Becoming An Optimal Eater

Becoming An Optimal Eater

Kathy Smith Dec 2011 Park City-Chef  158Last week, we looked at the scale of functional eating (if you missed it, click here). Now that you’ve identified which level of eater you are, it’s time to decipher how to move up the ladder from out-of-control to optimal eating. Moving up the ladder will jumpstart your weight loss journey .

Each step of the ladder –moving from, say, step 5 to step 4 to step three—represents real developmental progress in food believes and food behaviors. In order to help you make that progress, each level has a specific task.

If you are a “Level 5: Out-Of-Control” eater and want to move to “Level 4: Rigidly Controlled Eating,” then:

The most critical skill here is learning to distinguish between true hunger and satiety (the sense of satisfaction you get form eating, not overeating, a wonderful meal). If you’re stuck in Level 5, overwhelmed by food chaos, this skill may seem as attainable as reaching the summit of Mt. Everest on a skateboard. But it’s important to start working with your body and its needs, not against them. Knowing when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough are the most basic cues that lead to independent eating.

One exercise I know that gets great results is choosing to eat only part of the food on your plate. Whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, pretend the last few or several bites aren’t there at all. Give yourself ten minutes or so to let what food you’ve eaten settle, then ask yourself if you’re satisfied yet and whether you actually want the remaining portion.

Remember, it’s especially important to avoid getting over-hungry, because over-hungry people are especially prone to overeating.

If you are a “Level 4: Rigidly Controlled Eater” and want to move to “Level 3: Eating by The Rules,” then:

While you may have a sense of “enough is enough” now, you’re probably still hoping someone will tell you exactly what to eat—even though it’s a fact that if you did indeed have a food master lording over your food choices, you’d get sick to death of that person’s reigning you in all the time. That’s why the challenge facing you at this important level is learning what works best for you, and letting the “food police” meddl in someone else’s living room.

That said, it’s critical at this level for you to build on your new ability to listen to your body’s food-related signals. You’ll soon learn to determine whether a higher carbohydrate food pattern works for you, or maybe one that contains a little more fat and protein. The focus here is on food composition – the balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your diet. Remember, everyone is different.

When you try different food patterns, pay close attention to how you feel after eating, as well as how long you feel satisfied. Note any differences in how your body looks, or how you feel. I recommend keeping a food diary (or photojournaling your experience on social media). In this food diary, record your observations after every meal, week to week; they’ll lead you to a much clearer and easier understanding of which food patterns work better for you in the overall scheme. And that insight will prove invaluable as you continue making more and better functional food choices while moving up the ladder.

If you are at “Level 3: Eating By The Rules” and want to move to “Level 2: Functional Eating,” then:

Graduating from Level 3 to Level 2 is probably the most challenging move of all. Because now comes the time to test your limits and your boundaries.

The point of functional eating is to let go fo the rules about what you eat, what you should eat, how you should eat, when you should eat. Realize that all growth, all risk-taking is scary!

Each time we pick up a restaurant menu, walk down a supermarket’s isles, or browse through the refrigerator, somewhere, faintly audible from the depths of the brain, comes the “You shouldn’t eat that” or “You should eat this” voice. The outcome of the struggle between the two decides what we buy and eat.

Well, I’d like you to do your best to ignore all those voices. The name of the game here is accountability. At this level you no longer blame experts, diet plans, or your own rules for what doesn’t work in your food choices. Your goal is to realize that, for better or worse, you’re in charge of choosing your foods. And only you can be accountable for those choices.

Several steps are involved at this stage. First, you have to identify those foods that you consider “good” and “bad.” That shouldn’t be hard.

Start by dividing a sheet of paper into five columns. Your first column should be titled “Good Food;” the second, “Bad Food;” the third, “Reason,” the fourth, “Foods I Like,” the fifth, “Foods I Dislike.”

Fill up the first three columns with entries. Maybe you think steak is bad because it has too much fat, or broccoli is good because it has a lot of fiber. Just write them down and in the “Reason” column, add a brief description of why you think they’re good or bad.

Fill the last two columns, — Like and Dislike. Then notice how many foods you really like that are in the Bad column, and how many are in the Good column. In the same way, compare the foods you dislike.

As you compare, realize that more often you avoid foods you really like because they’re on the Bad list, the more unsatisfied you’re likely to be with your current food choices. Not allowing yourself ot eat what you like typically translates into a feeling of deprivation and dissatisfaction—and ultimately resentment.

By the same token, if you eat foods you dislike only because they’re supposed to be “good for you,” you’re more likely to rebel against your food choices. If you don’t feel it now, you eventually will.

If you are at “Level 2: Functional Eating” and want to move to “Level 1: Optimal Eating,” then:

Let me be completely honest: Eating consistently at Level 1 is tough for most people who aren’t on permanent vacation. Because if you keep an ordinary, busy schedule, you  probably don’t have the time or energy to do what’s necessary. Myself included. I can be a Level 1 eater when my schedule permits.

Yes, I would prefer to eat at Level 1 all the time. But, like you I live in the real word—and it’s a busy world. This is where Level 2 eating works just fine. I don’t beat myself up when I can’t stay at Level 1. I just accept the ebb and flow of the process, and utterly savor those times when Level 1 is achievable.

Ideally, I’d like you to spend most of your eating time enjoying the flexibility and choices of Level 1 and Level 2. But, I’d also like you not to beat yourself up as you’re working to move forward from levels 3, 4 and 5.

Make it happen!
Kathy

 

Eat Your Way To Increased Energy

Eat Your Way To Increased Energy
With these 10 Super Foods

Eat Your Way To Increased EnergyYou probably know by now that eating a hearty amount of vegetables and fruits is the forefront in getting fit and staying energized. Nutritious foods serve many purposes– everything from slimming down to helping you feel balanced and clear-headed throughout the day. These super foods are great additions to your meals because you can eat them in large amounts, get full quickly and pack your body with nutrients! Unfortunately, not all fruits and vegetables are created equal.

One of the premises of the ReShape Weight Loss plan is to eat nutrient-dense food that supports your energy. As you learn to manage your blood sugar through nutrient-rich food, you’ll see an increase in your energy level throughout each day.

The benefits of eating super foods are clear. You’ll receive:

–       More energy
–       Reduced food cravings
–       Feelings of fullness
–       Improved sense of well-being

Top 10 Super Foods

Recently, UCLA Health System dietitian Dana Hunnes, shared her top 10 super foods. They are:

Isolated almonds1. Almonds

Why: Packed with fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin D.

Tip: Almonds are great for your body, but it’s important to remember portion control. Instead of grabbing them from a jar, put a few in a plastic baggie at the beginning of your day to reduce the risk of over-indulgence.



2. Apples

Why: Good source of vitamin C and pectin, which can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

Tip: Next time you eat an apple, pair it with some string cheese! This is one of my favorite snacks when I’m on the go!
Try my Apple a la Mode Shake

 


Blueberries

3. Blueberries

Why: Blueberries are low-calories and high in

fiber, vitamin C phytonutrients. All of these benefits lead to help with short-term memory and healthy aging.

Tip: Blend blueberries with soymilk and protein powder for a simple and delicious protein shake!
Try my Blueberry Sunrise Shake

 



4.  Broccoli

Why: Contains calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and phytonutrients.  The combination of all of these vitamins and antioxidants help prevent chronic diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

Tip: Grill up some fish and season with lemon, pepper and garlic. Steam broccoli and serve as a side for a delicious dinner!
Try this for dinner: Broccoli-Tofu Stir-Fry

 


A bowl of mixed dry beans with a white background.
5. Beans

Why: Beans are a heavy-hitter, because of their low-calorie nature and the fact that they’re loaded with: protein, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and thiamin.

Tip: Cutting down on meat? Use beans as a meat alternative, or blend in some chickpeas into your smoothie for added protein and creamy texture.
Try this ReShape recipe for lunch: Tuscan Bean and Tuna Salad

 



6. Beets

Why: Beets are rich in betacyanin (cancer-fighting agent), manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.

Tip: If you aren’t fond of beets, try adding them to a green juice for a gorgeous purple-crimson color.

 


Fresh spinach
7.  Spinach

Why: Because your mom said so! But she was right – spinach is filled with nutrients that boost your immune system and may help improve your hair and skin.

Tip: Hide a handful of spinach in your protein smoothie with some berries.
Indulge in my Edamame and Spinach Salad Recipe

 



8. Sweet Potatoes

Why: This fat-free, low-calorie option is high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins (B6, C and E) and potassium.

Tip: Skip the butter and salt and instead sprinkle some cinnamon on the top for a sweet flare that your taste buds will love.

 



9. Wheat Germ

Why: Wheat germ offers a highly concentrated source of protein, iron and zinc. It also includes multiple nutrients, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc.

Tip: Wheat germ is the part of the seed that contains the most vitamins and minerals. Mix into your greek yogurt with some granola to add nutrients to your breakfast.

Banana Smoothie


10. Bananas

Why: High in potassium, phytonutrients and multiple vitamins. Bananas also help you feel full and are great to aid in digestion.

Tip: Although bananas make this list of super foods, keep its calories and sugar level in count. Try adding half of a banana to a protein shake for extra flavor.
Try my recipe for Banana-Nut Pops

Are you ready to pack your plate with these nutrient-dense, energy-boosting foods? Try these exclusive ReShape recipes to help you along your way:

Farmer’s Market Chopped Salad
Tilapia Saute with Greens

Here’s to your health!
Kathy Smith

Sleeping Smart

Sleeping smart

sleeping-smartGetting a good night’s sleep means much more than just catching up on your beauty rest. If you cheat yourself out of a long slumber, you’re setting yourself up for unhealthy consequences later.

Last April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study showing that more than 40 million workers get less than six hours of sleep at night, and nearly 45 percent of night-shift workers lack the proper amount of shut-eye. Not to mention the study specifically called out healthcare employees among the working professionals hit hardest by sleep deprivation.

So what’s the big deal if you miss a few ZZZs? Occasionally falling short of the seven to nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation won’t really affect you, right?

Wrong. When your regular sleep pattern is less than the recommended amount, it can compromise your immune system causing symptoms like irritability, depression, and a lackluster demeanor due to your body releasing stress hormones.

Sleep deprivation also creates an imbalance of ghrelin and leptin, the hormones responsible for alerting your body when you’re hungry or full. So when you’re sleep deprived, not only are you tired but also you’re also prone to overeating.

People often respond to tiredness by consuming caffeine or sugar. While both may give you a noticeable burst of energy, the downside is a big drop in energy shortly after. When that happens, people reach for the caffeine and sugar again and this reoccurring cycle throughout the day can leave you even more fatigued than when you started your day.

So what do you do? Well, it’s not as hard as you may think. The following are a few suggestions on how to beat fatigue and stay well rested.

Create a relaxing environment

We spend one-third of our day in bed, so make sure your bedding and your bedroom environment is to your liking. Think of it as an investment in having a better night’s sleep. For example, I have no LED lights or TV in my bedroom. My body knows it’s time to sleep when I put my head down.

Control the temperature. People tend to have shorter sleep episodes when their body temperature rises, and a cooler room makes sleep come more easily. This is particularly important for those who work the night shift and sleep during the day.
Next, establish a bedtime ritual. For me, I change into my pajamas and a pair of socks. Then I draw the shades and use a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils (on my sheets/on my pillow). Finally, try to avoid interruptions. This may mean exiling any pets from the room or bed.

Get going early

Essential oils can be great for winding down, but they’re also good for waking up, too — especially eucalyptus. I usually put a little on my wrists or under my nose to breathe in. Then it’s time to get moving — literally. Every morning I like to do some kind of rhythmic movement that will pump up my heart rate, like walking in place or jumping an imaginary jump rope before doing some strength training.
“The burpee” is a perfect exercise for this. Start in a plank position on either your knees or toes, then push up, step your legs back, and stand up. Start with 10 repetitions and add more reps as you get stronger, or incorporate your own favorite exercises to loosen up and get ready for your shift.

Feed your energy

If you want to keep the energy flowing and prevent sleepiness from creeping in, it’s important to eat every three to four hours. Choose foods that will help maintain your blood sugar levels so you don’t ride the caffeine-sugar roller coaster. Snacks containing protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates absorb slowly and will keep you on an even keel. Here are some of my favorites:

• Celery sticks with 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons soy nut butter, almond butter, or natural crunch peanut butter
• 2 seaweed wraps with 2 ounces light cheese and 4 ounces turkey slices
• 2 hard-cooked egg whites, cauliflower, or celery dipped in 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons hummus
• 1/4 avocado rolled up inside 2 to 3 ounces roasted turkey (optional: add mustard)

TricepWrap it up with a workout

Research shows that people who exercise moderately or vigorously for at least 150 minutes a week (approximately 20 minutes a day) had better sleep quality than those who didn’t. Also, exercising is a great way to decompress after work. If it’s light out, take a jog. If it’s dark outside, pop an exercise DVD in at home.

Consistency makes a difference

A few months ago, German researchers published a report warning about the effects of “social jet lag.” Basically, they determined that people who use weekends to sleep late are actually doing more harm than good.
The same philosophy can be applied to “shift jet lag,” when you switch sleeping hours from days to nights on your days off. Ideally, the best option would be to maintain the same sleeping/waking routine day after day.

Sleep well

There will always be days when you have to wake up earlier than normal, or times when you go to bed late, but don’t let being busy or other excuses rob you and your health of much-needed sleep.

Here’s to your health!
Kathy

Key to Flat Abs

The secret to flat abs without endless stomach crunches and sit-ups

I get a lot of questions from people about the secret to flat abs without endless stomach crunches and sit-ups. Many find it relatively easy to lose weight in general, tone their upper body, arms and legs, but still be left with a giggly, protruding gut or, as some say, a “buddha belly.” If you’ve been committed to an exercise and core strength training routine but you still look down and see an unwanted paunch, you’re not alone. And, one potential solution might surprise you.

Proper Digestion

There’s more to killer abs than just exercise and abdominal crunches, turn out that there’s a direct relationship between the health of your digestive system and your overall look, too. Not only does what you eat affect whether or not you pack on pounds, but what you eat can also impact how your digestive system works, how it processes and eliminates waste effectively, as well as how it helps support the surrounding muscles and tissue.

Abs and an Upset Stomach

We’ve all experienced an upset stomach before that entails gas, cramps, bloating, general aches and pains, and even a distended abdomen. Imagine what it must look like on the inside, as your body fights off an irritant and in doing so, becomes inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s natural way of dealing with illness or injury, even something as minor as a dinner entree it doesn’t like. Food allergies, even minor ones that may not seem to bother you and food intolerance typically cause inflammation in the gut.

Here’s a potential missing link: the greater level of inflammation in your digestive system, the greater likelihood that your abdominal muscles will not respond to exercise. Why? Well, when you’ve got a stomach that’s inflamed, giving you pain, that inflammation can affect the abdominal muscles that are supposed to be stabilizing your core. In other words, those pain impulses that come from your digestive system can result in weakness and more pain in those regions of the abdominal wall. And, when those muscles become weak or disabled due to your (sick) digestive system, they aren’t much help to you and they won’t respond very well to your attempts to work them.

The term “digestive disorder” sounds serious, but it refers to just about any problem you might have with your digestive track, including minor nuisances like indigestion, heartburn, or simply an upset stomach. It’s no wonder we’ve got problems with our digestive systems with the availability of highly processed, poor quality foods just about every where we go, coupled by the fact many of us resort to fast foods while on-the-go.

A Diet That Agrees With Your Core

You know you have to make good choices when it comes to food, beverage, and getting proper exercise. It can be a challenge to eat well and exercise for purposes of losing or maintaining your ideal weight. But I bet you’ve never thought about how your digestive system can change the way your core responds to exercise. This takes the concept of “diet” to a whole new level. And, if you can factor this missing link in to your mentality when you’re grocery shopping, eating in a restaurant, or about to put something in your mouth, you might see the results you’ve finally been looking for. The goal is to get the internal workings of your core to be in harmony with the rest of your body so when you perform a core workout, and work those abs, you see the rewards in a tighter, flatter belly.

Here are a few tips:

  • Enjoy your food by chewing it slowly and completely. Swallowing large particles of food puts stress on your digestive system. This will also help reduce the overall amount of foo d you eat.
  • Avoid processed foods, especially foods high in preservatives, sodium, fillers, artificial sweeteners and chemicals. Read labels while in the supermarket. Watch out for words like “partially hydrogenated,” “artificially flavored,” or any words you don’t understand.
  • Consider drinking organic dairy and juices, as pasteurization can kill the nutrients your body needs for proper digestion.
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
  • Try to target foods that bother you and avoid them. Food allergies, especially minor ones, can be hard to figure out. A food journal can facilitate this. Record any time you feel some discomfort following a meal.
  • Drink lots of water! Dehydration leads to a host of problems. Being fully loaded with water will also allow you to get the most of your workout.

 

And, of course, don’t forget to keep up with your exercise and abdominal work routine. The road to a flat belly entails a combination of efforts. You’ll not only look better, but you’ll feel better, too!

 

Rough Nights Sleep

How do you bounce back after a rough night?

Adequate sleep is vital for so many reasons–cognitive functions, a healthy immune system, staying energetic, and so much more. Constant exhaustion can actually cause you to gain weight.

How it all works:

When your body is tired, your stress levels are elevated. This causes an increase in the production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight stress hormones. The adrenal glands secrete these, which send sugar into your bloodstream for a quick rush of energy. After this rush, cortisol sparks ravenous hunger cravings for carbohydrates and fat. You may have noticed that when you’re feeling tired or stressed, you often reach for food to make you “feel better.” Why? Because there’s a conscious feeling we have when we’re hungry; then you eat something, and you feel satisfied and content. So, the tendency is to reach for food (especially carbs and sugar) to help you “feel content.” This cycle sets you up for gaining weight.

How to deal:

We all have a bad night’s sleep from time to time, so when you do, just prepare yourself the next day. Know what’s happening with your body and take extra care of yourself. Instead of reaching for sugar/carbs or fat, reach for strong sources of protein like fish, a lean hamburger patty, or eggs something that will really hold you over until your next meal. Also, take some time that evening to slow down and rest. Maybe you’ll need to cancel your plans or skip watching your favorite television show. Either way, take care of yourself, relax, and get some quiet time so you can ensure a better night’s sleep the next night.

Need help relaxing? Try one of Kathy’s Stress Reduction DVD’s to help you calm and focus your mind.

Good vs Bad Fat

Pop Quiz: Which of the following type of body fat is most harmful to your health?

A) Underarm fat

B) Hips, thigh, and buttock fat

C) Abdominal fat

D) None of the above

E) All of the above

The Answer: C

Difference between Good and Bad Fat

We’re all pretty aware of the difference between the good and bad types of consumed fat. Saturated fats clog arteries whereas unsaturated fats typically aid our health. For example, you can probably agree that eating a cheeseburger with a bag of potato chips isn’t the best option when compared to fresh salmon and a side of greens dressed with olive oil. But, what about the other side of the story? What’s the difference between the different kinds of body fat we carry?

The reason Answer C for the pop quiz is because belly fat lies deep inside the body. Doctors call this visceral fat because it wraps around your “viscera”-your vital organs such as your heart, liver, lungs, and stomach. And, against conventional wisdom, it’s not lifeless fat, it actually acts like an organ itself; generating hormones that can actually cause weight gain while preventing the production of healthy substances that can lead to weigh loss. In fact, recent studies are changing the doctor’s view about obesity as they learn more about visceral fat and its affect on the body’s internal chemistry. What this fat ultimately does is cause us to age quicker and become vulnerable to disease.

But here’s the good news, it’s relatively easy to get rid of visceral fat. Why because, abdominal fat is metabolically very active. You’re not stuck with it forever, you can burn it up!

Just follow these 5 important tips to get rid of that visceral fat:

  • Amp up your cardio routine. Cardiovascular exercise, which is any activity that gets your heart rate up for an extended period of time, is an excellent way to burn fat and accelerates your metabolism. If you haven’t been keeping a regular cardio routine, start one today. Go for a brisk walk or hike in the hills. And if you’re a veteran cardio queen, add 10 more minutes to your regular routine. Take it to the next level and challenge yourself!
  • Do more strength training. Adding resistance with weights to your workout allows you to increase your lean muscle mass and boost your resting metabolism. You’ll burn more even while you’re sitting on the couch sleeping!
  • Don’t forget to make time for rest and relaxation. Try meditative yoga or set aside 30 minutes a day to read a book in your favorite chair. You can also take a warm bath before bed. We need time-outs at least once a day to catch our breath for our bodies and minds. The less stress we have, the easier it is to control those stress-related hormones that tell the body to hold onto fat.
  • Unsaturated fats. Focus on nourishing your cells with healthy unsaturated fats, such as those from nuts, olive oil, and fish. Avoid the saturated and Trans fats commonly found in processed, packaged foods and fatty cuts of meat. Try to keep your intake of healthy fats at approximately 30 percent of your daily caloric intake.
  • Focus on waist size, not pound size. If you’re on a weight-loss plan or are about to start one, don’t worry so much about what the scale reads. As you trim body fat and increase lean muscle mass, you might not see a huge difference on the scale right away. So instead of using that to gauge your progress, measure your waistline once a week and track your results. You’ll see your waistline get smaller!

With these tips in mind, you’ll not only shed the belly fat but you’ll also feel lighter and more energetic.

Allergies & Asthma

Allergy and Asthma:

Nothing is more frustrating when one of those “allergy” days slows you down and steals your motivation to do your normal activities. More than 50 million Americans have allergies and 20 million have asthma. I’m one of those 20 million and when a reaction begins and I sense days of trouble ahead. I want to run for cover. It can feel like an eternity from that first sign to the day I feel normal again.

Allergens:

“Allergens,” the substances that trigger the allergies, can be sneaky. It’s not just about spring flowers, dust, and pet dander in the air. Changes in temperature can spell trouble for me, as can heaters and air conditioners. Lots of allergens also hide in unsuspecting drugs, cosmetics, and foods. For example, fruit can harbor lots of pollen inside and cause problems. Other source under-recognized reactions are food additives. Number of additives used to color, preserve, and flavor the food; it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which foods to avoid. From breakfast cereals and other grain products to beverages, cheese, canned vegetables, salad dressings, and condiments, additives are everywhere–even in foods you wouldn’t consider as processed.

Even though I’ve managed my asthma for decades now, it can still catch me by surprise. I lose my energy and have a hard time concentrating. My workouts aren’t the same and I’m not in the mood to be as active and social. I wish I could just flip a switch and be healthy again. But I also know I can’t use them as an excuse to stop everything and sit out. This is when I need to tune in to my body and environment and find ways to move past them!

Whether you’ve allergies or asthma, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Keep a journal. The next time you feel a reaction coming on, write down what you ate, your environment and climate, and what you think is triggering your reaction. Do this every time a reaction occurs and start to notice any trends that arise. Once you know exactly what can trigger your allergies or asthma, it’ll be easier to prevent and manage in the future.
  • Read the signs or go organic. Carefully read ingredient lists on fo od labels, and question restaurant staff about cooking methods. Avoid anything that says “artificial flavor” and “natural flavor” (they pretty much mean the same thing). A better option is to go organic! Avoid additives and preservatives altogether by opting for organic foods whenever possible.
  • Clear the air. Control dust mites, pet dander and mold spores by vacuuming frequently, wiping down bedroom walls to remove invisible dust and limiting the number of houseplants, as these can harbor mold. Also, consider the use of a dehumidifier to limit mold. If you’re sensitive to heaters and air conditioners like me, avoid direct exposure to the air ducts that blow out the air.
  • Get moving. Sometimes getting a workout is just what the doctor ordered. Don’t use your allergies or asthma as excuses to avoid exercise, simply pay attention to your body’s signals and make your routine shorter or less strenuous if you have to, or extend the length of your warm up and cool downs. The adrenaline and sweat you pump out will boost your mood, help flush out your system, and shift your mind away from your frustrations!

 

Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercising during Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy can benefit your body by keeping your heart and muscles strong while relieving the basic discomforts of pregnancy (such as constipation, bloating and swelling, back pain and achy legs). Not only regular exercise bolsters energy levels and also keeps your spirits lifted and the muscles you’ll be using during delivery will be stronger.

Most doctors agree that it’s safe to partaking in a moderate exercise. However, if you’ve been sedentary, pregnancy is not the time to jump into a rigorous workout regimen. In this case, start slowly and ease your way into a regular routine.

Whatever your fitness level, here are some important guidelines to keep in mind when staying active throughout your pregnancy:

  • Cardio: Try to avoid exercises that involve bouncy or jerking motions; these can put strain on your loosening joints. Stick with low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, water a erobics, biking, and low impact aerobics. Extend your warm up and cool down time from 5 minutes to 10-15 minutes.

If you’re doing Project: YOU, start with the Foundation workout and listen to your body’s cues. As you progress, you can always follow the modifier for a less intense version of the move. If you’re not doing Project: YOU, you may want to try my Pregnancy workout and even if you’re on the Project: YOU program, you may want to look at my Pregnancy video to find important information about your pregnancy. It also includes helpful information on how to get back in shape after pregnancy (with special emphasis on your abs). However you choose to move, be sure to listen to your body and stop exercising when you feel fatigued; don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Remember, this is not a time to strive for higher fitness levels.

  • Gauging Intensity: Previously, theAmericanCollege of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) and theAmericanCollege of Sports Medicine said a pregnant woman’s maximum hear t rate while exercising should be between 140 and 150. But in the last couple years, a more individual guideline has been adopted because of the variety of heart rate ranges found in pregnant women. According to the newer guideline, a pregnant woman should be able to easily pass the “talk test,” meaning she can hold a conversation while exercising.
  • Strength Training: When it comes to strength training, modify your workout as needed. If you find that lifting weights puts strain on your back, knees or other joints, try using less weight. If you’re doing Project: YOU, you can reduce the amount of weight you’re lifting and follow the modifications for a less version of the move.
  • Lying on Your Back: After the first trimester, avoid doing exercises in the supine position (lying on your back). You can modify sit-ups by performing them as you lie on your side, or check out my Pregnancy video for another alternative that involves kneeling down on all fours. If you’re doing Project: YOU, put the Pilates workout on hold after your first trimester. This is an excellent post-pregnancy workout that will help strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles.
  • Don’t forget to stretch: Regular stretching will help lengthen tight muscles and maintain flexibility. Yoga is an excellent form of stretching and will also relieve stress. Whether you’re doing the Project: YOU yoga workout, attending a class or stretching to one of my videos, listen to your body and don’t push yourself into over-stretching. Remember, your body is creating a hormone (called relaxin) preparing your body for delivery, so your joints are more relaxed and pliable. Follow the modifications when necessary and again, avoid moves that involve lying on your back after your first trimester.
  • Food: Eat a well balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, good sources of protein, and complex carbohydrates. Pregnancy is not a time to take on a weight loss challenge. So, if you’re doing Project: YOU, use my Fat Burning Food Plan as a guideline for creating balanced meals. During the second and third trimester, you may need to increase your caloric intake by 300 calories (or more, if you’re exercising). With Project: YOU, add a serving of complex carbohydrates to each of your four meals per day or incorporate more vegetables and protein. Since my Fast Track program is more structured and calls for consuming fewer calories, save it for after your pregnancy. You will still need to adjust your calorie intake, depending on if you’re nursing. It will help you get a jump-start on losing those extra pounds gained during your pregnancy. Finally, take extra care to stay well hydrated.

If you are experiencing any significant pain stop exercising and talk to your doctor.

Try my “Kathy Smith – Pregnancy Workout DVD” for Prenatal and Post Natal Exercises.