Red Meat, Butter and Vino, and Staying Lean?

Hope you all are having a fabulous week 🙂
I write a lot about implementing balance with our eating, and many of you resonate with that. But I think for some, there exists a small crumpet of doubt when we hear words like “moderation”, “reduction” and “treats.” We don’t like these words.

They are kiiiiiiind of not hardcore enough. They are a little wimpy. And they don’t really get results, do they? You might now be thinkin…what?? “I can eat my cheese, drink some wine and stay lean, seriously??”

Hee hee. Well, I get that. And I have poo-poo’ed the idea of moderation for a long time. I thought it was for Grandma and for those who had no willpower or who weren’t tough enough to hack the hard stuff. And agreeably, that’s actually not untrue … except for the fact that willpower and discipline eventually give out, and when they do, most of us end up binge eating like crazy. Im sooo guilty of this…
So in a way, throwing ourselves a few nutritional bones (…chocolate bones for me) ahead of time might actually make us more compliant in the long run, which (surprise!) DOES lead to overall sustainable leanness. Go figure! 🙂

In a previous blog, I talked about what I call Controlled Cheating -my strategies to keep indulgences sane. I break down tactics I use to feel less deprived overall and because of that, am less likely to binge, especially around my period (sorry guys, I had to bring this up). I sincerely believe strategic nutritional concessions can actually boost long-term compliance.

HOWEVER … this is where Skeptical Sally comes in. It’s all fine and well to indulge in small cheats here and there, but does that really get results???

I took the shot below (unfiltered) this week, the morning after dining out on the following meal: bison burgers, avocado slices, asparagus cooked in butter and 2 glasses of wine. No bread, no dessert, no extra starch. But yes, red meat, butter and vino. Is it competition-clean? No. But will it make me feel satisfied and satiated to the point that I don’t need anything else? Absolutely.


Everyone will be different, obviously. And it has taken me close to SIX YEARS to begin to master the moderate approach. But honestly, I do think less about what I am going to eat. I try to eat to feel satisfied and limit stressing about it. I don’t want to get anxious if I don’t have my Tupperwares and ‘safe’ foods with me. I TRUST that I can make the best choice possible wherever I end up, even if, yes, it is veggies dowsed in butter 🙂

I’d love to hear where you’re at with this stuff. Are you still caught up in the “all-or-nothing” crash dieting approach, where you are EITHER on a strict diet OR you are eating everything in sight?

I’m not judging … I did that for years. But mastering moderation takes a leap of faith, a willingness to try a new way and then struggle your way through it. It’s rewarding and liberating and awesome. But it starts with YOU letting go of the illusion of control you think you have over your eating. Deprive-then-binge is not a fun way to live. It’s obsessive and controlling and a nutritional prison (not to mention an emotional one).
So what do you say? Gonna take steps toward the middle? Hit the comment button and send me a sentence or two on your own process!
Stay Strong – Amber
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3 Things I Struggle With…

As someone who spends their week training clients, creating sustainable nutrition programs, and writing numerous blog posts each week, I sure do dish out my fair share of advice.

In fact, it’s probably easy to think that I’ve got it all figured out, right? (<—- ha!)

In all reality, I DON’T have it all figured out.  I do pretty well for myself in most areas of my life, but there are still areas where I struggle, and I think it’s important to share our struggles with others.

Maybe that’s why I have gotten such amazing feedback over the last 3 months as I’ve written about a lot of my issues and struggles?  Because it’s nice to see the “human” side of people.

In keeping with that theme, today I am writing about 3 things I struggle with, and what I am doing to fix them (or not fix them).

1. Sleep

Getting proper sleep has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. I can recall tossing and turning in my bed for hours as a young child because I couldn’t fall asleep. Then I would wake up the next morning and be miserable because I was so exhausted.

Unfortunately, this cycle hasn’t changed much, except since I don’t have a parent to force me to go to bed, I just stay up later working, watching TV or reading until I am tired enough to go to sleep. It probably didn’t help that I worked as a waitress at a late night bistro for 7 years through undergrad and would often go to bed at 3 am. Ugh.

What I Am Doing About This:

– Holding myself accountable – Recently I asked a friend to be my Accountability Partner/Life Coach.  At the time I asked her, I was routinely going to bed around 12 am. She gave me a bedtime, yes, a bedtime of 11 pm, and a wake-up call of 7:30 am every day. (I get up most mornings between 7:30 and 8, but since my schedule has some flexibility, some mornings I would sleep until 8:30 or 9 if I had been up late working the night before).

In fact, I have to text her when I wake up, and if I don’t, she will drive to my house. She also routinely asks me what time I went to bed, to ensure that I stay accountable.

– Trying to relax – I try to spend the last 30-60 minutes before bed reading, taking a bath, avoiding the cell phone, and just relaxing. This calms me down, and allows my brain to chill out a bit as well.

2. Saying NO to projects

Over the last 2 years, my plate has (luckily!) become very full with my personal blog, 2 businesses growing and many others projects and tasks. One of the best parts about being busy, is that you get a lot of cool opportunities. One of the worst? They can be impossible to say no to.

Taking on too many projects prevents you from being able to focus appropriate time and energy on any one project, and prevents you from doing things really well.

What I Am Doing About This:

– Finding a coach – I’ll be talking about this more in the future, but having a Life Coach, that really knows and understands me, was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. He has helped me get really organized and helped me prioritize my projects and tasks so that I can get more done in less time.

But even better, he has helped me recognize what projects will lead directly to my goals, and turn down or discard projects that won’t. He has also helped me learn that it’s OK to say, “No.”

– Therapy – So I didn’t start therapy to deal directly with this issue, but believe it or not, it’s helped. (Side note: I’ve been in therapy for 3 years now and I love it. I think every single person should go at least once a month.) What therapy has helped with is my tendency to be a people pleaser and not want people to be upset with me.

Whenever I struggle with saying, “no” to a project, I remember this quote (paraphrased):

Say ‘no’ more often so that your ‘yes’ has more power and meaning.

3. Artificially Flavored Gum

Yes, you read that correctly. Artificially Flavored Gum (yes, I chew this stuff…and it may one day be the death of me).

Anyone who knows me well knows that it’s an ultimate vice and obsession. I know that it’s not good for me, and yet I cannot seem to shake the habit. On a “good” day, I’ll have none or one peice. On a “bad” day, I might have 3-4. I have been working to reduce this further and further….so I have improved.

Thankfully, I don’t chew it while training clients, so I never spend a full day doing a jaw workout. Which is also not very attractive, kinda gross, and in my opinion, gives a client the impression that you don’t care as much.

And just to be clear, I chew Spry (a naturally sweetened gum). And I always drink water with my gum to neutralize the chemicals and preserve my teeth (which my dentist told me look awesome, so luckily, no worries there).

All I can say, is that I am a sucker (or chomper) for that long lasting chew that you can only get from the artificially flavored stuff. Occasionally, I’ll hit the hard stuff.

Once, I’ve even received gum as a birthday present before. Yup. It’s that bad. I gave it up for 42 days last year, and when that 42 days was up, my taste buds rejoiced.

Everyone teases me because I am such a stickler about what I put in my body. I eat as much organic, local food as possible, and I do my best to avoid chemical cleaners and beauty products at all costs. But that sweet-neurotoxic-flavored gift from God?


What I Am Doing About This:

– To be completely honest, not much. I absolutely love the stuff.  No one can be absolutely perfect all the time (I’m not even close). And if they are, well… I don’t really want to hang with them because that’s just annoying.

– OK, so I guess it’s not entirely true that I’m doing “nothing” about it. Because I consume that junk, I am extremely diligent about almost everything else I put in or on my body. If I am going to minimize the amount of chemicals and crap I am willing to expose my body to, then I have to be diligent. It’s all a tradeoff, right?

What about you? What do you struggle with? What are you doing to change it, if anything?

Love to hear from you. xxx, Amber

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For the Love of My GUT

One of my favorite things to do is to experiment with my own health…in a positive, healthy way for the last 8 years. I would and never do recommend anything to clients or friends and family, unless I’ve research and tried on myself a certain health claim or product, ie. my N=1 experiments. We all hear about natural, organic, supplements that claim to make us super strong, smart, healthier, resistant to diseases or sexy, but do they work? Well that is up to us trying them out for ourselves. So, Im writing today about my latest personal health experiment. Today, Im talking about my love for my gut and how it has grown to become an “obsession” for me to maintain a healthy one with a real food diet (consisting of meats, real, unadulterated fats, colorful veggies and small amounts of fruit) and adding beneficial yeast and bacteria (ie probiotics) in the form of an ancient tea called Kombucha (a tea made with yeast and bacteria and some type of flavoring in the form of fruit, herbs, spices). My obsession with a healthy gut began years ago when I was researching on how our gut integrity and health play a major role in so many different aspect of our immunity, overall mental and physical health, wellbeing, and happiness. As of today, this has now become a full-on health and small business pursuit. So…about 4 month ago, while experiencing severe bouts of morning nausea (no my friends….Im not announcing that Im prego), I had a good friend recommend that I try G.T.’s Kombucha, Gingeraid flavor. From the first sip, I was addicted. If you don’t know what Kombucha is, this brief explanation is for you.
Kombucha is a ancient Chinese tea concoction made from a symbiotic, culture of live bacteria and yeast (ie. SCOBY-probiotics) which promotes healthy guts, skin, immune system, helps with hangovers, energy (stocked with B vitamins) and helps us digest food a bit better….and one thing is for sure, it’s becoming all the rage among the health-seeking crowd.

After I got over the initial vinegar-like smell, and the fact that I’d never tasted a tea or any other drink just like it, I began to experience subtle levels of benefits, almost immediately. My nausea went away, and within a 24 hours I had a successful poop, along with a few spurts of stinky gas. Totally, normal when you introduce a ton of health gut bugs into your GI track in order to restore it. 😉 Sorry, but I’m just being totally honest. Another thing I’ll be honest about is the fact that I just couldn’t drink one bottle and never return. I ended up buying another GT’s a couple days later….as the first bottle lasted me 2 days.

This gets me into the cost issue with drinking this wonder tea. If you don’t know anything about raw probiotic drink cost, let me tell you, they are expensive. It can cost as much as $5 per bottle. They average around $4 in organic speciality markets in NE Ohio. Not a whole pay check, but definitely a luxury item if drank daily. So, this year, my friend Debbie Nespeca and I began our very own Kombuchery (Kombucha Brewery). It all began by us wanting to have our own stash in the refrigerator at a lot less costs, with similar great flavors, but a more potent, non-pasteurized raw version. After sharing our drink with friends, and hearing great feedback, we decided to help afford them and everyone else the opportunity to enjoy and experience Kombucha. Below is a photo of one of our many beautiful SCOBYs.

One of our many beautiful SCOBYs we use to brew our home Kombucha Tea

One of our many beautiful SCOBYs we use to brew our home Kombucha Tea

We plan to release and supply an affordable, great tasting, raw probiotic tea, name brand called, Kombucha “For Life” with our local Youngstown, OH markets and restaurants starting in June 2014. We strongly believe in local commerce and see this whole venture as the best way to reduce our carbon footprint. So us girls are going to work.

We may have started with one SCOBY and a gallon of tea a week, but now after a few months in, and before we knew it, we are producing 4 at a time in Debbie’s kitchen.

About the flavor this gallon into single bottles with organic apples, grapefruit, lemon and ginger.

About to flavor this gallon into single bottles with organic apples, grapefruit, lemon and ginger.

Next up….another room full of tea and SCOBYs. 🙂 Check back here to get ordering and purchasing information in late Spring 2014. Can’t wait to share our love for our guts with each and every one of you.

In good gut health,

xo, Amber

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“Be Bold, and Love Your Body!”

I want to share with you an exercise I’ve recently been doing every morning that helps me love my body and connect to her more deeply.

-When you wake up, stand in front of the mirror in your underwear, or birthday suite.

-Put your hands on your body in some way – I usually rub my belly, stretch my arms overhead and touch my hands together, or sway my hips a little.

-Instead of picking yourself apart (which may be your natural inclination), just observe your body like a work of art, look for the details and intricacies.

Since I’ve been doing this everyday for quite a while, I notice things like how the shape and feel of my belly changes with my cycle and the tone of my skin changes with the seasons. I’ll notice a new freckle or how my muscles are changing shape or taking form.

Get to know your real self.

Once you get comfortable doing this practice, you can take it a step further by finding something new to admire on your body everyday. Even if it’s a small space like your collarbone, the space just above your belly button, your ankle.

All of it matters.

All of it is yours.

All of it is home.

Never ask permission to express your soul’s desire.

Exploding with love and gratitude,

😉 Xoxo, Amber

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Steps to Prevent Thanksgiving Food Comas

Well, it’s Thanksgiving in the states tomorrow, and if you’re like me, you’re already pseudo-stressing about how you’ll manage “the big meal” Thursday.

You give yourself a mental pep talk: “I will only eat turkey and vegetables.” You repeat the mantra: “I don’t need dessert to feel satisfied.” You reinforce your goals: “I don’t want to be a whale on January 1st.”

I get it. Me too! And good for you! But if only managing reality was not as easy as what we imagine in our heads.

SO. For you, I’ve put together a list of the actual steps I use for navigating any big meal. These are guidelines that I use for all holiday events and parties, and hopefully they can help you enjoy yourself, while also not adding inches to your waistline:

1) I do drink alcohol, but keep a 2-drink-max rule. I also only let myself drink red wine, Nor-Cal Margaritas (tequila/soda/salted rim and fresh lime) or vodka/soda with lime please.

2) I don’t eat starch or sugar. Period. This is a hard & fast rule for me. I don’t eat “real” desserts; instead I make and BRING my own healthy, low-carb version (i.e. “dessert defense”). I don’t eat bread, potatoes, cranberry sauce (unless it is real cranberries reduced down with fresh oranges, balsamic vinegar and stevia), rolls, crackers, etc. Besides, I’d rather drink alcohol than eat starch–and this, too, is a good rule of thumb. If you’re doing booze, you’ll need to curtail the starch.

The last time I was in a Thanksgiving food coma, I felt and looked something like this…


3) I let myself eat as much fat, protein and fibrous veggies as I want. This includes butter and sauces on veggies, cheesy broccoli, cheese plates, (if I want to risk having a bit of intestinal discomfort from the lactose), fatty dark meat, etc. I don’t stress too much about fat (even saturated) because these foods make me feel more satisfied so I don’t need as much and I don’t reach for the sugary stuff (also I don’t feel deprived because I get to eat fat). If I want seconds, I usually add more protein to my plate.

4) I drink water like it’s my job, and I always drink AT LEAST 1 liter after the meal, before bed. With lots of extra sodium and alcohol, I always want to prevent water retention as much as possible. And one way is to drink more water. The fastest way to start SHEDDING water is to drink more of it. Sure, I might get up a few times to pee during the night, but that’s preferable, because it’s proof I am not retaining water.

5) I do an intense weight-training workout the day of the meal. I usually do a leg workout, or if not, I’ll do a full-body workout. The idea is to get as many muscles involved as possible and lift heavy to the point of failure. It is also to use the extra cals at the meal to push muscle building, not fat storage. Muscles are primed for growth in the hours immediately post-workout so I lift heavy & hard to ready them up.

My goal is to feel satisfied, but not blow it.

See what you think. Perhaps, try one or two of them, adjusting as needed. And remember, food will always be there, so the urgency of needing to try everything at this very meal loses its impact. My mantra: “I will not gobble til I wobble, but enjoy fellowship with family and friends.” 🙂

No stress! Do your best! You are always one meal away from being back in fat burning mode, so maintain perspective and don’t let your Thanksgiving meal turn into a weekend-long binge fest.

You’re amazing, never think otherwise.

Stay Strong, Amber

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Advice for Great Looking Skin

When it comes to having healthy skin, I’m ALWAYS learning. Moreover, I’m ALWAYS experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Not gonna lie: sometimes the results are disastrous. Sometimes, however, they’re fantastic. These are a few of those strategies that have yielded FANTASTIC results – for minimum investment.

I usually have a few healthy skin favorites that I’m incorporating on the regular, in addition to the core, foundational goodies. Sometimes, these change, but right now, I’ve got some new skin-care staples I want to share.

As always, the foundation for healthy skin is good nutrition and well-managed digestion. I talk about this LOTS with my clients, and I think they are pretty used to hearing it from me by now.

So I suppose this blog should be called “Besides the critical puzzle pieces of nutrition and digestion that lay the foundation for healthy skin no matter who you are, here are my three current favorite pieces of advice for great looking skin.”

Obviously, that’s too long for a blog title.

So here’s what I’m loving right now. If you have anything to add, tweet me or post a comment on this page!

Strategy #1: Dry Brushing

So far, I’ve found nothing more powerful in enhancing my skin’s glow than dry brushing.

Dry brushing isn’t just exfoliating. It can’t be done in the shower, as the effects aren’t the same (I know this from experience). It’s really a circulation booster, and I’ve found it not just invigorating, but also health-promoting. The directions are pretty simple:

Start on dry skin before bathing.
Work in gentle circular, upward motions, then longer, smoother strokes.
Always begin at the ankles in upwards movements towards the heart – the lymphatic fluid flows through the body towards the heart, so it’s important that you brush in the same direction.
Your back is the only exception to the preceding rule; brush from the neck down to the lower back.
After you’ve finished with the ankles, move up to the lower legs, thighs, stomach, back and arms. Be cautious of softer and sensitive skin around the chest and breasts, and never brush over inflamed skin, sores, sun-burnt skin, or skin cancer.
Ensure you shower to wash away the dead skin cells and impurities.
Tip: alternating temperatures in the shower from hot to cold will further invigorate the skin and stimulate blood circulation, bring more blood to the outer layers of the skin.
Then follow it up with a slick moisturizer to nourish the skin (personally, I use coconut oil).

Dry brushing daily for just a few minutes is an amazing way to start the day. Give it a go for 30 consecutive days and your body will love you for it! And while I don’t dry brush my face, it definitely impacts the skin of my mug. Observe my before-and-after:

Great Looking Skin
healthy skin

Just kidding.

Strategy #2: Do LESS.

Too often, we think we have to do MORE to have better skin. This is absolutely not true. It’s one of the reasons I don’t recommend exfoliation for everyone – for some, it’s too harsh and can hurt your skin.

You don’t have to have eighteen different routines conducted every waking hour, on the hour, to care for your skin. The less you can manage to do, the more your skin can go about the business of HEALING and becoming less sensitive and angry.

These days, I just do a quick cloth wipe-down to cleanse in the morning. (I like using a Norwex cloth, as the embedded silver keeps it from harboring any wonky bacteria, but any microfiber cloth will do.) When I’m not wearing makeup, this is often the entirety of my cleansing routine in the evening as well. While I still do my coconut oil cleansing several times per week, I find that at this point in my journey, I can do even LESS when it comes to cleansing. I dab on some oil-based moisturizer (always organic) and I’m good to go.

It sounds scary, I know – and sometimes your skin has to actually ADJUST to doing less. It’s often used to such frequent pressure, manipulation and abuse – even with “natural” skin care routines – that it continues to respond as if it’s being ambushed. This will pass.

Strategy #3: SLEEP, dammit!

Sleeping when it’s dark, and getting ENOUGH sleep, is key.

I KNOW how difficult this one is. We are all so busy, and life (and the new season of Eastbound and Down) keeps us up late. But proper sleep is a HUGE bugger to getting healthier skin. I see it way, way too often – even in myself.

It’s not always possible to get great sleep during normal nighttime hours, and sometimes we have to work pretty hard at it. While I DEFINITELY don’t advocate stressing about sleep management (stress is another bugger to healthy skin), I do recommend being proactive.

Have an earlier dinner, and record your favorite nighttime TV shows to watch early the following morning so you can wind down with the sun. Keep the lights low as the sun goes down. Whatever you like to do at night, see if you can do it as the sun comes up instead.

THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ALL-OR-NOTHING! ONE night per week of proper, good sleep is better than NO nights per week. You can feel GREAT about a single evening’s sleep hygeine! (I’m so happy I got to work in the phrase “sleep hygeine.”) Don’t get caught up in feeling like if you can’t do it 100% of the time, you can’t do it at all.
That goes for ALL of these strategies. Just do your best, when you can. Over time, everything becomes easier! Patience and long standing dedication are the keys.
All right – now it’s your turn! What are your tried-and-true, natural strategies for better skin? Please share.

Stay Strong! Xo, Amber 🙂

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Can Alcohol Fit Into My Healthy Lifestyle?

A cave man real food (and drink) diet doesn’t forbid us of alcohol. The key to successfully imbibing alcohol while living healthy is choosing the right adult beverages and consuming them in a responsible, intentional way. There’s an appropriate time to enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol to unwind or to celebrate. Aside from the positive aspects of socializing, some types of alcohol are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and they may also reduce the risk of infection with the bacteria that causes ulcers.

Here are a few key factors to help you decide whether you should pop a cork:

1. Alcohol is a toxin to the liver.

2. Alcohol is a drug, which means it’s addictive.

3. If losing weight is your goal, remember that your liver can’t help you with fat burning if it’s busy detoxifying alcohol.

Before you pour yourself a glass of something intoxicating, consider your health goals and overall eating habits, and then make smart choices about which type of alcohol you drink.

Steer clear of grain-based drinks that can also include gluten, such as the following:

  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Gin (some brands are processed with grain-based alcohol)
  • Grain-based vodka
  • Whiskey

To celebrate on special occasions, feel free to choose one of these:

  • Potato vodka
  • Red wine
  • Rum
  • Sparkling wine
  • Tequila
  • White wine

 alcohol and healthy lifestyle

To manage your body’s insulin response to the sugars found in alcohol, mix spirits, like tequila or vodka, with soda water, ice, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid fruit juices, which are liquid sugar; and avoid tonic water, which is also high in sugar.

When uncorking wine, choose the driest (least sweet) wines possible. The driest reds include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot; the driest whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors occasionally let their hair down when they were exposed to alcohol by eating fermented grapes. But they didn’t sit around the fire doing shots. You can’t maintain a high level of health if you drink alcohol frequently or in large quantities. The pleasant buzz that alcohol provides also places stress on your liver, creates a strong insulin response, and dehydrates your cells. Enjoy your cocktails in moderation.

Stay Strong!  Amber, XXXX 🙂

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It Is Time To Ditch Your Fat Loss Timetable

One of the quickest ways to disappointment is to give yourself strict, rigid rules that need to be followed to perfection.

One way in which we set ourselves up for disappointment and even more DE-motivation is through setting a time in our mind by which we “need” to achieve a specific outcome, or else is means we’re a failure or we suck.

“Amber, but what about goal setting? Don’t we need specific goals?”

In my opinion, goals are worthwhile ONLY if your approach to them allows for you to be gentle with yourself if you don’t achieve them. You cannot hold yourself accountable to a rigid timetable and also give yourself the win. It’s either/or. And I would argue that the latter is much more important as it applies to your happiness, and ALSO because it’s more empowering in the long run. Goal setting works in the short-term, but when the motivation is external (e.g. the threat of having to step on stage in a bikini), it doesn’t last in the long-term.

Here’s what happens when we set up a random timetable when it comes to our physiques and lose perspective when it comes to time:

We mistakenly feel like results can’t come fast enough. If we lose 5 lbs in the first week, it should have been 8. If we lose 7 inches in a month (incredible results by any standard), it doesn’t seem like all the much. If we need to lose 20 lbs by October and we only lose 17, it’s not good enough.

What is the rush? WHY do we feel like it all has to happen so fast?

I will give you this one key insight about time: The faster it comes OFF, the faster it comes back ON. Truth.

And despite what you may think, fast fat loss is actually not what you really want. The reason being that sustained fat loss is the result of many, many days, months and years of practicing good behaviors. Fast fat loss is a result of intense, willpower-based practices that, by definition, must rebound. You literally have not had THE TIME needed to turn those white-knuckling practices into habits yet. So inevitably, once willpower wanes, the old habits are still there, ready to override any ounce of willpower you try to muster.

Here’s a timetable for you: Today.

Focus on that and only that. What will you practice TODAY? Don’t think about tomorrow, next month or your vacation this Fall. Today is all you need to effectively practice your healthy habits. Your next meal. Your workout today. Get through that. Practice that.

And begin allowing your arbitrary timetable of expectations to fade into insignificance. It’s liberating! Knowing you get to practice (not be perfect!) a healthy lifestyle forever is empowering 🙂

Ox, Amber

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Cardio Secrets to Reduce Body Fat

We probably all know that cardio helps reduce body fat, but what type(s) work best? How can you avoid wasting away lean muscle mass? Below, I’ll reveal some of the answers to these questions and provide you with cardio secrets to reduce body fat. 

Secret #1 HIIT it UP!
What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) (pronounced “hit”) sounds technical, but it doesn’t have to be. If you add HIIT to your workout program, it can help you reduce body fat faster and hold on to more lean muscle than regular cardio. Simply stated, HIIT involves 3 steps:

(1) Briefly perform exercise at a high intensity.

(2) Briefly exercise at a low intensity or rest.

(3) Repeat several times.

The term “interval” is used because periods of high-intensity exercise are separated by intervals of low-intensity exercise or rest. The latter is sometimes called the “recovery” period. Think of how little kids sometimes play. They dart across the grass at full speed. Then they slow down to a walk. Then they dart off again in another direction. And so on. They’re doing HIIT, and they don’t even realize it! The rules of HIIT are pretty flexible. The high-intensity period may last anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. The recovery period may last the same amount of time.

1 Min Box Jump HIIT Interval

1 Min Box Jump HIIT Interval


The opposite of HIIT is sometimes called “low intensity steady state cardio” (LISSC). If you walk for an hour at a steady pace on the treadmill, for instance, you are doing LISSC. Some doctors still prescribe LISSC for fat reduction. However, an increasing number are now telling their patients to “HIIT it up” instead. Why? Clinical studies provide compelling evidence that you can reduce body fat faster with HIIT than you can with LISSC. This is true even when you burn more calories during LISSC. In one study, subjects who performed LISSC for several weeks didn’t lose any fat, whereas those who performed HIIT did. This occurred despite the fact that those who performed LISSC burned 15,000 more calories than subjects in the HIIT group. Patient compliance may be higher with HIIT, possibly because it isn’t as boring as LISSC. The number-one excuse often made for not exercising enough is “I don’t have time.” HIIT workouts are much shorter than LISSC workouts. No more excuses! HIIT is associated with improved cardiovascular and metabolic function in people who are currently healthy as well as “at risk” patients. HIIT reduces both subcutaneous (“under the skin”) and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that you can see on your body. Visceral fat is stored deep inside your body, around organs. It has been linked to diseases such as diabetes. Because your muscles have to work harder during HIIT, it can do a better job of preserving lean muscle than LISSC. Too much LISSC can cause lean muscle to atrophy (aka, shrink).

“How can HIIT help me lose fat faster, even if I burn more calories during LISSC?”

Good question. Scientists are still trying to figure this out. Several factors may be involved. For instance, HIIT workouts may boost your metabolism in the hours or days that follow. Also, there is some evidence that HIIT may suppress appetite. HIIT isn’t a miracle maker. Keep in mind that the HIIT protocols used in clinical studies have often been pretty exhausting, more intense than you would likely do yourself. Also, individual results can vary, as is the case for any form of exercise.

Secret #2: Record it! Whether it’s HIIT or regular cardio, if you want to reduce body fat as quickly as possible, then you need to record your workout accomplishments. Doing so will help you ensure that they are progressive, i.e., your body is challenged to work harder during each workout. Make it easy for yourself! Duration and calories expended are two of the simplest things to record, and most modern cardio equipment displays both of them. During your next workout, try to burn more calories in the same amount of time. Or, try to burn the same amount of calories in less time. Record your accomplishments and try to beat them at the workout that follows.

Secret #3: Keep it fresh! It happens to the best of us: We start using a piece of cardio equipment, we become comfortable with it, and then we continue to use it, over and over and over again. Keep it fresh! Change your choice of cardio weekly, if not more often. This will make your workouts more fresh, fun and challenging. Changing things up may also help you avoid repetitive strain injuries. A well-equipped gym should have multiple pieces of cardio equipment to choose from: treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, Stairclimber, Stepmill, Kick Boxing Bags, etc. Use them all. Don’t limit yourself.

Secret #4: Try these sample workouts! There are a ton of HIIT workouts on the Web. Below is just a small collection that you can use to get started.

Stationary cycle: You can use this basic HIIT workout on a regular cycle or a spinning cycle. Warm-up: 5 minutes at low intensity. High-intensity spinning: 1 minute. Low-intensity spinning: 1 minute. Repeat 8 times. Cool-down: 5 minutes with gradually decreasing intensity.

Stepmill workout #1: Level 5: 2 minutes. Level 12: 2 minutes. Repeat 8 times.

Stepmill workout #2: Level 8: 3 minutes. Level 10: 1 minute. Level 12: 1 minute. Level 16: 1 minute (or as long as you can). Go back to Level 8 and repeat. Beginners can skip Level 16.

Secret #5: Don’t overdo it. HIIT is intense. Start by doing it once a week. Increase it to twice a week as your stamina improves, and depending on your goals, up to three times a week. If you are doing both your weight workout and cardio in the same session, do weights first. If you find it difficult to recover, try doing cardio and weights on separate days. This may allow for better recovery and help you retain more lean muscle as you drop body fat.

There you have it!  Several secrets to make your cardio days work more for you, especially after you’re done working out. Have you tried this type of training before? If yes, then definitely tell me about your favorite HIIT workouts. I always like switching things up for myself and my clients. If not, go ahead, step out of your comfort zone and try the recommended workout(s) and let me know if you like them. 🙂

Stay Strong, Amber

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The cool thing about humans is that even though we can do long division, think about our place in the universe, program a week’s worth of meals, solve complex problems using logic, and perform other tasks indicative of high intelligence, we also retain the ability to perform hundreds of essential calculations on the subconscious level. For example, we don’t have to tell our pancreas to secrete enough insulin to deal with that food we just ate because the pancreas just does it without telling us. We generally don’t have to remind ourselves to breath. And, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to think about not rolling our ankles or tripping over our own feet. We should be able to glide gracefully across the ground.

Shoes get in the way, though. Think about it: we spend most of the day connected to the ground via our feet. Our feet, by virtue of their direct connection to the ground, tell our nervous systems what’s going on, where we’re going, what we’re standing on, how stable the ground is, how sharp and potentially injurious these rocks are, and so on. When you cover your feet with rubber, you’re covering up one of the most sensitive, nerve-dense areas of our bodies and giving up a lot of spatial awareness in the process. You’re basically blindfolding yourself.

The increased proprioceptive awareness gained while walking, running, hiking, etc. in a barefoot state generally carries over to the shoed state. What this means is that by occasionally acting like a dirty hippie on your time off , you can improve your overall awareness of how your entire body interacts with space-time–even when wearing weight lifting shoes. This will have huge implications for your lifting and overall athletic performance.

Don’t worry. This is not a plea for barefooted Olympic lifting. I don’t expect to see any Vibrams on the medal stand anytime soon. This is just a recommendation that folks spend more time without shoes, preferably moving around on natural ground, in order to improve their overall proprioceptive awareness, an awareness that will carry over to everything else you do.

Now, get out, explore and connect with the earth! In good health, xxxx, Amber

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