Win or Learn


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Guest Post by Steve Ledbetter, CSCS aka Coach Stevo 

I bring up language a lot to my clients because the way that we talk and think about things greatly impacts the likelihood that we will -or will not – do them. The words we choose can act like a barrier to entry. I’d much rather “take my dogs for a walk” than “go outside and stand around while my dogs decide where to poop, then pick it up in a small plastic bag and carry it around with me.”

The same is true for how we talk about training. The words we use establish expectations about the experience we are about to have. One of my jobs as a coach is to subvert client expectations that are not useful to meeting their goals. So “deadlifts” becomes “picking up heavy things.” We don’t “work out,” we “play with kettlebells.” My clients don’t “go on diets,” they “change their eating habits.” They don’t “lift,” they “practice.” And most importantly, they don’t “screw up,” “suck,” “or “fail”; they “learn.”

The Jerk in Your Head

One of the most important lessons from the science of Exercise Psychology is the connection between thoughts and emotions and emotions and behavior. Cousins and Gillis (2005) showed that how people talk to themselves about exercise not only impacted their exercise adherence, but interventions that positively changed the language that people use to talk about exercise actually improved their adherence to an exercise plan.

If you had a coworker who came over to your work buddy’s desk every time your friend forgot to run spell-check on an email and loudly called him a screw up, you’d probably think the guy was a jerk and your buddy would probably start looking for another job that didn’t involve as much emailing. And how long would it be before you confronted the jerk, reported him to HR, or spit in his coffee? Now how do you think berating yourself for not making it to the gym 6 times a week is going to impact your progress?

The Two Questions

One of the ways that I seek to improve my clients’ attitudes about food choices and exercise is by making it a habit. I ask my clients to ask themselves two questions every day:

  1. What did I do well today?
  2. What did I learn today?

By actively reflecting on your progress towards your health and fitness goals, you can stay focused, stay motivated, and keep moving forward when you might have otherwise been frustrated or gotten thwarted by a tiny slip up like a birthday party or not making it to the gym on a Saturday.

Change is hard because people want the familiar. Familiar words, familiar habits, familiar experiences. But 100% of people who want to change their bodies need to  change something about their habits. Familiar words means familiar habits which means familiar outcomes.

So if you experiment with asking yourself The Two Questions and think, “Oh, that’s not what I’m used to?” just ask yourself what I ask my own clients: “And how’s what you’ve been doing been workin’ out for ya?”

Guest Bio:
Coach Stevo is the nutrition and sport psychology consultant at San Francisco CrossFit  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is finishing his MA in Applied Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. His specialty is habit-based training and he contributed  to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. His website is

Fresh Beets Five Ways

Cooking light beet salad and pizza
Beau Gustafson & Oxmoor House | Cooking Light

As a child I remember my parents loving beets–the canned kind in particular. Personally I never liked them–that is until a few years ago when I tried them again with goat cheese. Ah, cheese–it really does make everything better, doesn’t it?

Not only are they great paired with cheese, beets excellent source of folate, rich in fiber, potassium and Vitamin C, and a good source of iron. Their pigments, called betalains, have also been shown to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Raw and boiled beets are typically more nutrient-dense than canned, but lets be honest–preparing fresh beets is intimidating! I know because I myself, have only ever purchased the pre-cooked kind. I was perusing Cooking Light earlier this week looking for beet recipes to share with you and stumbled on these tips for preparing fresh beets. Apparently wearing disposable gloves makes things much easier, and less pink.

Beets are nutritional powerhouses and they love the cool weather of spring and fall, so I’ve decided to give the fresh ones a go this weekend. This Roasted Beet Pizza in particular is calling my name.

NEW2010 Cooking Light LOGOIngredients

1 (4-ounce) golden beet
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (10-inch) Basic Pizza Dough
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup vertically sliced shallots
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey


1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Leave root and 1 inch of stem on beet; scrub with a brush. Wrap beet in foil. Bake at 450°F for 40 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven; cool. Trim off beet root; rub off skin. Cut beet in half crosswise; thinly slice halves.

3. Position an oven rack in the lowest setting. Place a pizza stone on lowest rack.

4. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Preheat pizza stone 30 minutes before baking pizza.

5. Gently brush oil over Basic Pizza Dough. Arrange cheese, beet slices, and shallots evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Slide dough onto preheated pizza stone, using a spatula as a guide.

6. Bake at 500°F for 8 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from pizza stone. Sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with honey. Cut into 8 wedges. 

While you have your disposable gloves on–make two different kinds of pizza, pair it with one of these yummy beet salads or turn leftovers into some sliders!

Beet Salad Pizza

Roasted Beet Citrus Salad (also pictured)

Farro Salad with Roasted Beets and Watercress Poppy Seed Dressing

Beet & Brown Rice Sliders

Need a little more incentive to try one of these recipes? We’ve added all five of them to the MyFitnessPal food database! Just search using Cooking Light and the recipe name and it will magically appear for you to easily log.

Healthy Tip: Canned and jarred beets oftentimes contain added sugar, salt and preservatives. If you’re tight on time, look for “steamed and peeled” beets in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section. They’re a healthier, no-fuss option since they’re vacuumed-packed and contain only one ingredient–beets!

For more beet news and recipes, check out these links from our friends at Cooking Light:

What tips or tricks do you have for preparing fresh beets? 

7 Tricks for a Healthier Halloween

tips for healthy halloween myfitnesspal

RichardBowen | Flickr 

Trick-or-treating is a lucrative business, at least if you’re in the business of collecting calories. Based on the nutrition labels on popular candies, it’s been estimated that the average child accumulates 3,500 to 7,000 calories worth of treats on Halloween night, according to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., of  the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School of Public Health. Want to know what the scariest part of Halloween is? If all of those extra calories are gobbled up and not burned off, those treats will quickly pack on 1-2 pounds. Yikes!

I’m all for enjoying a few Halloween treats here and there–especially those delicious peanut butter cups–but with the abundance of candy, both at home and sitting on your co-worker’s desks, it sure is easy to go overboard. I recently put together a few tips and tricks to help us all survive the next few candy-filled days.

1. Hold off on breaking open those bags of candy until just before trick-or-treaters arrive. Take it a step further and wait until Halloween day to purchase your treats!

2. Be a role model by keeping your own candy consumption in moderation. Enjoy one or two small pieces at a time, and allow your children to do the same.

3. Keep a tally of miniature treats. It’s easy to have 3-4 “snack-size” treats throughout the course of the day. I’m guilty of this myself! Do the math though and the fat and calories quickly adds up to 1 full-size candy bar.

4. Prepare a few healthy finger foods for you and the kids to nosh on before heading out for Halloween festivities. Doing so will likely reduce the desire to fill up on candy instead.

5. Consider a candy exchange. Allow your children to enjoy their Halloween treats for a day or two and then propose making a trade; their pillowcase full of candy for a new toy of their choice.

6. Give out non-traditional treats! Things like sidewalk chalk, bouncy balls, jump ropes, glow sticks and hacky sacks are inexpensive and promote physical activity–which is probably more fun for kids than another handful of miniature candy bars.

7. Remember that Halloween, like other holidays, is just one day of the year. If you and your family make healthy eating a habit, a few days of overindulgence is perfectly okay, and should be enjoyed! Plan on making a tasty, nutritious meal over the weekend and get back on track once the trick-or-treating is over.

I hope these help. Have a very happy Halloween!

What tricks do you have for making Halloween a little bit healthier for you and your family? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page! 

How To Do The Perfect Squat

How to Do the Perfect Squat
Greatist-Logo.jpgThey’re sometimes referred to as the king of all exercises, and with good reason. Squats are a full body fitness staple that work the hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and sneakily strengthen the core. Squats can help improve balance and coordination, as well as bone density, too. Plus, they’re totally functional. Time to banish those sloppy squats and help perfect the go-to move.

Bodyweight Squat


  1. Place feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, hips stacked over knees, knees over ankles.
  2. Roll the shoulders back and down away from the ears. Note: Allowing the back to round (like a turtle’s shell) will cause unnecessary stress on the lower back.
  3. Extend the arms out straight so they are parallel with the ground, palms facing down (like your hands are on someone’s shoulders at a 7th grade dance). Or, if it’s more comfortable, pull the elbows close to the body, palms facing each other and thumbs pointing up.
  4. Initiate movement by inhaling into the belly, and unlocking the hips, slightly bringing them back. Keep sending hips backward as the knees begin to bend.
  5. While the butt starts to stick out, make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright, and the back stays straight. Keep the head facing forward with eyes straight ahead for a neutral spine.
  6. Let the hip joint squat lower to the ground than the knees, if comfortable. Pro tip: Try squatting onto a box. Gentle tapping it with the butt will be a reminder to squat low.
  7. Engage the core, and exhale while driving through the heels to return to standing. Imagine the feet are spreading the floor (the left foot to the left, right foot to the right) without actually moving the feet.


For beginners, try squats with no weight and up the lbs once proper form is nailed down. (We don’t all have to be like this guy.) When using more weight, it’s more difficult to squat deeper. But deep squats with less weight trump shallow ones with heavy weight when it comes to making us stronger. While there are many ways to squat, we dove into three of the most common weighted squats: Goblet, back, and front squats.


Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat
These squats do not in fact include a goblet full of wine (though we’ve found no studies disproving their effectiveness). Instead, hold a kettlebell, dumbbell, or medicine ball at the sternum (the center of the chest) while performing the squat detailed above. When performing a Goblet, drop the elbows in between the legs inside the knees, for a full range of motion. Goblet squats are great for beginners (and also experienced lifters) since they keep us from leaning forward (holding weight in front of the chest is very s stable compared to other placements).

Back Squat

Back Squats 

Squats can be much more difficult with a barbell, so if it’s your first time, it’s best to ask for a trainer’s guidance. For back squats, the weight rests on the back (in two positions:low or high) where it’s generally easier to squat a heavier load. The hands should be facing forward, along the same plane as the shoulders, with elbows pointing down to the ground (the arms will form a W along the bar). Make sure to keep the barbell over the center of the feet to keep the hips going back, and follow the same form for a bodyweight squat (ya know, minus holding your arms out of course!).

Front Squat

Front Squat

This squat is a much more advanced movement and requires placing a barbell across the collar bones (resting on the deltoid muscles). It also requires more flexibility than other versions, so it’s often best to master the bodyweight and back squats first. The elbows should point straight out (the upper half of the arm parallel with the floor) while the fingertips reach back to grip under the bar, outside of the shoulders. While it may seem unstable to hold the bar with just the fingertips, the arm positioning forms a solid shelf, so the hands mostly prevent the bar from rolling. As long as the elbows stay up, extending straight out from the shoulders, the bar will be secure. Follow the bodyweight squat instructions for the rest of the move.


The Mistake: Not dropping down low enough.

The Fix: Take a slightly wider stance, which allows the body to stay steady while it squats deeper, and engages more muscle groups. It’s easy to want to squat just low enough so the thighs are parallel with the ground, but squats can be much more effective when we drop as low as possible (the hip joint lower than the knee joint) while still maintaining good form, Greatist Expert and trainer Dan Trink says.

The Mistake: The knees drift inward. 

The Fix: Turn the toes out (between 5 and 20 degrees, to get technical) to keep knees from caving inward. Knees should track in line with both the ankles and the hips, to help avoid injury and get deep in the squat. Glute bridges and lying clams will help knees from caving, says Greatist Expert Jordan Syatt.

The Mistake: The body leans too far forward. 

The Fix: Put most of your weight in the heels when lowering into a squat. The weight distribution will help keep the torso upright through the squat rather than teetering forward, and help keep the hips back and down, outside of the heels. Try to spread the floor apart by driving outwards through the back/outer portion of the heel.

The Mistake: Descending too quickly. The Fix: When weight is added, moving too quickly could increase chances of injury. It’s OK to explode with power when returning to standing (so long as the body remains controlled), but sitting into the squat should be a little slower to maintain proper form.

The Mistake: Not warming up. 

The Fix: Before squatting up a storm, try glute bridges to open up hips (which will allow the body to get lower in a squat). Warming up is important before taking on such a complex move. It’ll help prepare the body’s joints and muscles for movement, and might even help prevent injury once heavy lifting get underway.

What’s your favorite way to squat? Any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below and on our Facebook page!

More links we love from our friends at Greatist:

Illustrations by Shannon Orcutt for Greatist

MyFitnessPal Contest: Holiday Recipe Remix

Enter for the chance to win digital health tools that sync to your MyFitnessPal account and to have your favorite holiday recipe hacked by Elle, the MyFitnessPal Registered Dietitian.

Everyone loves holiday food, but all of that deliciousness comes at a price: lots of extra calories. The parties, the festive meals, the treats – it’s a two-month long battle for self-control. For those of us focused on healthful eating, the holidays can be hard. Very hard.

But what if you could ask Elle, our very own Registered Dietitian, to take one of your unhealthy holiday favorites and make it more healthful? Elle’s done the same for countless recipes in her own home and now she’s heading into the MyFitnessPal Test Kitchen to remix six of your holiday favorites.

If you live in the U.S., enter the Holiday Recipe Remix by submitting a recipe in one of the six categories by November 4th:

  • Holiday Brunch Dish
  • Holiday Dinner Dish
  • Holiday Dessert
  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Non-alcoholic Drinks
  • New Year’s Hors d’Oeuvres

The team at MyFitnessPal Headquarters will pick one winning recipe in each category. Then starting mid-November, we’ll post a short weekly video of Elle cooking up her healthy version of each category-winning recipe, which we’ll share with you to inspire your own holiday meal plans!

Five Category Winners will receive:
• An exclusive MyFitnessPal apron ($19.99 value)
• A Withings Smart Body Analyzer scale ($149.95 value)
• Cooking Light cookbooks (up to $29.95 value, each)
And One Overall Grand Prize Winner will receive:
All of the category prizes, plus:
• A Fitbug Orb ($49.95 value)
• A personalized one-week meal plan from Elle herself!
MyFitnessPal members in the US, submit your favorite unhealthily indulgent holiday recipes here by November 4th.
Good luck!
Elle + The MyFitnessPal Team