Writing my first blog of January a little later than expected due to a nasty vomiting bug that swept through my house like the plague. A week of kids off school, at different times, myself not feeling too hot and work piling up, led to a later than expected blog! I’m sure there are lots of you out there who sympathise with this continued juggling act of motherhood, working and that never ending to do list!
When thinking about how I wanted to kick off the first blog of 2016 I was surrounded by the flurry of hype around New Year's resolutions. Resolutions are great for focusing the mind, whilst getting excited about all the things you anticipate the New Year to bring, and I for one love thinking about the year ahead and what I want to achieve for myself and those around me.
Now I'm not going to rain on anyone’s parade, if you have set yourself a number of resolutions, and are sticking to them 3 weeks into January, then you go tiger! For those who have already felt stuck, have caved under pressure and feel like a failure, then let me put a different spin on how I perceive health and how changes need to be made in order for them to be sustainable (the key is in the title).
As a Nutritional Therapist, I have the pleasure of working with amazing, inspiring people from all walks of life. Each has a story to tell and each a journey which has been walked. Although they learn from me in the time we work together, I equally learn from them. When they knock on my door looking for support, one of the first things we do is review diet history, which forms part of the puzzle when reviewing underlying health issues, metabolic rate and, just as important, their underlying feelings towards their weight and health which can be frustration, confusion and feeling like a failure.
‘Diets’ don’t work. There I’ve said it. This to me is fundamental to the liberation of 1000’s of women & men who embark on their health kicks in January. Diets don’t work in my opinion for 3 reasons:
The majority of diets are restrictive in nature: low fat, high protein (which means restricting carbs), detox (which usually means no processed/low carbs), high fat (no carbs), juice only (no solid food) ….. You get the picture.! Restricting much needed macronutrients can lead to a change in metabolic rate, which in turn creates more difficulty in losing weight or keeping a steady weight long term.
Your psyche is a powerful thing and when telling yourself you’re on a diet, your brain and psyche feel restricted and naturally see this as a negative. After a while, the rebel in you wants to act out and eat all of those things you have told yourself you're not allowed (blame the rebel in you!). If I can give you any assurance, you’re not alone!
Restriction of any of the key macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats & protein can lead to an imbalance and your brain will signal you to hunt out the food group in which you are restricting. The hunt for sugar and fatty foods is a very strong signal when the brain is being restricted of the fatty acids it needs. Now it's not that sophisticated that it will signal urges for oily fish, instead it urges you to eat chocolate, pastries and other high sugary foods.
So what’s the alternative to a vicious cycle of diets tried and failed? ........BALANCE!
Let’s put that into practice and see what BALANCE looks and feels like.
The Balanced Plate:
The balanced plate gives you clarity as to how your Lunch and Dinner should be structured, to allow your body to work at its best. By ensuring that your protein and starchy carbohydrate choices are approx. the size of your fist, with the remainder of your plate being made up of veggies, provides you with balanced energy and hormones and leaves you feeling satisfied and full. Goes without saying that you are less likely to reach for bad choices later on.
Balanced Blood Sugars:
There is a simple equation to ensuring that balanced blood sugars, which control fat burn, energy supply & hormone balance are obtained:
1. Eat regularly, every 3-4 hours: 3 meals and 2 snacks
2. Eat protein every time you eat
3. Select low Glycaemic Load (GL) starchy carbohydrates + fruits
Now doesn’t that feel more in line with a balanced diet than restricting calories, fats or carbohydrates!! The result being no hunger pangs, no hunting out fat and no caving at the chocolate machine in work.
Balance: The 80/20 rule:
All comes back to the psyche on this one. If you tell yourself that you are rigid in how and what you can eat, that good old rebel in you will come out to play. The 5 days of being so regimental with the foods & drinks ‘you're allowed’ can have a negative effect when you reach the weekend for most. Friday comes and you tell yourself you deserve a treat. Once you start eating that treat, you tell yourself it will be another 7 days until you’re allowed this again and there lies the problem. You rebel and go for gold when it comes to eating a high amount of those sugary or savoury foods you love only to be overcome with guilt.
Turn it on its head and say to yourself, that if 80 % of your week is filled with nutritionally sound food choices, then the odd piece of chocolate cake, biscuit or one weekly takeaway won't hinder your progress and will leave you feeling more in control than ever.
Life is about enjoyment and the 80/20 rule is fundamental in ensuring that you don’t feel restricted and in turn you will feel more in control.
Balanced Exercise Routine:
This ones easy! – Just move more! Yes going the gym, HIIT training, running and weight training are great for overall health, but if the thought of going to the gym feels like a chore then don’t! How’s that for a balanced mind!
Have a think about what you do now. If the answer is 0, when it comes to exercise, then take it from 0 to 1. Walk for 15 minutes a day, dance at home with the kids for 20 minutes, and walk to school, instead of using the car. You get my point. Continue with this, moving up the scale of moving more and your fitness in turn will follow.
I have a back and neck niggle, which has stopped me going to the gym for the last 3 months. The thought of not going to my usual pump class and high intensity cardio filled me with dread, but I knew I was never going to solve my back pain if I didn’t do something different. So I asked myself the question, what CAN I do to make sure I’m exercising but that allows my back to heal? I now walk for an extra 1 hour every other day and use a Pilates DVD for gentle toning/muscular work. I am the same weight I’ve always been and don’t look or feel any worse for it – Ta Da ! What a revelation to me!
If you build on your current activity level one step at a time it will feel less daunting and more obtainable. There is a reason why the flurry of gym memberships increase by approx. 20 % in January and then drop significantly by what I suspect is an equally large % in February/March. The boom and bust mentality is hard to continue with when you are feeling like a failure yet again.
Do what you can to increase what you currently do now and continue to add on slowly and you are less likely to fail. Find what you enjoy and stick with it.
Health Benefits of Balance:
Here is what balance provides when it comes to health. I see this time and time again in practice and the relief and excitement that diets are a thing of the past without restricting the things you love is the beauty of balance:
- It will stop you feeling tired
- You will not feel hungry
- Cravings will be eliminated
- Moods/hormones stable
- Consistent, short term and long term weight loss
- Improved body composition, better muscle to fat ratio
- Improve risk factors for Diabetes, CV disease, high cholesterol and cancer
- Improved sleep
- You will feel less stressed
- Better skin health
- It’s delicious and sustainable
Check out one of my client’s journey when she started to put more balance back into her life:
"I approached Debbie after years of stringent exercise and eating what I thought were the right foods. I have struggled with body image and weight the majority of my life and the lack of success in achieving the body I desired provided huge psychological turmoil. Despite other areas of my life being very challenging, behind all of this lay these issues surrounding my weight and body. It was, in effect, running my life. I wanted to lose a little weight, but above this I wanted release from the mental torment.
My first session with Debbie was extremely revealing and very emotional. In a nutshell, it turned out I had not been eating enough and over exercising! A revelation really as it turned my common perceptions inside out. Despite my anxiety, I knew I had to trust the process Debbie encouraged. The changes in a very short space of time were incredible and quietly liberating. Suddenly friends and colleagues were noticing a change, which helped a lot. My issues with body image are still there but I know now I can enjoy my food and even treat myself because Debbie's guiding principles are always there. I feel more in control, which is great in itself. Seeing Debbie has been a hugely rewarding experience. Her advice, support, care and friendship have been immeasurable. I recommend her highly."
Through all my experiences to date, I see balance and being kind to yourself being the no 1 rule in gaining long lasting health, both mentally and physically. We're all a work in progress, but I for one made one resolution this year and that is to feel balance in all I do, and damn does it feel good!.