Have you ever heard the phrase “Abs are made in the kitchen,” or that getting fit and healthy is “80 percent diet and 20 percent gym?”
According to a recent article in the Washington Post, studies show that a foods-as-reward dynamic is often a culprit of weight-loss efforts. According to a study by the University of Washington, more people are exercising than ever before in the U.S., but the obesity rate is still rising. The Washington Post article states that one reason people who exercise to lose weight fail to do so is that they overcompensate with calories afterward. Some still fail to understand that the brownie you had the day before will not be undone by spending an hour on the treadmill.
If you reward yourself with a delicious coffee drink after a sweat session, you may have just canceled out your hard work. For instance, a 16oz Flat White from Starbucks has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat. It would take a 150lb person almost an hour to ‘walk it off.’ (using healthassist.net)
One factor that can trigger this over-eating, or turning to unhealthy foods, is if working out feels like a chore. Those who look forward to, and enjoy, their workouts are far less likely to turn to “a treat” after. Instead of rewarding with sugar, mindful decisions can be made with more nutritious foods. Find something you enjoy, or make a date to work out with a friend. Keep it fun!
While eating clean and healthy is a great start to a fit lifestyle, I’ll tell you that I’ve been eating for over 27 years and my 6-pack has yet to reveal itself. I am human and slip-up, and sometimes that late night salty snack craving has more power over me than I’d like to admit, which is probably why my abs of steel have gone into hibernation. We all have abdominal muscles with the potential for that washboard look, the trick is just making them visible. Making switches in the kitchen is a step in the right direction. Substitute avocado or mashed banana in place of butter for a baked dish, or unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar. For more substitution ideas, check out this article.
You will not achieve great abs by diet alone. Eating may help to gain muscle, but physical activity helps to create and strengthen muscle. You can get a flat stomach by eating the right things, but you won’t get toned by simply eating salad. Total body workouts, like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), aid in weight-loss and muscle gain. Cardio is great, but be mindful that you’re mixing it up. Work sprints and hills into your distance if you’re a runner – your body will respond much more significantly if you keep it guessing. Lifting weights will help tone and tighten and will continue to burn more calories after you’re finished at the gym. This also means you can stop doing hundreds of sit-ups.
While you may not get the Jillian Michaels look (or Jennifer Widerstrom for those of you who watched last season of The Biggest Loser) of hard, toned abs simply by healthy food choices, making small changes in the kitchen and in the gym can lead to big, noticeable differences later. ….and maybe just in time for summer.