Body beautiful: embracing weight and resistance training


Since I started back on the Clean and Lean programme, I joined the gym (even though I preferred The Great Outdoors – see previous post) and decided to really embrace resistance training and weight lifting.

Weights

Love your dumbell!

I had always thought of the gym as a sweat pool of body beautiful, muscle bound gym bunnies but decided to ignore my pre-conceptions.  My local SATS (Swedish gym chain) gives you access online to a training plan tailored for your goals when you join so I have been diligently following it and lo-and-behold, I have noticed muscle definition and an ever so slightly beginnings of some abs! I haven’t seen those since I was a skinny teenager so I’m very pleased with my efforts.  In fact, I remember watching the brilliant Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill speeding her way to victory in the 800m at the 2012 Olympics and thought I’d love to have abs like hers – big wish! but now a possibility (never say that dreams don’t come true ;)).

The key to this is to keep maintaining those muscles (for me, not in an obsessive way) but to workout around two to three times per week on free weights, resistance machines and core workouts.  I have done it even at home, in the loo at work (yes I’ve done a few squats and standing push ups in there, don’t tell anybody!) and while I’m cooking in kitchen I’ll do a few standing calf lifts for good measure.  Building muscle can really help with kick starting your metabolism and help you burn calories, even while you’re sitting! This article by Shape Magazine can give you a few hints and tips for starters.

So even in my grand old age, we can change and do something different and out of our comfort zone.  Don’t be afraid…embrace it!

Set yourself a goal to shift those last few kilos


It’s been a wee while since I last posted and as with anyone with a day-to-day life, we all get a bit swept up with doing other things and maybe our diet or fitness may fall by the wayside.  I’ve been away travelling and eating lots of delicious things which were definitely not clean and lean…whoops – but we’re all human aren’t we?

So, has this affected any weight gain? Thankfully not! For some reason I haven’t gained weight and I believe this is due to me being mindful still about what I’m eating, while not denying myself some treats and keeping up with the fitness and weight training – even while on holiday.  So that’s the key, just keep it up and a little can still help and count to keeping your fitness and muscle tone in check.

I have actually reached a weight loss plateau and felt I needed to step it up a little and do something different.  So, my hubby and I have signed up for a local 10km run! Although I am a regular runner and often go to the gym mixing up elliptical with rowing and the treadmill, I am not shifting those last few kilos.  I don’t usually sign up for these things but felt I needed a goal and a training plan to work towards.

So here goes! I will post more about how I will be training over the next few months before the race in August.

Reaching My Fighting Weight!


So in my post Review: The Clean and Lean Year I mentioned that I’d come to a bit of a weight-loss plateau.  You know, where you’ve come to a standstill and those few niggly kilos that you can’t get rid of are still lurking.  While I’m pleased that I’ve kept the weight off that I lost last year, I’ve got an end goal which I call my ‘fighting weight’.  The weight that you know you can fit into clothes without jelly bellies and bulges here and there and it’s the weight which is not putting your health at risk. It’s also the weight where you can probably have a little blow out but safe in the knowledge that you can lose it again if you’ve overindulged.

My downfall is wine – hmmm, love a good vino but that has to go…empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever  😦 The other is sugar, so no Semlas* for me at the moment (ok maybe one at some point before they disappear for the year).

I’ve kickstarted the Clean and Lean diet again, bearing in mind the key principles:

  1. No booze
  2. No sugar
  3. No refined carbs (and not after 6pm)
  4. Lots of sleep
  5. Lots of water
  6. Regular exercise with mainly strength training
  7. No stress!

My new typical food day:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, spinach, ham and grilled tomatoes with a little shaving of parmesan. Small Nespresso coffee.

Post-workout snack: Plain Greek yoghurt with almonds and a sprinkling of chia seeds, coconut flakes and a drizzle of honey (great protein provider!).

Lunch: Chinese chicken salad with homemade dressing.

Snack: Small Nespresso coffee (but not after 3pm!) and a small satsuma.

Dinner: Baked salmon with cous cous, broccoli and green beans.

I’m also keeping a weight and stats diary with weigh in/measurement taken at the same time every week (currently Sunday mornings before breakfast).

So, let’s see if this will kickstart any weight loss again and if you’re starting Clean and Lean for the first time, check out Back in the saddle again and how I prepped for a change in lifestyle**.

Good luck with your healthy eating journey and follow me for further updates on how mine is going plus some hints and tips along the way…

 

———–

*A Swedish bun which is loaded with cream, sold and eaten after the new year till Easter.

**Note that I am not a healthcare practitioner and this is my personal blog and opinion only. If in doubt when embarking on any weight loss programme, please consult your doctor.

Say No to the January Blues!


January.  A grim month with the aftermath of the Festive Season upon us, sitting around dreaming of a tropical getaway (unless you’re already somewhere hot of course). Still, it’s a month of contemplation, resolutions and a will to do something different, whether it’s to lose weight, change jobs, be better organised or just to eat healthier and do more exercise.  Whatever it is, ‘be better than you were today’ – that’s if you want to…

I spent last year procrastinating over a very dear personal project of mine.  I was full of enthusiasm at the beginning of the year (not dissimilar to right now, in fact) with fresh ideas, a willingness to make it happen and to ‘be better than you were today’.

What happened?

I started it, it came to a standstill and then I tucked it away, thinking about it from time-to-time but never actually revisiting it and finishing it off.  Why did I do this? Because I made excuses for myself, to myself. I think it’s fair to say that it was only me, stopping me.

So what to do?

For a start, say NO to the January blues.  Next, work out a plan. As I’m a marketer by trade, we use the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) but it can apply to you for personal projects too. It normally comes in the form of a grid:

swot

The SWOT grid, taken from The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus & Roman Tschäppeler

Apply SWOT to something you want to do this year.  Plan how you should do it, look at milestones and some goals.  Yes, it all sounds very organised and boring but it should help you keep track.  My problem last year was that my plan stopped in April…and that’s exactly when it stopped!! [cue: head in hands moment].

So, if your goal is to be a better runner, look at ways in which you can do this.  Say, your Strength is that you are physically healthy and can run a mile with ease, capitalise on this and the Opportunity here could be to run five miles with ease perhaps? Could you put a milestone marker here by signing up for a local run?

What are your Weaknesses? It may be that you don’t have the time to train? Are you able to free up time from something else? Could you run to and from work instead of taking the car or bus? Is it childcare issues? Could you speak to your partner, friends or family to help you with this while you train? Maybe you weaken when you reach two miles, so why not address how you could be a stronger and fitter runner? Do you need more strength training so joining a gym could be the solution or should you utilise a personal trainer?

What are the Threats? Maybe that’s YOU? Are you stopping yourself doing something you’ve always wanted to do?

So, I didn’t really want this post to become too much of a self-help guide and of course these are merely examples and I’m not a life coach. However, as it’s the New Year, it’s great to self-evaluate and to reach some goals – whether personal, professional or otherwise.

Happy planning and here’s to a fruitful and exciting 2017!

 

 

 

Review: The Clean and Lean Year


So it’s that time of year again: parties, food, boozing, food, parties, boozing, maybe the gym?  It’s hard to resist isn’t it?

Fortunately, I’ve been able to restrain myself a bit and spread out the parties and boozing and luckily maintained my weight after restarting the Clean and Lean diet earlier this year.

I’ve also introduced weight training; pretty much my gym workouts are usually split as: 10% cardio (warm-up or cool-down) / 60% resistance or weights / 30% core.  I’ve noticed that doing this has really re-shaped my body and this is coming from someone who’s not been a fan of weight training previously, usually opting for mostly cardio and some half-hearted sit ups.

Going to Pilates has really opened my eyes up to working the core and keeping it strong and the weights have helped sculpt my body giving myself a bit of definition (loving it!).  Having said that, I’m still working on the six-pack and wobbly bits here and there but it’s helped so much in keeping the weight gain at bay.  This in turn has also helped me become a better runner with more strength and with (obviously) less weight to carry.

So, what now? The dreaded plateau has returned. I’ve kept the kilos lost off and am still working on my strength…but the weight (and measurements) have come to a standstill.  My goal is to shift the last few won’t-budge kilos that then means you can stick to maintenance knowing you’re at a healthy size and weight.

My weakness is a cheeky wine and a piece of cake or biscuit here and there (I blame Swedish Fika) and so, as a New Year’s Resolution, it’s time to cut these out.  Both laden with sugar, I will be going on the Kickstart regime in the New Year, so watch this space!

In the meantime, I’ll be sticking with the main principles of eating clean and the 80/20 rule (mainly good, occasionally bad) over the next few weeks.  W I L L P O W E R ! !

Have a fabulous Festive Season and New Year wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Loving the Lactose-free life


Some years ago, I was probably not feeling my healthiest, fittest or even lightest.  I was feeling sluggish, bloated at times and a bit stressed with work and not getting enough decent sleep.

I decided to take an test to see if I was allergic or intolerant to anything and low and behold, I discovered I was allergic to yeast and intolerant to lactose.  So out went the beers, Marmite and milk!  After, I was trying all sorts of alternatives: soya, almond, rice, goat (in my opinion, disgusting by the way) milk but the real taste of cow’s milk was hard to find.  Proper English tea with soya milk – no thanks!

 

womans-hands-forming-heart-symbol-on-belly

Pic credit: Getty

So what is lactose intolerance?

This is where your body can’t digest lactose, which is a natural sugar found in dairy and milk products.  When consuming dairy or milk products, the lactose travels to the large intestine (or colon) and at this stage has trouble digesting it, causing the bloating and gas. It needs an enzyme called lactase to convert this milk sugar into simple sugars that the body can use (glucose and galactose).  Lactase is produced in the small intestine and if you do not produce enough of it to break down the lactose then this will cause issues with digestion.

A question of genetics and ethnicity?

In a 2002 article written in ‘American Family Physician’, noted that up to 100% Asians and Native Americans, 60%-80% blacks and 50%-80% Latinos were lactose intolerant versus up to 15% with European ancestry.  In simple terms, the theory is that ancestors living in cattle breeding environments grew tolerant to milk whereas those who didn’t were more susceptible (Livestrong). So being of Chinese descent, I am predisposed to be lactose intolerant.

IMG_0067

Looking for lactose alternatives and substitutes

Since moving to Sweden last year, I have happily discovered that Swedes are also a nation of lactose-intolerants and I am now in lactose free heaven!  Most cafes and pop up coffee shops offer a lactose free milk or alternative, there are even lactose free Semlas (a yummy cardamon and almond flavoured spongy bun filled with cream, mainly served between Lent and Easter) and an array of treats for my delectation.  I am absolutely rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of being able to eat proper dairy tasting items again.  To make things even better there is a large freezer full of lactose free ice cream in the supermarket – brilliant!

image

So why are Swedes lactose intolerant?

In an article by John Hopkins Medicine the Neolithic DNA of Sweden showed 95% of those studied were lactose intolerant as opposed to 25% in modern day Sweden, hence the need for a lactose free products! An article published in ‘Discover’ magazine explains this a bit further and in more detail if you’re really interested 🙂

 

The Power of Pilates


The Clean and Lean book mentions doing some kickstart exercises such as high intensity workouts mixed with Pilates or strength training.  For me I’m a big fan of the great outdoors and funnily I never used to be and hated running outside.  I try to go out at least twice per week (sometimes three) for at least 30 minutes each time.  Sometimes I mix up a flat surface running route with some up-hill running and some short bursts in my runs.  I try not to go the same route twice in a row in order to mix it up a bit and see a different bit of scenery each time.

Recently I’ve been going to Pilates twice per week and even though it’s an hour of a tough workout, it’s been very enjoyable.  At the beginning I realised my core strength was terrible and I couldn’t even do the roll up without putting my arms down to push myself up or even do a simple plank without my hips dropping.  After a few sessions I was getting stronger through my core and my legs and arms were getting more toned.  My record for plank is now 3 minutes 20 seconds and I can roll up with ease!  I’ve found that my belly is firming up and can see the beginnings of some abs that haven’t seen the light of day for years!

Pilates class

Group class at Pilates by Janessa

Janessa Clark who runs Pilates classes in Stockholm says: “Pilates targets the deep muscles of the torso and spine (your ‘powerhouse’ or ‘core’) to strengthen the body from the inside out in proper alignment. The goals are to achieve a balance of strength and flexibility by creating a symbiotic relationship of opposing muscle groups, a harmonious collaboration between stability and mobility and better overall functioning of the body in everyday life. The six guiding principles of the Pilates method are: Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision. Pilates is a dynamic system of exercise that integrates, refines and enhances our body, mind and spirit.”  She added: “It’s important for runners to train Pilates also since Pilates addresses the body in all planes of motion where running stays very narrowly in the sagittal (front to back) plane.”

Joseph Pilates noted that Pilates is like an ‘internal shower’, helping to cleanse the organs, oxygenate the cells and assists in boosting our body’s production of endorphins (the ‘feel good’ factor). In addition, it’s great for digestion and helps us sleep better too.  With this much going for it, what’s not to love?!

I was always a yoga goer but never really Pilates so I’m really loving mixing up classes to work on different areas of my body.  Combining this with cardio and other strength work has changed my body shape and I’m loving the results!

Featured photo credit: Optimus Lab. Class photo credit: Pilates by Janessa

 

Jamie’s Everyday Super Food Book


I love Jamie Oliver, I really do.

I’ve followed him from the start when he was a cheeky chappie chef on telly to the super hero food warrior that we all know and love today.  As I’ve ‘grown up’ with Jamie, he’s grown with us too from his quick ‘n’ easy 30 minute meals, Italian cooking, home comforts and now to the mindful and health conscious that we’re all becoming today.

Jamie’s Everyday Super Food book eases us into the now-we-must-watch-what-we-eat territory and it’s pretty fab.  I started the clean and lean diet because of the onset of adding on the extra weight which won’t shift so this book is right up my street to try out some new recipes.

There’s a little bit of work to be done when prepping from this book but all for a good cause – we don’t want to eat packet, sugar and additive laden food so the recipes strip the unnecessary and brings in the necessary.  The granola dust is a great addition to porridge loaded with goodies such as berries, nuts and seeds.  Classic breakfast dishes such as eggs and beans have been reinvented to accommodate the all so important protein for our muscles – just perfect for a post-workout meal.  Fruit soups, superfood protein loaves, stir fries, curries and other delights have been carefully updated to ensure we meet our nutritional values for the day.

I’ll be trying these out so will post some pics on Twitter and on some future posts to give you an idea of how easy these are to prepare and for taste.

Happy Superfooding!

 

Being a gym bunny and pushing the plateau


How the gym didn’t work for me…and then it did

I previously said I didn’t like the gym.  I think it was because I got stung by a certain gym chain in the UK* that had such a tight grip on my membership that even when I was relocating out of the country, they insisted that I stayed by power of the evil ‘contract notice’.  Anyway, enough of the bad memories.

So since I kickstarted my new clean and lean regime, I was merrily going to twice-weekly Pilates and running outside, doing my tricep dips and standing push-ups even in -15c temperatures. Would you believe it? I love running in the great outdoors: invigorating, fresh air, undulating paths and being at one with nature. Love it, love it, love it.

I then got to a point of reaching that dreaded plateau, when you think you’re doing so well then get stuck at stalemate and have to work out how to mix it up a bit.  That’s when I decided to go back to the gym.  It wasn’t a decision made lightly mind you, because I wasn’t looking forward to being in a room with grunting, sweaty muscle men and having to wait for equipment all the time.  I also realised that if it wasn’t easy to get to I probably wouldn’t go and would rather either go to the pub or laze around at home watching tv instead.  You know what I mean, we’ve all been there.

However, I forget that I’m now living in a country (Sweden) where – especially in the summer – the great outdoors and sport is very important, so I decided to join my local SATS gym chain which is very conveniently located 2 minutes from my apartment.  It was too convenient for me not to join perhaps and to get over my bad memories of gyms of distant past.

Note: I just want to add that I don’t work for this gym or know anyone who works there or getting paid to write this but I just love it! A variety of machines, loads of rowers, treadmills, cross trainers, group training room, cycling room, yoga room, weights room, sauna, showers, lots of lockers, a clothing shop, drinks machines, a free crèche plus best of all, a free online training log for every member…oh plus the membership is cheap for a city gym (please take note, London gyms and your extortionate prices) and not crazy busy either.  Just brilliant.

Embracing my inner geek

I’m very much into my online account; this is where my inner geek kicks in. It has a training plan, a log of all your workouts (every time you touch in with your membership card at the reception it updates your online log) so admin light too. There’s an app for on-the-go training updates, there’s a meal plan with recipes, there are online videos to show you how to do stuff properly, there’s online booking and cancellation of classes…my goodness, I have been away from the gym world for too long, it’s gone all techie and convenient!

I’m currently on an eight week programme where I’ve set myself a goal weight and what I want to achieve e.g. it asks you if you are striving for fitness, weight loss, muscle-building etc, so logging on and following the plan online is very useful and keeps me motivated. I’m doing more strength work, lots of free weights mixed with machines and working a lot harder with my core by using weighted balls and reaching my personal record plank time of 3 minutes 20 seconds!  I’ve found that strengthening up has made me a better runner and pacing up those hills a lot easier with more strength in my legs and a stable core. I’m hoping to join some classes soon but the cross training one looked unbelievably scary and people were a bit broken coming out…so it must be good 🙂

 

*Naming no names but it starts with F and ends with T 😉

Clean and Lean: 3 month review


It’s been three months since we returned from our fabulous (curry-and-beer-laden) holiday in Sri Lanka and my husband and I made a pact to go clean and lean.  I had already done a kickstart clean and lean diet for our wedding over four years ago and I lost an amazing 10 kilos but ended up putting back on four kilos since.  My hubby hadn’t undertaken any type of diet ever so I was keen to make him my ‘project’ and see how it worked for men.

So what have the last three months been like?

I’m pleased to say that we’re both sticking to the fundamental rules of cutting the CRAP (James Duigan’s words not mine) of eliminating caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods.  Well sort of…my husband has definitely cut down on the coffee to two per day and doesn’t drink any after 2pm, we have both mainly eliminated sugar except for a small treat here and there, we have cut down on alcohol considerably and he has mainly cut out beer.  We have never really eaten processed foods much anyway and we now don’t have packet cereals or muesli and usually opt for eggs or porridge in the mornings.

Weekly weigh in and measuring routine

We have weekly weigh ins to check on our progress and also measure ourselves too.  I find this helps with keeping track and also motivates us to continue with our new way of eating.  It may seem a little extreme but for anyone considering this diet or losing weight in general it gives some indication on what’s happening with your body.  For example, you may not lose weight but are still losing inches indicating you may be building muscle and getting leaner. I think scales alone can be a bit misleading and one of the best ways to stay focussed is to find a dress or an outfit that did not fit previously.  Just last weekend I dug out some clothes from storage and delightfully found two pairs of shorts and a pair of trousers that were a bit snug which now fit (actually they are too big!).  Now I don’t need to buy new clothes for our forthcoming holidays. Result!! So it’s a bit of a no-brainer that you lose the kilos and become healthier and also gain a new wardrobe, win-win all round.

What about food?

So what have we been eating? I try to remember the rules such as ensuring we have snacks to keep hunger pangs at bay and to drink enough water.  The main change is that we are not eating large meals or carbs in the evening and restricting carbs such as white rice, pasta and potatoes from our diet.  I have been eating a lot of eggs, vegetables and nuts so as per my previous post, I have been buying a lot of bulk frozen vegetables and steaming them.  They taste just as nice and easy to store and cook as well.

Exercise

It goes without saying that we have also upped our exercise.  I was starting to reach a plateau just a few weeks ago and decided to bite the bullet and join a gym (I did say previously that I didn’t want to join and preferred exercising outdoors – which I still do).  I have found that doing more strength work has really helped kickstart my weight loss again and even though I am definitely building more muscle and becoming more toned, I am slowly but surely still heading towards my weight loss goal and whittling the inches off my body.  I would thoroughly recommend combining cardio (I still run outdoors) with a good strength training programme (whether at the gym or at home with weights or using your body weight).

The results?

It’s been a steady move towards the right direction.  In the initial few weeks, we both lost a good amount with the kickstart diet, which is a bit boring and you are constantly hungry (this is the obvious downside), however, we lost the kilos nonetheless which makes it seem worth it.  Now three months later:

Me:

Weight: Loss 5.1 kgs (11.22 lbs)

Bust: Loss 2.75 inches (6.98 cms)

Waist: Loss 4.25 inches (10.7 cms)

Hips: Loss 2.75 inches (6.98 cms)

Hubby:

Weight: Loss 10.6 kgs (23.32 lbs)

Chest: Loss 4.5 inches (11.43 cms)

Waist: Loss 7 inches (17.78 cms)

Hips: Loss 4.25 inches (10.79 cms)

We both still have a few more kilos and inches to lose but we’re already halfway there now which is very satisfying.  As this is a way of life and not a fad diet, we are regarding this as a slow burn, hopefully losing the extra kilos slowly but surely.  I’m really happy with the results and my husband is definitely a true believer in the clean and lean diet!!

If you are planning to start this diet (or new lifestyle of eating), please remember to consult your doctor first if in doubt as I’m obviously speaking from experience and it may not suit everyone.  Good luck and I’d love to hear from anyone who’s undertaken this diet or any other weight loss journey, just comment below.

More updates on our progress to come very soon…