2013 Health and Fitness: 16 small decisions

I don’t want to write this blog because.. well I am not the kinda girl that ever talks about diets. I don’t do them. I am not fixated on calories. I eat almost anything I want. I have image issues like most women but not like most women so mine feel silly to even mention. I feel quite free when it comes to this subject actually so… I feel a bit odd writing about it!

I left the country for six months this year and returned to people being in awe over the weight I had lost and how fit I looked and “what was my secret!?”

Now, I felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable with this only because I hadn’t actually done very much in my opinion. Three of those months were spent in the US where we drive everywhere and restaurants are filled with notoriously bad for you food. I did nothing in working out compared to what I do in Newcastle. Also, I have been slowlyyyy but steadily losing weight and trimming up over the last 3 years so all of a sudden this fixation and others awareness of my fitness felt a bit funny. My six months away wasn’t more than maybe 5-10 pounds total. Not much at all if you ask me. But my shape had been changing very slowly and when you are away and return, people see it more. I know I am fitter than I have ever been but I don’t feel like I have any sorta secret. Enough people have been asking me that I thought about it and what I have come up with is are 16 small decisions that have changed my lifestyle the last few years and that have led to my fitness, and consequent changes like weight loss, or being able to run further or wear skinny jeans. I decided I would write you a blog in case it is helpful for you or someone else.

1. Exercise. Just do it. Find a way to exercise and get your sweat up 5 days a week at least. I like variety. In Newcastle I salsa dance a few nights a week, I go to the gym 4-5 days a week. I go on walks with friends from church. I do crunches and planks and pilates if I am ever stationary. I do things I like. When I am in the US like I was on my sabbatical I didn’t have a gym (nor was I going to pay for one, many are more expensive in dollars than I pay for mine with the exchange rate!) I didn’t have salsa dancing. Instead I worked with what I had. I have two nephews I intentionally played with daily! They are heavy and love you to pick up them and throw them around and bench press them and do all sorts of silly things that involve lifting them. Quality time with them and quality time for my waste line and muscle tone. Laying on a my back and focusing on contracting my abs while I bench pressed my squealing with delight 3 year old nephew (3 sets of 15) gives him fun and practice counting (in English and Spanish) and me calorie burn and muscle tone. I go on walks with my dad as much as possible. I would walk between my parents and brothers house (about a mile) which most Americans would drive that distance (as I used to). Never discount the little exercises you can do. 

2. Actually do exercise you like. I love to dance. I don’t feel guilty if I go to the gym and end up dancing in a practice room for 30 minutes instead of getting on a treadmill. I just do it because I like it. Question: Am I sweating? Not all exercise is equal. There is a sector of gym bunny that floats around from thing to thing trying to not smudge their make up. If you aren’t sweating or getting your heart rate up you are not pushing yourself enough with the cardio. 

3. Stop worrying about what other people think about you. Sometimes I dance in front of people or do kickboxing (by myself, not in a class) in front of the mirrors or at the punching bags. Yes. This is in an area that lots of people can see me. Shameless I know. It’s a great workout and I cannot wait around at the gym for a practice room that is being used because I am too shameful to get in the workout that is motivating and actually aerobic. This might be a step too far on the ballshy end for you. Try something small. Go to the weight room and pick up some free weights. I know a lot of girls won’t go in a weight room because of intimidation of the guys in there. Ignore them. A lot of them are lifting weights improperly anyways. 

4. On that note: Girls should lift weights. You will not get bulky and a 20 inch neck. You don’t have the testosterone for that to happen. What you will get is trimmer legs, toned arms, a better figure. Your body will be more productive at burning calories in your other workouts and even when you are resting. I do triple sets (3-4 exercises with weights and I rotate them til each gets a “set of fifteen 3 times without stopping between them) and dead lifts and circuits. I am pretty driven and independent so I make up my own but if you are new to it or better motivated with others, get a personal trainer, join a class or find a friend who knows what they are doing you can train alongside.

5. Try a personal trainer. Even for a session. I met with one for a few sessions 3 years ago and she changed the way I worked out. She pushed me, gave me ideas, and corrected my form. I was able to take a lot of what she did and keep building on it. Guys should do this because they often lift weights in such a way they are going to do themselves damage – back surgery or hernia’s anyone? I know. I see you in the weight rooms. If this option is too expensive, seek out a friend who knows what they are talking about. (If you’re my friend.. I’d love to design a workout for you.. I love this! Come ask me!)

6. Gaining and losing weight is pretty mathematical. Don’t go with fads like food combinations that will do your brain in and you’ll never sustain in the long run or eating at certain times of the day or starving yourself. You take in more calories than you lose and you gain weight. Same with losing. Unless your thyroid is slow like mine, in that case it may take more to burn. But the gem of exercise is that it speeds your metabolism. That and a nice pill. 🙂

7 Forget the “hours you shouldn’t eat rule.”Advice about not eating after a certain hour is not because you will suddenly become obese eating dinner at 9pm. It’s because most people who snack at night go to absolute junk. (Think middle of the night kebab runs or McDonalds Newcastle people)

8. So I eat whenever I am hungry. I don’t starve myself or deprive myself really ever. On Tuesdays I often would be working late, leading a Bible study and then going to salsa. So I’d grab a banana and apple and eat during a Bible study or before salsa, and come home at 11 for my dinner. I’d refuel with an actual meal – oatmeal if I was lazy, something like brown pasta and chicken with some sorta herbs and spices if I was up for cooking. It is not going to turn to fat then any more than if I had eaten it at 6pm. I just don’t come home and open up the chips/crisps. In fact. I don’t usually have chips at my house.

9. Eat brown things. Eat green things. Eat the rainbow. Years ago I started choosing whole grains over white, brown pasta over white, brown bread or like this morning “spelt” over a fluffy farmhouse white. Do I make exceptions? Yes. Sometimes. I even eat McDonalds with the salsa crazies here and there. But my base note is go brown. If I go white once, I don’t beat myself up.. I just get whole wheat the next time. Eat lots of fruit and veg. My staff team thinks I am a freak of nature. I will show up for team meetings and be pulling bananas, peppers (I eat them like apples) apples, clementines, broccoli (British people never eat it raw and think I am weird) out of my backpack all morning in meetings. I am eating when I am hungry so I don’t snack on the yucky jam donuts on the table.

10. When you eat bad things.. make sure you get the most for your calories! A nice small dark chocolate truffle for .70 pence or a whole but not as nice chocolate bar for the same cost. Truffle baby. I don’t have cheap chocolate. I won’t touch a Hershey bar. Ew. To have the nice stuff means I spend less in the long run and my quantities are smaller because the nicer stuff usually satisfies more. It means I also eat a lot less chocolate and junk food.

11. I don’t binge ever. I eat. A lot more when I am working out the way I do in my normal routine of life. But I don’t keep junk around the house and don’t sit down and binge and then go on a crash diet. Food can be a substitute for whatever is going on emotionally with us that needs to become a bit healthier. I recommend the book Changes that Heal if you want to engage with some of that stuff.

12. I don’t pay attention to diets. Ever. The only fitness related thing I read is from Fitness Magazine because everything they post is healthy and not based on fad diets. It is driven by lifestyle, healthy eating, and good workouts. You don’t change overnight. It is a lifestyle. This is a good post from them if you want to make some resolutions.

10 Best Resolutions for 2013 from Fitness Magazine 

13. When you do eat in a way that makes you feel guilty, don’t punish yourself by continuing to eat bad and not exercise. So what? You had.. 3 pieces of the gorgeous Pumpkin Cheesecake your sister in law had bought off a friend during the Christmas week (ahem. 😛 ) That was then, and admittedly a bad week, this is now, I am going to the beach for a run in about 10 minutes (actually I went for the run and had a great time by the time I finished this post). Punishment and wallowing do nothing for us. Get back on the horse.

14. Laugh a lot. It’s good for you. It has health benefits.

15. Some of you need to buy a scale and some of you need to bin it. Healthy reality check. Some girls get on a scale multiple times a week to “check” and see where they are at after everything they eat and every bit of exercise. This is foolish and not understanding how your body works. From experience and 12 years of mentoring women, this habit can lead to really unhealthy relationships with food and exercise. You will be mostly watching water weight shift and are looking at way too microscopic of a picture to help motivate yourself to stick with whatever you are doing. This will bring in the guilt cycle like none other. This also tells me you are probably doing a “quick fix” type diet which is not sustainable in the long run. Bin the scale.

Me? I ran into the opposite problem at an unusually beautified population of a university where they regularly recruited Abercrombie models and the rumour was the pipes had to be changed in all girls dorms on central quad every few years due to bulimia. I did not want to become “one of those” girls.. so I rebelled and ate whatever I wanted and did not exercise nearly what I had in my fit days as a figure skater. Over time this habit had to go and rebelling against the status quo was not going to do me any favours. I eventually bought a scale a couple years ago so I could have a reality check and know what was going on with my weight and check it a few times a month, but no more.

16. This just works for me. I have a big picture goal. I am a big picture person and visionary. I have had smaller goals the last few years (the jean size I want to be in – I’m in it) but I am actually driven by a bigger goal. It’s a goal that keeps me from yo yo diets and exercise crazes and falters. I want to be the ideal height body weight/fitness level and be able to be really fit when I am old.. like serious hiking. That makes me continuously work on all of my body and watch my eating because it is holistic. It also helps me see problem areas and work on them. It also means I am not trying to make all of my good curves disappear for some idealic number that might look nice on paper but will give me zero shape! I am a woman after all! 🙂

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