Natasha’s Guide to Living Healthy and Losing Weight
Hello! My name is Natasha, and I’m a certified personal trainer who has lost ~80 pounds since 2011. I get asked most of the same questions daily - “how do I lose weight?” “how do I get healthy?” “what’s your secret?”. Well, I’m here to finally answer all of those questions, and more, in detail. This is pretty much going to be everything you wanted to know about being fit but were afraid to ask. So let’s begin!
You’ve heard the phrase that weight loss and fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s true. You will get nowhere without proper nutrition. Keep in mind though, IT IS NOT A DIET. The word ‘diet’ indicates that it would be temporary. Nope, this is a lifestyle change! This is why fad diets (Atkins diet, ABC/Military/7 Day diets) won’t work. Yes, you might lose weight with those things, but as soon as you go back to eating regularly, you’ll gain it all back. Not to mention, they’re incredibly unhealthy and even dangerous! Now, there are different lifestyles that people chose to follow, and you need to find what works for you. They include, but are not limited to: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, etc. Do not start one of these lifestyles in an attempt to just lose weight. If you plan on eating a certain way, like I said, keep it up for life! You have to find what works for you. Whatever lifestyle you choose to follow, here are some basics to keep in mind.
- Eating enough. BMR. RMR. TDEE. IIFYM. Starvation mode. What does it all mean? I personally choose to go by TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. You can calculate your TDEE (and BMR) here. TDEE is the amount of calories your body burns in 24 hours - including your resting, sleeping, working, playing and digesting food. If you eat right at your TDEE, you will maintain your weight. If you eat over, you will gain weight. If you eat under, you will lose weight! Simple, right? If not, let me give you an example. I put in my stats - female, 22, 5’1 and ~120 pounds. My BMR is 1243 and my TDEE is 1872. You should NEVER eat under your BMR - that’s your Basal Metabolic Rate AKA how many calories your body would burn if you were in a coma. Everyone hears about the magical number 1200, and if you eat below this, your body will go into starvation mode. “But Natasha,” some people say, “My BMR is below 1200! Should I eat that much?” The answer is NO. Again, your BMR is what your body would be burning if you were laying in a coma, unable to move AT ALL. YOUR BODY NEEDS NUTRIENTS. YOUR BODY NEEDS CALORIES. CALORIES ARE ENERGY. Starvation mode, or rather, the starvation response is something that your body does when it isn’t receiving the nutrients, food and energy it needs. Click here to read more about it. So what does this all mean? Numbers do play a part in losing weight. One pound is 3500 calories. That means, to lose a pound, you need to cut out 3500 calories. So let’s go back to my TDEE, which is 1872 calories. If I were to cut out 200 calories a day from my food, which would make it 1672, then burn 300 calories from working out, that would bring it down to 1372. Voila, that’s cutting out 500 calories a day - eating healthy and not starving yourself! Also, keep in mind if you are doing insane workouts and burning 500+ calories per workout, you need to eat AT LEAST half of those calories back.
- What do I eat? A phrase you’ll hear all over tumblr is “clean eating”. And you’re probably thinking, “what the hell does that even mean?” Clean eating is essentially cutting out processed junk foods, and eating organic, natural, healthy and whole foods. Here is Clean Eating 101 and the 10 Rules to Eating Clean to help you out. A few of the main tips I can give you for eating well are: cut out all soda, juices, etc. - diet or otherwise, cut out fast food, cut out junk food (chips, frozen dinners, etc). I’m going to give you some examples of healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
- Breakfast: oatmeal topped with nuts, nut butter, and any fruit. fruit smoothies and/or green smoothies. smoothie bowls. yogurt with granola and fruit. eggs (my fave is scrambling 1 whole egg with 2 egg whites, adding baby spinach, tomatoes and spices). turkey bacon. any kind of fruit. granola. whole wheat toast (top it with avocado/guacamole and pepper, it’s A+). there are a ton of other options/foods, but these are a few to get you started.
- Lunch: salad (try to amp up your salads with spinach and kale, hardboiled eggs, chicken breast, tons of veggies, limit your dressing if any), baked chicken breast with brown rice and veggies, healthy pizza (whole wheat and/or cauliflower crust, fat-free and/or organic cheese, top with massive amounts of veggies), eggs (i have breakfast for lunch a lot), a healthy sandwich (chicken breast or turkey breast, avocado, veggies, no mayo - try to make it yourself and make every part organic, NOT SUBWAY). again, these are just a few options. there are a ton of healthy meals for you to make.
- Dinner: similar to your lunch options - I personally stick to baked chicken breast, veggies and brown rice/quinoa most days. I like to prep my dinners on sunday so I have them available to me and I don’t have to make anything as I work in the evenings. Read more on meal prepping here.
- Snacks: any nuts, fruits, or veggies. whole grain toast with peanut butter and bananas. greek yogurt. veggies with hummus. quest/lara/KIND/pure bars. green and/or fruit smoothies. popcorn (not the kind caked with butter, obviously. trader joe’s has some good organic options).
- Water. Cut out the soda, diet or otherwise. No juice unless it’s organic and from fruit only (no added sugars). Green tea is great too, but you want to make sure you drink AT LEAST 60 ounces of water a day. Getting the right amount of water every day will help clear up your skin, lose water weight, reduce bloat, and stay hydrated (obviously). Read more on the benefits of getting enough water here.
- Cheat days/meals. Part of healthy living is moderation, and sometimes you need to take a break. You don’t want to deprive yourself too much, and we all love food. I personally either have one cheat meal a week, or two full splurge days a month. This does not mean you can’t have sweets or any kind of cheat day to day. Have a handful of chocolate chips every night or a piece of dark chocolate. One cookie never killed anyone or hindered their progress. But remember, MODERATION.
- Here are some additional links to help you out! Healthy recipes. Food inspiration. Healthy snacks 1. Healthy snacks 2. Healthy snacks 3. Garden of Vegan. 10 Healthy Food Blogs. How to eat healthy on a budget. How to eat healthy in college. How to eat healthy when dining out. How to talk to your parents about buying healthy food. Big list of healthy recipes.
Yes, fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. THAT DOESN’T MEAN EXERCISE ISN’T IMPORTANT. Forget the weight loss. Forget losing fat. Exercise is important for your body and your mind. You need both cardio and strength training in your workout routine for the best results and optimal fitness. I personally recommend to my clients at least 5 days a week of cardio (if you’re trying to lose weight. if you’re maintaining, trying to build muscle or just trying to be healthy, 3 days a week is fine) for 30 minutes to an hour, and at least 3 days a week of strength. If building muscle is your main goal, reverse those numbers (3 days a week cardio, 5 days a week strength). There are hundreds of different ways to workout, and just like with your nutrition, you need to find what works for you. Whether it’s running, the elliptical, Zumba, yoga, weight lifting, WHATEVER. Your body needs it. And like I said, your mind does too! Hello, endorphins! I’m going to go over cardio, strength, weight training for beginners, and yoga.
- Cardio: I know, we all hate it. I have a love/hate relationship with it. But unfortunately, we need it. Cardio, also know as cardiovascular exercise, is basically anything that gets your heart rate going. It’s good for your heart, your body and mind in general, weight loss, and stress management. Cardio is one of the main ways to burn fat. You want to try to get your heart rate into your target heart rate zone, which you can calculate here and monitor with a heart rate monitor/fitbit/etc. Cardio can be done hundreds of different ways, here are just a few: running, the elliptical, cycling/exercise bike, hiking, Zumba, fitness classes, some variations of yoga, swimming, HIIT, Insanity, Jillian Michaels and other workout DVDs, Pilates, and there are literally a bazillion other ways to do cardio. Just get your heart rate going! Like I said before, ideally you want to get 3-5 days a week, for 30 minutes to an hour of cardio.
- Strength Training: Do you even lift, bro? I feel like a lot of people just think ‘heavy lifting’ when they think strength training. While that is a very popular and awesome way to gain muscle, there are other ways as well! There are a ton of body weight exercises that will help you gain muscle and burn fat, here is a list of body weight exercises you can do anywhere! Try to target a different body part every day, ie. one day do arms, another day do abs, another day do legs. You can do full body workouts every day as well, if that’s your thing. You can also use handweights/dumbbells, and work your way up to heavier weights. Another way to build muscle is yoga! I’m going to go over yoga and weight training/heavy lifting in depth. Strength training, in any form, is necessary to build muscle, which in turn will help burn fat.
- Yoga: Ahhh yoga. My new favorite thing. I work at a yoga studio and will hopefully be doing my yoga teacher training soon. Anywho. There are a zillion different styles of yoga but my personal favorite is vinyasa flow. It’s cardio and strength, and you so get your heart rate up. Hot yoga is great too! You can do yoga at home, go to a studio, watch a video on Youtube, etc. Yoga is for everyone! I feel like a lot of people think it’s for super fit or super skinny people only. It’s not! Everyone can do it! I will have some helpful links, videos, and tips for you at the bottom of the workout section.
- Weight Training: I think by now we all know that lifting heavy does NOT make you bulky. It makes you super hot, muscular and toned. The key to weight training and lifting heavy is FORM. Do not sacrifice your form just so you can lift more. I would recommend starting with lighter weight/hand weights, to build up your strength, and then move on to weight machines, squat racks, Crossfit, etc. Here is a guide to weight training for beginners.
- Rest Days: You need at least one full rest day a week. Your body needs to rest, heal and build muscle. Yup, BUILD MUSCLE. Here’s the thing. When you’re working out, you’re actually tearing your muscles. It’s the rest and proper nutrition that builds them up.
- Here are some additional links to help you out: A Beginner’s Guide to Home Workouts. 30 Plank Exercises to Shock Your Body. Giant Yoga Master Post. Youtube Fitness Channels. HIIT Workouts. Blogilates Printable Workouts. Strength Training 101. How to Build Muscle. Workout Basics.
The Mental Side of Fitness
Fitness is a state of mind. Losing weight takes a certain mentality. I get asked all the time about where I found my motivation, how I stayed motivated, etc. The number one tip that I can give you is, if you don’t have one already, START A FITNESS BLOG. A fitness specific blog. Having people that are on the same journey as you and a place to log your progress and stay on track helps so much. I would not have done it if I hadn’t started this blog. Another issue a lot of people have is balance. How do you balance between eating too much, and eating too little? What if you have/develop an eating disorder? Unfortunately, it happens. I’m going to provide you all with a lot of links and resources for motivation, happiness, mental and eating disorders, and general life advice. Losing weight will not make your life perfect. You have to work for that mentally. Losing weight will not make you love yourself or your body. It is a daily journey. Fitness is a lifestyle.
- Ways to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight.
- Make a Weight Loss Inspiration Board.
- Start a Dietbet with Friends.
- Weekly Meal Planner Worksheet.
- Weekly Food and Exercise Recorder.
- My Workout Playlist.
- How to Beat a Plateau.
- Bad Day Remedies.
- Binge Eating Recovery Plan.
- Eating Disorder Hotline and Chat.
- Self Harm Alternatives.
- Ways to Deal with Depression/Stress.
- De-Stress Yoga.
- Apps You Need in Your Life.
- No Gym? No Problem.
- Learning Self Love.
Welp, I think that’s it! If you have any questions, my ask box is always open (keep in mind, I get thousands of questions a day but I try to answer as many as I can). I also do meal/workout plans online, and in person training. You can check out my personal training information here and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested! Just remember: if I can do it, ANYONE CAN. I went from being the most sedentary unhealthy person, to a personal trainer. It is possible. Remember to believe in yourself, and JUST DO IT. No one can do it for your or want it for you. You have to want it for yourself. And above all, STAY HEALTHY. Get healthy, and weight loss will follow. Thank you for reading this! I hope it helped! Thank you all for your continued support and love. Hopefully this will help you guys reach your goals!
Good luck, have fun, get fit. Namaste.
(banner by the lovely rhianna!)
"You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed - forever."
The body works to build muscle and recover 24 hours a day, not just during that one-hour session at the gym. Luckily, smartly timed snacks can give the body the fuel it needs to gain muscle, burn fat, and recover as best it can. Pre-workout, that usually means grabbing a snack about 30-60 minutes in advance, depending on its size and contents, and how much that stomach’s actually grumbling. All ready to go? Check out these 25 options to start things right:
1. Protein Creamcicle: Put a twist on the classic kids’ treat by blending 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 cup ice. Trainer and fitness expert @JCDFitness does it!
2. Fruitsation shake: Blend 1 scoop of your favorite whey protein flavor with ½ cup ice, and 1 cup frozen berries for a sweet energy boost, suggests strength coach @Roglaw.
3. Cha-Cha coconut shake: Infuse 1 scoop chocolate whey protein with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil. Girls Gone Strong co-founder @JenComasKeck loves this!
4. Star-buffs shake: Need a pre-workout pick-me-up? Greatist’s fitness editor suggests blending 1 cup iced coffee (keep the ice) with 1 scoop chocolate whey protein.
5. Dressed up oats: Load up on carbohydrates for a longer workout with ½ cup cooked steel-cut oats topped with 1 tablespoon dried fruit and 1 tablespoon shaved almonds.
6. Perfect yogurt parfait: Feeling fancy, huh? Top ¼ cup nonfat yogurt with ½ cup whole grain cereal and ½ cup fresh strawberries.
7. Yoberries a-go-go: For the perfect blend of carbs and protein, try 1 cup non-fat vanilla beanGreek yogurt — which often packs more protein and probiotics than regular plain yogurt — with ½ cup fresh blueberries.
8. Eggs n’ toast: Have a heartier appetite? Try 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs with 1 slice of whole-wheat toast.
9. Fruit and Cottage: Top ½ cup cottage cheese — a low calorie and higher protein option — with ½ cup fresh pineapple, berries, or melon. And voila!
10. PB Apple: For a quick carb fuel-up, slice 1 medium apple and serve with 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter.
11. Classic fruit cup: Prefer to keep it sweet but simple? Combine 1 cup berries, melon, banana, and oranges — oh my!
12. Dried fruit: For a quick pre-workout fix, try ¼ cup serving of dried berries, apricots, and pineapple, says Greatist Expert Jessica Redmond.
13. Fruit leather: Need something light that makes you feel like a kid again? Try 1 single serving of fruit leather. Have a little extra time? Roll some out in the kitchen.
14. Energy in a bar: With so many options in the aisle, try opting for a bar with the most naturalingredients. While protein count is key, also check the sugar content (it shouldn’t rival what’s found in the candy aisle!).
15. Chicken n’ sweets: For a fast bite, grab 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of sliced chicken with an equal portion size of sweet potatoes, suggests Greatist Expert Dan Trink.
16. Oats n’ eggs: Not just for breakfast, try ½ cup cooked oatmeal and 2 whole eggs seasoned with salt and pepper.
17. PB & B toast: Fuel up with 1-2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana on whole-wheat toast, says Greatist Expert Lisa Moskovitz.
18. Turk-cado pasta: Add 2-4 ounces (or a palm-sized amount) of roasted turkey and 3-4 avocadoslices to ½ cup cooked whole-wheat pasta for some enviable eats.
19. Wafflewich: Spruce up this classic by combining 1 frozen Kashi waffle with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of jam.
20. Better than a PB Cup: A half-cup cooked oats with 1 teaspoon defatted peanut flour, a dash ofstevia, and a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top — a concoction from the kitchen of Greatist contributor David Butler.
21. Veggie omelet: Add a little more color to your diet by combining 2 whole eggs shaken with 1 teaspoon of water cooked with 1 cup sautéed seasonal veggies.
22. Rice con leche: Got a long way to run? Fuel up with ½ cup cooked rice, covered with ½ cup milk, a scatter of raisins, and a dash of cinnamon on top.
23. Sports drink: An 8-ounce low sugar sports drink (keep it under 10 grams of sugar) will do the trick if you’re in a crunch. For a little more fuel, add a scoop of BCAA powder— branch chain amino acids that help maintain muscle and tissue health.
24. Hearty salad: Need some greens? Try 1 cup of salad greens with assorted veggies, 1 hardboiled egg, and a drizzle of EVOO and vinegar, or your favorite low-fat dressing.
25. Energy gel: Got a long way to go? Slurp down a energy gel (like Gu) prior to an endurance workout.
After a tough gym session, post-workout snacks are an imporant way to restore energy and rebuild muscle, too. Downed within two hours after exercise, protein-packed shakes and snacks are a great way to rebuild tissue that breaks down during exercise. Here are 25 ways to end that workout on a high note:
26. Protein pancakes: From the kitchen of Greatist contributor Laura Skladzinski, mix 4 egg whites, ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup low fat cottage cheese, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cook on preheated griddle (medium low heat) until it bubbles, then flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or sliced banana.
27. Sweet potato pie shake: This isn’t your grandma’s recipe. Combine 1 scoop of cinnamon bun whey protein, ¼ cup diced cooked sweet potato, 1 cup of ice, and 1 cup vanilla almond milk in the blender — a Kellie Davis original.
28. Chunky Monkey shake: Monkey around with 1 medium banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk blended with ice.
30. Double Trouble shake: To lengthen the delivery time of nutrients to your muscles, combine ½ scoop of whey protein blended with ½ scoop slower-digesting casein protein, plus a handful of your favorite fresh or frozen fruit.
31. Bananarama: One medium sliced banana with 1 cup low fat milk — it doesn’t get any easier than this!
32. Protein bar: For a quick, store-bought fix, feed those muscles with a protein bar. Just watch the sugar content. Look for bars with 10-30 grams of protein, less than 10 grams of sugar, and the fewest number of ingredients you can’t pronounce!
33. Beef and squash: Need something hearty? Try a handful of lean roast beef with an equal portion of butternut squash.
34. Tuna crackers: Mix up a batch of light tuna salad for a quick bite. Add two heaping spoonfuls to a handful of whole grain crackers, and chomp away.
35. Bagel with egg whites: Half a medium-sized whole grain bagel with 2 eggs whites makes a great post-workout sandwich.
36. Ants on a raft: The ants go marching… Spread a heap of natural peanut butter over a brown rice cake and top with raisins.
37. Milk and cereal: Any time is a good time for cereal. Add 1 cup of low-fat milk to 1 cup of whole-grain cereal. Nosh loudly.
38. Chocolate milk: One to two cups of low-fat chocolate milk seals the deal with extra carbs and protein.
39. Black bean omelet: Four eggs whites, 1 ounce low-fat cheese, and ¼ cup canned black beans — then spice it up with a savory salsa, if you dare.
40. Green Monster smoothie: Blend 4 cups spinach, ½ cup vanilla bean yogurt, 1 cup almond milk, 1 banana, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter with ice — a favorite of Greatist contributorClaudine Morgan via Iowa Girl Eats.
41. Cottage cheese crunch: One cup fat-free cottage cheese, 1 teaspoon honey, ½ cup whole-grain cereal, and a dash of cinnamon does a body good.
42. Eggy muffinwich: Ditch the fast-food and opt for 1 whole egg, fresh spinach, 1 slice low fat cheese, and 1 slice Canadian bacon served on an English muffin, suggests Greatist contributorLisa LaValle Overmyer.
43. BCAA n’ cakes: When in doubt, just add cakes! Pair up two scoops of BCAA powder mixed in ice water with two rice cakes.
44. Recovery in a bottle: When time is of the essence, grab a store-bought recovery drink to sip on after training. Just check the label — sports recovery drinks will provide plenty of carbs refuel, or opt for aminos to really rebuild.
45. Apples and cheese: Tease your taste buds with 1 medium sliced apple and 1 stick of low-fat string cheese.
46. Pita and hummus: One 7-inch pita with two spoonfuls of hummus adds a little pep back to your step with quick digesting carbs.
47. Egg scramble: Veg out after a hard training session with 2-3 whole eggs scrambled with a handful of chopped onion, spinach, and bell peppers.
48. Choco-tropical trail mix: Go bananas for a blend of ½ a handful of each: macadamia nuts, dried coconut, dark chocolate chips, and banana chips.
49. AB & J Rice Cakes: Almond butter takes the cake. For this healthier twist on the classic PB & J, sandwich 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam between two rice cakes.
50. Chicken hash: After your workout grab 1 cup cooked diced chicken, ½ cup butternut squash and apples, roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Make a big batch and store it in the fridge!
I recieved this today, written by my sister. It says : breathe with gratefulness تنفس بإمتنان
I believe in signs.