Warning – challenging content ahead!
Please only read on if you are prepared to have a serious conversation with yourself about your health choices over the next month; and if you are willing to not only set up a plan to survive Christmas, but to come out the other side feeling great about your choices!
As mentioned in a previous blog, we are currently facing a seasonal conundrum – our environment is against us! While we try to stay healthy, and perhaps even get in better shape and fitness to enjoy summer more, we are also being invited to more parties, with more food, and more drinks! And it’s hard to say no, as it is the ‘silly’ season after all, right?!
… but are we happy with the outcome this will lead to? How will we feel on the 2nd of January? Groggy, heavy, lethargic? Or energised and vibrant?
So, we have an interesting choice to make. We can go with the flow, and let circumstances and the environment dictate what happens to our health OR we can take a stand against the status quo!! In an earlier blog I shared iNform’s mission to help you push back against this environmental tide. We personally and professionally understand how tough it is to stand strong when everything and everyone around you is pushing another glass of wine or cheese platter your way! However, we would not be true to our calling, or doing our job; or doing you any favours for that matter, if we didn’t challenge you, and support you, to make this year different!
So lets make a plan to survive Christmas!
How will we do this? Well, I’ll share some practical tips to help you along, but of primary and most significant importance, is the choice you will need to make. Because at the end of the day, it will be you who will need to implement change; and that will be so much easier once you are convicted that it’s because you TRULY want to change. Your picture of yourself at the other side of Christmas in great health needs to be more important and real, than the desire for short term satisfaction that will come from over-eating… Are we ok so far?
I’d like to ask you some questions, which you should answer to yourself:
- How do you want to look and feel on the 2nd of January? (you may have some specific goals, such as an actual weight; scale of 1-10 of ‘wellbeing’; or an outfit you want to feel comfortable in.)
- How good will it actually feel if you achieve that goal, and why?
- What are behaviours that you feel put you at greatest risk of not achieving that goal? (such as eating too often/too much, etc)
- How good do those behaviours ACTUALLY feel when we do them? Have you experienced that sometimes the ‘idea’ of those behaviours is actually more powerful than the behaviour itself… for example, if drinking a lovely wine and eating cheese was actually SO good, you would be doing it all the time right? But you don’t, you can actually put those behaviours aside… see where this is heading?
- I hope this next question doesn’t sound patronising, as I certainly don’t mean it to be so…. Can you have a good time at a gathering without overdoing your particular behaviours in question?
- How much better will you feel when you get home from that party and you succeeded in not overconsuming??!
- Does that feeling of victory and control outweigh the short lived feeling had you eaten/drank more than you wanted… How nice to not have to regret anything, right?!
The process above is aimed to give some context to the behaviours you chose. It really comes down to a choice of ‘short term satisfaction vs long term pain’ OR ‘short term control for long term satisfaction’! Why would you choose the former?? Why do we tend to? Most often, because we just ‘go with the flow’… we don’t stop and take stock of the consequences, as we would with other behaviours. So if you just read through the numbered questions above without giving them some real thought, can I encourage you to go back and spend some time on them?
The process won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it in so many ways! And as the ‘Quit Smoking’ ads encourage us to do: if you fail the first time, try again! you will get closer every time you do. Very importantly, don’t be harsh on yourself – these behaviours in question have been in place (in one way or another) for a very long time, in addition, the environment IS against you, so you have these two battles on your hands. But you have us by your side, every step of the way! If you would like our support through this process, can I encourage you to take advantage of our “Line in the Sand Campaign“?
As I’ve been writing this I’ve realised that this will be a short series of about three blogs, so part 2 and 3 will be out shortly!
With summer just around the corner many of us are starting to think about easing ourselves back into our old exercise routines. Whether it be to lose a couple of kilos, or to ensure we feel just more comfortable spending time at the beach, most are slowly starting to climb back into their running shoes or slide back onto their bike seats.
But what if I were to suggest that this type of exercise (as in exercise of the cardio variety) may not be the best way to promote changes in the way we look or feel? While it may go against somewhat ‘traditional recommendations’, strength training is an excellent means of exercise that can cause HUGE changes in the way we look. This makes it the perfect type of training to complement our cardiovascular exercise.
Strength training can help build lean muscle
A sentence I hear on a very regular basis when discussing training or body composition goals goes a little something like this: “I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to ‘tone’ up”. To be honest, this thought process is extremely common for those looking to get into the weights room seriously for the first time. Which is why I then proceed to explain that weight training will not make you ‘big and bulky.’ It is actually extremely difficult to put on large amounts of muscle mass (particularly for females).
*Just quickly, if you want reassurance that this is the case, take a look at 99% of regular gym goers. Many look fit and healthy, while very few look like professional bodybuilders (even despite their best efforts).
In fact, the ‘toned’ look that many train for is actually a matter of building some muscle while losing some fat, resulting in more visible muscle definition – pretty simple really. So with all this in mind, strength training builds muscle tissue, which is integral to making large changes in body composition.
Strength training can increase our metabolism
As an added bonus, the process of building muscle – no matter how small the amount – can have a huge impact on our ability to lose weight.
You see, muscle is highly metabolic tissue, meaning that it actually requires energy to survive (it uses the energy we obtain from food). With this in mind, by increasing the amount of muscle mass we have on our body (even slightly), we can increase the amount of energy we burn each and every day – irrespective of the exercise we perform that day!
By adding some lean muscle tissue you can literally increase the amount of energy you burn when you’re on the couch or at work – which makes it much easier to promote weight loss in both the short and long term.
All it takes is performing some form of strength training 2-3 times per week.
Strength training can help us burn a heap of energy
Now, in addition to increasing our metabolism, strength training is also an effective means of promoting weight loss as is quite taxing. Strength training is a challenging form of exercise, and as such performing a single session will use a heap of energy. But where strength training differs from more traditional forms of exercise, is that it has a slightly longer recovery period associated. It is commonly accepted that muscle takes anywhere between 24 and 72 hours to completely recover after a workout (this recovery time is dependent on the intensity and volume of work performed during that training session).
During this entire period, the body is using additional energy to recover from our workout.
As a result, strength training can help us lose weight by increasing our energy expenditure both during, and after, our training session.
Bonus: Strength training helps you function every single day.
While this isn’t necessarily related to making any changes in our body composition, it is still certainly a large positive!
Becoming stronger, and through this improving our ability to function on a day to day basis, is extremely rewarding. It not only provides a clear demonstration that all our hard work in the gym is paying off, but also makes life in a physical sense much easier.
Whether it means being able to move your own furniture, pick up children without a second thought, or bring your groceries in from the car in a single trip, it doesn’t really matter – getting stronger will help you in every aspect of your life.
Take away message
When it comes to bang for your buck exercise strength training is hands down our best option. It have some great effects on our body composition, it can also improve our strength and function – both of which are essential to improving ability to get through the day.
With this in mind, performing weight training 2-3 times per week is ideal to stimulate both large increases in strength and massive changes in body composition. If you have any questions (or maybe don’t know where to start), feel free to book in with us today, so you can draw a line in the sand and get started.
Dolezal, Brett A., et al. “Muscle damage and resting metabolic rate after acute resistance exercise with an eccentric overload.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 32.7 (2000): 1202-1207.
Kraemer, William J., et al. “Effect of resistance training on women’s strength/power and occupational performances.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33.6 (2001): 1011-1025.
Staron, R. S., et al. “Skeletal muscle adaptations during early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women.” Journal of applied physiology 76.3 (1994): 1247-1255.
Zurlo, Francesco, et al. “Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 86.5 (1990): 1423.
I have learned over the last decade+ of being not just a PT, nor just an Exercise Physiologist, but a lifestyle coach, that we are about to enter into a dark time for healthy exercise behaviours. Summer has made it so much easier to establish good food and exercise routines. But it’s hard to maintain our new healthy habits through easter, so lets make sure we stay on track!
Those that stuck to their NY resolutions may be in full swing and kicking some serious goals (hopefully this is you!), or perhaps starting to struggle with their choices… and I tend to find that Easter, with all its temptations, can be a good habit breaking time. Lets face it, the time changes making dark earlier, its getting a bit cooler, we get a few sleep ins, a few meals with friends, and yes… those sin provoking hot-cross buns!!! arghhh… who can resist them??!! We just had our first soup for the year at the Martins for dinner tonight… we are starting to cross over into winter behaviours, and these are never great for our body composition and associated health, right??
So here are a few tips to ensure that you keep going right through Easter into a healthy winter:
- No behaviours are inevitable. They are choices. make some good ones!
- Winter need not be the time to create a warmth layer out of body fat. That’s what clothes are for!
- Think of winter as your pre-season. Use it to get an advantage. Start today.
- Have a hot-cross bun. I will. But exchange your normal grains serve for it. Don’t have your normal toast for breakfast, and then have the buns as extras on top of your normal calorie intake.
- Include more play time. You have an extra long weekend. Spend some of that extra time playing with your kids, friends, even neighbours! great time to get to know them…. now, now, don’t be TOO competitive!
- Follow Tim Ferris’ advice and have a cheat day. You are going to be surrounded by chocolates, buns and other delicious and tempting foods. So give yourself a 24hr window to treat yourself. then get back on the band-wagon.
Ok, see how you go with that, and we’ll touch base on the other side of Easter and explore winter health in a bit more detail.
I have this conversation with clients at least once a week, so I thought I’d share it here for you as well. Now, while I’m an Exercise Physiologist (and not a dietician), the majority of our clients ask about dietary advice, as it’s part of the lifestyle behaviours that we often coach our clients through. We make sure that our advice stays within the scope of sharing general principles about food, supported by research from biochemistry and physiology.
So the question of ‘carbs’ intake comes up very often, as the message that a diet ‘lower in carbs’ leads to greater weight loss is well spread. This is the type of eating that I also stick to, for a number of reasons that I’ll get into later. But for now I want to address a significant part of this discussion that is often overlooked: The glycemic load (GL). Now, most people are aware of the glycemic index (GI), which relates to how quickly a food containing carbohydrate raises blood-glucose levels, depending on the type of carbohydrate chain involved. Typically, the quicker a food’s carbohydrate is broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, the higher the GI.
The glycemic load estimates how much (rather than how fast) the food will raise a person’s blood glucose(sugar) levels after eating it. So it incorporates the GI, but very importantly, it also depends on the AMOUNT of carbohydrates the food contains!
So while a dark bread has a low glycemic index, due to the complexity of the carb chains, it has a high glycemic load, due to the many and long carbohydrate chains in it! So it provides a LOT of carbohydrate and calories. While the insulin spike won’t be high, it will be prolonged. its a slow cooker! In contrast, most vegetables will be both low GI and low GL, a perfect combination! in addition, they’ll be high in nutrient value (vitamins and minerals) as well as relatively lower in calories.
So don’t want to avoid carbs, but be aware of the total LOAD of the carbs you are eating, and make sure these match your personal energy requirements! LOAD up on the veges, and perhaps reduce the bread!
Ok, I’m not going to berate you. I think its pretty normal that by now, the end of January, you have probably not continued with your New Years Resolution. After all, we know that 88% of people are in the same boat!
But why does this keep happening year after year?
There are some common mistakes that we see made time after time, so here are a few tips on how to fix them: (more…)