Here we are, almost two weeks into 2017. How are those resolutions faring; still sticking with them? Just in case you haven't managed to adhere to the best intentions you set yourself, don't worry. Be human.
There are many, many reminders of just how fallible we are in the media with a slew of television programmes about the best and newest healthy eating and exercise regimes to follow, radio shows espousing the latest 'celebrity' diet, magazine articles with bright ideas for being a 'New You'. Feeling guilty about maybe slipping off the high pedestal you wanted to sit upon for the year? If you do, then you are human. If not, either you are impervious to the barrage of 'Body Beautiful' imagery and verbiage, or you are succeeding with your goals. If you are succeeding, well done!
If, like the majority of the population, you feel like your goals were too lofty and hard to maintain, don't panic. The title of this blog was deliberately aimed at being better and not being a new person. We are all creatures of habit, and old habits will creep back into our routines. So changing dietary patterns completely (as seen on ITV's 'Sugar Free Farm') can be a very drastic and difficult thing to stick with beyond a few days or a week. With some of the 'celebrity' diets out there completely cutting out certain nutrients and foodstuffs, they can have a negative effect on the body.
When cutting right down on your calorific intake, your body will fight back, and react by triggering its survival instinct or "Starvation Mode", whereby it will hang on to every calorie it can. Far better to eat in moderation, and sensibly. If you can cook your own food, you know its origin, and it will probably be lower in sugar, salt and other additives.
Making small changes to your lifestyle, instead of large ones, is sustainable and will have healthy benefits for your body. Aiming to cut sugar out of your tea is a great example of a small change that is easy to do and maintain. If you usually have three cups of tea a day, each without your usual teaspoon of sugar, you will have cut out 21 teaspoons of sugar a week. Doesn't sound a lot? That's over 1,000 teaspoons a year, which is approximately 16,000 calories. Which is equivalent to more than an incredible four pounds of fat. Just by cutting a teaspoon or two of sugar out of your tea.
Simple, little changes in your diet are a lot less daunting, and as a result much easier to implement. The same applies to exercise. It is good to have big, hairy, audacious goals. Perhaps yours is to run a marathon, or complete a triathlon, or deadlift 500kg. The same principle applies. Start small, and just aim to be better each day.
Aim to be a better you, instead of a new you. The changes will be noticeable very soon indeed.
Power of One Fitness
Two weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued his Autumn Statement. Along with the sweeteners of a frozen fuel duty and the like, there was one aspect of his fiscal utterances that struck a sour note with those pushing for a healthy workforce.
Mr Hammond removed the salary sacrifice schemes for health and wellbeing in the workplace. He did this to try and fill the black hole the Treasury has found itself in. In my mind this is extremely short sighted of The Chancellor. To quote a 2008 study commissioned by the Health Work Wellbeing Executive (an offshoot of the Department for Work & Pensions), "Workplace wellness makes commercial sense". The new measures would appear to minimise the importance of a healthy workforce on the economy, despite a 2015 policy paper issued by the DWP and HM Treasury stating otherwise.
If the Treasury was to incentivise business to implement wellness programmes, through tax breaks or otherwise, the impact would be beneficial to the economy for a number of reasons. In simple terms the benefits would be seen through:
- fewer employee sick days, which will in turn increase productivity and profitability, while diminishing sick pay and the need to pay for temporary staff cover or overtime payments to staff who cover colleagues and other resource allocation.
- increased employee satisfaction, which decreases staff turnover and thus lowers recruitment costs. It also will increase employee productivity as companies will not need to constantly bring new staff 'up to speed' in their systems and functionality.
- fewer accidents and injuries, especially in the manufacturing and the construction/engineering sectors. This minimises legal costs, insurance premiums and healthcare costs.
- improved output and productivity, which in turn increase revenues and ultimately profitability. With the Chancellor bemoaning the fact that the U.K. is a long way behind other countries in relation to productivity, this makes his decision particularly baffling.
- an improved company profile and external reputation as a good employer, which can help attract and retain quality staff and raise the public profile of companies.
With a healthier workforce, there are other benefits aside from just making commercial sense to the companies that make use of wellness schemes. The nation, as a whole, would benefit; be that the cash-strapped NHS or even HM Treasury itself.
The NHS is close to bankruptcy. With a healthier population there would be less strain on the structures and systems of what is an excellent intuition that benefits the nation. With a reduction in demand for the services that the NHS provides there would be less clamour for HM Treasury to find more and more resources from a shrinking pot.
A healthier and more productive workforce would bring increased revenue to HM Treasury through increased direct and indirect taxation, be that Income Tax or VAT and other indirect taxes.
I would urge Mr Hammond not only to reconsider his decision to remove salary sacrifices for health and wellbeing, but to go further and incentivise companies, large and small, to implement corporate wellness packages. The physical and economic health of the nation would certainly benefit from such thinking.
Power of One Fitness
To be honest, I've been a bit stuck with this blog. I started writing it several times and after a paragraph, came to a grinding halt. I wanted it to mean something. I know my words are not profound, but I live by the rule that if you are going to do something, it should always be done with the intention of impacting positively on the people around you.
Last Sunday morning I was desperately seeking inspiration for this blog. I trawled through inspirational quotes in a bid to cure my writer's block, but to no avail. I could feel the cogs
clonking slowly in my tired brain, but the usually efficient neurological factory was on shutdown.
So last night, after an absolutely mental week, it happened; the clichéd pinging light bulb moment! As I tried to write this blog for a final time, I re-read its original opening line: 'Yesterday (Saturday)
I found myself still lying in bed at 9am.' Lying in bed? Saturday morning? 9am? It felt as though my brain was relaying a narrative about someone else's life.
Anyone who knows me, knows that my body is not a great fan of sleep and as a consequence, I have turned in to one of those really annoying morning people. You know, the type who has achieved a whole day's work before 7am. Sad, I know, but not a voluntary life choice. Anyway, I thought back to last Saturday, in order to solve the mystery of the 'lying in saga'. To begin with, I had woken up feeling pretty ropey. It was more than the usual Saturday morning exhaustion and when I tried to stand up, I suddenly realised that the room was spinning and I found myself collapsing back down in a heap. I tried once more, but I could hear my body screaming, "Are you mental? I want to lie
down!" Meanwhile, my brain, a force to be reckoned with, had to have it's ten pence worth...
"Get up! It's Saturday and the house needs cleaning, the children need feeding and there's Judo club at 9! You also need to fit a run in, so look sharp!"
"Back off!" My body retorted and, for the first time in a long while, my brain backed down and my body won out.
I didn't just sit back down, I flopped into the foetal position, pulled the covers over my aching body and just lay there. After an hour of worrying about what there was to do, I suddenly realised that the world could in fact cope without me! The children had been fed, washed, dressed and were ready for Judo and I was still lying in bed. I wasn't the be all and end all. The world hadn't fallen apart without me and the house was still standing!
I then sent David (POWEROFONEFITNESS® Owner and Personal Trainer) a text. He had, of course just completed a gruelling session in the gym. I confessed my 'lie in' in an attempt to relieve myself of the guilt and anxiety it had caused me. And when I think back to our conversation, the cure to my writer's block lay in his wise words of wisdom.
"Listen to your body, not your brain. Resting is important too".
So that's what I did, I repented. I stayed in bed for most of the day. I watched a film, drifted in and out of sleep and rested my body and my mind. Did I still have a long to do list? Yes I did. And by allowing my body and mind to rest, I was able to complete the chores much more efficiently.
So I conclude today with the thought that, if we do not listen to our body in its time of need, it will not have the strength it requires to allow us to lead the happy and fulfilled lives we desire. My words may not be profound, but I leave you with some that are:
"To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." - Buddha
Friend and Client of Power of One Fitness
I had intended this next instalment to be written three weeks ago, but everyday-life got in the way and it was bumped to the bottom of my very long list of things to do. So I thought that now would be a good time to catch up.
The other night, after a very long day, I found myself having a little chuckle at something rather ridiculous. It was the first time I'd really thought about it, but I suddenly realised that despite my
changed dietary mindset, I still have the odd emotional eating moments. I think it's called being human?! The day in question had been a very intense one. I had only eaten an apple and a handful of almonds all day. So, when I practically fell through the door at 8pm,I had an intense carb craving. Suddenly, I became very aware of a little voice on the left side of my brain screaming, "Pass me the
pretzels!". And so like a brain washed being, I ran to the cupboard where I keep the treat food, and before I was even aware of what I was doing, I had bits of pretzels falling from my over stuffed mouth. The momentary pleasure I felt was one of great joy and comfort. After several handfuls, the voice on the right side of my brain screamed, "Stop!" And the left side responded with"Are you kidding? Pass me the salted peanuts next, followed by a handful of marshmallows!" And so began the battle between hunger and sense! Ridiculous, right? But I can bet we've all been there!
To be truthful, I've had a couple of 'Pass me the pretzels!' days recently. They are my go to comfort snack. The food that allows me to inhale and exhale without screaming. It's amazing what a handful of these tasty, carb loaded, imperfectly formed knots can do to ease the stresses of the day. Salted, sour cream and onion, even the less attractive smoked bacon flavour, all help to provide the comfort I
crave. My brain figures that they are better than cake and crisps, but are satisfying and processed enough to be deemed a guilty pleasure.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that eating handfuls of pretzels in place of a balanced meal is the best thing to do. What I am saying, is that it is ok to have momentary lapses without feeling guilty. We all have bad days, sometimes those days can turn in to weeks, but as long as we remember that they are only allowed to be lapses and be mindful not to let those lapses become habits, then I argue that my rather large handful of pretzels is good for my soul.
So today I leave you with this: “And, when you can't go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Friend and Client of Power of One Fitness
"How can you ENJOY running?" It's a question I've been faced with many times. While out in the wind and rain this week, wondering whether I had lost the plot, I took the opportunity to contemplate what the real answer was. Was it the exhilaration felt when pounding the concrete; that freedom of being free and feeling thankful for having the health to be able to run? That spurs me on. It brings a smile to my face. It fills me with a sense of achievement. The only person I have to beat is me; I get to set my own standards and goals, and for a short while in my manic day to day life, I'm not trying to hit someone else's unrealistic targets.
Coupled with this is the determination to set an example for my children. My life centres around trying to inspire the most important people in my life. Maintaining my weight, like most people, is something I struggled with since my teenage years. After being such an active child and a proper tomboy, putting on weight seemed like an alien prospect. But when it happened, boy did it knock my confidence and sent my self-esteem spiralling. With it came a terrible anxiety. So, when I'd had enough, I did what I knew best: I ran. Not metaphorically, like it was so much easier to do. I ran. It wasn't easy at first, after a few health neglecting years in Uni and the birth of my first child. I knew I had to get serious. I had a child to consider now; a life I had brought in to the world. My health and wellbeing would directly impact on them. Any selfish thoughts I'd had dissipated and my aim was clear: to change my mindset completely. No faddy diets or short-lived health plans; this had to be me, for the rest of my life.
So I did it. I changed my mindset, my diet and my relationship with food completely. I no longer wanted feed my emotions; I wanted to eat to live, to feel good about my body knowing that it was being filled with natural goodness. I started running for real. Every night after work, on the weekends, even when my lungs burnt so badly I wanted to stop; I ran. And then I realised the lie I had sold myself before, about not being built to run; it had been a simple, ridiculous excuse to be lazy and hide behind my weight. The true understanding of what I could achieve came in my first 'Race for Life'. The aim was to raise money in memory of a very dear friend, who had inspired me in so many ways, but, sadly had lost her battle just months before. With the start of the 10k race, it was the chance to prove something to myself and to inspire my children to be the best versions of themselves. I ran like I never had before. With the realisation that I was setting the pace and leading the race I felt amazing; an addictive feeling coursing through my veins. I could run. I WAS built for it - mentally. That switch flicked in my brain once more and I knew that from that point on, I could do anything I put my mind to. It was my choice; my goals; my life and I was going to do it my way. I didn't win the race, but I finished in the top ten and finished the race in 42 minutes with two very proud, happy little boys to meet me as I crossed the finish line.
So... I run, not because it exhilarates me, but I run for them. I run to show them that they control their destinies. I run to show my beautiful little boys that we all have our challenges, I face many every day, but every day is a NEW day; a fresh start; a chance to face your fears and anxieties and just give it a go. So today I leave you with these inspirational words from one of my children's favourite authors: You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go. - Dr. Seuss
Friend and Client of Power of One Fitness
We've all go to start somewhere, right? So why is it come the 1st of January every single year without fail, we decide that this is the time. 'New year, new me'. I've forgotten the number of times I've heard that phrase and the countless times I've probably said it.
It genuinely is a brilliant day for all. The majority of those who take time to reflect on their fitness and general wellbeing feel like they have had an epiphany. Something happens just after midnight, as Jools, accompanied by one of his questionable guests, strikes up another half mumbled version of Auld Lang Syne. A switch is flicked; the one that triggers self preservation mode lights up that dormant part of our brains and sends our neurological dashboard in to overdrive. It is then, at that specific moment in time, we feel inspired; inspired to be the fittest we have ever been, in the best possible shape, 25lb lighter and not a struggling middle aged Bridget for the rest of our lives.
So like dogs with a bone, we are lured in to the multi coloured world of spandex and find ourselves buying items, that we don't even know the purpose of, to boost our confidence and make the world that we live in a better place. We spend copious and often unnecessary amounts of money on sports wear that will barely cover the bulges we are desperate to get rid of and find ourselves debating about the neutral or high arched position of our soles. We then buy running shoes that cost extra to have the 'go faster stripes on' and convince ourselves that we have found the answer to all of our problems. Filled with an innate sense of determination, we head off to the gym where we find ourselves surrounded by a plethora (hate that word!) of 'all the gear, no idea' minions and, just like them, act as though we are world class athletes. We set our Fitbits and Garmins for all to see and make our way to the toughest looking machine we can find. Sound familiar?
With the best intentions in the world, we give it our all and despite our bravest efforts, come mid February, we find that we are fallen soldiers and resign to the fact that we will never look like 5ft 6inch, size 8, muscular Michelle from the house opposite and will remain cuddly and happy for the rest of the year, until the return of that wonderful 1st of January, when the all too familiar cycle will start once more.
Personally, I'm fed up with the ending to this tale. I want it revamped; launched in to the twenty first century, where the impossible has no place. I don't want to be Muscular Michelle, just the best version of myself. So it it is. It's a bit later than planned, but this is me. This is my journey. Let's hope that when 1st January 2017 arrives, I will have broken this vicious cycle and become the person who treats every day as if it were the first day of a new year. 'New DAY, new me' for the rest of my life.
So, I begin my journey with this inspirational quote: “But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that wil carry him into places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision." - The Alchemist, Paulo Cohelo
Today I choose to make my decision, to follow my dreams and fight against the current that is life. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck!