Sunday, 19 August 2018

The five reasons why you may struggle to lose body fat

One of the greatest frustrations we experience as coaches is watching our clients try to lose weight, or rather body fat, unsuccessfully. They might be training regularly and consistently following our advice about good quality strength programing and healthy eating, but the weight still won’t budge. It can be hard to watch.

Are you one of the kazillions of Aussies who try to lose weight relentlessly but have no luck? Or have you lost it, put it back on again, lost it once more, and now see it slowly going back on again?

Is it any wonder Australia has an unhealthy relationship with food, one of the highest obesity rates and major issues with consistency? There are often some fairly simple, but not so obvious reasons as to why weight loss can become very challenging for some. Perhaps one, or all of these, apply to you.

I wrote this one with some help from my own naturopath, Trudy Cadoo. Trudy helped me stabilize my own weight after many years of fluctuation and struggle, and I often send clients her way who are having their own troubles either losing weight or maintaining weight loss.

Here are my top five reasons.

Incorrect training style
A lot of people attempt to ‘burn off fat’ just with cardio, and don’t engage in any weights training for fear of bulking up. This works initially, as any movement will help the body start to burn calories, but the inevitable plateau will hit and suddenly the weight loss will stop. Additionally, your body is not only burning body fat but also lean muscle, which then gives you the skinny and saggy look. This is not ideal as we age, trust me. That person will give up and the weight will pile back on.

Weights training helps the body to grow lean muscle. Lean muscle supports the metabolism and helps to keep it firing. With the correct programming, the body can experience EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) for up to 30+ hours. This means your body continues to burn calories long after the exercise ends, unlike cardio alone where EPOC is far less effective. Training inefficiently is another one we see a lot of in the gym. Coming in way too many times each week and just training for the sake of ticking it off. Get yourself a well structured program, written by a Coach who is an expert at this and get your life back! Everyone has time for exercise, if it well structured and results driven.

Grab a coach and learn how to try effectively and efficiently.
This is a game changer. 

Sleep plays a MAJOR role in our body’s ability to lose body fat. This is mostly due to the effect poor quality sleep has on the various hormones in the body. When our quality of sleep is impaired, our body releases greater levels of cortisol during the day. Cortisol breaks down muscle tissue, so increased levels of cortisol from poor sleep or stress will ultimately break down lean muscle, which will ultimately affect your body’s metabolism.

Poor sleep will also affect your body’s appetite and hunger, and you may find yourself craving carbohydrates (the simple carbs in particular) more than normal, which will in turn affect your body’s insulin levels. Sleep deprivation can also decrease the body’s glucose and insulin sensitivity, putting the body at greater risk of developing diabetes.

Trudy Cadoo talks about stress and cortisol:

“I'm not sure there is any way of avoiding stress these days, it's all about the management. Lifestyle, physical and psychological stresses put constant demands on the adrenal glands. Symptoms include fatigue, hypotension, lowered resistance to stress, salt cravings, hypoglycaemia and lowered immunity. People with a high level of stress can show an altered level of cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone – an endogenous steroid hormone). I find cortisol to be a major contributor to overall hormonal imbalance and weight gain in many women in clinic. Stress management techniques, healthy eating tips to support the nervous system and overall wellbeing, combined with core nutrients and herbals can make a world of difference to someone under stress.”

This is a biggie and I blame the fitness industry for this one. There has been so much confusion over the years about what to eat and what not to eat. Eat carbs, don’t eat carbs. Eat fruit, don’t eat fruit. Diet food, low fat, high fat, no sugar, all of the sugar. I could go on and on. I believe this confusion has led to many humans eating well periodically, then getting frustrated, and then having a blow out before starting the process all over again.

What if we just simplified this and went back to basics. Meat products, loads of vegetables and fruit, good quality fats and lots of water. Forget the processed food, just eat simple, eat colorful and learn to love food again. Understand the three macros (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and how it’s important they work together. Don’t restrict calories. Stop dieting and don’t chase fads. If someone suggests low calorie, run for the hills because the minute you go back to eating properly, all of the weight you lost will pile straight back on again. We also fund that under eating will eventually lead to storage of body fat, rather than loss. And your body will start to rip into the lean muscle for fuel. Not the outcome you were looking for.

An important point to keep in mind is that genetic factors can play a major role in the body’s ability lose body fat, and until we fully understand our genes we may be pushing shit up hill. This is why I really believe there isn’t one diet that suits everyone. Here’s Trudy’s explanation on how your genes may be affecting you while you don’t even realise it:

Go for colour!
The tailoring of treatment to patients has always been a fundamental feature of functional and complementary medicine. Now, advances in genetic testing mean we can determine how a person's genes may influence their health as well as identify more suitable treatment protocols to help optimise overall health and wellbeing. Some people are genetically more prone to having a weight problem. Your genes influence how much total fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates you can tolerate. Your genes influence how much fat you absorb from food, how much body fat you can create, how effectively you can burn body fat, the best type of exercise for you to burn body fat, and how prone you are to rebound weight gain.
Understanding these genetic influences enables you to make the best choices around diet and exercise for successful weight loss and long-term weight loss.”

Hormones are one of the biggest factors I see affecting women. I can generally tell if a woman’s weight loss is being affected by hormones simply by looking at where they are carrying their excess body fat. This can be managed and controlled with the right help and support and can often be managed without seeking medical intervention.
Trudy says about hormones:

Oftentimes, thyroid is considered when weight is creeping on and this could certainly be the driver as the thyroid has a key role in regulating the metabolism. Other hormones may need to be considered, including insulin, leptin, cortisol as discussed under stress, and sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.   

“Aside from the hormonal changes of peri menopause and menopause, women diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may also experience weight gain. Hormonal changes in your middle years can also cause your metabolism to slow down, leading to weight gain. As well as dietary recommendations, natural herbs and nutritionals can help you keep your hormonal system in balance.”

Alcohol Consumption
Yes, I am going to talk about alcohol one more time. If you are not prepared to give up alcohol for a period of time when trying to lose weight, be prepared to also give up on your weight loss goal. The two do not complement each other. When consuming alcohol, your body is going to try and use the calories in the alcohol first. You’re then going to eat some kind of crappy food, which your body will not have the ability to metabolise. You are also pouring poison into your body, which is going to increase the appearance of fatty deposits under your skin (cellulite), specifically around your thighs, lower back and tummy.

Don’t believe me? There is enough research and evidence to support this, but here’s my suggestion. Give it up for twelve weeks and watch what happens to your fat loss. Do a solid detox during this time and give your body and organs a chance to heal. Around the six-week mark, expect people to start commenting on how fresh your skin and hair look.

Weight loss or body recomposition can be extremely frustrating for many of us, especially women. But here’s the part you probably don’t want to hear. If you need to lose weight, there is no quick fix. It takes hard work, commitment and a genuine acceptance that,
a)    it needs to happen, and
b)    you will need help and support.

Often, the hardest part of this journey is accepting that it needs to happen. Accept the truth about where you are now and acknowledge that it is time to make some changes. The road may not be easy for you, but it is absolutely worth it and you deserve to experience life in a healthy weight range, full of energy and beautiful health.

Our Twelve Week Challenge starts this weekend at Ritual HQ. If you would like to start the process of changing your body composition, with the right help and support, then reach out as we have limited spaces available. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Working Mother - what it's really like

Working Mums

There are a lot of things you don’t find out about motherhood until after you’re committed to this child birth/baby thing. I have been in the thick of this many times thinking – why the hell didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be like this?

Like, how much is labour going to hurt? Well hot damn, nobody could have quite prepared me for that level of excruciating, vagina tearing pain.

But hey, I survived. If you want to know what it’s really going to feel like, come chat to me. Oh, and just so you know, you don’t actually forget what it feels like. That’s just another story we get told, BUT it is totally worth it and I 100% would not change a thing about the delivery of my babies, except maybe the 26-hour labour with Josie.

Ever since I became a mother I decided to never lie about what it was actually like because I really felt like, had I known, MAYBE I may have been more prepared. So, if someone asks me, they get the truth. I also recognise that as mothers we don’t want to necessarily let on how hard we are finding this motherhood journey for fear of looking like a failure.

Or for fear of being judged.

Screw that, if you want to honestly know the ins and outs of what it’s going to be like, come chat to me. Disclaimer – I may turn you off having kids forever.

However, I wouldn’t change the gifts it’s given me for the world. My kids are my life and I love them more than I ever imagined possible, but here’s my blog on what it’s REALLY like to be a working mother, with a few quotes thrown in from some of the mums in my Mums Who Lift community at Ritual HQ.

I remember thinking, before having children, that once they were ‘out’ I would be able to work from home and raise my babies. I had visions of me sitting calmly at my desk while my baby slept angelically in a cot beside me with gentle music playing.

In my mind I was going to have a roaringly successful Personal Training Business while nursing my baby. Then, after six or so months I was going to head back to my job at the bank full time and it was all going to be fine.

I couldn’t have had this more wrong if I tried.

What quickly became apparent to me was that I urgently had to redefine what success looked like. Success no longer looked like me strutting off to my city job with my six-figure income, stilettos and pencil skirt, and immaculate hair and make-up. Success was now getting to midday and managing to go to the toilet and take a dump without a baby screaming from another room (or managing to do this without taking the baby with me in their Baby Bjorn carrier because they can’t be put down that day). Maybe throwing toast in my mouth (because you can hold toast in your mouth while breast feeding a baby and juggling at least one other task) and MAYBE brushing my hair.

If I was really having a good day, I might even manage to get out of my pyjamas and – wait for it – put on a bra! Nobody told me that whilst breast feeding is absolutely beautiful and an incredible thing to do for your baby and their health, it is actually very challenging (for some of us it hurts like HELL in the early days) and will consume hours of your day. I recall one witching hour feed lasting nearly two hours. Oh, and witching hour is another term I had never heard of. This is the time around dusk when babies turn crazy. Fact.

Without redefining success, the feeling of failure was imminent, and this came regardless. On a good day, the thought of taking on any kind of intellectual work was so far from my mind because the fatigue from sleep deprivation would swamp me like a dark wet blanket. Did you know that sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture by the CIA as part of their interrogation techniques? I can confirm this would work.

Daycare is certainly an option and one I indulged in after the first year. But we need to be realistic about the cost of daycare (whilst factoring in the cost of your sanity). At one stage, my income was only JUST covering the daycare fees.

For me these days, now that my children are no longer babies, a successful morning is managing to get both kids to school with their hair brushed and shoes on both feet…on time. An extra successful day is when I manage to brush my own hair. I don’t always have successful days! Even now.

One of my mums in my Mums Who Lift community sums this up beautifully – the guilt, plus the mornings, plus the juggling act. Amelia says:

“I feel like most of my parenting stress is trying to leave the house for a specific time x 100 when you have to leave the house to get to work and they dont want to get out of bed let alone get ready.

“I can never stay late at work to finish something like I used to as I have to get home to pick them up. I feel guilty during school hols because they go to holiday care and then feel I need to arrange stuff for us to do on my days off when actually they probably need a boring day resting at home (they whinged, fought and complained all day Monday at the activity I
d planned for them).

“The days I work I feel like we
re all on a conveyor belt with not enough time to get dinner in, showers, homework and some reading before bed. And I only work three days and have a partner (I have no family here though). I cant imagine what fulltime and single parents have to deal with.”

My two are regulars at my workplace,
mostly out of necessity

These days, I do somehow manage to run two businesses, manage a team of nine, hold a relationship together, manage a separated parenting arrangement and seem to have two relatively well balanced kids, albeit extremely busy kids! But like all of us mums who work excessive hours and manage kids, it comes at a cost and for many of us it is precious time with our kids. I know I have missed a lot of time with my children, however I do have some non-negotiables that ensure the quality is always there.

We also had to learn to work at a level of speed and precision we never imagined possible. Time management skills needed to go to another level and we had to accept that down time or rest time was a luxury that no longer existed. And if you seek this kind of time to yourself, resentment mounts. The other thing I didn’t realise is the pressure that compounds your day when your kids go to school. Suddenly you have a thousand letters to read, music lessons, extra tests, parent teacher interviews, newsletters to absorb, parenting apps, parent reps, volunteering activities, fetes and play dates to navigate. Oh, and birthday parties. Nobody prepared me for this, or the pressure of school holidays, but that’s another blog.
I have been lucky enough to integrate my work into
the kid's school so I can be more present for them in
a more creative way. 

Single mum Lisa explains her world and how it has played out now that her children are a little older:

“I learned that I cant do it all, and I was going to fail everywhere unless I reframed. I was lucky enough to buy extra annual leave for holidays for a few years – and then had one week per hols with them. That was my bargaining chip for holiday/before/after school care. And they were fine with this deal. And I gave up on giving a shit what anyone thought. 

ve worked stupid hours for so long but despite a few horrors (armed burglar in the house with my son whilst Im at work, occasionally forgetting to pick them up or where I had left them, and regularly not getting home til theyre in bed). I also found the bloody joy in watching them look after each other and learn to help me run a house.

“And all my guilt about having to juggle 80-hour weeks and single parenting whilst on a massive IT project was washed away when just weeks ago I apologised to them for my long work hours when they were little, and they both had no idea what I was talking about!! No memory of my absence!!!! This is forgiveness for sure!!!!”

Interestingly, despite discovering all of these things along the way that I had wish I had known, I can now laugh at my naivety. I also know that there is nothing you can say to a mum to be to prepare them for any of this. If a mum had tried to warn me about all of this, I would have nodded, smiled and thought to myself, “yes, but it won’t be like that for me.”

And here is one final thing nobody prepared me for – the depth of love I feel for my children. This hit me harder than anything I could have ever imagined. Every time one of my children gets on stage to dance or sing or play an instrument, or hit the sporting field to do something, I literally weep. Nothing prepared me for the fear I would feel watching one of them cross the road for the first time, or the mumma bear instinct I would experience when my child got picked on at school or how much I would miss cuddling my tiny babies now that they were bigger, despite those years being some of my hardest years. Nothing prepares you for any of this and I guess this is probably a good thing. Because had I known how hard it was going to be I would have missed out on the unconditional love I give and receive now every day from these two tiny humans.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The bottle

I used to have a really bad relationship with alcohol. Like really bad. In hindsight I guess I was a high-functioning alcoholic. I drank most days. However at the time I believed I was perfectly normal, perfectly ok and absolutely in control of the situation. It was my choice to drink if and when I wanted to. I had a wine club subscription that would deliver twelve bottles of wine every three months.

I often ran out in the first month.

I worked in a corporate environment for years and it wasn’t uncommon to hit the pub at lunchtime on a Friday and I often wouldn’t roll home until well after midnight. Anyone who works in a corporate environment will know what I am talking about and may or may not readily admit that this environment is toxic. 

When I fell pregnant with Josie at age 30, I stopped drinking and these habits went away (along with the smoking habit I had also developed).  Then ‘mummy medicine’ became a thing. As I have written about before, my kids were hard work, so I drank my way through this. I would wait for 5pm to tick over (witching hour) so it was acceptable in my mind, that’s how I justified it. 

This went on for years.

I broke this habit when I met a coach who I recruited to help me change my body composition. He taught me what I know now, but it took quite a bit of convincing and education. Actually, let’s be real, he was pinching my body fat with giant callipers every week and I couldn’t get away with it anymore. The accountability and realising that if I actually wanted to achieve a certain body composition goal, I HAD to make a change. Actually, let's get real, I was trying to prove him wrong and I failed. 

Slowly, the progress became evident and then it became more important than the ‘mummy medicine’. I went twelve weeks without drinking straight up. After that I still socially drank from time to time, but never as regularly as I had been. But I missed it and I started to justify it again. 

Fast forward a few years, another child, a marriage breakdown and significant illness. The cycle continued on and off. Then I met a man who, while being 16 years my junior, had a really healthy relationship with alcohol. He taught me that alcohol didn’t fix a bad day. He taught me that it was perfectly ok to say no in a social situation and he taught me to love myself the way I was. Sober.

He also taught me that it was ok to take pride in my appearance and to also respect the process of training. Drinking didn’t serve this. Do we still drink and have fun together? Absolutely. But it is a rare occurrence these days.

Now that the fog has cleared and I have been almost four years ‘sober’ (no longer a functioning alcoholic), I can see the benefits. I also realised that the greatest gift my father gave me was his early death as a consequence of poor lifestyle choices. I know this sounds strange to some, but for those who know me, you know I search for the gift in every experience, this was his life lesson he gifted to me. I now use this as fuel to constantly remind myself why I NEED to be on this earth.

I do not want to leave my kids without a mum too soon because of my relationship with the bottle. I don’t want to miss out on seeing my kids get married and have children of their own because of my relationship with the bottle. And I sure as hell don’t want to have the body, skin, hair and nails of a chronic drinker because of my relationship with the bottle.

Now that I am a reformed drinker, I am that person who can pick out a drinker a mile away. You can see it in their skin, in the body fat they carry, in the way their belly sits over their gym tights and in the way they speak and communicate.  Drinkers think they are happy, but there is a sadness that you only become aware of once you reform. I am that annoying reformed drinker.

Why does alcohol have such a strong hold over us? Because as a society we have decided that it is our right to drink, that we deserve it. We work hard, so why the hell not? If we’ve had a hard day, a tough week or the kids annoyed us, we should dull it with wine. It works. But here’s the thing, that problem doesn’t go away, it only compounds it.

What I don’t understand is why we WILLINGLY choose to shorten our life by drinking. Please process that. YOU ARE SHAVING YEARS OFF YOUR LIFE. And no, you are not immune to this. If you are drinking regularly, you are causing damage to your body at a cellular level.

If you have kids…look at them and tell them you won’t be here for as long as they would like because the wine in your hand is far more important than they are. In fact, you might not even make it to their wedding.

What I have learnt is that I can actually tackle problems so much quicker and more effectively with a clear head. But from a purely selfish point of view, I am the happiest I have ever been with my own body as I face my 40th birthday.

So as a mother, I implore you. Reach out and let my team help you.

Break the cycle and live a long and healthy life, because you only get one fucking shot at it.


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