Archive | April, 2013

Sugar Sweet

20 Apr

I’m sure we could all say that we eat way too much sugar, it’s become a real talking point as the obesity crisis spirals out of control and we look for both the reasons for why it’s happened and for possible solutions.

English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (...

English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sugar is at the core of this – what we don’t as consumers understand is the true effect on our bodies and minds. In light of this I conducted a very simple experiment this week purely based on my problem with sugar which is once I eat something sugary I want MORE!   I’m instantly craving the stuff, I’m hungry, it’s as if a monster takes over pulling me over to the dark side.

IMG_0986Why does this happen?  I’m the kind that likes to research these big questions so after some digging I came across this book. Managing sugar it appears is crucial, it’s this that is at the heart of our health and obesity problems and only understanding this will save this and the next generations from a fate which is becoming ever more real. Children will die before their parents, never be able to experience the childhoods we did and the pressure on our social and health services will be overwhelming and unsustainable.  None of this is new news, however it appears to me that we are more happy to bury our heads about the reality. Yes its about inactivity however if what we eat wasn’t such an issue that might not matter quite as much?  I also have fit friends and smaller friends who have appalling diets yet feel that as they aren’t obese that it’s not a problem?

When I was obese there were patterns to my eating, there was bingeing, one bar of chocolate would lead to a further 3, a tub of ice cream could be almost inhaled, I’m not proud of that but at the time as well as the emotional causes, it seemed uncontrollable. Other foods would have the same effect, but these were processed foods, take a look at the sugar content and you’ll be surprised and hopefully shocked at how much they contain.

I haven’t eliminated sugary foods as I’ve got smaller, however I do have to work hard and recently I noticed that it was becoming harder. I also have almost the model 40+ female body, as I go through my 40s the hips and tummy have become more rounded, despite the exercise, very little seems to move – from talking to experts this is done to a big degree to diet and specifically sugar.

eggsSo while I read about this, I’m taking simple steps to reduce sugar – reduce and eliminate processed food and to cook more from scratch using pure ingredients. Of course then I am cutting right back on the things we think of as really sugary, sweets and chocolate in particular. So this week the opportunity arrived to test my theory that if you start to eat something sweet, stopping will be really difficult, so I wouldn’t start. My friend had 2 eggs left over from Easter on her desk, one very small Lindt egg and then a creme egg.  My research tells me if I eat the small one, I will want the bigger one and then I would probably be hitting the vending machine. Could I not eat either, could I beat the craving? They stayed on her desk for two days, I also reduced my overall sugar intake, the cravings were hard, it’s calling you, trying to bait you. On the third day they were moved to my desk drawer so every time I opened it, there they would be staring at me, shouting ‘eat me’!

On Friday afternoon they were both still there. The cravings were almost gone, but my head was now telling me I was in control not the sugar.  I am not craving it. The trick on Monday will be to see if I can eat the small one and leave the large one.  It doesn’t work to just eliminate sugar, you will crave it, the important thing is to gain control.  I have of course still been eating other foods (natural sugars in fruit for example) that contain sugar over the week, what is different is that I am not allowing it to control my hunger or my mind and not using it as empty calories.  In fact on Friday afternoon I eat a sweet apple, there were no post-cravings for more sugar or food?  Interesting eh?

So think about it – portions are already too big, if those portions are also sugar loaded then you are overloading your body, it certainly wasn’t designed to deal with it and you are almost giving it permission to want yet more and then some.

less sugar fridgeReducing sugar and other useless food is essential to saving ourselves, yes it will take work, yes it will probably need intervention but if you are prepared to take responsibility for yourself, start eating better, and appreciating what you put into your body.  And as an end to this piece, I have this on my fridge just as a little reminder.

Flexible & Core

20 Apr

I’m aging, my body is aging, we can’t escape it, we just need to find ways of working with it!

I’ve been getting a bit frustrated that during and especially after walking or even swimming my hips and lower back are sore and stiff. Now I’ve discovered exercise I want to be able to do it for as long as possible so needed to find a solution.

I love Pilates however I’ve done very little over the last year or so, a couple of years I was doing a lot, including a couple of intense courses in Italy. I then read an article and it was recommended to watch David Beckham’s latest TV Ad (this isn’t a difficult task given he’s only wearing his pants for most of it!), however the main reason was to appreciate how he runs, he has extremely strong core muscles, these hold his pelvis when he runs so it’s smooth, only his lower body moves. So fascinating food for thought.

IMG_3086This is what Pilates does, it builds and strengthens your core muscles, it makes you more flexible and importantly helps you to avoid injury, this becomes increasingly important as you age as well. I really enjoy the flexibility it provides, I managed after the first course to be able to get my feet behind my head, it had been over 20 years since the last time I’d managed to do that, it was a great challenge to have and I was over the moon to be able to do it.

I also bought a book about Pilates anatomy which is amazing, I always like to be able to understand the science behind how our bodies work and the seed was firmly sown that I needed to hit the Pilates studio  again.

I found a new class and armed with a new thicker mat to protect my knees (surgery means they often don’t react well to having weight through them) I got going. Given it had been a while I was pleased to be able to keep up and apart from a few of the more difficult moves I was ok.

I walked back to the car already feeling my hips were less stiff and my lower back looser. I’m going to take more classes, I need to ensure that I’m doing it right, I’m interested in what it can do and hopefully it will help me to be able to mix up the exercise, enjoy it and still be doing it in years to come. I did my course with ladies who were much older than me, they were all keeping fit using Pilates – I’m there too!

Getting Wet (again)

5 Apr

I went swimming this morning, I have to admit, its been a while. There are several reasons for this, they’ve been refurbishing the changing rooms which meant a hike around the building in your swimsuit and I have really been enjoying the walking. I have missed it though, it felt pretty darn good to put on my swimsuit again!

Everytime I return to the pool, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come from that first trip over 3 years ago, the smell of chlorine always motivates me too. Swimming pretty much made my life better and was the start of my love of exercise and fitness.

Swimming really is the ideal exercise to start with if you’re thinking about making your first venture into getting fit. It’s ideal if you’re conscious about your body, this may sound bonkers but once you’ve made your way from the changing room you’re in the water and no-one can see you?  And that walk, well I can guarantee everyone is concentrating on their swimming so they probably won’t even see you – take a big breath and go for it!

Couple of tips for feeling a bit more confident (for the girls) – buy a good supporting swimsuit, if yours is a bit old and baggy, you’ll drag in the water as you collect it between your skin and the suit and you will look bigger than you are. If like me you’re over 40 or you have a big bust, make sure you get one with support, it does make a difference. Swimsuits are great these days, you can buy them with support for just about everything, the right one will also pull your tummy in. I actually feel really good about my body in my swimsuit, or maybe I just have a thing about tight lycra!  It really is worth spending some money on them, look out for sales where you can pick up good suits much cheaper and if you find one you really like, buy 2, that way you never have the excuse that the suit is in the wash. 

When you go off to buy one, try lots on, they all have different shapes and you can look and feel totally different in two suits that may look almost identical. If you’re conscious about the tops of your legs, you can get some suits that have short type bottoms which are great for making you feel more confident.

Men – the advice for you is similar, buy new kit, make sure it fits, it doesn’t matter if its a pair of speedos or longer length trunks, just make sure it fits and you feel good. Again baggy shorts will drag in the water.

That is the important thing – if YOU feel good, then you’ll enjoy your swim more and keep going. Another tip is to take your towel with you, put it on the side so you can grab it as soon as you’re out of the water. Image

Get yourself some goggles, a nose clip if you need one and grab a bottle of water (you wouldn’t go to the gym without a drink, swimming might take place in water but you still need to stay hydrated, drinking the pool doesn’t count!) So you’ve got your swimsuit on, you’re in the pool, you look around you and there are people thundering up and down, doing crawl, how do you feel?

I remember thinking ‘oh god, is that what I need to do to make it count?’ – no is the simple answer, don’t worry about what stroke you use, how long it takes you the first few times or how many lengths you can do. You’re there, you’re doing it, you’re not on the sofa, you are doing SPORT, you are taking RESPONSIBILITY and getting FIT!

The first time I went (after not swimming for over 25 odd years) I managed 14 lengths, thought I was going to die, that everyone was watching me and thinking ‘what is that fat, old woman doing?’. Twelve weeks later I swam 180 lengths for charity, the swimsuit was 2 sizes smaller and I loved every minute!  The photo is me doing that big swim, since then I’ve lost a further 3 stones and swimming has always been a big part of that.

So I challenge YOU to give it a go, it really is a great form of exercise & a lot of fun.

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