Posted by Sima Cohen
“Can I drink alcohol and still lose weight?”
I get this question a lot and the answer, of course, is YES! We all love to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail now and again. But you do have to be smart about it! The impact that alcohol has on weight loss can be classified by two things: calories and alcohol content.
When it comes to calories, you’ll rack these up by adding lots of sugary mixers to cocktails. Margaritas often contain as much as 7 teaspoons of sugar! And the other mixers can be double the amount of calories of the alcohol itself. For example, a 1 ounce shot of tequila is only about 64 calories. But a margarita cocktail, which contains tequila, will cost you over 200 calories! Yikes! And the mixers are made of the worst kind of calories: simple or refined sugar. Combine those with the effects of alcohol, and it’s double the damage on your health.
As far as alcohol content goes, let’s just clear up the myth right now: alcohol does not make you fat. But it does change your body’s metabolic priority, which can be a doozy if you drink often (more than one drink per day). Your body MUST process alcohol before it can process anything else. That mean, instead of working on fat burning your body is busy safely getting rid of the cocktail you just consumed. That means high circulating levels of fat (especially if you’re also consuming bar food) and inhibited fat burning.
But, there are upsides. 1 drink per day (for women) have actually been show to increase your HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and studies do show that people who have a couple of drinks per week actually live longer. So, while enjoying alcohol safely, keep these 3 things in mind:
1. Know your serving sizes.
A red wine glass can hold up to 14 ounces of liquid, but a single serving of wine is just 5 ounces.
2. Hold the mixers.
Make your margaritas with REAL fresh squeezed lime juice, switch to diet tonic water, or use club soda, which is naturally calorie-free.
Reserve your alcoholic drinks for your cheat meal, and you will significantly reduce their caloric impact on your body.
Here are just a few alcohol drinks you can enjoy without all the guilt:
Vodka and Club Soda (1.5 oz. Vodka, 1 oz. Club Soda)
Acai Pom Codder (1.5 oz. Absolut Acai Berry Vodka, 1 oz. low sugar pomegranate juice, garnish with orange slice)
Red or White Wine (5 oz.)
Champagne (5 oz.)
Let me know in the comments if this post resonated with you and if you have any questions or tips I haven’t already covered!
To your health and Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
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May 25, 2013 | 6:43 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
1. Eat Breakfast
Duh! You’ve been asleep and fasting for eight hours, and this meal feeds your body for the first time in a new day! Plus studies show that eating breakfast actually kickstarts your metabolism and helps you lose weight faster. Just make sure your breakfast contains complex carbs (such as oatmeal). If you find you’re still hungry, add some protein (like eggs) and veggies (greens are always best).
2. Keep Eating!
Don’t stop with breakfast! You should be eating throughout the day, about five times. Three meals and two snacks, to be precise. Focus on lean proteins, whole grains, lots of veggies, and some fruit. Avoid the white carbs, and eat red meat sparingly. When you eat often, you feed your body at a rate that makes it comfortable releasing the fat and toxins. You also keep yourself from feeling hungry and deprived, which will help you avoid those nasty cravings.
3. Sweat It Out
If you could get in 45 minutes of cardio, 4-6 times per week, you’ll not only feel great… you’ll look fabulous! Take a bike ride, jog, hike, swim, do some jumping jacks, or even walk your dog. The point is, get moving! The more you move, the more you remind your body that it’s okay to get rid of toxins, stress, and water weight.
You have to allow yourself to have the things you love, bottom line. Whether it’s dessert, a cocktail, or your favorite bar food, giving yourself some freedom to indulge will help with your cravings, and just generally make you feel better that day. So if there is a particularly hard day of the week for you, have a cheat meal that day! And don’t worry or stress, because one dessert won’t hinder your progress.
5. Coffee? Black, Please!
Hello, all my coffee lovers! Having a delicious latte every now and then is A-OK. But if you make it a daily habit, you should realize that you are packing on the fat and calories. Even if you think you’re having “skinny” coffee, small 12 oz. drinks are 100 calories! Instead, try a few cups of black coffee with a flavored creamer. That way, you still get your caffeine and your flavor!
6. Stop Obsessing
Stop weighing yourself every five minutes, stop counting calories, and quit eliminating entire food groups from your diet. Listen to your body! Obviously you don’t want to overdo it, but keep this in mind: it usually takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize you’re getting full. Take smaller bites, eat smaller meals, and eat at the same time every day, because it establishes a healthy pattern that your body can get used to. And if your body says “I’m hungry!”, you should listen. If you don’t, it could backfire in the form of binge eating.
Stress and anxiety can easily keep you from your goals. In fact, stress signals thousands of hormones in our bodies, and this can harm your metabolism. Focus on something other than the number on the scale while you’re trying to lose weight. Maybe it’s a hobby, a volunteer project, or a career goal. Whatever you do, don’t stop eating and don’t stop exercising. Pass the time thinking about things that make you happy and fulfilled, and watch the pounds melt away!
8. One Size Does Not Fit All
You want to fit into those size 2 jeans. I get it. But that doesn’t mean your body wants to be there! Our bodies often go right to the size they want us to be without our strong effort. Just focus on eliminating unhealthy sugars and fats and other poor sources of nutrition, and getting some consistent exercise, and your body will find its ideal weight by itself. Believe me… if there is one thing you can trust to tell you what’s true, it’s your body!
Let me know in the comments if this post resonated with you and if you have any questions or tips I haven’t already covered!
To your health,
May 9, 2013 | 2:02 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
So, you're a beginner? Perfect. A lot of my clients were once, too. Today they invent their own recipes, such as my Pita Pizza and Sweet Potato Fries... some of the recipes you'll find in my 10 Day Shred and 3D-Xcelerated packages. Rest assured, I am not here to turn you into the next Martha or Wolfgang. But when it comes to weight loss, the old sayings "you are what you eat" and "six packs start in the kitchen" could not be more true. Remember: when you cook your own food, you know what goes inside your body and you are in control of how much and when. If you really want to do your body good, a little investment in the kitchen can go a long way. How long? Long enough to extend your expiration date.
I found that cooking can actually become a fun hobby, and these tips can turn your cooking anxiety into cooking fantasies. The best part is that with this tips you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen. In fact, in less than 60 minutes you could probably prepare your lunch, dinner, and snacks for the next 3 days! Just take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, get your favorite music going, and follow these tips, which will save you time, money, and unnecessary frustration.
1) Read the recipe from beginning to end. Get all of the ingredients and kitchen tools out and ready to go. It will save you precious time, and eliminate defeat.
2) No fancy equipment required! Cooking is easier when you have the right tools, but most recipes require is a pot, a non-stick frying pan, a baking sheet, a good knife, a few measuring spoons, and a simple blender or mixer.
3) Keep your kitchen clean and organized. Nobody likes a messy, dirty work area.
4) Music will automatically put you in a better mood, especially if you're someone who gets bored being in the kitchen.
5) You don't have to have all of the ingredients! For most recipes, if you have 3 out of the 5 spices listed, go ahead and try it anyway. Don't have all the vegetables that listed in the recipe? Just use what you have (especially for soups, stews, and casseroles). Don't be afraid to experiment. Cooking is an excellent opportunity to be creative!
6) Buy a loaded spice rack. They fit perfectly anywhere in your kitchen, and will give you an instant access to all the herbs and spices you need to flavor your food.
7) The perfect hard boiled egg is easy! Place the eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow eggs to cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let eggs rest for a few minutes.
Tip: Running them under cold water makes them easier to peel.
8) If you want leftovers, double the recipe and refrigerate or freeze! Just one more simple way to make your life easier.
9) If you have a barbecue, grill more! Chicken, meat, fish and even vegetables. It changes the flavor of the food for the better, and it's a great way to get the family involved.
10) Speaking of family, make it a point to eat dinner together at least once a week. It will bring the family together to discuss, create memories, and remind you what's really important in life. It's also a great way to make sure your kids are eating healthy and getting the nutrients they need.
11) Not all olive oil is created equal. I recommend using best quality extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed, unfiltered, and packaged in a dark glass bottle that protects it from the damaging effects of light. Store the oil away from both heat and light.
12) Soak wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes before using them, so they won't burn. If you prefer to use metal skewers, use square or twisted skewers, because they hold the food better than round skewers.
13) Use real, quality ingredients. There is no substitute for real food. Not only does real food taste better, it will fill you up, which will cause you to eat less.
14) When measuring honey, coat the measuring spoon or cup with nonstick cooking spray before adding the honey. This way, the honey will slide right out!
15) Have a pizza night! Use a whole wheat pita or whole wheat Lavash bread for the crust, add low sugar tomato or marinara, low fat cheeses, and plenty of vegetables as toppings. Pair it with a side of mixed greens and balsamic for a complete meal and dig in!
16) Start by cooking things you already know you love to eat. You'll be more motivated to cook, and way more invested in the outcome.
17) Rose water is an amazing liquid to add to your oatmeal, shakes, tea, and distilled water. Just as little as 1 teaspoon goes a long way, and adds fabulous flavor and aroma. You can purchase it at any Middle Eastern supermarket.
18) A Crock-Pot could be your best kitchen investment, because you can cook just about anything in it. From whole chickens, to soups and stews, desserts, snacks, and more!
19) Invite your friends and family over to enjoy your food. Food is a blessing, and sharing it with others is double the blessing!
20) Microwave your lemons for 15 seconds. This will double the juice when you're squeezing it. You can also microwave a garlic clove for 15 seconds to help slip the skin off.
21) Leftover wine? No problem! Freeze it into ice cubes for future use in sauces and casseroles.
22) If you don't like the strong flavor of garlic in your food, saute it first.
23) The best way to store fresh celery is to wrap it in aluminum foil and refrigerate it.
24) When mincing garlic, sprinkle a little salt over it so that the pieces won't stick to your knife or cutting board.
25) Don't beat yourself up if your dish doesn't come out right the first time. Cooking is a very flexible art, and chances are you'll know exactly what went wrong. Keep at it, and before you know it you'll be writing your very own cookbook!
Get my e-book Eat Everything, Lose Big for easy 30-minute recipes for every meal! (Including desserts and cocktails!)
May 6, 2013 | 1:57 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
1. THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL!
If you are a living breathing female human being you've tried at least one fad diet in your life. And chances are you've tried dozens. There’s no shame in starting a diet! The fact that you want to get in shape and get healthy is awesome. The problem lies with the very definition of dieting. Diets have a tendency to make ridiculous claims while expecting you to follow through with an impossible way of eating. By eliminating entire food groups from your diet, and severely slashing calories, you will surely lose weight... but how long are you going to keep eating like that? Not long! After just a week or two your body will cave from the physical and emotional stress, and once you resume your "normal" way of eating all the weight will come right back. Stop dieting already!
2. THEY DON'T WORK.
Nobody can live on tofu and egg whites for the rest of their life. Dieting is stressful and incredibly difficult. It wreaks havoc on your metabolism and your mental and emotional health suffers. Having to think about and calculate every single calorie or every gram of fat or carb will literally drive you insane. And be honest: the more you're told you can't have something, the more you want it.
3. THEY'RE MISERABLE.
You may feel like you're doing everything right, but it's exhausting. You constantly think about all of the foods you can never have again, you spend three hours at the gym every day, you count calories, you measure all of your food, you eat only salad, and you weigh yourself every hour. Before you know it, your entire life is consumed by your diet.
4. EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT.
There are cleanses, liquid diets, juices, sugar-free, carb-free, meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, low-calorie. There's Paleo, Atkins, Cabbage Soup, pills, and fasting. And they all promise instant results. But with dieting there is no one-size fits all. Everyone has different eating habits and taste buds. The diet that helped your cousin lose 20 pounds may not work for you.
5. IT'S ADDICTING.
We all hate it, but it's easy to get wrapped up in a yo-yo way of eating. Somehow we got it stuck in our heads that this is the only way to lose weight. The truth is, the more you diet, the more you screw up your body's natural fat-burning abilities. It's a gigantic waste of time, and you'll only end up fatter in the end.
Let me know if this post resonated with you and if you have any questions or tips I haven't already covered!
May 4, 2013 | 1:55 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
I get a lot of health and fitness questions from friends, clients, and fellow parents. When it comes to losing weight, it's amazing how much people truly don't know, and we're constantly bombarded with "information" - most of it not true - that can be misleading and confusing. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below this blog, and I'll answer your health and fitness questions here, for everyone to see!
Q: IF I DON'T EAT BEFORE I WORKOUT, WILL I BURN MORE FAT AND CALORIES?
Answer: I know what you're thinking. "If I skip a meal before hitting the gym, I'll lose more weight because there are less calories in my belly to burn." Well, this isn't necessarily true. You won't burn any more fat or calories skipping a meal before a workout. The only time I would ever tell you not to eat before a workout is if you are doing cardio in the morning before breakfast. Otherwise, always eat on a normal, frequent schedule; three small meals and two snacks throughout the day eating once every two and a half to three hours.
But you will be able to exercise harder, faster and you'll get so much more out of your workout if your body is well-fueled. Skipping a meal or snack before hitting the gym can lower your endurance and put you at greater risk of injury. Plus, exercising on an empty stomach increases the production of the stress hormone Cortisol, which leads to the breakdown of muscle tissue and packs on the belly fat. And that's the exact opposite of what you want after busting your butt at the gym. Eating less and exercising more is detrimental to your weight loss goals. Having a quality snack before your workout - if it's time to do so - is a good idea. Shoot for a 150-200 calorie mix of carbs and protein, like a peach and low-fat string cheese, hummus and baby carrots, or an apple and PB or AB.
Love and Exercise,
May 1, 2013 | 1:52 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
We all have cravings for sweets now and then. Sugar cravings are typically caused by foods you are already eating, which may cause blood sugar to drop, giving you a false sense of hunger and stealing your energy. Thankfully, this is a battle you can win. Here are 5 foods that effectively beat sugar cravings. Try including some of these foods in your diet each day to satisfy, energize and sustain you, and you can kiss the vending machine goodbye.
Avocados are a wonderful food to conquer sugar cravings because they contain B Vitamins including Folate which lowers stress, 18 essential amino acids for a great source of protein, healthy fats, and Vitamin E. They are also an excellent source of protein. Avocados can be added to just about anything from salads, to smoothies, to omelettes, or used as a dip in guacamole.
2. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has been called "Nature’s Miracle Oil", because this healthy food lowers insulin levels and keeps hunger in check without raising cholesterol. Coconut oil has also been touted as a weight loss aid, probably due to the fact that it turns off your sweet tooth. It provides beneficial fats to your liver, where fats are used for fuel, not for storage. Add it to smoothies, or use it to cook with. Coconut oil has an incredibly high smoke point which means the fat stays intact throughout the cooking process so they aren't damaging to the body, unlike other vegetable oils.
3. Flax seeds
Flax seeds alone don't cause weight loss, but they are a tool you can use to help reach your weight-loss goal. Their benefits come from the high fiber content and wealth of omega-3 fatty acids. Just two tbsp. of flax seeds contain almost 25 percent of your daily recommended fiber. Foods high in fiber take longer to digest and make you feel full faster and for a longer period of time, which also helps you consume fewer calories and curb unnecessary sugar cravings.
Yams are an excellent source of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber, and at just 157 calories a cup, yams can be the perfect food for filling up and keeping cravings at bay. In addition, the natural fiber in yams slows down the rate at which your body processes sugar, keeping you from being hungry between meals. Yams can also be prepared in a wide variety of dishes that are a delicious way to add this delicious vegetable to your diet.
Eggs have been proven to be one of the top foods to beat sugar cravings and lower hunger levels throughout the day. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, B Vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids, and even small amounts of iron, which fill you up and power you throughout the day. They have also been proven to lower insulin levels and a hormone in our bodies known as Ghrelin, which stops hunger and prevents sugar cravings. Try having an egg at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack. Here's a tip for the week: hard boil a dozen eggs on Sunday and store them in the fridge through the week to grab and go.
April 21, 2013 | 5:42 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
We’ve all heard of the indulgent “death by chocolate”, but what’s really dangerous is salt. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health has found that one in 10 deaths in this country can be attributed to high levels of sodium. Sugar has been in the crosshairs of every organization trying to reverse obesity, but the author of this recent study says that your salt shaker will do way more harm than your sugar bowl. That may be because sodium is in almost every food that we eat: it is naturally occurring in everything from plants to meat, and it’s also added in abundance to every processed, packaged, and boxed food on store shelves.
Our bodies do need some sodium. Sodium helps control hydration, manages heart rhythms and plays a role in muscle contraction. But we don’t need much. The Institute of Medicine, which sets the Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamins and minerals, recommends that we cap sodium at 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. Make that 1,500 if you’re over age 51, are African American or have kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Our sodium needs are easily met through natural sources: a cup of raw broccoli has 29 mg of sodium, a cup of long grain brown rice has 10 mg, and a serving of Alaskan salmon has 69 mg.
1. No more fast food. Start taking your own lunch to work. Burgers, fries, and even salad dressings in fast food restaurants are infused with more sodium than we need in an entire day. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese and large fries at McDonald’s gives you 1,320 milligrams of sodium. Gross!
2. Find different flavors. Find ways to add flavor to your food without adding salt. Cook rice or quinoa in low-sodium vegetable broth. Add fresh or dried herbs to poultry and seafood. Grill meats and vegetables with peppers, onions, and garlic. The options are endless and so is the taste!
3. Read the labels. In the American diet, bread and cheese are the main sources of salt. Condiments, soups, crackers, cheese, and anything else you’re buying in a box, bag, or bottle at the grocery store is also going to be high in sodium. Buy reduced or low-sodium options.
4. Bite, then salt. Your instant reaction shouldn’t be to cover your meal in salt before you’ve even taken a bite; it probably doesn’t even need it. At a restaurant, it’s safe to assume it’s been well-salted already. When eating at home, well-cooked and flavorful food doesn’t even need salt.
5. De-salt your canned goods. Sodium is a preservative, so you’re guaranteed to find a lot of it in canned goods. Reduce some of that by rinsing your canned foods before preparing. Dump beans, corn, or peas into a colander and run water over it to wash away some of the salt.
6. Use fresh ingredients instead of processed. You’ll save umpteen milligrams of sodium by making your own sauces and soups, and simmering dried beans until soft (rather than opening a can). Yes, it’s a time commitment, but if you’re serious about salt reduction (and you should be!) it is time well spent. Make these staples more convenient by cooking them in big batches, and freezing in single-serving portions for later use.
7. Get creative. Acidic flavorings like lemon or lime juice and vinegar can help bring out a food’s inherent savoriness, which in turn helps you reduce or even eliminate salt. Or, try a sprinkle of fresh grated lemon zest, chopped fresh or dried herbs, garlic or shallots; while not always a perfect replacement for salt, they can help ease the transition to lower-salt cooking by waking up other flavors. Get creative with seasoning blends, found in any spice aisle; just make sure they’re labeled “salt-free.” I like lemon pepper, poultry seasoning and salt-free herb blends like Mrs. Dash. (I don’t recommend potassium-chloride-based salt substitutes, which taste “off” to our palates.)
Use measuring spoons when adding salt to be sure you’re not overdoing it. Even if a recipe calls for a “pinch” or to “salt to taste,” measure what you are adding, using a small amount (say, 1/8 teaspoon) at a time and be sure to taste as you go.
April 17, 2013 | 5:39 pm
Posted by Sima Cohen
Believe the hype! Fast ways to lose weight do exist! In fact, you might be surprised at how many quick, effective ways to lose weight quickly there actually are. All you need to do is read and implement:
1. Prepare Your Own Meals
Preparing your own meals is the #1 step in fast and successful weight loss. This way you can control your portions, that are usually two to three times larger in restaurants. Start simple by making one meal a day. (ie: breakfast) A nutritious yet low-calorie breakfast, like oatmeal or eggs with yogurt or fresh fruit on the side.
2. Eat Normal Serving Sizes
It’s pretty important to know how much food a normal size serving is. One serving of meat or fish should be about the size of the inside of your palm. A serving of carbs should be the size of your fist. Open up both hands and your serving of veggies should fit right in there, and any healthy fats should be about the size of the top of your thumb. More importantly, if you feel full do not make yourself eat up everything you have on your plate. Your body knows when it’s the right time to stop.
3. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is absolutely essential for healthy weight loss! Your digestive system will run more smoothly, your body will be able to naturally detox, your metabolism will go up, and you will feel healthier overall. Make oatmeal your daily breakfast, and have a few vegetable salads during the day to get all the fiber you need, and you will be amazed at how fast those pounds start falling off!
4. DO NOT Skimp on Protein
It’s important to have a balanced diet when trying to lose weight FAST. Protein helps build muscle, and muscle burns fat! That’s why you need to make sure that you consume an adequate amount of protein with each meal. Eggs, white meat, and fish are always the best natural sources of protein. But if you are vegetarian, you might enjoy tofu, beans, asparagus, and quinoa. Protein helps you feel fuller, and repairs your muscles after workouts. As a bonus, it contributes to the beauty of your skin, nails, and hair.
5. Never Starve Yourself
This is a common mistake when trying to find a way to lose weight. I’ve been there, and from my personal experience I can tell you that skipping meals in order to lose weight DOES NOT WORK. First of all it’s distracting, as you can not stop thinking about food. Second of all, the few pounds I managed to lose came back in abundance the week I started eating normally again. The thing is, starving yourself immediately sends your body into “starvation mode” which basically means the body is trying to reserve the very same fat that we are trying to burn off. And don’t forget what a toll it takes on your overall health and your metabolism… Eek!
6. EAT 3 Small Meals and 2 Snacks Rather Than 3 Big Meals
The more often you eat, the less you eat and the less hungry you feel before each meal, which inevitably leads you to consuming less overall. Just make sure the 2 snacks you have in-between meals are actually healthy. Boiled eggs, a handful of almonds, an apple, a piece of string cheese, a Lara bar, or a piece of chicken breast will be the perfect choice.
7. Schedule Your Snacks
We’ve already covered the reasons why eating 5 times a day is an absolute must for all of us who want to lose weight fast and keep it off. What we also need to do is to make sure we snack on a schedule too! To make it easier to remember when to have your snacks, schedule them 3 hours after breakfast and before lunch, and 3 hours after lunch, which would also be about 3 hours before dinner. Eat at the same time every day and your body will know exactly when to expect its next meal. That translates to no unnecessary cravings, emotional eating, and off-schedule snacking, which are just a few things that prevent us from taking the weight off fast!
8. Don’t Bring the Enemy Home (AKA: Junk Food)
This is also one of the most effective ways to lose weight, ladies. Don’t buy junk food and don’t bring it home! It’s that easy! You won’t eat what you don’t have around. When I start craving french fries, for example, I simply microwave a nice big yam and sprinkle it with a little cinnamon (which is touted as a miracle spice, because it increases your metabolism). And for all the rest, make sure you do your shopping after a nice big healthy meal so you don’t reach for impulse items.