Dealing with the Embarrassment of Menopause in the Workplace

Migraine

 

The date is 14 August 2017.  I’m sat in the rather uninspiring Squadron tea bar in the Section where I work for the RAF, eating my lunch; a healthy homemade salad of rice and peppers with chicken.  I’m chatting with a male colleague who’s asking me what culinary delight I have in my tupperware box.

My daily food choices had become something of a talking point since I’d refined and changed my diet the year before!

As I attempted to answer his questions, I found myself unable to recall simple words.  For example rice or peppers!  I knew what they were – I was staring at them in front of me – but for some reason I simply could not make the words come out of my mouth.

I tried to make light of it, trying desperately to disguise the embarrassment and rising fear that was building inside of me.

About an hour earlier I’d had an ocular migraine.  I’d suffered from these painless visual disturbances for about the last 5 years.  They occurred roughly every 12 to 18 months and lasted about 20-30 minutes at a time.

But losing my words?  This was totally new to me, and very frightening.

My colleague picked up that something wasn’t right, but as I tried to explain to him that I’d not long since had a ……….. nope, I couldn’t remember the word for headache, or migraine, or the name of my friend and work colleague whom I’d been with when the episode had occurred an hour earlier.

I was frantically trying to explain to him that these migraines were a bit like that creature, you know the one in that film, you know the one called, you know…….. but I just couldn’t remember the name of the film – despite having used the same metaphor less than an hour earlier.  I was trying to say Predator, but the word just wouldn’t come!

I felt myself welling up, then tears rolling down my cheeks.

I felt mortified.  I hurriedly put the lid back on my half eaten lunch and virtually sprinted out of the tea bar to full on cry in the ladies’ loos.

When I’d finally composed myself and at last remembered the word rice, I dried my eyes, splashed my face with cold water and made my way out of the safety and solitude of the ladies’ toilets.

As I stepped from the loos into the corridor, my lunch colleague was waiting for me.  Looking lost and completely out of his depth, but with an obviously caring nature, he was keen to know how he could help.

I didn’t know what was happening myself and wasn’t in the right frame of mind to discuss it in the corridor.  Poor man, I think I must have been rather abrupt as I told him quite curtly ‘I’m fine!’.

Once back in my office I telephoned my husband Mark, who insisted I call and make an appointment to see my doctor.

I did as I was told, and was advised that a doctor would call me back imminently.

The next thing I knew I had a severe pain in my head and felt physically sick.  My memory for words seemed to have recovered but my head felt ‘cloudy’.  That’s the only way I can really describe it.

The doctor called me back as I was being driven home early from work.  He told me to come straight to the surgery.

On arrival about 30 minutes later, a health practitioner carried out a number of tests which, I began to realise, were to check for signs of a stroke.

I was given an appointment to attend the stroke clinic at Peterborough City Hospital first thing the next day.

I was given a CT scan, an ultrasound on my carotid artery and various tests which, thankfully, showed no evidence of a stroke.

As a belt and braces measure I was asked to come back in for an MRI scan and told not to drive.

Thankfully the MRI came back clear and by mid October I had the all clear to drive again.

I can honestly say this was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had.

Interestingly, at no point was menopause mentioned as a potential contributing factor, despite the fact that the ocular migraines had only started since I’d reached the age of about 45.

Now, I don’t share this experience as an opportunity to berate the doctors of medical staff that treated me.  In fact, their swift action in getting me tested was laudable and testament to the amazing work done by our wonderful NHS (it may have its shortfalls but I believe we are so lucky to have it!).

No, my reason for sharing is to highlight that menopause can be a contributing cause of so many symptoms, way beyond the more commonplace hot flushes and mood swings.

Apparently there are over 140 symptoms directly attributable to peri-menopause.

Hormonal fluctuations, as occur during peri-menopause, are a major factor in migraines, although for some women who may have suffered migraines throughout their menstrual cycle, the onset of menopause may actually reduce them.

You may be surprised by some of these other, less obvious, symptoms of peri-menopause:

  • Poor or impaired spacial awareness
  • Acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Itchy skin – often felt as like ants crawling
  • Bleeding gums
  • Panic attacks
  • Burning tongue
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Body odour changes
  • Electric shock sensatations

Whilst it would appear that menopause is responsible for more symptoms that we may realise, I would also stress that it is important to get any episodes that worry you checked out by a GP and don’t assume it is simply the menopause.

I was relieved to discover my incident was migraine and through my own research I’m fairly convinced that it was menopause related.  But, it could have been a TIA (mild stroke) or a full stroke.

In fact, if I’m honest, at the time I even wondered if it was early onset Altzheimers!

The other point I wanted to make was that I believe had I realised at the time that it was a menopause related issue, I may have been less frightened and more willing to talk about it openly with colleagues.

This may seem to run counter to current research which suggests that menopause is a ‘taboo’ subject in the workplace.   Certainly, research I have done through surveys of menopausal/midlife women suggests that this is the case.

However, my experience is, thankfully, more positive.  When I worked for the MOD, I found I was quite comfortable speaking about menopause, despite working in a predominantly male environment.

I appreciate this is not the case for every woman, but I believe that it is imperative that we, as midlife women, lead the way on opening up the dialogue around how menopause is affecting us.

Let’s face it, if we ourselves are embarrassed to talk about it, can we really expect those colleagues who aren’t going through it, either by dint of age or gender, to feel comfortable broaching the subject?

It’s time to make menopause mainstream and we can help to start this process immediately – simply by talking openly about it.

Bev x

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching .  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

You know, you don’t have to suffer through menopause.  I work with clients to help them make the health and lifestyle changes necessary to thrive, rather than simply survive, their menopause.

I’d love to invite you to book a FREE 50 minute menopause breakthrough call with me to see how I can help you to take full control of your menopause and get you back to feeling like you again.

You can book directly using the link below.  You’ll be under no obligation and the call is absolutely free.

If you’re ready RIGHT NOW to take back control of your midlife, make that call xx

Book My Menopause Breakthrough Call

 

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10 Top Tips for Remaining Cool through the Hot Flushes!

Menopausal woman having a hot flash at the office

Oh Boy!!  It’s pretty hot in the UK right now.  I can’t recall such a long period of dry, hot weather for a long time.

It’s great when you’re on holiday and can sit back and chill with an ice cool drink in your hand, but it’s definitely not so much fun when you’re trying to get on with your day – stuck in an office with no air con feeling that awful, all enveloping surge of heat rising up from your toes.

When you feel it coming on your heart starts to sink.  As if 30º heat isn’t enough without our own, in-built boiler firing up too.

Well, thankfully, there are some things that you can do to deal with the hot flushes as they arise, and also to make life a little more comfortable longer term too.

Here, I’ve put together a quick list of my 10 top tips to help you beat the heat and hopefully feel a bit more comfortable in the Summer heat.

STOP!!!   TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Assuming it’s safe to do so, and you’re not driving or something equally requiring of your full attention…. stop what you’re doing for a moment, close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths.  Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Do this as soon as you feel that first surge of heat beginning to take hold and keep doing it until the heat subsides.

Here, you’re giving the parasympathetic nervous system (that part of the nervous system that slows everything down and basically does the opposite of our flight or fight response) time to take over and tell your body everything is ok.

Don’t underestimate the effect of deep breathing to instantly manage an upcoming flush.

USE THE POWER OF VISUALISATION

The brain is very clever but we can also trick it pretty easily.

When you close your eyes and take those deep breaths above, you should try and visualise something cool and calming.

Maybe standing in the middle of an open field, arms outstretched with cool raindrops raining down on your body.

Or perhaps imagine yourself diving into a cool swimming pool, or riding the cable car in your favourite ski resort, or running into the cool ocean at the beach.

Whatever works for you is fine – just get the imagination working over time.

Trick your brain into believing it’s cool.

CHOOSE YOUR CLOTHING CAREFULLY

Choosing fabrics made from natural, rather than man made, materials will help keep you cool.

Fabrics such as cotton, linen, bamboo (yes honestly!), calico and if you can manage to feel sexy in this heat, maybe try a bit of silk!

Some companies are even making pyjamas that wick away moisture, meaning you can get through the night sweats without having to get changed at 3 in the morning.

Check out this Daily Telegraph article all about hot flush-proof pyjamas here.

START LAYERING

Once you’ve got the right fabrics, it’s time to think about a bit of forward planning.  It’s all very well being prepared for the heat, but what about when that breeze picks up and the sun goes down a bit later in the day and suddenly we’re feeling the chills.

The answer is to wear a few light layers that are easy to take off and on (nothing worse that doing a Harry Houdini impersonation as you struggle out of that sweat top!).

Keep the clothes you choose loose and comfortable.

It’s all very well dressing to impress, but you won’t feel very impressive in the midst of a hot flush, that’s for sure.

Try loose, linen trousers and a light cotton top, light cotton weave cardigan and maybe a linen jacket.

If you really do need to smarten things up, check out this linen trousers and jacket combo from Marks and Spencer

M&S Linen Suit

INVEST IN COOL, COTTON SHEETS

If things are hotting up in the bedroom, you might want to invest in some cooling bed sheets.

In fact, there are a range of sheets available these days that not only keep you cool, but also wick moisture away from you.

Avoid man made materials, for the same reasons as above.

Using a flat sheet as a cover rather than a duvet will certainly help you stay cooler on hot summer nights.

Although high quality, high thread count sheets may sound ideal, in reality a looser weave that allows air flow is more comfortable.

Have a look out for bamboo sheets and linen, both of which are excellent choices.

TRY A MENOPAUSE FRIENDLY MATTRESS

Often as we get older we go for a memory foam mattress to aid with aches and pains, but if you’re suffering with night sweats and overheating at night then this may well not be your best choice.

Going for a mattress made with natural fibres will serve you better.

Hybrid coil and latex mattresses are a good choice during menopause and investing in a ‘sleep cool’ mattress topper might also help, without the need to buy a new mattress.

LIMIT STIMULANTS SUCH AS CAFFEINE

There seems to be some evidence, and certainly my own anecdotal experience, that drinking caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola, exacerbates hot flushes and night sweats.

Changes in oestrogen levels during peri-menopause can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature and as caffeine speeds up the metabolism, it also fires up the menopausal engine.

Coupled with the fact that the majority of our caffeine intake tends to come in the form of hot drinks, which will also raise the body temperature, it’s probably best to avoid them where possible.

If poor sleep is also a factor in your menopause, then avoiding caffeine will  have a positive effect on the quality of your sleep too.

AND WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL?

Sorry to tell you this, but there’s also some evidence to suggest that alcohol is another trigger when it comes to hot flushes.

Like caffeine, alcohol increases body temperature and causes ‘flushing’.  We nearly all know someone who, whether menopausal or not, turns beetroot red after just a small glass of wine!

Reducing or eliminating alcohol during peri-menopause may help reduce the number and severity of hot flushes.

If you find you’re sensitive to caffeine and/or alcohol, best to just cut it out temporarily.

FIND YOUR INNER PEACE

We spoke earlier about deep breathing and visualisation as an instant relief for hot flushes, but longer term we want to be finding ways to reduce stress.

Unfortunately worrying about the embarrassing and distressing effects of hot flushes can lead to an increase in stress, which in turn releases stress hormones, in particular cortisol, into the bloodstream, which can actually trigger a hot flush.

So the more we worry and fret about the possibility of a hot flush coming on, the more likely we are to have one.

Using meditation and midfulness practices can be hugely beneficial in reducing the negative thoughts that can create chronic stress and bouts of anxiety.

Incorporating restorative exercise such as yoga can also help to create space to allow you to manage your feelings of overwhelm, worry and anxiety.

There are some great apps available to help with meditative practices including some of my favourites Calm, Headspace and Daily Yoga.

CONSIDER TAKING SUPPLEMENTS

There are a number of supplements that may help to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes.

B Vitamins, particularly B9 (folic acid) can be found in soy and soy products including tofu and soy dairy alternatives, however if you were to take a B Complex supplement it may help.

Omega 3, found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, is vital for cell health and has been shown to help reduce both the frequency and intensity of menopause symptoms, particularly hot flushes.

Fat is also essential for hormone production and balance, and it is this imbalance that occurs during per-menopause that creates the inability for the body to regulate its temperature effectively.

So there you go, a mix of short and longer term solutions to help you get through the hot weather as comfortably as possible.

You might also be interested in downloading a copy of my FREE e-book, Fifty, Fit and Fabulous, Midlife Mastery from the Inside Out, in which I offer some additional strategies to help you navigate this turbulent, but equally exciting, time in your life.

Simply click on the image below to get the ebook sent directly to your inbox.

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Let me know how you get along with the tips above.

Stay cool!

Love Bev x

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching).  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

You know, you don’t have to suffer through menopause.  I work with clients to help them make the health and lifestyle changes necessary to thrive, rather than simply survive, their menopause.

I’d love to invite you to book a FREE 50 minute menopause breakthrough call with me to see how I can help you to take full control of your menopause and get you back to feeling like you again.

You can book directly using the link below.  You’ll be under no obligation and the call is absolutely free.

If you’re ready RIGHT NOW to take back control of your midlife, make that call xx

Book My Menopause Breakthrough Call

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What Is Chronic Inflammation and Why Is It Important When It Comes to Your Health?

Ankle Inflammation

 

Inflammation can be a very good thing.  When you twist your ankle and it gets red and swollen, you know things are working properly.  That’s your body doing its job to heal.  That’s a good thing.

The problem comes when there is chronic, and often silent, inflammation happening inside the body, at a cellular level – and you don’t even know it.  This type of inflammation can ultimately lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and even cancer.

Chronic inflammation is often the result of a poor diet high in processed/fast foods, poorly managed stress and/or sleep deprivation.  By making a concerted effort to consume a well rounded diet of whole foods, practicing stress management techniques, as well as creating a routine to ensure you get deep, productive sleep, you have the power to reduce chronic inflammation and greatly improve your health.

Interestingly, these same lifestyle changes are exactly what help to reduce symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and brain fog!

A diet rich in antioxidants from whole foods is vital.  Consume a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, well sourced animal or plant protein and healthy fats rich in Omega 3s.  Much of the standard Western diet is overly high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which can be highly inflammatory when consumed in excess.

Both Omega 6 and Omega 3 are essential for the body – Omega 6 has the role of causing inflammation whilst Omega 3 does the opposite.   We simply need to get the ratio in better balance.

Do your best to eliminate or reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well.

Incorporating stress management techniques into your daily routine helps to reduce inflammation too.  Try some simple guided meditation, journalling, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscular relaxation.  Yoga, dance or even a brisk walk outside can help to take the edge off.  Or try engaging in a “flow” activity like colouring, crochet or sewing.  Whatever works for you is the best practice to include into your daily life.

Deep restorative sleep not only makes for a better day, it also helps to decrease chronic inflammation. If this is a struggle for you, consider trying some of the following strategies:

  • Create a bedtime routine so your body knows it’s time for sleep
  • Go to bed and wake at the same time every day – even on the weekends
  • Turn off all screens at least one hour before you plan to go to sleep
  • Keep your bedroom exclusively for sleep and intimacy – no tv or workout equipment
  • Take a warm bath with Epsom salts

Implementing some of these simple shifts can greatly improve your health and reduce chronic inflammation in the process.  What are you going to try this week?  Let me know in the comments below.

Finally, if you’re suffering with menopausal symptoms too, why not download a copy of my FREE ebook ‘Fifty, Fit and Fabulous – Midlife Mastery from the Inside Out’ for further tips on how to manage your menopause naturally.

Midlife Mastery EBook FREE Download

Best Wishes

Bev

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching).  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

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Finally Coming to Terms with Breast Cancer

silhouette of man touching woman against sunset sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was 15 years old and I’d just come home from a boring day at school.

Like most 15 year olds I was way too cool for school.  The teachers didn’t get me, the lessons were boring and all I really wanted to do was mess around with my mates until the final bell rang.

It was a typical day, just like any other school day really.

I’d walked to the local parade of shops at lunch break (or dinner time as we called it in Newcastle), with my small group of girlfriends.

We waltzed into Greggs the Bakers giggling and screeching as young teenage girls do, to buy our usual cheese and onion pasty and a bottle of pop.  The staple diet of most kids in my school in 1981.

I had no idea as I chatted noisily through my lunch that I was going to go home to the worst news I’d had in my short 15 years of life.

I was about to find out that my Mum, at the age of just 45, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I knew Dad was taking her to the hospital but I believed it was to have a cyst removed, although I didn’t actually know what that meant and I didn’t know where the cyst was.  I think at 15 I was too preoccupied with boys and making sure my leg warmers were the right colour to be concerned about anybody else.

I recall Dad telling me and my brother that when they’d opened Mum’s breast to remove the cyst they’d found that it was, in actual fact, a tumour.

If I’m honest the rest of the story is a bit of a blur after nearly 40 years.

I do have a strange memory of being told that my Dad had been asked to sign a form giving permission to remove the breast there and then, and that the decision to remove the breast or not sat with him.

As I write this it seems somewhat unlikely but that’s certainly how I remember it, and I can only imagine that if that was the case, then it must have been the most horrendous decision for my Dad to have to make.

The following weeks and months are also a blur in my memory.  Although I do recall Mum having to go through radiotherapy and suffering from what I can only liken to the most horrendous sun burn.

An ambulance would pick her up from home and take her to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where they would blast her with doses of radiation to kill the cancer cells.

I recall having to cook dinner because she simply couldn’t stand to be around any kind of heat in the kitchen.

I believe they can be much more targeted in how they deliver radiotherapy now, but it seemed in those days they just zapped everything like a farmer spraying a field!

She lost one breast and they had to remove some of the lymph nodes under her arm.

I recall going with her to a department store in Newcastle to help her choose mastectomy bras into which she would insert a jelly like prosthetic breast that seemed to weigh a ton and felt ‘funny’.

I recall her crying a lot and being snappy and moody.

I also recall, with deep regret, that I was not always sympathetic.  Looking back I realise I simply didn’t understand.  I was so far out of my depth.

My Mum and I – I was aged about 14 so probably not long before her diagnosis.

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I really was a stroppy teenager!

As the months passed and Mum’s treatment came to an end I recall her getting the all clear after a couple of years, but having to be on a drug called Tamoxifen for quite some time after.

Over the next 7 years Mum seemed to really grow as a person.

She joined groups and made new friends.  She started teaching adult literacy classes to adults with reading difficulties.

She took part in shows and performed on stage.  She and my dad took up lawn bowls and got back into ballroom dancing which they’d always loved.

Mum, about 3 years after her initial diagnosis, on stage with the local WI Group

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It was as though she had been given a new lease of life and was going to live it to the full.

She went to Germany to visit my cousin; the first time she’d ever been abroad.  She was so excited.  My cousin Alison was always her favourite niece!

Six years after her original diagnosis, I married my first husband and went to live in Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

We had no home phone, but Mum and I would talk for hours on the public telephone in the phone box at the end of my road .  This was way before the days of the internet or mobile phones.

In Dec 1987 I moved to the East Midlands.  Mum and Dad came to visit us in our new house but, just one month later, we received the news that we’d all been dreading.

The cancer had returned, but this time it was in her bones – and the prognosis this time was not good.  It was terminal and nothing could be done for her.

What followed was a long, slow, painful death sentence that left Mum paralysed from the waist down.

She lost her battle with cancer on 22 September 1988.  I was 22 years old.

Nearly 30 years later and I still can’t help but cry as I write this.

My experience of breast cancer has, not surprisingly, formed my belief system around this awful disease and whilst I am fully aware that research, treatments and diagnosis are now so much better than they were in 1980, on an emotional level I still struggle to come to terms with the fact that breast cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be.

You might think that having been so closely affected by the effects of this disease I’d have spent the last 30 years finding out about it.  Researching it.  Making sure I knew everything there was to know about it.

Truth is, I avoided it.  Avoided anything to do with it.

I started reading a novel once and the leading female character was diagnosed with breast cancer so I stopped reading it.

I won’t watch anything on TV about it either.

I’m not sure why but maybe it saves me from facing my fears that this could affect me too.

As certain milestone birthdays have come and gone I’ve become more curious about my feelings and emotions where Mum and breast cancer are concerned.

Me on the Left Aged 51, Mum on the right Aged about the Same. 

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I love that we look so alike!

I worried in the few years leading up to my 45th birthday – the age Mum was when she was diagnosed.

I worry too as I head towards 54 – the age she was when cancer finally took her from me.

I lead a completely different life to my Mum though.

I’m fortunate not to have the financial pressures she and my Dad had.

My diet and my lifestyle choices are different to hers.

I don’t smoke, she did.  I exercise regularly, she didn’t.

I have had a much easier life in many ways than she had.

And, of course, modern treatments are so much more sophisticated than they used to be.

I try now to live a ‘cleaner’ life.

I eat fewer processed foods, more whole, fresh foods.

I drink very little alcohol nowadays and limit the amount of caffeine I drink.

I relax more and use meditation and mindfulness to calm my mind.

But that little nagging worry is always there, in the back of my mind.  Could it happen to me too?

MEETING FIONA AND COMING TO TERMS WITH MY FEARS

About 6 months ago I met a lady I’d known ‘virtually’ via a Facebook group, in person.

Her name is Fiona Maunder and I recall thinking that she looked gorgeous. She was in great shape, fit, strong and glowing.

She told me that 6 months earlier she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, had had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and had started blogging her journey.

She also told me that she’d just been given the news that she had come through the treatment and was now officially cancer free.

I started reading her blog, FitnessFi and the Big C and following her on Instagram.  I was inspired by her positivity and her reluctance to let her diagnosis stop her from maintaining her fitness and commitment to exercise.

I began to realise that my own belief – that there was only ever a negative outcome from this awful disease – was simply flawed.

I had the privilege to recently interview Fiona for my Podcast, Generation Exceptional, where she honestly and candidly told me of her journey from diagnosis to the all clear.

Her story has helped me to change my own mindset around breast cancer and fear it less.

Although for a short time, after hearing of her diagnosis, I do recall thinking that if someone as fit and healthy and Fiona can fall victim to this horrible condition, then what is the point of trying to live a healthy, ‘clean’ lifestyle?

As I found out when I interviewed Fiona, her form of breast cancer is known as Triple Negative – which means its cause is genetic rather than hormonal, suggesting that her lifestyle may have played little part in the diagnosis.

But for all I know her health and fitness may have been exactly what helped her to fight and win the battle.

According to the charity Breast Cancer Care, it’s important to eat a balanced diet, low in processed foods and high in whole foods.   And let’s face it, we all know that this is good advice for all manner of reasons, not just cancer prevention.

Cancer Research UK states that almost 8 in 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer are predicted to survive the disease for at least 10 years.  They also state that breast cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years.  This is all great news.

My intention now is to do more research into the effects of diet and exercise on prevention and long term management of breast cancer and as I learn more I’ll return to blog my findings.

For now, if you’d like to hear Fiona’s story you can listen to my recent podcast by clicking on the link below.

Generation Exceptional Podcast with Fiona Maunder

Fiona is running in The Great North Run in Sep 18 for Breast Cancer Care and you can help her to reach her fund-raising target by donating on her Just Giving Page

If you’re a breast cancer survivor, let us know in the comments.  I can’t believe I’m alone in needing to hear that there is a positive message here.

*****

For more help with eating well, visit me at www.florescofitness.co.uk or find me on Facebook at Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching or you might want to join my Facebook Group, Fifty, Fit and Fabulous, a fabulous community full of information, motivation and inspiration for anyone heading towards, through or beyond midlife.

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching).  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

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How To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the summer holiday season rapidly approaching, many of us are looking to shed a few pounds in the hope of looking and feeling great rocking that swimsuit.

It’s not unusual to try and crash diet a few weeks before the departure date, often reaching out for quick fix solutions like diet shakes, meal replacements and other severe calorie restricted plans.

It might also spur us on to give it all we’ve got at the gym for a few weeks in the belief that we really can get a bum like Kylie’s in 3 weeks flat!

The problem comes when we get on holiday and within a couple of days we’re feeling more like Jabba the Hutt than Kylie Minogue!

So what can we do to stop the holiday bloat and avoid the pounds piling on?

SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Firstly, we have to be realistic about what we can achieve in a few weeks leading up to the holiday.

Ideally, we’d start the weight loss process way ahead of the holiday date.  The length of time before will depend on how much weight we want to lose but a realistic target is to aim for around 1-2lbs per week (or half to 1kg).

But if you have left it until the last minute then crash dieting is not a good strategy.

Don’t try and ‘cram’ for your holiday – it’s not an exam!

It doesn’t take long for the metabolism to slow down when we severely restrict calories, which means that as soon as we return to normal eating patterns, then the pounds will pile on.

As soon as you get on holiday and start eating and drinking normally you’ll feel bloated and the pounds will pile on quickly.  In fact, most of us don’t eat and drink ‘normally’ on holiday.  We tend to over-indulge – and why not?  Isn’t that why we have holidays in the first place?

So if you have left it all a little bit late, by all means eat sensibly and maybe reduce calories slightly on the lead up to the holiday, but avoid very low calorie, meal replacement style restrictive diets – you’ll feel far worse by the 2nd or 3rd day of your holiday anyway.

Approach your holiday with a strategy for how you’re going to enjoy yourself without coming back feeling like you’re carrying extra baggage and a whole load of holiday guilt!

Maybe you will decide to allow yourself to fully enjoy your evening meal, and yes you will indulge in a dessert or a cocktail or two with dinner, but you’ll compensate by having a light lunch and avoiding the ice-creams and lunchtime drinks.

Perhaps you decide in advance that you will only choose fresh fruit for dessert or that you’ll dilute your drinks with sparkling water or diet soda.

Whatever you choose, try to have a plan before you go.  Set yourself some boundaries, without being overly restrictive, and accept that you aren’t on holiday every day of the year and that some weight gain may be inevitable.

Avoid being too restrictive when you get on holiday.  Telling yourself you absolutely can’t have something will push your willpower to the limit, and when it snaps there’s a good chance you’ll tip the other way and binge on anything and everything you can get your hands on.

PLAN FOR THE AIRPORT WAIT

Airports are packed full of eateries and it can be very easy to get into ‘holiday mode’ before you’ve even boarded the plane!

But do you really need that massive plate full of cheesy nachos and a double gin and tonic and 5.45am!

Many airline companies no longer serve a hot meal on the flight so we’re left to choose from highly processed hot dogs and burgers.  Not great!

Try picking up something a little healthier to take onto the flight with you – and remember the bottle of water too.  In fact, you might also want to pack your own healthy snacks for the flight since the airport is likely to be pretty expensive.

If you’re on a long flight you should try to get up and walk around regularly so you don’t suffer with swollen legs, there’s nothing worse than starting your holiday with ‘cankles’.  Flight socks can also help to avoid swelling.

AVOID BLOATING

Lots of things can affect how our body hangs on to excess fluid, but feeling bloated can really ruin our holiday.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you remain fully hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

This is often easier when we’re on a sunny, beach holiday when it’s hot as we naturally want to drink more, however our needs also increase so making sure you get enough is imperative.    Aim for 3-4 litres of water each day.

Alcohol dehydrates so try to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink and avoid drinking alcohol during the hottest part of the day.

Check the colour of your pee to see if you’re dehydrated.  A hydrated body has very light yellow, almost colourless and odourless urine.  It’s the best way see if you’re hydrated or not.  Don’t rely on thirst – by the time your thirst signals kick in you could already be pretty dehydrated.

Make water more interesting by asking for a piece of fruit or a mint leaf and some cucumber in it.  Try sparkling water in a wine glass and it’ll feel more like you’re having a ‘proper’ drink.

GET ACTIVE

cYCLING

If you’re a regular exerciser than getting your exercise in on holiday shouldn’t be a problem but if not then what better time to get moving than when you’ve got so much more spare time and so many new places to see.

Stick a pair of trainers in your suitcase and get walking.   Exploring the local area can get your step count cranked up.

If you’re put off by walking in the heat of the day take an early morning stroll along the beach before the crowds spoil the view.

Or go for a leisurely walk after dinner to soak in the evening air (and help your dinner go down!).

Try a new activity, maybe surfing or snorkelling or hire a bike and go exploring.

Many resorts and hotels have a gym and getting up before breakfast for a quick workout can make you feel very virtuous and offset some of those extra calories you might enjoy throughout the day.

Or how about a few lengths in the hotel pool?  Cool down and burn off a few cocktails at the same time.

 

ALL INCLUSIVE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN “EAT AND DRINK IT ALL”- INCLUSIVE

If your holiday includes all your food and drinks avoid the temptation to go down the ‘well I’ve paid for it so I might as well have it’ route.

You may have paid for the convenience of all inclusive, but if you throw caution to the wind and aim to REALLY get your money’s worth – you could end up gaining more ‘pounds’ than your bargained for.

If you’re faced with a breakfast buffet try to go for some good protein options; cooked meats, eggs and yoghurt.  Also try to include some fresh fruit.

Another good tip is to head to the end of the buffet table and have a good look at what’s on offer before you join the queue.   Remember you’re there for a few days so you don’t need to try everything at once!

Don’t assume a continental breakfast is a healthier choice than a full English – pastries and croissants are packed full of empty calories.

Decide which is going to be your ‘main’ meal of the day and aim to reduce the quantity of food eaten at the other meals.   But, avoid skipping meals as this could easily lead to getting over hungry and over indulging.

NOT SO ‘HAPPY HOUR’

COCKTAIL

If you’re tempted by the hotel bar’s ‘Happy Hour’ try to make good choices.

Fruit based cocktails will generally contain fewer calories than creamier ones.

Choosing olives over the crisps and salted nuts to snack on can help reduce the calories consumed, and avoiding the snacks altogether will be even better.

There’s a very good reason why the barman is offering you salty snacks and it’s not to help with your electrolyte balance!

Salty snacks encourage you to drink more by making you feel thirsty.  Who’s a clever little barman!

Don’t forget too, that alcohol is very good at ruining our good intentions.  Our judgement over food choices goes out of the window after a few cocktails.

EXPECT TO COME HOME WEIGHING A LITTLE MORE

Lastly, remember we don’t go on holiday to feel deprived.  We go to let our hair down and have fun, and often that involves trying new and exciting cuisines, wines and other local specialities.

It’s important that we don’t ruin our holiday (and those we’re with)  by putting severe restrictions on what we allow ourselves to do.

We need to accept that there’s a good chance we might come back a few pounds heavier.

How much weight you put on will come down to the choices you make while you’re away.

Whilst being overly restrictive will spoil your holiday, equally, throwing all caution to the wind and simply eating and drinking to excess isn’t going to help you either.

It’s all about finding balance.

So decide what is ‘on the table’ and what’s ‘off the table’ before you go.

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For more help with eating well, visit me at www.florescofitness.co.uk or find me on Facebook at Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching or you might want to join my Facebook Group, Fifty, Fit and Fabulous, a fabulous community full of information, motivation and inspiration for anyone heading towards, through or beyond midlife.

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching).  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

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Ten Easy Breakfast Ideas

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Breakfast seems to be that one meal where we all struggle to be creative.  It’s so easy to get into a rut of eating the same thing day in day out or skipping it all together.

And whilst gone are the days where we believed that breakfast was THE most important meal of the day, for many people it can still be the best way to get their day off to a great start.

When I work with clients, especially those who struggle with sugar cravings and mid-morning snacking, one of the first things I do is get them to switch their usually high carb breakfast for a more protein and fat based one.

This invariably has an almost immediate effect of not only keeping them fuller for longer, but also stopping them reaching for the biscuits and cake at 10 o’clock and getting that mid-afternoon slump.

Often the result is so quick, literally a day or two, that they think it’s some kind of magic!

In reality, it’s simply that fats and proteins are more satiating, keeping you feeling satisfied for much longer.

They also have much less effect on the release of insulin than carbohydrates and therefore reduce the blood sugar highs and lows associated with sugary cereals and processed carbs.

So I’ve put together my Top 10 favourite breakfast ideas to share with you.   They’re quick, easy, tasty and some can be even be prepared in advance to save you more time.

Often people think they don’t have time to cook breakfast or eat better in the morning, but I promise some of these recipes are ready in less time than you think.

1. Make Ahead Baked Omelette

This has got to be my absolute favourite because it is just so versatile.  You can prepare ahead, it lasts for a few days and you can pretty much pack it with whatever veggies you’ve got hanging around in the fridge.

Baked Omelette

I use 6 eggs, beaten, and add whatever I have to hand.

 

This usually includes things like asparagus, spring onions, red onion, spinach, feta cheese, chorizo, ham, mushrooms, garden peas, broccoli  – honestly just chop them up and mix them through with the eggs.

Pour the whole lot into a lined or greased 2lb loaf tin and bake in the oven (about 180 degrees celcius) for approximately 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

The beauty of this breakfast is that you can cook it in advance, stick it in a food container and take it with you if you’re in a rush as it’s great hot or just as lovely cold.

Slice it up, and it should last about 4 days if you keep it in the fridge.    You’ve got all your protein, fats and veggies in one, portable and very tasty little package!

2. Mixed Berry Smoothie

Another favourite of mine if I need to grab breakfast and go, is a good protein smoothie.

Blueberry Smoothie

Whey protein powders can be a great whey (see what I did there!!) to get extra protein in if you find you struggle.

There are many different manufacturers out there, so try them and see which flavours you like.   In this one I used The Protein Works Banana Smooth flavour.

I just love the rich, deep, pink colour of this Mixed Berry Smoothie and it is surprisingly filling.

I’ve used almond milk and water about 400ml in total. Half a banana. A handful of frozen mixed berries. A dash of lime juice and a tiny squint of runny honey. A handful of spinach. a scoop of whey protein powder and then simply blitzed up in a blender.

Gorgeous and very filling.

3. Boiled Eggs and Soldiers

Alright, I know it’s a bit childish, but hey who wants to have to ‘adult’ all the time anyway!

boiled eggs

The trick to getting this perfect is to make sure that the eggs are at room temperature before they go into the water.  If you keep your eggs in the fridge (that’s a whole other discussion!) take out what you need the night before.

Bring a pan of water to a rolling simmer (that means just bubbling on a low to medium heat if you’re not sure) and then add the eggs and time them for between 4 to 6 minutes depending on how well done you like the whites and the yolk, and also how big the eggs are.  You might have to play around a few times to find out what timing gets you your perfect boiled egg.

Toast a piece of sourdough or multiseed bread to dunk into your golden beauties, spread with a thin layer of proper butter (avoid the highly processed fake butter spreads) and enjoy.

Here’s my dad’s top tip – tap the top of the egg that you’re eating last, so that it just breaks the shell, to stop the egg from continuing to cook.

I have absolutely no scientific proof that this actually works, but my dad said to do it so it must be true!

4. Skyr Yoghurt with Honey and Walnuts

I don’t quite recall when I first discovered Icelandic Skyr yoghurt, although in reality it’s not yoghurt it’s cheese, but I’m really glad I did.

Skyr

It has a fatty, creamy texture but is totally fat free which is great if you’re watching your calories, and it’s packed full of protein.

I prefer the flavour to Greek yoghurt, although there’s no reason in the world why you couldn’t swap the Skyr for Greek yoghurt if you choose.  Remember though if you use full fat Greek yoghurt the calories will be significantly higher.

Here I’ve simply topped a couple of tablespoons of Skyr with about 15g of broken walnuts and drizzled a little runny honey over it.  You could use agave syrup if you preferred.

This really has got to be the quickest breakfast ever, plus, it kind of feels like you’re eating dessert for breakfast so it’s an absolute winner!

5. Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

Nothing seems to cause as much debate as the question of how to poach an egg.

Do you need a special poaching pan?  Should you prick the yolk?  Do you need to wrap them in clingfilm?  To vinegar or not to vinegar, that is the question?

Poached Eggs

OK I have to say that, at the risk of sounding big headed, poached eggs are definitely my thing.

I have to give credit, once again, to my old dad.  He may not have spent much of his time in the kitchen, (being a proper Northern bloke who spent his adult life working in the ship yards!!) however he did know his way around these little ovoid gems, and he taught me well.

So, here’s my fool-proof guide to perfect poached eggs.

First, and this is pretty crucial, make sure they’re the freshest eggs you can find.  The fresher the better.  If you’ve got a neighbour ‘round the corner who sells eggs, go and get to know her (better still if you can keep a couple of chucks yourself you’ll have a constant supply).

Next is to bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling simmer (see above!!).

Add 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar.  You can use any vinegar but I find that white wine doesn’t add any taste to the eggs.

Get a wooden spoon and slowly stir the water to create a small whirlpool (you do not need to whisk so hard you cause a small cyclone!).

Once the water is spinning break your egg straight into the water, getting as close to the surface of the water as you can without scalding your fingers.  (If you feel more comfortable you can crack the egg into a teacup and pour from the cup, but that just seems like extra washing up to me).

Let the egg cook for about 3-4 minutes, and then gently use a slotted spoon to ease the egg away from the bottom of the pan (assuming it has stuck slightly).  If the egg floats upwards, gently take it out of the water and check that the white is cooked to your liking.  If not, place it back into the water for another 30 seconds and check again.  Repeat until the white is cooked (the time it takes to cook will depend on the size of the egg and whether it was straight from the fridge or at room temperature).

Once cooked, drain onto a piece of kitchen paper and then serve on top of a piece of buttered wholemeal or sourdough toast.

If you want to get really ‘chefy’, stick a sprig of flat leaf parsley on the top!!

6. Waffley Good Pancakes!

My daughter bought me a waffle iron for Christmas a couple of years ago so I could make protein pancakes look fancier.  What she didn’t realise when she bought it was that it also makes them so much easier to make too.

You can pick an electric waffle maker up off Amazon for under £30 and they’re brilliant.

chocolate waffles

Now this really is like having dessert for breakfast but don’t be fooled, it’s still really good for you!

For my waffles I put 1 egg, 1 scoop of whey protein (any flavour you choose, I used Chocolate Silk by The Protein Works), 1 tbsp of rolled oats, half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda, a tiny splash of almond milk and half a frozen banana, into a high speed blender.  I have a Nutri Ninja, 1000w and I love it.

Put the waffle maker on to heat and lightly brush the plates with a little olive oil.

When the ready light goes out, pour in your waffle batter and cook for a few minutes (usually about 4).

I’ve topped these with Skyr yoghurt, some strawberries and a squirt of Sweet Freedom Choc Shots to make it feel a bit more indulgent.

If you don’t have a waffle maker you can easily use the batter to make pancakes in a skillet or frying pan and they’ll be just as good.

7. Super Simple Banana Omelette

This has got to be the easiest omelette ever.  I used just one egg (but you could use two if you’re hungry).  I’ve whisked the egg with a fork, and added half a mushed up banana.

waffles

 

Heat a small knob of butter in a small frying pan and pour in the banana/egg mixture.

Cook for about 2 minutes each side until it’s lovely and golden.

Serve alongside some Greek or Skyr yoghurt and fresh fruit.  I’ve topped mine off with some Omega Seed Mix or you could use flax seeds, chopped nuts or sesame seeds.  Yum!

 

8. Smoked Haddock and Poached Egg on Toast

This breakfast not only packs a huge protein punch but also has the most amazing flavour.

It takes a little longer to prepare but it’s great for a Sunday brunch or weekend treat.

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Using a deepish frying pan, bring a mix of milk and water (to about 2/3rds full,) to a simmer.

Add half an onion, 2 cloves, half a dozen peppercorns and a bayleaf  to the milk and let it simmer for a few minutes to let the flavours infuse.

Meanwhile bring a small pan of water to the boil ready to poach the egg (as per the instructions above).

Slide a piece of smoked haddock into the milk and let it cook for about 5 minutes until the flesh starts to lose its translucent appearance.

While the fish is cooking, cook your perfect poached egg.

When they’re both ready, place them on top of a piece of toast, sprinkle with some chopped up baby spinach leaves and top with some ground black pepper.

TIP:  Try to buy undyed smoked haddock.  The bright fluorescent yellow stuff is full of unnecessary added colours, naturally smoked fish doesn’t glow!

9. Spinach and Red Onion Omelette with Avocado

Another great brunch or weekend breakfast recipe, this spinach and red onion Omelette is paired with half an avocado for some healthy fat to help keep you full.

spinach and onion omelette

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a shallow frying pan and gently cook the red onion until just soft.  Add a big handful of spinach leaves and let them wilt down in the heat of the oil.

Whisk 2 or 3 eggs together (depending on how hungry you are!) and season with black pepper.

Pour the eggs over the onion/spinach mix and use a spatula to move the eggs around as they start to set.

Cook on the hob for a couple of minutes to brown the bottom of the omelette and then place the pan under the grill (broiler) to cook the top.

Serve, folded in half, alongside half an avocado.

10. Broccoli For Breakfast – Honest!

A few years ago the idea of having broccoli for breakfast would have been absurd, but now I think, why not?  It’s packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals not to mention protein and omega 3 fatty acids.  Honestly it’s one of nature’s great all-rounders.

brocolli and scrambled egg

What I love about this breakfast is that I can make most of it in the microwave in next to no time.

The scrambled eggs are literally just whisked together in a bowl (I used 2 eggs here) and ‘nuked’ for about 60-90 seconds (I do mine in 30 seconds blasts, then whisk and repeat).

The broccoli and mushrooms also get cooked in the microwave.  I put them into a small bowl, cover with boiling water and blast them for about 4 minutes.

The bacon is simply dry fried in a non-stick skillet.

So much healthier than a standard full English breakfast.

Hopefully this has given you a little bit of inspiration to try a few new ideas for breakfast.

My final top tip would be to try and make time to enjoy your breakfast.  So often we’re rushing out of the door with a grab and go slice of toast and starving again an hour later.

Make breakfast just as big a deal as your evening meal.  Sit down, enjoy it.  Savour it.  Take is slowly and enjoy the flavours.

Not only will it help your digestion, but I guarantee it’ll keep the stress levels down too.

For more help with eating well, visit me at www.florescofitness.co.uk or find me on Facebook at Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching or you might want to join my Facebook Group, Fifty, Fit and Fabulous, a fabulous community full of information, motivation and inspiration for anyone heading towards, through or beyond midlife.

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Bev Thorogood is owner and founder of Floresco Health and Lifestyle Coaching (formerly Fitness and Fat Loss Coaching).  She’s a PN1 Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, a personal trainer, exercise instructor, wife, mum and Nan!

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Strength Training for an Independent Later Life!

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There is absolutely no doubt that as we get older we need to maintain our strength if we want to ensure that we can lead a long, happy, independent life.

 

With the average life expectancy going up there’s a very strong chance that we could live well into our 90s and beyond, but the idea of living longer without being able to remain independent is a frightening thought.

 

As we age our muscles weaken and our lean mass reduces, this is known as sarcopenia.  Good nutrition and regular exercise, including strengthening exercise and moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, can help to stave off the effects of old age.

 

Many people over 50 are aware of the health benefits of walking and recognise the current guidelines of aiming to include 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.  However, including strength training alongside is key to making sure that as we age we maintain as much muscle mass and strength as possible.

 

The physiological improvements gained through combining moderate aerobic activity with a progressive programme of strength training include stronger muscles (a more independent life), improved cardiovascular function (lower risk of disease) and improved mental health (reduced risk of depression, improved self esteem) to name but a few.

 

The problem for many people wanting to incorporate strength training into their week though, is that they simply don’t know where to start.

 

They may feel embarrassed about going into a gym or asking for help and direction, especially if the gym is full of bicep wielding twenty-somethings posing for selfies at every turn!

 

Finding a gym in which you feel comfortable, that caters for older clientele and has trainers who understand and can empathise with the needs of the older client is important.

 

Seeking out the help of a personal trainer who has experience of strength training with older clients can also be a good investment.  You may want to find a trainer who will come to you in your home if the idea of joining a gym doesn’t appeal.

 

You may be worried that you might end up looking like a body builder or hate the idea of bulging biceps but fear not, that’s really not likely to happen without some serious hard work (and probably the odd pill or two!!)

 

For most of us we just want to look a bit better and be able to do all the things we need to do without difficulty.

 

The trick to including strength training to improve your quality of life and your body composition is to use effective, compound moves that target the whole body.

 

A compound movement is one that uses a number of different muscles across a number of joints at the same time such as squats, deadlifts and bench press.

 

The alternative is to use an isolation exercise which targets just one muscle across one joint, for example a bicep curl or leg extension.

 

Compound movements tend to reflect real life movement, or functional movements.  Exercises such as squats can ensure that we are able to get up and down from a chair more easily, pick things off the floor when we drop them or climb the stairs with less difficulty.

 

These are all functional movements that can, if we aren’t prepared, become debilitating in older life.

 

Rather than waiting to reverse the effects of muscle weakness, we need to start preventing the effects as early as possible.  In essence, don’t delay, start today!

 

Compound exercises bring other benefits such as burning a greater number of calories since we are engaging a greater number of muscles.

 

They are time efficient allowing you to work a number of body parts at the same time and therefore reduce the length of your workout.

 

Because they utilise many muscles across many joints, they help with coordination, balance and core stability.

 

Some of the big movements such as squats, lunges, bench press etc can help get your heart pumping and therefore aid cardiovascular health.

 

But don’t think for one moment that compound exercises are an easy option – they take hard work!

 

But the benefits are huge.

 

You get to do more in less time.

 

You get to see improvements in movements that will have a direct benefit to daily life.

 

You get to burn more calories; great if you want to lose a few pounds or simply improve appetite.

 

Aiming to strength train 3-4 times per week is ideal.

 

A Programme of either 3 x whole body workouts or 4 x upper body/lower body splits works well.

 

This means that for the whole body you would workout for 3 days each week using a combination of compound exercises that target the upper and lower body as well as the muscles that push and those that pull all in the same workout.

 

Or if doing upper/lower body splits you would workout 4 times per week, doing 2 sessions focusing on the upper body and alternating with 2 sessions focusing on the lower body.

 

Push exercises are those that push away from the midline of the body such as bench press, push ups, deadlifts, shoulder press and glute raises.

 

Pull exercises are those that pull the weigh toward the midline of the body such as pull ups, rows, squats, lunges, lat pull downs.

 

It is definitely worth paying a professional trainer for a few sessions to make sure that your technique is correct, since compound moves require good form to be safe and effective.

 

You can look on the REPs website (Register of Exercise Professionals) or CIMSPA (The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) to find suitably qualified personal trainers in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

Author

Bev Thorogood is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Training with over 20 years in the fitness world.  She’s also a wife, mother, grandmother and cheerleader for feeling amazing through midlife and beyond.

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5 Easy Ways to Reduce Calories

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If you’re trying to lose weight then you have to eat fewer calories.  It’s kind of a given right?

Whatever diet method you use, if you don’t sufficiently reduce your overall calorie intake you won’t shift the pounds.

There are lots of mixed messages coming out of the diet world right now with many suggesting that low fat is dead and low carb is the way forward.

The fact is regardless of whether you reduce fats or carbs, if you don’t reduce your overall calorie intake you’re not going to lose weight.

Personally, I’m all for balance and I’m not a fan of extremes when it comes to diet.  The most effective way to ensure that you’re not eating too many calories is simply to track them.  There are any number of smartphone apps to choose from, such as My Fitness Pal, that will help you to stay on track, or you could simply jot down everything you eat and keep track using a calorie counter book, Google searches and ingredient lists.

But there are a few simple things that you can implement that will help to reduce your calories with very little effort.  I’ve put together 5 that you can get going with straight away.

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1.      Choose CLEVER low fat options.

Having spent many years jumping from one low fat diet to the next and gradually seeing my weight increase year on year, I became absolutely adamant that we should never be eating low fat products EVER as they’re full of sugar and added chemicals.

So why on earth would I include low fat foods in my list of suggestions?

Well, partly because I’m now older and wiser and a bit more moderate in my thoughts but also because whether we like it or not, fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to the other macronutrients, carbohydrate and protein, which both contain just 4g – therefore if we overeat fat it’s not going to be helpful to our ability to lose weight.

That said, I’m still not a fan of all low fat foods.

If you’re switching a regular chocolate muffin for a low fat muffin well, at the end of the day it’s still a muffin and probably not going to help you get to your goal.  In fact, if you look at the calorie content, and also the sugar content, of the low fat muffin you might be surprised to find that the low fat version actually has a higher number of calories and a hell of a lot more sugar.

Plus, psychologically when we think about low fat foods we tend to give ourselves permission to eat more.  We feel that it MUST be healthier so we are less careful about the amount we have.

But there are some foods that can be easily switched for lower fat versions, and that are good to include if you’re trying to shed the pounds.

Low fat cheese, hummus, greek yoghurt and cottage cheese are all a great way to enjoy these foods without eating extra calories.

It’s worth checking the ingredients list of both the full fat and the low fat versions of foods.  Check whether the low fat version has simply had its oil or fat content reduced (good) or has the manufacturer added a whole load of sugar or artificial flavourings in order to counter the loss of taste from reducing the fat (bad).

It’s also important to consider taste and enjoyment.  For some, having a smaller portion of a full fat version is preferable to having a bigger portion of the lower fat one.  If volume is important then go low!

2.        Be Buffet Savvy

Buffets can be a killer if you’re trying to lose weight.  Especially the ‘all you can eat’ restaurant type buffets.  But there are little tricks you can use to help stop you blowing your calorie budget.

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While everyone else goes to the start of the queue and simply works their way along the servery, do yourself a favour and survey the whole buffet first, starting at the farthest end of the table!

A study by Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that 75% of people put the first item served onto their plate, regardless of what that item was.  They also found that 2/3 of a person’s plate was filled with the first few items they came to.   Amazingly, they also found that when less healthy foods were served first, people took more than 31% more food items overall.

Restaurants serving ‘all you can eat’ buffets also tend to put the starchier, cheaper, more dense foods such as chips, rice, pasta etc, first.   Couple this with the stats I just mentioned and you can be easily piling on the calories before you get to any of the ‘healthier’ choices.

So, by surveying the buffet first and deciding in advance what you’re going to have you can overcome your brain’s habitual patterns and make healthier choices.

Other tricks such as going for a small, side plate rather than a full-sized dinner plate can help, as can finding a table as far away from the buffet as you can, and preferably sitting with your back to it.

3.       Leave The Best ‘Til Last

If your favourite bit of a meal tends to be the highly palatable, high calorie foods, then leaving them until last can be a great way to limit the overall amount of calories you eat since you’re generally fuller by the time you get to them.

By piling your meal up with lots of low calorie vegetables and eating these first, you will be adding bulk so that your stomach feels fuller and you’re less likely to overeat.

Munching through a big plate of salad can take a heck of a lot longer than it takes to down a couple of slices of pizza.  This means your ‘full’ hormones have time to register and you’ll be less likely to keep on scoffing the high calorie stuff.

In fact, simply slowing down in general will help.  Putting your knife and fork down between each mouthful is a simple trick, as is making sure that you do actually use cutlery rather than picking with your fingers.  And if you want to really test yourself, try picking up a set of chopsticks and using those instead!

Best of all, by leaving your favourite bit until last, you’re left with the flavour you like most lingering after you’ve finished – bonus!

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4.      Share the Love

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then eating out can be difficult, especially when the waiter is waving the dessert board in front of you.

Choosing healthier options such a fresh fruit or sorbet is the best choice, but sometimes it’s just not going to cut it.

The whole point of dessert is that you’re left with a satisfying sweet hit at the end of your meal and not getting this can leave us feeling a bit miserable.  But you don’t have to have much of a good thing for the ‘happy’ signals to be triggered.

Why not try sharing a dessert with your dinner partner. Some restaurants serve a selection of mini versions of different desserts which makes sharing even easier.

You could try asking the waiter to serve any syrups or sauces on the side so you get to control how much cream or ice cream you add.

When you’re eating at home try and leave a hefty time gap between the main course and dessert.  You might find the urge to eat the pudding goes completely.

Finally, try to avoid ‘help yourself’ servings from the centre of the dinner table.  Portion up the dessert and serve them that way, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly reach for seconds (or thirds!).

5.       Go Sparingly

Fats are good for us, despite what we’ve been told for many years.  But as I said right at the start, they also contain a high calorie content gram for gram.

Including good quality fat sources into the diet, such as oily fish, nuts, avocado etc, is necessary for hormone production and a whole host of other reasons, but eating too much when you’re trying to lose weight will not be helpful and certainly eating high fat processed foods that provide little nutritional value are best avoided.

Here are some easy ways to reduce the amount of unnecessary calories you get from fat.

  • Choose lower fat content meat when you buy things like beef and turkey mince.
  • Choose leaner versions of things like steak and lamb.
  • Use a measured amount of oil when cooking (personally, I’d avoid oil sprays!).  A good non-stick frying pan and a bit of vegetable stock can really help to reduce the need for adding lots of cooking oil.
  • Trim visible fat from things like bacon and beef.
  • Allow butter to sit at room temperature so that it’s easier to spread more thinly onto sandwiches or try skipping it altogether.
  • Choose higher protein content meat such as chicken breast and turkey over higher fat meats such as lamb and beef.
  • Choose sausages with a high meat content.
  • Check food labels and look at the percentage of fat – just make sure that the manufacturer hasn’t compensated by increasing the sugar and salt content.
  • Avoid any foods that contain transfats and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

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Bev Thorogood is a Level 3 Qualified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach and owner of Floresco Fitness and Fatloss Coaching.

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I Hate HIIT, Does That Mean I Won’t Lose Body Fat?

BATTLE ROPE

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has become the next big fashion item in the fitness world with Facebook and Instagram celebs singing its praises for its incredible fat burning powers.

Conversely LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) has been almost demonised, with supporters of the long, steady run ridiculed for their naivety and ignorance.

So, who is right?

Is HIIT truly the panacea to all our fat loss problems?

Is LISS really a complete waste of time when it comes to getting lean?

Before we get into whether one is better than the other, let’s first make sure we fully understand what each is.

WHAT IS HIIT AND IS IT A NEW THING?

HIIT is basically a short duration training session (usually 30 minutes or less) which intersperses short bursts of high intensity anaerobic activity with short periods of rest and recovery, with a ratio of somewhere between 1:1 and 1:4.

High Intensity Interval Training is nothing new. Runners have been using a form of HIIT called ‘fartlek’ since it was first developed by Swedish coach Gosta Holmer in 1937. Alternating fast and slow runs throughout the duration of the training session.

Circuit Training is another form of HIIT which has been around for many years, indeed I started doing Circuit Training in the mid 90s, but I believe it was initially developed as a training methodology by Morgan and Adamson at the University of Leeds in the UK in 1957.

HIIT is simply a new-fangled term for something that’s been around for many years.

Out of the HIIT trend there have developed numerous different methodologies such as Tabata which typically last about 4 minutes and is intersperse ultra-high intensity intervals followed by short periods of recovery, and Gibala, which consists of 60 seconds intense work followed by 75 seconds of rest, over 8-12 cycles, among others.

TRAINER

WHAT IS LISS?

LISS is fundamentally the opposite of HIIT.

The intensity of the exercise is much lower and therefore sustainable for longer periods of time. LISS predominantly uses our aerobic energy system, meaning that it needs more oxygen to break down fat as fuel, whereas HIIT is predominantly anaerobic meaning it relies on glycogen stored in the muscle.

Walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, if done at an intensity that means you can still comfortably converse, would be classed as LISS.

Depending on fitness levels one man’s (or woman’s) LISS would be another’s HIIT!

jEANS

SO WHICH IS BETTER FOR FAT LOSS?

There has been much written in the social media arena of late suggesting that the best and only way to burn fat is through HIIT training. In fact some have even suggested that LISS can cause weight gain! (However most of the articles I found in support of this theory seemed to be written by trainers who focused their business around HIIT protocols.)

Let’s face it, how many fat marathon runners do you see?

So, back to which is better for fat loss.

You may have heard of the ‘afterburn’ effect or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). The afterburn has been ‘bigged up’ as the reason why HIIT training is so effective for fat loss; the idea being that you continue to burn calories for hours and hours after you’ve finished training.

However recent studies suggest that the actual increase in afterburn effect may be significantly lower than some would have you believe.

LISS on the other hand doesn’t provide that same afterburn effect, however it is a great way to expend a high number of calories as it can be performed for longer periods of time.

In terms of fat loss, we need to be in a calorie deficit and both HIIT and LISS can help to create one, assuming that we don’t eat back any deficit gained from the training.

I like to think of it in terms of driving a car. This may not be the most scientific analogy but it makes sense to me.

If I fill my fuel tank and drive from A to B at 70mph and it takes 30 minutes I will use the same amount of fuel as if I drive the same distance at 35mph, it’ll simply take me twice as long.

So from a fat burning point of view either/or will help create a calorie deficit.

WHAT ABOUT THE BENEFITS

If time is at a premium then HIIT is certainly an efficient way to train. You can get a lot done in half an hour and that‘s you done for the day.

A good HIIT session can be done with or without equipment and you don’t need a lot of space. It’s not dependant on the weather so you literally can do it any time, any place, any where!

The disadvantage is that it can be pretty stressful on the joints and if you’re not used to exercise it can lead to a high risk of injury. Ideally you’d build up strength around the joints and allow the muscles to strengthen and adapt and the motor skills to develop, by beginning with a lower intensity combination of cardio and weights.

Building up through the use of MITT (you guessed it… Medium Intensity Interval Training) can give the supporting tissues and joints the chance to strengthen before going all out.

LISS on the other hand can do wonders for your mental health. Many people enjoy the ‘me’ time they get from a long walk or run. It’s good thinking time and can help reduce emotional stress.

LISS eats up calories which is great if you’re wanting to lose weight.

Generally speaking the effect of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is less with LISS and therefore recovery is quicker, meaning we can do a bit more of it.

On the other hand it is very easy to over estimate how many calories we burn from LISS, and there is a definite tendency to eat to compensate. If you’re looking to lose body fat, you will need to be mindful of not undoing your hard work.

THE BOTTOM LINE

As always it comes down to balance and choice. If you absolutely love HIIT and hate LISS, do HIIT. Conversely if you really enjoy getting out and doing a long run and you’ve got the time to do so, go for it.

If you want to get the best of both, why not incorporate both into your training regimen.

Ultimately the best fat loss results will come from consistency, no matter what you choose. Which is why first and foremost you need to do what you enjoy.

Finally, don’t forget that any form of exercise, whether HIIT, MITT, LISS or resistance training, places physiological stress on the body and therefore it’s imperative that you also include recovery/rest days into your training programme.

RELAXING LION

Bev Thorogood is owner of Floresco Fitness and Fatloss Coaching

www.florescofitness.co.uk

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How To Warm Up Properly Before a Workout

 

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I remember many years ago when I’d only just started getting into running, waiting to start a 5k fun run (some would argue that’s an oxymoron right there!) and watching many of the competitors jogging around and kicking their heels to their bum.

I can remember clearly thinking ‘blimey if I do a warm up I won’t have enough energy for the run’.

How naïve I was.

I now know of course that not warming up was a big mistake.

Before I go into the how, let’s look at the why.

THE IMPORTANCE OF WARMING UP PROPERLY

The main reason we warm up is in order to prepare the body for the extra workload to come.  This in turn can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

You wouldn’t start a cold car and hammer the throttle to the floor without giving the engine a bit of a chance to warm up first.  It just wouldn’t do the car any good at all.

The same applies to your body.  There are a number of physiological changes that need to take place to ensure that the body is going to perform well and cope with the added stress that any kind of exercise produces.

These physiological changes include a gradual rise in the heart rate.  As the HR increases the amount of oxygen that the body takes in increases too.  This oxygen is going to be required for the increased workload you’re about to place on your body.

It also allows the body to feel warmer.

Warm muscles work better.  They become more pliable.  Imagine a piece of sticky tac.  When it’s cold it’s brittle and snaps when ylegg-2821615__340ou try to stretch it.  But, warm it up between your fingers and it becomes softer and you can pull it apart and it doesn’t snap.  You’re muscles work in a very similar way.

Warming up allows the fluid around the joints, known as synovial fluid, to become less viscous.  This time imagine a jar of golden syrup.  When the syrup is cold it’s hard to move a spoon through it.  It feels thick and it resists the spoon.  But if you warm it up it becomes much runnier, it pours easily and the spoon glides through it.  Just the same as what happens in your joints.

By warming up you give the brain time to catch up with what the body is going to be doing.  Have you ever called someone on the phone and you have to ask them to repeat who’s calling?  That’s because it takes the brain a second or two to catch up and in that time you’ve missed the person’s name.  Doing warm up exercises that mimic the main workout allows the neural pathways to prepare for the work to come.

So now you know why we warm up let’s look at how?

WHAT SHOULD A GOOD WARM UP INCLUDE

There are 3 elements that should always be included in any warm up.

Mobility, Elevation and Stretch.

MOBILITY

Mobility is about taking the joints through a gentle, rhythmic full range of movement.  Starting small and building up to their full range this could include movements such as shoulder shrugs, building to shoulder circles, through to elbow circles through to full arm circles and then reversing the circles.

The warm up should aim to mobilise all the major joints, including the spine.  Spinal rotations and lateral flexion are a definite, but also making sure to focus on the less obvious joints such as wrists, ankles, neck and fingers.  The movements should directly relate to the work to come, especially where this is sport specific.

ELEVATION

The warm up needs to elevate the HR and the core temperature.  The process of mobilising the joints will provide some level of elevation but the aim here is to raise the HR to approximately 40-60% of maximum.

The less fit you are, the more gradual the elevation should be, also the colder the ambient temperature, the longer it should take to get there.

The best way to start to raise the HR is by gradually increasing the intensity of the movement.  So things like half squats, half lunges, side lunges – big, compound movements that use a number of muscles and joints at the same time work best.

Including higher impact movements such as marching through to jogging, skipping and jumping and combining arm movements with leg movements means the body requires more oxygen and will help to gradually raise the HR.

The trick is to make sure that the HR isn’t elevated too quickly.  The warm up should leaving you feeling raring to go, not exhausted before you even get started.

STRETCHING

There is some conjecture about whether or not you should stretch prior to exercise.  Static stretching (where you hold a stretch in one place for a set amount of time) can cause the HR to drop which is not what you’re aiming for.  Instead, adding what’s known as ‘dynamic’ stretching into the warm up can be beneficial to performance.  Dynamic stretches combine a stretch with an action, so for example a lunge with an upper body twist would be a dynamic stretch.  Things like leg swings, walk outs with a twist or a press up, lunge walks, frog walks etc are all great dynamic stretches.

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It’s important that you raise you HR again after stretching – sometimes called a second pulse raiser – to ensure that you get back to that 40-60% of max before you go into the main exercise session.

One final word on stretching – remember the sticky tac analogy above?  Make sure you do the mobility and elevation work first before stretching.  Never stretch a cold muscle – it’ll end in tears (both meanings of the word!!)

FOAM ROLLING

Although not essential, if you have time and the equipment, spending a few minutes using a foam roller before your main workout will help to break down any tightness in the soft tissues.  This deep tissue work helps to break down any scar tissue (or adhesions) which helps improve blood and lymph flow by applying deep pressure to the muscle.

Foam rolling is effective and will leave you feeling much better.  But be warned, it’s not a comfortable experience!!

 DURATION

So how long should you spend warming up?

There is no specific length of time prescribed for the warm up but somewhere between 5-15 minutes is probably sufficient.

For sport specific warmups it may be between 20-30 minutes.

In general about 5 minutes for the mobility and elevation and about 5 minutes for the dynamic stretches is probably sufficient.  If you’re adding in foam rollering maybe an extra 5-10 minutes.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re not very fit yet, you might want to spend a bit longer on the warm up.

If the weather or ambient temperature is very cold your warm up will take longer and should be more gradual.  If on the other hand it’s already pretty warm, you may be able to shorten the warm up accordingly.

THE TAKE AWAY

The take away from this article is that you should definitely not underestimate the importance of taking the time to warm up properly.

Make it an integral part of your workout and don’t skimp.  A good warm up will improve performance and help you to hit those PBs.

It’ll reduce your risk of injury and ensure that you can remain consistent with your exercise regimen.

Don’t miss out on other helpful stuff by opting into my mailing list below.

Bev Thorogood is a Level 3 Qualified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach and owner of Floresco Fitness and Fatloss Coaching.

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