chocolate

Combating chocolate cravings

Chocolate holds such a special place in their hearts of most of girls that a lot of men can’t seem to understand it!

Although the antioxidant properties of chocolate often get media attention, unfortunately eating too much of it can easily lead to weight gain and sabotage your health and fitness goals.

So what’s a girl to do?

Swearing off chocolate for the rest of your life is probably not the answer.

There are a few options for getting a chocolate fix while keeping your eating in balance. One way to get a fix is to skip the chocolate for a healthier food that’s still chocolate-flavoured. A small hot chocolate on skim milk, a small chocolate protein shake, or half a chocolate protein bar might do the trick.

The portion size is key here – keeping the portions small mean that you can enjoy the chocolate taste for fewer calories than you would have in a chocolate bar (or in half a block!).

If only actual chocolate will satisfy your tastebuds, another strategy to switch to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains more of the healthy flavonoids that have an antioxidant action in our bodies, combating the free radicals that can cause cellular damage. But this is not even the main benefit of dark chocolate for maintaining a healthy weight – the best part is that you get twice as much chocolate flavour with much less sugar, and it’s the sugar rush that causes some people to crave more chocolate than they need and to have difficulty stopping at one piece.

When it comes to chocolate, true satisfaction comes from quality, not quantity. Now that you have your small piece of good quality dark chocolate, think about how much pleasure you want to extract from it. If you pop it in your mouth and immediately chew it up, it will be gone in 5 seconds.

Why not see just how long you can make it last! You could get the same number of calories for several minutes of pleasure. One of the most important things to do when including chocolate in your diet without overdoing it is to plan it.

Choose which days you’re going to eat chocolate, so that you can fit it into your food for the day without going overboard or feeling guilty. Enjoy!

weight loss

Checklist for weight loss success

Most women working towards a weight loss goal have no trouble remembering to check their weight on the scales and their reflection in the mirror. They’re keen to know, “Are the numbers up or down?”, “Am I looking skinnier yet?”.

Sometimes the results of all our hard work are not obvious and sometimes they take time to show up even when we’re doing everythign right, and this can be a bit of a downer. To keep your motivation going, it can be useful to think of other ways to measure your success.

You can do this by paying attention to the healthy things you do for yourself, and looking for other positive outcomes other than weight loss.

Use this checklist every day or whenever you need to check that you’re on the right track and to boost your motivation:

Healthy actions

  • I planned in advance what I would eat today
  • I did some form of physical activity today (including stretches or walking at lunch time)
  • I know what exercise I’m going to do tomorrow and at what time
  • I tried a new exercise
  • I ate fruit and vegetables today
  • I said no to an unhealthy food that I hadn’t planned to eat
  • I took time out to do something relaxing and enjoyable for myself
  • I practiced being assertive and asked my family members to do something that helps me with my fitness goals (e.g. cook a healthy dinner while I’m working out, don’t bring junk food into the house,lookafter the kids while I go for a walk).
  • Igave myself a compliment today

Positive outcomes 

  • My clothes are feeling looser
  • Someone complimented me on how I look
  • I feel healthier and more energetic
  • I improved in my workouts: I increased my weights or increased how long I ran for

exercise cool down

Are cool downs a waste of time?

You made it to the gym or the jogging track, pushed yourself, and now it feels like your work is done.

Do you really have to make time for a cool down?

What’s the ideal cool down look like?

The Australian Institute of Sport says cooling down is important for helping your body slow down and recover. But there’s no need to add another 15 to 20 minutes of light cycling or walking onto your workout.

Just five minutes of walking around the gym refilling your water bottle, putting your weights away, and walking between stretches will do it.

Stretches to prevent muscle soreness?

If you’d been given the impression that stretching after exercise stops muscle soreness, a systematic review in the British Medical Journal says the research doesn’t support this. Nevertheless lots of athletes feel it does help reduce their post-workout muscle soreness.

What to stretch?

All the muscles you know you worked, and any that you know are chronically tight. If you run a lot, your calves, hamstrings, ITB, quads and piriformis (so basically, your entire leg), will need stretching out.

If you sit at a desk all day, your pecs and hip flexors are probably tight.

How long to hold them?

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) says to hold static stretches for just 10 seconds immediately after your training. It won’t take you long at all. Longer static stretches that help you maintain adequate flexibility certainly do help prevent pain, injury and unattractive posture.

Rather than adding them to your workout the ASC suggests holding these longer stretches for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before bed.

It’s a great way to wind down for a relaxing, restorative sleep.

avocado superfood

3 smoothie-boosting powerfoods that your body craves

When you have to eat on the run, smoothies and shakes are your nutritional saviour – an easy way to get your fruit, plus protein in the form of yoghurt, cottage cheese or protein powder.

If you and your blender are already old friends, here are three ingredients that will jazz up your smoothies and shakes.

Avocado

Why it’s good for you:

  • includes anti-inflammatory nutrients, which could reduce your post-workout soreness
  • the healthy fat helps your body absorb nutrients in the rest of your smoothie. (Some of the vitamins in your other ingredients are fat soluble and your body absorbs more of them when you eat some fat)
  • gives your smoothie a lower GI (so the carbohydrates from other ingredients like fruit and yoghurt are digested more slowly).

But what does it taste like? It doesn’t taste like much. But it does make your smoothie lusciously creamy.

Flaxseed Oil

Why it’s good for you: It provides fantastic omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). I’m guessing no-one wants a smoothie to taste like fish so although ALA is not as easily used by the body as fish oil, this is a good way to get some omega-3s. Omega-3s are essential for healthy hearts, eyes, and moods, as well as being anti-inflammatory.

In fact, when Harvard University and the University of Washington conducted a massive study with nearly 2,700 participants last year, they found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death.

That’s a pretty powerful benefit. But what does it taste like?

Don’t drink it straight but with just a teaspoon or so in your smoothie or shake, you won’t even know it’s there.

Cacao

Why it’s good for you: It’s not cocoa powder (which is heavily processed), so it has more of its nutritional value intact. Flavonoids are the antioxidants which give cacao and chocolate their good rap. The more antioxidants you eat, the greater your body’s ability to counteract free radicals, ageing and disease.

But what does it taste like? A bit like you’ve added some good quality dark chocolate to your smoothie or shake. (What more do you need to know?)

What’s your favourite quirky and nutritious ingredient?

morning exercise

3 great reasons to exercise in the morning (and 1 reason not to)

Everyone loves a sleep-in, but here are 3 reasons to exercise instead.

You’ll regulate your body clock and your weight

There’s new research from Northwestern University that shows soaking up morning sunshine might lower your body mass index (BMI). The people they studied who got most of their daily sunlight in the morning had a significantly lower BMI than those who got it later in the day.

They say that AM sunlight keeps your body clock running smoothly, which in turn sorts our your metabolism (and your weight). Few of us have much time to laze about in the sunshine, but if you take a morning walk, jog or outdoor yoga class then not only do you get our sunshine, but you get your body moving too.

You’ll avoid the argument later that day

You know that brain-fried feeling after work? Researchers call it “ego depletion”, which is what happens after making big and small decisions all day. When you then face the dilemma of doing your exercise or going home, it’s oh so easy to skip the gym. And that’s only if other priorities don’t get in the way.

How often has your evening workout been canceled after a meeting ran over time, or colleagues invited you to drinks? When you’re fresh at the beginning of the day, the only thing between you and your workout is the warm doona cover (and I think you can overpower that).

Your colleagues will be jealous of your energy

A strange thing happens when you start coming to work straight from your workout. Everyone else seems more lethargic, dazed and desperate for coffee. Whereas you’re buzzing after exercising and fresh oxygen is pumping through your brain.

You might even feel keen to nail your to-do list and excited about that big meeting that intimidated you yesterday; this morning your brain is revved up and you’ve got ideas. And one reason to forget morning workouts If you truly don’t enjoy exercising first thing, don’t force it.

There are a few people who don’t function well in the morning and even worse if they try to exercise. There’s a fine line between “doing it anyway” and fighting a losing battle against your body’s natural rhythms – only you know where the line is for you. If you love spending lunchtime in a yoga class, or shaking off the day with an evening run, then go with it.

Maybe you can still get some sunshine and help out your metabolism by taking your breakfast or morning tea outside. I bet it brightens your day.

When you have all day to yourself, what’s your favourite time to exercise?

Comment below to let us know…