Weight goals, cliches and self discovery

Time for an update y’all!  So about 3 or 4 weeks ago I reported that  I had hit my first weight goal.  I would like to now report that I am well on my way to hitting my next weight goal!  Only 3.8kg to go and I’m so THERE it’s not funny.

I am ready to pump up the volume, the jam and ‘it’ up.  I am like a runaway freight train steaming towards success.  I am a force to be reckoned with, my friends.  I am… all out of clichés… but you get the idea.  Ain’t nothing going to break my stride! (Oh look, there’s another!).

It’s been such a great ride so far.  I have learnt so much about myself and done it all without starving myself to death.  Who would have thought? I can actually eat REAL food and still lose weight.  Now let’s not get carried away people, this is all within limits – real food to me is healthy, fresh and nutritious not sugary, fat and nasty.

The exercise was a challenge at first but I am so used to it now that it is like it was never an issue.  I look forward to my sessions everyday and make the most out of them because there’s that little voice in the back of my head saying “3.8kg to go!” and that gives me the motivation to continue.   Sometimes the voice says “Stuff it all!  Let’s go eat cake and chocolate and lollies, oh my!” but that voice is quickly squashed because that 3.8kg will be better than any cake I have ever tasted.  Besides, I do still have treats on occasion so I really never feel like I am missing out on anything!

So with that, to any of you that are trying to lose weight / trim up / stay healthy, I ask – how do you feel you fare in the motivation stakes?  Would love to hear from you!

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Celebrities are NOT diet & fitness role models!

To keep up with the latest fitness and nutrition information I regularly scan the popular news site’s ‘health & lifestyle’ sections.  Whilst I sometimes find really good articles (like the cutting the C.R.A.P article but even then I had issues with some of the information), I mostly come across pure and utter nonsense.

Scanning one Australian news site’s diet and fitness section I was instantly bombarded with whether a certain celebrity’s body was real or not, a certain singer’s face cream secret, so-and-so’s reported boob job… excuse me?  Can you give me some REAL diet and fitness advice now?  I could have gone and bought a gossip mag to get this information (nothing against them – love them!).  I have no idea how this offers anything to the Australian public in regards to learning more about diet and fitness.  I can’t help but feel that it is the media, once again, playing into women’s insecurities, planting seeds in their heads that to feel like they are worth anything physically, they must strive towards looking like a celebrity.

Australian women should not feel like they need to look like celebrities to feel better about themselves.  Sure, I joke about wanting a body like Elle’s but at the end of the day I don’t REALLY want a body like Elle’s, I want a body like Amanda’s at its full potential.  I want the best body and health that I can have, not some celebrity or model who has it all set out for her with her expensive trainers, chefs and health practitioners at her beck and call.

We need to start accepting ourselves for who we are and understand that we can only be the best we can be.  If you feel you need to lose weight, shape up, tone up, have clearer skin, clearer eyes,  a brighter smile; then do it for yourself, don’t do it because you want to be or look like someone else.  It is only when we start demonstrating our ability to love ourselves for being ourselves that the media will stop forcing this rubbish down our throats in the guise of diet and fitness advice.

So how do we start recognising our own self worth?  After working with my trainer for some time now and also after  reading ‘Think Yourself Thin’ I have realised the importance of self love.  Yes, it’s mushy and new-age sounding but believe me, it really works.

I’d never been a fan of affirmations, I thought they sounded lame and I felt like an idiot repeating them but the power of the spoken word is undeniable.   Every day I tell myself, “I am healthy, strong, beautiful and fit.  I am making changes to myself FOR myself so that I can learn to love every bit about me”.   I didn’t believe those words at first however it is only when I persevered with it that I began to notice real, tangible changes not only in my body but in my mentality too.  I am not yet at my full potential but I am so close I can visualise it.  And that’s a huge step for me.

Once you have that down pat you will realise you don’t NEED to look like a celebrity to be beautiful on the inside and out because you will feel it, see it and believe that you are truly the best version of you that you can be.

And finally, don’t look to celebrities for health and diet advice.  Do real research and open yourself to learning about what you can do to improve yourself for the long term, not the short term.  Then you will still be yourself, only the new improved version 2.0.  (That’s the geek in me coming out.  Don’t hate.)

Get a body like Elle's? Can I get a "Elle" yeah?!

I read an interesting article on the SMH site titled How to get a body like Elle Macpherson’s.

Now.  I’m no fool.  I didn’t come down in the last shower.  I know that genetics plays a HUGE part in the way the glorious Miss Elle looks, after all she is called ‘The Body,’ however the article has some very solid advice.  Elle’s personal trainer insists to get a hot bod we need to cut the C.R.A.P – caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed food.  Hear hear! Bravo, Mr Elle’s-Personal-Trainer.  It’s about time someone broadcast this to the world.  It’s all about quality input to get a quality output.  To get a fab, fit, healthy, toned bod – cut the C.R.A.P.  And cut it good folks.

Not only is eating non-processed food better for our bodies, it is better for our heart, minds and soul.  Let’s get up close and personal for a minute here dear readers. I know since I cut down on refined sugar and processed food I feel a “elle” of a lot better (alcoh0l and caffeine weren’t a vice so I was half way there already in the ‘cutting the C.R.A.P’ stakes).  If you want to see a significant change in your body –  C.R.A.P.  You know what to do with it.

The article then goes on to say you don’t have to put in hours at the gym and you don’t have to eat only lettuce with sawdust sprinkled on it – it’s about smart eating and smart training.   Mr Elle’s-Personal-Trainer has devised an eight-minute workout of resistance exercises to be done twice a day. This can be extended with a walk or by attempting the more advanced workouts in the book.  Okay, this might be good for someone who ALREADY has a body like or nearly resembling Elle’s but for fatties like me I think this is a bit of a ‘waking up to find your bed filled with diamonds’ situation… it’s an attractive idea but it ain’t never going to happen.  You WILL need to put in the work.  You WILL need to be committed to exercise.  You WILL need to be prepared to sweat.   It took hours/days/months/years of sitting on your butt putting  C.R.A.P in your body so it will take hours/days/months/years of hard work to get your body to a healthy standard again.  I’ve accepted this and I implore others in the same situation to accept this too.   It’s only WHEN you get to this healthy standard that you will be able to reassess the amount of work needed to MAINTAIN that healthy standard.

Mr Elle’s-Personal-Trainer then finished off with the following tips:

Common problem areas:

1.     Sugar addiction.

2.     Skipping meals. “[People] think it’s a good thing. [But] it slows your metabolism down. You want to be burning lots of fat all through the day.”

3.     Not being honest with yourself [Amanda’s note: HUGE, HUGE, HUUUGE impact.  Did I say HUGE?].

Three changes that will have a big impact:

1.     Start each morning with some protein – eg eggs, meat, almonds and natural yoghurt.

2.     Drink a squeeze or slice of lime in water.

3.     Stretch for five-10 minutes before bed. This will help you unwind and consequently help you sleep better.

So, whilst this is all sound advice in the nutritional area, remember that exercise plays an important role in weight loss / body changing too.  Get moving people!  That 30 mins – 1 hour of exercise is such a small slice of your day that it’s almost impossible to justify NOT exercising.  You have anywhere between 16 to 18 waking hours in a day!  Do you know how very long that is?? GO!  GO NOW!  STOP READING AND GOOOOOOO!  The benefits by far weigh out the detriments.  Sore butt?  Pfft.  Build a bridge.

The world’s best breakfast!

Want a breakfast that is loaded with goodness, tastes great and will see you through until lunch?  Then nothing goes past hummus, avocado and tomato on soy-lin toast!

Let’s take a look at hummus.  Chickpeas are an excellent source of fibre.  They digest slowly and keep blood sugar levels from rising too quickly making them ideal for people with diabetes, insulin resistance (hello!) or hypoglycemia.  Combine them with rice or whole grains and they provide a complete protein.  Chickpeas also contain molybdenum, a trace mineral that helps the body detoxify sulfites (a preservative found in many foods and medicines), as well as iron and magnesium which are essential for high energy and healthy blood.

Now how about that little wonder, avocado?  So much goodness comes out of that fleshy, buttery green fruit that I’m sure you will be amazed and resolve to consume them daily!  Avocado contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, vitamin C and K, folic acid, copper, sodium and dietary fibres.  It also protects cholesterol related heart diseases and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  It is used both in prevention and treatment of prostate and breast cancers as scientists have proved that a toxin in avocado assist in killing the cancer cells. Surprisingly, avocado is also used to help people who have sexual problems as they contain high levels of folic acid, helping to metabolize proteins. They also contain vitamin B6, which helps in increasing male hormone production. In addition, the potassium which is found in avocado aids in regulating the female thyroid gland, thus helping both male and female reproduction.  Avocado is also a good antioxidant and finally, it is also used to heal people who suffer from digestive and circulatory problems.

Soy and linseed bread is my FAVOURITE type of bread.  People like to rave on about white bread but I love the spongy texture of soy-lin and it reminds me of crumpets for some odd reason.  Not only do I love the taste I also love the health benefits that come along with it. Soy and linseed bread is a good source of phytoestrogens. Some studies indicate that phytoestrogens have health benefits including potential reduction in breast cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease risks, possible protection against osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms.  It also is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.  Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation (great for any exercise related injuries) and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.  Importantly, soy and linseed bread is low GI and high in dietary fibre which keeps you fuller for longer.  Lastly, it is a good source of folate which helps produce and maintain new cells.

Lastly, let’s talk about tomato baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and not the bad things, in the tomato.  Let’s talk about tomato (see what I did there?).   Tomato contains lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer (there’s that word again!), skin damage, osteoporosis, male infertility and diabetes (back away, not today, disco lady!). It also is a source of beta carotene which helps prevent night blindness and skin disorders and also enhances immunity and slows the ageing process.  Tomato also is a good source of vitamin C which we all know helps increase immunity (important during the winter months) and it also repairs damaged tissues including blood vessels, scar tissue and cartilage.

So quickly!  Run to the nearest supermarket and grab these ingredients so you too can have the world’s best breakfast!  You won’t regret it.  You can thank me later.

P.S.  Don’t forget to check out the new links on the right-hand side for Natalie Carter Talks Fitness and Women’s Natural Health!

So you think you can dance? Well. No. Not really.

Most of my friends are dancers.  They attend dance classes regularly, they’ve danced since they were small, they talk about the latest dance productions on stage and, embarrassingly, they tend to discuss and perform their latest routines in public (much to my groans and rolling eyes!).

Me, I like to get my dance on in da club, ya know what I’m sayin’?  I like to hear the groove and let my body do it’s thang, whatever that thang may be.  It’s usually just a bunch of gyrating moves and chest pumping in an attempt to mirror the latest Beyonce clip.  I think I do alright in the old shaking of the boo-tay department so I enlisted my friend (and trainer) to join me at a beginners Hip Hop class.

Now.  I’ve always avoided dance classes like the plague as I have a very serious medical condition which is sometimes referred to as “two left feet”.  It’s almost impossible for me to watch someone perform a move and then attempt it myself without getting my legs tangled up and ending up in a heap on the floor.  I once attended a body combat class and left 5 minutes in because I was so frustrated that I could not kick and punch at the same time.  Admittedly, I could have punched and kicked the instructor in the face if I really mustered up the coordination to do so…

But, as those of you who know me would know, I love hip hop and to be able to dance like I see in my favourite hip hop videos would be the ultimate win.  So I put my coordination (or lack thereof) to the test and had my first class last night.

Walking in the room I see a bunch of mid to late 20’s girls, 2 guys (one decked out in a feeble attempt at hip hop gear, ugly red and green hi tops to match, the other lanky and awkward looking) and the wonderful Ilona who could make sitting on the toilet look like the latest hip hop dance move.

We start by warming up.  It is instantly obvious that these guys have been attending the class for at least a couple of weeks because they are side stepping and hip swivelling like, well people who have been attending a beginners class for a few weeks.   Ilona just expects everyone to be up to date with these basic warm up moves and I look at my friend with panic, “Is this really the beginners class?!  Quick!  Let’s go!  Before they start a break dance barricade around us and we’re trapped!”.   Finally, the embarrassment of the warm up ends.  We did manage to laugh at our ridiculousness though and also the ridiculousness of the white Busta Rhymes in front of us.

Then Ilona takes us through a stretch routine.  This is more my style.  Stretching, I can do.  I’m feeling a little more confident at this stage and I’m stretching like a pro.  Woo.  Yeah.  Getting my stretch on.

Right.  Stretch time over and we are ready to learn our routine.  Panic once again sets in as I realise I’m going to have to copy her moves all the while watching my awkwardness in a humongous mirror.  I guess the positive thing is that you’re so busy watching yourself and Ilona (and the douche bag in front) that you don’t notice if anyone is laughing at you.  Bonus.  What I can’t see, didn’t happen.  Yes?

She takes us through the routine slowly.  It is only now that I realise that everyone is still quite new to this, thank god, as she takes us all through the routine step by step and movement by movement.  She shows us firstly the leg movements and then the arm movements to match.  I start to feel like I am getting the hang of it! I still look like a total moron, but at least I am following what she says!  WIN.

I’ve got the first part down-pat and we perform it to music a few times.  I’ve worked up quite a sweat by this stage which is satisfying.  I love a good sweat (mine only, the sweat of others makes me want to barf).

Now we embark on the second half of the routine.  Things start to fall apart now and I can’t seem to keep up with all the arm pumping and booty popping that’s going on but I got the basics down so I was pretty pleased with that.  Then we piece it all together and perform to music several times.  Some times I get it right, some times I get it oh so wrong.  But hey, it was my first time and I reckon, give me 2 or 3 weeks, and I’m totally going to be Beyonce.  It’s happening.  Oh, IT IS happening.

So an hour, and many frustrated facial expressions later (and several hundred calories!), my first hip hop dance class is over.  And I am pleased to say that I can’t wait for the next.  🙂

Say no to yo-yo dieting!

Another excerpt from a great little article that I came across in Good Health magazine.  It really is a wealth of knowledge.  I do recommend you start buying it.  And I do recommend they start paying me for endorsing it.

Alternating between depriving yourself of food and bingeing leads to overeating, anxiety and addictive behavior, says The Stripps Research Institute Scientists.   I can’t tell you how much that has rung true for me.  Anxiety and addictive behaviour had a huge impact on my life so it was very interesting to know the links between food deprivation and these behaviours.   Read on…

They found rats alternating between a bland and high sugar diet began bingeing on sweet food while rejecting the healthier options.  On top of that, their erratic eating habits activated a stress gene in their brains leading to withdrawal like behaviours found in drug addiction.

Overall it is better to stick to a long-term eating plan than dieting on and off.

1. Ditch unrealistic goals

Sustained weight loss is achieved at a steady rate of 1/2kg to 1kg a week.  Sure, those diets that claim to shed 5kg in 2 days (Lemon Detox anyone?  Barf) might be tempting but the loss will not be sustained and you will end up the same weight as before (and then some!) as soon as you return to your normal eating pattern.

2. Take small steps

Adopt one healthy eating behaviour every week, whether it be starting a food diary (try www.calorieking.com.au), using smaller plates (portion control people!) or packing your own lunch.

3. Don’t be TOO restrictive

If you eat well most of the time it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a little of your favourite foods from time to time.  Yes, that’s right, a little.  This does not mean eat a weeks worth of food in one sitting (forgive me body for I have sinned!) nor does it mean rewarding yourself with food (cut to me eating ice cream because I worked so HARD at the gym! Bad Amanda, bad!).  I’m happy to report I now enjoy a little of my favourite foods from time to time.  😉

Music time!  New NERD album out June 15th.  First single – Hot n Fun feat. Nelly Furtado.  Getting me amped up for my first hip hop class tonight!  Yeah!

What’s REALLY stopping you losing weight?

I read a great article in the May 2010 issue of Good Health about the 7 diet blunders which could stop you from losing weight. I thought I would share the gist of it with you because it wouldn’t be fair if I kept it to myself. 😉

1. You’re not sleeping enough

According to a study at Laval University in Quebec, too much or too little sleep can make you pile on the kgs. The study found that those sleeping for less than 7 hours a night gained 1.82kg over a period of six year. Those sleeping longer gained 1.36kg over the same period.

Apparently lack of sleep alters the hormone balance that controls your appetite and increases your level of ghrelin which makes you crave carbs such as pasta and pastries.

The perfect amount of sleep? 8 hours. We should follow the advice our grandmothers gave us – 8 hours of work, 8 hours of activity and 8 hours of sleep is the ideal, healthy day.

2. You’re eating breakfast at the wrong time

The advice is you should eat within one hour of waking. Include protein rich foods such as yoghurt, eggs, nuts and seeds for a greater initial and sustained feeling of fullness through the day. German researchers advise that you can kick start your metabolism by having a glass of cold water on waking. Add some lemon juice for good measure.

3. You’re using weights at the gym

Pumping weights is great for improving muscle tone but just be mindful when you do it.

Tracy Anderson, the trainer who trains Madonna (scary) and Gweneth Paltrow says that when you perform single moves such as a bicep curl, you’re isolating that muscle while the rest of the body remains static. This means your body is in ‘sleep’ mode so it will not be burning fat.

It’s best to combine aerobic exercises with resistance weight training. Try moves that work many muscles at once such as push ups and lunges. Keep your entire body moving and you are on to a winner.

4. You had a traumatic time giving birth

Long labours or difficult births = cravings for comfort food. This is the minds natural mental response to trauma but this response could lead to addictive habits such as overeating.

GH suggests chatting to a therapist about your feelings surrounding your birth experience.

5. You’re drinking black tea

Argh! But I looove tea! But I love losing weight and feeling healthier more…  GH says black tea is fully fermented, which removes some of its active termigenic antioxidant ingredients (science talk), thereby minimising it’s weight-loss enhancing properties. So what should we be having instead?

Pu-erh tea, originating from a village in southwest China, is high in epigallocatechin (there’s that science talk again) which is a potent antioxidant with thermogenic properties that help the body burn more fat. GH recommends drinking three to five cups of this little wonder a day.

6. You’re on a diet

People. I’ve seen the light! Join with me in the fight against diets because DIETS don’t work. Notice the word DIE in diet? It’s because diets cause a slow nasty death to your metabolism.

GH says yo-yo dieting confuses your metabolism sending your body into starvation mode and storing food in case it’s needed later. All this does is makes you heavier since every calorie and mouthful is stored on your stomach, bum or thighs (my god, have I been there and it is NOT pretty).

So get off the diet bandwagon to avoid thunder thighs and muffin tops!

7. You sit still

You know this people that fidget a lot? In most cases they tend to be slim despite eating whatever they like. Scientist from Getmany and the US have identifies a ‘fidget’ code and, if you have it in your genes, you are less likely to be overweight. So if you’re not naturally fidgety take up knitting or do away with the remote and keep moooving!

So after all that, how does weight loss REALLY work?

Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos from the Dieticians Association Australia explains: “Weight loss works by burning up more energy (with increase in exercise) and taking in less energy (with improving food quality and reducing quanitity). To lose weight and keep it off you need to make long-term lifetsyle changes that are realistic and achievable and can be maintained in the long-term”.

7 Important rules to follow:

1.  Eat before you get hungry as not doing so can lead to overeating.

2. Eat slowly, chew food well and stop when you are full.

3. Eat lots of vegetables,  salads and fresh fruit

4. Choose wholegrain breads and cereals (more filling and nutritious)

5. Choose low-fat dairy foods

6. Eat small portions of lean red meat, or a serving of skinless chicken, and have fish a couple of times a week

7. Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated and avoid sugary drinks (that includes FAKE sugar!)