Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Should We Still Use BMI and Body Composition in Corporate Fitness?

GettyImages-844045822.jpgFor years, fitness professionals have been trained to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a prescreening tool when individuals join a fitness program. It was part of the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for evaluating health risks; tobacco use, cholesterol profile, and family history for cardiovascular disease were also part of that process. In 2015, the ACSM updated their guidelines, and guess what? No BMI screening was included.

(Find out more about the changes to exercise prescreening in this FAQ.)

Why Is BMI No Longer a Screening Tool?

The changes to the ACSM guidelines were positioned largely around decreasing barriers for individuals to start an exercise program. After years of research, what they found was that BMI was not a driver of cardiovascular events during exercise. Anecdotally, I can say from experience that I had a lot of (sometimes angry) individuals wanting to join the corporate fitness center who needed a medical release because their BMI was "too high" and they had one other risk factor, such as not knowing their cholesterol or current tobacco use. So for our staff and their members in corporate fitness environments across the country, I thought this was a positive change.

But it leaves me wondering if we should be looking at BMI at all. There's a lot of back and forth in the wellness community about the "value" of BMI. The screening tool was always meant to be a field test to determine appropriateness of weight for a given height. And truly, it's an easy measure to determine; there are BMI calculators all over the internet. But that may be the end of its utility as a screening tool. There are a lot of questions about how meaningful the information really is to either the individual being assessed or the practitioner with whom they're working.

If We Don't Use BMI, What Should We Use?

This is something of a loaded question and points to our cultural obsession with "healthy" body weight. Do we need to screen for fatness? What's the value in those figures? Certainly measuring percent body fat or circumference might provide more meaningful ways to track an individual's desire to lose weight. But there are caveats on providing that information, too. Our staff members are providing those measures as field tests in our clients' corporate fitness centers, and the accuracy can be questionable, particularly for body fat assessed by skinfold testing.

We have a responsibility in our clients' fitness center environments to help the members live well in the ways that are meaningful to each individual. That might mean helping someone work on gradual, healthy weight loss. It might also mean working with someone to help them learn to appreciate the difference between feeling good when they move their body and feeling bad when they step on the scale.

The goal for our staff is to help the members they serve improve their health in all the ways that are articulated. When tools like BMI are so limiting (and potentially harmful to the psyche), we have to take a hard look at whether those tools are helping us achieve that goal. With so many other fantastic programs in our books to help people move more, try new areas of healthy living, and even remember what it felt like to play at recess, I think we have just what we need to create positive, successful, healthy environments for our corporate and senior living clients.

Check out our creative and effective programming to help keep your members active.

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Topics: weight loss BMI body composition senior fitness healthy living prescreening tools corporate fitness center risk factors

Smart Weight Loss: How to Steer Clear of Fad Diets


508669134.jpgThese days it seems there is one new health or weight-loss diet out every week. My clients are constantly saying to me:

  • “Is worth it?”
  • “My friend lost a gazillion pounds on it, so it must work!”
  • “I saw on TV how this diet cures diabetes.”
  • “But Dr. Oz says…”

And before I knew better, I fell into the trap of these diets myself! Back then it was SlimFast and the Richard Simmons plans that were all the rage. Nowadays, we see the Fasting Diet plans, Paleo, Whole30, and Weight Watchers. And while I don’t think all of these plans are horrible or unsafe, I do believe that for the most part you should save your time and money if the diet does any of the following things.

Tells You to Follow Strict Meal Plans

Life is already complicated enough. Limiting food choices or following rigid meal plans can be an overwhelming, unrealistic feat. With any new diet, always ask yourself: "Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?" If the answer is no, the plan is not for you.

Promises Rapid Weight Loss

Slow, steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes. Healthy plans aim for a loss of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you lose weight quickly, you are 100% more likely to gain it back just as quickly.

Says to Consume Foods in Excess or Cut Them Out Completely

Ditch diets that allow unlimited quantities of any food, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup. It's boring to eat the same thing over and over and hard to stick with monotonous plans. Avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups, such as carbohydrates. These aren’t necessary or realistic; you can lose weight without these nutrition extremes.

Requires Supplements Like Pills or Powders

Might as well take your money and just throw it in the trash. Not only are these supplements not necessary, they are not proven safe or effective. Ask a trusted professional and learn the consequences for yourself.

Conflicting claims, testimonials, and hype by so-called experts can confuse even the most informed consumers. The bottom line is this: If a fad diet or product sounds too good to be true, it is.

Unsure of where to start or what is right for you?  Grab our free download on the benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach, click below!

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Topics: nutrition weight loss fad diets

Start Your Day Off Right with a High-Nutrition Breakfast

ThinkstockPhotos-dv2014027.jpgIf it’s the most important meal of the day, why do about 31 million people or 10% of the population still skip breakfast? Here are the top three reasons people give for skipping breakfast and how you can overcome those excuses to make eating a high nutrition breakfast be a part of your daily routine.

  • I’m just not hungry in the morning. You should wake up in the morning and be hungry. Your body has gone at least 8 hours without food, so it should be ready for some fuel. If not, take a look at your before-bedtime habits and check to see whether you are constantly having snacks like chips and ice cream late into the evening. If so, this can affect your hunger levels in the morning. Don’t go to bed hungry, but instead choose a reasonable snack around 100–150 calories like Greek yogurt or an apple with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter.
  • I don’t have time for breakfast. If you would rather hit the snooze button a few more times than prepare breakfast for yourself, you might find yourself without enough time to eat in the morning. The key is to aim for three food groups at a meal, so even if you grab a turkey sandwich and a banana as you run out the door, you are still starting your day right. The key is to combine some protein and whole grains to help give you energy and keep you full. Breakfast is also a great time to get in a dairy or fruit serving too! If time is an issue, use this recipe for Breakfast Egg Muffins to prepare breakfast for the whole week. Add an egg to an English muffin and grab a glass of milk or piece of fruit to go with it and you are set!
  • I want to save my calories for later in the day. Some people think if they skip breakfast it will help with their weight-loss efforts or it gives them more calories to consume at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A recent study compared two groups: one ate more for breakfast and the other ate more at dinner, with both consuming the same amount of calories. The breakfast group lost more weight and inches than the dinner group. Typically people who skip breakfast overcompensate the rest of the day by eating more calories than if they had started their day with a balanced meal.

Whatever your reason for skipping breakfast is, try to break that habit and start eating something every day for better nutrition all day. Start small with a glass of 100% juice or a piece of fruit and then work up to a balanced meal between 400 and 500 calories and at including least three food groups.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss breakfast snacks

What Is the Key for Weight Loss: Diet, Exercise, or Both?

ThinkstockPhotos-470754782.jpgLots of research has been done over the years to figuret out the best recipe for success when it comes to weight loss. Diet alone? Exercise alone? Or a combination of both? It should come as no surprise that the key for weight loss and keep it off is to combine a low-fat, lower-calorie diet with an exercise routine.

Results of a Weight-Loss Study

In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute in 2011, 439 overweight to obese postmenopausal women were assigned to four different groups: exercise only (45 minutes of moderate-vigorous activity five days per week), diet only (1,200–2,000 calories per day, depending on starting weight, and less than 30% of calories from fat), exercise and diet, and no intervention.

The yearlong study found that the exercise-only group lost 2.4% of their starting body weight, with the diet-only group losing 8.5% of their weight. However, the group that incorporated both a lower-fat and caloric diet and exercise lost 10.9% of their starting weight, which was an average loss of 19.8 pounds. One other thing that was significant in this study was that the women who lost the most amount of weight and body fat kept a daily food journal, writing down everything they ate and drank.

Tips for Losing Weight

As I said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a combination of more balanced eating and movement will lead to the most amount of weight loss. So here are some tips to help make this become a lifestyle for success.

  • Keep a food log. As the study showed, the most successful individuals logged what they ate. Grab a pen and jot it down, or use an app or an online program for tracking. Whichever way works for you, start today!
  • Focus on low fat. Aim for 30% or less of your intake from fat. Fat helps to make food taste more flavorful and helps to keep you fuller longer. However, aim for those good-for-you sources of fat such as nuts, avocado, olive oil, and salmon.
  • Move more. The individuals in the study did 45 minutes of exercise, 5 times per week, but any movement is better than nothing. Start walking, cycling, strength training, stretching, and just moving more each day.

More Help from NIFS

If you want to lose weight and are considering starting to decrease your calories or start exercising, hopefully this will help you to decide to do both! If you need more assistance getting started, please contact me at to set up a personal nutrition coaching session to help meet your goals.

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Topics: exercise nutrition weight loss NIFS calories nutrition coaching diet

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2017

ThinkstockPhotos-615414964.jpgEvery year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a survey across the United States to determine what trends will be seen in the coming year. Completed by over 1,800 fitness professionals, the survey has found the following to be the top 10 fitness trends for 2017. 

10. Wearable technology, such as activity trackers, smart watches, heart-rate monitors, smart eyeglasses, and GPS tracking devices.  Check out this blog post about the challenges with high tech wellness.

 9. Bodyweight training requires minimal to no equipment and can be done anywhere, which makes it an inexpensive way to stay fit.  Check out @NIFSquickfit on instagram for inspiration to use your bodyweight to train at home.

 8. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and can take 30 to 60 minutes, or longer, to complete.

 7. Educated and experienced fitness professionals are becoming more available as the ways to get certified and educated grow. Finding professionals who have gotten certified through nationally accredited programs can help consumers make an important decision more easily.  Looking to staff your onsite fitness center, check out how you can get back to business and let the professionals handle your fitness center. 

 6. Strength training has been trending since the first survey was published by ACSM in 2006. Strength training can help many to improve or maintain current levels of strength.  Grab your co-workers and get fit at lunch.  

 5. Group training is designed for participants with varied levels of fitness. Group fitness instructors specifically program these classes for a fun, motivational, and effective large-group experience. 

 4. Exercise Is Medicine is a global health initiative based on the belief that exercise can be preventative as well as a way to treat diseases. This initiative brings health care professionals together with exercise professionals to include physical activity as treatment.

 3. Yoga can be practiced in many forms, including but not limited to Power Yoga, Yogalates, and hot Yoga. Yoga uses specific types of postures to help with flexibility, relaxation, and health.  Can't make it to Yoga?  Take a moment to stretch at your desk.  Making time for a five minute stretch break will help you ease tension and relax the mind.

 2. Personal training has not left the top ten since the first survey was published in 2006. Personal trainers will continue to be an integral part of the professional staff in all areas of health and fitness centers.

 1. Exercise and weight loss combine calorie restriction and exercise programming to control weight loss.

The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017.”

Looking to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees this year?  Let us handle your program and you get back to doing what you love to do.  Click below for our quick read to find out how we make corporate fitness easy.

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Topics: exercise weight loss strength training technology yoga group fitness personal trainng bodyweight HIIT

Weight Loss: Take It Off, Keep It Off!

I love what I do—seeing people succeed with their weight-loss goals is one of the most rewarding feelings as a dietitian. However, it can also be very challenging when I see clients revert back to old habits and struggle to keep the weight off that they worked so hard to remove.

ThinkstockPhotos-527497433.jpgBest Weight-Loss Techniques

After checking out some research of highly successful dieters, I have found the best things that can be done to keep the weight off for good!

  • Keep a food journal. Individuals who keep food logs tend to eat 40% less because they are writing it down. Also, a recent study found women who kept a food journal lost 6 pounds more than those who didn’t. Some excellent online food tracker sites include MyPlate and ChooseMyPlate. Highly rated free apps for your smartphone include My Fitness Pal and Lose It.
  • Practice portion control. As a society, we are terrible at eyeballing portions. The secret to success is consistently measuring food items to make sure you are eating the same amount you are journaling. The simplest way to do this is to use measuring utensils to dish out your meals and associate common items with certain portions. For example, a serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards, a baked potato should be the size of a computer mouse, a half cup of pasta is the size of a tennis ball, and a teaspoon of oil is the size of one die (from a pair of dice).
  • Don’t skip meals. Lots of people think if they skip a meal they will be decreasing the total calories they are taking in for the day. In reality, the opposite usually happens. When someone skips a meal, they typically end up overeating at a different time of day to compensate for missing out on the food that their body needed. Also, whenever you skip a meal it makes your metabolism work at a slower rate; and therefore, makes it harder to lose weight. Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day is the best way to stay on track.

Set Up a Personalized Nutrition Appointment

The more you follow these rules, the higher your chance of success in keeping off the weight. For more information or to set up an individualized nutrition coaching appointment, contact me at or click below for more information.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss NIFS portion control nutrition coaching food journals

SMART and Healthy Eating During the Holidays

ThinkstockPhotos-125557141.jpgThe holidays are right around the corner, and the first thing that comes to mind is all that food! You don’t want to look like a Santa at the start of the New Year! Well, don’t feel guilty about consuming the goodies; just get smart! If you have an understanding of what it takes to properly fuel your body, specifically as you age, the healthy eating process doesn’t seem so daunting. Older adults have different needs, and there are some key nutrients that are really important to maintain.

Let’s get back to the word SMART. Here’s a simple way to eat healthy using this acronym for healthy eating during the holidays.


When you put food on your plate, divide that plate into four serving sections:

  • The first section is whole grains (wheat bread, brown rice, fortified whole-grain cereals).
  • The second section is protein (lean meats, eggs, fish, beans, cheese, tofu, peanut butter).
  • The third section is vegetables (fresh, frozen, dried, low-sugar canned).
  • The fourth section is fruits (fresh, frozen, dried, low-sugar canned).

This is true for every plate at every meal. Eliminate processed foods as much as possible. If you must open a package or can, be sure to check the ingredients. Examples of things to look for are words such as “whole” for grains and “low sugar” for canned fruits. Remember to also control salt intake and instead flavor your food with herbs and spices. Think of the holiday lights and create a colorful plate! The more color found in veggies and fruits, the more nutrients to fuel the body!

Maintain Important Nutrition 

Here is a list of the key nutrients (and examples of foods that provide them) an older adult needs:

  • Calcium and Vitamin D (leafy greens, cheese, milk, yogurt, seafood)
  • Vitamin B12 (lean meats, eggs ,fish)
  • Fiber (beans, cereals, fruits and vegetables)
  • Potassium (bananas, prune juice, mangos, pears)

The majority of these nutrients are found in the above foods. Supplements are also important to ensure that we obtain them, but the word is supplement, meaning “in addition to”; therefore, take supplements in addition to getting these nutrients through food.

Allow Some Fun Food

It’s fine to eat a slice of cake or have a cookie, but be mindful of how many. Remember to lower your intake of saturated fat and sugary treats that can lead to heart disease and unwanted pounds (and here are some healthful baking substitution tips). When you think of your plate, consider that 90% is the food that will provide your nutrients and 10% can be that “occasional” brownie or piece of pumpkin pie.

Reach for Water

Drink plenty of fluids! No, the holiday punch doesn’t count, so limit your alcohol intake. Drink water and realize that you can also obtain your fluids from juice, low-fat milk, and even soups.

Take the Time to Exercise

Physical activity is also important in maintaining a good digestive system, and the good fuel from food will be used to restore muscle and burn fat for weight loss.  Get your body moving after those holiday meals.

Be SMART this holiday season! Happy holiday eating!

Need help getting your eating habits on track?  Use NIFS Dietitian, Angie Mitchell to get your habit in line with personal nutrition coaching.  Click below for more information.

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Topics: exercise nutrition weight loss water fiber protein healthy eating holidays

NIFS Nutrition: Common Weight-loss Questions

ThinkstockPhotos-488214534.jpgAs the Wellness Coordinator at NIFS, I get to meet a lot of great clients and help them attain their nutritional goals. I have noticed some common weight-loss questions that arise during the sessions. Hopefully if you have been wondering the same things, these answers will give you some more insight.

How do I gain muscle and lose fat?

The best way to lose fat is to either increase the amount of calories you burn or decrease the amount of calories you consume. As you are doing this, you also need to make sure you are doing 2 to 3 days of strength training per week to build muscle.

To decrease calories, it is important to keep track of what you are eating and see where you can decrease. This might mean decreasing the amount of coffee creamer you put in your cup of joe or swapping the potato chips at lunch for some raw veggies.

Increasing your protein intake won’t automatically increase your muscle mass. If you are strength training 2 to 3 times per week, a simple calculation to know your protein needs is to divide your body weight in half and multiply by 1.5.

Can you give me tips on how to lose weight?

The first advice I always give to anyone wanting to lose weight is to start keeping track of your food. Studies have shown you eat 40% less when you write it down! This can be done with the apps available for your phone, using a website, or just jotting it down with a pen and a piece of paper. It will allow you to see when and why you eat and also will hold you accountable for what you are eating.

The other thing that can be helpful with weight loss is to look at what you are drinking. Are you consuming empty calories from flavored coffee drinks, soda, juice drinks, or alcohol? Most people tend to eat the same amount of food no matter how many calories they consume from their beverages. So try to stick to water, low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and 100% juices for the majority of your liquids.

How many calories do I need a day?

Every person is a different height and weight, and has varying levels of activity, so there isn’t one calorie number that works for all individuals to follow. Instead, use the simple Choose My Plate calculator that takes these factors into account to determine the proper amount you should be consuming. Not only does it give an overall number, but what is more important, it tells you how to get in that number. Recommended servings of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and beans, and fat are given, along with some “extra” calories for those every-once-in-awhile food choices!

Personal Nutrition Coaching at NIFS

If you are interested in having your questions answered during a personal nutrition consultation, please contact me at or 317-274-3432, ext. 239. Click below for more information on packages and pricing.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss weight management NIFS apps strength training wellness nutrition coaching

Nutrition and Weight Loss: Why Is It So Hard to Stick to a Diet?

ThinkstockPhotos-157175948.jpgIt has been found that up to 50% of women in the US are on a diet at any given time. Americans spend more than $60 billion on weight loss products. So with all of these individuals spending money and dieting, why are we still by far the least healthy country in the world?

Most of the reasons are due to the extreme and unrealistic expectations that diets force individuals to follow. So why is it so hard to stick to a diet?

  • Trying to change your life and not making it a lifestyle change: Anything that has a start and end date when it comes to food choices doesn’t make it a lifestyle change. If you think of it as “I only have to get through this for the next x amount of time,” this isn’t something that you could or should maintain for a lifetime. Learning how to eat meals and snacks that will nourish your body for the rest of your life leads to success for the long-term.
  • All-or-nothing mentality: Are you on a diet or completely off of one at all times? The key is balance. Allowing yourself to have all foods in moderation at all times has been found to be the most successful “diet” there is. Enjoying foods that you would normally think of as forbidden, but making sure to balance it with the good-for-you everyday foods is key. Instead of cheat meals or days, toss that thinking out and enjoy any food at any time.
  • No patience: Change is tough. Trying to completely overhaul your diet is a recipe for disaster! Instead, have patience by making small changes that will last. One week start trying to incorporate more vegetables into your diet and figure out how you can make that a new habit. Once you have achieved that, move on to another goal such as packing lunch three times per week instead of one. Slow and steady changes have been found to be more effective, and you are more likely to stick to them.
  • Not nourishing your body: When you are walking around hungry, it is really hard to stick to a restrictive diet that has a lot of do’s and don’ts. A balanced diet that incorporates whole grains, lean protein, fruits and veggies, and low-fat dairy will help to make you feel full and satisfied and able to get through the day without the hunger pangs or guilt feelings for overeating. Aim for three food groups at mealtimes and two at snacks to guarantee a satisfying and balanced diet.

Studies vary, but between 5% and 20% of individuals that lose weight are successful at keeping it off long term. Those that are the most successful report following a balanced diet, self regulation by checking their weight once per week, averaging one hour per day of physical activity, eating breakfast, and maintaining consistent eating patterns across weekdays and weekends. Follow these tips to help add yourself to the list of successful dieters!

Looking for an app to help you track your diet?  Download our quick read for Angie's top 4 app choices for healthy eating! 


Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks lunch diet

Hydration Is Key for Health and Wellness

Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “water”? Is it the beach? Rain? Thirst? How about hydration? Most people have heard that on average the human body is made up of about 60 percent water, but what exactly does that mean? Why is water so important to the human body? Well, let’s look at the facts.

ThinkstockPhotos-119492687.jpgWhy You Need to Drink Water

Water plays several important roles in the human body.

  • Water regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration. It helps to lubricate the joints for movement.
  • Water carries oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to various body parts for adequate functioning, and removes toxins and waste.
  • Water especially helps to maintain regularity of the bowels and prevents unwanted body aches and conditions such as heartburn, migraines, ulcers, kidney stones, and backaches.

Consuming adequate amounts of water each day can also help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as reduce cholesterol levels. How? Well, the more water you drink throughout the day, the more fluid leaves your blood vessels. When this happens, your blood vessels are able to relax. When the vessels relax and dilate, a decrease in blood pressure occurs. When the blood vessels remain relaxed and pressure lowers, the risk for other serious cardiovascular conditions decreases as well. Reduction in blood pressure specifically helps to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack.

How Much Water Does a Person Need?

With all of these different body systems relying on water to help them run optimally, how do you make sure you are consuming enough? Recommendations vary on this topic, but remember that water comes from more than just the bottle we drink throughout the day. It is believed that about 80 percent of water intake comes from drinking, and the other 20 percent comes from the food you consume throughout the day. The most recent recommendations suggest that women should consume 9 cups and men 12.5 cups of total beverages each day for optimum hydration.

Considerations That Affect Hydration

So you know why you need water and how much, but what factors affect hydration changes besides how much you consume? Additional considerations relating to hydration include your physical activity level, current health state (such as if you have a cold or flu), heat, and humidity. Sweating during activity is your body’s way of maintaining an adequate temperature. If you are working out and sweating, your body is losing water. So remember to hydrate before, during, and after a workout. If you feel ill and experience a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, fluid intake should also increase to prevent dehydration. Lastly, be aware of your environment and how you feel. If you become uncomfortably warm or are exercising in hot or humid climates, be sure to consume above-average amounts of water. 

Water’s Role in Weight Loss

Lastly, water works with your metabolism to help with weight maintenance. If you are hungry, drink a glass of water. If your body is lacking water, thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. Increasing your water consumption can help contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan while providing your body with the many elements it needs to survive.

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Topics: weight loss hydration water disease prevention health wellness high blood pressure