I have several friends who are and have been “into” health and fitness for some time now. I have seen them working on their health over the years and remember how inspiring they have been to me.
I decided to ask them to share their story with me (and you!) and first up is one of my oldest friends who I met in Secondary School called Becky.
- When and why did you start you fitness journey
I recall ever since I was in my mid teens I had developed an interest in health and fitness. I remember using mums 1990’s weight watchers books and sheets for myself (I could rattle off how many ‘points’ various food were from memory) and my friend Hayley and I joined mum and my friends mum in aerobics classes, and played badminton too. I was quite a chunky, chubby child and as soon as I became self aware (cheerfully helped along by school bullies), I wanted to do something about it. Despite my varying sizes I’ve been throughout life, I’ve always been reasonably health conscious, but with varying levels of drive. I see this journey as something I’m constantly learning from, I’ve by no means ‘nailed it’ but like to think I’ve come a long way. I’ve seen over the years various loved ones suffer poor health from a poor lifestyle, I don’t want to be another statistic and being healthy makes me feel good and happy.
2. What were your goals then and what are your goals now? How have they changed?
As the years went on my goals develop the more knowledgeable about food and fitness I’ve become. Now it’s getting muscle definition, not just ‘slimming down’. Now it’s about eating foods that give your body the tools it needs, not just counting calories. Now it’s not being scared of eating fats as we’ve all now twigged there’s actually some good fats we should be consuming. Now is ensuring protein is a focal point of every meal I have, keeps me full, balances sugar levels and helps develop muscle. Now it’s avoiding ‘empty’ calories like the sugary cereal bars advertised as healthy (and don’t get me started on those ‘Graze’ snacks..grr)
3. What does your weekly work out schedule look like?
I’m at my best in the mornings. As I now live in the countryside with a long commute, I’ve adapted what I do to suit my circumstances. Most weekday mornings I do either hiit training or weights, following YouTube videos /Nike training club / T25 – all in my lounge! I also do a bit of yoga to help keep joints supple. Weekends I go out on my mountain bike (although avoiding the colder months), and I’ve just started having a go at a bit of off-road running too. I’m still trying to learn to how to fuel myself effectively when I do my two hour hilly bike rides – end up getting uncontrollably hungry for days after (always gaining a bit of weight over the summer because of it!)– I’m trying different approaches, hopefully I’ll crack it soon. I also want to learn to get less fat but more muscle definition in my quads, they’re particularly stubborn!
4. How do you plan your diet? How do you manage eating out? Any tips or advice?
Planning is key. I always ensure every meal has a heap of protein in and try to eat stuff that fuels my body not just empty calories. Anything supermarket bought, I’ll keep an eye on salt, sugar, weird ingredient contents. I’ll tweak the sort of food I eat depending if I’ve exercised or not in the day. No exercise, then I try and eat very little carbs but ensure I have some fats (the Joe Wicks school of thought). If I exercise, I get a good dose of carbs throughout the day but try and have less/minimal fat. I feel like I’m always learning when it comes to food and exercise, it’s a loose set of principles, I wouldn’t mind being a bit more scientific and I think the next stage for me is getting my head round macros more. I understand that unlocking that, can open a whole another level of what your body can achieve.
For work I make lunch my main meal as I know by the evening I’ve ran out of puff and get lazy re feeding myself. I batch make various food in advance and then I don’t have to think about it. Favourite cookbooks at the moment is Ready, Steady, Glow and The Food Medic. Joe Wick’s earlier books are good sources for food ideas too.
If I know I’m eating out, I try to ensure I’m pretty disciplined in the week so I can enjoy nice dinner, I even have a nose at the menu online in advance- just because I do get excited by lovely food! Otherwise the NHS website has an eating out guide too, which I tend to look at for Indian food, understanding which curries have lardy cream in, so I can avoid them.
5. What is the biggest thing you have learnt on your fitness journey?
Living in China was a massive turning point for me and my health and was the biggest lesson I learnt. 2009 I left for China a size 14, came back a size 10. Size 10 was always a dream size for me, always unachievable it felt but after living the Chinese way for 18 months I learnt a different way of eating. China helped me understand about sugar and protein. When the Chinese wanted a snack, it was typically some random bit of meat on a stick or tea stained egg. Protein. In the UK we would have a cereal bar or bag of crisps. One way fuels your body, the other – really doesn’t and will leave you hungry again a short while after and craving more food. And so you gobble.
I didn’t get much sweet stuff in China and when I did get it, it really magnified the impact on my body as I rarely consumed it. I was always a bit sensitive and got hyper on sugar, but it became really obvious when I was over there. The grumpy come downs we’re not pleasant for those around me!
I remember in China the moment I realised I’d lost that weight, I was in the Shanghai Marks and Spencer and using my pigeon Chinese I asked the shop assistant to measure me as I wasn’t sure what size of product to buy (I’m guessing it’s pants, why else would you be in M&S?!). And she said the number in Chinese, then in English. A ten. Wow. I had did it. Achieved what I thought was unachievable just living the Chinese way.
Eating more protein and less sugar helped me loose weight. And even though I have blow outs and various indulgences it’s a principle I always try to follow. I also rarely drink now as that wrecks my sugar levels and I’m literally eating like a horse for about five days later a drinking session. Not good for the waistline. My new understanding of protein and sugar was a game changer for me.
6. What is the best advice you have received and what advice would you give someone in my position or who is starting out?
My lovely friend Jen has always passed on various sources of health and fitness wisdom over the years. She got me using My Fitness Pal, that really helps me when I need to concentrate the mind and help me keep me on the straight and narrow when I feel I want to gobble stray. My husband got me into Strava and got me a Suunto Ambit 3 Sport watch and heart rate monitor which helps record your fitness progress. Love being able to programme routes for cycling /running too.
If you’re completely new to a healthier lifestyle, here’s my 7 Becky tips:
1. Start using my fitness pal for a few weeks and record everything you consume. Set the goal for just maintaining weight. Don’t try and diet, just consume your normal food and drink. This exercise is just to raise your awareness of what you’re consuming, how much you’re consuming, which nutrients you are and not getting. It really opens your eyes.2. Meanwhile, don’t start exercising straight away if your body isn’t used to it. Build some foundations first – get your body use to basic movements – follow YouTube videos and do daily deep stretches or simple yoga even. Build some strength up for a few weeks first, to avoid injury when you do start exercising.3. Once these two weeks are coming to an end, reflect on what you see on your my fitness pal logs start looking at how to incorporate changes to your diet. A simple approach I recommend is looking through joe wicks (the body coach’s) early cookbooks. They have his simple principles in there which you can adopt yourself, plus some exercises you can do at home. Otherwise find an exercise that you enjoy and fits your lifestyle. When you first start it’s bloody horrible and difficult, but keep at it. It does get easier and eating the right foods help make exercise easier too. It’s a fantastic feeling when you see the improvements.4. Weigh and measure yourself weekly, log it. It keeps you going.5. Try and aim to be on track 90% of the time and then indulge in a treat, say weekly. 6. Reward your great progress with none-food things like a new item of clothing.7. Health and fitness is a lifestyle choice, not a temporary diet. I made that mistake so many times in my early twenties. Dieted, lost weight and then thought it was ok to binge (I wasn’t the sharpest) Repeat x loads. Sometimes we’re unhealthy because of lack of understanding or sometimes it’s something upstairs and we need to deal with first to ensure our new lifestyle sticks. It could be low self worth for example. Get help to deal with your demons and learn that you deserve to be the best of you.