Control Your Portions & Your Waistline in 21 Days

Ever have one of those meals where, after you’re done stuffing your face, you hobble away to lay down, feeling bloated, stuffed, and just downright disgusted with yourself?Like you need to unbutton your pants?

A meal where you say to yourself, “Ugh, I shouldn’t have eaten all that.”

And I’m not talking about on Thanksgiving,

I’m talking about on a random weeknight or when you’re out with friends on Saturday.

We’ve all been there.

portion control
portion control

Or maybe THIS is you.  

You’ve really cleaned up your diet.  You’re eating healthy - loading up on real food and cutting out the processed crap.  But the scale hasn’t budged.  For weeks.

It’s possible to overeat on healthy food, too.

So, let’s talk portion control.  And let’s make it easy.  Check out these portion control tips.

1. What’s the hurry?  Slow down

It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full.  So, if you’re wolfing down your entire meal in 10 minutes, there’s absolutely no way for you to know when you’ve had enough.  

Quick tip: If you are in a rush, try to eat a few smaller meals throughout the day.  This curbs overeating and allows you to stay on schedule.

2. Ditch the “Clean Your Plate Mentality”

Did you have to clean your plate to leave the table, too?  Our parents truly had our best intentions at heart… unfortunately, plate manufacturers may not.  The average plate size has increased by 2 inches in the last 30 years.  What that means is, if you’re a child of the 80s like me, your meals have increased by 900 calories since you were a kid.  

portion control
portion control

You know I don’t believe in counting calories, but that’s almost a 200% increase in calories at every meal!  

Quick tip: Use your salad plates at mealtime to reduce what’s in front of you when you’re eating.

3. Make half your plate veggies

Clearly, I love this tip.  It’s my #1, go-to, take your health back quick tip.  By making ½ your plate veggies, you’re crowding some of the other stuff OFF your plate.

PS - I’m not talking about veggies covered in butter or cheese!  Cheater!

Quick tip: Use a little himalayan sea salt, olive oil, or Bragg’s liquid aminos to add some flavor to your veggies if you can’t handle them on their own.

4. Make It Easy For Yourself

Figuring out how much and of what you should be eating can seem overwhelming.  Counting your macros (protein, fat, & carbs) and weighing of measuring everything you put on your plate - No thanks!

You’ve got a ton to worry about.  Your life is hectic.  The idea of figuring out the science of portion control is just a bit beyond anything you’re interested in investing your time in right now.  

Which is why I’m going to make this easy for you.  I have an amazing, brand-spanking-new, and totally affordable program that breaks this stuff down for you and takes the guesswork out of how much you should be eating.  

The best part - NOTHING is off limits.  You can eat what you want, as long as it fits in the containers.  

The other best part - this program combines this simple approach to portion control with 30 min workouts.

The last best part - in just 21 days, female participants are losing an average of 10 pounds and up to 15.

Quick Tip: Hop over here to get this program for just $140 through 2/28.

5 Home Remedies for Muscle Soreness

No matter where you're at in your fitness journey, muscle soreness is bound to happen.  Instead of reaching for over the counter drugs, try one of my favorite home remedies for muscle soreness.

1. Coffee

Research at the University of Georgia suggests that drinking coffee prior to working out can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue by up to half. This is due to the blocking of adenosine, a chemical released by your body in response to injury. Be careful not to overdo it on the coffee, as too much caffeine can cause muscle spasms; two cups of coffee is recommended. And, with your cup(s) of joe, you’ve also got the added bonus of the well-documented caffeine endurance boost.

coffee reduces muscle soreness

2. Magnesium

Magnesium, the primary component of epsom salts, is essential for healthy muscles and is a natural muscle relaxant. Absorption through the skin, via epsom salt baths, is more effective than taking an oral supplement, but eating foods high in magnesium, such as dark leafy greens, squash and pumpkin seeds, halibut, soy beans, and brown rice can also support reduced muscle soreness.

3. Tart Cherry Juice

tart cherry

A 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport identified antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins in tart cherries that are believed to work by reducing inflammation. Add the juice to a post-workout recovery drink to get the most bang for your buck. I like Trader Joe’s brand. Bonus: tart cherry juice has been found to have more antioxidants than the popular superfood pomegranate and may also help to improve sleep quality.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Among its many talents, apple cider vinegar is touted as a muscle reliever. ACV draws lactic acid out of muscles. If you can get beyond the smell, saturate a cloth with ACV and wrap it around the muscle for 20 minutes. Repeat every three to four hours for continued relief until the pain is gone for good.

apple cider vinegar

5. Foam Rolling

Foam rolling uses a technique called self-myofascial release, which uses pressure and targeted massage to help prevent scarring of the connective tissue between your muscles (the fascia). You can pick up your own foam roller at a sporting goods store, Marshall’s/TJ Maxx, or Amazon (because you can buy anything on Amazon).

foam rolling

Do you have any favorite home remedies?  Share them in the comments.

Olive Oil vs. Vegetable Oil: What's better?

“What's your take on olive oil vs. vegetable oil?”

Last week this question was asked on my Facebook page.  I put together a quick response then, but felt that the question really warranted something more detailed. 

Oils (and fats) are a touchy subject in the health world.  There’s lots of conflicting information and misnomers due to “low fat” and “fat free” food labeling.  Your body absolutely needs some fat sources, the trick is incorporating healthy sources.  This week, I’m comparing olive oil and vegetable oil.  Spoiler alert: olive oil is the clear winner in my book.


Olive Oil

The Source:Olive oil comes guess it: Olives.  High quality olive oils (virgin and extra virgin) come from pressing olives, while some lower quality olive oils can include chemical processing.

The Content: Olive oil has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.  You cou gan think of monounsaturated fats as a mix between polyunsaturated fats (unstable) and saturated fats (stable); monosaturated fats oxidize quickly, but not as quickly as polyunsaturated fats.

Quality olive oil also contains lots of antioxidants, substances that have provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits, including Vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds.

Body Benefits: Olive oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects promote heart health and protect against cancer.   

Since monounsaturated fat is more stable than polyunsaturated fat, it is less likely to generate the free radicals that create “bad” cholesterol, aka LDL. LDL damages blood vessels and can create changes in genes that may lead to cancer. Olive oil does not contain omega-3 fatty acids, but it does help to strengthen omega-3’s anti-inflammatory effects.  Research suggests monounsaturated oils cause less production of the bile acids in the digestive tract that promote colon cancer development and may help to control insulin and blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for diabetics.

Vegetable Oil

The Source: Vegetable oils are extracted from seeds like the rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc.  Vegetable oils can’t be extracted by pressing or naturally separating; they must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered.  It should also be noted that commercial vegetable oils may be a hybrid of multiple oil sources.

The Content:Vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fats, the least stable of the fats.  Polyunsaturated fats oxidize easily in the body and cause inflammation and mutation in cells

Let’s put oxidation into perspective for a second.  What do you get when iron is exposed to air and oxidizes?  RUST.  When polyunsaturated fats oxidize in your body, they create “internal rust”.   Doesn’t sound good, does it?

Body Benefits: Polyunsaturated fats can help to lower cholesterol, however, due to their unstable nature, monounsaturated fats are preferred.  Vegetable oils, specifically, may contain omega-6 fatty acids.  Maintaining a good omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (approximately 1:1) in the body is important (many people are deficient in omega-3).  Consumption of vegetable oils can lead to too much omega-6 fats, throwing the omega-3:omega-6 ratio off balance, which can cause inflammation and increase cancer risk.

Tips for Selecting, Storing and Using Olive Oil

olive oil
olive oil
  • Virgin is best. Extra virgin means that the oil was not produced through chemical means; only by mechanical (pressing) means.  This makes EVOO the best quality olive oil, since being pressed without heat preserves antioxidants.
  • Go with quality.  Top quality extra-virgin olive oil has a natural peppery finish and a deep aroma of grass and artichoke.
  • Lights Out. Heat, light and air can affect the taste and health-promoting nutrient quality of olive oil.  Purchase oil in a dark bottle and store it in a dark, room-temperature cupboard, or even in the refrigerator.  The fats, nutrients, and taste can degrade over time, so its recommended to use it within a six months to a year once opened.
  • Drop it low.  Olive oil has a low smoke point and is best used over medium to low heat.  For higher temp cooking, like stir frying or pan searing, I recommend using coconut oil.

In the comments, tell me what other questions you have about oils and fats.  Let’s bust through to the truth together.

How to Read Food Labels (and ignore calories)

So, if you're no longer counting calories and you still sometimes need to eat packaged foods, what should you look for on a food label?  I created a graphic for you to show you how to read food labels and what's important to know - a little light (but super important) reading this week!

how to read food labels
how to read food labels

I'll be honest - I thought I knew how to read food labels before I wrote this post, but I learned a whole lot more while I was researching.  I never knew that I should be looking at the ratio of total carbs to sugar, for example.  Did you learn something new this week?  Share it in the comments!

How To Stop Counting Calories - For Good!

I hope after last week’s post you’re recognizing the limitations in counting calories.  But, you can’t just DO NOTHING.  So, let’s talk about what you should do instead.

Just Eat Real Food

You want to know the real secret to not counting calories from food labels?  Eat food WITHOUT labels.  Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains (think quinoa, steel cut oatmeal, rice), and healthy fats all fit the bill.  Ditch packaged and processed foods - anything with more than 5 ingredients in the label.

If most of your food is packaged, start by replacing just one item a day with something natural.  Ultimately, aim for 80%-90% whole foods in your diet.

Restructure Your Plate

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that growing up you were probably familiar with the food pyramid as a guide to what you should eat.  No wonder everyone started counting calories - the pyramid did a poor job of helping people identify real food portions! 

Did you know that in 2011 a new food icon was introduced in the US?  The MyPlate icon was rolled out in early summer of 2011 (shown below) and has since been improved upon by Harvard School of Public Health with the replacement of milk with a glass of water, incorporation of more vegetables, and the inclusion of a healthy fat.  The new plate icons make food portioning much more accessible by showing you what your plate should look like at every meal.

US GOV MyPlate
US GOV MyPlate

When planning a meal, use the Harvard School of Public Health graphic as a guideline.  I personally advocate making half of your plate vegetables, adding a lean protein roughly the size and thickness of your palm (approximately 3 ounces for women and 4 ounces for men), incorporating a healthy grain for no more than a quarter of your plate, and adding in a small amount of healthy fat such as olive oil, nuts, or avocado.

Be Mindful

In this day and age, we’re all guilty of it.  Whether it’s eating in front of the computer or TV or incessantly checking your phone at meal time, you’re probably distracted when you eat. 

Research suggests that people eat less at any given meal when they are focused on the meal in front of them (and conversely eat MORE when they are distracted).  Disconnect from electronic devices, focus on chewing each bite fully, and engage your senses to notice the smell, taste, texture and color of your food.

Reflect On Your Previous Meals

A report published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that we draw on memories about the satisfaction of our most recent meal when we make decisions about what and how much to eat next.

Simply taking a moment before each meal to acknowledge what was eaten that day is enough. Alternatively, consider photo documenting each meal with a quick cell phone snap shot and glancing through your photo roll before you sit down to eat.

As you can see here, healthy eating is as much about eating real, whole foods as it is being conscious of what you’re putting into your body.  Consistently focusing on both these practices will ultimately lead to health gains and weight loss without ever having to counting calories again. 

In the comments, tell me what practice above you struggle with and what step you’re going to take towards correcting it.  I’ll go first – I am always distracted when I eat. I need to stop that.  I know better!

6 Reasons To Stop Counting Calories

Last week, I alluded to the fact that I don’t think you should focus on counting calories.  Despite all my research and the conversations I’ve had recently about this, my belief holds true.  Here, I’m providing you with the 6 top reasons why you should stop counting calories.

1. Reported Calories are Inaccurate

Did you know that the USDA allows some variation in the reported calorie counts on nutrition labels?  According to the FDA, actual calorie counts can be as much as 20% higher than what is printed on the label. Further, in 2011, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that stated that “19% of individually tested [restaurant] foods contained... at least 100 calories more than the stated energy contents, an amount that could cause [11-15 pounds] of weight gain per year if consumed daily.”

The other side of the equation – calories out – is equally difficult to track.  Each person has a unique base metabolic rate (BMR) or resting burn rate, as well as unique aerobic and strength training burn rates based on sex, age, exercise intensity, duration, body mass index, genetics, etc.  Although these numbers can be estimated, their accuracy is questionable.  For better results, a personal heart rate monitor can be used, however, this reading is really only accurate for determining the aerobic burn rate, not a strength training burn rate.

2. Calories were not Created Equal

In theory, a calorie of protein should be equal to a calorie of carbohydrates should be equal to a calorie of fat, but research suggestions that the energy required to digest the three different macro groups varies.  Protein requires more energy to digest than carbs, while carbs require more than fats.

3. Counting is not Sustainable

The act of calorie counting is incredibly tedious.  At a basic level, focus needs to consistently be placed on both reported calories and portion size, but the puzzle is much more complex than that.  As an example, your body doesn’t absorb all the calories that are ingested – how do you account for that?

4. Focuses on Quantity, Not Quality

As I mentioned in #2 above, all calories are not created equal.  In that case, I was talking about macros (whole foods), but let’s take it a step further.  100 calories of Twinkies is NOT the same as 100 calories of kale – can we all agree on that?  But, in your calorie counter they are the same!  When solely considering calorie counts, the concept of eating a balanced, whole foods based diet is completely overlooked.

5. Food is More Than Energy

Thinking of food solely as an energy source is a limiting belief.  As I’ve stated here before, I believe that food is medicine and that we can heal many of the ailments of our modern society simply through changes to our diets.  Your diet also provides the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to aid in processes such as cell growth, muscle repair, and bone strengthening.

6. Counting Calories Removes Intuition

Meticulously counting calories masks a piece of the puzzle that logic can’t replace: your body’s natural intuition.  Your body is very good at sending signals regarding the food and hydration it needs.  Unfortunately, when you’re focused on 100 calories this and 200 calories that, it can be hard to hear the message. 


Now, it’s time for you to weigh in (see what I did there?)... are your thoughts on calorie counting changing?  Leave an insight in the comments.

Are you a calorie counter?

In the health and fitness world, one of the commonly proposed and supported strategies for weight loss is calorie counting.Have you used calorie counting to lose weight before?  Has it worked for you?   The readers I polled said they had had success with calorie counting , but they all threw in words like “quality vs. quantity”, “portion control”, and “label reading” – suggesting that they were, in fact, looking at a much larger nutritional picture.

The truth of the matter is that calorie counting, as a model, is too simplistic to address the complexity of each individual’s nutritional needs.  Further, counting calories puts too much emphasis on the wrong things (quantity) instead of focusing on right things (quality).

With that being said, I’m going to tackle the calorie counting issue head on over the next four weeks.  I’ll be discussing why calorie counting doesn’t work, what to do instead, and teach you what to focus on instead of just calories when reading food labels.  But first, let’s lay some ground work, and get really clear on what a calorie is.

calorie counting
calorie counting

What is a calorie?

Purely scientifically speaking, a calorie is a measure of heat energy or “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C”.  From a nutritional standpoint, a calorie is the amount of energy that is derived from a specific food or the amount of energy needed to metabolically “burn” a specific food.  The term calorie or “Calorie” is routinely used in place of kilocalorie; food measurements are actually in kilocalories.

How is a calorie measured?

Here’s where things get kind of squirrely, so pay attention!

Originally, scientists would measure the number of calories in food by burning the food in a bomb calorimeter, a sealed container surrounded by water; the calories are measured by the resulting rise in water temperature.  Using this method, a scientist named Atwater developed average calorie values for the macronutrients protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Nowadays, the food industry typically uses an “indirect calorie estimation” method known as the Atwater system (based on Atwater’s standard values).  Food calories are estimated based on the average caloric values for protein (4 kilocalories/gram), carbs (4 kilocalories/gram), and fats (9 kilocalories/gram).  There are modifications to these values that have been made for some food groups including fruits, vegetables, and beans, but in general, the Atwater system provides the framework for estimating calories for packaged and restaurant foods. 

One glaring omission in this process is fiber; often, to account for fiber, which is slow to digest, the amount of insoluble fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrates.  Unfortunately, insoluble fiber isn’t specifically listed on food labels, so replicating the calculations is tricky (says the girl who just pulled various items out of the pantry and tried to do just that).

As an example, here are the calculations for a handful of random items I pulled out of my cabinet.


**My apologies for this being so dang small!

Note, for most items the calories from the food label is in between the calculated calories and the calculated calories without fiber; I believe the discrepancy to be due to insoluble fiber, however, this cannot be confirmed.

Food for Thought

Next week, I’ll go more in depth about the limitations of counting calories, but based on what we’ve reviewed today, I want to pose two questions to you (and my thoughts on them).

Does your body operate like a closed-system furnace, like the calorimeter described above?

NO WAY.  Your body is not a closed system.  It’s a complex, adaptable, machine.   In this respect, the calorimeter measurements are woefully inadequate in determining your body’s response.

Are you average?

HECK NO!  Then what would make you think that using average burn rates (calories) to determine your body’s response will give you accurate results?

Leave your thoughts on calorie counting in the comments.