Why You Are Not Losing Fat – Part 1

By Marco Girgenti

 Marco lost 160 Lb. and has maintained that weight loss for over a decade!
Marco lost 160 Lb. and has maintained that weight loss for over a decade!

Okay, there can be many reasons as to why that fat won’t let go.

You are exercising, eating “right” and making an effort. So what gives?

In my debut series I will touch on several areas from food planning, mindsets and other pitfalls and successes.

After losing over 150 Lb and keeping it off for a decade, I can say with meekness and surety, that I “get” weight loss. What I am working on these days is the sculpting, so to speak. Those last 15-20 Lb. are fighting for me because they “love” me. Which brings me to my first point:

Your Fat Loves You

Have you ever hard of what happens when a mother bear senses her cub is in danger? Well, God help the cause of that danger, because momma will put herself between it and her baby, defending it to the death, if necessary.
That is how our fat works. It is a strange type of love hate relationship, but maybe looking at it this way will make it a little clearer.
When our bodies are underfed, especially when we have been at a particular weight for a long time, our “weight set point” senses a shift and, like momma bear, perceives this as danger and then it’s fat to the rescue! Fat exists for a number of reasons and one of them is to be our protector. If you were stuck in the wilderness without food or water, your body’s metabolic rate (the speed at which you process and burn calories) would slow down to “save” you, so to speak. The result? Our systems go into a protective mode and the body begins to resist weight loss and store fat. I like to say it does this because “our fat loves us.”

The Fat that Fought Back

So, how do those low cal diets look now? Just ask anyone that has ever been on one, because invariably the body rebelled and the fat fought back. Hey, I did call my book “Starving to be Fat,” for a real reason folks! At my heaviest weight, I was barely eating. It was not until I began to understand the concept of stoking my metabolism through regular intervals of eating, that the fat came off and stayed off.
Now, I am not saying we should get stuck on a rigid number of calories, but consider this; do you haveany idea at all as to how many calories you consume daily and from which food groups? Don’t you think you should? A guideline, at the very least is essential. Find a facility, perhaps a nutritionist that can calculate your BMR, Basal Metabolic Rate. The BMR is an equation based on a number of factors, such as percentage of lean tissue etc…that will tell you at what rate your body burns calories. Go over that amount without being active and you will gain weight, go under it dramatically and you will lose, then gain.

Remember; fat will always fight back, it is engineered to adapt to varying circumstances and to protect you. Don’t starve your body into gaining fat!

The Everyday Overlooked Abdominal Workout – Posture

By Susan Arruda

 Susan Arruda is a 5 Time Figure Champion  and mom of 2.
Susan Arruda is a 5 Time Figure Champion and mom of 2.

Abdominals are at the ‘core’ of it all and as a result, involved in everything we do.  Refer to the article, The Deep Truth About Abs which discusses the four different abdominal layers. Strong abdominals are necessary for maintaining good alignment and having a strong healthy back.  Did you know that the first muscle to fire when almost any limb movement occurs (according to Australian research) is the deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis (TVA/aka TA) and that the muscles of the TVA are connected to the lower back?  My TnT Ab DVD, Core Galore – Fit Foundations, discusses this more in depth as well as provides you with three effective workouts to develop and strengthen your abs to become stronger stabilizers and challenges all the muscles of the core. I’m very passionate about this as I am keenly aware of the importance of solid foundational building principles for long term health and injury prevention.

Keeping good posture is a crucial and overlooked component of overall good health and the longterm consequences of poor posture runs a very lengthy list; from weak muscles, tight and stiffness that may be highly predominant upon waking, muscular imbalances, leg pain with numbness, tingling and weakness, breathing problems, spinal dysfunction, joint and disc degeneration, decreased quality of life, and more!  Yes, somethingso seemingly simple and insignificant as posture can really amount to big trouble long term. Some of the more serious health problems people experience can very well be the simple result of poor posture and the effects of erosion on the body over time, but we’re often in search of a more complex reason. In observing adults and working with students ranging from 11-14 yrs. old has brought fourth a strong awareness on the mass proportion of poor posture as an epidemic and the lack of knowledge surrounding it.

The literal meaning of posture means to put or place.  Keeping our body position in the most favourable anatomical position to avoid undue stress and muscle imbalances is crucial for long term health, not to mention, it’s aesthetically more appealing and yes, looking good in addition to feeling good, go hand in hand.  Engaging the abdominals is required to keep proper upright alignment and more specifically, learning to recruit and engage the deep transverse abdominals.

The TVA/TA works as stabilizers to support our back and pelvis and provide us with good torso alignment.  The transversus abdominis is involved in every single movement we perform; it’s the first muscle to fire when almost any limb movement occurs. When we are not in the practice of actively engaging our abdominals with the abdominal draw in (aka, abdominal brace, abdominal hallowing) while maintaining a neutral spine, it puts extra strain on our lower back and contributes to poor posture.  We need to actively practice this isometric abdominal contraction throughout your day by consciously pulling your navel into your spine and holding this contraction for 20-60 seconds intermittently throughout your day. Make sure you don’t raise your rib cage as that engages other muscles other than the TVA.  This draw in or vacuum exercise becomes easier with consistent practice and ultimately, you want to do this co-contraction with every exercise. It also automatically sets you up for having better posture.

Sitting in your car is an ideal time to capitalize on putting this into practice. You want to strive to maintain natural alignment of all three curves in your spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar). Sit as upright as possible, press your head back against your car headrest to counter the common protruding chin, have your butt all the way to the back of the seat while keeping your shoulders down and back and tighten and draw in the abs. In maintaining the natural curve of the spine, there will be a curve at the neck and lower back. Good standing posture requires engaging the deep TVA muscle (this supports and stabilizes the spine) along with alignment and positioning of the pelvis. Cue an imaginary line that aligns the shoulders over hips, and knee to ankle alignment. Standing for prolonged periods can produce fatigue and put undue strain on the low back. To alleviate this stress, raise one foot up onto a platform (the very reason for a bar stool) which automatically shifts the pelvis forward to reduce this strain and/or shift your pelvis forward by contracting your glutes and resetting your posture. Do a visual posture check as well as perform the draw in along with scapular retraction (press shoulders down and squeeze shoulder blades together to counter stooping and rounded shoulders) to reset your alignment. Having strong, more defined abs are a result of training them consistently (30% training, 70% diet) as well as eating right. This will not only yield a sleeker appearance, but will provide you with a solid strong core and healthier, better looking posture.

Get in the habit of training your abs around the clock; you’ll be amazed at the results!

The Deep Truth About Abs and Training Them

By Susan Arruda

We’re all too familiar with the traditional abdominal exercises that involve variations of forward curls and crunches but many people are simply performing these incorrectly. The focus seems to be on quantity rather than quality. It’s a busy life folks, and I’m all about efficiency of movement and making it count. I’m surprised when I encounter people who are still resorting to doing 100 repetitions of full/old style sit ups. My question is, “when you’re performing this exercise, where are you feeling it most? What exactly are you trying to target? What is your goal?”

The full sit up actually places a lot of stress on the lumbar spine (unless you have really strong abs and can articulate every movement of the vertebrae), involves a lot of the hip flexors/iliopsoas, and there is usually momentum involved.  If the muscular fatigue or stress is felt in parts of the body other than the abs, that’s an indicator that you may be doing it wrong, or the primary working muscle is not actually what you’re hitting, and it may simply be the wrong exercise selection for you. The fact is, you need to isolate and concentrate on the muscle you’re trying to work.  

In a crunch, your head is along for the ride so try to keep it as relaxed as possible. A cue to help you with this is to ensure you keep space between your chin and chest (imagine a baseball under your chin) and allow your head to rest back onto your hands like dead weight and keep your elbows as far back as possible.  When we perform a crunch, that move which targets the superficial, rectus abdominis only occurs when we’re lying on our back and the abs are working as prime movers. The fact is, our abs spend more time acting as stabilizers to support our back and pelvis in all movements of everyday life. 

 Susan Arruda pictured at 38 yrs. young!
Susan Arruda pictured at 38 yrs. young!

We’re missing a vital component of abdominal training which targets the deep transversus abdominis (I refer to it as the TVA/ aka the TA). Your ‘deep’ TVA is involved in every movement you perform and in fact, the TVA is actually the first muscle recruited when almost any limb movement occurs!  (Reported by Australian researchers, Richardson, Jull, Hodges, and Hides) This muscle is involved in flattening the abdominal wall and acts like our natural ‘weight belt’ or ‘girdle’. If you overlook strengthening this muscle, it can set you up for back pain and injury. Many people also don’t realize that the abdominals can be developed to push out or to pull in (DVD workout with detailed “how to” and breakdown of all the ab muscles, now available!) and clearly, we want to train them to pull inwards.

Learning how to recruit the deep TVA is the first step. The challenge is to do so without getting other neighbouring muscles involved and to breathe naturally through the process.

To activate the TVA, pull your belly button in towards your backbone to narrow the waist without expanding the chest and recruiting other muscles. The next challenge is to maintain that draw in contraction for a few seconds (start with 10) and continue to breathe naturally; not so easy! Visualization is helpful in getting this point across: Imagine putting on a pair of very tight jeans, zipping them up and yes, of course, breathing. That’s the gist of it but it’s a training practice that requires a great deal of mental focus when you’re first learning it.  Start slow and gradually progress over time to increase the draw in to 20 and 30 second holds intermittently throughout your day, whether sitting (car time) or standing as this will also assist in achieving better posture as well as a stronger TVA. Ultimately, the goal is to perform the abdominal draw in as a co-contraction to any/all exercises. The bottom line is, we need to train the abs to become better stabilizers and ideally, we need a combination of both; exercises that train our abs as prime movers (crunch variations) and deep abdominal training (draw in)  for stronger stabilizing abdominal muscles for a balanced core.

Integrating movement with ease while maintaining the ‘deep’ TVA draw in contraction is ultimately, your long term goal.

Consistent and conscientious practice will help you achieve that!


What Motivates You To Train So Hard?

By Susan


Why exercise?  Why do you train so hard? What motivates you? How do you train for life and continue to push through tough seasons?

 Susan Arruda is a 5 Time Figure Champion  and mom of 2.
Susan Arruda is a 5 Time Figure Champion and mom of 2.

Exercising is an area I consider to be non-negotiable. It’s part of my every day life, an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and vital as a mood regulator.

Why train so hard? I was asked this question one day which took me by surprise and prompted some reflection and thought.  Well, for starters, it helps to improve my mood, keeps me in balance, produces a feeling of accomplishment and especially after a successful and strenuous workout, it improves my overall mental and physical well being, keeps me agile, flexible and feeling strong.  My thinking and philosophy is; if you’re going to do something, strive to do your absolute best to get the most out of it.  

There are many other benefits, such as: it enables me to maintain flexibility and mobility, promotes better circulation, improves skin complexion, heightens energy levels, improves brain function, counters the decline in body functions which occurs with aging and especially becomes more noticeable and progressive after the age of 30, improves heart health, improves functional and physical capabilities for activities of everyday life, increases bone density, to name a few, and of course, the biggie; it helps me stay lean, look good and feel good in my own skin! After all, your body is your home and if you don’t take care of it, where are you going to live? 

We should strive to take care and enjoy where you live; your physical body is your foremost “home” and is with you 24/7, and it’s a reflection of who you are. 

The list of exercise health benefits is certainly an extremely lengthy one. We shouldn’t have to first lose our health, in order to realize how important it is. Scrambling for your health after you’ve squandered it can leave you with serious remorse and regret. How can you afford NOT to exercise, is my question?  I passionately believe that our health should be top priority and unfortunately, I feel it is often the number one item in life that gets neglected and eliminated the most; it is the first thing to get ditched when time gets tight, and is the one thing we seem to take for granted the most; generally speaking, of course.

Many people view exercise solely as a last ditch “must do” effort used to lose weight. As we can see by the benefits outlined earlier, it is so much more than that.


I look at things pertaining to health as an investment and/or a gambling kind of approach. When you exercise, eat well, do all you can to ensure good health, you’re investing in your health. When you’re overworked, stay up late, neglect training, party hard, consume alcohol, don’t manage your stress levels, rely heavily on pills, get out of balance, then you’re gambling in a big way! The pay off for exercising, eating well are magnificent but the consequences, however, take time to manifest, and symptoms are often internal and hidden for quite some time before we get the reality of their magnitude.  We push the envelope more times than our body can handle, until the problem gets so big, we can no longer ignore or avoid it. An alarming Doctor’s report is often the only reason some people will begin exercising. That’s a bit like treating your spouse with respect, only after you have wound up in marriage counselling; too little, too late.


We live in an instant society, want it now era; want instant results in life with exercise, diet and training, and this simply isn’t possible. It isn’t a race, as many people seem to often view it; it’s a lifelong journey and a lifestyle. The serious problems take time to manifest and it is prolonged neglect that too often results in health hazards. I always say that knowledge is power. Know the benefits and the consequences, keep them before you, and get motivated to stay active. If you know you’re not strong in self motivation, invest in a personal trainer in order to follow through with your exercise plans. Due to the seasons of life, your goals will shift throughout the course of your life and are dependent on your desires, priorities, circumstances, and where you’re currently at with your health. Do you simply want to look and feel better, improve the state of your health, remain mobile, or is it at the point where it’s a matter of life and death? Lack of knowledge and not caring is a dangerous place. Find your “why.” Develop goals and get motivated and committed to work at it! You simply cannot afford to not exercise!  HAVING to do something is much different than CHOOSING to do something and we shouldn’t let it get to the point where it no longer is a choice, but because the Doctor’s orders dictate that you must.  I’m fond of the saying, “pay now or pay later.”  Choose to invest wisely with exercise when you’re young and keep it up or you will be forced to invest in health care later on. 


A close encounter with death can scare you into straight thinking but  it shouldn’t have to come to that. Remember, it takes approx. 30 days to develop a good habit. Keep the momentum going, strive to do something active on a regular basis and don’t go longer than two days without activity (even if it’s just a short walk). It’s easier to stay progressive and keep moving forward than it is to stop and restart again.

Movement is a gift you should enjoy and cherish!

Top 5 Common Errors in Weight Loss

By Marco

 Marco lost 160 Lb. and has maintained that weight oss for over 10 years
Marco lost 160 Lb. and has maintained that weight oss for over 10 years

I have consulted thousands of one on one cases of people who wanted to lose weight and I have found some common, albeit startling beliefs, patterns and practices.

These common areas have nothing to do with whether I was consulting males or females. For the sake of my article, we are going to establish our client as wanting to lose 30+ Lb. and in their 30’s.

Not one person even had a general idea of how many calories they were taking in daily. I asked questions like: “do you think it’s along the lines of 1500 per day, 3000, 5000 or more?”


I can say this however, most of the people wanting to lose weight were all either:

1) Under-eating, or 2) under the impression they did not overeat, but were unaware they were taking in thousands of “hidden” calories. By this I mean processed foods, oils, so called “healthy meals,” and “healthier” meal choices they had thought they made in a restaurant.

2.   Hardly anyone ate breakfast and proceeded to tell me they were not a “breakfast person.”

3.   They were all doing too much cardio. They were also doing it in the wrong order; before resistance/weight training, instead of after.

4.   Most women pointed to the fat on the back of their arms, or hips and legs as their “problem area,” while most men indicated their stomachs.

Additionally, they all were under the impression they could lose weight primarily/solely in that area, also known as “spot reduction.” Women thought triceps area exercises would rid them of fat in the arms and men thought that crunches, or even worse; sit-ups, would rid them of body fat in the mid-section.

5.   Rounding off our top 5 and perhaps the most alarming; everyone thought they needed to cut carbs or go on a diet, and everyone who lost weight, gained it all back and then some.

There were other common areas of misunderstanding as well. Lack of proper exercise technique, or which exercises to do was also high on the list, but the one common denominator was lack of knowledge.

Get the right information and your chances of success will greatly increase!

BACK TO BASICS Determining and Defining ‘The Fine Line’

 Susan is a 5 time Figure Champion and mom of 2.
Susan is a 5 time Figure Champion and mom of 2.

By Susan Arruda

Training and a healthy lifestyle are an essential component of my life and well-being, as it is for anyone pursuing health, fitness and overall wellness.  I’ve been physically active for 35 years and still going strong.  Pitfalls, discouragement, time restraints, fatigue, injuries have all come and indubitably provided resistance and challenge of a different sort (the weight training challenge is much easier, in comparison). Yes, I get tired of fighting but there really isn’t any other viable option. Settling, complacency and the many consequences that accompany inactivity are things that make me cringe, so I continue to fight the good fight of fitness, much like many of you! I love to eat, I want to look good and I want to feel good in my own skin!

Back To Basics: For me that means hitting the iron! My first priority in training and what helped me to develop my physique was first & foremost, weight training, although that is certainly not exclusive to what I do. A little bit of background: I fell in love with physical fitness through a gymnastics unit in Phys. Ed. class back when I was 10/11 years old (gr. 5, I think), faithfully did T.V aerobics back in the day (It Figures with Charlene Prickett was an inspirational pioneer in her field and a role model), learned to swim in my high school years (prompted by an embarrassing near drowning episode in swim class), began weight training at my local YMCA in my mid-teens after coming across Joe Weider’s fitness magazines and becoming inspired with the beautiful and beautifully sculpted physique of Gladys Portuguese. I incorporated water training in my late teen years, unfortunately due to injuries as a result of ignorance! My competition years provided me with a resurge in desire to push myself to achieve bigger and more specific goals.  I gained confidence, learned to perform under pressure and created some impressive and fun routines (with Marco’s help and coaching) and created some highly memorable moments in my history.


Thankfully, I have always been passionate, self-motivated and driven to push my body to “my limits” and to be the best me that I can be.  Strong attributes, but there can also be some drawbacks. Yes, passion and determination are required elements to succeed and reach your goals; that is the DNA of a champion, no doubt about it. However, pushing yourself to the max can lead to injuries (especially with aging, insufficient sleep, etc.) and knowing “the fine line” isn’t so easy for those of us who are intent on striving for progress, better, and more. 

I have gone through many seasons of training; build, burn, maintenance, etc., amidst also battling the plague of injury, be it knees, shoulders, hamstrings, etc. Trying new activities is fun, it can help push you past a plateau, keeps things interesting, but it can also bring with it a greater chance of injury if you’re not careful  (depending on the activity and risk factor involved). I must say, my most favourite, maximized gifts of all-time are usually fitness equipment. Several years ago, Marco presented me with, not one, but two bosu ballsand I’ve had such a fun, creative time learning how to use them to the max.
I learned the hard way that the smaller muscles that get challenged as they do with some aspects of bosu training, should be trained more sporadically, and not every day. 

I consider myself a master of pushing through and in many cases, not necessarily listening to my body, but instead, training with the motto of “come hell or high water, just do it!” Stubborn persistence can be an admirable trait, but it in some cases, it can be plain, dumb!  It can certainly wear down your body and put you in a vulnerable state for injury, and worse, exacerbate injuriesyou may already have and refuse to nurse because “taking time off” or consecutive off days, are simply not an option.  Many elite athletes and fitness enthusiasts are faced with this strong drive and determination to achieve which can blur the lines of taking a pass on a workout. I got so good at not making excuses and living the “just do it,” motto and ignoring the constant signs your body tries to clue you into: injuries that won’t go away, or are constantly recurring, fatigue, loss of motivation and joy in doing what you once loved, more susceptible to illness, etc…, and the list goes on…

The fact of the matter is, resistance training transforms bodies more quickly and effectively than anything else! In my own experience, I have found weight training to be the most effective way to sculpt, tone, shape, burn fat and offset the natural decline associated with aging! Did you know that, according to research from the American College of Sports Medicine, many bodily functions start to decline at a rate of 2% after the age of 30, but with exercise, this aging process is slowed down to one half % per year?! As an example, a 90 year old who exercises would have lost only 30% of functional ability compared to a whopping 60% as a non-exerciser.  Training with resistance burns a significant amount of calories and increases thermogenesis; the body’s fat burning ability and potential. Lean muscle tissue is metabolically active, burns calories and will transform you into a fat-burning machine. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid promotor of cross training and mixing it up, but I have discovered that sometimes when you hit a rut, it is definitely a time to reevaluate, and perhaps take things back to your roots; the training that your body responds to most favorably. I still promote mixing it up, but instead, give a higher priority and devote the bulk of your training time to what works most effectively for you. Hands down, for me, that is undoubtedly, weight training! You can achieve simultaneous benefits; a high aerobic/cardio effect simultaneously while building lean tissue. That is the best bang for maximizing your time and results! By combining a countless variety of training methods, (see the Weider Principles article) boredom and stagnation can be completely avoided.


I have come to the realization that as much as I want to keep learning and progressing in fitness, I don’t want to do it at the expense of sustaining an injury. There are few things that beat the feeling of accomplishing a challenge, that’s for sure! Being able to successfully perform strength moves on the bosu was a great thrill for me! The fact of the matter is, injuries take a whole lot longer to heal as you age, as many of you are so acutely aware of, so weigh out the pros and cons carefully.

Exercising on 5-6 hours of sleep is a challenge at the best of times;  toss in some high-intensity and/or high challenging training and you’re just asking for it, so to speak. Your strength is diminished as a result, your immune system is generally weaker, your balance is affected and if you must train, make it a maintenance, lower intensity workout in order to steer clear of injuries, or consider taking a pass. This can be a tough one for constantly sleep deprived moms (I lived it and I know!) so do your best to strike a balance for the season you’re in.

If you’re not trying to get into the cirque du soleil, then perhaps that contorted, advanced yoga move shouldn’t be attempted. (Although, yes, admittedly, I would love to nail it, lol!)

Is it a good idea to learn gymnastics and take on higher risk sports and associated skills as an adult? Probably not. I would have loved to have been a gymnast but that just wasn’t in the cards for me due to circumstances beyond my control in my childhood. When I daughter was enrolled in a recreational gymnastics course, my passion for the sport was once again ignited when I discovered they were offering a class specifically for adults. I decided to capitalize and signed on. Well, I always knew that gymnastics was ideal for the young athlete and although I wasn’t “old,” per se, and I did learn some great skills, my dream of performing back handsprings and aerials was laid to rest after a slight injury to my back (hey, at least I was smart enough to leave it alone).
Downhill skiing is another sport that you may not want to consider embarking on as an adult (yes, I do have a few horror stories in this area as well; sigh). Cross country skiing can be equally as challenging for both a cardiovascular and muscular workout, but alas, the adrenalin falls a bit short, in comparison.  Consider this, however;  a shoulder tear, or even worse, can be the result of bracing for a fall.  Let’s go back and ask ourselves again here, “does the risk outweigh the benefits?”

Generally, yes, I’m pretty good about knowing my limits but many people either go way too far or they don’t strive high or hard enough. You want to be able to push yourself in order to continue to make gains, yet remain injury free. Factor in the variables and either go for it, or pull in the reins and hold back if you must, but do continue to strive for progress and gains or maintenance; all of which require work. One incident of perhaps pushing myself too hard comes to mind; several years ago I did the CN tower fund raiser climb and being in my 40’s was intent on continuing to maintain my time of climbing 1,7077 steps in less than 15 minutes as I had done in past years. Well, I did accomplish the task but it took at least 20 minutes for my heart rate to come back down. 😕 But I got a t-shirt… I accomplished my goal and I did it!

It should go without saying that if you’re ill with a fever, training is not wise. Exercising with a fever does not help you get rid of your fever, but it certainly can further weaken your immune system and keep you sick longer.  If it has been consecutive days and you’re going a bit “stir crazy,” perform some brief, light activity such as walking, stretching, or relaxing yoga (not ashtanga yoga). Definitely avoid the “come hell or high-water, I’m going to just do it” motto.

Ever had an injury you were in the process of rehabilitating and you then take it upon yourself to “test” it by putting yourself through the exercise or activity that aggravated it, far sooner than you should have, or you simply ignored your sports therapist or trainer’s advice. Ahem (clearing my throat here)… Our instant gratification era can be, in part, to blame as well as our addiction to those ‘feel good’ endorphins,  but giving your body adequate time to recover is far better than going at it sooner than you should and prolonging the situation. I’m not saying this is easy, especially for all you (and me) fitness die-hards, but doing so will ensure your rehab time doesn’t double, triple, or even plague you for years to come! Get sound, smart therapy and advice and be sure to follow it to avoid delays and further discouragement! (Yep, I’m sure you guessed it; been there, done that!)

Any injury that you have sustained at one time or another puts you at a disadvantage.  It is a weakness that can resurface when you’re in a weakened state or if you push your body to the max. If the injury is sustained in more mature years (30, 40, 50+), greater healing time is required which means a longer layoff. Consider the life-span of an athletic career. There is a very valid reason why football, hockey, baseball players, etc. have a short lived professional career.  I have certainly found this to be truth in my own experience. I sustained knee issues in my late teens and have had to be mindful of high impact movements and exercising both moderation and low impact options (cross-training) as a result. This is one big reason I am very adamant in promoting PT (personal training) for teens and those new to exercise. Seek knowledge, invest in yourself and especially in your children, as doing so, will help to ensure you learn how to perform exercises properly and stay injury free from the get-go; hindsight is 20/20 and many who have gone through this harsh route of learning the hard way, will wholeheartedly agree!

When I look back and consider what I used to be like compared to where I am now with respect to implementing this simple strategy, I am leaps and bounds ahead, thanks largely in part to the school of hard knocks. I used to plough through the tweaks and indicators that I had pulled something during a workout.  Stubborn persistence is great in the right areas, but implemented wrongly, can hinder and hurt you.  I am now at the point of listening cautiously and carefully and taking great heed in this area.  The moment I feel something not quite right, I stop immediately and deviate! Cheers to celebrating progress!

A motivator I once came across on FB comes to mind: It read, “You will never regret a workout.”  I have to disagree!  I have had more than my fair share of workouts that resulted in injury, and yes, I did ultimately regret the decision to workout that day. Knowing when to take a pass is equally as important as a workout, in some cases. Learning the hard way, as in two steps forward, one step back, is a tough season I went through and I hope, through the information and experiences I have shared, will help you to avoid altogether.

As I finish off this article, Marco asks me, “are you going to listen to your own advice?”  Hmm… I ponder, lol. I’m a work in progress and am definitely working on it;-)


Wait on Weight Watchers

By Marco Girgenti

As we begin another year, resolutions abound and many people are embarking on a new path to better health, but sadly, most of them have no idea what to do in order to be successful and consequently, they will fail. That is not me being negative, it is just a statistical truth that 95% of people who join a gym or commit to an exercise program abandon either within 6 weeks.

Today, I would like to focus on just one thing that is of key importance as you begin or continue your journey. As well, a brief update on the GetFitFaster.ca VIP and all access sites.

Numbers are inescapable. We use numbers to grade performance and intelligence from the moment we can read through to university, in total sales figures, in timing of sporting events, the speedometer of our vehicles, and so on. In fact, numbers define many things such as; profit/loss, victory/defeat, progress or stagnation and finally, the scale millions step on to see if they are losing or gaining weight. That number, perhaps most of all, hurts even more than the December credit card bill many are receiving, perhaps even as I write this.


Yesterday as Susan and I shopped, several companies had kiosks out with samples. As I reflected on that today, I realized that the majority of the vendors were all peddling “health” foods. This is no accident; again, given the time of year. One particular package that touted a point system value caught my eye; again, numbers. Now, I believe no company is perfect, there is good and not so good in every entity. However, when a company that models itself as a healthy weight loss solution crosses the line, all bets are off. If a company has the audacity to print something which is questionable at best, on a package to lure someone in, then that company can take the heat when it is challenged. After which, the real question becomes, who should be more ashamed: the company for doing it or the consumer for blindly believing it?


So let me say this about Weight Watchers, and if you have read “Starving to be Fat” and know anything of my background, then you know I am speaking from a position of a 160 lb. permanent personal weight loss experience; they do a great job of motivating people. The support groups are a good place for people to rally around each other and I have always believed that is a powerful tool. As well, they touch on B-Mod (behaviour modification), which is also a key component and the accountability piece (weigh in) can also be productive, or demoralizing, depending on the type of week one had. Having said that, the epic fail is in using a point system as opposed to a nutrition based system for weight loss. Want me to prove it?


Here it is; the shiny “Weight Watchers Granola Original” package I saw yesterday and in the ingredients list, pure poison; a hydrogenated oil, meaning a trans fat, meaning something even Weight Watchers says you should not consume, but there it is, right on the package. Know what else? This is not the only case and this is not the only weight loss company doing it.


So, maybe your scale weight comes down, great, but increase in probability of disease goes up. Would you call that a “win?” In my opinion, points systems belong on coffee cards as rewards, or credit card rewards, not as a fix for weight loss. If you use up your points on cheesecake, does this mean you have been successful on your journey to better health? No, you just lost weight. Is that all you want? If it is, close this window now as I have nothing to offer that would appeal to you.

Susan says that most people want maximum results for minimum effort and these commercial diet programs cater to that market, I agree. I too, want things easy, but that is not the reality of the matter.

Am I “picking” on Weight Watchers? Okay, maybe a bit. However, I could just as easily give you similar examples of questionable, if not outright damaging ingredients from Jenny Craig and any other similar “just eat our food and follow our portions,” system.

What then is my point? There are several, but I have to bring this in for a landing.

IGNORANCE – If we lose that, we lose the fat and get healthy, these are two different things, let me be clear. Losing weight is not necessarily a sign of increased health. Many people who are fighting for their lives are losing weight. You could be losing weight on a program and be nutritionally starving. That is a whole other issue you will be hearing more about from me in the future.

I encourage you again to start reading labels. Know that calories are only a part of the overall weight equation. When it comes to so-called packaged “healthy food,” question EVERYTHING! Food packages are like people, all of the fancy lettering and shiny exterior is designed to appeal to you and draw you in. The real “stuff” comes out when you get to know through reading fine print, the “ingredients,” be these of a food, or of a person, so to speak. Don’t ever make the mistake of buying a new product without first reading the ingredients label!

We appreciate you and hope your year is off to a blessed and healthy start!

Susan and Marco

My Small Steps to ditch artificial sweeteners – By Susan Arruda

Last week I drank my first full size coffee without any sugar or sweetener. After picking up Marco from the airport in the very early morning following one of his whirlwind business trips, we found ourselves in a coffee shop upon just opening their doors. To fully appreciate this milestone, here’s a bit of background.

I was very much addicted to sweeteners in my past, especially diet pop. I recall making special trips to the grocery store specifically because I was out of pop – what a strong addiction it was! Upon making the decision to enter the world of fitness competitions in 2005, this spurred my desire to eliminate diet pop from my diet. I did it and never went back! Although I was successful in eliminating diet pop from my diet, I still relied on artificial sweenters (Splenda, which I learned was the best of the worst) to sweeten my coffee.  I know it wasn’t a healthy option but the thought of using sugar didn’t thrill me and like many, the bitter taste of pure coffee didn’t appeal to me at all.

The buildup and longterm effects of using using sweeteners is far from appealing and fitness and health is a journey of taking steps. I was finally motivated and ready to take the next step. Headaches and memory issues are a negative side effect that can plague those who consume artificial sweeteners.

At the onset of 2015, I decided I was going to commit to a 30 day challenge to break my morning coffee artificial sweeteners habit. My first challenge was to find a source of sweetener that would work for me. After experimenting with coconut sugar, date sugar, and a few others, I finally decided that organic cane sugar was the best choice; it didn’t alter the taste of my coffee and I could be ok with 15 calories per tsp. (I try not to cringe).  I started with a tsp. in my mug of coffee but I felt that calorie count just wasn’t sitting totally right with me so I went to 1/2 a tsp.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the taste but kept the faith and kept professing that I liked unsweetened coffee far more than sweet coffee (according to Romans 4:13).

I must admit there were days I wanted to throw in the towel and I didn’t exactly “like” it, but I stuck with it, none-the-less. Interestingly enough, I made a discovery one day when I ordered a coffee through a drive through and requested milk and a sweetener and I found it horrible tasting! I had finally gotten to the place where my taste buds were rejecting the artificial sweetener – SUCCESS at last! I’m now at slightly less than 1/2 tsp. of organic cane sugar and clearly on my way to making continual progress as evidenced by my first full sized unsweetened coffee!

I want to encourage the many of you who may be in a similar situation and are motivated by health to make a positive change, to stick with it and push through the time of discomfort to get to the other side. It really does start with making the decision and then backing it up with a plan of action. You CAN do it!

P.S.  Six months after writing this article, I went from having some sugar in my coffee, to no sugar at all with only a bit of 2% milk! – Small steps lead to success!

Fear Is Not a Motivator – Susan Arruda

Fear is not a motivator. I’ve seen it displayed in others, and yes, I’ve also experienced it enough times in my life, and it can paralyze you, it can hinder your growth and progress and worst of all, if you allow it, fear can keep you from moving forward in life. I became extremely aware of the overwhelming power of fear recently, when I found myself, along with my kids, at the thrilling attraction, CN Tower Edge Walk. Thoughts that barraged my mind included: Why do I do this to myself? This is terrifying! OMG, help me! This is self-inflicted! I don’t think I’m going to be able to take my hands off this lifesaving wire! Thank God I can do a pull-up! – As I sorted through all these fear-filled thoughts and emotions, I then began to mentally reason with myself. If I don’t walk to the edge, lean, and do all these terrifying stunts – all tested and proven to be completely safe – I’m going to be so disappointed in myself later on and feel completely jipped and so angry with myself.  

One thing’s for sure, conquering fear is empowering! The toughest part is the going through; not dwelling on the fear, but instead, focusing on the positives and the getting to the other side. As a metaphor, when compared to the many fearful experiences we go through in life, there are no shortcuts to getting around it. As scary as it often is, you’ve gotta go through or you get stuck. You conquer fear in your mind and you decide to act, even though you may feel inundated with it. Fear is an adversary designed to take you out, make you back down and scare you into not following through.  I reasoned through it, focused on the positives, decided and acted. Know what? Once you act and move beyond it, the experience gets easier, you get better, and gain confidence as a result.

A quote by Alfred Hitchcock says it best: There is no terror in the bang, only in the moments leading up to it. Life is full of these moments, be it your first job interview, a public speaking experience, etc.; trying something new can present much of the same conflicting emotion of fear. You know you should do it, but your fear is trying to convince you otherwise. Some of the seemingly smaller challenges (diving for the first time, doing a forward roll into the water – I’m drawing on the many personal experiences I witness as a swim instructor), can be a set up for the bigger things to come.  Will you rise to the challenge and overcome your fear or will you let it engulf you and hinder your future progress? Courage requires you to push past the fear and do it afraid. Repeating it enough times will annihilate and eventually, completely eliminate that fear altogether, in time. There’s something to be said for disciplining your mind and thoughts to resist yielding to fear – your progress depends on it!  Think of this acronym the next time you’re faced with FEAR; False Evidence Appearing Real! Don’t let it fool you or bully you into running away from pushing through and making progress! 

YES! I overcame the fear at 356m above the ground and performed all the “activities,” as they called them:-) What’s next, I ponder.

Susan Arruda