Carbs

Why We Need Carbs

 

Nutrition advice and diet books are a dime a dozen. It seems like every season there is a new diet fad, a new supplement to try, or a new book that guarantees weight loss. Even the educated consumer can become confused by all the different choices, which may make it difficult to determine the best way to be healthy and to lose weight.

The low carb/no carb craze became very popular with the Atkins Diet. Different versions of this model are still widely accepted as the best way to lose weight. Many people swear by the no carb diet, but is this the most effective and healthiest way to shed pounds?

Even though many people have success on carbohydrate free diets, it is not ideal because our bodies absolutely need carbohydrates to survive. Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body because they are easier to break down than fats and they spare protein for more important roles in the body. Additionally, the brain ONLY uses glucose (which comes from carbohydrates) to function. Therefore, if you do not consume enough carbohydrates, your body will break down protein in your muscles to use for fuel for the brain. This is the last thing that we want!

That does not mean we should binge on carbohydrate rich foods. You must choose wisely among starches, but you should not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet.  Fruits, vegetables, and starches all have carbohydrates. Most of your daily carbohydrates should come from fruit and vegetable intake.  Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are essential to human health and well- being. Phytonutrients contain antioxidants, which are compounds that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which, in turn, affect metabolism. Eliminating fruits and vegetables from your diet may have a negative impact on weight loss and on your health.

Since different types of carbohydrates break down into sugar at different rates, it is important to select high fiber, nutrient dense starches rather than simple sugars to avoid weight gain.  This is because simple sugars enter the bloodstream and are absorbed quickly, causing blood sugar levels to increase rapidly. This spikes insulin levels and over time your body may become resistant to this insulin. The job of insulin is to get sugar into the cells of your body where it is converted into energy or stored as fat.  As the body develops insulin resistance, there can be increased hunger and weight gain. Your body may also stop responding to the hormone, which could result in diabetes.

Simple sugars and processed foods metabolize quickly into sugar (glucose) and are mostly empty calories. Additionally, most of these items are filled with chemicals and do not contain important nutrients. Conversely, fruits, vegetables, and beans are filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which enter your bloodstream slowly and stabilize your metabolism.

Healthy grains with high fiber can be incorporated into the diet, but they should not contain sugar or be processed. People tend to overeat grains and they may cause inflammation, so it is best to limit them or measure them out into a very small portion if you are trying to lose weight. If you do eat grains, it is also a good idea to eat gluten free to decrease inflammation to the gut while dieting.

The bottom line is that carbohydrates are not the enemy, but sugar certainly is. Eat a variety of fresh, organic foods and stay away from anything processed. Drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. This is the answer to weight loss.

Golf Help

Dynamic Golf Specific Stretches

Are you a golfer?

Is it a hassle to get loose before a round? Is it time consuming?

Hitting balls at the range and spending time at the putting green is important, however; stretching for 10 minutes pre-round can be saving you strokes too! So maybe it is in your best interest to stop your practice session 10 minutes early and follow these golf friendly warm-ups!

Static stretching is not what you want to do prior to a round of golf.  Instead, opt for dynamic stretches.  Dynamic stretching accomplishes many things.  It increases blood flow, increases range of motion, increases your awareness of joint position, and improves your athletic performance.

These golf specific stretches will not only loosen your body but will provide you with a strong/powerful foundation leaving you with a faster swing and leading to further shots.

Shoulder Blade Retraction

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms out perpendicular to the ground while holding a resistance band.  Pull the band apart while keeping arms perpendicular to the ground and posture still.

Overhead Squat

 Place a club over your head with your arms fully extended.  Have both hands on each end of the club.  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down until your thighs are close to parallel with the ground.

Golfers Lunge

 Drop down into a lunge, then try and touch your elbow to the back of your foot. For example, if your left leg is the lead leg use your left elbow to touch your left foot. This extra movement will further stretch the gluteus muscle.

Bent-Over T-Spine Extension

This is a great stretch to open your thoracic spine, which is your mid-back. Get into a golf stance and bend over a little further than normal. Place both arms below with your palms up. Reach around and behind you with one arm while watching that hand.

Hamstring Stretch

 To perform this stretch, sit on the ground with your right leg stretched out in front of you and your left knee bent with your foot facing your right knee. Keep your chest up and back straight. Bend forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.

 

By Scott Sessions CPT

Man in bed

Sleep for Testosterone Production

Man In Bed Woken By Alarm On Mobile Phone

When men think of testosterone production and function, they mostly think about exercise and vigor.  But one very important component that is commonly overlooked, is sleep.  In a study that was conducted with young men, getting less than five hours of sleep per night drastically reduced their testosterone levels as compared with a full night’s sleep.  The reduction in testosterone levels were mostly observed between the hours of 2pm and 10pm on the days when they had five hours of sleep or less.  Five hours of sleep showed a 10-15% decrease in testosterone levels.  This study also found that skimping on sleep can reduce a young man’s testosterone levels by the same amount as aging 10-15 years.

Poor and little sleep have been shown to be endocrine disrupters, which means that many of our hormones are not able to function optimally, including testosterone.  Testosterone is not just important for your libido, but also involved in regulating metabolism, building strength, and reproduction.  There is a natural reduction in testosterone levels as men age by about 1%-2% each year.  Low levels of testosterone are associated with a low sex drive, fatigue, a depressed mood, and difficulty concentrating.  Paying attention to sleep quality and duration is one major way that anyone can mitigate their decline in testosterone, along with regular exercise.  Remember, it’s not just about being physically active.  Recovery is an equally important component, and specifically, a good night’s sleep.

By Rima Sidhu

Article

The Art of Bouncing Back

During Super Bowl 2017, we witnessed the New England Patriots being down by 25 points.  As improbable as it was, they scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of 2-point conversions, to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.

In 1993, then world’s No. 1 tennis player, Monica Seles, was stabbed in the back, which led to a 2-year physical and emotional rehabilitation. In 1995, in her first tournament back, she wins the Canadian Open, followed by winning the Australian Open in 1996 and 19 single tournaments before retiring in 2008.

I am sure we all know many stories of remarkable individuals who, despite all odds, demonstrated ultimate achievements. They succeeded beyond people’s expectations, but not beyond their own expectations. But, what makes them apart from others? How were these individuals able to bounce back? And, what can we learn from their experiences?

  • Positive Mindset

Athletes do not approach their games wanting to fail or perform below their skills. However, they tend to underperform when their minds get distracted by negative thoughts or by circumstances that distract their minds. A positive mindset is like having control at the wheel. It allows them to take full charge of where they need to put their attention to while navigating around the obstacles that come along the way. Rather than being affected by distractions, athletes constantly shifts their attention into actions that will guide them to achieve their goals.

By no means their minds will not get distracted. On the contrary, they understand that distractions are bound to happen. Unfavorable referee calls, unexpected comeback from the opponent, and falling behind early in the game are situations that athletes have not control over. However, a positive mindset accepts these situations as part of the game by just focusing on controlling what is controllable.

Also, a positive mindset relieves athletes from carrying the additional pressure of needing to do well. All the preparation leading to the performance is behind. By fully trusting in a positive mindset, it allows athletes to face competition and all its challenges head on rather than carrying on their shoulders the unrealistic expectation of having to win or else. Instead, it allows athletes to trust in their skills, be more focused, and fully present.

  • Resilience

Resilience is seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. Athletes know that success is achieved by embracing all the experiences that take place along the way. Just like they fully enjoy celebrating winning performances, they also embrace failing. They understand the greatest source of knowledge comes from those experiences where they did not achieve their goals. Instead, they use those opportunities to analyze what happened in order to make necessary changes that will give them a greater opportunity to achieve success next time. Each opportunity is food for thought.

Success does not happen while navigating on a straight line. Instead, it is an up and down road that brings challenges along the way. Some of those challenges will test your mind, body, skills, stamina, commitment, and perseverance. Along the way, disappointments will be experienced. As disappointing as it is to achieve below expectations, top performers shift their focus to capitalize on strength and improve on their weaknesses. In so doing, they are true to themselves, which may lead to the realization that their mindset is not as positive as needed to be.

Resilience as an adaptation game. Each time a realistic goal is set, set your mind to achieve it. Put your full commitment and trust to achieve such a goal. If it is not achieved, rather than punishing yourself, take the time to understand you. Be honest with what you need to change and commit to making those changes next time. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

  • Commitment

Verbalizing what you want to achieve is only the beginning; however, commitment to pursue your dreams will ultimately lead you to achieve them. Commitment rests on having self-belief. It is the notion that the goal will be achieved no matter what challenges need to be faced. Many athletes dream big and fantasize having a glamorous life style, but failed to achieve their goals. Athletes that are fully committed to achieve perseverance and focus ultimately reach their dreams.

Commitment starts by identifying what one wants to achieve. The clearer, time-specific, and realistic expectation is identified, the more focused one will be to steer the attention towards those goals. As a consequence, the better the focus and commitment, the more likely improvement will be achieved.  On the other hand, not being fully committed or focused on your goals will most likely lead to fall short of your true potential.

Einstein said, “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” Those who achieved superb goals truly committed themselves to taking one step at the time while envisioning what they wanted to achieve. They understand that failing, not failure, is part of the journey. They remained positive despite all odds and used their experiences, both good and bad, as a continuous learning tool.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge

Eating Junk Food

Are You on Fire?

If you suffer from any of the following: chronic pain, fatigue, depression, digestive issues, memory loss, or are over-weight, chances are you are inflamed.

We often hear about inflammation, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory diets. But what does it all mean?

Inflammation gets a bad rap but it is actually a healing response in which our immune system is stimulated and trying to fight something potentially harmful to the body.

There are different causes of inflammation including:

  • pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.)
  • chemical irritants
  • acute injuries
  • foods

This article will address dietary causes of chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation increases risk of:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • chronic pain
  • neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s
  • autoimmune disease
  • IBS
  • Diabetes

Here’s an extremely simplified version of what happens.

So many foods that are staples of our standard American diet are not good for us. Some of these foods and additives should not be consumed by any human beings. Some things may not necessarily be bad for everyone, but some people may have sensitivities to them.

These foods and additives can cause damage to the intestinal lining and create imbalance in the bacteria that lives in our gut. This bacteria, known as the intestinal flora, or microbiome, is an essential component in digestion and immune function.

Now that the bacterial balance has been disrupted, foods that are harmful will not be broken down and excreted properly. And foods that ARE good for us may not be broken down and properly absorbed either, which can lead to deficiencies of nutrients. There can also be overgrowth of bad bacteria, which is fed by the bad foods, creating more problems and stress in the system.

The damage to the intestinal lining can cause something called “leaky gut” in which particles of food that should not be absorbed into the bloodstream will now “sneak in” and be absorbed. Because these bad particles of food are absorbed, it triggers the immune system to ramp up and fight, creating inflammation.

Inflammation should not be consistent or long-term. It should resolve so the body can repair and move on. So when we consistently feed this inflammatory process, it wreaks havoc on the whole body. In some people it can lead to autoimmune disease in which the immune system will start to attack the body’s own tissues causing damage. Research is demonstrating that most neurological disease is in fact autoimmune in nature and therefore a result of inflammation. In some it can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc, etc.

I’m often asked what supplements or pills help with inflammation. Without getting rid of the cause, supplements or pills may help a little but won’t fix the problem. It’s like trying to control a fire that you’re continuously dousing with fuel.

What can we do?

Here are major causes of inflammation that can be controlled simply by lifestyle changes:

  • Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)
  • Diets high in sugar
  • Diets high in processed foods
  • Vegetable oils (except olive and coconut)
  • Diets low in fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking
  • Toxins in food, water, cleaning products, environment
  • Certain drugs (always consult with your physician about drugs)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency
  • Lack of sleep

Eating a clean balanced diet, getting adequate movement and sleep and avoiding toxins will surely help to decrease inflammation. Avoid the known, common triggers.

If problems persist, seek the help of a professional who can help further evaluate your situation, figure out the cause and formulate a plan to properly address it.

By Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac., CFMP, CCSP

Check Yourself to Protect Yourself

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Currently, 1 in 8 women in the US have breast cancer. It’s critical for women to do monthly exams and to go for regular screenings. Let’s discuss what breast cancer is and how early detection is key for survival.

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow and multiply abnormally. This can happen if the genes in a cell that control cell growth no longer work properly. As a result, the cell divides uncontrollably and may form a tumor. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Many breast lumps are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. That means they can’t spread and are not life-threatening. Malignant tumors are cancerous. If left untreated, the cancer can invade surrounding tissue and spread or metastasize to other parts of the body.

Breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers). Some start in the glands that make breast milk (lobular cancers). There are also other types of breast cancer that are less common. A small number of cancers start in other tissues in the breast. These cancers are called sarcomas and lymphomas and are not really thought of as breast cancers. Although many types of breast cancer can cause a lump in the breast, not all do.  Many breast cancers are found on screening mammograms which can detect cancers at an earlier stage, often before they can be felt, and before symptoms develop.

You may notice symptoms on your own that could be suspicious. If you notice any of the following, consult your doctor immediately:

  • a lump or thickness in or near the breast or under the arm
  • unexplained swelling or shrinkage of the breast, particularly on one side only
  • dimpling or puckering of the breast
  • nipple discharge (fluid) other than breast milk that occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • breast skin changes, such as redness, flaking, thickening, or pitting that looks like the skin of an orange
  • a nipple that becomes sunken (inverted), red, thick, or scaly

Women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop breast cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease. Having a risk factor does not mean that a woman will definitely get breast cancer. Many women with risk factors never do. Your risk for breast cancer rises as you get older. About 80% of breast cancers are found in women over age 50 — many of whom have no other known risk factors for the disease. Although you’re two to three times more likely to get breast cancer if you have a strong family history of the disease, only 5-10% of breast cancers are inherited, meaning that they are linked to gene mutations passed down in families, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Several other risk factors may slightly boost your chances of getting breast cancer. These include:

  • Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  • Personal Health History: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast in the future.
  • Menstrual and Reproductive History: Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never having given birth can also increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Certain Genome Changes: Mutations in certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, can increase your risk for breast cancer. This is determined through a genetic test, which you may consider taking if you have a family history of breast cancer. Individuals with these gene mutations can pass the gene mutation onto their children.
  • Dense Breast Tissue: Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.

If you have breast cancer, knowing the stage helps guide your treatment plan. Breast cancer is typically staged with Roman numerals ranging from 0 (the earliest stage) to IV (the most advanced stage). The stages of breast cancer are used to describe the extent of your cancer at the time of diagnosis. Your doctor will base the stage of your cancer on a physical exam and other diagnostic tests. This is known as clinical stage. The final, or pathologic, stage is determined after surgery when the size of the cancer is measured under a microscope and it is definitely known if there is cancer in the lymph nodes. Cancer stages are based on:

  • whether the cancer is invasive or noninvasive
  • the size of the tumor
  • whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to the lymph nodes, and if so, to how many of them
  • whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or liver

Your doctor will assign a stage to your cancer after your physical exam and the initial results from your mammogram or other diagnostic imaging test. The stage may be adjusted after lab reports from your breast biopsy or surgery. In determining the stage of your cancer, your doctor will take into account what is called the T-N-M scale: T meaning tumor size; N relating to the involvement of nearby lymph nodes; and M referring to whether the cancer has metastasized (spread) beyond the breast to other parts of your body.

In conclusion, early detection is key to beating this horrible disease. Millions of women each year celebrate survival. Self-exams should be performed along with regular check-ups with your doctor. Those with a family history or other risk factors, should be even more diligent. A little extra time out of your day can make all the difference in your tomorrow.

References:

American Cancer Society

Memorial Sloan Kettering

National Breast Cancer Foundation

BreastCancer.Org

By Gina Stallone

Bringing Awareness to an Invisible Illness

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. 1 out of 10 women have this illness. Despite this ratio, experts believe that more than half of women with PCOS don’t even realize they have it. September is PCOS Awareness Month, where we shed some light on this invisible illness.

Women with PCOS have slightly higher levels of testosterone and androgen in the body than normal for the average woman. Despite the name, you may not necessarily have ovarian cysts. Symptoms can sometimes present themselves at the onset of a girl’s period; however, many won’t notice anything until they’ve gained a significant amount of weight or have trouble getting pregnant. In some cases, women don’t find out they have PCOS until after they have their first child. The most common symptoms are irregular periods, heavy bleeding, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, male-pattern baldness, darkening of the skin, fatigue, and headaches. PCOS is also linked with chronic inflammation, which can leave you feeling achy, fatigued, and it contributes to weight gain.

Along with the myriad of symptoms, one of the biggest issues with PCOS is how it affects your ability to become and/or stay pregnant. In fact, it is the leading cause of female infertility. Between 70 and 80 percent of women with PCOS have fertility problems. This condition can also increase the risk of complication during pregnancy. Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without the condition to deliver their baby prematurely. They’re also at greater risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. However, hope is not lost. Having PCOS does not mean you will be incapable of becoming pregnant naturally; it just may take longer than others. Losing weight and lowering blood sugar levels can improve your odds of having a healthy pregnancy. Women with PCOS can also get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation.

There is no cure for PCOS; however, there are several medications and treatments your doctor may suggest. Medications such as birth control & metformin are often prescribed to reduce symptoms and/or regulate your period. Fertility medicines may also be recommended for those trying to become pregnant. Your doctor may require regular tests and follow up visits to be sure that the treatment/medication is working properly and to adjust if necessary. Some doctors may also recommend supplements, including berberine, folate, B12, vitamin D, and inositol. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and weight control are also key treatments for PCOS. Unfortunately, it can be more challenging to lose weight and to maintain weight loss with PCOS. Some recommended foods to avoid are foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and muffins, sugary snacks and drinks, and inflammatory foods, such as processed and red meats. Many women with PCOS often have higher than normal insulin levels. Doctors advise that just a slight weight reduction and increase of exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek help from your OB/GYN as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be on the path to feeling better!

By: Gina Stallone

Fit to be Fit

Break Out The Bands

This week we tackle an entire workout using bands. Bands are great to increase mobility & strength while helping you focus on your form. They are perfect for beginners and those recovering from an injury however, they are good at any point in your journey. Always start with a light band and progress to a heavier band as you get stronger. For more information about the bands used or for any questions you may have, email Gina@thearena.fit or visit www.thearenafitness.com

Why Bigger Classes are Not Always Better

Group exercise classes are an extremely popular method of exercising in our society. Fitness seekers enjoy the energy, music, and camaraderie of a group setting. Many people prefer this type of workout rather than working out alone. There seems to be a class for every population and every fitness level.  Due to this group class craze, there is now a range of individual studios that focus only on one specific group exercise, such as spin, yoga, boot camps, Pilates, Zumba, or running. While there can be benefits to group exercise classes, they often negatively impact your progress and prohibit you from reaching your goals.

Each one of us if different. We all have different bodies, comprised of different muscle fibers, strengths, cardiovascular conditioning, injuries, pains, flexibility, balance, lifestyles, and stresses.  So, how can one exercise class be right for everyone? One important goal of exercise is to make sure that you are making individual improvements in strength and weight loss, and to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly for your body type to prevent injuries.

One of the potential problems with large group exercise classes is the teacher to client ratio. It is impossible for an instructor to adequately spot and correct the form of everyone in the class throughout the entire session. Therefore, exercisers may be putting too much strain on certain joints, may not be activating the correct muscles, and may be hurting or straining their backs. This can lead to orthopedic issues, which include muscle tears, muscle strains, and disc problems. Secondly, the activity level of the class may vary. Therefore, some people may be working out too hard while others are not getting the correct amount of stimulation. Because of the class size, it is unlikely teachers will offer modifications to make sure each person is exercising at the correct intensity.  Next, because of the group dynamic, exercisers may be pushed harder than they are capable of working in order to keep up with the group and to be a part of the crowd.   This can be very dangerous if your body is not physically able to perform the class.

Further, the recent surge of group exercise classes has been associated with an increase in rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition that is caused by extreme exercise and could be potentially life threatening. While some muscle damage is normal and beneficial for muscle growth, rhabdomyolysis occurs when the stress is so great that fibers are destroyed and break apart to release myoglobin, which is harmful to the liver. According to the American Journal of Medicine, doctors have been finding that some people, especially beginners, have developed rhabdomyolysis after taking a high intensity spin class. This condition does not only affect spinners; in fact, doctors found it associated with any type of excessive weight training, running, P90X, and CrossFit Classes. It is important to note that not all the people who developed rhabdomyolysis were unfit; they were pushed too hard and then developed muscle trauma. It is extremely important to give muscles adequate time to adjust to new exercises. When you start any kind of new exercise program, try a less intense version to start. Work your way up gradually and know your limits! Do not ignore signs of injury and make sure to rest!

Working out in a group can be very motivating and empowering. This dynamic is the reason that many people go to the gym.  A room filled with loud music and enthusiastic peers can be more uplifting than sitting on a stationary bike by yourself. If you are group class advocate, it is important to know your limits and to abide by them. Wear a heart rate monitor and perform a self-check to see how you feel during the class. Additionally, it would be extremely beneficial to schedule an individual session with a personal trainer to make sure your form and positioning is correct so you can self-adjust during exercise classes.  A trainer can also help you come up with modifications unique to your body type and limitations. Another option is semi-private training or small group classes where the teacher can be more hands-on and helpful.

Make sure that you get the biggest bang for your buck from your fitness routine.  Exercise is extremely beneficial both mentally and physically. That is why it is so important to make sure that you are maximizing your time and effort.  Large group exercise classes are not tailored to individual needs. This may cause injuries and also prevent some people from reaching their full potential and optimizing their health. Please be an educated consumer and work out to your full potential!

 

by Denise Groothuis

Gina

My Fight to Be Fit

Anyone who has ever been overweight knows just how hard of a process it actually is. Every single day is a struggle. Like many others, those struggles began for me as a child. I played sports and was fairly active during the summer but not all year round. As a result, my weight reached 180lbs by the time I entered high school. High school can be rough on any kid…but when you struggle with weight it’s that much worse. By senior year, I developed significant problems with my eating. I didn’t know that I had a “real” problem because I was never underweight and I was never formally diagnosed with any type of eating disorder. I’d go from eating one meal a day to, at my worst, one piece of candy or cracker per day. I made myself sick, which ultimately got me to eat again but not nearly enough. As the years have gone on, I’ve come to realize I suffered from what is known as Atypical Anorexia. That disorder continued to plague throughout college and ultimately ended with my spending upwards of 2 hours a day in the gym, barely eating, and drinking (heavily) every weekend. I got down to 130lbs and while I looked great…I didn’t feel it. Looking back on it, I had worked really hard in the gym but done nothing about my diet…or my mental state.

What many people in the fitness industry don’t truly understand is how much of this process is actually mental. You could do all of the right exercises and have the best diet…but if your head isn’t in the game…you won’t be either and that will almost ALWAYS catch up with you. It did for me.

Over the course of my entire life, I probably did almost every fad diet there was. At the time where I was living at the gym, I was also on the South Beach Diet. Like most other fads, once I stopped living in the gym and doing that diet, I gained a lot of the weight back. Over the course of the next 5 years, between health issues, medication and a lack of exercise, my weight climbed to an all-time high of 210lbs. I was miserable and completely clueless as to how I could change it. I needed help but I didn’t know where to turn. Enter the Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels. The show has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years for people gaining the weight back. Anyone who drops a crazy amount of weight without changing their mindset and, subsequently, their lifestyle, will fail. That’s just a given. Those who used the show as a method to change their life have stuck with it and their results have lasted. Those who used the show as a game and a chance to win money and fame…have not succeeded. It’s not easy. You have to work at this every single day. But that show, that woman…completely changed my life. If it wasn’t for the one night I turned on that show…I may not be where I am today. I began going to the gym the very next day and I never looked back. To date, I’ve lost and kept off about 80lbs & gone from squeezing into a size 14 to comfortably wearing a size 2/4.

It hasn’t all been roses & sunshine. I didn’t know much when I started. It took me a long time to lose weight and figure out what worked for my body. I began, like many others, by doing a ton of cardio. Slowly, with the help of online videos and Jillian DVDs, I began to incorporate weights into my routine. Without the proper guidance though, I ended up overtraining and doing many exercises incorrectly. This gave way to a serious shoulder injury, which landed me in surgery last October. I became a trainer and nutritionist so I could help others see that they weren’t alone in this fight and give them the guidance that I never had.

Since starting at The Arena, I’ve gone from a personal trainer to a professional. I will still argue that while you may lose some muscle, fasted cardio is the key to my fat loss. After all, every person’s body is different. However, I’m learning more and more everyday just how bad some of the most common exercises are and how they’ve created pain & made my pre-existing injuries that much worse.

Despite negative feedback and research, the Biggest Loser is the reason I got off the couch and did something about my weight. Was it the best, most credible source? Maybe not but it sure was the driving force behind my motivation and what kept me going every single day. I watched season 14 and I connected with the cast and trainers. I used Jillian’s voice as my motivation…and I made a change because of it. I may not have known the proper form or done the safest exercises but I got off my butt and got to the gym. I toned down the partying and eating out. I made small changes and learned how to implement a healthier lifestyle. I did the best that I could with the limited resources available to me. I also did it the smart way – making sure to not restrict myself or start some crazy exercise regimen. I made it work for ME…and it’s stuck 4 ½ years later. Along the way I’ve learned how to exercise safer and what proper form actually is. I’ve learned that I don’t need a TON of cardio to shed fat…but that for my terrible metabolism, I definitely need some. Most importantly, I found balance. Something I strived for my entire life. Now I want to help others do the same.

By: Gina Stallone

Gina holds weekly bootcamp classes every Tuesday & Thursday and is available for small group & individual training. Contact gina@thearena.fit for more information.

See Gina’s videos and articles here: Fight to Be Fit

See Gina’s interview with THE ARENA’s CEO Charles DeFrancesco