Workout with me!

I love being mommy.  But I also love teaching group fitness and personal training.  The balance between the two is very fulfilling!  Nowadays, with not wanting to commit Hayes to daycare on a regular basis, I sub at Life Time Fitness Austin North and Pure Austin Fitness (Quarry Lake) instead of teaching a permanent class.  I’ve created at Facebook page, where I post every time I am subbing so that you guys can know when you can catch me!  That page is www.facebook.com/brookbentenfitness.  If you aren’t a gym member, please just let me know 24-hours in advance so that I can procure a guest pass for you.  If you are in the north Austin area and would like to train with me, one-on-one, I take clients at my home gym.  Rate is $75 per 1-hour session.  Likewise, I offer remote training with clients all over the world.  The number of sessions it will take to help you meet your goals will depend on several factors, so please contact me with your “story” and we can devise a game plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be.  It is my goal with every client to teach you how to achieve and sustain a healthy and active lifestyle.  Then I want you to sustain what you have learned from me and apply it to the way you eat and move for the rest of your life.  I want to help you achieve a healthy and fit body for life… and you may outlive me!  It’s okay to need to come back to me from time-to-time to shake up your routine and get you back on track if you become derailed (we ALL get off track from time to time).  But just know that I don’t take on clients to be your accountability partner or your money pit.  If you don’t want to work hard or only want to exercise without changing the way you eat, there are cheap personal trainers at commercial fitness centers on every street corner- pick one.  If you want to make huge healthy changes and aren’t scared of a trainer who will demand your utmost, that’s me.  Click “contact” on the contact page if that describes you.  In which case, I’d love to be your temporary personal trainer…. with the understanding that you, yourself, will be your “forever” personal trainer.

I am also hosting a special event class at El Monumento in Georgetown, TX on May 17.  It’s limited to the first 20 people to sign up.  There’ll be a 1-hour intense Athletic Conditioning plus power yoga workout on the deck 10-11am, followed by free chair massages and drinks for purchase at the bar!  Event expected to sell out!  Sign up today at www.brookbenten.com/elmonumento.IMG_8101

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Credentials for “kettlebell trainers”

Kettlebell.  The single piece of exercise equipment that is portable, affordable, effective in  achieving breakthroughs in cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength, and SO popular these days among fitness professionals and laymen.  When I was first introduced to this product, it was so new to the American fitness industry that most people didn’t even know what a “kettlebell” was.  At the time, it was my belief that the kettlebell was a great tool to work with, but that fitness professionals who had a nationally-recognized certification (ACSM, NSCA, NASM, or ACE) didn’t need to also get a specialized kettlebell certification in order to use and teach with this product.  I have since then changed my stance on that.

Although a general certification provides a fitness professional with the education of how to safely exercise the body, and that can be applied to exercises with any tool- including a kettlebell, there is a method to this type of training.  It behooves fitness professionals to learn how, historically, this product has been used.  That doesn’t mean that they cannot devise ways to work with the kettlebell without the specialized cert.  The problem with that is that they may not fully understand the unique attributes to this equipment.  They mistakingly use it for exercises that another piece of equipment, like a dumbbell may work equally as well.  This product greatly impacted Russian culture: What was once just a counterweight in farmer’s markets changed the healthcare system and Soviet special forces training.  To just apply general kinesiology and use kettlebell in workouts is disrespectful to the history that the kettlebell carries.  It’s important to learn traditional, hardstyle kettlebell, whether you choose to use it that way or not.  Like I said, when I began kettlebell training, I didn’t understand the importance of that.  Now, when I present at fitness conferences, and witness presenters leading kettlebell sessions who have no formal training specifically with this tool, I see all kinds of kettlebell (sometimes even called “kettleball,” or “kettle bell,” or even “kettle weight!”) teachings.  This is not good for the industry.  I’m the first to tell you that there are other ways to use the kettlebell for effective and safe workouts, besides the hardstyle method, but it is necessary for us to know and initially teach that school of practice if we are educating other fitness pros.  It should be the baseline.

I used kettlebells in my own workouts and taught clients with kettlebells for years before I took the step of getting RKC certified.  RKC was the first kettlebell instructor training brought to the United States (2001), led by former Soviet special forces physical training instructor, Pavel Tsatsouline.  Pavel is regarded as the modern day “king of kettlebells.”  In 2013, Pavel launched the company StrongFirst.  I achieved SFG certification in 2014.  SFG and RKC are the gold standards for kettlebell certifications.  However, not all fitness professionals can afford the >$1,500 price tag that each of these certs come with.  That is why those who present kettlebell workshops, workouts, and certs should have taken the RKC or SFG program so that we have a uniform platform to then teach our fellow colleagues.  I’m not saying that those who don’t aren’t educated; I am simply stating that they may not be educated in this method.  Because of that, there is discord in the teachings we are bestowing to other fitness professionals which then trickles down to our clients and the general public. IMG_8122

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What a girl wants at 12, 22, and 32

When I was 12, all I wanted was to be a teenager.  Just to be a little bit older!  I wouldn’t be a kid anymore; I’d be a teen- teens have boyfriends; teens don’t get kiddy menus at restaurants; teens can go places without supervision.

Never mind that once childhood is over, it’s over.  Never mind that scumbags are looking to take advantage of teenage girls just as soon as parental supervision is compromised.  Never mind that growing up may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

If I could just be 13… sigh.

 

When I was 22, all I wanted was to be seen.  I’d flip through magazines and watch Victoria’s Secret commercials, hoping and dreaming that I could be one of those women that people looked at.  I’d frequent tanning beds, unconcerned with UV rays or wrinkles.  I’d buy short shorts and rip them shorter.  I’d color my hair then color it again and again.  LOOK AT ME, I screamed like a walking billboard.  Self-adulation or insecurity?  Aren’t they usually the same thing.

 

At 32, all I want is to be heard.  I want to be considered clever, interesting, and funny.  Don’t look at me; Listen to me!

Not that anyone wants to be ugly, but there’s nothing significant about good looks.  They just compel other women to pick you apart and cause men to stumble.  No noble woman really wants that.

I now admire women like Kelly Ripa.  Obviously, she’s attractive, but that’s not what’s remarkable about Kelly.  She comes across as smart, charming, humble, honest, and likeable.  As a lady in my 30s, that’s what I want, too.

 

Whether these changes came with age or experience, I don’t know.  I do sense, though, that most women go through similar stages and longings.

What’s next, I don’t know.  I hope to learn more, serve more, and listen more to become a better version of myself.

Remind me of that if, at 42, I’m back to wanting to be a teenager again. :)

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Happy Holidays,Y’all!

Family Proof

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The Joy of being a Participant

You’ve heard it said, “the student has now become the teacher.”  Well, as of lately, the teacher has become the student.  I’ve taken some time off of teaching group fitness classes (since Hayes was born 3-13-13).  Instead, I’ve been attending other people’s classes.  It has been so fun, experiencing fitness through the eyes of the participant.

I intentionally select classes that are described as advanced/intense/extreme.  If I’m going to sacrifice an hour that could be spent with my baby boy, I want it to be for a workout that delivers an exhilarating, near-death experience.  I’m not saying that that’s for everyone, but it’s for me.  On the drive to the gym, I get my mind prepared for the challenge that lays ahead of me.  I feel butterflies, anxiety, and massive anticipation for what’s in store.  By the time I get my equipment set in the studio, I’m mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to kick my own butt (and anyone else’s, for that matter).  Here are a few things that disappoint:

1.  The instructor is late.  It’s not enough to be running in to the studio at start time.  I’m the participant, and I’ve arrived early enough to get my stuff together before class.  You’re getting paid for this- have your music cued, mic working, equipment together, and dry/clean clothes on before “go” time so that when the clock strikes, we are out of the gates.

2.  There’s no structure.  Even Bootcamp-style classes need to be planned ahead of time.  An instructor who makes up the class as she goes makes participants feel like you don’t value this workout as much as we do.  It may be just another class for you, but it is the only class that matters to me.  Know what’s going down in the hour.  We can all tell if you’re “winging” it.

3.  There’s a sub.  This is a touchy one.  I know that things come up and the regular instructor cannot be there all the time.  I also know that there is no more dreaded role than being a sub.  As a participant, though, I hold the instructor to an obligation of telling me (announcing to the class) if he/she’s not going to be there.  It allows us to plan accordingly.  That doesn’t mean that we won’t come- we probably will- but we will come with the mindset that the workout will be conducted differently than what we’re used to.  That’s a favor to both the participant and the person filling in as a substitute.

4.  There’s too much talking.  It’s super annoying when I’m fired up to give my all for 60-minutes and the instructor keeps taking breaks to recover/give modifications/tell a joke or story… all I want is for her to keep the workout going.  If people need to take breaks, give them permission to do so (on their own) at any time.  But, again, I’ve given up a precious hour to be there.  Keep the workout rolling, lady!

5.  The instructor counts up.  Nobody knows how many reps we’re doing if you count up.  It makes counting at all senseless.  Count down.

6.  It’s the exact same class as the week before.  It’s okay if it’s similar- in fact, that’s a good thing; we liked it enough to return- but don’t make it exactly the same as the week before.  If I wanted a predictable workout, I’d just pop in a workout DVD and stay home.

7.  There’s negative coaching.  By getting in my face and screaming for me to go Harder, Faster, Stronger, you may be meaning to motivate me, but you’re doing the opposite.  I respond well to positive coaching: “Beautiful, Brook!” “Keep it up!” “You’re doing great!”  This methodology encourages me to strive for greater.

8.  The class doesn’t match the description.  If I come for a cardio+strength class, I want to receive ample doses of both in the workout.  If one or the other is omitted, I regret that I’ll have to find another time in the day to squeeze in whichever element was missing from the class.

9.  The participants are unfriendly.  We’re in this together!  Pre-class, when we’re getting our equipment set, we ought to be welcoming one another.  During class, we ought to be exchanging motivating glances.  Post-class, we ought to be high-fiving, telling each other “good job” and “see you next week.”  The sense of community differentiates group fitness classes from independently workout out in the gym.  If there’s no community, I lament the social wellness that I attended a group fitness class for.  I desire a “Cheers” experience in fitness classes- where everyone knows your name and is glad you came.

10.  The space or equipment is insufficient.  I don’t want to be crammed in a corner, thrusting my feet into the wall, trying to do burpees because there’s not room for me anywhere else.  Nor do I want to have to use a green resistance tube when red is appropriate for my strength, but out of supply.  I don’t want to be given instructions on how I can manipulate a green tube to make it feel more like a red; I want the red one!  An adequately sized studio with plenty of (quality) equipment for each participant is very important.

I have violated every one of the instructor violations in my 14-years of teaching, so I’m not saying that I am perfect.  Far from it!  As a participant, I have learned how much these things really matter.  When all of these elements are just right, there is a lot of joy in group exercise participation!  I look forward to continuing to receive that sweet joy!

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#1: Reveal the Root Reason You’re Overweight

The first step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  What you have been doing isn’t working.  You are overweight, but that is not the problem.  Being overweight is the result of the problem, not the cause.  Finding what has caused the excessive pounds to pile on is Step 2.  Admitting that a problem does, in fact, exist is Step 1.

After you admit that something you’ve been doing is causing this unfavorable result, the next step is identifying the problem.  This is not always easy, and the answer is typically multifaceted.  Most people will over-simplify the problem as being that they overeat, eat the wrong things, and don’t exercise.  This acknowledgment is a step in the right direction, but to set up a successful action plan, you have to delve deeper into the “why.”  Why do you overeat?  What qualifies “overeating?” What are the wrong things, and why are they wrong?  What causes you to refrain from exercise?  THESE answers may reveal the real problems.  If you don’t know the answers, you’re missing pieces to the puzzle.  You should find them before trying to put it together.

Maybe you overeat because you simply don’t know how much fuel your body needs each day.  By finding your basal metabolic rate and adding calories based on your activity level, you can learn how many calories your body needs to sustain the weight that you are at.  Consuming anything less than that would mean weight loss.  That deficit could be created by upping your physical activity, eating less, or a combination of these things.  You have to know what your body needs to sustain itself to understand the arithmetic of weight loss.  If you create a deficit of 500 calories per day, you should lose approximately 1-pound of body fat in one week.

The solution above would work if the problem of overeating is that you overeat because you don’t know the quantity of food you ought to be eating.  That may or may not be why you overeat.  Logical solutions don’t solve emotional problems.  You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you lay out framework for changing your meals and calories without addressing the emotional relationship you may have created between yourself and food.  Many people turn to food as a comforter when things in life are going bad; or a celebration when things in life are going good; or a refuge when things in life are intolerable.  These “things in life” need the emotional energy that you’ve been redirecting to food.  If emotional eating is triggering you to overeat, before pulling out the Weight Watchers point calculator, you must pull out the emotional baggage that you have hidden in your heart.  If you’ve tried to drown it with food, it will be a refreshing feeling to finally fight fire with fire.  Professional help from a licensed professional may help you learn how to feel your feelings, especially if you have been feeding them for a long time.  This, to you (feeling, not feeding your emotions), may allow you to put a fork in overeating.

Yet another root reason for overeating may be that you have impulsive tendencies.  This behavior may be (and probably is) pervasive in other areas of your life, besides eating.  When you go window shopping, do you have a very difficult time not buying things that you see and like?  When somebody sends an email that rubs you the wrong way, do you draft and send an ugly response before thinking it through?  Do you, unintentionally, spend every dime in your pocket when you hit the casinos for a little gambling entertainment?  If you have a pattern of doing these things, it wouldn’t be surprising if you also have a problem with impulsive eating.  For impulsive people, a clear candy jar sitting on the coffee table, filled with peanut M&Ms is nearly impossible to resist.  They may think they can just eat a small handful, but that usually turns in to more and more.  Before long, the jar is empty.  Likewise, for impulsive people, the food sitting on kitchen counters, at the front of the fridge, and at eye-level in the pantry are the foods they’ll typically eat.  It’s what they see first, so it’s what they’ll grab and eat.  We all have a certain amount of impulsiveness, but some people are vastly more impulsive than the average person.  There are some foods that would be considered bland and uninteresting, such as Saltine crackers or rice cakes, but left sitting on the kitchen counter in plain sight, will be eaten by impulsive eaters in no time.  If stocked in the back of the pantry, they’d probably stale before the box is emptied.  Impulsive eaters don’t like to acknowledge their lack of control over the strength of their impulses.  They may cook their favorite food, say brownies, convinced that they just want one and will only eat one.  Once the brownies are done, one turns in to two which turns in to three, which quickly becomes the whole batch.  Their failure to resist eating the whole batch may cause a post-binge deep depression.  You can see how impulsive tendencies and emotional eating can be a tag-team problem that some people face together.  It takes humility for impulsive people to admit their problem, but by recognizing it, the power that they have given food can be revoked.  By recognizing their weakness, they know there won’t be a clear candy jar in their house- they get rid of it. They go to the bakery and buy a single brownie when the craving strikes, because they know if they cook the full batch at home, they won’t be able to stop themselves from eating too many.  They purge their pantries, tossing out any food that may be a stumbling block for them.  They stock the refrigerator with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  True, most fruits and veggies are best kept in the crisper, but the crisper is hard to see.  For impulsive people, it’s better to put these items at the front of the fridge where they will be seen instantly, regardless of the fact that the temperature is more suitable in the crisper.

Plenty of people say that they eat a lot of junk, but have trouble identifying what parts of their diet are junky and how they will change.  Any food can be junk.  Spinach and artichokes are very healthy, but spinach and artichoke dip is very unhealthy.  Garden vegetables are very healthy, but garden vegetable-flavored crackers are just a bunch of salty junk.  A breakfast muffin from a bakery may have more calories than a cupcake.  Butter isn’t the healthiest choice in the world, but it does provide some calcium and a little bit of real butter is much healthier than the chemical nightmare that is calorie-free spray artificial butter.  It can be difficult to distinguish what is good for you, versus what it junk.  Two slices of pan crust pizza from Pizza Hut may have over 900 calories.  Made at home with a little pizza sauce and reduced fat, part skim mozzarella cheese broiled on a brown rice tortilla with spinach and mushrooms, you’re looking at under 300 calories for the whole pizza, and it’s a good source of fiber, iron, and antioxidants.  Food can be manipulated to be unhealthy, but you can find ways to enjoy the things you like by making modifications, such as with the pizza example above.  If you really love the “real deal,” there’s no harm in indulging once in a while and cutting your serving size down so that you do not consume more calories than your body needs from that meal.  When eating in this way, you can sometimes eat some food items that you would have categorized as “junk” at one point in your life, and still lose weight.

If your lifestyle doesn’t currently include regular physical activity, explore the reasons why not and what may make you change that.  Do you like the way your body feels after exercise?  Most people do.  Is that benefit not worth the misery you feel the entire time you’re exercising?  Maybe you are starting out your program too intensely.   Your heart is a muscle, and just like any muscle, it gets stronger with time and training, so it’s a good idea to start out with something light, like half an hour of walking or swimming with a kick board.  Do you not exercise because you don’t have time?  You have 24-hours in the day, just like everyone else.  Is exercise boring to you?  Join a group fitness workout.  With great music, an entertaining instructor, and a room full of energy from all of the other people in it with you, you’ll be too stimulated to be bored.  Do you not know what to do for exercise?  There are a plethora of free downloadable safe and effective workouts that you can load straight to your iPod at www.cardiopump.com/virtual-workouts.  You may think of other explanations for why you don’t exercise, but if getting healthier and losing weight is your goal, you must explore all things that are holding you back and devise a plan to counter them.

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#2: Stay In Your Own Lane

Comparison is the root of discontentment.

You motivate yourself to go on a jog, but as you get to the track, you notice other people… in sports bras or shirtless with washboard abs, jogging faster than you could dream of jogging on your best day, and doing so effortlessly.  Do you, A. Proceed with the jog you intended, or B. Get discouraged, mope back to the car, and go home?

You believe that it’s time to join a gym in order to have the resources you need to quickly and easily get workouts in, and possibly utilize the professional assistance of a personal trainer.  While touring the facility, you notice that most people are dressed in form-fitting Lululemon spandex; they appear to know how to use all of the equipment; they are different ages, but still seem to look the same, as if they’re all “gym-type” folks.  You look down at your own wardrobe, catch a glimpse in one of the many gym mirrors of your own physique, glance around the place and wonder what these machines are and how or why they work, and then tune back in to the salesman who has apparently been talking to you.  Do you, A. Mention your confusion about how to use the equipment you see and join with the agreement that someone will help you learn to operate it, or B. Decide this paraphernalia is too complicated for you to understand, you’re too fat to be a member here, and people would laugh and talk about you if you tried?

You notice that your friend has lost a lot of weight.  You are envious and ask her how she did it.  She tells you she gave up gluten.  (Many times when people have lost a noticeable amount of weight, they give brief answers about how they did it.  Probably because it’s a repetitive question they receive).  Without going in to details about how she replaced bread, pizza, and pasta with root and green leafy veggies, and, in doing so, replaced hi-cal foods with lo-cal, vitamin-rich alternatives, she simply gives you the short answer: “gluten-free.”  You think you understand and decide that you, too, will eliminate all wheat products from your diet.  Your thinking is that by doing so, you will soon look like your friend- maybe better.  There is no evidence that gluten-free diets render weight loss results!*  By naively trying to copycat your friend, you may be setting yourself up for yet another failed weight-loss attempt and a blow to your already low self-esteem.

If you selected B to either of the top scenarios, or found yourself nodding that you have tried weight-loss strategies spouted off by friends with no more credibility than simply getting thin, themselves, you may benefit from #2 on our 101 Legit Ways to Lose Weight countdown: Stay In Your Own Lane.  You seem to be captivated by the perceptions and success/failure of other people.

When Michael Phelps swims, he doesn’t look to his right or left.  He doesn’t gauge the performance of his competition.  He stays in his own lane and swims the best race of his own ability.  Phelps has won more Olympic metals (22) than anyone else in history.  Similarly, those who achieve greatest results with weight loss are not those who constantly measure themselves against other people.  Those who achieve greatest long-term, sustainable, results stay focused on eating clean, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest.  They get leaner, healthier, stronger, and fitter with each passing day.  They are unaffected by the weight loss/gain of their Facebook friends.  They don’t have pictures on their refrigerators of supermodels.  They don’t waste a care with ogling other people at the gym.  They stay in their own lane and make weight-loss a personal mission that holds no measuring stick to anyone but themselves.

One of the many great pieces of advice from the song Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen by SunTan: “Do not read beauty magazines.  They will only make you feel ugly.”

*Weight loss from gluten-free diets depends on how you replace those wheat-containing foods and the calorie-content of the replacements.  It also depends on how sensitive your body was to the protein gluten.  Every body is different and before assuming gluten-free is right for you, you ought to visit with your dietitian or physician.  Your doctor may do a blood test to check for celiacs disease.  Even if you test negative for celiacs, you may be more sensitive to gluten than the average person.  Everyone has some sensitivity to gluten, but just how much varies greatly.  Only your healthcare professional and you can determine if gluten affects your health enough to attempt a gluten-free diet.  Your dietitian can then help you learn what alternatives to eat in replacement of wheat products which may allow you to lose weight, if that’s your goal.

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#3: Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is the most drastic of all weight loss solutions.  After other weight loss options have been explored, and a person’s body mass index (BMI) is still very high (40+), bariatric surgery may be a last resort to end the chronic disease of obesity.

Body mass index is found by calculating weight in relation to height, using this formula: [weight (in pounds) divided by height (in inches squared)] multiplied by [703].

Medical professionals currently only recommended bariatric surgery for obese people with a body mass index over 40 or for people with BMI over 35 with at least one serious coexisting medical condition related to their obesity, such as coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

Weight loss through bariatric surgery is achieved one of three ways.  1. Reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band, 2. Removing a portion of the stomach, or 3. Re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch (this method is referred to as gastric bypass surgery).  The results of these methods for weight (body fat) loss are overwhelmingly effective.

Because the results of bariatric surgery are overwhelmingly effective, the procedure probably seems appealing to anyone with excess body fat.  It behooves medical professionals to emphasize that this is a drastic measure and there are serious risks involved.

Complications from weight loss surgery are frequent. A study of insurance claims of 2522 who had undergone bariatric surgery showed 21.9% complications during the initial hospital stay and a total of 40% risk of complications in the subsequent six months. This was more common in those over 40 and led to an increased health care expenditure. Common problems were gastric dumping syndrome in about 20% (bloating and diarrhea after eating, necessitating small meals or medication), leaks at the surgical site (12%),incisional hernia (7%), infections (6%) and pneumonia (4%). Mortality was 0.2%.

Encinosa WE, Bernard DM, Chen CC, Steiner CA (2006). “Healthcare utilization and outcomes after bariatric surgery”. Medical care 44 (8): 706–12

The number of bariatric surgeries performed in the United States increased 804% from 1998-2004.  With the change, perceptions about undergoing the knife for weight loss and health have also changed.  It used to be that those who succumbed to bariatric surgery were perceived by the American public as being lazy/weak/lacking willpower.  Insurance company claims reviewers used to routinely deny coverage for the surgery.  These things have changed.  Both the public and the healthcare community recognize bariatric surgery as a solution for poor health and premature death.  It is regarded as a treatment for a chronic disease.

Bariatric surgery will initiate weight loss.  Going forward, patients should commit to lifestyles that will support continued health.  The most successful bariatric surgeries, in the long run, are those where people commit to regular physical activity, healthy and small meals, and lifestyles that promote a better quality of life.

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#4: Lean and Healthy Cooking Methods

Lean and healthy cooking methods include:

  • “in parchment,” which commonly goes by the French translation “en papillote,” or occasionally “al cartoccio” in Italian.  This is a method where food is folded into parchment paper or aluminum foil then baked.  The moisture trapped in the pouch may be from the food, itself, or added moisture from water, wine, or chicken/vegetable stock.
  • “under vacuum,” which commonly goes by the French translation “Sous-vide.”  This is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in an airtight plastic bag in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times (sometimes exceeding 3 days), at a regulated temperature much lower than other cooking methods (130-140 degrees for most meats; slightly higher for most veggies).  This method cooks food evenly, inside and out, and retains the natural juiciness of the meat/veggie without adding extra moisture.
  • “poached,” which means gently simmering a delicate food in milk (fat-free is fine), water, chicken/vegetable stock, or wine.  Poaching is an ideal way to cook fish or eggs, as these are delicate items that can dry out or fall apart easily.  Heat should be low and cooking time is kept to a minimum.
Unhealthy cooking methods include: blackened, fried, breaded (which usually means dipped in an egg bath and crumbs then fried), and twice baked (baked one time, then treated with extra butter, cream, salt, cheese, etc, then baked longer).  For optimal health and weight management, these cooking methods should be seldom be used.
Sauteed or steamed can be very healthy cooking methods, but not always.  You can use either of these methods at home and make then very healthy, but when dining out, be cautious.  Sauteed means fried quickly.  It may be fried in water + oil, a little oil, or a lot of oil.  At home, use the water/oil method (maybe 1 T. of each), and eat away!  While dining out, expect “sauteed” foods to be fried quickly in quite a bit of oil. Steamed means foods are cooked by the steaming vapor of water.  At home, you can steam your vegetables, add some fresh herbs and maybe a tad of salt and butter, and know that your dish is nice and healthy.  While dining out, “steamed” foods are commonly finished off with a substantial amount of butter, extra virgin olive oil (or a combination of olive and vegetable oil), and salt.
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#5: Applying Lessons from #4 at Restaurants

Before I studied nutrition, one of the biggest mistakes I made at restaurants was ordering a hi-fat cooking method, thinking it was lean.  I thought “blackened” just meant that meat was grilled so long that it charred the outside.  I thought “steamed” meant that the vegetables had only been treated with water.  I thought that “sauteed” meant that the vegetables were stirred over high heat with a little oil and water.  Not only is this not always the case, but it’s not often the case.  Blackened, for instance, is among the fattiest cooking methods.  ”Blackened” typically means that the meat is coated in white flour and cooked in a hefty amount of butter or oil in a hot skillet.

When restaurant chefs develop their dishes, they care about one thing: taste.  Since butter, oil, cream, salt, and sugar are pleasing to the palate, these ingredients are used in abundance in cooking.  It’s not that chefs are devilishly conspiring to plump you up, but they’re trying to satisfy you, hook you, and keep you returning.  Hitting all 3 points on the taste compass accomplishes this.  It’s business.  Lucky for you, business is also about customer service.  If the customer requests certain ingredients be omitted or alternative cooking methods used, most restaurants are happy to deliver.  (The ongoing joke about them spitting in your food is highly unlikely, but if you’re concerned, think of it this way- saliva has germs but no calories… you’re still better off).  Here are some healthier suggestions when dining out:

  • Order your food cooked “dry,” which means that it is cooked on a skillet or grill without butter or oil added.
  • Request that starchy vegetables (such as potatoes or rice) be replaced with non-starchy vegetables (such as broccoli or carrots) and ask that the vegetables be steamed with no butter or salt added.  If you end up needing to add a little for flavor, you’ll be able to control just how liberal you are with the butter/salt after the food is delivered to you- you’ll likely be much more sparing than the chef would have been.
  • Request one of the healthy cooking methods in place of the listed method.  For instance, ask that the catfish be poached instead of fried.
  • Request that sauteed, grilled, or fried meats or vegetables be steamed, instead, and served “dry.”
  • Ask if cream is used in the dish.  If so, request that non-fat milk replace the cream.
  • Try topping your “dry” veggies or meat with the juice from a fresh lemon, lime, or orange.
  • Request that your waiter bring a list of the full prep ingredients.  Most places are sensitive to food allergies and intolerances, and can provide you with a detailed list of everything that goes into a dish.  If you don’t like something you see, request a substitution or pick something else.
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