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For more than 10 years, the idea of trekking in Europe had been on my mind – it only needed a focus to actually come to life. I soon found it: a 100-mile trek around the largest massif in Europe called the Tour du Mont Blanc.

I have been an avid backpacker most of my life, hiking in the Rockies, the Southwest, the Southeast, and especially in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I looked for every possible opportunity to be on a trail, even volunteering for a few years to lead high school kids from a church camp on week-long backpacking trips.

Throughout my life, time for such adventures was mostly hard to come by. For example, if I played golf, I could play every week – however, as my thing was backpacking, I needed more than 3 or 4 hours a week. During a good year, I might be able to slip away for an entire 7-day stretch. But as I assumed more and more responsibility, time became more and more precious, and increasingly hard to find.

Though fitting hiking into my schedule was difficult, I committed myself to always being ready and fit for trekking. Wherever my work took me, I joined a gym. And if I wasn’t in the gym, I was pacing the streets – often walking 4 or 5 miles before sunrise. When I retired in 2010, I made it a point to hike more often – so far I’ve completed The Apostle Islands, Sleeping Bear National Seashore, Big Bend National Park, Yellowstone, the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, the River to River Trail in Shawnee National Forest, the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia — and especially the Smokies, where I would go again and again.

Tour du Mont Blanc trek

Making the Commitment

It was shortly after I retired that I connected with REI Adventure Tours and decided that I would trek the Tour du Mont Blanc – it became number one on my bucket list. I was accustomed to planning my own treks. The planning and mapping was as much a part of the adventure as the trip itself.

Trek Tour du Mont Blanc mountains

However, I found it very convenient, when I was exploring new grounds, to let REI do the planning for me.

My first adventure with REI was a week-long winter snowshoe trek through the woods in Vermont. I never dreamed how exhausting it might be to trek in the snow! After that, I let REI plan a trip to Yellowstone. I was so pleased with the service I decided I would trek Mont Blanc using their service.

I must admit, it was the Cadillac version of trekking. I only carried a day pack, slept in a bed and had a hot meal and shower every night. Still, the Tour du Mont Blanc was challenging.

Related: read how member Nisha ran the Marathon des Sables, billed one of the toughest in the world, took a break from fitness and found her groove again with FFC.

Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc

The trek began in Geneva, Switzerland. It was there that I discovered that I was a part of an unusually small group of three and a guide, who met us at the airport, making a fourth. We also had a porter who provisioned us and moved our luggage from inn to inn at the trail’s end each day.

Over the course of 13 days, we crossed the border from France into Italy, into Switzerland, and back into France, trekking from Chamonix (the home of the first winter Olympics) to Courmayeur in Italy, to iconic ski villages, to the tiny Swiss mountain village of La Fouly, and many places in between. We trekked about 97 miles, mostly above the tree line, often gaining 3,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation on the trail each day, many times before noon! The scenery was idyllic and truly pastoral – we walked amid ubiquitous herds of grazing cows, goats, and sheep with their iconic bells, often heard over great distances.

Swiss village near Tour du Mont BlancWe were welcomed by dairy farmers in France who proudly displayed their caves of aging cheese. We trekked on sacred ground where the French Resistance had fought valiantly during WW2. We crossed the border into Italy and found shade in the ruins of Italian battle bulwarks where we caught our breath.

We were greeted with bonjour and buona giornata by salvos of international trekkers and locals alike. We trekked old Roman-built roads and visited an ancient church isolated in the mountains, gilded in gold. We trekked through the narrow streets of picturesque Swiss villages, sometimes beginning or ending our days on gondolas, which rose high above the crisscrossing ski slopes of the area.

Toward the end of our trip, we found ourselves serendipitously caught up in the local celebration of Swiss National Day (to commemorate the founding of the Swiss Confederacy), amongst a marching band, a parade of flag-waving children, and fireworks. Needless to say, I came home with much more than a t-shirt bragging I’d trekked Mont Blanc – I returned with memories that will never be erased.

Training for the Trek at FFC

I joined FFC more than two years ago and am forever grateful for their warm welcome into the club. In comparison to Midtown, FFC Oak Park was the Cadillac version which I needed for the Cadillac trek on which I had my sights set. And once I had committed, last January, to the Tour du Mont Blanc, I was even more serious about being fit for the trek. Through the winter I especially focused on a well-rounded fitness program that included cardio, strength, flexibility and balance.

My next big adventure will be to trek southeastern Idaho, near Yellowstone. Until then, I’ll be in the club keeping my tone and my mountain legs in shape!

Trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Michael Winters.

 

 

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FFC personal trainer Marylou Tawney pens a humorous breakup letter to her Fitbit, explaining that her fitness goals have evolved and become too complex for the step counter.

Dear Fitbit,

I’ll never forget the first time we met. After a fiercely-fought firm-wide challenge was won by my team, The Piercelings, way back in 2012, you arrived as my prize. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I clipped on that first incarnation of you to the middle of my bra and strutted towards my first 10,000 steps. The precarious placement of your device never stopped me from checking my steps or the time in far too conspicuous of places because, frankly, I was proud of you. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had a step goal, and I was going places.

You got me motivated to move even when it was socially appropriate to stand still. As you whispered sweet urgencies in my ear, “10,000…” you kept my feet marching. Desk to candy jar? 54 steps each way. Desk to water cooler? 73-77 steps each way, depending on the enthusiasm of my stride. Together, you and I have walked the 5,772 miles of the Russian Railway, and have gone up 20,000 floors – as high as a shooting star.

I introduced you to all my friends and family right away. We didn’t waste any time, but neither did they! They adopted you immediately, and they too strapped you to their bras and checked their progress in far too conspicuous places. We cheered each other and challenged each other every week to hit those step goals. You got us off the couch and stepping, stepping… and stepping. I knew I’d really committed to our relationship when I got the Fitbit scale that syncs up with you. It was our equivalent to a diamond ring.

We’ve had some crazy times. Do you remember in my postnatal fog that it took me several days to realize that I was getting false steps from sitting on an exercise ball, holding my precious bundle of only-sleeps-when-held, bouncing for hours and hours? Remember that? I got, like, 96,000 steps in one day, and all my friends were worried that I was over-exerting myself, only to find they’d been cheated out of that week’s step-count leaderboard. I took you off and didn’t wear you for a month after that! Oh, still too soon? No, I get that.

You really left your mark on me. Literally. You finally migrated from my bra to my wrist – as my fifth and final model – my Fitbit tan line became so strong that I wore you even when your battery was dead.

Then something happened. My fitness goals evolved and grew more complex. I began to focus more on strength and high intensity interval training, balance, and mobility – the things that you, my dear Fitbit, did not recognize as primary goals. If I wasn’t on a treadmill, I wasn’t earning trophies or accolades for my accomplishments. But strength training protects your bone mass, and builds muscle mass. It burns more calories, reduces the risk of depression. It assists in motor planning, and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease! Studies have even shown there is a link between strength training and mental alertness. Grip strength and longevity of life! And I learned new ways to measure progress.

  • First of all, I designed a multi-week exercise program in which a series of workouts and movements are periodically repeated at various intensities and quantities (reps/sets), so I am able to document my strength from one week to the next. (Need a plan like this too? Check out the FFC Workout of the Month!)
  • Second, on each strength training day, I perform a total body workout; however, I focus on certain muscle groups each day without neglecting the others. After all, muscle strength requires muscle balance, so hitting both sides of a joint each time you exercise keeps those joints nice and healthy.
  • Third, I changed my warm ups from the treadmill to a functional warm up that prepares my body for the specific movements I am about to perform. This way, my body is not exhausted before I even start trying to lift weights. However, since I do enjoy a good sweat, I throw in some high intensity intervals on the front end of my workout as well as a fun metabolic finisher at the end. This satisfies my addiction to cardio by getting my heart rate up for my whole strength training workout.

My achievements towards these goals felt disregarded and uncounted by you, my faithful Fitbit. You, who got me moving. You, who kept me stepping. You have your place on steppers wrists, whose goals are to move from sedentary to active, but when goals are no longer aligned, we must finally part ways.

I will forever thank you for keeping me and my entire extended family on our fitness journeys for so many years, but I can’t help but feel you and I have grown apart as my fitness goals have changed. As I cover up the untanned strip on my wrist with a new device that better understands me, I won’t forget you. I forever remain in your debt.

Sincerely,

Mama Lou

FFC Oak Park Marylou Tawny Fitbit letter

Marylou Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you someone who’s wondering how to shop organic? Or even wondering if you should? Even if you’re not ready to commit to buying EVERYTHING pesticide and additive-free, here is a quick guide on how to shop organic – plus some must-have items for your grocery list.

Beef

Due to the recent findings about red meat, it’s even more important to choose beef that hasn’t been given hormones or antibiotics, both of which can cause health concerns for humans.

Produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list

What’s on this “Dirty Dozen” list, you may ask? Produce such as apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes are all included. Why? Because these foods have very high pesticide residues when grown conventionally.

During the winter months in Chicago, it can be difficult to find these local and organic produce because there must be some amount of pesticides added in order for them to grow in colder temperatures. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide which is more important to you and your family.

Related: have nutrition questions and want to set up a free 30-minute consultation with an on-site FFC registered dietitian? Click here!

Eggs and milk

Some studies suggest that organic eggs and milk are higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides and hormones. Although this isn’t proven, it’s still worth the money to buy these items organic—if for no other reason than their great taste!

Hot peppers and leafy greens (like kale & chard)

The pesticide counts in these products aren’t high enough to make the Dirty Dozen list, but they’re still pretty high. Purchase these organically to avoid the health concerns.

Related: avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips!

Have a question or a suggestions for an upcoming event you’d like to see? Leave a comment below!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.

As an operations consultant, I provide information to my clients about doing things faster, more efficiently with less wasted time or money and repeatedly. If you are in business and want to grow, you really want to establish the least costly methods early on and then scale up as you expand. The same principles are applied to race car driving pits, when every second counts. When tires need to be changed during a race, every move is scripted and efficient with no loss of time or movement. This is how the pit crew assures that not only are the new tires installed correctly, but the minimum loss of time occurs for the change. As a triathlete, I have applied my profession and expertise in efficiency to races in order to perfect and reduce time for more efficient triathlon transitions.

These days, my transitions are slow only if I decide I’m not worried about the time and am using my race for training instead of competing. On racing days, however, I apply all my planning and motion analysis skills to reduce the time for each transition to optimize for my best times on the courses.

What You’ll Get Out of This Post

In this post, you will learn how to achieve good triathlon transitions no matter what equipment you feel you must have for each leg of the race. Additionally, at the end of this blog you will find a list of items you may want for your transitions- both my personal list of essentials, as well as a list of extras.

I don’t recommend using every item, but it’s a comprehensive list so you can consider what items you need versus want (a very important consideration!) At the top of the list you’ll find what is essential and what you absolutely must have to start.

Under that, you’ll find a second list of extra equipment. This will allow you to practice your timing with only what is needed to get your baseline down. That way you can factor in additional seconds or even minutes to your transition based on every item you add.

The Bare Essentials

Transition 1(T1): Swim to Bike

Take off wetsuit, goggles and cap, put on biking shoes, helmet and sunglasses.

This is really all you need to ride your bike. Protection for your eyes, head and feet. How fast can you get these things on? Start by timing yourself as you put each item on. What motions are wasted? Does it help to have your helmet on the handlebars with your sunglasses inside? I say yes because I put my sunglasses on first, then my helmet and snap it over the earpieces. Shoes go on next and I’m off.

Can you get this to 30 seconds or less?

Transition 2 (T2): Bike to Run

Take off biking shoes and helmet, put on running shoes, bib and cap.

This is really all you need to run if you use nutrition on the course. Can you save time by wearing your bib on the bike? You can, but only if you pin it on before the swim. If you use a race belt, you can put that inside your cap and put both on as you run out of T2 to save time.

Can you get this to 30 seconds or less?

Arrangements: put stuff in the order you will need it.

There is a factory system called 5S. It basically means “everything has a place, and everything should be in its place” Thus, it makes sense to put things in the order you will need them and then return them there when you get back. Minimalism helps a great deal here. I use the following arrangement:

  • I put down a towel or my mini Tatami mat and put my bike shoes in front with sunscreen and nutrition inside.
  • My bike helmet and sunglasses are on the handlebars.
  • On the mat, behind my bike shoes, are my running shoes, extra water bottle, and my race belt stuck inside my cap in one shoe.
  • I use my sunscreen pre-bike and put it into the open running shoe as a reminder to use it again pre-run.
  • I always throw my goggles and cap into the bag and hang my wetsuit next to my bike on the rack during the race.

Travel Time: plan, plan, plan.

As you plan your transition, consider how far you must travel from the swim to T1, from the biking dismount to T2 and the distances out of both. These can result in minutes. Some swim outs to T2 are nearly .25 miles long and your running speed is a factor. Plan for this time so you don’t get flustered if you see you are taking longer than expected.

Related: click here to try TriMonster! Sign up for a free visit & more info.

The Extra Stuff

Now that you’ve got the basic necessities down, you can start to factor in some extra equipment and how you might arrange it for the most efficient usage during your triathlon transitions.

Transition 1 Extras: bike socks, sunscreen, nutrition, water to wash your feet, towel to dry feet, other misc.

If you are a person who must have socks, you may need to wash your feet and dry them to get your socks on quickly. Once you have mastered the essentials of T1, add the socks and practice. Ask yourself, is it more efficient to put your socks in your shoes pre-rolled or are you better off if you put both socks on first then both shoes?

Place items you need in order on your mat and practice each in order to see what works. Normally it is better to do the same motion twice rather than changing motions, e.g. put both socks on first then both shoes so that you do one motion twice. However, you may find your mind works better with a sock-shoe-sock-shoe order.

If you did not put sunscreen on pre-swim, you will want to put some on now. Some races have sunscreen volunteers but personally I prefer the spray on stuff because I make sure to get my ears, that “tramp stamp” area and my shoulders and nose. Plan your method and stick to it.

Finally, you may want to start your nutrition in transition. I use a Gu packet pre-opened and just stick it in my mouth as I put on my shoes and helmet. I can suck on it in small doses as I’m getting all my stuff on.

Transition 2: running socks, sunscreen, nutrition, water belt/bottle, towel, other misc.

Same thing here – when you run into transition, you may want to dry your feet and put on dry socks. Personally, I don’t use socks ever, but I know many who must have them. Once again, plan your order and practice it. If you like to carry water, you only need your bib on the run (usually), so you might have a water belt that has the bib on it. Put this on as you run out of transition. Maybe reapply sunscreen to make sure you don’t get burnt shoulders or a burnt nose on the run.

Related: anyone can be a triathlete! Check out this amazing story of how member Maria finished her first triathlon at 70!

Getting in and out: visualize it.

Before the race begins, practice your swim transition by “walking in” from the swim and looking for milestones to remember so you can find your bike and transition area quickly. Visualize yourself running in, tired and excited, past others ahead of you to your spot. Imagine how you will take off your cap and goggles on the run in, when you will remove your wetsuit and how you will put on your bike attire. See yourself doing this calmly, yet fast and efficiently.

Then, walk to bike out. Walk to bike in and back to your transition area, again looking for milestones or landmarks that will help you find your spot quickly. Visualize yourself jogging with your bike to your spot quickly and efficiently, staging your bike (“Will you hook with handlebars or seat? Did you come in on the right side to do that?) and removing your bike attire, calmly and quickly putting on your running gear. Walk to run out. Plan the route you will use to avoid those coming in with their bikes and those still leaving with their bikes. Find a wide row that will allow passing.

Cleaning up and keeping all your stuff.

If you are efficient with your gear up process, you will also have time to put your things into your bag as you remove them, or stack them neatly on the towel. I use my wetsuit as a locator for bike in. I remove it, hang it over my bike slot on the rack and when I return I look for it to find my rack slot.

Putting your goggles and cap into your bag can be done quickly if you plan for it in your practice and will keep your things near you as others jostle their bikes around. I’ve seen many lost goggles, wetsuits and other gear in transitions. I tend to finish later than many younger racers and could probably make a few bucks on the items that remain behind! You will be tired when you return. Having stuff neatly stacked or already in your bag makes it easy to NOT forget stuff and a relief for tired legs and back.

Bonus Tips

Remember, any time you spend in transition is part of your race time. Aim for 3 minutes for your triathlon transitions, including travel time. The pros often have VIP locations and can do transitions in less than a minute. If you can get down to 2 minutes, you are doing great. This means you are taking little time to chat, think about options or anything else but just executing your plan.

After the swim and bike, I will often sit to put on my shoes to avoid dizziness due to bending over. This actually seems to improve my transition times because I’m not stumbling around trying to put my shoes on one-legged. I’ve eliminated a lot of extras and “just in case” extras – leaving only what I really need:

Bandaids are in my bike bento box and my running belt. I do carry aspirin but only in case of dire emergency. All nutrition and water is on my bike pre-race, ready to head out. My Garmin is set to multisport and I hit the lap button at the bike mount and dismount and swim in and run out, to capture all transition times. If I forget, I hit it when I remember. The race will have your official times but it’s good to know during the race how well you executed this part of your plan.

My one final piece of advice: plan your transition and transition according to your plan.

Post written by FFC Oak Park Endurance Coach Terri Friel.

About Terri

Terri Friel is an experienced endurance coach at FFC Oak Park. Have questions, want to better your race times or even try an endurance event for the first time? Email Terri at tfriel@ffc.com!

Joseph Pilates believed that we are only as young as our spine. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Joe Pilates created a complete system of exercises that, along with your Pilates trainer’s eyes and years of experience, can transform your body into an efficient well oiled machine – just as it was intended to be. Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.

Pilates Can Help With Muscular Imbalance

After working with many individuals, one common issue of muscular imbalance occurs in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Actually, when I ask my students if there are any special exercises they would like to do, neck and shoulders are always on the list.

In our current lifestyle, we find ourselves using our bodies in less than optimal arrangements (i.e. looking down at our handheld devices, sitting at computers and driving for extended periods of time.) All of these daily, almost unavoidable activities cause an imbalance of the upper back, shoulders and neck, and ultimately, a forward tilt of the head.

With the constant gravitational pull on the head leading forward, our shoulders begin to roll inward (internally rotated), creating a collapse of the chest and a rounding of the upper back. If this posture goes unchecked, it can lead to a condition known as kyphosis (illustrated in the image below.)

“Each well-crafted exercise in Pilates works to restore balance of strength to your muscles (especially if you have a muscular imbalance) and ultimately, to your posture. Your body works best when it is well organized and aligned, which comes from a deep level of core strength.”

The shoulder joint has multiple functions and the muscles of the shoulder joint all work in concert to perform routine movements, so when one or more muscles are weakened from poor posture or when we develop imbalances in the core, some muscles become hyper-active to compensate for muscles that are weak due to being inactive or dormant.

This inefficient alignment can lead to pain in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Chronic neck and shoulder pain often cause many people to discontinue doing their favorite sport or activity.

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to redeem!

Are You Rounding Your Shoulders?

Want to know if you are involuntarily rounding your shoulders forward? Here is a simple exercise to check:

While standing in front of a mirror with the heels together, toes slightly apart and your hands at your side, glance down at your hands.

  • Ideally, your thumbs would aim forward indicating correct postural alignment.
  • If your thumbs are turning inward toward your leg, then you may weak muscles in your upper and mid-back, leading to having too much internal rotation in your shoulders and a rounding of the upper back.

To see an example of this test and learn more about the anatomy of the shoulder joint, watch this video.

Notice an imbalance? Don’t worry – there are a few things you can try to help restore proper alignment.

  1. Visit the this website for some exercises you can perform to help restore balance.
  2. Contact your Pilates coordinator to schedule a complimentary session.

Related: believe it or not, Pilates is also great for your brain! Here’s how it makes you mentally stronger. 

Now that you know that Pilates can provide some great ways to restore your body’s alignment, what are you waiting for? Don’t forget to share your Pilates practice with us using #FFCChicago!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Pilates Trainer Charles Little. 

About Charles

Charles Little is a Pilates trainer at FFC Oak Park. He is certified in Balance Body and the Pilates Teacher Training Program. His specialties include flexibility/stretching, weight loss, and toning and shaping. Contact Charles to set up a consultation by emailing him at clittle@ffc.com!

Photo credit: image 1, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kyphosis/multimedia/kyphosis/img-20007874; image 2, http://www.spineuniverse.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gallery-large/wysiwyg_imageupload/3998/2015/07/27/kyphosis14672520_m_0.jpg

I have wrestled with my weight for most of my life. I’ve been on every diet program. I mean every program. I joined Weight Watchers when it was just Weight Watcher (Jenny Craig). I’ve tried Slim Fast… and something called the Beverly Hills Diet, where I felt like all I ate was pineapple. They kept me somewhat on track with weight loss. But after I got married and had 2 great kids, my life started to spiral out of control.

Post 2004, I had gained 100 pounds and could never get the voice out of my head that picked on me. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in photos or even my reflection in a window when I walked down the street.

I was returning from a business trip in Italy, trapped for over 9 hours like veal to the slaughter at the back of a plane between two other fairly large passengers like myself, when I had what alcoholics call a  “moment of clarity”.

“What have I allowed myself to become? How did I let this happen? And more importantly, is there a way I can climb back into my life and find a way to regain my self respect and control?”

Sal member story FFCThe Role of FFC

I joined FFC Oak Park the very same month it first opened, over 10 years ago. In the first 5 years, I think I may have shown up twice. I even drove down Lake a few times and could see people in there on the machines and would think to myself, “wow, that looks nice.”

Fast-forward to the present, when the idea that I was in my 50s and could be able to chase my children around became a compelling idea. However, I knew that the ways I’d approached weight loss in the past were rabbit holes that lead to inevitable failure and unhealthy habits. What was I willing to do different this time?

I knew I needed a plan. On a hunch, I went to FFC’s website and searched for a nutritionist – one who would be honest and educate me on real food, as opposed to products or gimmicks.

Sal member story FFC 2

 

Enter Amy Silver, FFC Registered Dietitian

I emailed Amy and pleaded my case – that I had become a beast and needed a way back. Amy responded to my email within hours and invited me to come into the same club that I had avoided for almost 10 years.

Her advice was simple – “eat healthier and smarter, and exercise. But above all, be patient. It’s not going to happen as a ‘quick fix’.” I’d never heard this type of frankness connected with weight loss before.

Related: want to check out a club? Try us free!

Enter Josh Carson, FFC Personal Trainer

Amy then got me an appointment with a personal trainer. A trainer? Now this was a new thing for me and I admit I was a bit apprehensive. Minutes after meeting Josh Carson (aka Luke Cage) I knew I was in the hands of someone that was preparing me for the journey I needed to take to regain my self respect.

Related: common misconceptions about working with a personal trainer.

During my very first session, I excused myself to get a drink of water and seriously contemplated walking right out. It was not easy (and was an ego check, to say the least). The entire time, though, Josh encouraged me and set me straight – it would take time, but we would get there.

It will be 3 years this November since my FFC journey began. I’ve lost over 50 pounds, and I am still working toward my goals. It hasn’t been Mardi Gras – it’s been a lot of hard work and patience. But I know if I hadn’t made the decision to ask for help, I would be well over 300 pounds by now. Amy, Josh and FFC saved my life. I owe you everything, Amy and Josh!

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Sal A.

Meal planning. The concept seems so simple, yet can be very daunting when you’re up to your ears in Tupperware and can’t possibly seem to find the time to make a grocery store run.

It may appear easier to revert back to the old ways of winging it during the week, but trust us when we say meal planning will make eating healthy much easier and save your sanity down the road. Here are 5 tips to implement to actually make planning and meal prep a staple of your weekly routine.

Step 1 – Dedicate the time.

Dedicate a specific time each week (preferably a consistent time) for meal planning, grocery shopping, and prepping (at least a little bit) in advance. This will save you time and money during the week.

Step 2 –  Create and save meal ideas.

Look through your cabinets to see what ingredients you already have and check what’s on sale at your grocery store to get the wheels turning on what to cook for the week. Also, use Pinterest, cookbooks, and other websites to bookmark your favorite recipes. All these tools can help you come up with ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. If it helps you, write out which days you will eat which meals.

Remember: it’s okay to repeat some meals during the week. Keep it simple by having similar breakfasts during the week, or making extras at dinner for lunch the next day.

Related: set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians – click here!

Step 3 – Make a list.

Using your meal ideas as an outline, create a list of the items you still need (remember to check if you have any of the ingredients already before you go!) Make sure you write down amounts from the recipes so you don’t buy too much extra.

Step 4 – Hit the store.

Now that you have your list, make a trip to the store and vow to only buy what’s on your list. (I dare you!) Easier said than done, but if you have it written down already you’ll be more likely to stick to only what you need.

Step 5 – Prep a few items.

Cooking protein ahead of time (don’t forget the spices – here are 6 you definitely need to have on hand), chopping vegetables so they’re ready to be cooked, or putting together lunches in separate containers so they’re all ready to go are all time savers once the week gets under way.

There you have it, 5 easy ways to make sure you’re set up for success! Now it’s your turn – give meal planning a try this week and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment or tagging #FFCChicago!

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.

 

Inflammation” is the new buzzword, and for an important reason – it’s often a good indicator to us that something is going on we need to attend to. For example, inflammation can happen as a result of injury.

Additionally, if it’s happening on the inside of our bodies, it may feel like bloating – and it can cause heart disease, diabetes and other issues. So how can we prevent or reverse this inflammation? Food is our best bet.

As people who are trying to be healthy, we need to stop thinking of food as the enemy. Food can be our best friend if we choose the right kinds, the right amounts and use it in a way that is nice to our bodies. Here are 3 tips to reduce inflammation in your diet and the diseases it may cause!

  1. Eat a diet chock full of fruits and vegetables.

Aim to fill half your plate at each meal with these nutrient-dense items, about 5-7 servings per day. One serving is 1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked. As I tell my clients, non-starchy vegetables are “free” – eat as many as you’d like! These are great for snacking or for the stress-relieving crunch we all desire. Make sure you eat the rainbow, meaning you chose many different colors each day. The different colors of produce give them different nutrients and antioxidant properties. Also, a variety of foods in our diet can improve the health of our gut, leading to great health overall.

How-To: I turn vegetables into comfort food by spiralizing them into noodles, blending them into smoothies or pancakes, dipping them in a homemade yogurt dip, or making fried rice with cauliflower “rice”. I also enjoy fruit as a dessert by sprinkling cinnamon on it and baking it.

  1. Season your food with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices!

Flavor is key to keeping healthy eating interesting, so why not flavor your foods AND add healthy properties? Use the following herbs and spices to get the best anti-inflammatory benefits: ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. You can also practice mindful eating by focusing on the different flavors while you eat!

How-To: I love to add rosemary and thyme to chicken breasts, ginger to my morning tea, and cinnamon to just about everything!

Related: click here to schedule a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians!

  1. Drink water, lots of it.

Water helps flush out your system throughout the day, it helps you stay full, and it has zero calories! Aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces (i.e. 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces water). For more tips on how to stay hydrated, check out this post!

How-To: I like to add lemon to my water, but you can also choose lime, cucumbers, mint, or even ice. Please don’t add sweeteners – natural or artificial – as these will cause you to crave more sweets later.

Which of these tips have you tried?! Which are your favorite? Let us know in the comments or share on social using the tag #trainingforlife!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.

 

In response to our readers’ suggestions, we put together a list of more of our favorite resources – a list of some of our favorite nutrition books written by the nutrition experts themselves. Add these RD-written nutrition books to your must-read list and you won’t be disappointed!

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

As I always tell my clients, if everyone only ate when they were hungry and stopped when they were full, we’d all be at a healthy weight. The truth is, we eat for many reasons and usually aren’t very mindful about it.

Intuitive Eating is a nutrition philosophy that dives deep into the mindfulness of eating and focusing on hunger cues instead of constantly counting calories.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an FFC registered dietitian.

No Whine with Dinner by Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD

These dietitians have a blog called Meal Makeover Moms, and have put together many of their favorite kid-friendly recipes for those struggling to put healthy food on the table for the whole family. BONUS: 50 secrets for getting picky eaters to try new foods. Hey, this could work for your spouse, too!

Eat Your Way To Happiness by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD

They say money can’t buy happiness, but in my opinion, a plate of nutritious food sure can! This book lays out how to make small changes in your everyday eating habits to help you feel happier about your weight, your energy levels, and your mood (and chocolate is on the list!)

There you have it! Looking for more nutrition books and info? Be sure to also check out this post on the best FREE nutrition apps you can use to stay on track. Have you read an inspiring book written by a registered dietitian? Please share below in the comments!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.