Exercise and Weight Loss: What’s the Best Time to Work Out?

exerciseLast post, we briefly discussed the importance of exercise for maintaining weight loss. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, the fact that proper eating and regular exercise help you lose weight (and keep it off) is really no surprise at all; but we wanted to go a little bit further. Did you know that WHEN you exercise may also have an effect on your weight loss and ability to burn fat?

A study published in The Journal of Physiology in 2010 reported that working out first thing in the morning before you ate breakfast may actually set you up for increased fat burn throughout the day as well as boosted energy. The study looked at three groups of healthy men with different exercise routines. All participants were asked to follow the same diet structure – 50 percent more fat and around 30 percent excess calories. The first group of men didn’t exercise at all; the second group of men exercised after breakfast; and the third group of men worked out before breakfast. The study lasted six weeks and the exercise routine was the same.

After the six weeks, the group of men who didn’t exercise at all gained around 6 pounds each (not surprisingly).  The group of men who exercised after eating breakfast gained about 3 pounds each. The group of men who exercised before breakfast didn’t gain any weight; but that’s not the only important finding. Researchers also found that the men who didn’t exercise or exercised after breakfast developed some insulin to resistance (a condition that can eventually lead to diabetes) while the insulin levels of the men who exercised before breakfast stayed healthy.

So now you may be wondering – WHY? What’s the benefit of working out pre-meal?

Well, one benefit is that it forces the body to tap into stored fat to fuel the workout rather than just simply burning off the carbohydrates and calories that you just took in from your most recent meal. The daylight of an early morning workout may also give your metabolism a boost. When you align your circadian rhythm – the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that respond to light and dark – with the natural rise and fall of the sun, you tend to burn more calories throughout the day.

The moral of this story is this: Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet is important; and while working out at any time of the day is beneficial, working out before breakfast may give you the extra boost you need to lose more weight and keep it off.

Trying to Maintain Your Weight Loss? Try This!

weight lossLosing weight can be hard – there’s no doubt about that; but sometimes, keeping off the weight you lost can be even harder. Once you start getting close to your goals, you may find that you ease up a little on your regimen. You may start to eat a little more or exercise a little less. You may find that you’re just not as diligent about counting calories. While this is normal, it’s not a trap you want to fall into. After you do all that hard work to lose the weight, the last thing you need is to gain it back because you slowly veer off track. Believe it or not, there are actually a few habits that those who are successful at keeping off weight have in common – and we’re going to share that with you.

Do Some Physical Activity Every Day

According to research, one of the biggest predictors of how successful you’ll be with long-term weight loss is exercise. Research actually goes a step further to say that while proper nutrition is number 1 when trying to lose weight, regular exercise is number 1 when trying to maintain that weight loss. The more you move every day, the better – so try to turn a sedentary lifestyle into an active one.

Pay Attention to Portions

Even if the food on your plate is healthy, it’s still possible to eat too much of it. Calories count – whether they’re coming from baked chicken or macaroni and cheese. Sure, you can eat more of the chicken, but if you eat too much of it, it adds up – and can sabotage your weight loss. Fill your plate with mostly veggies and keep your portions in check.

Monitor Your Progress

The scale isn’t always the best indicator of your weight, but it can definitely serve to monitor your progress and keep you on track. If you weigh yourself daily, for example, you’re able to identify when you’re starting to get off track more easily. If you see the scale move up a couple pounds, you know it’s time to get back on track. If you only weigh yourself once a year or every few months, you may gain a significant amount of weight back before you even realize it. Don’t get too caught up in what the actual number is, but just use the scale as a tool to keep you where you want to be.

Make Healthy Food a Part of Your Life

Maintaining weight loss is all about making healthy choices your lifestyle. There’s no way you can stick to a diet forever, so don’t think of it like that. You’re allowed to indulge every once in a while, but just make sure to get right back on track after. Don’t let one indulgent meal turn into a weekend binge. Focus on eating lots of fiber-rich fruits and veggies, lean meats, and healthy fats most of the time.

Find Ways to Deal with Stress

A lot of people tend to turn to food as a source of comfort during stressful or emotionally difficult times, but this can quickly lead to gaining back the weight you lost. Instead of turning to food, find something else that can help you relieve your stress. Try a yoga class or learn about deep breathing. Keep a journal.  These are all healthy ways to reduce stress without taking in extra calories.

Research also shows that keeping the weight off gets easier over time. According to research done by Brown Medical School, those who keep the weight off for two to five years are more likely to keep it off for good, so hang in there! Follow these tips to make the new you the lasting you.

The Importance of Support for Weight Loss

VM computerAt Valley Medical, we pride ourselves on being a major source of support during your weight loss journey. We’re not just here to provide you with the tools you need to succeed, we’re here to provide you with the emotional and personal support that is so important when losing weight. We know that we can’t be there for you at all hours of the day though – like at 9 PM when you’re really craving chocolate or a bag of potato chips – so we wanted to discuss some complementary options for getting the support you need to succeed.

In today’s day and age, you literally have the world at your fingertips. All it takes is a few keystrokes and you’re connected to the world – whether it’s through social media, an email to a friend, or an online forum. While this can have its drawbacks, we like to focus on the positive; and one of those positives is increased success in your weight loss goals. Yes, you read that right. Recent research has shown that online social support through social media may help you lose more weight.

The study focused on people who participated in a weight loss program for at least six months and who posted about their weight loss progress to an online social community at least twice during the study period. Researchers found that people who had no friends in the online social community experienced an average decrease of 4.1 percent of their body weight, while participants who were connected with two to nine friends in the online community saw an average decrease of 5.2 percent of their body weight. To up the ante, those with larger social connections – more than nine friends – lost an average of 6.8 percent to 8.3 percent of their body weight.

So what does this mean for you? Well, it’s already been shown that in-person support and intervention programs can help you lose weight – and that’s what we do here – but you may be able to maximize your results by getting your social networks involved.

On Facebook, you can create a private group and invite friends who are trying to lose weight and/or live a healthier lifestyle. Invite them to invite their friends so that the group can grow. Encourage people to share their healthy recipes and post about their success. Share words of encouragement and motivate each other.

On Instagram, you can post pictures of your meals and motivational/inspiring quotes. There is a LARGE community of health conscious people on Instagram who are always open and willing to give support. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your personal journey, use an alias. You can make a separate account and post only about your weight loss journey.

With the advent of social media, you are able to reach such a larger audience than you would have been able to before. Your family and friends may want to help, but it can be difficult for them (and for you) if you aren’t on the same journey or if you don’t share the same goals. If the people who are closest to you aren’t providing the support you need, there are SO many other people out there who have the same goals as you. You just have to find them – and connect with them!

Things You Should Be Doing NOW to Get in Shape for Summer.

VM summer bodiesThere’s a popular phrase that says “summer bodies are made in the winter”, which in layman’s terms means that you should be really honing your diet and exercise routine in during the winter, so that you can strut your stuff come summertime. Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to fall into the opposite trap: bulking up like a hibernating bear since you’ll be wearing more clothes and you need to make sure you’re warm, right?  There’s just something about the cooler weather that makes you want to indulge in comfort foods, but since nicer weather is on the horizon, it’s time to really kick it into gear. Even if you’ve gained some weight this winter, the time is now to start doing the things that can help get you into shape for summer.

  • Find an indoor workout routine that you love. Let’s face it: going outside is not just as exciting in the winter, which is the perfect excuse to skip your workout, right? Wrong! There are SO many workout DVDs available now that you’re bound to find one that you love. And the good news is that many of these workout DVDs only require you to work out for a half an hour. That’s only 2 percent of your entire day. TWO PERCENT! You can find the time. Try something fun – like Zumba or a dance routine. If you’re into something a little quieter, do beginner’s yoga. You can even find a lot of these routines on YouTUBE for free, so you don’t have to shell out any extra cash.
  • Fill up on broths and teas. It’s natural to want warm, comforting foods during the winter – that’s actually your body’s innate physiological intelligence at work – but instead of filling up on creamy soups and cheesy dishes, opt for broth-based soups and herbal teas. These hot liquids are low in calories, so they fill you up for less and they’re loaded with nutrients. Try to make your own broth-based soups at home so you can control the ingredients. Use lots of veggies and plenty of spices. Switch up your teas, since different herbs are beneficial in their own ways. Chamomile can reduce stress, while peppermint can aid with digestion.
  • Wear your “summer clothes”. Okay, we don’t want you to walk around in sundresses and shorts when it’s chilly out, but trying these things on every once in a while during the winter months can help keep you on track. Yoga pants and cardigans are a lot more forgiving than shorts and dresses, so the comfort of these clothes can make you feel like you’re on track when you’re actually gaining weight. Nothing says “I need to get back on track” like trying on some skinny jeans in February.
  • Join a group activity. If you’ve fallen off the wagon this winter, getting the motivation to get back on track can be difficult. Often, when we’re only accountable to ourselves, we tend to blow off our plans. Make yourself accountable to others by joining a group activity – it may be a boxing class or a running club or a yoga event. Choose something that you like and stick to the schedule. If you can’t find a group activity that you like, get a friend on board. Check in with each other daily and hold each other accountable.

Product of the Month! Stevia Extract Liquid

It’s a NEW month, so you know what that means – a new product to go along with our monthly special, which includes:

Physician Consult & Weekly Weigh-ins
Meal Plans
FDA Approved Medications
MetaBlast Supplements
Craveaway Supplements
Weekly Upgraded Injection of B-12
Bi-Weekly Injection of Lipo X
Full Body Analysis on our BODYCOMP Scale


With this special you receive 4 WEEKS of everything listed above for only $295 (that’s a savings of over $200) – and we’ll throw in the stevia for free! You’ve probably heard about stevia and you may be vaguely familiar with what it is, but we wanted to get down to the nitty gritty and give you all the details because we think it’s so fabulous!

Stevia is a natural, no-calorie sweetener that’s extracted from a South American plant called Stevia rebaudiana. The sweetness of stevia comes from specific compounds in the plant called steviol glycosides. The extract is 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it has no calories and ZERO effect on blood sugar, which makes it a perfect fit for weight loss and safe for diabetics. To up the ante, a studystevia published in the “British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology” even found that regular use of stevia may help lower blood pressure in those who suffer from high blood pressure. Amazing, right?

Because stevia is so sweet, a little bit really goes a long way. The liquid extract is especially great because it easily mixes into anything. You can put a couple drops in your coffee, use it to sweeten your oatmeal, and even bake with it.

The specific stevia brand we’re offering with our monthly special is called Protocol for Life Balance Stevia Extract Liquid. Protocol for Life Balance’s website states that this particular liquid stevia “utilizes Glucosyl Stevioside, an enzymatically-enhanced Stevia leaf (Stevia rebaudiana) extract with improved taste and sweetening properties. Our natural proprietary processing method improves taste and sweetness”. The recommended serving size is 1 to 4 drops and there’s 461 drops per container, so this baby will last you a LONG time. If you’re interested in taking advantage of this special offer and signing up for our monthly special, drop in or call us at either one of our locations to find out more!

Phoenix: 602-374-3374
Tempe: 480-968-5673


Re-evaluating Your Weight Loss Resolutions

Photo from MamasGotItTogether.com
Photo from MamasGotItTogether.com

This probably isn’t a huge shocker, but the number one New Year’s resolution of 2015 was to lose weight. While many people made this resolution – probably with lots of good intentions – research shows that only 8 percent will actually be successful. Those are HORRIBLE numbers. Now that it’s the beginning of February, where do you stand on your New Year’s resolution? Are you meeting your goals? Did you give up on it? If so, it’s not too late.

At Valley Medical, we specialize in weight loss, but our success depends on YOUR success and we really want you to be successful. That’s why we’re giving you some tips to help you re-evaluate your resolutions so you can reach those goals.

Get Specific

“Lose weight” may have been the most popular resolution of 2015, but it’s just not specific enough. Telling yourself that you’re going to lose weight without providing any real plan sets you up for failure because it’s too broad. Instead of saying “I’m going to lose weight” say something like “I’m not going to eat potato chips or dessert for the next 6 months”. Giving yourself a tangible goal that will lead to weight loss is more effective than just making a general statement. If you said you were going to lose weight in 2015, think about HOW you will do that.

Re-assess Your Goal

While we love ambition, getting a little too ambitious with your resolutions can set you up for failure. Telling yourself that you’re going to lose 20 pounds every month for the next 6 months just isn’t realistic – and that can take a toll on you. Sit down and re-assess your resolution. Is it realistic? If not, change it to make it more do-able for you. Remember, that an average person loses 1-2 pounds per week, which translates to 4-8 pounds per month. Base your goals on those numbers. That way, anything more will just be a bonus.

Give Yourself a Visual

The scale is a good way to keep yourself accountable, but it’s easy to stop weighing yourself when you feel like you’re getting off track. Instead of relying on yourself to step on that scale every day, make a visual. We like the idea of two jars and some marbles or decorative glass stones. Mark one jar “pounds I have to lose” and another jar “pounds I’ve lost”. As you lose weight, physically move one marble or stone from the pounds I have to lose jar and put it in the pounds I’ve lost jar. If you gain weight back, you have to move the marble/stone back. Having a visual that you can see every day is a great way to keep you on track and accountable.

Believe You Can Do It

Unfortunately, negative self-talk is the way of the world, but try to avoid falling into that pattern. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? There’s a quote by Henry Ford that goes “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”. Your attitude has a LOT of impact on your success, so always believe in yourself, even if you gain a couple pounds back. You CAN lose weight and you CAN keep it off.

Valentine’s Day Ideas That Don’t Involve Dinner

VM loveGoing out to eat has become a favorite pastime and a go-to social event. Night out with the girls? Dinner and cocktails. Date night? Movie and a romantic dinner. Business meeting? Lunch with your boss. It seems like no matter what the event, food is always involved. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but when you’re trying to lose weight, the temptation of your favorite meals (in rather large portions might we add) at your favorite restaurants can be too much to bear.

We know that Valentine’s Day is a special occasion so you may have worked it into your plan to splurge a little bit, but since the special day falls on a Saturday this year, we thought it would be fun to suggest some things you could do instead of the standard dinner date.

Go For a Hike

Instead of waiting ‘til nightfall, grab your honey and hit those trails midday. You’ll be able to take in some fresh air all while spending some quality time catching up with each other without the interruption of a lot of people around. The added bonus: instead of eating too many calories, you’ll actually be burning them!

Sunset Walk

The sun rises and falls every single day and yet many of us miss the chance to just stop for a moment and really look. Valentine’s Day is a great time to take a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood or a local park and then sit down on a blanket and just enjoy the beauty of the earth while you also enjoy your company. You can also schedule your hike so that you reach the top at sunset.

Dance Lessons

Have you ever wanted to learn to salsa? Well now’s the time! Taking a dance lesson is a wonderful way to bond with your partner or get close to a new fling while also having a few laughs AND burning calories. Just don’t take yourself too seriously and you’re in for a treat!

Couple’s Massage

If you’re overworked and over-stressed, or if you just need a little down time for some pampering, a couple’s massage may be just the thing you need on Valentine’s Day. Massages can boost immunity, reduce pain, and relieve stress so you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your night. If you’re really lucky, you may even be able to get two massage therapists to come to your house so you don’t have to step foot outside your door.

Cooking Lessons

Okay, so this isn’t avoiding food entirely BUT cooking lessons are a great way to have some fun while also learning how to cook your own meals at home. You can even make it more beneficial to you by choosing a cooking class that focuses on healthy cooking or making clean meals. You’ll have fun and learn a life skill that you can carry with you into the future.

Comedy Show

You know what they say – laughter is the best medicine. Grab your date and go hit a comedy show. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big name comedian or a local stand-up comedian at your neighborhood bar. Spending the night laughing is a great way to get rid of some stress and really let go.

Snacking and Weight Loss: Do They Mix?

walnutsThe weight loss industry is probably one of the most difficult to navigate. It’s hard to figure out what’s true, what’s a gimmick, and who’s just trying to take your money. That being said, it’s no wonder there’s so much conflicting advice out there. Well here at Valley Medical, we’re big fans of debunking common weight loss myths. We want you to know the truth and nothing but the truth so here’s the myth we’re going to tackle today: you should never snack when you’re trying to lose weight.

Many people blame snacking for weight gain (or lack of weight loss), but it’s not snacking in general that’s to blame, it’s the choice of snack. While it’s tempting to choose chips or cookies from that vending mention during that afternoon slump, these are the types of foods that give snacking a bad rap. They are full of calories and fat, but don’t contain any real healthful nutrients. They also don’t contain the fiber and protein that you need to stay satisfied until dinner time so it’s easy to overdo it and take in way too many calories.

The point of snacking is to choose balanced, portion-controlled foods that help keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day so that you’re not ravenous by dinner or lunch time. When you do this, you may actually be able to stay within your calorie recommendations better than if you were to avoid snacks completely. Choosing foods that you wouldn’t typically eat with meals, like fruits or nuts, can also help maximize your nutrient intake for the day, making sure you’re taking in everything that you need.

So how do you figure out what’s a healthy weight-loss snack and what isn’t? Ideally, each snack should be fewer than 200 calories and contain a balance of protein and carbohydrates and even some healthy fat. Think of a snack as more of a mini meal and only snack if you’re hungry. Snacking shouldn’t be a mindless activity that’s meant to fill time. While the options for healthy snacks are plentiful, we thought we’d get you started by providing this list of healthy snack ideas.

  • Sliced banana with a tablespoon of sugar-free peanut or almond butter
  • ¼ cup nuts and a small piece of fruit
  • Carrots, celery sticks and/or cucumber slices with 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt with berries or a tablespoon of chopped nuts
  • ½ cup low-fat cottage with a small piece of fruit or cut up veggies
  • Celery sticks with low-fat cream cheese
  • A hard-boiled eggs and ¼ cup of nuts
  • An ounce of low-fat cheese with ½ cup of grapes
  • 1 slice of whole grain bread with peanut or almond butter
  • ½ cup homemade trail mix: mixture of almonds, unsweetened coconut flakes, dried raisins, and shelled sunflower seeds

Let’s Talk about Squash, Baby (Spaghetti Squash, That Is)!

spaghetti squash

There’s a new bad boy (ok, vegetable) in town and its name is spaghetti squash. Although spaghetti squash has been around since the late 1800s, it has become increasingly popular as of late as a lower carbohydrate substitute for pasta. While spaghetti squash doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing, it definitely does the trick of satisfying that pasta craving while also providing heaps more essential vitamins and minerals.

Benefits of Spaghetti Squash

One of the more well-known benefits of spaghetti squash is that it’s lower in carbohydrates than traditional pasta. A cup of spaghetti squash contains only 7 grams of carbohydrates, while a cup of spaghetti clocks in at 43 grams. That’s only part of the appeal, though. Spaghetti squash is also full of fiber and contains other important nutrients, like vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. And at only 32 calories per cup (compared to spaghetti’s 221), you really can’t go wrong.

Preparing Spaghetti Squash

If you’ve never dealt with a spaghetti squash, it can feel intimidating at first; but once you get used to it, preparing and cooking a spaghetti squash is actually quite simple. There are two ways you can cook a spaghetti squash. The first is to cut it BEFORE you cook it. To do this you’ll need a sharp knife and a spoon. Cut off the top of the spaghetti squash and then use your knife to slice it in half lengthwise. Be VERY careful with this step. Some squashes can be pretty tough to get through. Once you’ve gotten it open, scoop out the seeds with a spoon (just like you would do to a pumpkin). Lay each half cut side up on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and bake on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes (or until fork tender). Your cooking time will vary based on the size of the squash. Once your spaghetti squash is cooked, use a fork to scrape out the insides. You’ll see that the squash pulls away from the skin in strands that resemble spaghetti.

(For a picture tutorial of this first method, click here.)

The other way to cook spaghetti squash is to just throw the whole thing in the oven without cutting it. Cook it at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes (or until fork tender). When it’s done cooking, cut it down the middle with a sharp knife, scoop out the seeds, and shred. This way saves you the potential hassle of cutting the tough skin pre-cooking, but be sure to let the squash cool a little bit before you cut into it because it will be hot!

Some Recipes to Get You Started

Spaghetti squash is absolutely delicious on its own with just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, but if you’re looking for something a little fancier, there are TONS of recipes out there to get you started. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites below. Let us know what you think when you try it!

Almost 5 Ingredient Spaghetti Pie
Spaghetti Pie
Garlic Spaghetti Squash with Herbs
Lasagna Stuffed Spaghetti Squash (use low-fat ricotta and skim-milk mozzarella to lighten this dish up)

Staying on Track with Your Weight Loss: Your Guide to Eating Out Healthy

In a perfect world, every meal available at your favorite restaurants would be flawlessly restauranttailored to your weight loss plan. Portions would be precise and chefs would only use fresh, ingredients, making sure to include lots of veggies. But we live in this world; and although many restaurants are coming around by making menus that appeal to a more health-conscious crowd, it’s still possible to easily overdo it when eating out. Sure, the best way to know EXACTLY what you’re eating is to just prepare all your food at home, but sometimes you need to have a night out. Eating out doesn’t mean that you need to throw all caution to the wind, though. We’ll teach you how to navigate a menu to make the best choices and provide some tips on how to prevent temptation so that you can leave the restaurant feeling good.

Skip the Bread

A big basket of warm, fresh bread dipped in garlicky olive oil would probably be a temptation for anyone. If you’re at a restaurant that serves bread, ask them to take it away from the table. When it’s out of your sight, you’re far less likely to munch while you’re chatting and waiting for your food. If you’re with a group that won’t agree to removing the bread from the table, pop a piece of gum in your mouth. The fresh mint will make it less likely that you mindlessly reach for a piece of bread since the combination of flavors wouldn’t taste that great anyway.

Navigating the Menu

Some restaurants make it easy for you by putting healthier dishes in their own section, but others have the lighter fare scattered throughout the menu. Look through the menu for the words “baked”, “broiled”, or “steamed”. These terms indicate that the food was prepared using heat without extra added fat (and calories), while words like “fried”, “breaded”, or “crispy” mean that the food was rolled in some type of breadcrumbs and then cooked in fat.

You also want to choose dishes that allow you to pick your sides. When choosing sides, opt for green veggies, like broccoli or green beans, and double up on them. Skip cheesy or creamy side dishes. Ask the waiter to have the chef lightly steam the veggies and then toss them in a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper instead of frying them or tossing them in a vat of butter.

Start with a Salad

Start your meal with a light, fresh salad, but don’t assume that all salads are healthy. Some have toppings, like cheese, nuts, and croutons, that quickly add up the calories. Choose a salad that’s just a mixture of different types of veggies and drizzle it with some oil and vinegar instead of creamy bleu cheese or ranch dressing. The goal is to start filling up on fresh veggies before your meal comes so you won’t be as tempted to overindulge.

Practice Portion Control Early

Restaurants are notorious for serving astronomical sized portions, and while this is nice in the sense that you’re getting what you pay for, it’s not nice for your waistline. While you may have good intentions to only eat half of your meal, it can be easy to overeat, especially if you’re eating one of your favorite meals. Ask the waiter to bring a to-go container with your meal. Before you even start to eat, put half of it in the to-go container and set it aside. You’ll get two meals for the price of one.