Monday, 28 November 2016

7 Top Tips to stay healthy in December

In December many of us tend to let our guard down with regard to our health and fitness regimes (if we have one in place to begin with). We’re busy with “busy work” and our exercise efforts can quite easily take a back seat to shopping, lunches and dinners, hangovers, kids and more.

It’s important to make time to fit your exercise in, even if you have to shorten your workouts or train at home. Skipping workouts leads to skipping more workouts and then, like the classic diet, the “I’ll start again on Monday” promise that translates to a complete blowout.

There’s no denying that at this time of year we have extra work to do – busy times at work or deadlines to meet; yes, the shopping does need to be done; and yes, there are lots of social things going on – but if you don’t take time for yourself you’ll be left in January feeling beaten and depressed and looking at what seems like a huge challenge ahead to lose weight and get fit again.

So here are some tips you may find useful through December to try and keep on top of things.

Remember, at this time of year if you struggle to maintain your exercise and healthy eating, your focus should just be on maintaining your current weight, not on losing weight. As long as you’re not gaining weight you’re doing better than most, and also probably better than previous years!

Tip #1: Make time. It’s not as hard as it sounds, just schedule in your workouts and stick to it – things will crop up and get in the way, but you need to keep to your schedule for yourself. Other things can wait, because in the end, your health is more important and one missed workout can snowball. Find a time that you think you’ll be able to allocate to a workout and schedule it in.

If you have the time to train in the morning – do it then. If not, train as soon as you get home from work (maybe even change into your gym kit before you leave). The longer you leave it, the more likely you are to skip it.

Tip #2: Pace yourself. Just because you’re on a night out, doesn’t mean you have to guzzle your way through 3 bottles of prosecco or a dozen pints. Enjoy your drinks, don’t neck them. And avoid shots!
As an extra bonus you might avoid the end-of-night junk food binge too!

Tip #3: Don’t take cakes, sweets, chocolates etc. into work. Chances are most of your co-workers will be trying to avoid the Christmas weight-gain too so stick together and be strong! If someone offers you treats, try to politely decline as much as possible. If you receive a box of chocolates as a gift, don’t open them, or gift them on (preferably to someone who’s not watching their weight).

Tip #4: Catch up on lost sleep. The late nights associated with all the get-togethers will have an impact on your health. Sleep is your best tool for keeping off the pounds. You’ll feel better and have more energy (= less skipped workouts), you burn the most fat (proportionally) when you sleep, your body recovers and repairs and your hormones rebalance. If you miss sleep, be sure to catch up on it somewhere – try to avoid shifting your wake up time too much, just take a nap in the afternoon when possible to make up for a late night or get to bed earlier the following night.

Tip #5: Walk more. To make up for the extra calories you’re likely consuming, and possibly (but hopefully not) missed workouts, try to get more activity during the day. Park at the back of the car park. Walk instead of taking the bus. Climb the escalators instead of waiting to be delivered at the top etc. Little things that you do daily add up. 

That being said, walking isn’t the most efficient activity for weight loss, so don’t sacrifice a workout for a walk, but if you can add walking in where it wasn’t before without cutting into your day, do it.

Tip #6: Drink lots of water. A glass of water when you wake up (before your tea/coffee) will help you rehydrate; a glass before meals will help you to eat less; a glass or two on a night out will slow down your alcohol consumption; water during the day will help you focus and may help reduce snacking; there are no down-sides to staying hydrated and many upsides, so it’s a no-brainer really.

Tip #7: Use your diary. This is similar to tip #1, but we tend to find ourselves wasting a lot of time all through the year, especially at Christmas. Plan your days and make them efficient. You’ll be amazed how much you can get done when you have a clear plan rather than just winging-it. Plan your day the night before – write your to-do’s, allocate time for meals and workouts, get the small things ticked off quickly and be sure to make time for yourself too. Things will get in the way, but just stick to plan and deal with extra things as soon as they come up.

Obviously there are many more things you can do to stay on track, but scheduling your days will likely have the biggest impact.

If you’ve been prepared and done all of your Christmas shopping already then you have one less thing to worry about – work on your plan of action for the nights out and think about when you’re going to have your workouts, and making better choices when the temptations are abundant.

When January comes you’ll be ready to hit the New Year running and focus on your health and weight loss goals without having to undo all the damage done in December.

If you need help with your training and/or nutrition, visit for more information on Nutrition Coaching, Personal Training, Bootcamp, and other classes.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Seasonal Affective Disorder: What is it and what can you do about it?

So it’s nearly winter again. It’s dark when we get up (most of us), and dark when we get home.
Alongside the excitement of the holidays, the treats, and the get-togethers with family and friends, comes the cold, wet weather, the stress of the impending holiday and the expense that goes with it.

For anyone who just feels like hiding under the duvet until spring, there could be something else that’s affecting your mood other than stress.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can affect many people. You may feel fine all through the summer months, but come November, you start to get the winter blues.

Whilst there may be other factors affecting your mood, don’t immediately rule out SAD as it is real, and can have a huge impact on your life. If you find that you struggle throughout the winter months, it could be affecting you too.

So what is it, and what can you do about it?

It’s a form of depression linked to the seasons. The exact cause is still uncertain, but it has been intricately linked to the lack of sunlight during the winter months. It can affect your hormone levels (predominantly melatonin and serotonin – which are involved in mood and sleep patterns) and your body clock to the point that you feel down, lethargic and like curling up in a ball and hiding.

You might feel sad and depressed, like you’re not getting enough sleep, and be struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and also feel tired during the day.

Energy levels may be low and concentration may be a struggle, and you may also crave high carbohydrate foods leading to weight gain over the holidays (compounded by the plethora of indulgent foods around us at this time of year).

On top of that, reading all of this may just push you over the edge!

But don’t panic! There is something you can do about it – and it’s actually simple stuff.

If you feel that you may be suffering from SAD (even mildly), or even if you’re not, it wouldn’t hurt to do some of the following during the winter months:

Try Light Therapy – Since the cause of this seems to be a lack of sunlight, for most people, simply getting out in the sunlight during the day (when it’s still light obviously) or buying a “light box” and placing it on your desk is often enough to counteract many of the symptoms and have you feeling better. Daylight is the best option, but a light box as mentioned, between 2,500 and 10,000 lux will also do the trick (don’t worry too much if you don’t know what that means, just look for those numbers when you search for light boxes). If you arrive at work in the dark, and leave work in the dark, the light box will likely be your best or only option. Just sitting indoors with your lights on won’t do the trick unfortunately.
As a side note, this would also be a useful tool, year-round, for those who work nights.

Get a good vitamin D supplement – Vitamin D, or “the sunshine vitamin” is produced naturally by your body in response to exposure to sunlight. Even just 20-30 minutes exposure will produce more than enough to get you through the day; but in the winter when we don’t get out in the sunlight too much or on gloomy days vitamin D levels drop causing the symptoms described previously. It is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, and like many hormones, is produced from cholesterol – so also be aware that following a low fat diet may also be affecting not just your vitamin D levels, but other hormones too – be sure to get plenty of healthy fats in your diet and skip the low-fat rubbish you see in the supermarkets!

Exercise – It’s a simple solution, but the “feel good” hormones released when you exercise doing something you enjoy can go a long way towards fighting depression and therefore SAD.
Train regularly for at least 30 minutes to keep your endorphin levels up and feel good. An added bonus to this is you’ll probably also feel good about yourself for keeping up with exercising through Christmas – you can give yourself a big high five for that!

Get a Dawn Simulator – One of my favourites! I’ve used one of these for years and it’s great! A dawn simulator is exactly as it sounds – an alarm clock that mimics the sunrise. 30 minutes or so before your alarm is set to wake you up, a dim light comes on. Over the next 30 minutes the light gets brighter and brighter (like a sunrise) until your alarm goes off and you wake up more naturally as your body has recognised the “morning sunrise”. Some SAD sufferers have great success with this, and for those who don’t suffer from SAD, it’s still a good way to wake up, rather than an abrupt alarm waking you up in a dark room and then shielding your eyes as you switch on the light.

You are not alone if you’re starting to feel a bit depressed as the light disappears for the winter. Try some of these options and especially keep exercising. Before you know it the days will start to lengthen again and we can look forward to spring and summer.

I hope this helps and please let me know if you have success with any of these recommendations J

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Holiday Survival Guide

It’s that time of year again where everything gets more difficult.

Tempting food is everywhere you look – at the office, out and about, Christmas parties and get-togethers, social drinks with friends and family.

Not to mention the stress and lack of time to get to the gym thanks to all the shopping you need to get done.

Sticking to your diet and training plan really is difficult at this time of year. Yes, it may be an excuse, and your trainer may tell you you just need to be stronger and more determined, but none-the-less, it’s difficult.

But with a little effort, you really can make it through the holidays without gaining weight.

The key here is to focus on maintaining weight, not losing it. Trying to lose weight at this time is going to stress you out even more and more than likely end up with a blow-out and the “I’ll start in January” attitude – not that it isn’t possible for those with an iron mind and will, but for us mere mortals, now is the time to focus on maintenance.

And if you’re someone who struggles to lose weight the rest of the year, chances are losing it in December will be too big an ask.

The small amount of effort it will require to maintain your weight  (compared to trying to lose weight amidst all the temptation) will be worth it on January 1st when you have no regrets and a head start on your new-year’s weight loss regime.

So your main goal is just to not gain weight. A much easier task than depriving yourself of the treats surrounding you.

So how do you do this?

Since your goal is now maintenance, for the most part you’re going to focus on just getting your normal routine done.

Don’t skip workouts. Plan things around your training. I know things get busy, but if you plan your diary well, there’s no need to skip any workouts, especially when you will be indulging in the festive treats.

Keep a food diary. By writing down every morsel of food you eat (and everything you drink) you can better track your eating. People who keep food diaries tend to get better results than those who don’t as seeing what you eat written down is sometimes an eye-opener. You’ll tend to eat less because you know you have to write it down!

Plan ahead. Never turn up to a Christmas gathering hungry! It’s like going shopping hungry – you’ll make all the wrong choices. Eat before you go, and then you’ll be less likely to run for the indulgent food the moment you get there.

Weigh yourself regularly. Normally I tell people NOT to focus on weight, but for the holidays, weighing yourself twice a week is a great way to monitor how you’re doing. Keep track and if you see the scales going up, pay more attention to what you’re eating and drinking, and maybe try to fit in a little extra exercise. We don’t need weight loss; we’re just avoiding weight gain.

Watch your portion sizes. The classic problem at this time of year is overflowing plates and “seconds”. Don’t starve yourself and do enjoy the food, just don’t over-do it. Keep your goals in mind and remember, you’re not missing out by not having extra portions! Enjoy the food you do eat and don’t obsess over missing out.

Remember drinks have calories too. Many people forget that it’s not just their food that provides calories. Cutting back on Doritos only to drink a bottle of wine and double cappuccino is a sure-fire way to overdo it and lose your way.

Deal with leftovers quickly. Unhealthy leftovers are too big a temptation for most people. Any food that’s left, either throw away, give away, or freeze for another time. DON’T leave them in the kitchen/fridge where you can snack on them just because it’s there!

Check in every day. Every day, first thing in the morning, remind yourself what your goals are. Focus on today (not yesterday or tomorrow) and what you’re going to do to avoid tricky food situations, and keep your eye on the prize (i.e. jumping on the scales in January and NOT seeing a huge weight gain). Plan ahead and keep your priorities at the front of your mind (or a cheeky drink and mince pie will temporarily take priority!).

Go public. Accountability is a great way to keep yourself in check. Tell people what you’re doing. Let them know your weigh-in results. Get someone (preferably a nutrition coach, but anyone will do) to look through your food diary and pull you up on anything that’s way over the top. Sounds scary, but it works. This is the basis behind many weight loss clubs; not that fear and shame are the best way to go about it, but they are good motivators!

It IS possible to make it through the holidays without gaining weight. Just keep these tips in mind and don’t get too ‘wrapped up’ in the details. Focus on how you want to feel after Christmas and don’t get caught up in short-term pleasures. Have the odd indulgence and enjoy yourself, but avoid the blow-outs.

If you need help with your training and/or nutrition, visit for more information on Nutrition Coaching, Personal Training, Bootcamp, and other classes.

Enjoy the holidays :)