Tag Archives: fitness

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

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!

A berry easy way to enjoy a delicious treat packed with many health benefits

There are many things that make the prospect of Summer getting closer alluring. Food-wise I believe one of the biggest anticipations is finally being able to eat fresh berries. And I mean literally just picked off the plants, fresh, scented, juicy. Perhaps accompanied by a Strawberries and champagne in a Martini glassglass of Champagne whilst sitting outside under a canopy of trees. Who else is salivating already?

But wait! Isn’t fruit a big no-no when it comes to fat loss?

Au contraire, in my opinion nothing is truly off-limits. Some things are perhaps more likely to hinder your progress, others can be downright destructive if you are intolerant or allergic to them but fruit offers plenty of benefits as well as providing us with a bit of healthy sweetness.

My personal experience is that once I got my shit together and sorted my nutrition out by going organic most of the time and buying from local farmers some of the time, I was once again able to enjoy the true flavour of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries in its full intensity. It’s amazing how sweet real fruit can be once you wean yourself off from pre-fab foods.

It’s not just the flavour that you should go for though, there are also many health benefits in eating berries on a regular basis.

LET’S TAKE STRAWBERRIES FOR EXAMPLE

Cupped hands holding a bunch of freshly picked strawberries

Research recently carried out into why strawberries are good for humans1 showed that they are a rich source of micronutrients and phytochemicals such as α-carotene, vitamin C and phenolic compounds. Because of this they have shown to have antioxidant properties, can help in preventing cancer (or at least slow down its progress) and assist with the correct function of the immune system.

In order to establish how many of the beneficial compounds were available to us a small group of healthy individuals were made to consume “acute quantities (300g)” of fresh and stored (refrigerated for 4 days) strawberries obtained from a local grower and then blood tests were carried out. Of particular importance was to establish what difference eating fresh vs. stored strawberries would make to the bio-availability to humans of the many phytochemicals, after all it had been previously proven that storage methods can indeed have an influence on nutrients’ absorption but also on the chemical structure of produce.

Surprisingly (but also yay!) the blood tests carried out over a period of hours showed that there were minimal differences in the levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin E between fresh and stored strawberries, with the only significant difference shown in the levels of Vitamin C after consumption of stored strawberries. Levels of α-carotene were higher after eating fresh produce whilst antioxidant compounds didn’t show any significant results.

The takeaway from this experiment is that yes, storage methods can have an impact on the bio-availability of nutrients from fruit but that it’s so minimal that we really shouldn’t worry too much about it as long as the fruit is refrigerated immediately after harvest and consumed within 4 days. In fact, researchers have hinted that it’s the process of deterioration of the fruit that can possibly make some of the beneficial compounds more easily processed by our bodies.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER BERRIES?

A bowl of frozen berries

© SMART Fitness Makeover, MMXVI

Well, berry flavonoids and their health benefits for humans seem to have been the subject of many research papers. Women seem to have a particular interest in berries and have increased their consumption on the basis that they might help them cope with menopausal symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that post-menopausal women who consumed berries at least once a week over a 16 year period of time had a remarkably lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

From the data currently available2 it seems that berries have indeed beneficial effects, albeit moderate, on cardiovascular health, “bad cholesterol” levels, free radicals and weight loss. They appear to inhibit the expression of the inflammation gene and are helpful in the prevention of oesophageal cancer. The reasons for this effect are multiple: like strawberries other berries are also rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamins A, E and C, carotene, selenium and folic acid. “Berry anthocyanins also improve neuronal and cognitive brain functions, eyes health as well as protect genomic DNA integrity4″. The bio-availability of these compounds unfortunately isn’t great and they tend to be concentrated in the skin of the fruits.

Berries are low in calories (approx. 40KCal/100g) and contain modest amounts of fibre which is always a bonus especially when on a calorie controlled programme. Of particular interest to me is the fact that berries, like chocolate, contain catechins which can support muscle growth when performing regular resistance training.

If all this wasn’t a good enough reason to regularly include berries in our diet researchers have found that “specific berries, such as bilberry and black currant extracts, chokeberry juice, cranberry extracts, and freeze-dried strawberries were shown to have favorable effects on plasma glucose or lipid profiles in subjects with metabolic risk factors including type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, or metabolic syndrome”3. Blueberries have been shown to be useful in improving insulin resistance.

The consensus among researchers seems to be that it’s best to eat berries either fresh or frozen when all their nutritional compounds are still intact. In the Summer it’s really easy to eat them straight out of the punnet they tend to come in. The rest of the year we can still enjoy them frozen.

I like to use mixed berries for my post-workout recovery shakes: I add 1 scoop of unflavoured whey protein powder to a mug with 1.5 scoops of raw cocoa powder, 2 grams of cinnamon extract and 1 cup of frozen mix berries from the local supermarket. Sometimes I mix the ingredient with mineral water, other times with coconut milk and then I blitz them until I have a thick but frothy shake and enjoy it as if it was a dessert. In fact, in the rare occasions when the temperature raises above 25ºC I might even turn this into a sorbet.

Had I not ripped out all the strawberry plants in my back garden mistaking them from weeds I would be repeating these experiment every year with my own crops. Especially the bit in which I have to consume berries in acute quantities like a whole punnet every day (but skipping the blood test bit). Instead I am forced to resort to some of the local growers who kindly sell their produce every fortnight at the local Farmers’ Market and eat them in moderation to make it cost effective.

I love all berries but I think if I really had to choose a favourite it would have to be strawberries. What about you?


References:
1 – E. Azzini et al. , “Absorption of strawberry phytochemicals and antioxidant status changes in humans”, Journal of Berry Research 1 (2010) 81–89, DOI:10.3233/BR-2010-009
2 – Huntley, A.L. “The health benefits of berry flavonoids for menopausal women: cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognition.”, Maturitas (2009), DOI: http://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(09)00174-1/fulltext
3 – Basu, A et al., “Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health”, Nutr Rev. Author manuscript; PMCID: PMC3068482
4 – Zafra-Stone, S. et al., “Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention”, Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2007, 51, 675 – 683 DOI 10.1002/mnfr.200700002