Tag Archives: social media

Good friends are great for your health

Relaxation and time out are fundamental ingredients for a successful Fitness Makeover. Not that we need any reasons to hang out with our favourite people in the world but sometimes we get so caught up with our lives that we forget to stay in touch. We really ought to make a point to never sacrifice time with our friends in favour of other pursuits.

Science offers the theory that we are not so much what we eat but who we eat with… meaning that if you are on a journey to reshape your body you might get a higher chance of success if you hang out with friends who are already lean and have succeeded at their Fitness Makeover projects. They will be able to inspire you and help you avoid common pitfalls, plus they will effortlessly set an example for how to make the best choices to support your goals.

In Italy we have a proverb that says “She who finds a friend, finds a treasure” – here are some reasons why I believe this to be true:

Good friends will lift you up with the rising tide

Ever started up on a Fitness Makeover project on your own and noticed your initial motivation waning as the days go by until it’s all but a distant memory? Well a good friend will hold you accountable to your declared goals and will show up on time on exercise days to make sure you don’t skip any. Let’s face it: going out for a walk with a friend is more fun than going on your own. Introspection time is also great for you and shouldn’t be discarded altogether as we do need some time alone to recharge our emotional batteries. But have you noticed how 20 minutes of intense exercise feel like 2 minutes when you are with a good friend?

I am not suggesting that you should rely entirely on your friend(s) for motivation, you must have some of that within you to begin with but isn’t it a great place to be when you can be each other’s rock and help each other celebrate every little smidgen of progress?

Good friends can increase your lifespan

Being able to offload your most troublesome thoughts with a friend or 10 is very important when we are feeling under the weather. Stress has detrimental effects on our body and being able to share and receive comfort from those in our corner can be incredibly soothing and reassuring. As humans we are meant to be naturally social and social media has brought with it the opportunity to communicate and share our thoughts with thousands of people around the world at any one time.

Although online communities can be a great place to discuss any aspect of our lives, they can also highlight the fact that at the end of the day we can be social online but still be home alone. There is no real substitute for sitting at a table with real people, the same people that have seen us at our worst whilst stumbling on the mess we left on the floor because we have been feeling under the weather. There is no Facebook chat that can be as beneficial as a hug or a shoulder rub from a trusted friend.

Research has shown that vibrant social relationships can increase your chances of survival by 50% so for goodness’ sake go out and have fun with your friends! Your lifespan depends on it! 🙂

Good friends blowing confetti together

Good friends are great for your health

There is scientific evidence that strong social relationship can significantly help us improve our health. A study conducted on 86 women suffering from metastatic breast cancer showed that those who received emotional support lived twice as long as those who didn’t. Another study revealed that patients at risk of Chronic Heart Disease who had strong social relationships benefited from lower blood pressure and therefore a healthier heart. Not to mention that the relaxation brought about by spending time laughing with friends can help lower cortisol levels and therefore ensure the immune system is working at full strength.

Want to take relaxation to the next level? Why not visit your local spa for a day of meditation and relaxation? There are so many different ways in which you can share a very special mental space with your friends: chanting, gong baths, traditional yoga classes and even my new favourite Strala Yoga which I had the pleasure of trying out for the first time in May 2016. It’s a really great way of exploring movement and flow without experiencing some of the pain and discomfort that holding yoga poses for any length of time can bring about if you are flexibly challenged like me.
Good friends help you stay young (I wouldn’t call it regressing…)

Good friends gossipingIf your present sucks it’s good to get together with friends to reminisce the past. This is what happens every single time I go to Italy to visit my family and meet up with friends from my (not totally misspent) youth. A positive mindset is vital when you are instigating changes to your lifestyle in order to achieve the body of your dreams. Sometimes when life keeps throwing you lemons it’s really difficult to stay positive and keep on moving forwards.

So why not take a step back for a day and revisit the past with your closest friends? Laughing and reminiscing always has a wonderful effect on me. Suddenly I feel uplifted again and ready to tackle whatever shit life decides to throw my way with renewed zest. It’s a bit like when athletes take a step backward to launch themselves forward more effectively.

Good friends come in all shapes and sizes

Don’t have enough good quality human company? Let’s not forget our four legged friends. They might not be able to hold a proper conversation with us but they always seem to find new ways of bringing a smile to our face. PLUS you never have to doubt whether or not they meant that friendly gesture. They did. That’s why they are ace.

Good friends trick you into moving when you don’t feel like exercising

Good friends soaking feet togetherHave you ever woken up in the middle of your Fitness Makeover project and felt sick at the prospect of doing structured exercise? Me too. That’s when your friends come to the rescue: a night out clubbing, playing ten pin bowling, visiting an art gallery, browsing the local food fayre or exploring your nearest Mind & Body festival are all excellent ways to keep on moving when you don’t feel like exercising. Regular movement is actually more important than structured exercise both for your health and your weight loss ambitions so embrace your friends’ suggestions and go out for a boogie and a laugh.

I am sure you can probably figure out many more reasons why friends are good for you depending on your unique circumstances. If nothing else, please let this post serve as a reminder to pick up the phone and reach out to “that” friend that you haven’t heard from in a very long time. Liking each other’s posts on Facebook doesn’t count.

So, what did I miss out? In which other ways are friends good for your health? Let me know in the comments below!

2016 Social Media Image Size Cheat Sheet

This post is for all the friends that read my blog posts on a regular basis (thank you!) and with whom I occasionally sit down and discuss what I am doing to promote and grow my fitness business. Social media is a big part of it and I find it both a Godsend (does anyone remember leafleting?) and an almighty pain in my f**king arse, especially when it comes to creating content and images. Content is the easiest one of the two, images are a real headache because of the squillion different sizes and formats required for each social media channel.

I know that the differences are what make each channel unique but still… what a b****rd when it comes to promoting 1 blog post across 5 different platforms: it takes me at least a whole working day just to create all the different images. I say create because it’s often not possible to just tweak the main image: to do a proper job I have to adjust the layout so that it has the desired impact once looked at through each social media channel. Plus I have to take into account that different “types” of people prefer different social media channels and therefore I need to try and think like them to make sure both image and caption will resonate with them.

So, having now almost mastered Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn I am now spending Saturday afternoon trying to figure out Pinterest once and for all. I was actually considering ditching Pinterest but as it turns out my boards are quite popular without me knowing how so I thought I’d better nurture it. One of my favourite tools to create images for Pinterest and for most other social media channels is Canva – I use the free version and I find it to be absolutely perfect for this purpose especially if I don’t have to fiddle with the images.

I scoured the internet to resolve my dilemma once and for all and this, my dear friends, is what I found (with permission to reproduce on here, of course!):

2016 Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet

MakeAWebsiteHub.com

P.S.
If you wonder what relevance this post has to what I normally do… consider it a mindset exercise: instead of just giving up in the face of challenges I spanked them all by coming up with a genius solution (having the image in one of my posts so that I won’t lose it in the future).

Happy Saturday everyone! 🙂

The Twitter Dinner Experiment starring my “Venison Ragu'”

ABSTRACT

In the past few weeks I managed to catch up on a lot of unfinished projects and systems that needed to be set up which has freed up a lot of my time previously taken up by stressing over said incomplete tasks. I never really got the hang of Twitter and often wondered why is it that people spend so much time on it. I must say, I don’t often see that many interesting posts as my stream appears to be cluttered with tweets from companies promoting other companies so I set out to turn this around.

METHOD – PART 1

First of all I reconnected with my Audiense account for an in-depth health check of my Twitter account and to address the balance between following and followers. After clearing out a whole bunch of people that I had no idea I was following and who were cluttering my stream with dodgy posts I started looking at some statistics. I am not a bit fan of Social Media but I understand its importance so I participate, some times more wholeheartedly than others. After talking to a friend who gets paid to tweet on somebody else’s behalf I discovered that a) I am more popular, b) there are all sorts of funky metrics that I can look at from within Twitter itself to see how much time I am spending pissing in the wind as opposed to making progress.

I played with a variety of different style tweets for a few days and got mixed results but, amazingly, some engagement and a few new followers. It’s still too early to renounce my self-imposed title of “Anti-social-media Queen” so I decided to carry out an experiment to see if I could move a further step forward in that direction.

BTW

In case you wonder how this post fits in with my SMART Fitness Makeover project and body transformations I shall refer you back to the paragraphs on “A = Amaze Yourself” and “T = Three Dimensional” on the homepage. It’s my experience that whenever people muster the courage to take a tiny little step outside of their comfort zone they will soon be looking in all sorts of different directions to repeat the experience in other areas of their lives. It’s that good that they can’t have enough of the sweet feeling of accomplishment. For example it’s quite natural for me to take a massive leap into the unknown when looking at exercise, nutrition or success mindset. However it’s totally unnatural for me to be social. As I summoned the courage to be bold in my exercise choices for rehab I thought that if I could push myself like that at the gym I could also push myself just as much in an effort to be social on social media. There’s nothing quite like a bit of laser focus and “what if…” attitude to make strides. On this occasion I flexed my Twitter muscle.

METHOD – PART 2

Back to my Twitter experiment. Sometimes the best ideas are those that happen on the spur of the moment if we are in a position to act on them straight away. As I went into the kitchen to start cooking dinner I had a light bulb moment: “Why not run a #Twittermentary of me making #Sundaydinner?” – genius! And so it started. With bad lighting. A retro cooker. An equally retro saucepan that looks shit in photographs and a 3-models-ago tablet that takes even shittier pictures in dodgy lighting conditions. What could possibly go right?

RESULTS

I ended posting 6 tweets detailing in 140 characters or less how to make venison ragu’. I remember to take pictures for 5 of them. The first tweet had 2 likes and 84 impressions, the second tweet had more impressions but only 1 like, tweet number 3 tanked in terms of impressions but people actually started to click on the post. Tweet number 4 is when I got the majority of impressions and media engagements, plus actual interactions with people who had seen the picture of the food and commented on it. Tweet number 5 (without picture) was average and the final tweet with a picture of the food ready to eat shot back up in terms of impressions and engagement.

Twitter Experiment Post 4 Analytics

DISCUSSION

I am well aware that in the big scheme of Twit’o things the stats in the image above are pathetic BUT I am very proud of them because I now know that it’s perfectly possible to go from zero to some kind of engagement in the amount of time that it takes to cook ragu’. No, seriously, when I look at other people’s posts (the one time it’s good practice to make comparisons) I see hardly any engagement of any kind. It’s like we are all tweeting to ourselves with the occasional individual or company who manages to get a massive engagement. So for 8 people to click on a bad photo of my pasta sauce (pre-photoshop too) I think it’s awesome.

PLUS I gained a few new “seem like genuine people” followers who occasionally like my Tweets and have even met one of them in person to chat about fitness and skincare products. Most importantly it’s been good fun doing it and that seems to be the key to be successful with our social media efforts. Yes, we want to get our message out to the masses and, ideally, we would like to gain new clients but I am sure you are all also sick and tired of being sold at on social media. As much as I love Buffer for managing my posts I feel it’s time that we all stop scheduling everything and go back to being social and actually talk to each other as our favourite apps aren’t doing that much of a good job in creating new connections. I never thought I would say something like this!

THE RECIPE

Anyway, below is the full recipe for the Venison Ragu’ with images duly edited and slightly pizzazzed. It’s a great recipe, fairly quick to prepare and that will keep in the fridge for a few days. In Italy 1/2 Kg of Venison mince in ragu’ form would make a dozen meals as typically we are only allowed to use one or two tablespoons on the pasta but in my SMART Fitness Makeover way of doing things I reverse this: I tend to use more sauce (protein from meat) and less pasta (starches). My mum would have a fit but it works from a nutritional point of view by combining sensible macro proportions with great flavour and pleasure.

CALL TO ACTION

Enjoy and if you try it and like it please let me know in the comments below. Also, I send out my blog posts via my newsletter once a week – if you would like to keep on top of my ramblings please use the form in the sidebar to sign up.  Finally if you would like to be social with me on social media you can follow me on Twitter: @SMARTFitnessPro or on my Facebook Page. 🙂

Print Recipe
Venison Ragu'
A "wild" variation on Italy's classic pasta sauce with a strong and rich flavour that's perfect for warming up on a cold early Spring evening.
Step 5: dish out and enjoy!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 30 min
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped organic
  • 0.5 celery, finely chopped organic, leaves included
  • 4 large carrots, finely chopped organic
  • 2 large cloves of garlis, finely chopped organic
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 500 grams Venison, minced from a high welfare establishment
  • 1 glass Red wine Chianti
  • 500 grams Tomato passata organic
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Seasoning Rock salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp Mixed Herbs
  • 400 grams Gluten Free Pasta Any shape will do
  • 1 handful Parmigiano Reggiano, grated Only the real thing will do!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 30 min
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped organic
  • 0.5 celery, finely chopped organic, leaves included
  • 4 large carrots, finely chopped organic
  • 2 large cloves of garlis, finely chopped organic
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 500 grams Venison, minced from a high welfare establishment
  • 1 glass Red wine Chianti
  • 500 grams Tomato passata organic
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • Seasoning Rock salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp Mixed Herbs
  • 400 grams Gluten Free Pasta Any shape will do
  • 1 handful Parmigiano Reggiano, grated Only the real thing will do!
Step 5: dish out and enjoy!
Instructions
  1. Gather the onion, the garlic, the celery and the carrots together and chop them finely with a half moon knife or kitchen implement of your choice. You don't want to reduce them to dust speckles, and it's actually good if some remain a bit on the larger side to give some texture to the ragu'.
    Venison Ragu Step 1: soffritto
  2. In a large saucepan add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Warm up gently and as soon as the oil starts to release its scent add the finely chopped vegetables. Season, stir and gently fry for a few minutes, until the onions become translucent and they begin to soften.
  3. It's now time to add the venison mince plus the herbs to the simmering saucepan. It's important to spend a couple of minutes stirring the contents to ensure the minced meat is not forming large clumps so that it cooks evenly. If you want to add a bit of "bite" to your ragu' this is also a good time to add some hot stuff: paprika, cayenne paper, chilli powder, real chillies... the choice is yours.
    Setp 2 - add the venison mince
  4. As soon as the venison mince is uniformly browned and "free from clumping" it's time to add a glass of good quality red wine. For this recipe I added a glass of Chianti and it was simply perfect. In Italy we have drinking wine and cooking wine which is often cheap and made from a mixture of grapes. However venison would be considered a "special treat" so you might as well use something with a strong, solid flavour. Stir well, lower the heat and leave to simmer for a few minutes.
    Step 3 - add the Chianti
  5. As soon as the wine has evaporated it's time to add the passata to the saucepan. Stir the lot for a minute or so until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, wait for the passata to boil and then lower to heat so that it can sit there and simmer in peace for a little while. Before you leave the room to catch up on your favourite TV program check the ragu to make sure the seasoning is spot on and adjust accordingly.
  6. When you think that the ragu' is almost ready, in a separate saucepan heat up some water and bring to the boil. Add a good handful of sea salt. Add the pasta. For this recipe I also added some broccoli to make this a complete meal and increase the amount of veggies. You don't have to do this and you can just have the pasta on its own or substitute the broccoli with a different type of green veg. I have to use gluten free pasta which takes up to 20 minutes to become "al dente" and ready to eat, if you use ordinary pasta made with durum wheat this time is cut by half.
  7. As soon as the pasta is giving the first signs of softening up remove the ragu' from the heat and leave to rest for a few minutes. When the pasta is "al dente" remove from heat, drain and leave to rest for 1 minute before dishing out. Share equally in some bowls and cover with the ragu'. Drizzle some raw EVOO on top and finish off with a couple of teaspons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir well and enjoy!
    Step 5: dish out and enjoy!
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