. Keeping yourself active and healthy in any way you can should be cheered and admired! I would love to see the day when there are more people running laps around the soccer field than there are people just sitting and watching. (Keep in mind: If you want to kick back and watch the game from the bleachers, I don’t judge.) Everyone has to find time in their busy schedules to get their workouts in. This is a time that works well for me and many other parents. I don’t want to see people getting bullied for doing what works best for their lifestyle. What I do care about are those who would love to be out moving but worry that they’re being judged. I don’t want the choice to be made for them because of bullies. These kinds of posts don’t change my opinion or actions, but I can see how they affect other people and I want that to change. So grab your jump rope, embrace that healthy lifestyle and keep on jumping if you hear whispering behind you. You’re the better person here in more ways than one.Add a comment
- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 01 March 2016
Moderation is a key element to how I live my life. I try to workout every day in some shape or form but it doesn’t have to be in the gym, it doesn’t have to be the hardest workout every time or the longest run each night. This goes for my nutritional philosophy as well. I don’t cut out all alcohol or never have pizza but I make sure that the indulgences are small and spaced apart. Moderation also extends into eating occasional healthy, lean meat. There is a lot of evidence that giving up chicken and red meat would be incredibly healthy for me. I also get a bunch of questions from clients and friends asking whether or not they themselves should go vegetarian or vegan to create their own healthiest lifestyle versions. For that reason, I have searched and tried to find every alternative to traditional meats so I could find my own answers to this great debate!
So if you’re looking for a healthy alternative, interested in a new lifestyle or simply curious, here is a great start to that search!
1: Seitan: At is very root, seitan is flavored gluten. Taking the protein from wheat and adding in the spices that you want your food to be flavored with. If you have some gluten intolerances, this may not be your most comfortable option. It does have a great meaty texture!
2: Tofu: This is a very common word for everyone considering or practicing veganism. Tofu is made from soy beans and honestly, is kind of made like cheese. It’s versatile, nutrient dense and cheap. Watch out for the sodium in the heavily processed versions! If you get your own, plain tofu and season it yourself, you’ll be much better off. Bonus: tofu has its own festival.
3: Lentils: Another great nutrient dense food from plants, lentils are beans/legumes and are a great option to get good plant protein and an excellent source of fiber. This food can really land a healthy punch instead of your pasta options which have much less fiber within their carbohydrate profile.
4: Portobello Mushrooms – A longtime go-to when you’re itching for a burger! As long as you have a smart mushroom farmer and she exposes the mushroom to a little UV/sunlight, you’ll end up with a daily serving of vitamin D in a serving of mushrooms!
5: Cauliflower – This is one of those dreaded childhood vegetables that deserves its time in the spotlight now that you’re older and more knowledgeable. They might not be as nutrient dense as the previous all-stars in this list but if you’re looking for a mix-up of your main ingredient then don’t look further! Great for dinner when you take a large cut and make it into a steak. It’s all about the seasonings and a little skillet time and you have yourself a nutty, dense and delicious meal.
With just a little bit of preparation these 5 powerhouse foods will give you the motivation to give up the meat! However, there’s always another way. Somewhere out there, someone has done all the work for you and all you need is a quick trip into the microwave. Looking for an easy meategetarian (see what I did there?) dinner is on the radar of quite a few modern, busy adults. Try these out and make sure that you read the labels in back. Sodium in processed foods adds up quick!
1: Gardein – A smorgasbord of different faux meat options will make you feel like you entered a grocery store for the first time. Options are everywhere!
2: Morningstar – Another plant protein company that’s made its way into a bunch more stores and has been around for a while (1970s!). They’ve been through GMOs and soy arguments and still adjust their brand to reflect the current veggie lifestyle.
3: Amy’s – Another great option as long as you keep yourself informed of the ingredients. Never just trust the “healthy” signage on the front of any frozen box. Watch for high sodium and sugars but try this brand out. I’m pretty sure they have more frozen meal options than weightwatchers.
With just some simple modifications, you too can try out the meatless approach. Just doing this on Mondays is its own phenomenon! So go ahead and change your routine this week, try out meatless Monday and have a go at these high nutrient options!Add a comment
- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 25 February 2016
Most people use a scale to weigh themselves regularly and are pretty emotional about what that scale tells them. As a personal trainer, I often hear comments such as, "I just need to lose the last 10 pounds." I'm constantly battling against these identity-destroying beliefs to help my clients feel satisfied, and I hate it.
Jumping onto every scale you come across will not only drive you into an OCD rage about your weight, but it will also heavily misguide you.
1. Always use the same scale when you weigh yourself.
Jumping onto every scale you come across will not only drive you into an OCD rage about your weight, but it will also heavily misguide you. Each scale will be slightly different. Is it calibrated correctly? Was it set up correctly? Do you know how to use it correctly? My recommendation is to buy a scale to keep in your home, one that you can check privately and verify its accuracy, if not its consistency.
2. Weigh yourself at the same time every day.
Weighing yourself every day might not be your most healthy decision, but if you're going to do it, you should always weigh yourself at the same time of day. Consistency is key to getting an accurate reading. I recommend weighing in after you wake up. Weighing right after a meal is not fair to your brain and so many things can slightly alter your weight during the day that it’s hard to get an accurate picture.
3. Keep track.
This will show you that weight swings in either direction are completely normal. If you find yourself gaining a couple of pounds, you don't need to panic. However, if you gain three pounds each week for three straight weeks, then maybe you should consider altering your diet.
4. Don’t skip the scale.
You should weigh yourself! There is nothing wrong with keeping yourself accountable for your own health, and your weight is ONE way to do this. I emphasize “one” because it is in no way the determining factor of your healthy life.
5. Skip the scale if you want.
In complete and utter disregard for the point above, having a day off or even a week off from weighing yourself can be very good for your health. Many people focus too much on this number and getting away from it for a bit, to quell the fascination, will also help your health. Even if you allow yourself on the scale only once a week, it will eventually show you the trends in your body. Lower that stress level and put some space in between the times you take your measurements.
6. Remember that you are more than just a number.
That number you read on the scale is not what defines you! Your overall health is not based solely on this. Nor is it based on the fact that you eat only organic or are a strict vegetarian! You are so much more than this. You are at your best when you take this information about your weight and plug it into all the other aspects of your life to make a complete picture of who you are as a healthy human being.
7. Confidence is more important than a number.
No matter your weight, you know exactly how hard you have worked to be the healthy person you are now. There is, without a doubt, something to be said for confidence, and the beauty it inspires.
8. Your clothes don't lie.
Scales don't take into account your muscle tone or genetics. Your closet is your best friend, and I see this with nearly every client. The first one to notice changes in your body won’t be from the people you surround yourself with or the electronics constantly snapping pictures and displaying your weight. The first to see your hard work will be your favorite pair of jeans.
9. Your weight will fluctuate.
This is NORMAL! Do not focus on losing pounds every day or having to be at a certain number every morning. As a healthy, living being, your weight will fluctuate based on a number of factors including water intake, sodium intake, that weekend trip out of town, or sadly, that extra glass of wine with your bestie. It’s the long run that counts, and it’s for this reason that you weigh consistently and for a longer period.
10. You'll find a weight that feels "happy" for you.
I am 5-foot-7 and weigh, on average, 131 pounds. This is not your ideal body weight. That’s because when you take care of your body, feed it right, get your workouts in, and do all this in a very consistent manner, your body will find its “ideal” all by itself.
Focusing on my statistics tells little of all the work I put in every day to stay fit. I monitor my weight, sure, but mainly I focus on what I can do today that will make me healthy! Follow these 10 rules and I promise you that weighing yourself will be not a burden but a tool. This is one tool among many at your disposal to make your life happy, fulfilling, and healthyAdd a comment
- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 28 January 2016
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, consistency is key. If you want to stop feeling lethargic and overweight, you have to stop being lazy. Sorry to be blunt. It's all about creating a consistent lifestyle that promotes healthy eating and movement throughout the day!
I’m a personal trainer, but I am not always a perfect eater. I love pizza — I love bacon on my pizza. When I indulge, I make sure that two out of the three meals I eat that day are still healthy. On days that my body is sore and rundown, I still get up and move. Laying around only makes the soreness worse — get those muscles moving and get a good stretch or foam roll in.
I remind myself that even on my worst days, I can still walk. I can move. I don’t have to just sit around, I can strap on a backpack and walk around Nashville to grab a cup of coffee (It's going to be gorgeous here this weekend, holy cow!). Here are the other rules to follow to maintain a consistent, healthy lifestyle:
1. Get at least 10,000 steps every day.
This is the gold standard of consistency. It equals about five miles — here are some ways I make it happen every day:
- Park far away
- Use the stairs (want that strong booty, stairs are the best)
- Walk the dog
- Pack your lunch so that you can walk during at least half that break
- Bike like in the picture above (just make sure to strap your step tracker on your shoe, he's doing it wrong ;)
2. Teach your body to be healthy by being consistent.
When you make being healthy a habit, your body know exactly what it’s in for and responds accordingly. If you're able to stay away from sweets for an extended period, your body won’t crave them as much and when you do eat them, too much sugar will taste horrible! Try a piece of 80 percent dark chocolate for an after dinner treat and use gum to curb cravings.
3. Eat breakfast so that your body knows to be hungry.
Too many people have gotten used to not eating breakfast. It’s SO important! By eating it every day you actually will wake up hungry, and this is a good thing. That means your body is expecting the food and has started your metabolism already.
4. Sweat every day.
Our body’s cooling system is amazing. We shed all the heat by sweating. If you are a consistent trainer, your body knows what’s in store and will start cooling you down immediately. If your body isn’t used to working out, you will find yourself overheating due to your body’s idea of consistency — that you don’t need to sweat because you don’t work out. This will change over time!
5. Think long-term, not short-term.
Dieting provides short-sighted goals — 10-day juice cleanse, 3-day starvation, 30-days carb-free. What you really need is a consistent and fulfilling idea of eating clean and healthy that lasts a lifetime. Lower sugar, lower sodium, no starches in the evening and less booze (sorry).
6. Be active throughout the day.
One hour at the gym does not make an active lifestyle. Getting to the gym routinely is great and I commend everyone who does it. But saying, “That’s all folks,” for the rest of the day while you sit at a desk, car and couch does not make an active lifestyle. Consistency throughout the day will help you get and stay lean.
7. One workout does not make you strong and one day without weights does not ruin everything.
Consistency can be attained by sticking to your healthy lifestyle 80% of the time. Everyone needs a day to relax from the stress ... just don’t let that make you feel guilty — enjoy your life!
8. One meal does not make you healthy and one meal does not make you fat.
When I ask about the meals my clients had the days before our workout together, I will always get a rundown of the healthiest options they chose. Yet they’ll also complain about why they aren’t losing weight. That one salad choice at lunch two days ago will not get you to your goal! Consistently choosing the better option will yield results and also increase your ability to refrain from temptation.
9. Drink water consistently throughout the day so you never feel thirsty.
If you don’t get enough water in your body before your workout, you won’t get as much out of your hard work. Blood brings oxygen to your muscles and brain. Blood is made up of quite a bit of water. If you are not hydrated, it is harder for you to get oxygen to where it needs to be.
The more you sweat, the more water you should drink. If you drink coffee or alcohol, you should also up your water intake.
10. Indulge on special occasions.
For me, this means eating pizza sparingly. Moderation within consistency is the biggest key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Remember that it's a lifestyle. Find what makes you happy AND healthy. A great way to do this will be in my book, The 4x4 Diet, coming out on Februrary 2nd. Pick it up for some more solid and simple ways to create your best, healthy life!
Photo Credit: ShutterstockAdd a comment
- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 11 December 2015
One of my mantras is that while living within a consistently healthy lifestyle, you need to find time to enjoy life. For some, this includes having a drink at a bar with friends and family. I will always ask my clients to slow down how quickly they imbibe, to mix water in between drinks, and to cut down on how often they go out to grab a drink. However, I rarely ask that they stop having alcohol altogether. I am a realistic person, after all! And how can I ask them to do something I don’t do myself? So instead, I constantly look for new ways to have a healthy cocktail.
Cutting out alcohol is not a bad idea, by the way. I’m not condoning alcohol use here; in fact, there are many reasons I would recommend cutting it out of your diet. Ditching it entirely is a great way to meet a goal you have been struggling to achieve. There aren’t nutritional benefits to drinks that would make them necessary in your diet, especially when you are trying to lose weight! If you cut alcohol and then begin drinking again once you meet your goal, don’t be surprised if you see all that hard work fade a bit. Create a lifestyle for yourself, not a quick fix.
So…what can you drink that isn’t disastrous? Let me be quick to mention that margaritas are definitely NOT the answer! And keep in mind, just like adjusting to a more healthy, whole-foods based eating plan, reducing how much sugar is in your drink will take some getting used to…especially if what you are used to involves the bartender upending a sugar packet into a shaker.
- Vodka is a great base and is very low in calories. It’s like a wonderful blank canvas; a good bartender can always make vodka into a sip-worthy masterpiece.
- Add club soda, and then just a splash of cranberry. Too much of any type of juice can ratchet up the sugar content, so be careful!
- Fresh lime juice is a great addition to most drinks – it adds a slightly sour punch without excess calories or sugar.
- Stevia, lemons, and limes mixed together create a wonderful sour mix. This is our house favorite – we often take some to bars in my purse. Nothing is worse than asking for a sour mixer and getting a pre-made, sugary disaster!
- Red wine…studies go back and forth with the benefits of this delicious beverage. Maybe it’s got benefits, but don’t fall into bad habits. Yes, I’m talking about the pour by yourself, your friend, or the friendly bartender. “I had only one glass of wine” doesn’t mean much when that one glass was actually 2.5 servings!
- The occasional light beer is okay, but beer guts are definitely not healthy.
Remember, a cocktail is only as healthy as the food that may accompany it. Just because you are watching excess calories in your drinks doesn’t mean you should dive headfirst into the free chips and dip (and ordering that gigantic plate of nachos is not okay, even if you are sharing with one other person). Keep an eye on your munchies!
Finally, the absolute healthiest drink you can have is one that’s paired with dancing. Recipe is as follows:
- Have a light cocktail.
- Place that cocktail down during a good song.
- Dance, dance, dance.
- Burn, baby, burn those calories!
- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 09 July 2015
Staying healthy and remaining fit can be a daunting task, and seeing others doing the same and having fun while at it can be frustrating. Here’s a little tip: act like you’re a kid again! Granted, don’t do chips and pizza for meals or snacks all day long, but go outside to have fun with your favorite active hobby! It’s a great way to actually enjoy staying healthy.
Whether it be soccer (my favorite) or a little basketball in the driveway (with or without the kids), staying fit does not always need a gym or weights. Just recently, a good friend of mine took up hockey. Hockey! And she absolutely loves it. It gives her a way to be more involved with the Predators she roots for, gives her an outlet away from the kids (so important!) and keeps her sharp and in shape. Joining a league may be a little difficult and you may not think you have the time, but it is worth it. Just like oxygen masks on airplanes, you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others!
Personally, I find it to be a huge stress reliever. When I’m on the soccer field, I don’t think about anything but the game. When I run on the treadmill, or even outdoors on trails, my mind refuses to stop thinking about work and the stress never goes away. When I’m chasing the soccer ball, however, it all falls off me, letting the stress disappear for that great moment. Plus, it is an absolutely incredible calorie burner, and seems effortless because you’re having so much fun!
If you can do these activities with or around your kids, all the better. It creates a great bond and develops healthy habits for your children. What better mentor than yourself? The best memories I have of my parents are the ones in which they were involved in my activities and hobbies. Those memories are truly vivid and have withstood the test of time, as will the memories your children have of you.
Finally, what better way to stay out of restaurants than needing to be in top form? Eating healthy will make you feel good on the field but eating a bunch of junk food will certainly make you feel sluggish and yucky. Take it as motivation. The better you eat, the better you play, the better you feel about yourself, and the better life you live.
Find or develop an active passion. It may just be the perfect gateway to a healthier, happier you.
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- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 25 June 2015
Moderation, a great word in the lexicon of health. A word that I find creates the best possible chances for success in your search for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Too many, my clients included, try to find ways to lose weight that require so much sacrifice that once they're off of that fad trend, the weight comes back in a hurry! Don’t get me wrong, with nearly every diet book out there, if you were to follow it to the letter, you would lose weight. But how happy would you be for the remainder of your life, and I do hope it’s a long life, if you never ate carbohydrates again? Or refused to have a burger at a neighborhood cookout? Or only drank your food in juice form? Or only drank shakes forever? Could you really never have gluten again–bye-bye pizza, pasta, beer, cereal? There are foods out there that do cause more weight gain and inflammation than others (starchy carbs and red meat, I’m talking to you), but that doesn’t mean you need to eliminate them from your diet.
Take for example a friend of mine who has given up red meat. She’s come to this naturally by slowly reducing her intake and paying attention to her body and how it feels after these meals. Starting with no-meat Mondays, she eventually moved to eating meat only one day a week, and finally to not eating animal protein based solely on how sore her knees felt when she did. It was a slow, natural, moderate progression into a lifestyle that she loves and is completely comfortable living with. Keep in mind, every long once in a while she does eat meat, with no guilt associated whatsoever.
A healthy lifestyle, instead of a quick fix, is what I hope you truly find. A way to make your body feel good and your mind be completely cool with it as well. There will always be the “next big thing” in weight loss. Just make sure to take the central idea and try incorporating it into your life. Moderation is key–you work too hard to ruin it now!
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- Written by Erin Oprea
- Published: 28 May 2015