Are all Calories Created Equal

Now I know after last week you may be thinking the whole weight loss equation boils down to calories in to calories out. Well technically it does.

But your success at maintaining this how you feel day to day, your energy levels, general health and the massive issue for dieting how hungry you feel can all be impacted by where your calories come from.

You see 200 calories of nuts are not used by your body the same way as 200 calories of chocolate.

When you eat food your body breaks it down in order to utilise it’s nutrients and create energy. This creates heat and is called the “thermic effect”. This breaking down process and turning into energy is essentially your metabolism. Overly processed foods require very little breaking down and also provide very little long term energy so your body does not need to work very hard to process it and also receives very little nutrition by return. Whole, unprocessed foods on the other hand require your body to work to break it down, therefore it raises your metabolism, then you gain tons of usable nutrients from this food that can be used for energy, to build muscles, new cells, regenerate your organs and generally help you feel bright eyed and bushy tailed.

So don’t get me wrong it is entirely possible to lose weight eating chocolate alone providing your total calorie intake is lower than your total expenditure, but I’m pretty sure you would be ravenous most of the time and on a massive insulin roller coaster and after a few days feel pretty rotten so you aren’t likely to stick with this long term.

Also, if you consumed most of your calories from sugar and carbohydrates you would spend a lot of time with a raised glycogen level to which you would need to produce extra insulin to balance it out. Over time this could cause your body to become resistant to insulin. Firstly this will encourage your body to store fat and more importantly can lead to Type 2 Diabates. So although the odd bit of sugar won’t kill you, consuming it as a large part of your diet is a bad idea.

There is also to be taken into account the satiety effect of certain foods. Protein and Fats have been shown to help you feel fuller long term therefore if you made up a large proportion of your diet on lean meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, nut butters, coconut oil and seeds you would feel much more satiated than on bread and pasta.

Although as I have mentioned before there is still room for individual preference on this and there are some people who feel totally full on a high carb diet and feel great, so have a play around with your diet and see what works for you. Just don’t try to see how many mars bars you can eat per day to sustain yourself I promise you are better off with steak (and still have some room for champagne…..)

 

The Big Weight Loss Secret

What’s the one thing that sets apart those people that lose weight and keep it off and those that don’t? Is it some Magical diet formula, the paleo diet, slimming world, vegan………running eight miles every day?? Consistency! Yep, that’s the secret. Not eat well for 4 days then a blow out at the weekend, or train really hard and eat really well for 6 weeks then revert to previous habits. It’s week in week out eating well on a diet that works for YOU long term, training in a way that works for YOU long term so it has become Lifestyle.  People who lose weight successfully may still eat chocolate, eat out and drink alcohol but it isn’t done in excess and everything else round it is kept in check. For example if you know you will be eating a three course meal on Saturday then perhaps skip one of your snacks every day the week leading up to it, then eat lightly that day at breakfast and lunch if it is later you are eating. That could be well over 1000 calories saved so that 3 course meal doesn’t throw you off track. I find it quite common when people are on weight loss programmes that there will be events along the way birthday meals with friends etc. that makes people decide the whole week must be a write off or the diet should wait until after the event- then proceed to eat everything in sight until the DIET begins! Why can’t lifestyle overhauls start on a Saturday? Just because you still plan to have your curry with friends later why can’t you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, resist the urge to spend the afternoon on the sofa eating biscuits and then go out later for that curry? That would still be a new habit forming of how you eat at the weekends, and it didn’t stop you being social. There is always going to be birthdays, events, bad days at work, busy weekends where you don’t have time to shop or food prep but using these as an excuse time and time again as to why you couldn’t eat well. These events are all part of life and well I’m afraid you are just going to have to man up and deal with it! Or if you aren’t going to please stop moaning, asking why you aren’t losing weight etc. because you already know the answer. Il let you into a secret at the weekend I ate a 3 course meal plus birthday cake and a glass of wine, all week leading up to it I dropped 200 calories per day off my daily amount (usually 1800 so I dropped to 1600) except for Saturday I still had 1800 couldn’t deny myself my Saturday night chocolate ! So on Sunday I had breakfast – a bacon sandwich (how very dare I) Then had 3 courses, wine, cake etc. went home and had some herbal tea. You see I really didn’t need more food after all that so I didn’t have any!  Then we hadn’t done our usual food prep and it was now late and we were both tired so I had a look what was quick to make for lunch the following day from the contents of the cupboard. It turned out to be two peanut butter and banana wraps! Not entirely nutritionally sound but not necessarily all bad either. So I filled in MyFitnessPal and they fitted into my days eating fine with no deprivation elsewhere. Food prep done Monday night and week still on track. Then Tuesday morning I didn’t put the lid on my smoothie properly and it emptied itself in my bag- excellent! But I stopped at Starbucks got a coffee, a fruit pot and some porridge-day back on track.

What I’m trying to say is, life is always going to throw you curve balls but you have got to decide that they won’t derail you from your ultimate goal of losing weight.

Otherwise don’t come moaning to me I’m not the tea and sympathy type.

 

Low Carb Diets

Low carb diets have come up in conversation  a lot lately.

The thing is, if you go online and googled it there is actually very mixed numbers as to what is considered low carb. So I don’t think most of us actually know what a low carb diet really is or why they work.

Low carb diets like the infamous Atkins, South Beach and Ketogenic diet became popular in the USA as what seemed to be a great way to lose weight. Atkins was famous for its pictures of fry ups etc. But then the tide changed and a lot of Science suggested that diets high in fat would cause cardiovascular disease. Now we appear to have swung around again and have decided actually fat is good for you (it is) and that sugar and therefore carbs are the enemy again.

To be honest neither fat nor carbs are the devil alone. Refined sugar is however a different story but you already know that don’t you?

So, what does count as a low carb diet? From doing some research it appears to be anything from less than 300g to less than 150g and a ketogenic diet is less than 50g. I would say having looked at the studies etc. that around 150g is pretty much low carb but also this varies a little from person to person as to how their body reacts.

So why are low carb diets so popular?

When you strip carbs from your diet you can lose quite a significant amount of weight initially, but this is usually just water and glycogen loss i.e. not fat! So great if you are using it as a last minute pre party slim down-like celebs for the Oscars-not great if you try and live your life like that.

Also, with the idea that carbs cause your insulin levels to spike and more people having insulin resistance, the theory is the less it spikes the better the metabolic health. Sort of true but not the full story.

So why are low carb diets bad news?

In short, it can disrupt your hormone levels particularly in women. This includes your Thyroid, Stress Hormones and those that control your fertility and menstrual cycle. So your stress levels can go up and your metabolism and mood can go down. And fellas for you this means you have less testosterone and build less muscle……………………hmmmm.

Having looked at some of the studies on low carb diets there is one particular factor that is present in all of them and that is carbs are replaced with a higher protein intake. So could it be said that a high protein diet is actually the key to weight loss irrespective of carbs? Protein has a high thermic effect meaning your body works hard to digest it (This means it burns more calories…..and causes the meat sweats), it also makes people feel fuller longer and helps you to retain muscle mass. Go Protein!

Now back to the insulin business. In people with insulin resistance or early stages i.e. insulin sensitivity numerous studies have shown that reducing the carbohydrate does indeed begin to regulate insulin levels. However it is important to note that once Insulin levels are regulated and the body has reprogrammed to respond normally it is fine to go back to a moderate carb intake and monitor it from there.

Also, in people with a proper insulin response your body will ebb and flow the hormones as necessary to balance out your glucose levels and this is indeed a completely normal and healthy part of how your body should work. If you had consistenly low insulin levels your body would in fact struggle to maintain muscle mass, and by this I don’t just mean the bicep busting arnie type I also mean the more modest general ones that hold you up and help you move around all day. So we do need some insulin.

To be honest despite all the research the answer as to how many grams of carbs we should eat per day still varies from person to person. If you eat 300g of carbs and feel great then that’s fine, if you only eat 150g of carbs and feel great then that’s fine.

But thinking that just cutting carbs in your diet is the key to weight loss is misguided, the same equation of calories in and calories out still applies overall however the macronutrients are made up. You just may feel better with a different split between them than somebody else.

It also pays to take note of where your carb sources come from. I’m sorry but the Warburton’s white toastie loaf is not a good source, but grains like quinoa, wild rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, starchy veg like parsnips, carrots, beetroot and fruit are all great sources of nutrition and carbs!

So, please don’t buy into the whole no carbs thing unless you have specific issue with insulin resistance there is really no need. Just experiment with how you feel on different amounts and make them from good sources. I say it was fairly obvious that cutting out sugary cereals, high amounts of white flour and processed carbs like cakes, biscuits etc. is going to make you feel more energetic and lose weight but it wasn’t the lack of carbs that did it, it was more likely the lack of cr*p!

Intrinsic Biomechanics

So I spent last week getting my brain fried on an intrinsic Biomechanics course.

WTF is one of those you ask? Well, Biomechanics is the study of the human body’s mechanics and how it moves. This is then divided into:

 Extrinsic Biomechanics which looks at movement, how to make it more efficient and improve performance. This science is used most commonly in sports performance and conditioning.

And:

Intrinsic Biomechanics which is the study of HOW the body is able to perform those movements in relation to the mechanics going on inside the body. In particular this tends to focus on “dysfunctional” movement i.e. not in the ideal range of motion. What is going on intrinsically for that to be the case and more importantly how can I fix it?

The thing is, for years I have seen people and myself included being told by various health professionals that certain parts of our posture/movement are fine if they aren’t causing a direct problem and therefore it doesn’t warrant treatment.  There is also the common theme of – if you go in with a shoulder problem you’re chosen therapist/professional just looks at your shoulder.

When we look at the makeup of our body’s internally the huge complex system of muscles, tendons and ligaments are all linked from top to bottom by fascia. (This is like that thin shiny layer on top of chicken breasts). They cover all of our muscles and inter link throughout our bodies which means in fact your right calf muscle is linked to your left shoulder muscle. Which means if you are getting constant problems in your left shoulder and various treatments to the shoulder are not fixing the problem; you may want to look a little lower down the body to find your answer?

Intrinsic biomechanics always starts with looking at the function of the pelvis as this is essentially the foundation of your skeleton, it is where all the other important bits such as your spine and legs connect from and therefore it’s function or lack of can have a huge impact on how everything around it functions.

Think of it like the chassis of your car. You can dent the doors (arms) and it does not affect it too much and can be put back into place, you can break a windscreen (your erm ribs) and it can be replaced with no drama but if you dent your chassis it may have thrown the whole alignment of the car out and is then a major problem to put back into place. Your Pelvis is your chassis. If it strays out of line your whole body could be pulled out of line.

From there we look at in order the spine shoulders, knees and feet . Which makes the catchy song “hips, spine shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes……..” As mentioned the site of the pain is not necessarily the site of the problem.

The human body is such an amazing machine, yet we rarely give it the MOT and servicing we give to our cars. We tend to just duct tape over the sore bits and carry on hoping for the best. You wouldn’t do this to your car (ok I might but I learnt it from my dad) so why do this to your body?

If you are having aches and pains you can’t seem to get rid of then maybe it’s time to look intrinsically?

You know where to find me!

 

 

 

Look after your Feet

So how many of you honestly consider how important your feet are to you? I bet you make them spend the day squashed into pointy toed heels (fellas….) or in completely flat shoes with no support and don’t give them a second thought.

Your feet are an incredible complex part of the anatomy, they are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 tendons, ligaments and muscles all working together to hold you up all day and carry you around.

They are responsible for flexibility, shock absorption, weight distribution and balance.

We never give this stuff a second thought when we are young but as we get older and more emphasis is placed on avoiding falls and the possibility having to use a frame or stick to get around suddenly improving the strength and function of our feet becomes a game changer.

And if you have ever had a foot injury you will know how debilitating it is-you literally cannot walk!

If your feet are imbalanced or not fully supported by the muscles, joints and ligaments of its structure this imbalance and/or instability travels up through the body causing problems with the knees, hips back and right up to your shoulders and neck. So basically it can throw your whole body off course!

When we walk or run our feet pronate (roll in slightly) when they hit to ground to absorb shock and then they supinate (roll back out) to propel forwards. If either of these mechanics is faulty our feet are unbalanced.

The majority of the population have overly flat arches and over pronate which means their feet roll in excessively when they walk or run. Around 4% of the population have high arches and over supinate which means their feet roll out excessively when they walk. I am in the minority-typical!

As mentioned this kind of imbalance causes poor shock absorption, can cause bunions, corns and plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tendon on the arch of the foot). The imbalance then causes dysfunction of the rest of the skeletal and muscular system and can lead to early wearing of knee and hip joints and misalign the spine.

An orthotic insole can be used to help correct the imbalance and prevent further problems up the kinetic chain. These are usually only prescribed if your foot mechanics is causing pain and are best done as a made to measure for your foot rather than off the shelf. Wearing orthotics for the first time is a real lesson in how much your feet affect your whole body, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck for a fortnight after I began wearing mine!

So what are we going to do to look after our feet.

Well unless you have a very obliging and skilled partner to massage them every night you are going to have to do it yourself.

Rolling your foot on a ball whether that be a tennis or golf ball or a spiky physio ball will help to relieve knots and tension.

Stretching your feet, pressing them away from you and then pulling them towards you, circling them left and right and moving your toes independently –see if they can do a Mexican wave! This will all help to increase strength and flexibility.  

Also rotating your shoes so they are not given the same support pattern every day helps to strengthen them and prevent any compensatory patterns. It’s the reason I need 14 pairs of trainers………

So look after your feet they literally carry you around all day!

Yoga For Pain Relief

I have long been a believer in exercise for pain relief. The human body needs to move in order to function optimally, if not put through their range of motion regularly muscles and joints can quickly become tight and stiff.

Regular exercise improves the flow of oxygen around our bodies. Our organs and muscles require oxygen to survive. The more oxygen they receive the more they able to renew their cells and therefore function more optimally.

Your joint fluid carries oxygen to the cartilage around your joints which keeps them lubricated and therefore able to move well.

This forms part of why movement is so important for pain. If you feel stiff, tight and achy sitting still will only compound this feeling as less oxygen enters your joints and muscles and they therefore aren’t functioning as well as they can.

Alongside that a lot of pain can be coming from the mind. By this I don’t mean you are imagining it but stress, tension and emotions can be manifested as pain in our bodies. It is extremely common for people who are stressed to suffer from back pain, now this may in part be because the cause of their stress is 12 hours a day spent at a desk but it may also be because they have a tendency to hold this area rigid as almost a brace against the stress. There are definitely a few of my clients who I regularly tell to stop wearing their shoulders are earrings!

So exercise can also work by clearing the mind as well as releasing endorphins which will reduce cortisol levels and therefore stress levels.

Now, I imagine if you are suffering with a condition such as arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic pain etc. the last thing you think you should be doing is exercising. This is where I believe yoga and Pilates are so important. They are such gentle forms of exercise with many variations and adaptions yet the foundations and purpose of them is directly based on correct alignment, strength and fluid movement.

Yoga will take you through a series of gentle movements that can be adapted to prevent aggravation of any painful areas, whilst encouraging alignment throughout the body, increasing circulation and therefore flexibility. Yoga can also in some forms be used to clear the mind with a focus on relaxation and meditation.

Yoga has roots going back over 10,000 years although its solid foundations begin around 5000 years ago as a system to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. Early forms of yoga explored the physical and spiritual connection to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that binds us to our physical existence. Today we would recognise this most in Hatha Yoga one of its most gentle forms.

 

Pilates is focused on working your body from the inside out. The main focus is on strengthening the deep abdominal muscles that support your spine, then progressively to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight ones. This in turn will increase mobility, flexibility, strength, circulation and lymphatic drainage. The increased strength and alignment will also ease postural related aches and pains and the mind body connection can lower stress levels.

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates who after intense meditation, yoga and exercise to recover from rheumatic fever, rickets and asthma became accomplished at many sports including gymnastics.  During the First World War Joseph Pilates was stationed as a hospital orderly where he began to work with patients, who were disabled, bed ridden, injured and often diseased. Pilates used his previous experiences to take these patients through movements and exercises which enabled them to recover quicker. This is when the Pilates method was born.

There are actually many cross overs of movements in Yoga and Pilates probably due to Pilate’s early experience. This is why I often combine the two methods in one session as they flow well together.

I would urge anyone who is struggling with movement for whatever reason as long as their doctor agrees to try some Yoga or Pilates. You can do just 10 mins a day at home in your pj’s if you want. I would bet money that after a few days you would start to feel even the tiniest bit better.

My focus this year will be on how the body moves, functions and how we can correct problems. This starts with my Biomechanics Trainer course at the end of January, and from there Biomechanics Coach alongside more study of Pilates and Yoga and Rehabilitation techniques, so if you are struggling with a particular problem let me know and I will see if I can help.

Namaste x

Are Fitness Apps All That?

It seems that fitness apps and wearable activity trackers are being used by everybody these days.

I saw a debate the other day that questioned whether that was a good thing, the against camp suggesting that it was making us obsess about our eating and movement. Whilst I get that I have only seen positive improvements from the people I know, myself included.

You see I think most of us actually over estimate how much we move and under estimate how much we eat.

If you have a device on you that can highlight how little you have moved today that can be your motivation to get up and go for a walk. Likewise if you are logging that takeaway the realisation in front of you of exactly how many calories you have eaten can be a great deterrent next time.

You see I believe the first step to change your habits is the awareness of your current habits. It is incredibly easy to lie to yourself, and I know this from personal experience!

I also know this from working with clients, when I ask people how they eat on a typical week most people will say “I eat fairly healthy”. Then I dig a bit deeper, so “What did you have for breakfast every day this week? What did you eat on Friday night? That’s when the truth starts to come out. The Wednesday muffin they grabbed with their coffee, the bacon roll they had as an office treat on Friday, the glass of wine they had watching their favourite drama during the week, the couple of glasses they had over the weekend, oh and then there was the takeaway and the follow up fry up, oh and it was Sue from the offices birthday on Thursday so I had a piece of cake………………………….

Do you see where this is going? I’m not saying that eating like that is going to kill you, but can you see how this might be hampering your weight loss? As when you know that for lunch you had salad every day and your evening meal Monday to Thursday consisted of meat and veg it is completely logical to consider yourself as having a healthy diet.

So when I get people to write down everything they eat and drink throughout a week, they can see how it is easy to forget all the little extras.

With the activity log I know I was definitely surprised at how little I move some days, considering I feed animals and do a job that required movement when I spend the rest of the day driving or sat down writing I can really struggle to get in my 10,000 steps. My tracker encourages me to go for a walk or move around more.

There are also so many on the market that I think there is something to suit most tastes and budgets.

Firstly, the most popular and arguably the best online food diary MYFITNESSPAL. This is free unless you upgrade to premium, so easy to use, downloaded as an app, so many foods/brands already inputted for you as well as a barcode scanner, you can set yourself targets and monitor it day to day. It also links with many fitness tracker apps so that your activity level is logged too. If you just want to monitor what you are eating this is the app to use. Although I will say the calorie goals it sets for weight loss are far too low so please set your own using the Harris Benedict Equation to work out your daily calorie needs and then subtracting no more than 20% as your daily calorie goal for weight loss.

I know most I phones have step counter etc. in them now but what I find is I’m not always carrying my phone on me for example when I’m with a client my phone tends to be in my bag, so if you are like me it just doesn’t cut it. So if you are an apple geek you will have to go super flash and get an Apple watch that will track your every movement from around £300 upwards depending on how much tech you want.

The most popular wearable trackers have been the Jawbone Up and The Fitbit. These are closer to the £100 mark and have built in steps counters, heart rate monitors and sync straight to an app to log your information. Personally I have a Fitbit charge hr and I like that it is also a watch and the steps, calorie burn, hr etc. are all visible on the watch at the click of a button. With the Jawbone you have to log into the app to see this but it is more aesthetically pleasing so people may prefer this to wear every day.

On a side note, I have found the heart rate very useful not just from a training perspective where you may be looking to hit certain heart rate zones, but from a day to day monitor of my bodies stress levels. As it turns out my heart rate is pretty high for most of the day, this means whether I feel it or not my body is stressed and it makes me address this on a daily basis.

Garmin and Polar have also brought out their own trackers although these are closer to £200 and you have to use a separate belt to use the heart rate monitor, but they do have further features in relation to specific sports, music controls etc. so if you are more of a gadget geek they may be up your street.

So if your new year’s resolutions to be more healthy and active are waning maybe some tech could give you the boost/constant reminder that you need!

The Emotion of Pain

Something I have found very interesting to research recently is the science of emotions in relation to pain.

A physio once said to me that if a patient is told that something hurts it will hurt.

There have also been now numerous studies on this including one in which a randomised section of people without back pain had MRI scans that actually showed that a large percentage of them had bulging or herniated discs. Yet as previously mentioned they did not have back pain as a result of this?

There are many others including people still having pain following an operation to resolve it, and in fact people having “fake” operations and finding themselves “fixed”

So is it possible that there are other factors at play?

By this I am not saying that if you are in pain it is “all in your head” but is there an impact on how we feel pain based on how we are emotionally.

There are a few things I want you to consider in this.

One being that if you are stressed you will cause inflammation in your body and this in turn can cause pain. An inflamed muscle will be a sore muscle, so if you are particularly stressed, run down etc and are finding yourself in a lot of pain, you may find addressing your stress levels helps quite a lot before you start reaching for the pain killers.

Secondly;

A definition of pain by the International Association for the Study of Pain describes it as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience.”

We feel pain by our sensory nerves sending messages back to our brain from around the body. So a neural pathway is created through the body, up the spinal cord to the brain in order for us to feel pain. This all happens in a fraction of a second in the case of a sharp pain from for example standing on a pin. But in the case of long term pain, the neural pathway is already there and is therefore easier for the message to be sent over and over again.

So I find it easiest to explain like this. The pathway has become stuck, in order for the pain to go you just need to remove this pathway. I am aware this makes it sound incredibly simple but I want you to begin to believe that the messages you send back and forth to your brain can have an effect on what goes on in your body.

This does not actually relate just to pain it can be things like IBS symptoms, emotional responses and chronic fatigue.

This is a whole huge area of science that I am not going to go into today (unless you all have a spare 5 hours!) but I will definitely be exploring this more with you in the future.

For the meantime though I want you to consciously think about your thoughts, emotions etc and how they transmit around your body.

Is it possible to control a pain you may have in your body with only the power of your thoughts………………………………