Why What I Eat is Not What Keeps Me Lean

Burr with Chai“What do you eat?” is a question I sometimes get asked, and it’s one I have trouble coming up with an easy answer to. The students asking this question, I think, are looking for some tips on keeping off extra pounds and wonder if they can glean some insight into doing so from my diet. My dilemma is that I don’t think I can be of much help to them. My choice of foods, which are too high in carbs and include too many chai lattés, won’t give them much guidance. I do have, however, some really effective eating strategies I can share. Two eating rules in particular, which I’ve stuck with from my 30s to my 60s, deserve the most credit for keeping me slim all those years.

Rule #1: No over-eating. Everybody tries not to overeat of course, and I sympathize with people who struggle with this issue. The tactic that’s worked for me is to cede full authority to my body when it comes to determining how much I get to eat. If my body gains weight, I don’t ask questions. I eat less. Metabolism, hormones and aging don’t have a chance against this strategy.

I can thank my mischievous Southern bell of a mother for teaching me to listen to my body from a young age. Starting from when my sister and I were in grade school, she’d tell us at the dinner table that any food we left on our plates was “better in the garbage can than in your stomach.” I loved the impertinence of this rule. It thumbed its nose at everything kids in my time were being brought up to revere. Not only that, “better in the garbage can” pointed vividly to a destination for the food I’d otherwise have been stuffing Mothermyself with (unlike the moralistic-sounding “eat moderately”). You could make an argument for softening my mother’s phrase to “better in the frig as left-overs than in your stomach,” but I prefer the defiant brashness of the original.

Rule #2: Exercise!  You’re probably thinking, “of course exercise burns calories and heightens metabolic rate. So what else is new?” Exercise has done these things, but that’s not how it’s kept me lean. Earlier this year I happened to spend a few months without much exercise due to some time-consuming projects. During that time I noticed that a kind of hunger-blindness set in. I lost my ability to tell whether or not I needed food. Was I hungry? Or was I just bored, stressed or fatigued? I felt awash. From this experience, I came to understand how living long term in a non-exercising state could cause someone to seriously miscalculate their food intake! When I finished my project and got back to exercise, I quickly regained my connection to my appetite. Hunger went back to feeling distinctly like hunger and food like replenishment, not just something to do. Feeling hungry and enjoying food: My body needs to experience both sides of this equation to stay in equilibrium.

So what do I eat?  For one, too many carbs and grande non-fat chai lattés.  My diet isn’t perfect, but it works for me.

eggs and Activia

  • (When at home) two eggs cooked in a little olive oil over rye toast (360 calories), an Activia yoghurt (100 calories) or
  • (When at work) a whole grain bagel with reduced fat cream cheese (390 calories)
  • Add to both breakfasts one or two Starbucks grande nonfat chai lattes (200-400 calories).

Goat cheese and veggies

  • A Safeway-made lettuce, tomato and provolone sandwich (my estimate is 450 calories), or
  • A Starbuck’s goat cheese & garden veggies box (220 calories), or
  • A half a 7-11 tuna fish sandwich (the whole sandwich is 540 calories).

The tuna sandwich is a recent addition. Since meeting my husband three and a half years ago, I’ve been a vegetarian (eat no meat or fish bu eat cheese and eggs), an easy change

7-11 lunch menusince I don’t like meat anyway. Lately however I felt a need for more protein.  My husband consumes a lot of nuts and protein powder drinks. These sources of protein don’t agree with  me. The 7-11 tuna sandwish is delicious, easy to eat, and a nice solution to my protein needs.

An afternoon pick-up.  I rarely snack, but on occasion I’ll have:

  • A Starbucks tall non-fat hot chocolate no whip (190 calories) or
  • A plain rice cake (35 calories)

My frig

  • Pizza Kitchen spaghettini with goat cheese (1,331 calories, usually half saved in the frig), or
  • Bhaingan bhurta and rice (200-300 calories), or
  • Spinach tortellini made by my husband (calories unknown), or
  • Pumpkin enchiladas at our favorite restaurant Avatar (my guess is about 1000 calories), or
  • Two-to-three pieces of pizza margarita (my guess is about 230 a slice).
  • Add one glass of red wine on week nights (125 calories) and two on Saturday night (250 calories).

Thinandhealthy calorie calculationSo you see that I don’t have the best eating habits! You can also see that I’m not a foodie! I eat a lot of rich food and don’t finish a lot of meals (“better in the garbage can….”). I skip lunch a few days a week due to mid-day meetings or getting busy. All told, I probably eat about 1700 calories a day, right on the mark according to what “’s” calculator estimates someone my sex, age, height and weight and exercise routine.

So there it is. If there’s any wisdom to be found in what I eat, it would be that different foods work for different people. One person can thrive by being a vegan. Someone else can swear by meat and potatoes. The best advice I can offer is, when you’re searching for the diet works best for you: Listen to your body; get in touch with what your hunger is telling you; stick with exercise; and remember, as my mother always said, “better in the …” 🙂

Ten Tips for Making Fitness a Holiday Tradition

Tip #1: Celebrate!

Champagne toast glassesTo stay fit during the holidays, first of all, celebrate them! You — and everyone else on the planet who works hard — need recovery time. It’s in our DNA to schedule ourselves some fun every once and a while. Otherwise, what kind of drones would we be?! Traditions drag us out of our work lairs and get us to the party so that we remember how to feel human. It’s no wonder we revere them.

Tip 2: Rethink holiday cookies.

holiday-cookies2 edit 4Holiday cookies have been a way for people to appreciate and bond with each other since ancient times. In past eras they helped tide friends and family through the winter, but these days they just give us more sugar and bigger love handles.  So take a fresh look at the true purpose of this tradition, which is really to share your holiday spirit with friends and family, and if you value your waistline, think of other ways to do it. Charades, monopoly, pageants, dancing and home movies are also holiday traditions, and you can always make up your own. Meanwhile, admire the prettily decorated cookies you’re offered, and when you can, pass on them!

Tip #3: Carry yourself with great posture.

You’re seeing everyone you know, so let them know how you feel about life by standing up straight! What’s more, just keeping your chest lifted will make you look slimmer, even with a few cookies under your belt.

Tip #4: Zero out the extra sweets you do eat by foregoing your usual indulgences.

Weeks of eating party foods will result in most of those additional calories sticking to your body.  Of course exercising will get rid of some of this excess, but it can’t compensate for weeks of profligate merrimaking unless you’re an Olympian-level athlete. So until January at least, take a holiday from whatever excesses you happen to get away with during the rest of the year, for example a daily caramel macchiato or jamba juice.

Rachel holiday partyThis is a well-worn piece of wisdom. I’m adding it onto this list because it’s easily forgotten when you’re frantically busy. A quick meal like one of hard boiled eggs and apples — which comes in a convenient packet at Starbucks — can safeguard you against the cycle of energy burnout and over-doing it.

Tip #6. Drink lots of water before attending parties.

Being well hydrated before a party will make your eyes and skin sparkle under the holiday lights, not to mention helping you moderate what you drink during the evening.

Tip #7: Pre-schedule your exercise for the rest of the month.

eating a holiday cookiePut yourself down for at least three classes and/or workouts a week for the rest of the season.  Then stick with them as much as possible, even when faced with present-wrapping and visiting relatives. In the end, you’ll come out ahead with more energy and a calmer state of mind.

To stay lean while you might be eating a bit more than usual, exercise continuously for at least one hour each time you work out. The last half hour of your class or session will burn away stored fat so that you look your best in your party clothes and keep up your stamina for the hectic pace of the season.

Tip #9. Strengthen your back-of-the-body muscles.

Focus your triceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves during your workouts. Toned back-side muscles will make you look sensational in your silk, scoop-back party dress.

Tip #10: If you fall off the wagon, let it go.

Of course it’s all too easy let exercise fall by the wayside during the holidays. If this happens to you, don’t beat yourself up! The holidays are a time to be joyful and celebrate, come what may.

Happy Holidays to all!

Calories Burned During a Bar Method Class: Why it’s Not a Zero-Sum Game


One of the most commonly asked questions I get at the Bar Method is how many calories you burn during a workout. No scientific assessments of caloric burn-rate in Bar Method classes have yet been done, but here’s what I can tell you based on burn rates of comparable exercise techniques. A 125-pound woman in good shape burns about 350 calories with the Bar Method DVD workouts (and closer to 400 calories in a beginning/intermediate studio class due to the faster pace). In addition, Bar Method workouts give an approximately 100-calorie additional post-workout burn-off from the build-up of lactic acid.

Advanced classes burn more, as a Bar Method student named Kristen reported a few years ago. “I wore my heart rate monitor for a couple of level two classes, and burned almost 500 calories [per class];” she said. “I burn about 600 on an hour long run.” Another student, a guy who took his first class wearing a heart rate monitor, told me he burned 800 calories. Students in other bar fitness classes who wore calorie counting devices reported burn-offs of between 136 and 701 calories.

Heart Rate MonitorThe variation in these numbers is due to differences in these students’ body size, gender, age, muscle mass, level of fitness, when they last ate, the level of the class, their familiarity with the workout, etc. Another reason for the variation in results is the heart rate monitors themselves. As one researcher wrote, “All caloric expenditure information that you read off of a heart monitor or an exercise machine like a treadmill or indoor bike, are estimates of calories spent and usually not very accurate.”

Nevertheless people are fascinated by the idea that we can make a zero-sum game of calories in/calories out, but in practice, this approach may not live up to all the interest it generates. If we could actually tweak our caloric intake and outtake by measuring it – even if heart rate monitors were 100% accurate — it wouldn’t matter how many extra calories we burned in a particular workout. As long as we burn at least some additional calories, they’d add up, and we’d lose weight sooner or later. The truth is, weight loss doesn’t routinely result from exercise, not because of our inability to measure calories “out,” but because of our inability to control calories “in.” The real culprit is, in a word, food. Our deep attachment to this substance has ways of tricking us into refueling after we work out in spite of our intentions. Consider two of food’s lesser strategies for getting us to eat:

Your Moment Dove commercialFood as pleasure: Many people grow to expect a certain amount of pleasure from food, apart from their need to satisfy their hunger, so that it becomes an entitlement. We ate dessert as children and through sheer habit feel we warrant it indefinitely. TV commercials play to this mindset by showing us beautiful young women eating candy as if it contained the secret of happiness.

StarbucksFood as comfort: The comforting feeling food gives us can serve an emotional sedative. In the new movie “No Strings Attached” Natalie Portman, when upset with her love life, wolfs down three boxes of donut holes. Donut holes are 220 calories each, and let’s say there are six of them per box. That would mean that she’d be consuming almost 4,000 calories, two days worth of fuel, to make herself feel better (great movie by the way – except that it was hard to believe that Natalie Portland’s size zero character ever ate an excess calorie in her life).

If these emotional addictions to food don’t do the trick of seducing us into replacing our calories just burned off, food pulls out its big guns, namely hunger pangs. After an intense workout, hunger will scream at you to replace those calories. Even if you succeed in resisting the Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (630 calories), you might distractedly go for a second helping at dinner or an extra piece of the birthday cake served at the office, all devoured before you put much thought into doing so.

The good news in this state of affairs is that exercise absolutely will change your body dramatically if you commit to it for the long term. Numerous studies made of people over decades have found that those who lead sedentary lives tend to gain weight from age 30 – 60 while those who exercise stay lean and youthful. Other research found that exercise performed regularly has appetite-suppressing qualities.

I’d like to add that Bar Method workout in particular includes a few additional features that help you lose weight and keep it off.

  • It builds dense muscle mass in our large muscle groups. Dense muscles increase metabolic rate, plus make us feel more energetic and less in need of sweet pick-me-ups throughout the day.
  • It boosts confidence and mental toughness, strengthening our ability to make resolutions and follow through on them.
  • It rewards us for leaning down because the exercises are more doable the lighter you get. Over time, students learn on a visceral level that fewer pounds translate into more ability to get through the workout.
  • It gives us beautiful bodies that become a source of continual positive feedback for staying lean.

describe the image

None of these weight-control techniques involve calculating calories but there is plenty of evidence that they work. Thousands of Bar Method students have transformed their bodies, and hundreds have written in to tell us about it.

Celebrating The Bar Method 3/60 Challenge Winner: Lianne Zhang

Bar Method 3|60 Challenge Winner Lianne ZhangMy last two blogs featured testimonials by two of the three contestants in our San Francisco Marina studio’s annual 3|60 Challenge, Karen Dodge and Ryan Salma. To fill you in if you didn’t read last week’s post, the Challenge pits three beginning Bar Method students against each other for sixty days of class taking and testimonial writing. The contestant who turns out to be best overall new student in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and gains in health wins a month of free classes. The winner this time: the third contestant in the Challenge, Lianne Zhang. “The other two did well,” studio manager Mike Najjar told me. “Lianne won because she was here quite often, and she was so enthusiastic.”

Lianne, 26, is a brand promotion and event strategist who recently moved to San Francisco from New York City. She had worked 70-hour weeks during her four years in New York. Now that she was a San Francisco resident, she was determined to create a more livable pace for herself. “I wanted to embark on a new lifestyle,” she told us, “one ensuring me a good work/life balance – a concept foreign to New Yorkers.”

After a month of classes, Lianne noticed that the Bar Method was doing more than improving her appearance. It was also having a positive impact on the way she was experiencing her new, adventurous life in San Francisco. This is how she describes the differences she felt in her body during her travels around San Francisco week four into the Challenge:


Lianne ZhangI can’t believe four weeks have flown by. As I notice differences not only in my lifestyle choices but my body- I’m also noticing how useful Bar Method technique is to my everyday life.

Here’s a little guide to how Bar Method has improved this recent transplant’s daily life in SF:

1) It absolutely trains you for crowded places where hanging off various street fixtures is a necessity in order to gain full view of the event.

For example, I went to the Giants Parade and in the madness, the only available space that offered a decent view of the players’ float was to hang off of these metal gates. Because of the Bar Method, I was able to hang on for a full thirty minutes- it was all the Posey, Lincecum, Huff and Cain I needed to bring myself closer to being a San Franciscan!

2) It helps provide better balance on MUNI buses.

SF MUNIAs a former New Yorker, I tend to ride subways better than buses. In fact I am not a fan of buses. Since I live in lower Pac Heights, I’m forced to take buses anywhere that I can’t walk to. I tend to tumble all over the place as I’m not used to standing on lurching vehicles above ground. However, ever since I started doing Bar Method, I found myself able to use my core muscles to stable myself much better. It sounds silly but it’s been extremely helpful. As for the lady that likes to booty shake at the front aisle of the 22,…no amount of Bar Method will remedy.

3) It strengthens my muscles, allowing me to have the confidence and capabilities to try things I never could try before.

I’ve always wanted to try rock climbing but because I have an embarrassingly low amount of upper body strength, I always put it off for fear of making a fool of myself. However, since I started doing Bar Method, I’ve realized that my arm strength has increased significantly and tonight I am going for my first session! Wish me luck! (Especially after five straight days of Bar Method!)

Congratulations, Lianne, for being our 2010 3|60 Challenge winner!

Burr Leonard

Celebrating The Bar Method 3|60 Challenge Contestants: Ryan Salma

Last week I shared with you a testimonial written by Karen Dodge, a first-time new mother and one of the three competitors in our San Francisco-Marina studio’s annual “3|60 Challenge.” This contest selects three new students and challenges them to make the most possible positive overall change in their bodies in sixty days. Karen told us about her first sore and shaky week of regular classes and her determination to lose her baby weight during the challenge.

This week Ryan Salma, another of this year’s three competitors, weighs in about his struggles and breakthroughs at around midpoint into the challenge. Before becoming a contestant, Ryan had lost 40 pounds over several years by running and eating a healthy diet. He is a real estate project manager, President of the San Francisco Frontrunners, and a member of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. His motivation for entering the challenge? “Increasing my overall endurance,” he told us. “I have been running in half-marathons for the past three years and it is my goal to break the 1 hour 30 minute mark.” Below is Ryan’s report on his fourth week of classes.

Burr Leonard


3|60 Challenge Contestant Ryan SalmaI don’t know if it was the weather, the time change, or the fact that I ran a half-marathon this week but I have been feeling a little run down. This made getting to the Bar Method seem a lot harder than usual. I decided to take a level one class for the first time so that I would not be pushing my body too hard and as a way to mix things up.

I would not say that a level one class is easy, just different. You don’t do as many reps, but there is a lot more focus on form. You also hold some poses for a longer period of time, which can make the exercises just as hard as a mixed level class, if not even harder. Taking a level one class made me realize that focusing on technique will only help me to work harder and achieve results more quickly.

New Bar Method BEginner's Workout DVDSo, for my third class this week I actually did the beginners workout DVD again. What’s great about the DVD is that there is an instructional video on how to do each Bar Method pose properly. This was extremely helpful because I am a visual learner and it is hard to watch others in class to see what they are doing when I am trying to do a pose myself. Using the DVD in slow motion also helps to see how much or how little movement you should do to benefit from the exercises. Master Instructor Joey Decker leads a fun workout. He demonstrates good form, is energetic, and has just the right amount of enthusiasm to keep the workout entertaining even after multiple viewings. After taking it a little easy this week and focusing on form, I know that I will be able to “bring it “the next two weeks of the challenge.

Fat Free Greek YogurtOh yeah – here is a fun little nutritional tidbit that I have found helpful in keeping the pounds off…if you love ice cream or frozen yogurt try getting a tub of fat free Greek yogurt instead. Greek Yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt but has less sugar and calories than frozen yogurt. To add a little flavor to your Greek Yogurt you could chop up some fresh fruit or use a low glycemic sweetener like agave!

Half way there! Four more weeks to go!

Celebrating The Bar Method 3|60 Challenge Contestants: Karen Dodge


Bar Method 3|60 ContestantsLast fall our flagship studio in the San Francisco Marina held its second “3|60 Challenge” (we held our first of these events in 2009). Three neophyte Bar Method students were chosen by our staff to take class free for 60 days and write about their experience. We asked the contestants to submit a 300 word statement about why they thought they would benefit from The Bar Method. The prize: an additional month of free classes, to be awarded based on a combination of overall results and enthusiasm. Our three finalists were Lianne, Karen and Ryan. What impressed me most about their stories is that each of the 3|60 contestants gained something unique and personal from their 60-day regime. In  my view  Karen’s, Lianne’s and Ryan’s very different experiences  are testaments to the power of exercise to change not just people’s bodies in general ways but also the unique fabric of their lives.

Karen Dodge, 37, became a 3|60 contestant because she had just given birth to her first child, a daughter, just six weeks earlier and felt that the Bar Method was her best option for getting back in shape. “I used to be a competitive runner and swimmer, and the two classes I took at the Bar Method kicked my butt”, she wrote us. “I was sore with the shakes and never felt better about getting in shape.” Here is her blog about her first week into the challenge:

Bar Method SF Marina 3|60 Challenge: Karen Week #1

The Bar Method proved to be a challenge this week due to juggling both physical fitness and my daily routine. For the last six weeks I have been adjusting to motherhood and keeping my daily routine pretty simple. I have incorporated a hike or shopping trip when the baby sleeps, but I had not tried to schedule my day outside of her routine. Luckily, baby Kate is getting into more of a routine this week just in time for my Bar Method classes. The challenge was in coordinating childcare and getting out the door on time. As a new mom, all things breastfeeding are still awkward and time consuming, so getting out the door will require some practice and good planning. I think it will become easier in the coming week or two and I am excited to challenge myself in this way because The Bar Method is a great reward.

Karen DodgeThe Bar Method has been physically challenging this week for sure. My first class, I experienced cramping which made me panic a little. The second class, I did not cramp at all which is a small success. I read on the website that the thighs and glutes are the largest muscle groups and if I work them, I will burn more fat and thus loose the belly. I try to keep this in mind when my muscles begin to burn and shake. I remember when I was in labor and was eight centimeters going on ten centimeters and I began to shake uncontrollably. The nurse told me that trembling was “good” for the upcoming birth. I keep this in mind when I become uncomfortable or embarrassed that I am shaking.

I am so excited to have the Bar Method Beginner’s workout DVD! This way I can work on my form at home when baby Kate sleeps. The teachers have been very kind to correct my form in class and I want to do my own homework so I can get the most out of class. This DVD is very informative and fun to do at home.

Successful Strategies for Beating Exercise Hunger

Does exercise make you more or less hungry? This is the question I asked in my last two blogs, and many of you responded by describing your personal experience with exercise hunger. More input came from The Bar Method Southern California facebook page, which polled its fans on this issue.

If you’re one who wrote in either to the blog or facebook that exercise makes you more hungry, you’re not alone. Ninety-five percent of the facebook respondents said that exercise definitely makes them “more hungry.” Some of the specific comments were:

“I’m a monster when I work out, all I want to do is eat. :(”

“a LOT hungrier, such a bummer.”

“More hungry. It sucks.”

“insatiable after Bar…..during abs all I think about is what I wanna eat…”

The Bar Method clearly can make students very hungry! What about the alleged appetite-suppressing power of exercise (see blog-before-last)? Is the Bar Method doing something in particular that makes people feel starving? In fact it is. The human body is genetically programmed to preserve homeostasis — that is, to change as little as possible in order to keep all its internal systems in a steady state. That’s why habits, both good and bad, get so entrenched. Activities that cause quick change set off metabolic alarm bells. It follows that the rapid increase in firm muscle that the Bar Method initiates in students’ bodies sometimes causes them to feel somewhat disoriented, which can translate into hunger.

Now for the good news: A number of the responses I got were from students who’d figured out by trial and error some effective ways of beating their exercise hunger. Their solutions are worth sharing:

1. Make sure to eat some healthy food before or after working out.

Ellen: I have a snack before I work out and then eat breakfast after, usually egg whites, oatmeal and berries and it seems to keep me satisfied

Ilona: I’m always hungry right after a work out so I make sure to pack a banana in my bag to munch on afterwards.

Vera: Since I started doing early a.m. Bar Method, I was starving, half way through class. Now I drink a protein shake before class and it makes all the difference in the world in my workout, appetite, weight, and strength. Now I’m seeing results!

2. Eat small meals more often.

Kelly: …small more frequent meals help me to not feel so hungry after my bar method workouts! Love the bar method 🙂

3. Try changing the time of day you work out. describe the image

Harmony (right): I noticed that the time of day I work out affects my appetite. If I work out early morning, I am more hungry throughout the day, but if I workout after lunch or at the end of the day, it suppresses my appetite. That gives me one more piece of information to work with when trying to balance exercise and calorie intake for overall results.

daisy_jumping_cropped med-resized-6004. Go to sleep a bit hungry.

Daisy (left): Totally agree about the tidbit about going to sleep a bit hungry, but not ravenous! I have found if I do that consistently, I can eat a healthy balanced meal of protein, fiber and sweet and still look awesome (don’t forget my bar method work outs!)

5. Take a serious look at your relationship with food.

Rali: Being ravenous after workouts used to be my MO until I realized I had an eating disorder. It took years to rebalance body and mind, but the result is that I now eat whatever I want and whenever I want it without adding weight. Funny how the mind works…

6. Stick with it! (and stay away from sugar).

julie_021 med-resized-600Julie (right): The Bar Method has really changed the way my body looks and feels. Doing the workout 3 to 4 times a week has added muscle and cut down on the hunger. I do agree with Burr cutting out the white sugar is very important and eating healthy foods in key. At 51 years old I have never felt so good!

Read how the production of lactic acid in intense exercise helps you lose weight!

Conquer Hunger As You Exercise And Diet

In last week’s blog I brought up the subject of whether exercising makes you more or less hungry. That question got me thinking about how hunger is the chief culprit that sabotages people when they’re trying to lose weight. I then remembered that I have on hand a fantastic article by Consumer Reports about this much-hyped issue. “The Truth About Dieting” was the magazine’s cover story in its June 2002 issue. Ever since it was released, Bar Method studios have kept copies of it behind their front desks to hand out to students asking for advice on how to shed pounds.

Diet and Exercise“The Truth About Dieting” reports on a compilation of research about dieting and hunger, including a five-year research study carried out by Consumer Magazine itself on 32,213 dieters. The evidence the authors gathered leads to a surprisingly upbeat conclusion: losing weight is actually doable – if you do it right.

Consumer Reports first took an unbiased look at diet plans. What it discovered is that making up your own diet is more successful than going to a commercial diet program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. Among the 32,213 people in its study who lost 10 percent of their body weight and kept it off a year 83 percent said they used “my own diet and exercise regimen” with no outside assistance or dietary supplements.

Then the magazine examined which foods work best for weight loss. Based on compelling scientific evidence it came up with four diet guidelines that will enable you to more easily consume fewer calories:

Strategies #1 and #2: “Tame your blood sugar” and “don’t skimpExercise helps diet on protein:” “Low blood sugar makes us feel hungry,” says the magazine, so to keep it from plummeting avoid foods with a high “glycemic index,” such as sugar, refined flour, rice, pasta and potatoes. Such foods “turn into blood glucose much more quickly than carbohydrates in high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetable, legumes, and whole grains.” The resulting surge of insulin gives us low blood sugar.

Also, eat some protein with your meals, which “slows the absorption of food,” according to one of the researchers in the article. Here is one amazing study on this phenomenon that the magazine described: David Ludwig, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, served a group of overweight teenage boys a breakfast and lunch consisting of low/glycemic-high protein food. He gave another group of overweight boys a low-fat, low protein breakfast with an equivalent amount of calories. Both groups of boys were then allowed to eat for dinner all they wanted from overflowing platters of “bagels, cold cuts, cream cheese, cookies and fruit.”  The boys who’d eaten the low-glycemic/high protein breakfasts and lunches ate 81 fewer calories of this stuff.  Eight-one fewer calories! Ludwig switched the groups and tried it again to make sure he was seeing straight.  Same result.

Strategy #3. Have a little fat.”For years health experts including the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association have sent us a “fat is bad” message. To challenge this idea, Kathy McManus, a director of research in Boston, divided 101 overweight women and men into two groups and gave one group a low-fat diet restricting fat to 20% of calories, and the other group an equally caloric moderate fat diet with 35% of calories coming from healthy fats. Eighteen months later the moderate fat group had lost an average of nine pounds, and low fat group had gained around 6.4 pounds.

Strategy #4. “Exercise.” In Consumer Reports’ study group, “regular exercise” was found to be “the No. 1 successful weight-loss maintenance strategy, cited by 81 percent of the long-term maintainers.” Why is exercise so good at helping people lose weight? Consumer Reports suggests a provocative answer. “’Exercise itself may act to regulate hunger over and above the obvious fact that it burns up calories,” James Hill, codirector of the National Weight Control Registry said in the article. “The vital role of exercise…applies more to the maintenance of weight loss than to losing weight in the first place.” When it comes to long term maintenance, the evidence seems to weigh in favor of exercise being the ultimate key appetite suppressant. Based on my observation of many of my students’ weight loss over time, I wholeheartedly agree.

Here is the article from Consumer Reports:  Page 1-6

Next week: Stories from students about how they control their exercise hunger.

Find Bar Method Exercise Classes near you.

Sample and buy Bar Method Exercise DVDs.

Diet, Exercise, and Hunger

Exercise makes many people less hungry. Men as a group have been found to be largely immune from increased appetite after exercise, and may even become temporarily “anorexic” according to a 1994 study conducted in the U.K. by Leeds University. Previous studies at Leeds found that this suppression of appetite can last for up to two days.

Some women also experience the same appetite-suppressing effects from working out. Sara Giller, a comedienne, Bar Method teacher and desk manager at the Los Angeles studios, was heard to say recently, “Days when I exercise, I never want to eat. When I’m just working at the desk, though, I’m noshing all day.”

At the same time, many women exercisers are made somewhat more hungry by their workouts. An experiment conducted in 2007 by the U.K.-based Journal of Endrocrinology that included female subjects found that the subjects did feel hungrier after exercising, but, if left alone with food, consumed about a third fewer of the extra calories than their workout burned for them, thus achieving a caloric deficit overall.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those people whom exercise makes ravenous. This month I got an email from a Bar Method student named Andrea describing her struggle with this issue:

“I’ve been in love with the Bar Method for over a year,” Andrea wrote, “and have seen great changes in my body.…however, I feel as though my diet is all that is holding me back from seeing results… Is it normal that I feel hungrier than usual all day after doing a class? If yes, what is the best food to satisfy my post-workout hunger?…What does your daily diet look like? I would really appreciate any feedback.”

Muscle building exerciseFirst of all, for Andrea and others who run into this road-block to body-change, there is good news on the horizon. Past Bar Method students with this issue have reported to us that their appetites revert to normal after about six months of classes. It is likely that their initial hunger was being caused by rapidly increasing muscle mass, an essential component in body reshaping. (Here’s a blog I did on how the Bar Method builds and sculpts muscles.) During those first six months or so, students’ bodies also burn away a significant amount of intramuscular fat, which thereafter no longer needs to be fed. After that time, their leaner bodies are feeding muscle not fat, and their appetites revert to normal or even become a bit suppressed. Men probably don’t fall prey to exercise hunger, unless they are body-builders, because their bodies are genetically predisposed to have leaner, denser muscles than women, even without exercise.

Okay, but how do students cope with the raging hunger in the meantime? I thought about what to advise Andrea. I knew that people can learn to be okay with feeling a little hungry, but they can’t cope with feeling ravenous. Minimizing her risk of feeling famished by keeping her blood sugar level steady would be foremost. I included elements of my own eating habits and sent Andrea these tips:

• Avoid eating sweets during the first six months that you take the Bar Method. Staying away from sweetened foods will help your body burn away fat more quickly.

• Avoid eating after dinner.

• Don’t eat muffins or cookies.

• Drink water slowly. It will relax your stomach.

• When you go to bed, feel just a bit hungry but not starving.

• And of course eat reasonably healthy food.

I pressed “send” and immediately remembered that I had right at my fingertips a wealth of fantastic advice on dieting that I hadn’t included. For eight years The Bar Method has handed out an article by Consumer Reports called “The Truth About Dieting,” which is mind blowing, especially for those who’ve  gotten caught up in all the hype in the media about losing weight.  “The Truth About Dieting” is packed with eye-opening – and entertaining — scientific information on how simple changes in diet – with the help of exercise – can cause you to eat less and lose weight. Wow, I thought! This is MUST reading not just for Andrea but for anyone who’s ever wanted to take off a few pounds. The article is not available in its entirety online, so I will describe its highlights – including six tips for losing weight and keeping it off in next week’s blog.

Find a Bar Method Exercise Studio near you.

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Fitness Challenge Before and After Stories

Fitness challenges are becoming popular at Bar Method studios around the country because the workout makes such noticeable changes in students’ bodies. The challenges are contests held over three to four months for various prizes.  Recently, the Bar Method studio in Redmond just East of Seattle, Washington held a Fitness Challenge that inspired many students to work a little harder than usual.  The testimonials that the contestants wrote are inspirational, and I found them fun to read.

Bar Method Redmond has been open less than a year. In early 2009,  two Bay Area Bar Method teachers moved back home to the Seattle, Washington area to open their own studio near where they grew up. Bev Currier had been teaching in Walnut Creek, California for years. Maika Manring was a newer teacher in that same studio.  The two women were joined by Bev’s husband Luke Currier, who although not a teacher, is integrally involved in every other aspect of the studio.

Bev, Luke and Maika opened Bar Method Redmond, Seattle-Eastside in August, 2009 and less than a year later, it is a vibrant, jam packed exercise center that has touched thousands of people’s lives. The 2010 Fitness Challenge, which was launched in January, excited the entire studio and many participants reached their goals, which varied from weight loss to injury prevention, better posture, greater flexibility, overcoming depression, and simply getting some “me time.”

Studio co-owner Maika explains that “we did not choose the winner of the transformation challenge by the person who changed their body the most.  The transformation could be how Bar Method changed their life for the better, be it a physical change, a mental/emotional change, or both. All fitness challengers submitted testimonials to describe these changes and the person that won showed a transformation that embodied Bar Method body, mind and spirit.”

Here is one of the stories that I particularly love from Cynthia and her before and after pictures.

cynthia before resized 600 “I joined the fitness challenge with the goal of attending Bar 5 times per week.  In reality I made it on average 3-4 times.  My overall goals consisted of getting in shape for a looming 10-year high school reunion this summer and fitting into a pair of jeans I have hung on to for way too long!

I was so excited to join this challenge and see it through just as quickly as I had committed to it.  Over the course of the challenge I overcame many obstacles along my fitness journey to achieve success:  sprained ankle, sickness, family illness the loss of my beloved grandpa.  Through each of these obstacles I rededicated myself to my goals by making positive life long changes.  I did this by focusing on balancing my diet and eating habits, especially when it was not possible to attend Bar.   These obstacles also gave me a better understanding that eating healthy in addition to Bar Method workouts was also a key component to achieving the results I set out for myself.  Each obstacle I overcame allowed me to achieve small successes every week and every month I participated in the challenge.

My overall method for reaching my goals was to attain them by balanced, realistic and sustainable means.  In short, my recipe for success has been largely based on attending Bar Method classes regularly, drinking more water, getting more sleep, limited alcohol consumption, less soda, less overall calorie intake and generally paying greater attention to what I am putting into my body.

The more classes I attended, the more I came to the conclusion that I love Bar Method!  There has not been a single day that I did not experience the sensations of burning, shaking and quivering in nearly every muscle in my body.  The combination of pilates, yoga with isometric movements has been the best compliment to my typically cardio-heavy workout regimen.  I have never had the muscle definition and dense muscle composition that I have now.

My battle with weight has been a recent struggle of mine.  It was not until I entered my late 20’s that I ever had any difficulty managing my weight and staying toned. Bar Method has not on transformed my body but also the way I approach my ongoing fitness goals.  Now at 28, I’m committed and dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes Bar Method regularly!  Along this journey I have gained confidence, my clothes fit better (I now fit into that pair of jeans I have hung on to!!!), I stand taller and I have more energy and motivation.

After 4 months I have lost: 1.5 inches off my arms, 2 inches off my chest, 3.5 inches off my waist, 3 inches off my hips, 3 inches off my thighs, and 1.25 inches off my calves!

cynthia resized 600Sometimes it has felt like life interrupted my fitness plans on my fitness journey but like everything else in life some things do not go as planned, we take a detour along the way, but amazingly we can still arrive at our destination.  I have felt this many times over during the course of this challenge.   I am definitely a stronger individual because of these experiences and obstacles.  Even though I was able to meet most of my fitness goals for this challenge I plan on establishing new goals to continue to strive to meet and stay motivated.

I continue to look forward to my daily dose of Bar Method and warm greetings and smiles from Bev, Luke and Maika.  Their smiles encouragement helped get me out of bed, even on the coldest and darkest of winter mornings at 6am and that is what continues to bring me back for more… I love Bar Method!”

Allison, the winner of the 2010 Fitness Challenge, sums up the supportive spirit of the Redmond studio at the close of her interview:

“So, it is obvious I feel a connection both in body and spirit to The Bar Method and am thrilled at the results I am seeing. The icing on the cake is the camaraderie, support and love I feel for the group of people I take with, and for my incredible teachers Bev and Maika.”

Read all incredible results in all twenty testimonials from Bar Method Redmond.

Find a Bar Method exercise studio near you.

Sample and buy Bar Method exercise dvds.