Friday, December 18, 2009


In part III of our Holiday Fitness Series, we focus on the importance of your commitment to you.

Commit to being fit! As the old adage goes “fail to plan, plan to fail”. The same approach can be taken when considering your fitness goals around the holidays. Many of us know that we have parties to attend, so we plan specifically for those events. We do so by purchasing that perfect LBD (little black dress) with coordinating accessories, we make the necessary appointments with the Manicurist to beautify the hands, the Esthetician for the brow wax, and of course the Hair Stylist for the perfect coiffure to top off the entire ensemble. If there is shopping to be done, we know that it must absolutely be completed by the time you see the intended recipients of your holiday generosity. So how exactly do we plan for holiday fitness? In the same manner that you would a party, shopping or any other “need to do” item. You have to commit to it and commit to getting it done.

1.Schedule workouts in advance. This may require some juggling on your part, workouts that are typically done at lunch or in the evening may have to be shifted to the morning.

2.Mini-workouts for maintenance. If your holiday schedule doesn't allow for the usual length of time for your full workouts, incorporate mini-workout sessions. 30 minute sessions allow enough to time to burn calories and keep the metabolism stoked.

3.One on one. If you have the ability to work with a personal trainer, schedule your appointments. This way you have someone waiting on you who will hold you accountable for your attendance. With the cases of many personal trainers, “no shows” are still charged for their sessions. Why waste the money, get in there work it out, and then hit the stores or parties.

4.Work it out in groups. Group Fitness classes offer you the added support system of a group and the energy of others around you. What are your favourite group fitness classes? Make that a priority. Team up with other members in the class and hold each one of you accountable for showing up. Send reminders to one another via Facebook, Twitter or text to help keep you on track. Need a moment to breathe? Now would be a perfect time to include a Yoga or Pilates class in your fitness routine to help you do just that.

5. Commit to YOU! In the same manner that we’ll schedule appointments with our stylist, barber, or manicurist and will NOT break them under any circumstances, schedule YOURSELF in your appointment books and DO NOT BREAK the appointment. Consider your appointment like any other important meeting in your planer and when tempted to break it, ask yourself “Why should anything else be more important than me and my health?”

6.Relax and breathe! Be sure to give yourself get away time to breathe. Depending on your schedule, that get-away could be 5 minutes, an hour, a day or more. Work with what’s good for you but be sure to do it. A little breath goes a long way.

The holidays can be a very stressful time, but they don’t have to be. Keep things into perspective by remembering why we celebrate the holidays in the first place. We treasure this time because it’s a beautiful time to spend with our families and friends. It’s about creating memorable moments that we’ll treasure for a lifetime. Have fun, enjoy. But as we’re celebrating and cherishing moments with others, we must also remember to cherish ourselves. During this holiday season, take the time to remember the importance of your being, commit to your health and wellness and ultimately, don’t forget to commit to you.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Not only are there sales galore, but there are also numerous traps lurking about the mall that can ruin your holiday fitness plan. In today's post we'll highlight 3 easy ways to make your shopping experience work for you.

Holiday Shopping Tactics: We all have to do it at some point. Although the cyber world has made this holiday activity far easier than what it’s been in the past, some of us will still find ourselves having to brave the malls to do our shopping in person. Take this time and use this as an opportunity to work for you rather than against you

1.Don’t go shopping hungry! If you know that you’re going shopping, plan a light meal prior to going, or carry a snack with you like a healthy snack bar. When hungry, the smells at the food court become very enticing. Foods that you would not normally eat will call out your name.

2.Plan to eat. Instead of hitting the food court, plan to eat at one of the onsite restaurants. Due to their larger and more diverse menu items, many restaurants will offer you healthier food options than the fast food places in the food court. Plan to have lunch prior to shopping or dinner afterwards. This will also help to reduce holiday stress by giving you a chance to relax and decompress after dealing with all of the holiday hustle and bustle.

3.Park far! How long does it take to find a parking spot near the door? How frustrated do you get when you can’t find one, or you have found one, but someone else cuts I front of you and steals your spot before you can get in there? Rather than driving around for hours and getting frustrated while searching for that perfect parking spot closest to the entrance, park the car and walk. One way to do it is this, if Macy’s is on one end of the mall, park on the opposite end, this will encourage you to walk. 10,000 steps (2 miles) a day is required to maintain heart health, Take advantage of the walking distance and include these extra steps to and from the car in that daily allowance. In addition to the heart health, the other benefit here is that you will significantly limit the amount of stress that you will endure during holiday shopping season since you won’t be fighting with other shoppers for that ever elusive parking spot near the door.

Up next in our Holiday Fitness series... Commit to being fit! The benefit of scheduling time for YOU.

Monday, December 14, 2009

High Fashion Or Mixed Messages - If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words, Then What Does This Photo Say?

While surfing the web looking for photos to post on my blog, I typed in “images of holiday workouts”. I expected to get images of people working out in the gym, or working out on vacation. I did see those, but one of the first images to pop up was the following. I cocked my head to the side and thought… “Hmmm… really??? Maybe this is just an editorial pic to sell couture workout attire ala the gold lame outfit and black heels.” So, I let my curiosity get the better of me and clicked on the link only to find that this photo was from to encourage working out during the holidays. Okay, kudos to HB for encouraging holiday fitness, that’s the right message. But did HB have to use this photo? Wrong message! Yes, I know some of you are thinking “but it’s Harper’s Bazaar, they’re a high fashion magazine and focus on everything couture” Yes, I know. I love high fashion as much as the next Fashionista, I even have the shoes shown in the photo, but I am also very realistic when it comes to body images and what we sell to the public. This photo in my view sends a pretty conflicting message when selling fitness. Now granted, because of Harpers Bazaar’s image and marketing strategies they would never opt to use a Fitness Model for a photo like this, but better options other than the use of a rail thin model sans muscle tone could have been considered. Within this same Harpers Bazaar holiday reel, previous photos encouraging stress relief and lower sodium intake contained photos of a bubble bath with candles and a photo of a salt shaker. In the same vein, HB could have also used a stylized photo of hand weights with a water bottle and towel to convey the same message about fitness. For those who may consider this to be a harmless photo, the reality is this. Many women and young girls see these photos and aspire to be that model. As a result, many of these same women and girls will also do harmful things to their bodies and psyche to get there. When placing images into the public’s eye, we should be mindful and responsible for what we deliver. As we know, the fashion world has been routinely criticized for the negative body images they promote by using extremely thin models for editorial shoots and fashion show runways. Dressing the same type of model in athletic fashions and placing her in a workout setting next to a caption promoting fitness workouts doesn’t do much for changing the mindset or the practice. What this now does is shift the paradigm to say that not only is this the standard of beauty, but it is also the standard of physical fitness and health.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The Holiday Season is here and in full swing while many of us are finding that our schedules are now filled with parties, dinners, shopping plans, and trips to visit friends and loved ones. Statistics show that the typical holiday weight gain during the 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year is 7 – 15 lbs, while most people spend the rest of the next year trying to work it off. But with all of the excitement and festivities, keeping on track with fitness goals can be very tough. The good news is that it’s not impossible, it just requires a bit of strategy and planning ahead. At a loss for what to do? No worries, here are some easy to do tips which you can follow to minimize your holiday weight gain and the holiday stress.

Party Time and Time to Dine – this is where so many of us experience the majority of our drop off during the holiday season because of the countless temptations that are there; the food the desserts and the cocktails are all so enticing how could you possibly resist? If you know what to look for, you’ll know how to prepare.

1. Don’t go to the party or dinner hungry. The hungrier you are, the more likely you will over eat and binge on the treats. Have a light snack before you get to the restaurant or party such as a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. If you’re a person who’s always on the go, opt to carry foods that travel well such as apples. Clementines are now in season; their diminutive size and ease of peeling make these a great portable item for snacking and with less than 100 calories and 0 fat grams, these fruits will aid in your feeling of “fullness” without compromising your waistline and will also keep you from overdoing it with the hors dourves and appetizers. This brings us to the next point…
2. Be mindful of the hors d’oeuvres. Although seemingly harmless due to their size, many of these treats can add up quickly in calories as they can start at 100 calories each. Try choosing no more than 3 hors d’oeuvres and eat them slowly.
3. Socialize and mingle with other guests. What’s talking and mingling got to do with anything? The more engaged you are in conversation, the less likely you are to fill your mouth with food. So those 3 hors d’oeuvres items that were just suggested will now take longer to eat.
4. No hovering allowed! Do NOT camp out at the hors d’oeurves table. When standing next to the food table, the food is right in front of you and within immediate reach, because of that, most people have a tendency to eat out of convenience even though they are not hungry. Move away from the table!!!
5. BYOD: Bring your own dish! If the party is potluck, bring a healthy dish that you will enjoy, this way you know that there’s at least something for you to eat without ruining all of your hard work
6. Limit the amount of holiday cocktails. There are so many hidden calories in holiday cocktails especially the sweet, creamy and frothy beverages that are so fun to drink during this time of year. As an example, an 8oz. serving size of Egg Nog without the alcohol is over 400 calories, add in the rum and you’re close to 500. Apply the same principle here as with your food. Enjoy in moderation taking your time to drink what’s in your glass. Talk with those around you and space out your drinks by drinking water in between cocktails.
7. Portions! Portions! Portions! Don’t glob everything onto your plate at once; take smaller amounts of your delights.
8. Eat until you’re no longer hungry, not until you’re full. This is a BIG DEAL. Many times we eat because the food is there and no matter how many signals our bodies give us to say that we’ve had enough, we continue to eat. If you are no longer hungry, stop eating! Take it back to the point of socializing, enjoy the conversations around you.
9. Shake Your Groove Thing! When the music starts, get up and move. One of the best ways to burn calories after dinner is to dance so tell the DJ to pump up the volume and then hit the floor. This IS a party right?

Up next in our Holiday Fitness series... At the mall. Not only are there sales galore, but there are also numerous traps lurking about the mall that can ruin your holiday fitness plan. We'll show you how to make your shopping experience work for you. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NFL and White House Commit to Tackle Childhood Obesity With New Holiday PSA

We've seen the headlines "Childhood Obesity at Epidemic Levels in the U.S." We've heard the statistics report that 25-32 million children in America are considered obese. This is primarily due to poor dietary habits and lack of exercise. The combination of fast foods diets and sedentary lifestyles that many of our children have are creating a generation of children who are beginning to see illnesses that were once only common in adults such as: Type II Diabetes, High Cholesterol and Heart Disease.

Committed to helping to “tackle” childhood obesity, since 2007, the NFL has committed $200 million to youth health and fitness via athletic programming, grants and media air time. This holiday season, the NFL via their Play 60 campaign has teamed up with the White House's United We Serve initiative to encourage children to become active 60 min/day to help reverse these levels. This new partnership is an extension of their commitment to help address these issues. Community Service does not just stop at donating to the poor or giving to charitable causes; it is also about what goes on in our own communities, our own backyards. In this case, it’s helping our children live healthier lifestyles today so that they can be healthier adults tomorrow. Check out the PSA that aired Thanksgiving and will continue to air during the holiday season...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'll Gladly Trade You Three Quarter Pounders Today For A Tub of Popcorn Tomorrow!

The holiday season is descending upon us and just as they do in the summer, Hollywood begins to lure us back into the theatres with promises of “Holiday Blockbusters”  So when we think of movies, what else do we think of? Popcorn of course! I don't know about you, but I make a bee-line right to the concession stand to get my popcorn before the show starts. I'll even risk missing the previews of the upcoming films to get my buttery snack. I mean let's face it, the butter and the salt in that tub of popcorn just makes the movie experience so much more exciting. Movies and popcorn go hand in hand, so much so that we've even re-created the movie experience at home. Large screen TV’s with surround sound AND… POPCORN! Some folks even have popcorn machines in their home theatres. But of course, the popcorn that you make at home, no matter what the writing on the package says, never tastes quite like it does at the movie houses. So I'm sure you're thinking by now "OK Miss Fitness Lady, are you really trying to convince us to eat popcorn at the movies?" Trying to convince you? No, most of us are going to do that anyway. So if you are going to eat the popcorn, do so as an informed consumer so that you can make better choices.

But before we jump into things, I want you to think about this question for a second.  Could you eat three McDonald's Quarter Pounders and a stick of butter in one sitting?  Well, if you're eating a medium-sized movie popcorn and a soda, you're definitely consuming its equivalent.  A recent study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) ,which updates their expose conducted 15 years ago, looked at popcorn from three major movie houses and provided an eye-popping assessment of the nutritional value of America’s favourite movie snack. The three chains reviewed were Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and AMC.

*According to the study, this is how they fared:

Regal Cinemas the largest theatre chain; pops their popcorn in coconut oil

• Large tub = 20 cups of popcorn, 1200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of saturated fat (3 days worth of fat and equivalent to the fat in a stick of butter)

• Medium bag = 20 cups of popcorn, 1200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of saturated fat *(the only difference between the large and the medium is the packaging & price, everything else remains the same. Oh, and you get free re-fills with the large)

• Small bag = 11 cups of popcorn, 670 calories, 550 milligrams of sodium and 24 grams of saturated fat *(That’s about as many calories as a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza—except the popcorn has three times the saturated fat.

AMC, the second largest theater chain, also pops in coconut oil but has smaller serving sizes.

• Large popcorn has 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat. That's equivalent to eating a pound of baby back ribs topped with a scoop of Häagen-Dazs ice cream—except that the popcorn has an additional day’s worth of saturated fat.

• A medium has 590 calories and 33 grams of saturated fat;

• A small has 370 calories and a day’s worth—20 grams—of saturated fat. (Like Regal, AMC reports calorie counts lower than those returned in CSPI's lab tests.)

Cinemark, the third largest theatre chain pops in heart-healthy canola oil.

• A large has 910 calories with 4 grams of saturated fat;

• A medium has 760 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat;

• A small has 420 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat.

Considering that many of us go to the movies after dinner where we've already consumed a generous amount of calories, we then top it off by consuming more calories when we buy at the concession stand. Many people are lulled into a false sense of diet security because popcorn by many standards is considered a healthy snack, but as you've seen by the numbers, once you add the quantities, the salt and the butter, that healthy snack now turns into a health nightmare. When I go to the theatre, very rarely will I eat a bag of popcorn by myself. If I have it, I will buy a small without the extra butter (since it’s already popped in oil) and share it with a friend while the beverage of choice to wash it down with is water.

No, I’m not the "Food Police" and by no means am I trying to tell you to completely stop eating popcorn at the movies. The intent of this is only to inform you of the nutritional values so that you can make better and informed decisions on whether you want the popcorn or not, how you want it prepared and how much of it you'd like to buy. Unless you have medical conditions and medically imposed diet restrictions as recommended by your physician, there’s no need to deprive yourself. If you’re already physically active and follow a healthy and balanced way of eating, a night at the movies is not going to completely undo your hard work. Everything is balanced by moderation. But with this information, you can determine for yourself how you choose to enjoy your movie experience.

Tips to enjoy a night at the movies without blowing your diet:

Dining beforehand:

  • Cut your caloric intake by sharing your entrée with a friend
  • Go for smaller portions and load up on the veggies
  • Be mindful of your alcoholic intake as that can add to your calorie consumption quickly
  • Skip dessert if you're planning to have snacks at the theatre
At the theatre:

  • Buy a smaller portion of popcorn
  • Opt out of the re-fills
  • Say "NO" to extra butter.  Popcorn is already popped in oil, adding more increases your calories by some 130 cal/teaspoon
  • Share your popcorn with a friend,
  • Instead of regular soda, drink diet soda or water

Curious to know the movie releases for the remainder of 2009? Check out this link:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hair We Go Again! – The African-American Woman’s Hair Raising Issue of Hair v. Health

The hair issue seems to be raising its ugly head again. With the recent release of the new Chris Rock film: “Good Hair” the conversation again turns towards the importance that black women place on their crowning glories. The amount of money that women, black women in particular, spend on their hair according to the film is staggering. We spend billions to have our hair "fried, dyed and laid to the side” as they used to say, and because of that, we are NOT going to mess it up. I know women who have claimed to develop awkward sleeping positions, like propping pillows up behind them, so that they could sleep sitting up. Or one young lady I know who claims to sleep with her head hanging off the bed so that she doesn't "smoosh" her do. I for one like a good night's sleep, so I'm not about to allow a style to get in the way of my dreamtime, so the most that I will do is to sleep on a pillow with a satin cover or pull it up at night with a satin scrunchie. Yes fashionistas, I did say scrunchie, and mind you, it's only for sleeping and doesn't go outside of the house. ;-)

In that same vein, a hairstyle has never kept me from the gym or my regular workouts. My personal stylist is very used to me saying to her, make it cute enough to last me a day, because it won't make it past the week-end. And many of my colleagues who see me with a straightened style know not to get used to it 'cause it won't look like this tomorrow.

Allegra Feamster rocking a 'fro on the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage Cruise 2009. this style worked well with my teaching and performance schedule on board the cruise.

I joke about that aspect, but it's true and very real. If you talk to most Fitness Professionals, especially those who have experience working with black women, the number one reason that they give for not working out is "they don't want to mess up their hair". To that I say, get over it! Maybe at one time that may have been a weak but valid excuse, but nowadays women have so much freedom to play with different styles. With the teaching schedule that I maintain, I work out regularly and still maintain a great appearance from head to toe. The trick is experimenting and finding hairstyles that work well with your lifestyle. You can braid it, get a weave or extensions, buy a ponytail, a wig, wear it natural as a fro, locks, twists. There are so many options, but just don’t let the hair issue get in the way of your health. At the rate many of us are going we will be good looking corpses faster than you know it. Imagine the conversations at the funeral, “she was so young…but her hair was always fierce”. Some how I just don't think that's how it will play out. At that final stage, who will care about your hair? Your fly and fierce hairstyles won’t make a difference when you're not there to enjoy life with your loved ones, especially for reasons that are preventable! For those ladies who get it, I applaud you. I've seen some of these ladies get really creative. Before class they go into the locker room and carefully wrap their hair, and some have even rolled it up in curlers and covered it up with a scarf to keep it in style. When I see them after class or their workouts, they'll smile at me and say, "I love looking good, but I need to work it out and that's more important." What's even better about this whole scenario is that the guys at the gym who see this actually don't mind. Their response is," I can't get mad at a woman who puts her health before beauty and a hairdo". Did you hear that ladies? They're more impressed that you're working it out!

Mel B. post-workout in LA 2007
This summer I taught at a fitness event outdoors and it poured cats and dogs. I waited for the director of the event to tell me to stop the workout, but he said keep it going and so we did. Although we lost a few women to the elements, the majority stayed until the very end. And when the rain cleared I said, “Well, that eliminates excuse number one…the HAIR ISSUE. If you ladies can work it out in the rain, you have no more reasons to EVER use hair as a reason to forgo you workout again." They all laughed, but they knew it was true.

With hair pulled back, she's ready to go!

So why is this so much of an issue? According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80.5% of black women in the United Sates are considered overweight while 54.3% are clinically obese having a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. At these raised levels, that means that 80.5% of black women are at a higher risk for weight-related illnesses or chronic conditions that are exacerbated by higher weight levels such as Diabetes, Hyper-tension, Heart disease, Cancer and Stroke. Have the freedom to wear your hair in whatever fashion you choose, but please ladies, do not let it get in the way of your life! As the old saying goes “over my dead body…” if a change in habits does not occur today, that may be sooner than you think.

Source: CDC/National Center for Health Statistics

Allegra Feamster, Basic Author

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fitness, Wellness, & Diet Talk with Allegra Feamster

Fitness, Wellness, & Diet Talk with Allergra Feamster

We'd like to thank our friends over at NDH Chicago for a great time Saturday. We had a fun in the studio as I had a chance to talk with our Twenty-somethings Generation about fitness and living healthier lifestyles today and not waiting until you're a thirty or forty something to make the change. As we know..., what we do today sets us up for every tomorrow. We had a wide range of topics for discussion as well as questions from some of the in-studio audience. Some of my favourite topics hit: Acidity and alkaline levels in the body, and the effects of sodium on the body. Kudos to Quintin and Nobody Dances Here for putting on a great show. Check it out..

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Healthcare and Wellness and Prevention! Oh My! - The Other Side of Reform

About a week after I blogged about the healthcare reform debate and the omission of prevention as a way to manage and improve healthcare costs, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that a portion of the American Recovery and Reinstatement Act would focus on just that: PREVENTION.  For a quick second I thought, “Hmm… while surfing the web, did Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius come across my article and think “wow, this Allegra is right, we need to do something about this!”   Yes, I’m quite sure that’s how it went down. In any event, it was music to my ears, or rather my eyes since I was reading. But the release announcement from the HHS specifically said that $373 million of the allotted $650 million for the American Recovery and Reinstatement Act would be put towards the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative geared towards prevention and getting Americans healthy. The goal? According to Sebelius, it is “to make disease prevention and health promotion a priority”

As the saying goes “talk is cheap”.   I’ve often commented that if something is important to an institution or organization, you’ll know for certain when you see how much is budgeted for that initiative. Well,  judging by the amount designated to prevention and wellness, I would say that this administration does indeed care. And it seems as if its leaders are trying to set, or rather, live the example. President Barack Obama’s push is on Healthcare Reform, while his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama appears to be the staunch advocate for wellness and prevention. We’re seeing media clips regularly of the First Lady planting gardens and shopping at Farmer’s Markets. Recent interviews in Women’s Health and Children’s Health Magazines reveal Mrs. Obama’s philosophy on healthy living and the importance of setting the example. She was very forthcoming about the struggles that she faced as a career Mom who was juggling the responsibilities of a high-powered career, mother and wife. She says at one point in the interview, that because of the schedules that she, Barack and the girls had, fast food meals and sugary drinks and snacks became the convenient option. It wasn’t until the family pediatrician who had been noticing trends in obesity in the youth in their community, flagged that the BMI, (body mass index) of one of the Obama girls was high and suggested that the Obama’s may want to keep an eye out. With that warning, Mrs. Obama made the decision to make “minor” changes as she called it. Since the girls already had active lifestyles, the logical change was to modify what they were eating. Sugary drinks and snacks were replaced with fruits and vegetables, and the family sat down for dinners together more often. These changes made such a significant impact that the same doctor during the next visit wanted to know what Mrs. Obama had done to achieve such results.

 The Obama’s are also very active and committed to their fitness routines. No, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had a President who was committed to a healthy lifestyle, but this is the first time that we’ve heard and gotten insight into the First Lady’s activities. The fact of the matter is this, as stated in my article “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: What’s Missing in the Debate Over US Healthcare” what we do plays a significant role in our health. I am very excited to see the moves that this administration is making on emphasizing wellness and prevention. Just today, only 2 weeks after the initial budget announcement, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the first $120 million would be made available for States and Territories to begin program implementation and will have 2 years to complete their work. The unfortunate thing is that the mainstream media does not seem interested in publicizing these efforts. Rather than helping to promote wellness, they seem more inclined to promote drama. So this leaves it to people like me, Fitness/Wellness and Health Professionals to monitor this activity and GET INVOLVED! This is where we come in and help to make these changes. I’m committed to a better America and doing my part to make it so. So trust that this is a space that The Body Beautiful by Allegra will continue to watch closely. Stay Tuned…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fashionably Lazy or Functionally Impaired?

Photo courtesy of

I saw this and just HAD to comment. I do love fashion, and I can understand the marketing mentality of “if it's cute enough, folks will be inspired to work out" It’s kind of the fashion version of "If you build it they will come" Hmmm.... sure! Considering the many fashionably unfit women who willingly don workout attire by Juicy Couture, Bebe and Victoria's Secret with Nike shoes that have never dashed for anything but a sale. I say, cute, but no. I wouldn't recommend the use of ankle weights or hand weights for just random activity. The extra weight coupled with repetitive, movements that impact the joints do not make a great recipe for safe and effective fitness. If anything, you're doing more harm than good with these things as you are putting your joints at risk. Ankle and wrist weights should be used for "stationary" lifting such as leg raises, bicep curls, lateral raises etc. where the body is firmly positioned in a fixed spot, not walking around, running, or shopping.

Photo courtesy of

YES on cuteness, but NO on function and effectiveness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just a Spoonful of Sugar?

I guess the Original Super Nanny, Mary Poppins, really knew what she was talking about. Attached is a great piece on the detrimental aspects of artificial sweeteners. I've advised my clients about the use of artificial sweeteners for some time now. Go with what's natural, the body knows how to process these better. In fact, with only 15 calories per teaspoon, normal sugar alone is not the "BAD GUY” What does us in is the amount of sugar used. As an alternative, instead of artificial sweeteners try one of the 3 natural sweeteners recommended in the attached article. Most of these natural sweeteners are much more concentrated than the typical sugars that we are used to which means that in order to get the sweetness that you like, you'll use less.

Health Expert Dr. David Friedman Reveals Which Sweeteners Are Best:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: What's missing in the debate over US Healthcare

A very interesting article appeared yesterday in the Chicago Daily Herald. It was titled “What's the cause of the health-care crisis? Look in the mirror” It’s written by Dr. Patrick Massey, Medical Director for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network in Illinois. It details the imbalances in the current American healthcare system which has a large spend on “disease maintenance” and less focus on cure and prevention. Attached is the link: 

But why is this article so important? Because as Americans continue to spend billions of dollars on prescription medication, chronic disease is still on the rise. Many of these chronic diseases are those that are directly related to weight and can be prevented. According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, national health spending is expected to reach $2.5 trillion in 2009, accounting for a little more than 17 %of the gross domestic product (GDP). And studies from the National Institute of Health (NIH) show that Obesity costs the American healthcare system close to $100 million annually with Diabetes costs at $150 billion and heart disease costing $300 billion annually.

Regardless of which side of the fence we sit, most Americans recognize that healthcare in this country does require some sort of a reform; the differences lie in how it should be executed. But amidst all of the clamor and chaos, one glaring piece of information is not really being discussed: PREVENTION. Last month, based on a recent study published in the mid-August issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, it was revealed that lifestyle choices play a very large role in the prevention of chronic diseases. The study followed 23,153 Germans from ages 35 – 65 over an 8 year time period. What it found was that those who adopted a healthier lifestyle reduced their chances of developing these diseases significantly, 80% overall. By maintaining 4 main healthy factors: no smoking, maintaining a healthy weight (BMI less than 30%), exercising 3.5 hours/week or more, and adhering to healthy dietary principles such as eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grain and red meats sparingly, participants lowered their risks of developing the following chronic diseases:
  • Cancers - 36%
  • Stroke – 50%
  • Cardiovascular Disease – 81% and
  • Diabetes – 93%.
Bottom line… it’s all in what you do. Yes, there are some key factors that play a percentage in the development of chronic diseases: genetics, environment, and some medications, but the largest percentage is WHAT YOU DO. I've served as a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Assoc.’s Project Power program and recently spoke to audiences at the Chicago Diabetes Expo about the various forms of diabetes and what role activity and diet play in the controlling or prevention of the disease. I told participants, as I often tell audiences when I speak, “what you do today sets you up for every tomorrow”   This is true. When we live in a society that screams for us to keep up with the Joneses, we place our importance on material things, expensive cars, beautiful homes, a Sex And the City style wardrobe with accessories to match, but less focus is placed on ourselves, our physical selves. I frequently use car analogies with clients and audiences. One in particular is this: You have one car, it’s the only car you have and you plan to keep it around for as long as you can because you can’t afford to buy another one. Since that car needs to last for an indefinite period of time, you keep up with the maintenance schedule, regular oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups etc. You make certain that you’re putting in the right gasoline for your car (whichever one that will be), and because you really like your car, you keep it clean with regular car washes and wax jobs. Why? Because it’s all about performance and making certain that you do what you can to PREVENT that car from breaking down. Now imagine your body as the car. You only get one body, so why would you treat your body any differently? The same care that we give to our cars, homes and wardrobe, we should give to ourselves. Aim to prevent chronic diseases in your life. You have the power to change your future by simply deciding to live a healthier lifestyle today.

As Featured On EzineArticles

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

30 Days to a Fitter You: Tips on Getting Started With a Fitness Program & Sticking To It

In my years as a Fitness Expert I have heard it all, "I want to lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks" to” I want to get six-pack abs, but I don't want to give up what I'm eating” Still, other popular goals are “I want to tone up, I want to lose weight or I want to feel good". Although these goals are a good start, the problem with these same goals is that they are not realistic or specific. Research has shown that people who are working towards goals are generally happier and healthier than those who are not. But, research has also shown that approximately 45% of people, who set goals for themselves, usually fall off within the first 3 months of their program, while an additional 20% fall within the 6 month time frame. This "fall off" is usually as a result of individuals setting goals that are not realistic.

So how do I know if I’m setting proper goals? When setting goals, ask yourself the following questions:

Is my goal specific? Know EXACTLY what you want and be specific in your wants. Change "I want to tone up" to "I want to have more muscle definition in my arms, legs, etc. Or, I wear size 12 today; I want to get down to size 10 in 30 days." If at the onset of your goal setting exercise you’re not exactly sure of the specifics, or even if you think that you are certain, go through your goals with a childlike mindset and question everything. Most of us are very familiar with the way a child will ask the question “WHY?” over and over and over again until he or she gets the answer that is agreeable to them. For the adult, it’s quite annoying because to us it seems quite obvious. But to the child, it’s better understood in the simplest of terms. Continue to question your goals until you have broken them down to the bare minimum.

• Sample conversation:

I want to lose weight. Why?

Because I don’t like how I feel. Why?

Because I can’t go up one flight of stairs without feeling sluggish. Why?

Because I’m always winded and short of breath. Why?

Because I don’t have the energy to climb the steps. BINGO!

Specific goal: I’d like to get into enough shape to increase my energy levels to allow me to climb a flight of stairs without getting winded.

Can my goal be measured? This is important. It is often said that “What gets measured, gets done!” You want to put items in place that are easily measurable and are going to allow you to see your progress and gauge how you are doing against the goals that you have set. This will serve as your roadmap to success. Using the above example:
Specific goal: I’d like to get into enough shape to increase my energy levels to allow me to climb a flight of stairs without getting winded.

• Can this be measured? How can this be measured?

• Make a commitment to climbing one flight of stairs a day for the next 30 days using the same flight of stairs or a flight with the same number of steps. Take note of your daily or weekly progress. At the end of 30 days, how do you feel?

Is my goal realistic? We often get ourselves into trouble by setting goals that are not very realistic. Going from a size 16 to a size 8 in two months is not realistic from a healthy perspective and neither is running up 100 flights of stairs in 30 days if you’ve been recently living a sedentary lifestyle. It’s best to start small as small successes lead us to big wins. Small successes also provide us with the feeling of accomplishment and let’s face it, the more accomplished we feel, the more likely we are to stick to our goals. So if we take this back to our stair climbing example, climbing up the full flight of stairs might be a bit trying at first depending on the person. The initial thought might seem easy enough, “okay, I’ll climb a fight of steps without stopping”, but depending on the physical conditioning of that person, that might not be so easy to do, the person may have to stop one or two times to catch their breath before completing the task and that’s okay! Each step further that is climbed today is one more step than what was climbed yesterday. Many times we beat ourselves up by solely focusing on the end goal and not the importance of the journey. Revel in the fact that you did more today than you did yesterday, and for that reason alone, you are BETTER today than you were yesterday,

“It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How much time do I have to reach this goal? Give yourself a timeframe. If your boss or teacher gives you a deadline to complete a report, you'll do what it takes to get it done by that time. The same principle applies here. What I find that always works best, is to use some sort of milestone occasion like a wedding, birthday, vacation or anniversary. Last year before my 20 year high school reunion, the Facebook status updates of my classmates were littered with class reunion style work-out plans such as “Reunion in 2 months, gotta’ hit the gym, or dieting for my reunion” etc. ,they were determined to meet their goals by that specific date. Framing up your goals with a definitive timeline definitely helps to solidify the end goal, but a better way to keep you on track is to break out your timeframe into smaller chunks. Remember what I said about starting small? Break your timeframe into a 30 day cycle. 30 days is a good measure as it typically takes the body about that time to make adjustments to the new changes. In addition, it also generally takes 30 days to change a new behavior into a habit if done on a consistent basis. 

I have my goals so now what? Once you have answered these questions and your goals meet the above criteria, WRITE IT DOWN! The saying goes "the smartest people think on paper". To write something down is to make a promise, and to hold you accountable. This essentially becomes your contract with yourself. Sign it, date it and put it someplace where you will constantly see it. A common place is on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board. I’ve been known to tape things to mirrors just to insure that I will see it on a consistent basis. The one thing that you do not want to do is to put it away. I’ve heard this said many times, “oh, I put it in my purse/wallet so that I can carry it with me at all times”. Though the intentions might be good, in the wallet or in the purse are also out of sight and we all know how that quote is completed…”out of sight, out of mind”. Keep it out in the open! And if you’re worried that someone might see it, don’t. If anything, the sight of your written goals and the commitment that you have made to move yourself towards a healthier lifestyle just might inspire someone else to do the same.

Re-evaluate, Revise, REWARD: Every 30 days do a check-in. Review your progress against your goals and evaluate what you have done and where you are. During this check-in period, you may see that your goals have changed, or they have gotten more refined than when you started. At this time, begin to implement new changes to your routine that you will carry out over the next 30 days. And here’s my favourite part, once you’ve evaluated your progress and re-evaluated your goals, REWARD yourself! Buy that new suit or dress or indulge in a spa day. But whatever you do, not only just feel good about the accomplishments that you have made over this time period, but acknowledge you and reward yourself for a job well done!

As Featured On EzineArticles

Friday, August 21, 2009

Michelle Obama: She's Got Legs and She Knows How to Use Them

Every time I see this picture I think of the ZZ Top song from the mid-80's.

So, here we go again it seems. First there was much ado about our First Lady's right to bear arms, which are fabulous by the way. And now there's all of this craziness about her legs, again fabulous! If you haven't heard the stories, the Obama's were vacationing at the Grand Canyon and Mrs. Obama emerged from Air Force One in... (Gasp!) SHORTS!!! “How could she?” Some remarked. How could she? Here's how.

First, let's just take into consideration the obvious; it's Arizona, which last I checked is desert country. It's the Grand Canyon, one of the hottest (no pun intended, but it does work) tourist and vacation spots in the country, AND she's on a family vacation. What else would you wear? I don't know about you, but I think that Mrs. Obama's choice to leave the Jimmy Choos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was a wise one. Those kitten heels she's known for wearing just might get in the way on one of those canyon hiking trails.

Second, the shorts, notice are mid-thigh, are tasteful and age appropriate. She's not a woman who is trying to compete with the styles of her young daughters. If anything, notice the length of Malia's shorts, very similar in comparison to her mother's. Mrs. Obama looks very casual and comfortable. This brings me to the point of why I even bothered to comment on this at all. Considering that as our tag line states, The Body Beautiful by Allegra is dedicated to creating positive, healthy and realistic body images through fitness, Michelle Obama gets our number one vote.

Countless articles have been written about how our new First Lady has influenced and inspired not only African-American women in the United States, but how she has given a voice to Women of Colour around the world. In addition, she is a strong example to women period, regardless of ethnicity, who inspires us to be our very best. Politics aside, she is revered for her intelligence, her personal accomplishments and her personal style. Michelle is an example of how today's modern woman can successfully balance an exemplary career and family, all the while maintaining a great sense of self. Mrs. Obama is committed to being that "living example" for not only her daughters, but her husband as well. In fact, it was Michelle who insisted that Barack quit smoking if he was going to pursue the presidency. In addition to holding down a family and career, the First Lady is obviously committed to her own personal health and wellness. She works out with a Fitness Trainer regularly at 5:30am three days a week. What's great about Michelle is that it is clear that she is comfortable in her own skin, and comfortable enough to show her skin. Here’s a quote that I feel sums this up perfectly:

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination, prepared to be herself and only herself” - Maya Angelou

To that I say, Rock on Michelle, and keep rocking those arms and legs!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Running outdoors? Play it safe!!!

I read the attached article today and thought how timely! Just the other evening I was having dinner outdoors with a friend of mine, and at 9:00pm, we were remarking at how many night time runners there were.

To top it off, so many solo female runners, with i-pods nonetheless! During the hot summer months, the coolest part of the day is either in the morning or in the evening, but as the days get shorter, these times are also the darkest part of the day. Too often exercisers are so focused on the purpose, getting the workout in, that they forget about the safety precautions. I often advise my clients, and especially stress to the female clients, the importance of safety when working out outdoors. The same precautionary measures that you would take as woman walking alone at night or in secluded areas are the same measures that should be taken ESPECIALLY when you're working out. Why? Because potential attackers know that you are distracted and that distraction serves as a great opportunity for them to pounce! I echo the same sentiments as the Run Shoe Store owner in the article who says that your mind needs to be on EVERYTHING. Yes, it's great to listen to music and have that motivate you while running, but save the i-pod/i-touch for the treadmill. My rule of thumb, if you can't hear that squirrel scurrying up the tree, then you can't hear some one sneaking up behind you. PAY ATTENTION!

Consideration should also be taken in to what is worn for outdoor activity, from wearing clothing with reflective strips for running at night, down to the eyewear worn in the day. I have a great pair of wrap-around sunglasses that I use for running, although stylish, they allow me to see everything. No blind spots mean that I'm less surprised about whom or what enters my "space".

Extra tips that I give to my clients:

•Use the buddy system: it's been said many times "there's safety in numbers"
•Stay away from secluded areas and run in well-lit areas
•If you can, opt for the street rather than the sidewalk
•Don't talk on your phone and no texting (yes I’ve seen this, people running AND texting), it has the same effect to a would-be attacker as an i-pod i.e. distraction

Awareness is key! There’s no need to stay indoors, get out there, but stay aware and safe

Here's a great article written by Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Daily News highlighting the importance of safety while running outdoors...

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Does Fitness Mean To You?

Fitness means something different to everyone. To one person it may mean getting back into those “skinny” jeans, to another it may be to lower whatever levels are indicators of health, and still to others it may be to simply just have enough energy to live a better quality of life. As a Fitness Expert, I have had the opportunity to work with people around the world from many walks of life and many backgrounds. When discussing fitness goals and the challenges faced, I’ve found that there is a common denominator. For many, getting fit is the “side effect” of something greater. With so many other things going on in their lives, getting fit seems to be one thing that many feel “If I can gain control of this, I can gain control of the other stuff”. Coincidentally, it’s the “other stuff” that ultimately gets in the way and keeps many people from adhering to and attaining their targets resulting in yet another dream deferred or goal unfulfilled. Another larger issue is that when setting personal goals related to health and fitness, the premises for these targets are generally created with standards typically set by the media. It’s hard to set realistic goals when magazines and television advertisements are screaming at you “Lose 20 pounds in 10 days or less!” Unfortunately, when these goals aren’t met, or when the effects of these false methods are long gone and the weight has come back twofold, we are left yet again with that dismal feeling of failure. True fitness does not come packaged in a pretty little pill, and it does NOT come overnight. True fitness comes with careful planning, focused dedication and real motivation. One needs to “Know Thyself” first and foremost. What is appropriate for you may not be what is appropriate for the next person and vice versa. Focus on your health and fitness and what that means to you!