Every single one of us is different and unique. Even though the basic functions of our bodies are the same, our shapes are different, our abilities are different and we can react slightly differently to the food and drink we eat. This can be down to intolerances, allegies or illnesses just to name a few. The best way to be successful in the long term is to not compete with anyone else and not strive to look like anyone else. Aim to be THE BEST VERSION OF YOU.
The ladies featured in the photos below followed some very simple changes and committed to themselves to stick with them. Taken after a 10 week programme starting in Oct 2016, these are honest, unedited photos and show a 10 week difference and between them they lost a staggering 10 stone 8 pounds and 184 inches! Some are still on their lifestyle journeys but all of them will tell you that they feel better for it and have no intention of reverting back to the way they used to be. They had a final weigh in for 2016 on new years eve and we had no silly half stone weight gains from blow outs and some of the ladies even continued to lose weight. They still enjoyed Christmas and allowed themselves a treat or two, but it's their mental shift on the way they view food that has made them so successful and has helped them keep the weight off. Scroll below the photos to read through some changes you can make to improve yourself the way these ladies have.
Be accountable for the food you eat. Keep a food diary and write EVERYTHING you consume in it! Food, drinks, exercise, sleep length and quality and log the times too. This will give you an idea of the lifestyle you currently lead and will make you think about what you are putting in your body. Keep a food diary for as long as you feel you need to. Some of the ladies stuck with it for the full initial 10 weeks and some felt after 6 or 7 weeks that they were confident in their choices and no longer needed to write everything down. It doesn't need to be anything fancy. A note book or scrap paper will work perfectly, just make sure you have it on you at all times and no cheating! If you're in denial about what you're eating, you're not ready to make the changes.
All I can say is drink, drink DRINK!!! It plays so many crucial roles in our body as I'll outline below.
DIGESTION. Imagine a sewage system without water, all of the waste would begin to build up, rot and secrete gases and toxins… that is what is happening in our bodies when we don’t supply it with enough water. We are then unable to flush this waste out of our systems which adds strain to the other organs involved in this process including the liver and with this we start to experience unpleasant side effects... We become gassy, bloated, hair and skin appears greasy, lethargic, constipated, struggle with sleep and so on. Water is needed to support fibre and help keep the bulk of waste products moist so that we can pass it comfortably on a regular basis.
BRAIN FUNCTION. Our brain tissue is largely made up of fat and water, so when we are dehydrated, the tissue begins to shrivel up causing headaches, brain fog, poor concentration, fatigue and mood swings. The longer we leave our brains in this state, the more permanent the damage is over time.
FITNESS. Hydration levels only need to fall by 1% to have an effect on our bodies. Our muscles are predominantly made up of water (approx. 70%) so in order to maintain optimal performance not just during exercise but also our day to day activities, it is crucial to keep them fully hydrated. Doing so maintains our ability to burn fat and utilise the energy provided by our bodies more efficiently and we are more likely to see and feel the results from the exercise we do.
GENERAL BODY FUNCTION. Water aids the functions in the body including digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. When one or more of these starts to fail or isn't working to its optimal ability, we start to notice the side effects. Water helps keep the skin looking good, plump and fresh and it helps us absorb and distribute those crucial vitamins and minerals we talked about earlier.
How much should you drink a day? Depending on your height and activity anything between 2 - 3 litres a day. Spread this out and if you ever feel thirsty, chances are you are already dehydrated. It isn't always easy to drink a lot of water especially if you're someone who doesn't drink a lot. You can add fresh citrus fruit to give it flavour, keep topping up a bottle until you hit your target or drink out of a bigger glass. However you do, make sure you reach you goal everyday.
Conscious eating does not only refer to when we actually sit down to have a meal, but it in fact starts in the supermarket. Buying on impulse or when we’re tired, hungry or emotional can lead to a very interesting shopping trolley (usually full of sugary goodies), that will more than likely result in a higher bill at the checkout and some extra inches around the waist. So make a shopping list and stick to it! Try to avoid snacking or picking while cooking. These are not free calories and you'll find you're consuming hundreds of extra calories a day without realising! Not only will a shopping list help, but decide what meals you're going to cook too and make sure you go ahead with your plan to keep you on track. Keep them simple and make sure it's something you can mass cook. You could cook your meat in bulk and use different spices to season. This way you won't get bored with the same meals everyday.
Make time to cook. This will benefit you and your family by teaching them the benefits of wholesome foods. No-one's saying you have to be a super chef, but rather than sticking a processed meal in the microwave, take an hour or so a week to do some bulk cooking and stick it in the freezer or fridge so you are ready to go during the week, added your vegetables as you go. You can take short cuts like using dried herbs and spices instead of fresh, just make sure you check the ingredients so that mixed ready ones don't contain any sugar or additives. Take a look at the images below. The products on the left (as of Dec 2016) have sugar as their first ingredient. Similar spice blends on the right contain none. It does take time initially reading through labels and working out which products to buy, but once you know your products, it becomes no different to your normal shop.
Think of food as fuel for the body. Imagine a car... If we were to only fuel our cars with the amount we'd need depending on the journeys we were doing that day, we wouldn't put a full tank in just for the sake of it would we?! We also wouldn't starve the car of fuel and fill it up at the end of the day! The same idea goes for food. Look at your day from start to finish: is it energetic, long and tiresome, are you running around after kids or do you sit at a desk for 9 hours, eat your lunch there and only move for toilet breaks or to and from the car? All of our lifestyles vary so it's important to feed our bodies the right fuel depending on the activities we are doing. If you're sat at a desk concentrating for long periods, you need to keep your brain focused with good fats, protein and water. If you have a physically demanding job, you'll need a good mix of the nutrients including carbohydrates as a fast source of energy. What you eat depends of what 'fuel' you think you'll need on a day to day basis. Think of the times of day you eat too... if you are a 9-5 worker, you'll need the majority of your energy during the day, so have a more filling breakfast and lunch and a smaller meal for dinner, or have lots of smaller meals if your job allows you to. Keep the energy systems going when they need to be and keep on top of that water intake! That's where planning and preparation will help you manage a routine and you can have a good 3-4 days ready to go in your fridge so you aren't tempted to slip back into old habits. You'll be surprised as to how quickly you settle into a new routine! Calories are a measurement for 'food energy'. I avoid advising to count calories as you can make them up from anything you eat. Follow the guidelines below on how to manage portion sizes and listen to your body. Taking more notice of yourself will help you manage your energy levels and food and water intake. None of the ladies above counted calories and many increased theirs and still lost a significant amount of inches and weight.
Good fats include unsalted nuts and seeds, avocado and oily fish. Choose lean white meat or meat alternative for protein, switch to wholegrain rice and pasta, make sure potatoes are no bigger than the size of your fist. Keep your veg colourful and steam where possible so that they contain as much nutritional value as they can.
MANAGE YOUR PORTION SIZES
This links in a lot to what I've mentioned above. If you are a daytime worker, you are usually home at a reasonable hour so eating a traditional dinner at the table is probably more normal to you than that of a shift worker. However, finishing a shift at 9pm and being up in the morning makes managing food a task, especially if that is when you are planning on having your main meal of the day. In this case, swap your lunch for dinner... have your main meals at breakfast and lunch and snack well in the afternoon. If you are still hungry when you get home and have kept on top of your water intake (sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger) then eat light... have some soup or a smoothie. You don't need a high intake of calories if all you plan on doing with them is going to bed. Think again about FOOD IS FUEL.
Use the table above to manage your portion sizes too. I get so many people telling me how well they eat and they can't understand why they're not losing weight and a lot of the time it's down to sheer volume on the plate and quantities of each of the nutrients. Take your time to eat your meal and avoid distractions... the more you chew, the more your digestive system prepares to break down the food and the more nutrients you are likely to absorb. Listen to your body and when you are full, stop eating. Avoid drinking water just before or during your meal as this can dilute the digestive enzymes that are working to break down the food you're eating. Save your drink for after your meal. Under eating can also have an adverse affect on our bodies, so make sure you start paying attention to yourself.
Our understanding of the role of fats and oils in our diet is continually evolving. For decades we were told that all fat is bad for us, and fat free diets were all the rage. Eventually the information filtered through that not all fats are the same, and that many fats and oils are essential to our health. We are now continually refining which fats are good for us and which may not be so helpful: where once it was saturated fats (such as butter) vs. unsaturated fats (such as olive oil and fish oil), now it has become clearer that both of these have their place, and that it is the quality of the oils we need to be looking at.
One of the two components of fats are fatty acids and they in turn can be divided into two groups: saturated and unsaturated. Fats with a high proportion of saturated fatty acids are generally harder solids, while fats with high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids are generally oils or soft solids.
There are certain unsaturated fats that are essential to our diets as we cannot make them ourselves. They play many roles in the body including providing insulation around our nerve fibres which without our nerves wouldn’t work and maintaining integrity and structure of cell membranes, digestive system and regulating the immune system and clotting of blood. So... not all fats are bad.
There are two essential fatty acids needed from food supplies are Omega 3 & 6.
Omega 3s in fish oils are a fundamental factor in how well our brain and nervous system work, the health of our reproductive system, the make-up of our skin, blood vessels, lungs, heart, digestive tract and, well, pretty much everything really! We are often told that proteins are our building blocks that make up all the different structures in our bodies, but oils have an equally vital role. Omega 3 oils are found in marine sources such as fish and krill, and also in nuts and seeds, particularly flaxseeds. Meat, dairy and eggs will also contain some levels of omega 3 for the same reason that humans do – it is present in the cell membrane – but the quantity will depend on the health and diet of the animals concerned.
Omega 6 oils have various roles in the body, and are particularly beneficial for the skin. We get omega 6 oils predominantly from nuts and seeds, as well as animal sources such as meat, dairy and eggs, and they help allow substances to be transported across the cell membrane. Aim for balance in quantity of both of these Omega oils.
AVOID artificial trans fats or hydrogenated fats. These are usually found in processed foods and provide no nutritional value to our bodies.
For your recommended daily intake, visit the food.gov.uk website.
This is probably our biggest battle of all. Sugar is EVERYWHERE! We have had it in our diets for so long, initially we go into a state of panic as we don't know what we'll do without it! Many of us have an emotional connection to sugar too - it's a reward and an emotional crutch - how on earth will we survive without it! Simple. Sugar is poison. It gives us no nutritional benefits and excessive amounts over a long period of time can cause a whole list of problems which I'm sure you've all heard many times over. In the short term it can make our skin puffy, greasy and spotty, give us greasy hair, cause us to bloat, become gassy, lethargic, unable to sleep, moody and throws our hormones and blood sugar levels out of balance. We are attracted to sugar by the way it makes us feel initially, that feel good short burst of contentment followed by the craving for more. The problem is that it is brightly packaged and spread out all over the supermarkets, on billboards, on the TV reminding us of that feeling and giving us the permission to have it and in vast quantities - you can't escape it. But if someone who took drugs described the same high and good feeling you get from eating chocolate, would you start taking drugs too.....
To work out sugar contents in a product, on the nutritional label, where it says 'carbohydrates of which sugars', look at the amount in grams under 'per portion' and divide that number by 4. This will give you how many teaspoons of sugar are in a portion. Then ask yourself, would you sit with a jar of sugar and eat the equivalent? Every 4g is 1tsp sugar. So... if per portion there are 12g sugar - that's 3 teaspoons. According to the World Health Organisation, adults are recommended to aim for no more than 8 tsp per day. Take a look at the images below. Per piece of Toblerone (as of Dec 2016) there are 5 tsp sugar per triangle and 1tsp sugar per Celebration (as of Dec 2016). You can see how quickly it would be to eat way beyond 8 tsp per day.
If you're aim is to improve your overall health and lose weight, take sugar out of your diet completely. I know this is easier said than done, but you will benefit hugely from it and find that once you haven't had it for a while, you'll stop craving it. To help initially, add a dash of maple syrup or honey to porridge or unsweetened natural yogurt. The ladies above have said by week 4/5, they stopped craving that too and now don't seek out sugar or sweet fixes.
When fat is removed from a product, a lot of the flavour is too. A cheap way for manufacturers to inject more flavour into these products is by adding more sugar and salt. So yes the products may be low in fat, but they are likely to be higher in sugar and salt.
For example, take a look at these yogurts. As of Dec 2016, per 100g, the blue Onken yogurt contains just over 1tsp, the Onken yellow vanilla tub contains 3tsp, the Yeo Valley has 3.75tsp and the Simply Plain Soya contains 1/2 tsp. You are likely to consume more than 100g in a portion. So if you had opted for the Yeo Valley and had 200g, you've just about reached your 8tsp limit in just the yogurt alone.
When choosing products like yogurt, compare them to one another in the supermarket instead of guessing. Once you know your products, you'll know which to grab every time you go. This goes for most foods that are advertised as low fat and fat free. Sometimes you will find that they are low in sugar and salt and that they are the best option to go for. Just make sure you check the label first. Remember we do actually need good fats for our bodies to function, so as mentioned above, make sure when going for full fat they they are lower in saturated fats.
Alcohol consumption can interfere with the fat burning process in our bodies which will hinder efforts to lose weight. Primarily made up of carbohydrates, alcohol metabolises differently to others due to the fact that it is fermented.
As alcohol cannot be stored by the cells in our bodies, the body has to oxidise it to get rid of it (burn it up). This type of oxidation can only occur in the liver where the proper protein enzymes are located to facilitate alcohol metabolism. The alcohol is metabolised into acetate which is then broken down to carbon dioxide and water. The acetate from the alcohol is the first source of fuel we then burn for energy. During this time, the body will burn very little of anything else, like glucose or fatty acids stored in our tissues, postponing any weight loss and possibly encouraging weight gain.
published in ‘The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ found that the
metabolism of alcohol decreased the whole body lipid oxidation (fat burning
process) by 73%. So you can see why it is so important if your goal is to
lose weight, to considerably reduce or remove alcohol from your diet. We don't nutritionally benefit from it, alcohol is not a 'need' in our diets.
Most people admit that when they're under stress, healthy eating habits can be difficult to maintain. Whether eating to fill an emotional need or grabbing fast food simply because there's no time to prepare something healthy, a stressed-out lifestyle is rarely a healthy one. But weight gain when under stress may also be at least partly due to the body's system of hormonal checks and balances, which can actually promote weight gain when you're stressed out, according to some researchers.
Cortisol is a critical hormone with many actions in the body. Normally,
cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands in a pattern called a diurnal variation,
meaning that levels of cortisol in the bloodstream vary depending upon the time
of day. Cortisol is important for the maintenance of blood pressure as
well as the provision of energy for the body. Cortisol stimulates fat and
carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy, and stimulates insulin release
and maintenance of blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions can be an
increase in appetite. Cortisol has been termed the "stress hormone" because
excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress,
and the normal pattern of cortisol secretion (with levels highest in the early
morning and lowest at night) can be altered. This disruption of cortisol
secretion may not only promote weight gain, but it can also affect where you put
on the weight.
Take the time to slow down, delegate at work and home and always ask for help. Stress can create problems with sleep, mood, energy levels, weight management and can lead to high blood pressure and life threatening diseases. Identify what causes your stress and if you need to speak to someone then do. Feeling healthy is as much about the mind as it is the body.
Exercise for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours a week and by exercise, I mean something that gets you out of breath. This can be a brisk walk, swimming, fitness classes (like those that I teach), running, cycling... the list is endless and there are so many variations, if you have restrictions, there will still be something available to you. Check with your GP and they will advise you what is best. Exercise not only improves your health and general fitness but will give you that feel good factor too! When writing out your shopping list, plan when you are going to exercise too and stick to it. No more excuses! Try to vary your exercise so that you get a good balance between cardio and weight resistant training/body conditioning. Building strong, lean muscle helps us burn more fat efficiently. If you struggle to attend classes or a gym, you could do this by wearing ankle weights on a power walk or during an aerobics style class.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals and I have found to be one of the most well received by clients. What I mean by this is those who have taken supplements of this either via tablet or body oils have seen impressive results. This is because magnesium is part of our cell make-up and it is an essential mineral as cells cannot function and produce energy without it. It is used for protein synthesis and is crucial for cell detoxification. It also plays a role in regulating sodium levels in our bodies and 50% of magnesium in the body is found in bones supporting the conversion of Vitamin D to increase calcium absorption. Magnesium also supports pancreatic insulin release, signalling to increase cellular uptake of glucose and regulate blood sugar levels. Those who suffer with a deficiency in magnesium are likely to experience tension headaches, back pain, sports cramps, angina, IBS and insomnia. Magnesium in the form of an oil is also great for rubbing directly into muscles to help aid recovery and will also increase the repairing of bruises too
Good sources of magnesium
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods with the highest sources being kelp, wheat bran and almonds. Other sources include: green leafy vegetables, spinach, nuts, brown rice bread (especially wholegrain), fish, meat and dairy foods
You can also buy magnesium oil by a company called 'Better You'. This is to be used externally on the body and is one I personally use and recommend to clients. It can be purchased in many health food stores or online.
If you are unsure about this product, check with your GP.
- Keep a food diary and be accountable for what you are putting in your body and how often you move.
- Increase your water intake to 2-3 litres per day depending on activity level.
- Plan and prepare meals and bulk cook to reduce time cooking and to help keep you on track.
- FOOD IS FUEL. Keep your mind and body busy if you're hunting for food but you're not actually hungry. Have a larger breakfast and lunch and smaller dinner.
- Use your hand to manage your portion size and stick to it. Avoid distractions when you're eating a meal and when you are full, stop.
- Exercise 5-6 days a week and get your heart rate up for 30-60 minutes. On your rest day, do a gentle walk. Try to move on a regular basis throughout the day too.
- Cut our sugar and alcohol. They serve no nutritional benefits to us and your body will thank you for it!
- Find a way to manage your stress and anxiety levels. A healthy mind will help keep your body healthy too.
- Don't make excuses for your behaviour. If you have a bad day, pick yourself up and start again the next day. This is a lifestyle change not a quick fix, so take each day one at a time and don't sabotage yourself.
- Praise yourself for the small achievements and start to give yourself a more positive outlook on life. Everyday you don't eat sugar or have an alcoholic drink is a success.
- Don't fixate on the number on the scales. Your body shape can dramatically change without the number moving very much. Go off how you feel in your clothes and use the number as a guide to make sure you're going in the right direction. You can also take measurements every 4-6 weeks around the chest, narrowest part of your waist, widest part around your bum, third way down your thighs together and individually, widest part of calves and upper arms.
- Take a before and after photo. We get so used to looking at ourselves that we don't always notice the changes. You don't have to show it to anyone but it's important for your own progression to see how well you're doing.
- Talk to people. The ladies above worked as a group. Picked each other up on days where they were struggling and praised each other when they were successful. Knowing that someone is going through exactly what you are will give you the strength to keep going.