Category Archives: Zumba Fitness Rush for Kinect

Do What Is Sustainable For You

There is always a lot of discussion online and IRL about how many calories are the right amount to eat per day, how much exercise, should I cut this or that out of my diet. My advice is to only do what you can sustain for the long term. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, you could be at it for a long time. Even when you are down to your goal weight, things shouldn’t change that dramatically in order to maintain your new weight. If you go back to all your old habits, you will gain all of the weight back.

If you love pasta, don’t cut out all pasta. Just reduce how much pasta you eat, make sure to keep an eye on portion sizes. If you hate jogging, don’t jog. Find other exercises you enjoy. If you crave sweets, have a small treat each night, or every few nights, like a piece of dark chocolate. Find ways to make your favorite foods healthier, for instance finding light versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to go out to dinner, do it…just do it infrequently (think of all the money you’ll save!) and try to make good choices.

Reduce the number of calories you eat per day down to something you can sustain, and never under 1200 calories per day. I am 5’2″, and I exercise pretty regularly. When I first started, I was eating between 1400-1600 calories per day, and now I am between 1300-1500 calories per day. I eat more on days I’m hungry, and less if I’m not as hungry. I am working hard on listening to my body and giving it what it needs.

I started out small with exercise, only doing Zumba on the Xbox 3 days a week for about 30 minutes, on an easy setting. I have added a lot more exercise because I enjoy it.

When people approach me about my weight loss, they always mention how much hard work it must take. It absolutely does take hard work. However, I feel like all of my hard work has already been done, months ago. The hard work was changing my habits, eating less, exercising more, slowly changing my life to this healthier way of living. That’s done now, and this is just my life. Yes, I’m hoping after I get to my goal I won’t have to log all my food anymore, but maybe I will. As with all the other changes I have made, it is something I can sustain.


How To Get Started

I get the question all the time, what started all this, how did you get started? So, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and whether I have advice to give to others on how to start living a healthier lifestyle themselves. I think I do, but take all of this advice how it is offered, one person’s opinion.

1) Find your motivation – I think the first thing you have to do is think about your motivation. I had been thinking I should lose weight for years. I mean, of course I was, it’s not like I didn’t know I was overweight. I would even start an exercise routine, like swimming at the gym, but if something came up and I couldn’t get to the gym for a few days, or I got a cold, I would give up. I think the catalyst for me this time was some heart palpitations I had back in January. They never found anything wrong, but it got me really thinking about my health and just how sedentary I was, and how bad that was for me. Losing weight alone would help my heart, but I realized that what I really needed was to get moving. It wasn’t until about 2 months after I started exercising when I started seriously keeping track of my food intake. I think for me this was key. If your motivation is simply to lose weight, or get “thin”, or look good in your clothes, that could be a very distant goal. Depending on how much weight you need to lose, it could take a year or even more to get to that goal. If your goal is to feel more fit, to have more energy, you can accomplish that pretty fast by figuring out how to fit more exercise into your day. Just a bit of exercise most days of the week will have you feeling better and better within days, long before the weight is off. Plus, it is an ongoing motivation as you can continue to improve your strength and endurance. I enjoy exercise now because I can consistently surprise myself in how much I can do. It is so amazing to run around at the park with the kids and not end up winded. To hike up a hill with my fit friends, take the lead, and have them all huffing and puffing. There are so many rewards to fitness all along the way, even before you get to your goal weight. Cliche I know, but the hardest part is starting. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Start with a 1/2 hour walk 3 times a week. Build up from there.

2) Find an exercise you really like – I’d seen and heard about Zumba for years, but was scared about going into a class looking like I did. So, I bought an Xbox 360 with Kinect, and Zumba Fitness Rush. I started at the easiest setting, and discovered it was fun. I slowly built up to doing it about 3 times a week at the easiest setting until I was doing it 6 times a week at a moderate setting. That’s when I started branching out into other forms of exercise to see which ones I enjoyed. Try lots of different exercises. Some you will love; I now have Zumba, hiking with friends, and body sculpting classes, all of which I really enjoy. Some you will not enjoy; I gave jogging a good effort for a couple of months, even completing the Couch to 5K program, but finally decided it wasn’t the best choice for me. My clue was that I would find myself coming up with all these excuses about why I shouldn’t be doing it that day. There are so many different ways to get your exercise, many of which don’t need a gym: dance classes like Zumba, hip hop, tap, etc. (live classes or video), hiking, walking, jogging, swimming, kettlebell, kick-boxing, bicycling, playing sports, the list goes on and on. There is no one right way to get your exercise. Just try a bunch of things and find what you think is fun. It can be fun even if it is difficult–like body sculpting classes for me right now–and it will get easier the more you do it. Think about getting a pedometer, like the fitbit. You’ll be amazed at how much motivation you have to park farther from the store, or walk to a friend’s house instead of driving, just to get in your 10,000 steps for that day.

3) Change your eating habits – Don’t try a fad diet. Change your eating habits in such a way that you don’t feel deprived, or like you are missing out. Do what works for you. If you don’t already love them, develop a love of vegetables. Eat lots of different vegetables, cooked in lots of different ways. Eat from smaller plates. Make your food delicious, and take the time to enjoy every bite of it. If it can work for you, keep a log of your food–I use MyFitnessPal, but there are lots of different apps out there–and weigh and measure all your food, at least for awhile. You might be surprised how large the portions are that you’ve been eating. Find healthy substitutes for the unhealthy things you are currently eating. If you love chips and dip (which I do), try finding a substitute that can satisfy the same cravings. I came up with cucumber chips dipped in greek yogurt and green salsa. Same salty, crunchy, creamy sensations as potato chips and dip. My typical dessert now is some fruit and a small piece of dark chocolate. I savor every little bite of that dark chocolate. Consider eating smaller meals, and having snacks in between. Come up with snacks that taste good to you. I am never ever hungry, and if I am I eat. I eat a smaller breakfast and lunch with snacks between, and then a slightly bigger dinner. This is what works for me. Find what works for you.

4) Don’t make yourself crazy listening to advice – Yes, I know, funny thing to say when I’m giving advice. But as I wrote in a previous post, message boards and internet advice can make you crazy. For example, on MyFitnessPal there is a large contingent of people who say to keep track of how many calories you burn when you exercise, and always eat all of those calories back or you will not lose weight because you will slow down your metabolism. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t anything to this idea, I think if someone seriously starves themselves that could happen. But I eat within a consistent range of calories–between 1300 and 1500 per day–and it has worked very well for me for months. My calories burned are logged on the MyFitnessPal site through my fitbit, however I don’t really pay much attention to that. Again, I eat when I’m hungry. If I’m hungrier one day, well I figure that means I should be eating more. This goes back to weighing and measuring portions, though. If I want to eat some nuts, which are wonderfully healthy, I need to weigh them. A serving of nuts is really a very small portion, but it satisfies for a long time. It seems like the end result of my change in lifestyle should be the ability to listen to my body and give it what it needs to be healthy. I also read that you couldn’t successfully get fit without strength training. That may be true, but I didn’t do any strength training for the first 4 months, simply because I didn’t want to. I was still feeling much more fit, and losing weight consistently. I started doing strength training because I finally really wanted to do it. Now I really enjoy the feeling of tired muscles, and look forward to my strength training sessions. However, it was important for me to wait until I was ready, and not let the fact that I didn’t want to do it keep me from making other positive changes.

5) Make small changes, one at a time  I have made gradual changes, and I’ve lived with each one for awhile before adding anything new. It started with Zumba, then using smaller plates, then eating a lot more vegetables, then logging my food, then adding more exercise… Each thing I did for awhile, and it made a positive impact. Don’t try to add vigorous exercise and logging all your food all at once. It will feel too overwhelming. Start with easy exercise, gradually increasing intensity. Start with small changes to how you are eating. Take it slow, because:

6) Realize that this is not temporary, it is forever – Anything you do, any change you make to your routine, make sure it is something you can keep doing for the rest of your life. This is not a temporary change, because your motivation is not just to lose weight, it is to be a healthier person. Healthier people exercise, and they eat a moderate amount each day. Sure, they splurge now and then, but day to day they are conscious of how much they are eating. Once you realize that you will find time for exercise forever, that there is no real finish line to your healthier eating, it can be very freeing (I suppose it can also be depressing, but I prefer to be an optimist). Getting to my goal weight will be terrific, but the journey doesn’t end there. At that point I will need to figure out the right level of exercise and calories to maintain my weight for the rest of my life. There are statistics out there that a majority of people who lose weight end up gaining it right back. I think that has all got to be about attitude. If your goal is to lose the weight, and then you think you are done when you get there, it seems pretty obvious that you will gain it back. If your goal is to be a healthier person who exercises and eats healthy food in appropriate quantities, then that will keep you fit for the rest of your life.

So, the overall theme of all of this advice? Do what works for you. Figure out what that is. There is no easy way to lose weight–from what I’ve heard about weight loss surgery, that seems a lot harder than what I am doing. However, it is worth it in the way you will feel about yourself. Not because you fit into society’s idea of what your body is supposed to look like, but because you will feel so much healthier, and have so much more energy. Isn’t that worth working for?

My First Real LIVE Zumba Class!

This week I joined the YMCA, and took my first actual live Zumba class. It was really fun! I went with a friend, and having actual people around made it a much different experience. However, it did prove that the Xbox Kinect game is really excellent, because I feel like my heart gets pumping just as hard and I work up just as big a sweat when I use the Xbox game. It was very fun having new choreography to try, and I look forward to taking more Zumba classes.

The other cool thing about taking the class is that immediately following it was a beginner strength training class. It made me realize I really need to do more crunches. My stomach muscles were sore for days. This morning I went to the Y and walked on the treadmill for about 20 minutes, then met my friend for a bit harder strength training class. It felt like a good workout, I guess I’ll know by how sore I am when I wake up tomorrow…and maybe the next day too.

My friends and I are still doing our hiking, every Tuesday and Thursday morning. We are now doing a 4.2 mile hike, and my Fitbit says that it is about 79 flights of stairs up. All I know is that it is a heck of a long trek up the hill.

My motivation now is to see how much farther I can take this, how much more I can do, how high a level of fitness I can eventually achieve. I figure that is a motivation that doesn’t necessarily have any end in sight, which is a good one to have. Every time I go with my kids to the park and run around with a soccer ball with them I feel so much joy and accomplishment. I rejoice in each new thing I can do.

Zumba With a Friend

My friend came over today so we could try out Zumba on the Xbox with 2 players. I was skeptical, because it seems like I use the entire floor space in our living room when I do Zumba, so I thought for sure we’d be running into each other. I also wasn’t sure how’d I’d feel jumping around like that with someone else in the room. However, the space was fine, and I actually had a lot of fun exercising with a friend! We even met later in the day for a healthy lunch out together.

Dinner was some pre-made ravioli I picked up at the farmer’s market, which was a little frustrating because I couldn’t find any nutritional information about it. I had to pick another brand that seemed similar to enter the calories into my tracking app. I also sautéed a ton of summer squash, and cut up a bunch of raw veggies to have with it.

We almost got invited to a party at The Melting Pot tonight–turned out there wasn’t any space left–and the first thing that came to mind was how many calories would be in fondue. Is it a good or a bad thing that that was the first thing I thought about? I was going to go anyway, but I was totally freaking out about trying to eat healthy at a fondue place. And then I was kind of relieved when it turned out we couldn’t go. I don’t want my change in lifestyle to mean I miss out on fun, but how do I weigh the fun versus the damage it might do to what I’m trying to accomplish?

Taco Night

Tonight’s dinner wouldn’t have made a pretty picture, but it put lovely smiles on my kids faces. We had Taco Night, which I think my kids really love because they get to play with their food. I’m sure it’s the same in many households, we put all the fixings on the table, including black beans for my son, who will avoid meat whenever possible (texture thing, not because he loves animals), and the kids get to pile on whatever they want.

I’ve been trying lately to make Taco Night tasty for me, too. Tonight I finally succeeded. I used turkey meat for the filling, from Cook’s Illustrated–I get a lot of my recipes from that site, well worth the subscription price. I used plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream, made sure to cut up a lot of lettuce, tomatoes, and even some cucumbers. I also bought some salsa verde, which I love and is low calorie. I’m sure regular salsa would be good too. I made one taco with a tortilla, a little bit of cheese (real cheese, because I hate the fake stuff), a little guacamole, some yogurt, and veggies. Instead of having a second taco, I made a taco salad with a little bit of meat, no cheese or guacamole, just lots of veggies, lots of yogurt, and lots of salsa verde. I think I actually liked that better than the regular taco.

Happy news when I stepped on the scale this morning…it didn’t move at all the last few days. Normally, that would not be cause for celebration. However, after indulging in the movie popcorn on Monday, and not getting any kind of real exercise yesterday, I figured no movement was much better than movement in the wrong direction.

During my Zumba workout this morning, I really concentrated on putting a lot of energy into all the moves. Using the heart rate monitor and Digifit, I could really see the difference in both my calorie burn and my heart rate. That’s a good reason to keep wearing the heart rate monitor…the Zumba Fitness game will tell me I did great, 5 stars, even when I don’t work my hardest. But my heart rate can’t lie. Digifit is a pretty cool app too, in that it really shows what all the Zumba hype says is true…it does a lot of interval training, going between an aerobic and an anaerobic workout several times throughout the workout. Between the 65 minute Zumba Xbox routine and the 1/2 hour Zumba Toning workout, I burned about 800 calories. And I had fun doing it, which I still find pretty amazing.

Zumba Toning and Digifit

Today was a really good workout day…and not such a good eating day. It started out well, I had lost another pound when I stepped on the scale today. I had my usual toast with cheese and tomato for breakfast. Then I did a 65 minute Zumba routine on the Xbox. Today I used our Wahoo Fitness Heart Monitor with the Digifit app. I really like the display options on the app, it shows how long you spend in each zone. It still shows that I am burning less than half the calories than the Zumba game says, but that is okay. After finishing the routine on Xbox, I popped in the Zumba Ripped DVD. I decided to only do the toning portion, which is the first half. The second half is called Zumba Sentao, and uses a chair, and I found it very frustrating…my living room works fine for the Xbox game, but with the Zumba Sentao, I kept having to move the chair around to have room to do the moves, and so I’d miss moves and mess up the rhythm of the dance.

The Zumba Toning portion uses the Zumba Toning Sticks, which are weights that also make maraca sounds. Kinda silly, but also kinda fun. The DVD set came with 1 pound sticks, but I hardly felt anything when I used them. I ordered the 2.5 pound sticks from Amazon. I feel like I’m getting a pretty good workout when I use them.

I had a good healthy lunch too, but after that the eating went downhill a bit. We went out to see Brave (great movie!) and I got some popcorn for the kids, and I had some too. It is only after getting home and looking at calories that I realized that movie theater popcorn might be really awful. Even without butter, it was probably not a good choice. And, we went out to Mexican for dinner, where it is always hard to eat healthy…I think I made decent choices, I had shrimp fajitas, and limited the sour cream and guacamole, and only had a couple of tortillas. Only time will tell, and nothing I can do about it now, so I’ll face the scale the next time I step on it, and see what it says.

Brunch with Friends

Yesterday some friends called to let us know they were visiting from out of town, and we invited them over for brunch this morning. We had pancakes and bacon. I had yogurt and fruit on my pancake, but it still wasn’t the healthiest breakfast. To make up for it I had a pretty low calorie lunch–I made an open-faced sandwich with Spinach Bolani, some Garlic Mint Cheese (made with low-fat yogurt), roasted bell peppers from Trader Joe’s, lettuce, and tomato.

After they left, I still did my 65 minutes of Zumba on the Xbox, even though it was not when I usually did it in my routine. It is definitely easier to do it right after breakfast, before I’ve showered, than trying to add it in at other times, but I was proud of myself for doing it anyway. And, another 1/2 pound down on the scale this morning!

I was feeling hungry about an hour before dinner, and was trying to just wait until dinnertime. Then I realized that is one reason I overeat, I let myself get too hungry before the next meal. So, I grabbed an apricot and munched on it while cooking. I always have to remind myself, it isn’t helpful to go hungry when I am surrounded with fresh fruits and vegetables.