It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking weight loss, fitness and health is about finding the perfect diet, the ideal training program or the best gym…sure sometimes that works, you might just stumble across a truly great diet or personal trainer. I’ve published some highly successful and inspiring fitness and health stories by extremely credible nutritionists and fitness trainers. So I've been fortunate enough to have some of the best health and fitness advice available. My take on the subject comes from a slightly different place however. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a personal trainer, I’m an educator, in the field of business. So what can a business educator offer in the way of creating the body you’ll love?
My passion is learning, and understanding how people learn and implement positive change, for me it's about inspiring others to adopt life long learning as part of their lifestyle. My approach to health and fitness is about knowledge and applying it to your daily choices. Just as you would teach a child about the importance of nutrition and movement and trying to align these to their interests and preferences, to motivate them to make healthy choices. Adults too need to make the link between healthy choices, developing knowledge and using strategies that draw upon their unique motivations.
Poor lifestyle, health, fitness and nutrition has an immense impact on mental wellbeing. It becomes a vicious cycle, when poor diet and lack of exercise creates a depressed state. Then once in a depressed state comfort food and bad habits thrive...further eroding your self esteem. So for me it's about adopting a life long learning approach to your health, and continually developing your knowledge and adapting your lifestyle habits to create optimum health, not perfection, just simple wholesome living (at least most of the time). Over the last 10 years shifted my lifestyle towards better choices and very simple strategies to maintain my health. Which has had a huge impact, however like most people I still hadn't quite got the balance. Over the last 6 months I've focussed my efforts and the results are remarkable.
So what are the 3 CRITICAL STEPS TO GET THE BODY YOU'LL LOVE?
- UNDERSTAND YOU ARE UNIQUE - SO CHOOSE MOVEMENT, FAT BURNING ACTIVITIES OR MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES ‘UNIQUE TO YOU!’
I’m only a few years shy of 50 (which feels strange to say) I don't feel a great deal different to when I was in my 20’s, I certainly feel stronger and healthier than I did then, even if I was leaner then. So my needs as far as movement have changed a lot over the years, this is an important factor, remember your unique body is ever changing. When I was leaner (pre-mummy days) I didn't need to burn a lot of fat. I needed to develop muscle, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness.
Ironically as I’ve gotten older my need to engage in more fat burning activity has escalated yet my time availability has reduced. This is a pretty common scenario. Life simply gets in the way of focussing on health, fitness and nutrition. So what's the solution…..Exercise needs to be part of your life not a chore. Undertaking a bazaar fitness training schedule, be it working out at the gym, a personal trainer, or a sport is generally doomed to fizzle out if it is:
1. Not sustainable- too high intensity especially if your diet won't support this level of workout.
2. Something you are doing because you have to rather than because you enjoy it.
Some simple ways to inject movement, muscle building and fitness is to set about discovering which physical activities you truly enjoy. Activities that might serve as an alternative to a gym membership are:
Walking-.join a club, walk alone or with a friend
Boxing - its a great cardio workout and will help you tone up
Housework - yes housework, if I know I’ll burn 500 calories doing it I’m far more motivated, don't underestimate how physical it can be
Sporting team - football, soccer, tennis, netball
Swimming - it’s great for those with joint pain
Running - very popular but may be a little tough on the joints
Bike riding - again very popular and can be very therapeutic
Yoga - It may not burn the calories as fast but will build muscle tone, flexibility and strength
Weight training - try it at home or the gym
Everybody is different but I've found the best combination for myself is walking, light weights and yoga. Once you’ve established which exercise suits you it’s important not to burn yourself out. We've all done it. We jump into that new gym membership with guns blazing, then before long we've come down with a cold or one of the kids do and then we get busy at work and slowly our gym membership turns into ‘the subject one does not talk about’ at least until it expires.
Try out a few different activities, however ensure your final exercise choices are sustainable. If they always depending on a team or too much travel it's worth considering adding a solo activity to your repertoire so that it's always available. (For example I have a running trampoline and a treadmill so I simply can’t make excuses not to walking if it's raining or too hot or cold). An activity that you can do at least 4 times a week for between 1/2 an hour to 1 hour is ideal depending on your fitness level.
2. EAT CLEAN - make it a lifestyle choice!
We've all heard that clean eating is the new craze…but what does in mean to someone who is trying to lose weight or get fit. I've found the most important strategies are to:
- Ensure you have a good regular balanced diet, include protein in lean meat or beans, legumes, nuts, fruit and vegetables. I eat primarily vegetarian but I know that the key is balance. Get to know which food works well with your body and which ones don't. Pay attention to reactions and allergies. Every single body is unique and the diet that works for you could be completely different to someone else. Don't fall for the trap of religiously following someone else's diet. Instead keep your food simple, clean, raw as often as you can and reduce eating anything that comes in a box or packet. It's a simple rule of thumb that works.
- Cut the dough, carbs and wheat down. Yes it's hard, but reducing your intake will have a huge impact. These days we have access to a lot of carbs and bread products. Be sensible, don't deprive yourself, simply control yourself.
- Reduce your sugar, don't go cold turkey, wean yourself off the sugar slowly. Too many people simply cut it out instantly. However sugar is like a drug, you must slowly reduce your intake or you truly will experience withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.
- Go organic. I'm a huge fan of organic, it reduces the pollution in our environment and our bodies. There is never an okay amount of poison to put on your body, so wherever possible select organic options. The reduction of pesticides, fertilisers, additives, colours, enhancers in your food will dramatically improve your immune system. Poisoning yourself daily is simply not going to improve your health, so cut the chemicals.
- Eating clean should also extend to your skin. Your skin needs nutrients and does not need chemicals and you absorb a huge amount through your skin. Many people don't realise their health is seriously adversely effected by poisoning through the skin. Choose natural and organic hair, skin, makeup, body products and even washing liquids and powders and household cleansers to reduce your exposure to chemicals. Help to detox your body by cutting out products that contain Urea, Parabens, Phthalates, Petroleum By-Products, Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Sodium Laurel/Laureth, Sulphates, (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Formaldehyde, Synthetic Fragrances, Synthetic Colours, Mica
- Purify your water and try to drink 8 glasses a day. I discovered an enormous difference in my health when I started using a home water purifier about 25 years ago. The aim is to reduce exposure to fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals and bacteria in the water. Try to include cleansing teas rather than alcohol, caffeine or any sweet drinks, try green tea, dandelion and turmeric teas. Each has its own unique benefits which we’ll go into in further detail in another article.
- Give your body a rest. We have been taught to think we must eat at certain times. However fasting is incredibly good for your body and can in fact help regulate your blood sugar levels. We continually spike our blood sugar levels by eating and snacking more often than actually necessary. If you are not hungry, don't eat. However be very careful of how your body reacts. Starving yourself is not the aim, the aim is to break the cycle of over eating or eating out of habit. Don't allow yourself to become faint, lethargic or starving.
- Having a glass of wine or a cocktail is good for the soul, but having it too often can have adverse effects on your health and motivation. Don't deprive yourself of a drink on occasion but take note of how you feel the day after you've had a few drinks compared to the days you don't and you'll notice it's a lot harder to do a workout if you have been drinking, your limbs may feel a little heavier, your reactions not as fast and you attitude most certainly won't be on point. It's also worth considering the calories that are in some alcoholic drinks. A glass of red wine on occasion can actually be quite good for your health however any drink that is adding calories without any real nutritional benefit is a bit like sugar and carbs, keep it to being a treat rather than a part of your daily routine. Your body will thank you for it.
3. GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY
This would have to be one of my greatest lessons that I've learnt more recently regarding health. I think a lot of people lose touch with their bodies and forget what it feels like to feel physically strong, in a good frame of mind, optimistic, energetic and motivated. A poor diet and lack of exercise impacts on every part of your wellbeing so start taking notice of everything from aches and pains, mood, energy, attitude and concentration. You might be surprised to see how easy it is achieve a feeling of overall wellness.
Fitness and wellness
Learning how your unique body works is life altering. Pay attention to how your body responds to exercise. Some examples that I've experienced are the reduction in aches and pains when I’m regularly walking compared to when I stop for a week or so. All too often we ignore the messages our bodies give us. Once again when I've stopped practicing yoga because I was too busy with work or a baby, I could feel my body stiffening and changing. My posture altered enormously and I simply didn't have the energy or feeling of wellness I had previously.
Calories in and out
Pay attention to your calories in and calories out. A Fitbit (Find FITBIT here or visit www.amazon.com.au) is a fantastic tool for monitoring this. Don't obsess over calories, simply keep a check on it occasionally. I simply punch in my average daily meals and snacks into my Fitbit about once a week to see if I'm staying on track in comparison to the steps I've done and subsequently calories burned. The aim is to check that the calories you are burning whilst undertaking your exercise regime are more than those you are consuming, particularly if you are trying to lose weight. In doing this you are educating yourself to create balance in your diet and exercise. It's a great way to learn which foods have higher calories and which ones are lower, I've had some huge lessons about food choices by doing this, and you will be surprised how many things you have been consuming that have exorbitantly high calories when you thought in fact they were healthy choices. This reeducting yourself will help you make better choices in future.
Find a Fitbit here
Don't obsessive over your weight it truly is an inaccurate measuring tool. The fact that fat takes up more mass yet weighs less than muscle that takes up less space but weighs more negates the usefulness of monitoring your weight as your main measuring tool. Instead pay attention to how your clothes feel, how confident you feel when you put them on. Use measurements of your arms, bust, waist and thighs to track your body changes, if you must monitor it at all.
In the end the most critical aspect of these 3 steps to create the body you'll love is how you feel about yourself. I can attest to these lifestyle choices. Some of these changes I've implemented over years others like using the Fitbit to educate myself about calories eaten and burned are new additions. It's taken me sometime to find the right formula. Like most people I've yo yoed with my weight and fitness, I've been a size 8 and a size 16. These days I'm somewhere in the middle. Don't beat yourself up. Trial and error is a part of learning. Remind yourself it's not about what size TV shows, magazines or social media tell us we must be, it's about how we feel….do we feel strong, happy, healthy, optimistic. Health and fitness is a learning experience and learning is what you are aiming to do.
Always consult a health professional prior to commencing an exercise regime. All exercise and nutrition mentioned in this article are for information purposes only and do not substitute for seeking professional advice.