Thursday Truths: I Wanted To Row 2000m In Under 7 Minutes

Thursday Truths

The One Day Of The Week Where I Own Up To Something.

I wanted to row 2000m in under 7 minutes on an indoor rower.

Friend or foe?

Friend or foe?

Back in 2016 I was part of a fitness team at a large commercial facility and during a weekly staff meeting it was announced that we were all to participate in a 12 week challenge with a prize for the best achievement.

We had to select a goal to complete in 3 months and each of us would be paired up with an accountabilabuddy to keep us motivated and on track.

Many of the goals of the participants were based around strength or body composition outcomes as you would expect from personal trainers.

Six Years Older But Not Any Wiser

My selection was based on the fact that 6 years previously I’d decided on a whim to compete in an indoor rowing competition with only 6 weeks prep and little knowledge of being a rower.  

It was a fun experience competing against a couple of gold medal Olympians and getting absolutely blown away, but that’s another story.  In the race I managed to finish in under 7 mins which shaved over 5 seconds of my best ever time.

First training session and setting the baseline...

First training session and setting the baseline...

The two pics above were after my first training session and it was a bit of a surprise how far from that 7 minute threshold I actually was.

So I embarked on my training program and this was going well for about 2 and a half weeks until I started to get some serious hip pain.  At random times I would get spasms in one buttock and have to stand up until the pain abated.

I had to get treatment from an Osteopath and complete a bunch of repetitive and boring exercises until the hip settled down.  

I was out of action for almost 3 weeks and my dreams of completing the rowing challenge pretty much disappeared.  I tried again to ease myself into training but the position on the rower was not the best for my hip.

Sadly I had to concede that that challenge was not going to be completed.  It was frustrating and pretty annoying as I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.

Maybe I was being too ambitious trying to recapture old glories and my body was bluntly telling me that my goals were way above my current fitness level and ability.

Match Your Behaviours To Your Goals

A really useful tip I learnt during my studies to become a nutrition coach was to match your behaviours with your goals.

Big Goals=Big Commitments and Big Changes

Small Goals=Small Commitment and Small Changes

Using the above criteria and the benefit of hindsight I can say that my target was probably way above the level of commitment needed or that I was able to give.  The timeframe was pretty tight and wouldn't allow for what eventually happened with the injury. 

Getting caught up in the competitive aspect of a challenge meant I didn’t think it through properly or really assess my current fitness level (and being 6 years older).

When you’re committing to becoming a better version of yourself you have to do certain things to get your outcome but those things need to match.

If you want it fast then it will take big commitment and big changes.

But if you’re comfortable with things happening more slowly then that’ll take smaller commitment and smaller changes.

So it’s up to you to decide what trade-offs your ready willing and able to make.

As you progress on your journey, be honest with yourself.

-Are your behaviours matching your goals?

-Are you being consistent?

-Are you really doing what matters in order to work towards your goals?

Let me know in the comments what size goals you have and what you're able to commit to.

 

 

 

Thursday Truths: I'm a Meal Planner

The one day of the week where I own up to something.

I'm a Meal Planner.

Every week my wife and I decide what we are going to eat for the coming week so that when Saturday rolls around we've got our shopping list sorted.

This one simple thing makes life easier when we go shopping.  

There is nothing worse than trying to decide what to eat and buy on the fly. 

Planning and Preparation

I think of my meal plan like a gym program it gives me direction and purpose.  

Whose gone into the gym and stood around not knowing what to do because you weren't prepared?

Just imagine standing in the supermarket with all these great ingredients laid out before you. 

Where do I start?  Vegetables? Proteins? Carbs?

Without knowing it you've put pressure on yourself to have to make a decision then and there and in that moment you'll go for the easy option which may not be the most nutritious.

With a little organisation you can make shopping a breeze and not a chore.

Where to start?

There are plenty of options.

Cookbooks.  Google.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Pintrest.

My favourite cookbook for simple and easy recipes is the CSIRO Complete Recipe Collection.  I'm no chef and this book is perfect for those wanting easy to prepare, delicious and nutritious meals.

We've been posting some of our meal plans on Instagram so click the link below to have a look.

>>>>Weekly Meal Planning<<<<

When deciding on meals for the week I have a few criteria that I take into account just to make life easier.

  1. Will it make leftovers for lunch the next day?  Not all meals for the week have to pass this test but at least half will fall into this category.
  2. What is the weather forecast for the coming week?  This may seem like a strange one but I don't want to be using the oven if the weather is going to be hot.
  3. Try and use seasonal ingredients as much as possible.  This keeps the cost down because buying out of season is more expensive or it's just not available.
  4. Some recipes are perfect for cooking in batches like meat sauces or stews that can be portioned up and frozen for later use.

A Bonus Suggestion To Make Life A Bit Easier

If you don't own a slow cooker I would highly recommend getting one.  They're not expensive and are dead simple to use.  Most recipes involve throwing all the ingredients in at once and leaving for a few hours until the food is done.  It is perfect for making meals big enough to be portioned out for later use.

Why I love it.

Meal planning really allows you to expand your diet by adding something new or different each week.

I know for sure that if I had to improvise on the spot my choices would become pretty repetitive.

In saying that we do have some favourites that make regular appearances like chilli can carne, spinach and feta pie and vegetarian sausage rolls.

Food does not have to be complicated or cause you stress.  A simple process like a meal plan can make food preparation quicker and easier.  

I encourage you to give it a try even if it's only a few basic recipes to start with and see how you go.

Thursday Truths: I Want To Draw

The one day of the week where I own up to something.

I want to be able to draw.

When you read this simple sentence it's quite general and nothing too specific.  We can all draw but to me a stick figure with two eyes and a smile is not exactly art at it's finest.

 

I have a vision inside my head of sitting down with some pencils and a sketch book and letting my fingers do the talking.  I really admire the artist that is able to see the way the light hits an object and the angles and shadows it creates and then reproducing it on a flat piece of paper and giving it life.

The reality for myself is something quite different.  I see the object and the light and the shadows but in the transition from what I see to putting it on paper, there is an obvious disconnect.

I look at the drawing and immediately I criticise it for being not what I expected.

To begin with I'm very positive and excited about what I'm about to do.  This is going to be fun and I'm going to create an amazing piece of art.

Then that inner voice that we all have has it's input.  What the hell is that?  It's the wrong shape, the shadows are all wrong.  Are you going to get any better?

So I've now got an argument happening with myself as I try and finish what I'm drawing.

Man, it's so frustrating!!!

And you know what, I'm still drawing.  I keep showing up.

There are days when it would be easier to go and watch T.V or cruise around on Facebook.

But it's in those times when it would be easier to stay inside the comfort zone that we learn and most importantly grow.

I've had to learn to shut that negative inner voice up.  There had to be a shift in my mindset and attitude.

Somebody way smarter than me coined the term "Growth Mindset", when you believe that your basic abilities can be improved through dedication and hard work.

When I accepted the fact that my expectations were unrealistic it subsequently allowed me to enjoy drawing much more. Am I creating masterpieces?  No.  But by just doing the work I'm improving little bit by little bit.

Did I really expect that I was going to be able to draw like a master on my first few attempts?

Of course not!  But when you listen to that inner voice that's exactly what it's saying you should be able to do.

How can I get mad when I'm not working on getting better everyday?

If it's important to you then it's worth practicing everyday.

Our minds can play cruel tricks on us at times.  I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be in relation to my drawing skills but the more I practice the better I become at not listening or giving power to that inner voice.  I just keep doing the work.

The other thing that we should consider and recognise is how an artist got so good.  The answer is they practiced and practiced and practiced, honing their skills over time.  Some obviously were born with a natural prodigious talent but they are in a small minority.  This holds true for anything from languages, sport, learning an instrument or any new skill.  You can get lessons but it takes more than that to progress.

Imagine how little satisfaction you'd get in life if you were great at everything right away.  When you are able to enjoy the process the results taste much sweeter.  You can look back on the journey you've taken and appreciate all that hard work.  I know it'll be a satisfying moment when I can tear out that sheet of paper from my sketch book and know how far I've come.

This approach has so much carryover to other areas of our lives.  I look at other coaches in the health and fitness realm and think if I could only be like them, helping clients get amazing results and being super successful but this is self defeating talk and the trap of comparison.  I need to recognise and stamp out this negative inner dialogue because if I listen start to believe it then I'm going to collapse under it's weight!

First and foremost recognise that you have these negative thoughts running around inside your head.  Ask yourself if they have any basis in reality or are they part of the fear we all have doing something new and challenging?  At least then you'll be able to hit them head on when they appear.

I don't expect that I'll be holding exhibitions of my drawings in the near future (but who knows?) but it is fun to be challenging myself and finding my weaknesses and getting a little bit better each time I pick up a pencil.

And most importantly I'm doing it while cutting myself some slack and not giving that inner voice a platform.

So, when you step out of your comfort zone who knows what pictures you can draw.

I found this guy on Youtube and have been watching his "How To Draw" instructional videos and they are simple and easy to follow.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed the blog please sign up to get weekly updates on new posts.

How To Be A Fitter Dad In The Next 24 Hours

dad-1349428_640.jpg

Nine years ago my son was born and it was the second major milestone in my life, the other being my wedding day.

Before my son was born I had an abundance of free time, I could go to the gym at least 4-5 times a week for hours at a time.  And if we travel back to my single days I was playing sport and going to the gym whenever I felt like it.

No strings attached I could do whatever I wanted.  

Don't get me wrong I'm in no way lamenting how my life has changed and I wouldn't swap it for the world.  It's just that things are different.

More of my free time is spent doing stuff related to school and after school activities.  

Family life is a huge time commitment and once all the responsibilities are completed it doesn't leave much time apart from working, sleeping and eating.

I do have the advantage of a job that allows me access to a gym for free so my situation is a little different from others but my time is still pretty squeezed.

Centre Of The Universe

If you're a new dad you go from being a free spirit with the keys to the kingdom to now being a responsible for a new human being.  

And with that comes a brutal schedule of early morning feeding, nappy changes, no sleep, no time for exercise, eating whatever is available, sugar, caffeine, quick lunches, more processed food, microwave meals and ever so slowly the waistline expands.  

Then you look in the mirror at this exhausted, unfit, unhealthy version of yourself that is virtually unrecognisable.

You Don't Appreciate It Till It's Gone

At a time in your life when you'd be at your physical peak you're shattered.

Without even realising it you took for granted the one thing that is a luxury when you're single or married with no kids and that is: Free Time.

Throw kids into the mix and you're time is longer free.  There is a cost for every little thing you do. When your child is sick and they wake up in the middle of the night and take 30 mins to get back to sleep.  There is 30 mins gone.  You run out of nappies and have to duck out to get some, bye-bye another 30 mins.  Your child unfortunately vomits in the cot and the sheets and baby have to changed and cleaned, Sayonara down time.

No matter how much fun and joy a new addition brings there is a cost that you never had to pay in the past because you could be selfish with time.

So now the sacrifices start to add up, it becomes difficult to do the things you once liked to do like watching sport on a Sunday, or watching your favourite T.V. show.  You still yearn to do it but without the free time available it doesn't happen.

Unfortunately one of the first things to end up on the deleted list will be the one thing that will that gives you the most benefit: exercise or working out.

The New Normal

Becoming a parent creates a new normal whereas before your normal involved playing sport or doing some kind of enjoyable activity those pastimes lose that tag and would only be done on a special occasion.

Your new definition of normal won't bare any resemblance to the old one and won't include your own health and vitality as an important part.

You only have to cruise the internet to see blogs and articles completely dedicated to women getting there pre-baby body back.  Head over to Amazon and you'll see plenty of books with the female market in mind but sadly lacking in any advice for the dads getting their bodies back in shape.

You've been forgotten, somehow it's become acceptable for dads to sacrifice their health and wellbeing when the family size increases. 

The unfortunate reality for many dads is that they will end up saying something like "I haven't worked out in months, or had a good night's sleep and my diet's gone to the dogs, so now my pants don't fit".

Make Time

"I don't have time" is the most common reason that people will cite for not exercising or prioritising their health.

The time is there but you might be overlooking it because you're distracted by something else.

If you were to look at your day there is plenty of time when you could squeeze in a quick couple of squats or push-ups to get the body moving.

  • Morning or night we all shower and there is a lag time when the water is warming up.  Use this time to drop and punch out a set of push-ups.
  • If you're a new dad and still bathing your child, then while the bath is running, let your baby have some "tummy time".  This will give you a few minutes to hit some sit-ups or some lunges.  
  • We all use a microwave at home.  On average you'll set the timer for a couple of minutes.  You could easily smash out some body weight squats paired with some push-ups or a plank.
  • Here is a good one for work, switch on your computer and while it goes through it's start up sequence hit the floor for some burpees.  If you don't have your own office find a quiet, unoccupied space and get it done.

Really we've only just scratched the surface.  Just think about all the times during a day when you have an opportunity to turn a task or chore into an exercise that will burn calories and make you fitter and stronger.  The time is there you just have to recognise and use it wisely.

Practicing What I Preach

Four And A Half Decades

Just recently I turned 45 and while I don't feel my age their are certain things that I've had to accept whether I like it or not.

Indulge me for a second as I turn the clock back 5 years to when I hit the big 4-0.  

Up until that point I'd never had a full medical check up apart from going to the doctor if the man-flu got too much and I needed some drugs to stop my wife from wanting to throttle me.

Considering my job is to help clients maintain and improve their health, you could say I'm a little hypocritical when I don't practice what I preach.

When I did tick over into my 4th decade on this planet I decided to bite the bullet and get a full medical check-up.

The male ego is a stupid thing at times, it can make you do some amazing things but it has the potential to be a roadblock to doing more important stuff like looking after your health.

D-Day Approaches

I must admit that I felt some trepidation as the appointment day began to loom larger and larger. 

Rather than being anxious about the actual examination I think it was more to do with the unknown.  Was there something wrong that I've been ignorant of or that I didn't know about?

Without any arrogance I can say that I'm pretty healthy, I lift weights regularly and walk over 10,000 steps nearly everyday and I'm a non-smoker and an infrequent drinker.  

I've chosen activities that give me the most bang for my buck to stay healthy.

You won't find me running because I don't like it and as I get older my joints don't need any more stress placed on them.  

My number 1 priority is to stay strong and keep my muscle levels up.  After the age of 30, as a man testosterone levels naturally start to decline.  The thing is though with intervention this can be reversed.  

The evidence is strong when suggesting that we should be doing some kind of resistance training at all ages.

Muscle is important for balance, movement, and being able to maintain an active and healthy life as well as assisting in controlling body weight and body fat levels.

I knew that this was an area that was under control but who knows what a doctor could discover when you have your health checked.

So the day rolled around and I found myself in the waiting room looking at some old glossy mags that seem accumulate in these places.

It is rare event at a doctor's surgery that you ever get in on time and it was no different on this day.  

The Examination

Dr Harris was a slightly built older man with a friendly demeanour (he was not my family doctor but one recommended by a friend) and we exchanged the formalities involved in meeting someone for the first time.

His office was like you'd expect to see with any medical professional, plaques with various qualifications from universities on the wall behind him and a bookcase full of various tomes with anatomical titles and medical subjects.

There is always some kind of spinal and knee joint model that can be used to demonstrate how an injury occurs or where the pain in your back is coming from.  Thankfully there was no need for either of these items.

After the preliminaries it was time to get down to business and over the next hour I was poked and prodded and had blood removed.  My blood pressure was near on perfect, which I already knew (this is another benefit of having strong healthy muscles your blood pressure will improve).

The Elusive Sun Tan

Both my mother and father have had brushes with skin cancer, my mother had a cancerous melanoma removed from her leg which left her with a rather large depression in one calf. Unfortunately the odds are greater of me getting this kind of skin cancer with a direct relative having had one.

I inherited fair skin and slightly ginger hair from my Irish heritage so I knew this was going to be an area that Dr Harris would be very interested in.  Australia may be a beautiful country but it is the centre of the skin cancer universe.  

As a child I spent many a summer at the beach getting roasted to a crisp.  With my fair complexion I mostly went very red and then the damages skin peeled off over the next couple of weeks.  Those years of skin damage can come back to haunt you as you get older.

The final part of my examination was to strip down to my underwear an undergo a head to toe skin check.  He was particularly interested in a spot on one side of my face, the base of my neck and my forearm. 

These spots had been there for a little while and they weren't getting bigger but neither were they going away. 

The Next Phase

After getting dressed Dr. Harris discussed with me the next stage of the process.

He was concerned about three areas that he strongly believed were BCC's (basal cell carcinoma).  These are non-malignant skin cancers that if left unchecked can become nasty ulcers, they will never heal because the skin cells are unable to repair properly.

I was referred to the skin cancer clinic at a city hospital to have the areas assessed by a skin cancer specialist and then more than likely would require minor surgery to have them removed.

My head was spinning a little with the outcome, on one hand all my physical markers were good, weight, blood pressure, reflexes, balance, etc, because I had direct control over them.

But the skin cancer situation was a by-product of my younger life when things like sun exposure were of little concern.

The Alfred Hospital

Little did I know at the time but this place was to become a constant in my life every 3-6 months.

The Dermatology Clinic was an interesting experience because this is a public hospital which means it's over burdened with patients.

I mentioned earlier that you inevitably never get in to an appointment on time with a doctor, well waiting in a public hospital is certainly a test of your patience.

The waiting area is colour coded depending on the service you require and it was full.  There were people in various states of health and as I looked around I didn't feel like I needed to be here.  Hospitals are for sick people not someone that has a couple of skin spots.

For all intents and purposes I looked and felt healthy but that attitude was why I'd not got my skin seen to earlier.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.... 

After over a 2 hour wait (which I would learn in subsequent visits is pretty standard) I saw a skin cancer specialist.

Just as I did when seeing Dr. Harris I had to strip down to underwear and be examined from head to toe.  At the conclusion I had three areas circled in pen marked for further inspection (as highlighted by Dr. Harris-face, neck and forearm).

Before any further action is taken all highlighted spots were further examined by a senior doctor to confirm the diagnosis.  Using a fancy magnifying glass I was again the subject of intense investigation.

The final wash up was that they were indeed skin cancers that had to be removed.

Embrace The Process

From the first screening through to having the three lesions removed was about 3 months.

Since that time almost 5 years ago I've had 10 other skin cancers removed mostly on areas that were exposed to the sun.  

Luckily I don't have to rely on striking good looks to make a living because the majority of surgery has been around my face and neck. 

I've been lucky enough to have had some great plastic surgeons that have performed procedures under my left eye and on my cheek and jaw and not left me looking like it was done with a chainsaw.

Every 6 months I have to return and have my skin checked for any new spots.

When it comes to skin cancer you have to be ever vigilant so potential issues can be caught early.

This kind off thinking applies to any health related area.

Just do something, get started regardless of what it is.

It's Never Too Late

Even though I was slack in being proactive when it came to getting a health check-up it's never too late.

If you're wanting to take control of your health there is never a better time than now to start.

Go and make an appointment with a health professional and get a full picture of where you're starting from.  At least then you can make informed decisions on what action to take and head off any problems that may arise.

Don't be like me and wait till a birthday rolls around before you do something.

Take Action, Any Action Will Do!

3 Simple Steps To Repair Your Broken Diet

"I'm new this to whole nutrition gig. Where do I start?"

So you've reached that point in your life where you're no longer just thinking about getting healthier, it's time to take action.  You're at a point where you want to break out of the rut you're in and get started.

 

The First Step...

The mainstream advice you'll get with nutrition uses a lot of jargon and marketing buzzwords.  And no doubt you'd have heard some of the following:

  • Just eat whole foods
  • No carbs after 4pm
  • Eat like a caveman
  • If you can't pronounce the ingredients, don't eat it

While this may sound like simple advice it really doesn't give you a plan to work with to get you long-term sustainable results.

Slogans and sound-bytes just don't get the job done.

What you need is a simple step-by-step approach that starts from where you are now.

This is not a set of rules to follow like you would with a diet. Eventually diet rules are going to break because the real world gets in the way and a diet is never written with the real world in mind.

When you're starting out you want to focus your time and energy in a way that is going to give you best return on your investment. But also regardless of the eating style you adopt it will allow you to make decisions based on your results and adjust accordingly.

Step 1: Identify and Eliminate Nutritional Deficiencies

For many people the first thing they are going to do aim for a complete overhaul.

"No more sugar"

"No more bread and pasta"

"No more cheese and other dairy products"

"I gotta eat more protein"

"A little more fruit and more veggies"

"I'm not drinking enough water"

"I'll join a gym and get more exercise"

That list right there is pretty comprehensive but as a whole, way too challenging as a starting point.

By taking this all out approach you're setting yourself up for a tough time right out of the blocks. 

But you're also overlooking a key point that is making you feel pretty lousy.

Your body is just not working that well and that means you'll struggle with the way you feel and look.

When you're lacking certain vitamins and minerals your body will not be operating at it's best.

Regardless of how good you think your diet might be there is a very good chance you'll be deficient in some areas.

And when your body is missing key vitamins and nutrients will make you feel pretty crappy.

Is It Really That Important?

Energy levels, strength, appetite, endurance and your mood are reliant on getting good levels of these essential nutrients.  And when you don't get enough, stuff breaks down.

So even if you're "on paleo" or "eating clean" or "eliminating carbs" and doing everything right you can still feel like garbage.

That is why it's crucial to identify your shortfalls at the start and get rid of them one-by-one. 

The Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies Are:

  • Water (low level of dehydration)

  • Vitamins and Minerals

  • Protein (especially women and men with low appetites)

  • Essential Fatty Acids

You could also get your diet looked at by a dietitian but there is an easier way and it's quite simple.

  • Drink a little more water each day

  • Eat more foods rich in vitamins and minerals

  • Find a way to eat more of your favourite protein rich foods

  • Consume more essential fatty foods by using fish oil or eating fish

By focusing on just one of these areas for at least 2 weeks you'll experience a noticeable improvement in your body function.

Step 2: How Much Food And The Type Of Food

Now that you've addressed the nutrient deficiencies it's to move on to the next step and that involves two very important points:

  • The amount of food
  • The types of food (protein, carbs and fats)

This next step does not involve calorie counting, although recording your actual calorie consumption can be a helpful initial awareness exercise, it is not the best approach for long-term sustainable results.

The idea is to remove the accountancy aspect from eating, it should not be about tracking, spreadsheets, and mental arithmetic.

This is not to discount the importance of calorie intake but outsourcing it to an unnatural act of record keeping is ignoring the perfectly evolved system of hunger and appetite cues we are born with.

The point here is to reconnect with your body and listen to what it is telling you and improve the long-term success of your healthy eating.

The unfortunate problem with counting calories is that it's just not that accurate.  An accepted variance is about 25% due to incorrect labelling, differences in food quality and preparation, and human error.

By all means do the math if you can stand it but know that the system is broken.

A Simple Alternative To Counting Calories

You were born with two ready made measuring tools for controlling your calorie intake, your hands.

For example a good starting point for men would be to eat:

  • 2 palms of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables at each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at most meals; and
  • 2 thumbs of fat dense foods at most meals.

And for women:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables at each meal;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb dense foods at most meals; and
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods at most meals.

This allows you to see how much food that is on a plate.

Then it's a simple process of adjusting depending on how you feel and what your body is telling you.

It will be hard to judge how your body will react so be prepared to make changes based on hunger and fullness signals and your activity levels.  This is a dynamic process that will ebb and flow so don't make snap judgements and use this question "How's that working for you?" to make changes based on outcomes.

Step 3: Personalise The Details

By eliminating nutritional deficiencies and eating the right foods in the correct amounts this step is really a minor concern.

Meal Frequency or How Often Should I Eat?

There is no hard and fast rule on this detail.  It is a case of personal preference, it might suit you to eat smaller meals more often or larger meals less often.

What About Workout Days?  Should I Eat More or Less?

If you're lifting weights or doing high intensity exercise than adding a starchy carb to your normal diet will help with the increased energy demands.

On days where you're less energetic then forget about the starchy carbs and focus on mostly protein, and vegetables and healthy fats.

What About Meal Timing On Workout Days?

This is not a concern for most of us unless your an elite level athlete with specific goals who maybe training at high intensity levels and sometimes multiple times a day.

If you fall into this category then eating as outlined above, 1-2 hours before and after exercise.

And during exercise you could have a branched chain amino acid drink or a protein, carbohydrate drink.  

A Caveat

Let me give you a gentle reminder that if your goals are just for general health and fitness and to look and feel better then Step 3 will only become important when you've:

  • identified and eliminated nutritional deficiencies;
  • taken control of your total food intake 
  • gotten the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats

You must be doing these things consistently week in week out before you add more skills to master.

Summary

Now that you've reached the point where you're wanting to regain control of your health and nutrition but was unsure of what to do next then I hope that this article has given you some simple steps to try.

Don't forget:

  • Get rid of your nutritional deficiencies.
  • Get control of your calorie intake and not by counting calories.
  • Eat the right amount and types of food.
  • Ask yourself "How's that working for you?" and adjust accordingly.
  • Do the above consistently and for a while before adding more detail.

If you feel like your nutrition’s off track – but aren’t sure what to do about it – hopefully this article has given you something new to consider and try.

Regardless of whether you're a beginner and trying to get the right strategies in place from the start or you've had some experience but have hit a speed bump, then the above steps when followed in sequence are a powerful system for long-term, sustainable results.

20 Truly Terrible Celebrity Health Tips

The unfortunate situation these days with our celebrity obsessed society is that we can be prone to following their unqualified advice or opinion on serious topics like health. 

Everyday we are exposed to another fad diet or miracle cure happily endorsed by a singer, actor or model that can supersede the safe and professional advice from doctors or other suitably qualified individuals.

The problem arises when the information progresses from the silly and banal to a more dangerous level.  The power of celebrity does have the ability to be a positive influence when the information being offered is of high quality and provides some kind of health benefit.

There have been many celebrities who have used their position to highlight health problems and raise awareness whether through their own experience or others but equally their are those whose advice should just be ignored.

Listed below are 20 of the most bizarre and outright dangerous pieces of celebrity health advice along with better alternatives.

1. Waist Training

Celebrity: Kim and Khloe Kardashian

Their Claim: The Kardashian sisters have extolled the virtues of waist training to all and sundry.  This practice involves wrapping bands of very tight elastic material around the waist and lower rib cage to create the illusion of an hourglass figure and supposedly reshaping the body.

The Truth: Reminiscent of wearing a corset from the 19th century, this may make you look thinner and curvier but there is no evidence to support that it will help with weight loss or reshape your body.  If anything it would hinder breathing and potentially make it hard to digest food.

The Bottom Line: Being active and having a balanced, nutritious eating plan is the best way to reshape the body.

2. Drinking Vinegar

Celebrity: Megan Fox

Their Claim: Ms Fox believes that drinking vinegar cleanses out your system entirely. If you are a woman who retains water weight during your cycle this miracle drink will get rid of it really fast.

The Truth: Apple Cider Vinegar does have some anti-fungal properties and may help with food digestion but on its own it will not lead to a reduction in weight or bloating.

The Bottom Line:  If you’re suffering from bloating this could be a sign of problems in the gut area.  Some nutritional changes may be required to sort out the issues.  A visit to your health professional to get advice on supporting a healthy gut and removing any underlying causes would be a good start.

3. No Sunscreen

Celebrity: Giselle Bundchen

Their Claim: Mrs Tom Brady is dead against putting any kind of poison on her skin.  Nothing synthetic for the Brazilian supermodel.

The Truth: Malignant melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Australia, it accounted for 10% of all cancers in 2011.  Melanoma represents 2% of all skin cancers, but causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

The Bottom Line: Wear sunscreen.  Protecting yourself from the sun is the best insurance against skin cancer.  There is no solid, peer reviewed evidence that any of the ingredients in sunscreen cause cancer or any other health problems.

4. Living Off Light And Air

Celebrity: Valeria Lukyanova

Their Claim: Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, known as the “Human Barbie”, is in training to live off only light and air.  Until she reaches that point it’s a vegetable diet for her.

The Truth: You don’t need to be an expert to know this is absolute rubbish, and trying to live on light and air will kill you.  That crazy claim aside, a completely vegetable diet would leave the body deficient in very important nutrients like Vitamin B12 which is crucial for our red blood cells.

The Bottom Line: A balanced approach to eating that does include vegetables is important.  Vegans and vegetarians are able to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed for good health with careful planning and some supplementation.

5. Oxygen In A Can

Celebrity: Simon Cowell

Their Claim: The Celebrity Talent Judge attributes his “youthful look” from swigging on shots of oxygen from a can he carries around.

The Truth: There is no evidence to support the use of this practice for healthy individuals unless you have a diagnosed condition and require oxygen.  If oxygen is inhaled in too large amounts unconsciousness may follow.

The Bottom Line: The best way to get more oxygen is to increase your heart rate with some exercise.  You’ll breath in more air and improve the health of your heart and lungs at the same time.

6. The Master Cleanse

Celebrity: Beyonce

Their Claim: Beyonce has become the most famous endorser of the Master Cleanse.  It is an extreme 14-day diet that involves consuming nothing but a concoction of fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water.

The Truth: The detox fad has little evidence to support its grand claims of removing toxins from your body.  The liver and kidneys do a great job of that already.  The extreme nature of these diets put you at risk of dizziness, fatigue in the short-term but the long-term health risks like heart attacks are a real concern.

The Bottom Line:  Ditch the extreme diets and rapid weight loss as they are short lived and not much fun.  Focus on good protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and smart, high fibre carbs like brown rice in smaller amounts.

7. Fistfuls Of Vitamins

Celebrity: Katy Perry

Their Claim: Katy Perry has admitted to taking up to 26 vitamins and supplements everyday.

The Truth: The issue with taking a large number of pills and supplements is the cocktail of chemicals and other additives contained in them.  Individually they’ve been tested for safety but not in combination with all of the other tablets.

Potentially you could be over consuming the safe amount of these nutrients by mixing supplements.

The Bottom Line: Supplements would only be recommended when there is a identified nutrient deficiency.  For everyone else a wide variety of whole, minimally processed foods are the best approach.  If you’re concerned about anything specific seek out professional help.

8. Smart Water

Celebrity: Jennifer Aniston

Their Claim: Another celebrity touting the benefits of modified water to supposedly improve its health benefits and make you look amazing.

The Truth: We all know the importance of water and its role in body function.  Drinking too much can have a negative effect so be careful that you don’t over consume.

The Bottom Line: Your body will let you know when you’re thirsty so have a drink then.

9. Go Gluten Free!

Celebrity: Miley Cyrus

Their Claim: She loudly proclaimed that “Everyone should go gluten free for a week”.  She went on to say that it changes your skin, improves mental and physical health and that you won’t go back!

The Truth: The only reason you would go gluten free would be if you had been diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is an autoimmune disease where the body is hypersensitive to digesting gluten.  The symptoms include bloating, pain and stomach cramps.  There is no need to remove gluten if you’re not allergic or intolerant.

The Bottom Line: If you feel that you have a gluten issue then making an appointment with your doctor would be suggested before making any arbitrary dietary changes.

10. The HCG Diet

Celebrity: Laura Prepon

Their Claim: The “Orange Is The New Black” star admitted to following crazy crash diets that apparently ruined her metabolism and then she found the HCG diet.  It involves being injected with a hormone that is extracted from the urine of pregnant women.  When following the diet you severely restrict your calorie intake and receive shots of this hormone all with the idea of resetting your metabolism.

The Truth: The HCG diet has no peer reviewed evidence or been approved by any regulatory board.  Side effects have included excess fluid build-up, swelling and blood clots.

The Bottom Line: There are no secret tricks or hacks when it comes to weight loss.  The truth is regular activity and a balanced diet is the best long-term solution.

11. Stop Taking Depression Medication

Celebrity: Tom Cruise

Their Claim: Tom Cruise was criticised years ago when he publicly attacked actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to help her with postpartum depression.  He claimed that any chemical imbalance in the brain was imaginary and that taking medication for mental health illness is unnecessary and dangerous.

The Truth: Depression and postpartum depression are very real and complicated conditions.  Taking antidepressants are not a treatment for everyone but they do provide help for many people who have suffered and want to get their lives back on track.

The Bottom Line: If you feel that things are getting tough and you’re not coping then speak to your doctor.  They can then suggest an appropriate course of treatment that may involve therapy, counselling or medication.

12. Mmmm Cookies

Celebrity: Kim Kardashian

Their Claim: Another diet product from a Kardashian, this time it was the Cookie Diet.  You eat two low-glycaemic cookies for breakfast and lunch and then a light dinner.

The Truth: A narrow restrictive diet like this lacks fruits and vegetables and dietary fibre so it would not be a recommended.  At some stage when you return to your normal eating habits any weight lost would return.

The Bottom Line: As suggested already, a diet that has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and high fibre carbohydrates is the best solution for long-term health and weight control.

13. The Leech Detox

Celebrity: Demi Moore

Their Claim: Apparently leech therapy detoxes the blood according to Demi Moore.  When the leeches attach to you they have a little enzyme that is released into your bloodstream detoxes the blood and optimizes your health according to Ms Moore.

The Truth: Leeches have been a legitimate treatment in modern medicine in areas such as healing skin grafts and restoring circulation.  Another miracle detoxifying claim is dubious at best and has no evidence to support its claims.

14. Oestrogen Injections

Celebrity: Suzanne Somers

Their Claim: Actress Suzanne Somers was at the forefront of a strange practice of rubbing Oestrogen cream into her arms and injecting Oestrogen directly into her vagina.  She claimed that the hormones could fool her body into thinking she was 30 years younger.

The Truth: The evidence to support this bizarre treatment is non-existent.  Adding extra, unnecessary hormones into the body can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and cancer.

The Bottom Line: Smoking and drinking are a good way to age the body faster.  Living a little healthier and more active life is a more practical and safe way to do this than introducing more hormones.

15. Fighting Those Evil Genes

Celebrity: Gwyneth Paltrow

Their Claim: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, when addressing delegates at a cancer conference in 2007 told them she was conquering her “evil genes” by eating biological foods.

The Truth: While you can reduce the incidence of some cancers with certain diets the same cannot be said for other cancers with regards to nutrition.

The Bottom Line: The cause of cancer is linked to many different factors but a balanced healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and other high fibre foods can assist in reducing the risk of cancer.

16. Vaccines Are Responsible For Autism

Celebrity: Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey

Their Claim: These two celebrities are some of the most high-profile anti-vaxxers.  Jenny McCarthy is an outspoken critic of childhood vaccines and is convinced that they cause autism.  She believes that the chemicals and toxins as well as the viruses in the vaccines are responsible.

The Truth: The World Health Organisation and many other health bodies are in agreement that there is no evidence to support the idea that vaccines cause autism.

The Bottom Line: A disease like Measles, which is in the top 5 killers in the world of children under 5 years old, is nearly non-existent thanks to vaccines.  Vaccines are safe.

17. The Blood Group Diet

Celebrity: Cheryl Cole

Their Claim: Cheryl Cole loves the blood group diet.  Like any diet it restricts foods based on what they can tolerate according to their blood type.  The faulty logic is based the idea that certain blood types can only handle particular foods.

The Truth: There is absolutely no evidence to support this idea and is pseudoscience at best.  When restriction is enforced you increase the chances of serious nutrient deficiencies.

The Bottom Line:  A diet high in whole foods with a balance of whole grains, fruit and vegetables and lean proteins works best.  From there any further details will be decided by your goals, activity levels and any food allergies or intolerances. 

18. Eat Only Purple Food

Celebrity: Mariah Carey

Their Claim: In one of the more crazy realms of dietary lunacy comes the idea that eating only purple food three days a week would help Mariah Carey lose weight and fight off the signs of her skin aging.

The Truth: There are many purple foods like beetroot, plums, grapes and dark skinned apples that are very nutritious.  They are high in anti-oxidants which can help with reducing the impact of aging as well as potentially reduce cancer risk but focusing on a narrow range of foods will lead to nutrient deficiencies and a lack of fibre.

The Bottom Line:  Eat a wide and varied diet of whole, fresh foods that provides all the vitamins and nutrients needed for good health.

19. Vaginal Steaming

Celebrity: Gwyneth Paltrow

Their Claim: Gwyneth takes the cake for some of the wackiest and flat out dangerous health advice.  She was widely criticised and lampooned for suggesting that women steam clean their uteruses to balance out hormone levels.

The Truth: Following such an unnecessary and potentially dangerous practice could lead to upsetting the internal bacterial balance which could result in infections and excess yeast levels. 

The Bottom Line: If you have a concern see your doctor or if everything is ok, do nothing.

20. The Juice Diet

Celebrity: Katie Price

Their Claim: Katie Price is not the first nor will she be the last celebrity to extol the virtues of an all juice diet.  Her motivation was purely driven by her looks and weight.

The Truth: While it may seem like a convenient and easy solution it again has the potential to restrict the amount of important nutrients that a variety of foods offer.  You’ll feel weak and lethargic as well as miss out on the all-important fibre that eating fruit provides.

The Bottom Line: Stupid fad diets are responsible for people getting fatter not thinner.  The short-term results don’t last and eventually the weight returns and you can end up heavier than when you started.  A long-term approach with behavioural and lifestyle change works best.

As you can see there are some truly crazy and outright harmful pieces of health advice that are given out by people who are not qualified to be recommending anything apart from their next movie, song or reality show.  

Companies pay big dollars to have celebrities promote their product or service so the endorsement is not necessarily because they believe in it or that it has merit but more that their comments were paid for.

When it comes to your health it's worth doing some research to find out if the claims are true or if it's just marketing hype.  It's very rare that you would see a celebrity promoting a banana or an apple because they don't need endorsement but the same can't be said for a new fad diet or miracle cure.

The World's Best Backyard Workout

Let's be honest gyms are not for everyone, when you factor in cost, travel time, being able to use the equipment at peak times, and generally sharing everything with other members, it can be the worst option. 

And don't forget that a gym can be a pretty intimidating place for a new exerciser especially if you're not so fit and maybe feeling a little self conscious only to be reminded constantly by all the mirrors on the walls.

With that in mind I thought I'd talk about how you can use some simple equipment and get the most effective and fun workout all in the comfort and privacy of your own backyard.

To ensure you get the most bang for your buck there are a few important points that need to be taken into account when designing your workout.

Creating The Best Workout For You

  1. Be realistic about your current fitness level.  If you've had a break or are new to exercise then going like a bat out of hell isn't going to do you any good.  Start slowly and build up your fitness progressively.  The aim of any exercise program is not to leave you in pieces on the ground.  It's ok to start easily.
  2. Take into account any injuries or restrictions that are going to impact on your ability to exercise.  Common sense can be a rare commodity in exercise programs.  For example knee injuries may not like jumping or impact work.
  3. The exercise video below showcases some simple exercises that can be done but it's not a random selection thrown together.  They are movements that use many of the major muscle groups of the body that produce the best results.  They are a squat, a push, a pull, a bend, and an exercise involving the whole body at once.  When you include a variety of exercises that use a lot of muscles you're energy output goes up as well.
  4. Pair exercises together to save time.  This is called a superset and it's a great way to get a lot of work done in a short period of time.  No standing around.  For example you could pair a squat with a pulling exercise, you complete the squat then move onto the pull straight after without a rest.

A basic workout could be done like this:

Superset 1: Squat with Kettlebell Bottom Up Grip paired with Resistance Band Pull with Rotational Step. 10 reps of each exercise back to back without a rest. Repeat.

Superset 2: Resistance Band Bend paired with Split Stance Resistance Band Chest Press.  10 reps of each exercise back to back without a rest.  Repeat.

Set 3: Medicine Ball Slam.  10 reps.  Rest as needed.  Repeat.

I made a short video showing you some of the equipment that you can get for less than $60AUD.  I bought the items from Kmart which has a decent range of budget priced home exercise equipment.  I grabbed a 3kg medicine ball, a 4kg Kettlebell, and 3 stretchy resistance bands.

With a little effort you can set yourself up nicely at home and get a great workout.

A small investment in a couple of pieces of equipment gives you plenty of options so you won't get bored and your workouts will remain effective.

The other great advantages of a home backyard workout are that you're outside, getting some vitamin D, some fresh air, and improving the health of your heart, lungs and muscles.

20 Simple Ways To Save Money When Buying Healthy Food

The cost of healthy food can blow out your food shopping budget.

This fact can make it very challenging to still eat well while watching your pennies.

Don't despair because there are still many ways you can eat a wide variety of whole foods.

Here are 20 ways you can save money when buying healthy food.

1. Write a Meal Plan

This one tip will save you so much more money.

Planning is paramount.

Set aside one day of the week and decide what you are going to eat for the week to come.

Write down all the ingredients you need.

Go through your pantry or cupboard and fridge and see what you have. It's amazing how much stuff you have pushed to the back that is still useable.

By planning what you need you will reduce wastage by not throwing unused items.

2. Buy Only What's On The List

Stick to the plan.

Don't get distracted and buy potentially expensive items that you don't need.

Supermarkets have all the whole foods on the fringes so shop there first.  Fill up with the best stuff first then there is less room for discretionary items.

The middle of the store is where you find the majority of heavily processed foods that are less nutritious. The ends of the aisles and shelves at eye level are where the most tempting and expensive items will be.

There are many smartphone apps that can help with shopping lists also.  These are a great way to make life easier.

3. Cook At Home

Cooking at home is so much cheaper than eating out.

By using the plan you created you'll be more inclined to eat at home rather than succumb to the last minute decision to eat out.

For the cost of one meal at a restaurant you could buy enough food to eat for at least a couple of days at home.

Some people like to prepare their meals for the week on a weekend while others will cook on the day.

By using only the ingredients you bought you know exactly what's in your meals.

4. Make More Than You Need And Use The Leftovers

This is sometimes referred to as batch cooking when you cooking larger meals.

It can save you time and money.

The leftovers can be used for lunch the next day or frozen to be used later.

They can be turned into other meals like stews, curries, stir-fries and burritos. These are all good meals if you're on a budget.

5. Avoid Shopping When Hungry

This will lead to impulse buying and straying from your list.

Those middle store food items will have more chance of ending up in your basket.

Shopping when hungry can lead to you blowing out the budget on less nutritious more expensive foods.

Grab a piece of fruit, yoghurt or other healthy snack before heading to the supermarket.

6. Focus On Buying Whole Foods

Compare the cost of less processed foods.

For example a block of cheese is cheaper than buying already shredded cheese.

Bulk items like oats and brown rice are always cheaper per serve than their processed cousins.

And because they are sold in bulk they provide many more servings per bag or box.

7. Consider Buying Generic or Supermarket Brands

Step into any major supermarket chain and they will be selling their own branded items at a cheaper price.

All foods have to be made a certain quality standard so you'll still be getting a good product at a price lower than the more expensive name brand item.

8. Reduce The Sweets and Soft Drinks

These items really add more to the bottom line of your food budget. They are expensive and not overly nutritious.

When you can reduce them you leave more money to spend on better quality, healthier food options.

9. Make The Most Of Sales

When something you use regularly or is a favourite comes on sale then stock up on it.

If it's a staple then it's worth buying a few more to save some money.

Just make sure that it's not a perishable item that you end up throwing out because you couldn't use it.

 

10. Look At The Cheaper Cuts of Meat

Premium cuts of meat and especially fish can be quite expensive.

Look a bit wider than just your steak and fish.

There are many cuts of meat that are perfect for stews, curries and casseroles that won't break the bank.

You can buy more of this kind of meat and use it for more than one meal as well as leftovers.

11. Try Some Other Protein Options

As meat can be an expensive ingredient you'll save money by thinking outside of the standard sources.

You could substitute some meat meals with other things like lentils or beans, eggs or canned fish.

They are all very cheap and keep on the shelf for a long time so you won't be throwing them out any time soon.

beans-1001032_640.jpg

12. Buy Items That are In Season

Food that is in season is much cheaper and is also at it peak for ripeness, nutrition and flavour.

Buying food out of season generally means it has come from some distance and may not be at it's best nutrient wise due to storage and transport.

Don't worry if you end up with too much you can always freeze it or use it next week.

13. Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Items like berries and other fruits are in season only for a few months and can be expensive. 

But with the quick freezing of many of these food types they are still very nutritious and are available all year and in large quantities.

They are great additions to cooking, smoothies and on meals like porridge and plain yoghurt.

14. Buy In Bulk

Many foods like rice, oats, and dried beans can be bought by the bag full and stored in containers to be used in many different dishes.

Even nuts and dried fruits are more economical when bought this way.

They can form the foundation of many inexpensive and delicious meals.

15. Grow Your Own Food

If you have the space, are willing to put in the time and effort you can grow a wide range of food that can save you money.

Food like tomatoes, herbs, onions and potatoes are great produce to grow.

They are a great way to supplement your shopping and can be picked at the peak of freshness.

It is an amazing feeling to grow and eat your own great tasting food.

16. Pickling

This is a simple method of preserving excess food to be used at a later date.  

Rather than throwing out your extra fruit and vegetables grab some vinegar and some jars and you can create some amazing tasting pickles.

Check out this link for some ideas: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/news/a19516/surprising-things-you-can-pickle/

17. Preserves

In a similar vein to pickling, preserves are a great way to make use of extra fruit to make jams or marmalades.

When finished you have an item that can be kept on the shelf unopened for at least a year.

18. Take Your Own Lunch

The amount of money you can save by packing your own lunch is huge over time.  The cost of eating out will add up especially if you're doing it regularly.

And if you're making more food than you need you'll have a steady supply of leftovers each day for lunch.

The added advantage is you've made it so it'll be healthier as well.

While it does require some planning your budget will thank you every week or month.

19. Learn To Love Cheaper Food Options

We are very lucky to live in a time where inexpensive and healthy food choices are widely available.

Be open to the idea of trying ingredients that you've never used before and experience the variety of delicious and cheap meals you can make.

Try using more eggs in your recipes along with beans and legumes, frozen fruits and vegetables, cheaper cuts of meat and whole grains.

You'll be adding so much more variety to your diet and in turn reap the health benefits.

20. Explore The Online Marketplace

The internet has made the options for the consumer greater so it's worth keeping an eye out for businesses offering great deals on food items.

You can register with them to receive updates on deals and specials.

You can also have the items delivered directly to your door.

Summary

You don't have to spend a fortune to eat good food.

There are many ways to eat healthy food when sticking to a budget.

Some of the best ones are planning your meals, cooking at home and making smart decisions when shopping.

Just remember that your more processed foods are going to cost more.

We all want to live healthy lives but it doesn't have to send you broke in the process.