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What's for Breakfast at Team Tangram?

Have you ever wondered what "health nuts" eat for breakfast? In this new series, Team Tangram will be giving you an uncensored peek into how wellness pros actually live- we think you may find it refreshingly surprising! Making time for breakfast IS important- studies show that people who eat breakfast are better able to manage their weight, meet their nutritional needs, and sustain concentration throughout the day. However, there is no "perfect" breakfast for all- every body's different, with different requirements and preferences, and we all have different rhythms and responsibilities in our lives as well! 
 

Anna, the Personal Trainer

"Today for breakfast I had watermelon, one of my favourite fruits, and so refreshing to have first thing in the morning as it is made up of over 90% water so really hydrates the body. It also contains amino acids which hold anti-inflammatory properties- great helping for muscle soreness after a week of hard training.

During the week, when i'm training clients in the morning, I tend to have grapefruit instead as my morning fruit. Grapefruit has a really low GI for a fruit and so helps maintain my energy levels throughout the morning. 

I make my own muesli which is a combination of rolled oats, bran fibre, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Its a great combination of low GI carbohydrate, fibre, protein and essential fats. I mix in a few teaspoon of cinnamon powder for extra flavour!

Today i had greek yogurt and Manuka honey with my muesli. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and so will keep me full longer; it helps lower the GI of my breakfast, meaning time taken to digest is longer. Manuka honey is a great sweetener and has a higher nutrient density than regular honey.  I love this combination, the refreshing watermelon combined with creamy sour greek yogurt, sweet honey and crunchy, spicy cinnamon muesli.....YUUUUM!!!"


Katheryn, the Yogi

"What do yogis eat for breakfast? Why, artisanal gogi berry kombucha with kale kimchi foraged by virgin Nepalese sherpas deep in the Amazon jungle, of course. #artisanal #cleanliving

What do I actually eat for breakfast… Cereal. And not even the good for you kind of cereal. Frosted Mini Wheats or Raisin Nut Bran (which sounds good for you but is like 80% sugar) #badyogi #deliciouscereal

Breakfast is for sure the most important meal of the day - and I am one cranky mama if I don’t eat immediately after waking up! But mornings with two babies are such chaos that I end up prioritising convenience to save my sanity. A healthier choice would be a smoothie with protein powder or Aimee’s famous protein pancakes!

We all struggle to take better care of ourselves! Just do the best you can with what you’ve got."


Aimee, The Coach

"My breakfast is a bit weird these days! I'll usually have some kind of egg dish. Today it's an egg white quiche with carrots and zucchini. I added a baked free range chicken leg from last night's dinner- we usually cook in bulk so there are leftovers in my meals each day. I also have homemade beef broth every morning, which is basically just beef bones simmered in a slow cooker for 24 hours. Then, I'll have a Greens Plus drink with fish oil and maca powder in it, and a cup of green tea.

I've been eating this way for about four months now, following an autoimmune protocol diet (AIP). It was an easy adjustment to make since I'm not a sugar person anyway. Autoimmune disease is rampant on both sides of my gene pool and I inherited some of that, so when my body started going haywire again last year, I did lots of research on how to help boost immunity and reduce inflammation with food, as well as seeking guidance from functional medicine professionals. I'd say that following an AIP plan is definitely helping! 

We're all given different challenges in life. You can live well and be fit, even when your health isn't optimal. As Katheryn says, doing the best with what you've been given is key. How we eat can make a big difference in our daily lives."

Thanks for reading! What's on your breakfast table? We'd love to hear from you! 
 

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Losing Weight Without Food Logs and Calorie Counting

Healthy eating doesn't need to be complicated. Explore to see what works for you!

Healthy eating doesn't need to be complicated. Explore to see what works for you!


Q: I am trying to lose weight and clean up my eating habits, but I dislike counting calories and keeping a food log. What can I do instead? 

A: Many health and fitness professionals, including myself, advise some of their clients who are trying to lose weight to track their eating habits and macronutrient intake for at least the first few weeks of a program. With so many iPhone apps and software packages available to log daily nutritional intake on the go, keeping a food diary has never been easier. One app I recommend checking out is MyFitnessPal, which lists a lot of local dishes, including many hawker food favorites. That said, it can be complicated to figure out exact portion size and to have to scroll through a slew of food options every time you sit down to have a meal or snack. Some people just don’t have the patience for it and if it’s not a habit that you feel you can adopt for the long haul, there’s really no point in trying to force yourself. Fortunately, you can still lose weight without counting calories. Here are five alternative strategies that will help you slim down and shape up without the food journal:

Adopt a Low Energy-Dense Diet: Studies show that people who adopt a diet comprised of low energy-dense foods (foods high in micronutrients and water, higher in fiber, and low in fat) are able to lose weight successfully without having to keep tabs on the caloric content of their meals. Low energy-dense foods include unprocessed carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and beans) and lean protein sources (lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs and egg whites, low-fat dairy). A low energy-dense diet is typically more satiating and higher in total volume of foods consumed due to the high water and fiber content. Increased bulk leads to a greater feeling of fullness after eating, which prevents overeating.

Eliminate Packaged and Processed Foods: One tip I pass on to all my clients is to skip the middle aisles of the grocery store- where all the processed food hangs out- and only shop at the perimeter. Processed foods typically contain many harmful ingredients and are filled with empty calories that will do little for your body other than expanding your waistline. Trans fats contained in many processed foods like cakes and crackers contribute to tens of thousands of premature heart disease deaths each year.  Additionally, processed foods do not require as much energy to digest as compared to whole foods, and do not stimulate the metabolism in the same manner. A recent study found that people burned 50 percent more calories eating whole foods than they did processed foods. Processed food is bad news- skip it!

Increase Protein and Decrease Carbohydrate Intake: It is well established that a high protein, low fat diet increases thermogenesis (creation of heat in the body, which burns calories), promoting greater weight loss than a more typical high carbohydrate diet. High protein diets (30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat) are shown to increase energy expenditure by 80-100 calories per day when compared to a normal diet (10% protein, 60% carbohydrates, 30% fat). Many people simply don’t eat as much protein as their body needs. Additionally, protein will make people feel fuller for a longer period of time by triggering glucose production in the small intestine. Protein is also known to reduce appetite overall.

Read Food Labels: Ask yourself this: on a daily basis, do you have any idea what you’re actually putting into your body? Do you eat food items that have ingredients you can’t pronounce?  Reading food labels and doing the homework to research the items you’re not familiar with will encourage a greater awareness about the relationship between food and your body, as well as tipping you off to items that may not be so healthy after all. For instance, are you eating BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a very common additive found in nearly every packaged food item? It’s linked to cancer and can cause liver damage, as well as being used to make jet fuels and embalming fluid. How about high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener found on many food labels? Studies show that it contributes to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. Getting to know your food will lead you to make healthier choices.

Develop Meal Mindfulness: When we sit down to eat, we often don’t take the time to enjoy our food; to consider its origin, production and nutrition quality; or to pay attention to how it feels on our tongue and in our bellies. Mindful eating is the practice of being fully and deliberately aware of the experience of eating, from the very first thought about food (“I think I’m hungry. I want something salty”), to the sensation of chewing, to ruminating about the journey that particular meal or food item had to take in order to arrive on your plate. Mindful eating is paying close attention to the textures, smells, sights, sounds and flavors of your food.  A growing body of research shows that mindful eating can assist in weight loss, reduce emotional or “stress” eating, and help people make better food choices over time.

Do you count your calories on a regular basis? If not, have you adopted one or more of the strategies listed above? What has your weight loss experience been like so far? As always, I’d love to hear from you! If you have a fitness or wellness-related question, or would like direct weight loss assistance, email me at aimee@tangramfitness.com.

Be well,
Aimee

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For Fitness Success, Pack a Plan in Your Holiday Suitcase

Pack a plan and relax! 

Pack a plan and relax! 

Question: I’m going on holiday for two weeks soon- YAY! How do I stick to my diet and fitness plan during this time? 

 

Answer: Your question shows me that you’re taking a proactive approach by preparing to pack a plan as you’re packing your suitcase! Here are my eight tips for diet and exercise success while you’re on vacation:

1. Carry a copy of your diet and fitness guidelines, as well as a checklist for the time you’re away.  What holds you to your plan while you’re at home? Do you put your workouts on your calendar or set an exercise reminder on your phone? Do you have a food list taped to your refrigerator? Do you count calories using an app like MyFitnessPal or FitBit? Be sure to continue using systems that work for you while you’re on vacation. I like to carry a short checklist with me using the Evernote app. Don’t put your systems “on hold” until you return- these tools are important for success and may be challenging to reincorporate into your life if you let them go for a week or two.

2. Prepare ahead by packing some healthy snacks and meals. Almonds, hummus, buffalo mozzarella, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and protein powder are just a few items you can have on hand at the airport and in the hotel. Pack a few snacks in your day bag as well; popular tourist destinations are often surrounded by fast food joints and healthier choices can be tough to find. Invest in a cooler bag and some Tupperware and bring a few pre-prepared lunches with you for the days when you’ll be out and about. Most hotels have refrigerators in the room now, so there's less worry about spoilage. 

3. Do a little research before your holiday. What are some healthy food options that are native to your destination? That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy the cultural experience of dining out while sticking to your plan. Heading to Greece? You can’t go wrong with souvlaki, briam, dakos, and grilled fish! Vacationing in Japan? That’s an easy one- head over to Tsukiji fish market for a sashimi breakfast with free flow green tea. Bouncing over to Malaysia for the weekend? That can be a bit trickier, due to the amount of coconut milk, sugar and butter in many of the dishes. In this case, focus instead on portion control. Don’t deprive yourself, but definitely skip the full portion of char kway teow.

4. If you’ve got the budget for it, book a hotel with a fabulous gym! Make the gym one of the most important factors in choosing where to stay. Is the equipment shiny and new? Are there many machines to choose from? Are classes offered? Is there a pool or a sauna? How about a yoga and pilates studio? Hotels know that fitness services are increasingly important to travelers, especially in Asia! Drool-worthy gyms include the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong, the Westin in Beijing, and the Conrad in Bali. Be sure to book a nice massage as well!

5. Get your travel partners involved. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to success in sticking with new habits can be the people you love the most. Maybe your spouse is always pushing homemade cupcakes your way. Perhaps your best friend is constantly asking you to get a drink with her. Or, maybe your kids regularly leave food on their plates and you feel guilty letting it go to waste. Whatever the case, be sure to have this worked out BEFORE your travel. Usually that means sticking with a new habit or behavior on your own for at least a few months. At this point, the important people in your life will have come to some level of acceptance about the new you.
Sit down with your travel partners before you head on vacation and tell them about your diet and fitness plan. Highlight why it’s so important to you to stick with it and outline a few ways that they can help you while enjoying a vacation together.

6. Tap into an online network of supportive buddies. Before you leave, build a network of online friends who understand the journey you’re on, be it losing weight or quitting smoking or training for an athletic event. Social networking sites like Fitocracy, Bodybuilding.com, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal are great for discovering like-minded people who are working toward bettering their lives. Nearly all hotels have WiFi these days, so don’t be afraid to take twenty minutes out of your itinerary to connect with a few of your online cheerleaders.

7. Reward yourself for sticking to your plan. Speaking of massages, schedule a few hours at the end of your trip to pamper yourself as a reward for adhering to your diet and exercise plan while you’re away. Maybe a two-hour Ayurvedic massage tickles your fancy, or perhaps you’d like a half day alone to wander around a fabric market or get a tailored suit made. Maybe a poolside mani/pedi is more your speed. Whatever it is, make the reward special- it’s your treat for being being a determined and fabulous traveler!

8. Enjoy life! Give yourself a little wiggle room while you’re on vacation- don’t be so tough on yourself. It’s a vacation, after all! If you usually exercise five days a week for an hour, aim for five days a week for 40 minutes instead while you’re on vacation- you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking anyway. Consider building in a “cheat meal” every 4-5 days to eat what you want within reason. If you’re in Italy, for instance, enjoy a plate of pasta and a gelato. Don’t you dare feel guilty about it!

Be well, and happy travels!

-Aimee

 

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Can Dragon Boating Cause Muscular Imbalance?

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Can Dragon Boating Cause Muscular Imbalance?

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Question: I'm on a dragon boating team here in Singapore and I only paddle on one side. I'm worried about muscular imbalance. Is this something I should be concerned about and if so, what can I do about it? -Julie

Answer: Great question, Julie! Since I’m not too familiar with the awesome sport of dragon boat racing other than enjoying it as a spectator, I decided to do a little research on what the training entails. It looks like coaches generally take one of two approaches: a) ensuring that the rowers regularly switch sides or b) having the rowers train only on their stronger side.  Dragon boating engages several major muscles in your torso, including your deltoids (anterior, posterior and lateral), scapula, rhomboids, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, and abdominals. But, you probably knew that already.

My answer to your question may prompt a few dragon boat coaches to scold me, but I’m going to give you the lowdown anyway. Paddling on one side only over an extended period of time is indeed likely to lead to a muscular imbalance and may have a detrimental impact on your spinal alignment and posture. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of injury among rowers and can easily send you crawling to the chiropractor’s office. A study published in 2012 looked at the relationship between posture and biomechanical parameters of the Iran Women’s National Dragon Boat team and concluded that there was a relationship between dragon boating and lumbar scoliosis, as well as uneven shoulders. Now, that is only one study and we therefore shouldn’t automatically conclude that this is a typical result, but it’s something to consider.

I understand that you love your sport and don’t want to give it up. The fact is, nearly every sport carries risks, but in my opinion, the benefits often outweigh the risks. So, what can you do? First, see if there is a team you can join which will allow you to train both sides! Second, you should be hitting the weight room regularly for some full body strength training. Aim to lift weights 2-3 times a week in a series of phases. For the first phase, you want to perform bilateral exercises- using both limbs simultaneously to move a load. For the second phase, you’ll work each side separately, alternating the load. When you do this, pay close attention to which side seems to be more dominant for each muscle group. Be sure that your stronger side doesn’t begin to overcompensate for the weaker one- if that happens, lower the amount of weight you are moving. For the final phase, you’ll want to gradually spend a bit more time working just the muscles of your weaker side. Give each phase 4-6 weeks and take notes on your progress.

Now, there are a few training methods I’d like to recommend to you to prevent further muscular imbalance while strengthening your core, back, shoulders and arms. The first is battle rope conditioning. If your gym doesn’t have battle ropes, then you can easily pick up one of your own and strap it around a tree or basketball post. I guarantee you’ll get funny looks from your neighbors! You don’t need to invest in a fancy rope that the sporting goods stores are selling for $200+. You can just go down to a shipping supply store here in Singapore and ask for a 50’ foot, 1 inch or 1.5 inch polypropylene 3 strand rope. It will save you a lot of cash!   
The second method I recommend is upper body Olympic ring training. Here’s my favorite video on the basic exercises:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdIvU6JoCZo
You can order Olympic rings from Rogue Fitness in the US- it’s an awesome company with great customer service. No, they did not pay me to write that. The rings take about two weeks to get to Singapore. http://www.roguefitness.com/
If you need some assistance with form and exercises, I use both the battle ropes and Olympic rings regularly in my training sessions.

Hope this helps. Happy rowing!

- Aimee 

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