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.

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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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Are You Ready To Shift Your But?

No, it wasn’t a spelling mistake, I’m not talking about your bum here, I’m talking about your excuses!

no excuses

I’m not picking on you.  Honest 🙂

We all have them, so you’re not alone.

The thing is, very often we don’t even recognise them as excuses.

To us they are real, they feel insurmountable, they’re part of  the fabric of who we are and therefore unchangeable.  Right?

Well, no, actually that’s not the case.

More often than not, every barrier we have to losing weight or getting fit starts with a ‘but’.

I would eat better BUT it’s too expensive and I can’t afford it.

I would go to the gym BUT I’m too busy with work.

I would cook better food BUT my family wouldn’t enjoy healthy stuff.

I would love to be slim and lean BUT all my family are overweight, it’s in our genes.

I would like to exercise BUT I’ve got painful knees.

I want to start a diet BUT I’ve got a wedding in a month’s time so there’s no point.

Pretty much every reason we can find in favour of doing something, can be countered by our BUT.

So how do we shift our BUT?

Well, I believe we can start by focusing on the following 4 things.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

This is about being responsible for your own actions and outcomes.   Being pro-active about the choices you make and accepting total responsibility for the outcome.

optical illusion

In Stephen Covey’s book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ he talks about having a ‘Paradigm Shift’.

A paradigm is a scientific term which relates to a distinct set of concepts and thought patterns.  However, in the broader sense it is simply our personal view of the world around us.

In order to get rid of our excuses, we need to shift our paradigm.

This can be pretty tough for many people.  The idea that they can change the way they view things is challenging.

Imagine suddenly realising that everything you always believed might not actually be true after all.  That’s hard to accept.

But the truth is we see the world through our own lens, a lens that has been formed through our experiences, our surroundings, our conditioning, our family, our friends.  It’s our own interpretation of events.  But it’s our truth, not necessarily THE truth.

Have a look at the image above and think about what you see.  Now look again, a bit more deeply and see if you don’t see it differently.

Changing your paradigm often takes courage because you begin to question what you believe in, but it can also be incredibly liberating.

Imagine walking down the street and seeing a friend walking towards you in the opposite direction.  You say hello but the friend totally ignores you.  You’re confused because you’re sure they saw you.

You start to question what you might have done to upset them.  You begin to wonder if they’ve fallen out with you.

Over the following few hours, days, maybe even weeks the feelings of hurt, anger and confusion grow and grow.

The friend doesn’t call you so it just reinforces your belief that there’s a rift.  Your pride stops you from contacting them and anyway you don’t do confrontation.

In your mind you’ve created a version of the truth.  But it quite likely isn’t THE truth.

Let’s view this situation differently.

When your friend ignores you, you immediately think to yourself there could be something upsetting them, distracting them.

Rather than walking on by, you turn back and call to them until they acknowledge you.  You ask them if they’re ok as it’s not like them to ignore you.

They then tell you that they’ve just received some very sad news and they were distracted and deep in thought.  They tell you they are so glad to see you as they needed someone they could trust to share their sad news with.

The relationship is strengthened rather than damaged.

What happened above is a paradigm shift.

See how the truth changed once you took a different perspective on the situation?

The same applies to your excuses.  When you start to view them differently you begin to find solutions rather than problems, strategies rather than barriers.

BE YOUR OWN PERSON

Being your own person is about recognising that no matter what your upbringing, your environment or your genetics, you are not set in stone and you can change.

We all have the ability to choose how we respond to events in our life.   It is true that we can’t always control the events around us, but we do get to choose how we react to them.

So often we use other people or events as the reason why we can’t do something.  But when we dig a little deeper, more often than not, we find that once again it’s simply an excuse.

It goes back to taking responsibility.  Blaming someone else is simply abdicating responsibility.

It’s easier to shift the blame to someone or something rather than accept that we are in control.

Whether this is our emotional response or a practical response makes no difference.  We get to choose how we respond.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”.

Equally, no one can make you feel angry unless you choose to be angry.  No one can make you break your diet unless you choose to break it.  No one can make you drink alcohol unless you choose to drink alcohol.

Every single action you take and feeling you have is your choice.

I confess I struggled with this initially.

I’d lost both my parents in my 20s and to be told that I was responsible was ludicrous.  What I hadn’t understood was that I wasn’t being told I was responsible for the event but purely my reaction to it.

Once I’d finally grasped that, I realised that I could choose how I react to everything around me.  If someone says something to me that I think is an insult, I can choose to get upset or ignore it.  I can even choose to reframe it and give it a completely different meaning if I so wish.  Whether the initial comment was meant as an insult or not becomes irrelevant, and in many ways, my decision to reframe it removes all power from the author of the insult!

GET YOUR PRIORITIES SORTED

I’ve known a fair few people who say they can’t afford to eat a healthy diet because buying lean meat, fresh fruit and vegetables is too expensive and yet they’d think nothing of spending £30 on a manicure or £100 on a haircut.

It’s all a matter of priorities.

This is a big one when it comes to a lack of time.  People will say they don’t have time to exercise but will happily sit in front of the TV for a couple of hours a night.

Where time really is tight it still comes down to priorities.  There’s always a choice to set the alarm half an hour earlier to get in a quick HIIT session before the day begins.

You will only get your priorities sorted when you accept that you truly want to make the changes.

This is where you have to be emotionally driven by your ‘why’.  If the result you seek isn’t important enough to you, why would you prioritise the activities that will help you get there.

It’s important to have a clear and defined picture of what you’re trying to achieve.  Setting clear, specific goals are so important here.

Without a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, it is way too easy to hit the snooze button and pull the duvet over you or blow your Zumba class fee on a pizza!

BE PREPARED

When you are prepared you can deal with pretty much anything.

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Making sure that you have good, healthy food options available stops you from reaching for a quick fix snack (invariably not the most nutritious of choices).

Making sure your sports kit is packed and ready to go stops you from forgetting key items or running out of time in the morning.

But being prepared takes self-discipline.  It comes back to getting your priorities sorted.  It comes down to taking responsibility.

Sometimes being prepared means being ready for any arguments that you might have to face in the quest for your success.

Well-meaning loved ones can often be very quick to derail you.

You look fine, one piece of cake won’t hurt’

‘don’t be so boring, it’s only a couple of drinks’,

‘is this another attempt to lose weight, you know you’ll lose motivation and give in just like you always do’.

Here, you need to be prepared to fight your corner.  Know your ‘why’ and be prepared to defend it.  Remember, you are in control, and no one can make you feel a certain way unless you allow it.

Prepare your script and stick to your guns.  Be assertive, after all this is your ‘why’ not theirs.

Mountain

OVERCOME YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

Limiting beliefs are psychological barriers that can put a major block on you reaching your goal.  In fact, they can be so powerful that they stop you from even setting the goal in the first place.

Limiting beliefs come from the language and stories that you tell yourself.  Stories that may have started to form from a very young age.

But just like your paradigm, they are only your version of the truth, not THE TRUTH.

Here are some examples of limiting beliefs that you may recognise in yourself:

I can’t run

                I don’t deserve to be happy

                I’m hopeless at maths

                I’m rubbish with money

                I could never be a manager

                I always give in to temptation

Have a good think about the stories you tell yourself.  If you start the sentence with ‘I can’t….’ or ‘Im bad at….’ or ‘I have to…..’ then chances are it’s a limiting belief.

In order to overcome your limiting beliefs, you first need to recognise and acknowledge that they exist.    Ask yourself if the thought is really true or is it just your perception.

Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT an easy exercise.

It takes a lot of introspection and it might be scary to find out that you’re wrong.

But let’s look at this logically.  Let’s take the first example above ‘I can’t run’.

Now, this could be a genuine truth.  There could be physical barriers preventing you from running.  But assuming that you have all your limbs and no medical reason why you can’t run, ask yourself how true is this statement?

What exactly is it that is stopping you from being able to run.

What is it about other people that make them different to you and therefore able to run when you can’t.

When you work on point 1 above, taking responsibility, and begin to accept that you get to choose everything you think, overcoming limiting beliefs becomes easier.

Limiting beliefs are excuses, albeit sometimes harder to recognise.

Limiting beliefs can be far more debilitating than simply telling ourselves we can’t run.

I’m not worthy…’

                ‘I don’t deserve to be loved…..’

                ‘I am not a good person……’

Language like this can seriously put the brakes on moving forward.

These beliefs can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We tend to attract more of what we believe.  If you don’t feel worthy, you may attract partners who reinforce that belief in you.

Often we have a very fixed mindset around who we are.  We use the words ‘I am’ to describe ourselves which suggests an immovable object.  We are what we are and so be it!

You may say things like:

  I am punctual

                I am untidy

                I am an introvert

                I am disorganised

But these are simply limiting beliefs.

As humans we aren’t immovable objects, we are more like chameleons.  We change with our environment and the people we are with.  Maybe sometimes we are shy and quiet, other times we are chatty and loud.

If we can start to change the language we use to describe our beliefs about ourselves we can begin to free our limiting beliefs.  We can create new statements:

Sometimes I am punctual

                I can be untidy, but sometimes I can be tidy

                I used to be introverted but I’m gaining confidence

                I’m working towards being……..

Here are some examples of where ‘I am’ is totally incorrect.

I am fat

                I am unfit

Being fat is not a final destination.  It is simply a definition of the current situation.  It doesn’t define the person.  It is a transient state.

The same with being unfit.

Changing the language to: ‘I currently carry more body fat than I want to’ or ‘I am not yet as fit as I intend to be’ reinforces a new belief.

A belief that says your current circumstances are not set in stone.  A belief that says you have the power to change.

SUMMARY

In summary then, in order to shift your BUT you have to take control and recognise that you have choice.

Whenever you hear yourself including the word BUT in a sentence, chances are it’s covering up an excuse.

Once you begin to recognise the excuses for what they are, you have the power to change.

Your success is yours, and yours alone.

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Bev Thorogood is owner of Floresco Fitness and Fatloss Coaching

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Visit me at www.florescofitness.co.uk

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Do Our Nutritional Needs Change As We Reach 50 and Beyond?

old people

There are a number of physiological changes that occur as we get older that can affect our ability to guarantee getting the nutrients we need, however there also appear to be quite a few long standing ‘beliefs’ that may or may not be true with regard to an over 50s diet.

Let’s look at the things that do appear to hold true first of all.

As we age we tend to naturally slow down and therefore we generally move less than we did in our 20s.   As a consequence, we generally need fewer calories as we use less energy.

Add to that the fact that muscle loss is a natural part of the aging process and this can have a slowing effect on our metabolism and again, this means we require fewer calories.

But, older people may also need a greater amount of nutrients, despite requiring fewer calories, and therefore it is very important that older adults make sure that their diet is filled with nutrient rich foods that are as unprocessed as possible.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains will help.

We also need to ensure that we are getting sufficient vitamins and minerals as we age, specifically Vitamin D, B-12, calcium and Omega 3 fatty acids.

These nutrients become even more important as we age.   This is because the body’s ability to absorb nutrients can diminish as we get older.

Vitamin B-12 is harder to absorb because it requires the acids in the stomach to help break it down.  As we age the amount of acid in the stomach diminishes therefore we can’t extract as much usable B-12 as we could when we were younger.

In order to retard the loss of bone density that also occurs naturally as we age, we require a sufficient amount of Vitamin D and Calcium.

We can synthesize Vitamin D through the skin from sunlight, however as we age our skin becomes less efficient at converting sunlight into vitamin D.   It is therefore prudent for older adults to increase consumption of things like oily fish, eggs, canned fish such as tuna and mackerel (aim for sustainably sourced fish), dairy products and mushrooms.

In addition to Vitamin D, bone health is also reliant on Calcium.  This is particularly important in order to counter the possibility of developing osteoporosis.

Foods rich in Calcium include seeds, cheese, yoghurt, canned fish, beans, nuts (especially almonds), edamame and tofu and of course milk.

Whilst we would, ideally, be able to get all of our nutrients from our food, in reality as we age it may be wise to supplement Vitamin D3, Calcium, Vitamin B-12 and Omega 3 (found in oily fish an olive oil).

The take away point here is that whilst a varied diet predominantly consisting of whole, natural foods that have been minimally processed is the best choice at any age, it becomes more important as we pass through middle age and beyond.

Some things that you may find beneficial to reduce or remove from your diet, especially if you’re a menopausal or peri-menopausal woman, are caffeine and alcohol.

Both of these substances have been found to exacerbate some of the symptoms of menopause including hot flushes and brain fog.  If you are already sensitive to caffeine then choosing naturally decaffeinated alternatives may be of benefit.

There is some debate about the supposed health benefits of decaff coffee, since there are a number of chemicals used in the decaffeinating process.  My own personal opinion (in light of a lack of any definitive evidence one way or the other) is to avoid it.

If you are sensitive to caffeine then choosing a different drink altogether may be a better alternative since even decaffeinated versions still contain a small amount of caffeine (approx 3%).

It is also suggested that as we get older we are less able to recognise when we are thirsty and therefore making sure we drink plenty of water is essential.   Check out the colour of your urine.  It should be a very pale yellow.  If it is a darker yellow you need to drink more.   However, with the exception of alcohol, all fluids will hydrate so it doesn’t all have to come simply from water.

To summarise then, if you’re an older adult make sure:

You get the majority of your foocolourful vegd from whole, unprocessed sources.

Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and olive oil.

Try to get out into the sunshine as regularly as you can to catch that Vitamin D from the sun.

Consider taking a supplement of Vitamin D3, Calcium, Vitamin B-12 and Omega 3 Fish Oil.

Avoid caffeinated drinks if you are sensitive to its effects, especially if you’re a woman.

Avoid alcohol if you find it negatively impacts menopause symptoms.

Let’s bust a few myths!

People are often convinced that weight gain is a foregone conclusion as we get older.  Many reasons are cited for this such as hormonal changes, slower metabolism and menopause among others.

Let’s look at hormones and the menopause to begin with.

Due to the relative changes in the amounts of sex hormones in the female body as we age the distribution of body fat also changes.  Women tend to shift a bit of fat from the thighs to the abdomen.  However, eating a healthy diet (as discussed above) and creating a small reduction in the number of calories consumed should counter the hormonal imbalances.

Combining this with increased movement will also help.  A combination of cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking or swimming with some strength training, which will also help to increase muscle mass and improve bone density, should aid weight management and prevent any weight gain.

As far as a slowed metabolism is concerned, research suggests that men aged 50 and over experience only a 5% reduction in metabolic rate over a 10-year period and women about 3%.  Therefore a small reduction in daily calories would be sufficient to offset this metabolic change.

The myth of a slow metabolism is often a handy excuse, when the culprit for increased weight is more likely to be being less active, eating too much, drinking too much alcohol and eating foods that are calorie dense and nutritionally poor.

So, the take away here is that:

Weight gain is not inevitable.

A slowed metabolism is not a valid excuse for middle age spread.

The best way to stay in shape as we age is no different to any other time in our lives: eat naturally, eat variety, move more and stay hydrated.

As a final note, two of the biggest killers of weight loss at any age are lack of sleep and stress, so if you can manage those as well as your nutrition, you’ll be all set for a long and healthy old age.

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Finally Making Friends With Food

food friendlyIt wasn’t until I started to look back at my relationship with food that I realised how dysfunctional it had been in the past.

I’d heard of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and knew I didn’t have either of those.

So it never occurred to me that my relationship with food was problematic.  But, looking back I can pinpoint exactly when I stepped onto the slippery slope of diet dysfunction.

I would have been about 15 years old.  I’d discovered boys and began to question what I had to do or be in order to attract them.  It seems pretty obvious looking back that I must have been very influenced by magazines and TV.

My sexuality was something I was becoming aware of, and beginning to explore, and I remember the boys at school bringing in top shelf stuff like Playboy and other soft porn.  Of course at that age we were all fascinated by the images but what struck me was that all the women in these magazines were skinny and overly made up.  And all the boys were drooling over them!

Probably without even realising it I’d already started the process of comparing myself to others.  When I look back now with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I didn’t ever want to be like the centrefolds, but I was convinced that since I didn’t look like that, then I was somehow lacking.

This led to years and years of insecurity.  An intense sense of embarrassment about being seen naked – even by my own husband.   A feeling of inadequacy because my belly wasn’t flat and my boobs weren’t perfectly pert!

It also led to years and years of fighting against nature, trying to turn my body into something it wasn’t and could never be.  Never acknowledging the positives such as the fact that I’ve always been strong and reasonably athletic in build.  The fact that I have great shoulders!  The fact that I was fit and healthy and thankfully never had to deal with any major illnesses or disorders.

Instead, I focused on everything I felt I was lacking.  A flat stomach.  A natural tan (can you believe I honestly thought people would judge me because my skin colour is pale!!).  Long, slender legs.  Naturally curly hair.  Almond eyes.  High cheek bones.  Oh my word, the list goes on and on.

I remember going on my first diet at the age of 18.  Did I need to?  I very much doubt it.

I’d started taking the contraceptive pill and probably gained half a stone or so.  At five foot seven I think I’d had to go up to a size 12 jeans.  I genuinely can’t remember what I weighed but I doubt it was much more than about 10 stones.

With the benefit of youth, the weight quickly dropped off me and when I got married at the age of 20 I weighed just under 9 stones.

As often happens after marriage, I settled down into married life and slowly my weight started to creep back up.

It wasn’t long after I married that I realised that I’d made a big mistake.  My ‘loving’ husband became increasingly aggressive and turned out to be an emotional bully.   A combination of physical and emotional abuse, coupled with the struggle of coping with the news that my mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, 7 years after battling breast cancer, left me physically and metaphorically battered and bruised.

I found my release in food.  It was the one thing that I had control over and that no one could take off me.

My weight continued to rise.  My then husband kept telling me how hideous I was.  We discussed divorce (at my volition) – he reminded me that no one would be interested in a ‘fat bitch’ like me and I’d be on my own forever.

In a last ditch attempt to save my marriage I crash dieted ready for a holiday to Spain.  This was going to be the turning point where we would fall in love again, he’d stop resolving every disagreement with his hands and we’d live happily ever after!

I came back pregnant.

He told me to terminate the pregnancy.  He didn’t want kids.  I’d finally got myself into ‘decent’ shape, he didn’t want to have to go back to being married to a fat wife.

I refused.

My gorgeous daughter arrived in Jun 1990.  By August 1991 I’d left him.  I walked away from the house we owned and pretty much all our other belongings and moved into a rented house, with my little girl.

I’d love to say this was an easy time but in reality it was bloody hard work.  I was a single mum, with very low self-esteem.  I’d lost my mum in Sep 88 and didn’t feel I had anyone to turn to.  I had a couple of very good friends who gave me amazing practical and emotional support and I am eternally grateful to them, but it was still incredibly tough.

I was 25 years old.  Skint.  My confidence had been hammered.  I was lonely and scared that I was going to be on my own forever.   I was about 13 stone and felt ugly and unwanted.

Probably due to not having lots of money to buy food, ironically my weight started to come down and as it did so I started to attract a bit of attention from the opposite sex.

The correlation between losing weight and getting some attention re-confirmed and reinforced my belief that I could only be attractive if I was thin.

It didn’t once occur to me that what they may have been attracted to was a strong woman, coping remarkably well with a whole load of challenges and feeling empowered having broken the constraints of a domineering and bullying relationship.

About a year later I met my current husband.  He was a total contrast to the first one.  He made me feel beautiful.

He was, and still is, one of the fittest people I’ve ever known.  A competitive runner, his level of all round fitness is inspiring.

Through his influence I started to exercise.  I got into running and circuit training.  I somehow found the confidence to train to be an exercise instructor – gaining my Exercise to Music qualification in 1994.

I got thin.

I got fit.

I looked good.

I didn’t know it.

I still felt fat.

I still felt lacking.

I still hadn’t learned to love me!

I was 9 stone 2 pounds when Mark and I got married.  This was after hitting a high of 14 stones when I was pregnant with my daughter.  If being thin was supposed to be the panacea for happiness I should, at this point, have been ecstatic about being me!

Instead, all I did was shift the focus of who I compared myself to.  Now I was looking at other fitness instructors who were skinnier, more tanned (still had the pale hang up!!) more sporty, faster, fitter……

I compared myself to photos of Mark’s ex-girlfriends.  All slim and pretty and younger than me.  None of them had the ‘baggage’ I had.  I resigned to the fact that before long he’d get bored and go off and find a slimmer, younger, prettier, single girl instead.

In fact nothing much had changed other than the number on the scales.

My diet was poor.  I maintained my weight through exercise – an almost obsessive need for it.  I recall feeling irrationally angry and frustrated if anyone or anything ever interrupted my planned exercise times.

I was teaching diet and fitness classes – based around low fat, high carb diet protocols.  I was obsessed with avoiding fats at all costs.  I somehow didn’t question the fact that I was drinking far too much alcohol, and I would excuse chocolate binges as ‘deserved treats’ because I’d trained hard.

I had my son in Sep 1995.  He was a big baby.  I was a very big pregnant person!

I was 9 and a half stone when I got pregnant and I was 14 and a half stone when I went into labour.

Within 12 weeks of having him I was back down to 10 stone and back to teaching.

I was working for a friend who had a well-known diet and exercise franchise.  I had to go to a training event at the company’s headquarters in Leicestershire.  I stood on the scales, terrified, as one of the big names in the company weighed me.  I was just over 10 stone.  I remember clearly being told I would need to lose at least half a stone in order to portray the right ‘image’ that the company required of me!   This was just 8 weeks after I’d given birth.

Yet more confirmation that only thin people were worthy.

I remained around 10 and a half stone for about the next 8 years. I continued to teach and I continued to exercise although the obsessiveness diminished.

In about 2003 I gave up teaching.  My weight gradually began to creep up.  The more weight I put on the more down I felt and the more I turned to food to feel better.

Over the years I jumped from diet to diet – going through alternating stages of feast or famine!

In my head I was always a big girl.  In reality I was totally average.  I hovered around a size 12 to 14 and somehow managed to carry the gradual weight increase pretty well.

But it definitely held me back from enjoying the things I should have enjoyed doing.

I hated wearing a swimsuit on holiday.  Would avoid playing on the beach in case people looked at me and judged my wobbly tummy or white legs (maybe it’s time to get over the pale issue!).

I think on the outside people saw a confident person, but we hide our insecurities well and instead let them dictate our happiness.

I joined various slimming clubs – mainly the big names that we’re all familiar with.  In all honesty, I believe they simply reinforced all my own insecurities and perpetuated the problem for me.

There was this ridiculous mentality that on weigh-in day calories didn’t count, because you had a whole week to put it right.  So I’d leave the meeting, jump in the car and drive to the fish and chip shop.  I’d buy chips and curry sauce and eat them in the car.  Then I’d throw the wrapper away before I got home so that my husband wouldn’t know I’d had them.  Then I’d eat the dinner he’d prepared for me and never mention the curry and chips.

I’d grab handfuls of food – biscuits, chocolates, crisps, salted peanuts, cheese – it didn’t really matter what it was – and I’d take it into the bathroom to eat so that Mark wouldn’t know I’d had it.

In my head it was almost like, if he didn’t know I’d eaten it, then somehow I hadn’t eaten it.  It hadn’t really happened.

Then I’d feel stupid and guilty and weak because I couldn’t control myself.

I’d even find myself provoking Mark into a row, goading him to admit that he thought I was too fat, picking away at any throw-away comment he may have inadvertently made in the past in order prove to myself that I was worthless as charged!

Have you heard the term confirmation bias?  Finding all the evidence that supports your theory and disregarding anything that doesn’t.  That was me.

The sad thing is this self-loathing plagued almost all of my adult life.

Thankfully, in the last couple of years I’ve somehow managed to turn things around.  It’s been a gradual process and it started with a willingness to want to change.

It started with being absolutely fed up with feeling fed up.

It started with yet another diet plan, but this one triggered a change in my eating patterns, that subsequently triggered a change in my mindset.

I started to read.  I read lots.  I read everything I could find.  I listened to podcasts.  I read articles.  I started to question what I was being told.  I began studying fitness and nutrition again.  I began learning about current science.  I started to surround myself with positive people.

I began to understand.

I began to feel better.

I began to relax around food.

I began to actually enjoy eating food without judging it as inherently good or bad.

I began to look at myself differently.

I began to think mindfully about what I ate and found that I intuitively ate well.

I began a quest to help other people feel more like I do now and less like I did for too many years.

I finally made friends with food.

PS:  I’d still love a tan.

PPS:  Mark and I will have been married 24 years this year so I think my fears were unfounded J

Final Note:

Eating disorders are a physical and mental illness that require diagnosis and treatment.   The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that approximately 3% of the total population of the USA suffer from an eating disorder.

However, there is a much newer condition known as Orthorexia, which includes symptoms of obsessive behaviour around food, including anxiety about what we eat.  Specifically an obsession with ‘healthy eating’ or ‘clean eating’.   Whilst it is not currently recognised as a clinical disorder it is becoming more recognised as a real condition.   However, Orthorexia is different to simply making a choice to generally improve the health of our diet.

Most people’s relationship with food will sit somewhere on a spectrum between intuitive eating at one end and obsessive, compulsive eating regimens at the other.  Many of us fall into the middle ground which we can term as disordered eating (as opposed to a clinical eating disorder).

This is where I believe I was for many years.

If you feel guilt around what you eat or judge foods to be inherently good or bad, then you may well fall into the disordered eating category.

Yoyo dieting, extreme dieting protocols such as omitting whole food groups from the diet (unless for medical reasons such as allergies etc), a constant sense of being on or off the latest diet ‘bandwagon’  or anxiety when your usual eating regimen is disturbed, may indicate that disordered eating is present.

It can be reversed.  In my opinion it takes time, but more importantly it takes a willingness to want to change.

If you believe you are suffering from an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia you should seek medical help from a certified dietician or GP.

If you would like help and support with getting disordered eating patterns under control, you can contact me at bev@florescofitness.co.uk or by calling 07824 819060.

www.florescofitness.co.uk

 

 

 

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Managing Low Back Pain

Lady back


One of the biggest problems encountered by many middle aged people is chronic low back pain.  According to the Health and Safety Executive(1)  in 2016/17 on average each person lost a total of 17.6 working days due to musculoskeletal disorders.

There are a number of causes of back pain; injury and accidents or congenital conditions such as irregular curvature of the spine (scoliosis, kyphosis or lordosis for example) but for the majority of sufferers it is a result of long duration, repetitive actions that lead to poor posture.

Sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen, long hours driving a vehicle and repetitive lifting, carrying and twisting can cause muscle imbalances and tension that lead to chronic low back pain.

The good news is that in most cases we can self-medicate through exercise – but we have to be doing the right sort of exercise.

And of course, if the cause of the pain is not apparent then a trip to the docs is needed. The NHS suggests seeking immediate medical advice(2)  if the back pain is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling or deformity in your back
  • It doesn’t improve after resting or is worse at night
  • It started after a serious accident, such as a car accident

Prevention is the Best Medicine

It’s far better to avoid the pain of backache in the first place than to have to deal with the effects once it has set in.  Whilst it is difficult to avoid back pain entirely there are some measures we can take to help reduce our risk.

  • Include regular exercises and stretches specifically for your core and back as part of your general exercise routine.
  • Keep Moving – walking, swimming, pilates, yoga and dancing will all help to keep the back mobile
  • Think about your posture when you’re sitting, lifting or standing for extended periods of time. Utilise any tools and resources made available to you to reduce the risk of damage.
  • Get a decent night’s sleep – change your mattress if necessary.
  • Avoid carrying too much extra weight, especially if you tend to carry your weight around your belly.

 DIY for the Back

 If you’re unfortunate enough to get to the point where back pain has set in there are some simple but effective exercises that you can do daily to ease the pain and strengthen the core muscles.  Consistency is key so carrying out these exercises daily, coupled with the preventative measures listed above, should help to ensure you keep the back pain at bay.

  1. Glute Bridge. Weak gluteals (bum muscles) can contribute to low back pain.  Strengthening and tightening these muscles will help.

Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  Bring your feet fairly close to the buttocks and about hip distance apart.

Relax your hands by your side and try to keep the neck and shoulders relaxed as you slowly lift the hips by pressing the heels into the floor.  Raise the hips as high as you comfortably can, keeping the shoulders on the floor. 

Hold at the top for 5-10 seconds, then slowly return to the floor.  Repeat 10-15 times, 2-3 times per day.

As your glutes get stronger you can aim to increase the hold at the top of the movement up to 30-60 seconds, reducing the repetitions accordingly.

  1. Supermen target the back extensors which run along the spine and support the spine in the upright position.    Begin gently, and if it causes pain, stop.

Lying on your stomach stretch your arms out in front of you.  Lift alternate hands and feet together, squeezing the bum as you lift. 

 Hold for a few seconds then replace hand and foot to the floor and swap with the opposite side.  Repeat this for 10-15 times each side.  Gradually aim to hold the move at the top of the lift for up to 10 seconds.

As you get stronger aim to lift both hands and feet off the floor at the same time and again, try to gradually increase the length of the hold up to 10 seconds.

  1. The plank is a great all round core exercise that targets all the back muscles including the deep stabilising muscles such as the quadratus lumborum and the rhomboids as well as the transversus abdominis among others.  In fact, the Plank is a fantastic all round stability exercise.

Lie face down on the floor.  Place the elbow directly under the shoulders and lift your hips off the ground so that the body is in a perfectly straight line from the heels, through the hips, shoulders and neck with the head in line with spine. 

Pull the naval up towards the lower back to create tension in the abdominals and hold for as long as possible, building up to about two minutes. 

Try not to let the back dip towards the floor, but also aim to keep the buttocks low (avoid a downward dog type position!).

Repeat a couple of times throughout the day.

  1. Supine Twists. Twists help to release the lower back and open tight shoulders.  It’s also incredibly relaxing!

Lie on your back with the legs straight.  Bring the right leg in so that the foot comes up to meet the buttock and the knee is bent.  Gently pass the bent knee across the body to the left, feeling a stretch in the buttock, use the left hand to add a small amount of pressure to the outer edge of the thigh. 

Keep both shoulders in contact with the floor and turn the head to look over the right shoulder.

Hold this position for anything from 10-60 seconds.

Bring the leg back to the centre and bring the left knee up to join the bent right knee.  Now ‘hug’ both knees into the chest for 5-10 seconds.

Release the legs and repeat the initial stretch with the left leg.  So, the right leg remains straight, the left leg is bent and passes across to the right hand side of the body using the right hand to add a little pressure to the outer thigh.

 Again, keep both shoulders pressed into the floor and turn the head to look over the left shoulder.  Hold for 10-60 seconds and then release and hug the legs in again.

 Repeat each side 2-3 times.

  1. Back Extensions. Back extensions feel amazing if you tend to spend your day leaning slightly forwards, such as slouching over a desk or steering wheel.

Lying on your front place your hands just slightly in front of the shoulders and slowly push up, keeping the hips in contact with the floor.

If it is too uncomfortable to have your hands on the floor, start by coming up just onto the elbows.

Keep the head in line with the spine throughout and breath regularly and easily (without holding the breath!).

 Hold the stretch for between 10-30 seconds.

 Relax and repeat 5-10 times.

male back

Rest is Not Best

When your back aches it’s natural not to want to move around too much.  It’s uncomfortable and instinctively we try to avoid discomfort.  Indeed, up until about 20 years ago or so, bed rest was the recommended course of action for back pain.  However, this is no longer a recommended suggested treatment and can exacerbate the problem.

The American College of Physicians and NICE (National Institute for Health Care Excellence) both advocate the continuance of normal activities where possible.

Take Away

So, the take away point from all this is that it’s best to take measures to prevent back pain from taking hold by being conscious of good posture, especially when undertaking long duration, repetitive tasks and maintaining a healthy weight.

Incorporating strengthening and stretching exercises into our daily routine will minimise the risk of developing back pain.

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter a bout of back pain, don’t be tempted to give in to bed rest – keep active.

And finally, a word of caution – if any of the above exercises cause a sharp pain, stop!

img_20170811_012106_432691960881.jpg

Bev Thorogood is a qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach.

Visit her at www.florescofitness.co.uk

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Top 10 Tips for Surviving Christmas

Xmas 1

Top 10 Tips for Surviving Christmas and the New Year

Trying to avoid piling on the pounds over the festive season can be tricky.  There’s temptation at every turn and, if you’re like me, there’s a little bit of you that thinks, what the hell, I’ve worked hard all year for this!

Sadly though, a couple of weeks of pure indulgence can severely increase the waist line and leave you feeling less than fabulous come the New Year.

So here are my top 10 tips for making sure you can enjoy the festivities, not feel left out and yet still limit the damage as you head into January.

1.      Decide Which Battles To Fight!

Chances are you won’t be celebrating every single day over the holidays.  So you don’t need to over indulge every single day either.  Decide at which ‘events’ you’re going to enjoy all the treats and let your hair down and have fun.   On the other days put the treats out of sight.  Hide the chocolates and avoid the booze.  Choose healthier foods and give your body a break from the rich, sweet treats.   This way you can still enjoy all the good things without paying the price later on.

2.     Don’t Store Your Calories for Later

There’s always a temptation to skip breakfast and lunch if we know we’re partying that night.  We think if we ‘save’ our calories we’ll do less damage.  Not the case!  By skipping food earlier on in the day you’re far more likely to go mad in the evening.  Instead try and make sure you have breakfast and lunch.  It doesn’t have to be a huge meal each time but making sure your body has some fuel to burn will stop you bingeing later on in the day.  Try to go for protein based meals as this will help you to stay fuller for longer.

3.     Don’t Burn the Candle at Both Ends

No doubt there will be a few late nights with friends but it only takes a day or two of reduced quality sleep to knock our system out of kilter.  Try to aim to get a good 8 hours a night as often as possible.  Remember too that alcohol disrupts our sleep patterns.  Although you may think a few drinks helps you get off to sleep, alcohol actually inhibits our ability to get into deep sleep and can leave us fatigued and de-energised.   Often causing us to wake in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep.   Add to that the fact that the body loses its fat burning potential when lacking sleep and you can see how important getting a good night can be.

4.     Eat Mindfully

It’s so easy to stick the TV on, put your feet up and mindlessly snack on crisps, choccies, nuts and all the treats.  When you multi-task on snacking you can very easily over eat hundreds and hundreds of additional calories and you won’t even have noticed you’ve eaten them.   Instead, make each meal an occasion.  Avoid TV dinners and if possible sit down at a table and focus on what you’re eating.  If you are going to snack in front of the TV, get a small bowl and pour yourself a small serving of your favourite snack, rather than mindlessly and repeatedly dipping your hand into the crisp packet or the Pringles tube!

5.     Fill Up On Veg

Whether it’s a sit down meal or a buffet try to make sure that the majority of your plate is filled with vegetables.  Aim for at least half of the contents of your plate to be vegetables.  Rather than guessing what will be on the table if you’re visiting a friend’s house for a party, try taking a bowl of interesting salad or some veggie sticks and homemade hummus with you to ‘add to the table’.  At least this way you’ll know there’s something healthy on the menu!

Xmas 3

6.     Stick to Your Guns

Don’t allow yourself to be brow beaten into over indulging if you don’t want to.  Pressure from friends and family to have ‘just one more’ drink or telling you another pudding ‘won’t hurt’ can be difficult to navigate but they’re not going to be the ones trying to shift the pounds come 2018.  A polite ‘I’m full’ or ‘I’m just having a rest’ should hopefully be enough to deflect their good intentions.  And if that fails, then you might just have to get tough and say a firm “no”.  It’s all about choice – and you get to choose

7.     Have too much to drink!

Okay, I’m talking H2O here, sorry!  Try and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water or non-alcoholic drinks – especially if you’re partying that day.   Tea, coffee, sugar free squash, diet soda, sparkling water – all add to your overall fluid intake and can help to offset the negative dehydrating effects of alcohol.  Fill a nice stemmed wine glass up with sparkling flavoured water, drop in some ice and a raspberry or two and no one will even notice it’s not Prosecco!  Mix spirits with lots of low calorie mixer in a tall glass and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft, sugar free drinks.    No one will know if that’s a G&T or just a T!

8.     Keep it Slow

If you’re usually a fast eater then it’s really important to try and slow down.  The body needs time to realise it’s full and when we eat too quickly we can have consumed way too many calories before the hormone, leptin, is able to tell the brain to quit eating.  Slowing down not only helps you to eat fewer calories but it can also help combat the effects of indigestion, avoid that sluggish, bloated feeling of having eaten too much and help you to savour and enjoy each mouthful.

9.     Aim for All or Something

Whilst you may not feel inclined to spend hours in the gym over the holidays, getting some movement in will make you feel better and keep those extra calories that you’ve consumed at bay.  Getting out for a walk or setting aside half an hour every couple of days to do a bodyweight HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session won’t take up much time but could be the difference between ticking over and having to start again from scratch.   It’s so easy to find ourselves slumped in front of the TV for hours on end so making a concerted effort to get up and move around is key.  Have your own dance party and get bopping around the Christmas Tree!

10.    Stay Sane

Finally, remember that this is only a couple of weeks out of the whole year.  Try not to let yourself get too caught up in the whole ‘diet’ thing.  Avoid trying to totally remove the things you like from your life as you’ll only crave them more.  Instead, allow yourself a little bit of what you fancy, savour it and don’t feel guilty about it.   Life is way too short to spend valuable time that should be focused on family and friends, worrying about a few extra calories.   There’s damage limitation and then there’s deprivation.  Don’t deprive yourself.  Have a few treats, banish the guilt and have a very merry Christmas and an awesome New Year.

For more help with sensible, sustainable weight loss and a healthy approach to health and fitness, visit www.florescofitness.co.uk or find us on Facebook at fifty, fit and fabulous.  Or you can contact me by leaving your details below and I’ll get back to you very soon.

 

 

 

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Can You Eat Healthily on a Budget?

shopping basket

Many diet and fitness ‘experts’ are very quick to tell us that it’s easy to eat healthily on a budget but is that really the case?

I’ve just read an interesting article from Precision Nutrition that talked about the difficulties of eating well on a budget.    Here’s the article if you’d like to look for yourself.

I’m very aware that I am in a fortunate position financially in that I don’t have to budget to the ‘nth degree or worry about whether I will have enough money to pay all the bills.  I’m also very aware that this is a privileged position to be in and that not everyone is so fortunate.

So can a person really eat healthily on a strict budget?  The PN article raises some very valid points which I’ve summarised below:

Not everyone has access to a fresh foods market

Not everyone has the time to visit a market every day to get the best deals

Not everyone has the transport required to be able to carry large bags of heavy fruit and vegetables

Not everyone has the skills to know what to do with all the fresh foods they’ve  bought

Not everyone has the myriad equipment that appears to be essential to cook a meal from scratch

Not everyone has a public transport system that makes it easy to get to the best value shops

Not everyone has the time to jump from store to store in order to get the best deals

Certainly where I live getting to a fresh produce market is very difficult.  My closest one is about 12 miles away and because I live in quite a rural area I have limited access to decent public transport.  To get to the market would mean a 24 mile round trip and parking charges when I got to the market town, assuming I could get parked at all.

I still work Monday to Thursday and I’m located 5 miles away from the nearest shops.  Walking is not realistic so again a car is needed and this involves parking fees.  Not to mention my working day is from 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening which means anywhere other than the Supermarkets are closed.

My time is extremely valuable as I’m trying to work on my business as well as the day job and also find time to exercise, and have a bit of ‘down’ time to myself.  Therefore the idea of bouncing from discount supermarket to discount supermarket trying to save a few pennies off the cost of a cauliflower is not something that gets my thrift juices flowing!

On top of the practical difficulties highlighted above, there’s also the question of what actually constitutes a healthy diet.  If you believed all the advertising and marketing hype, you’d HAVE to eat expensive ‘superfoods’ like wheat grass, spirulina and chia seeds to name but a few.

So after all that I’m left with trying to do the best I can with what little time I have available.

Thankfully I grew up in a home where cooking food from scratch was generally the norm.  My mum taught me how to bake, and I went to school in an era where we were still taught ‘home economics’.

I recall a few years ago when my own daughter was doing ‘Tech’ at school and the one term that they devoted to cookery came round.  She came home and asked if I could get the ingredients she needed as they were going to be learning how to bake bread.  She gave me the list and I was shocked to see that the ingredients list consisted of just one item – a packet of wholemeal bread mix!   I suppose I should be grateful for the fact it was asking for wholemeal but, really?  Since when did adding water to a packet of dried ingredients constitute learning how to cook!

So anyway, first and foremost, let’s figure out what constitutes a healthy food.

In my humble opinion, whilst expensive superfoods may very well help us get closer to ‘optimal’ levels of antioxidents and nutrients, most of us have survived pretty well so far without adding spirulina powder to our porridge.

Let’s keep things nice and simple – the best way to eat well is to ensure that your diet contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and poultry, grains, beans and pulses.  Basically, single ingredient, unprocessed foods that don’t come with a long ingredients list.  Stick to the basics, choose a range of different coloured foods and you can’t really go too far wrong.

Add in there the ability to shop seasonally (ie buy fruits and veg while they’re in season and therefore plentiful) and you’re likely to get the best produce at the cheapest price.  If you want Strawberries in December they’re going to have to travel a fair distance to reach you and you’ll be paying for those transport costs in both price and quality.

And what about going ‘Organic’?  It would be great if we could always go for the organic options when we buy food.  Unfortunately, this is a luxury that for many is just too far out of their reach.  In an ideal world all our produce would be organically grown and all our livestock free to roam.  Whilst I am all for going organic, I also think it’s unrealistic to impose the organic moral high ground on people who are simply trying to eat as well as they can on a very small amount of money.

One way to go organic could be to Google your local authority and see where the local allotments are and consider GROWING YOUR OWN.  Or maybe you’ve a garden where you could start to grow some of your own vegetables or even just a window box to grow some herbs.

Although, if you’re anything like me and you can’t even manage to nurture a silk rose without causing it a slow and painful death, growing your own may not be a great solution.

However, it might still be worth looking up local allotments and seeing if you can tap into some of their produce.  Most allotment owners I’ve come across struggle to consume all of their own stuff.  If you can cook, you could consider trading your cooking skills for their produce and sharing some of your creations back with them.

Let’s not forget that frozen fruit and veg isn’t a bad option.  Usually the time between picking to freezing is pretty short – certainly a lot shorter than fresh produce that been flown half way around the Globe to get to the supermarket shelves.  Frozen fruit and veg can save on time and waste as you only use what you need.

And then of course there’s the amazing invention that is ‘online grocery shopping’.  Apart from the fact that it takes the temptation away from seeing all the sparkly things down the supermarket aisles, it also means you don’t have to waste valuable time getting to and from the store.  Yes, you may need to pay for delivery, but that’s probably no more expensive than the fuel to drive you there or the bus fare you might incur.  Online shopping means you can see exactly what you’re spending as you go, and if you buy their ‘special’ offers carefully you can save money.  Caution:  beware the 3 for 2 offers on perishable goods – they can appear to be a saving when in fact you throw more away than you use.  Often, too, the BOGOFs tend to be on the highly palatable, high sugar, high fat ‘junk’ foods that the manufacturers are trying to woo you into buying.

offer-bogof

Ask around or have a look online to see if you have a local meat wholesaler.  If so, they may have a shop where you can buy your meat in bulk and save money.  Alternatively there are some good online meat retailers who offer great deals that get delivered to your door and can go straight to the freezer.  Companies like Musclefood and Livelean offer meat hampers that you can freeze and, having tried both, I was suitably impressed with their products and their customer service.  I’m sure there are many others out there too.

Investing in some basic equipment is essential if you are going to cook good, wholesome meals from scratch, but you don’t need to recreate the set from ‘Saturday Kitchen’ to be able to get going.  My basic toolkit suggestions would be:

A non-stick, flat bottomed wok

A heavy based skillet or frying pan

A 3 tier stainless steel steamer pan

A slow cooker

A large chef’s knife

A small paring knife

A chopping board

A grater

A vegetable peeler (or the paring knife if you’re more skilled than me!)

A colander (or you could just use one of the tiers of the steamer pan)

A 2lb loaf tin

A roasting in

A selection of different size Tupperware type boxes

Have a look around local charity shops or car boot sales for things like slow cookers and other utensils.  You’d be amazed what you can pick up for next to nothing.

I would also suggest a few store cupboard basics:

Sea Salt

Pepper

Chilli Powder

Paprika

Worcester Sauce

White Wine Vinegar

Dried chillies

Dried Oregano

Dried Mixed Herbs

Dijon Mustard

Runny honey

Cornflour

Olive Oil

With the basic equipment and ingredients above you should be able to adapt many recipes and be able to create tasty homemade meals with ease.

One pot, slow cooker meals are a great way to use cheaper cuts of meat.  Thanks to new research we don’t need to worry about how ‘bad’ for us the fattier cuts of meat are – and generally they have a far better flavour than the leaner ones.   Things like beef shin, pork shoulder, belly pork and chicken thighs are all relatively inexpensive but slow cook brilliantly.    Try putting a search into Google with 3 main ingredients and see what recipe choices you can find.  You’d be amazed how much choice there is and how simple cooking can actually be.

The other benefit of slow cooked, one pot meals is that it is incredibly easy to batch cook and freeze them. This way you can ensure you’re eating a healthy, home-made meal without all the time constraints of cooking them from scratch.  If you don’t have much space to freeze them, there’s nothing wrong with having the same meals for a few days running.  I bet if you were to look closely you’d find you have the same sort of thing for breakfast or lunch most days!

Shopping late in the day when food has been reduced in price is another great trick to help you bag a bargain.  Just avoid the temptation to grab the cakes and cookies on the ‘reduced’ shelf!

Planning is a must if you’re trying to save money.  Having a small repertoire of nutritious meals, knowing in advance what you are going to cook, making a list and only buying what you need has many benefits.  Not least of which is that if you only buy the foods you need to eat well, you don’t have the temptation of those ‘naughties’ shouting your name.

Often Granny knew best and things like pickling and preserving can be a good way to use up seasonal fruits and veg and eat them at a later date.  Although, I have to say it’s not something I do personally – but if it appeals to you, go for it!

Finally, if you do nothing else, if you want to save money on your food bill, invest the time it takes to learn to cook.  You don’t need to become the next Gordon Ramsey, but learning the basics will reward both your health and your purse.  You tube, TV programmes and friends who cook are all great sources of learning.  Not only is home cooked food generally cheaper than processed ready meals and takeaways, but you also get to know exactly what has gone into it AND you get the satisfaction of knowing you created that culinary masterpiece!

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The Menopause and Me!

If you’re struggling with menopausal symptoms, before you rush off to go down the HRT route, it might be worth looking at your diet.

Often you don’t see changes in yourself until you look back in time.  I’m now 51 but as I look back to my late 40s some quite noticeable changes started to form that happened so gradually I didn’t even realise they were happening.

I began to feel an almost constant sense of doom.  I didn’t think I was stressed – happy marriage, job I enjoyed, good friends, no money worries, nice life!  Yet I still had this constant feeling of dread, like something awful was going to happen any minute.   I worried about my two children, needlessly probably, but I worried nonetheless.

When I hit 49 two more things happened: First, I became a grandma.  Quite unexpectedly if I’m honest.  I was happy of course, but I also suddenly felt VERY old.  I was steadily putting on weight, I had little energy most of the time, I felt anything but attractive and now it was official, I was OLD!

The second thing that happened was that I suddenly spent every weekday in an empty house on my own.  My husband, a serving Airman, was posted 100 miles away so commuted at weekends, leaving the house at 0400 every Monday morning and not getting home until Friday afternoon.  My daughter had moved into her own house awaiting the birth of my granddaughter, and my son had moved to Guildford to do his degree.  This was ‘empty nest’ syndrome at its very worst.

Looking back I’m not sure if I felt depressed or anxious.  Or maybe even a bit of both.  In a knee jerk reaction I applied for another job.  And in an effort to lift the cloud I seemed to be carrying around with me, I put on a cloak of self-confidence and waltzed into my interview and, somehow, pulled it off.  That was November 2015, two months before I hit my half century.

Thankfully by this time my husband had been posted closer to home and we were back living in the same house all week.  In fact now, working at the same place, we were able to share our journey back and forth to work.   The loneliness I hadn’t even realised I’d been feeling began to subside and I was working with some amazingly lovely people.

In Jan 16 I turned 50.  And almost to the day I had my first hot flash.  It was like a blanket that just engulfed me and I’d never felt anything quite like it.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  My top lip was beaded with sweat and I could feel similar dripping down my lower back.  It was winter so I was dressed accordingly but I’d have been more comfortable in a swimsuit!  I joked about it with my new work colleague but secretly it scared me.  This was just even more proof that my life, as I knew it, was pretty much coming to an end.

A couple of months later I discovered the Body Coach and started on his 90 Day Shift, Shape and Sustain plan.  Eating far fewer starchy carbohydrates and far more natural fats and including a lot more exercise in my week, the most amazing things started to happen.

For the first time in God knows how many diet attempts, I started to lose weight and my shape changed dramatically – especially around my middle.  I’d always carried my weight around my hips but as I’d headed towards my late 40s it had begun to settle around my belly so I was very happy to see it disappear

Also, I haven’t had a single hot flash since May 16!

The anxiety and worry have lifted.  Don’t get me wrong I still have days that feel stressful, but that chronic sense of doom has completely gone.

My mood swings levelled out.  They haven’t gone completely and I still find myself getting irrationally emotional at times and I’m very forgetful.  I sometimes feel like I’m a little bit ‘spaced out’ and not quite with it.  But I still can’t help thinking this would be 10 times worse if I hadn’t changed my diet.

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So I’ve done some research and it seems that there are a number of significant scientific reasons to back up my experiences.

Firstly increasing my dietary fats and ditching the ‘low fat’ foods made a big difference.  Forget the myth that fat makes you fat and it should be avoided at all cost.  Far from it.  I now happily eat butter, full fat cream, full fat milk, cheese, avocado, nuts.  Not in excess, as calories still matter, but fats are NOT the devil.  Dietary fats are essential for hormone production and balance.  Cutting out fats in the diet means potentially knocking your hormone balance right out of kilter.   It’s not just hormones relating to reproduction such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, but also insulin that regulates blood sugar, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin that regulate mood, thyroid hormones that regulate metabolic processes and a whole host of other hormones, some of which haven’t even been discovered yet!

Secondly, reducing my carbohydrate intake and getting rid of poor quality starchy carbs and processed sugars such as white bread, long grain rice and ready meals. I’ve now replaced the refined carbs with whole grains.  Perimenopause can increase insulin resistance which can lead to weight gain.  Therefore reducing the sugar spikes caused by simple carbs is a great help in reducing body fat.   I’m not promoting a ketogenic, carb free, Atkins style diet – although there does appear to be some evidence to suggest that these kinds of diets can help.  Personally, I’d feel pretty depressed if I felt I could never eat carbs again.  Let’s face it, they taste good!  But significantly lowering the amount of carbs in my diet, to approximately 20% of my total calories, seems to have worked very well at controlling my menopausal symptoms.

Increasing the amount of protein in my diet also seems to have been significantly beneficial.  Protein is essential for muscle and cell repair and, as we get older and tend to lose muscle mass, a sufficient intake of protein can help slow that decline.  Coupled with regular exercise that challenged the muscles to build and strengthen, my shape changed dramatically – and for the better.

So to summarise, before you dive down the medication route (which may, of course, be the best route for you so don’t avoid a chat with your GP) you might want to address your diet.  It worked for me and I feel better than I have done for years.  The future looks incredibly bright.  I feel more vibrant and confident than I have done for many years.

Don’t feel you’re a write off at 50.  Remember, the average age for women to go through the menopause is 51, yet according to the World Health Organisation the average life expectancy for a women in the UK (as of 2015) is 83 years old.  That’s 32 more years to change the World ladies!!

Floresco Fitness and Fatloss Coaching offers personal and group coaching to help you feel fit and fabulous.   For help with diet and lifestyle give me a call on 07824 819060 or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Florescofitness/ or join our closed Facebook community group at Fifty, Fit and Fabulous.

 

 

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The Truth About Fats!

Do fats make you fat?  Is a low fat diet bad for you?  What is a good or a bad fat?

It’s so confusing, right?

For years we’ve been told that fat is the devil.  Supermarket shelves packed with ‘low fat’ and ‘light’ products cleverly marketed to remind us that ‘fat makes you fat’ and ‘low fat’ is the best way forward.

For years diet clubs have told us to eat low fat – fat free yoghurts, skimmed milk, low fat sausages, low fat crisps, low fat spreads …… the list is endless.

Then you’ve got the likes of the Atkins diet telling us we can eat as much high fat food as we like so long as we don’t eat carbs.

Coconut oil and nut butters seem to be the darling of the diet industry right now and yet if you check the label, you’ll find they’re VERY high fat.

How’s is a poor dieter meant to know what to do 😦

Well, lets clear up a few things and look at whether fats really are good or bad.

First of all let’s look at the ‘low fat is best’ myth.  This came about following some rather flawed research about 50 years ago which, on the surface, looked pretty logical.  You see fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared with protein and carbohydrate which both contain only 4 calories per gram.  It would make sense that if you reduce your fat consumption you would eat fewer calories and therefore be less likely to carry too much body fat.

And to an extent that is true, the less food in your diet that comes from fat then in essence the bigger the volume of food you can eat for the same amount of calories.

BUT – not all fats are created equal and what the low fat zealots didn’t take into account is that the body needs fats; in many ways more than it needs carbs.  You see fats are essential for a number of functions including cell growth, insulation, absorption of vital nutrients, giving us energy and very importantly, hormone production.

I can’t help feeling that the fertility issues so prevalent in the last 30 years are a direct result of the ‘low fat’ diet craze.

Getting good quality, whole food fats into the diet is essential for all of the above reasons.  The problem comes when we eat too many of them.  Let’s not forget that they still contain 9 calories per gram!

The real killers though, are the ‘bad’ fats.  The ones that pack a punch on the calorie front but fall way short on nutrients.  These tend to be the highly processed (and usually highly palatable) foods such as mass produced sausages, burgers, pizzas, ice cream, crisps, biscuits and cakes, french fries, speciality coffees, milkshakes and even cheese and bacon.

If you can reduce these to very occasional treats you’d be doing your weight loss a big favour.

So, what are the good fats and how do you know how many you should be eating?

Well, foods such as coconut oil, nut butter (watch out for added sugars), avocado, nuts, steak, olives, olive oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, eggs, poultry, dark chocolate and coconut can and should form part of your general diet.

If you’re trying to lose weight though you will still need to be careful not to over consume fats and the problem with them is they tend to be calorie dense and easy to over eat.  Think of a handful of nuts and you can easily be holding 400 calories!

The trick is to ensure that you add a good balance of fats into your diet along with the other macronutrients; carbs, protein and fibre.

Consider eating a greater proportion of your calories from fats and fewer from carbs on the days when you are less physically active or your activity is of longer duration, lower intensity.

On the days when you are more physically active and your activity is more intense reduce calories from fat and increase carbs.

One final note about low fat products.  If you check the label you will often find that they have been packed full of artificial flavourings and loads of sugar.  Why?  Because fats taste good.  And when they remove the fat they also remove lots of the flavour.  They then try to replicate the flavour by adding products that are usually unpronouncable!  Quick tip, if you find a product which contains ingredients you can’t pronounce it’s probably best to leave it alone.  Apart from Quinoa haha!  No one knows how that’s pronounced 🙂

Bev Thorogood is a qualified personal trainer and online nutrition coach with over 20 years experience of the diet and fitness industry.   A reformed fad dieter who finally learned the long term skills to help her feel fit and fabulous in her fifties, she now helps others to optimise their diet to ensure they,  too, can feel fit and fabulous. 

For more information contact me at florescofitness@outlook.com or call 07824 819060

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5 principles of weight loss

The 5 Fundamentals of Weight Management – Methods vs Principles
The health and fitness industry, I think it’s fair to say, is an absolute minefield of contradictions and gimmicks – with any number of plans and products, gadgets and gizmos, promising amazing results for zero effort.  
The best one I’ve seen recently was a Facebook advert for an over-sized sticking plaster that you stick on your abdomen which will, according to the manufacturer, ‘burn your belly fat’ off and give you a flat tummy!
Another recent advert promised me that by eating their packet of ‘superfood’ I could lose weight AND tone up.  Now, I think I know a fair bit about how the body works, and I’m fairly certain that the action of mastication will have no demonstrable impact on the muscle tone of my bum 
It angers me that these unscrupulous companies play on the insecurities and desperation of fellow human beings.  And, as much as it might be easy to blame those drawn into buying these ridiculous products for being stupid or gullible, I know that I too have bought into the odd ‘get thin quick’ product.  Anyone else tried meal replacement shakes?
When you’re painfully unhappy with the way you look and feel like you’ve tried everything going and nothing works – you get desperate. You look for anything that might make you feel better quickly.  And, let’s face it, some do work to shift weight in the short term.  However, in my experience, none deliver true, long-term, healthy weight management and good health.
So what IS the answer?
Well, we need to get down to basic principles.
I listened to a podcast on the train back from London yesterday by a guy called Alwyn Cosgrove.  He was talking about business principles but much of what he was saying applies equally well to losing weight.
He said:
“Methods are many and principles are few.

 Methods may vary but principles never do”
I don’t know if it was a quote of his own making or if he’d borrowed it from someone else, but I like it regardless. 
There are many ‘methods’ out there for losing weight: low fat, low carb, paleo, ketogenic, sugar free, meal replacement shakes, juices, detox tea, oversized belly plasters!
And, notwithstanding the sheer ridiculousness of the belly plaster, it has to be said that some do actually work in the short term.  They work by following one simple weight loss principle.  That principle is this.
If you reduce your calorie intake to below your calorie expenditure you will          lose weight.
One basic principle packaged into hundreds of confusing and contradictory methods.

What I suggest is stripping it all back to 5 basic principles.
1. Reduce the amount of calories you eat just enough to create a small energy deficit.

2. Move sufficiently each day to create a slight energy deficit.

3. Eat lots of variety of whole (real) foods.

4. Get plenty of good quality sleep.

5. Find strategies to manage and reduce the effects of stress.
It’s not a sexy approach.  It’s not a clever approach.  It’s not a magic formula.  It’s just 5 simple, basic PRINCIPLES.  And they aren’t packaged in fancy methods.
There are certainly other, psychological factors that come into play – but they still don’t fundamentally alter the fact that the 5 basic principles above, if applied, will result in success with fat loss.
What we need is the knowledge and skills to be able to sensibly apply the principles.  This, coupled with the self-belief and self-efficacy to know that with persistence, effort and consistency we can make the behavioural changes necessary for long-term success.
If simply choosing a ‘method’ was the answer, no one would ever need to lose weight more than once.  The diet would work, you’d have a perfect body and the world would be a happy place full of contented individuals madly in love with their gorgeous, confident selves.
But of course we know that sadly that doesn’t happen.
People often don’t believe they can really achieve their goals.
People often can’t face the discomfort of change.
People often can’t truly envision what a healthy, well-conditioned body and mind will feel like.
And that’s when investing in the help of a nutrition coach can be invaluable.  
A coach won’t set you off on a ‘method’ that may work for some but not others. 
A coach won’t give you a ‘one size fits all’ solution.
A coach will listen to you.  Learn about you.  Get to understand your likes, your dislikes, your goals, your challenges, your hopes and your dreams.
A coach will work with you to overcome your hurdles and support you through your challenges.
A coach will care about your success and focus on getting you results.
A coach will design a programme that works for you, not just for the time you’re being coached, but for the long term.
A coach will support your learning and provide you with the knowledge, skills and understanding to apply the basic principles of good nutrition so that you never need to resort to gimmicky ‘methods’ again.
For further information on Floresco’s coaching services and to sign up for our regular Newsletter contact us at info@florescofitness.co.uk

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