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Have you ever had 'one of those days'?  Chances are you already know the ominous circumstances that can lurk behind this phrase.  'One of those days' can mean everything from a flat tire, to spilled coffee.  It can be a compilation of little bummers, or it can be the nearest definition of catastrophe.  Regardless, we have all been there. If you have no idea what I am talking about, I will assume one of the following:  1) you have mastered the art of blissful ambivalence, 2) you are a big, fat liar face, 3) you are rocking some serious anti-depressants, or 4) you are one of those annoyingly happy people who dot their I's with little hearts (in which case, I wonder how many bodies you have hidden in your basement).

On the flip side, have you ever had 'one of those days' in which absolutely EVERYTHING went according to plan, or even better?!  You felt productive, full of energy, maybe even lucky (or, blessed).  Don't you wish that you could bottle that feeling and save it for a rainy day?    Well, in some respects, you can!  
 
More specifically, you can bottle it, bag it, and store it in your desk drawer for those times when your energy is waning, or the 'Blahs' threaten to steal your sunshine.  Some foods that we think of as average, every day fare actually lead a superhero double life in the 'Battle of the Blahs'!  Allow me to introduce you to a few Clark Kent's of the food world.

1) Nuts and Seeds.  Ah Nuts!!  These guys are all over the place in terms of wholesome goodness!  Easy to pack, easy to store, easy to carry, delightful to eat... these little buggers deliver a giant sized PUNCH of energy and good feelings due, in part, to their abundance of magnesium, iron, B vitamins, protein and Omega 3.  Throw some on a salad, or munch in a traffic jam... once the serotonin starts flowin', you'll know why they're not just for hippies anymore! 

2) Spinach.  Who do you immediately associate with spinach?  I'll give you a hint... he is a muscle bound sailor.  Whether or not you believe Popeye deserves the title of 'superhero', his ever present can of spinach certainly does! Iron, magnesium, vitamin B (are you starting to see a pattern here?), as well as potassium and vitamin C are just a few of the Blah busting powers that spinach brings to the table. 

3) Ancient Grains.  These sound boring, complicated, and expensive.  I thought the same thing, until I looked around to find that Quinoa was the new French Fry.  Offered as a side dish, on salad bars, and in the ingredients of main stream entrees, the Ancient Grains are getting a fresh new look.  Like oatmeal, the Ancient Grains are chock full of complex carbohydrates (the good kind), which digest slowly to give you a KICK of sustainable energy, and fiber, which aids in digestion while helping you to feel satiated longer.

4) Beans, beans, the magical food.  Cue our usual suspects:  magnesium, iron, protein, vitamin B, fiber... the beans have it all! While they may 'make you toot', they also work overtime on your digestive health and deliver a steady flow of energy.  Why not be a HERO to your animal friends and use beans as a substitute for meat! Not only would you earn the love of a cow, you would also reap the benefits of a rich source of protein and iron, that places a lower burden on the digestive system.  Plus, beans are lower in calories, and virtually fat free!! 

5) BONUS:  Did you know that you receive your daily allotment of Vitamin D simply by sitting in direct sunlight for 15 minutes?  Sunlight has also been shown to improve mood and increase energy! 

While the foods listed above can punch your Blahs right in the face, they need daily vigilance from YOU, concerned citizen!  Knowing that these foods can do a world of good for your mood, energy, health, etc... you should also know that the reverse is true.  There are an increasing number of studies linking depression and fatigue to a) fast food, b) unknown food intolerance (i.e. gluten!), and c) obesity.  I am sure that we have only begun to scratch the surface on all the harm that food can inflict, but today is not a day for villains!!  Grab a handful of seeds, sit in the sun, and blast "Walking on Sunshine" as loud as you can, because you know a few super heroes that are ready to battle the Blahs on your behalf whenever you call. 

Want to make a lifestyle change that begins in your workplace?  Contact Legally Fit, Inc. Looking for a personal trainer in the Chicago area? Fill out our contact form for personal training rates and more information, even if you do not work in law!

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Cupcakes

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MY NAME IS MEGAN, AND I AM A CUPCAKE ADDICT.  ("HI, MEGAN"). 

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I am currently on Step 1.   I acknowledge that I am powerless over cupcakes and that my life has become unmanageable as a result.  I have found that my buttercream threshold has elevated to the point where I now need 4-5 cupcakes to experience the dopamine response that one cupcake used to provide.  I find myself arranging my schedule, and my route home, in order to casually travel past the Mariano's bakery... stopping to purchase 6 cupcakes each and every time.  "Are these a gift?  Are you taking them to a party?  Should I hand you the price sticker separately?"  asks a hopeful bakery attendant.  My face fills with shame as I shake my head, avoid eye contact, and long for the moment when I will be away from judgmental eyes, and I can finally fill my face with frosting and self-loathing, in the privacy of my apartment.

It sounds like a joke, but there is a LOT of scary (and eerily self-identifying) data coming out regarding what is now called "food addiction".  Just think, you skated through your college years relatively unscathed... you didn't end up in a back alley with hypodermic needles sticking out of your skin, and what was once a low grade alcohol addiction has evolved into the occasional 'drink with the boys'.  You survived, only to learn that what you thought was providing nourishment and sustenance... was slowly drugging, addicting, and killing you!  The six year old inside wants to yell, "No fair!"  I agree! (said through mouthfuls of frosting and chocolate).  Darn that dopamine!!


Get your teddy bears ready, because here comes some scariness: 
Obese people have fewer dopamine receptors in the brain, and therefore have to eat more to experience the same reward (or 'high') as average weighted individuals (in the drug world, this is known as 'tolerance') (Wang et al. 2001). 
When rats were given free access to the typical "hyperpalatable" foods available to humans (e.g. sugary, starchy, fatty and salty foods), the rats' brain structures changed the same way they would if cocaine were ingested  (Gearhardt et al. 2011).
After developing an addiction to sugar, the rats were far more eager to gobble up amphetamines, alcohol and cocaine in huge quantities... and they became almost instantly addicted to those substances as well.  However, given the choice between sugar, cocaine, and alcohol, the cross addicted rats ALWAYS chose SUGAR  (Johnson & Kenny 2010).
In one study, when rats had access to high-fat, high carbohydrate food for only 1 hour a day, they consumed 65% of their daily calories in one sitting, continuously gorging until the food was removed.  However, then the food disappeared, they did not return to their regular rat food... they withdrew and curled into a fetal position, soothing themselves with nervous hand-wringing, and becoming excessively twitchy and easily startled.  They were hungry for their 'fix'.  Without it, they ended up with 'the shakes'.  (Johnson & Kenny 2010).


Does it bother you to hear food described in the terms of drug/alcohol addiction?  Do you notice when you are stressed, worried, or rushed, you automatically reach for your 'fix' in order to self soothe?   Do you find that you constantly need more of your favorite food in order to receive the same 'high' that you used to get from less?  Do you see how effortlessly food cravings, withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, etc. can shift into an addiction paradigm?  It is more than a little scary... and it brings to mind visions of a cliché, back alley 'drug deal' going down with  dime bags of Mrs. Field's cookies. 

"But, Megan... it is a holiday weekend!  I wanted to read something light, fluffy, and slightly patriotic... with a side of 'victory fries' and Bud Light!"  Well friends, I do want to pause a moment and reflect on the history of this great nation.  The sacrifices of generations have brought us to a place where we have the freedom to eat, worship, exercise (or not) in any way we choose (unless it breaks the law).  We have the freedom, nay, the right to eat cupcakes to our heart's delight!  True, our forefathers had to grow, harvest and hunt in order to survive... while we wonder if we will survive the Great Hostess Crash of 2013.  I suppose it all comes down to the quality of our freedom.  How will we use our liberties to prolong, rather than shorten, our lives and the lives of others?  How will we chose to spend our brief span of days... consumed by thoughts of trans fat, or reveling in the limitless capacity of a healthy body?  In short, how will we chose to realize the 'self-evident truths', the 'unalienable Rights' that have been purchased at a price on our behalf?  Let us throw off the shackles of our food addiction, and embrace this one, glorious life and all that it has to offer... armed with our health, our freedom, and our good choices.  Let us admit that we have a problem (because that is the first step), let us consistently wean ourselves off of the processed poison that floods our shelves and our dopamine receptors... and let us retrain our brains to derive a 'high' from fruit, exercise, and the joys of living life... with liberty and justice for all.  ;)

Meg vs. The Machine (Part I of II)

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As I write this entry... my iPod is syncing to a laptop, while my iPad alerts me to the fact that 'I should drink 11 oz. of water RIGHT NOW', my Zac Morris cell phone is transmitting a client text to confirm training on Sunday, and my desk top computer looms before me with a blank sheet of 'paper' upon which to 'write' a 'blog' that will be transmitted via Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Google+, Blogger, etc. to the world at large... (and I should probably stop right there, because I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, and my little brother manages my social media accounts until I can wrap my head around 21st century technology!). It is, quite simply, a sign of the times... technology that we love to hate to depend on. Across the restaurant you see a couple, out to dinner, presumably on a date, heads bent over their individual iPhone... not a word uttered between the two for 10-20 minutes! Are they texting each other?! ;) ← And here is another one! Simply by adding a semicolon, followed by a parenthesis, you know that I am smiling and winking at you in mutual understanding. We have come SO far from DOS prompts and 'The Oregon Trail' (and now you can probably pinpoint exactly how old I am). It all still seems so new... how did it all become so necessary?

Alright, technology... I will give you credit for saving my shoulders.  No longer do I have to carry a Franklin Covey planner, pile of stationary, rotary phone, pens, pencils, journals or calculators around with me from day to day.  Technology- 1, Megan- 0.  However, a quick Google search (see what I did there?) of America's obesity rate will tell you that we are spending WAY too much time staring blankly into the glowing orbs.  While our hands are well defined (we can text a transcript of War and Peace in five minutes), our waistlines are not (how far can we run in five minutes?).  Yes, technology is helpful... but how are we using it to improve our health?  Can it be done? 

If you read my last blog, "The Big 7", you may remember my strong endorsement of online food journaling.  One of my favorite food journaling apps is My Fitness Pal, and I use it pretty religiously.  However, I have finally reached that tender age when metabolism grinds to a screeching halt.  I have found that despite my relatively clean eating (hey, the M&Ms are clean when I eat them!) and insane workout schedule (I am training to qualify for the Kona Ironman in 2015)... I have to work harder than I ever have in my life to lose a measly 10 pounds!  What the crap happened!  I log in my last meal of the day, hit 'complete entry', and My Fitness Pal triumphantly announces that "If every day was like today, you would weigh ___ in five weeks".  Honey, every day has been like today for the past five years... why isn't my body doing what you are telling it to?  Are there gnomes living under my bed that stuff mashed potatoes down my throat while I sleep?!  I've had it... and I am fighting back.  I am going to put electronic food journaling to the test, for a total of (you guessed it) five weeks.  I will behave myself, log absolutely everything I eat (or drink), and try to 'leave a grand on the table' (1000 calories) after a particularly long workout (trust me, even I struggle to eat the 3,000 calories I am allowed on some days).  I will keep track of what the jubilant voice tells me each day, average all of the 'you would weigh ___'s after five weeks, and just see who wins this epic battle of machine vs. metabolism! 
  
Come along with me, Friend (virtually, of course).  Challenge yourself to participate in online food journaling for 5 straight weeks (no cheating!).  Be completely honest with yourself about what calories are going in (don't forget to log in your beverages!) and how regularly you are burning them away.  Check back with me in 5 weeks (same bat time, same bat channel), and let's see how we did.  Until then... oh wait... I'm getting a text... 

THE BIG 7

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If you walk into a room full of nutritionists, dieticians and fitness professionals, and yell something like 'fat burning zone' or 'organic', not only will everyone stare at you (for yelling, of course) but you will probably have unwittingly begun at least 27 separate debates (that may or may not end in bloodshed).  You may have already realized that one of the most frustrating things about fitness/nutrition is that everyone seems to contradict each other! In an effort to clear away some of the noise, Legally Fit has compiled seven of the most well- known, healthy, and consistently proven  weight loss 'tricks' known to the industry.  All of these tips have been proven time and time again in a variety of studies... some have been backed by medical professionals... and most are simply common sense.  Your challenge this week is to go through this list, point by point.  Give yourself a great big hug for all of the suggestions that you already implement on a daily basis... and put the rest of the list on your refrigerator as a goal!  Pretty soon, these minor changes will become part of your everyday routine... just like waking up, looking in the mirror and saying, "I look pretty darn good!".  ☺

1)Food Journal
No matter what dieting fad is in season, weight loss will always come down to one simple equation... you must expend/burn (exercise) more calories than you consume (eat)!  Well, how the heck are you going to know how many calories you are consuming each day (or burning for that matter) if you don't keep track of them!?  Lucky for us, calorie counting no longer has to involve tedious calculations in a little notebook that you carry everywhere.  Although the miracle of modern science has not come up with a way to burn calories while sitting in a recliner eating chips, it has devised a number of ways in which to track your calories electronically (most, with apps). Through 'food journaling', you will quickly become more aware of portion size, healthy substitutions, and the pure joy of 'allowing' yourself more calories in exchange for more exercise. 

2) Drink. Water.
Would you bathe in a tub full of soda?  Probably  not.  Why water (and Mr. Bubble)?  Because water is pure... it is natural... it is cheap (when it comes from a faucet), and it is healthy.  Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day has been shown to reduce aches and pains (unknowingly caused by dehydration), improve skin elasticity/appearance, improve mood, increase energy, increase metabolism by aiding digestion, lubricate joints and muscles, and, most importantly, to help you lose weight!  Often, our bodies mistake thirst for hunger.  Drinking water will help to curb your 'appetite' while flushing toxins and bi-products out of your system.  All of these benefits, with 0 calories!  So... stop drinking all of those crazy, fabricated products (i.e. soda, sport drinks, etc.) that are loaded with sugar and calories.  Like Sheryl Crow says, '... the water's still free'!  Save money, save calories, save your health... one glass at a time.  ☺

3) Exercise.  Yes, Exercise.
You would think that this point would go without saying, but many people sit at their desk all day, faithfully consuming their Paleo diet requirements, and wonder why the weight loss does not simply take care of itself.  Yes, bodies are sculpted in the kitchen as much as in the gym, however, one must have both components to that equation.  It is recommended that each person complete at least 30-40 minutes of cardio, 3-4 times per week, at least 2-3 sets (of 8-12 reps) of strength training per muscle group, 3-4 times per week, and at least 2-3 instances of 'flexibility training' (aka 'stretching') per week (or after all of the above).

 

4)      Get Your Beauty Sleep!
Believe it or not, what could be holding you back from losing those last few pounds may have absolutely nothing to do with your diet or exercise! So... take a deep breath, relax, get a good night's sleep... and watch those pounds melt away!  How is it possible that allowing yourself to relax and get an adequate amount of sleep has such a dramatic effect on weight loss?  Well, to be honest, the jury is still out on exactly why this phenomenon occurs... but a few possible explanations include cortisol, ghrelin and growth hormone levels (discussions best left for another day). 
 
5) Switch to Whole Grains
Yes, you need carbs.  No, they will not make you blow up like the Goodyear Blimp... if you are smart about what kind of carbs you are eating.  I will make it as easy as possible for you... basically, by making the simple switch from processed flour/bread/rice (basically anything white) to whole grain (not white), you will get lots and lots of the following: vitamins, minerals, that comfy 'full' feeling (so that you eat less), increased energy, and disease prevention (heart disease, type II diabetes)!  Yeah!  Cheers to wheat toast!

6) Eat Breakfast
... speaking of wheat toast... why not add that wholesome goodness to your breakfast routine!  Not only will you reap the benefits described above, but you will join the ranks of breakfast eaters that reduce their chances of becoming obese (and developing diabetes) by 35-50%!  When you don't eat breakfast... get ready for some scariness.  First, in sensing a lack of available calories, the body's metabolism lowers in order to conserve expenditure of energy, which means you will automatically burn fewer calories during the morning hours. Secondly, in response to this perceived deprivation the body increases production of cortisol, the stress hormone that leads to fat storage, particularly around the midsection. Moreover, with glucose levels low and cortisol levels high you are poised to become ravenous as the day goes on and it becomes nearly impossible for you not to overeat later.  Do you need more?  Well... eating breakfast within an hour or so of waking leads to clearer thinking, less stress, and more energy.  Plus, your metabolism has been kick started for the day... so you can burn more fat and calories as you take a seat at your desk!  Now... let's try that again with a little more enthusiasm... cheers to wheat toast!  ☺
 
7) Brush Your Teeth
Wanna burn calories, cut your cravings and maintain a stellar smile?  Brush your teeth!  It's not just for mornings and bed time anymore!  Brushing serves as a physical and psychological cue to stop eating... and you already know that nothing tastes good with 'toothpaste mouth'. ☺ Guess what else... brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, 3 times a day (as recommended) burns approximately 5,500 calories a year... and that, my friends, is more than one pound of fat.  Now are you smiling?  ☺
 
Legally Fit encourages law firms to strive for physical, mental and spiritual wellness in order to improve client service, productivity, and provide healthy stress relief. Learn more about our corporate wellness program and find out how it can work for you!

What if we all walked around naked?

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I have often posed this question to my personal training clients, and their answers have varied as widely as their success rates... and often in direct relation.  But seriously... what if we all walked around naked?!  Think of how different our world would be.

(Assume, for the sake of argument, that all of the apocalyptic predictions of global warming have, indeed, come to pass... and we are not forced to weather the brutal Midwestern winter in our birthday suits).    

First of all, we could no longer define 'success' by the label on our clothing.  The red-carpet media frenzy would ask the question, "Who is training you?" rather than "Who are you wearing?"  Would there be less theft?  Less bullying in schools?  Less debt?  Yes, we would miss the expansive canvas of color, texture and pattern that fashion provides... but would we then focus more on the colors of nature?  The deep green of rain dampened leaves against a stormy grey sky... the symphony of color in every sunset?  Would we realize how truly similar we all are as members of the human race... and how insignificant our physical differences become when we are all, basically, 'skin colored' and not nearly as decorative as, say, the animal kingdom?  Or would our naturally creative nature push us to wax patterns into our chest hair and tattoo our flesh in vibrant colors?  Would we take better care of our skin, realizing that it is essentially our 'hide', designed for a lifetime of wear?  Would the strip clubs go out of business... or would we find other ways to push the limits of morality?  Would we hire people to sanitize our public transportation seats?  Just think about all of the things in our world that would be drastically changed by the removal of something as simple as clothing.

My hypothesis is that, overall, one of two things would eventually happen.  Either we would revert back to the medieval conception that 'big is beautiful'... or, more accurately, 'more fat = well fed = prosperous person' (enter a brand new way to create and idolize an elitist subset of humanity...well, not new... just revisited).  Or, without the mantle of deception and status to cover a multitude of flaws, our human race emerges healthier.  The focus shifts from 'how can I cover it up' to 'how can I make a permanent change'.  Yes, one may wish to invest heavily in the cosmetic surgery stocks but, in general, given the current emphasis on the toned/fit/slender ideal, we may have a fighting chance at a world 'in balance'.  Health food, fruits and vegetables would be cheaper and easier to find.  We would walk or bike to work as often as possible, simply to drop that extra 200 calories each morning.  We may even practice a little more self- control... and 'eating our feelings' would mean simply eating our weight in baby carrots.  We would probably keep ourselves impeccably groomed, and cleaner overall, potentially leading to a lower rate of germ/disease transmission.  Not only that, but we would probably keep our environment cleaner as well!  We would have to feel the cigarette butts under our bare feet, and the amount of dirt on our skin by the end of the day would be a tangible reminder of how dirty our atmosphere really is.  

How differently would the workplace function in such a world?  In the same way that many offices enforce a dress code, employers may require that a specific body fat % be maintained in order to work there!  Can you imagine?!  Incentive packages would include gym memberships and mandatory sun screen along with the company phone.  Why?  Because each and every time you interact on behalf of the company... you ARE the face/body/impression of the company.  Each time you meet with a client, they will be making a snap judgment about you based, not only on your products and platforms, but on how confident they feel in your ability to represent their interests... as a person.  Not only as an extension of your firm, but as an individual.  In some cases, your first impression could make or break the sale!      
  
But wait... isn't that true today?  Shouldn't employers be more concerned with the image of health their firm portrays?  Don't they realize that, subconsciously, clients gravitate more towards the personification of strength, health, and vitality?  Shouldn't they be allowing, and encouraging, their employees to find time to work out?  Shouldn't they be instituting Corporate Wellness programs in order to keep these ideas at the forefront of their corporate mentality?  Don't you think they would... if we all had to walk around naked?  ;)