January – Day 16/31

Time for a reality check!

How are you doing with the plan? Are you seeing changes? Are you making changes? Well, if you’re doing it properly, you should be and here’s the hardest fact – if you’re not then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Brutal? Maybe.

Necessary? Absolutely!

The thing is, when it comes to weight loss, I am giving you ALL of the tools here. I have given you the baby steps to put together to create your ideal lifestyle so that you can easily lose weight at the same time as living. If you are not prepared to use these tools properly then you’re not fooling anyone but yourself.

Lets recap the things that you should be doing:

  1. Are you drinking enough water?
  2. Have you worked out your daily calorie allowance?
  3. Are you tracking your daily calorie intake via My Fitness Pal?
  4. Are you tracking your daily calorie intake accurately by measuring all of your food?
  5. Are you hitting your daily step goal?
  6. Are you using the 80:20 rule to avoid binge behaviour?
  7. Are you hitting your daily protein goal?
  8. Are you hitting your daily fibre goal?
  9. Are you planning out your meals in advance?
  10. Are you planning out your exercise sessions in advance?
  11. Are you achieving 5 x 30 minute exercise sessions a week?
  12. Are you doing activities which help you relax?
  13. Are you working on your sleep habits?
  14. Are you being honest with yourself?

If you want to see a difference, like really, truly, honestly want to see a change in yourself the you will already be doing all of the above and have taken responsibility for your actions. If you haven’t made the changes then you need to either accept that you want to be unfit, unhealthy and unhappy OR decide that enough is enough and now is time to put the effort in.

No one can do this for you.

No one will do it for you.

People will question what you are doing.

But once you hit your goal – PEOPLE WILL WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU DID IT!

January – Day 15/31

Good morning, how are we all doing with the plan? If you’re following the rules that you should be starting to notice a difference!

Today I want to touch on eating out. I know, I know, it’s the middle of the longest pay month of the year and it’s not really something you’re thinking about but chances are you’ll be out for a meal somewhere in the not too distant future. Here’s a few hints and tips to see you through these occasions without ransacking all of your efforts towards eating better and losing weight:

  1. Plan Ahead – Know where you’re going? Check out their menu ahead of time and choose what you are going to order. This can help in one of two ways – first off, you can then plan the rest of that day’s meals and activities around what you have chosen for your meal out making sure that you hit your calorie and protein goals for the day. Other than this great planning technique it can also help you make a better food choice to look at the menu prior to going out for the meal and selecting what you’re going to have based on WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM THIS PROGRAM SO FAR:
  2. Choose the higher protein content meals and have them with salad or vegetables instead of chips. This is a great example of how to make the most of eating out AND eating well. It also means a sneaky starter or dessert could be included in there to work with that 80:20 rule!
  3. Be aware of what you are drinking. Choose diet soft drinks or water if you can. Going for alcohol? Check the calorie content out and make sensible choices, again go for a diet mixer for your spirits. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  4. Bypass the bread basket. It’s not necessary, it’s just [white] bread.
  5. Don’t over eat just because you are eating out. Feeling satisfied? Stop eating. It takes your brain a good 15 minutes to establish that the stomach is full. Eat slowly and mindfully and stop before you feel uncomfortable.
  6. Be prepared to see a little increase on the scales the following day. You know you’ve eaten more carbs, more processed items or more sodium (salt) than you’re used to so you should also know that your body will be clinging on to more water; the scales may well show this.
  7. Prepare for your meal out (and follow up). Make sure to drink additional water through the day before you go to eat out and when you get home afterwards. More hydration means less retention. Make sure you’ve done your steps and a 30 minute exercise session.
  8. Enjoy eating out. most importantly, enjoy your meal, enjoy that someone else is cooking for you and doing the dishes. Savour your choices and DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for anything that you have. Just make sure you’re accountable.

The 80:20 rule can be your best friend in an eating out situation and, as much as I don’t really condone it, if you are looking at a big evening out (meal and drinks for example) that’s going to cost you a lot in calories, make sure to have some damage limitation – save some calories from the days running up to your night out. Say you’re on 1700 calories a day, drop it to 1500 calories a day for the 3 days prior to going out (saving 600 calories which you can then use) and then use minimal calories through the day before you go out.

There we go, a quick set of tips for eating out without ruining all your hard work!

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 7/31

We’re on to day 7 and I want to know one thing; ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH?

Enough fibre that is! Today is all about why fibre is important and making sure that you get your daily quota!

Dietary fibre has a number of benefits when consumed in sufficient quantities including the prevention or relief of constipation, helping maintain a healthy weight, and lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

You’ve probably heard of dietary fibre being referred to as roughage. It includes the parts of plant foods which the body can’t digest or absorb – fibre isn’t digested by the body, instead it passes pretty much intact through the digestive system and out of the body.

There are two types of fibre:

Soluble – dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Soluble fibre can assist in lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels and is found in oats, peas, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, apples, barley and psyllium.

Insoluble – promotes the movement of material through the digestive system and increase stool bulk. Insoluble fibre can be beneficial to those who struggle with irregular stools or constipation. Good sources of insoluble fibre are whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables.such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.

To ensure you receive the greatest health benefits, you should aim to eat a wide variety of high-fibre foods.

How much fibre do you need?

How much fibre we need varies depending on age and gender:

Men age 50 years or younger require 38 grams of fibre per day whereas those aged 51 or older are advised to consume 30 grams per day.

For women, it’s 25 grams for those aged 50 years or under, and for those aged 51 and over the recommended amount of fibre is 21 grams per day.

How can you get the required amount of fibre each day?

  • Start your day right – grab a bowl of high-fibre cereal (5 grams + per serving). Look for those with “whole grain”, “bran”, or “fibre” in the name. Alternatively you can add two or three table spoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favourite cereal.
  • Chose whole grains – Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another grain as the first ingredient and have at least 2g of dietary fibre per serving. Try things like brown rice, wild rice, whole-wheat pasta and bulgar wheat.
  • Get in the beans – legumes – beans, peas and lentils, are great sources of fibre. Add mixed beans to salads, kidney beans to mince meals etc.
  • Snack on fruit and veg – aim for five or more serving of fruit and vegetables per day, eating the skin too where possible. Not only will you bump up your fibre intake but you’ll get a load of vitamins and minerals in too.

Note: Though high-fibre foods are great for your health, adding too much too quickly can produce some negative effects including intestinal gas, bloating and cramping. To avoid this, increase fibre gradually over a few weeks.

And to round it all off and take us back to day one – make sure you are drinking plenty water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your poo soft and bulky. Oh, and you can track your fibre on MyFitnessPal too without having to add it all up yourself!

So there you go, a whole post on how to poo better. You’re welcome!