New Feature: Inspiration Emails

InspirationsToday we’ve released our newest feature, our email Inspirations. These are emails that will remind you when you’re nearing your goals or when you haven’t entered a weight in a while. Inspirations are a great way to keep yourself on track. To activate Inspirations simply login to your Shrinking account and click on Inspirations. There you will be able to choose which types of emails you’d like to receive.

More Inspirations will be coming in the future, so stay tuned for those.

Please leave any suggestions or thoughts about this new feature in the comments below. Have a great healthy day!

How To Use the Exercise Diary

Shrinking’s Exercise Diary is a a great tool for helping you estimate the number of calories that you’re burning each day. Just enter your exercise and other activities for the day and the diary will calculate the number of calories that you have burned, based on your recent weight and height.

When you first visit the Exercise Diary you’ll see a daily template of 16 hours rest and 8 hours of exercise. This basically assumes no activity whatsoever. The goal is to make sure that your entire 24 hour day is accounted for. It’s best to start with the number of hours you slept that day and then start adding all of your activity. To add an activity you choose the activity from the list, enter the amount of time you spent doing that activity, and choose an activity (probably sleep or rest) to remove the time from. A typical day will probably have several different entries totaling up to 24 hours.

Exercise Diary

As you enter activities you’ll notice that each activity yields a different amount of calories burned, and some activities (like calisthenics) have multiple intensity levels. The diary is not an exact calculator, so just estimate your efforts and get as close as you can.

Getting Started With An Exercise Routine

Taking the first step is always the hardest. The hardest part about starting a fitness and exercise program is just getting started. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Consult your physician. Always speak with your family physician before undertaking an exercise program, just to make sure that you’re health enough to exercise. They can also provide you with other valuable information to help you get started.
  2. Decide whether or not to join a gym. This is probably the biggest decision to make. If you can afford a gym and can work it into your schedule then it’s definitely the way to go. If you can afford a personal trainer then you’ll see even better results. Working out at home can be effective, but the lack of equipment might possibly slow your progress.
  3. Plan your program. Any program should include cardiovascular training, strength training, and even flexibility conditioning. Whether at home or at the gym you need to include all three phases into your workouts. Always start and finish your workouts by stretching. Warmup with cardio training and then move on to strength training.

About.com also has a great directory of information for beginning your training program.

Body Composition – Lean Mass and Fat

You know your weight, but do you know what that weight is comprised of? Body composition tells you how much of your weight is made up of lean mass (muscles, bones, organs) and how much is fat. To truly understand your level of health it’s important to know how much fat you have.

Body compsitionJust knowing your body weight can be a deceptive measurement of your overall health. For example, an athlete may way 225 pounds but have 15% body fat. An average person may weigh 225 pounds but have 25% body fat. Clearly there is a difference in the physical fitness and health of the two. Just having them stand on a scale wouldn’t reveal the difference though.

Taking part in a fitness program that involves both diet and exercise will help reduce your body fat percentage. Losing weight typically involves losing both lean mass and fat mass, so be sure to add strength training to your regimen to build back the muscle mass.

4 Tips for Lightening Up Holiday Meals

Lightening Up Thanksgiving MealsThanksgiving and Christmas are 2 days each year that are particularly treacherous to dieters and anyone trying to watch their weight. Here are a few simple switches that you can make that will substantially reduce the voluminous amounts of fat and calories that you’re sure to be presented with during the holidays.

  1. Whole Grains. It’s always a good idea to try and eat only whole grain breads and pastas, and holiday meals are no exception.
  2. Skinless Chicken and Turkey. Much of the fat and calories in poultry is found in the skin, so removing it before cooking can substantially improve it’s healthiness.
  3. Low Fat Products. Reduced fat cream cheese, shredded cheese, milk, cream, and sour cream are all great ways to reduce the fat in your meals without greatly changing the flavor.
  4. Less Carbs, More Veggies. Try making (or eating) one less carb-loaded dish and replacing it with a vegetable. Beans instead of mashed potatoes, for example.

Try these simple substitutions and let us know how it goes. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Foods That Can Help FIght the Flu

Flu season is coming soon, so it might be a good idea to take a few minutes and think about the best foods to eat when you have the flu. Stocking up on some key items during the winter can help reduce your symptoms and make you feel better.

Protein

Protein is always essential, but making sure that you keep up your protein intake when you have the flu will help give you the energy you need to fight off the infection.

Foods for FluImmune System Aids

Several vitamins and minerals, such as the B-vitamins (B6 & B12), selenium, and zinc are immune-system boosters that help fight off the flu and other infections. Lean meats, fruits, nuts, milk, and fish are full of these vitamins. Orange juice is always a great idea when you’re sick because of the amount of vitamin C it contains, which is a powerful immune system booster itself that also speeds up recovery.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is a very popular food when you’re sick. Chicken soup has the effect of actually making you feel better because it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Nausea and Diarrhea

Hydration is key when you have the flu. If you’re feeling nauseous or have diarrhea then you’re most likely not going to feel like eating, so be sure to keep sipping liquids to stay hydrated. Something else to consider is ginger, which helps to settle your stomach. Toast and bananas are mild foods that can also help.

WebMD has a great slideshow featuring several foods to consider when you have the flu (or any sickness really).

#fitblog – An Amazing Fitness Community

#fitblog is a weekly Twitter chat that has grown into quite a community. Every Tuesday night at 9PM EST dozens of Twitter users interested in fitness, health, and inspiration get together to give each other encouragement and talk about their fitness accomplishments. Reading through the vast number of tweets is both inspirational and awe-inspiring. When you see the sheer number of people connecting with each other, sharing a common goal, you realize that this is a genuine community of real people.

#fitblogYou can participate in #fitblog by visitng FitBlogChats.com or by just following the #fitblog hashtag in your Twitter client. Each week is moderated by a volunteer, who leads discussion and has a few topics for the group.

We encourage all of our users who are looking for some community and inspiration to participate in #fitblog. It may just be the push you need to help you on your weight-loss journey.

The Importance of Core Training

Core training has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Training your core muscle group is more involved than training just your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are comprised of just a couple of muscles that have somewhat limited functions. The core muscle group is larger and has more important function.

The core muscle group surrounds your torso and is responsible for helping to stabilize your pelvis and spine. Together, these muscles are what allow you to stand upright and walk on two feet. Improving the conditioning of your core will give you a greater range of motion in your torso and, more importantly, give you more stability and strength around your spine. Poor core conditioning will result in poor mobility and stability.

Any fitness program should focus heavily on core training, rather than just abdominal exercises. About.com has a great article on some of the more common and effective core training exercises.

What We Can Learn From the Biggest Loser

NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” is a reality competition in which overweight contestants try to lose as much weight as possible to insure their survival in the game. The show draws a lot of interest from the fact that contestants routinely lose vast amounts of weight in a relatively short amount of time. It’s commonplace for contestants to lose more than 10-15 pounds in a week, particular during the early part of a season.

The show has received a lot of criticism for the very same reasons. The weight loss that the contestants experience is completely unrealistic for the average overweight person. Contestants on the show have 24/7 access to some of the best fitness professionals in the world as well as the fact they can spend their entire week exercising. I’ve heard a few different reports saying that contestants spend upwards of 6 hours per day exercising, which is out of the question for most people with jobs and families.¬†Another criticism is that some of the contestants end up putting back on some of the weight after the competition. As their lives return back to normal, i.e. no more 6-hour daily workouts, their bodies will naturally adjust and weight will certainly be gained.

There are, however, still many things that we can learn from “The Biggest Loser”. First and foremost, losing a significant amount of weight requires commitment and hard work. If you’ve ever watched the show then you know just how hard the contestants are working. They aren’t in the gym just going through the motions, the trainers are constantly pushing them. There is a big difference in the benefit of pushing yourself in the gym versus just doing the exercises.

A second important learning is that reaching your goals takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight. Depending on how much weight you need to lose to reach your goals, it may take up to a year or more to actually achieve your desired weight. Contestants on the show don’t reach their desired weights in 2-3 weeks. Even in the fast-forward atmosphere of the reality competition it still takes them a few months of extremely hard work. Realizing that weight-loss is a marathon and not a sprint is important. It’s more about making lifestyle changes than fad diets, and more about long-term dedication than short-lived inspiration.

Fitness Trends For 2011

Popular fitness programs and methods are constantly changing. Each year new programs become popular and others fall out of favor. The American College of Sports Medicine publishes a list of trends each year. Here are some highlights from the 2011 list.

  • Personal training will continue to grow in popularity. Licensing programs for trainers will help improve the quality of training, which will in turn reduce injuries and encourage more people to hire the services of a personal trainer.
  • Employer sponsored training program and on-site health programs for business will continue to increase in popularity. Businesses are increasingly taking notice of the benefits of having a healthier workforce.
  • Exercise, weight-loss, and childhood obesity prevention continue to be important trends.
  • Pilates is not on the list for the first time in years, perhaps indicating that it was just a fad.

You can find the full list of fitness trends for 2011 at WebMD.