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We Tried It: Doonya Fitness Party

Written on March 6, 2014 at 6:11 pm , by

Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern

If you think Zumba is fun, you’ve got to try Doonya. This Bollywood-inspired dance workout made me sweat – and smile – a crazy amount (smiling has to burn a certain number of cals, right?).  And when you feel like it’s one big party, like I did last week when I attended their first-ever fitness dance party, the culturally-inspired moves will have you grooving like it’s your job.

Co-founded by Priya Pandya and Kajal Desai in 2011, Doonya (which means “world” in Hindi/Urdu) is a cardio and strength-building fitness class matched to the beats of the latest Bollywood-inspired music. It’s totally taking the fitness world by storm, and got its first big push into the spotlight back in 2008 thanks to the hit song “Jai Ho” in Slumdog Millionaire. My class was two hours long – definitely plenty of time to get a hefty burn in – but I consider that a consolation prize (not a bad one, mind you) because it was So. Much. Fun.

On my way into class, admittedly, I was a little nervous. I grew up taking dance classes, so I knew I was coordinated enough. I’d also taken my fair share of Zumba classes, meaning I’m pretty familiar with dancing for fitness, rather than style and grace. But I had never taken on something quite like this. It wasn’t a genre I was at all familiar with. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to catch on quick enough or if I was about to make a complete fool of myself.

But as I joined about 40 other Doonya-goers at DANY Studios in downtown New York City for an all-out dance-a-thon, I realized it was just about having fun and getting fit. We started off with a quick warm-up to get our heart rates going and then the dancing began. Bollywood dance features a lot of high-energy movements. It’s not just leg lifts and shoulder twists, but hand gestures and arm movements too. You’re working your core, arms and quads, all at the same time. It’s a great way to get a full body workout and have some fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love hitting the gym as much as the next fitness fanatic, but sometimes it can get old. It’s nice to switch it up with a fitness class like Zumba, and now Doonya, too!

Interested in trying it out yourself? They have classes in New York, Washington D.C. and Houston. They’ve also held events in Los Angeles and hope to head over to India in the near future. Keep your eye out!

Photo courtesy of Al Chan.

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Pucker Up: Reap the Health Benefits of Kissing on Valentine’s Day

Written on February 10, 2014 at 9:02 am , by

She’s thinking about how healthy she’s getting right now.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

We’re sure you know by now that the biggest date night of the year is swiftly approaching. While some are thrilled to be spending a romantic evening with their beaus and others are boycotting the holiday altogether, we’re concerned about something else entirely: our health. Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day coincides with the peak of cold and flu season, making us wonder if we’ll regret cozying up to that special someone when we wake up the next day with a fever, runny nose, cough or worse – all of the above.

To calm our over-anxious hearts, we reached out to kissing experts William Cane, author of The Art of Kissing, and Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips are Telling Us, to find out if a flirty make-out sesh is worth the risk. Luckily, there’s good news:

It’s safer than shaking hands. “You’re a lot more likely to get sick from shaking hands with people during the day than from the people that you kiss,” says Kirshenbaum. “You’re touching a lot more stuff with your hands than you are with your lips.” So now we have one more reason to stress about work, but at least our love lives are in the clear.

It helps us chill out… and possibly eat less. Kissing makes us less likely to feel stressed by reducing the cortisol levels in the body, says Kirshenbaum. “That’s the bad stress hormone, which is also associated with overeating.” Being in an emotionally healthy relationship plays a key role in maintaining your physical health—and maybe even your waistline if you tend to handle stress with excessive snacking.

It puts us on cloud nine. Both Cane and Kirshenbaum noted how kissing increases our endorphin and serotonin levels, explaining that head rush you feel after a deep kiss or being intimate with someone you love. Cane calls it the afterglow, Kirshenbaum calls it the giddy, walking on air feeling—either way, its presence is undeniable after a really good smooch. These chemicals don’t necessarily boost our immune system, but they make us feel good and less depressed, therefore making us less susceptible to getting sick.

It helps us live longer. Kissing sends another powerful hormone circulating through the body that actually helps keep us alive and well. “Oxytocin is associated with bonding, connection and that sense of attachment you feel in a relationship,” says Kirshenbaum. “These kinds of bonds keep us healthier and less likely to die by any given cause.” Additionally, Cane noted a study that connected greater oxytocin levels with lower blood pressure. Sweet!

It helps us find that deeper connection. It’s not surprising that kissing makes us feel more connected to the people that we love. But according to Kirshenbaum, “it’s the most powerful, intimate way to show someone how you feel, beyond even sex.” Women use kissing subconsciously to identify compatible life partners, she notes. “It’s the ultimate way to get close—I would absolutely be promoting it all times of the year, but especially now.”

Alright, someone hand us the cutest gloss they can find. We’re ready to score some health benefits this holiday.

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Burn Off Those Valentine Treats

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Eat Like an Olympian: Healthy, Travel-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

Written on February 6, 2014 at 6:25 pm , by

Bake scones at the beginning of the week for an easy grab-and-go week-day breakfast! (Photo courtesy of Grain Foods Foundation)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Establishing healthy eating habits can be simple enough at home, especially when it comes to squeezing breakfast into a morning routine. We all know how much it helps us to fuel our minds and bodies through long days, tough workouts and stressful periods of life. But when you throw traveling into the mix, making smart food decisions suddenly becomes a struggle. Even Team USA is having a rough time getting their Greek yogurt fix over in Sochi!

And as we know all too well, available fast food options rarely measure up to the munchies we choose at home on a daily basis. Luckily, Grain Foods Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D. has some tried-and-true recommendations up his sleeve for those mornings when eating off of a plate just isn’t in the cards. Trust us—prepping homemade breakfast items before a big trip can make a world of difference when you’re standing in that ticket line.

“Eating on the run doesn’t have to be a chore,” says Gaesser. “With just a little planning, travel-friendly options can help you start the day right. Just as Olympians fuel up to perform their best, your breakfast should contain a mix of carbs to give you energy, and protein to keep you satisfied till lunch.” So whether you’re about to log long hours in your car, trek to work via train or face the TSA’s air travel security line, be sure to bring one of these portable breakfasts for easy, instant energy.

Bake these raisin scones the day before heading out of town for a quick dose of whole-grain oats and fiber-rich dried fruit that carries well in your bag.

Prep a super-simple snack mix and pre-portion it into plastic bags for an easy breakfast or afternoon snack. We like this one.

Make healthy breakfast cookies out of your favorite cereal toppings for an easy alternative to your usual routine. The more fruit and nuts, the better!

Trade a bowl of oatmeal for baked oatmeal cups! Perfectly portioned, easily transported and oh-so-delish. Get your recipe here.

Pack a whole-grain pita pocket with peanut butter and banana or apple slices with a dash of cinnamon for an on-the-go breakfast sandwich full of fiber and the good kind of fats.

Want more healthy, travel-ready ideas? Check out this cool “Grains on the Go” infographic.

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10 Diet Tips from Olympic Nutritionists

10 U.S. Olympic Hotties in Sochi

No More Excuses: Breakfast Recipes for Every Morning

Hot Topic Tuesday: Should Disney Make a Plus-Sized Princess?

Written on February 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm , by

Should there be a new Disney princess? (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Take a moment and think back to when you were a little girl watching your favorite Disney princess movie. You idolized everything about Cinderella,Belle or Snow White – from the color of her hair down to the sound of her melodic voice, we bet we weren’t the only ones who wanted to embody the princess in every way possible. But what if you were that child who couldn’t quite find her perfect princess role model? One who didn’t quite look like any of the childhood heroines? Walt Disney Pictures moved to solve this problem in 2009 when it unveiled Tiana, its first African-American princess character in The Princess and the Frog fairytale, and again in 2012 with red-headed tomboy Merida in Brave. But that wasn’t enough. Now, 17-year-old Jewel Moore is asking for a princess of her own size.

A high school junior from Farmville, Virginia, Moore posted a petition on Change.org on January 24 requesting that Walt Disney Animation Studios create a plus-size princess. “I made this petition because I’m a plus-size young woman, and I know many plus-size girls and women who struggle with confidence,” says Moore. “Disney films are highly influential, and they impact the lives of many children, especially girls. It would be revolutionary for Disney to show support to a group of girls who are otherwise bullied by the media. It would make many young girls feel confident and worthy to see a strong character that looks like them.”

Her petition has received more than 18,000 signatures in its first week, and it’s inspired others to create similar campaigns. For others, though, it ignited a backlash of petitions for Disney to not feature plus-sized princesses in its future animated films. Why? Perhaps it’s too close to promoting childhood obesity, or it feeds into the idea of complacency regarding obesity in America. Regardless, this young woman’s goal of helping other girls realize that every body is beautiful and giving them a figure to look up for a boost of self-confidence is nothing shy of empowering. Strength is beautiful because it can take on so many different forms. Moore’s courage makes her strong on the inside, but her actions make it clearly visible for the rest of us to see.

But what do you think? Should Disney start working on their next princess debut? Or do you think that would be the first step down the wrong road? Sound off in the comments below.

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Living Large: How I Learned to Love My Body

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Game On! Slimmed-Down Recipes for Super Bowl Sunday

Written on January 31, 2014 at 3:06 pm , by

Get the recipe for these Chicken Fajita Bowls below! (photo courtesy of Miki Duisterhof)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

From fit men in spandex to flashy halftime shows and the best commercials of the year, we all sport different reasons for tuning in on Super Bowl Sunday (we obviously can’t wait for Bruno Mars and RHCP). But there’s one thing we can all agree on: game-day snack fest is a surefire way to destroy our diets. “Even a relatively modest consumption of Super Bowl fare—including pizza, potato chips, beef nachos and sodas—adds up to more than 2,000 calories and 81 grams of fat on game day,” says the Calorie Control Council, a non-profit organization that represents the low-calorie and sugar-free food industry. And those estimates don’t even include the meals before kickoff!

Now, we’re not saying you have to be the drag of the party and nibble on lettuce while everyone else chows down on burgers. We love everything in moderation. But to help you keep the best Super Bowl flavor without the excessive calories and fat, we nabbed a few slimmed-down recipes—that taste just like the originals—from , Haylie Pomroy, celebrity nutritionist and best-selling author of The Fast Metabolism Diet. With clients like Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and several NFL athletes in her rotation, we know these football-ready recipes will have us cheering for our fave teams – and keeping our waistlines in tact.

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Nuggets

“This nugget makeover uses an unexpected ingredient — sprouted-grain pretzels — for crunch,” says Pomroy. “They’re great for dinner with the family, or as a healthy party snack.” They also use egg whites instead of whole eggs to get more protein without adding fat. Try dipping in mustard for an extra flavor boost.

Serves 5
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

  • 3/4 cup arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup finely crushed sprouted-grain pretzels (Unique 100% Sprouted Pretzels work well)
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning of your choice (such as smoked paprika, chipotle powder, garlic powder or Italian seasoning)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces

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Natalie Uhling’s NUFit Workout Takes the NYC Fitness Scene by Storm

Written on January 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

Courtesy of natalieuhlingfitness.com

Courtesy of natalieuhlingfitness.com

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

You may remember Natalie Uhling from her days as an enthusiastic trainer at Barry’s Boot Camp or even recognize her from those strong and sexy ads for Under Armour Women. She has sweated her way through New York City’s fitness scene throughout the last decade, and at the age of 29, we think it’s safe to say that she’s officially made it to the top.

Last fall this fitness instructor decided to channel her entrepreneurial spirit and endless drive into designing a killer workout program of her own. The result, called NUFit, combines dance cardio, kickboxing and toning in one high-intensity, music-blasting class for a workout that makes you feel nothing shy of empowered. Embodying Uhling’s fit philosophy, “a strong core makes you lethal,” NUFit will push you to new heights you never imagined possible. Not to mention her contagious energy will keep you motivated and moving down the last second!

KiwiSweat, a fitness company dedicated to discovering the newest and most exciting ways to work out, named Uhling’s NUFit workout the winner of their “Coolest, Most Awesomest Workout Ever” contest Wednesday. Judged by FITNESS’ very own fitness editor Jenna Autuori-Dedic, Well+Good editorial director Melisse Gelula, MizzFit founder Bianca Jade and celebrity trainer Lacey Stone, the contest sorted through dozens of kickass entries from the industry’s top trainers in search of the hottest new class in town.

Dare to give NUFit a try? Join Uhling and her Under Armour teammates this weekend at Grand Central Terminal for the biggest fitness party the Super Bowl has ever seen! Check out the sweat-filled schedule for details on when NUFit classes will be held.  You can also find Uhling teaching NUFit at Pearl Studios at various times throughout the week.

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5 New Things to Know About Jillian Michaels

Written on January 24, 2014 at 9:32 am , by

There’s no stopping Jillian Michaels this year. She’s kicking it up a notch—and you can, too—with Curves. (Mario Guzman)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

There’s no stopping Jillian Michaels in 2014. She’s prepping for the second leg of her Maximize Your Life motivational tour, working on a new project that could get her into the food market and launched her new partnership with Curves, the international fitness franchise focused on women. Last week I had the pleasure (yes, pleasure) of getting my booty kicked when previewing the new workout program with Michaels herself, and I ended up learning a little more about one of our most beloved trainers in the process.

Michaels’ partnership with Curves is the first time she’s been available in a brick-and-mortar gym. We know—crazy, right? From those at-home workout DVDs to episodes of The Biggest Loser, Michaels is coming to you in the gym. Now any woman training in one of the 3,000 Curves locations nationwide can see her on screen daily when sweating through her high-intensity circuit training workout. “It gives me access to thousands and thousands of women where I can literally affect a change in an environment I have yet to be in, which is really exciting,” says Michaels. “It’s everywhere, it’s affordable, there’s a coach there, it’s 30 minutes. It’s got all those factors, which is not an easy thing to do.”
The “trainer save” on the current season of The Biggest Loser was her ideaQuite a few changes have graced the famous weight loss reality show this season, from shortening episode airtime to one hour to removing the “yellow line” from the elimination process. But the “trainer save,” which allows each trainer to save one contestant from elimination, came from Michaels herself, and she shakes her head at how it turned out. “None of us got to use that thing the right way,” she says. “We all used it the first time; none of us had the ability to hold out and say no.” But she is hopeful about its potentially strategic role next season!
She tells her daughter kale helps Katy Perry “roar” so she’ll eat her veggies. The trainer admits that it’s probably not the best parenting method, but when her 3-year-old daughter isn’t cooperating with Michaels’ healthy eating requests, she turns to pop stars’ supposed habits for reinforcement. Since Lukensia loves Katy Perry and insists on listening to “Roar” constantly, she tells her, “She roars better with kale!” Seems like a pretty harmless—and successful—way to get a little girl to eat her greens, if you ask us.
Her weekly podcast is a must-listen for healthy living tips—and hilarious entertainment. If you want to add an extra dose of Michaels to your week without getting your booty kicked, pop in those ear buds and listen to The Jillian Michaels Show podcast. From “snappy fitness segments” to chats with callers as the self-proclaimed “Love Doctor” to tales of her latest parenting adventures, you’ll get to know Michaels on an entirely new level and appreciate her down-to-earth personality. Trust us, you’ll be laughing out loud at her and co-host Janice’s weekly antics.
She thinks every woman should have permission to be selfish. When we asked for a bit of motivational advice for FITNESS readers, she didn’t so much as hesitate to tell us to simply be awesome. “No one ever gives women the permission to just be awesome,” she says. “Be selfish, focus on you, don’t dumb yourself down for anybody else’s benefit, and go after your goals and your dreams. With no shame and no guilt, go out there and conquer the world.” If that doesn’t ignite a spark in you, we don’t know what will.

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The Hybrid Workout We Can’t Stop Talking About: Snowga

Written on January 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm , by

Photo courtesy of Anne Anderson.

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

Growing up in the south, I can safely say that I’ve hopped onto a pair of skis a mere three times in my life. I can also say that those three times started with a fair amount of trembling, anxiety and general fear that I would lose control and go flying off the mountainside. But if I had met Anne Anderson back then, I’m sure my skiing experiences would have turned out a little differently.

A yoga and snow sports enthusiast, Anderson began teaching yoga classes and ski lessons in 2000, and by 2008, she discovered the organic connection between the two practices. “It was magical; it worked beautifully,” she says. “The breath is the greatest tool we have to calm the mind and body.” Since coining the term “snowga” and successfully launching the hybrid class at Connecticut’s Mohawk Mountain in 2012, Anderson has watched the mindful practice help transform the way newcomers and veterans alike experience snow sports.

Each class is structured similarly to Kripalu yoga. “The mountain becomes the yoga studio; the slope becomes the yoga mat,” says Anderson. Beginning in a circle at the base of the mountain (no skis strapped on at this point), she begins class with a relaxation breath and centering mediation lesson to calm the minds of her students. After setting a positive intention for the day, the group warms up and moves through asanas to relieve tension and stretch the body (in other words, make sure you bring gloves). The actual ski lesson follows, incorporating a few yoga postures while clipped in, like Mountain, Eagle and Chair pose, which creates an experience similar to Vinyasa flow. “Everyone loves to ski with this natural rhythm,” says Anderson. “It’s like dancing on the snow and lots of fun!” The class ends off the skis with her teaching the importance of deep-relaxation pose Savasana, or the always-popular corpse pose. It may not be conventional, but we wouldn’t be opposed to tossing in a few snow angels at the end. After all, you are already in position.

The one question on our minds: why hasn’t someone thought of this before? “Students told me that practicing snowga helped them break through to a new level of skiing, and they experienced a new sense of serenity and connection… they could relax and enjoy skiing,” she says. So basically, we’re sold.

Although classes aren’t offered across the nation yet, there’s no reason you can’t give it a go on your own. “Take time to warm-up and get centered before heading off to the chair lift. Notice the surroundings; get in touch with your breath, your body and all of the senses,” she says. “While on the mountain, think flow instead of force. Keep calm through conscious breathing,” and if you need to take a few minutes for yourself, go for it.

More from FITNESS:

Yoga Your Own Way

Postcard from the Edge: How Skiing Taught Me to Take More Risks

Winter Workout: Strengthening Moves for Skiing, Snowboarding, and Ice Skating

How Gymnast Aly Raisman Stays Fit and Motivated During Her Off Season

Written on January 23, 2014 at 9:04 am , by

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman sported bright pink and coral Reeboks during her ZQUICK video shoot last week. (Photo courtesy of Reebok)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

With the Winter Olympics around the corner, we’re gearing up to cheer on Team USA—and so are some of our fave summer athletes like Aly Raisman! “I was just at the figure skating nationals where they pick the Olympic team, so I’m super excited to watch the girls compete,” says Raisman. “I’m also really looking forward to watching hockey.”

Rather than venturing to Sochi and cheering from the stands (that trip is expensive!), Raisman will be supporting her talented friends from the comfort of her own home, providing the perfect opportunity to keep up her own prep for the next time she’s in the spotlight. Back in September, Raisman resumed her training with two-a-day workouts where she focused on conditioning and floor events practice. “It feels great to be back,” she says. “It’s exhausting but I love it, so it’s definitely worth it.”

While the extensive training may wear her out, Raisman truly missed it during her traveling year off. Spending almost every night in a different hotel, she found it tough to squeeze in a 45-minute sweat session—that might be the norm for us, but this athlete is used to pushing her body for six to seven hours a day! Bouts of cardio and ab toning kept her sane though, and  she enjoyed “me” time during sprinting intervals on the treadmill while jamming to her favorite tunes. She also used creative bodyweight training to keep her arms and legs gymnast-strong.

Back at the grind, Raisman knows she has to fuel her body well to perform her best. “I love having Greek yogurt before a workout because it’s really light and has lots of protein,” she says. “After, I have a piece of fish or chicken with fruit or vegetables.”

She also thinks that, while she’s not superstitious, some strange habits are worth abiding by. “My coaches say that wearing black is bad luck. For competitions I am never allowed to wear a black leotard, use a black gym bag or wear black warm ups,” she says. “I guess I feel like black is bad luck too, since I have been with my coaches for almost ten years. I won’t even buy a black car!”

In the end, if there were one thing we could all learn from Raisman this year, it would be the power of a positive attitude. “I try to start every morning with a positive thought of an image of myself having a good workout,” she says. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.’ I always think about this when I’m at workout. If I feel nervous or anxious to compete, I always think of myself landing each skill and executing it really well.”

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Slimmed-Down Sips: Smart Swaps for Your Favorite Winter Drinks

Written on January 10, 2014 at 11:45 am , by

Slim down these tasty treats so there’s no side of guilt. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

It seems that as soon as we set our healthy eating and weight loss resolutions, the blustery winter sends us running into the comforting arms of our favorite coffee shop to down those delicious cold-weather drinks we love so much. They warm us up from the inside out, and let’s face it, they taste like happiness in a cup on the days we really need a lift.

Unfortunately, those daily pick-me-ups come at a caloric cost and it leaves less room for good-for-you food choices. So in an effort to have our coffee and drink it too, we tapped executive chef Anthony Stewart of the Pritikin Longevity Center to serve up the best-tasting ways to slim down our favorite winter beverages from popular specialty chains, rather than ruling them out altogether.

“It’s always good to remember that the food industry is big on presentation and taste but not so much on nutrition,” Stewart says. “So whenever you can dilute or make a simple substitution request, it will serve you well.” Little things like skipping the caramel drizzle, choosing from available fat-free milk and asking for unsweetened cocoa powder can go a long way. So the next time you hit up Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or Tim Horton’s in an effort to escape from the cold, make these simple requests to save your calories without skimping on flavor.

Starbucks Tall Peppermint Mocha

Original calorie count: 320

Simple swaps:

  • Replace syrup with 1 ½ tablespoons of Crème de Menthe
  • Add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Request hot skim milk over whole milk
  • Choose frothed skim milk instead of whipped cream

New calorie count: 213

Calories saved: 107

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