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Transcript: Live Chat with Jill Sherer | 2002

Moderator: Hello! Welcome to Shape.com's live chat with Jill Sherer!

MindyS: I was wondering how often you do cardio during the week?

Jill Sherer: I try to do cardio 4 to 6 times a week. But that doesn't mean that I spend two hours running. That could be anything from taking an hour-long kickboxing class to doing 30 very intense minutes on the elliptical machine or skipping or punching a bag for 30 minutes. And lately, I've really been trying to find new things to do to mix it up because I find myself starting to get bored. So, I've also been doing a lot of walking - a lot more than usual - and I've been doing Bikram yoga, which is yoga in a 106-degree heated room. That can be really cardiovascular and I love it. It's great. [Ed Note: Be sure to drink plenty of water when doing Bikram yoga.]

Toshawallace: I have heard of a weight-loss supplement called Xenadrine. Recently, I slacked off and gained about 5 pounds, and I wanted to try the Xenadrine as a little booster. What do you think? And did you ever take any weight-loss supplements?

JS: Actually, yes. I did. A couple years back, I tried one. After being on it for about three hours, I felt like my heart was going to palpitate right out of my chest. I realized that it just isn't worth it.

You know, it's so much more about fitness, about being healthy, at least for me. Frankly, I'd rather take off five pounds the tried and true way: Eat healthy fruits and vegetables and move more. It may not come off in an hour, but it will come off. I just think it's better to do things as organically as possible. Do what you can live with, for the long haul. Do you want to take Xenadrine for the rest of your life? I just want to eat healthy and be strong for the rest of my life, and I know I can do that.

Golfinguru: Do you have advice on how to handle those dangerous mid-afternoon cravings?

JS: They're rough! I find that the best way to deal with that is to be prepared. Bring some fruit with you to work, get yourself some bottled water. Or have somewhere you can go for those things. Get a latte with skim milk - something that feels like a treat, that you actually have to go and get, that gets you up and moving. Take a break from what you're doing and take a walk. I find that a lot of times, in the middle of the day, getting hungry can have a lot to do with being tired, being frustrated with work, being bored - it can be a lot about an emotion, and eating is our way of getting away from that. That's why a lot of people have chocolate or candy at their desks. I think sometimes we're genuinely hungry. But you have to ask yourself, what am I really hungry for? If you're genuinely hungry, get something. If you're not, get up and take a walk, grab a bottle of water or a cup of coffee. Take a break or write in a journal. I like to do that. But sometimes, if I'm really hungry, I'll get a big sandwich and I'll have half. And I'll have fruit or a salad with it. And maybe later, I'll have the other half.

MistyinHawaii: What would you consider your most difficult area to keep toned?

JS: Oh, there are so many! In all honesty, it's difficult to keep everything toned. I'm very focused on my arms and legs, and keeping my butt up. Keeping my butt from drooping is a full-time job. But you know what? I do my best. I do cardio. I do squats. I do strength training. And I accept the fact that I'm never going to look like a professional female wrestler. And that's the best I can hope for at this point. Hey, I'm pushing 40, after all.

Amandasworld2: Can I shape up and tone target areas while pregnant?

JS: From what I know from my pregnant friends (and I have a few), their approach is to stay with their exercise routine as long as it's not too rigorous so that they hurt themselves or the baby. They want to make sure that they don't put on more weight than they need to, in order to be healthy. And when they deliver, they can get back to their normal healthy weight much more easily. I'm not sure that setting expectations beyond that is realistic or reasonable. That said, I'm no expert and maybe you should pick up a magazine like Fit Pregnancy. I'm sure they could give you a lot more advice.

MindyS: I read that you're into kung fu. How long have you been practicing? How is it going for you?

JS: I have been practicing kung fu since I started writing for SHAPE, for about 7 months. I really enjoy it a lot. It gives me something I don't get from the other types of exercise, which is a whole new appreciation for my body, and for what my body can do, beyond just looking a certain way. I also believe that it's important to work a lot of different types of exercise into your routine, so that you stay engaged in exercise and you take care of the total mind and body.

Toshawallace: Do you believe in not eating after 5 o'clock?

JS: I don't think you should have a really heavy meal as you get close to bedtime, but I think it's unrealistic to expect that you're not going to eat past 5. Most people don't get home from work until after that. I know I'm certainly out and about past then. I try to eat as early as possible, though. I have a lot of little meals throughout the day and they get smaller as the day goes on. I try not to eat anything beyond a piece of fruit or a small fat-free yogurt after 7 at night, because I think that's more reasonable. But if I'm hungry, I may have a piece of fruit before I go to bed. I guess I don't really believe in hard-and-fast rules that are really strict. You have to live your life.

MindyS: What do you think of fad diets, such as the low-carb and high-protein diets?

JS: I tried the Atkins diet. I ate eggs with cheese and bacon every morning for breakfast and that just felt so wrong to me. I actually stayed on it for about a week and my body felt terrible. Now, I realize that everybody's body is different. But again, I think to be healthy and fit you don't have to do something that's absolute. I think you can have anything you want in moderation - and exercise. If you do those things, you'll be healthy and fit, your body will be where it's supposed to be, and it will feel good and strong. I don't believe in fad diets. I don't believe in diets. In fact, my experience with SHAPE is the first time that I have stopped dieting, and I truly believe that the habits that I am acquiring now are habits that I can live with the rest of my life because I do not feel deprived. I am learning to listen to my body, to give it what it needs and wants in moderation and to keep moving. And I feel great.

Nishitoire: How do you keep yourself motivated all the time while dieting?

JS: Well, I don't diet but I do worry about falling off the exercise wagon. What keeps me there is terror, panic and a great memory as to how I felt before I was active, which was lousy. You know, it's not always the act of exercise that is pleasurable - it's the feeling after that really sustains me. Every single day I wake up and say, "What am I going to do today?" Even if I don't go to the gym or the martial arts studio or take yoga, I know that at the end of the day, if I've done nothing - if I haven't even taken the dog for a long walk, for example - I'm not going to feel as good. So, it's that feeling after - that feeling of being fit and healthy that keeps me going. That's what keeps me listening to my body. For example, today I went to a luncheon. They served a huge grilled chicken sandwich with chips and an apple and a cookie. In the past, I would have eaten the whole thing. Today, I ate half the sandwich, I ate half the bag of chips (because I wanted them), I ate the apple and I came home and took the dog on a two-mile walk.

Toshawallace: What one snack should you definitely eliminate or really cut back on?

JS: I think the answer is that you really have to look at what you eat, maybe keep a food diary for a couple of weeks (which is a pain in the neck but worth it), and look to see what foods you may not realize that you're eating in excess. Then, just cut back on them. You don't need to eliminate anything if you love it. Everything in moderation.

Golfinguru: I have heard that a cup of coffee before a morning workout can invigorate you. Is there any validity to this, in your opinion?

JS: My trainers yell at me for drinking coffee before a workout! Caffeine is dehydrating and you don't want to be dehydrated during a workout. So, I have lots of water, some fruit, a hardboiled egg and a piece of toast an hour before I exercise. My friend Joan always comes to the gym on Saturday morning with a latte for Body Pump class and we just laugh. We're all drinking water.

ASA: How do you deal with the days when you feel tired and just want something unhealthy to eat ?

JS: I have it. In moderation.

Gotogothere: I've been working out a lot, running mostly, and eating moderately, and have not lost an ounce. I now consider myself very fit, but fat. Any suggestions?

JS: It's hard for me to tell because I don't know you and I don't know what your body is like. If you're running and eating moderately, it's not just about the scale. Do you feel better in your clothes? Do you feel stronger? Do you have more energy? Are there places in your diet that you're maybe eating more than you think? Maybe you should keep a food diary. I know it's a pain, but it really helps. To figure out what you're eating, how much you're eating, how you feel when you're eating. Maybe you should vary your workouts - do different types of cardio and some strength training. I've had months where I haven't lost a pound, but my clothes feel looser, people tell me I look trimmer. So the scale doesn't tell the whole story. If you're feeling better, then you're doing just what you need to be doing.

MindyS: Do you take vitamins?

JS: I've been trying to get better. I'm taking calcium along with the strength training because I don't want osteoporosis, and I'm trying to be good about taking a multivitamin. But I really need someone to buzz me in the morning and say, "Jill, take your vitamins." One of the few things that my boyfriend is most proud of is that he takes his vitamins every day. He is a saint when it comes to those vitamins! Thanks you for asking, and can you e-mail me every morning to remind me to take mine?

Toshawallace: What do you consider a lot of little meals? Are you talking about smaller portion sizes?

JS: Yes. I try not to have three big meals. Pretty much every three hours, I'm hungry. In the morning I'll have cereal with blueberries. Then, as I said, if I have half a sandwich, a salad and some fruit for lunch, I'll wrap up the other half of the sandwich and in a couple of hours, I'll eat the rest with a bag of pretzels. Maybe at 6pm, I'll have some chicken and vegetables and a piece of potato. Certainly there are days that I eat more than that. I eat a lot of calories because I work out a lot, but I try to space it out throughout the day. It can be hard, especially when you are conditioned to be an emotional eater like I have been for most of my life. But now, I try to listen to my body. If it's hungry, I feed it. If I just want food because I'm bored or tired or frustrated, then I really try to work with that in a different way. Eighty percent of the time I'm successful and 20 percent I'm not. When I'm not, I don't beat myself up for it. I just know that I'm human.

Myred1: I have a bad back, and I was wondering what the best exercise is to strengthen my back and belly?

JS: Well, Pilates is the first thing that comes to my mind. My boyfriend and I took an 8-week course and really liked it. I would absolutely talk to the instructor first and let him or her know that you have back issues and get more information, though. Most Pilates instructors will work with you. [Ed Note: If you really have serious back problems, see a physician who can do a proper diagnosis and provide you with a safe exercise prescription.]

Lilmimi: What is the best source of protein for women - vegetarian and/or meat products?

JS: A lot of people rave about salmon being a really healthy, great food. When I go out to eat, I try to eat salmon or some kind of lean, white or light grilled fish. I eat a lot of chicken. I have some vegetarian friends and they're big tofu eaters. If you're vegetarian, you need to make sure you get enough protein, which is easy to get with nuts, legumes and peas.

Toshawallace: How long did it take you to become consecutive in keeping a food diary? I started but it only lasted one day!

JS: Everyone has to find their system. For me, I kept a food diary on my computer and I would try to keep a notepad in the kitchen or with me wherever I was. And at the end of the day, I'd sit down and put this in a little chart that I made for myself. Pretty much every day, I would be sitting in front of the computer, a little glazed over, thinking about how I needed a break from my work, and it was usually at that moment that I went to my food diary. That seemed to work for me. I did that for about a month. I don't think you need to do that every day for the rest of your life! Keep it for a week and then read it. Go back to it at the end of the week, and if you've been honest, you'll get a lot out of it.

Mejsimon: What do you find is the best way to get back on track after an illness or injury?

JS: There is no easy way to do it. It's painful. You just have to do it. While you're dreading it, you have to be putting on your gym clothes and putting one leg in front of the other and doing it. I don't know if I've said this before, but it helps me to have a community at all the places that I exercise. If I go to a class on Saturday morning, I look forward to seeing the people who take that class with me - and if I miss it, they're going to give me a hard time, in good fun. But I don't want to miss it, because I'll miss them, and I know I'm going to feel better when it's done, when I go home and crawl into bed and fall asleep.

Toshawallace: What are some of your best tips for getting started?

JS: I know I said this in my last chat, and I stand by it: Make one good choice at a time. Get up in the morning, make a plan for the day, go to the gym or take a walk, park a little further away than you're used to, eat a little less or differently than you're used to, tell a couple of close friends that you want to get healthy and fit, see if someone wants to be your buddy. I have a good, stay-fit, stay-healthy buddy. Get a support system and just go for it. And make sure you're part of your own support system.

MindyS: Do you work out in the morning or later in the day?

JS: I work out whenever I can. If it were up to me, I'd always work out in the morning, but it's not always possible. So I work out wherever I can get it into my day, and I try to figure that out when I wake up. Some days I make a meeting with myself and that's my workout time. Again, that can be as little as 30 minutes - a good, hard intense 30 minutes - and sometimes it's 2 hours.

MindyS: Are you happy with your current fitness routine? Do you switch it around a lot?

JS: I really try to keep my fitness routine as varied as possible. I try to take advantage of new things that I hear about and mix it up. If I did the same thing every day, I think that I would have trouble keeping my eyeballs in their sockets. I try not to let new things intimidate me; it's good to push through that a little.

Moderator: That's all the time we have for today's chat. Thanks to Jill and everyone who joined us.

JS: Thank you all for participating and reading. It means so much to me! I'm going to have to eat my spinach before the next chat, because these were some great questions! They really made me think about my own routine and approach and where I can make changes, so I thank you. I hope to chat with you all again soon!

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