Monday, January 16, 2012

How to avoid getting colds and flu

Colds and flu disrupt training and make it a chore to get back into it. Before flu puts a kink in your training regime have a look at my top tips for avoiding getting sick this January. 
Hygiene - Wash your hands with liquid soap, not a bar of soap. Use disposable tissues. Don’t share drinking glasses. Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth after being exposed to bacteria and viruses. Clean communal surfaces such as stair rails, phones, counter tops and door knobs to avoid hand to hand contamination. Avoid smoking. Smoking acts as a respiratory irritant which increases susceptibility to viruses.
Exercise - Following a regular moderate workout program can boost your T cells (type of white blood cells). However, ongoing intense vigorous exercise has been linked with lowering immune system functioning. Athletes often use the antioxidant quercetin to reduce the risk of developing flu. 
Sleep - Get your full 8 hours. I know Arnold Schwarzenegger swears by 6 hours but I would recommend getting the full 8! Otherwise lack of sleep will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds and flu.
Flu shot - Not 100% effective, but every little helps. If you hate needles you can try the nasal flu vaccine but it isn’t recommended for children under the age of 5 with asthma/wheezing issues.
Stress - Enduring prolonged periods of stress has been proved to have a negative impact on your body’s immunity. Try meditation, tai chi or yoga to relax. 
Vitamin C - Get it through food, not supplements - because you get all the other good stuff too.  For instance, when you eat an orange you get antioxidant rich flavonoids, magnesium, folate, potassium and vitamin B6. Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins A and E, which in combination with flavonoids and vitamin C help keep your immune system functioning well. There’s no proof that high doses of Vitamin C will prevent you from getting sick. 
Herbs and supplements - Astragalus, echinacea and elderberry help reduce the length of your illness. Take them as soon as you start to feel cold or flu like symptoms. 
Diet - Generally people don’t eat enough vegetables, particularly in Winter. Try adding juices to your diet and fruit with your breakfast. Try to ensure you have fruit or vegetables with every meal. A healthy balanced diet should include lean meats, fish, poultry, low fat dairy, legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds. Lean meat, dairy, eggs and legumes provide the body with amino acids. Lean meats also contain iron and zinc which help support the immune system. Avoid trans fats! Choose healthy fats such as Omega 3 rich fatty acids in oily fish, flaxseed and krill oil. Keep hydrated and avoid sugary drinks. 
Here is what I do for the first 24 hours when I start to feel sick. 
  1. Take ibuprofen regularly for the first 24-48 hours.
  2. Make (from scratch not a can) chicken soup for lunch.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Keep warm.
  5. Take a rest from exercise.
  6. Have a hot Indian curry for dinner (with lots of turmeric in it).
  7. Have an early night. 

Stay happy and heathy! :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Useful stuff you ought to know but no one ever told you...

  • Tanning is an addictive behavior.  Frequent exposure to UV light stimulates areas of the brain associated with reward.  This explains why people keep tanning even though they are aware it increases the risk of skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles. 
  • Exercise is great!  It increases your energy levels and encourages production of seretonin in the brain which results in clearer thinking.  It acts as a stress buster helping you to relax thus improving relationships with your family and co-workers.  The more you engage in exercise the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat rather than storing it.  Regular exercise has been linked to better sex (as you have improved body image, energy levels and self esteem).  Exercise can lift your mood.  It reduces the symptoms of PMS. It also helps protect against the catalysts of disease e.g. high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and reduction of muscle mass. 
  • 4 vitamins have been linked with higher cognitive functioning - these are vitamin B, vitamin C, Vitamin D and (I’ve mentioned them before and you can be pretty sure I’ll mention them again) Omega 3 fatty acids! They have been linked to higher amounts of healthy blood vessels in the brain and better cognitive functioning. Ingesting high levels of trans fat impairs mental ability and results in a smaller brain volume. 
  • When you’ve had a pee take a look.  Urine can tell you a lot about your current state of health.  It can provide clues to a host of different problems including infections, kidney disease, bladder cancer, diabetes, toxins and excessive or insufficient fluid intake.  Pay attention to odor (ignore if you’ve recently consumed asparagus or coffee).  Sweet smells can indicate diabetes.  An unpleasant odor can indicate an infection.  Urine should be clear and pale yellow.  If there’s blood there and it doesn’t go away check with your doctor for kidney disease or cancer.  If it’s dark you’re probably dehydrated. Drink water immediately.  Consistent dark urine is a symptom of hepatitis and liver disease. Seek medical help immediately.  However bear in mind beets stain your urine red, fava beans make it tea colored, asparagus and B vitamins can make it green and high doses of vitamin C and carrot juice can turn it orange. 
  • They’ve proved it!  Neck pain is more effectively alleviated with chiropractic manipulation and light exercise than pain medication long term.  Patients feel empowered because they are in control of their own care.  The exercises are easy and effective and don’t have the gastrointestinal complications caused by long term use of medication.  A demonstration of the exercises can be found at

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where's Your Head At?

This is the time of year when we feel most motivated to lose weight. We put pressure on ourselves to succeed and then indulge in self-criticism when we don’t achieve our goals which leads to emotional and dietary consequences. Here are my thoughts to help you avoid self-sabotaging behavior. 
  • Exercise is both ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. The ‘mental’ aspect is more important than you realize. Awareness is the key. Make yourself accountable. Know what you’ve eaten and how many calories it contains. Keep a food diary if you have to. Ask yourself how effective certain exercises were and how often and at what intensity was most effective for your body. 
  • Know what your goals are and make them realistic. You and your trainer are a team and you need to work together. Keep communication open. Tell them what’s working and what isn’t. 
  • Don’t do the bare minimum and expect results. The more energy you put into your training the closer you’ll get to your goals. When you exercise properly there should be an element of discomfort or your body won’t make the changes it needs to in order to get fitter, stronger or slimmer. You will have to push your comfort zone a little. If you have the determination and motivation you will achieve your goals.
  • Avoid perfectionist thinking it will make you feel desperate. You are going to have set backs. Don’t be discouraged. It’s part of the process. Celebrate your achievements instead. Identify the things you tell yourself that make you feel unmotivated and be aware of them. If you overeat accept it and establish better methods to avoid temptation and reach your goal. If you are putting too much pressure on yourself you are setting yourself up for failure which leaves you feeling unworthy and unattractive. Don’t tie your sense of worth to how you look. You must not confuse beauty with being skinny. Be realistic and understand that long term weight management involves a change in lifestyle. There are no ‘quick’ fixes. Fad diets simply do not work long term. 
  • Don’t fixate on the end result. Avoid weighing yourself constantly (muscle weighs more than fat). Don’t allow the number on the scale affect your mood or food choices. Remember exercise can be fun. Being active and fit should give you a sense of freedom, achievement and excitement at the potential and power of your body. 
  • Break the emotional connection with food. People seek comfort in it to avoid feelings of loneliness and depression. Sometimes resolving emotional issues is the key to unhealthy eating habits. It’s important to see it for what it really is. It won’t love you it’s just food. 
Have faith in yourself and your exercise regime. Make 2012 the year you get your body the way YOU want it! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10 AMAZING FOODS that devour body fat!

Christmas is almost upon us and we all know what will happen.  There will be insane amounts of food and drink.  So I say - “Enjoy it completely and utterly”.  Have a great time!  Don’t feel guilty at all because I am arming you with the information you need to deal with any weight gain caused by a Christmas binge.  Here are ‘10 AMAZING FOODS that devour body fat’. 
  1. Olive oil.  We need fat in order to stay slim.  Crazy, huh?  Fat controls your hunger levels.  Pick the monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil NOT hydrogenated vegetable oils (which are packed with trans fats).
  2. Green tea.  Rich in anti-oxidants it speeds up your metabolism.  This is due to the presence of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which stimulates your brain and nervous system resulting in a higher calorie burn.  According to Swiss researchers tea drinkers burnt 266 more calories than non tea drinkers.
  3. Dairy food.  Dairy has large amounts of calcium which helps to break down fat and increases your metabolism.  Pick low fat milk (skimmed if you can bear it).  Also Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is high in calcium and low in calories.  It stimulates the body’s fat-burning hormones and the protein keeps you full for longer.  It also tastes really good! No more than 1 ounce.
  4. Nuts.  They keep you feeling full for longer.  Just 24 almonds a day will sate hunger pangs.  Avoid salted nuts like the plague.  The excess salt will raise your blood pressure.  Peanut butter is your hunger ally.  It is packed with niacin which prevents belly bloating.  Just don’t eat too much.  One teaspoon keeps me full for an hour!  Try to eat a brand without added sugar if possible.
  5. Oatmeal.  This stuff is amazing!  Oatmeal is rich with soluble fiber, which helps reduce your cholesterol and lowers your risk of heart disease.  It is also high in selenium which gives you energy and boosts your immune system by producing antibodies. If that wasn’t enough it also stays in your stomach longer meaning you are less likely to snack since hunger is caused by a dip in your blood sugar.  Eat oatmeal plain (although adding berries is ok).  Say NO to sugary versions of oatmeal!
  6. Eggs.  They have Vitamin B12 in them.  Your body needs this to metabolize fat.  If you have high cholesterol, seek your doctor’s advice before adding eggs to your diet.
  7. Beans.  These are packed with protein and fiber.  They are also low calorie.  Avoid re-fried beans (filled with too much saturated fat) and instead try pinto or black beans.
  8. Avocados.  Filled with heart friendly monounsaturated fats and packed to the skins with fiber (11-17 grams per avocado), they will keep you feeling full for longer so you are less likely to snack.  Half a cup daily is enough.
  9. Green vegetables.  Loaded with vitamins and minerals they are also high in fiber and low in calories.  Avoid iceberg lettuce which has no fiber and opt for arugula, spinach or romaine.  Broccoli is wonderfully healthy and contains folic acid, calcium, Vitamin C, fiber and Vitamin A.  It’s the Vitamin C, calcium and the fiber which increase your metabolism and burn fat.
  10. Lean meat/fish.  It’s harder for your body to digest protein than carbs or fat.  So you’ll burn calories just digesting it!  Salmon is particularly great for you.  It is filled with protein and Omega 3s which also boost metabolism and burn fat.  Turkey is packed with protein and has a higher caloric burn than chicken.  Lean beef has reduced amounts of saturated fat and like turkey has a high protein content. 
Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What's My Type?

When clients have problems losing weight it is often due to diet and body type.  People say “Everything I eat goes to my thighs!” or “It all just ends up on my stomach!” a lot.  This is because we all have different body types. So, we should all be eating according to our type.  Doing that can give you a real advantage with weight loss or muscle gain.  The three main body types are - Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. 
Ectomorph - People with this body type look like chili peppers and make up a very small percentage of the population.  These lucky individuals are tall and thin.  They tend to have long lean legs and arms.  However they also have problems maintaining their weight because they burn calories quickly.  They make great models, ballet dancers, long distance runners and basket ball players. 
Mesomorph - This body type is commonly described as being the ‘apple’ shape, which is rather misleading because mesomorphs if trained properly can look great!  Mesomorphs are often athletic looking. If you are a mesomorph you are generally muscular, shorter and have stocky arms and legs.  You’ll have a tendency to gain muscle easily.  However out-of-shape mesomorphs often find it hard to lose weight and this body type is more prone to gain abdominal weight.  Mesomorphs are great at sports that require a lot of power, e.g. sprinting, soccer, softball and gymnastics.
Endomorph - Endomorphs are popularly thought of as being like ‘pears’.  Endomorphs carry more weight in general.  You’ll have bigger bones and a larger bottom.  Unfortunately most of the weight collects in the lower extremities and refuses to shift no matter how strict they are with their diet.  Research suggests that the extra weight is a survival mechanism that evolved so our ancestors could endure long periods of famine. 
So, now hopefully you know which type you are, how can you eat appropriately?
Ectomorphs - To ensure you maintain a heathy body weight and musculature, you need to be eating foods that are high in healthy fats like avocado, not junk food.  You don’t want cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.  Eat small meals, multiple times per day.  You may find extra protein helpful with weight gain.  Fish, olive oil, nuts, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates are the key to a healthy weight. 
Mesomorphs - Again, you should be eating healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.  I would strongly suggest a low carb diet such as the ‘South Beach Diet’.  You need to be eating whole foods, lean protein, limited amounts of whole grains and plenty of vegetables and fruit. If your body is well conditioned with lean muscle mass you can get away with eating slightly greater amounts as your body will burn calories more efficiently.
Endomorphs - You guys have it hardest of all.  Aim to eat a balanced diet which is low in fat and carbs.  You need lean protein and a rich variety of vegetables and fruit.  Cut out fats, sugar and processed foods as much as possible.  If you follow this you can transform your shape into a mesomorph or ectomorph. 
Everyone is obsessed with losing weight.  It is important because obesity has been linked to so many diseases e.g. cancer, heart disease and diabetes amongst others.  The most important concept to remember regarding dieting is that it is not about making bits of you shrink.  Dieting is about making your body healthier and more capable of resisting disease.  So, don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t look like Madonna or possess J-Lo’s bottom.  Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and learn to accept and love what you’ve been given.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Damage Control (5 hot tips to stay in shape this holiday season).

Party season is here!  With it comes temptation in the form of delicious food, tasty drinks and a barrel load of stress.  This should be a fun time, an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends.  However, Christmas fills many of my clients with fear and dread. 
The question I get asked over and over is - “How can I possibly stay on a diet over Christmas, won’t it ruin all my hard work?”  The answer is, it’s totally possible!  You just have to get organized and stay motivated.  Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of ridiculous over-indulgence.  Neither does it have to be miserable.  I recommend being good (with occasional over-indulgence) in the run up to Christmas.  Enjoy yourself on the actual day and exercise hard the day after. 
Here are my tips to help you through this trying time!
1. Set realistic fitness goals and hold yourself accountable. If you know you are going to be naughty (and you can’t avoid it) increase the number of sessions at the gym. Make a commitment to yourself.  So, if that means going to the gym 4 times per week, do it and stick to it.  If you know you have limited time on certain days, still go to the gym but do a shorter session.  If your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight and you have limited time, favour weights rather than cardio for fat burning.  Try your best not to miss sessions.  Keep track of your progress by weighing yourself once per week or measuring yourself with a tape measure.  Make yourself wear form fitting clothes.  You’ll want to feel comfortable in them so you’ll be motivated to stick with the diet. 
2. Add movement to your day whenever you can.  For example take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator whenever possible.  Maybe instead of walking your dog you could try jogging with him.  Avoid just sitting in front of the TV for hours watching any old program just for the sake of it.  If your favorite program is on, try doing squats and lunges during commercial breaks (I do that).  Be creative.  Have fun with your body! 
3. Everything in moderation.  Eat a balanced diet.  Have smaller potions.  Eat slowly and properly chew every mouthful.  Make sure you get your ‘5 a day’ (at least). Try to fill up on vegetables as opposed to dessert!  However, when you cheat (and it’s highly likely you will) do it in moderation.  Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking - “Oh well, I’ve blown the diet, I may as well give up now!”  Have a little bit of what you fancy every day.  You just have to limit yourself.  If you don’t have the will power then avoid having ‘naughty’ foods in the house.  You could also try brushing your teeth (no one wants to eat after brushing).  Don’t stress and punish yourself for falling off the wagon.  Just get back on.
4. Control alcohol consumption.  I love wine, whisky, beer and cocktails (not at the same time though) but I know how fattening they are.  Alcoholic drinks are packed with sugar which turns into body fat if you aren’t burning sufficient calories. 
5. Drink water.  A lot of the time people overeat because they are dehydrated.  Water makes you feel full so if you keep yourself hydrated you won’t be so inclined to overeat. 
Good luck with your Christmas fitness goals!  Have a very ‘Merry Christmas’ and if possible avoid the eggnog (it’s packed with calories!).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time for a Change?

With the launch of my personal training business I had set up my twitter page and started blogging. The idea of me blogging was a fairly terrifying one as technology is a scary monster that I generally avoid wrestling with. However I had to adapt and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. So I firmly gave myself a kick up the bottom and started to tweet/blog. 
I thought why not start off my tweeting with 20 anti-aging foods. How controversial can that be? Knowledge is power after all. So I figured I’d just get the knowledge out there. It’s very interesting watching people’s reactions to the posts. A lot of comments have been extremely positive. However, I’ve also noticed an unwillingness to hear some of the advice. To quote a documentary I recently watched on type 2 diabetes “People won’t change until it’s too painful not to change”. 
Lately it’s been too painful NOT to change for me. Someone very close to me was diagnosed with cancer and I’ve been looking into the causes and cures. It has forced me to re-evaluate what I eat and take responsibility for my choices. I had always eaten a healthy diet. However, having researched extensively about the food industry I have had to change my diet radically. I only eat seasonal organic food now and I try to eat at least one raw meal per day. Having discovered all this knowledge I simply had to make a change I couldn’t continue eating the way I had been. I resisted for a while. I really didn’t want to change. I simply had to. It’s expensive and very hard to find organic products locally but knowing what I know I feel like I don’t have a choice now. I’m not suggesting everyone should radically change their diets immediately. It’s just for me, with my new awareness, the alternative was not worth the gamble. 
This brings me to the question “why is change such a terrifying concept?” Whether it’s starting a new job, ending a long term relationship or moving somewhere new, change means abandoning what you know and are comfortable with, and trusting that the new path you are taking is the right one. Change can offer you a new perspective on your situation. It can propel you forward with energy.  If something in your life isn’t working currently change can be incredibly satifying and it generally forces you out of your comfort zone.
I’ve found in my experience that it’s my own fear that’s limits me, not change. So I personally use my fear of not changing to bring about positive changes in my life.