What I Learned During 13 Years Of Strength Training

February 5th, 2019 by Debbie Martilotta

It all started when I was 18. At the time, I was slowly recovering from an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa, and my dad was trying to help me get healthy again.

“You know, there’s a way you can eat a lot more and still be skinny!” he said. “Come to the gym and workout with me.”

It’s funny how different my ideal body was back then, 13 years ago. I was judging myself by what I saw online and in magazines. I wanted to be emaciated-looking. I wanted to be small and petite. I wanted to be “less.”

My first trip to the gym was immensely unproductive. My “hardcore workout” consisted of some abdominal machine work, some crunches, and…wait for it…sleeping on the mat. Yup, I fell asleep on a mat about 15 minutes after walking into a gym for the first time in my life.

Despite what happened during that first visit, I’ve been steadily going to the gym for more than 13 years now. In that time, I’ve completed countless numbers of lifting sessions. But it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the process of strength training and how it made me feel. I soon became passionate, determined, and dedicated to making gains, both physically and mentally.

Today, I’d like to share with you 13 lessons I’ve learned along the road to becoming a stronger, more fit, and more confident me.

Lesson 1: Women, You Will Not Look Like Men
No matter how hard you work out at the gym, you will not—I repeat—not look like a man. Women simply do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to increase their muscle mass to the point where they look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The women you see pictured online with huge muscles use steroids.

Without these dangerous drugs, you can still see amazing changes in your body shape and tone. You get there by following a healthy diet and by lifting weights—real weights. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the colored-plastic 5-pounders and grab some iron. It won’t make you bulky, but it will make you strong and lean.

Lesson 2: Strength Training Shapes Your Body Much More Than Cardio Does
There are two components to physique: muscle and the visibility of that muscle. We increase muscle mass when we strength train. We increase muscle visibility when we lower our body fat percentage. To increase muscle visibility, you must strength train. In other words, in order to display your muscles, you have to have them! In contrast, cardio is great for heart and overall health, but won’t do anything for your muscle tone.

Lesson 3: Strength Train The Major Muscle Groups
When most people decide they want to change their physique and improve their health, they tend to focus on the body parts that bother them the most. For women, often this means lower body and stomach. For their part, men often focus on biceps and chest. To improve muscular balance, prevent injuries, improve overall appearance and strength, and increase caloric burn, you must train all the major muscle groups—the ones you see in the mirror and the ones you don’t.

Focus on compound exercises that use large muscle groups—exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and rows. Then add accessory, or isolation, exercises that target smaller muscle groups. Such exercises include leg curls, triceps extensions, and rear-delt raises.

Lesson 4: Going For Spot Reduction? If Only!
Newsflash: There is no such thing as spot reduction, meaning no exercise can burn fat in a specific area. Your genetics, not your workouts, determine the areas where you can gain and lose fat. A good diet combined with intensive strength training is what creates an aesthetically pleasing physique.

Lesson 5: Continuous Progress Requires Progressive Overload
The SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) is simple: Your body adapts to stress (in the form of exercise) by gaining muscle mass and strength. To continue building your physique, you must constantly increase what you demand of your body through a concept called progressive overload. One way to achieve this is by adding more weight to the bar. But you can also do it through any combination of increasing your reps per set, increasing your range of motion for a certain exercise, improving your technique, or reducing the rest time between sets. All these techniques give you the freedom to change, monitor, and adjust your program so you can keep challenging yourself.

Lesson 6: Diet Schmiet—Mind Your Calories!
I’ve attempted all kinds of diets—low fat, high fat, zero sugar, only “specific foods” diet, and on and on. None of them worked. About three years into my weight-lifting career, I decided to dive deeper into the science behind body composition changes. I hoped to answer several questions: Why do we get fat? How do we lose fat? Are certain foods fattening? Do some foods burn calories just by digesting them?

Along the way, I realized there are three possible scenarios for an individual’s body weight and caloric intake:

  • The number of calories you consume each day is equivalent to the number of calories your body burns per day. In this scenario, you maintain your weight.
  • The number of calories you consume per day is greater than the number of calories your body burns. In this scenario, you gain weight.
  • The number of calories you consume daily is less than the number of calories your body burns per day. In this scenario, you lose weight.

Simply put, we gain fat when we eat too many damn calories, not because we eat or avoid specific foods. I’m a big proponent of the 80/20 rule, whereby 80 percent of your diet consists of highly nutritious, minimally processed foods, and 20 percent consists of low-nutrient, processed foods. The good news is you can still eat those foods you love. Just eat less of them. Maybe a lot less.

Lesson 7: Food Has No Moral Code
Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind?

A cookie is bad for you, while a salad is good for you.
I was bad because I had a piece of chocolate cake. I’d be good if I had broccoli and chicken.
Thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” is called orthorexia, “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.” Orthorexia sounds great but, in reality, it undermines your long-term success, both physically and emotionally.

Labeling foods as good or bad only encourage a negative relationship with them. In reality, food is neutral; it’s meant to be used as fuel for the body—and to be enjoyed! A healthy diet isn’t all black or all white—it comes in shades of grey. Yes, it’s rich in nutrients, but if you want your diet to last the long haul, it also needs to include foods that give you pleasure.

Lesson 8: Be Realistic About Your Expectations
You’ve finally decided to start your fitness journey. You’re excited. You’re motivated. You think to yourself, “I’m going to have my dream body in 3-6 months!”

Good for you—but not so fast. For most mortals, it takes way more than three months to achieve that dream body, whatever it may be. With consistency in your exercise and diet program, you will see measurable and noticeable changes in three months—just maybe not the kind of before/after transformation you see so often on social media.

Getting a fit body and adding quality muscle can take years. Get into it for the long term.

Lesson 9: Consistency And Patience Are Keys
Motivation can get you started, but habits keep you going. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but putting in a not-so-great workout beats no workout at all every time. Keep at it and don’t give up. Being consistent will bring you closer to your goals while also helping you develop the grit and work ethic needed to continue despite obstacles. Treat every day as an opportunity to grow and improve, and rely on your discipline—not your motivation—to get you to the gym. If you miss a workout, don’t get down on yourself. Just get right back into it!

Lesson 10: Don’t Be Obsessed With Scale Weight
For years I’ve been attached to a magical number on the scale, a number that would make my life so much easier, fuller, and happier. In reality, there is no such number. Your weight comprises fat mass and fat-free mass (bones, muscles, connective tissue, organs, and water), and it’s a dynamic measurement, one that fluctuates in response to stress, hydration, carb intake, fiber intake, types of foods, time of the day, and sleep.

Lesson 11: Mental And Emotional Strength Gains Are Coming Your Way
Just as muscles grow by repeatedly overcoming resistance, we grow as people the same way. Sometimes life can seem like a daily resistance workout you never signed up for. If you’re lucky, strength training can help you learn how to show up and do the work.

I fell in love with strength training because it has better prepared me for life. Strength training tests your will power. It challenges your patience and dedication as you progress, regress, plateau, and progress again. There’s something empowering about that, especially for us women.

Lesson 12: You Won’t Always Have The Support Of Others
Some people—even those closest to you—may not understand your new fit lifestyle. That’s OK. Not everyone has to agree with you, because the most important person in your life, you, will understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Take care of your own health and well-being first. Focus on getting stronger, healthier, and fitter. The rest will follow.

Lesson 13: Remember, You’re Much More Than Your Body
Strength training doesn’t guarantee you’ll find happiness once you’re lean. Or that your life will be any more meaningful than it was before. Or that your friends and family will love you more. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get wiser or become a better person. All your troubles and hardships may not vanish into thin air, but you will feel healthier, stronger, and, hopefully, more confident. And that is huge!

Over the years, I’ve witnessed so many people (mainly women) attaching their self-worth to the number on the scale or the size they wear. Know that you’re so much more than that. No matter what your body is up to on any given day, learn to love it all and treat your body well. After 13 years of strength training, today I am healthy, energized, and strong. I am a capable human being, and I’m much more than just my body. And so are you.

by Sivan Fagan


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

November 19th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2.5 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
6 cups vegetable stock/broth
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp honey
kosher salt, pepper

Directions

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft but not browned.

2. Add butternut squash, stock, curry, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until squash is tender.

3. Remove from heat and stir in honey (optional). Purée with a hand immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


The Last Diet You Will Ever Need

February 9th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

With permission by Mark Hyman, MD

Why is it that we believe we can feed our bodies industrial nutrient depleted food-like substances empty of life and be healthy? How did we come to believe that food industry chemicals and processing could replace nature made foods?

A hundred years ago all food was organic, local, seasonal, fresh or naturally preserved by ancient methods. All food was food. Now less than 3% of our agricultural land is used to grow fruits and vegetables, which should make up 80% of our diet.

Today there are not even enough fruits and vegetables in this country to allow all Americans to follow the government guidelines to eat 5 to 9 servings a day.

What most of us are left with is industrial food. And who knows what lurks in the average boxed, packaged, or canned factory-made science project.

When a French fry has more than 20 ingredients and almost all of them are not potato, or when a fast food hamburger contains very little meat, or when the average teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are living in a food nightmare, a sci-fi horror show.

The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food. When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.

The food industry, which is the second biggest employer in America after the Federal government, heavily influences the media and government agencies that regulate it (US Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Congress) and intentionally confuses and confounds us.

Low-fat is good – so anything with a “low-fat” on the label must be healthy. But Coke is 100% fat-free and that doesn’t make it a health food. Now we are told to eat more whole grains, so a few flecks of whole grains are sprinkled on sugary cereals. That doesn’t make them a health food either.

The best advice is to avoid foods with health claims on the label, or better yet avoid foods with labels in the first place.

In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry. The food-like substances proffered by the industrial food system food trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure, but not our biology which reacts, rejects and reviles the junk plied on our genes and our hormonal and biochemical pathways. We need to unjunk our biology.

Industrial processing has given rise to an array of addictive, fattening, metabolism- jamming chemicals and compounds including aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), high-fructose corn syrup and trans-fats, to name the biggest offenders.

MSG is used to create fat mice so researchers can study obesity. MSG is an excitotoxin that stimulates your brain to eat uncontrollably. When fed to mice, they pig out and get fat. It is in 80% of processed foods mostly disguised as “natural flavorings”.

And trans-fat, for example, is derived from a real food – vegetable oil – chemically altered to resist degradation by bacteria, which is why modern cookies last on the shelf for years.

But the ancient energy system of your cells is descended from bacteria and those energy factories, or mitochondria, cannot process these trans-fats either. Your metabolism is blocked and weight gain and type 2 diabetes ensue.

Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot and the result is the disaster of obesity and chronic disease we have in America today.

No wonder 68% of Americans are overweight, no wonder that from 1960 to today obesity rates have risen from 13% to 36% and soon will reach 42%. Over the last decade, the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9% to 23%.

Really? Almost one in four of our kids now has pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes? And 37% of normal weight kids have one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar because even though factory food doesn’t make them fat, it makes them sick!

It is time to take our kitchens and our homes back. Transforming the food industry seems monumental, a gigantic undertaking. But it is not. It is a small problem. In the small places in our lives, our shopping carts, the fridge, the cupboard, the kitchen and on our dining room table – is where all the power is.

It is the hundreds of little choices, the small actions you make every day that will topple the monolithic food industry. This century is littered with the bodies and institutions of fallen despots and despotic regimes – from the fall of the Berlin wall to the Arab spring. There is no force more powerful than a small group of individuals with a desire to end injustice and abuse.

A very simple idea can break through the confusion and plant the seeds of a revolution. Our bodies were designed to run on real food. Our natural default state is health. We need to simplify our way of eating.

Unjunk our diet, detoxify our bodies and our minds and we heal. Simply choose foods such as – vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (olive oil, fish oil, avocado and coconut oil), small amounts of whole grains and beans and lean animal protein including small wild fish, grass-fed meat, and farm eggs.

There are no diets, no calorie counting, and no measuring fats, carbs or protein grams. None of that matters if you choose real, whole, fresh, live foods. If you choose quality, the rest takes care of itself.

When you eat empty industrial food with addictive chemicals and sugar, your body craves more looking for nutrients in a dead food where none are to be found. Yet after eating nutrient-dense fresh food for a few days the biological addiction to industrial food is broken, and in a few more days your cells begin to rejuvenate and you heal from the inside out.

And the side effects are all good ones – effortless weight loss, reversal of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, clearing of brain fog, lifting of depression and fatigue and even better skin, hair and nails.

What is more important than what you take out of your diet is what you put in. Add in the good stuff and there won’t be room for the bad. Mother Nature is the best pharmacist and food is the most powerful drug on the planet. It works faster, better and cheaper than any other pharmaceutical.

Whole real food spiced up with a few super foods such as chia, hemp, parsley, cilantro, coconut and green juicing can beneficially affect thousands of genes, regulate dozens of hormones, and enhance the function of tens of thousands of protein networks.

Dinner is a date with the doctor. What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful than anything you will ever find at the bottom of a prescription bottle.

The roadmap to health is simple, eat real food, practice self-love rather than self-loathing, imagine yourself well, get sufficient sleep, and incorporate movement into your life. The solution to our health crisis and obesity epidemic is not complicated.

Health and happiness are often just a few days away. Each of us has the capacity to make the small changes in our lives that will create big changes in our food landscape, our agriculture, and even our government policies.

I hope you will use the power of your fork to be part of the start of a true food revolution.

Have you changed your eating habits to include more real food?

What have you done to create a healthier diet for your family?

Have you eliminated MSG from your diet?

Think about it!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

 

Mark Hyman, MD is an American physician, scholar, and New York Times best-selling author. He is the founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center and a columnist for The Huffington Post.

Hyman is a proponent of functional medicine, a discredited set of pseudoscientific beliefs; he is the chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine. He was the editor-in-chief and is a contributing editor to Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal focused on functional medicine.


DBM Nutrition Plan

February 1st, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

I’m often asked by clients “What should I eat?” or “How can I become leaner?” or “What foods should I avoid?” Well, here you go:

Remember, your diet is 80 to 90 percent of what it takes to be fit.  No amount of exercise will undo what you just stuffed into your face. PERIOD.

If you don’t eat right, you may become stronger but not leaner. Feed your body with clean, organic, unprocessed whole foods.  Your body will love you and you will love your body and yourself!

Along with clean and healthy eating, make sure to get your strength training in. I recommend two 30-minute strength training sessions weekly with me.  Add a walk or bike ride for fun, to burn a few extra calories, or to relieve stress.

IMPORTANT REMINDERS:

Just because a label says gluten-free, fat-free, or sugar-free does not mean that it is good for you. Food companies make up for the absence of these ingredients with additional processed ingredients which add calories, cause inflammation and sabotage your efforts to get healthy and stay healthy.

Clean Protein:  Always find clean (antibiotic-free, organic, nitrate-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, free-range or wild caught) protein sources. (beef, pork, fish, wild game, lamb, chicken)

Try to get up to 5 cups of non-starchy (preferably organic) vegetables a day. That may sound like a lot, but with choices of broccoli, leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, bell peppers, green beans, and cabbage, you can vary the veggie(s) and cooking method(s).

Try to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day (i.e. if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water per day). I recommend filtered/purified water, as tap water contains trace amounts of chemicals that can accumulate in your body and may jeopardize your health.

Consume at least 20 grams of protein per meal/snack throughout the day. Remember, in order to build lean muscle, you should consume about 0.8 grams of protein per pound of your ideal body weight per day (i.e. if your ideal weight is 150 pounds, you should consume 150 x 0.8 = 120 grams of protein per day). 

THINGS TO AVOID:

All grains, highly processed foods, sugar, wheat, corn, starch, and artificial ingredients.

Remember: Sugar is like CRACK to your body!  It is very addicting.  STOP the cycle!!   Sugar is present in many types of foods and products and may be disguised.  YOU MUST LOOK AT THE NUTRITION LABEL CAREFULLY! If you see ingredients like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, and honey, BEWARE.  These are all recognized by your body as SUGAR and contribute to inflammation, weight gain, and trigger your body’s ‘sugar response’, resulting in insulin spikes.

A few shopping tips:

  • Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store. This is where the fresh foods are kept. Inner aisles are mostly processed garbage;
  • If a product has more than 5 ingredients, it’s a sure bet that it contains stuff that you don’t want/need, and that may be contrary to your goals;
  • If a product contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce, AVOID IT;
  • If a product contains ingredients that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize, DITCH IT;

GENERAL MEAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Start your day with a protein-based meal such as 3 scrambled/hard-boiled eggs along with a quarter cup of berries. This sets up your metabolism for success for the rest of the day.
  2. 3 – 4 hours later have another protein-based meal/snack such as a protein shake or Greek yogurt. Choose your protein powder carefully. If you want a protein that has no artificial ingredients, soy, or dairy, Ariix brand – Pure Protein, is a great option. If you are looking for a whey protein, Garden of Life offers a grass-fed, organic protein powder that is also very good.
  3. 3 – 4 hours later have another shot of protein such as canned tuna or chicken, along with some veggies.
  4. Repeat this all day.
  5. Stop eating 3 – 4 hours before bedtime. This will give your body adequate time to digest what you have eaten before your metabolism slows for sleep.