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FFC Old Town member Bryce shares her inspirational weight loss story: triumphs and trials, her experience finding a trainer that fit her needs and everything she learned along the way.

Ever since my senior year of college I have been on a roller coaster of gaining weight and losing weight. I couldn’t go a season of being the same weight. In the summer of 2014, my sister got engaged. I knew that if I wanted to look good in the bridesmaid dress, I needed to lose the weight. I joined Weight Watchers for what would have been the billionth time and joined FFC Old Town for the first time. By the spring of 2015 I had successfully lost almost 50 pounds with the help of a trainer and nutrition plan.

That July I was let go from my job due to budget cuts and essentially gave up and returned to my old ways. I stopped eating healthfully and returned to fast food; I also stopped going to the gym. Within 16 months, not only did I regain the weight I’d lost, I gained an additional 25 pounds, for a total of 75 pounds. It was like a BOGO sale – ‘gain back 50 plus half more!’ You would have thought the pain in my joints walking short distances, falling to the floor with a large thump while squatting to play with my then 6-month old niece, the fact that people at Jimmy/Papa John’s knew my order by the sound of my voice or the realization that I was barely one size away from only plus-sized clothing would have encouraged me to lose the weight, but it didn’t.

One Foot in Front of the Other – The Journey Back to Healthy Habits

It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom and was fed up with my situation that I finally faced the facts and stepped on the scale in November of 2016. I should also mention that one of the main motivators to lose weight was due to my plantar fasciitis. I had been experiencing pain since September and when I saw my podiatrist two months later, he confirmed the diagnosis. I have flat feet and have been wearing custom orthotics since I was a child. The excess weight only flattened my feet more and contributed to the diagnosis. Once I stepped off that scale I was mortified and disappointed to learn I had gained 75 – making me now over 200 pounds. Seeing ‘2’ as the first number was extremely painful. I joined Weight Watchers the next day and entered a grocery store for the first time in forever. I didn’t want to rejoin the gym, though, because I was embarrassed to walk in and show that I’d gained back all the weight, plus more.

Related: read about what led up to member Eric’s life-changing decision and what impact it had on his health.

With the persuasion of my mom (because she knew I was so successful on my last weight loss journey) and the fact that it was a good stress reliever, I rejoined the gym in December that year at 13 pounds down. I signed up with a trainer (I’ve had 3 since I restarted). In my mind I was going to have a good connection with my trainer because I’d experienced that the last time, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Trainer 1 never ‘got me’ or understood my limitations (especially with my plantar fasciitis). I don’t think he ever thought I could successfully lose the weight; in some ways I don’t blame him, I wasn’t full committed, partially because I wasn’t the biggest fan and he didn’t motivate me. Every exercise I did was painful. I couldn’t walk over 3.2 mph on the treadmill without feeling winded; using the elliptical was nearly impossible. I felt truly defeated – it wouldn’t be a lie to say I hated the gym. After a little more than a month with Trainer 1, I started working with Trainer 2. I liked her more, but didn’t feel 100% comfortable with her. She was passive aggressive and I am the opposite; I avoid confrontation at all costs. She also spent more time looking at herself in the mirror, talking about herself and cleaning up the equipment than helping me. I never shared my concerns because I thought that was the best I was going to get and I avoid confrontation at all costs. She moved away and in December of 2017 I began training with Trainer 3, Eric, who met my needs.

Eric is by far the best trainer I have ever worked with – he is kind, attentive to my injuries and motivating. Before every session he greets me with a, ‘Hi champ – how was your day?’. He also has the ability to put me in my place, and I truly appreciate it. Professionally, I work with kids with special needs, and often am utterly exhausted when I get to the gym. As soon as he sees me, if he notices my face/attitude look defeated, he tells me to ‘fix my face and walk back in’, which totally changes my attitude. It’s the kick in the butt I need.

Overcoming Obstacles and Seeing Sustainable Success

As soon as I started working with Eric, I started enjoying the gym. I once noticed someone deadlifting and told Eric I wanted to do that one day – he said I could, but I didn’t believe it. He gave me the tools and I am forever grateful. The very next session we started using kettlebells to work up to a deadlift. After that, I practiced my form on the bar. Finally, he put weight on the bar, and I officially did my first deadlift. Over time, I was able to create a bond with Eric – he not only was my trainer, but became a friend as well.

Eric is by far the best trainer I have ever worked with – he is kind, attentive to my injuries and motivating. Before every session he greets me with a, ‘Hi champ – how was your day?’. He also has the ability to put me in my place, and I truly appreciate it. Professionally, I work with kids with special needs, and often am utterly exhausted when I get to the gym. As soon as he sees me, if he notices my face/attitude look defeated, he tells me to ‘fix my face and walk back in’, which totally changes my attitude. It’s the kick in the butt I need.

When I first started my weight loss journey, walking was the only exercise I did outside the gym. I used my Fitbit as a motivator to see how many steps I could get in a day. I would walk back and forth down the halls at my school during all my breaks and even at lunch. At first, I think my coworkers thought it was weird, but when they noticed I had lost weight, they would root me on and ask how many steps I was at. We did a Fitbit challenge to see who could get the most steps in for the month of April in 2017 – I won. It was during that challenge that I became motivated with Myzone.

Myzone for weight lossI remember going to the gym and getting on the treadmill because I wanted get the most steps for that challenge. I remember looking at the Myzone display screens and for some reason I was dead set on burning 1000 calories. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I just wanted to see how far I could go. Well after an hour and forty-five minutes of walking fast on an incline on the treadmill I hit that 1000 calories. I was so proud of myself I took a picture of it because I was in shock that I was able to do it. I have used my Myzone as a motivator to add more movement to my day. Before my sessions with Eric I’ll dance around my apartment, walk back and forth down the halls at school or climb stairs to gain MEPs. I have participated in three Myzone challenges. I was never motivated to actually win – the motivation for me is to be healthier and to be the best I could be.

Related: how Laura, despite living in Mexico City, sustainably lost weight with Myzone.

As I said earlier, I have never been able to maintain my weight. This time I am keeping the weight off. Part of it was knowing my “why” and “how”. My ‘how’ is through my workout and nutrition. I would like to think I eat pretty clean. I love fruit. Now, I’d rather have fruit than a candy bar. My fitness goals now include continuing to get stronger and add more tone. I am proud to say that so far, I have lost 80 pounds, and for the first time since I was a senior in college have been able to keep the weight off for many seasons.

My why is because I couldn’t keep riding the roller coaster of weight changes. I realized I needed to make my health my priority I needed to take care of myself. Now, I feel better about myself. I have more confidence and I carry myself differently. I am a happier person.

Post written by FFC Old Town member Bryce L.

I remember going to the gym and getting on the treadmill because I wanted get the most steps for that challenge. I remember looking at the Myzone display screens and for some reason I was dead set on burning 1000 calories. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I just wanted to see how far I could go. Well after an hour and forty-five minutes of walking fast on an incline on the treadmill I hit that 1000 calories. I was so proud of myself I took a picture of it because I was in shock that I was able to do it. I have used my Myzone as a motivator to add more movement to my day. Before my sessions with Eric I’ll dance around my apartment, walk back and forth down the halls at school or climb stairs to gain MEPs. I have participated in three Myzone challenges. I was never motivated to actually win – the motivation for me is to be healthier and to be the best I could be.

 

I had to make a change. I’d known I had to for quite some time, but never fully committed. I made countless New Year’s resolutions, “starting January 2nd I’m limiting drinking, eating healthier, and working out.” I would commit to my plan for a couple weeks, then fade away and return to old habits. Pushing it off to “next Monday” or “next week” became the norm.

It was during and after college that my eating and exercise habits became poor. I also experienced an increased appetite from medication side effects. I would get home from work and make up an excuse for not being able to work out. My cholesterol was high and I felt sluggish and had no energy.

Fast forward to July of 2018 and it hit me: ‘I can’t do this anymore; I have to make a lifestyle change. I want to feel better and live a healthier lifestyle.’ I knew it would not happen overnight and I quickly learned that patience was key. It was all about progress; I set a small goal for myself each week. The most motivating factor was looking at pictures and realizing how unhealthy I had gotten.

Making Changes

I recognized that altering my diet was going to play an integral role in my journey. Rather than eating junk food and buying my lunch, I started cooking and eating lean meat, fish, fruits and veggies. I purchased an app called MyNet Diary to help track my macros. I drank at least a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated and to flush out any toxins in my body. I cut out alcohol (which was a difficult task for a twenty-something guy living in ‘Summertime Chi’!).

FFC became my best friend. The 606 Trail became my second-best friend. It was at these two places where I felt I was actually making progress. Yes, my food choices were important, but it was at the gym where I noticed real change. I started running and ran a LOT. I ran 10 miles every Sunday to start the week off on the right foot (pun intended). I either ran or went to FFC every day for three months straight. Some days I didn’t feel like going, but I pushed myself. Once I got there, I never regretted going.

Related: FFC member Shelby committed to trying Pilates – here’s what she learned and how her life changed.

Compromising & Lessons Learned

Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s easy or fun, for that matter. It’s not, but you have to make sacrifices if you really want to improve. I implemented an 80/20 rule for myself: 80% of the time I eat lean, clean meals, but 20% of the time I am still able to eat what I enjoy/crave. Sometimes I have a taste for fried chicken or pizza. Some food is just good for the soul! I don’t restrict myself from anything, however have learned that moderation is key. It is important to focus more on what I’m adding into my diet versus what I’m taking out.

For the first time ever, I was able to take a noticeable “before and after” picture. I dropped 40 pounds and six waist sizes in three months, and have maintained my progress since then. My friends, family, and colleagues all noticed a change. I mentioned earlier that pictures had motivated me, but it was the comments from others that kept me going. Since switching to a healthier lifestyle, I feel more energized in every sense of my being.

When people ask “my secret,” I tell them it was not rocket science or some fad diet. I did not restrict or punish myself, which I know is the reason behind the sustainability. I still go to the gym often, cook nutritious meals, and enjoy my healthy and active lifestyle. The best advice I can give is to be patient with yourself. Transformation will not happen overnight, but if you stay focused and dedicated, change is possible and worth it. And finally, it wouldn’t be fair to conclude without a heartfelt thank you to my fiancé and family for motivating and supporting me every step of the way.

You can follow along with John on Instagram here or Twitter here!

Post written by FFC member John Ziegler.

 

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FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen shares a perspective on the body positivity movement and a reminder to prioritize health habits above all.

As you read this, please know that I do not condone bullying of any kind. However, I do find it alarming the way the body positivity movement has progressed in certain directions.

Before I delve into this topic further, I’d like to point out that fatness doesn’t determine fitness. You can be overweight and be fit. Also, above all, you should be happy with who you are as a person both physically and mentally, or at the very least who you are becoming. If you’re not, then it is up to you to take action to change that. It is, however, time that we educate ourselves more about fat instead of suppressing the topic away because of negative feelings about it or an elementary school bully we once had.

Body positivity is a relatively new movement that has resulted in a change in the way the beauty is perceived. No longer is it just the size zero models strutting down the catwalks, as we also have people of a variety of sizes modeling for clothing companies, representing different body types in advertisements, etc. This a great stride towards diversity and mental health, as more people are happier with who they are.

Prioritizing Healthy Habits

There are, however, limitations that people should be reminded of in order to balance both physical AND mental health. The notion of body positivity can sometimes promote a greater likelihood for a dangerous lifestyle of overeating and inactivity, which can lead to serious health issues.

Just because you’re content with your body size, doesn’t mean that it is in fact physically healthy. While fat is important and we need to have some of it, like anything else, there are limitations.

There are mainly two types of fat in adults – white fat and visceral fat. White fat is the most common in the body, and is also called subcutaneous fat. This is the fat under your skin that gives your body its shape. Visceral fat is the harmful type of fat that you cannot see. It is the fat that lies on top of your organs. This fat affects the body in that the more of it that you have, the more at risk you are for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the #1 killer).

*Bonus Fact: if your waist to hip ratio is over 1, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease*

So, as you can infer, the more overweight a person is, the more likely they are to have more visceral fat. Another thing that can contribute to more visceral fat that most people don’t realize is a heavy intake of alcohol. We can combat this type of fat in a healthy, sustainable way – no need to go all “Biggest Loser”. By simply eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can help drastically change your body composition. An example of a healthy exercise regimen would include 3-5 days per week of a combination of aerobic and anaerobic activity (like cardio – check out that post here!).

No one is saying that you need to look like Brad Pitt or Gal Gadot, but you do need to take your physical health as seriously as your mental health and try your best to prioritize a healthy, balanced lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.

Post written by FFC Union Station personal trainer Tyler Sutphen.

Want to learn more or set up a complimentary consultation with Tyler? Email him at tsutphen@ffc.com.

Vegetables have SO many amazing benefits. They can help boost our moods, help us fight off illness, and of course, feel better and deliver all the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function. Check out these 10 easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, plus a delicious veggie recipe for even the pickiest of eaters!

10 Ways to Increase Veggie Intake

  1. Add veggies such as broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini etc. to your pizza or omelet.
  2. Substitute pizza crust for a Portobella mushroom!
  3. Grill or roast colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  4. Add lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes etc. to your sandwich.
  5. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa (or pico de gallo) or top it with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese.
  6. Microwave a cup of low-sodium vegetable soup as a snack or with a salad or sandwich for a meal. You can also make your own easy vegetable soup by taking a frozen bag of vegetables and cooking it in low-sodium broth or bone broth (for added protein)!
  7. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables (with no added salt, butter, or cream) to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
  8. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame for added plant protein.
  9. Use cauliflower rice instead of actual rice.
  10. Use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta noodles.

Delicious Veggie Recipe: Ratatouille

A great veggie recipe for Ratatouille (adapted from this site) to get those veggies in – it’s also gluten free, paleo and vegan!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil about 3-4 large leaves, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence spice mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 medium sweet or red onion, sliced
  • 1-2 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups slices, sliced)
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant (about 3 cups slices, sliced)
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes (Roma are best; about 3 cups slices, sliced)

Related: check out another veggie-forward recipe: Egyptian spiced easy lettuce wraps!

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 6″x9″ baking dish and set aside. (see notes for baking in an 8″x8″ square pan)
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic, basil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
  • Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  • Stack the veggie slices in alternating patters (e.g.: onion, zucchini, eggplant, tomato; repeat) and place them on their side in the pan, leaning against the edge of the pan. Repeat until you’ve formed a couple of rows of veggies, filled the pan, and used up all of the veggie slices.
  • Optionally, spray or brush the exposed tops of the veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven. This is more for appearance, so feel free to skip this step if you want.
  • Bake for about an hour, until the tomato sauce at the bottom is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
  • Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil before serving (optional). Serve hot or cold.

For other nutrition tips, veggie recipes and tricks please reach out to our Park Ridge registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, MS, RDN, LDN at ahuggler@ffc.com to schedule an appointment!

FFC Old Town fitness director and master trainer Eric Alexon shares the story of family member Laura, how she got involved with Myzone and FFC (which functioned as a sort of weight loss community) and lost over 70 pounds – while in Mexico, no less, along with his own takeaways on how she found success.

When It Was Time for a Change

Laura: I was my heaviest at 181 pounds about 5 years ago. My heart and the mirror were the two biggest reasons for making a change.

Eric: There is always an ‘it factor’ behind major changes related to fitness goals. The ‘it factor’ can be buried deeply. Identifying the real ‘it factor’ behind wanting to make healthy fitness changes is key. For Laura it was not liking what she saw in the mirror one day. Laura also talked about being sad, overall, with how she was feeling and what she was seeing and in her reflection.

These two ‘it factors’ propelled Laura to make lifestyle changes. Laura joined a gym in Mexico City and got a Myzone heart rate device. She met with a trainer and a nutritionist on a regular basis. These changes gave Laura knowledge and accountability and provided an environment for positive physical changes.

Related: check out FFC group fitness instructor Omar’s first-hand account of what happened when he tried Myzone.

How I Started to Change

Laura: Food was my first change. I started with a nutritionist and walking 30 minutes a day, every day, but that was initially too much, so I had to try for 15 minutes a day. With the help of a nutritionist and my brother Pablo, I started cutting carbs and focusing on portion control.

Eric: Laura turned to experts and people who were inspirational and supportive. The trainer and nutritionist helped educate and guide Laura. In the fitness industry, we say that you are the sum of your 5 closest friends when it comes to your own fitness.

Laura surrounded herself with friends and family that had/have similar healthy lifestyles. Laura’s brother, Pablo, is an amateur bodybuilder and member of FFC Old Town. Pablo introduced Myzone to Laura so he could encourage and support her from thousands of miles away!

Taking It to the Next Level

Laura, 5 years ago

Laura: I received a Myzone belt from Pablo and started going to the gym regularly, Monday through Friday, for one hour. The belt and the colored zones motivated me from the start. Initially, I was only able to achieve gray and blue. Little by little, I was able to achieve green during some workouts. Over time and with consistency, I was able to eventually reach yellow and some red during my toughest workouts.

I liked the social component – it helped encourage me. I set my cardio workouts for the yellow zone, which would give me a definite target so I knew I was getting maximum MEPs (Myzone effort points). I could see Pablo and Eric, and even encouragement from people in Chicago I’d never met, giving my workouts a thumbs up or bicep emoji. This encouragement helped me a lot.

Eric: Myzone is a great tool for accountability for people not only in the same gym, but even as far away as Mexico City. It creates a community (like a weight loss community might) and a sense of belonging. Laura has competed in many M2W competitions and uses the social component to stay connected and feel like she is on the Old Town team!

Maintaining the Results

Laura: Seeing the clothes I can fit into now is a great motivation. Seeing my old pictures helps me not want to gain weight again. I’ve maintained my weight of 136 pounds for about 2 years.

Eric: Consistency is the key. We know that even a ‘safe’ fitness program performed consistently can provide low-level results. When consistency is added to factors such as a trainer and nutritionist, real results can be achieved and maintained. The more support and accountability, the greater the chance of long term, sustainable results.

Keys to Success

Laura: Myzone, my diet and consistency have been the keys to my success. Knowing that people at FFC in Chicago can see my workouts has helped me maintain and encourages me!

July workout results

Eric: The competitions have helped motivate Laura and keep the weight off. Even though she lives in Mexico City, she can see how hard the competition works in Chicago at all the FFC clubs. For example, in July, she worked out 29 out of 31 days during one of the competitions, which makes her feel like she belongs to the Myzone and FFC communities, even though she’s never been to the United States.

Laura with brother Pablo

Future Fitness Goals

Laura: I want to keep going! Balance and definition are the two goals moving forward in 2019.

Eric: I believe that Laura having realistic goals from the beginning was the key to her success. Her initial goal was to get moving. The next was to get moving consistently. After that, it was adding fitness experts (like a trainer and nutritionist) and the Myzone belt for education and accountability. Lastly, Laura added the final appearance and performance goals of definition and balance after achieving the many other sequential goals. Through short, medium and long-term goals from the beginning, she has continued the formula to success, one step at a time.

Post adapted by FFC fitness director and master trainer Eric Alexon.

About Eric

Eric is the fitness director and a master trainer at FFC Old Town and is also NASM-certified. He specializes in TRX, PTR and kettlebell training, among other areas. Want to check out a class? Stop by FFC Old Town for one of his PTC/TRX classes, Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 – 7 AM, or Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 – 1 PM. Questions? You can also email him at ealexon@ffc.com!

 

Countless movies, books, and fairy tales feature magic mirrors of one kind or another. Some are portals to another world. Others have a spirit living in them, or can show the past, or reveal events far off but important to the mirror’s user. The full-length mirror in the men’s locker room at the Park District’s Rehm pool in Oak Park isn’t any of these. It can’t even work the mundane magic of a department store mirror in making clothes look better on you than they do anywhere else. But it’s where my fitness journey began.

I remember the date. It was Memorial Day weekend 2015; the pool had opened for the summer that day and I had my three kids with me. We’d all just changed into our suits and were heading out to have some splashy fun. I happened to glance in the mirror as we moved to the door.

A fat old man stared back at me from the glass. Everything that wasn’t flabby was sagging, and the lingering winter pallor and fluorescent lighting didn’t help. I was shocked. Like fork in the outlet shocked. I couldn’t move, in fact, because I couldn’t believe what I saw. After a certain age and weight, you tend to avoid mirrors unless it’s necessary.

Okay, appearance isn’t everything. But it wasn’t just how the fat old man looked, it was how he felt. Here I was with my kids just exiting the locker room, hadn’t even waded in yet, and I was already tired. The act of equipping at home, transporting, and transitioning my kids from street clothes to their pool stuff had exhausted me. I was ready to lie down on a chaise and have a nap.

I had just turned fifty a couple months previously. This was no way to enter the decade (what Spalding Gray called “the Bermuda Triangle of life” meaning that it’s the time that something tends to go wrong that’ll dog you for the rest of your years). There are still plenty of experiences I’d like to have, plus the kids to launch into life.

Right then and there I decided to change.

Now, I’d bounced around a lot in the previous twenty years, gaining twenty pounds way too often, losing ten far too rarely. That ratio needed turning around, and quick. My doc was making noises about blood pressure medication and the word pre-diabetic had been thrown into the health mix. When I went to see him the next week (he was happy to hear I wanted to turn things around) he suggested just some walking to start off and a step counter. So I went to CVS and used a coupon from one of their Legion of Honor Sash-sized receipts to buy a cheap heart rate monitor. And I was off.

Related: check out this infographic to see why it’s worth considering a heart rate monitor.

Steps to Lasting Change

I started just trying to get 10,000 steps in a day and to quit snacking at night in front of the TV. Within a week or ten days I could feel a difference in me. I started swimming laps and doing things like not using my car or parking way, way out at the edge of the lot. I lost ten pounds and hit the same plateau I always seemed to hit. The scale quit moving, no matter how many steps I had on that cheap wristwatch.

After some loin-girding I joined FFC Oak Park so I’d have more options for training to keep my body off-balance. I started a strict intermittent fasting program (I found out about that from Terry Crews – I like to read celeb workout programs now and then, like how Jason Momoa turned himself into Conan). I did a little bit of everything, types of exercise I’d never tried in my life, from ballet barre (kind of a twofer, I was researching ballet for a book anyway) and battle ropes to kickboxing.

It took time. It took steady effort. It took constant change and challenge and training from people who knew a lot more than me (most of my barbell knowledge dates to the 80s). Happily, my effort and constant shifts in my types of training paid off: the weight kept falling off, and better yet, the muscle started growing. I said “hi” to my abs for the first time in decades.

Hopefully three years of new habits means this is permanent. I’d like it to be. I feel great, and now it’s the kids who can’t keep up with me.

I keep this on my desktop. Yeah, it’s refrigerator-magnet philosophy, but it reminds me of where I was and that moment in front of the glass. Maybe it was a magic mirror after all.

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Eric Frisch.

Eric F is an author who lives with his wife and three children in Oak Park, IL.

 

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A dream of mine? To be told I should eat more food – by data, no less. That dream came true during my recent resting metabolic rate test at Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago. What’s a resting metabolic rate test, you ask? In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism. Sure, you could work with a RMR calculator (there are a couple online) to find out how many calories you should be eating – but since those aren’t based on your unique metabolism, they can be off. To get an accurate reading, it’s better to meet with a licensed registered dietitian and have an RMR test administered.

Cardio Coach metabolic testing machine for RMR test

How the RMR Test Works

As opposed to an RMR calculator, the resting metabolic rate test requires the use of a machine with a tube you breathe into that will use oxygen consumption measurement to determine your caloric requirements for weight loss, gain or maintenance. Since you need to be completely at rest, you will asked to recline in a chair while you have the test done, as well as wear a nose clamp (sounds weird and scary, but basically it’s just a padded thing you put on your nose to keep your nostrils closed so that all your breathing happens in the tube).

RMR Calculator vs RMR Test: Why You Should Do an RMR Test

As I mentioned before, RMR calculators are great and all – but they’re based on a formula. An actual RMR test analyzes your breath and gives you MUCH more accurate data. For example, I use an app called MyFitnessPal (when I remember) to keep tabs on my diet and to try and reign in my occasional snacking festivals – especially in the winter! According to that app, I was supposed to eat something like 1200 calories a day. Between meals and snacks there was barely room for anything else. I was constantly going over, feeling guilty all the time. I also incorrectly accounted for my exercise – I typically try to work out at LEAST 4 times a week. They’re also fairly intense workouts. Couple that with a meager 1200 calories and you get one very tired, irritable and hangry individual.

Related: how to use MyFitnessPal to help you with your weight goals.

When FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall and I looked at an online calculator before my test, it was also pretty low – around 1325 calories a day. Post test, we found out that my actual RMR is up around 1555 calories a day – at a slightly elevated level beyond “normal”. Add in my exercise, and I should be eating something like 1900 calories – even in order to lose a pound a week!! So with no exercise, I should have been eating an additional 230 calories a day than what was predicted by the RMR calculator (which operates using an equation known as the “Mifflin St. Jeor” equation).

In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism.

Emily explained that with the equation estimation, it would have taken a fair amount of time and trial and error to figure out how much to eat for my body and goals – but with the RMR test, I have a much better starting point right off the bat. Not to mention, with the results, I can feel the effects that much faster – eating more and fueling my body properly means more energy, better ability to focus and a faster exercise recovery time. I have been feeling pretty sluggish lately and I am definitely noticing a slight change since being more mindful of eating proper snacks etc. Of course, this is my personal result based on my body – it will be different for everyone. However, there is something to be said for having a roadmap to get to one’s goals more quickly and accurately. Our bodies are like machines and are a lot more formulaic than we realize. The right combination and amount of fats, proteins and carbs can really make that much difference in how well and efficiently it functions!

RMR calculator vs RMR test - why you should get a resting metabolic rate test done

Important note: I agreed to do this test in the lobby to help bring awareness to the awesome power of data and wellness, but this is not the norm. You will definitely have privacy! Unless, you know, you want to hang out and wave at people while you’re taking your test. You do you.

How to Prepare for the RMR Test

If you happened to see my post about my Vo2 Max experience a couple of months ago (which basically measures how efficiently you exercise), you’ll know that gearing up for a test like this requires some prep on the front-end. As in, the fasting kind. My recommendation is to try to schedule the test as early as possible so you don’t have to worry about depriving yourself of food or caffeine for very long! (I did mine bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 AM). In order to get the most accurate results possible, you will need to make sure you

  • Don’t eat or drink anything prior to your test (check with the registered dietitian for specific timeframe).
  • Don’t drink caffeine before your test.
  • Refrain from exercise 24 hours before your test – if your workouts are high-intensity, you may need to hold off for 48 hours. Again, check with the RD!
  • Wear regular clothes (I wore my regular office clothes).
  • Bring something to occupy yourself for about 25-30 minutes that you can do with one hand in case you need to hold the tube for more comfort.

Things I’d Want My Former Self to Know Before Taking an RMR Test

The test was quick and painless – albeit a little awkward, but overall very simple. Emily did a great job of explaining the process to me, what each of the pieces of equipment was for, how the machine worked, etc. Here are a couple of tips & tricks for anyone considering taking an RMR test.

  • #1 most important thing – bring chap stick! If your lips get dry easily, I recommend some kind of chap stick or lip balm. If you get drooly, they will have tissues for you. The RD will explain!
  • Yes, they do use all-new disposable nose clamps, mouth pieces and breathing tubes – no germs here.
  • Don’t do the test with a cold – because you’re only breathing through your mouth, it can do wonky things to your head pressure – I would maybe stay away from the test if you’re experiencing a head cold.
  • Breathing with the tube will be weird – kind of like a snorkel.
  • Hold the tube with your hand if you find yourself wanting to bite down on the mouth piece so that your jaw doesn’t get tired! That’s why I recommend a phone or Kindle etc. that you can hold with one hand.

How to Sign Up for an RMR Test

Yes, this might sound a little more complicated than a simple online RMR calculator, but I promise the data and knowledge you will come away with will be well worth it. Now, I can use my results to figure out meal plans, and have a much better understanding of how much I should be eating for specific goals. Plus, if I ever wanted to start a race training program, kick up my weight loss a notch, etc., I would have an accurate roadmap to do it. To sign up for a test at FFC, you can visit this link or email metabolictesting@ffc.com! Questions about the specifics? You can email registered dietitian Emily Marshall at emarshall@ffc.com or visit your club’s RD.

Post written by FFC marketing manager Megan Zink.

 

I frequently come across people who have come to the gym seeking a healthier lifestyle. A number of people have been told by their doctor they need to start exercising or simply need to be exercising more. As easy as it may be to prescribe exercise, navigating a new fitness routine can be more challenging. Here are a few tips your doctor may not be telling you.

Please be sure to check with your healthcare provider regarding any questions or before starting an exercise program.

There are A LOT of different ways to work out.

Just because you don’t like one method of working out doesn’t mean that you won’t love another. It’s good to mix it up and try a bunch of different workout styles until you find the style you connect with the most.

It’s ok to be skeptical about fitness fads.

Just because you see your favorite celebrity sporting the latest fitness fad doesn’t mean that it is actually worth your time. When learning about a new fitness fad it is important that it is backed by science and that there aren’t any negative side effects they aren’t telling you about. If a fad is claiming to do something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Working out can bring a lot of new feelings to your body.

It’s good to know the difference between the feeling of a stretch or a “good” sore feeling from working out and a pain from hurting yourself. If you aren’t sure how to differentiate these feelings it can be confusing to know which one is which and then can make it hard to know how to proceed.

It’s ok to ask for help.

Don’t sweat it if you don’t have all of the answers when it comes to mixing up your fitness routine. If you aren’t seeing the results that you want, or an exercise doesn’t feel right, doing a free consultation with a personal trainer can help with that. Having a hard time finding a routine that works for you? They can help you with that too!

Related: not seeing results from your workout? This might be why.

Small improvements can make a big difference.

Whenever you step in the gym for your workout, try and do one thing during this workout better than last time. Over time, all of those small improvements will add up and make a big difference.

Music can set the tone for your workout (pun intended!).

Having different playlists for different parts of your workout can be a game changer. Jamming out to some Ariana Grande can move and grove you through your cardio workout, Beyoncé can push you through some weights, and Adel can slow you down enough to get a deep stretch!

Related: need some playlist inspiration? Check out the library of FFC-curated playlists here!

Post written by FFC Boystown personal trainer Sedona Buttner.

About Sedona

Sedona-Buttner-FFC-Fitness-Chicago

Sedona Buttner is a personal trainer at FFC Boystown. Her passion for personal training stems from her ability to help others live their best life. She believes that training can not only be great for losing weight and getting stronger, but also can empower people to do things they never thought possible.

This passion has driven her to get a degree in kinesiology from Cornell College, as well as an ACSM-certified personal trainer certification and a TRX Team Coach certification. She specializes in working with people looking to increase their strength and conditioning, wanting to lose weight, those just starting their fitness journey, and people recovering from an injury. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her at sbuttner@ffc.com!

I’ve been overweight all my life, since I was a little kid in kindergarten. I was always getting picked on and seen as an outcast – all the way to high school. I always kept telling myself that things would get better, that I wouldn’t look like this, that I would be happy one day.

I don’t think there was ever a period in my life where I was consistently happy, due to me always self-sabotaging myself, believing I could never do better than what people labeled me as. I would always be furious or depressed at myself and at the people around me. Because I held onto so much negativity, I felt like I was a toxic person. There were times where I would be mean to people – even to ones who didn’t deserve it – and wouldn’t put in the effort to connect with strangers.

Related: how FFC member Lou accomplished his fitness transformation.

I remember numerous times where I would work out to exhaustion to look different, to try to force change. It didn’t matter how much I sweat, if I didn’t see immediate change, I would always relapse. I avoided lifting weights and would only focus on cardio. There were times where I believed I was destined never to be different – even when I felt like I was doing all I could. At some points during my former airport job, pushing wheelchairs, I walk walking 10 miles a day – but still would not lose a pound. People would say “you can’t out-train a bad diet” – but I didn’t care to listen and kept looking for shortcuts. I signed up with FFC with hopes of detoxing my body, but I still didn’t fully change my lifestyle, as I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.

I decided to visit Turkey last year, in August, to celebrate my 22nd birthday because I wanted to do something different and I couldn’t think of a better way than to see and get to know an amazing country. When I arrived, I was stunned by how beautiful and interesting Turkey was. The people were the definition of generous and caring, and I never felt intimidated or worried – it was like a home away from home.

During my stay, I changed my behavior because I didn’t want to look bad or give a bad representation of Americans. I slowed down my chewing (as I barely chew my food at home) and was surprised at how quickly I was full, despite eating significantly less than what I ate back home. I also started to eat healthier, as I wanted to try new things (the food was delicious) and consistently did it for two weeks. I ate boiled eggs, pita, Turkish rice, all with the best tea in the world. I was glad I had completed training sessions with my trainer, Jose, who helped me prepare for my trip and the hot weather and terrain of Turkey; I was afraid of having of no energy to explore and get to know the amazing country. I met Turkish scuba divers who motivated me to always see the bright side of life – as they knew I was still carrying a lot of pain in my heart. They showed me the beauty of their land with their talented scuba diving crew.

FFC South Loop member stories Oscar's weight loss transformation

I found out how abundant peace and love is with the Turkish people; everywhere I went, people offered me gifts and greetings – and I felt closer to humanity. I weighed myself at the end of my visit at a clinic and was surprised to find I had lost 5 pounds in only two weeks. The doctor told me something I had heard my whole life but never listened to; one of the basic rules of healthy living is to chew more. I realized if I could manage two weeks of healthy choices, I could survive a longer period, and I was determined to try out my new lifestyle.

My time with Turkey was an educational experience – I got to see an amazing country with a unique history and meet people with hearts of gold. Traveling motivated me to become a better person and try new things to enjoy more of life. I owe Turkey and her people everything for helping me kick start my journey to become a better person. Turkey is the brightest, most beautiful and social country I have ever seen – and deserves the best out of me.

When I came back, I implemented what I had learned from my trip and started listening to my body more. I reduced my food portions and compensated by chewing more thoroughly at a slower pace. I also began to take notice of what I was eating much more seriously; every day was a new day full of research as I considered serving sizes, calories, sugar, etc. My diet changed completely. Then, out of nowhere, I was losing pounds around the clock. I would feel weird, like I was in the wrong body. I would sometimes wonder what was going on, what was happening to me. I had never lost weight before, so the experience was exciting, but a scary ride.

Each day working at the airport was progress in the making; I felt like the miles I walked pushing wheelchairs were contributing to my health. There were days where the fat in my neck and face felt like it was being shaved off as easily as butter. There were even times where I would smile spontaneously, because I was genuinely happy, even if just for the moment. I felt like I was going through a metamorphosis and there was no going back. I had co-workers telling me as I passed by them that I was losing weight. My pants were baggier, my infamous “man-boobs” were shrinking, etc. To finally get to hear those things I had wanted to hear all my life just blew me up.

My shirt size finally decreased from the double XL range down to the normal-sized L. All I had to do to finally burn the fat off was make gradual changes and stay committed to it – something so simple, yet something I had refused to do all these years. I will never forget those first two months of change – every day was a ride full of adrenaline.

There were times when I wanted to quit my new lifestyle, but became more motivated to change after my dog Daisy passed away in November of last year, due to advanced heart disease. My family, best friend and angel from childhood was gone – I wouldn’t get to show her how I looked or would look when I reached a range healthy for my body. I intend to make sure I keep evolving as I promised and become the person she always saw me as – a strong protector. It was time to get out of the prison I’d made for myself and connect more with the world; I was tired of being angry and depressed. It was time to be alive and become the best I could be for others and myself.

I took my time with FFC more seriously, by showing more up consistently and training myself to become better than what I was. Now, every time I enter the gym, I set my mindset to let loose and see my potential. I have started to come out of my shell and lift more, in addition to taking classes, which has helped me expand my horizons. I have noticed that my performance has been getting better and that I have more energy – and that is something I can be proud of; what I have been dreaming about all my life is finally becoming a reality. I now have a chance to break the chains I put on myself for all these years and strive for the happiness I denied myself.

Related: how training helped FFC member Jonathan make it to the AHL.

Member Stories - How Travel Inspired Me To Change My Diet, Make a Lifestyle Change and Lose Over 10% Body FatOne of my trainers always told me, “Take control of your life.” and that is something I go by every day, because I am tired of being on the sidelines, watching life slip by. It’s time to write my own story and start living. I’m not close to my target, but having come this far brings out the part of me that wants to keep fighting. I owe thanks to the entire staff at FFC South Loop for helping me on my journey to transform – especially Marcus, Sherry, Charles, Martin, Leroy, Chris and Jose, for never giving up on me and becoming a second family.

Post written by FFC South Loop member Oscar Florentino.

 

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My friends and coworkers often ask me about weekly meal prep. I am very passionate about healthy eating. In multiple conversations with friends and coworkers, I have noticed most people want to do it, but find it difficult to justify the time and question the cost savings. As someone who has prepped meals for years, I am a firm believer that it saves time, money, and provides many health benefits.

Here are the common questions people ask me about meal prep:

  • What do you make during meal prep?
  • How long does it take to cook?
  • Does your food taste good at the end of the week?
  • Is it cheaper than eating out?

As a member of corporate America, I find myself constantly influenced by the dark side of donuts, candy, and/or some sort of processed food. In the beautiful city of Chicago, it’s even more difficult, having restaurant upon restaurant within blocks of my apartment calling my name with cuisine from around the world. I believe that life is short and you should enable your body to experience these great restaurants.

Notice that I used the word “enable” versus “treat myself.” What I mean by this is that I believe there’s always a balance between treating yourself and eating too much of the wrong stuff. With that said, I feel that one meal we can take control of and help us throughout our day is lunch. Lunch is the meal that creates the break in our work day. Regardless if you’re in corporate, hospitality, or health care, you need to eat lunch. It is far too easy to go with what everyone else is having (hamburger, processed sandwich, etc) and let this meal get away from us.

This is where meal prep comes into play and making a healthy choice can really be easy with weekly meal prep. Meal prep enables your body to truly enjoy cheat meals (I’ll explain that later) without the guilt. The purpose of this message is to not only answer the questions above but outline them in a way that logically proves that meal prep is worth your time and money.

Though you can meal prep for any time of day, I will keep this overview to lunch – as it’s the most common meal everyone asks about. Lets get started!

What do you make?

The answer to this questions depends on the type of food you eat. Personally, I prefer the Paleo lifestyle and my food choices are limited to lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and healthy fats. I look for a balanced portion of a protein, greens, and carbohydrates for lunch. This allows me to have my break during the day and be able to get back to work without the afternoon dip.

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

I start with skinning the sweet potatoes and throw them into the oven since they take the longest. I time the broccoli start time to end the same time as the sweet potatoes. Once those two are complete, I move onto the chicken and grill it outside, which takes roughly 30 minutes. The food prep and cooking time will take you roughly 1.5 hours in total.

Related: check out even MORE food prep tips for various steps in the process to help make this easy time, money and progress saver a regular part of your routine.

Meal Prep = Time Saver

I always like to compare this to the alternative. Let’s look at both scenarios of going to get food and bringing it back to your desk versus eating there. I did time trials by walking with coworkers to grab their lunch and I found that the average time was roughly 15 minutes to go there and back. Total time throughout the week is an hour and 15 minutes. Ok, we’ve saved some time!

In a different situation, let’s look at how much time is saved in comparison to when you eat at a restaurant. I began timing this trial from the time we sat down and began to eat. I excluded any sit down restaurants that included a server since the lead times varied by person and restaurant. I came to the conclusion of an average 15 minute eating time. Combining that with travel time, you’re looking at 2 hours and 30 minutes saved per week.

Does your food taste good at the end of the week?

This one intrigued me for a while as I did notice that my chicken would become rubbery or not taste as good toward the end of the week. A trick you can use to help your food last and taste better longer is with your freezer. I do my meal prep on Sundays and put Monday and Tuesday’s meals in the refrigerator. The rest goes into the freezer and I pull out one meal each day throughout the week. Monday, I pull out Wednesday, etc.

Is it cheaper than eating out?

Yes, meal preparation will save you money. Below is an outline of the cost comparison between purchasing groceries vs. eating out. Please note, I am measuring groceries for a single person, using the chicken/broccoli/sweet potato meal outlined above.

If you go out to eat each day, lunch costs anywhere from $6 (typical fast food options) to $10 (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) depending on where you go. Add a sugary Coke, that’s another $2.00. The numbers speak for themselves.

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

Regardless if you’re training for a race, show, or looking for ways to be healthier, I am a firm believer that meal preparation can bring value to your day and life. You will not have to worry about answering the question, “What should I eat for lunch?” You have the opportunity to learn to cook new meals and try something new every week. Not only will meal prep save you money on a weekly basis, but you’ll get more out of your day. We can’t get more time in a day, but we can make the most of it.

For more about meal preparation and fitness, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R.