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Humble and Hungry

Comparison is the thief of joy.  This is what they tell us.  “Don’t compare yourself with others, only compare yourself with the person you were yesterday.”  While I can see some wisdom in this, lately I am finding myself thinking it also has a few fundamental flaws.

First off, I for one, am a highly competitive person.  It is not at all unusual for me to see someone performing well, be it in the gym, or at work and to think to myself “I want to be more like her.”  I see the talents of others and aspire to match them.  This competitive part of myself is as much a part of me as my sense of humour or the colour of my eyes.  Far from bringing me joy, trying to deny it has actually created conflict and anxiety.

You see, I have hunger.  I have drive.  I will always want to be doing more and achieving bigger and better things.  Its just in my nature.  So, how better to direct this drive than by looking to successful people and modelling my behaviour accordingly.  In work, this might be working as hard as your boss does, because you would like to be promoted to her level.  In the gym, this could be putting in as much practice with handstands as the guy who is always upside-down.  Let me be clear, this is not the same as simply being jealous of what others have.  This is unhealthy and will eventually drive you nuts.

The second flaw I see with comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday, is that is lacks context.  Regular readers will know that the last few months have been a little crazy for me.  I have to admit, as much as I will be happy to have this period behind me, it has definitely helped me to gain a little perspective.  This is particularly true when it comes to training.  In my quest to be better than the Arwen of yesterday, I was always striving to make improvements.  I constantly wanted to increase my volume, to lift heavier and to finish faster.  While I was never going to be an “elite athlete” there was a time for a while there when I wasn’t finishing last in every workout, and that felt like success to me.

During my recent busy time, I hadn’t been getting to the gym at all.  I was able to make something of a return a couple of weeks ago, and I got my ass well and truly handed to me.  I was standing at the bar, attempting to do chin ups.  Before my sabbatical, I had been able to string a few together, but on my first session back, I was barely managing one.  All the little voices inside my head started screaming at me.  “I have lost all my fitness,” “I am pathetic,””I will never get back to where  I was,” “I am going to be last!”  These were just some of the thoughts running through my head as I attempted to get my chin over the bar.

After the first round of the workout, I stood up and literally shook my head.  I knew I had a choice to make.  I could either continue to feel sorry for myself, and let self pity take away all the enjoyment of the workout, or I could strap on my big girl pants and handle it.  Thankfully, I decided to do the latter.  Yes, I am not where I used to be and I certainly am nor where I want to be, but I am doing it none the less.  It is a deeply humbling experience to realise you ain’t as good as you thought you were.  Still more so when the struggle happens in public.  Last or not, when I finished that workout I was greeted by the smiles and high fives of my Academy family and I am so very grateful for that.

When I look back at the time when I was “doing well” with my training, I would have beaten myself up for missing a single session.  Now, if I get to the gym AT ALL it feels like a win.  I have also gained a certain clarity that at the time when my training was going well, pretty much nothing else in my life was!  Circumstances change, life throws us curve balls and more important than striving to be better than yesterday is learning to be where you are.

When the dust settles and I can start putting a little more emphasis on my fitness again, I hope that it won’t be too long before I am back in the swing of things.  Until that happens, I will no doubt suffer many sore muscles and the occassional bruised ego.  However, I am learning that if I can remain humble and hungry, no amount of comparison can truly steal my joy.  Be well xxx

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25% Off, Now What?

I have not always had what can be described as a healthy relationship with food.  As a girl I was naturally slim, so never really gave much thought to what I ate.  Of course, like every other teenage girl, I lamented to my friends about how “fat” I was and about how I should go on a diet, but it was really all just idle chatter.

I spent the summer before my final year in University on a J1 visa in America.  I loved every minute of it.  Waiting tables by day and partying by night.  When I came home, I had trouble getting back into the swing of things.  College wasn’t for me.  I studied English Literature, which was and still is a great passion of mine, but the whole student life thing just didn’t appeal.  I didn’t fit in, I struggled to make friends and I was generally miserable.  By the time my finals were approaching, I was in a deep depression.

I rarely made my classes, I didn’t have a job.  I was sleeping around the clock and I had no money.  I would eat one meal a day, which was always two slices of toast, a fried egg and a grilled tomato.  The rest of my waking hours, which were few, were fueled by coffee and cigarettes.  Naturally enough, I lost weight.  A lot of weight.  I plummeted to 7 stone (less than 45kg.)  My family and friends began to pass comments about it.  I took their concerned remarks as compliments and they were the one thing at that time, which made me feel good.  I guess you could say, I had developed an accidental eating disorder.

Thankfully, not too long after finals, my roommate recommended me for a job where he worked.  I got the job, and slowly began to emerge from the pit I had been living in.  It was a long process, and definitely a story for another day.  Slowly, as I started to feel “better” I began to put on some weight.  Initially this was a good thing, and everyone was relieved.  I figured I would just regain the weight I had lost during that year, and get back to normal.  Unfortunately, “normal” came and went and I was still putting on weight.  Over the next few years my weight steadily increased until I hit the 79kg mark.  I had almost doubled in size.

I hated myself.  I lived in over-sized clothes.  I hid myself away.  Dreading to go out and having to show everyone what I looked like.  I remember buying a dress for my 30th birthday, (something which should have been enjoyable) I just pulled something which I thought might fit off the rail in Tesco and decided that would do.  It was green and satinesque!  Even the thoughts of trying something on was too much for me.

It wasn’t long after that awful green dress when I decided something had to be done.  First to be tried was Weight Watchers and Aerobics, which before long gave way to Crossfit and Paleo!  Initially, I had some success and the pounds came off.  But it wasn’t long before the wheels came off the wagon and the weight would start creeping back on.

On and on it went, losing a little, gaining a little.  Each time I tried again, it was with renewed energy and more extreme measures.  At one time I was eating a 100% Paleo diet and training 8-10 hours a week.  My body was so over trained and under nourished that my hair fell out.  My skin was a mess and my hormones were all over the place.  I was once again giving my family cause for concern.  It was a decade later, and it seemed I had learned nothing.  I was right back in a place of disordered eating behaviour.  It didn’t matter how much weight I lost, I just couldn’t shake the fear that one day I would wake up back in my old body.

Then something amazing happened.  It all fell apart.  I changed jobs and I got really busy in work, so training had to take a back seat.  Following a strict Paleo protocol was simply impossible with the hours I was working and with the other commitments I had.  I had a series of injuries which kept me from training from a broken finger to a strained hip flexor.  If I had tried to write a story of disaster, I probably couldn’t have made it worse.

While all this was going on, I was trying to do my best to mitigate the damage.  I enlisted the help of two of the best nutrition coaches in the business and put myself entirely in their hands.  I didn’t have the bandwidth to argue with them, so I just did what they said.  I trained when I could and tried not to panic too much about it.  About a month ago, and 5 years after the hideous green ensemble, I weighed in at 59kg.  Exactly 20kg less than at my heaviest and about 25% loss in overall body weight.

I had eventually reached my “goal weight.”  Okay, so what now?  It is very peculiar reaching a goal like this.  It never feels like you imagine it’s going to.  I still don’t look in the mirror as see the body I want.  I don’t yet feel satisfied and I certainly don’t feel finished.  I have learned a lot on this journey, and made more mistakes than I can count.  I think the greatest lesson I have learned, is that I don’t do well in extremes.  I am very lucky to have great people around me, and I have become able to trust them, even when I don’t trust myself.

I really believe that although I may not be exactly where I want to be, that I am ready to close the chapter of my life that has been the last 5 years.  I am ready for losing weight to not be the primary focus of my life anymore.  I want to concentrate on what I can be more of and better at.  The irony of my situation is not lost on me.  I can only smile when I think about how far I had to veer off course in order to arrive where I am now.

For anyone else who might find themselves battling to stay on track, I have this to say.  Just trust.  Trust the process, trust your coaches and your loved ones, but above all, trust yourself!  Be well xxx

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If You Don’t Know Me By Now…

Often when we spend a lot of time with people, and especially if we live with them, we come to be able to predict how they will behave in certain circumstances.  We all know the person in the office best avoided until after they have had their first coffee,for instance.  We also know who will be the one to upend the Monopoly board on Christmas night, and who will always try to be the peace maker.

Lately, I have started to wonder why I seem to be quite unable to make these connections with myself.  When I start to behave irrationally or feel like I am unraveling, I don’t seem to have the same internal index cards to tell me this is what I always do when the stars align in this way.

Let me tell you what I mean.  Regular readers will know that I am currently doing a management development course though work.  30% of the course mark is for a 5,000 work project, due in a couple of weeks.  The majority of the remaining marks are for an exam at the end of November.  Throughout my accountancy career, I have done more exams than I care to remember and I test reasonably well, so the exam part wasn’t really stressing me too much.  The project, on the other hand, was a completely different story.

For a lot of reasons, I was getting totally in my head about it.  I haven’t written anything academic in about 15 years, so to say I was rusty was an understatement.  Also, a large portion of the project was to be made up of a case study based around work.  I have only been in my job for a little over a year, and I have only been managing people for a few months.  I felt distinctly unqualified to write about it.

After weeks of procrastinating and “researching” I eventually decided to put pen to paper last weekend.  The week in work leading up to it had been hair raising, so as is often the case with me, the timing wasn’t exactly perfect.  I spent a few hours working on it on Saturday and another couple on Sunday morning.  By midday on Sunday, I felt like I had made a good start, but was starting to go a little stir crazy.  Errands needed to be run, and it was a good excuse to get away from the desk for a little while, so off I went.

First up was the pet shop for food for Annie and then to the grocery store for food for the humans.  I had been feeling a little funky all morning, it was hard to put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel like myself.  I got the dog food and loaded it into the car, and the next thing I knew, I was in floods of tears.  Now, I am not talking Cheryl Cole crystal tears, I am talking huge, wracking sobs.  Let me paint the picture for you.  There I was, sitting in the car park of the pet shop, wearing huge sunglasses (thank God I had them) wiping my tears in a pashmina (note to self, always carry a hanky!)  For a good twenty minutes, I sat there, totally inconsolable.  The really crazy thing is, had anyone asked me at the time what was wrong with me, I would have surely sobbed “I don’t know!”

The truth of it is, I really didn’t know.  This made me feel both very stupid and more than little nuts.  I mean, grown women aren’t supposed to do this!  Surely I should be able to run some simple errands without being reduced to a puddle of snot?  What the hell was wrong with me?  Was I truly losing my mind?

The whole rest of that evening, I felt awful.  Like I was suffering some terrible, nameless grief.  I tried to nap, but couldn’t sleep.  It seemed as though anything I tried to make myself feel better, just made things worse.  Eventually, I gave up trying and put myself to bed.  Something amazing happened.  I slept.  I woke the next morning feeling like myself again, and apart from the embarrassment, there were no lingering affects from the day before.

It was only in the days that followed did I start to join the dots.  I began to remember I ALWAYS DO THIS!  I always take on a lot and hold onto everything so tightly, that when the pressure eventually releases, I fall apart a little.  The release of the tension of getting my project underway was so great, that it manifested itself physically.  I wish that I had been able to identify what was happening that day, so perhaps I could have avoided fearing I was losing my mind, on top of everything else!

I guess the truth of it is, when we look at other people the distance allows for perspective.  When we look at ourselves, this perspective will only ever come with time.  The best thing we can do for ourselves is be honest with those around us, so even if we are ill equipped to recognise what is going on with us, at least they will know!  I am not saying that if someone had told me last Sunday “Arwen, you always do this” it would have helped me hold it together, but maybe I would have felt like I wasn’t going through it alone.

I am very pleased to report that the project is just about finished.  Just as well, because I don’t want to have to find another pet shop!  Be well xxx

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Timing is Everything

Life is pretty hectic just now, but I get withdrawal symptoms when I am not writing.  So I wanted to share some thoughts I have been having lately, in what could turn out to be my shortest post to date.

Have you ever noticed that after you hear a word for the first time, it suddenly seems to be everywhere?  Or your friend introduces you to a band they love and then you hear their music on TV?  When these things happen, it almost feels as though the stimulus was always there, it’s just that your consciousness was not ready to receive it.

There’s an old expression, which says that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Lately, this has taken on a much greater meaning for me.  There has been so many times recently when I have heard or seen something, just at the moment when I needed it most.  I definitely think it is happening because I am more ready.

I owe this readiness, in no small part, to reading a great book called “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer.  I hadn’t come across  Amanda before, but I heard the book recommended and decided to check it out.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.  She is a fascinating lady and it is particularly well written.  The main theme of the book is about encouraging people to ask for the things that they need.  Having read it, this sounded like great advice.  Typically of me, I decide to embrace this, and jumped headlong into asking people for things!

My first ask was in the form of a request for a book (I didn’t end up getting the book, but it did end up opening some other doors for me.)  The funny thing about asking, is that it requires making yourself extremely vulnerable.  You expose a need in yourself and of course, you have to be open to hearing the word no.  Amanda eluded to this in her writing, but it takes experiencing it for yourself to truly appreciate how scary it is.

In order to be a ready student, waiting for her teacher, I have had to learn how to really ask.  In a challenging time in my life, I have had to learn how to say “I am struggling, can you help me?”  The most recent experience of this was with my 28 day challenge.  I struggled with it way more than I was expecting to.  The rest of the group were doing great and part of me really wanted to retreat into the shadows.  I didn’t want people to see that I, of all people, did not have my shit together (not even a tiny bit!)  The crazy thing was, as soon as I did admit it, as soon as I let it be known that I was in trouble, the support I needed came to me, and I was able to turn it around.

The older I get, the more I realise that in order to have the fullest and most authentic life possible, I need to be truly open.  Yes, this means taking risks.  This means leaving myself exposed to pain.  But, it also means being open to all the joy and wonder that people and life have to offer.  When you learn to ask, you will soon discover who will step up for you and who will slink away.  Recognising a need in others, and doing what you can for them is a truly noble act.  To those who have stepped up for me recently, thank you, you know who you are.  To those who have decided to slink away, thank you, now I know who you are.  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

 

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A Point on Patience

I will never be described as a patient person.  I like to think I have some nice qualities, but alas, patience is not one of them.  What little patience I manage to muster in my dealings with other people, I have absolutely zero with myself.  This is not a new thing.  Even as a little girl, if I tried something new, and couldn’t get to grips with it straight away, I would get frustrated and usually quit.  Roller skates were tried out exactly once, (sorry mom) sports and instruments were usually abandoned within weeks.  I just wanted to know how to do the thing, I wasn’t overly interested in the process of learning!  As I have gotten older, my staying power may have increased, but frustration and sense of urgency has definitely not abated.

For about the past 6 months or so, I have been a kilo or two away from my goal weight.  My goal is to be below 59kg (yes, 58.9kg will do)  This number may seem arbitrary, but it holds great significance to me.  Should I ever reach it, I will share the reason for this with you.  Just before my trip to Madrid in May, I was the closest I have ever been.  One of my weigh ins was 59kg on the button.  I was as close as is humanly possible to be, without actually achieving it.

Then I went on my trip, and put on a little weight.  This was to be expected and I was totally fine with it.  I had had an absolute blast with one of my favourite people, eating and drinking with abandon.  I would never accept a life where I couldn’t have weekends like this from time to time.  When I got back, I assumed I would slip into my routine and within a week or two things would be back to normal.  Not so.  Work got busy and crazy.  I was travelling a lot and it just seemed like it took me forever to get my momentum going again.

Finally, about a month ago, things started coming together.  I was hitting the gym regularly, eating well, and walking the legs off myself and my poor dog.  I had even replaced my bedroom curtains with black out ones, and removed the electronics from the room to make sure I was getting better quality sleep.  For three consecutive weeks, I was exactly on plan.  This isn’t to say that everything was “perfect” because let’s face it, that doesn’t exist, but for those three weeks, I felt like I was definitely doing enough to get results.

Can you guess what happened during these weeks?  Absolutely NOTHING!!!!  The scale did not move at all.  Not one tenth of a kilo did I lose.  I really started to wonder what was going on.  I know rationally that the scales does not tell the whole story.  I also know that sometimes there can be a lag between putting in the work and getting the results, but COME ON!  I was working my ass off and getting nowhere.  I was just at the point of saying “screw this” and ordering an extra large pizza when I stood on the scales, and as if by magic, I was down over a kilo!

That was last week, and to be honest, if I had written this post then it would have been a different article entirely.  Last week, I was thinking “finally, I have this sussed, 58kg, you will be mine!”  This week, however, I have picked a shoulder injury.  Ironically, I think it was caused by excessive dog walking!  It’s nothing major, but I can’t train and it all feels like a bit of a cosmic conspiracy.  Damn it, I am so close, and I feel between one thing and the other I will never get there.

I am finding myself reminded of all the old adages.  Remembering all the great sporting movies, with their motivational montages.  I am reflecting on the cautionary tales of people who didn’t know how close they were to success when they finally quit.  Stories of people perishing in the desert, mere meters away from water.  I know my few hundred grams pale into insignificance when compared with the struggles some people go through on a daily basis.  But, truthfully, it has become about so much more than the scale weight.  This is something I cannot quit.  This battle has been on going for years.  Were I to walk away from it now, I know that it would haunt me.  I need this to be the one thing, the first thing, that although it didn’t come easy, I didn’t walk away from.

This morning, I weighed in at 60.2kg.  I have a bit to go still, and if the last few months are anything to go by, it may take a while.  The intensity will wax and wane as life carries on, and the results will of course, not be linear.  However, if I can finally master the art of patience, I will eventually reach the finish line.  With or without the roller skates!

For recipes, tips and ideas, hit me up at the links below.  Be well xxx

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Crossed Wires

A few weeks ago, I made a big mistake.  One of those embarrassing, cold sweat inducing, ground please swallow me up mistakes, that I am sure we all have made.  Let me tell you what happened.  I had been trying to get my hands on a book, and I wasn’t having much success.  So I had put a post on Facebook to ask if anyone had a copy I might be able to borrow.  A short time after, I was driving home from my mother’s place late at night.  I had my cell phone on the passenger seat beside me.  It lit up with a notification and I gave it a cursory glance.  It was a Facebook message (you know the ones that make the floaty heads appear on your screen.)  I looked at it for a split second, and I thought I knew who it was from.  I thought it was from someone whom I know pretty well and have a fairly established relationship with.

So, I get home, and immediately tap out a response.  I then busied myself with recipe prep and chatting to my husband.  Meanwhile, the texter and I got into a conversation.  It was only a couple of hours, and dozens of messages later that I realised I had been speaking to someone else entirely.  Someone that I really don’t know very well at all.  Someone that really I had only ever spoken to in passing.  It was to my horror and dismay that I discovered I had been having a fairly open and direct discussion with essentially a stranger.  To compound my mortification, a few of the messages I had sent would have made absolutely zero sense!  All I could think was “oh shit!  How am I going to fix this?”  By this stage my new friend had said goodnight, and there was really no way for me to back track.

I fretted and cringed about it all night, and the next morning decided the only way forward was full disclosure.  I told the texter what had happened and honestly, he couldn’t have been sweeter about it.  He seemed to see the funny side, even if I couldn’t!  We continued chatting, and it turns out we have a lot in common.  Far from being ashamed, I now have that lovely shiny feeling of having made a new friend.

As I reflected on it in the days that followed, I couldn’t help wonder how different the encounter would have been had I known who I was talking to.  How much more shut off would I have been with a stranger?  It made me think about how closed off to new people and new situation we can be, without even realising it.  The whole episode made me learn two things.

Firstly, there really is no such thing as a mistake.  As the expression goes, as one door closes, another one opens. Every action we take in life will lead us in one direction or another.  These directions cannot be right or wrong, they are just different.  This applies to all aspects of life; health, relationships, careers etc.  We will always be faced with options and choices.  Some of which will seem impossible, but if we can remember, that no one choice will equal triumph or disaster, it can make making a decision a little easier.

If we take nutrition and lifestyle as a good example.  Often when we want to get started with making a change, there can seem to be so many options, and so much conflicting advice, that we become paralyzed by indecision.  We can spend weeks researching the relative merits of one program versus another, when the reality is, just picking something and going with it would be far more useful.  We can waste so much time and mental energy trying to figure out what is 100% optimal, when really doing anything is better than doing nothing!  If you start a program and realise it’s not perfect, you can always tweak it, but at least you have taken the first steps.  Don’t let your quest for perfection be a road block for your progress.

The second thing I learned from this is that life is so much richer when you are open and receptive.  When you don’t allow yourself to be closed off, life will throw all sorts of experiences at you.  Some of them will be weird, some of them will be wonderful and some will be a little of both.  I have realised that only by opening up and allowing these experiences to come to me, can I begin to hope to have the type of authentic life I wish for.  If I want a full and happy life, rich with opportunity and adventure, I need to expose myself.  Yes, this is completely terrifying and not without risk, but I definitely believe that the reward is worth it.

So, the next time a stranger approaches you with the offer of a book (or a coffee, drink, or whatever) instead of rolling your eyes and muttering weirdo under your breath, allow yourself to think that maybe, as Humphrey Bogart said, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

For recipes and ideas check me out on social media at the links below.  Be well xxx

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