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Staying Level

I often get asked by people why certain muscles get tight, restricted or underused and the answer is simply “life”. That is our everyday actions and habits that we do over and over again usually in the same way each time.

Think about what some of those actions might be. You brush your teeth with your right hand, drink your coffee with your right hand, you carry your bag on your right shoulder and then perhaps you have one of those curved desks that makes you sit to the right?

Then you perhaps drive your car hunched over the steering wheel, you sit at a desk hunched over the keyboard and then you clean the bathroom hunched over……………….

Do you see what’s happening here? You repeat the same action with the same muscles time and time again, even though the activities themselves maybe different the way in which you use your body is not.

Obviously for different people these repetitive actions will be different but they are essentially the same-repetitive actions.

This can then present itself in numerous ways in your body.

· Restriction can occur in the overused side due to tension
· Restriction can be present in the underused side –which prevents it from performing correctly at all
· Soreness in the over used side –because well tired and over used.
· Soreness in the underused side, often due it being weak and therefore struggling with any load/work at all

There lots of other weird and wonderful ways that overuse can present itself in the body (the human continues to delight, surprise and baffle me!) but these are the most common issues I see.

Depending on the severity of the imbalance depends on how much treatment in terms of physical therapy, rehabilitation exercise etc. is required but a really simple way to help yourself with this is to change up the way you do things.

So, let’s try over the next week or so to do things with your opposite hand! Try brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand.

1% at a time

When we set goals or start new things they can often seem insurmountable.

Say you want to lose weight and improve your diet, you could completely overhaul everything overnight but in reality that is going to be incredible difficult and science has proven many times not sustainable.

 

If you live off cakes, biscuits and takeaway to suddenly switch to salad and fruit is going to be very very hard!.

 

However this doesn’t mean you will never be able to do these things, it just means you are going to have to make some changes and put in some hard work to help to get you there.

 

If you could change just one thing on week one say, drinking more water then that’s a great start. Yes the rest of your diet may be terrible but you have taken a positive step. Then on week two you change another habit, perhaps make your breakfast a healthier option and so on the cycle continues until over the course of the next few months your diet is unrecognisable from when you started out-but you didn’t make life difficult for yourself by trying to do everything at once-you kind of sneaked a healthy diet onto yourself.

 

Just aim to improve 1% at a time and those 1%’s will soon add up to make 100%, or I guess in a real diet and nutrition sense I should say 80% as chocolate, alcohol, take aways (or all of the above….) whatever your “vice” is still fine in moderation it just doesn’t make up the highest percentage of your diet.

Fancy Fats

Ok, so last Macro Nutrient this week it is Fats.

Fats have definitely had plenty of bad press over the years, and it is not warranted. We shouldn’t avoid eating fats at all, they are vital for a healthy body it’s just about eating the right kind of fats.

Fats are broken down into 3 categories.

Saturated Fat

Monosaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated Fat. (Further broken down into Omega 3 and Omega 6).

Fat of all 3 types are important to our overall health.

  • It provides the most energy-this does mean it has the most calories but………moderation.
  • It aids manufacture and balance of hormones
  • Builds and repairs organ cells, the brain and nervous system
  • Transport Vitamins namely Fat the soluble Vitamins ADE & K
  • It provides the aforementioned Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids that the body cannot make itself.

Most of the bad rap for fats has been aimed at Saturated Fats. However this is slightly unfair and where common sense should apply. In reality people will quite often consume Saturated Fat alongside high sugar intake and refined carbohydrates –think takeaway and doughnuts….

Suddenly Eggs and Steak are getting the blame for health issues such as high cholesterol associated with a high level if saturated fat. In fact foods such as red meat and eggs contain as much and often more monosaturated fats than saturated fats-so get back to your Eggs people.

As with any part of the diet the devil is in the dose and all 3 kinds of Fats should be consumed but none should be over consumed. If you are eating fresh, whole unprocessed foods as 80% of your diet you probably don’t have anything to worry about with regards to your fat intake.

However if you have been brain washed into following a low fat diet and find yourself constantly starving or lacking energy and struggling to concentrate perhaps you need to readdress the balance.

Healthy Fat Sources include.

  • Oily Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel. Try and eat at least one portion a week.
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Eggs-particularly the yolks
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Coconut-Coconut Oil has become popular to cook with and add to smoothies and porridge as an easy way to add healthy fat to your diet.

Your homework this week then is to have a look at your Fat intake. If you don’t already try adding one healthy fat portion to your diet every day next week maybe just an egg, some fish or a handful of nuts and see that brain power rocket!

 

 

Protein Pick & Mix

Thanks to everyone that responded to last week about the new carb sources they had been experimenting with-Lentils and Cous Cous has now entered the menu!

This week I want to look at Protein. Most people think of Protein as just those shakes that gym freaks drink and as meat. However there are loads more foods that contain Protein that we should try and include in our diets to keep it varied.

Protein is vital for repair of the body, not just repair from injury or after heavy exercise but also the day to day constant regeneration of organ tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments; and every other part of your body down to hair, skin and nails.

To be honest I find most people don’t eat enough protein, particularly vegetarians and vegans. A general guide is around 1.5-2g per kg of bodyweight.

So,

Protein is found in

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Meat alternatives and Soya products
  • Legumes – beans, peanuts (this includes peanut butter-yay!)
  • Lentils
  • Seeds

To make sure you are eating enough aim to have a serving at every meal. Maybe if you switched to porridge at breakfast you would be adding milk (plant based milks have a little less but Soy is your best option of you are Vegan/Vegetarian).

Or perhaps you could have eggs for breakfast? I pre boil mine in advance and just peel them and eat them in the morning.

If you do  rush out the door without eating why not make a protein shake (you can buy any brand it doesn’t have to be over priced with “magic” properties) and add some milk, a banana or other fruit, a spoonful of peanut butter and maybe even some cacao powder. That’s plenty of Protein in one hit.

Lunch and Dinner time the options are many and varied; add Meat or Fish/Seafood to salads and veg, make a bean or lentil chilli, casserole etc. You could also sprinkle salads or meat/fish with seeds to boost the protein content further.

For snacks try

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • hummus and crudites
  • peanut butter-try spreading it on an apple
  • edamame beans
  • Beef jerky
  • Boiled eggs
  • Protein bars and shakes

Carb Creativity

Ok hands up, who’s potentially shaped like an Easter egg right now? Yes my hand is up and I’m hoping you can’t see the Crème Egg sat next to me as I write this…..

I thought we would have a look at trying to shake up our eating habits. Not just in an eat more broccoli and no pizza kind of way but more in a try new things way.

So I’m going to start with trying new Carbohydrates. You see Crabs get a bad reputation, and not really deserved. The problem is we are just really good at over eating Carbs, it’s not their fault they are so tasty and comforting.

To prove this I want you to read a pasta packet and weight out the recommended serving (usually around 75g) and just see how different that is compared to how much you usually eat. Clue-it’s usually a big difference!

We also get stuck on the same things. When we think of Carbs we think Bread, Pasta, Potatoes and Pastry.

In fact there are lots of other options!

  • Vegetables, not just potatoes but also any other veg such as Carrots, Beetroot, Cabbage..
  • Fruit
  • Grains-Wheat, Oats, Rice, Quinoa etc.
  • Beans/Legumes-Chickpeas, Black Beans, Cannellini Beans, Lentils

Why not try challenging yourself to mix up your carbs a bit.

  • Have Oats instead of toast at breakfast
  • Eat coloured fruit and/or vegetables at every meal. So berries in those oats, broccoli, carrots, peppers etc. in your lunch and dinner.
  • Try a grain and/or bean you have never eaten before. Maybe try Teff or Freekah (you can get them in the supermarket I promise) with a lunch salad or make a Chilli with some different kinds of beans added.

I’d love to hear how you get on with your experiments!

 

Believe In Your Will Power

Willpower is often talked about as the make or break of dieting.

Previous research suggested that we had a limited number of decisions that we could make in the day. This is the reason Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have wardrobes of the same coloured suits and t shirts; they can save the decision making for the important business stuff.

However, more recent research –which is still ongoing; suggests that how much willpower we have is down to how much willpower we think we have.

Interesting………..

It appears that this continuing rise in mind-set is incredibly relevant when it comes to willpower.

Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology and has previously written about this in her book Mindset. Her theory is that people with a fixed mindset limit their potential by being unable to believe that they can increase their capability in things like intelligence or confidence. People with a growth mindset believe that they can achieve whatever they want with a strategy, clear goals and hard work.

This then leads us back to our will power and our beliefs about it as well as our beliefs about our ability to lose weight or run 5k for example.

We need to be able to believe that we are capable of resisting that slice of cake, we are capable of losing weight and keeping it off and we are capable of running 5k or whatever else it may be.

Do you believe that you are capable of achieving your goals?

Maybe if you have failed before you think that it is because you aren’t able to do it? Hey, I failed my driving test twice but I passed eventually! There are plenty of people that faced this situation but we didn’t give up and we succeeded eventually.

The same can apply to anything. If you have spent years dieting and then falling off the wagon you may believe that this will happen every time you try to lose weight.

STOP! YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ANYTHING YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE YOU ARE! And then of course you have to put in the necessary hard work to achieve it.

But your first barrier is you and your mindset.

Start believing that you do have plenty of willpower to say no that extra glass of wine; once you have done that once you have your previous experience to remind you that you have done it before so you can do it again.

Believe that you are the sort of person who loses weight and keeps it off.

You can run 5k-you just need to build it up over time and you will get there.

Just believe that you can!

Time to Switch Off

Mr A and I spent this past weekend away in Cumbria. As the weather was terrible on the Saturday we decided to stay indoors and just sit still for a day. We spent most of it reading and eating-Bliss! We could have stayed home and done that but sometimes you need to be away from your regular environment to totally switch off.

I see more and more clients who struggle to sleep, feel exhausted despite sleeping or they are regularly coming down with colds etc., but I also see them checking work emails at 9pm, or filling their free time with constant activity and never really switching their brain off. Even when they are sat still they are stimulating their brains, maybe scrolling through social media or watching a tense drama.

We live in a world that is constantly switched on and I think every day the news reports that more than ever people are struggling with depression, anxiety, extreme fatigue and insomnia. Many people also struggle with un-diagnosable conditions that maybe manifest as stomach issues, chronic headaches or constant muscle soreness etc. in short we are the result of a huge stress epidemic!

It has become part of our culture to always be busy, be connected online and always on the go. When do you take time to properly switch off? Unfortunately it is causing us some major health problems.

In order to give our brains and body a proper rest we need to switch it off and recharge.

We should try and give ourselves space to do this every day.

  • How you start your day can have a big impact on how you function for the rest of it. For some people this is a morning mediation or yoga practice, maybe just sitting down for 10 minutes peace with your morning coffee or for me walking the dogs (or the morning zoom as it is referred to on my Instagram story).
  • Throughout the day it is actually proven to make you more productive if you take regular breaks every 90 mins or so. So, solid 90mins at your PC focused on the important tasks with no distractions then take break to make a cup of tea –which you actually make time to drink! At lunch get outside for some fresh air-even 20 minutes will help. I always try to walk the dogs before I begin evening classes as it helps to shake off my afternoon spent at my laptop and refresh my brain and body.
  • At least an hour before bed stop opening your emails and social media (turn notifications off if you have to) and instead of doing something stimulating make time to wind down your body and brain. Apps such as Headspace can take you through a guided meditation or Calm (I use this one) has bedtime stories read by the likes of Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley to help you clear your mind and get ready to sleep.

You can do whatever works for you, basically whatever you find relaxing that switches your head of from the constant noise of the day. The simple act of switching off should form as big a part of your recipe for good health as your nutrition and exercise.

Make it Easy

After talking about eating habits and taking responsibility lately I thought I would give you a couple of tips to make it a little bit easier. I know so many people really do have good intentions to eat well and exercise regularly but life just kinda takes over doesn’t it.

I know planning ahead can sound like just making extra work and really boring but I promise just 5-10 mins of extra planning will actually save you time in the long run-it’s actually way less stressful as you don’t have to make tired, hungry decisions about what to eat for dinner etc.

I will start with food and diet.

 

  • Batch cooking healthy meals really is a time saver. It can take less than an hour to make a huge pot of soup, chilli, casserole or homemade curries and you can store individual portions in the freezer for evenings when you are short on time.
  • On the same note, pre chopped frozen fruit and veg can be used either for evening meals or your morning smoothie and is usually cheaper than fresh. Just whizz and go!
  • We prepare our lunches for the week ahead in batches. It takes around the same time to prepare 4 chickens, four lots of vegetables etc. as it does to prepare one lot. I also do parts of my breakfast like pre boiling eggs and leaving them in the shell to just take with me, or preparing a big batch of yoghurt, fruit and granola in a jar to keep in the fridge and just decant a portion as required.
  • Plan your evening meals ahead. I know it sounds really boring but I promise once you get into the swing of it it’s really easy. We sit down on a Thursday night plan our meals from Saturday to the following Friday, write a shopping list and then do our shop in line. If we are on form (read not tired, hungry, grumpy and therefore likely to bicker about the colour of peppers to order) it only takes around 20mins. The plan then goes on the fridge and then whoever is home first (usually Mr A) can just look at the plan and start preparing.
  • Using pre prepared ingredients although sometimes slightly more expensive is a great help to keep you from dialling a pizza. Frozen veg, tinned beans and pulses, microwave rice, cous cous and Porridge Pots you just add water to are regulars in our house- I await my death from such slackness…………………..

Exercise.

  • A workout doesn’t have to be an hour long. Just 15 minutes a day will help to keep you fit. There are millions of workouts on YouTube from HIIT training to Yoga so there is no excuse not to find something you can fit in.
  • If you are going to the gym, always having your bag ready to take with you the night before will stop you “forgetting your kit” the next day.
  • Similarly taking your gym bag to work every day even if you think you won’t have time could be a game changer. Then when that appointment cancels last minute you can go to the gym, maybe you can squeeze a short workout in after work, on your lunch break etc.
  • Have a plan of what you want to do, but be flexible and have shorter options. Just because you can’t fit in your full 1 hr ½ session doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother. Just popping in to do half an hour will still make you feel better and keep you on track long term than going straight home.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be in the gym, you can sneak it into your life. This is actually pretty key to losing weight and keeping it off, it’s called NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which is basically your day to day regular activity levels like pottering around the house etc. A Fit Bit or other step tracking device is great to see how much (or how little) you move throughout a regular day and those steps all add up to burnt calories and improved fitness.

Is The Clown in Charge?

This week the news reported that the Government was going to step in of companies didn’t reduce the calories in their food. Companies making the likes of ready meals, fast food etc. is being targeted as a way to reduce the obesity crisis.

I watched some of the news in which parents were interviewed and asked whether they thought about the calories in fast food and convenience food when they were serving them to their kids……………..no apparently they had no idea and it had never occurred to them to find out.

Ok, I’m going to try not to rant here but ARE THERE REALLY STILL PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT HAVE NO IDEA THAT EATING TOO MANY CALORIES WILL MAKE YOU PUT ON WEIGHT AND THAT MCDONALDS HAS NEVER BEEN CONSIDERED A HEALTHY MEAL!

Sorry, just had to get that out. Honestly though –the calories are on the menu albeit in tiny writing but its there. I also think there is so much information out there on this kind of thing that I really can’t see how we can’t be aware that overeating is bad for you and eating less calories and usually less junk food is the answer-feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong and that it is really difficult to find out about healthy eating and weight loss. Yes there is lots of nonsense advice out there but none of it promotes Pizza Hut as the key to healthy living.

To be honest I don’t think it’s a bad idea as such, but I do think the Government actually needs to start telling people very clearly that shock horror they are responsible for their own health, not McDonalds or Greggs.

Public Health England has given guidelines for calories at each meal.

Suggested:

Breakfast 400 cals

Lunch 600 cals

Dinner 600 cals

This totals 1600 calories so I guess leaves room for a snack. I think that seems fairly sensible-it’s not dissimilar to my own eating but unfortunately as we have already mentioned apparently the concept of finding out the calories of food is a strange and alien concept to people so I’m not sure how much of that advice will be taken on board, which is a shame because obviously it would massively help people to lose weight if they followed the guidelines.

McDonalds has already been getting on board with this with their Meals under 400 and 600 Calories campaign, which as soon as I heard the breakfast ad on the radio I thought was a genius bit of marketing-they’ve taken the hard work out for you, now you already know what to order when you decide to go on that diet eating at McDonalds could be easier for you to figure out than going to the supermarket and buying raw ingredients!

Hey, for those of us that already know that calories in and calories out is a sound and simple principle it can only be a good thing that it will be even easier for us if we do fancy that take away, but for those people that still have no clue how this whole nutrition thing works I’m not sure it’s going to be the huge progressive impact it needs to be-which I do honestly think is a shame but proper education in schools, Dr’s etc. needs to be in place rather than blaming the food companies.

You are responsible for your own health, not Ronald McDonald!

Disorderly Diet

Ok so time for me to have a rant again-I know it’s been a while!

I was watching TV last week and a guest on Lorraine (lads in the gym watch it don’t judge me!) was a former British Bake off Contestant talking about her new book. Apparently she wrote it because we have all forgotten how to enjoy food? Have we? She states that we are obsessed with extreme diets and it is causing eating disorders. Now whilst Orthorexia is a very real eating disorder (it is an obsession with only eating “clean”/healthy food” we also still have an obesity crisis in the UK and it certainly hasn’t been caused by our obsession with restrictive dieting has it???? That’s an eating disorder we need to tackle! Anyway I digress…

She goes on to talk about her own eating disorder, to be honest I don’t know her or even normally follow her, but she describes it as sometimes eating very little and only clean food and sometimes over eating lots of junk food. Erm, I actually consider that pretty normal! To say that people who eat like this don’t enjoy their food or that they don’t eat intuitively seems to me to be entirely missing the point. If we want to eat really healthy, lots of vegetables, lean protein and no refined sugar etc. then that is eating how we want to at that time; and if we then follow that with a day or so of eating all the sugary carbs then that is also eating how we want at that time is it not? She also said that we have forgotten how to seek pleasure in a microwave meal or a takeaway. Honestly I know lots of people that don’t eat microwave meals because they don’t enjoy them not because they think it will kill them!

It appears to be vilifying a person’s choice to choose to avoid processed food etc. How dare you want to provide your body with nutritious food and not want to eat food that maybe makes you feel bloated and sluggish. I don’t think we should start making people feel guilty for eating this way as much as we shouldn’t with people who have the odd takeaway, bar of chocolate, glass of wine etc.

There is no right way to eat for everyone. There is of course the fairly solid science that whole, unprocessed foods are best for us nutritionally and a diet lacking in nutrients from vegetables, fruit and protein will not enable your body to repair and function well so basing your diet around this whether we like it or not is the way to go if we want to be healthy.

This has nothing to do with weight as you can overeat with “healthy” foods just as easily if you want to – watch me near a jar of pure peanut butter and you will see!

We should always eat to fuel our bodies and feel energetic and well, if you can do that whilst having the odd takeaway, glass of wine then that’s great but if post Pizza you look 6 months pregnant and take 3 days to recover (yes that’s me!) then don’t eat it-unless you really want to feel like that.

I don’t call either of these things disordered eating, I call them eating the food that makes you feel the best.

So, if you are what would be termed “a health freak” don’t feel like suddenly you need to start adding in a microwave meal and a couple of pints of lager to your week to avoid having an eating disorder.

At the end of the day yes we should enjoy our food, it is often the centre of social events and has the ability to change our moods but it is whether we like it or not food is a fuel for our body and the quality of output from that body depends on the input it gets from food.

A healthy relationship with food is eating food that you like and that makes you healthy and feel good; whatever that food may be is down to you and you don’t have an eating disorder because you eat differently to the person sat next to you.