The Official Blog of Tara Marie Segundo, M.A.

"To be successful, you must have the three C's: Conviction, Creativity, and Courage." ~Tara Marie Segundo, M.A.
September 6, 2012

General Food and Beverage Guidelines

I had a male client that wanted to lose body fat and increase muscle mass.  When it came to eating and drinking he was a bit of a disaster, so he asked me to write some general guidelines to help him understand the basics of what he would need to do.  I have had so many people ask me this same advice that I decided to post the information as a blog.  This client was a mid-60’s male, but it is the diet plan that I follow and it is advice that I give all my clients across the board.  Enjoy!

-Drink about 1 oz. of plain water per pound of body weight.  Staying hydrated will keep your metabolic rate running at its peak.

-Cut out soda, diet soda, etc.  Extra calories and extra chemicals do NOTHING good for your body and A LOT of damage.

-Cut down or cut out juices.  They are high in sugar and I prefer that you EAT your calories rather than drink them.

-Increase your intake of fresh or frozen veggies:  collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, etc. can all be purchased frozen and fresh.   I usually buy frozen since I do not have a lot of time for food preparation.

Also, eat all the brightly colored veggies: carrots, beets, squash, pumpkin, bell peppers, radishes, etc.

-Dramatically DECREASE sugars.  READ LABELS.  Sugar here and there adds up.

When you are trying to be LEAN, sugar is your enemy.  Sugar promotes an insulin response and insulin is the fat storing hormone.  Keep your sugar intake low and you will keep your insulin levels low.   You will also keep you blood sugar steady if you keep your insulin levels from spiking and dipping.

September 4, 2012

Bouncing Back After Baby!

I am 36 years old and just gave birth to my second child.  I am finding it harder to get back in shape after this pregnancy.  My first pregnancy was 5 years ago and I bounced back more easily.  Can you offer any advice on getting back in shape after delivery?

Abby in Princeton, NJ

Dear Abby,

Thanks for writing!  This is a common situation that I encounter in my practice as a personal trainer. I have worked with many new moms and have found that basic common sense paired with the following advice is very helpful. The main thing to remember is that your body will one day return to some semblance of your pre-pregnancy state, and there are things that you can do to help hasten this process.

You did not mention whether you delivered via C-section or the good old-fashioned way.  In any event, getting your doctor’s clearance before returning to exercise is a must.  Pregnancy and delivery present quite a trauma to the body, and a certain level of healing must occur before you place additional physical stress on yourself with exercise.  Once your doctor gives clearance, consider these tips to help you drop your pregnancy weight:

Breast feed if you can. Breastfeeding can help you shed your excess weight while eating your regular diet. Producing milk uses 200 to 500 calories a day, on average.  This may not sound like much, but that can add up to about a pound a week without making any other changes in your daily routine.  I know lots of moms that hate to stop breast feeding because it helps them stay lean!

Do short bouts of exercise throughout the day. As a mom caring for a newborn, you can’t expect to have long periods of time during which you can exercise.  Take advantage of 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, to squeeze in some movement.  I had a client that had a treadmill in her home and every time she got a short block of time, she would jump on the treadmill and kick out a brisk walk.  She clocked an hour a day by doing 10 minutes here and there.  This allowed her to care for her new baby and make use of the brief breaks that she had.

Make sure every calorie you are ingesting is nutritious. If you are breast feeding, it is recommended that you do not eat less than 1,800 calories a day so you can produce milk for your baby.  If you are not breast feeding, your doctor may allow you to diet.  Regardless, your body is in recovery and you need to provide yourself with foods that offer you what your body needs to thrive.  Stick to fresh whole foods that come from nature.

With your doctor’s OK, it is safe to slowly ease back into whatever exercise you were doing before you were pregnant. Right after you deliver is not the time to launch into a brand new, physically challenging routine.  Walking (alone or while pushing a stroller) is a great form of exercise.   If you are a runner, there are some wonderful jogging strollers on the market.

August 29, 2012

Are Cables and Free Weights More Effective Than Machines for Resistance Training?

Dear Tara Marie,

Should I use free weights and cables or machines at the gym?  I always end up using the machines because I don’t know what to do with free weights.  I get really intimidated and don’t even try!

Thank you,


Boston, MA

Dear Anne,

From a professional standpoint, I prefer free weights and cables.  Machines lock you into a movement pattern that is not necessarily right for your body.  When you use a machine, you just grab the handles and press or pull or whatever the movement may be, but it does not allow you to adjust the movement pattern to your specific needs.  For example, perhaps one of your shoulders needs a slightly different angle to function safely and effectively.  A machine does not allow for this variation in your movement pattern.

The other thing that makes me err away from machines is that they require less on the part of the participant.  When you use a machine, your body does not have to stabilize itself as you would if you were using cables and free weights.  This stabilization comes from using muscles in your torso, arms, legs, etc., that keep your body properly positioned while you are working other muscles as primary movers.  All these muscles working concomitantly require more effort and you get more bang for your buck, so to speak.  Machines require only that you sit on a gadget, grab the handles, and go!

August 25, 2012

Can Diet Alone Help Me Lose Weight?

Dear Tara Marie,

I hate exercise.  Can’t I just diet and get the same effect?

Thanks, Joanne

Dear Joanne,

Oh honey, absolutely not!  Dieting slows the metabolism, and this is the last thing that you want to do when you are trying to transform your body.  The only way to maintain lasting weight loss is to cut your caloric intake in addition to adding movement to your life.  You ask if dieting alone will give you the same effect…just what effect are you going for?  I am assuming that you want to be toned, healthy and vibrant.  Excessive dieting will not yield these results.  Rather, you will end up flabby, unhealthy, and have low energy.

Dieting alone will not only slow your metabolic rate, but you will lose the beautiful muscle that you currently have, resulting in an even lower metabolic rate.  You will also systematically degrade your shape, considering all the muscle you will be losing.

Conversely, exercise revs the metabolic rate, and high intensity exercise keeps the metabolic rate higher for a longer period of time than lower intensity exercise.  You see, there is a period following a bout of exercise during which the metabolic rate remains elevated, and the degree to which it remains elevated and the length of time that it remains elevated are both determined by exercise intensity.

August 25, 2012

Quick Tip: The 168 Hours Rule®

People always say they have an “active” lifestyle—but do they?  I use my 168 Hours Rule® to help gauge just how active they really are!

Here’s how it goes: there are 168 hours in one week.  Let’s say you average 8 hours of sleep per night.  If you’re “really active,” maybe you hit the gym four times per week for one hour.

Do the math: 168 hours minus 56 to sleep and another 4 to exercise leaves you with 108 hours to be either “really active” or sit at a desk, sit on the couch; sit in your car, etc.

You MUST move as much as possible during these remaining 108 hours in the week.  This is critical time during which you can either burn calories doing what I call, “incidental exercise,” or store calories by being sedentary.

So, STAND when you could sit; WALK when you could ride; take the STAIRS when you have the option of the escalator or elevator.  At the grocery store, don’t use a push cart—CARRY two baskets and fill ‘em up for a great workout.  Use a cordless phone and PACE around the room during conference calls at work; GET UP to talk to your office mate rather than emailing a colleague that is 20 feet away!  It’s math, not magic!

Use my168 Hours Rule® and GET MOVING!

Live with Simplicity,



October 11, 2011

Train Your Brain and Change Your Body

For the majority of my life, I struggled with my body image and had a very dysfunctional relationship with both food and exercise.  I was born in 1965 and grew up when Twiggy was the world’s most famous model—the “look” that was valued at that time was long, lanky, and thin, thin, thin!  My very well-meaning mom, who swore by the credo, “You can’t be too rich or too thin,” was diligent about keeping her own weight as low as possible and made sure that I understood that being thin was equated with being attractive and successful.

The only real glitch in the situation was that I was built more like a lineman than a model.  All my life I was a sturdy little gal—never frail and tiny like so many of my classmates growing up. Wanting the best for me, my mom warned that I had a “problem” figure and needed to carefully monitor my food intake so as not to get fat.  I was taught that it would almost be better to be dead than fat.  I personally did not see the problem, but as a kid you believe what you are told.  I internalized the message that my body was a “problem” and dedicated myself to finding a solution.

September 21, 2011

Prioritizing Within Your Exercise Plan

If you can’t get to the gym as often as you’d like, you need to prioritize within your workout to maximize your results.

For example, if your priority is building muscular strength, focus on weight training rather than cardiovascular training when you manage to squeeze in a workout.

By doing this, even if you only exercise two or three times during the week, at least you worked on your primary goal of building muscle.  If you are able to fit in another workout or two, that is icing on the (sugar-free/fat-free/gluten-free) cake!

I personally live by this code, as I never seem to have as many opportunities to work out as I would like. Given that I live a hectic life and have to do the best I can, when I finally do get to the gym, I follow these guidelines:

September 4, 2011

The Biggest Step is the First Step

I was struck by a quote that I read recently by George Jung: “Life passes most people by while they’re making grand plans for it.”  It really hit me, as I spend many hours talking to clients that have big plans and grandiose visions of what they are going to do. I have been in this position myself: talking a great game but failing to take action and more importantly, failing follow through until the goal is reached.  My Mom used to say, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do; tell me what you’ve done.” When she would say this to me, I would get annoyed because I wanted someone else to buy into my story.  Now that I have moved past the days that I tell myself “stories” I see the validity of her point.

Many of us talk a good game, but it never goes beyond talk. We need to ask ourselves WHY? Is it that we simply don’t want something badly enough? Is it that we are lazy and don’t want to do the work involved? Is it that we are somehow afraid of success and the responsibility that it will bring? I personally can vouch that I have fallen into all of these mental traps.

July 27, 2011

Beautiful Legs in 12 Easy Moves Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my leg/butt workout.  If you missed Part 1, please read it first.  Adapt each exercise to your skill level and use an appropriate weight load.   I have modified this workout for personal training clients of all different levels.

As I said when I introduced Part 1, the workout consists of twelve exercises that I do on two nonconsecutive days.  Since some of the exercises are harder compound moves (using two or more joints at the same time), I put a few easy moves and a few compound moves into each workout so I can evenly divide the workload.

I do 5 to 8 sets of each exercise, and I do more sets for my weaker areas in an attempt to balance out my legs, both in terms of strength and aesthetic appeal.  Look in a mirror (from all angles) and determine what parts of your lower body need extra work.  Normally, we enjoy doing what comes easily to us and we avoid what is difficult. Assess your weak areas and focus on them.  You are only as strong as your weakest link.  Here are the final six exercises:

7.  HIP ADDUCTION: This exercise works the adductors of the hips, which are all the inner thigh muscles. Using the hip adductor machine, start in a position with your legs as wide as you can and extend your legs so they are straight with your feet in the air (even if the machine is designed to be used with bent knees.)  When you extend your legs, much of the work begins before you do the actual hip adduction, as you must hold your legs up against the pads.  Squeeze your legs together and hold them tightly contracted for a few seconds. Then, slowly let your legs separate to work the eccentric (negative) phase of the contraction.  As you work, use your abdominal muscles to your advantage by tightly contracting them as you press your legs together.  Exhale as you contract. TIP: When I am trying to graduate to a higher weight, I assist myself by pressing on my upper thighs with my own hands as my hips adduct (my legs move toward the center).  In this sense, I am acting as my own spotter.  It is no different than using a spotter for assistance with a chest press or a chin up.