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What’s going on at the gym.
What’s going on at the gym.
We always ask our members what their goals are and what they hope to achieve when they become more active.
As we often tell you, it’s important to know where you want to end up, otherwise you’re really never going to get there.
But, a goal is just an outcome. It’s an end result. So how do you get to that goal? Well, that’s determined by your behaviours.
As we all know, now more than ever, the world and our environment is pretty uncontrollable. Life has a tendency to just happen, and often, not quite how you’d want it to.
For instance, say you want to sell your house for a really good price. You refurbish it and decorate, put in new carpets, and tidy the garden. But, you can’t control the housing market or the price of mortgages! That example might be a bit too relevant at the moment.
You want to go for a lovely walk with friends and have lunch somewhere so you arrange it all but you can’t control the weather.
You want to lose weight and so you eat well and stay active but hubby books nights out with meals and holidays away that mean you don’t get to the gym as regularly as you’d like.
You can’t make your body lose 20 lbs on command any more than you can make sure your house is worth a certain amount when you sell it.
In other words, you can’t control the outcome. But what you can do is control the behaviours that lead to the outcome you want.
Here are examples of outcome goals and behaviours goals:
|Run a 5k race in 23 minutes||Run for 20 minutes 3 times per week for the next month|
|Do 10 pushups
|Start doing 4 pushups every day and add a pushup each week|
|Eat 6 servings of veg every day||Write a list of veggies I like and make sure I buy them in this week’s shop|
Notice how all of the behaviour goals are a commitment to do a specific set of actions or tasks that lead to the outcome you want. You might want to run a 5k in a certain time but if you don’t train consistently, it’s just not going to happen.
Behaviour goals are small, manageable tasks that are within your control; and behaviour goals are often things that you can do right now, today or in the near future. You know, once we do them consistently, we normally call them HABITS!
You can’t control the outcome. But you can control the behaviours that, when done consistently, will lead to the outcome you want.
Stress is a major problem today thanks to social media, long working hours, lack of physical activity and numerous other factors. Did you know it’s estimated that between 75-90% of all visits to the GP are related, either directly or indirectly, to conditions caused by stress?
While stress causes a variety of health conditions, one of the most common, which many people are unaware of, is the impact stress has on our hormone levels and our ability to maintain a healthy weight and stress that goes on for a long time is a triple whammy for weight management – it increases our appetites, makes us hold on to fat we already have and reduces our willpower making it harder to implement a healthy lifestyle.
The reasons why stress leads to weight gain are complex but the four major ones are:
Our hormones – When your brain detects danger, whether that’s a sabre-toothed tiger on the hunt or a looming work deadline, your body releases a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline, CRH (Corticotropin-releasing hormone) and cortisol. These help your body to feel alert, ready for action and able to deal with injury. Fighting off the tiger would take a lot of energy but luckily cortisol (the stress hormone) hangs around after the danger and signals the body to start replenishing its energy supply. Unfortunately sitting at your desk worrying about missing that deadline isn’t using quite as much energy as our ancestors would have used fighting the sabre-tooth but we’ve still got the same physiological system working to keep us safe so your brain is still going to tell you to get some food and fast as you can!
Belly Fat – back in the days when we had real and frequent threats from tigers and famine our bodies adapted to store energy for times of scarcity. Unfortunately for us that means that when we’re chronically stressed by work/life demands we tend to get an extra layer of “visceral fat” in our bellies. This fat is tricky to get rid of and releases chemicals that trigger inflammation in the body causing more stress in the system and increasing our risk of heart disease and diabetes. Excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism to ensure there’s an adequate supply of glucose available when needed to deal with potential dangers.
Cravings and Fast Food – When we’re stressed we crave comfort foods and there are both biological and psychological reasons for this. Stress plays havoc with our brain’s reward system by decreasing levels of the “happy hormones” such as serotonin so we crave foods that will give us the “reward” based experience such as highly processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods.
Poorer Sleep Habits – Research shows that worry is a major cause of insomnia. When levels of cortisol and other stress hormones like adrenaline are abnormally elevated throughout the day it can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. This lack of sleep impacts directly on weight maintenance as a lack of sleep affects the hormones leptin and ghrelin which dictate both appetite and feelings of satiety. Also, lack of sleep will erode our willpower and ability to resist temptation.
So what’s a person to do?
There are a number of ways that you can try to minimise the impact your stress levels have on your weight. These include:
Exercise – Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol and trigger the release of chemicals that relieve pain and improve mood so it’s a good stress-buster. Picking an activity that’s quite challenging and forces you to focus so you can’t think about whatever’s stressing you is particularly effective. In addition, being active will help increase your metabolism so you burn off some of the extra calories that you may have “emotionally” overeaten.
Meditate/Mindfulness – More and more research is emerging to show the benefits of mindfulness or breathing practices for lowering stress levels. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged in a darkened room with a candle and repeating “Ommmm”. There are now some really good apps that make spending a few minutes being mindful very easy. Getsomeheadspace.com and Calm.com are both worth checking out. Even a few minutes a day can have a profound impact on your body’s stress levels.
Keep a Gratitude Journal – Writing can give you an insight into why you’re feeling so stressed and adding in a few things that you’re grateful for, however small a win they may be, switches your brain from focusing on the negatives to a more positive way of thinking. This can help increase feelings of your ability to cope and reduce the emphasis on your problems.
So the take-home here is that even though your stress levels might be making it hard to lose weight, there are steps you can take which will help reduce your stress and those are important for your general health as well as your ability to lose weight.
If you’d like some more help with weight loss or finding a suitable exercise programme to help you reduce your stress levels then please get in touch with us.
We live in a time of rising obesity rates and where weight loss is one of, if not the most, popular health-oriented goals in the country. While there are a multitude of methods to accomplish this goal ranging from diet to exercise to supplements or even medical procedures, one of the most overlooked yet simplest to implement is simply limiting our portions at each meal, also known as portion control.
The western diet tends to lead to meals that are far beyond our actual caloric needs, and while a feast may be a pleasant experience from time to time, it is not meant to be the case for every meal. Thus, in this blog post we will look at 4 potential methods that you may not have thought of to help you control your portions more effectively.
The first possible option comes from research on portion control with obese type 2 diabetes patients. The researchers used portion control plates to help regulate how much food could be eaten at each meal.
According to the report by Dr. Sue Pederson, “Patients in the intervention group lost significantly more weight than control subjects.” The research showed that simply downsizing the available plate sizes helped to control portion size and led to weight loss effects. The application is incredibly simple and the results proven; to improve your portion control habits, use smaller plates!
A second yet similar option published in the International Journal of Obesity found that another effective method to controlling portion size to therefore improve weight and diet control was to pre-portion foods prior to eating.
In their findings, “Another approach is to use “pre-portioned foods” (PPFs) to add structure to meals and minimize decisions about the amount of food to eat.” However, they also recommended in addition to pre-portioning foods ahead of time, to consume low energy density foods to decrease the corresponding need for energy and thus to eat more.
“A more effective strategy may be to encourage people to increase the proportion of foods low in energy density in their diets while limiting portions of high-energy-dense foods.” This basically means eat more veg!
Thus, portion control is not necessarily just about the overall portion but finding the right portions of the right kinds of foods.
To that end, a separate report emphasized that primarily focusing on the main course in meals was an effective method of portion control rather than attempting to downsize everything. Since main courses make up the majority of the calories we take in during a meal, focusing on the size of that might be a good strategy.
The report in the Obesity Research Journal simply stated, “The results of this study indicate that consumption of a diet using portion-controlled entrees (main courses) enhances weight loss success.” This is good news and may be effective as a strategy to keep the portion control program simple and effective, which is often the best method to create a habit we can stick to, keep it simple and effective!
Finally, a new method that might work involved the use of text messaging as a daily reminder to control portion size and meal strategies throughout the day.
In the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, participants were sent two to five text messages per day with various reminders on portion control and other effective dieting habits. At the end of the study, the results were great.
As noted in the study, “Intervention participants’ adjusted average weight loss was 2.88 kg (3.16%). At the end of the study, 22 of 24 (92%) intervention participants stated that they would recommend the intervention for weight control to friends and family.”
The takeaway here is that creating an effective habit requires lots of follow-ups and constant reinforcement to make it stick, and using text messaging from a service, friends or family, or even just setting reminders on your phone, may be a great method to improve your ability to control your meals, portions and diet.
In conclusion, there are a variety of different ways to improve portion control. Whether you are using smaller plates, pre-portioning your food, limiting your entrée size, or even using text messages as reminders, there is no wrong answer, only the one that works best for you!
For many people, exercise is nothing more than a way to lose weight or tone the body, but this is the wrong mentality to have. Everyone should be exercising for their physical and mental health and wellbeing. If you change the way you think about exercise, you’ll be more likely to commit to it long-term.
Exercise for Health
One way to switch your mindset about exercise is to remember how beneficial it is to your health. It is so easy to think about exercise as just a way to lose weight or tone up, but it is so much more than that. If you only exercise to lose weight then there’s a strong possibility you’ll see it as a punishment or something to endure and you’re just as likely to give it up if you don’t see quick results as if you actually hit your weight loss goals.
Instead, remove weight loss completely from your exercise. Think about it as a way to stay healthy, get fit, and live a longer, more enjoyable life. Exercise is wonderful for your physical and emotional health, from helping improve your cardiovascular health to reducing your stress and anxiety. The weight loss will come as a side effect anyway.
Exercise for Energy
Exercise is also amazing for your energy levels, which is another way to think about it differently. It may seem counterintuitive, but for more people, exercising actually gives them more energy instead of making them more tired, which is what non-exercisers expect. The next time you are deciding if it is worth it to put in a workout when you aren’t really feeling motivated, switch your mindset and remember it will boost your energy and make you more productive.
Exercise for Mental Wellbeing
Don’t forget about your mental health! As we mentioned, exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. It can feel hard to actually get up and move your body when you are stressed or having a bad mental health day, but it is so worth it. Something as simple as dancing in your living room, going for a walk, or lifting weights will completely transform your mood.
Exercise for the Social Aspects
You can also turn exercise into a social activity where you participate in it with friends or family members. Go for a weekend hike with friends, take a yoga class with your sister or mum, join a gym and meet new people who have the same health and fitness goals as you do. When you invite others along with you, your mentality about exercise completely changes.
Exercise should be a lifetime activity because as soon as you stop doing it the benefits begin to fade away. Don’t think of it as a chore that you need to do in the short term but find an activity that you enjoy and do it regularly.
There will be days where you can’t manage to get to the gym for your regular workout. Lives are busy and stuff happens so don’t let it stress you when this happens. Missing the odd workout isn’t going to derail your goals but don’t let it become a habit. If you can’t get to the gym for a while and you’re too busy to fit a full workout into your day then try and fit in exercise snacks throughout the day.
There are benefits of doing shorter workouts when you can’t fit in your normal programme so don’t rule it out on those non-gym days.
Keep Up Your Metabolism
When you do multiple workouts instead of one longer one, you can help keep up your metabolism throughout the day at a steadier rate. You may notice that your metabolism is raised for a short period of time after you finish a workout. As your day goes on, if you don’t have much other activity, it starts to decrease again. By doing multiple, mini workouts at different times of the day, you can keep your metabolism elevated for more of your day.
Less Time Commitment
Many people don’t have time for an hour or longer workout but can fit in short bursts of 10-15 minute workouts throughout the day. Maybe you have time for a quick morning yoga session, a short resistance training session in the afternoon, and a walk in the evening. You are still getting an hour or so of a workout in, just not all at the same time.
Maintain Even Energy Levels
You might also notice that your energy levels remain steady throughout the day when you are getting up often to move your body. Similar to your metabolism, you might get a boost of natural energy shortly after a workout, especially one with a little cardio. Imagine having this not once but 2-3 times during the day.
More Chances for NEAT
You can also improve your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis which accounts for between 15% and 30% of your total calories burned throughout the day. You get NEAT with any type of movement during the day, including chores around the house, typing for your job, fidgeting, taking a shower, and so much more. So when you add these mini-workouts you’re increasing your NEAT even more.
So don’t let life derail your fitness goals. You just have to adapt the path you take to get there.
You probably already know that protein is great for skin, hair, and nails; but it’s also critical for health. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to repair damage to your cells, digest food, fight infections, build muscle and bone, create hormones, and even think and have good moods. Higher protein diets can help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not to mention protein’s great benefits for metabolism boosting, satiety (feeling full after a meal), and weight management.
Protein is important, and this is a given.
There are a few factors to consider when calculating how much protein you need. I go through those calculations with you. Then I list the amount of protein in some common foods.
How much protein is enough
There isn’t a real rule that applies equally to everyone. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how much protein you need.
The minimum recommendation is 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) per day and that’s a great place to start.
So, for a 68 kg (150 lb) healthy non-athlete adult, this is about 55 g protein/day.
Mind you, this is a minimum to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not optimal for good repair, digestion, immune function, muscle/bone building, hormones, thinking and great moods. It’s not enough for athletes, seniors or those recovering from an injury, either. If you fall into one of these camps, you may need to increase the minimum protein intake. Aim for closer to 1.3 g/kg (0.6 g/lb) per day.
Athletes need more protein for their energy and muscle mass. Seniors need more to help ward off muscle and bone loss that’s common in old age. And injured people need more for recovery and healing.
How much protein is too much?
As with any of the other macronutrients, fat and carbohydrates, eating too much protein can lead to weight gain. The calories from too much protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body. The interesting thing about protein is that it costs more to use than the other macronutrients. This is because it has a high “thermic effect.” Meaning it requires a lot of energy to digest, absorb, transport and store. To digest protein, your body needs to spend more calories than when metabolizing fats or carbohydrates.
If you’re concerned that high protein intake harms healthy kidneys, don’t be. If your kidneys are healthy, they are more than capable of filtering out excess amino acids from the blood. The problem only occurs in people who already have kidney issues.
FUN FACT: Plant proteins are especially safe for kidney health.
How much protein is in food?
Protein is an essential nutrient we should all get enough of. “Enough” is about 0.8 – 1.3 g/kg (0.36 – 0.6 g/lb) per day. If you’re a healthy non-athlete adult, you can aim for the lower level. If you’re an athlete, senior, or injured person, aim for the higher level.
Too much of any of the macronutrients can lead to weight gain so make sure what you eat of each fits into your daily calorie goals.
On 27th March our clocks go forward an hour in line with Daylight Saving. We often think of this as the true start of spring and are grateful for the lighter evenings but have you ever wondered how this change affects your sleep?
You might think the only way the change to DST impacts your sleep is by making it an hour shorter for one day. But the truth is you’re more likely to have trouble falling, and staying, asleep and this can last for up to a week or much longer after the change.
When the clocks go forward and you wake up an hour earlier than usual — and go about your day eating, working, and exercising an hour earlier than usual — your body experiences a kind of jet lag. You won’t living in sync with your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that dictates our energy levels over a roughly 24-hour cycle.
One of the things that your circadian rhythm controls is when your body feels awake and when it feels sleepy so when it’s out of whack it can be harder to fall asleep. That leads to low energy the next day — think grogginess during an important 10 a.m. meeting.
Too many nights like this and you’ll end up with sleep debt. This is the amount of sleep you “owe” your body over the last 14 nights when compared to your sleep need. The amount of sleep you need is genetically determined with the average being 8 hours 10 minutes, plus or minus 44 minutes or so. Although there’s always a chance, you’ll fall in the 13.5% who need 9 hours or more sleep per night.
Sleep debt is one of the biggest factors determining how you feel and perform each day.
Clearly Daylight Saving Time can have a significant impact on us for days, or even weeks to come. Circadian misalignment has been linked to impaired cognition, cancer, workplace injuries, traffic accidents, heart attacks and strokes.
Obviously DST is going to happen whether we like it or not but you can reduce the impact of that lost hour of sleep by having good sleep hygiene and maximising the sleep you DO get. Switch off screens at least an hour before bed. Don’t drink coffee later in the day. Avoid heavy meals at least 3 hours before bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
I need to make a confession………………………………………………………………………………..
I joined Inspire Fitness earlier this year.
It sounds so easy doesn’t it, but it wasn’t.
I had booked with Carolyn to come and look round after Christmas. I had been unwell for a few months and recently been diagnosed as perimenopausal. Having read lots about the vast array of symptoms I was suffering there were lots of indications that exercise can really help with the mental issues as well as the physical.
But lockdown came again. The gym was closed and my health took a turn for the worse. I started on HRT – the first type was horrific and I was worse than before. And my work stress became so overwhelming I was signed off.
Things were pretty bad there for a few weeks.
And then Carolyn contacted me to say the gym was going to be able to re-open with covid safety measures in place and did I want to rebook to come and take a look round. I tried to explain that I had been unwell and that due to severe anxiety at that point I hadn’t actually left the house for 2 weeks.
She was so kind and understanding I felt a bit silly turning down her offer. Armed with new HRT and pulling on my big girl pants I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore and I was going to have to really dig in and try to help myself.
So the day came. And I’m stood outside of the gym racked with nerves (I was actually shaking!). I HATED the gym. What was I thinking? I’m fat and unfit! I’m going to look like an idiot! All these negative thoughts ran through my head and I nearly turned around and walked home.
I’m so so glad that I didn’t.
The gym (and the HRT!) has transformed my life. Without the HRT I wouldn’t have had the emotional capacity to try something new and without the gym, I wouldn’t have scrambled together the resilience to become a less anxious and more confident person.
I train 5 times a week – sometimes 6! And it turned out I’m strong and I love weights! All along the staff team has coaxed and encouraged me, supporting my victories and providing words of wisdom on days when it’s been a tough session. One of the coaches quickly realised that I wasn’t working at capacity and chatted me through the different programmes offered, and recommended something she thought might be a bit more challenging for me.
I’ve been a member of Inspire for less than 5 months and I’m so grateful for the support shown to me by the team and the other members. The friendship and comradery I found have been amazing, it really is like no other gym!
I have increased my strength and flexibility, developed my cardio and improved my metabolism (just love seeing my stats on the app!!). I am about to complete the Athletic programme, it’s been very challenging, but hugely satisfying.
Oh. And I’ve lost 46lbs. So lockdown and menopause can do one – this lady is determined to be fit and fierce at 50.
I am now a certified gym bunny – there I said it!
There’s no doubt that what you eat can have a big impact on how you feel, right?
Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods. While we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we do know a few ways food impacts our moods.
First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin, the happy hormone?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.
Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.
Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.
Some nutrient deficiencies can look a lot like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.
Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.
Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the fundamental building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.
Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.
Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.
FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3 fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!
Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.
You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.
“But it makes me feel good!”
Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… in the short term.
A few other things to avoid are:
Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily.
Lot’s of people avoid fat in their diets believing it will make them fat, raise their cholesterol and cause heart disease BUT…
Not all fats are created equal!
Fat is one of the three critical macronutrients; along with protein and carbohydrates. Some fats are super-health-boosting; and others are super-health-busting.
Health-building fats support your brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods. Health-busting fats pretty much bust all of these (brain, hormones, immune system, heart health, and moods) so are best avoided.
As a general rule, the fats from whole foods that are the least processed will be the healthiest for you. But, you already knew that, right?
So let me give you a definitive list of the fats to use, and the fats to avoid.
Health-boosting fats are from:
You probably already know, virgin oils are the best option. Getting the oil out of a whole food involves some processing. Sometimes it’s by squeezing, or heating. Other times it’s by using chemical solvents. The word “virgin” is used to show minimal processing (and no solvents!).
According to the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius:
“Virgin fats and oils are edible vegetable fats, and oils obtained, without altering the nature of the oil, by mechanical procedures, e.g., expelling or pressing, and the application of heat only. They may be purified by washing with water, settling, filtering and centrifuging only.”
For example, Extra virgin olive oil must:
Plus, the minimal processing helps to maintain some of the quality of delicate fat molecules, as well as their antioxidants. Win-win!
Just be little careful when choosing your oil because often the bottle will appear to contain virgin olive oil but when you look closely it’s been mixed with more processed oils to bring the price down.
Health-busting fats are from:
Hydrogenated oils are particularly bad; this is because they contain small amounts of “trans” fats. Studies show that trans fats lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, belly fat. They also drastically raise the risk of heart disease. Lose-lose!
Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about buying bottles of these fats for home cooking. We’re also looking at the processed foods, most of which contain them.
How to get more health-building fats
First, ditch any foods in your cupboards that contain safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, or any hydrogenated oil. Soybean oil alone accounts for over 75% of oils consumed by Americans, so you can imagine it’s a popular product in food manufacturing in the UK too.
Second, try substituting one of the health-building oils whenever you have a recipe that calls for the other stuff. Try flax oil in your salad dressing, avocado and/or olive oil in your cooking, and coconut oil in your baking.
Third, make healthier versions of your go-to processed foods. We’ll help out with a recipe later in the week that contains healthy fats.
Now tell me: What’s your favorite fat and why? Let me know in the comments below.