Killing Bad Habits, Creating New Ones

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Part of achieving a lifestyle change and making it stick is killing old habits and creating new ones. When I began my weight loss journey a few years ago, I had to break some bad habits and adopt some new healthy ones. Everyone made it sound easy, like I could just flip a switch, but it was really hard. Along the way, I found some tricks and short-cuts that really helped me reinforce my behaviour changes. For anyone who has just started their weight-loss journey or is struggling to break bad habits, this post is for you.

Stop Snacking.

A lot of people who are overweight struggle to lose the weight because they are constantly eating, snacking, picking, grazing and consuming a few hundred extra calories on top of their regular meals. Food is a drug, it releases feel-good chemicals in our brain and our senses are heightened. Snacking is a bad habit when it is preventing you from losing weight or causing you to gain weight. But there are a few habits you can introduce that will help you stop your snacking habit. The most effective for me is chewing gum. I go through about 50 pieces of gum every 1-2 weeks. Yes, that’s a lot of gum. I also have very healthy teeth, according to my dentist, so maybe this gum-chewing habit is doing more good than I even realise. The second best habit to introduce is drinking more water. Every time you feel like a snack, drink a bottle of water. You will pee a lot more often so prepare for that, but your body will thank you for an increased intake of H2O. The third best habit to combat a bad snacking habit is introduce more physical activity. Change your routine. Are you snacking while watching Netflix in bed? Go to a class at the gym instead. Go for a walk and listen to a Podcast. Go walk to Starbuck’s and grab a decaf Americano. Replace your snacking with a different activity that will make you feel just as good, if not better, than that shitty kit-kat.

Drink less alcohol. 

Alcohol messes your body up. It sends your blood sugar levels sky-rocketing, only for them to crash and burn the next day. It is a depressant. It can change the composition of your gut bacteria. It increases your heart rate. So yes, it’s fun and it can make for a fantastic night out with friends, but it does not do the body good. If you struggle with your weight, alcohol may have an even greater impact on you than someone who doesn’t struggle with their weight. But there are a few new habits you can introduce to help kick the alcohol habit. Sign up for early morning gym classes on the weekend to avoid the temptation to go out boozing on a Friday night. Or sign up for a Friday evening gym class for the same effect. Alternate between champagne or red wine and water, so you consume half the amount of booze you normally would on a night out. If you’re going out for dinner, order a Diet Coke or sparkling water instead of boozing. You’ll still get a mental kick from the caffeine in the Diet Coke but without all the calories. Sounds boring, I know, but it will help you shed the pounds. Don’t stop socialising altogether, this isn’t good for your happiness, but find a way to cut down on booze while still being social.

Cut down (or out) refined sugar. 

When I was younger, I loved sugar. It was my drug. I drank it, in the form of Dr Pepper or Mountain Dew. I ate it, in the form of candy. I snacked on it, in the form of brownies, cookies and cakes. I had a terrible sugar habit and when my weight peaked at 210 lbs. in 2009, I knew I had to do something about it. It took years before I got to a place where I was consistently eating a low-sugar diet. I gradually cut down. Then I pretty much cut it out altogether. Then I got stuck in a restrict and binge cycle (e.g. no sugar for a week, followed by a big bag of Pic n’ Mix at the cinema on the weekend). Then I got to a place where I was having it semi-regularly but in extremely low amounts (e.g. a few squares of chocolate a couple of times a week). Refined sugar is the reason that most overweight people are overweight. So, how do you kick this habit when sugar is on pretty much every list of ingredients in the supermarket? Again, I go back to chewing gum (bubblegum flavour to be precise). Drink flavoured sparkling water (not too regularly though, it’s full of artificial sweeteners). Eat more berries or any other low-sugar fruit. Drink black coffee after large meals to help re-balance your blood sugar levels. Exercise more, to help maintain level blood-sugar levels. Eat complex carbohydrates like porridge or rye bread with breakfast for slow-release sugars and energy. Learn to think with your stomach and not your mind. Your stomach doesn’t want refined sugar, it will completely destroy the good bacteria in your gut. Your brain wants it because it’s a drug. My biggest piece of advice here is to not replace all sugar with artificial sweetener, because that’s not good for your body either. Also, don’t replace it with honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc. because those are all just different forms of sugar.

There is so much more I could write here. Instead, I’m giving you my perspective on the top three bad habits of overweight people and some top tips for creating and sustaining new healthy ones. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for a future post! For now, you can check out fitness and food tips on my Instagram and Facebook page. Thanks for reading and have a happy Sunday!

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Why It’s OK if you are Not OK

 

Many of us are over-achievers. We feel pressure from our parents, our managers, our mentors and most of all ourselves, to achieve and succeed in all aspects of our lives. Having a good job is not enough; we feel the need to have the ultimate career, the perfect relationship, the flawless body, the super-fitness, the good looks, the prestigious education and more. We live in a culture where we not only need to be the best versions of ourselves 100% of the time, but this needs to appear effortless to our peers. Beauty should appear natural, the career progression should simply follow as a result of our innate intelligence and we should simply stumble upon a romantic partner because we are so exceptionally charming. And we must do all of this while never missing a social event and showcasing our fantastic social calendar to our friends via social media, just to reassure them (and ourselves) that we are popular and interesting. God forbid you should admit you had to use Tinder to find someone. How could one possibly fess up that their success, in fact, came as a result of blood, sweat, tears, very little sleep, sacrifices, hardships and some seriously tough sh*t?
It has been engrained into us that tears are a sign of weakness, emotions are not to be displayed in public and low self-esteem is not on-trend. More and more celebrities are coming forward and admitting they suffer from anxiety and depression. For many who don’t quite fall into this category, but are definitely not “OK,” we have off-days and these days suck. But what happens when your off-day becomes an off-week or even an off-month? Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you become a bitter, sour angry mess and just need to hibernate for a while. The lemonade comes later. Don’t let anyone judge you or reprimand you for feeling this way. Find friends who will empathize, listen, try to understand and love you all the same. You may find that some people in your life feel uncomfortable when you’re not the best version of yourself. It doesn’t fit into their plan for your friendship; they don’t want you in their life unless you’re popping bottles with them, dancing on roof-tops and making a positive contribution to their social life.
This internal and societal pressure isn’t going away and for many people, it has become a rule for living and part of our daily thought process. Once you think this way, and feel this pressure to be perfect, it’s tough to break free. We live our lives one achievement to the next. It’s addictive. If you’re not achieving a goal or learning a new skill or completing a challenge, you feel this restlessness and a sense of dread that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t really living. #FOMO. Life feels incomplete. For the millennial generation, our greatest fear is to settle and to wake up at the age of forty and feel as though we haven’t truly lived. We must be constantly stimulated and occupied and engaged in something, anything. The important thing is to channel this into positive behaviors and positive activities that will benefit us, physically, mentally and spiritually. But also, to know when it’s OK to switch off and rest and simply be at peace.
According to social comparison theory, fifty per-cent of people compare themselves to others. Social media exacerbates this problem as it gives us the perfect platform, by which to compare our lives with those of others. We look to our peers, our friends and our colleagues for guidance as to how we “should” be living, what we “should” be doing and how we “should” look. We benchmark our life timeline against people who we perceive to be similar to us. Everyone reading this is guilty of thinking, “He has got a promotion and I should too,” or “She has got married and I should too.” The ironic thing is that we all know this is illogical and foolish, yet we do it anyway! One of the biggest trends for 2017 is predicted to be Digital Detox-ing; the phenomena of switching off from technology and social media. There are hotels and resorts advertising themselves as Digital Detox-friendly, as consumers search for an escape from the anxiety that technology creates. We can only hope that as advertising, Hollywood and politics begin to embrace diversity and inclusion, we will realize that it’s OK to be different, beauty is unique and success is objective.
For anyone who has felt the pressure to be perfect or has compared themselves to others or who has worried they are not enough; know that we all feel this way from time to time. If you need to cry on the tube, put your sunglasses on. If you need to scream and throw things, those cheap IKEA plates will come in very handy. If you need to turn off your phone for one Sunday and watch Netflix in bed, know that there are millions of people around the world probably doing the exact same thing. And if you just need to have a complete meltdown, don’t be afraid to call your best friend afterwards and ask for help picking up the pieces. It’s OK if you are not OK, one hundred per-cent of the time. This doesn’t define you and having a slip-up is not always a set-back. Get up, brush it off and keep on swimming.

Flexitarian: What the F***?

Last week, I noticed an Insta-celeb posting about a new diet he has designed for weight-loss and it’s called ‘The Sweet Potato Diet.’ This is when I realised that, with the help of marketing and advertising, we have truly taken the word “diet” to new extremes. It has become really, really fashionable to eat a diet that is gluten-free, dairy free, paleo, vegan, raw and the list goes on. The more you restrict your diet, the more trendy you are. And don’t get me started on how some people’s restrictions are simply a cover-up for eating disorders*. Oh, you’re dairy-free but you still eat fro-yo on Leg Day? Cool. Oh, you’re gluten-intolerant but you still allow yourself a granola bar after you’ve run an ultra-marathon and have “earned” the carbs? Sure. Picture that scene where your girlfriends look on in horror as you eat a piece of bread, as in “How could you put that poison into your sacred body?” Speaking as someone who has also demonized bread in the past and then realized that bread isn’t the enemy; all refined, processed foods are in fact the enemy! If the ingredients list is a mile long, it’s not really ‘real food’ is it? We have become obsessed with putting a label on our personal nutrition, branding it in a way that fits with our social image. This is something I have never advocated and will never support. Eat real food, eat foods that will nourish you and help you flourish, eat intuitively and only supplement if/when you need to.
The newest fad is ‘Flexitarian.’ This is defined as a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish. So… you have adopted quite an ordinary, regular approach to your nutrition then? Meat is not essential to our diets; protein is. We should all eat less meat and play our part to save our planet and her resources. There is no need to put a label on it and make it into some sexy, ultra-cool trend. Hashtags like #meatless are cool and help spread awareness of this new cause and how people can change their diet and still maintain healthy nutrition, all while contributing to environmental sustainability.
Veganism and plant-based nutrition have soared in popularity in recent years. For most people, veganism is a huge adjustment and it is very challenging to eat this way and still get enough protein in your diet. If you aren’t getting protein from meat, dairy or eggs, you need to find it from other sources. Many people turn to soy products but if consumed in great excess, soy can disrupt the reproductive hormones in women. Chickpeas, lentils, beans, quinoa and other vegan-friendly foods are high in protein but also high in carbohydrates. Nuts and seeds are high in protein but also high in fats. Vegans and vegetarians can often find themselves gaining weight because they eat more foods that are high in carbs or high in fats. The best approach is to make sure the majority of your diet comes from green, leafy, fibrous veggies dressed in healthy fats like avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and seeds. Check out Instagram for vegan food inspiration and tips on how to cook healthy, filling vegan meals. If you’re London-based, I recommend making a trip to Tibits, Ethos Foods or Wholefoods for some delicious vegan inspo.
Paleo is a diet that I tried for the good part of 6-8 months and ended up gaining weight because I was eating so much fat. Paleo is one of the most restrictive diets I have ever eaten. You cannot eat grains or dairy or any processed foods. All meals are made from scratch and all ingredients must be 100% natural. It’s very meat-heavy and the exclusion of beans, nightshades and many other foods can result in a diet that is deficient in fibre. This diet, if too low in carbohydrates, can disrupt the menstrual cycle in some women so proceed with caution. Or take the principles of paleo but don’t restrict too much! Some attributes of the paleo diet make sense, like not eating refined carbohydrates and grains, but other attributes like avoiding many fruits are not necessary if you’re extremely physically active. Fruit is not going to make you sick or fat.
Try not putting a label on your diet or the way you eat. Diet and food is very personal to the individual and we all have different nutrition needs based on our physical activity, physical and mental health and internal biology. Eat to achieve your goals, feel good, thrive and to maintain a strong, stable immune system.
*If you feel you may be struggling with an Eating Disorder, please contact BEAT who can offer you advice and support on 0808 801 0677.

Bish, Do You Even Lift?

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The left image was taken in 2009 and the image on the right was taken a couple of weeks ago. There have been a lot of ups and downs in between these two photographs and the journey, and progress, has not been linear. 

Most of the time, I prefer to look forward, but once in a while, I need to look back to remember that the girl on the left (pictured above) is still part of who I am today. I must not hate her or resent her, but rather feel proud of how far she has come. How did I transform my body and my lifestyle? It started with teaching myself about nutrition and exercise. The nutrition piece has always proved challenging but exercise has become a strong passion and major part of my life. For a long time, I was a runner and cardio-lover. But my body really started to change when I began lifting weights. Hopefully, the above pictures are proof that lifting weights won’t make you fat. It will change the shape of your body and will help you build muscle. Muscle is not something to fear; it makes you fast, fit and strong. It gives you shape and definition and helps avoid injury.

With that being said, I want to share a workout for strength which includes weights and body weight. Interspersing exercises with weights and body-weight movements will help burn fat and build muscle. Sounds easy, right?! It’s not easy but it is well worth the hard work!

  • Sprint for 60 Seconds / Rest for 30 Seconds (Repeat for 6 minutes)
  • Clean and press 20kg (20 Reps)
  • Lunges with 20kg (20 Pulses each leg)
  • Straight Leg Deadlifts 20kg (20 Reps)
  • Power Jacks  (30 Reps)
  • REPEAT 3 TIMES

 

  • Side Step-Ups on Bench (20 Reps each leg)
  • Squat Jumps (20 Reps)
  • Sumo Squat with 20kg Kettlebell (15 Reps)
  • REPEAT 3 TIMES

 

  • Front Squats with 2x 6Kg Kettlebells (15 Reps)
  • Leg Extension 39kg (15 Reps)
  • Hip Abductor 45kg (20 Reps)
  • REPEAT 3 TIMES

 

  • Jumping Lunges (100 Reps)
  • Running at 10.0Km/h for 10 minutes to Cool Down

 

Remember to adjust the weight to fit your own personal strength. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of this workout and use a foam roller if necessary. Have a hot bath to relax those muscles and make some Golden Milk to help ease an inflammation. Have a high-protein dinner, get lots of sleep and make sure to recover the next day. Recovery doesn’t have to mean no exercise at all, a gentle run may be OK, but don’t over-exert yourself. Have fun with your fitness and have a great week!

Five Ways to Motivate Yourself to Stay Healthy

Motivation is a term used by many as if to signify some obscure mysterious, stranded concept or object that we must dig and search wide to find. Where can you find motivation? What does it look like? How do you maintain it?

Recently, I met a wonderfully passionate PT in Covent Garden who shared with me something called the Emotional Threshold. This is the exact point when someone becomes emotionally ready to commit to achieving a goal. Many people want to lose weight or get fit but are not ready to commit and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their weight loss goal. Many people want to get healthy but deep down, they don’t want it enough.

In January 2015, I reached my emotional threshold and committed a sum of money to Personal Training as well as a huge amount of time to reaching my fitness goals. I committed to the diet, the personal research on nutrition and health, the time spent exercising and I sacrificed my social life and any activities that involved alcohol! I had reached a point where I was willing to do anything to lose weight and lean out. I wanted it more than anything and I remember standing in front of my personal trainer and saying, “I am ready. Let’s do this.”

Fast forward a year and a half later and I found myself slipping back into bad habits. My motivation and willpower to say “No” to treats has been virtually non-existent. And I find myself asking, “Why?” What has gone so terribly wrong? Why am I eating treats every day and why can’t I say “No” when someone dangles a piece of chocolate in front of me? I am a logical, rational person and I know that the chocolate has zero nutritional value and the bad ingredients in them will have all sorts of terrible effects on my body including acne, cellulite and excess body fat.

My frustration with myself got me thinking and reflecting on how I acquired such strong motivation last year. What motivated me? How did I stick to my plan for achieving my goals? What got me to the gym on the mornings when I was tired? What stopped me saying “Yes” to that piece of cake? My motivations were very personal to me and I have shared them in previous posts, but for this post, I want to share my five steps to motivation so you too can achieve your goals.

The Why. 

Before you can even begin, you need to ask yourself why you want to do this. Are you truly doing it for yourself? Is the reason strong enough to get you out of bed in the morning at 5:00am on a rainy day in December? The “Why” is the most important part. It can’t be too superficial and if there are multiple reasons why, even better. The stronger this is, the more likely you are to succeed.

3 Reasons.

Consolidate your reasons and decide on the three most important ones. You can’t have a list a mile long. This is too much and you will feel overwhelmed. Decide on your three top reasons for committing and write them down. Remind yourself every single day of these three reasons and drill them into your brain. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Baby Steps.

Start small. If you can stick to your diet for 1 day, that’s a win. Then one more day. And one more. And before you know it, you will have hit a week. That is fantastic. One week will turn into two and when you hit the 21-day mark, it becomes a lifestyle change. Try cutting out alcohol for the first short while to avoid messing with your body’s hormones, hunger signals, sleep, etc. Start small and take it day by day, week by week. Don’t overwhelm yourself with saying things like, “I’m going to cut out candy for 6 weeks.” You’ll fail. Start with, “I’m going to cut out candy for 6 days.” This is more realistic and the small wins will strengthen your motivation rather than leaving you feeling deflated.

SMART Goals.

Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Use tools like a journal, a calendar, a spreadsheet or post-it notes to help keep you on track. Write down your goals to hold yourself accountable. Create short-term and long-term goals. Try setting goals daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to stay focused and to make sure you always have things to work towards.

End Result.

Decide what your end result should be. Is this a weight? A percentage of body fat? A dress size? A marathon? A Bench Press? You need a specific box to tick when you have reached your ultimate goal. This doesn’t have to be the end of your lifestyle change but you need this point to know that you have succeeded. From here, you can celebrate your achievement and figure out what your next goal and challenge may be.

Sunday Workout: Full Body and HIIT

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Do you ever feel like you live your life in gym clothes? I do! On the plus side, that means I’m always ready for a workout!

Weekends are not for resting! Unless you’ve smashed gym sessions from Monday to Friday, in which case rest those muscles and reset yourself for the next week. During the week, I find my workouts are at half or two-thirds capacity and I always find myself wishing I just had one more hour or a little more energy. But when you live and work in a city like London, you essentially live your life from one alarm/reminder/calendar event to the next and spend on average an hour each day commuting. As a result, I find that Saturday and Sunday are perfect days to get some ‘Train Insane’ sessions in. After a lie-in and some extra sleep on Friday night, my body is ready to hit the gym hard. This weekend, I decided to stay booze-free and give my body a break. I caught up on sleep, had a few rich Americanos and had two fantastic training sessions at Puregym in Piccadilly and Victoria.

My early morning weekday sessions are typically 45-60 minute HIIT sessions with light to medium weight and a lot of cardio. Think: burpees, sprints, lunges, press-ups, and lots of short bursts with short rests. My pre-workout is black coffee so my body simply doesn’t have enough “fuel” to lift heavy. On Saturday and Sunday, I have an Americano and 20-30g of oats with protein about 45 minutes prior to my workout. This gives me the fuel I need to lift heavier weight. Recently, I’ve been making a formula of Green Tea, Water and BCAAs to fuel me through my workout, which means I can do longer sessions of 90-120 minutes.

If you have been following me a while, you will know that I LOVE sharing recipes. But healthy eating is only half of my weight loss story. The other half of my story is all about the hours I have dedicated to working out, lifting weight, running and staying fit. Over time, I have seen the physical and mental benefits of exercise and it has had a hugely positive impact on my life. For anyone who is not a regular gym-goer or who spends their life on the cross-trainer (that was me a few years ago…), it is hard to know where to start! I hope that through sharing some of my workouts, I will give you a little bit of inspiration to try something new in the gym, challenge yourself and get more creative with your exercise. And if you aren’t sure what an exercise is, YouTube it! If you try the workout below, please let me know how it went. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Sunday Health and Fitness Lovers!

Full Body and HIIT:

90 seconds running 12.0Km/h

20 burpees

REPEAT X6

 

27, 21, 15, 9 cals on Rower

27, 21, 15, 9 Thrusters 15kg

 

20 Reps 39Kg Hip Abductor

(20 second rests inbetween)

REPEAT X5

 

Rope pull-downs 12Kg X15

TRX Inverted Rows X15

60 second plank

REPEAT X3

 

Kettlebell Swings 16Kg

Ball Roll-ins X10

Ball Hip Thrust X10

REPEAT X3

 

40 Russian Twists 6Kg

15 Leg Raises

20 Sit Ups 6Kg

50 Crunches

20 Bicycle Crunches

REPEAT X3

 

15 Minutes Crosstrainer

Stretch! 

Saturday Workout: Legs and HIIT

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Checking out my progress in the mirror at Puregym following an upper body session. Shout out to all the ladies who lift!

There is nothing I love more than waking up on a Saturday morning hangover-free, having an Americano with Calorie-free Walden Farms caramel syrup and hitting the gym for a huge training session. Many of my commutes, lunchtimes or evenings are spent scanning personal trainers and fitness models on Instagram for ‘Fitspiration‘ and ideas for new exercises and workouts. Why not take #inspo from the best?

While I am on my way to the gym in the morning, I plan my workout in my head or on the Notes app on my iPhone. One of the joys of living in London is that the Puregyms in Zone 1 are virtually empty at the weekend because everyone who lives in Zone 1 probably has their own gym! For this reason, the weekends are when I typically get some of my best sessions in. No queuing for machines and more space to do explosive exercise and to create my own circuits.

More on the benefits of Weekend Workouts next Sunday, but for now, below is my Saturday Session. Remember to adjust the weight to your own fitness goals and always prioritise form over reps. Rest when you need it but try and keep your heart rate up. If you cool down, smash out 20 burpees to get warmed back up! Let me know if you try it and what you think. You can reach me on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Sunday Fun-day!

Legs and HIIT:

90 seconds Running 13.5 Km/h
15 Kettle bell swings 14Kg
10 push-ups
60 second plank
REPEAT X3

15 Reps Leg extension 45Kg
30 jumping jacks
REPEAT X3

15 (each leg) Split Squat 10kg (20Kg total)
15 Jumping squats
REPEAT X3

15 Full Clean and Press 20Kg
30 seconds Mountain Climbers
15 (each leg) Curtsey Squats 20Kg

REPEAT X3

12 Smith Machine Squats 60Kg
REPEAT X3
6-8 Reps @ 70Kg

90 seconds running 12Km/h
15 Burpees
REPEAT X5

Stretch! 😊