Category Archives: Lifestyle

The power of positive thinking: how to overcome a gluten baby. Fast.

This is a “behind the scenes” story about eating gluten when you are not meant to, massive bloating, surprises, crash dieting, bruises, damage limitation and how positive thinking helped me turn it around fast.

Positive thinking, Daily Mail, Cristina Alciati, Jasmine Arrow

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Last Monday I had a blood test first thing in the morning. I had to fast for 12 hours prior to that and although it’s not a big deal as I practice intermittent fasting almost every day, I felt it was a good excuse to treat myself and my other half to a massive pile of Danish pastries for breakfast. This is something I hadn’t done in years but was equipped to deal with the aftermath.

I am gluten intolerant and eating ordinary pastries results in me looking like I am 8 months pregnant for about a week. It’s great if I am on a crowded train as sometimes people give me their seat but not good for setting an example to my clients.

I can avoid most of the pain caused by the gluten destroying my gut with digestive enzymes which help break down the macronutrients in food thus making the gluten slightly more manageable. However, they can’t stop the inevitable inflammation that follows.

Normally this wouldn’t be an issue as I like to wear comfortable clothes anyway, but last week this suddenly had the potential to be a major disaster when I was advised by the mum of one of my clients that we were going to be interviewed and photographed for a story on parents hiring a Personal Trainer for their kids.

After I said “yes, brilliant” I checked in the mirror and noticed that the overhang over my trousers was not what you would expect a fitness role model to have… after panicking for a while I tapped into my positive thinking reserves and came up with a contingency plan to reduce the visible damages from the gluten in 48 hours or less.

When I turned up at my client’s home I had no idea of who I was doing this for but I was going to do it anyway. Turns out it was a piece for the Daily Mail so I tried to remain optimistic, no pressure whatsoever…

The true power of positive thinking

I was asked to work with Jasmine to help her improve her fitness and mindset back in July. I was reluctant at first as I work almost exclusively with mature women. I don’t have children and I find it difficult to relate to them.

My previous experiences of working with teenagers weren’t very successful as I had to compete with their smartphones for attention and weren’t that interested in doing the work that would give them the looks they were after. Instagram has a lot to answer for in this respect by bombarding impressionable teenagers with pictures of photoshopped young girls with impossibly perfect physiques. If you don’t measure up to them, you feel inadequate.

Jasmine Arrow punching for the Daily MailThankfully Jasmine (aka Little Chick) turned out to be very different from the average teenager. She has been brought up to use her brain to think critically about any information she comes across and she is always willing to listen and give things a go. We do have something in common: we both love martial arts and we are both keen students. Jasmine competes regularly in traditional Jiu Jitsu at national level and has an impressive collection of gold medals to her name.

Because she also spends time on Instagram she was growing increasingly frustrated at seeing all the aforementioned pictures so in a bid to help her refill her positive thinking tank I spent some time explaining the differences between different body types and how genetics influence your ability to get fit and to keep your fat levels low. I also showed her some blog posts and videos in which some of the Insta-Models explain the benefits of posing, lighting and photo editing to get the perfect Insta-Picture. You’d be surprised at how much work goes into a seemingly natural photograph!

As the penny dropped things started to change for the better and my champ grew increasingly confident. You’ll have to wait for the full story to appear in the paper though…

How to use positive thinking to get you out of a tight spot… or top

Cristina Alciati, Jasmine Arrow and the stylist

Discussing the next pose under the watchful eye of our lovely stylist for the day.

On the day of the photoshoot we are all excited because we got to work with a stylist and make-up artist who brought over a few shopping bags full of designer workout clothes, a suitcase full of make-up products and brushes. The photographer was able to turn the kitchen into a photographic studio in a blink.

I am always in awe of talented individuals and these guys were amazing: they got us all sorted out in no time and we were soon ready to be photographed.

I loved the workout gear they brought for me: the leggings were beautiful and very flattering and the top was great but… a size smaller than I would normally use. Somehow I managed to squeeze in and although I was able to contain the gluten baby in time for the photoshoot, the tight top redirected the flab to that place in between the ribs and the hips collecting it into a lovely spare tyre around the middle. (I am still searching for the same pair of leggings on Ebay, zero luck so far).

Crash dieting for damage limitation

Managing the gluten baby wasn’t too hard but it required a bit of willpower. I did what I always recommend my clients don’t do: a crash diet. I virtually eliminated all starches apart from a banana after working out and I drank still mineral water only. I replaced two meals with a vegan protein shake and then had a giant salad with a protein source for my main meal. Thankfully we did lots of sparring at the Krav Maga classes that week so that was the extra HIIT fat burning cardio taken care of. I hate crash diets and I am not interested in them but in circumstances like these they can be useful.

Even if 2.5 days aren’t a long time crash dieting you still need to find some extra motivation to see it through to the end. The moment you upset your metabolism by starving yourself it gets back at you by making you crave crisps, chips, pizza and all the things that make you put on weight and sap your energy. I had to constantly remind myself of why I was doing this to stop resenting the process. Positive thinking won in the end.

positive thinking, Cristina Alciati, Jasmine ArrowThe actual photoshoot was both fun and strange at the same time. It was fun to pretend that we were working out but also weird to having to stand so close to each other to allow for a tighter shot.

Because both Jas and myself are accomplished martial artists we thought the photogenic version of keeping your hands in guard position was funny: the purpose is to protect your face from strikes but we were asked not to cover our faces so we were only protect our clavicles from a violent attack!

If you want to survive a sparring session with minimal bruising it’s always good etiquette to look at your opponent with soft eyes (i.e. taking in as much of the surroundings too in case they brought friends), looking and smiling at the camera isn’t going to win you medals or help you take your arse home intact. But it’s fun.

I saw the draft of the article and it’s very good and very honest. We were all slightly worried that this was going to be a weight loss piece with before and after pictures but it’s not the case. The journalist who is writing the article respected Jas’ parents’ wishes, something that we are all very appreciative of.

Now I am only hoping that we will also benefit from some Photoshop magic to erase the effect of my bad Monday breakfast in a couple of clicks! Stay tuned for a link to the finished article.

I must confess that I enjoyed this so much that I now want to do it again. And again. And again.

If you also want help in fine tuning your mindset to succeed both in fitness and anything else in life, book a complimentary call right now and let’s have a chat!

6 Reasons you are always tired that have nothing to do with sleep

6 reasons you are tired that have nothing to do with sleep

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We’ve all had those nights where schedules don’t allow you much rest time, and where you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed. That’s your body’s way of telling you that it needs more sleep, period.

But what about those times where you just feel tired and you really don’t have a good reason? Maybe you’re spending enough time in bed and maybe you’re even getting close to the recommended number of hours for sleep. Even still, though, you feel zonked—tired all the time. If that’s the case, then it might be that something else is happening inside your body to make you more tired than you expect.

Take, for example, your thyroid; it can run too fast or too slow and either one of those actions can lead to you feeling much more tired than you should. And you have to have medical advice for help with a thyroid. What else impacts restful feelings?

6 Reasons You’re Tired That Don’t Have to Do with How Much Sleep You Get

The infographic was first published in the article at this link:
“6 Reasons You’re Tired That Don’t Have to Do with How Much Sleep You Get” on Health Perch
Below is my “version of facts” based on my personal experience of working with clients who suffered from exhaustion due to poor quality sleep and how we went about correcting it.

1 – Anemia

Although anemia can take different forms, the common denominator is a deficiency of the red blood cells needed by the body to distribute oxygen via the bloodstream. If you have anemia you will most likely feel always tired, or you will easily get exhausted while doing any sort of physical activity. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, weird cravings for non-food items like dirt and ice (a condition known as pica), headaches, feeling cold, and being irritable often.

If you think you may have anemia your first step should be an appointment with your GP for an evaluation. He/She can send you for tests and then confirm whether or not you’re anemic, what type of anemia you have, and the best course of action for you.

2 – Anxiety

If you are in the grips of anxiety you will most likely feel like your heart is trying to jump out of your chest when it’s not being squeezed by a g-clamp. Your thoughts are spinning fast in your head draining your energy, and anything and everything can trigger a rat-wheel of worry, dread, panic attacks and so on.

Anxiety can actually make you feel drowsy while you are awake and all the tossing and turning will prevent you from getting restful sleep through the night. The result is that unshakable feeling of being always tired during the day.

Mental and physical exhaustion are likely to make you irritable and short fused. You will be restless and have trouble concentrating thus making it difficult for you to get anything done at work or around the house. Other symptoms of anxiety include muscular tension, shortness of breath, headaches, and even stomachaches.

If you suffer from anxiety you need to look at your lifestyle first and pinpoint the triggers. Then you must deal with them and take (baby) steps towards accepting or resolving the situations causing you anxiety. You could consider taking up activities that will help you relax like yoga, massage, exercise, walking outdoors, meditating, listening to music, making time for hobbies and for social events. Having a good chinwag with friends can do wonders for the anxious soul as can a solitary retreat.

If none of these strategies work your best bet is to talk to a qualified counselor who will be able to help you out.

3 – Food Intolerances

I think we are all familiar with the sleepy feeling that follows a large meal on special occasions. But for those with food sensitivities, the sleepiness happens after each meal if they eat the wrong things for them. In fact, feeling physically fatigued and/or mentally sluggish after eating a certain food is one of the best indicators that you are sensitive to it. And we are not just talking about dairy and gluten here…  eating too many starches on their own can also trigger sluggishness in those who have issues with insulin (hello post meal coma!).

The most common signs of food intolerance are bloating, excessive burping, excessive farting, either diarrhea or constipation, feeling always tired and/or inexplicable muscle and joint pain that sets in some time after meals.

Nightshades can cause inflammation and send your immune system into overdrive

If you live in the UK good luck persuading your GP that you may have a food intolerance and need to see a specialist. You really have to lay it down thick and pretend you are about to die to be considered for a referral to a dietitian and even then you may have an unsatisfactory experience (I know I did). That’s not to say that a doctor should be your first port of call but…

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms typical of food sensitivities you are better off becoming your own metabolic detective. Start by keeping a food diary detailing the ingredients of each meal and how you felt after eating them. There are a number of culprits that might be the cause of your troubles: gluten and dairy are the big ones, but also any of the plants belonging to the nightshades family could be to blame. Sadly, these are all the lovely, funky veggies that make food worth eating but if you get rid of all of them at first and then reintroduce them one by one you should be able to find out which ones don’t agree with you.

4 – Hayfever

Hayfever is treacherous because it sends your immune system into overdrive, this drains your body’s energy reserves making you feel like your batteries are flat no matter how much you sleep or rest. Itchy eyes and a runny nose can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, and many over-the-counter remedies designed to keep your symptoms under control can cause  drowsiness as a side effect making you feel always tired. This is why when you get hayfever you feel extreme fatigue all the time.

grass pollen can make you feel always tired

Again, good luck getting your GP to test you for seasonal allergies. In my experience the best you can get from them is a bottle of corticosteroids nasal spray. Although these are very effective at eliminating the symptoms of the hayfever they can cause side effects lasting many weeks. You could go privately but then again all you are going to find out is which pollens you are allergic to. The doctors can make you a vaccine based on your test results that gets injected under your skin weekly during Winter so that you have built up immunity by the time Spring comes round. I had this done and I don’t remember it being effective.

The best thing to do is a quick lifestyle overhaul in the run up to the time of the year when you suffer from hayfever. Eliminate all foods that are known to cause allergies and intolerances, limit alcohol intake, rest more, avoid going outside at dusk and dawn when the pollen count is higher. If you become light sensitive wear sunglasses everywhere and if you can shower often during the day to wash off any pollen stuck to your skin. If you have pets who live outdoors brush them before you hug them as they will have pollen stuck to their furs. Make sure the pollen filter in your car aircon system is clean and set it to recirculate the air in the cabin to be on the safe side.

5 – Sleep Apnoea and snoring

Obstructive sleep apnoea happens when the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. It’s a fairly common condition that leads to your sleep being interrupted regularly throughout the night and restricting the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain leaving you sleepy and always tired during the day.

Although the condition itself isn’t too serious the consequences can be disastrous as your fatigue can affect your ability to concentrate and put you a risk of accidents at work or at the wheel.

Snoring is a less serious condition and one of the symptoms of OSA. Although its effects on the person who snores are less serious the noise can affect their partner’s quality of sleep placing them at increased risk of accidents from lack of concentration. In fact, snoring is one of the top reasons couples divorce in the UK.

Some of causes linked to sleep apnoea are being overweight, being male, going through the menopause, being over 40, using sleeping tablets, having congenital unusual neck structures, smoking, drinking alcohol (especially before going to sleep) and nasal congestion. Because sleep deprivation puts the body under severe stress if you suffer from sleep apnoea you are also at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and memory loss.

Snoring man and young woman, couple sleeping in bed

If you or your partner think you may be suffering from sleep apnoea you should go and see a doctor straight away. You can tackle lifestyle factors that may cause the issue for you but it’s better to be checked out to eliminate the possibility of anything sinister causing you to not breathe properly while you sleep.

6 – Overactive or underactive thyroid gland

Thyroid disorders affect 1 in 20 people in the UK and although women are more at risk, they can also affect men, children and babies. There are two types of thyroid disorder: when the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) and when it’s underactive (hypothyroidism).

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your metabolism: if too many are produced your metabolism works faster and this can lead to an increased heart rate, anxiety, irritability, more bowel motions and difficulty sleeping. If not enough thyroid hormones are produced your metabolism will slow down causing you tiredness, weight gain, constipation, depression, tingling in your hands and fingers, heavy periods.

If you suspect that a dysfunctional thyroid may be the cause of you feeling always tired go and see your GP straight away. He or she will refer you to an endocrinologist and request tests to measure your thyroid function. If you need to you will be prescribed medications to normalise your thyroid function. Both types of disorder can lead to more serious consequences if left untreated, in the case of hyperthyroidism you might even experience a thyroid storm which is a life-threatening condition in which all your symptoms suddenly escalate.

As far as lifestyle factors go the usual advice applies to trying and manage your thyroid function. This is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland which act a bit like a thermostat for your metabolism: if things are moving too slowly or too fast the hypothalamus sends a message to the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid to produce more or less hormones. The pituitary gland is very sensitive to your diet and therefore you should take great care to avoid foods containing refined sugars as well as high glycemic foods.

Napping can stop you from feeling always tired

As you can see your constant fatigue may have different causes that cannot be resolved by simply sleeping more (although if that’s what your body tells you to do, listen carefully). You really need to investigate the reasons behind your tiredness and take action to correct them.

A good place to start is always your lifestyle with an emphasis on food choices, movement and exercise. Eating food that supports your body chemistry can go a long way to help your endocrine system work efficiently and regulate your metabolism so that you have energy all day long, can get restful sleep and can keep your weight under control. The correct exercise protocols can also help you do this as does looking at sources of both physical and emotional stress.

Napping can help you feel better when you are always tired. A recent study showed that taking a 30 minute nap completely reversed the effects of sleep deprivation. The stress hormones caused by lack of proper sleep were completely gone.

If this isn’t enough always consult your doctor before reading another blog post as the quicker you take action the quicker you will be able to enjoy restful sleep every night.

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Let’s think about men’s health issues. This year is all about diabetes.

Men's health week 2018 diabetes

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It is Men’s Health Week 2018 from the 11th to 17th of June and this year the focus of the week for men’s health issues will be on diabetes.

Men are more likely to get diabetes, more likely to suffer complications, face amputation and are more likely to die from diabetes.

If we truly value the men in our lives more needs to be done to prevent this from happening. Don’t be afraid to think for them because, unfortunately, it’s quite common for men to still feel uncomfortable talking about issues regarding their health and we need to act now to change things.

“More people than ever have diabetes and you are more at risk than ever before of getting Type 2 diabetes, if nothing changes at the current rate more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025.”Click To Tweet

What can you do to help prevent men’s health issues?

As this year we are focusing on diabetes here are 5 simple steps you (or your male friends/relatives) can take to avoid becoming another statistic.

1 – Reduce Belly fat

Men are more likely to be overweight than women and can develop diabetes even when they are relatively lean. However they are less likely to acknowledge that they are indeed overweight and therefore sign up for a weight loss programme. What they should be focusing on instead to prevent diabetes is reducing belly fat. It’s a problem because belly fat lurks not just beneath the skin but also gets down deep and surrounds your vital organs (visceral fat).

A large amount of visceral fat can increase the body’s resistance to the hormone insulin and this can lead to type 2 diabetes. This is because when it is being used as fuel visceral fat releases inflammatory compounds into the blood stream increasing the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, doesn’t pose as much of a health risk but it’s notoriously more stubborn to burn than visceral fat. Green Tea Extract (EGCG) can be helpful in persuading the body to burn stubborn subcutaneous fat, whereas Curcumin can help you counter some of the inflammatory effects from burning visceral fat.

reduce belly fat to prevent diabetes - men's health week 2018

2 – Exercise regularly most days of the week.

This helps you manage weight, reduce blood glucose levels and may also improve blood pressure and cholesterol. If you believe you may be at risk of developing diabetes and you have a fair amount of belly fat you want to prioritize short but intense exercise sessions over long steady cardio.

Always take into account your body type when creating an exercise programme to make the most of your metabolism. Make leisurely walking and sleeping important parts of your workout regime as they will both help you lower the hormone cortisol which contributes to increasing belly fat.

If exercise is not for you, or you can’t do it, make sure you spend a lot of time moving: puttering around the house or the garden for a couple of hours every day will be beneficial and so is choosing the staircase over the lift.

3 – Eat a balanced, healthy diet.

In a nutshell: reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats. Eat more fruit, vegetables and high-fibre foods. Cut back on salt and increase your water.

But also make sure you cut back on your starches and sugar and don’t make the fatal mistake of drinking your calories. Leave the bottle of cordial on the shelf and stick with the mineral water instead.

When planning your meals make sure to start with a good source of healthy protein to which you will add as many fresh vegetables as you can possibly handle. Be careful though that beans and potatoes are starches so don’t overdo it. The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain is a good place to start for understanding how food choices can have an impact of men’s health issues.

When eating out choose a salad

4 – Limit takeaway and processed foods.

Microwave and takeaway meals are usually high in salt, fat and kilojoules. It’s best to cook for yourself from scratch if possible and if you have most of your meals on the road try and reduce the amount of starches that you eat.

Love a burger? Swap the chips for a salad and throw away the bun. Fancy a Chinese? Avoid the sugary sauces and have your food steamed whenever possible. I am sure you get the picture…

Having said this don’t be afraid to go all out from time to time, just make sure you don’t have takeaways or convenience foods all the time.

5 – Limit your alcohol intake.

Too much alcohol can lead to weight gain and may increase your blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Men should have no more than two standard drinks a day and women should have no more than one. But a better choice would be 5 glasses of wine per week max.

Drinking too much alcohol places the liver under a lot of strain. This stress is likely to raise cortisol levels and cause you to gain belly fat, lose muscle and become at increased risk of developing a metabolic disorder like diabetes or experience a whole other lot of men’s health issues. Remember that too much alcohol can lower your T levels too!

What’s the best alcoholic drink to have to minimize the risk of experiencing men’s health issues? Beer and white wine. They both act as appetite suppressants and when consumed in low amounts don’t have too much of an impact on your metabolism. The best time to have a drink? Immediately after a weight lifting session.

What else can you do to prevent men’s health issues?

If you suspect your health may be a risk due to lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy diet and not enough exercise let me help you create a bespoke program that will address all of the above and help you re-establish a good balance. It all starts with a free, no obligation, breakthrough call.

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5 easy lifestyle changes to consider in your golden years

So, you’ve finally reached your golden years and have come to the point in your life when you’re ready to retire, or perhaps you already have.  Your kids have moved out and now have families of their own, you’ve worked hard to accomplish your career goals and now what?

What do you do with your newfound spare time? What can you do to ensure you’re staying happy, healthy and able to accomplish the things you’ve been waiting to do all your life?


If you’ve never exercised before, or even if you’ve stayed active, exercise can bring a whole new joy to your life.  Simply staying active through everyday activities such as walking or gardening can boost your mood and keep your body fit so you can chase around your grandkids!  

Staying active in your golden years

Exercise will also make your day to day activities feel a lot easier and will help you age more seamlessly while warding off complications from arthritis, osteoporosis, or obesity.  Your body will be more resistant to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and weight gain.  

Take a minute to think about whether there are any sports or activities you’ve wanted to try but didn’t have time for before you reached your golden years.  Yoga? Dance? Volleyball? Get out there and give it a go!

Take Time To Cook

Okay, I think we all may be guilty of opting for Chinese take out more than once a week when life got too busy.  The great thing about having more time, means that you finally have time to develop or sharpen your culinary skills.  

Invest in cooking lessons, a new cookbook, or scan through Pinterest for recipes that spark your taste buds. While eating out is enjoyable, it can be far more rewarding to create your own culinary masterpiece.  

Health-wise, cooking at home can be far healthier than eating out, reason being that you control how much added oil, salt or sugar ends up in your meal.  Cooking can also be therapeutic and can help you unwind.

You reached your golden years. Relax!

Enjoying your golden years on a hammockYou’ve worked hard your whole life, you owe it to yourself to have some “me” time.  Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your body in so many horrendous ways such as increased risk of heart attack, insomnia, high blood sugar, weakened immune function, headaches and irritability.  It sacrifices your quality of life as well as your health.  

While it’s important to maintain proper stress management habits throughout your life, after retirement, it’s crucial that you dedicate a certain amount of time to relax and unwind.  Exercise, going for a massage, painting, reading, and socializing with friends and family are all great ways to de-stress.  

Mind Games

As you age, it’s important to keep your brain sharp! Cognitive health problems such as dementia, unfortunately aren’t curable yet.  It’s important to keep your brain healthy in all areas including nutrition, exercise, cognitive activity and social engagement.  

By incorporating reading, puzzles, crosswords, sudoku and memory games into your daily lifestyle, you’ll be able to make sure your brain is getting the engagement that it needs, which will slow down cognitive decline.  

Socializing in your golden years also plays a big role in keeping your mind sharp, because you’ll be stimulated by conversation and you’ll constantly be learning by talking to other people. Ideally, talking to new people each day would be best, however you can also get the same results from talking to family members or old friends as well.  Don’t be shy! Join new clubs, call your friends and talk to your children or grandchildren.  

Get Outside

If you want to feel instantly happier, head outdoors.  Studies have proven there is a correlation between vitamin D from the sun and decreased levels of depression.  All you need is 10 minutes of direct sunlight on your skin to hit your recommended amount of vitamin D.

My dad showing my boyfriend how to pick grapesKeep in mind if you are planning on spending long periods of time in the sun, slather on some sunscreen to prevent sun damage and skin cancer.  

Exercise outdoors whenever you can and you will have a heightened mood for the rest of the day.  Take a walk, go for a swim or read a book on the patio! Feeling happier will allow you to manage stress and all of its nasty side effects.  

Make a point everyday to spend time outdoors to do a specific activity.  Fresh air, sunshine, and listening to the birds chirp should definitely help you relax and feel better.  Now is a better time than never to start doing things that make you feel happy.  

Incorporate each of these lifestyle changes into your daily life to make your golden years feel, well…golden!

Helen Sanders is chief editor at Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.

The perfect time to start a weight loss program

So many times I see people over complicating their body transformation projects because they think they have to get many things into place before they can start. So they research the latest weight loss program, read, absorb information, hesitate, get frustrated, get overwhelmed, feel inadequate, worry and so on without ever concluding much.

The truth is the best place to start a weight loss program is exactly wherever you are at when the idea strikes, whenever you feel inspired to create those changes in your body composition. Having a burning desire to succeed is what’s going to keep you going over time and gracefully soar over obstacles on your way towards your goals.

The thing is if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting a fitness makeover because you think you have to restock your pantry all at once and somehow find dozens of hours to exercise every week you can breathe a sigh of relief… none of this is necessary. The perfect weight loss program for you is the one that you can follow effortlessly in the long run so you need to be strategic at the outset to ensure long lasting adherence.

Let’s figure this weight loss program business out!

When it comes to food…

Do you find that your kitchen is full of pre-packed and pre-cooked convenience foods that you can reheat in the microwave and are ready to eat in a jiffy? What about crackers and cookies? Although it’s unlikely that they will be the ideal food for your purposes they are still food and it would be a shame to waste them. You may find that microwave meals contain a few “naughty” ingredients designed to make them come across as full of flavour which can make transitioning to a diet based on fresh produce challenging.

It’s not that fresh fruit and veg are inherently bland in flavour… however, they will appear so if you are used to eating meals that are loaded with salt and strongly flavoured ingredients. It takes a while to get used to “normal food” but if you allow yourself enough time you will learn to appreciate the many subtle nuances of flavours and aromas that make nature’s bounty… well, a bounty!

Start your nutrition adjustments by tweaking what you are doing now

The best way to start a diet is to not go on a diet, but rather to pick one or two habits that are causing you to gain weight and change them. Slowly. One step at the time. Then choose another “bad habit” and change that and so on until you have seamlessly transformed your old nutritional habits into new ones that will support you every step of the way. The best weight loss program is the one that you can follow easily because it is based on your personal preferences with regards to the types of food you eat whilst keeping you in a calorific deficit and your metabolism balanced.

The worse your habits are the harder this is going to be and the kinder you must be with yourself if you are serious about changing. It will take you longer to adopt a more natural approach to nutrition but it’s well worth the effort. One way you can get started is to take a typical meal for you and add something fresh to it: a tomato, a courgette, a side salad, an apple or some nuts. Start getting used to different veggies (or fruit) and before you know it you will be looking forward to having a food rainbow on your plate every day! …and the best part is that by that point you will have forgotten about all the junk you used to crave.

I know that most diets that you purchase online come with a shopping list implying that you are going to start on the day that you have all the ingredients but I would recommend reading and understanding the logic behind that particular diet and then go and buy the things you know you like that you know will fit in. When I feel like experimenting with a different framework for creating my meals I usually give myself a couple of weeks to complete the switch. This gives me time to get used to the principles and to include some of my favourite foods with the diet’s recommended foods. I also use the same strategy with my clients and they all find it easier to change their habits one at the time instead of suddenly changing everything and having a million different things to think about.

When it comes to exercise…

Start your workouts with what you can do right nowThis is an equally daunting area for many of the people I work with. For some reason they are led to believe that if they can’t perform like Olympic athletes they will be derided and won’t get any results from their weight loss program. They get all shy when it comes to doing structured exercise. Big weights have been lifted off many shoulders whenever I pointed out that exercise is the least important aspect of any fitness makeover project: nutrition comes first, then lifestyle, then movement and then exercise.

Can’t do a full squat? Who cares! Do what you can and build on that. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll make progress if you are consistent and apply yourself. Elegance and finesse within your performance are nice touches and show that you have mastered the art of executing that movement but you shouldn’t be too hung up on this in the beginning and feel that your workout isn’t effective. Smoothness comes with a practice, a lot of practice. As long as you follow the cues for executing each exercise with perfect form and put some effort in you will get results.

A trick that I often use with my clients is to turn each training session into something that resembles play more than a workout. I won’t skimp on form or safety (or even hard work) but I too get bored when I do the same thing over and over again… so I try to discover what each client enjoys the most and then I inject a little bit of that into each workout.

For example: if I come across a lady client who is sassy and enjoys a bit of a boogie I will teach her how to do stripper squats. The first two or three are usually a giggle but by the 6th she will know she is doing them! If the client is a bit more adventurous and averse to traditional exercise I will teach her a few tricks to do with a hula hoop. You know, just to keep the brain sharp too. If a client is really adventurous and not afraid to get mucky I will teach her how to get super-strong and beautifully toned by doing quadrupedal body weight exercises. If you can make your workout fun you will always look forward to the next one.

The best strategy for creating a good beginner workout plan is to start by doing exactly what you are capable of doing  and then challenge yourself to go a little bit further every time. You don’t need any equipment or fancy gear to get started: your PJs and some floor space are all that you need to complete your first bodyweight workout. Right now! You will be surprised at how challenging this can be but you will also get a feeling of supreme satisfaction at the end just because you actually took that first step. Eventually, depending on your goals, as you get more nimble you can start adding weights to create more resistance or swiss balls to challenge your balance and co-ordination and then maybe move on to a sport that you love.

When it comes to lifestyle and moving…

As I said earlier these are more important than exercise because they are the foundation of your wellbeing as well as your body transformation. Think about it: making sure that you get plenty of down time and rest is fundamental to your success in business or at work. Your brain cannot perform at its best if you are tired, grouchy, sleep deprived and sour from doing too much stuff without ever enjoying some “me time”. Being able to carve out some time to indulge in the things that matter to you will instantly help you approach nutrition and exercise from a place of excitement instead of a place of drudgery.

Movement, i.e. everything that you do from the moment you wake up to when you go back to sleep is what humans are designed to do. We didn’t evolve to spend our days sitting on a chair staring at a computer screen and just generally being inactive. We are meant to be moving around all day long with walking ranking as the number one activity to ensure maximum wellbeing. As well as keeping your legs nice and strong, walking has the power to relax you deeply and to help you reset your metabolism to keep your stress hormones at bay. You will be surprised at how many calories your N.E.A.T. (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) activities will help you burn. Way more than a single exercise session and yet this is an aspect of body transformations that is often overlooked.

Final thoughts on getting started with your weight loss program…

Start your fitness makeover journey by tweaking your mindset with help from my bookSee? Once you make the decision to get started the possibilities are endless. But you don’t need anything to get started other than a little bit of faith and willpower.

Sometimes we forget that our best tool when it comes to following a weight loss program is the grey matter in between our ears but it can also be our biggest enemy if we can’t get a handle on our thoughts and understand the many ways in which they affect our moods and our ability to accomplish anything.

After working with many clients over the years I realised that their biggest stumbling block was their mindset which led them to what marketers call “analysis paralysis” i.e. get lost in so many trains of thoughts about fitness and weight loss that they always struggled to get started and then keep on going.

If you recognise yourself as someone whose heart and mind aren’t on the same page when it comes to fitness makeovers then I suggest you check out my book “8 Mindset Tweaks for Effortless Weight Loss” available on Amazon.

Its purpose is to help you focus your intentions so that you are 100% clear on the reasons that brought you to decide that now is the time to get your body transformation project underway. If you feel hesitating or unsure in any way I strongly recommend you read it. You’ll be glad you did!  🙂

6 common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight

Working on a fitness makeover can be a lonesome time for some. My experience as a coach is that a lot of clients are almost ashamed to admit to their friends or colleagues that that’s what they are trying to do. So they tend to isolate themselves and keep their weight loss journey a secret for fear of failure and having to hear “I told you it wouldn’t work”.

There is a lot of conflicting information available on the subjects of fitness and weight loss and it’s very difficult to navigate through a myriad of journals, articles and blogs to decide what might be a good path to follow. I know, I have been there too.

The trick to getting a great ROI for your efforts is to find a protocol that is easy to jump into and that you can follow over a long period of time, turning it into a new set of healthier habits as opposed to a collection of remedies. There are many effective frameworks to choose from and really what works for one person might be disastrous for another one.

Regardless of which protocol you decide to follow and what’s right for you, if you want to be successful at shrinking a dress size (or three) you must be aware of a number of common mistakes that people make which can thwart their efforts. Avoid these and your chances of achieving your goals will skyrocket straight away.

This is what unsuccessful people typically do:

1 – They focus on losing weight

The figure you see on the scale can be extremely depressing if it’s not changing but in reality it’s probably the last thing you need to worry about. Female body builders and athletes are often tiny creatures that nevertheless weigh a tonne. Why? Because they are muscular, yet they can be so minute that you wonder if their legs would snap in strong winds. By the way, not everyone can reasonably expect to achieve this level of leanness but most people can get very close to it if they really want to.

The better strategy would be to focus on achieving an hourglass shape and measure your progress by taking measurements around your chest, waist and hips at regular time intervals. This change is an indication that your hormones and metabolism are in good balance and therefore you are losing fat which is far more important than losing weight. Especially when you start shedding the pounds of visceral fat, the nasty stuff that accumulates around your organs putting you at an increased risk of developing life threatening illnesses. So, don’t give the scale that much importance – focus on your health and the slimmer figure will soon follow.

2 – They go on a diet

When you cut back drastically on the calories or eliminate entire food groups from your plate you are asking for trouble. Your metabolism doesn’t work in a linear way and tends to be adaptive and reactive: whatever action you take, it answers back. Usually not in the way you want it to as its primary objective is to maintain the status quo. So you need to learn to play its game.

Although some would argue that when you first cut back on the calories you seem to lose both weight and circumference, after 4 to 10 days of low calories and zero carbs you will reach a plateau. Chicken and broccoli can be very nice… but not all day every day. To lose fat you do need to cut back on the calories a little bit but if you deprive yourself of all the foods that you like your willpower will soon get weak and you will start to crave cakes and chips. Eventually you will cave in and go on a binge, cry crocodile tears the next day and start the dieting process all over again. Never really going very far in your journey.

The better way of managing your food intake is to find the combination of macro nutrients (protein, carbs, fibre and fat) that you find satisfying and keeps you full for a good 4 – 5 hours, doesn’t make you dream about a pizza the size of the London Eye, gives you steady energy all day long and yet causes you to lose fat. Once you find your very own Holy Grail of macros you are in fat loss Heaven: you have discovered your unique formula and you are set for success. If you count the calories at this stage you will find that you are naturally consuming less without trying.

3 -They only do cardio

Cardio machines at gymHave you noticed how most chain gyms, on average, have 40 cardio machines and one chin-up bar? There’s a reason for it: most people on a crusade to atone for their indiscretions at the dinner table think that if they spend an hour or more on the treadmill every day they will wash away all their sins. The truth is that they are in fact most likely to make matters worse.

Cardiovascular exercise is awesome and should be a part of every exercise plan because it brings along many health benefits. However, when it comes to fat loss frequent long cardio sessions aren’t your best strategy if you want long lasting results. The reason for this is that long cardio sessions can be stressful to the body and cause cortisol levels to rise. Whereas this can be a good thing and can actually help you lose fat, too much of it can be detrimental and cause you to lose muscle as well as making you susceptible to accumulating belly fat. Not to mention that when we are stressed we tend to crave starchy foods…

Sure, if your body type tends towards endomorph you will benefit from long cardio sessions more than others but still, you could save yourself many hours of drudgery by switching some of your long distance cardio with High Intensity Interval Training plus resistance training. I know, I know… everyone keeps mentioning it… the reason being that it works. HIIT cardio saves you time because you only do it for a few minutes at the time. Resistance training doesn’t need to take up a lot of time either and it will help you build the muscles that will keep your metabolism running at a slightly elevated rate day and night.

4 – They use every machine at the gym during each session

The butterfly approach to resistance training usually stems from the individuals not knowing what they are doing. I see this often when I go to the gym: people doing 10 reps on each machine and then moving on to the next one in random order.

Even when they use the machines correctly they are missing out on an important factor when exercising for fat loss: overload. When you exercise a muscle group to the point of overload (i.e. when it burns so much that you want to curl up and cry) you are stimulating muscle growth. This is what will eventually give you the toned look that so many women want.

And ladies, don’t worry about looking like a man and growing a beard: you don’t have enough testosterone for that. The “bulky” effect that so many women worry about is usually temporary and it’s due to the subcutaneous fat laying on top of your muscles. You will shed this. As your muscles grow your metabolic rate at rest will increase slightly causing you to burn a little bit of fat 24/7. So if you want to succeed at shrinking dress sizes you really want to choose 4 or 5 resistance exercises for your session and focus on working those muscles until you burn like crazy. Whether you do full body workouts or split routines isolating specific muscle groups depends largely on which program you wish to follow and the results you wish to get. But in either case you want to work each muscle group hard. And then rest it.

5 – They don’t have a solid plan

This is not how you measure caloriesJust as you wouldn’t launch yourself into an entrepreneurial venture on the fly you wouldn’t want to start a weight loss project without a solid plan. This will include a time for researching and discovering how your metabolism works, a time to act on the outcomes of your research, a time to assess progress, adjust the course as necessary, more execution, more assessing, more adjusting and so on until you succeed.

As you get closer to achieving your goals you may want to start thinking about how you are going to maintain your results over time. This plan is perhaps more important than the first one as fat loss is more of a lifestyle than it is a fixed length journey. If you revert to your old habits the moment you hit the perfect size 8 you won’t remain there for long. Should you lose your inspiration half way through you need to read this post.

6 – They don’t get help from a mentor

As cheesy and cliche’ as this sounds, getting help from a mentor can speed up your results in dramatic ways. You know that’s true in your business so you must accept that it’s also true when it comes to fitness and fat loss. And yet so many people think they know it all and rely on YouTube videos to get fit only to end up concluding that “none of this malarkey” works some time down the road.

Choosing your mentor is a little bit like choosing a lifetime partner or a friend: you get along well naturally, you are on the same page most of the time, he or she can fill in the gaps in your knowledge and can explain things in a language that you understand, you respect each other, you feel comfortable calling them up for a chat if you have any doubts, they help you feel good about yourself AND they will help you cut through the fluff to make your transformational journey as linear as possible despite its non-linear nature. Believe me, it works.

So there you have it. The next time you decide that you want to lose weight and look toned remember this post and make sure to avoid points 1 to 5, go straight for number 6 and book a complimentary breakthrough call to make you sure you walk down the right part immediately and save yourself time, stress and money in the process.

It’s quite normal to hit roadblocks and get stuck in a funk whenever we embark on a project of any kind and health overhaul and fitness projects are no exception to this. People often start off with the intention of improving their health, wealth and fitness levels on Jan 1st each year with all the zest in the world only to find themselves having a crisis somewhere down the line.

By crisis I don’t mean accidents, misfortune or failures. The worst thing that can happen to any of us is reaching the moment when we wake up and realize that we have lost our mojo. We no longer care about being fit, healthy and wealthy, we don’t want to get out of bed, can’t be asked to make an effort and being social is not an option.

And yet life goes on and so do we.

What can we do to get back on track with our fitness makeover project?

There is actually quite a lot that we can do… as summarized below:


Infographic: get out of a funk with your fitness project

M = Mindset [what SMART stands for]

Your mindset is the key to success. You will never see any fat loss program through to the end unless your head is in the right place. In fact, being in the wrong frame of mind will often prevent you from getting started altogether. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles that a lot of people face in the beginning.

Let’s take my client and friend Lori for example. It’s not unusual for her to work long hours every day of the week doing mostly physical work. It’s a well paid job and she loves it but it takes a toll on her physique and her moods too as she seldom gets to spend quality time with her family in between work, cooking, house chores and sleeping. She is in her mid 40’s and she has been carrying a little bit of extra fat around the middle. Like most women do when they approach peri-menopause.

In the past she joined a weight loss group and lost a lot of weight but eventually gained it back with a little bit of vengeance and is now unhappy with both her weight and shape. Her body type is somewhere in between an ectomorph and a mesomorph and so the spare tyre round the middle is even more prominent as her limbs are long and slim.

Whenever we meet she talks about “going on a diet”. She is not happy about the prospect of dieting as she sees this as a period of time in which she will have to make sacrifices and give up all the foods she loves in order to lose 10Kgs in time for her Summer holidays. Because she hasn’t quite set her mind on a date when the dieting is going to start she is making sure to fill up on large portions of all the comfort foods she can find: fish and chips, pies, mash potatoes, beans, jacket potatoes drowned in butter, sausage rolls, etc. not to mention cakes and chocolates and the occasional glass of wine.

The point here is that this “giving things up” is only meant to be temporary, until she has had her holiday and then she is most likely get back to her old habits. Because in her mind the sacrifices have to end once the reward has been obtained.

My other client Carol has instead rejected the “dieting mindset” altogether. In order to get the results she wanted and keep them over time she accepted that she had to embrace change and create a new way of doing things for the rest of her life. Not radical changes, just a few tweaks to her meals here and there with a view of including all of her favourite foods on a regular basis but in moderation. In fact, over time, she stopped wanting her “favourite” foods which were high in carbs and saturated fats and instead elected more fat loss friendly foods as her new “favourites”.

With regards to exercise she started off wanting to do this 3 times per week but soon discovered that it was hard and stressful to fit 3 workouts around her existing commitments and so she settled on two sessions per week that she could easily find the time for. This allowed her to remain consistent with her efforts thus reaping the rewards in the form of a different shape and the slow but progressive release of fat from the more stubborn areas.

As time went on she was able to sustain her new habits knowing that if she “slipped” from time to time, like she might do at Christmas, she would soon be able to go back to her routine and lose all the festive plumpness in a fairly short time. The compliments started to pour in fairly soon and she became even more inspired to stay the course.

Do you see the difference in the mindset? One client is dreading getting started because of the perceived sacrifices she will have to make whereas the other one was willing to learn how to read her own metabolism and embrace the changes that worked for her. Not what the latest fitness fad says she should do.

Needless to say Lori has been having frequent guilt trips every time she has a slice of cake or an extra portion of chips, whereas Carol can’t really be bothered to have either but if she does she enjoys the cake or the chips knowing that she will be able to use them to her advantage.

How we turned Lori’s story around

Attitude Aptitude Altitude


The first step was to take a good look at Lori’s weekly schedule to determine just how much walking and lifting she did during the course of her work. The answer was mildly shocking: it turned out that she was on the move all the time and constantly lifting and carrying moderate weights over short distances. This was great news in a way because movement is actually more beneficial than structured exercise for your health and wellbeing BUT too much of it will start causing issues with rising levels of cortisol resulting in increased belly fat. The same goes for adding exercise to a lot of movement.

We decided that we would skip the exercise altogether for the time being and we focused on slowing down the pace a little bit at work by changing from a fast walk to a normal walk. We then tried to create a good sleeping routine as this was an area that she struggled with somewhat. We found a good time to go to bed every night and eliminated any stimulants for up to 3 hours before bed time: no coffee, no wine, no tea, no chocolate, no tablets or electronics.

This worked relatively well but she found that her mind was often racing when she first lay down in bed and this meant a lot of tossing and turning before she could fall asleep. So we went back to the drawing board and found that for her the best thing to do was to have a little bit of wine half an hour prior to bed. Although this wouldn’t be a good policy for some it worked brilliantly for her: not only she could almost fall asleep on command, she would also stay asleep waking up feeling rested and refreshed.

In addition to “fixing” her sleep we tried to find times throughout her day in which she could relax by perhaps adding 5 minutes to her bath or just chilling with her family. She started to benefit from these small changes fairly quickly. Before we even looked at her diet she already lost a little bit of fat all over but especially around her midsection. Nothing dramatic but a good step in the right direction AND she loved it. Most importantly she felt that so far she didn’t give anything up and instead gained in relaxation and downtime. Win.


Once we established the new routine we started to look at her diet to see where we could introduce changes that would support her fat loss efforts. Her problem was the large amount of foods combining fats and starches that she was consuming on a weekly basis. This was both because she loved them and because they were convenient as she often bought them ready made from the grocery store and only needed reheating.

The first change was to replace some of the starchy foods with fresh non-starchy produce. She was game so for a couple of weeks she made herself bring a salad to work instead of a pastie. We left the option open for her to have starches for dinner but bearing in mind the glass of wine before bedtime (this counts as carbs). After the first two weeks she found that she didn’t really fancy anything other than the meat + salad for lunch as this was keeping her full and feeling better than when she ate convenience foods. Plus she became very creative with the mix of veggies that she used by treating her salad almost like a work of art with lots of different colours and textures. She also learned how to make dressings that were both interesting and flavoursome without adding too many calories from either sugar or fats.

At this point the results really started to show. Her skinny jeans became baggy around her hips and thighs and the muffin tops were soon gone. Most importantly, again, she felt that she gained from the changes instead of losing out. Win.


As soon as she abandoned her dieting mentality she was able maintain her new shape and size and to help her get a little bit more toned before her holiday we introduced some exercise. But not all in the form of workouts… because she had very little spare time available we decided to make the most of her work at the warehouse. We agreed that every time she picked something up or drop something on a pallet she would do a squat to get to the right height and then, when possible, she would do a biceps curl to lift the object close to her chest and then reverse the movement.

Squats are a great compound exercise and can strengthen your legs, glutes and core muscles simultaneously. When you learn to do them correctly and to apply them to everyday situations you will find that lifting heavy objects becomes a lot easier and you won’t tire out so quickly. Lori found this change also easy to implement and whereas she managed to do a few squats here and there at first, she was soon able to turn this into her normal way of lifting things.

At this point we introduced workouts at home too but these only consisted of doing a few push-ups and planks a couple of times per week to make sure her upper body also looked a bit more muscular. These exercise sessions would only take up 10 minutes of her time so she found it easy to stick to them. As she got closer to the start of her holiday she was delighted with the results and still surprised that she went through a complete body transformation without dreading the process or feeling like she had to make sacrifices.

As you can see it’s as simple as changing your perspective about nutrition and exercise to make the experience more interesting and certainly not one to fear. Once my clients get over this initial hurdle and make the mental switch they begin to enjoy the process of change knowing that they will achieve and often surpass their initial goals.

If you are stuck and can’t find your way out of the dieting mentality book a 30 min. complimentary breakthrough call and I’ll gladly give you a few pointers.

S = Sexy Size [what SMART stands for]

The name SMART Fitness Makeover came about during a conversation that I had with one of my past marketing coaches. We were bouncing ideas back and forth during a re-branding effort and in the end we settled on SMART as it was the perfect acronym for all the things that my approach to fitness and weight loss stands for and also an acronym that is well known in goals setting circles. Amazingly I managed to blog regularly for almost two years without ever talking about it… so time to correct this!

Let’s start with the first letter: S = sexy size.

We all have one in our mind and it’s different for each and every one of us. The common denominator here is the idea that when we reach our “sexy size” is when we feel most powerful and truly capable of taking over the world. Regardless of age, experience and circumstances. Our sexy size might be the result of a combination of personal taste as well as influences from the media and the culture that we live in and it’s very, very personal.

Some people feel more powerful when they are super lean, others prefer voluptuous curves and others still prefer a muscular shape regardless of their body types. So in reality S also stands for “sexy shape” and part of my work is helping women achieve both the size and shape that will make them appear most attractive to both sexes.

This is what most of my clients want. Even when they don’t articulate it in this way being and feeling attractive is the transformation that they are looking for. But they call it “can you help me lose some weight here?”. I have yet to come across a client who was disappointed by the compliments they received from friends, family and colleagues as they worked through their own body transformation and the changes started to show. Not just as a smaller version of themselves but as a slightly different shape too.

The only exception to this, of course, is clients who come to me because they need help managing health conditions that can be improved with lifestyle changes that include nutrition and exercise but eventually, when they realise what’s possible, they also start to think about the way they look.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. Never.

We are visual creatures and whether we care to admit it or not we react differently to others based on how they present themselves. One of my favourite experiences of this was the time when I was buying building materials to make a step outside my front door. I went to the local building merchant to do a preliminary reconnaissance round and enquire about materials. I was wearing my stables gear consisting of an ugly collection of baggy garments that are great for dealing with mud and straw but do nothing for looks and fashion. The shop assistants barely looked at me and were very curt with their advice but gave me all the info I needed. So when I had all the measurements and I was ready to make a purchase I went back wearing a red outfit that highlighted my “slightly curvy” figure (as my stylist calls it). All the shop assistants came over to have a chat and eventually loaded my car with all the bricks and mortar despite being the client who made the smallest purchase of that entire year.

The thing is our brains are hard wired to be on the lookout for the perfect mating partner and our shape and sizes are indicators of our suitability for that task that we recognise instinctively, before we start taking into account personality traits.
There has been a lot of research carried out in the field of male and female attractiveness. It turns out that the female shape that both genders find attractive is the hourglass figure, that is when chest and hips have similar circumferences and the waist is noticeably smaller. If you divide your waist circumference by your chest and then hips circumference the ideal figure would be somewhere between 0.67 and 0.8 with 0.7 being perceived as the most attractive across cultures. However, studies also showed that both genders tended to consider women with an hourglass figure more attractive if they were also reasonably lean, whereas those with curves but overweight weren’t considered to be as attractive as their leaner counterparts. You can read one of such studies here.

Personally I disagree with some of the findings as there are some voluptuous women who look totally gorgeous even if they tip the BMI scale in the wrong direction. I believe that whereas our instincts drive us to rely on first impressions to decide if someone is attractive to us or not, it’s our ability to discern qualities such as personality style that truly makes the difference. Look at the woman in the picture on the right and tell me she is not attractive.

The way you can get close to achieving the ideal body shape is by addressing your health first and specifically your hormonal balance. This will determine your unique tendency to store fat in certain parts of your body as well as the ability to lose it. For most women fat tends to accumulate more in the lower body: abdomen, hips, bottom and thighs. These are also the areas that they struggle to slim down the most. However that’s not always the case. There are plenty of women who have heavy torsos and slim legs giving them a more masculine shape rather than a feminine one.

The next step is to identify lifestyle and nutrition changes that will support your fat loss efforts. Sleeping patterns, stress both physical and emotional, a sedentary job… all play a part into promoting or affecting your health and body composition. Finally you will need to come up with an exercise plan that will help you build the lovely body that your fat loss efforts will reveal in time.

This combined approach will help you move closer towards the shape and size that is somewhere in between what science has proven to be most appreciated and what you consider to be ideal for you. There is no point in working your arse off for months to achieve the perfect 0.7 hourglass figure and body fat % if you don’t like what you see in the mirror. What makes you feel most empowered always comes first. Exuding this type of confidence is what feeling good in your skin is all about and what I wish to help my clients achieve.

So there… that’s what S also stands for: Supreme Confidence. But also S = Schedule…

If you are stuck and need some guidance in formulating your ideal plan or even deciding what your ideal size and shape are I can help you. Just Schedule a complimentary breakthrough call with me so that we can talk strategy and if we are a good fit we can become a team!

She got into the best shape of her life. After 40. A case study.

Belinda (nor her real name, of course) was a housewife who became a mother later in life, in her late thirties. Like the majority of my clients, she came from a privileged background: living in a luxurious country home with her family and with plenty of time and resources to pursue her interests.

When I met her she was in her early forties and was starting to feel the effects of the peri-menopause. She was in a fairly good shape, her body type was mostly ectomorph and therefore she was naturally lean. However she felt that she was starting to accumulate fat around her lower body and on her belly and was finding it very hard to shift it.

She dedicated the previous few years to raising her young children and so she didn’t have the opportunity to do any of the physical activities that she used to enjoy pre-motherhood. That’s when she sought my help.

She recently discovered that she was suffering from an autoimmune disorder that affected her digestive tract. She was under the care of a (private) medical specialist who was carrying out tests to establish the exact nature and severity of her problem. Whilst doing various blood tests it also transpired that she was deficient in a number of vitamins hence she was feeling lethargic most of the time.

Her initial goals were to build up her strength and fitness levels so that she could join the fitness classes at her favourite gym and perhaps even the local bootcamp once both of her children started school. She was also planning to go on a beach holiday the following year but didn’t have anything booked yet. With almost 12 months ahead of us to the time of her holiday we started to reverse engineer her fitness goals and set an initial target for a few weeks ahead. (You can learn how to do this with the SMART Fitness Planner)

How she got into her best shape ever

Best shape of your life after 40The first step to get her into the best shape of her life was to create a bespoke fitness program that would seamlessly integrate multiple exercise sessions each week into her existing schedule. We also looked at her nutritional habits and where she could make changes to both support her weight loss goals and help her manage her autoimmune disorder. We devised an initial protocol and we set to work.

It soon became apparent that although she said she wanted to change she wasn’t willing to actually make the changes that we discussed.

For some reason, despite the fact that we established a pattern of tummy aches after eating certain types of foods, she resisted the idea of cutting back on them. She seemed to be able to come up with the most creative “reasons” as to why she couldn’t possibly do it.

Keeping up with the exercise regime was easy because I was personally there to make it happen, but the nutrition side of our plan was a bit tricky to manage. Although her body was becoming stronger and more shapely as the weeks went by she wasn’t quite achieving the “best shape ever” that she was hoping for.

Health challenges

After many tests her consultant concluded that she was suffering from coeliac disease and backed up my nutritional suggestions to avoid gluten rich foods and try the gluten free versions instead. She was also prescribed vitamin supplements and injections to help with her energy levels.

Unfortunately people affected by a gluten intolerance can suffer a fair amount of damages to their intestinal tract. This makes the absorption of nutrients difficult and even when eating all the “right foods” you can still end up suffering from malnutrition and a lot of inflammation. Taking digestive enzymes can be of help as they break down the food in such a way that makes absorption of nutrients easy. They are not a cure but they can be extremely useful in these circumstances.

As soon as she incorporated these simple changes into her diet her body also started to change. The bloating was gradually disappearing and so was the slight water retention. As the vitamins were starting to take effect her energy levels started to increase. We were on a winning streak and heading towards that best shape ever but then… she started slacking with the exercise and now the “reasons” were being used to justify why she could no longer find 10 minutes to do a round of Tabata intervals once or twice per week in between our metabolic boosting workouts.

The truth is that while her holiday was still at the planning stage she didn’t really have a true deadline to meet and so she was floundering a bit. I think the fitness coaching sessions were starting to become a social event rather than a project, not to blow my own trumpet too much but I am good fun to be around!  😉

Anyway, back to Belinda who was working towards her goal but a little bit halfheartedly…

The turning point

beach holiday as a great motivatorThe big turnaround came when the holiday was booked and at that point she suddenly transformed into Mrs Motivator. She never skipped a workout with or without me there. She discovered that she had the determination of the Terminatrix within her and she wasn’t going to stop until she got into her “best shape ever”. In fact, I had to start reminding her of the importance of rest periods and letting go from time to time!

Rest and relaxation are always important aspects of any fitness makeover but they are super important once you get past 40 and start the journey through peri-menopause and menopause.

Belinda’s turning point was the prospect of feeling insecure whilst wearing a bikini, that perceived pain became stronger than the pain of having to sweat her heart out doing intervals on her exercise bike or lifting heavy dumbbells. This is a common issue with women over 35.

We all age at different rates but we all age. And as we slowly turn into our grandmothers we feel that our sexiness is vanishing and we become invisible and unattractive to our partners. Of course, we know very well that there are more important qualities than beauty that bond us to our mates but we are also instinctively aware that we cannot escape our true nature as visual creatures.

The results were stunning

after a few weeks of doing everything I told her to do Belinda looked absolutely amazing. She had curves in all the right places and every inch of her body was screaming “fit!”. Her lower body fat was barely there, her tummy was flat and all her clothes started to fit more comfortably.

She regained the body shape and freshness of her younger self and was looking radiant. It was as if she turned the clock back ten years or so. Needless to say she was ecstatic and her husband very appreciative too!

Oh… and her life started to blossom in other ways. As she reconnected with her youthful self her confidence returned and she started to pursue artistic endeavours that she always dreamed of but never actually had the courage to take up.

Her kids responded incredibly well to the transformation too as they suddenly had a happy and fit mum keeping up with them all day long instead of a grumpy parent desperate for some peace and quiet.

Let your why help you get into the best shape of your life

The moral of the story is that unless you set yourself a real deadline for your fitness makeover efforts you are likely to be going at it halfheartedly and therefore not see the stellar results you wish for.

In fact, when you compare your lack of amazing results with what you heard other people achieve will further dampen your enthusiasm. You might even convince yourself that it’s not worth continuing and that it’s much easier to buy a bigger t-shirt.

Although that’s true, it’s not entirely true.

It’s all down to you. A coach can only give you guidance and iron out the kinks for you but unless you really want to change not much is ever going to happen. It’s all about taking action.

If you would like to experience the same kind of fitness makeover as my client “Belinda” you can start right now by booking a complimentary breakthrough call to discuss your goals and intentions and how I can help you reach your best shape ever. There is no obligation to buy anything and it might just be the catalyst for you to get started or start over.

How to get fit (and stay that way) when you are super busy

I am always a little bit sad when Summer ends because I love the longer hours of daylight, the warmer temperatures, sleeping with all the windows wide open and finding excuses for spending time outdoors. Most importantly, I can upgrade my back garden to outdoors exercise area where I can enjoy a lot more space and plenty of fresh air. Clients are usually on holiday and so I get to slow down too for a short while.

When Autumn starts life gets busy on all fronts again. Not just for me but for my clients too. For many of them the end of the year coincides with the end of their financial year and suddenly work brings a whole new dimension of busy-ness to their already packed lives. When I worked in corporate many years ago, from September onward I knew I would start at my job around  9am but I never knew when I would come home. Not only I had my usual tasks to deal with but heading towards the “festive season” meant more business lunches, more networking events, more parties and so on. I know, it sounds like such a hard life (not!) but believe me, having to kiss arse and get drunk in order not to disappoint clients can take a significant toll on you and your waistline in the long run.

At the time I used to exercise in the evenings as I am a bit of a night owl but from September onwards it became virtually impossible to stick to a regular routine. Nowadays I witness the same issues with some of my clients who are often forced to cancel or reschedule their evening sessions at short notice.

The only way that you get visible and long lasting results when you follow a weight loss and fitness program is if you are consistent with your efforts. It’s not different from running a business or working for one. In fact I look at my fitness regime as one part of the “business of me”: it has to provide the results I want and be enjoyable, in fact make that exciting. This helps me re-frame fitness as something that is vitally important to my own success both as an entrepreneur and as an individual striving to maintain optimum physical and mental health.

How to manage your nutrition when everyone else isn’t

Eating healthy when everyone else isn'tThe first step is always to (re)define your goals and be realistic about them. For example, if you know that you are coming up to an extremely busy few months with plenty of social events that you can’t get out of it might not be the best time to start working on your beach body. Unless of course the people you have to hang out with are also following a fat burning program and won’t mind discussing business over a rocket salad and a glass of still mineral water. It can be really difficult to stick to your meal plans when you are under a bit of peer pressure to have a few drinks and a curry.

So if that’s the case why not allow yourself a bit of slack and revise your goals from going to the gym for weight loss to maintenance/damage limitation with perhaps a bit of slow progress as a bonus instead? You can still achieve a lot, you just have to make the most of the change in circumstances and go with the flow.

I successfully used two strategies for my clients (and myself) to sail through busy times without any damages to the waistline. The first strategy is to alternate binge meeting and eating with fasting, i.e. have as many meetings as you can to include both lunch and dinner in one day followed by a day of fasting. The second strategy consisted of spreading out the meetings as much as possible and use the extra dinners or lunches as part of an intermittent fasting program. The ultimate goal here is to try and break even with calories in vs calories out with a little bit of extra help in the form of more movement and exercise when necessary.

The thing is if you book a table at a restaurant that’s nowhere near a tube station or bus stop you will have to walk there and back. It’s always nice to do this after a large meal and it will help you sober up slightly if you have had one too many. I speak from experience. …hic!

It takes a lot of commitment to yourself and your goals to stick to either strategy but if your health and fitness are important to you you will always find a way. Otherwise you will find excuses masqueraded as reasons. Again no different than running a business.

How to exercise consistently in the face of busy-ness

Internet wisdom suggests that abs are made in the kitchen. I disagree. Abs are made in the gym and are revealed by wise use of your time and energy in the kitchen. If you can’t do the latter you must make sure you are at least focusing on the former for the time being.

The thing is in order to achieve the perfect beach body (I am already thinking about next Summer here…) you have to build the physique and that requires consistent effort with your exercise. When you are super busy there is no need to get all complicated, you can save that for later when you have an easier schedule and you need to put the finishing touches to the solid foundations you have built. But, again, it’s important to make the time for it.

the best workout for weight loss is the one you do, not the one you think about.The solution is super easy. You need to have strong boundaries with yourself first and your co-workers and bosses second, but you must make a point of not starting work earlier than your contract says unless extreme circumstances arise. This is an important part of achieving a healthy work-life balance: if you know your finishing time is a vanishing time you might as well start when you are supposed to and not a minute sooner.

This gives you room to get up 30 minutes earlier than normal in the morning and stick in a quick 20 min. metabolic workout that as well as keeping your physique in tip top condition will also give you a little bit of extra energy for the day. There are many good ways to exercise at home with or without equipment: it depends on your personal preferences and what you are trying to achieve.

I had a few clients in the past who used this strategy very successfully: they would see me at the crack of dawn to check in on their progress since my last visit and then put in a jolly good workout before going to the office. They got energised in the fresh air and started their day with a spring in their steps and their renewed confidence helped them make strides in their careers. Personally I hate getting up early in the morning but when I had to I soon learned to love the feeling that I got after a good workout and in fact I ended up getting up even earlier to do some extra work too.

You don’t have to do anything fancy (but you can if you want to), if you stick with a few basic exercises focusing on form rather than reps or personal bests you can reinforce your neuro-muscular connections. This will ensure that your body is ready for muscle growth and increased strength. If you do this right you will get that sweet feeling of your metabolism burning fat all day long, making you feel a bit warmer and almost buzzing with extra energy. Your mind will be sharper and you will feel and look stronger giving you the edge in the business environment where presenting your ideas with confidence can make or break a career.

If all you can do is work out for 20 min 3 times per week you will still get results and in fact you will be amazed at how remarkable these will be. Then when life allows it again you can go back to being more thorough with your fitness training program but that’s an article for another day.

In the meantime if you would like some help finding the best way to get fit and lose weight through your busiest times with ease and grace book a complimentary breakthrough call now and let’s define some goals. Without obligation but with a lot of enthusiasm.

P.S. If you are reading this article in the run up to Christmas you may want to check out my book “Burn fat, not the turkey” offering tips and tricks for navigating the holiday season in style whilst simultaneously avoiding crocodile tears on January 2nd.


4 Simple Steps to Win Your Day. Every Day. [Infographic]

I am in the very fortunate position of being able to wake up naturally a lot of the time and only having to set the alarm clock some of the time. Even so Mondays can be difficult as they mean leaving behind the chilled pace of the weekend and getting ready to face whatever challenges life will bring as the week unfolds.

I find solace in setting up the alarm clock 30 minutes before the time I actually want to get up to make sure I start the day with some me time to set myself up for success. No matter what. Here is how I do it:

4 simple steps to win your day infographic

Good quality sleep

It may seem as if I am stating the obvious but you cannot expect to win the day without struggle unless you have fully recharged your batteries with a few hours of good quality sleep. How many hours you actually need depends on your unique metabolism, however there seems to be a general consensus that less than 5 hours is not enough sleep and over 10 hours is too much sleep. Again, this also depends on your personal circumstances as if you happen to be sleep deprived for any reason you will certainly need to give yourself the time to make up for the lost sleeping time.

While you are asleep your body repairs itself, gets rid of toxins, tunes down the release of fat storing hormones and turns up the release of fat burning and rejuvenating hormones. I have over simplified an exquisitely complex chain of chemical reactions but it’s enough to give you a good idea of why good quality sleep is so important. Think of how dangerous you are at the wheel when you are tired and how hungry you get when you don’t sleep enough. How can you be a winner when you are in that state?

Practice gratitude

The idea of recognising everything that we can be grateful for seems to be a common thread in any coaching circle under the sun. There is a good reason for it: as we get caught up in the rat race of thinking we have it bad because we don’t have this or that we forget about all the things that we actually have. Therefore getting in the habit of spending a few moments first thing in the morning to reflect on all the good things in our life and express heartfelt gratitude for them is a sure way to get into a good mood before we part company with our duvet.

In fact, it might be the only way that we can feel inspired to get out of bed. Especially when times are tough. And if the only good thing going on in your life is that you are still breathing be grateful for that as you never know when your luck is going to change.

Visualise your day

After you have practiced gratitude and you are in a light and happy mood it’s time to start visualising your day. The idea is to do a practice run in your head before you live your day for real. Athletes and performance artists do this all the time: they prepare for their performances by rehearsing their moves or words in their heads. It’s a great way of overcoming training obstacles and plateaus of any kind.

The secret is to get into as much detail as possible as you do this: what you are going to have for breakfast, how much coffee, what you are going to wear, what you are going to say at that meeting, how are you going to finish that project, what you are going to buy at the shops on the way back from work, what you are going to have for dinner, are you going to exercise? what are you going to watch on tv and what time you are going to bed. It’s like having a to do list in your mind: once it’s compiled all you have to do is go tick every item as you go along.

Planning your day in this way will save you from stress and overwhelm later on as you will have a clearer direction. You can apply this same principle to your weight loss and fitness journey: visualize the end result that you want to achieve and reverse engineer the process of getting there.

Morning rituals

I find morning rituals comforting. They are a part of my daily plan and I try to stick to them almost every day. They allow me that little bit extra mental space at the start of the day when I can make peace with the world and gradually transition from half asleep to fully awake. The first of my morning rituals is feeding the cats. I have no real choice in this matter as the punishment for not obliging is many paws on my face with gradually increasing degrees of clawing.

Then comes breakfast with copious amounts of coffee, then a quick tidying up of the house, wash, dress and then I am ready for my day. I suppose I could call this a “routine” but I find that the word “rituals” infers that these tasks are sacred to me and that nobody should interfere with them. If I am working on my own body transformation I might include a bit of time spent on the stationery bike or hula hooping as part of my morning ritual so it’s done and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Otherwise I am ready to put into practice everything that I rehearsed while visualising my day.

Personally I find that whenever I stick to these 4 steps I come out a winner at the end of the day and feel like celebrating, no matter how small that win was. The thing is when I feel like I am winning at the game of life I tend to make better decisions which in turn leads to more victories big and small. So, now I am curious… what do you do to set yourself up for victory every day?

Need help with setting yourself up for victory? Book your complimentary breakthrough call using the little popup on the right and let’s give this a go! 

Don’t let SAD drown your spirit. 5 tips for excellent mental health this Winter.

Easily beat the SAD this Winter with these tips

No time to read this now? Pin this and read it later or listen to the blogcast!

In the past few weeks (I am writing this in October, 2016) I have noticed a resurgence of social media posts about mental health to raise awareness and dispel the myth that it’s something to be ashamed of.

I am totally on board with this as there is nothing worse than realising that someone who is near and dear to us is putting on a brave face to appear “normal” whereas in reality they are fighting an almighty battle with depression inside their heads all day every day.

It’s heart breaking.

It’s not my place to discuss severe mental health issues or mental health programs as I am not qualified to do so and these should be the exclusive domain of doctors and psychiatrists.

I am however professionally qualified to help clients cope and manage with mild occurrences of mood disorders like depression, stress and anxiety, also in conjunction with their medical consultants.

Therefore as we are just about to enter the 5 months of almost perpetual darkness here in the UK I thought it would be good to look at a few health tips to help us stay cheerful while we count down the days to the next Spring Equinox.

Spring is only 5 months away in October...

From my point of view as a fitness professional good mental health is a natural consequence of good physical health. Since I can remember I was surrounded by quotes from ancient Roman and Greek philosophers and the one that stuck with me is “Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano” i.e. let’s pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body (Giovenale, Satire, X, 356).

Although at the time of Giovenale this line was meant to encourage readers to move away from the pursuit of fame and fortune and instead focus on their health, today “mens sana in corpore sano” has become the motto of many in the health and sports industry. The meaning slightly changed to suggest that in order to have a healthy mind you must first have a healthy body.

Research seems to support this idea: a study conducted in the field of academic performance showed that pre-adolescent students who were physically active and healthy achieved better academic scores across a range of diverse subjects to include maths and reading. You can read the full study here (3). If you want to learn even more you can follow the references to similar studies conducted on adults, reaching similar conclusions.

Keeping your brain healthy is in fact not that difficult and from my point of view it looks a lot like laying the foundations to become physically fit and healthy. You see, as always, there are no magic pills that will make up for a sedentary lifestyle with questionable nutrition and unhealthy habits like smoking, taking drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. However here are some health and wellness tips that will help you cope with the Winter months.

Your lifestyle

Provided you are otherwise reasonably healthy and not taking medications that can cause you depression or anxiety, the first thing to look at if you are feeling down more often than up is your lifestyle and how this is affected by the time of the year. For example if you work a 9-5 job and have to commute daily chances are you won’t see much daylight Mon to Fri in the Winter months. The same goes if you work night shifts and sleep during the day: no matter what time you wake up, you will miss a lot of the daylight hours or miss out on your sleep. Daylight is important because it helps your body produce Serotonin which has been linked to positive moods and a calm yet focused outlook on life (4).

older lady cycling in the park on a sunny dayThis is great news for business: who doesn’t want to feel calm, happy and in control in every situation you may come across at work?

Your best strategy in this respect is to honour your lunch break and go out for a walk whenever you can so that you can soak up some of the daylight. This is mandatory on sunny days.

If at all possible make sure you have to cross a park to go and get your lunch but it would be even better if you could make that at home so you are 100% sure that your macro nutrients are carefully balanced. This will help you stay full for longer and keep cravings at bay thus reducing the chances of you over-consuming starches and fat (i.e. cakes, biscuits, crisps, pizza, etc.) later in the day.

Your diet

The next place to look at for great emotional health is your diet and, by association, your intestine because this is where the good nutrients you take in are processed and sent off to the various organs, including the brain. We want our gut to be as healthy and efficient as possible. We give it a hand by ensuring it is populated by “friendly bacteria” and that there is enough fibre going through to keep evacuation of toxins regular and smooth. Switching to a natural diet rich in fresh produce and poor in convenience foods will go a long way in ensuring your body is nourished and your moods stay stable.

Moving and Exercising

Once you have your lifestyle and nutrition under control you need to look at moving and exercising. There is a difference between the two: movement is what we are designed to do, exercise is what we have come up with to address specific goals. Truth is we need both to stay healthy and in good shape but if you are strapped for time or lacking inspiration then choose movement over exercise. A good walk around the shops is better than a half-hearted workout at the gym.

Walking will give you a chance to relax and reflect on your day, making peace with yourself and the whole world. It could also be an opportunity to reconnect with friends and have a jolly good laugh.


If you feel that you need a little bit extra help you may want to consider supplements. These are exactly the same supplements that I would recommend to anyone wanting to improve their health and fitness and lose weight. Why? Because when the body is healthy it’s more willing to release unwanted fat.

The first supplement on my list would be a good multi-vitamins and minerals blend carefully formulated by a reputable company as opposed to the cheap-issimo you find at the local supermarket. The vitamins that are especially useful for brain chemistry are Vitamin C, E, Folate and B12 plus you need adequate quantities of magnesium, but there are many others that your body needs to function so don’t just focus on a few, go broad spectrum. Unless, of course, you have a known deficiency that your doctor determined via a blood test.

The next supplements, which are really ex-aequo in order of importance with the above, are your Omega 3 oil capsules rich in both EPA and DHA. The latter is a major building block of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, language, creativity, emotion and attention (1). Omega 3 supplements are powerful anti-inflammatories and can help with joint pain too. Personally I got the most benefit in terms of improved cognition from taking Krill Oil as it’s a super powerful source of Omega 3 much stronger than even to strongest fish oil capsules.

Amino-acids are also important and perhaps unexpected here. They are the building blocks of your whole body and will help you retain a healthy ration of muscle vs. body fat as well as helping you recover from exercise quickly. These are typically obtained from your food but if in doubt you could consider using a whey protein supplement which is naturally rich in amino acids.

Food intolerances can affect your mental health

Finally, although we are encroaching into medical territory, let’s not dismiss the possibility of food intolerances as a cause of mood problems. Gluten intolerance has been linked to many mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism and schizophrenia (2). Although for the majority of these conditions medical help is your priority, if in doubt it’s worth removing gluten containing foods from your diet for a while and see if you get better.

Good mental health is a cup of hot cocoaTo conclude, if you find yourself getting moody as the hours of daylight gradually disappear don’t feel bad because of it. As you can see there is plenty that you can do to take care of yourself and then there are doctors and specialists who will be able to help you if you can’t shake off the black dog.

Remember that once the clocks go back and Summer time ends you are only a few weeks away from the Winter Solstice when the hours of daylight start to increase again. Might as well sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy catching up on the Walking Dead. Probably the only good thing about Winter.

If you need help with any of this you can start by booking a complimentary, non obligation, 30 min breakthrough call. Beating the Winter sadness doesn’t need to be difficult and small actions can make a big difference. Book your call now!


1 – Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Ausdal WV. “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy”.Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2008;1(4):162-169.

2 – Jackson, Jessica et al. “A Gluten-Free Diet in People with Schizophrenia and Anti-Tissue Transglutaminase or Anti-Gliadin Antibodies.”Schizophrenia research 0 (2012): 262–263. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

3 – Darla M. Castelli, Charles H. Hillman, Sarah M. Buck, Heather E. Erwin,Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third and Fifth Grade Students (PDF), in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2007.

4 – Mead MN. “Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health”. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008;116(4):A160-A167.

DNA testing for fitness and fat loss: my experience so far.

As a New Year’s treat in January 2016 I decided to have a go at DNA testing after it came highly recommended to me by a successful professional fighter that I met at a social event. I was curious as to what information about my physiology it would reveal that I hadn’t already worked out with experience, intuition and a huge amount of fitness tests that I undertook in my youth when I was a competitive gymnast.

Where can I get a DNA test?

I looked up a number of companies offering genetic testing in relation to fitness and nutrition and approached a few to get clarifications on how the test works and what security measures are taken to ensure such sensitive information is not leaked or used inappropriately. I also compared the type of results that were being offered and the cost for the DNA analysis.

In the end I decided to go with Fitness Genes who were the company that was recommended to me as they seemed to offer the most comprehensive testing results with strong practical applications at a competitive price. My questions were answered by the founder himself who was very polite and gave me all the info I needed to feel confident about doing this. In addition to the straight forward genetic test Fitness Genes also offer the opportunity to receive nutrition and training plans customised to fit with your unique genetic makeup. I went for the Female Fat Loss plan because I was curious.

How does it work?

Lab technician DNA testingWithin days of making my purchase I received a DNA test kit consisting of a vial with a stabilizing fluid, instructions and the return address. As soon as I registered the test kit I was asked to submit a short lifestyle survey that included questions about my body type, perceived speed of my metabolism, whether I thought I was lactose and/or gluten intolerant and my reaction to caffeine. This part is very important as the information provided will subsequently help the researchers compile your DNA profile.

The actual testing part is incredibly complicated and you can find out how it all works and how the various pieces of information are shared between the DNA Diagnostics Centre and the Science Team on the Fitness Genes website at this link and this link.

What did I learn?

As the results from testing the 40+ gene variations were trickling through I must admit that after receiving the first batch I thought “OMG have I just discovered hot water?” but then as more results were being released I realised that I was actually learning invaluable information about my physiology. Even after all the results were released I can honestly say that the majority of what I learned was very much in line with what I already knew about my body after nearly 50 years of feeding it and moving it with different degrees of intensity.

However, there were many aspects of my metabolism that were still a mystery to me and now they are less so. In essence the test confirmed that I have the ability to grow muscles AND gain strength easily and on top of that I also have good aerobic potential giving me the genetic makeup of an athlete that can do strength, explosive movements and endurance all at the same time. Hello gymnastics, pole fitness, dancing, martial arts and Parkour training.

What I also learned is that genetic test results can be incredibly confusing as what you find for each individual gene can contradict what you find for all the others. For example one gene result indicates that I have a fast metabolism, whereas another gene says I have a slow metabolism. I carry the obesity gene and am at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome but I also carry the gene that helps lose fat fast. I carry the gene that makes me overeat (great excuse for eating 3 large packs of crisps on my own: “the FTO gene made me do it”) but my insulin works fine despite this. I have the strength of an ox but don’t do too well with Vitamin D (contributes to strength) and it’s best to supplement (which I do). This is why taking the test results and looking at them on their own isn’t very useful as their expression is always related to environmental influences, how the genes interact with each other and our existing lifestyle. They must never be looked at in isolation and it’s always best to have an expert in the subject extract the meaning of the various findings.

This is where the reports and nutritional blueprints really came into their own as all the results were combined and analysed in relation to the information that I provided with the lifestyle survey that I submitted before sending off the sample of saliva. Most importantly the findings are written in plain English that any lay person can understand. My “DNA Diet” and nutritional recommendations were spot on and helped me overcome a fat loss plateau at the time to get “attract-random-compliments-everywhere” lean.

D|NA testing night owlSome of the results are a bit hit and miss like the circadian rhythms test which suggests I am an early bird and that my sleep patterns are unlikely to be easily disrupted. Well, since I can remember I have been a night owl and both dangerous and slow to get started when woken up early in the morning. It’s much easier for me to be up all night working or studying than it is getting up at 5am to exercise. I can do it and have done so without spilling any innocent blood or causing a break up but it’s not my natural tendency. So whatever determines this predisposition wasn’t analysed on this occasion.

The only aspect of all this that left me slightly puzzled is the training plan. It involves doing resistance training 5 days and HIIT 1 day with just one day rest each week. Whereas this level of might have served me well in my 20’s and 30’s now that I am approaching 50 it wouldn’t work, not even by splitting the muscle groups so that I hit each one only once per week. First of all my DNA test results show that I might now have that much of a great ability to recover from a workout quickly and completely (hello stress fractures) so how on earth would I be able to cope with 6 weight lifting sessions per week? My lifestyle questionnaire clearly states my age so I feel that this is something that should be looked into.

As women approach menopause, when they want to lose fat, they tend to benefit more from relaxing activities to counteract the increased impact that stress has on their bodies following the gradual drop in oestrogen and progesterone. Because of this I got the best results, both for myself and my clients, by doing short sharp intense workouts 3 times per week max with a lot of leisurely walking in between. The exercises of the plan are beautifully put together but in my opinion it’s way too much for me. So I changed them slightly to what I normally do and it worked.

To conclude…

Overall, DNA testing was a great experience and I keep referring back to the results whenever I am wondering why something isn’t quite working as expected or to check that I am still taking the best supplements for me. Most of this stuff can be worked out with a little bit of Sherlocking but if you wanted to have a more accurate picture of what makes your metabolism tick and what helps you get stronger, leaner or faster then I would highly recommend the test. If you wonder how much genetic testing cost you can get the full report from Fitness Genes for around £150 and the fat loss or muscle building plans for a little bit more. Plus there are upgrades in the pipeline for existing customers which means that new and revised information will be available in the near future. I find this rather exciting and can’t wait for the day when it will be easy and affordable to have the full genome sequenced and results presented in a similar way.

I would be interested in hearing about your experience with DNA testing and whether you followed similar training and nutrition plans to the letter and if it worked straight “off the shelves”. Of course if you need help adapting the workout or DNA diet to your needs all you have to do is book a complimentary breakthrough call and I will gladly give you some pointers to make the plan work for you.

Bone bruising: a year into my convalescence

Last week (5th September) I celebrated a year since my infamous injury that caused me extensive bone bruising to the femur and tibia. A lot has happened since I last wrote about it back in March and as I learned many new things I thought it was time to record my progress for posterity and in hope that anyone in my situation will find it useful.

Between March and the end of May not much had changed in the way of my regimen: I still had physiotherapy sessions albeit further apart and I carried on exercising at the gym at least twice per week, most weeks. I went for it wholeheartedly within my limitations. I had to make up for muscle loss in my left leg possibly due to nerve damage and had to improve my ROM as the joint was still rather stiff.

Bone BruisingWant to skip to the good stuff and find out how I made a full recovery?

Get my e-book and read the full story of how I beat the odds to fully recover from my injury.

It took me three years and it wasn’t easy at times but I did it despite being told that I wouldn’t.

Now I am fighting fit again and re-learning to bend like a pretzel.

It’s all about QUALITY of exercise, not QUANTITY

This meant sticking with the basics for a little bit longer. Basic leg exercises like static lunges and squats are a great way to develop strength and co-ordination when we get back to working out after a long break. By focusing on technique rather than number of reps I was able to encourage my joints to work correctly and therefore make them stronger rather than compounding on the damage. I can’t emphasize enough how important this aspect is. Using mirrors for this purpose was key to making progress.

For example, although it felt right my squats were all skew-wiffy as the left knee wasn’t keen on bending in the correct way and so I was shoving my right hip out to allow myself to go into a deeper squat. Bad Crissy!! When I corrected the technique I could no longer squat particularly deep and it hurt like buggery as soon as I tried to go past doing 1/3rd of the movement. Not only that, it made me really wobbly and had to hold on to the punch bag at the gym to be able to do anything at all, ready to pull myself up with my arms in case my legs refused to budge.

It was scary and depressing at the same time and on occasions I found it hard not to burst into tears. Still, I carried on and lo and behold the rewards of consistent training, self-Thai-Massaging myself and physio came. I became strong and lean and my cardiovascular fitness also improved. By the time I had my last physio appointment at the end of May I was told that the progress I made was beyond any expectations from both the knee specialist at the hospital and the physiotherapist herself as she said many people in my situation make only small progress and don’t regain full ROM in the joint. Bollocks to that!

More enforced rest is your friend when dealing with bone bruising

As I approached the end of June I hit a massive roadblock in my convalescence. For some reason my knee started to hurt again all the time and so I was forced to stop all non-essential movement, i.e. I had to give up the gym temporarily. On top of this I had to deal with a wounded cat who didn’t like the idea of being on lockdown that much and did his utmost to drive us up the wall in his attempts to escape!

Why do I mention my cat in this story? Because his slow healing wound was the key to the next step in my recovery. He appeared to be suffering from Flea Allergic Dermatitis which caused him severe pruritus (itching) of the wound that he kept on licking and biting like a feline emo. This caused all sorts of issues that required many rounds of steroids and antibiotics plus the purchase of several buster collars. As I was looking for natural remedies that I could give the fluffy beast to help him heal I discovered that MSM was the closest to a magic potion as I could get.

As well as being ace as a joint supplement, MSM is also a great supplement if you suffer from allergies of any kind and it’s especially useful in keeping the pruritus at bay. So I went shopping and purchased a large bag to cover both of our needs.

MSM bone bruising

I review my supplements regime every month to make sure I am still on target and after reading up on healing times for bone bruising I decided to carry on with my usual Lysine, Cysteine, Vit C and D3 and Omega 3 supplements plus my very strong multivitamins and Kombucha. I simply added 2 doses of MSM every day. Oh and carried on resting.

As I approached the anniversary of my injury most of the pain in the left knee subsided and almost suddenly my ROM in that joint increased significantly. The healing hasn’t stopped and I still have some way to go however the swelling in the joint is almost completely gone which is now leaving room for the nerves to do their job and communicate with the mitochondria in my quads. As a result my thighs are now virtually the same size and the muscles feel plump and bouncy on both sides.

The possibility of having suffered from permanent nerve damage became a major concern but it seems that 2 months of almost complete rest was what I needed to let this phase of healing complete before moving on to the next one. The physiotherapist warned me that it would be a very slow process from now on but I am happy to report that as of now I hardly get any pain from the bones and only a few twinges from the soft tissues which I would say are congruent with the nature of the injury.

I am now in my second week of training again working on basic movements and have even managed a few rounds of switch jumps on a soft surface without negative consequences. I call this a win as I can now focus on rebuilding the physique as opposed to thinking about the rehab. Admittedly during my latest period of enforced rest I kept on eating like a bodybuilder without exercising like one which means that my clothes are a snug fit and the steps make creeky noises when I go up and down the wooden staircase.

Because I am exercising again I am back to using the post-workout recovery blend and this too is making a major difference. I am planning to increase my workload in the next week or so by going back to the gym and resume using the cardio machines to increase my range of motion further (the rower is marvelous for this purpose) and also to burn some of the extra fat I acquired during the Summer.

When I stretch my quads I am three quarters of the way to touching my glutes with my left foot whereas the right knee is already 100%. In view of all this I am now almost certain that in time I will make a 100% recovery and I look forward to be able to kneel down without seeing stars. The cat is almost 100% too, by the way.

As an Exercise Referral Specialist in addition to weight loss and fitness consultancy I can offer help with the management of injuries like mine as well as a number of medical conditions ranging from Hypertension, Obesity, COPD, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Depression and Anxiety, Stress, Diabetes. I can also help you manage PCOS, Menopause and sluggish Metabolism. If you need help with any of the above you can get started by booking a complimentary, non-obligation, 30 min breakthrough call here.

Bone BruisingWant to know what happened next and how I made a full recovery?

Get my e-book and read the full story of how I beat the odds.

It took me three years and it wasn’t easy at times but I did it despite being told that I wouldn’t.

Now I am fighting fit again and re-learning to bend like a pretzel.

12 things you need to banish your love handles once and for all

When you take the decision to undertake a Fitness Makeover you have already overcome the first big obstacle in your quest: inertia. Now you have to gather your tools and resources so that you can actually get started and gain the momentum you need to make this task easy peasy. This in turn will help you stay the course and see your body transformation project through to the end.

Below is a list of all the things you need to finally banish those love handles once and for all. By the way, some of the links below point to products for which I will earn a tiny commission if you make a purchase. I am recommending them because both my clients and myself use them all the time and we are all benefiting from them. They are only suggestions and will hopefully give you an idea of what to look for if the items described are not available where you live.

1 – The winning mindset. Without this success will be hard to achieve and perhaps even elusive. In my experience, clients who spent time getting this right breezed through their programs and enjoyed every step of the process. Especially the part where they exceeded their initial goals. I can help you by offering you my FREE mini-course “Sips of Inspiration”: you will receive 8 short emails straight into your inbox every other day that will help you get clear on your reasons and provide you with the inspiration you need to become unstoppable. If you would rather have the short version you can download the infographic from the sidebar on the right.

2 – A preliminary plan. Once your head is in the right place you need to take a good look at your current lifestyle and see where you can fit in the various components of the fitness makeover program you choose to follow. Have a look at this link for an example of what it takes to go through a complete body transformation.

3 – The right gear for the job. Now that you have a good idea of how your fitness makeover project will fit into your life it’s time to find some great and stylish gear that will make you want to get down and dirty just so that you can wear it. Take a look at this post for a collection of the trendiest fitness clothes for ladies in 2016.

4 – A place to exercise. If you don’t want to sign up for a gym or get filthy in the park you can always exercise indoors in your house or flat. You really don’t need a lot of space and you can re-purpose your furniture to act like gym equipment. For most people this will be a perfectly acceptable choice. You can find more ideas here.

5 – Some basic exercise equipment. Although you can achieve amazing results just by doing bodyweight exercises, for even better results I would recommend investing in some basic equipment. You can create your very own home gym that you can store in the broom cupboard with just 3 items: a yoga mat to give you a soft and non-slippery floor surface, a swiss ball to use as a bench as well as an exercise tool and a pair of dumbbells with adjustable weights for when you are ready to give your fat burning moves a boost. If you find the idea of using weights a bit intimidating you could start out with some resistance bands instead. These aren’t as good as dumbbells but will still give you a jolly good workout. Finally, if you want something to do in lieu of traditional core exercises you could get a hula hoop. Depending on how you use it you can also get a cardio workout out of it.

6 – A trusted supplier of good quality produce. I highly recommend signing up for a weekly delivery of organic produce in a box. There are many companies offering this service nowadays and I urge you to give it a try. As well as eating food that tastes like it’s supposed to be you will be supporting your local farmers and encouraging a return to less intensive farming methods that are kinder to the environment and to the animals being part of the food chain. I have been using Abel and Cole for years now and wouldn’t go back to relying on store bought groceries for all my needs. If they happen to deliver in your area and would like to give them a try drop me an email and I will set you up to receive 50% off your 1st and 4th order with them. If they don’t deliver near you check this article for other companies offering a similar service.

7 – A trusted supplier of sports supplements. This is often a tricky subject for many clients. The thing is you don’t need to use any sports supplements at all to achieve your fitness makeover goals. You can do it by eating normal food. However, the task is a damn lot easier (and cheaper) if you use protein powders and other supplements that will help you grow and retain the muscle you are working so hard to build. There are various schools of thought as to how much protein you need to build muscle and lose fat. Some say you need 2g or protein for each Kg of body weight, some say you need a lot less. Regardless of who you choose to agree with, remember that exercising for fat loss is very different from going for a walk and therefore you have to treat your nutritional needs differently. To consume an adequate amount of protein every day you may need to eat large quantities of meat. This is both impractical and expensive whereas by using protein powders that are formulated with the needs of athletes in mind you will be able to meet your targets easily, cheaply and without eating 3 chickens a day. I have been using Bulk Powders for many years now and would highly recommend them. If you want to check them out use this link and if you decide to buy from them you will get 25% off your first order.

8 – A few meal ideas. I hardly ever recommend recipe books to my clients because I’d rather teach them how to construct their meals AFTER we have unlocked the secrets of how their metabolism works. Some people do well on a high fat diet, others do better on a low carb diet, others still are better off eating more starches but staying away from saturated fats. Typically, recipe books don’t do this. However, if you really insist on such a thing take a look at this recipe book for a collection of awesome fat burning dishes. I especially love the desserts section  😉

9 – An intake calories counter. Calories come after nutrients in terms of importance but they are still extremely important and should never be overlooked. At the end of the day if you want to lose fat you need to restrict your calories intake and the best way to ensure you are doing this is to use a calories counter. There are many available for free online, personally I have used My Fitness Pal in the past both for my clients and myself and found it rather useful especially in the beginning to get a reality check as to how many calories we were consuming on a daily basis. Sometimes it was too many, other times it wasn’t enough. The cool thing is the phone app so that you can track your meals on the go. If you used it straight out of the box it might not be very effective but the macronutrients ratios can be customised to suit your metabolism so with a few tweaks here and there it will become a most valuable tool.

10 – An outgoing calories counter. Keeping track of how many calories you burn on a daily basis is equally as important as knowing how many you acquire with your food and drinks. Restricting your intake with a combination of less food and more movement and exercise is hardly ever a good strategy. Exercise is stressful for the body and so sometimes, if we are going to be very busy with everyday physical tasks, it might be better to back off and rest instead of adding to the stress. My Fitness Pal also allows you to take into consideration the outgoing calories when calculating your nutritional needs, however if you want to get an idea of how many calories you burn during everyday activities have a look at this website. You will need to enter your height and weight for a more accurate reading but it’s quick and you don’t have to fiddle with an app on your phone.

11 – A way to measure your progress. It’s no good going through the effort of a fitness makeover if you don’t know if it’s working or not. Here are some recommendations for keeping track of the changes so you can re-assess and adjust if necessary.

12 – Celebrate your success with a style consultation. At the end of your fitness makeover you will most likely look very different and your body will be a different shape (within its natural shape). If you keep on wearing the same clothes as before you started you will keep on looking less than stellar too. That’s why I highly recommend investing in a consultation with a stylist to help you discover the colours that enhance your features and make you look like a rockstar even when you haven’t slept in 3 days. A good stylist will also analyse your natural shape and recommend the best style of garments for you. Although this step won’t necessary help you banish your love handles it will certainly help you camouflage them while you are still working on your transformation. This is a great place to start: the garments are great quality and you can get a few basic items in your best colours that you can add to your existing wardrobe.

So there you have it. If you can tick each item on this list you will be in a great place to start with your fitness makeover or adjust the course with your existing project. If you need help with any of this you can get in touch by calling 020 8144 5531 (please do leave a message if I can’t take the call) or by sending me a message. Best of luck and if you do have any other suggestions please let me know in the comments below!