Tag Archives: weight loss

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.

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

Lifestyle

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.

Diet

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.

Exercise

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!

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!

Q. Do I have to workout for hours every day to lose weight? A. No. Maybe. It depends.

Does the prospect of a mammoth workout make you cringe and act as an instant put off from even considering structured exercise?

I agree. I would be put off too. Especially by my vague answer…  😉

The thing is a vague answer is the only answer to this type of question if asked in these terms. And it’s a question that the majority of prospective new clients ask me when we first meet because there is a lot of confusion around this subject.

Here’s the thing…

If you have been reading my blogs for a while (thank you) you know that I do my research before writing a new post. I could regurgitate things that I heard or read here and there but I prefer to look for the latest scientific studies to see how our understanding of human physiology is evolving over time with new discoveries and what these mean for myself as a coach and for my clients. When I looked for research papers on “the ideal length of workouts” I couldn’t find anything specific that gave me a definitive answer. I then looked up other blogs from people with a different experience from my own and found that they more or less fall into 2 categories: those who base their opinion on a study conducted in Eastern Europe on Olympic athletes and those who say the results of that study are rubbish.

So I decided that, on this occasion, I will answer this question from my own experience both as an athlete and as a trainer and ignore the science. Here we go!

Choose your exercise program wisely

How long should I workout every day in order to lose weight?

It really depends on you, your preferences, your likes and dislikes, your likelihood to stick with your exercise program, your physiology, your lifestyle, your patience, your enthusiasm, your willingness to push boundaries, your habits, your determination to see results, your desired timescale to produce those results in. And so on…

Let’s start with the mindset

In my experience it’s impossible to decide how long you should workout for until a clear goal has been set. This includes knowing what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by. The next step is establishing how badly you want it and whether you are prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve it or not. There are different styles of workouts: some are more intense than others and will produce results at different rates. Knowing how far you are prepared to go will point you in the right direction.

Next you need to take a look at your lifestyle: how much time do you think you have to exercise vs. how much time do you actually have vs. how much time you are honestly willing to spend exercising. The keywords here are “honestly willing” and it’s usually this amount of time that I take into account when I design exercise programs for my clients who want to lose weight or sculpt their bodies. I say usually because if the answer is 30 seconds we are moving into Harry Potter territory to get a full on body transformation. I don’t do that.

doubtThe majority of clients I worked with over the years have come to me as reluctant exercisers who needed a hand in finding the motivation to get started and then to keep going. In these instances it’s necessary for me as a coach to devise exercise programs that have the correct intensity and duration for the individual. First of all I want my clients to get results in a timely manner but most importantly I want them to be relaxed about the idea of working out otherwise they will never stick with it. On a number of occasions even the clients who were against exercising to begin with learned to enjoy it and went on to take up a sport or signed up for classes to make the most of their newfound vitality.

Now let’s look at the physical stuff

Once you have established goals and mental attitude towards working out you need to start making considerations about your physical aptitude. Assuming there are no injuries or medical conditions to take into account it goes like this:

Fit woman with boxing glovesHow fit are you at this moment in time? Regardless of your goals acknowledging your current fitness level is the primary factor in deciding how long you are going to be working out for. If you are new to structured exercise or haven’t done it in a while you may want to consider starting off with a few minutes at the time focusing on learning the techniques rather than going for it. It’s the same idea behind gradually building up to running 5 km from couch potato: you do it very gradually but progressively.

How quickly can you improve your fitness levels? Depending on your natural predisposition you might be one of those people that can increase their fitness levels quickly or you may not. You would adjust the time spent working out accordingly, I am not going to discuss intensity or volume here, but it goes without saying that these need to be increased gradually too.

How long does it take to reach your peak performance window during a workout? Another factor that’s very important in my opinion is how long it takes to reach what I call the “peak performance window” by which I mean the length of time that you can workout with correct form after the warm up and before exhaustion sets in. It’s different for everyone and because of it sometimes a good workout needs to be cut short to prevent an injury.

That’s great info but how do I put it into practice?

Blackboard: make things happen!

In my experience the best way to put all this into practice is this:

  1.  Choose a length of time that you are willing to dedicate to exercising on a regular basis throughout the week. For me, at this moment in time, is 30 min 3 times per week at home including warm up, working out and a cool down. I find this length of time easy to manage most weeks so I can stick with it no matter what. If I want to crank it up to get more dramatic results I will head to the gym and add a 20 min HIIT cardio session at the end of the workout before the cool down. Somehow I always end up spending a lot of time at the gym plus the time it takes me to get there and back so for me it’s not always easy or practical to maintain this schedule.
  2.  Choose which muscle groups you are going to focus on with each workout. If you know that you struggle with keeping your schedule it will be best for you to focus on full body workouts every time, at least you know that most muscle groups will be targeted at least once. If you are in a position where sticking to your schedule is easy then it might be best to target different muscle groups in each workout so that you can hit them harder and then rest them longer.
  3.  Incorporate periods of rest within your workouts. This will allow you to work in accordance with your current fitness levels while giving you room to increase the volume and intensity further on. For example: if you are very unfit you might run out of steam after a few reps of each exercise. That’s fine. Just take all the rest you need to be able to get back to your exercise with splendid form. You are not racing against anyone and you are building a different body one rep at the time. Make each one of them count.
  4.  Always listen to your body. There is no prize to be won by completing your workout when every cell in your body is begging you to stop. We all have days in which the strength is just not there, nor the interest, nor the inspiration. Applaud yourself for being disciplined enough to sticking to your schedule and showing up but don’t be afraid to walk away if it means preventing an injury. You will soon be back to top form and ready to go again.
  5. Get plenty of rest after each workout. Again, it might seem like an obvious thing to say but… do make sure that you rest until fully recovered after each workout. You can speed this process up with accurate nutrition timing but please don’t overlook this aspect of a good exercise schedule. Changes to your body happen while you rest so no skipping this!

So there you have it. As always, do what works best for you. As long as you are consistent and persistent the results will come. If you need help with this give us a holler via the popup bottom right of the screen.

 

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

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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Not keen on water? Let cucumber come to the rescue.

One of my clients’ biggest complaints when I tell them they need to make sure they drink adequate amounts of water is that they don’t like the taste of it. These are often people that add squash to their water or consume large quantities of carbonated drinks loaded with sugar or their evil sugar free counterparts. Sure, especially here in Essex, UK tap water tastes like a swimming pool and is laden with hormones and chemicals so I can sympathize with my clients on this.

My solution has been to switch to drinking natural mineral water that I can buy in 5 litre bottles from my local supermarket. It’s very cheap and tastes …well of not much, which is what pure water should be like. It’s fair to say that even this doesn’t taste anything like the water I used to drink straight from the rocks when hiking at the top of the Alps, but it’s a major improvement on anything coming out of the tap.

With Summer finally announcing its presence even here in the UK, staying hydrated on the warmer days becomes more important than ever and so it’s worth considering ways to make water taste acceptable so that we won’t hesitate to drink more of it.

Cucumber slices

Provided you like the taste of it, adding sliced cucumber to your drinking water could be just the solution to make it easier to consume healthy amounts of water and as a bonus you will be reaping a wealth of additional benefits.

1. Cucumbers help to keep your skin and muscles healthy – that’s because they contain (among others) silica, a trace mineral that the body needs to keep connective tissue in tip top shape and a host of antioxidants that help your body fight damages from free radicals thereby slowing down aging and preventing disease.

2. Cucumbers can help you lose weight – they have diuretic properties and can help you get relief from bloating and excess water retention. In addition to this cucumbers will provide additional hydration and fibre as well as a host of vitamins and minerals ensuring your metabolism works efficiently and your body has all the nutrients it needs to thrive. These fruits are very low in calories so they can be eaten ad lib thus adding fibre to your diet to support a healthy digestive system.

3. Cucumbers show to have the potential to cure cancer – the polyphenols (lignans) phytonutrients (cucurbitacins) found in cucumbers have shown promising results in lowering the risk of developing different types of cancer including breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers. A study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences in 2013 showed how cucurbitacins compounds have shown an ability to prevent and stop the proliferation of cancer cells and they can help cope with inflammation therefore also supporting the use of plants from the same family as cucumber as folk medicinal remedy over time.

4. Cucumbers can help with heart health and high blood pressure – they do this by providing us with healthy doses of potassium which is an electrolyte tasked with many functions including helping control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contractions and heart function.

BUT I STILL DON’T LIKE THE TASTE OF CUCUMBERS!

cucumber water

Although I love to keep this simple and just add a few slices of cucumber to my bottle of water there are many different ways to make this more suitable to your palate. The important thing is not to go mad with the ingredients otherwise your cucumber drink will also become a sugar fest and lose many of its health benefits.

Some ideas are:

  • Lemon, cucumber and mint
  • Cucumber and (straw)berries
  • Cucumber and seasonal fruit

Herbs will be typically better than fruit because like cucumbers have an almost negligible caloric value, however if the taste of ripe fruit is what it takes to persuade you to drink adequate amounts of water (approx. 1 litre for each 25 Kgs of body weight) then so be it.

Have fun with this and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

No fridge? No problem. What to do when the shit hits the fan.

If you have been following me through my blogging challenge you will be well aware of how important good nutrition is for me. And I am sure that because of that you will be able to imagine just how horrifying it was for me to wake up last Thursday to discover that my fridge-freezer was no more.

In truth I knew this event was imminent but not that imminent. The signs were all there: ice a foot-deep inside the freezer (it was meant to be a no-frost appliance), crazy amounts of condensation in the fridge compartment, loud clonking noises, rust everywhere and the vacuum seal not so sealing anymore. Having read the installation instructions for the new one I now wonder if placing the jars of Kombucha on the top because it was warm played a part in expediting the demise of my appliance. Anyway, it happened.

In my infinite wisdom and perhaps a mild panic attack I somehow managed to not see that there wasn’t a next day delivery option available on the website where I purchased the replacement from and so I spent the last week (just as the weather turned really mild) without a refrigerator and a tonne of fresh food just delivered. To add to my woes I am almost half way through my “Project 8” and eating correctly and at the right time is imperative if I want to shrink and shed fat at that level.

What to do? Make a plan to either use or preserve what I had as long as possible.

First up were vegetables like baby spinach and mixed baby leaves: they tend to wilt very quickly, mines are organic but the company that delivers them has them flown in from Italy so by the time they get to me they are already a couple of days old and need to be eaten fast at the best of times. The calories they provide are negligible so I didn’t hesitate to eat almost all of them in one go.

Second was the meat I had in the freezer. Thankfully because there was more ice around the top and sides than space both the turkey and the pork were still frozen but defrosting so I decided to cook them and then store them in an air tight container resting on an ice pack. I then went on a very high protein diet for a few days eating insane quantities of turkey breast slices at each meal just so I wouldn’t have to throw them away.

Up to the weekend the only casualties were the milk and the spring greens that decided to decompose inside the fridge compartment because I didn’t realise it was actually keeping everything really warm. At this point I removed everything and stored it on the table trying to think which produce you would find in the non refrigerated aisle at the supermarket. Onions, garlic, some green things, peppers, sometimes tomatoes and herbs. And eggs. And vacuum packed cheese. As you can see below.

nofridge

The hardest thing to do was deciding what to eat with what I had on the table before the local store closed at 8pm so that I could go and fetch just the bit of meat or fish that I needed. As the days went on, eventually, the ice in the freezer melted too but over the weekend it was a bit like going for a picnic with a giant ice box in the middle of the kitchen.

It’s always nice to have a takeaway on a Saturday night and it was even nicer on this occasion because it took the pressure off us to find something to cook at the last minute. But on Sunday, after Hamilton got bitchslapped by Rosberg at Montmelo, I decided to celebrate by creating a “whatever is still edible” kind of dish. I decided to use up all the remaining home made pesto with some pasta and the surviving turkey breast to make a highly modified version of a carbonara. To make it healthier I added the only 4 non-decomposed spring greens leaves to the pasta and fried an onion with the turkey breast. Plus raw eggs and cheese. Eating starches as part of the last meal of the day has two advantages: 1. it helps sleep better, 2. it ensures that I don’t wake up feeling ravenous the next day. Amazingly, this random combination of ingredients worked incredibly well and we’ll make sure to repeat the experiment soon, just because.

Then, of course, come Monday I ran out of almost everything, especially time. And so I thought it would be a good idea to have a go at intermittent fasting. This is usually done for extended periods of time either side of sleeping time, i.e. fasting between say 8pm and 11am, however for me it had to be breakfast early am and dinner late pm with only water during the day. The advantages of intermittent fasting are that a) it’s convenient at super busy times and b) it helps raise the production of human growth hormone which is responsible for muscle growth and fat burning. I tend to have whey protein mixed with cocoa powder and nut butter for breakfast, this combination provides me with the protein and amino acids I need to ensure I don’t lose my muscles and keeps me satiated for up to 6-8 hrs even when I do a lot of physical work like Thai Yoga Massage treatments, gardening, etc.

I cannot do this for more than 1 or perhaps 2 days in a row without my metabolism fighting back while I am busy running around all day juggling clients, emails, animals and home. However, when necessary, it’s a brilliant way to boost my fat loss while at the same time giving myself room to enjoy whatever I fancy for dinner without exaggerating with portion size or having to worry about calories reduction. This will happen naturally during the course of the day whilst also forcing my body to use excess stored fat for fuel. It works a treat and the difference it makes in body composition is immediately visible and “Project 8” got a mahoossive boost instead of a blow from my cooling woes.

And being that I am writing this between “blogging Tuesday” and “Thankful Thursday” I can’t help but think about how much I take the luxury of having a fridge and being able to preserve my food for granted. Yes, for a moment I thought my whole world was coming to a warm end, there have been challenges during the past week as I had to incorporate this new variable into my daily life but I soon got used to it and tried to frame the whole situation as “what would my grandparents have done in the same circumstances as they often were during the wars?” or “if I had to live in a tent (not glamping) what would I do?”.  Going basic has in fact been amusing and have re-discovered that sticking a bottle of cider on a bag of ice cubes is actually better than keeping it in the fridge.

whatever risottoBy the way, the new fridge has now arrived. It looks monolithic all in black (matte of course). And having had enough time to cook earlier I was able to create another “whatever is still edible after a week” kind of dish: this time it was a celery, carrot and dried porcini risotto with scrambled eggs (protein), a generous portion of Parmigiano Reggiano and the last splodge of warm Vermouth Bianco. Hic!

🙂

Curtsy Lunges For Perfect Buns

Curtsy lunges are a variation of the ordinary forward or reverse lunges and are performed along a different plane by activating the inner thigh muscles to achieve the crossover movement. When performed correctly they will help you sculpt and tone your legs, hips and buns for that super hot look and the strength to match.

When you execute a curtsy lunge you engage 4 different muscle groups in your lower body:

    • quadriceps: front of your thighs, you use them to squat and stand up;
    • hamstrings: back of your thighs, you use them at the same time as the quadriceps;
    • gluteals: bun muscles, the curtsy lunge especially targets the muscles on the outside of your buttocks that are normally used to pull your leg towards your body;
    • soleus/gastrocnemius: calf muscles, in this exercise they act as stabilizers for your legs and you use them every time you push yourself back up into the starting position

Start by standing with your feet shoulders width apart. Cross your right foot behind your left into a curtsy lunge making sure that the left knee is still facing forward and is right over your ankle. Don’t let it roll in or out. Your body should be upright and your toes should be pointing forward. Bring your right foot back to starting position.

Start off with 3 sets of 10 lunges (5 on each leg) and build up to 3 sets of 30 lunges. When you can do these comfortably you can make the exercise more challenging by adding weights.

Hula Hooping is fun. Period.

You will be surprised to discover that Hula Hooping is not just a fad that started in the 50′s or a phase you went through in childhood. As an activity, hooping actually dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations with records showing that people were already doing it in 500BC with hoops made out of grapevines, rattan and other hard grasses.

Can’t imagine that have been very comfortable or even easy to do but hey, you do what you can with what you’ve got!

Fast forward to the 21st Century and hula hoops have seen a resurgence in popularity because of the health benefits they bring to those who are brave enough to pick one up and have a go.

Modern hoops are larger and heavier than their ancestors thus rotating more slowly and requiring more calories to keep them going. This means that they can be very useful as part of any weight management program. Yay!

Most importantly, hooping is a gentle activity that doesn’t place the joints under strain and as such is safe for most people. It can be tricky to get going but once you have mastered the basics you can really let your imagination run wild and start to experiment with different tricks and techniques to test your co-ordination and timing. Play your favourite music in the background and you are all set for a truly exhilarating experience.

Of course you don’t have to just take my word for it. My claims that hula hooping is good for you are backed up by science!  😉

Buffled by the fact that some obese individuals managed to lose large amounts of weight doing nothing different other than playing with a hula hoop, scientists decided to explore this further and find out if there was a correlation between hooping and massive fat loss.

Recent research carried out at the University of Wisconsin showed that a good hula hooping session will help burn approximately 420 KCal per hour (!) comparing favourably with higher impact forms of exercise such as boot camps and cardio kickboxing thus making it a SMART Fitness choice!

Waist hooping alone will work all the major and minor core muscles as well as helping in the development of rhythm and co-ordination. Hooping will help you shrink your waist and also tone your thighs. When moving on to hand hooping and circus tricks you will be able to get a full body workout that is still gentle but awesome fun.

Because hooping is relaxing it will do wonders for keeping your stress at bay. As women get older and their hormone levels drop they lose their first line of defense against stress. Relaxing activities like hooping can help you restore the balance and create the best environment to promote fat loss.

What do I need to get the most out of my hooping?

Get this hoop on Amazon for only £19.99. You can make it heavier and you can easily disassemble the parts so it’s easy to carry with you. Btw, this is an affiliate link. If you buy the hoop I will make a small profit from the sale.

The best hoop to get you started needs to be fairly heavy, 1 or 2 Kg is ideal. This is because a heavier hoop generates momentum and moves slowly therefore making hooping easier.

Try not to go for anything too fancy or too thick with knobs on the inside as they will limit your options when it comes to moving around or even practicing easy tricks. The hoop on the right is perfect, albeit a bit light for my taste for fitness and weight loss purposes.

According to Mary Pulak, the designer of the hula hooping workout used in the 2010 study, a heavier hoop “creates enough force to give a fantastic workout, but it’s not heavy enough to bruise your body”.

Because you need to keep your core tight to whip the weighted hoop around your waist, heavier hoops also work your abs more than their lightweight counterparts, she says.

In terms of size, the bigger and heavier the hoop, the easier it is to use because it gives you more time to react to the forward and backward hooping movements. The diameter of the right-sized hoop should be between the height of your waist and your breastbone.

I have a copy of the DVD with the workout used in the research study mentioned above. The actual workout will take a bit to learn as it involves a lot of moving around while you are waist hooping: you will be walking in all directions, moving your arms, squatting and lunging. If you are new to hooping these are all skills that will take some time to get just right before you can follow along with the workout. But that’s all part of the fun!

If you then decide to progress on to hoop dancing and circus tricks you will need a lighter, but still weighted, hoop. This is because you will spend a lot of time using your hoop with your hands, jumping in and out of it, flipping it in the air and catching it. I tried this with my fitness hoop and got bruised all over as a result. Then I bought a professional hoop and I was fine.

Hooping foot through hoopAmong other benefits hula hooping is relaxing and is said to have meditative qualities and encourages you to keep on improving on your flexibility the moment you start jumping in and out of the hoop.

Depending on how far you go with the circus tricks, hooping can bring back the element of play into everyday life, it’s a mood enhancer and stimulates the 2nd chakra governing sexuality, creativity and emotions.

I used hooping successfully with many clients who hated the idea of doing cardio and although hooping won’t give you the same metabolic stimulus as a jolly good HIIT session it will still help you bring the energy expenditure towards the red.

You can tell who my clients are (or were) because they all have had a go at hooping at some point or another. Even some men tried it and enjoyed it…

Everyone can do it and I really cannot emphasize enough how enjoyable this form of exercise is. Lose yourself in your favourite spot outdoors and burn those calories!

What are you waiting for? Get hooping!

If you want my help in learning how to lose weight with hooping get in touch by booking your complimentary 30 minute call right now!