Welcome to my personal training blog. There is so much information around regarding exercise and diets it's hard to know what is going to work for you. With over 12 years in the industry, I aim to bring my experience and knowledge to this blog so you can learn the best way's to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Is a new weight loss pill the cure for obesity?

Recently in the media there has been much acclaim regarding how a new weight loss pill will solve the UK obseity epidemic. This pill works by reducing the amount of fat the body absorbs. The undigested fat is expelled from the body through bowel movements. Now I don't know about you but that sounds like a bandaid solution if ever there was one. Amazingly it is supported by the National Obesity Forum. Essentially what they are saying is forget about trying to educate the population on the benefits of healthy nutrition and exercise lets tell them they can eat whatever they want as long as they take this pill.

No mention is made of changing behaviour at all. It may reduce the body fat levels of some people but without changing their nutrition and exercise habits they will still have increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and many other associated lifetsyle diseases.

Why is it they we keep looking a a magic pill? Fifty years ago there was no obesity epidemic and there was no magic pill.Why do doctors prescribe these medications and why has the government allowed this new pill to be available without a prescription?

Much has been made of genetics, and it's effect on how much we eat and how much weight we put on. It is a fact that some people can eat whatever they want and some people look at food and they put on weight. But, genetically we have changed for thousands of years so why are we more obese now then fifty years ago? Fifty years ago health clubs weren't even around. The range of food available was far less yet obesity was uncommon. What has changed?

Fifty years ago we didn't have the range of cheap ,highly processed, fatty, sugary food that is available now and the amount of incidental exercise we do now is almost none. So if the major difference is the fact that fifty years ago we ate natural foods, meat, vegetables, fruit, bread and did a lot more incedental exercise why is so much money being spent on coming up with a miracle drug. Why isn't it being spent on nutrition education and making it easy for everyone to exercise. Yes there are some people that have been dealt a harsh hand with their genes but for the great majority if they cut out refined foods and exercised regularly you wouldn't find many people obese.

If we started taking responsibility for ourselves instead of hoping someone will come up with the easy answer to our problems that involves no effort on our behalf we wouldn't have the obesity problem we have today. A lot of this should come about from education. After all if kids aren't taught anything about health, nutrition and exercise it makes it so much more difficult for them in later years.

So, educate yourselves on what healthy nutrition is - ignore all the diet books, it has been long since proven that diets don't work and dont result in long term sustainable weight loss. Learn what healthy food is for your body, find some form of exercise you enjoy and make both of these an integral part of your lifestyle and reap the benefits.


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Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Thinking your way to a fitter, healthier you

Have you worked hard to lose weight only to find that several months later you're back to where you started from? Have you gone on a fitness kick but a year later realised you haven't done anything for 6 months and have lost any fitness gains you made?

It is a familiar scenario that replays itself year after year. Why do people try and lose weight and get fit but find it very hard to maintain it? Often people start to see some small improvements then all of a sudden they are back to where they started from. It is very frustrating and demoralising and can put people of exercise forever.
There is a way to avoid this trap. There is a way that you can not only reach your health and fitness goals but you can maintain them for the rest of your life with little effort. Sound too good to be true - read on.

To understand the concept I'm about to discuss I'd like you to consider two different people. One we'll call, Norm and the other Lance. Now Norm is your typical overweight out of shape 40 year old. He makes an effort to go to the gym twice a week each January, by march it's down to once a fortnight and by June not at all. He often skips breakfast, eats sandwiches or meat pies for lunch, choclolate bars or muffins for snack, has take out 3-4 times a week and drinks on 5-6 nights of the week usually a bottle of wine or 2-3 pints.

Lance on the other hand is also 40 but very fit and healthy. He goes to the gym 4-5 times per week most weeks, has porridge for breakfast, brings healthy lunches to work, snacks on nuts and fruit, eats out 3-4 times per week but almost allways chooses the healthiest option and stays away from takeaway places. He drinks but only 2-3 times per week and at most 2 glasses of wine.

When you compare Norm and Lance it is easy to see that they lead two very different lifestyles. Now if Norm wants to look like Lance then he is going to need to change his lifestyle to one similar to Lance's.

The biggest mistake people make is to think that they can go on a diet for 3 months exercise 3-4 time per week for three months and feel like Lance for the rest of their lives. Typically once people have lived like Lance for a while and see some results they start acting more like Norm.

The trick to avoiding this problem is simple. All you have to do is think like Lance. Let me explain.

When Lance looks at food he thinks about how healthy it is, how it will make him feel after he's eaten it, does it contain some protein, essential fats, low glycaemic carbohydrate, plenty of vegetables, does it look like it will give his body the energy it needs, will it leave a lovely fresh healthy taste on his taste buds afterwards, how much food does he need, should he eat everything on the plate or leave some etc.

Norm however thinks about food in a very different way. He thinks about what is the most convenient thing to eat and will it taste good. He ignores the bloated full feeling he gets after he's eaten, the sudden drop in energy levels that will occur in an hour or two's time and wont even consider if the meal contains the basic buidling blocks the body needs for proper function.

Now unless Norm starts thinking like Lance he is NEVER going to maintian a healthy weight. He can force himself to eat healthy food in the short term but he will be thinking about what he is "missing out on" and how hard it is to eat healthy and if he keeps on thinking like that then he will never be able to change his habits.

A good anolgy is if you want to learn a language fluently you have to start thinking in the new language, if you always translate everything back to your original language you are never going to become fluent. This is the critical difference. Lance finds it easy to eat healthy, he doesnt feel like he is missing out on anything, in fact he feels he gains an enermous amount by eating healthy compared with eating junk whereas Norm feels like he is missing out on all the fun when he is eating healthy.

The same thought process applies to exercise, Lance loves it, looks forward to it, likes the way it makes him feel, makes time for it every week, see's it as a high priority in his life, feels sluggish and lethargic when he can't exercise for a week, whereas Norm dislikes exercise, finds any excuse he can to avoid it, doesn't notice feeling sluggish if he doesnt do it becasue he feels sluggish all the time and would rather be doing anything else. You can only overide all those negative thoughts for so long before you finally cave in and start skipping the gym and eating chocolate bars again.

You need to start thinking like Lance if you want to look and feel healthy. You need to permanently change the way you think about diet and exercise to achieve long lasting results.

Once you've done this everything becomes easy, you dont feel like you are giving up things so you can be healthy. Instead you feel that because you eat healthy and exercise you gain so much. You have more energy, feel better about yourself, have higher self-esteem, reduced stress levels, feel fitter, can enjoy many physical activities like walking or kicking a football with the kids, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, decreased risk of heart disease, oesteoporsis etc etc.

So when you find yourself thinking like Norm try and turn your thoughts around to think more like Lance. It might be difficult at first because you feel yourself saying no to many things, no I can't have that bit of chocolate, no I can't have another drink, no I can't come to the pub early as I have to go to the gym. This kind of thought pattern is never productive.

Don't think about what you saying no to, instead turn your thoughts around to what your saying yes to. Yes I want to eat healthy because that makes me feel better, yes I'd like a drink of water instead of a beer now because I know I'll feel ok in the morning if I do and I'll be able to enjoy a walk with the kids and dogs. Yes I am going to the gym before I go to the pub because being fit is way more important to me than getting to the pub in time for happy hour and I always feel really good after going to the gym which is not something you can say happens every time you go the pub.

This doesn't mean you have to be angelic, but if you have a positive outlook on the healthy side of life you'll find you dont want to stray to often from what you know is healthy.

So next time you are finding it hard to say no to something you shouldn't have turn it into a yes. Think about all the benefits you'll gain by having something healthy instead. It may not be easy doing this at first but the more you do it the easier it becomes. Eventually you'll be looking at food and exercise with an entirely knew thought process and finding it easy to eat healthy and exercise.

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Sunday, 11 January 2009

Staying motivated

If you've been following the previous blogs on New Years Resolutions you will now have, not only clearly defined goals, you'll know exactly why you want them and how you'll feel when you achieve them, you also have a plan on how to achieve them. The last part is sticking to the plan. Sticking to the plan comes down to motivation. In january most of us are very motivated but that moitvation wanes as the year progresses and we start missing some of the steps we are meant to take to reach our goal. Eventually we have missed so many of the steps we decide to start again later when things aren't as busy.

Unfortunately life is always busy, something will always come up and get in the way and if we continue to buy into these excuses then we will NEVER reach our goals. If we could only maintain that inital motivation we had when we first made our goals we might have some chance of realising them.

Many people think that motivation is something you either have or don't have. People are either a motivated person or they aren't as if it's a trait that you are born with. The good news is that it is not at all like that. People who are motivated are motivated due to a number of actions they either subconsciously or consciously do. Anybody can become highly motivated and stay highly motivated by following these ten easy steps.

1. Make your goals public. Tell your friends, peers and family what it is you are trying to achieve. Write them in your diary, post them on a blog, write them down and stick them to your fridge. The more people know about it the more likely it is that you will stick to your program.

2. Place reminders of your goal in as many places that you see on a regular basis as possible. Put pictures of people running the marathon on your screen saver, or pictures of when you were 2 stone lighter. This helps keep the goal firmly embedded in the forefront of your mind and stops the day to day worries of normal life taking over and distracting you from what you really want.

3. Maintain a training diary. Record all the actions you have taken each day that will help you achieve your goal. This serves as a daily reminder of all the work you have put in so far. Sometimes it's only when you lock back to where you've come from you realise how far it is that you've come.

4. Every week write down what you need to do over the next week to achieve your goals. Review this on a daily basis so you know exactly what you need to do tomorrow.
THe end result may be weeks or months away and can seem almost insurmountable but if you focus on only what you have to do for the next week and specifically tomorrow then it doesn't seem so hard. For example a 20 mile run may seem like an impossibility as you only did five last week. But next week you only have to do 6 miles and surely if you can do five then six can't be that hard. Step by step, mile by mile, pound by pound you will make it.

5. Visualise or mentally prepare for tomorrows workouts. I never set of for a run without having a good idea how far I'm running for, how fast and where I'm going to run. Don't just write in your diary - "Go to Gym" - be specific - what are you going to do in the gym.

6. Tell people on a daily basis what you plan to do. This doesn't mean you go around bragging that you are going for a ten mile run tomorrow. Tell the people who are close to you what you intentions are - eg. I wont be home from work tomorrow till late as I'm going to they gym. By saying this outloud drastically increases the chances of it occuring because verbally it has already happened.

7. Remind yourself of why you are doing this on a daily basis.Sometimes we lose track of our inital reasons and then lose the desire to get to the gym or go for a run. Every day remind yourself why this is important to you, how are you going to feel when you achieve your goal and how will you feel if you don't. This could take the form of some visualisation or reading your diary, going over your inital goal setting stages, it doesn't matter just as long as you never lose sight of the reasons why.

8. Enjoy the process as much as the end result. A saying goes "When we are climbing a mountain don't forget to enjoy the views on the way up as they may be better than the view at the top". Don't become so focussed on the end result that you dont enjoy the little victories along the way. Things like the feeling you get when you run for a whole hour non stop for the first time, how good you feel when you someone comments on your weight loss, the feeling of working out and actually enjoying it as a workout and not as a necessary but unpleasant step to losing weight. I'm not saying we should forget about the main goal but life's too short to only focus on the end result. Enjoy every step along the way because you never know what is around the corner. For example competitors at the recent Luton marathon had their hopes dashed when a car slid and crashed on black ice on a narrow part of the marathon course. The race had to be called off. If you sole focus was the marathon you would be devestated - a whole 6-12 months wasted, may as well have gone to the pub instead of out running in freezing wet conditions every sunday morning week after week .....
Alternatively you could think about how your fitter now than you have ever been before, you have more energy than ever before, you feel a lot more self confident, had some fantastic runs through beautiful frost covered parks that normally you would never see, made some great friends from the running club, ok you didn;t run the marathon but you've proved to yourself than you can at least train for one so no reason why you can't run a marathon next year instead.

9. Take responsibility for your own actions. People who don't achieve their goals tend to blame everything and everyone but themselves as to why they didn't. Compare these two thought patterns

"I'm injured again, why do I always get injured, maybe I'm just not cut out for this"

"I'm injured again, maybe my body is trying to tell me something, I should get some profesional advice and find out why this is happening so I can continue with my training"


"I've just had to many social functions on recently, getting to the gym has been almost impossible, things will quieten down at the end of the month so I'll wait till then and then get back into it"

"I've got a really busy social calender this month so I'm going to have to say no to a few occasions and also get to the gym more on the weekend when I have more time."


"I've been going to a lot of business dinners lately so I've been drinking more than I should and not eating very well as they are all three course dinners."

"I've been going to a lot of business dinners lately so I've decided to limit myself to one glass of wine only and not to eat everything on my plate."

If you make the excuses external then there isn't anything you can do about that, if you take responsibilty for yourself then you do have control over what you do.

10. Surround yourself with people who have either already achieved the same goal as you or are currently trying to achieve it. By associating with people who have achieved success in the same field as you it gives you confidence that it can be done. If you train with people that have never done a marathon and think that only crazy people run marathons then they are not helping your state of mind. If however you join a running club in which many people have done a marathon including people who run slower than you then your belief in yourself increases substantially.

If you can follow each of these steps then the only question is when you will achieve your goal not if. Good luck. Wait I take that back because you wont need any luck following these steps, success is assured.

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