Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Choosing the Best Tomatoes for Your Summer Table

Tips for choosing the healthiest tomatoes for your summer table by Better Living Fitness founder Mark Thiesmeyer. Photo courtesy Jeremy Keith via Flickr.
It's that time of year again – beautiful, juicy tomatoes in shades ranging from orange to purple are appearing on produce tables and in farmer’s markets. But with all the varieties available today the tomato aisle has grown more attractive, but it's also more confusing.

Here are few easy tips to getting the most nutritious, delicious fruits.

Fruits with a legacy: heirloom tomatoes. “Heirloom” tomatoes are tomatoes from lines of seeds that are at least fifty years old. Heirloom plants aren't genetically modified, and they are open-pollinated by nature – in other words, by insects and the wind instead of being hand or machine-pollinated by farmers.

But while tomatoes labeled as “heirloom” are supposed to be grown in this fashion, there aren't any regulations governing what is and is not an heirloom tomato. 

I'm not aware of rampant misuse of the term, but grocers wouldn't even receive a slap on the wrist for mislabeling tomatoes as heirloom. It's also important to note that heirloom tomatoes aren't necessarily organically grown.

Getting the best of two (or more) plants: hybrid tomatoes. Hybridization is the process of cross-pollinating two different varieties of a plant to create something new. Just as you get a “Labradoodle” offspring from poodles and Labrador retrievers, you can also cross plants to get a single tomato that combines the desirable traits of each different variety – for example pest resistance and improved flavor.

Hybridization is the earliest form of genetic modification, and farmers have been doing it for over 100 years.

From the lab to the table: genetically modified tomatoes. Genetic modification uses laboratories to speed up the process of hybridization. But instead of just cross-pollinating plants, scientists have taken things several steps further and now splice genes from different kinds of produce together.

Whether you're in the camp that sees GMO foods as progress or you're someone who thinks of them as “Frankenfoods,” the fact remains that GMO tomatoes can be higher in nutrients and grow more prolifically in your garden than heirloom tomatoes.

Keeping it real: organic tomatoes. Unlike the “heirloom” label, “organically grown” means something very specific. Organically grown tomatoes are NOT genetically modified, (like heirloom varieties), and the plants have been grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

While I don't think you need to spend the extra money to buy the organic varieties of all of your produce, I do think there are compelling reasons to go organic when it comes to tomatoes. Conventionally-raised tomatoes are 10th on the Environmental Working Group's list of highest pesticide-containing produce – this means that there are actually pesticides underneath the skin of the tomato. No amount of scrubbing that tender skin will get a conventionally-raised tomato clean.

Yes, most synthetic pesticides are approved for use on food. But we also used to think that asbestos was safe. Our knowledge of how to grow the healthiest, safest food is still evolving – so for now, to avoid ingesting synthetic pesticides, choose organic tomatoes whenever you can.

**Image courtesy of Jeremy Keith via Flickr

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Better Living's Nutrition Counselor, Becca Addison: 'Food is Not the Enemy'

Better Living Fitness Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison says you don't have to fight food to achieve a healthy weight. Becca provides nutrition counseling at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One of the newest members of our staff, Better Living Fitness' Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison, learned the hard way that being a fanatic about food and weight loss is the wrong way to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Becca has been running competitively since the eighth grade. She's so good at running, in fact, that she was invited to the most recent Olympic trials.
“The problem was, I had a calf injury and got hung up on thinking that, after the injury, I had to eat perfectly so I wouldn't gain weight and mess up my times after my calf healed,” she remembers.

“I became so stressed about food that, even though I wasn't under-eating, I threw my body out of whack and my times fell off too much,” which meant that Becca had to miss trying out for the Olympics.

“That experience is why I find the weight loss thing tricky,” she says, “...and it's the reason I want to help people have a positive relationship with food. Being obsessed with food and eating 'right' really affected my life, and I'd like to help my clients avoid the same kinds of mistakes.”
Becca, who has a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, joined the staff here at Better Living Fitness after doing an internship at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. She says that she first became interested in nutrition as an undergraduate.

“I was a super-picky eater when I was younger, then when I was in college I was surrounded by all these new foods,” she says. “At the same time, I was a collegiate runner and realized that I needed to start eating well to improve my performance – learning how different foods affected my running performance is what got me into nutrition science.'

Becca, who joined Better Living Fitness in February, says one of the hardest parts of her job is working with clients who are overly concerned about weight loss.
“Too much focus on weight loss makes people fight food and think of food as the enemy,” she says. “I try to encourage people to focus on motivations like how they feel during and after eating and the energy they can get from different foods. That's a better, healthier approach, because it lets you be more adventurous about food and it's a way to liking and respecting your body more.”

“In my background in sports, I've seen obsessions with weight loss turn into eating disorders, especially in younger people. I don't want anyone to think of food as being 'bad,' but to enjoy all foods – just in moderation,” she says.
These days, Becca is working on becoming a certified personal trainer so she can address both exercise and nutrition. At the same time, she's still running regularly.
Better Living Fitness Nutrition Counselor Becca Addison on a recent run. Becca's background as a competitive runner is the reason she became interested in nutrition science. Becca provides nutrition counseling at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“I love the people that I train with!” she says, “and I love pushing myself and being competitive with other people. When I finish a race and know I gave it everything I had, that's a huge boost for my self-esteem!”

Becca is also enjoying providing nutrition counseling to Better Living Fitness clients. “I like how everyone who comes to Better Living has different health and fitness goals,” she says. “I like working with people one on one, and getting to know and talk with them as we figure out together how to improve their health.”

If you'd like to learn more about how you can enjoy food and achieve and maintain a healthy weight as part of your health and fitness goals, click here today to set up your appointment with Becca!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Business of Helping People Thrive Through Personal Training: Better Living Fitness Founder Mark Thiesmeyer

Ann Arbor Personal trainer Mark Thiesmeyer with his husband, Matt Hook, during one of their many vacations abroad. Mark is the founder and owner of Ann Arbor's Better Living Fitness Center.
By Better Living Staff Writer Dawn Wolfe

Not quite twenty years ago, Mark Thiesmeyer had the idea that led him to completely change his life and career. Back then, Mark was a business consultant focused on helping corporations contain health care costs.

Now, of course, he's a personal trainer and the owner and founder of both Ann Arbor's Better Living Fitness and the Better Living Fitness Center.

Why the career change?
“As a consultant, I heard too many stories that came down to one thing: too many people were suffering from preventable health issues. At the same time, it was clear back then that health care costs were about to skyrocket.”

“I had a sense back then that effective exercise and appropriate nutrition would keep people healthy. I remember reading an article that showed protein timing could be key to making Parkinson’s medications work. That seemed so cool and made me want to learn more."
Ann Marie Kotre was Mark Thiesmeyer's first personal training client in 1999, and she still works with Mark today. In this shot, Ann Marie is training with Mark at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center in Ann Arbor.
With this realization, Mark decided to do something different. First he went back to school, earning two personal training certifications and two Master's degrees – one in the Science of Exercise Physiology, and one in Public Health Nutrition.

He also got to work as a personal trainer. Mark met his first client, Ann Marie Kotre, in 1999. Ann Marie still trains with Mark today.

Mark may have been immersed in the world of health and fitness, but he didn't forget his business training and experience. Eventually, he became successful enough as a personal trainer that he had to turn down prospective clients.

Being a businessman, Mark rose to the challenge by expanding and hiring additional personal trainers.

“That turned out to be a great decision!,” Mark says. “For one thing, by hiring trainers as my employees, I could insure that any client trained by 'my people' would receive the benefit of all of my education and experience. Each of the trainers we hire generally compete against 20 other applicants to get their position. Then we ask Better Living personal trainers to spend months learning the progressions, exercises and stretches that have been effective in helping keep our clients healthy for the past two decades.

“But that's not the only benefit. Working as a personal trainer can be lonely. Once I hired my first associate trainer, I had someone to share stories with and bounce ideas off of. Even today, we have weekly staff meetings to consult with each other about our clients. If a client is having a problem reaching a goal or has a persistent injury, my team and I brainstorm solutions together.”

“Better Living clients may work with one personal trainer, but they also benefit from this team approach.”

Most people would feel pretty settled after changing careers and getting so successfully established in their new occupation. Mark, on the other hand, decided to take things another step by opening the Better Living Fitness Center in January of 2016.

 “I wanted to make personal training more cost-effective for clients,” he says. “Having a fitness center of my own means that I can give clients more options to help their budget as well as their health.”

Today, Mark still works with clients one-on-one. He also trains new Better Living staff members, plays a major role in running the fitness center, and teaches Full-Body Fit sessions.

But he also makes time for his personal life and for his husband, Matt. Mark and Matt have been together for sixteen years, and were married as soon as federal law changed to recognize their relationship.

In addition to tennis and movies, Mark and Matt love to travel – in fact, they take turns planning a surprise anniversary trip for each other every six months.

“It's a way to keep our relationship fresh, and we also see a lot of value in experiencing other cultures. There's a lot to be gained by going to different places and experiencing how other people live and how they feel about their lives.”

So far, the couple has been all over Europe, Australia and Japan. Most recently, it was Mark's turn to plan their trip and he surprised Matt with something different: a vacation in the United Arab Emirates. 

Ann Arbor personal trainer and fitness center founder Mark Thiesmeyer with his husband, Matt Hook, recently in Dubai.
“Matt didn't see Dubai coming, but it was a great time,” Mark says. “We didn't do a lot of the touristy things – instead we visited a couple of mosques, and made a point of talking to all of our cab drivers to get a sense of what life is like there.”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

From Spanish Physical Therapist to Ann Arbor Personal Trainer: Meet Eduard Font

Like another of our personal trainers, Will Burchfield, Eduard Font also moved to Ann Arbor for love.

In Eduard's case, though, he traveled just a little bit longer to get here – specifically, Eduard comes to us from Barcelona, where he is a licensed physical therapist with extensive education, training, and experience in this field.

Eduard moved here to Ann Arbor to support his wife, Maria, as she pursues her Ph.D in Chemistry at the University of Michigan. But he can't work as a physical therapist here because US law requires different training and certification for medical professionals than European law.
Instead, Eduard is using all of the knowledge and skills he developed as a physical therapist in his new profession as a personal trainer with Better Living Fitness.
Better Living personal trainer Eduard Font works with our newest nutrition counselor, Becca Addison, during a recent workout in Ann Arbor.

Eduard says that while the two fields are somewhat different, personal training and physical therapy have a lot in common – both practices are all about helping people get the most from their bodies.

“With both physical therapy and personal training, we offer each individual very personal treatment and work to find solutions for the problems they have,” he explains. “As a physical therapist I helped clients with an injury or physical problem to master normal life.”

“Some of my Better Living clients also come for help with injuries or other physical problems. Others want to lose weight or become better athletes. As a personal trainer, I get to use my skills to help people reach a wide variety of goals.”

Given Better Living's emphasis on functional fitness, Eduard's approach has been an excellent fit for our clients. At the same time, Eduard says he's thrilled to be able to take his knowledge and experience as a physical therapist and use those skills as a personal trainer.

Eduard adds that he's learning a lot because of the ways that personal training and physical therapy are different.

“I never worked in a gym before Better Living Fitness,” he explains. “For me, this is a new field because I know the body and how the body works, and the mechanics of movement, but I never worked with the machines or the tools we use here.”

“At the same time, [Better Living Fitness Founder Mark Thiesmeyer] is very specific about how each exercise should be done, so that's something I'm learning here – how to do the exercises and how to do them well.”

While Eduard says that he misses the mountains and living near the sea, he has discovered the beauty of Michigan's national parks – particularly our forests, which he says are very different than the ones he's used to in Spain. He and Maria enjoyed exploring Michigan's parks last fall, and are looking forward to spending as much time as possible outside this spring and summer.

“I'm also doing a lot of reading to keep up with developments in the science of physical therapy,” he says. “And the things I learn in my reading are also helping me work with my Better Living clients.”

If you'd like to schedule a personal training session with Eduard or any of the other Better Living Fitness trainers, click here for your free initial consultation. We look forward to seeing you!