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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Eat your way to radiant skin with these five foods

Food is essentially medicine (and unfortunately ailment too) but it provides a plethora of benefits beyond weight. One of those benefits is looking young and improving the radiance of skin. Instead of spending copious amounts of money on lotions and potions to rectify skin issues, by paying attention to what goes on inside can arguably be more beneficial to preventing those problems in the first place.

The following five foods are all amazing for keeping the skin looking clear, fresh and plump. There are so many foods out there that are beneficial for the skin, but I have focused on wholefoods that are readily available and easy to include in a diet, rather than advocate eating tons of specialist superfoods that cost a small fortune! These are some of my personal favourites that I eat in abundance.

Nutrients to look out for…

healthy fats should be the first port of call. They are also incredible for nails and hair as well as skin because they promote hydration, reduce toxins and help fight anti-ageing. Other nutrients to include are zinc, copper and fibre.

Avocados

Avocados are a powerhouse of a food! They are full of healthy fats which aid in absorbing vitamins and minerals and the monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados promote hydration and prevent skin from looking dull. They also contain fibre and Vitamin E which is great for keeping the skin supple hence promoting radiance.

Salmon

Salmon contains a high source of anti-inflamatory omega-3 essential fatty acids which protect the skin from ageing. The healthy fats found in salmon reduce inflammation within the skin, meaning they nourish, prevent wrinkles and de-clog pores. Omega-3 helps to fight the enzymes that attack collagen, so naturally slow down the ageing process by preventing wrinkles and sagging skin.

Dark Chocolate

Free radicals damage cell membranes through a process called oxidation and increase the risk of ageing (as well as cancer). Free radicals are caused largely by environmental factors such as toxins, chemicals, cigarettes as well as being increased by eating the wrong types of food (e.g. cooked and processed meats, deep-fried foods).

Antioxidant rich foods can help to prevent this and cocoa is one of the highest sources, being even richer than green tea, blueberries and superfood acai. In additional, cocoa also boosts the circulation of blood to the skin so that oxygen and nutrients can be absorbed which promote new cell growth and prevent de-hydration.

Coconut oil

Multipurpose coconut oil! Coconut oil nourishes the body from the inside due to the high level of fatty acids. It also increases the absorption of a number of minerals such as vitamin A and E which is great for the skin. Better yet, you can put it on your skin too. Use as a moisturizer, makeup remover or simply slather on the skin for deep conditioning.

Pumpkin & pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin is also anti-inflammatory like salmon and  contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium and iron which are al great for promoting re-growth of cells essential for renewing the skin. Pumpkin seeds are a high source of zinc too which is great for collagen production and protection. All the more reason to eat both the squash and the seeds.

Do you eat any of these?

Lianne x

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The top 5 worst ‘healthy’ food habits you need to stop right now

Transitioning into a healthier lifestyle can become overwhelming with the amount of conflicting advice thrown around, not to mention the number of fad diets and trendy eating habits constantly gaining then losing traction.. gluten-free, dairy free, paleo, low carb, keto, atkins, grain free, the list is a mindfield and it’s endless.

Eating healthy does not mean going cold turkey on the foods you love, and I would seriously question a diet that advocated cutting out an entire food group. Most of the time healthy eating just requires making small adjustments to ensure that you’re getting a good source of nutrients from a range of foods.

I see a lot of re-occurring misconceptions and ‘healthy’ habits that are actually naively misguided, so despite efforts to eat healthily they can sometimes be a little in vain.

These are 5 of the worst offenders I commonly see!

Hidden sugars

We all know that sugar is unhealthy, addictive and provides zero nutritional benefit, but it unfortunately hides in so many foods without you realising. Cereals, condiments and fruit juices all contain hidden sugar bombs. Unfortunately the worst offenders are products marketed as healthy or low-calorie, so whilst throwing out that junk food and instead opting for granola, fruit bars or trail mix in a bid to be healthier, the effort is unfortunately redundant.

Where else does sugar lurk? Basically anything pre-packaged is a potential for hidden sugar. That’s not to say all packaged food is bad, it just means that reading labels is a must if opting for something pre-made. Sauces (think pasta sauces, sweet chilli, tomato ketchup), granola and muesli, dried fruit, tinned fruit and trail mix are all high in sugar, and be especially careful of low-fat or low-calorie products. For example a lot of fruit juice has as much if not more sugar than a mars bar! And granola or muesli can contain as much sugar as a bowl of sugary cereal. Whilst the effort to go for healthy options is there, unfortunately the sugar bombs are too.

Another terrible offender is artificial sources of sugars hidden under several monikers such as aspartame or sorbitol. Whilst sugar can be processed by your body, artificial sugars are alien. If you think back to cave men days, sweeteners were not around but as time has gone on companies have started to use them in their products for two reasons: because they’re cheap and they make the food taste good whilst limiting the calories. It’s all a marketing ploy, they can sell you a product that both tastes good but is low in calories. They can pump the sugar in without you noticing because there are so many names for artificial sugars. My motto is if you cannot understand the ingredient or require a dictionary to decipher the label, then it probably is hiding something.

So what about fruit? Yes fruit contains sugar and eating too much of any type of sugar will result in extra weight around the waistline. The bigger picture is that it also contains fibre which is essential as part of a healthy diet. Sugar without the fibre is highly addictive. I bet you wouldn’t eat 5 apples in a row, but a whole bag of sweets? There is where the problem lies. Because the fibre in fruit fills you up it prevents overeating and helps to keep your digestive system ticking over. Fruit is best consumed in raw form rather than dried or in a juice.

Choosing low-fat

When the fat is removed from a product it’s replaced with sugar (or sweeteners more often than not) to make it taste better. A common misconception is that eating fat makes you fat, but that is completely untrue. Eating too much of anything increases weight gain. Fat is a macronutrient that your body needs to survive. It’s the primary source of energy and essential for absorbing vitamins and regulating the body’s core temperature.

The fat in the food is satsiating meaning it fills you up. Low fat and diet options aren’t satisfying. The fat is replaced with sugar which is not filling, highly addictive and induces cravings for more. A lot of ‘diet’ or low-fat options include yoghurt, diet drinks and snack bars.

If you’ve ever noticed eating more of these foods that is why.  Often sugar cravings are a sign of needing more fat. Next time you’re craving something sweet, eat a handful of nuts and see how you feel after.

Just have the full fat and enjoy in moderation.

Cutting all carbs

Why are carbs demonized? They contain glucose which are the body’s main source of energy! All organs in the body (including the heart and brain) needs carbs to survive. Cutting carbs is detrimental on so many levels, resulting in low energy, decreased brain functioning and problems with digestion.

Refined carbs absolutely need to be cut as they consist of high fat, high sugar and other addictive substances. These are the typical fast food offenders that aren’t natural, come pre-packaged and provide no nutritional benefit. Junk food.

However lately it seems to be trendy to cut all carbs or replacing with alternatives such as courgette pasta, cauliflower rice or naked noodles instead of potato, rice and pasta. It has also become trendy to go gluten-free. Gluten itself is not bad for you, it’s the extra crap and additives in those products that contain gluten that have caused the food to become problematic. Gluten should only be avoided by celiacs (effecting approximately 1% of the population). Cutting carbs too low can result in decreased energy and increased chance of later overeating because the body and brain needs energy so will turn to foods high in quick sources such as high sugar. Eating wholesome, whole-wheat products is healthy and a good source of energy and fibre. They also taste good and make you feel good because your brain needs energy! Unless you have a specific health reason to cut carbs there is no legitimate reason to do so.

Focusing on calories

A calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from sugar, starch or natural food. But focusing food choices around calorie content misses the bigger picture. A calorie from natural sources of food will provide the body with additional benefits beyond the number on the kcal count. The chocolate bar might have the same calories as an apple, or less than an avocado but what you’ll be missing from that chocolate bar is the additional minerals and vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, which provide benefits for sleep, skin, hair and nails, as well as digestion, helping your body to fight injections and prevent diseases.

Unless you are on a calorie controlled diet requested by a health professional, you do not need to count calories. Focus on eating the rainbow! Count colours, not calories. If your diet mainly comprises of real, whole and colourful foods, then you’ll not need to worry about overeating.

Depriving yourself

The flip side of going too healthy.

Restriction does not work. Think back to being a child and being told no; it only leads to wanting whatever it is that you were being denied. Cutting something out completely, or changing your lifestyle to everything being absolutely healthy by being so constrained and restrictive about food can cause unhealthy obsessions. You can enjoy foods you like but in more healthy ways, for example by substituting dark chocolate for chocolate, sorbet for ice cream or making healthy snack bars. There are tons of recipes out there.

Or just have those foods you cannot live without in moderation. Moderation not deprivation. Think of filling your diet with a majority of real foods (i.e. one’s that do not need a dictionary to decipher the label) and then allow a few not so good foods in here and there so you are not craving and later bingeing on them. Any changes to a lifestyle should be maintainable and enjoyable that are in no way restrictive. When you fill the majority of your diet with wholesome real food you might start to notice cravings for junk food tend to dwindle anyway.

Are you guilty of making these mistakes?

Lianne

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