A friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen in a few months, asked me the other day when we met up if I’d lost weight. I replied that ‘no, I don’t think so’ but in all honesty, I have no idea because I don’t weigh myself. I know roughly what I weigh, but I don’t use that as a measurement of progress, so no, I don’t know if my weight has gone up or down. I have to say though, that since I upped the amount of Crossfit classes I do each week, as well as training more on my own, and sleeping more, I have noticed that my body feels ‘firmer’. Not to mention that I have so much more energy!
So I asked my husband when I got home if he’s noticed a difference in me, and he said that he has. “But imagine how buff you’d look if you didn’t eat all that crap” he also blurted out jokingly.
I had to stop him there. “what ‘crap’ do I eat?”
“Well, you know, the Hotel Chocolate stuff you bought at the weekend, and all the popcorn”
Ok, so if you have followed me for a while you know I am all about moderation. Sometimes it’s harder, and I stuff myself with a bit more than I should have, but in general I feel that I have found a good balance. I eat well. I don’t count calories religiously, but I know roughly what I eat in a day and that varies between 1800 kcal and 2500 kcal depending on my activity levels. I eat protein with every meal and make sure I get 80-120g/day. I eat lots of veg and a moderate amount of fruit. I eat a balanced diet. I know that lots of carbs in the evening makes me bloated and sluggish the next morning so I try to avoid that. But, what I don’t do is to deprive myself. If I fancy a piece of dark chocolate after dinner or half a bag of popcorn (ok, ok, a whole bag) while watching “The Good Wife”, I do. No regrets. Ever. If I happen to eat a bit more than I ‘should’, I try to learn from it and just move on.
So when my husband suggested I cut out the ‘crap’, I shut him down quick, because even if I don’t believe in deprivation, nor do I believe in over- indulging. I believe in enjoying life.
My life is not about a “deprive-binge-regret” cycle. I lived that way for years.
I love Crossfit, I love moving my body, I love having loads of energy. But I also love relaxing with my husband after a long week, cuddling up on the couch watching Netflix and have a few pieces of chocolate (from Hotel Chocolate which is my favourite!) And I love going out for dinner with friends and be able to order a dessert. I am not going to deny myself any of these things.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to put your head down and go all-in once in a while if you have a goal in mind. Diet down, do more exercise or cut out chocolate if you feel that is right for you at that moment in time. The trick is to remember that once that diet is over, you have to know how sustainably live healthy so you don’t gain weight or end up in a deprive-binge cycle.
You have to find what is right for you. If you’re happy never eating ice-cream again and to bring tupperware with your own food to dinner parties, by all means. But if dieting depresses you and while you’re on holiday you might as well drink aaaall the wine because you know the holiday will be over soon and you will go on diet when you get home, well maybe it’s time to try something different. Life doesn’t have to be lived in extremes. It doesn’t have to be carrot stick OR cake. You can have both.
Precision Nutrition had a great inforgrafic on the trade offs for getting lean. Just click on this link.
So yes, the trade off is that I am a little less firm. But I can sustainably enjoy life every day.
I hope everyone is enjoying themselves and spending time with family and friends.
I just want to send out a friendly reminder to everyone out there:
You do not have to eat until you’re stuffed and can not move to have enjoyed the food.
You do not have to drink yourself stupid to enjoy the party.
You do not have to eat all the chocolate because ‘it’s Christmas’.
And you do not have to avoid the gym like the plague to be able to ‘relax for once’.
I endeavour to live moderately and mindfully year around, although I do eat more (less healthy) food this time of year.
So my plan is to;
*Eat plenty of delicious food, but as always put focus on the veg and protein (hello, turkey!).
*Drink a few glasses of wine and prosecco.
*Have some chocolate most days.
*Continue working out 3-4 times a week, and get my daily movement in in form of yoga and/or walks.
*Spend lots of quality time with my family
*Enjoy every moment.
I am not going to:
*Stuff myself silly to the point were I have a tummy ache.
*Feel guilty about anything I eat.
*Work out because I need to ‘earn my food’ or to ‘work anything off’
*Start the new year with a diet.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go in to the new year not feeling like you have to start new?
Without the impromptu New Year Resolution to diet and every day runs, because you’ve overdone it during the christmas period?
This doesn’t mean you can’t relax and enjoy yourself; enjoyment and moderation are not opposites. You won’t enjoy the food more because you stuff yourself.
It isabsolutely possible to enjoy Christmas without overindulging and starting the new year with regret and weight gain.
Health and fitness has become such an unnecessarily complicated subject.
I believe a lot of people are stuck and not taking actions towards a healthier life because of information overload.
There is so much advice out there and when some of it is also conflicting, it’s hard to figure out with path to follow.
Magazines, internet, tv – they’re all filled with recommendations, eating and exercising plans, the ”right” and “wrong” way to do it. No wonder some people find it easier to stay put and do nothing, because:
A- They don’t know where to start
B- They think that if they don’t do everything ‘right’ there’s no point,
C- They have tried a diet, lost some weight but gained it all back again
Well, fret not, I’m here to help.
Most of the diet plans or exercise plans out there work. That’s not the problem. The problem is that they aren’t sustainable or adaptable to our life and therefore we fail at following them, making us thing that we’re the problem. Or we follow a plan, loose weight but also mess up our metabolism along the way, which makes it harder to keep that new weight. Or, we follow a plan, challenge, juice detox, what ever it might be, but once the plan is up, day 30 is done, we go back to our old habits.
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be complicated.
I just think a lot of people have lost sight of what a normal diet is and how your body is meant to move.
You don’t have to buy expensive meal replacements or Supplement X to loose weight. You don’t have to embark on an intense exercise regimen 7 days a week. You don’t have to go ‘all in’ and do everything “right”.
And why the rush? It took you years to create the less healthy habits your in right now, and probably years for the weight to creep up. So what makes you think it’s possible to change all that in just 30 days?
If you are new to health and fitness and simply just want to feel a bit better, maybe loose a bit of body fat and have more energy, please don’t think you have to go all in and overhaul your whole life. You can of course, if you’d like, but it’s not the only way.
Chances are, you are already doing a few things ‘right’.
Maybe you’re already taking your bike to work, or eating a substantial breakfast every day.
Health and fitness should enhance your life and make it better, not burden and exhaust you. Ok, it might not be easy every day, but in general, you should create routines and habits that benefit you and make you feel better.
You do not have to follow a diet plan, buy expensive supplements or embark on a 30 day (or 60 or 90) diet or exercise challenge. You do not have to live at the gym, cut out carbs or go on a juice detox to be healthy. That is not what a healthy lifestyle means. In fact, I’d argue that none of the above makes you healthy.
You need to find a way of living a healthier life as well as enjoying it. How fun is it to live of shakes and diet food? To say ‘No’ to your nephews birthday cake because you’re on a ‘diet’? If you don’t like cake sure, by all means, don’t eat it. But if you are constantly depriving yourself, sooner of later you will have a backlash. Maybe not today, but by Saturday, or next week or month. It will come. And surely you do not want to live just for the weekend because thats when you “can” eat cake or have a drink? I talk about all this here.
Same thing with moving and exercise. Again, you do not have to go ‘all-in’. It might be tempting to embark on a fitness journey and it feels so great; you are all high on endorphines and you want to keep the good feelings going. So if some of exercise is good, more must be better, right?
Many make the mistake of doing to much at once. They either:
A. Get injured or ill and the whole plan is derailed
B. Start missing workout days because of work, family, friends, and well…life
C. Feel stressed because their new regimen takes up too much time and stop completely because they think there’s no point if they can’t stick to the programme exactly as written.
So where do you start?
I know it is hard, but if you want to make a permanent change you need to start small.
Do something every day that makes you feel good, but make sure you allow for life to fit in to your every day. Like I said, exercise and nutrition should enhance your life, not make it harder.
Don’t dive in at the deep end with your biggest struggles. Start with the easier ones. The ones that don’t take to much effort to change in to a better habit. Or break down your ‘big’ struggles to smaller steps. Then work on them one step at the time. You want to get some ‘wins’ under your belt. Once you’ve established that one in to a habit, move on to the next.
Change a few things, maybe 2-3 and see how that makes you feel and if it is sustainable.
You need to create good, healthy habits. Habits are everything.
Habits makes you less reliant on willpower.
There are plenty of books out there about habits, but I would recommend Better Than Before. By Gretchen Rubin.
In it she also developed a tendency framework and there’s a quiz you can take to figure out which of the four tendencies you belong to. This is a tool to help you understand yourself better and to help on your journey to develop (healthy) habits. Utterly brilliant in my opinion. And fun!
To live a healthier life you need to find a balance in the following five areas. You will need to work on incorporate healthier habits, maybe not all at once, but eventually you should find a balance. You can not neglect one area, or simply focus on one, there need to be a balance.
* Nutrition. You need healthy food that will both give you nourishment and satisfaction. A few basic guidelines are to eat mostly whole, unprocessed food. Plenty of vegetables, and some fruit. Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. Your body need all the macro nutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Do not cut out any of them, but again, avoid the processed stuff. And if I am to guess, you probably lack protein. A good place to start is to make sure you incorporate protein with every meal (meat, fish, dairy, egg, pulses). I talk about my own journey to eating moderately and mindfully here.
* Sleep. How much sleep you need, I can not say, its very individual. Guidelines say between 7-9h of good quality sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can mess with your hormones and studies have linked lack of sleep to weight gain. If you know you don’t sleep enough, try to go to bed a bit earlier tonight. Sleep is vital!
* Stress. Stress management is a very important to a healthy life and a healthy weight. Make sure you fit self care in your life.
* Movement. Your body is designed to move. Every day. Everyday movement is more important than your twice a week gym sessions. If you have a desk job, try setting an alarm every hour or two to remind yourself to get up and move. Try to incorporate a daily walk, maybe at lunch, or try gardening, or dance around in the living room, or do some yoga before bed. Try to think of different ways to move every day.
* Exercise. Of course I love this one. A lot of people think of exercise with dread. But it doesn’t have to be, it really can be fun! Resistance training have a bunch of benefits, and I for one could not live without throwing something heavy around a few times a week. But you don’t have to join a gym or lift weights, body weight training in your own living room works just fine.
As for cardio, try to get your heart rate up and get sweaty a couple of times a week. Do something you like. If you don’t like running (for some reason that usually pops in to peoples heads when they think of exercise) Don’t! Do something you like: Cycle, zumba, swimming, jump rope, a class at the gym. What ever you like. The options are endless. My favourite is to simply lift weights faster!
You don’t need to be perfect in every area, every day, that’s simply not possible. You just do the best you can in the situation you’re in. And work on your habits.
Habits. I can not say that word enough.
So again, don’t try to do all of the above at once. Start slow and gradually build up habits.
Maybe your already pretty active, but you know you could improve on your sleep. Then start there. Focus on your sleep, nothing else. But to think that you will sleep 8 hours a night right away might be a bit ambitious. Think smaller. Maybe aim to go to bed at 10pm three nights this week. Next week it might be four.
Or you might exercise but you know you need to improve your diet. Start there. Again, no overhaul, just try to include 5 fruit and veg today. Or bring a packed lunch from home instead of going out for lunch four days this week.
Or maybe you generally eat well but you struggle to cut down on your biscuit consumption. Maybe set a goal to only eat a biscuit or two after a meal? Once you’ve nailed that, you can aim to only eating them after one meal per day. Baby steps. Don’t cut the biscuits out completely, because they will come back with a vengeance.
To be healthy you need to think long term, as in forever. Not the next 30 days, or just get down to a certain weight. You should find a way of living that enhances your life and health in a sustainable and still enjoyable way. If biscuits is something you need to enjoy your life, by all means, include them!
Remember, something is always better than nothing. Strive to make the best choices you can in the situation you’re in.
Note: I am not a doctor, and all the advice above are given as general recommendations for the general population. If you struggle with specific issues, please check with your doctor before making any changes.
Organic or not organic, that is the question. Do you ever wonder if it’s worth stepping on the organic bandwagon or not? In some cases it is, in others not so much. Lets talk about fruit and veg. Some fruit and vegetables are really worth buying the organic version of because of the high amount of pesticide residue on the product. Others have less residue and ok to buy non organic version.
For those of you who haven’t heard about the “Dirty Dozen” it is a list made from the Environmental Working Group, EWG in the US, compiling the produce with the most pesticide residue. It’s updated every year and its meant to give the consumer information of which fruit and vegetables have most pesticides on them and therefore should be buying the organic version instead.
They also provide the list of “Clean Fifteen” which is the opposite: a list of produce that have the least amount of pesticide residue and are safe to eat in non-organic version.
While these lists are all good and serve a purpose, I’ve been following these lists for a few years, it occurred to me that these are based on american produce, not european. Sure, we import a lot, but I certainly try to buy locally sourced food when ever possible so what rules applies over here? Many of the pesticides used in the US are not allowed in the EU.
I did some digging, and it appears that we do have our own version:
It was made up by PAN (Pesticide Action Network) who measured pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables found here in the UK. And sure enough, there are a few differences from the American ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’.
Worst fruit: (most pesticide residue):
peaches and nectarines
beans in a pod
peas in a pod
courgettes and marrows
Best fruit: (The least amount of residue and ok to buy non-organic version of)
corn on the cob
There is still the debate on how harmful pesticides really are to the human consumer, and I say this: Better to eat non-organic fruits and vegetables than none at all.
I also think its always better to buy as locally produced food as possible. I’d rather buy locally grown non-organic apples, than organic ones that have travelled from South Africa.
Think air miles.
Local farmers markets are usually a good place to go as well. Another thing that might help if you’re not sure which fruit to buy organic is to think about wether or not you will be eating the skin of the fruit. If you will peal the skin of, like a banana, its usually safer than a fruit like apple, where you will be eating the skin.
Also, grapes show up on both this list and on the DD, so remember to buy your wine organic too.
Hope these lists help you, the savvy shopper, to make wiser choices.
As I’ve written about here I love routine, and as a result I tend to have the same thing for breakfast most days. Sometimes I change things up and have something else but even then I tend to have the same things. So I basically have 2 or 3 breakfasts I rotate between. But mostly it’s my smoothie.
I find that it’s quick, filling, easy to prepare and gives me lots of nutrients.
This is a fantastic breakfast, especially in the summer as it basically feels like your drinking an ice cream for breakfast.
So in a good smoothie you want plenty of veg and some fruit for vitamins. Also some good fats and protein for a complete and filling meal.
This is what I put in mine:
Juice (not much and it’s only so it’s not to thick)
Kefir (a fermented yogurt packed with good bacteria)
Cinnamon (can be left out, but I put a pinch in it because its a good blood sugar regulator)
The spinach can be swapped for kale if you prefer. Take a good handful. You can also use frozen spinach, same with the berries.
You don’t have to use berries, you can use any other fruit you like. Today I made Richards one with mango since he’s allergic to strawberries. Use about 80g of each spinach and fruit/berries.
Put about 1/4- 1/2 of an avocado in, depending on the size of the avocado, for good fats and fibre.
As for juice, I usually use Tropicana ’Red Ruby’, I find it’s not to sweet. You won’t need much only 50 – 100g. I am not a fan of juice really, it’s just for thinning the smoothie and it tops up the vitamins a bit.
Then I use kefir for it’s gut friendly bacteria, but if you don’t have kefir you can just as easily use yogurt. Be aware of sweetened yogurt though, you don’t want your smoothie having to much sugar. I use about 100g.
Put all this together in a blender or container ready to be mixed:
This one with strawberries
In Richards I used mango
Blend all of the above together before adding the protein and blending again.
As for protein powder, use 20-25g. Please don’t leave this out, but if you really don’t have any try to use a higher protein yogurt, like greek, instead. You need the protein to fill you up! Some smoothie recipes suggest you put peanut butter or other nut butters in there for added protein, but really it’s more fat and very high in calories so I wouldn’t suggest that as a protein source.
When you shop for protein powder, make sure you use a good brand and not one packed with sweeteners and fillers. I use Natural Nutrients. Their whey comes from grass-fed cows and with no added nasties. I highly recommend them. I use the natural one but if you like a bit more flavour you can go for a flavoured one like vanilla or strawberry.
Now to the best part:
You can prepare it all the night before! This is actually necessary if you’re using frozen fruit and veg. Just leave the protein powder out. In the morning, take the container out, mix until it’s smooth and then put protein powder in before mixing it again.
That’s it! Enjoy! And please let me know if you try it.
A while ago I wrote part 1 of this article where I explained how it might be a good idea to count calories and keeping a food journal. If you missed that one you can click here
But having said all that,
All calories aren’t equal. It’s not as simple as calories in and calories out. Yes, we’ve all heard about people who’ve lost weight by eating nothing but McDonalds, but at what (health) cost? Managing calories are important but what you eat is also important.
So if calories don’t matter all that much, why did I write part 1 in the first place?
Well, because there are a lot of people who have no idea what they put in their bodies each day. How many calories are actually in the foods they consume. As I will explain in this post, it might not always matter all that much, at least not when it comes to whole foods but it’s a starting point to begin making smarter and healthier choices.
Calories aren’t everything.
Where are your calories coming from? Are you getting enough fruit and veg? Enough fibre and protein?
Basically, calorie balance (calories in = calories out), or a calorie deficit if you’re trying to loose weight, is not always as simple as it sounds.
When it comes to health and for most people, weight loss, I’d say calorie counting is about 60% of the whole picture.
Even if you think you are keeping a good balance, there’s another problem:
The calorie content presented on a food is not precise, it’s only an average. The true calorie and nutrition content can vary up to 50% (!) depending on the food.
Also, our body doesn’t absorb all the calories we consume, this varies depending on the type of food we eat and how it is prepared and cooked.
Lastly, everyone absorbs nutrients and calories individually. We are all different and so are our guts and our gut bacteria, which are the important parts of nutrient absorption.
So even if you DO keep an accurate food diary, chances are the actual calorie intake can vary quite significantly.
So, why am I bringing this all up if I’m just going to contradict myself?
Well, I think that keeping a food journal for a while is a good idea to get a good picture of what you eat. Having to look up the calorie and nutrition content of every food and measure your food accurately is time consuming yes, but maybe just start with writing down roughly what goes in to your mouth every day. After a meal, just write down what you actually ate. Then when you have a spare moment, you can check online for that food and when you get used to this a bit more you can get more precise with measurements and weights. This is just to get an idea of what you’re actually eating. Then you can start adjusting. Not getting enough veg? Have a look and see where you can probably fit another portion in tomorrow.
Like I said earlier, it might stop you from overdo it. When you know how many calories are in chocolate, it will probably prevent you from eating a whole 200g bar by yourself. Well, most days anyway 😉
What I don’t think is a good idea is to religiously count every calorie that goes in your body- for all the reasons I mentioned above. The same actually goes for the amount of calories we think we use up while exercising. That’s not an exact science either, and most people overestimate how many calories they are using by quite a lot.
So my conclusion is to not rely on calorie counting, but rather use it to estimate your intake keep you on track.
Any questions or thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you!
Calories always seem to be a ’hot’ topic and I thought I’d give you my views on them and calorie counting. It turned out to be quite a long post so I’ve divided it in to a 2 parter.
To begin with I thought I’d address why it might be a good idea to count calories and how to go about it.
A calorie is a unit of energy and usually we talk about calories regarding food.
Calories are not BAD like a lot of people seem to believe, we all need them.
Calories are essential for human health;
But everyone requires different amounts of energy (calories) per day depending on age, size, gender and activity levels.
I think its a good idea for everyone to have some idea of how many calories they need every day.
There are plenty of calculators for this online like this one, or just google it, tap in your numbers and voila!
I also think it’s a good idea to have a somewhat idea of how many calories we eat every day. A food diary is en excellent tool to help us understand roughly how many we eat.
I’m not saying you should keep a food diary forever, but just for a couple of weeks to get the idea. I’ve kept a food diary on and off for many years and by now I really don’t need to, I can pretty quickly work out in my head how many calories I’ve eaten.
It’s also a great tool to keep us in check, once you see how you’ve eaten you also see where you can cut back on the unnecessary calories. Keeping a food diary is a bit time-consuming of course but I think it’s worth it, like I said, its not forever, but I think it is important to know our own diet AND how many calories are actually in the food we eat. Most people have no idea how many calories are in different foods and there fore it’s hard to make the right (or better) choices.
There are plenty of apps for this, like my fitness pal, or you can go the old fashioned way and write it down on paper, or buy a nice food journal. Just be honest with what you’ve eaten, no one needs to look at it but you. At the same time its easy to see wether you get your 5/day in or not (preferably more). And trust me, you will ask yourself if you really need that second helping of apple crumble when you know you will have to write it down. It can still hold you accountable to make better choices, even if no one sees the food journal but you.
Start by just writing down what it is that you’re eating. You will need to write down as soon as you’ve finished eating. If you leave it to the end of the day to write down a whole days worth I can guarantee you will have forgotten exactly what’s entered your mouth that day.
Once you’ve got the hang of that you can start to look at what’s in the food in terms of calories, and add that to your food journal.
Again, having to look up every food item is a bit time consuming at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. You might also be surprised by the number of calories you consume on a daily basis! It might be a lot less than you should, or a lot more. Just be honest with your tracking, like I said no one needs to know but you. But it’s easier to adjust up and down once you have it down on paper (or on your app)
If you want any more help with how to get started with a food journal or any other questions I’m happy to help.