I’ve been involved with the health and fitness industry since 1979. For some that was a hundred years ago, for others, it seems like yesterday! I got involved with the industry after losing 50 pounds that found its way on to my unsuspecting body. I had always been a “toothpick”. My sister used to say to me, “Some day all of that ice cream you eat will catch up with you.” She was right, it did.
When I lost weight, I did it the old fashioned way. I went from a completely sedentary lifestyle to riding a bike most days of the week. I gave up my penchant for fast food and started cooking at home. I was only 17, but knew that if I didn’t make a change, it was going to get ugly. I made the change.
Over the last 20 years (I got back in to the business after my kids were older), I have committed myself to inspiring others to get healthy, to change their life and experience the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Little did I know how hard it would be, and how many snake oil sales men/women out there would tempt, cajole and lie their way into those lives of people desperately seeking a weight loss miracle.
My first book came out in 2000, and the message in that book is no different than my message of today, “If you want to lose weight, focus on lifestyle change as weight loss is a byproduct of healthy changes.” If weight loss was truly a motivating factor, obesity would be a non-issue.
So here is my promise to you as we enter 2012:
1. I promise never to tell you that I can help you “melt” away fat.
2. I promise never to tell you that you can lose 20 pounds in 20 days.
3. I promise never to tell you that weight loss is fast and easy.
4. I promise never to tell you that without changing a thing, you can lose weight.
5. I promise never to tell you that fad diets work.
6. I promise to educate you on the steps necessary to make change.
7. I promise to assess your readiness and be honest if I feel you’re just not ready to commit to change. I can’t force anyone to make changes, it has be of their own volition.
8. I promise to support and encourage you to make healthy changes, but I cannot make the changes for you.
9. I promise to always give you the latest in health and fitness education, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I will find it for you.
10. I promise to never give up on you, even when you do. Changing your lifestyle isn’t easy, it takes time, patience, desire and hard work. I promise to take the time, have the patience and desire to support your hard work!
As a health and fitness professional, it’s my job to steer you away from the dangerous, short-term programs out there. And this time of year, the diet predators are out in full force. The ONLY way, and I mean the ONLY way to recover your good health and a healthy body is dedication to regular exercise and a whole food diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. There is no secret, there is no magic, never has been, only the truth, and that is what I promise to tell you each and every day!
Here’s to a healthy you in 2012!
By Nicki On November 3, 2011 No Comments
As we shift in to the frenzied holiday season, healthy intentions are left behind. Once the chaos of the holidays takes control of our lives, January 1st is the day of salvation. But you know, and I know, New Year’s resolutions rarely have lasting power.
Granted, we’re far away from January 1st, however many people I work with start losing their focus because January 1st is right around the corner. I wish there never was a January 1st, simply because people give up any healthy intentions in exchange for the belief that the New Year will undo all the November/December indiscretions. Quite frankly, it’s not the way it works. If I had a dollar for every person that used January 1st as their day of redemption, I’d be a very wealthy woman. In fact, if I had a dollar for every person that crashed and burned after 4 weeks of restriction and over exercising, I too would be wealthy. But I have no desire to make a penny off of people that are getting bad information.
I recently read an article discussing the fact that fad diets, or any kind of quick-fix doesn’t work. It’s the education and application of healthy living that gets lasting results, period, end of sentence. As you make your way in to the season of temptation and over-indulgence, check out some of my tips that offer solutions vs. resolutions designed to help you put your focus where it needs to be, on your health!
1. Do not attempt to lose weight over the holidays, rather focus on making the best choices you can, as often as you can. There will certainly be some things you are going to want, so do it, just do it moderately. After I lost my 50 pounds, my approach was 5 days on, 2 days off. In other words, 5 days a week I was very focused on getting the best nutrition possible. But allowing a couple of days to go out to dinner or for a party. It’s realistic and takes the pressure off to be perfect 24/7. Over time, you’ll find it not only gets easier but it will be more like 10 days strong, 1 day not so much!
2. Plan, plan, plan. Everyone should have their healthy food options ready. If you’re going to a party, bring your own dish. More now than ever, you should be planning your meals for the week. On Sunday, I sit down and figure out my week, when I’ll be home to eat and when I won’t. I then create my weekly menu and go shopping. I know that I’ve got meals covered and healthy snacks for the week. Planning is key to long-term success.
3. Water, Water, Water. Between alcohol consumption, too much sodium and heating, the winter is full of dehydration pitfalls. Be mindful of keeping yourself hydrated with water intake throughout the day. Further, being hydrated is noted for reducing hunger. H20 is a win-win!!
3. Don’t lose sight of exercise. I often tell my clients, “I don’t exercise for vanity, I exercise for sanity.” During the holidays, even more so. There is a lot of stress that comes with the holidays. Everything from pressure to shop, entertaining, family gatherings, etc. Exercise is the secret to maintaining a healthy energy level and creating a positive attitude that is often challenged during the season of good cheer.
4. You’re not perfect. One of the more common reasons people drop their exercise and/or nutrition efforts is unrealistic expectations. People believe that if they don’t get perfect results from their efforts, it’s pointless. If you continue to focus solely on weight, that may be right. But if you focus on lifestyle and ongoing efforts to make good choices most of the time, you can’t fail. Perfect is non-existent in the world of diet and exercise. In fact, that word is what I believe to be the demise of women’s best intentions. So take the pressure off yourself to be perfect. Simply be the best you can be most of the time and that is better than perfect, it’s realistic.
Here’s to a healthy holiday season!
By Nicki On July 11, 2011 No Comments
There is a great article written by Craig Harper, “How to Become a Conscious Eater.” In the article he says, “Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Re-actively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. ‘If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner’. Awesome parenting. They fantasize about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.”
When I read this article the first time, I could relate to so much of what he wrote. There were some things that hit me hard as at one point in my life, I did bribe and cajole my kids….. I used M&M’s for potty training. O.K., I admit it, but my kids are no worse for the wear, but I get the point that he is making. We use food for all of the wrong reasons, and if I’m using food as a tool to bribe, it’s lost its true value.
What I love most about his article is that he hits the nail on the head when he says, “We eat on autopilot.” He’s right, I see it in my clients every day and during my dieting days, I too was guilty. I just put food in my mouth and ate it without even questioning it’s benefits. Sure, I counted calories here and there (when I was trying to lose weight) but quality of the food? Who cares? It was low in calories and I was taught that was all that mattered. So sad.
Fortunately, since that time, I have learned and read so much more. I have had the good fortune of knowing people who are every bit a conscious eater. I have also encountered those that are completely disconnected from the food they’re putting in their body. I have observed and learned from watching both practices and find 30 years after losing 50 pounds, being a conscious eater is vital. When I can “feel” how the foods I eat allow me to be stronger and more focused, I’m grateful. When I used to snarf down a candy bar, I never gave a second thought as to how it made me feel.
Let me give you an example. When I struggled with weight, every day I counted my calories. Sure, I knew that vegetables and fruit were good for me but I was more interested in what was good for the scale, so I rarely paid attention to quality only quantity. I was sucked in to the “diet food” that promised to help whittle my waist down. So, I lived on diet food and I continued to feel lousy and deprived. During that time, nothing ever really tasted good, but that was the price to pay for a svelte figure. Or so I thought. Even as a young Mom, I would live on Rice Cakes (because they were low in fat) and skip meals in order to pig out at a big event. Ugh! It was what I knew and at the time what magazines told me, so I believed it!
Fast forward 30 years. Whenever I prepare a meal, I never put anything in my mouth (O.K., almost never) without thinking about the benefits derived from my food choices. I have come to understand that the more I eat whole, nutrient dense foods, the better I feel, without question. I love learning about the benefits of fresh herbs and green leafy veggies. I love playing with new recipes and feeding it to my family and watching them enjoy every last bite. I love pulling that first leaf of lettuce out of my garden and tasting it completely. I love the first raspberries of summer, and popping them in my mouth right from the bush. Nothing tastes better.
I haven’t counted calories in 20 years. I haven’t counted calories because I realized I wasn’t learning anything about food other than which had the least amount of calories. Once I started learning about the quality of foods, and the benefits of eating “real” food, I was no longer worried about calories. You’ll find it’s very hard to overeat “real” food because it’s typically high in fiber and satiety.When’s the last time you ate 5 oranges in one sitting? But, I bet you’ve knocked off a whole bag of chips. Get my point?
Craig Harper defines conscious eating as follows,“Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.”
I couldn’t agree more. Eating is about giving your body what is needs to operate optimally. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, good-for-you foods were given a bad rap in that many believe healthy foods are typically bland. The truth is there is no better tasting food than that food that is fresh and nutrient rich. It’s just that so many people are used to the crazy amount of salt and fat often found in fast food. As a side note, you can season food with some unbelievable herbs and create far tastier meals than any fast food restaurant can offer.
If we continue to ignore the foods our bodies so desperately need and continue to buy packaged, processed foods, or jump onto the next crazy diet, we may never realize the benefits of eating really great foods. Once you are able to make the distinction between “diet” foods and really good-for-you foods, you will never diet again, yet you’ll be healthier than you’ve ever been. That’s my hope anyway.
By Nicki On April 10, 2011 No Comments
This past week I hosted my 6th orientation at my studio for my 6-week Weight Loss Challenge. For the orientation, I had yet another speaker that has successfully met “the challenge” to tell her story. (Check out our other success stories). This week, Reality Fitness welcomed Marty Hammond and she shared how she has managed to lose 5 dress sizes and 30 pounds in 5 months.
” When I started this program 5 months ago, I only came to the orientation because my husband Mike wanted to support Nicki’s program. But as I sat and listened to Nicki’s emphasis on losing weight for better health and quality of life I thought, ‘Hmmm, maybe this is something I should try. I’ll call next month when I’m not so busy.” Normally that call would have never happened, but having a 2 pot-a-day coffee habit and struggling with extra weight, I figured maybe it’s time to make some changes. When I started the program there were 4 things Reality Fitness gave me.
The first tool they gave me was a compass, or what I like to refer to as a GPT, Great Personal Trainer. I could not have made the progress I’ve made without Jon. Next, they gave me a map, which was my food plans. Nothing crazy, just focused on getting rid of garbage as I knew I needed some structure. I gave up a 2 pot-a-day coffee habit and drink only tea now. I would often eat in my car, typically fast food. I was on my way with my compass and my nutrition. With those two components in place, I was then given keys, which was my journal. I liken it to AAA roadside assistance. The journal held me accountable and made me aware of what I’m putting in my mouth. Nicki said at the orientation, ‘If you’re not willing to journal, you are not willing to be successful.’ I know how true that statement is now that I’ve been doing it for 5 months. Then, I had to have fuel, and that fuel was the Happy Monday letters Nicki sends out to those of us participating in the challenge as well as the motivation I received from my trainer.
After all of these wonderful tools for success I received from Reality Fitness there was one thing missing, the driver. No one would take the wheel for me and drive to my destination, it was up to me to grab the wheel and take control. The biggest benefit of grabbing the wheel and taking control was knowing that I was in charge of my destiny. ”
Marty is now training for 5K’s and enjoying an improved quality of life. Her husband came to support her and told me, “She’s now outrunning me!” No doubt, a couple that exercises together, stays together!
I have been in this business a very long time, I have seen fads come and go. I have seen people go to ridiculous lengths to lose weight, rarely if ever keeping the weight off. Every time they would gain the weight back, the weight of failure became heavier than the weight on the scale. The difference with our clients success is not only their determination to once and for all make positive changes, but the support they receive long after the 6 weeks is past. Big changes require a lot of support and our clients get that from us. I think that if we’re able to develop programming on a national scale (no pun intended) that helps put people in the drivers seat, but gives them support during, before and after, that will be the key to long-term success. I’m see it in my studio every day. There is nothing that inspires me more than seeing people that are ready to change, make the change, and finally realize change can be a very positive thing.
By Nicki On October 31, 2010 1 Comment
There is no doubt that there is a prejudice against women, men and children of size. I can speak from experience as prior to losing my weight, I was treated differently by men, friends and perfect strangers. Yes, I remember buying donuts and a local donut shop and having people look at me thinking, “Like that girl needs a donut?” For me, that was a tough time especially because it was during my teen years and while all my friends were complaining about gaining 2 lbs. and hitting the 100 pound mark, I just wanted to feel better. I’d just roll my eyes and wonder what it would feel like to complain about being skinny. I was called “Bertha” as I walked down the halls and barked at, it wasn’t pretty, in fact it was pretty darn painful.
At the age of 18, things changed for me. I changed my lifestyle and yes, people’s attitudes toward me changed. Why? Because I was no longer perceived as fat. However, the interesting thing is, I’m the same person I was 50 pounds heavier. I laugh at the same jokes, I still love the same dorky music and I still have feelings, I haven’t changed. Yet somehow, people think that extra weight is some type of barrier against pain, both emotional and physical. Additionally, they think that extra weight immediately exempts feelings and awareness. With all the prejudice out there, it’s amazing how people think that someone different is immediately void of humaneness when in fact the people pointing the finger are the ones perhaps missing some level of it.
This past week there was a very hurtful, nasty, angry blog written by Maura Kelly, a freelance writer for Marie Claire magazine. The title of the post was, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room?” The post was, in my opinion, very unprofessional and for a brief moment, I sensed a bit of intention, in that perhaps the blog was written to generate readership. Just a thought, it happens. But aside from that, reading the post made me sick to my stomach (almost as sick as when I hear the “n” word used for my black friends or the “f” word used for my gay friends).
The tone of the blog was so intense that I felt as though she was writing to someone specific, someone that she was angry at, not to the general population. Perhaps written to herself based on her history of anorexia. Of course with the uproar came an apology, was it genuine? Who knows. All I know is that the words written shall forever be part of this writers shadow. This blog was a reminder that prejudice is still alive and well in our country and it goes way beyond color or gender, unfortunately.
But out of bad there is always some level of good. What the blog did do was the raise awareness about the perception about different sizes in our world. It brought about some really great discussion about size and acceptance, etc. I have always believed that we were not designed to all be tall and thin. Do I want my friends and family to be healthy? Absolutely, but health is not always determined by size as I have known many “thin” people that lived on Diet Coke and Snickers.
For years I have touted that size is not necessarily indicative of health. Although our society has slowed down, and healthful food offerings are not always accessible, the truth is that size has never been an indicator of character any more than color or religion. I am a firm believer that good health comes in all sizes and although I am concerned with obesity related health issues, we have to get a closer look at the numbers that really threaten our society and that is the number of uneducated people pointing the finger at those that don’t fit the “ideal” ….whatever that is.
By Nicki On August 29, 2010 3 Comments
This past week a friend of mine shared with me that she has started taking diet pills, “just to help” expedite her weight loss goal. There was no question they had been working as she had already lost some weight, but the news really disappointed me. I’ve known this person for a long time and she has always believed that a healthy weight can only be achieved through regular exercise and eating well. She’s always brushed off diets and when her friends were jumping on some weight loss bandwagon, she would say, ” Don’t these people realize that the weight will come back? I’m not doing that any more.” So what was it that caused her to suddenly abandon her solid knowledge of weight loss and start taking a diet pill? “I’m only taking it for a few weeks,” she said. Although she joked about it, she had noticed her patience level was compromised and she was constantly thirsty (diuretic effect of weight loss pills) and a bit jumpy.
I asked her, “So what is the big difference? What is it about the pills that makes more sense than eating right regularly?” She said,”Well, I’m eating less because I’m not as hungry.” Ahhh, she’s eating less. Exactly. So basically, she needs something to force her to eat less. I said to her,”You can do this diet pill thing, but you realize that when you go off of it, it’s like losing a crutch. First of all the withdrawal probably won’t be fun and you’ll be back to what you were doing before. Use this as a learning experience. See how much food you’re cutting out, how many calories and write it down. LEARN from this that in truth, the ONLY secret to weight loss is cutting calories but ultimately, you’re going to have to do it naturally, without the aid of diet pills.”
I’m hopeful that she will realize that her weight loss is the result of simply cutting calories, there is no “magic” in the pill other than suppressing her appetite. I guess you could call that magic. But the side-effects are hardly worth it and the long-term results, not there. It comes down to what we know but don’t really like to hear, it’s making the decision to make changes that are controlled naturally, not by a drug, not by a pill or “diet” but by making the conscious choice to change. Spend time to find out what triggers eating too much and change it. Find out why you tend to overeat, then address it and change it. The only way that someone will experience long-term change is through long-term desire, period. It’s like taking illegal drugs to escape from it all, at some point you have to be responsible for your own happiness and fulfillment. Ultimately, it is you that is in charge of making things happen and reaching the goals you set. I hope she figures that out sooner rather than later.
By Nicki On August 18, 2010 No Comments
This picture brings back a lot of memories. I was about 17 years old and about 50 pounds overweight. I was miserable but hadn’t yet made the connection between my weight, my lifestyle and how I felt. It would be another year before I would finally have an “a-ha” moment and realize that I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and expect to age gracefully and most important, healthfully.
At the end of my senior year in high school, I had promised myself to get “moving” and start eating better. At the time, Weight Watchers was all about portion control and a nice variety of fruits and vegetables. It was because of that, I was able to lose the 50 pounds in a little over a year. That was almost 30 years ago which actually started my path in to the fitness arena. I know that taking the time to do it right, not pushing crazy starvation methods in place helped me so much in understanding what I like to call, “Food and mood.”
This past week, I was in Toronto lecturing to personal trainers at Can-Fit Pro. One of my lectures was, “Inspiring Clients to Move Beyond Diets and Into Good Health.” It is really my favorite lecture to present as so many in the audience can relate to it, whether personally or through a client they’re working with.
Going from diets to healthy living includes 5 key components, commitment, planning, clear goals, journaling and lastly, BELIEF! The belief that you actually CAN make the changes to a healthier lifestyle if you’re willing to follow the 4 other components. If you are not committed you will not succeed. If you cannot plan ahead, meals, grocery shopping, exercise, etc. you will not succeed. If you are not willing or able to set clear goals, you will not succeed. Lastly, if you’re not willing to journal (some believe the most important ingredient to long-term success) you will not succeed. You see, good things come from hard work and commitment and well, getting healthy is not easy until you’ve been doing it for awhile and like anything else, it’s gets easier as you go along. The more you do it, yes, the easier it gets. If you really want to change your life, you’re going to have to do some work. Not a “Debbie Downer” simply fact and I know, I’ve been doing it with others for years and I know personally, what it took for me to once and for all lose weight and keep it off!
I believe in my clients and I believe in their ability to succeed, but they have to believe in themselves as well. If they believe, they will certainly achieve. It is no different for you, do you believe?
Here’s to your health,
By Nicki On May 23, 2010 No Comments
As long as I’ve been focused on eating better and moving more, I always believe there’s room for improvement. As I head in to the last year of my 40’s, now more than ever I want to be the best I can and the way to make that happen, is to learn what things I can improve upon.
When I look back 20 years ago, I too was sucked in to the whole “low-fat, high carb” diet. I read everything that came along on the subject and believed that I knew it all and that my nutrition was set. Little did I know that not only was eating that way not conducive for me feeling great, I was eating a lot of processed foods. You see, many choices that we make that seem healthy, are not always the best choice. But through brilliant marketing and deceptive labeling, it makes it awfully tough to know just what your eating and how it actually affects the way we feel and our overall health.
In the early 90’s it was all about Oat Bran, touted as the new miracle food! In the late 90’s, The Atkins Diet resurfaced and we had a whole new generation following the Atkins philosophy. Unfortunately, it was rarely about the health, more about the weight loss. Here’s what I mean, whether it’s low-fat, high oat, or low-carb, if you’re eating junk which stays in the parameters of the diet, you may be losing weight, but what are you putting in to your body? And that’s where the lack of education comes in. A good example is 100-calorie packs. It’s basically processed bags of food that people are led to believe are more healthy. The truth is that folks may be getting less calories, but like a diet drink, what they save on the front end they end up making up in the back end, so it’s commonly a wash. I’m not making this up, I see this with my clients all the time.
So, like you, I get frustrated with the information that comes out about nutrition and the confusion that comes a long with it. High Carb? Low Carb? High Protein? Low Protein? Low- Fat? Low Calorie? Fat-Free? Preservative free? And on and on the questions go.
In my search to learn more, I have just started working with a lovely lady, Teri Gentes, someone you should know. Teri has taken me to a new level in my quest to understand more about food and what constitutes a good choice vs. a misinformed choice. I love learning as I believe the more I know, the more I can positively grow. There are plenty of things she’s shared with me that many of us know, eat more veggies and fresh fruit, avoid processed, chemical filled foods, etc. But I’m also learning so much that I didn’t know. Although healthy eating can be very, very detailed, ultimately it’s about making choices that can make you stronger, healthier and happier. I’ve always believed there is a direct correlation between food and mood and as I make my way through this educational process, I believe it now more than ever.
I try and do my best with giving straight forward advice in my columns and blogs about healthy eating, and with that are some amazing resources out there that can help explain things in a way that’s easy to understand and implement bit by bit. Like anything, you can’t go and clean out your cabinets and expect that in a day you are going to completely alter your eating and it’s going to stick, it won’t.
Making small changes is the best way to alter and positively change your diet. It can be as basic as adding in a new vegetable each week. Working to move away from boxed foods and focus more on whole, natural state foods. Trust me, when I got in to this business I thought I had healthy eating all figured out. Not even close! So as I learn, I will share with you. Following are just a few resources for you. I’d love to know your thoughts about food deception and the confusion when seeking a healthy eating plan that you can stick with for life. After all, that’s what healthy eating is all about saving and enhancing your life!
Here’s to your health!
By Nicki On October 29, 2009 1 Comment
People have spent so much time focusing on weight loss,
By Nicki On September 13, 2009 1 Comment
In my 25 plus years in the fitness industry, the most common comment I hear from clients that seek me out for weight loss guidance is, “Well, I did ‘such and such’ diet and that really worked for me. I lost 50 pounds.” But in truth, the diet DIDN’T work, because if it did, the client wouldn’t be seeking me out to lose weight, right?
Let me ask you a question. If someone told you that they had the secret help you lose all the weight you wanted, would you be interested? Now, what if they provided