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The Goldilocks Effect

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to buy a new mattress.   We had had our existing one since we moved in and it was long overdue for replacement.  It was flat as a pancake and I was tired of feeling like I was sleeping on springs.  It goes without saying that I am no mattress expert.  There was a million choices and it seemed impossible to differentiate between them.  But, I figured anything I chose would be a marked improvement on what we had.  So, just pick one, right?  Instead of getting overwhelmed (which I usually would) I did what people normally do in a situation like this like this.  I didn’t go for the cheapest, and didn’t go for the most expensive.  I went for something in the middle.

This is fairly standard in decision making.  It has been well documented by behavioural experts.   If you don’t believe me, just notice what you do the next time you are choosing a bottle of wine in a restaurant!  This all got me thinking, if this Goldilocks effect is so standard in decision making, that it is essentially the default, how come it doesn’t translate into the rest of our lives?  How come so much of our behaviour is one extreme or the other.

I have talked a lot on the blog about the idea of balance.  I want to have a healthy diet, but I don’t want to feel restricted.  I want to get enough exercise, but I don’t want to run myself into the ground.  I love to keep busy and active, but want to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  Why is it that in these areas of my life, I find it difficult to determine what it “just right?”

I mean, wouldn’t it be ideal if our bodies were programmed to give us immediate feedback?  Like, “OK Arwen, that’s enough cake now.”  How perfect would it be if we were given accurate indications on how much actually is enough?  Of course, there are plenty of devices we can plug data into.  We can track our food intake, our energy expenditure, our sleep and just about any other metric you can think of.  However, is our reliance on these tools only further damaging our ability to make good decisions by ourselves?

Any regular readers will know that I have experimented with just about every diet protocol that there is.  I have gone from elimination type diets, where I ate as much as I wanted, but only from certain food groups, to diets that involved weighing and tracking every bite.  No matter how diverse these diets appear, they all have one common drawback.  They don’t feel like a “normal” or “natural” way to eat.  I am at the stage now, where I really want to be able to eat intuitively.  The only problem with this, is that I don’t trust my intuition.  Do you blame me?  It hasn’t got an awesome track record of keeping me in line!

It is a very similar situation with training.  I always wonder if I could or should be doing more.  I am constantly on the look out for new things to incorporate into my routine.  New ways to get more out of my training sessions.  Again, it would be lovely to feel in tune enough with my body to be able to relax about it.  I don’t want to spend any less time in the gym, but it would be nice if it took up less head space.  Surely the only time I need to be actively thinking about training, is when I am actually doing it?

In short, I have reached a point now where I want my training and nutrition to just tick along in the background.  I don’t want them to be a source of stress or anxiety.  I would love to be able to just rock up to the gym and do whatever workout I felt like, without worrying about how it will impact the rest of my week.  I would love to blow off meal prep if I am tired or busy, without it giving me a panic attack (not literally, but you get the point!)  As it is, I am over thinking and creating problems for myself, using up time and energy which could better serve me elsewhere.

Having given all of this a lot of thought, I think the only way I can learn to trust my inner Goldilocks is if I let her take control.  This isn’t going to be an easy transition for me.  I am a complete control freak and I always have a nagging worry in the back of my mind that if I take my foot off the gas, even for a second, I will wake up 20kg heavier.  I know how irrational this is, but you try telling that to the voices in my head.

I have a trip to Rome coming up in 3 weeks, and I think this will be the perfect time to experiment.  For the four days I am there, I will not even attempt to track a single calorie or macro.  I won’t be eating at my desk or with other distractions.  I will try to use eating in a more relaxed setting, to help me to better recognise and trust my hunger and satiety ques.  My travel companion has never struggled with her weight or food in general, so she will be a good guide.  I also won’t have access to a scale, kitchen or bathroom, so I will need to trust myself to do without the former, and not worry what is happening with the later.  (I will post my meals and snacks on my Instagram story, so you guys can see how it’s going.)

Any of you who may be reading this, thinking it all sounds crazy, let me tell you how much I envy you.  I have battled for a long time with very disordered thoughts and behaviour around diet and exercise.  At the moment I feel like I am controlling it, as opposed to it controlling me, but I am acutely aware of how quickly the scales can tip in the other direction.  Enough is enough.  Be well xxx

Ps.  Any of you who have come up against similar issues, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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Breaking Up With The FitFam – It’s Not You, It’s Me!

Loneliness is an awful emotion.  It drives us to behave in ways, which make it difficult to recognise ourselves.  It can make us feel simultaneously self conscious and invisible.

It was 2012.  I had just finished my accountancy training and had started my first “proper job.”  I was working for a huge American Corporation.  My days were filled with SOPs, KPIs and every other acronym you can think of.  Like a fish out of water, I just did not fit it.  I started to wonder if I was even in the right career, or had the last 5 years of study been completely wasted?

It was a really low point for me.  I never had a huge social circle to begin with, and the years spent doing ACCA had distanced me from a lot of the friends I did have.  I was so lonely.  The worst thing about it, was that I felt guilty for feeling this way.  I had a loving partner, a wonderful family and truly appeared to be living the dream.  I had absolutely nothing to complain about.  So, I did what any self-respecting overachiever would do, I pretended to be fine!

Not long after starting in this “proper job” I discovered Crossfit and Paleo.  This seemed to be the answer to all my prayers.  Finally something had come along to fill the void.  I threw myself into it with the same single minded determination I had put into getting qualified.  I spent up to 3 hours every night in the the gym.  When I wasn’t training, I was thinking about it, or reading about it, (I read the entire back catalogue of The Crossfit Journal in a month) or talking about it!

I was completely focused on training, and to be honest, I became an asshole!  I was so fixated on this one aspect of my life, that I lost sight of pretty much everything else.  My husband would plead with me to come home, to spend time with other people, to be more present in my life.  But, all I could think was “he just doesn’t want me to succeed.”  I kept telling myself that the next gym milestone, (the body weight back squat, the handstand push up, the kipping pull up) would make me happy.  It didn’t.

My obsession was having a terrible effect on my overall well-being.  I would train straight after work, for hours.  I would come home so hungry and depleted, that I would be shaking driving the car.  Everybody warned me I was heading for trouble, my family, my partner, even my colleagues, but I ignored them all.  I knew better.  I was “dedicated.” I distanced myself from everyone who was being, as I saw it, negative.  I took something healthy and positive to an unhealthy and dangerous place.  I risked losing everything.

In my efforts to cure my loneliness, I only ended up more isolated.  The irony of this is not lost on me!  Finally, I reached a turning point.  I slowly began to realise the error of my ways.  I found a job I love, which is both challenging and engaging enough to not allow for outside obsessions!  I began to remember other things I enjoyed doing.  I started reading again, and seeing people.  Far from being a light-bulb moment, I very much clawed my way out of the darkness.

In this digital age, we are very much at the mercy of the social media Gods and gurus.  We are bombarded hourly with images of people living seemingly perfect lives, with wonder partners, exciting careers and most of all, flawless physiques!  In my desire to feel part of something, I bought into all of it.  I so desperately wanted to be part of that #fitfam.  I needed to prove myself worthy of acceptance by showing I could train as hard, prep as well and basically obsess as much as they did.

The funny thing is, there is no membership policy.  You never receive an email, text or tweet to say “Congratulations, you are now ENOUGH, welcome on board!”  Seeking validation from an online “community” is a fool’s errand.  So, I have decided to stop.  I have come to learn that my own self-worth is far more important than the acceptance of anyone online.  I have also realised, that chasing recognition from strangers not only damages my already fragile self image, it is just plain stupid.  These people don’t care about me.

In the last few months I have discovered that exposing myself to the #fitspos, is a real trigger for me.  One glance at a woman with abs, and I launch into a full on body comparison.  What is she doing?  How come she has a 6 pack and I don’t?  What’s her secret?  How can I get to look that way?  It’s relentless and damaging.

When it comes to social media, there are some great voices out there.  They are promoting health and fitness in a sensible and sustainable way.  Unfortunately they are in the minority.  It seems for every 1 intelligent and insightful person, we will encounter 10 idiots.  I was at The Better Life Project’s Empowered Women Workshop this week, and just one of the wonderful pieces of advice Sarah offered to us was “If someone in your news-feed makes you feel bad, unfollow them.”  Simple as that!  We can’t control the amount of negativity and bullshit there is online, but we can choose to limit our exposure to it.

As for my training, I still do and probably always will, love the gym.  But, crucially, I am approaching it now from a much kinder place.  I exercise because I love my body, not because I want to beat it into submission.  I am slowly learning to accept my limitations and to listen to the voices of those who love me.  Most importantly, the choices I make with my training and nutrition and for me, not to please the Fitfam.  Be well xxx

the-its-not-you-its-me-mistake-L-h7o6M5

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Eggs, Over Easy?

Easter weekend is just around the corner.  There will be chocolate and treats as far as the eye can see.  If there is one thing we Irish do well, it is go completely overboard.  It seems like every occasion and holiday is blown completely out of all proportion and Easter is certainly no exception.

I remember when I was a kid, my Grandmother would buy loads of Easter eggs.  Big, adult ones.  They would all be laid out, and on Easter Sunday you would be allowed to go into the room and select one.  Imagine, you could pick whichever one you wanted.  I loved this, it made me feel so grown up.  I would always hang back and see what everyone else was choosing, before I made my final decision.

These days kids get so many eggs, they don’t ever get to experience that excitement.  I think that’s a shame.  Most receive so many, in fact, that their poor parents have a battle on their hands trying to ration it out so that the children only consume a (somewhat) sensible amount of chocolate.  Unfortunately plenty of adults also find themselves with an excess of eggs!

My husband and I don’t have any children.  Yet in previous years we have ended up with more than 10 large Easter eggs in our house, all bought for us by well intentioned family members.  I don’t particularly care for them (that doesn’t mean I won’t eat them if they are in the house) and my husband is a self confessed chocaholic!  So, I tend to nibble on one or two of the eggs, and he polishes off the rest.  Or at least he would if I gave him the chance.  Usually I take what hasn’t been opened into work with me on the Tuesday after Easter, to be eaten by my colleagues, who probably have similar gluts at home.

I have two kid brothers (aged 25 and 15) and each Easter we have conversations which go a little something like this.

Me “What Easter egg would you like?”

Them “I don’t want one.”

Me “But I have to get you one, so just pick”

Them “Em, OK, just get me a (insert random confectionery name here)”

It’s completely ridiculous!  We buy eggs for people who don’t want them, which makes them feel obliged to buy eggs for us, which we don’t want either.  Can we please stop the insanity?  The only ones benefiting from this nutty practice are the chocolate makers.

This year I have decided not to buy Easter eggs for adults, and to only buy eggs for kids immediately related to me.  I am going to bake some small Easter treats for both families instead.  This is not me being mean or churlish.  It’s not about the money, especially as eggs are so inexpensive these days.  It is about not overloading people with things they don’t want, in order to make myself feel good!  There are plenty of things we can do to celebrate this holiday which don’t induce diabetic comas.

  • Flowers are always a lovely gift option, and most supermarkets sell them very cheaply.  A spring bouquet really brightens up the house and it’s a nice way to show you are thinking of someone
  • Have a meal together.  Holidays usually mean extra time off work, so it’s nice to spend some of that time with our nearest and dearest.
  • Pack a picnic and get out doors.  Easter represents the end to dark, dreary days, so make the most of it.
  • For kids, books and colouring books are always a great idea.  Believe me their parents will appreciate this much more than the sugar laden alternative!
  • Paint hard boiled eggs and do an egg hunt.

Mr men

If you don’t want to end up inundated with eggs, ask people not to buy them for you. This also applies your kids.  If you worry about the excess, ask people to please refrain from adding to the chocolate mountain.  Not everyone will take this on board, but some will and every little helps.

Don’t be afraid to re-gift.  If you receive eggs which you don’t want, pass them on to others, instead of buying even more.  Again, this might sound cheap, but it’s really just about damage limitation.

If you do end up with way more eggs than you need, there are a few things you can do with the leftovers.

  • Bring them into the office, someone will always eat them.  I find finance and IT to be particulary good dumping grounds!
  • Donate them to a local homeless charity.  We have so much that it’s easy to forget that some people have nothing
  • Make a batch of Rice Krispy cakes.  There are always bake sales happening and these guys are sure to be a big hit
  • Break up the chocolate and put in it a tupperware in the freezer.  It will keep for months and you can just grab a piece when you fancy it
  • Dump it!  This is a last resort for me, because I hate seeing food (even junk food) wasted.  However, if you are trying to control your diet, and you think you won’t be able to resist it, throw it away.  A misplaced sense of guilt is not worth sacrificing your progress for.

Calories in Easter Egg Guide

  • 100 grams of chocolate = 530 calories
  • 1 medium Easter Egg 100g = 530 calories
  • 1 average size chocolate bunny 180g = 980 calories
  • 1 large Easter Egg 200g = 1060 calories

Personally, I usually pick my favourite one, allow myself to have and enjoy that one and get rid of the rest ASAP.  I remember one year, going back to Weight Watchers after Easter having put on 5lbs!  I was shocked to realise just how much damage all the extra chocolatey calories can do!  I know you have live, and you want to be able to enjoy these special occasions.  However, 5lbs weight gain every bank holiday, can add up to over 3 stone in a single year.  Just something to chew over as you do your seasonal shopping. Be well xxx

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The End is No End!

Back in January, I launched a corporate wellness program, for a well-established engineering company in Dublin.  The participants were very diverse, and had a wide range of personal goals.  The program set about improving overall health and wellness by addressing nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, mobility and stress.  It also sought to foster a sense of community and establish an accountability network for the group, in which, to support each other.

This is the sixth and final week of the challenge, and the men and women who have stuck it out have seen some phenomenal results.  Some have lost weight, others have seen improvements in health markers, while still others are seeing the benefits of mindfulness in their everyday lives.  I check in with the group everyday and visit them on site every two weeks. When I met them last week, the difference in everyone was immediately noticeable.  They all stand taller, exude more energy and just seem genuinely happier.  I could not be any more proud of them.

But what now?  These people have had strict guidelines in place for the last six weeks.  They have had daily contact with their coach and they have had the support of each other.  What will happen when the program ends?  This is a problem with all programs of a fixed duration, and let’s face it, nothing can go on forever.  Every plan, be it a 28 day cut,  21DSD, Whole 30, or a program like mine has an end date.  One day you are on the plan and the next day you are off it.  So, what do you do?  How can you avoid walking, lemming like, off a cliff and back into all your old habits?

It can be a tricky enough transition.  On the one hand, it is not realistic to live in such a regimented and restricted way forever.  On the other hand we don’t want to end up back where we started.  Making a plan for how you are going to manage this phase is absolutely essential.  Without clear intention about what you are going to do after the end date, relapse is almost guaranteed.  Believe me, I speak from bitter experience.  As much as we may not want it to happen, if we don’t guard against it, the old familiar ways quickly return.

If you think about it, this really isn’t surprising.  You were practicing your old behaviours for years, or even decades.  Our new habits, only really budding after a few short weeks, haven’t a hope of competing.  They need to be continually nurtured, so they can take root and become part of the landscape.  But of course, there has to be balance.

My guys have been really working hard for the last few weeks.  Eating whole, unprocessed food and exercising daily.  I have been giving them bonus challenges and truly putting them through their paces.  I absolutely expect that come Sunday they will celebrate.  I fully expect that there will be take aways ordered and beers opened.  In fact, I encourage it.  It is really important to let your hair down, once in a while, especially after a period of restriction.

I have asked them to take some time this week to reflect on the experience.  Try to identify aspects that they found helpful, and come up with a plan for incorporating those elements into their lives going forward.  If any of you are currently working a program, or planning on starting one soon, I encourage you to do the same.  Say, for example, you are currently doing a program that requires 20 minutes of daily exercise.  You might enjoy that, and decide to continue with it.  If you don’t make a plan for how that is going to happen, it simply won’t.  Similarly, you might decide to continue eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, but if these items don’t make their way onto your shopping list, they definitely won’t make their way into your diet.

To my mind, programs of a short duration are essentially reset points.  They act as a Ctrl+Alt+Delete for the body.  Purging you of junk and rubbish and helping you to lay the foundations for a healthy future.  They act like stabilizers on a bicycle.  When your program ends, that isn’t the end of your biking career, you just continue on with two wheels.  Yes, you may have the occasional wobble, but with planning and perseverance you will gain the confidence to go it alone.

We live in a world where everyone wants the next quick fix, the magic tea or the simple solution.  The reality is that if you want a healthy life, it will take effort and intention to get it.  Once you have achieved it, it will take just as much effort and intention to keep it.  We make dozens of choices every day, which can either bring us closer to our goals, or steer us further away from them.  So, if like my guys, you have a Sunday coming, make sure you don’t wake up on Monday morning wondering “what now?”  Make a clear plan, write it down, and commit to it.  Remember, the end of the program is really only the beginning.  Be well xxx

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Food, Fallacy and Foolishness!

As a society we have become completely spoiled when it comes to food.  We consume it with hedonistic abandon, and treat it with very little respect.  During the last couple of decades, our attitude towards food and eating has become completely skewed.  In short, we take it utterly for granted.

Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s, money was short and people learned to make do with what they had.  A pot of stew supplied four meals (two dinners and two lunches.)  Sunday’s roast was refashioned into casseroles, curries and sandwiches.  Nothing was wasted and nobody ever complained about eating the same meal two nights running.

I am now in the second week of a Lifestyle Coaching program I am running with a company in Dublin.  When we launched the program, I decided I would take part along side them, and “walk the walk,” as it were.  It came to the first weekend, and I was about to set off for my grocery shopping.  In readiness for this, I was standing at the fridge, with a thrash bag in my hand, preparing to throw away all of the uneaten food from the previous week.  To my astonishment, there wasn’t any!   We had eaten pretty much everything.  This is probably the first time EVER that this has happened.

My initial reaction was “oh my God, we nearly ran out of food, I better buy more this week.”  But then it dawned on me, this was the first time I had actually gotten it spot on.  If your fridge resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard come shopping day, you’re doing it right.  If, like me, you end up having to throw away a black bag of food, just so you can fit the new food, you are getting it terribly wrong!  When the realisation of this sank in, I felt both shame and stupidity in equal measure.

So where does this wanton wastefulness stem from?  I certainly wasn’t brought up with it, that is for sure.  I am beginning to think our generation is plagued by the paradox of choice.  So many available options causing us to devalue what we already have.  It is the classic thing of going and buying €200 worth of groceries and then hitting up the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home.  All of the food which was too tempting to leave of the supermarket shelves, instantly obsolete once a “better,” more convenient option has been presented.

Perhaps it is the remnants of our Celtic Tiger hangover, which has completely inverted our value system when it comes to food.  At its most fundamental level, food is fuel.  It powers every function in the human body from respiration to reproduction.  Should it be enjoyable, yes of course it should.  But pleasure is not its only function.  We, as a collective, to have managed to completely separate food from its utility.  We increasingly seem to want to eat purely for pleasure.

Clever corporations have cottoned on to this.  It is impossible to turn on your TV, scroll through your phone or even walk down the street without a barrage of advertising messages assaulting you.  Never before has overly processed, highly palatable, nutrient deficient “food” been so cheap or so readily available.  Fast food outlets churn out obscene amounts of food to us, while we let our fresh produce rot in our fridges.  It is not uncommon for typical families to be eating take out 2-3 nights a week.

We are being fooled into thinking that outsourcing our nutrition is the easy option.  Believe me when I tell you, it ain’t.  I brown bag my lunch every day, and have done for a good few years now.  I have a few tried and tested menu options, which I know will fill me up and fuel my training.  It does not bother me to eat the same few things all the time.  I know what I need to buy each week, I prepare it quickly and I don’t have to think about it.  It’s easy.  If I didn’t bring lunch with me, I would spend the morning wondering what I was going to eat.  I would have to go out to get it, which can be a pain in the ass.  I would create stress worrying if what I was eating was supporting my goals, and I would be spending a fortune.  The complete opposite of easy, if you ask me!

You might ask “do you not get bored eating the same thing?” and truthfully the answer is not really.  Breakfast and lunch, for me, are utility meals.  High quality food, in well constructed meals, designed to get me through the day.  I know only too well that I a have limited supply of both decision making ability and creativity, so I prefer to use these for pleasure meals.  Dinners with my husband and meals out with friends.  Not every morsel we consume needs to be worthy of a death row dinner.

The last few weeks has given me a real opportunity to evaluate my own food behaviours.  I have had some exposure to the homeless crisis in our Capital and wasted food really bothers me.  However, I honestly believe that unless we revert to the old ways, we will keep on filling up those black bags.  Unless we begin again to appreciate food and all that it does for our health and well being, we will keep allowing ourselves to be sold to.  Big corporations do not care about our goals.  It is up to us to be the gatekeepers of our own refrigerators.  Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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Seasonal Sabotage!

The time to Eat, Drink and be Merry is just about upon us.  This is the time of year when we get to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  A time when the diet relaxes and the training tends to wind down.  I think it is important to have this time as a psychological break.  A season of feast and plenty, before getting right back on it in the New Year.  But, how can we manage to avoid ruining an entire year’s hard work, while still having fun?  How can we avoid feeling like we are missing out, without ending up with a stocking full of regret?  This is probably the tenth Christmas I have spent in  “weight management” mode, so I have learned a few things to help me over the years.

Firstly, be realistic:  There is very little point in promising yourself that this year you absolutely WILL NOT over indulge.  Swearing to yourself that not one Quality Street will cross your lips and the Christmas Dinner will consist only of meat and veg.  In my experience, trying to be overly restrictive in the run up to Christmas only leads to me end up diving head first into a trifle and reaching for the stretchy pants.  I have found that a far better strategy is to decide, ahead of time, which of the Christmas treats I absolutely must have.  I then allow myself to have these and actively avoid the rest.  For me, this is the turkey and ham sandwich on Christmas night, made by my super sister, I look forward to it all year.  You can keep the dessert, but if I don’t get my sandwich, did Christmas even happen?

Beware of the Bargains:  Growing up, the tin of sweets at Christmas was a really big deal.  It was the only time of year you could get them.  They would be bought ahead of time, but on pain of death, we were never allowed to open them until Christmas Eve.  Since I have moved out, I never bother buying them.  Between work and our family homes, there is more than enough junk floating around to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.  This year, however, I began to wonder if this was a little churlish.  Was I a complete Grinch to not even have a single sweet in the house.  I thought to myself I will pick up one tin, sure what harm?  I went to the supermarket and saw they were 3 for €15!  Wow, what a bargain!!  In the space of about 4 seconds, I had gone from not buying any, to buying 3 whole tins.  Luckily, I came to my senses and abandoned my purchase.

I will never forget a leader in Weight Watchers talking about buy one get one free tins of Pringles.  She said when she looked at it all she saw was “44 points for the price of 22.”  It really isn’t a good deal if you end up eating more than you intended to and feeling bad about it.  Don’t let the marketers draw you in to ruining your progress.

Let work days be “normal” days:  I will admit that routine is an absolute saviour of mine.  Automating as many decisions about food as I can has made maintaining my weight so much easier than relying on will power alone.  Every work day I have the same breakfast, and one of 2-3 different homemade lunches.  I don’t deviate from this just because it is December.  It helps me a lot to feel like at least some parts of my diet can be consistent regardless of the season.  If I were to abandon this for the month, I know I would feel completely out of control.

Offices are a minefield for the diet conscious at the best of times, and Christmas is the worst.  Across the country mince pies and selection boxes are being passed around with abandon.  My advice, and something I have always had to do, is just give it a wide berth.  I would always prefer to indulge in sweets and treats consciously.  Sitting at home relaxing with a nice cuppa and the fur babies.  Not while on a conference call and trying to get a balance sheet worked out.

Practice the one bite rule:  If you take a bite of something, (especially if it’s calorie laden) and you don’t really love it, stop eating it.  If you take a slice of grannies fruit cake and it’s as dry as the Mojave desert, proclaim it delicious and yourself still full from dinner, and leave it alone.  Calories are too precious to be wasted on things which don’t make you make yummy noises.

Remember that Christmas is ONE DAY:  I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people saying that there is “no point trying to be good in December!”  This simply is not true.  When you think about it, it is one day, one dinner and maybe a party or two.  When you consider that on average in December, we will eat over 100 meals, it puts the big one into a little perspective.  There is only so much damage you can do in a day (even if you do my trifle dive) a whole month ,on the other hand, is a completely different story.  If you make a decision to abandon all your good habits in December, you can expect to have a significant backslide with your results.  If you make this decision, accept that it is a decision and own it.  Christmas did not do it to you!

Move on:  Whatever happens over Christmas, it’s not the end of the world.  Even if you eat and drink far more than you had intended and if the scales calls you out on it, it’s not terminal.  Win, lose or draw this silly season, allow yourself to move on.  The worst thing we can do is fall into the familiar negative feedback loop of self loathing.  When 2017 comes in, be mentally ready to attack it, not wasting energy worrying about what you ate last year.

Lastly, enjoy:  I for one am so ready for the break at Christmas.  Having a few days away from work, watching old movies in my pj’s sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  This is the time of year to catch up with friends and family and relax.  Reflect on the year just gone and get ready for the one to come.  However you will be spending this holiday season, enjoy it, for it comes but once a year.  Be well xxx

 

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Half Weigh!

So here I am, exactly half way through my 28 day cutting phase.  At the start of the phase I weighed in at 59.9kg, and today the scales read 58.8kg.  A drop of just over a kilo so far, and almost exactly  on target to achieve my goal of 2kgs weight loss by the end of the cycle.  This however, does not tell the whole story.

I have spent a lot of time writing about and talking about the fact that weight loss is often non-linear.  I have also spent a lot of time talking about how sometimes no matter how on point you are with your inputs (diet, exercise, fluid intake, sleep etc.) the outputs are not what you would have expected.  All of this knowledge and experience, however, didn’t really prepare me for what has happened in my body over the past few weeks.  Let me tell you how it’s really been going.

The 28 day cut officially started 2 weeks ago.  I spent the week before it started getting myself organised.  I tested out meals and menus to make sure they fit my calorie and macro targets.  I worked on getting my mindset sorted.  I cleared out any foods from my home, which I felt threatened to derail me.  (I generally don’t keep junk food in the house, so this wasn’t hugely difficult.)  I used this week to plan and prepare so that when the cut kicked in, I would be as ready as I could be.

I have to say I found this first week (week minus 1) a bit of a challenge.  I experienced hunger, low energy and brain fog for the first 3 days in particular.  Some of this hunger was undoubtedly real, as I was in a caloric deficit, but some of it was definitely in my head.  When we start any diet or cut, we spend a lot of time thinking about food for the initial few days.  This can make us feel hungrier than we really are.  By about day 4, this had passed, my energy levels were recovering and I was settling in to things.

The next week (week 1) presented a different challenge for me.  I was on a very rare week off from work.  I was determined to eat as well as possible, which I did.  However, as we were on holidays, I had a drink or two most evenings.  This would have put me at my maintenance calories, or perhaps a little over.  I track my weight each morning, so I could see it was holding fairly steady, apart from the small daily fluctuations that you would expect to see.  I was not expecting to achieve weight loss during this week, so when I weighed in that Sunday at 59.6kg, I was totally fine with it.  Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

On Monday morning I got up early as it was my first say back in work, stood on the scales and it read 61.4kg!  I couldn’t believe it.  I had literally put on 2kg overnight.  Now rationally I know that this CANNOT be possible.  In order to put on that amount of weight in one day, I would have needed to over eat by about 15,000 calories.  I certainly did not do that.  I tried not to freak out.  I tried to tell myself it was a weird blip and that all would be fine by the next day.  Imagine my horror then when on Tuesday the scale said 61.5kg.  This is when I started to sort of lose it. What the hell was going on?  I haven’t weighed over 61kg in months and now suddenly, when I am actually trying to lose weight, tracking my food and doing everything as close to right as I can, I PUT ON  2 KILOS!!!!!

“Breathe Arwen, just relax, trust the process and you will get the prize.  Resist the urge to say F This and reach for the nearest chocolate bar.  Give it time, you have 3 more weeks to do.  See what happens at the end and make a decision about what to do then.”  This was my mantra and believe me when I tell you, I repeated it to myself numerous times over those couple of days.  Wednesday came and the scales happily reported 60.5kg.  Phew! It looked like maybe things were starting to normalise, thank God!  For the rest of last week, my weight continued to drop each day until by Friday, I had reached 59.8kg.  Almost my exact starting weight, after nearly 3 weeks of hard work.

Why did this happen?  I don’t know for sure, but I do have a theory.  While I was on my week off, I made the decision to change my birth control.  I had been using a Mirena coil for about 8 years, and I decided to have that removed and start using oral contraception instead.  Both of these birth control methods contain hormones, but very different ones.  I think that making this change may have resulted in some fluid retention, but honestly, who knows!

So, why am I telling you all of this?  I could have posted a 2 line update saying “everything is great, 1.1kg down and on track for my target weight loss!”  This would have been the truth, but it would not have been the whole truth.  There are far too many voices out there trying to convince us that changing our lifestyles and our bodies should be easy.  I am here to tell you that it’s not.  There will be times when you will feel frustrated and deflated.  You may feel, like I have during this phase, that your body is working against you.  The difference between success and failure during these times is in keeping your head.  Patience, persistence and consistency are what is going to get you to your goal, not lotions, potions skinny teas.

I have to say that being part of the group, has really helped me to stay the course during this up and down week.  I didn’t want to let the other guys down by throwing in the towel.  Whether they knew it or not, they were holding me accountable and keeping me focused.  My advice for anyone trying to make a change, whether you are just starting out or you are a seasoned veteran is this:  Trust your process.  Leverage your network and as the wise man says “All will be well.”

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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