Fat Shaming: Shaming Fat People Thin!

Body Shaming

This is a photo of me in 2009, when I was close to my heaviest weight of 210lbs. I was eating junk food, drinking heavily and I did not treat my body with the love and respect it deserves. Check out my Instagram to see what I look like now!

The internet freaked out this week after Youtube (not-so-funny) comedian Nicole Arbour posted a video shaming fat people and claiming that, by doing so, she was doing them a favour. Grace Helbig, another Youtube comedian, then posted a video in response and briefly made reference to her own past struggles with her body image, as well as defending comedy. Whitney, TLC star of ‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’, then posted her video in response, offering her own advice to fat people, which was quite simple; “Love Yourself.” On top of this huge pavlova of fat shaming, some idiot (not-so-clever) writer at the Daily Mail posted this article shaming Jennifer Aniston about her alleged “post-marriage weight gain,” accompanied by unflattering photos of her in athletic clothing. And the Huffington Post responded with an article, scolding the Daily Mail for such blatant, irresponsible body shaming. The cherry on the cake was a move by Cheryl Cole, who has been scrutinised relentlessly in the media for her fluctuations in weight, who stated an interview that she believes Body Shaming should be illegal.

Wow. That is a LOT of body shaming and fat shaming in one week. Are you surprised? I’m not. In fact, I stopped reading the Daily Mail a long time ago because it was making me feel really down. Why? Every other article seemed to be either written in praise of a female celebrity for being super-thin, size zero and beautiful (or a male celebrity for having less than 10% body fat), or in criticism of a celebrity who had exposed a little cellulite whilst being photographed on their yacht. Are people reading this content and actually benefitting from it or enjoying it? Are we seriously sending out a message that our bodies should be completely flawless? Have we descended into such a dark place that we actually feel better about our own bodies when we read about the struggles of other people with theirs? I seriously hope this is not at trend that will continue. In fact, I spend a lot of my time praising other people on social media for their aesthetics, their progress, and their achievements, in an attempt to counteract the negative, painful feelings of self-criticism that many people go through on a daily basis.

As an advocate of weight loss, health and fitness, I am fully in support of staying in shape and taking care of your body. I do not make excuses for obesity, as I firmly believe that if you make an effort to educate yourself about nutrition and eat a balanced diet, that even with a medical condition, you can still maintain a healthy weight (keyword: healthy). However, I am not okay with shaming and attacking people for being overweight. And I am definitely, definitely, definitely not okay with pointing out flaws in other people, or bringing attention to their imperfections. This further enforces the notion that our bodies should be ‘perfect,’ which is not a healthy goal or objective for anyone. The idea, of Nicole Arbour, that shaming fat people is a good idea to help them lose weight is so incredibly misinformed. Here are a few reasons why people may be overweight:

  1. Lack of Nutrition Education: People generally do not understand what a ‘carb’ is and what ratio of fat/carbs/protein their body needs based on how physically active they are. Most people eat far too many carbs, and should instead be getting their carbohydrates from plant-based sources (i.e. sweet potato, chickpeas, cabbage, carrots, etc.) rather than the highly-processed breads, pastas, and sweets that are heavily marketed at the general public. Most diets do not contain nearly enough vegetables either. My blog is all about eating more green food and I firmly believe that a little bit of nutrition education could quite literally change the world, and put an end to the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our nation!
  2. Health-related Challenges: Injuries, diabetes, heart conditions, hormonal issues, thyroid issues, and the list goes on. All of these health-related challenges are probably caused by poor nutrition and lack of proper exercise in the first place, but that’s just my opinion. However, they do all cause problems for their sufferers. People with PCOS and thyroid issues can find it difficult to lose weight, and a lot of the above health complications limit the amount of physical activity that is possible.
  3. Emotional Issues: Many of us are emotional eaters. We take emotional pleasure from food. Chocolate and candy makes us feel happy and good. They release those feel-good chemicals (i.e. dopamine) in our brain. We take comfort in comfort foods, and turn to food to fill that ’empty space’ inside of us. Whether it is loneliness, the loss of a loved one, insecurity, anxiety, or depression, some of us use junk food to make us feel better. The feeling, however, is only temporary and usually, we end up feeling worse as we enter a vicious cycle of comfort eating and weight gain. There are ways to overcome this habit, such as CBT, meditation, mindful eating, and hypnosis. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to break the cycle of emotional eating.
  4. Eating Disorders: Eating disorders range from anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and some more obscure eating disorders such as food phobias and obsessive-compulsive eating behaviours. Binge-eating disorder is one of the more common disorders in the UK, and is more common in women than men. Even after overcoming an eating disorder, some individuals put on weight due to metabolic damage. Essentially, their bodies store more fat because months or years of restriction has slowed down their metabolism and put their body in starvation mode. It takes a lot of hard work to reverse this damage, so as you can imagine, the last thing these people need is to be shamed after winning a battle with an eating disorder.

If there is one message I want you to take away from this, it is this: “YOUR WEIGHT DOES NOT DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON.” Your weight, your body, your looks; they do not define you or who you have to be. You can be whoever you want to be, and it is you who is in control of your own personal pursuit of happiness. It has taken me years to realise this. Recently, after much reflecting on my past, the bullies who taunted me for my weight, and how much I have changed, I am finally realising that I spent far too long focusing on changing my looks to try and fit in, and forgot to focus on improving the real me; the “Emma on the inside” if you will. Thank goodness, I met some incredible people during my time at university and during the time I have lived in Belfast, who have helped me grow as a person. You all know who you are, and I thank you for being there for me, through the good times and the bad.

To the rest of you, join me and stand up against body shaming. Stop reading articles about what size dress Taylor Swift wore to her birthday party, or what circumference Kylie Jenner’s thigh is, or how Jennifer Lawrence put on 1kg after her last movie. Who cares?! Why are we doing this to ourselves? It certainly doesn’t make me feel good, and it shouldn’t make you feel good either. We need to put a stop to body shaming and fat shaming, and start loving each other more, so that we can truly start loving ourselves.

Those Bikini Photos and Why I Posted Them…

Bikini Photos August 2015

These photos show me in a bikini, not flexing (left) and flexing (right). As you can see, there is a noticeable difference in how ‘lean’ or ‘tight’ I look, in my stomach and legs.

My Instagram account is just a collage of food photos. One of the reasons I started ‘Green Food and Running Shoes’ was to help people make better choices in their diet and eat healthier, more wholesome food. Diet is just as important, if not more important, than staying active. Every now and then, I like to share a photo of my weight loss progress and my muscle gain. This journey is about body transformation, inside and out, and I want to show people that you can go from fat to fit, without undergoing surgery or any extreme diets or shortcuts. On Monday 17th August, I posted a photo on my Facebook and Instagram pages which showed me in a pink bikini (pictured above). Upon sharing the photos, I received a spectacular variety of messages from friends and loved ones. Some told me to take them down, some warned me of what employers might think, and others told me I looked damn fabulous, and that they were happy for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am super thankful to have people in my life who genuinely care about me. I take advice on board, when I feel it is coming from a good place and I am by no means stubborn or arrogant. Part of this blog as about me sharing my story and being honest without sugar-coating anything. So, to anyone and everyone who judged me for sharing those photos, deemed them to be inappropriate, or thought I should take them down, I would like you to read this post and then seriously reflect on whether you still feel the same way afterwards. Here are the reasons why I posted those photos:

  1. Bikini Confidence is something that many women, of all shapes and sizes, rarely or never experience. Wearing clothing that reveals every inch of your body, every little ounce of cellulite, every jiggle, every stretch mark, every blemish, and every imperfection, is extremely nerve-wracking for many women. For the first time in my entire life, I feel like I might be able to wear my bikini on holiday (30 days and counting) and actually feel somewhat comfortable. Not even ‘amazing’ or ‘sexy,’ just ‘OK.’
  2. High School Bullies taunted me for my weight from the age of 11 until the age of 18. In fact, it destroyed my self-esteem to the point where I would literally avoid pool parties or pretend that I was on my period so that I did not have to strip down to my bikini. Any trips to the beach and I wore one of those hideous ‘Tankini’ sets or shorts and a bikini top to try and cover myself up as much as possible.
  3. 8 Months of Hard Work is what it has taken to transform my body into what it is today. Or, if you count the time I have spent on my weight loss journey since my fattest point, that would be 6 years. Yes, that is correct, six whole years.
  4. Vacation Photos of me in a bikini are non-existent. Why? Because I hid my body and only let people take photos of me from specific angles. If there were photos of me where I believed I looked fat, I deleted them or begged the photographer to remove them from existence. How sad is that? All those memories that were captured were then deleted because of how much I hated how I looked.
  5. General Body Confidence is something I have genuinely never experienced. In fact, I will tell you that I used to wear my dad’s shirts in high school just to hide all of my curves and flabby bits. Then, I tried an alternative strategy, and wore jeans that were SO tight, they ripped in the crotch, because I thought it concealed my fat by sucking it all into uncomfortably-tight denim.
  6. To Motivate Others has genuinely been my primary goal throughout this entire journey since I started ‘Green Food and Running Shoes.’ There was nobody to help me lose the weight, or give me nutritional advice, or help me make better choices, or give me exercise tips. I had to learn everything on my own using magazines, online blogs and articles, and Google. Losing weight and getting fit is damn hard, and I want to show people that I am no fake; I am real and my weight loss and muscle gain is 100% authentic. Photos help me show my authenticity.

If you know me, you will know that I am not one of those vain, self-obsessed, arrogant, obnoxious girls whose entire social media profile is a collection of selfies that would rival that of Kim Kardashian. Even now, after repairing much of the damage I did to my body, I am still repairing the damage that others inflicted on my mind. My body photos are not shared for the purpose of gaining ‘likes’ or attention. They are shared for the purpose of showing others that their goals are not out of reach, and I am living proof of that. If you follow me regularly, you will know that I only share photos of myself once a month, if that. Most of my posts are food and fitness-related. My goal is not to show off; it has always been to offer encouragement, create motivation, and inspire strength. Forgive me if I share a photo of my body once in a while, but it is something that I am gradually learning to be proud of, rather than feeling ashamed. Thank you to those who read this. Next week, I have a recipe to share with you guys, as well as some tips for changing up your work-out routine. Have a great week!

When Food Becomes Dangerous to Your Health

Watermelon

Did you know that there are 90 calories and 6g of sugar in 300g of watermelon, but there are 1500 calories and god-only-knows how many g of sugar in the same amount of chocolate!

During my weight loss journey, I have realised that my relationship with food is far more complex than any other relationship in my life. Periodically, I go from loving food to hating food and I have even found myself wishing that I could numb my taste buds. In previous posts, I have opened up about my crackhead-like cravings for chocolate, my prior dependence on mountain dew, my at-times distorted perception of myself and my eating, and my overall struggle with my weight and food. There have been times when I have felt completely alone and have felt like I am fighting a losing battle. Then there have been days when I have felt powerful, unstoppable, and have nailed my goals. All in all, it feels like a bit of a roller-coaster. But one thing I have learned is that I am not alone. There are so many people who have struggled with food-related issues of their own, and if the internet and social media has given us one gift, it is that sense of community for people like myself who at times, have felt very isolated. If you are reading this and you have struggled with food or your weight or your health, know that you are NEVER alone! There are people like me who have been through some tough times and are here to give you as much support and advice as we can. If I can help just one person make a positive change, then everything I have invested in this blog has been worth it.

One thing I have discovered is that food can become pretty dangerous when a ‘treat’ or a ‘cheat meal’ turns into a binge. Eating a diet that is too restrictive leads to ‘binge-ing’, which is essentially when a treat gets completely out of control, and someone over-consumes foods that they would not typically eat. This could be an entire tub of ice-cream, a family-size packet of cookies, candy, or a large pizza. A binge is different for every person. It is important to recognise that the term ‘binge’ should not be used loosely. Eating a packet of M&Ms is not a ‘binge’ in my opinion. Eating four or five packets of M&Ms could be classified as a binge. Why do these slip-ups happen? Why do we attack ‘naughty’ foods like a bear that has just come out of hibernation? Or a lion attacking it’s prey? There is something missing from our diet. Not eating enough calories, or carbs, or sleep, or lacking certain nutrients, can cause the body to crave what it is not getting. Stress, lack of sleep, and under-eating can all wreak havoc on our body and for those of us who live a fairly active lifestyle, the cravings can be pretty intense. There have been afternoons where I have wandered up and down the candy aisle at Tesco, staring and drooling over all the sweets like some insane drug addict that just escaped from rehab. Honestly, I have spent far too many minutes, and possibly even hours, of my life in that damn candy aisle.

It is scientifically proven that if you do not get enough sleep, your body craves ‘energy foods’ to keep it fuelled for a day of activity. People who have under-slept gravitate towards foods that are high in fat and sugar because their body needs extra energy to get through the day. It is also proven that hormonal imbalance, caused by poor diet or stress, can result in over-eating or eating high-sugar, high-fat foods. Now, I am not an expert, but I do have experience in the struggles of weight loss. It is so important to recognise WHY your body is craving, and try to figure out what it needs to get back to normal. Sometimes, a cup of tea will do the trick, or a tall glass of water, or even some raw nuts or berries. Know when your body is hungry, and when it is just suffering the dreaded ‘cravings’. Tonight, for example, I began craving chocolate and started day-dreaming about Cadbury’s. Now, I am convinced that it is largely psychological and that my brain is playing tricks on me. But I thought to myself, “hmm… I must be craving sugar” so I ate about 300g of watermelon and it did the trick. Watermelon has naturally occurring sugars in it but in 300g of this delicious fruit, there are only 90 calories and 6g of sugar, as opposed to the 1500 calories and god-only-knows-how-many grams of sugar in 300g of chocolate.

For people who are conscious of their weight or their body fat, binge eating can lead to distress, guilt, shame, and anxiety. If the cycle continues of restricting and bingeing, it can then lead to a fear of food or major food anxiety. And if it gets completely out of hand, it can lead to purging and sadly, eating disorders. Before it gets past that first stage, make a conscious decision to keep it under control. Step 1: Make sure you are eating enough (please- STOP restricting your calories; find out what is recommended for your weight and your activity level, and get your calories from heaps of vegetables, healthy starches, eggs, meat, and high-protein dairy). Step 2: Make sure you are getting enough sleep (minimum 7 hours per night, or 8 if you can manage it). Step 3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (at least one tall glass of water in the morning, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, and dinner; dehydration leads to false feelings of hunger). Step 4: Manage your treats (decide if you are going to have one small treat a day or a big treat at the end of the week and stick to it; don’t restrict yourself to the point where you are clawing at the doors of Krispy Kreme, and make sure you don’t go into your cheat meal or weekly treat hungry or you will overdo it).

Keep yourself busy. The times when we snack the most are when we are sat in front of the TV or on the sofa. The hit TV show ‘Gogglebox’ illustrates just how much we Brits love our sofa time. I mean, seriously, a nation of people sitting on the sofa watching a TV show about people sitting on their sofas watching TV shows? That is insane. Instead of watching TV every evening, pick activities to do a couple of nights a week. This could be a hill walk or a hike, a trip to the park, a pole-dancing class (I have tried it!), yoga, a swim, an art class (still life anyone?), or a trip to the adventure golf course. When you are active and busy, you aren’t thinking about food, and the temptation to snack or binge won’t even cross your mind. Recognise that binge eating never makes you feel good and that you are undoing all the hard work you put in at the gym; all that sweat and all those blisters are worth more than some junk food. One quote I saw on Instagram that really stuck with me was: “Love yourself more than you love food.” To you the reader, you are beautiful, inside and out, and you do not deserve to treat yourself or your body with harm. Treat yourself and your body with the love and care that you deserve, and please know and believe that you DO deserve it.

8 Things in Your Refrigerator that are Making You Fat

Coca-cola

Soda and fizzy drinks are one of the main causes of obesity and the ‘diet’ options do not make them ‘healthy’ or any less addictive.

  1. Margarine: Do you know what ingredients are in your margarine? Here is a list of ingredients in a margarine spread from a popular UK grocery store: water, rapeseed oil, palm oil, reconstituted buttermilk, salt, emulsifier, stabiliser, preservative, lactic acid, vitamin E, colour flavouring, vitamin A, vitamin D. There is nothing ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ about margarine spread so throw it in the trash and go buy some real butter! Would you like to know the ingredients of butter? There is one ingredient: butter. Butter is naturally rich in vitamin A,  D and E, which is why it doesn’t need to be fortified with vitamins like the margarine. Yes, it has about double the fat content, but fat will leave you feeling more satiated and it is better to get your fat (we all need fat in our diets; it’s all about the type of fat and the source of fat) in natural forms rather than synthetic, processed ‘food-like products’ such as margarine. If you cringe at the idea of spreading butter onto your rice cakes, oat cakes, or toast, then try spreading them with some avocado and a pinch of salt instead. You will be surprised at how delicious and creamy it is!
  2. Low-fat or Light Yoghurt: Would you like to know how they make low-fat yoghurt taste so delicious? They add a ton of extra sugar. What happens when you consume sugar? Your body stores it as fat. Also, your body burns through sugars pretty quickly as it uses them for quick-access energy, leaving you craving more and probably as a result, eating more than you should as well. Swap out the low-fat stuff for some 0% Fat Greek Yoghurt, which is very high in protein but has almost zero sugars, or some full-fat natural or greek-style yoghurt. If you want to sweeten it, use some berries, which are lower in sugar than most other fruits, or add a tablespoon of your favourite protein powder. You could even add a drizzle of honey and some cocoa powder to make it like chocolate pudding! You could also top it with some crumbled dark chocolate and shredded coconut. Get creative and just make your own versions of your favourite flavoured yoghurts.
  3. Salad Dressing: Salad Dressings are a complete con. There was a brand of salad dressing that I used to eat in the states called ‘Ken’s Steakhouse Dressings.’ I will now shock you with the nutrition information of their honey-mustard salad dressing; ingredients: soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, water, dijon mustard, honey, egg yolk, sugar, spices, xanthan gum, salt, natural flavour, paprika, yellow #5. Did you read all of that? High fructose corn syrup AND sugar. There are 130 calories in just two tablespoons of this stuff, and that teeny tiny serving size contains 11g of fat and 6g of sugar. Is there anything ‘healthy’ about this stuff, which many Americans are pouring over their salad? Not really. Salad cream, in the UK, isn’t any better. Two tablespoons of this stuff contains 100 calories, 8g of fat and 6g of sugar. The ingredients include rapeseed oil and sugar. To put it simply, salad dressings contain refined sugar so stop putting them on your  salad as you are defeating your objective of eating healthy! Instead, why not make your own?
  4. Mayonnaise: The only reason you even have mayonnaise in your refrigerator is for making sandwiches. What nutritional value is mayonnaise adding to your diet? Nothing! The ingredients of mayonnaise sold in a popular UK retailer include: water, rapeseed oil (75%), and sugar. Again, more refined sugar that you are adding to your diet and more dodgy oil that probably isn’t doing your body any good. There are traditional British foods such as egg mayonnaise and tuna mayonnaise that you can make using your own ingredients. In fact, I recently made egg mayonnaise by combining plain greek yoghurt, dijon mustard, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt. It totally worked and completely satisfied my cravings but without any of the “bad stuff” in mayonnaise.
  5. Cheese: Why are you eating cheese? Are you putting it in your sandwiches, on your baked potato, in your eggs, or just eating it by the slice? Cheese is OK to enjoy occasionally as a treat, perhaps with some crackers or chutney at Christmas time (my dad’s favourite), but it shouldn’t be added to foods that don’t need it (except salads, which you could also add nuts to so that it’s a proper meal and not just half a chicken breast with some leaves). Trade in the brie and camembert for some feta or goat’s cheese. It’s much better for you. Make sure that you check the protein content and choose the brand with the highest protein. Also, don’t be fooled by some of the supermarket own brands; if you can find the more authentic Greek feta or French goats cheese, it is likely that the ingredients will also be more authentic and the nutritional content will be far superior too. My favourite Greek brand of feta is ‘Tranos’; it is so delicious!
  6. Jams and Marmalades: As a nation, we love our PBJ sandwiches, marmalade on toast, Nutella and other spreads and condiments. Trust me when I say that I still occasionally have wild cravings for Nutella and refuse to buy it because my self-control just isn’t that strong! Food manufacturers know that we are addicted to sugar and they design foods like spread and condiments for us to add to our food so that we essentially become addicted to it. No, this isn’t a conspiracy theory. Think about people who can’t have french fries without ketchup, can’t have eggs without HP sauce, can’t have chicken without Hot Sauce, can’t have salad without dressing, and the list goes on. One of my best friends lost weight just by eating her food plain! This doesn’t mean that you need to eat all of your food dry and bland; just think of creative ways to make your own versions of these things or find alternative snacks. The other day, I had a craving for PBJ so I spread some Meridian peanut butter on a wholegrain rice cake and put some thawed frozen raspberries on top. Craving sorted, and it was delicious. You can also make your own Nutella using ingredients such as hazelnut butter and cacao powder, but I haven’t tried that one yet!
  7. Fruit Juice: Fruit juice is like liquid sugar. In fact, you may as well eat a whole packet of sweets or candy because the sugar content will be the same. A serving size of 200ml of orange juice contains approximately 20g of sugar, and if you are drinking a pint glass of the stuff, you are consuming a whopping 40-60g of sugar in one beverage. You could eat 10 Lifesavers (for my US readers) or a fifth of a 190g bag of Wine Gums (one of the UK’s favourite sweets) and consume the same amount of sugar. If you are drinking it for the Vitamin C content, why not take a multivitamin? Or put lemon wedges in your water? Or eat 1/4 of a grapefruit with your breakfast (6g of sugar, 33mg of vitamin C)?
  8. Soda/Fizzy drinks: Soda, pop, and fizzy drinks are one of the main causes of obesity in my opinion. They are often referred to as ‘liquid calories’ and are just pure sugar. In fact, for one summer when I was 21, I was completely addicted to soda. I was working in a fast-food restaurant, and wasn’t eating real food but just running on the fuel of Mountain Dew and Dr Pepper. The effect it had on my body was that I lost a little bit of weight but my blood pressure absolutely shot up. How crazy is that? Age 21 with high blood pressure, and all because I was drinking about 1-2 liters of soda a day. In one individual-sized (intended for one person) bottle of sprite, there are 64g of high fructose corn syrup. In one can of 7-Up, there are 36g of sugar. These drinks are highly addictive and I would seriously encourage you to quit drinking them! Swap them out for sparkling water if you crave the carbonation, and swap them out for diluting juice if you crave the flavour. Aim to cut them out completely and just drink more H20. Water is what your body needs; drinks that are high in sugar actually dehydrate you so just replace them with water.

If you are an overweight person and can cut out a lot of the rubbish, and sugar, from the majority of your diet for at least 2-3 weeks, you will more than likely shed weight pretty quickly. Much of it will be water weight since your body actually retains more water through consumption of sugar than salt (it is true). However, a lot of it will be because your body will start burning fat for energy rather than the sugar and carbs you were feeding it to keep it going. If you are a non-overweight person, you will probably start to sleep better, have more energy throughout then day rather than peaks and crashes, and you may find that your overall mood improves as well. Finally, when you cut sugar out of the majority of your diet, you can treat yourself occasionally without feeling guilty. Say goodbye to all the foods that are disguised as ‘healthy’ and start re-thinking the way that you eat.

Peanut Butter Oreos

Obesity: Who is to Blame?

A trip to Five Guys

Fast food is hard to give up, even for the fit community! When I was overweight, like many Americans and Brits, I ate fast food at least once a week. Now, I save it for the extremely occasional cheat meal and there are things, such as soda, that I will simply never again eat or drink.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to watch the documentary ‘Supersize Me’ by Morgan Spurlock as I drank my cup of fennel tea and munched on some chocolate, which is most certainly not in my diet plan. This is a documentary I had seen before back in 2007 or some time around then, a couple of years after it was released. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fast food lover. To summarise it in a sentence or two for those of you who have not seen it, Morgan decides to eat only McDonald’s for thirty days and the effects that this fast food binge has on his body are shocking. The documentary brings to light not only the dangers of consuming fast food on a regular basis, but also the obesity epidemic in the United States amongst adults, adolescents, and most terrifyingly of all, children. There are a couple of scenes which really stand out to me after re-watching this almost a decade later. The first scene is of a group of children depicted in a middle school setting, who are choosing french fries, potato chips, cakes, and extremely sugary beverages for their lunches. The second scene is of several individuals, both adults and children, who cannot explain what a calorie is and what it measures. Furthermore, the schools in the documentary are stocked with vending machines which make sodas, potato chips, candy bars, and other unhealthy snacks, readily available for children who are in an environment where their food and beverage consumption is not as strictly monitored as perhaps it should be. What do these three scenes highlight as a real issue in today’s education system? There is a genuine lack of good quality nutrition education in our schools, and children are not being empowered to make good decisions when it comes to their own dietary needs and food consumption. However, there is another stand-out scene in which a mother is being depicted with her extremely-overweight daughter as they sob over the fact that they can’t afford to buy two Subway sandwiches a day and be slim like Jared the Subway Guy. What does this tell us? The ownership is on the parents, as well as the education system, to make sure they are informed about nutrition so that they can feed their children healthy, nutritious foods and raise a family free from health problems.

When I was nineteen years old and toppling the scale at almost 210 lbs (95kg), my mother looked at me with a sadness in her eyes and said, “I don’t want you to have a weight problem when you are still so young.” This memory will stick with me for the rest of my life, because at the time, I didn’t think I had a “weight issue” but looking back, I was putting my health at serious risk. Public Health England predicts that by 2050, 1 in 4 children in the UK will be classified as obese. In the United States, currently, more than one third of adults are considered obese. When are we going to wake up and start thinking about what we are eating, rather than consuming, and not questioning, what is put on our plate? We are trimming years off our life span and putting ourselves at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and ultimately, death. There is one thing that really stands out for me as a primary cause of this obesity epidemic; we have become a culture of convenience and we rate convenience, speed, and efficiency, more highly than our own health. Fast food has become predominantly drive-thru, supermarket aisles are stacked with more tinned and boxed meals than fresh ingredients, vending machines more accessible than ever in shopping malls, parking lots, and even inside actual supermarket stores, so that we can get a ‘quick fix’ whenever we need it. We are more pressed for time than ever before and we need to cram more and more into our busy day, getting less down-time and less sleep, so that we can ultimately be more productive. Americans eat out an average of 4-5 times a week. In 2013, research showed that the UK population is consuming more take-a-way meals than ever before, with Chinese (and lets face it, most of this “food” is not Chinese at all) being the nation’s favourite, probably because it is packed with more sugar than any other meal choice. When we don’t cook our meals, how can we know what is in them? Do you know what oils were used in the process of cooking your egg-fried rice? Do you know what ingredients are in the frozen chicken wings you ate at KFC? Do you know how many types of meat were used in the manufacturing process of the hot dog you ate at the movie theatre last week?

After chatting with one of my Scandinavian friends recently, she remarked on how ridiculous it is that some people actually believe that potato chips are one of your five a day. I retorted with a joke about how the FDA have classified pizza as a vegetable. Then I realised that, I used to be one of those people; the ones who are completely misinformed. Why was I misinformed? I believed most of what I was told by parents, friends and TV, and I never questioned it. I was the girl that sat and gobbled up a plate of Fettucine Alfredo with lobster thinking that because it was lobster, which was a seafood, it must be healthy. I was the girl that dipped her bread in olive oil and parmesan cheese and thought, “this must be a much healthier option than french fries.” I was that person who thought that having a side salad, which was basically iceberg lettuce smothered in a ranch dressing, before my main course meant that I was being “healthy.” Let’s think about what “healthy” really means for a second. If you are to classify something as being “healthy,” you are essentially maintaining that it will somehow benefit your health. If you are to classify something as being “unhealthy,” you are essentially saying it will have a harmful effect on your health. If you apply this concept to everything you eat, you will completely re-evaluate your nutrition and food consumption. But for this to work, you have to start learning about food and nutrition, and you MUST be honest with yourself. Stop eating, and living, in denial. Start asking questions and start doing your research*. (*Also, follow me on Instagram and Facebook as I am constantly posting articles, tips, advice, and sharing the things that I am learning!)

The internet, and mobile internet, has put the power in our hands as consumers to start educating ourselves about what we eat. Apps such as MyFitnessPal allow us to measure the amount of fat, sugar, protein, nutrients, and calories in most of the foods we consume. There are a wealth of doctors, nutritionists, and scientists who write blogs about food, diet, fitness and weight loss. Fitness gurus have shared some of their best tips for staying fit, getting stronger, and shedding fat. There is literally no excuse to be overweight or obese. You can choose to sit back, be angry, and believe what you are told, or you can choose to question everything, read the ingredients, research what you are eating and start taking better care of your body. I am not advocating ‘obsession’ and calorie-counting; I am recommending that you start educating yourself about nutrition like I started doing when I realised that nobody else was going to teach me. Take control of your health and you will thank yourself for it. It is never too late to change and no matter where your starting point is, 150, 250 or 350 lbs, you WILL achieve your goals if you genuinely want to lead a healthier lifestyle. Don’t compare yourself to other people and build your own online, and offline, support network. Never stop learning, never stop caring and never stop trying!

Bread

Carbs: The Struggle is Real

Transformation Photo

The left picture was me in 2007 when I was drinking and partying excessively, and the right picture is me today as I am living a much healthier and active lifestyle.

Carbs. We all love them, some of us eat too many, some of us eat too little, a few of us fear them, but most of us really misunderstand them. For most of my life, I believed that a carbohydrate was a grain. In my mind, carbohydrates were things like bread, pasta, rice, crackers, potato chips, potatoes, cereal and most things that were white in colour. When I discovered that root vegetables like sweet potato and carrots were actually a source of carbohydrates, it blew my mind. When I found out that fruits such as apples and bananas were technically carbs, I felt like I had been lied to my entire life. When I found out that milk and beans were both a source of carbs, I was downright confused. When my friend Karen from Good Clean Chow told me that avocados were even a source of carbohydrate, I was totally gobsmacked. My entire life flashed before my eyes. Okay, maybe I am being a little dramatic here, but I will never look at foods such as apples or chickpeas in the same way again. When we talk about ‘carbs,’ we are really talking about the foods that give our body energy. Simply put, carbohydrates come in three forms: (1) sugars, (2) starches, and (3) fibres. When we consume high-carb foods, our body converts these foods into glucose and burns that glucose fuel for energy. Suddenly, I remember when I tried to help my mom reduce her intake of refined carbohydrates (i.e. cake) and early on, she succumbed to her cravings and told me, “You don’t understand, I NEED this!” Well, actually, I do understand because like many of you, I too have experienced the dreaded carb cravings. These cravings are your body telling you that it needs fuel to burn for energy. The problem is that many of us interpret these cravings as actual hunger and end up overeating as a result, or over-consuming carbohydrates when we should either be drinking more water or eating more protein. The majority of the population tops up their body’s fuel supply with high-sugar foods like candy that the body can source energy from rapidly, caffeine, or processed grains, which are digested very quickly and give the body the instant boost it needs. What we really should be doing is eating healthier forms of carbohydrates such as beans, legumes, and root vegetables that digest slowly and will fuel us for a longer period of time. The third type of carbohydrate, a fibre, is possibly the most important as we need fibre to ensure digestive health and ‘waste management’ as we shall so politely call it. Raw porridge oats, beans, and vegetables such as broccoli and brussels sprouts are great sources of fibre. When I was first starting out with healthy eating in 2008, I started eating cereals and granola bars made by a company named ‘Fibre One’ which were foods fortified with extra fibre, and were popular in the US market at the time. The difference was incredible. I consumed much less food and many of my bowel problems (to put it politely) ironed themselves out. Now, I get my fibre from completely natural sources but even still, often I don’t get enough. However, I am working on it!

Sugar is a carbohydrate. Eating “Five a Day” in the form of five apples contains a whopping 125g of sugar. If you ate three bananas a day, your total sugar consumption from those bananas alone would be 54g. In fact, an apple contains the same amount of sugar as a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate bar! Now, before you freak out and trade in all your fruit for chocolate, obviously this sugar comes in different forms. In the chocolate bar, it is that white refined sugar that, in my opinion, is the heroin of the food world. In the apple, it is naturally occurring sugars in the form of fructose, which isn’t processed but is still a carbohydrates. Apples, Bananans, Oats, grains and simple carbohydrates are what I call ‘Fuel foods.’ If you are an extremely active person, you will need to eat more carbs than the average individual. Marathon runners and athletes who engage in a high amount of cardio would tend to eat a diet higher in carbs since their body is burning a heck of a lot of energy. Some people recommend eating carbs before a workout to boost your energy levels so you can power through the workout without feeling tired or sore. Personally, I find this works well for me right now but I always eat the same pre-workout meal; 25-30g of oats. A trainer recently told me it is essential to eat carbs after a workout, especially if you have been lifting heavy, since your muscles need to restore their glucose (available energy) and glycogen (stored energy) levels, which are severely depleted after a hard workout. Now, I make sure to get my carbs and protein in within 30 minutes of working out. This morning I had an incredible “milkshake” containing: 1/2 banana, 1/2 tbsp Meridian peanut butter, 100g Total 0% Greek Yoghurt, 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 scoop PhD Diet Whey Vanilla Creme, and approx. 1 cup Alpro unsweetened almond milk. This was one of the most delicious shakes I have EVER made and it completely refuelled me after my post-legs-day 10K.

Diets low in carbohydrates have worked really well for some people but not so well for others. If you think about the average American or UK diet, it is extremely carb-heavy. When I was at university, I ate cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and crisps for lunch, and pasta for dinner. That is literally 90% carbohydrates! When I was living in the United States, they served bread with the pasta at lunch and many Mexican restaurants served their meals with tortillas, chips, beans and rice. Carbs on carbs on carbs. So, for the past 5-6 months, I have been eating a diet a much lower in carbs and have been trying carb-cycling. Carb-cycling is where you eat low-carb for most of the week and then re-feed your body with carbohydrates either 1 or 2 days a week. The goal is to put your body into ketosis (fat-burning mode as opposed to carb-burning mode) for a couple of days a week so as to burn more fat and as a result, lose weight. On a low-carb diet, the cravings can be pretty intense and if you have too many low-carb days, your body can end up feeling tired and completely depleted. This is why I would suggest that you play around with the amount of carbs in your diet. Listen to your body and if your body is telling you that it is exhausted, depleted, and starved, then it is probably time for a high-carb day. Some women have reported going low-carb, or paleo, for a prolonged period of time and actually losing their menstrual cycle (a condition called amenorrhea) and experiencing hormonal issues. For this reason, I would recommend exercising caution if you are going to eat low-carb in the long-term. But, as always, listen to your body and experiment, but do so safely and consult a doctor, trainer or nutritionist if you are unsure. This article is a fantastic resource if you are seeking to learn more about this subject. Finally, I would like to share that I have been doing a low-carb, no-sugar diet for the past three days in a row and the cravings have been insane. On Day 1, I was totally fine and trained my upper body, interspersing some HIIT training into my workout. My protein intake was pretty high with eggs, protein powder, and tuna on the menu, with a lot of veggies. On Day 2, I did legs and was craving carbs like some sort of food crack addict. On Day 3, I ran a 10K and had a tiny amount of carbs in the form of 1/2 a banana and some blueberries after my run (because I think I wouldn’t have made it through the day if I hadn’t) but in the afternoon, I wandered around the supermarket googling candy, chocolate, cake and all sorts of high-sugar foods. However, instead, I came home, ate two dates, 150g greek yoghurt, some protein powder and some peanuts instead. My biggest problem is refined sugar as I have a sweet tooth and I love candy, as most of my readers will know. However, if I can succeed at this 21 day ban on refined sugar, I will be able to put a stop to my sugar binges and potentially give up candy forever, or at least cut down the sweet treats to once a fortnight or once a month rather than once or twice a week. As always, I will keep you posted and if you too are thinking of trying some low-carb meals, check out my Instagram and Facebook pages for some fabulous recipes and some food and fitness tips. See you soon!

12 Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle

Transformation Photo

A ‘Before and After’ of me in 2008 versus me in 2015. Changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It is not all about losing weight; that is just one part of it. This was a complete transformation of body, mind, and life.

A friend of mine recently sent me a message asking for help. She explained that she finds it difficult to try and break certain habits, and as a result, is struggling to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Unlike many health and fitness bloggers out there, I haven’t always been healthy, or fit! As my regular readers will know, I used to weigh 210 lbs and was binge-drinking, smoking, partying, and eating a diet that consisted predominantly of complete and utter junk food. The other day, I was recalling my first time on the treadmill at my heaviest weight and I truly could not even run for more than 1-2 minutes without having to stop to catch a breath. Last year, I ran my first half marathon. So, did I just magically change my lifestyle overnight and go from a fat, booze-guzzling overeater to a clean-eating gym-lover? No!!! My transformation began with some small changes, that gradually lead to bigger changes, and even today, I am still learning, improving and making better choices. But, I really want to write a post for those who are just beginning their journey; people who simply do not know where to start or how to begin. So, I am going to share 12 tips that will help you get well on your way to a healthier style of living.

  1. Get up earlier. When you lie around in bed until the early hours of the afternoon, you end up feeling sluggish and lethargic for the rest of the day. Set an alarm, even on weekends, and train your body to wake up earlier. During the week, I usually get up between 6 and 6:30am and on weekends, I’m usually up by 8:30am. If you start the day early and get moving, you will have more energy for the rest of the day and you will get more done. Make to-do lists, set yourself little goals each day, and have a plan. When you are organised, it is easier to stay on track and stay motivated. There is something about getting up early that is empowering and motivating. Try it!
  2. Work out in the morning. Exercise gets your blood flowing, increases the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and gets those endorphins pumping as well. If you are just starting out, try going to the gym before you go to work and doing just half an hour on the cross-trainer at a high resistance, or 10 minutes of rowing, followed by 10 minutes of stair-climbing and a 10 minute jog. You could even do 30 minutes on the spin bike at a medium resistance. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise in the morning before you go to work and it will set a really positive tone for the day. You will see your mood improve, your energy levels improve, and you will be less likely to crave junk food as well.
  3. Swap your breakfast cereal for porridge. If you like your oatmeal sweet, then use frozen berries to sweeten it. You can buy a bag of frozen berries and then just stir them in while the oatmeal is hot. Add a tablespoon of flaxseed as it aids with digestion and will also keep you fuller for longer. If you like a big breakfast or have a long walk or cycle to work, then sprinkle some flaked almonds on top, a spoonful of peanut butter or some coconut. The healthy fats will keep you fuller for longer. Make sure you are eating raw oats and not the processed ‘Ready Brek’ or ‘Quick Oats’ that have added sugar and preservatives. If you want to be really good, make you oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk.
  4. Add extra green vegetables to your lunch and your dinner. If you normally eat a sandwich and crisps or chips for lunch, then swap the chips out for some broccoli, a kale salad or sprouts instead. Simply prepare some little baggies or boxes of veggies the night before and take them with you so you won’t be tempted to go to the vending machine for that mid-morning snack. For dinner, no matter what you are having, swap out one of your sides for a vegetable. If you normally have a pasta dish, then swap out the pasta for roasted root vegetables. Instead of having noodles with your stir fry, just eat the whole bag of stir fry veg. I am serious! Eat until you feel full and get those veggies into you.
  5. Healthy Snacks Only. If you need a mid-morning pick-me-up or an afternoon munch, make sure you have your own homemade snacks ready to go. Boiled eggs are fantastic little snacks. They are about 80 calories a pop and are packed with nutrients, as well as a good amount of protein and healthy fats. Boil 4 or 5 eggs at the beginning of the week and keep them in the fridge for snacks during the week. If you don’t like eggs, then have almonds and blueberries instead. Fruit like bananas and grapes are high in natural sugars and will spike your blood sugar levels, whereas berries have a much lower sugar content. You could even have some beef jerky or some cottage cheese. High-protein snacks will keep you full.
  6. Start exercising slowly and increase it bit by bit. If you have never worked out before, start by speed-walking for 30-45 minutes a day, five days a week. Once you feel comfortable, join a gym. Start with cardio machines like the cross-trainer, the rowing machine, and the spin bikes. Always make sure that for the last couple of minutes, you push it really hard. End with a sprint. If you have the confidence to go to classes, then I would sign up for circuits immediately. When I went to my first circuits class, I had to leave halfway through the class. And guess what? This is totally fine! To complete half the class is an achievement. So, sign up and take a friend with you if you don’t want to go alone.
  7. Meal Preparation. As I have always said, meal prep and organisation is key. Prepare your lunches at the beginning of the week so you aren’t tempted to go for a cheeky Nando’s or a Chinese buffet at lunchtime. Stuck for ideas? I post a ton on my Instagram and Facebook pages so check there. Or just keep it simple with grilled chicken, grilled turkey, baked salmon, brown or basmati rice, and plenty of green vegetables.
  8. Eating Out. If you are going out to eat with friends, check out the menu ahead of time. Make sure that there is something you can order and commit to choosing the healthy option. Drink a tall glass of water before you go to make sure you are hydrated (you feel more hungry when you are dehydrated and can risk overeating). There will always be a vegetable side option, even if it’s sweet potato fries. Make better choices and you will feel better for doing it.
  9. Quit alcohol for three weeks. When you drink, you spike your sugar levels and dehydrate yourself. That is how a hangover happens. When you are hungover, your body is tired and deprived of nutrients and electrolytes, so it tends to crave sugar, salt and junk. The hangover munchies can sometimes be even worse than the alcohol itself! Trust me, I speak from experience. So, cut it out for at least three weeks and feel your body change. You may find that you don’t even miss the booze, or the hangovers!
  10. Quit drinking soda and fruit juice. Soda is one of the worst things that you can put into your body. Most of it is packed with sugar and completely man-made ingredients. There is nothing natural about it and there is nothing nutritious about it! You do not need it. Switch to sugar-free diluting juice instead and mix it with sparkling water if you miss the carbonation. Once you’ve done this for a couple of weeks, see if you can go cold turkey. Fruit juices are pure sugar so stop drinking them and just eat a little of the fruit they are made of instead, or just drink water or herbal tea. You, and your dentist, will thank me for it!
  11. Plan your treats. If you don’t plan your treats, and you have a sweet tooth like me, you might find yourself succumbing to temptation on a daily basis. So, plan your treats! Make sure it’s not a binge, but rather something to look forward to. Plan to go out for coffee and cake with a friend, or plan on having candy at the cinema, or book a dinner reservation at your favourite burger restaurant. Don’t go crazy and eat your body weight in burritos, but treat yourself with something small and naughty if you have been good all week. Diets are hard and everyone needs a little “cheat” every now and then. (*Don’t have a ‘cheat day’ but rather have a ‘cheat meal’ or a ‘treat.’ An entire day off your diet will simply undo all the hard work you’ve done throughout the week.)
  12.   Make yourself a motivation board. I have one on my fridge! Write down all your goals and all your reasons for changing on some multi-coloured post-it notes and stick them up on a board somewhere you can look at every day. Changing your habits and your lifestyle is not easy, and you are your best motivator. Be your own coach and if you struggle, then enlist the help of a fit friend. You will need to remind yourself why you started, especially on the days when you are tired or frustrated. Just always remember, you CAN do it.

When you start treating your body better, your energy levels increase, you sleep better, your cravings go away, your confidence improves, your mood improves, you are happier and life is good. So, if you are just starting out, begin by making small changes that will get you on the right track. As you achieve your goals week by week, keep making better choices and keep improving. Never stop learning and never stop trying. You will find that over time, baby steps lead to giant leaps and before you know it, you are fit, healthy and flying high.

How to Shed Body Fat: My Top 7 Tips

Tranformation Photograph

The left photo was taken in 2008 when I was overweight and out of shape. The right photo was taken last week. What a difference!

  1. Fish Oil: I take Omega-3 fish oil every single morning with my breakfast. Simply put, your blood contains things called ‘Triglycerides’ which are essentially fat. Anything you eat that is not used immediately for energy, is then broken down into fat, which is stored in your body in the form of triglycerides. If these build up, you will increase your risk of heart disease and other health-related problems. Omega-3 fish oil reduce the amount of triglycerides in your body, keeping your heart nice and healthy, and other evidence indicates that it contributes to weight loss as part of the process. There are numerous other benefits found in omega-3 fatty acid, which I would definitely encourage you to read up on!
  2. Green Tea Extract– I swear by green tea. I stopped drinking coffee and black tea back in November 2014 and have felt a million times better since. Green tea is my pre-workout fuel but also my daily energy source as I drink 1-2 cups with breakfast, 1 cup with lunch, and sometimes a cup in the afternoon if I feel like I need it. It is lower in caffeine so it tops up my energy but doesn’t speed me up like a rocket the way that coffee used to. If you hate the taste of green tea, you can purchase green tea extract as a supplement at most health food stores. It speeds up your metabolism and is full of antioxidants, and aids with digestion as well.
  3. Less Fruit, More Vegetables– Apples, bananas, and grapes may be delicious but they are also very high in fructose, which is sugar. The sugars from fruit may be naturally occurring but don’t be fooled by the myth that they are good for you. No sugar is good for you! Eat blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries instead. They may taste sweet but they have a fraction of the carbohydrates (sugars) that many other fruits have. Grapefruit is good too; it’s high in vitamin C and there are speculations amongst nutritionists that they can have fat-burning properties. Lemons are a must! They are a great source of vitamin C, being a citrus fruit, so pop a couple of wedges into your water daily for a vitamin C boost. It is important to get vitamin C as it helps maintain a healthy, strong immune system.
  4. Green Smoothies– Green smoothies aren’t for everyone but if you struggle to eat enough vegetables, or don’t like eating in the morning then you should definitely try them. Kale, spinach, broccoli, celery, cucumber, beetroot, lemon juice, lime juice, flaxseed, are all some of the ingredients I use in mine. I like to keep it simple and nutrient-dense. No, my smoothies are not sweet like some of the fruit smoothies you may be used to, but they leave me feeling energised, satisfied and clean afterwards. Check out my Instagram for photos, videos and recipes of my smoothie creations.
  5. Less fat, less carbs, more protein– Some of you are going to be confused because I was an advocate of the Paleo lifestyle for almost a year. However, I realised that I was eating way too much fat! Nuts, oils, eggs, bacon, seeds, dark chocolate, coconut milk… my diet was fat-packed and I was maintaining my weight, but I was not losing anything, despite the time I spent at the gym and out running. Paleo is a great lifestyle as it emphasises unprocessed foods and healthy fats, but if you are trying to “shred” and reduce your body fat percentage, you may struggle on this eating regime. The best diet to follow, in my opinion, is one composed of lean meats such as turkey, chicken and white fish, as well as plenty of eggs (whites only if you are really cutting), Total 0% fat Greek Yoghurt, natural peanut butter, and other high-protein ‘lean’ foods. Carbohydrate sources should come from rice, quinoa, sweet potato, carrots, beetroot, and other non-grain carbs.
  6. Supplements– My daily supplements are pretty simple- omega 3 fish oil, a multivitamin, and phD diet whey protein powder. After every strength training session, I have a shake. If I am having porridge for my pre-workout breakfast, I only eat 20-25g and mix in a tablespoon of protein powder. This may be the reason I have gained muscle so fast, and it means I stay fuller for longer. Protein powder can be stirred into yoghurt, added to smoothies, and you can also make protein pancakes and muffins with it as well. If you are crafty in the kitchen, you can even try making your own protein bars. Get creative! The diet whey protein powder contains green tea extract and amino acids that help your muscles recover, so you can get straight back to the gym the next day. If you are training extremely vigorously, you might want to consider drinking BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) during your workout so your muscles recover as you go, to help you train longer and harder. However, I am definitely not at that stage yet! Aloe Vera is a great natural diuretic if you are feeling bloated, water-loaded or a little clogged up. Always try adding fibre to your diet first, but if you need a little help, aloe vera works wonders. There are other supplements such as L-Glutamine, L-Cartinine and Creatine that can be added to your diet, but I am still learning about these so I will save my thoughts on those for a future post.
  7. Herbals teas– Every single evening, I sip on herbal teas. Some of my favourites are: liquorice and mint, peppermint, fennel, nettle, and lemon and ginger. Liquorice tea is somewhat sweet, which I like, as it feels like you are having a dessert. Peppermint tea is good for headaches and great for digesting after a meal. Fennel tea also aids digestion and it is so flavourful. Lemon and ginger tea has a little spice to it and is quite calming. Lemon balm tea is a good one for anti-stress and relaxation. Nettle tea is really good for water retention; you will pee everything out after drinking a cup or two of this! Sipping on tea helps me resist the urge to snack in the evenings but it is also really soothing. A must-try.

There is no miracle fat loss cure. Fat loss comes with hard work, dedication to your diet, and time. These are just a few tips to help speed up the process and help maximise your results. To anyone who thinks that lifting weights and taking protein will bulk you, this is not the case. If you balance the amount of cardio training with the amount of strength training you are doing, and monitor your ‘macros’ then you will be able to achieve your fitness goals. It may not happen straight away, but give it time, and you will see results. I have had to change my dietary plan several times and have had to change up my workouts too, in order to see the results I want. But finally, I am seeing my body change right in front of my eyes and I am loving every minute of it. So, do your push-ups without touching your knees to the floor, crank that incline up on your treadmill, and swap that salad for a protein bar. You will thank yourself for it when you start to feel better, faster, stronger, and fitter.

What is Wet, Pink and Smelly?

Gym Before and After

This is me on a normal day versus me at the gym. Being fit isn’t always glamorous and things can get sweaty, smelly and pretty disgusting.

My gym bag, my socks, and my new work-out top from H&M! That’s right, you gym-goers know exactly what I am talking about. To the girls who leave the gym looking immaculate, are you even human? To the guys who are tan in the middle of January, you are fooling no-one; you have ‘Vita Liberata‘ written all over you. Fitness blogs are filled with pretty neon tie-dye leggings, rainbow-coloured Nike fly-knits, perfectly manicured stiletto nails, hair extensions, and of course, big boob jobs. This post is about the real fitness life; the dirty, not-so-glamorous side.

A couple of years ago, I was at a gym in Belfast working my butt off to try and stay in shape. One of the trainers approached me and began chatting to me, and then he made a comment that has stuck with me ever since, “You sweat… A LOT.” The strange thing is, when he made this comment, rather than feeling embarrassed or ashamed, I actually felt quite proud! That’s right. I sweat profusely when I work out. This is because I drink lots of water and I completely work my ass off. Normally, I leave the gym absolutely soaking with my hair stuck to the back of my neck. There have been times when it looks as if I have wet myself and there have been times when I have left wet ass imprints on the benches and the mats. Why do you think so many people carry towels around the gym? Sweat. Proud, not ashamed.

Eggs, broccoli, sprouts, protein shakes. What do all these things have in common? They make you fart. Wind can be painful and rather than keeping it all sucked in, it is better to just let it out. If it happens at the gym, just know that this is one environment where you won’t be judged. I apologise to anyone who has come in close proximity with me while I am doing my afternoon ab work. Everyone passes gas at the gym at least once; don’t be embarrassed, just slowly walk away and move to a different area.

Being attractive at the gym is pretty difficult. Guys grunt like wild gorillas as they lift ridiculously heavy weights. Girls make little orgasm noises when they are finishing their last rep of their last set. Then there are people like me who accidentally let out a huge snort during their sprints. And other fitness freaks who shriek and moan like people in a psych ward as they push their bodies to the limit. My advice to you? Do not hold back. Shout, groan, squeal and make whatever noises you want because we all do it. And don’t even get me started on the faces. Constipation faces left, right and centre. Some of my favourites are, “Trying not to poop myself,” “Something is stuck up my ass,” “I feel like I’m dying,” “I’m spaced out because I didn’t drink enough water,” and “I’m jacked up on pre-workout and I don’t know what is happening right now.” Be proud of your gym face. Own it.

Fake tan lasts a day or two if you are lucky; it tends to sweat off. If it sweats off badly, please exfoliate, or you will look like an orange and beige zebra. Laundry must be done at least once or twice a week, because you go through a huge amount of clothes. Do not re-use your work-out clothes, as tempting as it may be, or you will smell like a piece of rotting meat. Your skin will be dry from showering excessively so you’ll need to moisturise regularly, or people will think it is snowing. Dry shampoo is a must if you are female; sweat will make your hair look stringy and greasy, even right after you washed it. Get one of those Ped Eggs or a skin buffer to keep your feet looking good for those summer sandals. Do not make the mistake I did and ignore them or you will blister over your blisters and end up with layers of dry skin. Pedicures are your friend.

So, still think the fit life is super glamorous? Things can get sweaty, smelly, and a little bit disgusting. But that moment when you put on a new outfit, and your body looks and feels tight and lean, is totally worth it. Besides, most of your gross-ness can be fixed with a little TLC or a good spa day. Get down and get dirty, and don’t be afraid, it will all be worth it in the end.

Weight Loss: Unexpected Side Effects

I Used to Be Fat

This was at a party in the United States in 2008 or 2009, when I was still overweight. Since then, I have lost 1-2 cup sizes.

So, I have been training hard for the past three months and I have managed to lose about 11 lbs so far, which is a lot considering I had already lost over 40 lbs since my ‘peak fatness’ as I call it. My grand total is now approaching the 50 lb mark, which is exciting. One not-so-exciting side effect of losing weight is that I no longer have the voluptuous bosom that I felt so blessed with before. My boobies no longer fill my bras as I have come down an entire cup size, and they are still shrinking, rapidly. For a split second today, I actually thought, “maybe being chubby with big boobs is better” and then, thankfully, I quickly snapped out of it. After speaking with a few other girls I know who have lost a lot of weight, when you lose fat, you loose boob-age and that’s just a fact of the fitness life. But what about all those fitness models whose breasts are bursting out of their tight, rainbow-coloured Nike sports bras? Turns out, breast implants are pretty common in the fitness model world. Now, I am not so sure that running up the stair stepper with a big pair of fake boobies bouncing up and down would be very comfortable, but for many women, it’s all about aesthetics. And a raging sick pack of abs doesn’t look so great when your chest is completely flat.

Losing a cup size or two (although, let’s hope it’s only one because if they get any smaller, I won’t even need a bra) is not the end of the world. The most important thing is that I feel so much better. My body feels stronger and fitter; I can run faster, I can lift heavier and I can do large sets of real push-ups (knees off the ground) and burpees without feeling like I am going to die. A couple of weeks ago, I managed to do 101 burpees in five minutes flat. It felt awesome. Spin classes are just a warm-up for me most days and I have so much more energy than before. Dare I say, even the sugar cravings are starting to disappear. This could be due to my hormones levelling out after stopping the pill, or it could be due to my increase in protein intake, but I am pleased that the cravings have decreased in intensity and in frequency. The gym is now part of my daily routine and I only take one rest day a week, which is either the day I am on my feet non-stop at work or if I’m studying, then I go for a moderate run. It isn’t that I am pushing myself too hard; I just don’t feel like I need or want a rest day. My body and mind love exercise and I want to do it because it just makes me feel so damn good. So, with all the positive side effects of losing weight, eating clean, and lifting weights, I think I can deal with my boobs getting a little bit smaller.

The changes in my body got me thinking; why do I care so much about how I look? Why do I feel the incessant need to virtually perfect my various body parts? Beauty. What does it mean? The Oxford Dictionary provides a definition that goes as follows: “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” So, although Dove and other companies have attempted to re-define beauty, it seems like there is a strong emphasis on the physical aspect of this concept. But, the issue is how we define beauty, as a society and more importantly, the media. If we define beauty as fake boobs, fake tan, fake blonde hair, fake eyelashes, and fake everything-else, then there is not much hope for us as human beings. Also, whose ‘sight’ are we trying to please? Are we trying to please strangers, our friends, our family, our loved ones, or ourselves? The only person that we should be trying to please is the person in the mirror. Stop trying to please everyone else, you will slowly go insane. The only person’s opinion who you should be concerned with is your own. Whether you have big hips, thick thighs, long legs, broad shoulders, skinny arms, big calves, or whatever you are blessed with; love it and don’t try to hide it. If we all looked the same, the world would be a dull, beige, lifeless place. We need colour and diversity. Beauty is undefinable, because everybody’s perception of beauty is different. Think about that for a second and next time you look in the mirror, even if you don’t believe that you are beautiful, know that there are probably a million people in the world who think that you are.