Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I often talk myself into making mistakes. It's easier to convince myself that I don't have any self-control. I can't stop myself from eating that bowl of ice cream (it's always nice to blame someone else. It's not me, it's my lack of self-control.)

From this day forward I am recruiting the power of positive thinking. I've got more self-control that I know what to do with. I believe that I can stop my fingers from wrapping themselves around that piece of chocolate in the candy dish and plunging it into my mouth. I can resist the urge to whip up a batch of cookies and bake whole wheat bread instead. I can stop eating when I'm full instead of busting. I can wake up a few minutes earlier and work harder at the gym.

I, Cami Checketts, have self-control. (And I have a great back-up plan when that self-control falters. I'm going to call my husband or one of my closest buddies and let them remind me that I'm strong!)

How about it, friends? Who's with me?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fitness Contest

How is everyone doing with the fitness contest? I've been consistently getting four points every day. I know I'm supposed to get five, but it is pumpkin cookie baking time. How do you pass that up? I'm going to really try to buckle down this last week. Any tips for staying strong when treats look and smell so good?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Metabolism Boosters

I'm always trying to find ways to increase my metabolism. If we can get that fire burning it will consume calories all the time, even when you're reading David Baldacci's newest book or watching the latest episode of CSI. Here are a few metabolism boosters:

- Lift weights - Woo-hoo. Our favorite thing to do is proven to be the best way to burn more calories. But you smart people already knew that!

- Drink plenty of water - if you're dehydrated you will burn fewer calories throughout the day.

- Drinking ice-cold beverages can burn an extra ten calories a day - that may not seem like much, but it adds up to a pound lost a year.

- Dieting will drop your metabolism - as you lose weight there's less of you to maintain so your resting metabolic rate drops. The solution - weight lifting. Increase your muscle density and your metabolism will keep on kicking so you can keep on losing. You do need to eat healthy as well and exercise portion control, but starving yourself is a temporary fix. You will lose weight initially but it will be difficult to keep it off (you have to keep dropping calories because your metabolism has lowered) and it will also make you miserable. Focus on healthy, whole foods and everyone will be happier.

- Spicy foods can give you a a temporary 23% boost in metabolism. Bring on the salsa - I wonder if the metabolism boost balances out the tortilla chips.

- Eat more protein - it's harder for your body to process, you can burn twice as many calories digesting protein as carbs.

- Change things up - your body is an amazing machine. If you do the same workout over and over again you will hit a plateau. Try a different kind of cardio, lift in a different order, with different reps or sets, or higher or lighter weights. Trying something new will boost your metabolism after as your body compensates for the extra calories burned.

- High intensity exercise burns more calories during and after exercise (some studies show up to 24 hours after). Sorry friends. I know the interval workouts bite, but they are worth the pain.

Please share any metabolism boosting tricks that have helped you.


Saturday, October 17, 2009


How are your shoes? Last month my husband bought me a new pair of running shoes. Brooks "The Beast." I've been running in The Beast for years. At races men always ask, "Why are you running in a fat man's shoe?" I always answer, "Because it works for me." Imagine my surprise when my new Beasts did not work for me. My knees hurt, my feet hurt, I dreaded running.

I finally swallowed my timidity and returned the shoes to Al's Sporting Goods (thank heavens for a thirty-day guarantee). The salesman was wonderful and exchanged my shoes for the Asics Foundation without flinching.

If you've ever run in the wrong shoes or worn-out shoes you know how bad it can hurt. No matter what sport you're doing, make sure you have the right shoe to support your joints and keep you going strong. It's much smarter to pay $100 now rather than thousands in medical bills later.

What's your favorite workout shoe?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weight Lifting Anyone?

I often have women complain to me that they cannot lose weight no matter what they do. When I ask if they lift weights they look at me like I'm suggesting they pluck their nose hairs.

If you aren't lifting weights you are missing out. Many women shy away from strength training because of fears and misconceptions. Strength training is the most effective way to lose weight, change your shape, and increase daily stamina.

Following are some common questions answered to help you get started.

Q - Will weight lifting make me bulky?
A - No. To bulk up you have to have testosterone. Use weights that challenge you (you should be ready to be done after 8-12 reps) and make sure you lift slow, especially on the eccentric or lowering phase and you'll increase strength and metabolism without increasing size.

Q - What is proper form and how can it help me?
A - Proper form is your basic good posture - head in alignment with spine (I like to push my tongue against the spot between the roof of my mouth and my upper teeth, it naturally pulls your head into alignment) shoulders down and back, abs in tight, bum tucked under. Proper form not only prevents injury it makes your weight lifting and cardio more effective and good posture will also make you look ten pounds lighter.

Q - I want to lose weight on my abdomen, how do I do that?
A - You cannot spot reduce (lose weight or fat off any one spot). Any product or person that claims they can burn weight off a certain part of your body is lying to you. You will burn fat off your entire body as you strength train effectively, include cardio (especially intervals), and eat right (5-6 small meals or snacks, lots of veggies, water, lean meat, etc.).

Q - How heavy of weights should I lift? I need a number.
A - It really depends on your strength. I recommend at least 8 to 15 pound dumbbells, but if you're just starting out 5 pounds might be a challenge. Be careful not to hurt yourself with too heavy of weights but at the same time you need to challenge yourself to improve. Don't feel stupid if you have to try out different sizes of weights in the sporting goods aisle at Target. As I said earlier, the proper weight should fatigue you by 8-12 reps. Bands are also a great option because you can up the resistance by simply holding them differently.

Q - I've recently started weight lifting and I swear I'm gaining weight. Help!
A - I've seen women gain weight initially - muscle weighs more than fat - so until the metabolism kicks in you may not lose weight and you could even gain a bit. Please be patient. It can take 6 weeks to 3 months before you start seeing the results you want. Remember, being healthy is not a quick fix. This is a lifestyle, not an overnight weight loss scam. But I promise you if you will lift weights, eat sensibly, and do effective cardio you will be fit and healthy for life. Also, concentrate on how you look and feel, not the weight on the scale. A body fat test is a fabulous indicator of how you're doing. I weigh a lot more than anyone could guess but I fit into the size of jeans I want and I feel strong and full of energy so I don't worry about the scale overly much (of course I still worry a bit, I'm a woman!).

Q – What if I’m over sixty and have joint issues?
A – You should always speak with your primary care doctor before starting any weight-lifting program. If you have joint or health issues I would strongly recommend a qualified personal trainer (make sure to check their credentials and talk with past clients who have similar health issues to yours).
Be smart when you’re exercising. You want to make your muscles sore, but if your joints start hurting – stop. Usually hips, knees, and feet are the worst offenders. If you have lower body pain, be careful with squats and lunges. You may want to stick with machines that work quadriceps and hamstrings like the flexion and extension machines.
There are also wonderful machines like the Elliptical, Stair Master, or spin bikes that give you a great cardiovascular workout without damaging joints like a treadmill can. Find what you are comfortable with and what you enjoy doing and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your doctor or a qualified trainer.

Q - I've done Body for Life twice. The first twelve weeks I lost weight, but the second twelve weeks weren't as effective. What should I do?
A - Change your program. There are a lot of great weight lifting programs out there, but your body is an amazing machine and it will adapt to the demands placed upon it. You've got to change the order you lift, the size of weights, the number of reps, etc. We all know that cross-training is important with cardio. The same thing applies to weight lifting. Go very slow one day with heavier weights. Another day do higher reps - 12-15 reps with a comfortable weight and a normal pace (but never fast, please, I hate seeing the bounce and swing). I try to change things up on the blog, but sometimes I forget as well. I'll try to do a better job of varying the sets and reps.

Q - You're always talking about metabolism. How does strength training help my metabolism?
A - Strength training increases the size and density of your muscle fibers. Muscle is hard to maintain, so your body kicks into overdrive to keep up. Therefore you burn fat and calories even when you're sitting around. Isn't that fun?

Q - How many sets and reps should I do?
A - The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on the major muscle groups at least two times a week. Here's the link to their current recommendations - http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home_Page&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=7764.
That's your basic answer, but like I said earlier - variety is a very good thing. You can do 5 sets of 5 or 2 sets of 15 and still see results. There has also been research that one set is almost as effective as three. I said almost, it will take longer to see results with only one set, but if you're crunched for time, it's okay to just do one. The important thing is that you're doing the reps slow and controlled and lifting heavy enough weight to challenge or overload the muscle. If you aren't overloading that muscle (no, you don't have to kill yourself every time, but you do need to feel that muscle working) you're wasting your time.

If you have any other questions, please post a comment below. Also, please share any strength training success stories. I personally have helped two friends lose seventy pounds each with strength training, effective cardio, and a healthy diet. If you want to feel great, give strength training a try.

Cami Checketts is a wife, mother, exercise scientist, and author. For more information on her books - www.camichecketts.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Confidence from Within

Lately I've realized that I am aging. Wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin on spots no one wants to see. It's all a bit depressing but also wonderful. I've come to realize that I need to be confident because of who I am not just what I look like. No, I don't look like a teenager anymore, but thankfully I don't want to. I'm happy with the muscles I've built by lifting faithfully, the wrinkles I've earned with too much laughter, the strands of gray hair I keep finding (who needs highlights?).

I've often wondered if I would be able to age gracefully or if I'd fight it Botox-style. I'm praying I'll be able to embrace each year and realize that my confidence comes from the things I accomplish with my writing, the smiles I create on my boys' faces, the relationship I have with my husband, the chances I take to help someone feel good about themselves, the friends who make me giggle like a teenager, the knowledge that I am a beloved daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me. All these things give me confidence that sagging ab muscles can't take away.

I hope all of you know how wonderful you are and are blessed with confidence from within. Please share with all of us what gives you confidence.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Worried about the weekend

Today is a whole new chance to be healthy.

Last night I struggled with wanting a bowl of ice cream, but I stayed strong. Drank a glass of milk with dinner to satiate the craving then brushed my teeth and chewed a lot of gum. My boys are always asking why I chomp on my gum so hard. Isn't that supposed to be a Mom line? Sometimes gum is the only way I make it through.

I'm a bit worried about this weekend. I'm traveling to Park City, Utah for a fun writer's conference with Utah RWA. The problem is two days of writing workshops, lectures, enjoying old friends and meeting new ones, and lots and lots of good food. There's a three-hour party devoted to chocolate. Very bad for Cami. Any suggestions on how to resist without being a party downer?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Does exercise increase your appetite?

I've been reading articles about the effect exercise has on appetite. As usual, there's conflicting evidence. The general consensus is that moderate activity decreases your appetite, but vigorous exercise can increase your appetite.

I think the main issue is eating healthy, filling food. Most experts say you need to eat within half an hour after exercise to replace your glycogen stores. Eat low-fat, high-protein and high-fiber foods and you will be fine.

I also think it's important to not talk yourself into a pit that I've been in many times - "I work hard, I deserve to eat this ice cream, chocolate, cookie, or whatever." Although exercise is fabulous for your heart, lungs, prevention of disease, and re-shaping your body, you will not be able to maintain a healthy weight if you consume too many calories. Most of us underestimate how many calorie we burn with exercise. So avoid the trap and think, "I worked hard today, I want to keep being healthy and getting double the rewards!"

Another trap to avoid is exercising hard at the gym but then sitting around the rest of the day. Your overall movement will contribute to your weight control and health as much as your gym session. Try to sneak in little ways to move all day - run the stairs instead of yelling down to the kids, park farther away at the grocery store, take more trips rather than hauling twenty pounds of stuff from the car in each arm.

What about you? How do you keep your appetite under control when you're exercising hard? How do you keep yourself moving when the couch looks so appetizing?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Satiate Your Cravings

It's always hard when I'm trying to eat healthy to find foods that satiate my cravings. I assumed it was because I cut so much fat out of my diet, but a new article says differently, "It used to be thought that fat contributed to maintaining a feeling of fullness. But now fiber and protein have been shown to be the two key factors. The combination of protein and fiber slows your digestion and is thought to extend the release of hormones that trigger the "I'm full" response in the brain." (i)

Most of us get enough protein, but fiber is harder. Here are some articles about fiber benefits and the foods with the highest fiber content:







My favorites on the list? Black beans, bran cereal, popcorn, peas, apples, pears, berries, and oats. I throw oats or grind wheat to put in all of our pancakes, breads, waffles, etc. My boys hate it! Someday they'll thank me, right?

When I'm really craving a treat and want to be good I pop some popcorn, spray Can't Believe It's Not Butter on it and guzzle Crystal Light or I'll mix fruit, yogurt, and cottage cheese to get a low-fat treat that is almost as good as ice cream (nothing compares to ice cream for me!).

What's your favorite way to sneak in more fiber?

How do you satiate yourself when you're craving a treat?

(i) "Feeling Satiated Longer" by Megan Porter, RD - http://www.caloriesperhour.com/news_070815.php

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Let's Start This Contest

First day of the big fitness contest. Are you all so excited you can hardly stand it? I'm snacking on grapes while I type this afternoon, rather than my usual bowl of cookie dough ice cream with homemade hot fudge (sorry about the sensory detail, that almost made me want to go make a bowl!).

I have to admit to being a bit depressed today. First day of the fitness contest and I'm so sick I can't workout. I don't understand why, but this also makes me want to sit around and eat. Thank heavens for the contest. I'm at least on track to get my four other points today, even if I can't exercise.

When you're sick, do you workout anyway or do you figure you'll recover quicker if you give your beat-up body a rest?

Have a healthy day,