Why I didn’t made any resolutions this year and feel better than ever

Every January I get swept up in the New year New me hype and consequently end up making some ridiculous resolutions along the lines of cutting back or banning certain things. Last year it was sugar-free and whilst I generally did feel great for the mini detox (especially after a typically unhealthy December), I needlessly turned down a lot of social events. Which was tragically out of pure stubbornness for not deeming myself a failure! Ultimately when I fell off the wagon I fell hard. I ended up bingeing on that much junk food I made myself ill. Funnily enough I never had an issue with sugar (or weight!) beforehand, and totally cringe looking back.

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As you may know, I’m always looking for ways to self-improve so a lot of my resolutions have been in this vein. But in hindsight, resolutions (‘rules‘) are sometimes so overly rigid that they can drive me crazy and dominate my thoughts. I tend to adopt an all in all out attitude and probably still think like a child in the sense that if you tell me NO then I now want whatever it is, x 100. Aside from being healthy, I’m not even sure what I was realistically aiming to achieve by going cold turkey when I could have probably just implemented a few small changes whilst maintaining my sanity. It’s true that small good habits really stack up in the quest for behaviour change.

Like me, I think a lot of people are swept up by the New Year resolution hype. Feeling as though they should be aiming to improve. Why? Because everyone else is.

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Have you made resolutions this year?

The big ones seem to (as usual) be along the health and fitness realm. Whether that is  giving up all aspects of a social life because everyday is #gymday or total elimination like #dryjanuary, or saving so much you turn into full hibernating squirrel. Or perhaps you now feel the sudden need to read a book a week, or become a full on yogi by February,  master meditation, create a 10 piece capsule wardrobe, or throw everything out because you read about #minimalism.

I think we are all guilty of this.

I look around me and see people adopting the same self destroying resolutions as previous me. It doesn’t work because it’s never good to jump straight into the deep end. To create a perfect 10 item wardrobe and become completely minimalist when you previously hoarded everything and the kitchen sink? Or the biggest meat-eater now turning vegan for the month. What it does is make you sick of the very behaviour you’re trying to adopt. Sick of cutting meat & dairy out when in reality you needed to do it slowly, make the small changes into habits and manageable behaviours. This way it becomes easier, meaningful and you become much more mindful over the new behaviour.

This year I proudly said a firm No to resolutions and I honestly feel a sense of relief. Note to self:

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Don’t make resolutions

..and of course rules too. Formulating rigid rules can be detrimental to success. Going cold turkey is hard, and making restrictions or rules so overly rigid will serve as a mental hindrance.

Ban should and shouldn’t language

Stop saying these words. Simple but effective. Psychological research supports this too – when people say they could rather than should do something, they are more likely to follow through with that behaviour.

Don’t jump straight in

I see so many people fall off the wagon because they attempt to go from 0 to 100 (or 100 to 0!) right off the get go.

  • Never been to the gym before? Don’t jump into a 7 day weight lifting program!
  • Struggle to drink water? Then you’ll struggle to drink 2 litres a day at the start. Perhaps incorporate an extra glass before one meal and once you’ve conquered that do it for all meals
  • Find reading hard? Then it seems you are wasting your precious time. You can get the information in so many other forms, audio books, Ted talks, documentaries, TV shows. You sure as hell do not need to pressure yourself into doing something you take no pleasure from!
  • Veganism? At least aim to adapt a vegetarian lifestyle first and foremost
  • Feel overwhelmed about cutting so much out? Whatever it is, make that first step small, then build on

It’s the little things we do daily that amount to who we are. Little by little these small habits stack up and contribute to a bigger change or goal.

I would love to hear if you made resolutions this year & whether you stuck to them 🙂

Hope you enjoyed reading and have a great day!

x

 

Three simple tips to make 2018 your best year yet

As 2017 comes to a close it’s natural to reflect and begin planning the year ahead. Personally I’m not really into making solid new years resolutions but I do like to take stock on things going well and reflect on areas that I want to improve. I definitely don’t wait until January 1st to make changes though – reflection is something that should be incorporated into your life continuously. Read about my 2017 reflections here.

A majority of New Year’s resolutions are made post-Christmas binge and spending extravagance, so it’s natural that a majority of these reflect a feeling of wanting to save money, be healthier or lose weight. Easy to do when you feel like you’ve overindulged, but once the initial Christmas week bloat has subsided those good intentions go straight out of the window.

With that in mind I wanted to share three simple tips on how to have a great year. No resolutions, no restrictions, just some easy to implement self-development approaches that can help you to make small but longstanding changes.

Reflect

What went well this year?

Reflecting on both the good and bad can help you consolidate your self-worth, steer bad habits and build on good behaviours 

This can usually be broken down into a few areas such as work, personal life, social life, relationships, etc, depending on where your priorities lie. Did you achieve something that you didn’t think was possible a year ago?

Reflecting on your year may seem a daunting task but all it really requires is taking time out. You don’t need to be a top analyst to stop, clear your thoughts and think about things in a reflective and reflexive manner. However you choose to reflect try to do it when you have some real peace and quiet in order to really listen to your inner voice. Trust that. If you feel that you find it easier to dwell on negative things and less inclined to praise the positive, then this reflects a state of mind that is automatically attuned to focus and on the bad. It’s a bad habit and I bet you’ll also find it easier to remember negative events, situations where people have wronged you or hold on to grudges. If this resonates with you then I would perhaps consider focusing on changing this bad habit. It serves no good purpose.

Over the period of a year there should be one or two (if not more) highlights, but if they don’t jump out make sure you reflect even when you do not feel there is anything to particularly stand out. What are the positives of your year? What moments were you truly happy? How did you feel in those moments? If all else fails, ask yourself What are you grateful for?

Next, think about the behaviours which underpinned these positives. These are the behaviours, habits and activities that you want to build on and keep incorporating in the new year. As for the lowlights, or the things that didn’t go to plan, how could the situations be improved going forward? Those behaviours are things you want to inject in your life more.

Project

Where do you see yourself in a years time?

Write yourself a list, letter or goal of something you wish to have achieved by December 31st 2018. 

This is your north star and will essentially guide you in your behaviours for the new year. If it is a specific goal then break it down to it’s constituent parts and plan to incorporate small changes or steps that amount to the larger goal. Remember to set goals that are SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely) as these are the most achievable. For example, if losing weight is your goal then set a SMART goal and break it down into a number of steps or smaller goals. i.e. drinking 2 litres of water a day, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Start small to build the foundations and consolidate with congruent behaviours. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable goals as they’re likely to have a rebound effect.

If you write about something less concrete such as ‘being healthier or happier’ then again break this down into actions and/or behaviours that you can incorporate which will subsequently amount to the overall aim. E.g. smiling at people, letting go of the need to be right or reducing toxic people from your life. Read my post about that here.

Prioritize

What activities do you already undertake and what behaviours/habits do you have nailed down? List as many as possible – for example, going to the gym twice a week, having a weekly catch up with your friend, or a 10 minute meditation session every morning. List these in order of priority so that when you feel overwhelmed, too busy or stuck in a rut, look at your list of actions or behaviours that are the most important to you. Continue with the most important and prioritized activities at times when you are overwhelmed and cut the rest.

If you would like me to write more in detail about goal setting and behaviour change let me know. 🙂

Do you make resolutions?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Seven personal reflections on 2017

Even though I regularly incorporate a good amount of reflection in my life, December seems a natural point to take stock on perhaps a much greater scale.

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2017 has been pretty pants on a personal level. I’ve been dealing with a high amount of stress coupled with an abundance of personal issues. Without dwelling on the dark times too much I would rather look at what I’ve learned going into the new year.

If I had one big take away, it would be to let things go. This year has been a personal learning curve and with an exertion of time and effort, I’ve combatted stress and eliminated the waste from my life. I’ve tackled issues head first that I’d perhaps repressed over the years and have truly learned to stop dwelling on bygones. I can honestly say that I’ve left the past where it belongs.

2017 might have been a bummer and whilst I certainly wouldn’t wish the dark times again I wouldn’t change the past or live with regret. Having an abundance of time to work on myself was exactly what I needed. I believe that I’ve come out the other side feeling incredible and stronger than ever. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I can truly hand on heart feel incredible again.

It’s incredible to think about my mindset change over the year. I for one am beyond excited to head into 2018 with a determination on my face, plans up my sleeve and ambition by my side.

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What have I learned?

Letting go. First and foremost, I’ve learned to stop dwelling on the negative. Holding onto negative energy has repercussions far beyond the obvious annoyances. It seeps into general life and snowballs into having greater effects on the mind and body, such as tension headaches, grudges, pent-up stress, to name a few. It’s not just the extensive issues either – it’s those little everyday niggles that in hindsight should not matter. If you’re struggling with similar things a good question to ask yourself: will this really matter a year from now? Probably not. So why let it take prime time in your conscious now?

Stopping moaning. I notice a default setting for a lot of people is to just moan about anything and everything. I still find it tough spending too much time around particularly negative people because I’m aware of the potential rubbing off effects. If you’ve read my toxic people post you’ll understand that I went through a period of working out who was good for me and who was creating toxicity in my life.

Stopping being reactive. I noticed waking up feeling stressed at the number of notifications, messages and emails on my phone. In hindsight what I was doing was training my brain to be reactive and to deal with the demands of others, rather than my own. It was also feeding into my feelings of being overwhelmed which put further undue stress on my body. The way I combatted this was through decluttering digital waste (below). Now I wake up to feeling stress free.

Digital decluttering. I switched my phone onto do not disturb in the mornings and evenings and I turned my notifications off. The first and last hour of my day is my time and completely uncompromised. There’s scientific evidence that demonstrates that notifications on digital devices feed into the dopamine cycles and addiction pathways in the brain. I.e. you get that initial fix and unsatisfyingly seek more. I was surprised at the effect it was having on me. Now I reduce my brain with collateral and am more than content to engage in being more proactive and productive.

Clearing my mind. Carving out distraction free ‘me‘ time is when I am my most creative. Clarity of mind enables me to operate in my most proactive state; and taking time to really think, write or journal, enables me to reflect, plan and learn. I express gratitude, reflect and learn, which in turn boosts my happiness and self-efficacy.  2018 will include more of this and will be about getting back to being on my own personal agenda.

Seeking support. I can be pretty stubborn at times (I’m working on it!). I like to think I’m invincible and also really dislike feeling defeated, so asking for help can be somewhat uncomfortable for me. However, opening myself up to a number of people and asking for their help or patience has been one of my turning points this year. I felt  overwhelmed with love and support and incredibly grateful for having such amazing people in my life.

Writing as personal therapy. I’ve developed a newfound found love for writing, be it to do lists, journaling or blogging about things I care about. The cathartic process of writing enables me to clear my mind and gain insight into where my passions lie.

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I could write so much more about 2017 but these are a snippet of my learnings.

What have you learned in 2017?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Lianne x

Staying fit during winter

December arrives with a plethora of christmas parties, festive nights out and good old catch ups. Personally I enjoy having lots of festive fun, but with a jam-packed schedule it can be difficult to stay on top of fitness.

During the winter your body produces more fat storing chemicals (ATLPL to be precise) and you crave more comfort food (serotonin levels drop which leave us more tired and hungry) basically serving us a double whammy. Exercise offsets both of these hormones which makes it even more essential to stay active during the cold and wet winter months. Beyond obvious physical health benefits, exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress levels and decreases your risk of depression. All of which are prone to suffer the most as the nights draw in and the mornings become increasingly darker.

This got me thinking about little ways to change things up a bit and stay fit during winter; since I definitely do not want to turn into the stuffed turkey…

Motivation.   

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  • Dark mornings and nights play havoc on energy levels so it’s natural to feel a dip in motivation at this time of year. The last thing you want to do is get up extra early to exercise but don’t fall into the trap of excuses
  • Read about my ways to boost your energy levels and my tips to eat healthily during the festive period
  • Action comes first and motivation follows. If you wait to feel motivated, it’ll never happen.  Build those good behaviours day by day and before you know it habit takes over

Be prepared.

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  • Schedule.. your week ahead by making exercise plans in your diary. It helps you stay accountable. Aim to get in some form of activity most days, whether that’s a gym class, walk on your lunch break or taking the stairs
  • Pack up and go.. Early morning gym session? Lay your gym kit out and have your bag packed. The last thing you want to do in the morning is spend time searching for something to wear
  • Fuel up.. Keep water next to your bed and drink first thing to wake you up. If you’re struggling, grab a coffee or quick snack for some energy. A banana, handful of nuts or raisins will give you that quick burst
  • Jump out of bed.. 20 minutes spent deliberating about getting up? Those could be spent going for a quick run, getting to the gym or working out at home. Having done a quick 30 minutes of exercise, be showered and dressed before 9am? Now that will certainly put you in a good mood for the day

Banish the excuses.

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  • Sign up to classes.. 
  • Grab a friend or gym buddy.. make plans with others and it’ll make you more accountable. You can catch up, make your workout fun and feel good after
  • Too dark and cold out? Work out at home. 30 minutes and your body weight is all you need
  • Busy day? Use time creatively and make sight adjustments to the day. Go for a walk on your lunch break, take the stairs, get off the bus at an earlier stop, walk/cycle to work
  • Make your social plans active.. go for walks, bike ride, a yoga class, ice skating, indoor trampolining, whatever takes your fancy

Winter proof your workout.

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  • Try a new activity, sport or class… avoid becoming stagnate by changing things up 
  • Embrace the cold.. by trying a winter activity. Get outdoors, countryside walks, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, sledging…
  • Invest in new workout gear.. nothing says new motivation like a new piece of kit. Get the right gear and layer up. Once you start moving you’ll warm up
  • Workout at home.. if you can not face going outside. With a plethora of YouTube videos and workout apps you can do almost anything from the comfort of your living room
  • Motivation.. update your playlist and grab a friend to up your motivation

For more tips for health and wellness over winter check out my other posts:

Essential nutrients to boost energy levels

Tips to eat healthily during the festive period

‘Healthy food’ mistakes you need to stop

Let me know if you would like any specific workout or nutrition tips

Good luck!

L x

 

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Three essential nutrients to boost energy levels this winter

Feeling tired, moody or blue? You are definitely not imagining that dip in your energy levels at this time of year.

The reduced sunlight hours over winter seriously impacts energy levels, mood and appetite. Research suggests that 9 out 10 people will experience a dip in their energy levels and in more serious cases people can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression that occurs in winter, where the lack of sunlight significantly reduces the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It is thought to affect around 3% of the population and is complex and serious. Luckily the majority are not effected to the same extent, but in all seriousness the lack of sunlight can really leave people in a state of winter blues. 

Simply put, serotonin (the mood boosting hormone) is produced when the sunlight enters the eye and regulates all things related to energy, appetite and mood. When you aren’t producing enough these behaviours get thrown out of whack. Melatonin is produced in darkness (regulating the sleep cycle) and prepares the body for sleep. Hence dark early nights mean your body produces less of the mood boosting hormones and more of the drowsiness inducing hormones, making you want to hibernate and eat more.

Luckily, you can boost energy levels through foods and supplements to avoid dipping into hibernation mode for the next four or so months. Food is medicine as they say and these three nutrients can be found pretty easily, so incorporate into your foods and feel on top form this winter!

1. Vitamin D

This might be the most essential vitamin to take during the winter months. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in converting tryptophan into serotonin so it’s not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The best source is through sunlight so over winter it’s even more important to add in to your diet. Luckily it’s easy to incorporate through foods such as fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Herring, Tuna), egg yolks and fortified foods such as some milks (check the label). Besides sunlight the best form is in supplements, with a dose of 3000iu having high absorption rates. I cannot stress the importance of Vitamin D enough.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown to boost mood, as well as being a great all round protector for the body. It helps with serotonin and is often used to help combat fatigue and balance emotions. Magnesium is easy to get through foods, as well as sprays and supplements. Good sources of food include: Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach and beans.

3. Chromium

Chromium works directly with the hormones that regulate energy and mood (serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin). It helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which prevent energy dips. It’s found in small quantities in a lot of foods but the best sources are shellfish, brazil nuts, pears, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and oats. If taken in supplement form, research suggests 200mcg is the best amount to reap the benefits.

Upping your intake of these three nutrients will definitely help to boost your energy over  these long dark evenings!

 

 

 

 

Festive Feasting: healthy eating in December

Since I wanted to focus a new series of posts about the festive season, what better way to kick it off with some healthy eating tips!

The festive period is always the worst time to be healthy. With an endless supply of treats, Christmas parties and indulgent dinners, weight gain is almost inevitable. Then January arrives with a renewed sense of motivation for getting fit, losing that extra 5 or 10lbs and adopting an all round healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships peak and new fad diets flourish… which ultimately fail. Did you know that 80% of New Years resolutions fail before Valentine’s day, a mere 6 weeks later? Sorry to be the barer of bad news but the statistics do not lie in this case.

My question is this: instead of letting yourself totally go in December why not attempt to have a healthier season? It doesn’t have to be about restricting fun but rather indulging in moderation.

I always advocate living a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and actually enjoyable. It’s never about cutting back or deprivation but more about being aware of how food impacts on your body, health and wellbeing. Christmas is all fun and games until your jeans are too tight!

With that being said, I often get asked how to eat healthily during this season, so I wanted to share some simple tips:

 

Tip 1: Stay hydrated

People often forget to drink water during this time, instead opting for more indulgent or alcoholic beverages. However, dehydration causes lots of issues such as playing havoc on the digestive system, lethargy and drying out your skin. On the alcohol note, be aware of

  • For optimal digestion aim for 2 litres a day
  • Drink a glass first thing in the morning 
  • Have a glass before or with each meal 

Tip 2: Alcohol calories

They easily add up. Simple as. Cocktails, creamy mixers and adding booze to your hot chocolate are easy ways to consume a lot of calories.

  • Opt for lighter spirits such as gin and vodka
  • Tonic water and sodas are lower calorie mixers
  • Drink water in between drinks

 

Tip 3: Never go to a buffet hungry

You’ll end up overeating. Buffet food is rarely healthy because it’s cheap and full of salt and sugar, making those little nibbles far too addictive.

  • Have a small snack beforehand to avoid turning up ravenous
  • Don’t skip other meals or ‘save yourself’ throughout the day as it will lead to overindulgence
  • Always eat breakfast (full of protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates) to balance blood sugar levels and preventing a sugar crash. It’ll set the tone for the rest of the day

Tip 4: If you don’t love it, forget about it

Just because you’re surrounded by a plethora of food it does not mean you have to eat everything. Try to only indulge on the foods that are worth it and you really love or want to try. Before filling your plate at a buffet, look at the entire spread to decide what few things you want to indulge on. Fill the rest with healthier options such as protein and vegetables. The fibre will prevent overeating. You don’t want to be in the situation where you have eaten three desserts before spotting your absolute favourite! If it’s a three course meal, try to choose two healthier or lighter options out of three, or better yet share!

  • If you like the decadent dessert option then go for a lighter starter & main (and vice versa) 
  • Share a starter or dessert
  • Ask a waiter to adapt the option to make it healthier (restaurants can be very amenable to intolerances)

Tip 5: Don’t forget to eat the rainbow

Fruit and veggies that is! A plate of vegetables isn’t the most attractive food option at this time of year, but aim to eat around 5 portions a day. Why? If not you’ll end up with sluggish digestion and stomach problems. The fibre will also fill you up, potentially stopping you from overeating and preventing a sugar crash.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables
  • Opt for fruit based desserts
  • Seasonal fruit and vegetables are delicious!

Tip 6: Out of sight out of mind

Simple. If it’s not in eyesight wont be as tempted.

  • Eat from a plate to be aware and accountable for what you’re eating

Tip 7: Be mindful and guilt free

Be mindful over the choices you make and remember the bigger picture. One indulgent day is not going to make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things, but several could lead to unwanted weight gain. It’s easily done. Eat only when you are hungry and not out of boredom. Eat in a way to fuel your body and your soul.

  • Are you hungry or bored?
  • It’s ok to say no!
  • Do you really need that second helping? The first and last bite are always the best so enjoy in moderation
  • Going out? choose healthy options for the rest of the day but don’t restrict (e.g. Fill up on lean protein and lots of veggies for lunch)

 

Most of all, relax and enjoy the season! Focus on the bigger picture: taking time out and spending it with loved ones 🙂

 

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Do you have toxic people in your life?

Unfortunately toxic relationships affect us all at some point in our lives. When it comes to relationships we seem to be pretty well attuned to spotting this toxicity yet let it slide with others. We can verbalise reasons why a relationship didn’t work – selfishness,  lack of understanding, not able to be yourself, and list goes on…

So why do we allow these traits or situations manifest in friendships?

To live our most happy lives we must be surrounded by those that lift us up. Since we are supposedly the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time around, it’s imperative to  choose wisely! It can be difficult to spot negative and toxic traits, especially when you’re in the thick of it. I’m certainly guilty of being oblivious at the time then looking back and spotting and reflecting on negative traits and situations. Captain hindsight is a wonderful thing, eh?

Reflecting on those traits in my personal experiences as well as talking to others I noticed a few key traits and commonalities.

Negative energy

I think this might be the biggest for me. I tend to absorb people’s feeling quite easily and  always notice a negative vibe straight off the bat. Some people are just terribly pessimistic and their glass is always half empty and whilst it’s not necessarily your problem it’s definitely not nice to be around. If you notice that you come away from being with someone always feeling negative, pulled down or a bit bleak, perhaps that person has had an effect on you. Maybe you cannot put your finger on it. I’d suggest re-assessing your time spent and the situation with them. Everybody goes through a bad patch from time to time and if it’s a close friend you might not mind spending a bit of energy trying to lift them up, but nobody needs to be around a constant stream of negative energy. It might start rubbing off on you. Not nice.

Lack of respect

An unwritten rule of any friendship is a mutual respect for one another. A lack of respect can come in many forms from you feeling used, your values not being respected or feeling pressured into something. On a more subtle note, is the person actually listening to you? Do they sit on your phone whilst you’re talking, do they talk over you or do you feel like you have to hold back for fear of offending? Do they constantly take and never give? In reality we all have differing options but you should never be made to feel as though you’re tiptoeing around someone or as though you’re not able to be your true self. True friends accept you for who you are.

Emotional abuse

The word abuse is such a loaded term because it can have serious implications, which makes it difficult to acknowledge. Over time, emotional abuse really impacts on your self-esteem and self-worth which is why it is important to cut it out of your life. It might be that you’re constantly put down, criticised or ridiculed by that person. Other signs to look out for are snide comments, being made fun of or not being listened to. These factors can seriously hurt and affect the way in which you view yourself and can lead to serious self-esteem issues.

What signs do you notice?

Lianne

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