Member Stories: Maria Pascente, “I am in control!”

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Losing weight, ugh! For those of us who struggle with this, those two words are highly offensive curses. I am Maria Pascente and I have struggled with obesity my entire life.

It started in about second grade when I had to get the “girls plus” first communion dress and it has been “plus size” ever since. While I have lost hundreds of pounds in my life I have always managed to find them again. Joining West Brookfield Elite in 2007 was my first step in the right direction. I have had my fits and starts with exercise since joining the club but have always been encouraged by the staff to keep working at it.

After a series of rather stressful events in my life, I got back to the gym with a passion in December of 2010 and that started my road to success. I began with H20 Blast three times a week at Brookfield Elite and added from there as I became more fit. After losing close to 50 lbs with exercise and some food modifications, I found myself at a plateau that I could not seem to overcome. I was becoming discouraged and knew I needed to get some extra help.

I decided to turn to the club and through some inquiry I hooked up with Rita Larsen, RD. After meeting with her one-on-one for a while I started to see some success. Her practice style of what I will call “tough love with a smile” is what I needed. You see, what you put in your body is your choice, every carrot stick or cookie is 100% under my control. When you have struggled to control your weight your whole life, recognizing that you alone actually have the power to control it is a monumental task.

In January of this year I was a charter member in Rita’s “Lose It Now” program. I needed to really challenge myself and shake things up to a level that I had not achieved in many years. I lost 30 lbs in 13 weeks. I feel so much better about myself, I have more energy and I think I am finally learning how to maintain weight loss and keep it off for good. So, overall this program was successful for me and working with Rita works.

Last summer and fall I had another period of stressful events and I am happy to report that I was able to maintain my weight loss through it this time. I kept my 4-5 times a week workout schedule of Body Pump, Cardio and Pilates going as best I could, which is key. My ability to choose wisely and remember that I am in control, helped me succeed when in the past I would have gained it all back by now. My goal is to lose 50 more pounds and I intend to do it with Rita and Elite in 2013.

We are so proud of Maria! She is so positive about her weight loss journey and can truly be an example for us all! Submit your own “Elite” story! Or tweet us your workout wins (and woes) @MyEliteStory!

Do you feel like you are “in control” of your weight? It’s a tough question, but can be telling of your situation and motivation. Tell us about a time you felt in (or out of) control in the comments.

10 Facts About Stress and Diet

By Rita Larsen, Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor

  1. Everyone handles stress differently. Some people will eat less during that time, and others will eat more. Although there is no way to avoid stress and strain, there are ways to minimize the effects these pressures have on your mental and physical health. You can adjust your dietary habits to help you cope better.
  2. Some stress is good for us. It is what gets us up in the morning and on to doing productive things, especially if we have a good attitude about the things we are about to do. Some stress frequently comes cloaked in worry, anger, frustration, and fear; and it is these stresses, called distress, that are the most harmful to your health. The physical responses to stress causes our heart to race, our blood pressure to go up, and our stress hormones adrenalin and corticosteroids to flood our system in response to modern day “threats”.
  3. In today’s world, we often do not have physical methods to relieve this pressure. We create the stress level we are in, and then we “stew” in it. Many experts feel that long-term ongoing stress can be dangerous. Stress hormones can linger in the bloodstream, blood cholesterol and sugar levels stay high, and nerve chemicals circulate in record numbers. Such prolonged stress can lead to cardiovascular problems, peptic ulcers, asthma, and a variety of cancers. It can also put a strain on the immune system, further reducing resistance to colds, infections, and disease.
  4. Stress and diet are closely interrelated. A deficiency in any nutrient can cause a strain on all the metabolic processes dependent on that nutrient. Small amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin C weaken the body’s antioxidant defenses, exposing the tissues to increased risk of damage and disease. In addition, how well your body is nourished prior to and during a stress response affects how well you handle the stress. A well-nourished person copes better than a poorly nourished one.
  5. For many people, eating habits are at their worst during periods of high stress. They can either forget to eat, or overload with an abundance of food. Consequently, a person can be more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies during periods of stress than any other time in their lives.
  6. Mental and emotional stresses will affect the body in very similar ways. The immune system is the body’s main defense system against foreign bodies or abnormal growth cells, such as cancer cells. In a healthy state, people are able to count on the functioning of their immune system and protection against any further disease process. Optimum nutrition and low stress levels can provide years of good health, happiness, and a longer life free of disease.
  7. Research studies by the USDA found the effect of work-related stress on mineral status was greatly compromised during periods of stress by as much as a 33% reduction. These studies were especially true of the nutrients, potassium, magnesium, B vitamin complexes, and antioxidants of vitamin A, C, and E. Associated nutrients also compromised by stress responses are zinc, chromium, copper, and iron. In addition, these levels will quickly return to normal levels with vitamin-mineral supplementation and by eating foods high in these nutrients.
  8. Carbohydrates, protein, and caloric needs do increase the metabolic rate during a stressful event by as much as 13%.
  9. Stress will release the stress hormone, cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Cortisol turns on the release in the brain for high carbohydrate or sugary-type foods, especially sweets. It will be important to have protein based foods on these days to avoid the “sugar response” to stress. Milk-based foods will allow the body to release calming levels of the body hormone, serotonin.
    Stress Eating
  10. Suggestions for healthy de-stressing habits include:
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Sleep at least seven hours a night
  • Work fewer than ten hours a day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy breakfast, and just eat a nutrient-packed, low fat diet overall
  • Cope effectively with stress
  • Positive beliefs, attitudes, and expectations, including hope, trust, love, faith, and laughter turn otherwise stressful events into more pleasurable ones and greatly reduces the risk of suppressing the immune system. In fact, these positive emotions can actually enhance immunity!

For more information or coaching on how to manage your stress & diet, contact Rita Larsen. If you’re just interested in the types of health & nutrition programs we offer at Elite Sports Clubs, check out our website.

Do your eating patterns change when you are stressed? Do you eat more or less, and does the quality (healthiness) of the food differ? Tell us in the comments!

 

Four of the Best Foods You Should be Eating Regularly

By Rita Larsen, Elite Dietitian & Nutrition Counselor

For a long time, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been speaking in very general terms to “eat a variety of foods.” Today, scientists are able to be more specific about their research in order to target those foods that will help you prevent certain kinds of illnesses and disease processes. These include heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers—and promote better overall health. You can look better and feel better, too, when you eat a healthy diet. So, consider putting some of these foods to use in your eating plan today, and every day!

Berries

Berries at Farmers Market

According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The antioxidants in berries may help maintain normal communication of the neurons in your brain. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, and raspberries and blackberries are good sources too. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are also low in calories and high in fiber.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables in this family contain compounds called glucosinolates, which are being studied for possible anticancer effects. A new laboratory study shows that compounds in cruciferous vegetables can selectively target and kill cancer cells while leaving normal, healthy cells unaffected. The family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, turnips, radishes and watercress.

Nuts

Nut bowl

Almonds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help protect against heart disease and promote brain health. Some research suggests that nutrients such as vitamin E may be important in lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Nuts also are high in protein and fiber (but also in fat, so be careful with portion size).

Whole Grains

Whole GrainsIn contrast to refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, whole grains are rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Eating whole instead of refined grains can help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels, decreasing the risk of heart disease. Eating whole grains can also reduce the risk of diabetes and improve digestive health. Refining wheat strips away significant amounts of vitamins B and E and virtually all of the fiber.

Courtesy of the American Cancer Society, and the Cotton—O’Neil Heart Center. Spring 2013, Heart Health News.

Sweet-and-Sour Savoy & Fennel Salad

Serves 4

Sweet Sour Savoy Fennel Salad

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ cups thinly sliced Savoy Cabbage (about 6 oz.) [or Napa Cabbage]
• 6 Tbs. Olive Oil
• ¾ lb. Fennel Bulb (sometimes called anise) stalks trimmed flush with bulb and bulb chopped fine (about ¾ cups)
• ¼ cup Water
• ¼ cup Cider Vinegar
• 1 cup Orange sections

Preparation:

1. Using a sharp knife cut cabbage and fennel in strips as you would for coleslaw.
2. Mix well.
3. Mix dressing ingredients together.
4. Pour over salad mixture.
5. Section orange and add.
6. Let set in refrigerator for 1 hour.
7. Serve chilled.

Looking for more recipes to add to you cookbook? Or just general guidance on how to incorporate the above foods into your daily menu? Get in touch with Rita, our Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs! Also, make sure you follow our other Nutrition blog posts for more great tips!

Berries, cruciferous veggies, nuts, and whole grains! Oh my! Do you eat foods from all of these categories on a regular basis? Tell us in the comments!

Featured Member: Rebekah Schaefer

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Rebekah Schaefer Elite Featured Member

The tremendous amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from Elite training staff and members has been an integral part of my journey in the last two years. So much positive reinforcement! Never underestimate the impact of a few kind words.

Our daughter was a lovely surprise, but after her arrival in 2008 I didn’t recognize myself. I’d never been heavier, and wasn’t feeling especially confident in my tight, size 22 jeans. A broken futon, a plethora of blood pressure meds and the threat of Type II diabetes provided the kick in the pants I needed to get healthier. With the expertise and guidance of Elite’s Registered Dietitian, Rita Larsen, I’ve dropped over 90 pounds and take only one blood pressure medication.

Spin is my all-time favorite group exercise class; Elite’s excellent instructors keep it interesting and challenging. I’ve enjoyed the intensity of TRX training since October, 2010. It’s ridiculously hard (and I really suck at it), but I’m much stronger than I was a year ago. My “bingo arms” are gradually diminishing! Hooray! I like to zone out while logging mileage on the treadmill or in the pool, and I’ve discovered that yoga isn’t as boring as it looks.

Most of my workouts would not be possible without Elite’s playroom and friendly staff that has cared for my kids since they were infants. Two hours of free childcare* preserves my sanity and helps me meet my ongoing fitness goals. It’s often the only chunk of “me” time I can carve out of a day with two small, very active children, Matthew and Annaliese.

In August of 2011 Rebekah was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She has since adapted her lifestyle and is fitter than ever! Rebekah has been an Elite Sports Clubs member for 16 years!

If you have an “elite” story to share about your own personal accomplishment or someone else’s please share it with us at MyStory@eliteclubs.com or tweet it to us @MyEliteStory! We’d love to hear from you too!

What gave you the “kick in the pants” you needed to get healthier? Tell us in the comments!

*Childcare is included in all Family memberships at Elite Sports Clubs.

The 80/20 Food/Fitness Rule & Pre/Post Workout Eating

Woman Eating Post Workout

For years, I have had many opportunities to discuss the tremendous overall benefits of the food you eat and how it works in harmony with your fitness! In fact, it is a ratio of 20% fitness experience and 80% dietary input, according to the experts. Your food intake can be a powerful force in providing you with good fluids, special electrolytes, and super energy sources following a workout.

After a workout of course you are going to be tired and maybe a little hungry! (But fortunately, it also comes with a sense of well-being as the endorphins begin to release in your brain.) Many record that they need some salt, some fluids, and maybe a quick punch of sugar. I personally like to suggest the “Eat-Clean Principles” authored by Tosca Reno, in which she suggests:

Consuming 15g carbs before and >20g protein after your workout.

I like these thoughts and cannot stress enough that you choose the simplest of carbohydrates and the simplest of proteins in this case. Here are some homemade pre- and post-workout snack ideas:

  • You can certainly bring your own supply of fruit or vegetable juices to drink before the workout, or maybe a banana.
  • Some protein, such as nuts and cheese, make a good protein afterwards, and store well in your bag.
  • You may also want an instant container of soup and just add hot water. This is a much better re-supply for sodium or salt, than any package of saltines or chips.

Or you may want to try some of these choices, for carbohydrates and proteins now available at Elite Sports Clubs‘ E-Cafés! My favorites are:

  • Creamy, rich smoothies made in a variety of flavors, with really good fruit purees, as a base, plus you can add vitamin boosts, extra protein such as whey, and you can even choose a low calorie variety. They are a big hit!
  • Another source of good protein is the Organic Chocolate Milk. These drinks are 8oz and 150 calories. Or you can try the No Milk-just casein, Muscle Milk for 140 calories, 20g protein.
  • Otherwise, we have good fruit juices, and teas.
  • Fresh, hydrating beverages are also available, such as Sparkling Ice, no calories, a little carbonation, and no calories.
  • Another new arrival is Susie’s Nature Bars. The calories are just over 265; and they are good sources of protein and fiber, about 6g each or more. But their fiber is extremely high quality nuts and seeds, with a variety of fruit binders. They are delicious and fresh!

Just remember, a good protein snack such as an energy bar should be about 6-20g of protein; whereas a good source of protein for a meal should be 3oz meat or 30g protein as a “full meal bar.” Don’t forget, your good food choices will make it or break it for you on your personal program!

Need help getting set up on a personal plan or figuring out some go-to pre- and post-workout foods? Let us help! Just let us know a little bit about your goals and we can get started!

What are your favorite pre- and post-workout snacks? Tell us in the comments!

Rita Larsen, RD, CD
Nutrition Educator and Diet Counselor
RitaLarsen@eliteclubs.com
262-391-1003 (cell)