Are you working out often, but not seeing results? Fitness expert Brian Roy identifies the usual weight-loss pitfalls and offers tips for a better workout.
The first weeks of a new fitness routine can be exhilarating. You lose weight and your energy increases, but then something strange happens – your progress grinds to a halt. Maybe you're doing too much too soon. Or maybe you're focusing too much on the numbers on your scale. There are plenty of reasons why your progress may be slowing down. Read on for the top 5 fitness mistakes that might be keeping you from seeing results.
1. Setting unrealistic goals
When starting an exercise regimen, unrealistic goals can impact your progress. Quick fixes in fitness do not exist. "People think they're going to lose weight and gain lots of muscle right away," says Brian Roy, an associate professor of physical education and kinesiology at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. "It takes a fair amount of time and effort to start seeing those changes. It doesn't happen overnight. You should have a realistic understanding that it takes time." By realizing that becoming fit is a slow, steady process, you'll avoid disappointment. When people falsely believe that they'll shed weight and tone up quickly, they often become disillusioned and stop working out when the results don't materialize. Be realistic, set sensible goals and, in time, you will meet them.
2. Doing too much too soon
It's common for beginners to take on too much too soon. Planning to run a marathon or enrolling in an advanced Pilates class could do more harm than good when you're just starting out. "Easing into [exercise] is the best thing you can do," says Roy.
People who go full throttle into workouts and don't increase the duration and intensity gradually often "end up with muscle pain or joint injuries," says Roy. "You want to [exercise] smartly—don't injure yourself. Doing too much and being really sore turns people off from activity." Start slowly: If you want to run, Roy recommends walking first. Then "add a little running to your walk. Do one minute of running and five minutes of walking. Work up to it." Eventually you'll be jogging more than walking. Taking small steps into your fitness routine will be less stressful on your body. Plus, you'll be more likely to stick with it—and see results.
3. Not eating properly Not eating properly is a major fitness stumbling block. Some individuals make the mistake of eating too little while others eat too much. "Starving yourself is not a healthy way to lose weight," says Roy. You may drop pounds in the beginning, but "it's been repeatedly proven that the weight's not going to stay off. It will come back. Your metabolic rate slows down; you don't expend as many calories." Restricting your food intake so drastically leaves your body desperate for fuel. Exercising will become more tiring and results will be non-existent.
While not eating enough can hurt your fitness progress, so can overindulging. Adding exercise to your lifestyle without adjusting your meals will stall the weight-loss process. If you eat the same amount and kinds of food that you did before you began exercising, it will take longer to lose weight. By simply watching your portion sizes and replacing foods that are high in sugar and fat with more healthy choices, such as lean meat and fresh vegetables, you'll eventually see changes in the appearance of your body. You'll feel better too. "It really comes down to lifestyle choices and changes that will facilitate a sustained loss of fat and a healthier lifestyle," says Roy.
4. Relying solely on cardio for your workout
If you're determined to lose weight and achieve full fitness, relying solely on cardiovascular activities—such as running, aerobics and cycling—can undermine your progress. Adding weight or resistance training into the mix will target areas that cardio doesn't touch. "You'll work other muscles besides the classic cardio muscles, which are generally all leg-based. Resistance training can hit the other less-used muscles," says Roy. "A combination of both aerobic and strength activity is good for you. Both are going to benefit you in different ways and improve your overall health." Weight lifting and resistance training help build not only muscle, but bone strength too—an advantage that cardio workouts alone cannot achieve. Plus, weights and resistance work can sculpt and tone your body. With the right program, you can create lean, tight muscles without adding bulk—a common concern for many, especially women.
5. Being obsessed with the numbers on your scale
Most people have a love-hate relationship with their weight scale and for good reason. "Body weight is a terrible measure. We get obsessed with the scale because it's an easy measurement for us," says Roy. "The more fat you lose, the more your body weight will go down. But over time people start to gain more lean muscle as well, so they won't necessarily see changes in their body weight." At this point, the scale will often show an increase in pounds because muscle weighs more than fat. This healthy shift can be frustrating if the scale is your only progress marker. Roy says that it's more important to gain muscle tissue and lose fat than to be obsessed with the number displayed on the scale. "Weight isn't the important factor. It's how you feel, how you look." Measure your progress visually in the mirror, by how your clothes fit, and especially by how healthy you feel.
It's easy to correct these top five fitness mistakes. With a little effort and dedication, you'll be back on track to meet your fitness goals.
How one woman found love with someone who had lost it.
After my husband and I separated, I didn't think I would ever fall in love again. I had two little children and couldn't imagine being in another relationship. I felt unlucky in love, as if perhaps I didn't deserve to be happy. Besides, I hadn't dated in 15 years and, now, didn't know where to begin. But six months after I separated, a mom I'd just met called to ask if I'd be interested in going on a blind date with her friend James*, a single dad who had recently lost his wife to cancer.
By then, every single person I'd met had baggage, including me, so it never occurred to me that dating a widower would be different from dating anyone else. I didn't even really consider the possibility that a first date might lead to a second. But from the get-go, I could tell James was different. The conversation flowed easily, he was funny and interesting…we ended up going on that second date, then a third. When he asked me to date him exclusively a few weeks later, I was ecstatic— but a few months into our relationship, something weird started happening. There were a series of days when, inexplicably, he wasn't himself. He was quiet and sad and didn't want to talk.
I knew what it felt like when a man wasn't interested in me anymore—that's how my marriage had ended. So when he would clam up and be distant, I had a familiar sickening feeling. We met for a drink at a quiet neighbourhood bar, where I cut to the chase. "I'm sorry, James, but I don't know what to do when you won't talk to me. I can't do it," I told him, too sad to drink my wine. I hoped ending things would spare him the trouble of dumping me and spare myself the pain of having yet another person leave me. I was beside myself: I couldn't believe things were ending when everything had been going so well.
Only now, James was ready to talk. "I've mentioned that my wife died two years ago, and I'm sorry for not being able to communicate with you better. Certain days of the year are hard for me, and I've just got through some very difficult back-to-back anniversaries," he explained, his eyes fixed on his lap. "Some days, I don't want to talk, but I'm feeling better again and I don't want you to take it personally. I'm just trying to cope as best I can; it has nothing to do with you. I really like you and I like where this relationship is going."
He looked up into my eyes and stretched his arms across the table. His warm hands enveloped my own. It hadn't occurred to me that he was going through a rough patch; because of my own history, I assumed it was something I had done. I didn't yet know enough about his life or about grief to understand his personality or the dates that would be difficult for him. When he communicated his feelings, I felt as though I understood him, like we were connecting on a deeper level. I realized then that this man was different kinder, deeper, stronger and more compassionate—than anyone else I was likely to meet. As a newly single mother struggling to get back on my feet, I had my own set of issues and insecurities; dating a widower on top of it all wouldn't be easy, but I had fallen in love. I had to try.
My situation isn't as unique as you might think. In 2016, about 1.83 million widowed people were living in Canada, and many of them are finding their way back onto the dating market. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in the United States, 19 percent of those who are currently divorced, separated or widowed report using online dating. In fact, Match.com saw an 8.3 percent increase in the proportion of widowed users in Canada from 2015 to 2016.
Rebecca Cooper Traynor, a Toronto matchmaker who founded Match Me Canada, has seen a similar trend. "I'd say that about 10 percent of my clients are widowers," she says; most of them are 55 and older, but some are only in their 30s and 40s. And at the same time as this group has become more interested in dating, she has also seen a shift in perceptions about them. "I've noticed that my other clients are more open to dating a widower now than when I started my business eight years ago," she says. "Some people are tired of dating divorcés and hearing about their anger and resentment on a date. They want to meet someone in a different space, someone who knows how to love."
A delicate balance As in any relationship, James and I have challenges—but some of the things we face are specific to his widowed status. For example, in the five years since we went on our blind date, I've learned to give James space on significant dates, such as on his late wife's birthday, their wedding anniversary and the day she died. Since our near-breakup early on, I've marked those days on my calendar so I can call to say I'm thinking of him and see if I can help. Being in tune with your partner's needs is often the best thing you can do, says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority in Halifax. "Ask your partner what you can do to make those tough days better. Your awareness itself can be a lovely gesture. Maybe you don't need to be involved and you can give your partner the space he or she needs to continue that grief work," he says. "That can be a gift in and of itself."
I've also learned that, contrary to the proverbial "five stages of grief," how we mourn doesn't fit into easy steps. In fact, the psychiatrist who first identified those stages, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, never intended them to apply to the living—her research was on people who were facing their own deaths. In other words, watching for signs of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is no way to tell whether a mourner is ready to move forward.
Rather, many grief specialists champion the "companioning" philosophy espoused by author, counsellor and educator Alan Wolfelt. They believe that the process is individual and that bereaved people tend to know when they are ready to move forward. According to this model of grief, mourners have six needs that must be met in order to reconcile their loss: acknowledging the reality of the death; embracing the pain of the loss; remembering the person who died; developing a new self-identity; searching for meaning; and receiving ongoing support from others. But this isn't a checklist and there's no time frame for completion, or a particular order in which they must happen.
"The companioning model of bereavement distinguishes between grieving—the internal experiencing of pain—and mourning, which is the outward expression of that pain," says Maureen Theberge, a psychologist at Viewpoint Counselling Psychology in Calgary. "Grief isn't something you 'get over' any more than you 'get over' love, but those who can mourn well will have a better outcome for moving forward. Having a way to remember the dead, to honour and acknowledge them, especially when the mourner has children, can be healing. It's meaningful and may offer comfort."
Finding your way For the first few years, James commemorated special days only with his close family, but recently, I've been invited to participate by attending an annual memorial service and being with his family to remember his wife's birthday. I'm happy to support him in this way, much as he has supported me through my divorce—but the truth is, it can be hard for me emotionally. Sometimes, I'm sad for days afterward. I want to weep thinking about what an unfair loss James, his family and his wife suffered. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for his wife to be diagnosed with a terminal illness as a young adult, to hear she was going to die. But I've come to understand that grieving is a healthy sign. Even if the process hurts, it brings James' family and friends together. I've seen how remembering and celebrating his wife provides them with strength to continue on. We have been companioning without realizing it.
As much as I grieve with James and his family on sad days, I've also had a hard time coping with his loss on great days. It's embarrassing to admit, but sometimes, I've felt guilty for dating James. I've seen his late wife's beautiful photos, can sense how wonderful she was and feel how much she was loved—how much she still is loved. I've dissolved in tears, overwhelmed that James and I are on a romantic vacation together when he should have been with the love of his life, his wife. How was I ever going to fill her shoes? How would I measure up? What if I couldn't?
As difficult as these feelings are, experts say they're normal. Unlike dating a divorcé, Theberge says dating a widower can feel threatening because the person's partner didn't choose to leave; rather, "death tore them apart." Logically, however, jealousy doesn't help. "It's irrational," says Theberge. "You are not in competition with the deceased. Your relationship is new and unique."
Just because those feelings are irrational doesn't make them any less real, and it's important to deal with them, says Ellis. He suggests looking within at why you're feeling insecure. "We are each responsible for our self-esteem and self-love. Take stock, find out what's hurting and share it with your partner, but not in an accusing way," he says.
Overcoming feelings of insecurity isn't easy. As Ellis says, "You have to learn to integrate the presence of the deceased in a new relationship the way you don't in divorce. With divorce, you're out; with death, you've got to come to terms with the fact the other person is still loved and recognized." But while the challenges are different, "it doesn't mean you can't have a successful relationship."
Talk therapy In order to do that, though, you have to communicate. I knew I had to tell James how I was feeling, but it was difficult to have that conversation, to admit my insecurities. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I felt awash with shame. But James was patient and loving and told me his wife wanted him to be happy. Talking to him made me realize I couldn't change his past, but I could have a future with him—and I was helping him move forward, which is what his wife wanted.
Over time, I've grown to believe that we don't have only one soul mate for life. It's possible to love more than one person. When you have a second child, after all, you don't stop loving the first; you make more room in your heart. And now I see that grieving is good, that talking about fears and sadness can be healing. I know not to compare, not to think of myself as an inadequate replacement for the woman he really wanted.
James and I know too well that life can be fleeting. We understand that time is precious. We are taking things slowly—not rushing to combine families or get married—but when I look into his eyes, when I hold his hand on good days and bad, I know we are moving forward together.
Success factors Five tips from the experts for building a healthy relationship with a widower.
1. Communicate, even if it hurts, says Suzanne Farmer, a psychologist (candidate register) at Cornerstone Psychological Services in Halifax. "There will be times when your partner will think about his deceased spouse and miss her; there will be times when you might feel threatened or hurt. You have to be able to communicate these feelings."
2 Be open-hearted and understanding. "Sometimes your partner might experience bursts of grief, and you have to let him be sad and feel his pain. It's normal. It's not a judgment about you," says Calgary-based psychologist Maureen Theberge.
3. See your partner as a whole person. His experience of loving someone and having that person die is just part of his story.
4. Be ready for sudden mood swings. "Sex and emotional intimacy can sometimes trigger upwellings of grief and emotion," says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor in Halifax. The best way to prepare yourself for the possibility is to have discussions about intimacy in advance.
5. Be open to a new life. "Your partner will never 'get over' the loss— he will be forever changed—but it doesn't mean life can't be beautiful again," says Theberge.
Dainty and flavourful, everyone loves to indulge in tiny bites of traditional tea sandwiches. Though they appear finicky to make, these tea sandwiches are easy to assemble and entirely make-ahead.
Pinwheel Sandwiches Trim crusts from 5 slices white or whole wheat sandwich loaf, cut Pullman-style. (Ask bakery to cut sandwich loaf horizontally, or Pullman style.) Using rolling pin, flatten slices slightly. Spread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread with filling.
Place 1 asparagus spear (or 2 baby gherkins) along 1 short end of each. Starting at asparagus, roll up tightly without squeezing. Wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. With serrated knife, trim ends; cut each roll into 6 slices.
Makes 30 pieces. Pinwheel Sandwich recipe: Curried Egg Salad Triangle Sandwiches Spread 16 thin slices whole wheat or white sandwich bread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread filling evenly over 8 of the slices. Top with remaining slices, pressing lightly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and cover with damp tea towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Trim off crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces. Triangle Sandwich recipe: Ham Pickle Spread Square Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above except use 8 thin slices white and 8 thin slices whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
Makes 32 pieces.Square Sandwich recipe: Pimiento Cheese Spread Finger Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above. Cut each sandwich lengthwise into 4 fingers.
Makes 32 pieces. Finger Sandwich recipe: Tuna Olive Salad
Choose the best-quality bread. Never serve end slices. Freezing bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Bread should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches will not become limp and soggy as readily if you spread butter right to edge of bread.
Cut crusts off bread with long, sharp knife after (not before) assembling sandwiches. This keeps everything neater.
Since tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich into thirds or quarters or in half diagonally. Or use cookie cutters to cut into decorative shapes.
Hardy noninvasive perennials, lavenders suit both informal and formal gardens. Mature lavenders form dense mounds of foliage, ranging from grey to green and from 30 to 60 centimetres tall – beautiful even when they're not blooming. And lavender's not just blue – you can choose a plant that flowers in white, pink or pale purple through to inky, intense blue or violet.
In a flowerbed, the blooming plants provide a cloud of hazy colour that softens the contours of leggy companions such as roses. Planted in a row, compact varieties form a low hedge to edge a bed or path, or trace the outline of a traditional knot garden filled with other herbs.
Perhaps the best part? Once you plant lavender, you can enjoy its fragrance – and its flavour – long after summer is gone.
How to grow it
Given a sunny, well-drained site, lavenders will thrive in dry, poor soil and even self-seed. An annual top dressing of compost and occasional watering during very dry spells is welcome, but avoid overfeeding with high-nitrogen fertilizers or rich manures. Follow the spacing recommendations on the plant tag (some lavenders spread up to 1 metre in diameter) when planting in a flowerbed, but shave off about a third of that when planting a row for a hedge. This is a good time to add new lavender to the garden; planting is recommended no later than two months before the first hard frost, to let plants get settled in.
Compact varieties grow happily in containers, but require a coarse potting mix that doesn't stay soggy, and you will need to water, sparingly, in the summer. In the fall, protect the roots from freezing by sinking the pot in a flowerbed for the winter or moving the potted plant into your garage until spring, then repot in fresh soil.
Harvest some or all of the flowers, if you like, or leave them all summer long. Either way, shear back lavenders by about one-third (avoid cutting into older, woody stems) each fall, leaving a compact cushion of leafy stems.
Page 1 of 2 – Learn how to get the most out of your lavender plants, from herbed butters, to fragrant sachets, to the bathtub on page 2. Three to try
• 'Pink Perfume' forms a mound of grey green foliage that produces pink flowers from July until the first frost.
• 'Hidcote Blue' forms compact plants with green foliage and deep blue-purple blooms that flower from June to August.
• 'Potpourri' white lavender forms a bushy plant of green foliage, with white blooms from June to September.
All three are hardy to zone 5; purchase plants at your local nursery, or find seeds and germinating tips at Veseys.
How to dry it – and enjoy it Harvest flower spikes just when the first few flowers are opening on each. Cut stems in the soft new growth, in the morning after the dew has dried and before the sun gets too hot. Gather into small bunches, and tie each near cut ends (or secure with elastic band), then hang upside down in dark, dry, airy, dust-free room.
When thoroughly dry, gently rub down each stem to remove flowers.
Store dried flowers in an airtight jar to sprinkle into bathwater, or tie a handful into a pretty hanky to make an "instant" sachet for a linen cupboard or drawer (while the lavender lends its fragrance to the fabrics, it also deters moths). Slightly crush the dried flowers every so often to freshen their scent.
You can also use the dried flowers in the kitchen. Freeze them in ice cubes for summer drinks, and add to herbed butters, sweet desserts, tea mixtures and savoury meat and cheese dishes.
Or indulge in a recent trend and shower your just-married friends with dried lavender, instead of confetti.
Although it's not native to Canada, disease-resistant lavender is a good green choice, as well. Its easy-care attributes mean that it doesn't want any chemical help to grow and, once established, requires almost no watering. Its nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators to the garden – more important than ever, now that these are being threatened worldwide.
Conquer your closet with clever tips that will allow you to add to your shoe collection without losing your mind.
1. Sliding drawers
Multiple open-face pull-out drawers help compartmentalize items based on season and style, making it easier to keep folded items in check without them spilling over.
2. Custom order
Install an adjustable closet system that allows for modifications (hanging height, shelving and drawer space) and includes a shoe system.
3. Group therapy
To give your closet an orderly appearance, use one style of hangers. Also, group clothing by category, like colour or style.
4. Reach for the top
Rotate wardrobe staples seasonally and designate top-shelf storage for rarely used or offseason pieces. Use up-to-the-ceiling shelves to maximize space and discourage boxes from pooling on the ground.