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Would You Rather Be Right or Happy?

When I set out to start writing this blog at the beginning of the year, I was talking it over with my husband.  Always the pragmatist, and careful about my feelings, he asked me if I was ready to deal with the trolls.  I assured him that I was.  After all, it is inevitable these days, that when you put yourself out there, you will eventually encounter some back lash.  I have been very lucky, and have only been at the mercy of one keyboard warrior so far, and that encounter was nothing to do with my blog.

I am mildly obsessed with all things German Shepherd related.  I think I follow just about every Facebook and Instagram group there is (if I am missing any, let me know!)   Every so often something will be posted by one of these groups that reminds me so much of my own dog Annie, that I will tag my husband in it, to share it with him.  On one occasion, I did just this and made a comment, aimed at my husband as a joke.  This random woman took it upon herself to get on my case about it.  Well, it was like a red rag to a bull.  Normally a mild mannered enough person, I was shocked at how quick I was to anger.  It took all my self restraint not to tell this lady to F@&k off back under her bridge!

It really struck me just how irrational my own response was.  Yes, she was a silly cow, sticking her nose in where it didn’t belong, but she wasn’t actually doing me any harm.  She doesn’t know me, or anything about me, and she certainly isn’t in a position to remark on my skills as a doggy mommy.  It occurred to me, just how easy it would be to get sucked into a debate, and end up giving these keyboard warriors exactly what they want, a stage and an audience!

Unfortunately, it is not only online and with strangers that these situations occur.  We all have that one friend or relative that just loves being divisive.  The devil’s advocate in every situation.  The one who loves giving the pot a great big stir and then sitting back to enjoy the show.  Whenever I encounter these type of people, I hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me “don’t be giving your senses to them.”  Whether their motives are malicious or not, they can be dangerous.  However, this danger can’t exist in a vacuum.  It is our reactions to it, which breathes life into it.  By refusing to be drawn into their nonsense we can emerge unscathed!

Sometimes, however, the argument will be about more than posturing.  Sometimes the debate will be about a topic close to our heart, and we may feel unable to remain silent.  We can occasionally find ourselves at a complete in-pass with somebody.  Neither party are willing to concede and there is no middle ground to be found.  It is at these times when we must ask ourselves “would I rather be right, or happy?”  What I mean by this is, if you have come to realise that the person you are arguing with will never see your side, you have to make a decision about which is more important to you, the relationship or the argument.

It is with sadness, that I will admit there are people no longer in my life, whom I dearly miss, because I was too proud, stubborn or stupid to apologise.  I let people go, because I was tired of chasing them.  Thinking to myself that “the road goes both ways” or “they know where I am if they want me.”  I allowed myself to get so caught up in keeping score that I lost sight of what was important.  I was so intent on being right, that I gave up on being happy.

This is not to say that I want to be a doormat.  I have no intention of being taken advantage of, and I do believe that friendships and relationships require effort on both sides.  I have learned lately though, that what is going on in a person’s life, will often determine the amount of effort they can put in.  Often if seems, that when one is struggling the most, they reach out the least.  It is only by extending a hand to that person, can we know what they are facing.

I think as a people, we are becoming so quick to react.  We “unfriend” people for the smallest of slights.  We lose contact with people we love, because we believe they should do more for us.  We give way to anger and jealousy.  We so fear being vulnerable, that we never expose ourselves.

It has taken me nearly 35 years to learn that if the person or argument is worth it, I will have to fight for it.  If it is not worth it, I can give myself permission to walk away.  Each relationship and circumstance needs to be judged on its own merit, but for the most part, being happy feels so much better than being right.  Be well xxx

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28 Days!

For the past few months, I have been feeling a little bit like my progress with my weight loss has stalled.  I have mentioned in previous posts that for one reason or another, I just haven’t seemed to be able to drag myself across the finish line to my “goal weight.”  So, when Philly Kinsella announced that he was starting a 28 Day Nutrition Program for a small number of Academy members, I jumped at the chance to take part.  The idea behind it was to get a small group of 10-12 people together, with similar goals, in order to enable us to support and encourage each other.

I have done plenty of nutrition courses, and spent hundreds of hours listening to and reading the work of the finest minds in the industry.  For me, like many others, knowing what to do is not the issue.  The issue is, actually doing what is required to get the results I want.  I am a social animal, and having something or someone to be accountable to, outside of myself is hugely motivational.  This program gives us the perfect forum to share our struggles and triumphs as well as tips, recipes and ideas.  I couldn’t be more excited to be taking part.

My starting weight on day 1 was 59.9kg and my bodyfat, also measured on day 1 with calipers, was 17.5%.  I have learned over the years to be quite detached from these numbers.  They are just objective metrics with which to track progress.  They do not impact how I feel about myself (anymore.)  The days when I feel I look my best and at my leanest usually don’t correlate to the scales at all.

What I will be doing:

  • I have calculated my current maintenance calories and have set up about a 15% deficit.  This means I will be aiming to eat just under 1600 kcals per day
  • I am aiming to get about 130g of protein per day (roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight.)  I want about 30% of my calories coming from fat and the remainder from carbohydrate.
  • I will weigh myself each morning and track my weight on a spreadsheet.  I weigh myself every morning anyway, so this is not a big change.  The idea is not to become fixated on the numbers themselves, but by tracking my weight, I can start seeing the patterns behind the numbers.
  • I will track my food intake using MyFitness Pal.  This will mean weighing and measuring food to be sure that the information is accurate.  This can be a bit of a pain, and not something I will be doing forever, but I really don’t think there is another way to go about tracking calorie intake.
  • I will be continuing to train 3-4 times per week as usual
  • I will be leveraging the power of the group when my motivation, creativity and energy are flagging
  • The photo above is showing some of the food from the first few days of the plan, as well as a picture of me before starting.  I will continue to photograph what I am eating, and I will take another one of myself at the end.

What I will not be doing:

  • Freaking out any time I see the number on the scale increase.  Body weight fluctuations are normal, especially for women.  This is why getting the overall trend of weight changes is important
  • Expecting everything to be easy
  • Giving myself a hard time if my calories or macros are not perfect on any given day.  I recognise that it is what I do consistently over the course of the program, which will bring results.

What I expect:

  • I am hoping to achieve modest weight loss over the 28 days.  1-2kg drop would be great.
  • I would also hope to see some small drop in my bodyfat percentage, but I am realistic.  28 days is not a long period of time, and it may take a little longer for results to show up!
  • I am expecting to feel hungry at times.  This is normal in a deficit.  I am eating less than my body needs, so it’s natural to expect hunger.  Even when not on a cut, it is normal to experience hunger.  If you never get hungry, chances are you are over eating
  • Not every meal is going to be an Instagram worthy masterpiece.  Sometimes eating is simply about fueling your body.  This is especially true when you are aiming for specific macros.  There will be times when I will eat something that I don’t particularly “want” #firstworldproblems
  • I expect to feel tired and lacking in energy at times.  My body will have less fuel going into it than it is used to, so there may be less energy available.
  • I am going to have to get creative.  As the wise man said “calories are scarce in a deficit,” so more thought and planning needs to go into each meal/day to ensure I get maximum benefit.

Overall, I feel confident that with a group of great people behind me, as well as great coach in my corner, I have every chance of being successful.  The community support aspect of weight loss is something, which is all too often overlooked.  If you are trying to change your lifestyle without the support of your family and greater community, you are facing an uphill battle.  This is true if your aim is to lose 1lb or 100lbs.  We may not be able to get those close to us on board all the time, but we can seek out others to support and be supported by.  Our creativity is sparked by interactions with others.  I know personally this week, I have been trying to come up with new and exciting things to try.  I feel energised and awakened by being part of a group and harnessing its power!

I will let you know the final result after the 28 days, and also where I plan to go from there.  A new body is a bit like a new outfit, you don’t know how it’s going to fit until you try it on.  At the moment my goal weight is just an arbitrary number, when I get there I might decide I want to drop a little more weight.  Or equally, I could find that I want to put a little back on.  I will let you know when I get there.  Be well xxx

 

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Only a Number?

This year I will be turning 35.  I must admit the idea of it is filling me with a certain dread.  I am not particularly looking forward to officially hitting my “mid-thirties.”  However, this is not for the reasons you might imagine.  Yes, my hair is going plenty gray.  The little lines around my eyes are there for everyone to see.  My boobs are not quite what they used to be, and it certainly gets harder to hide the tiredness with each passing year.  None of these things, although certainly unwelcome, are not what is really bothering me about getting older.  What truly terrifies me is the prospect of my body not being able to do the things I expect from it.

I only genuinely started to find fitness when I was about 30.  I had no interest in sports as a kid, and used every excuse you can think of to even avoid PE.  The word athletic could never have been used in a sentence containing my name.  In the past few years I have enjoyed figuring out all the new and exciting things my body could do.  I loved feeling strong (relatively speaking) and even mastering fairly basic things like a press up or a pull up, was a huge thrill.  Up until now, I have been in the position of feeling that there was more potential.  That I hadn’t yet reached the peak of my physical performance.  As I get older, there will eventually come a time when this capacity is maxed out and starts going in the other direction.

Obviously, I am aware that this happens to everyone.  I am not a unique snowflake after all!  I know that we all must face the challenges that growing old presents, as gracefully, or disgracefully as we can!

My grandmother was a hugely influential person in my life.  My mother’s mother was a constant presence in our lives, especially when we were very young.  She had married a man 13 years her senior, and spent much of the last years of her life being his primary carer.  I truly feel that making such a sacrifice for the man she loved, and not putting herself first, aged her considerably.  Although she was only in her early 70s when she passed away, by that time she would have had difficulty walking around the block.  As well as this, she had battled an illness in her middle age and it left her as frail as a tiny bird.  I find myself wondering if had she engaged in some form of exercise, if she might have been able to rebuild herself.

Watching her struggle, really taught me a lesson about the importance of staying as active and mobile as possible, no matter what stage of life you are at.  I look at fitness now, almost like a pension.  The more you invest into it at an early age, the greater the return will be when you are older.  Every day of the week I see pictures of men and women in their 70s and 80s performing amazing physical feats, breaking records and out lifting people half their age.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not about that!  What I am about, is being able to look after myself in my twilight years.  I want to have the strength to be able to lift myself out of the bath tub and the balance to bend over and tie my shoes.  I know this may sound extreme.  However, if we don’t make the necessary investment in our fitness, we may well be faced with the prospect of not being able to perform even these simple tasks.

Exercise is important, we all know that.  What we might not know, is that as we get older, it gets even more important.  Strength training in particular is crucial.  This is especially true for us women.  As we go through menopause, our bone density decreases, leaving us at greater risk of fractures.  Resistance training has been proven to counteract this.  Another factor to consider is muscle wastage.   Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.  There are two ways to mitigate this.  Increased protein consumption is one (this can be a problem as older people sometimes experience a drop off in appetite and may not be able to increase protein intake.)  The other way to help prevent muscle loss is to engage in resistance training.  I am not talking about lifting intimidatingly heavy weight.  Resistance training can be done with light weights, kettle bells, or even just your own body weight.

I remember having a chat with a couple of girlfriends and they were asking would I still be training when I was 60.  I said why not?  I don’t imagine that at 59 I will say, that’s enough of that now.  I fully understand that my training may change as the years unfold.  I don’t expect to be doing the same workouts as I am now, but I would like to hope that I could continue to do something.

over-55s-class

Matty Nagle Fitness Over 55s class killing it on the Concept 2 Rowers

In the gym where I train, The Performance and Fitness Academy, there is a class specifically designed for people over 55.  There are men and women in their 70s taking these classes and getting amazing work done.  The coaches routinely post updates of their progress and it’s amazing to see the increases in strength, endurance and mobility that these guys have gained.  The participants are visibly younger looking.  This crew of older people, some of them grandparents, really give me confidence that an active, healthy life is possible at any age.  One member had this to say “I was meant to have back surgery before I started because the pain was so bad. Now the pain is gone and the doctor told me I don’t need the surgery anymore.”  Another member began training after a course of chemotherapy.  The training helped him to gain enough strength for his doctor to allow him to travel to Australia to visit his son.

When we are young, training for lot of us, is about managing our weight and looking hot in that new pair of jeans.  As we get older it becomes so much more significant.  It begins to have a profound impact on your quality of life.  So, I urge you, whatever stage of life you may be at, get active and stay active!  As they say, use it or lose it!  Your grandchildren will thank you for it xxx

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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and “you snooze, you lose,” and very much a part of every day conversation.  In today’s modern world, life is lived at such a frenetic pace, that often sleep and even rest are put to the very bottom of our list of priorities.  Surviving on little or no sleep has become a status symbol.  We almost compete with each other to see who can get by on the least amount of hours in bed, or who can pull the most all nighters.  We one up each other about how busy and exhausted we are.  It’s insane!

Up until 100 years ago, we slept and woke in rhythm with the sun.  Before electricity became cheap and readily available, it was just far too expensive to keep our homes lit at night, so when the sun went down, so did we!  Studies have shown that even in this short time span, the average night’s sleep has decreased by an incredible 20%.  Our evolution has no chance of keeping up with such rapid change in our behaviour around sleep.

Adequate sleep is fundamentally important for every function in the human body.  I cannot emphasise this enough.  Lack of sleep has been linked to increased risk of almost every disease you can think of, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease.  It has even been linked to obesity.  The funny thing about sleep deprivation, is that we all think it doesn’t happen to us.  Even as you read this, some of you may be thinking, “yeah I get what she’s saying, but I’m grand!”  None of us realise how much not sleeping enough is effecting us, until we do get enough sleep and see how different we feel.

IPad Insomnia:  This is a well researched phenomenon.  Most of us spend a staggering number of hours each day sitting in front of screens.  At work we are in front of computers, at home it’s laptops, tablets and cell phones.  The trouble with this, is that all of these devices emit what is known as blue light.  In the absence of light, our bodies release a hormone called melatonin.  Melatonin signals to the body that it is time to get ready for sleep.  Unfortunately, blue light inhibits the production of this hormone, so our body doesn’t get the message to start shutting down.

To combat this, there are a few things we can do;

  1. Have an hour of no screen time before bed.  Read a book or have a chat with your partner.  Take a warm bath or even meditate.  When you try this, you will notice just how much more sleepy it makes you feel.
  2. Take all electronics out of your bedroom.  All these little lights like the standby light on the TV or the numbers on the digital alarm clock can disrupt sleep.  Put the alarm clock in a drawer or even under your bed.  This has two purposes, firstly you won’t have the light contamination.  But also, if you are having trouble nodding off, or should you wake during the night, you won’t start doing mental arithmetic trying to work out how little sleep you are going to get.
  3. Make your bedroom as dark as possible.  This is a huge thing, especially in summer, or if you live, like I do in a house with a street light outside your window.  Invest in a set of blackout curtains.  I was skeptical at first, but I promise it’s worth the investment.  Studies have shown, that even a tiny pin prick of light on the skin can disrupt melatonin production.  With this in mind, it is worth doing all we can to plug those light leaks.

Sleep and weight:

There are two hormones in the body associated with body fat.  These are leptin and ghrelin.  Like many other pairs of hormones in the body, they act in opposition to each other.  Leptin is known the “satiety hormone” and ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone.”

When we don’t sleep enough, our bodies produce less leptin and more ghrelin, which increases our appetite.  Have you ever noticed that when you get a broken night’s sleep, you often feel hungrier the next day?  I certainly have.  If you aren’t getting enough hours in bed, it will be significantly harder for you to make good food choices.

Brain Fog:

Most of us will know that not getting enough sleep effects how we think.  What we might not know is the extent to which this happens.  Research has shown that the longer sleep deprivation goes on for the worse the effect becomes, and more worryingly, the less we notice it.  It has been been compared the the effect of alcohol.  How after two glasses of wine you know you wouldn’t be able to drive, but after two more you might feel perfectly in control of your faculties.

The effects of sleep debt are so numerous that I could turn this blog post into a book and still not have covered all of them.  In fact, there are very few things in your life that can’t be improved by getting better sleep.  If you decide to make sleep a priority, you will be more productive, despite being awake for less hours.  You will be less likely to get into an accident.  You will be in a better mood, and less likely to suffer from stress.  It will be easier for you to manage your weight and your health will improve.  Your athletic performance will improve.  Your relationships will be better, and you will have energy to play with your kids and make love to your partner. YOU WILL FEEL BETTER!  Go on, give it a try x