Viridiana: A lot of people that work out tend to all have a “cheat day” on days they take off from working out. Is this a good idea and or how should one “treat” themselves while living a healthy and fit lifestyle?
Sharon: OMG… I love this question and thank you for asking it. I have a totally different philosophy on cheats and treats. First of all, if I am pursuing health and wellness because it is the BEST thing that I can do for my body, then why do I need to cheat from that and isn’t the reward being healthy? So why do I need a treat?
In my program Sharon’s “Unleashed” Nutrition and Training, I have designed “Open Sundays.” Open Sundays are when my clients get to eat any HEALTHY food that they want in any quantity. On open Sundays there is no measuring and no timing of meals—just eat whatever healthy foods their hearts desire. The reason I no longer believe in “Cheat Days” is because they can be destructive to your mental and physical health. If you chose pizza, for instance, for your “Cheat Day,” then you are going to struggle with food cravings for an entire week after you ate that pizza. There is a huge aspect of healthy eating that has nothing to do with physical health but much more to do with psychological health. Food is highly addictive and many studies show that sugar and the combination of sugar, fat and salt are as addictive as crack cocaine. In my personal experience I have found this to be true. Eliminating cheat meals eliminated most food cravings from the equation. What my clients do have are called “Special Occasion” meals. A Special Occasion meal is not planned; it is literally a special occasion that happens to come up. A special occasion might be a wedding or a birthday or even Christmas or Thanksgiving. Most people have some kind of special occasion once every 6 weeks or so. The next day they get right back on their Real Food eating plans. In the event that more than one special occasion occurs on a monthly basis then the client will need to choose and not indulge in all of them. But, my plans make it VERY easy for my clients to still enjoy eating out and special occasions while staying on plan (minus the desserts and the alcohol). My clients struggle with far less cravings than most people that do not adopt this philosophy.
As far as exercise goes… yes, I believe in rest, but I don’t believe in doing nothing. Active recovery in the form of a walk or something restorative like yoga is a much kinder to your body then doing nothing.
V: What are the biggest mistakes people make when working out?
S: I think the biggest mistake people make when working out is getting bad advice… this is seen in two ways—they either get advice from the internet that is generic and really doesn’t apply to them (lifestyle, genetics, etc.) or they have a trainer training them and then are also taking advice from others which is undermining their progress with their trainer. Either way, the internet can be a great resource but it can also be the kiss of death for most people because it is distracting them from what they need to do to actually achieve their specific goals.
V: For people who find it hard to get into the usual workout mode, what are some workouts that could get them to burn those calories, or simply get their daily exercise, while having fun?
S: If people have a good nutritional foundation then ANY exercise that they decide to participate in will make them healthier. They many not achieve their ultimate goals that way, but they will be happier. For instance if I want to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger I can’t go to Pilates Class; I need to hit the weights. First off, people need to make a goal—they need to see if that goal is achievable with their lifestyle limitations and then they need to either modify the goal to match their lifestyle limitations or go after that goal. So yes, people need to do what is fun in order for them to stay on track but they also have to have a solid goal in place to help guide them.
V: What are some things people should do to prepare before taking on a new exercise and diet plan? What would you suggest?
S: In my practice, I specialize in whole food eating and education; with some exercise thrown in. I believe that healthy eating of REAL FOOD is the foundation that everybody is built on, so people need to get that piece right. Once you get your foundation down then you can build the body you have always wanted through exercise. So the thing people need to prepare for most when starting a new plan is CHANGE!!!! Change is terrifying to most people but they really do need the challenge, because if what they were doing was working for them then they wouldn’t need that change to begin with.
V: As a personal trainer, what are some of the challenges that you see people who are trying to get fit struggle with the most? And how can they help themselves overcome those obstacles?
S: I find that clients struggle most with differentiating between fact and fiction… especially in the United States our clients are inundated with information over the internet and through advertising on TV and in magazines that is not factual. This information is designed to sell products or services, but is disguised as scientific or fact. When I first started working with clients they’d think this information is fact. When I educate them on what the real facts are, and they try it, they achieve their goals much faster. This is one of the fundamental reasons it is so important to hire a professional and not try to gather information through the internet like so many people do.
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