January – Day 14/31

The difference between nutrient dense and nutrient “empty” foods.

I’m pretty sure you will have heard somewhere down the line someone say something along the lines of “You’re just eating empty calories” but do you know what they actually meant by it? Did they know what they meant?

All foods contain marco-nutrients which we spoke about in Day 6 – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, in varying proportions. Not all foods contain micro-nutrients.

A micro-nutrient is a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms. Think vitamins and minerals.

Generally speaking we, as humans, cannot produce vitamins and minerals and so we must obtain them from plant and animal sources. When you eat you consume the vitamins that plants and animals have created and minerals they have absorbed. The micro-nutrient content of each food is different. By eating a variety of foods you are increasing the number of different micro-nutrients available to your body.

So, this should give you a good idea of where we are going with what is considered nutrient dense and what is not….

Let’s start with nutrient dense foods – non-processed plant and animal products/food stuffs in their more natural state. Think organic fruit and veg, fresh butchered meats, fresh fish, whole grains, pulses and legumes and so on.

The “empty” calorie, low nutrient density foods are things that are highly processed and very refined. Think white sugar and bread, highly processed foods, long-life foods etc. Fast food, junk food and so on. They are generally high calorie foods.

Why is this important?

Your body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in order to function properly, here’s a list of just some of them and what they do:

By eating a wide variety of nutrient dense foods (like the ones listed above) you create satiety – feeling well fed, not lacking in anything. IF you are eating a whole load of empty food you are taking in all the calories without giving the body what it actually needs, you get hungry again because the body is trying to get what it needs and then you are over-eating and putting on weight, not to mention the risks of feeling wick because your body hasn’t got the fuel it needs to function correctly.

This is why we have the 80:20 rule. By eating well 80% of the time you will more than likely be hitting all of the macro and micro-nutrient needs of your body. Giving you 20% of you calories to the stuff you like; the “empty” calories, or the shit that we all enjoy basically.

January – Day 13/31

Just a quick one today – Monitoring weight loss.

If you can, try to weigh yourself every day, at the same time, in the buff, before you have eaten or drank anything and after your morning wee. Log your weight each day. IT WILL GO UP AND DOWN! At the end of the week add all your weigh ins from the week together and divide by 7 – this will give you your average weight loss for the week.

There are so many factors that can influence how much you weigh each day that you need to understand weight loss is not a straight forward linear process. You will see an overall downward trend over time but it will have little fluctuations here and there which is TOTALLY NORMAL.

Things like how many carbs you have eaten, the type of carbs you have eaten, the workouts you have done, how hydrated you are, time of the month (ladies), are just a few of the things that can make your weight loss appear slightly distorted.

If you were to look at weight loss in graph form, it should look like the following:

If you’re being consistent with your calorie, protein and step goals you will see the scales go down. If you’re not then you’re doing something wrong. You have to accept and own this fact – calorie deficit is law.

January – Day 12/31

It’s the weekend!!! What are you doing?

Serious question, how do you spend your weekends? Do you have a million things to do? Do you work? Do you take time out for yourself?

As well as getting fit and healthy and looking at weight loss, I think it’s important to look at ourselves as a whole. We are not the number on the scales or the size of our clothes. We are not the job we have, nor are we the clothes that we were. We are more than numbers and stats. We are our passions and our goals and we need to remember to make time for these things.

Without passion, love and fun, what do we have? I would say, not a particularly fulfilling life. We need to tend to our passions and nurture the things that are important to us, these things help us to keep a healthy state of mind and look after our well-being.

Little challenge for today: I know many people lose their way with their own passions, hobbies, pass times etc. I want you to reconnect. What do you love to do that has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list? What did you used to enjoy doing that brought you relaxation and satisfaction?

Write a list.

Write it down. All the things you used to enjoy doing that were YOUR interests, and write down all the things you would LIKE to do that are YOUR interests. From this list, choose one activity that you can do today – even if just for 5 or 10 minutes – and go and do it. Don’t find an excuse not to do it, make a point of going and doing it JUST FOR YOU.

These are some of the go to things I always thing of when I think of getting some “down time” or “interest time” in:

  • Photography – I love nothing more than getting out into the fresh air with a camera and seeing the beauty there is all around.
  • Read a book – getting lost in a good book can take you are far away from your everyday life as you can get.
  • Draw or colour – get creative, let your artistic side out.
  • Play video games – again something to get lost in.
  • Do a puzzle – get your mind exercise in with sudoku or a crossword, try a jigsaw or a mind challenge game.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Make something – bake, craft etc.
  • Spa time – so this one might take a little more planning, and might be more of a treat than some of the others but hey, of you can do it, go for it.
  • Coffee at your favourite cafe – I love to do this on my own and just sit and watch the world go by (I very much enjoy time on my own so anything like this is a big win for me).

The list of things you can do is pretty much endless, as long as it something that you enjoy doing, that you feel good about doing, and that makes you feel better once you have indulged in it a little then it sounds like you’re on the right track. Different activities for different people and all that, it has to fit you.

Try and get some of this enjoyment time in as often as possible. Like I said above, even if it’s just 10 minutes that you can fit in, it’s better than nothing and you know you have done something that is just for you. You may feel guilty at first but please try not to, there is nothing to feel guilty about. By looking after yourself and your own needs you become more chilled and able to cope with the stresses and strains that come with life.

Look after you first, you can’t pour from and empty cup.

January – Day 11/31

We’ve talked about food, daily activity, structured exercise and water. But what other things are important in looking after your health and well-being?

A huge one for me is SLEEP!

Humans are the only species that will actively fight the desire to sleep. We stay up to binge watch TV series, waste hours on social media, and stay out later than we should even when we know we need the sleep. Personally, I think it’s all to do with FOMO (fear of missing out), God forbid someone should have a conversation in the office tomorrow about a TV show that you were just too tired to stay up for….

Anyway, whatever the purpose for staying up, burning the candle at both ends etc there are some real detrimental effects on the human body from a lack of shut eye – here are a few:

Impaired cognition – I’m pretty sure when you’ve been short of sleep this is one of the most obvious effects; your memory is shot to sh*t. Your ability to retain information is less than great, shall we say, and your concentration is poor.

Disruption of our natural time clock (circadian rhythm) – disruption to this can lead to poor white blood cell health meaning weakened response to physical stress.

Higher levels of anxiety – with decreased sleep comes an increase in the brain’s anticipatory reactions, hello increased overall anxiety levels.

Higher levels of depression – a decrease in sleep causes a decrease in neurotransmitters; these neurotransmitters regulate mood.

Increased risk of injury – alongside the poor memory and cognitive function, an increased risk of injury can occur from disrupted concentration.

As far as very physical detrimental effects go, lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer.

Not getting enough hours of shut eye can also lead you to unhealthy cravings. Lack of sleep causes ghrelin (the hormones that make you feel hungry) levels to increase and leptin (the hormones that make you feel full) to decrease. When we’re tired we tend to go for the quick hunger or sugar fix to make us feel better and a bit more “alive”.

What can we do to help get the sleep that we so desperately need?

Getting more sleep takes practice – it might sound stupid but we have to train ourselves to sleep soundly and sleep hygiene habits are paramount to this:

  1. Make a regular, relaxing bedtime routine – take a warm bath, read a book, light stretches; whatever works for you, having a regular night time routine helps the body recognise that it’s time for sleep.
  2. Avoid screen time for around 2 hours before bed – the unnatural blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the natural production of sleep-inducing melatonin.
  3. Make sure your bedroom is a pleasant sleep environment – a comfortable mattress and pillows, possibly having blackout blinds or curtains, ear plugs or white noise, and a comfortable temperature all help promote quality sleep.
  4. Limit day time naps – naps don’t make up for inadequate nighttime sleep but a short 20-30 minute nap can improve mood, alertness and performance.
  5. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. A limit on alcohol is a good idea too as too much too close to bed time, though can help you get off to sleep, tend to disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
  6. Exercise – it helps promote good quality sleep. Even just 10 minutes in the day can improve the quality of your nighttime sleep. Generally speaking, it’s best not to do any strenuous exercise close to bed time.
  7. Steer clear of heavy, rich or fatty foods, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks right before bed. These things can trigger indigestion for some people and can lead to painful heartburn, disrupting sleep.
  8. Get out into the natural light – exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Personally, I find sleep meditation apps and audio helpful to get off to sleep and often use a YouTube guide to play in the background when I first get into bed. These are also very helpful if you wake in the night and find that your mind goes into over-drive. Just make sure that you turn off auto-play if you plan on doing this!

It will take time to establish good quality sleep but as with everything else, if you put the effort in you will reap the rewards.

Slow and steady wins the race!

January – Day 10/31

Good Morning! How is everyone getting on?

I want to have a look at exercise today and what the best exercise is for fat loss…

So, where are you right now? Are you brand new to exercise, never done it before and don’t know where to get started? Have you tried a few classes back in the day but not dipped your toe in the water for years? Does the thought of the gym terrify you? Have you done it all before but somehow fallen out of the habit?

Whatever your starting point – don’t worry. I promise you that this is not going to be a post all about how you must do X, Y, and Z each week. How you MUST attend the gym and how there are MUST do exercises to get you burning the most fat possible. That’s not what we’re about.

Remember when I said that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to your weight loss, fat loss and your habit change – the same goes for your exercise.

There is only ONE hard and fast rule to finding the nest exercise – finding the exercise that is right for YOU!

If you hate the idea of stepping foot in the gym and dread it even before you’ve left the house, guess what? Chances are you ARE NOT GOING TO STICK TO IT! What we need to do is take a look at where we are now, where we would like to be and work out what we do and do not enjoy. There are soooo many options to getting more active, the gym is definitely not the be all and end all. Here are some ideas of things you could do to start getting more active on a regular basis:

  • Walking
  • Power walking
  • Jogging / running
  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Body Pump
  • Spinning
  • YouTube Fitness Videos
  • Fitness Subscription Services (I write a personalised exercise program for clients)
  • Weight Lifting (this doesn’t mean getting hench. Ladies you WILL NOT get “bulky”)
  • Cross-fit
  • Functional Training
  • Swimming
  • Body-weight Training
  • Home Workout DVDs
  • Boxing
  • Karate
  • Thai Chi

There’s more than this but this just gives you an idea of some of the things you could try. You want to aim to do around 30 minutes designated exercise per day, 4-5 days per week.

Now, if all you’re going off are the numbers on the scales then this could affect those – if you start to exercise and all of a sudden you are increasing your muscle mass then the numbers may not change, or may very much slow down in terms of loss. What you should focus on at this point onward are your measurements and before and after photos.

If you have one pound of fat and one pound of muscle sitting side by side, you will see how compact and dense muscle is in comparison to fat. As long as you are sticking to your calorie deficit you will be losing fat. By making sure you are hitting your protein goal you are ensuring that you are maintaining your lean muscle mass which is what makes you look sexy!

Note here: Less fat and more muscle = “toned” appearance.

It’s not all about weights but resistance training does have a wealth of health and well-being benefits for women. The “weights make me bulky” comment comes from women who have weight trained without cutting their calories – they increase their muscle mass but don’t lose any of the fat as they are not in a calorie deficit then they THINK that it’s the weigh training that is the issue…

Take away from today – go and try some different types of exercise. Try different environments. Try the things that suit your lifestyle. Trial and error is great for discovering what we really want (as well as what we really don’t). Once you’ve worked it out you’re winning!

January – Day 9/31

Yesterday we covered meal planning; today we’re going to take that one step further and look at prep.

I’m talking meal prep AND I am talking planning how to hit your activity goals prep.

First up, meal prep.

We spoke about making a weekly meal plan yesterday so that you know, in advance, what you’re going to be eating that week AND that you have planning it all to fit your calorie and protein goals. Now we can look at those meals that we have thought out and book in one or two meal prep sessions for the week.

Personally I love a meal prep session on a Sunday afternoon – nothing else much is really happening, my husband is home to be able to entertain our little girl (although she does enjoy helping if needs be). I take a couple of hours and batch make food. I will make up things like bolognese, curry, oven cooked chicken breasts etc I will cook up all in one go then separate them into storage containers of the correct serving size – some of these will freeze – bolognese, curry, sausage casserole and “saucy” type mains take absolutely no hurt in the freezer to use at the end of the week. Things like chicken breasts, I will cook enough for 3 days and store them in the fridge after cooking and cooling. Veggies I like to cook fresh but you could include them in the batch cooking if you’re going to use them in the next day or two. I tend to use microwave wholegrain rice for my meals that require it – 2 minutes in the microwave when you need it then weigh it out to serve. Pasta and jackets I would cook fresh but maybe have portions weighed out ready to go.

Basically, the more prep you can do in one or two short hours the easier your week will be. There is something incredibly satisfying about going to the fridge or freezer on an evening and just being able to take out what you need and heat it up to enjoy something delicious and home made!

Next, activity prep.

It might sound daft but if you make a plan to even do something as small as going for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break the following day you are more likely to go and actually do it! It may take no actual prep at all to make the plan, just know what and when you are going to do it. It may take a little organisation, maybe you have told yourself you will go swimming before work – lay all your clothes out, pack your bag, set your alarm – just make sure everything is ready to go. If you’re planning on going to the gym or a class after work, pack your bag, make sure you have your water bottle, headphones, activity tracker etc all ready just to pick up and take with you in the morning. Maybe your planning involves making sure you have some childcare so you can go out and do some uninterrupted “you-time” exercise – do it, call who you need to, arrange drop off and collection time and then set all your clothes and items out ready (including anything your little one might need while they are apart from you).

These aren’t difficult things to do. Obviously the food prep takes a fair bit more time than the activity prep HOWEVER by doing all of your meal prep in one or two sittings you will find that you have so much more free time during the week – the time that you would usually be making the evening meal, you’ve already done it. This also opens a window of time for you to be able to add some exercise into your day, I know everyone I have ever worked with or spoken to has, at some point, used the excuse “well, I just don’t have any time”. MAKE IT! Make the time, plan your activity, plan your meals and achieve your goals.

Prep, prep, prep. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more it becomes common play. It can even become something you really enjoy that becomes part of your motivation to do more!

January – Day 8/31

Make a plan to make life easier.

If you know what you’re going to be eating for breakfast. lunch and dinner then it makes it a whole lot easier to stick to better way of eating. If you can aim to get the majority of your protein quota in with your main meals then the rest of the calories can be used up with the thing you like.

You have a list of high protein foods on the Day 6 about macro-nutrients – you can use this to plan how much of which protein source you would like and what you would like to make with it. For example, you might want a spag bol for tea – it’s family friendly and easy to add extra veggies (fibre, vitamins and minerals) to. You can chose to either make it with lean beef mince (5% fat) or turkey mince.

You can add the recipes you make to MyFitnessPal and how many portions it makes so that each serving is exactly the same – remember we’re weighing everything as we make it.

What you can also do once you have made a weekly meal plan is make a weekly shopping list. By having a list of the things that you need you won’t be tempted to buy extras just because they are on special, you should find that your shopping trip is cheaper in the long run, and less wasteful as you’re only getting what you know you need and are going to eat.

And guess what – you can put those things that you WANT to eat into your meal planning too. Whether you know that you fancy a pasta bake one night, or you think a ready meal might be the easiest option for lunch one day, or you know you are going to want a chocolate bar during the week, fine, just make sure that it fits in with your plan.

Your meal plan MUST:

1 – Fit your daily protein goal as this is what we need to hit to maintain your muscle mass (give you that sexy “toned” appearance)

and

2 – Fit your calorie goal – we’re aiming to hit the same calorie goal every day, once your protein target has been hit you can make the rest of your calories up however you like from the carbs and fats. Be mindful that you will have less food in front of you if you choose to eat more fats. If you opt for a lot of carbs instead, choose whole-grains and vegetables – you can eat a whole load of vegetables making sure you feel full and don’t want to “pick” between meals and snacks.

Example of a weekly meal plan, including planned take away, Sunday lunch, bacon sandwich, chocolate and wine. Of course there are no set amounts provided on here as it will be specific to every person – as will the meals of your weekly plan. Over time you will learn how to make meals yourself and make the best choices of the ingredients for these meals, suiting your lifestyle, family and sustainability.

Don’t get me wrong, this takes time and practice to get to the exact goals. Just know that every time you make a change for the better in your food consumption, you are making a change for the better for your health.

We are working on the long term, not the quick fix.