Category Archives: fat loss

Exercise Intensity: the cult of sweat

Teaching more group classes I notice January can bring more people into the gym in developing a new habit of exercise. Exercise is a lifelong habit I believe in wholeheartedly. Last week I came to the conclusion I have a passion for exercise and physical education that can be humorously described as belonging to the ‘cult of sweat’.

There seems to be a general trend to ‘high intensity’ exercise which led me to look further at the research and various programs that are widely available. It seems the concept that short, high intensity interval workouts produced more ‘results’ of fat loss has been accepted as a most effective workout to achieve an ideal body composition and overall fitness.

‘High intensity’ exercises require you to utilize most major muscle groups of your body and some of the movements can be complex compound movements. For example, a ‘burpee’ requires a pushup, squat, moving into a plank, jump to a squat and vertical jump. Many new and seasoned exercisers need work to improve any of the above mentioned movements and the emphasis on ‘intensity’ allows for poorly executed movements.

There is no magic bullet to being fit and healthy. It requires commitment and regular practice to have exercise as a part of your lifestyle. Being fit, which I will define as being able to perform a variety of physical activities and movements requires BOTH cardio vascular and strength training. HIIT workouts can only be performed well once you have the fitness to sustain physical activity at a higher heart rate AND have developed the basic strength movement skills of squats, planks, pushups, lunges, etc.

Make it your goal to keep yourself healthy and moving well with a variety of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, you still need to move regularly to be healthy and maybe one day you will enjoy it.

Watch your carbs and your sleep

I like to eat carbs and sweets, as evidenced by the love of delicious sweet treats I share with you here. It is true that you can lose fat by monitoring and restricting  your carbohydrate intake. However, the question is always what level of carbohydrate monitoring and/or restriction is sustainable?

The most restriction I have been able to practice is to have one meal of protein and veggies in a day. I have tried this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For me, it is okay at breakfast, but not the most energizing. A large salad with protein is alright at lunch time. Protein and veggies at dinner is okay for my energy levels. However, my sleep is affected by having limited carbs for dinner. I manage to fall asleep but have serious difficulty staying asleep!

If you are going to monitor and/or restrict your intake of carbohydrates, I suggest paying close attention to your energy levels before and after your meals and to watch what happens to the quality of your sleep. Metabolism varies in each individual and our dietary requirements need to be tailored to suit what the body needs now.

There is a school of thought that suggests eating minimal and/or restricted carbohydrates after 5pm. This strategy can work well for some people to help reset their insulin response. However, there are some individuals such as myself that do not sleep well without eating carbohydrates at night, so try another meal of the day to have minimal carbohydrate intake. Getting good rest and quality sleep is more of a priority than following a diet plan, as good food and lifestyle choices should leave you feeling energized and well!


Add Thanksgiving: for fat loss

As a fitness trainer extraordinaire, I have given suggestions for health, fitness, and fat loss on innumerable occasions.  I notice that quite frequently what I suggest sounds almost ‘too easy’, as there is a generally pervasive mindset that being healthy and losing weight is an onerous undertaking. The truth is, our thoughts, feelings and daily habits make all the difference and are entirely changeable starting in the smallest of ways. On Thanksgiving, a natural starting point is to appreciate all that we have in our lives, and the first step in making a difference. I invite you to consider making dietary and lifestyle changes from a positive approach of adding to your diet and lifestyle. The intention is to take positive action to take care of yourself at this moment.

Here is my top 5 list of Making Life Good concepts to add to your diet and lifestyle:

1. Notice and be mindful of all that you have in your life

2. Take time to truly enjoy food and drink

3. Eat more green vegetables

4. Drink herbal tea

5. Eat more fibre


Ps. The best part is the list above is easily applied anytime and for a Thanksgiving feast-Happy Thanksgiving!

The Italian Lean Program

The Italian Lean Program the fun name I gave to one of the most interesting workout and lifestyle programs I have tried in my career so far. Just before departing for Italy, my body fat was tested by exercise coach Adriano Martorano at Kx Yorkville I learned of some lifestyle issues to address such as sleep and minor nutrient deficiencies through Biosignature at Kx. This body fat test correlates with the hormonal profile of your body. Learning of possible hormone imbalances through fat storage patterns in my body was very motivating, especially since I was provided with strategies to improve my health. Following Adriano’s lifestyle and targeted supplementation advice held the promise of a leaner body for me. Adriano would know, as he is an exceptionally experienced coach, practices what he preaches and is in unbelievable shape. However, he suggested I start the program after my trip…I took that as a challenge, so we made a friendly wager at Kx on my returning from Italy leaner.

Even with my professional pride on the line, my love for food came first, so I could not comply with the strict dietary discipline that was suggested for the two week period. Actually, I preferred to eat clotted cream, pasta, gelato and anything else that struck my fancy. Having multiple servings of green veggies, fruit, increasing my protein intake, taking fish oil, working out and sleeping well was the extent of lifestyle discipline I could adhere to. Prosecco, cocktails, pasta, pizza, panforte, cheese, gelato and other Italian treats were all on the menu to be enjoyed.

A few days into the trip, it was time for me to put my fitness trainer skills to creative use. There was a vineyard close to where we were and I knew at first glance it was the perfect locale for hill sprint repeats-and was it ever! It was a 45 second hill where I felt that even if an animal were chasing me, I could not move any faster. Then, I designed some 20 minute strength workouts for the upper and lower body separately. Here is the workout:

Leisure time, yoga and meditation by the swimming pool were also on the list.

Poolside fun required-

Poolside fun required for the Italian Lean Program

I am exceptionally happy to report that I dropped 1.5% body fat upon my return from Italy where I ate pasta and gelato daily! This is the ultimate Making Life Good achievement, as I truly enjoyed being active outdoors, shared fabulous Italian food while becoming stronger and leaner! Making Life Good recommends the Biosignature program at Kx Yorkville-could anything be better than becoming leaner, stronger and healthier while enjoying life to the fullest extent in Italy?


Book Review: The Fast Diet

I learned of The Fast Diet when a client told me about a BBC special done by Dr Mike Mosley on the health benefits of fasting. Due to my prodigious internet skills, I was unable to watch even clips of the video, so I bought the book and read it. I read a fair amount of diet books in order to answer questions from clients intelligently.

The Fast Diet is one of the more scientifically and psychologically sound diet plans I have read. The premise is simple: fasting by eating 500-600 calories 2 days per week is conducive to weight loss, an improved insulin response and reduced risk of age related diseases. If you do not have much weight to lose, fasting for a day at occasionally can still offer the same health benefits.

Intermittent fasting is based on the premise that you can give your body a ‘break’ from the constant work of digesting food and essentially reset your hormonal response. The author of the Fast Diet points out that the eating pattern they suggest mimics that of a naturally thin person. A person’s appetite can vary from day to day, so their caloric intake can vary on a daily basis, and comes to a steady average over time.

I have not tried the 2 days per week of fasting that is suggested in The Fast Diet. However, I do notice I eat less if I’m not hungry, so I am naturally inclined to fast a little, very occasionally. In addition to the rare occasions that I have little appetite, I try to eat very lightly when I take long flights, as it helps me minimize jet lag. Airport food can be so unappealing that I choose to not eat and prefer to wait for a decent meal at my destination.

The Fast Diet is well worth reading if you want to learn more about intermittent fasting and/or try a doable eating program for health benefits and weight loss. If you don’t read the book, you can always try to listen to your body and eat according to your appetite, which most likely will vary. Eating less for just one day is doable for most of us.

Veggie Inspiration: Choi Sum

It seems highly appropriate to introduce Choi Sum, a Chinese green vegetable during  Chinese New Year. Choi sum is mild in flavour, somewhat similar to bok choy. It is part of the mustard family of greens and is a source of vitamin C, soluble fibre, calcium and phytonutrients such as indole 3-carbinol, which helps cells repair their DNA.

Baby Choi Sum

Baby Choi Sum

Choi sum came to my attention in Hawaii while I sampled the incredibly diverse and blended Asian food on Oahu. I found choi sum as a tasty cold salad at a Korean place in the food court at Ala Moana Mall. I believe the choi sum was steamed and seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce among other unidentified seasonings to create the ‘salad’. I also enjoyed and ordered extra portions of choi sum in tan tan ramen (a spicy sesame infused broth for ramen and a new favourite food!).

With these sources of inspiration, I procured some tender baby choi sum with a little help. It’s an interesting leafy green vegetable to have, which works well for healthy eating and fat loss. Look for baby choi sum, or choi sum that is bright green at your local Asian grocer. Try it stir fried, lightly steamed and enjoyed hot or cold dressed as a ‘salad’, or in a noodle soup.


Drink More Water: Ways to Make Water More Fun

With the fall season here, many of us are motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes. One of the most important health changing tasks we give our clients is ask them to drink enough water on a daily basis. The calculation we use is:

Your Weight in kilograms X 0.033=Daily Water Intake in Litres

More details here:

It is great to have a technical goal and a number to achieve. However, what actually happens in practice on a daily basis is more of a challenge. One challenge that I continually come across is ‘I don’t like plain water’. In fact, this piece is inspired by this question I came across on a UK website:

Q. I really don’t like drinking water but worry that drinking squash each day isn’t good for me?

I really appreciate the honesty of this question. Squash is a sweet beverage that is  made by diluting a concentrated syrup, which typically consists of concentrated juice and sugar with water or carbonated water. I can understand that preferring to drink squash and other beverages is a natural consequence to not liking water. Having everyone drinking all the water they need consistently is like a magic bullet that we need in the health and fitness world. However, we are all human and have our idiosyncratic behaviour.

I think that making drinking water more fun will help. Ideally, we would all drink all the water we need in plain water and herbal tea. Since that is unlikely, how about these ideas to help meet your daily water intake goal:

-herbal teas (loose leaf teas have better taste and higher nutritional value)

-low sodium club soda, sparkling water

-infuse water with lemon slices, lime slices, cucumber, herbs, or other fruits

-try warm water with a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar

-try adding orange blossom water to plain water for extra flavour

-try plain water or sparkling water with Minisyrup, a natural, concentrated, unsweetened flavouring product. See the story on how:

Natural flavour minisyrup is available in lemon, mango, orange, pear, raspberry, and strawberry kiwi. Order at

For example, if you manage to drink 1/3-1/2 of your daily water intake goal in plain water and drink the rest in the form of the ideas above, you will get to your daily water intake goal faster. You can meet your daily water intake goal more easily by making some small efforts to make water more appealing and fun. Does that sound doable?

Fat Loss Tip: Daily Water Intake Goal

Here is another fat loss tip that is also a general health recommendation. Our body is composed of nearly 75% water. That water in our body needs to be constantly refreshed, as water is needed for every physiological process that occurs every minute within our body. Here is a calculation that gives you a daily water intake goal that helps you reach optimal hydration and therefore optimal physiological function within your body. Being closer to optimal hydration and physiological function supports fat loss.

Your Body Weight in kilograms X 0.033= Daily Water intake Goal in litres

This number may sound like a lot to some people. That is alright. Being healthy is a daily process, so this is a lifelong health habit we can all work on daily. Even if you had only one glass of water yesterday, making an effort to an extra glass today and slowly building up to your water intake goal, day by day, week by week will make a difference to your health.


Eat Your Greens

Most of us would like to lose fat from our bodies in select areas (see hormone fat loss post). I generally find it far too difficult to deprive myself of any food or drink, so I look for other solutions, such as making small changes. The most positive and easy to accomplish is adding more variety of foods or drinks that I consume. One of our favourite fat loss tips that we suggest to our clients is to try eating at least one cup of cooked greens everyday. Cooked green vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, collard greens, kale, cabbage, spinach, rapini, swiss chard, asparagus, dandelion greens, watercress, callaloo, the list goes on.
Most of us including myself need to work at eating a variety of foods to obtain an adequate variety of nutrients. This point is very important especially with plant foods as they all have slightly different phytochemicals and antioxidants that are highly beneficial to our health. I have looked to professional chefs for inspiration with different ways to prepare and enjoy veggies, as they are the experts at making food taste and look good. I have shared a few sources of veggie inspiration in previous posts and I will continue to look for inspiration and encourage veggie consumption.
I was out for dinner twice this weekend and came across restaurants that had great tasting greens on their menu. I would not have eaten that amount of greens if I had not ordered these items. I was at Foxley (a perennial favourite Toronto restaurant) with a friend and we ordered both the green mango seaweed salad and the kale salad. Both were absolutely delicious and a substantial amount of greens. My friend and I both commented that we would not know how to prepare seaweed or kale in such a delicious way, but we were happy to eat it!












I was also surprised to find great greens at Lil Baci last night. Their tuscan kale salad is exceptionally seasoned and their fresh fava and greens were well prepared and tasty. Again, items I would not have made myself, but I certainly enjoyed eating once on a plate before me. Look on the menu the next time you are out for a meal and see if there is a veggie you are willing to try. You may be surprised that it tastes good and you’re willing to try it again.

How Many Drinks? Count them…

My summer drink of the moment is the Grey Goose orange with lime and soda. It is absolutely delicious and it has been brought to my attention that it is hard to stop at just one. I can totally relate to that! Once you have one tasty alcoholic beverage, it is really easy to have more, possibly many more. There is one suggestion I have for everyone who drinks alcohol-count them for yourself.
I started this habit a few years ago and doing so has helped me to learn that there is an upper tolerable limit of drinks I can consume in a week. Beyond that limit, I have discovered through trial and error that my energy level suffers, I feel generally unwell and my exercise performance declines. I believe there is a balance of having fun and staying healthy. It’s a matter of listening to your body.
I encourage everyone to count how many drinks they consume in a week, write it down, monitor how your body and energy level in general feels. This a positive health habit that holds us all capable and accountable for our choices in fun, health and wellness.
If you have goals for fat loss, many programs will suggest you cut out all alcohol consumption. This may work for while, but long term, it is most likely unsustainable. My suggestion is to monitor your consumption weekly, as a lifestyle habit and find out what your upper tolerable limit is. Once you know your weekly maximum number of drinks is, make it your goal and general lifestyle habit to stick with having less than that maximal number.