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The Simplest Plan for Successful Weight Loss

If there is one fact that everyone knows in theory but not in practice, it's this: You're not perfect.

You're going to struggle. You're going to have bad days. You're going to eat more than you planned on eating, and you're going to feel like doing nothing sometimes. It's not a matter of "if." It's "when." And, after helping more than 1,000 people lose weight, I can tell you more than likely that "when" is Friday.

Friday is the most common day I see people get a case of the "screw its." When perfect is no longer an option, they just throw the playbook completely out the window. But these swings in consistency are death to long-term weight loss because they rob us of momentum.

So I started trying to come up with a better plan, and, luckily for all my clients, I'm a huge history nerd. In battle, great generals do not just tell their troops "charge" and, if things go badly, yell, "Run away!" Before troops ever go into battle, they pick a spot on the map to retreat to in case things go badly. This is their "Fallback Plan." After reading a bunch of books about the history of tactics in land battles, I developed "Fallback Plan Friday."

Your fallback plan is your line in the sand. Something you are 100% confident you can do, no matter what. It can be a nutrition habit like eating protein at every meal or an easy 15–20 minute workout that moves you toward your goal but requires as much thought as brushing your teeth.

A good fallback plan needs to be simple and easy, and it has to be bang for your buck. Start by writing down your favorite way to train or eat. Do you like barbell complexes? Salads? Kettlebell swings and goblet squats? Tae Bo? Anything is fine. Let me repeat that: Any exercise or nutrition habit you love is fine.

Now write down the bare minimum that you can do of that exercise or nutrition habit and still feel like you're making progress. Is it one salad at lunch? Is it drinking one less (sugary or alcoholic) drink? Doing 20 push-ups? And yes, I want you to underestimate here. I mean, really lowball it. The whole goal is to do something that's possible and enjoyable, so you feel more ready to get back at it tomorrow. Don't think, "I've done 1,200 swings in a workout before" and then think you can do 1,000 every day. Ask yourself, "When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, and I've got a slight hangover from too much red wine the night before, what's the workout that's going to make me feel better?" That's your fallback plan.

Some examples:

  • 100 kettlebell swings
  • Eating a vegetable at every meal
  • A 20-minute jog or bike ride
  • Replacing one caloric drink with water
  • A long walk
  • Splitting your dinner into two meals
  • 3–5 Turkish get-ups per side
  • 3–5 sun salutations
  • Or even just the warm-up from your regular workout

The key to this fallback plan is that you aren't retreating. You are still in enemy territory, regrouping for your next attack. If you feel like you can do more, do a little more. If you feel like you can do a lot more, do a lot more! But if, after going hard for a few workouts earlier in the week, you get to the weekend and don't feel like you can do anything, remember: You can still do something. Be a great general, and make your fallback plan.

stability ball workouts article 2

A stability ball (often referred to as a Swiss, exercise or physio ball) is a great piece of equipment that can not only make standard moves like crunches, extensions and planks more challenging, but it can also double as a desk chair.

Whether you decide to use the ball to work out with or to simply sit on, make sure you have the right size ball for the best results. In general, if seated on the ball, your knees should make a 90-degree angle from your hips when your feet are flat on the floor. To help pick the best size for you, here are some basic recommendations based on height (just remember you’ll want to sit on it to find the perfect fit):

  • If you are 5 feet 4 and under, try a 55 centimeter ball.
  • If you are between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 11, try a 65 centimeter ball.
  • If you are between 6 feet and 6 feet 7, try a 75 centimeter ball.

It’s important master key form basics and proper alignment for every exercise before incorporating the stability ball into your routine. Just like you need to learn how to walk before you can run, being able to execute moves properly on solid ground should come first.

All set? Great! Here are 3 excellent reasons to consider integrating a stability ball into your workout routine for better results:

  1. Build Core Stability and Flexibility

stability ball workouts article 1

Including an unstable element (such as a stability ball) in your fitness regimen could help you strengthen your stabilizing muscles and improve your ability to balance more efficiently. One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who used a physio ball during specific core exercises (such as curl-ups and back extensions) experienced greater torso stability and balance after 5 weeks than those who did similar movements on the floor.

Core stability is key for improving your force production while reducing the load on your joints in both exercise-related and everyday activities like throwing, running or jumping. Similarly, flexibility training is crucial for increasing range of motion, which can also reduce the strain on your joints, and improve posture and exercise performance. Utilizing a stability ball during stretching can provide support for movements that may be too difficult to achieve solo—this is why the ball is a great tool for flexibility sessions. And, because you’ll still work to balance on the ball while stretching, you can develop core stability and flexibility at the same time.

Check out my "On the Ball: 20-Minute Core Stretching Routine" below for how to incorporate the Swiss ball for both core-stability and flexibility work.

  1. Amp Up Your Ab Routine

Feel like you're ready to take your ab training to the next level? A stability ball can increase your range of motion during exercises like rotations and planks, adding another degree of difficulty.

There’s yet another reason to love ab work on a Swiss ball: Performing traditional floor exercises (like crunches) on the ball may help prevent the lower back pain or aggravation that can commonly occur with floor movements. For ideas on how to use the ball for more back-friendly abdominal exercises, please check out this 7-minute core workout video.

  1. Add Another Dimension to Total-Body Training

Incorporating a stability ball into your strength training routine can also be beneficial to your progress; it’s just not something you want to include during every session. Research indicates that this type of “instability training” can offer multiple benefits, including greater neuromuscular adaptations, improved coordination and higher muscle activation, all with less stress on the joints.

For strength gains, however, using unstable surfaces to work off of while lifting heavy weights may not be your best bet. The instability can decrease the overall force output your muscular system can provide since it has to work overtime to stabilize your body during your workout. The bottom line? When lifting heavy weights, stick with stable ground. But when you want to include more balance, core strength and coordination in your resistance training routine, include the stability ball with lighter loads and higher reps.

Ready to try some total-body training with a stability ball? Please check out my 30-minute "Stability Ball Sculpt" workout.

Tell me, do you use a Swiss ball for your workouts? What are some of your favorite moves? I’d love to hear what works for you—please share your best tips with us in the comments below!

—Photos by Vanessa Rogers Photography

food-war-mate

Don’t miss the article on the front page of today’s New York Times about Coca-Cola’s paying scientists who argue that obesity is more about exercise than diet (I’m quoted).

Last week, I posted two industry-funded studies with results that must have made their sponsors extremely unhappy.

But results like that are rare—so rare that the Washington Post wrote about one of them.

Today, I’m doing another in my series of posts of 5 (sometimes 6) studies sponsored by food and beverage companies for the purpose of obtaining results that can be used in marketing.

Since March, the count is 42 studies with results favorable to the sponsor but only 1 unfavorable (the other was from last year).

If you run across either kind, but especially industry-funded studies that don’t produce expected results, please send.

Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Berger, S., Raman, G., Vishwanathan, R., Jacques, P.F., Johnson, E.J., 2015. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn100305. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.100305.

  • Conclusion: Reviewed studies were heterogeneous and lacked the methodologic rigor to draw any conclusions regarding the effects of dietary cholesterol on CVD risk.  [Implication: suggestions that eggs might raise cardiovascular risk are unwarranted]
  • Sponsor: Supported by USDA agreement 1950-51000-073 and the American Egg Board, Egg Nutrition Center.

Milk intake is not associated with low risk of diabetes or overweight-obesity: a Mendelian randomization study in 97,811 Danish individuals.  Helle KM Bergholdt, Børge G Nordestgaard, and Christina Ellervik.  Am J Clin Nutr.  doi: 10.3945/ajcn. 114.105049

  • Conclusion: High milk intake is not associated with a low risk of type 2 diabetes or overweight-obesity, observationally or genetically via lactase persistence. The higher risk of type 2 diabetes in lactasepersistent individuals without milk intake likely is explained by collider stratification bias..
  • Funding source: HKMB's PhD project was partly funded by the Research Unit at Naestved Hospital, the Danish Dairy Research Foundation

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet retains effectiveness to reduce blood pressure when lean pork is substituted for chicken and fish as the predominant source of protein. R Drew Sayer, Amy J Wright, Ningning Chen, and Wayne W Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:302-308 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.111757

  • Conclusion: The results indicate that adults with elevated BP [blood pressure] may effectively incorporate lean pork into a DASH-style diet for BP reduction.
  • Sponsor: This paper is sponsored by the national pork board.

Relationship between lifestyle behaviors and obesity in children ages 9-11: Results from a 12-country study. Katzmarzyk PT, Barreira TV, Broyles ST, Champagne CM, Chaput JP, Fogelholm M, Hu G, Johnson WD, Kuriyan R, Kurpad A, Lambert EV, Maher C, Maia J, Matsudo V, Olds T, Onywera V, Sarmiento OL, Standage M, Tremblay MS, Tudor-Locke C, Zhao P, Church TS; ISCOLE Research Group.

  • Conclusion: Behavioral risk factors are important correlates of obesity in children, particularly low MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity], short sleep duration, and high TV viewing.  [Implication: what they eat and drink doesn’t matter]
  • Sponsor: This research was supported by The Coca-Cola Company.

A systematic review of the cost and cost effectiveness of using standard oral nutritional supplements in community and care home settings. M. Elia, C. Normand, A. Laviano , K. Norman.  Clinical Nutrition 2015, online ahead of print. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2015.05.010

  • Conclusions: Overall, the reviewed studies, mostly based on retrospective cost analyses, indicate that ONS [oral nutritional supplement] use in the community produce an overall cost advantage or near neutral balance, often in association with clinically relevant outcomes, suggesting cost effectiveness. There is a need for prospective studies designed to examine primary economic outcomes.
  • Authors' disclosures: ME, CN and AL have received honoraria for giving independent talks at national/international conferences supported by industry. KN has received speakers’ fees as well as financial support for research projects by commercial companies.
  • Comment: most studies of supplement use find little evidence of benefit.  Taking honoraria from industry doesn’t sound like much of a problem unless these financial ties are with supplement companies.  The authors do not specify and the journal’s editors must not require such specification.  They should.

This is the latest in a series of Q & A’s written by Kerry Trueman.   It appeared on Civil Eats, August 12, 2015.  And please note references added at the end.

Civil Eats: Your next book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), documents the history of how this sugary beverage gave rise to some of our most powerful corporations and has lately become Public Enemy Number One in the war on obesity.

With sales on the decline, the New York Times recently reported that Coca-Cola is pouring millions of dollars into a 'science-based' campaign to convince the public that the secret to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not avoiding excess calories, but getting more exercise. What's the science on more exercise versus fewer calories?

Marion Nestle: When it comes to studies about the health effects of sugary drinks, the science, alas, depends on who pays for it. Studies paid for by government or private health foundations show that if you want to prevent obesity, [a combination of] eating less and moving more works every time.

You can lose weight by eating less on its own. But you will have a much harder time doing that by increasing physical activity. This is because it takes lots of effort to compensate for excess calories. Eat two little Oreo cookies—100 calories—and you have to walk a mile to work them off. Drink a 20-ounce soda and you need to cover nearly three miles. This was the point of the New York City health department's subway current poster campaign, which shows that you need to walk from Union Square in Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn to burn off 275 calories.

The soda industry would love you to believe that the principal cause of obesity is lack of physical activity, and they put tons of money into research to discourage other ideas. They much prefer you to believe that all of their products can be part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes balanced diets, proper hydration, and regular physical activity. I call the idea the "physical activity diversion." It deflects attention from what really counts in obesity prevention: not eating huge amounts of junk foods, snack foods, and sodas.

Mind you, I'm greatly in favor of physical activity for its many benefits: physiological, social, psychological, and health. But there is a good reason for the outraged reaction to Coca-Cola's video seemingly suggesting that all you have to do to burn off the 140 "happy calories" in a 12-ounce soft drink is to laugh out loud for 75 seconds. This is so far from the reality of calorie balance that several countries actually banned the commercial [in 2013].

Soda companies promote the primacy of physical activity in other clever ways. The Coca-Cola Foundation says that about one-third of its philanthropic contributions go to organizations working to counter obesity, especially through promotion of physical activity.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo invest heavily in sponsorship of international sports teams. They put fortunes into recruiting sports celebrities as spokespersons. These investments accomplish two purposes: they influence fans to buy the products and shift the focus to physical activity. Obesity, these imply, is about what you do, not what you eat or drink. Public health advocates complain about how frequently young people—especially those of color or in low-income families—are exposed to advertising by professional athletes. The sponsored programs and celebrities never suggest that drinking less soda might be a useful health-promotion strategy.

As a nutritionist and co-author of a book titled Why Calories Count, I thoroughly agree that balance, variety, and moderation are fundamental principles of healthful diets, and that weight gain is a result of calorie imbalance.

But soda companies distort these principles to distract from their marketing of sugary drinks and how overconsumption of these drinks overrides normal physiological controls of hunger and satiety. Independently funded research makes it abundantly clear that avoiding sodas is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Sponsorship of research or research investigators by Coca-Cola or the American Beverage Association is reason alone for skepticism.

References: I am grateful to Richard Cooper for forwarding his paper on the relative contributions to obesity of diet and exercise.  From his review of the literature, you must reduce calories to lose weight.

He also pointed me to rebuttals by  Blair and Hill, the investigators featured in the New York Times article cited above.

The rebuttal by Steven Blair and colleagues.

  • Funding: Drs. Blair, Archer, and Hand are funded via unrestricted research grants from The Coca-Cola Company for analyses of dietary trends and for an energy balance study.
  • Conflict of interest: None declared [Evidently, these investigators do not perceive funding by Coca-Cola as a conflict]

The rebuttal from James Hill and John Peters:

  • Conflict of interest: J.H. receives research grants from the American Beverage Association and serves on advisory boards for McDonalds, General Mills and McCormicks. J.P. receives research funding from the American Beverage Association.

cherry garcia ice cream

We’ve all been there: It’s late, we’re hungry, and the drive-through window is beckoning. But before you grab the keys (or call for delivery) check out this list of less food-coma inducing late-night fare. It may require a little more work than swinging through a fast food joint, but the payoff is the seriously delicious satisfaction of knowing you’re feeding yourself well (and making healthy leftovers for tomorrow).

Savory Fare

Instead of a fast-food burger, make:

1. Bean-Kale Burger with Sweet Potato Wedges
For the vegetarians among us, here's a healthy recipe that provides balanced nutrition from superfood kale, sweet potato, and pinto beans. The recipe calls for pepper jack cheese, but this can be omitted if you're vegan or dairy-free.

black bean burger

2. Amazing Cheddar Sliders
While double-decker cheeseburgers are certainly delicious, they aren't the best "snack" if you're looking to stay awake for an all-nighter. This slider recipe cuts down on portion size while still packing flavor. To make this recipe even healthier, use a whole-wheat bun or skip it in favor of lettuce for added crunch.

Instead of a diner omelet, make:

3. Garden Vegetable Omelet
While omelettes may appear to be the healthiest option on the late-night diner menu, the serving sizes leave something to be desired in the health department. Make your own healthier version at home by tosssing in a whole bunch of veggies.

garden omelette

4. Caprese Omelet
Quality is key here, as juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil all shine at the peak of their freshness.

Instead of French fries, make:

5. Healthy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
French fries are undoubtedly addictive, especially the ones served at late-night eateries. This recipe calls for baking, not frying (without sacrificing any flavor!). Sweet potato fries, in particular, pack some serious vitamin A, which gives your eyes a boost at the end of a long day.

sweet potato fries

6. Spicy Baked Fries
The seasoning on these thick potato wedges is so tasty, you won't even realize they've avoided the fryer. As the recipe suggests, alter the ratio of paprika or cayenne pepper to amp up the spice.

Instead of delivery or frozen pizza, make:

7. Homemade Bagel Bites
No matter how much we wish for it, pizza isn't exactly a vegetable—but it’s still possible to make a healthy version of the perennial favorite, bagel bites, for a midnight snack! Built-in portion control does these snacks good. To make them even healthier, use whole-wheat bagels, and top with herbs and veggies.

bagel bites

8. Cauliflower Crust Pizza
While the taste won't exactly parallel doughy pizza, this recipe is a savory, healthful, and unique alternative to classic delivery options. Be warned: Making this crust thick will result in more of a shepherd's pie than a pizza; while not quite the same texture, it’s still delicious!

Instead of a drive-through breakfast sandwich, make:

9. Egg and Avocado Sandwich
Superfood avocado automatically ups the nutrition profile of this sandwich… and its natural creaminess will make cheese seem almost subpar in comparison.

10. Egg Sandwich with Wilted Spinach
Eggs and veggies on toast make an excellent, balanced snack or meal (especially when they’re made with whole ingredients rather than obtained via the drive-thru). This healthy option will satisfy your tummy and, thanks to the protein, give you a surge of energy, to boot.

Instead of drive-through quesadillas, tacos, and burritos, make:

11. Chicken Burrito Bowl
Losing the tortilla in favor of a burrito bowl makes for a lighter (and, depending on what you fill the bowl with, gluten-free) alternative to gigantic burritos. Besides, the combination of rice, beans, and lean protein in this recipe need no additions (and ensure long-lasting energy).

12. Healthy Veggie Burritos
Enormous, Mission-style burritos are absolutely fantastic. But given that they often weigh as much as a small child, they can leave us feeling pretty sluggish the next morning. Cook up this healthy veggie burrito instead.

13. Black Bean Quesadillas
When they're homemade, quesadillas are healthy meals (or snacks!) that can be stuffed with virtually every combination of ingredients, whether sweet or savory. This recipe provides a healthy vegetarian dish that can be cooked up in a flash.

14. Avocado Quesadillas
Avocado plus melted cheese equals healthy fats, protein, and (thanks to the tortilla) carbs. To make this recipe even healthier, choose a whole-grain tortilla and keep portions in check.

15. Weeknight Black Bean Tacos
Don't let the concept of a vegan taco deter you from this recipe. The spicy seasoning mixed with piquante lime will tempt even die-hard ground beef fans!

16. Vegetarian: Tacos De Hongo, Chile Poblano Y Cebolla
Like vegan tacos, vegetarian tacos seem like something of an oxymoron. But this recipe packs plenty of authentic flavor thanks to the poblano chiles.

Instead of store-bought grilled cheese, make:

17. Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese
This is another recipe for which the quality of ingredients is key (and will really enable this sandwich to shine). Feel free to omit the sour cream if you’re dairy-free or counting calories.

spinach grilled cheese

18. Grilled Portobello, Bell Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwich
The meatiness of the portobello and the creaminess of the goat cheese mean that a small sandwich will feel much more indulgent than its size. If you’re Paleo, roast two whole portobello caps ahead of time and use them as buns instead! (Pro tip: If making the Paleo version, try assembling the sandwiches and then melting the cheese in the oven, as pan-frying quickly becomes messy.)

Instead of potato chips and French onion dip, make:

19. Baked Kale Chips
It's easy to eat a whole tray of these superfoods in one sitting—but hey, that just means you're stocking up on vitamin K! The best part about kale chips (besides their addictive crunchiness) is that they can take on any type of flavor, from lemon to garlic to miso, and still be completely wonderful.

kale chips

20. Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Nutrient-rich red peppers, onion, superfood garlic, heart-healthy olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper combine for a healthy, savory dip that will have you coming back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths… ).

21. Healthy Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Baba Ghanoush can prove even more addictive than hummus, but given that many store-bought versions include more mayonnaise than eggplant, it's not always the healthiest choice of dip. While this homemade version still calls for some mayo, feel free to swap in more tahini. Plenty of eggplant provides vitamins K and B6, thiamin, folate, potassium, manganese, and fiber.

22. Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip
The rich flavors of this bean dip will shine on any dipping “instrument,” from whole-grain chips to red pepper slices. The creaminess of the white beans pairs beautifully with the savory flavors of the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic.

Instead of the Chinese buffet, make:

23. Healthy General Tso's Chicken Recipe
The sweet-sticky sauce covering General Tso's chicken is understandably addictive, but it most likely has unpronounceable ingredients. Stir-frying the chicken is healthier than sticking it in the deep fryer, while your mind can rest easy with this sauce made from whole, natural ingredients.

healthy general tsos chicken

24. Tofu That Tastes Good: Stir Fry
The texture of tofu can be off-putting for many, but baking and then stir-frying it in a sweet teriyaki sauce will make it much more firm. This recipe would be delicious with any mixture of vegetables.

25. Light and Healthy Vegetarian Lo Mein
Lo mein is such a wonderful mix of textures that its ingredient list should be just as lovely! To avoid the mystery of take-out lo mein, make a homemade version. This recipe is vegetarian, but stir-fried beef or shrimp would make delicious additions.

Instead of mac 'n cheese from a box, make:

26. Mac 'N Cheese (Vegan and Gluten Free)
While vegan and gluten-free mac 'n cheese sounds nigh on impossible to achieve, this recipe will leave you pleasantly surprised. The addition of cauliflower or white beans enables an even creamier texture and many more nutrients than a powdered cheese packet.

mac 'n cheese

27. Creamy Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
For a slightly gourmet twist on mac 'n cheese, this butternut squash version, with its combination of Gruyere and Romano cheese and crunchy Panko breadcrumbs, is exceptional. The butternut squash adds plenty of nutrition while tinting the dish a vibrant yellow.

Instead of store-bought chicken wings, make:

28. Crispy Baked Chicken Wings
This classic party food can be a stomachache in the making thanks to heavy amounts of oil and spicy sauces. This homemade version will leave you feeling satisfied, not sick, as its crispiness is achieved via the oven rather than the deep fryer.

baked chicken wings

Instead of traditional PB&J, make:

29. Fried Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich
It was Elvis's favorite sandwich, but that doesn't mean we can’t “healthify” it a bit—and this version still provides plenty of crunch.

peanut butter and banana sandwich

30. Apple Sandwiches with Honeyed Peanut Butter, Oats, and Raisins
Don't just eat apples out of hand! Core and slice apples to make these tasty treats. The oats and raisins provide wonderful texture to contrast the crunchy fruit.

Sweet Snacks

Instead of convenience store ice cream, make:

31. Banana Cherry Garcia Soft Serve
This recipe is just as addictive as the original Ben & Jerry's version, but with plenty more fiber and nutrients! Making it at home enables you to add as many chocolate and cherry chunks as you desire, which is definitely another bonus.

cherry garcia ice cream

32. Peanut Butter, Jam, and Banana Soft Serve Popsicles
Banana soft serve might be the best thing since sliced bread. The creamy sweetness of the blended frozen banana mimics ice cream quite nicely, and it is equally versatile, as these popsicles demonstrate.

33. 5-Minute Avocado Sorbet
By no means do avocados have to be savory. They shine in sweets from brownies to mousse, but the simplicity of this avocado sorbet is spectacular.

Instead of a drive-through milkshake, make:

34. Raw Cookie Dough Milkshake
The more cookie dough chunks, the better, but store-bought cookie dough often contains plenty of scary chemicals. This recipe eliminates unpronounceable ingredients in favor of a banana-based, egg-free cookie dough flavor.

35. Skinny Strawberry Banana Milkshakes
Strawberry shakes may seem more refreshing than their chocolate-based counterparts, but as they rarely include fresh fruit, they aren't necessarily a healthier choice. This simple version packs plenty of antioxidants for genuine health-boosting goodness.

36. Healthy Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Milkshake
The textural interplay between the creamy peanut butter and banana base and the crunchy cacao nibs is simply amazing. Adding raw honey boosts sweetness without processed sugars.

Instead of packaged brownies, make:

37. Vegan Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies
Black beans fill up your tummy with fiber and protein. Strange though the ingredient list may seem, the black beans make these really fudgy, which makes for perfect brownie bites!

38. Skinny Brownie in a Mug
Greek yogurt lends a healthy dose of protein while keeping the mug cake moist. This simple recipe is perfect for those who prefer their brownies to taste like batter!

Instead of packaged cookies, make:

39. "Raw" Cookie Dough (Egg Free)
If there's one sweet snack to love more than cookies, it's cookie dough. To avoid salmonella poisoning, try out this egg-free version of a sweet classic. If you don't have much of a sweet tooth, try lightening up the sweeteners in this recipe to save both calories and your blood sugar.

cookie dough

40. Vegan Single-Serve Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie
These cookies would be healthy enough to eat for breakfast. The banana and chocolate chips elevate baked oatmeal into a chewy, fudgy skillet cookie.

41. “All for One” Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe seems nigh on miraculous. Thanks to nutrient-packed ingredients such as coconut flour and molasses, you can eat the entire batch for the caloric equivalent of a single Chips Ahoy cookie! Even more important: You skip out on all the processed ingredients.

42. Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt
Given that this recipe features Greek yogurt as its base, it's much healthier than eating spoons of raw cookie dough. That said, the peanut butter and maple syrup make for an indulgent dessert, which is perfectly offset by the touch of sea salt recommended in this recipe.

43. Quick 5-Minute Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip (Paleo)
Soaked cashews and coconut butter provide a wonderfully creamy and sweet base for this dip! Apple slices or banana chips would pair well with the coconut-chocolate flavor.

Instead of diner pancakes, make:

44. Flourless Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Superfood pumpkin is hardly a seasonal vegetable—it's so packed with vitamin A that it deserves to be eaten all year round! These pumpkin pancakes pack plenty of flavor without refined sugars or flours.

45. Oatmeal Mini Pancakes
Oatmeal's versatility is often underrated—here, the oats add a nice textural contrast to these dense pancakes. Oatmeal is also a superfood that can help lower blood cholesterol levels, aid with digestion, and improve metabolism.

46. Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes
Between protein-packed Greek yogurt and antioxidant-rich blueberries, this recipe packs a lot of health benefits without the processed ingredients so often found in pancake mixes! Almond flour could work as a substitute to make this recipe gluten-free (just add a bit more leavener to compensate for the added heaviness).

Instead of a store-bought latte, make:

47. Salted Caramel Mocha Latte
Giant Starbucks mochas are delicious, to be sure, but at close to $5 each, they aren't the most economical option—and besides, they’re often loaded with added sugars. This recipe provides a less expensive way to get that salty-caramel flavor year-round!

salted caramel latte

48. The Perfect Homemade Latte
This recipe is super simple, and gives an energy boost from caffeine without a sugar crash later on. Flavor as you desire: Mint chocolate chip latte, anyone? Or pumpkin spice? The choice is yours, without any of the side effects of sugary syrups!

Instead of convenience store candy, make:

49. Healthy Gummy Bears
Gummy candies are difficult to resist, but instead of reaching for high-fructose-corn syrup-laden versions, make simple fruit juice-based ones at home. These are just as addictively chewy and sweet, but without the scary ingredients.

gummy bears

50. Healthy Sour Watermelon Gummies
These addictive (and Paleo!) gummies mimic Sour Patch Kids, but their flavor stems from a mixture of fresh watermelon and lemon rather than refined sugar.

51. Homemade Raw Vegan Chocolate
Strong dark chocolate is quite healthy already, but try out this vegan option if you're looking for a milkier (but dairy-free) treat. Adding different types of flavoring (extracts, dried fruits, nuts) to this base would be a wonderful way to add variety!

52. Make Your Own Raw Vegan Chocolate
Maple-coconut vegan chocolate sounds like a dream! Adding crunchy cacao nibs would be a perfect add more texture to this recipe.

sitting at desk

Whether it’s from your desk job or just a really long drive, you can ease those aches with these expert-recommended exercises.

You know that feeling—probably around 4 P.M.—when everything from your shoulders to your hips starts ache and tighten? There's both good news and bad news about what's going on.

The bad news: "We have a webbing of connective tissue called fascia that runs throughout our body and helps muscles work together," says Rebekah Rotstein, a movement educator and Pilates instructor in New York City and founder of Incorporating Movement studio. "It only glides and slides smoothly, though, when it's healthy and hydrated." It's quite common for that fascia to become dense and stiff, especially when you're dehydrated, don't move enough or have poor posture (read: when you're hunkered down at your desk all. freaking. day).

The good news: When it comes to generalized low back pain (as opposed to pinpointed pain, which could be a sign of a problem like a slipped disc—see a doc if that's the case), Rotstein says you can change the holding patterns in your muscles and fascia that are causing stiffness and discomfort. You just need to make a little effort.

But that doesn't necessarily mean to loosen up. "People often mistake tightness as a sign that you need to stretch," she says. "But many times, it's also a sign that an area needs to be strengthened." For instance, your abs should take some of the strain off the back as well—but when they're not strong enough to stabilize your core, the low back gets the brunt of it. Also, getting a stronger upper back, glutes, hips and shoulders can nix the aches because they'll redistribute the forces on your body and remove the excess strain from your back.

Feel better now with Rotstein's top four moves for releasing tension, strengthening your entire core and opening your hips.

1. Sky-High Stretch: Stand with feet together and extend arms overhead. Grab left wrist with right hand and pull gently as you stretch upward and to the right. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.

2. Pelvic Tilt: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on mat. Exhale and slowly rock pelvis up, flattening back against floor. (Your belly should sink as you do this.) Inhale and rock back in the other direction. That's 1 rep; do 10.

3. Knee Lift: Start on all fours with toes tucked. Inhale and lengthen through crown of your head while you look at the ground. Raise knees off floor a few inches; hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower. Repeat one to two more times.

4. Hinging Side Lunge: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step a big step to right with right foot; push hips back and bend right knee to lower into a side lunge while keeping left leg straight. Push through right heel to stand and repeat on opposite side. That's 1 rep; do 10.

Photo courtesy of SELF.

Banquet lunch break at conference meeting.

Whether you are facing a full-on brunch buffet or a catered dinner smorgasbord, buffets can be a huge challenge for anyone who is trying to eat healthfully or, in the case of that irresistible mac-and-cheese goodness, keep portion-control in check. like me, when i see buffet i can’t hold any of my healthy eating habit that i’m just go uncontrolled to the buffet table and just eat and take all the stuff on the table.

The good news is buffets don't have to lead to feelings of regret and a blown calorie budget. Use this simple five-step strategy the next time you find yourself in that "all you can eat" atmosphere.

1. Don't go to a buffet feeling hungry.

hungry-girl

Buffets often trigger an "I don't want to be in control" feeling, and hunger will only intensify that. Being faced with dozens of tempting foods all at once is not easy for anyone, but if you have a history of struggling with overeating, a buffet can feel like a minefield. Heading into a difficult food situation feeling ravenous will simply make it exponentially more difficult to be in control.

2. Breathe.

breathing-picture-right-in-the-face

If you notice a lot of chatter in your head and powerful urges to eat everything, redirect your attention to your breath. Take long, calming inhales and exhales. Redirecting your attention to your breath is a powerful mindfulness technique that will help you feel more grounded and in control.

3. Assess the food situation.

look-at-the-food-its-suspicious

Before you start filling your plate, do a thorough walk-through. Take your time, and look at everything being offered. Is there a dessert section? Is there food you love and don't typically get to have? What looks especially enjoyable or has been prepared in an interesting way? What smells especially good? If you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious, you can always fall back on those calming breaths.

4. Choose your Top 4.

choosing-cookie-eat-cookie-two-girls-one-cookie

When you have finished the walk-through, mentally make a list of the Top 4 most appealing choices. Which four stood out to you? Which foods are you still thinking about? Which tastes/textures are you most wanting to experience? The four that keep popping out at you is your Top 4 list.

Notice what you are feeling; if it's very intense and you are struggling to narrow down your choices, add a small loving mantra to your breathing. The mantra should sound like you are talking to yourself in a supportive way. Such as: "It is hard to choose, I know how much you want it all, I hear you"; "You are doing so well"; "This is hard, you are not doing anything wrong"; "I am proud of you, and I love you." I know this might feel a bit strange and awkward, but give it a try and see what happens!

5. Go get 'em … and then get seconds!

suspicious-looking-austism-kid

Now it's time to enjoy! Start by getting two of your Top 4. While you spoon the food onto your plate, keep focusing on your breath and gently remind yourself to keep the portions small. The goal is to experience and enjoy a variety of foods instead of heading straight into a binge. When you sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the taste of your choices.

It's a buffet, so when you are finished go ahead and have seconds! Now's the time to sample your remaining two choices! Continue to slowly enjoy what you are eating, notice how you are feeling, keep refocusing on your breath, and repeat the supportive mantras if needed.

6.Silently watch your healthy habit

buffet-tower-no-tower-at-all

If, when you finish, you notice lingering thoughts of wanting more or distracting urges to keep on eating, gently acknowledge them. Work toward resisting the urge to overeat by tuning into what's going on around you in the present. Notice the weather, conversation with friends and family, the music that is playing. Stay observant and kind to yourself.

By following this five-step strategy, you'll be able to enjoy the buffet experience while reducing any overwhelming feelings you may have in this situation using simple mindfulness techniques and self-love. You may be surprised by the power of being gentle and loving with yourself.

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