Nobody’s perfect

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re all having a great Monday. I finally made it back to the gym today. It’s been two weeks since I last trained. Two. Weeks. I’m thankfully over my cold now, though still had a few coughing fits in the gym this morning so I must remember to take it easy.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, yesterday was Mothering Sunday. Until then, I’d gone 25 days without having any added sugar. My husband and daughter took me out for a meal so I wouldn’t have to cook. And then came the dessert question. Would I like dessert? I’m sure if I’d been able to train and been focussed about my goals I would have declined. Instead, I opted to have dessert. I broke my Lent goal.

I was a little disappointed, naturally. I never like to say I’ll do something and then fail. But I’m glad I had that dessert because it reminded me of how I get when I have sugar. Within 2 hours of having dessert, I was ready for my next sugar fix. Two hours later same again, and the same again until it was time for bed. Sugar is so addictive and really doesn’t help your body at all. My stomach felt so bloated, like something was about to burst through it, and yet I was still craving sweet food. When I didn’t have anything sweet for four hours after my meal, I was exhausted. I could’ve gone to sleep, something I haven’t felt since a week after giving up sugar.

So here is my advice to those who, like me, want to quit the white stuff. Do it! Give it up because you don’t gain anything from eating it. Your brain might convince you that it feels good to eat foods with added sugar, but your body hates it. All your body wants is good, wholesome food in the right proportions and it will thrive for you. I’m back on my no sugar eating plan and, despite eating sugar during Lent, I’m still gonna keep going. Not for Lent, for me, because when Lent’s over I want to keep my food healthy and clean and without added sugar. I’m not saying I’ll never eat foods without added sugar. Of course I will, but I’m not going to make them a part of my weekly intake. Special occasions only from now on.

I had to take my training steady today but I still worked my body hard. Here is my gym session below:

Warm up on the treadmill for 5 minutes

AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) 20 minutes unbroken of:

  • 6 push ups
  • 9 air squats
  • 12 kettle bell swings (16kg KB)
  • 15 sit ups

I managed to do 10 rounds so I was pleased with this considering I hadn’t trained for 2 weeks. Next, four sets unbroken of:

  • cross trainer 3 minutes
  • 25 TRX squats
  • 20 walking lunges

This was nice to do as you can work as hard or easy as you want.Then, 3 sets of

  • 10 KB swings
  • 10 KB thrusters
  • 10 KB deadlift highpulls

Finished with 3 sets of 10 assisted pull-ups and some stretching.

Have a great week everyone!

It’s not all about training

Hi there!

Good news! After a weekend in bed, I’m finally getting over this wretched cold. I haven’t trained since last Wednesday so I’m feeling a little frustrated and can’t wait to get back to it. However, it’s more important to get well first. Having a strong, healthy body isn’t just about training. It’s also about eating the right foods and staying in the right mindset, even when you feel like hogging an entire packet of chocolate chip cookies and wallowing in your own self pity because you can’t train. Therefore, instead of cookies, I ate watermelon and strawberries – yum!

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe from a book my husband bought me after I had my ankle operation. Cook. Nourish. Glow. is by Amelia Freer, a nutritional therapist and healthy-eating expert. I was elated when my husband bought this book for me as I really wanted to change my habits. The only problem was I was non-weight bearing for ten weeks after receiving the book so unhealthy options took over. Until recently, that is.

This is a recipe that incorporates two of my favourite foods – bacon and Brussels sprouts. Not only are Brussels sprouts good for you, having valuable nutrients such as vitamins C and K, folate and manganese, they are also super tasty. Combining the earthy flavour of Brussels sprouts with salty smoked bacon and juicy sweet apple makes this dish one of my all time favourites. This recipe serves 2.

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Ingredients

  • 8 rashers of bacon (I try to get outdoor bred pork when I can)
  • 250g Brussels sprouts
  • coconut oil (though I prefer extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 small turnips (or parsnips if you prefer), cut into 1cm cubes
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 60ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large eggs (preferably organic)

Method

  1. Put the bacon into a large cold non-stick frying pan. Turn the heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes until crispy.
  2. Blanch the Brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes then lift them out and place them into a bowl of iced water. Once the sprouts are cold, drain and set aside.
  3. Wipe the excess fat from the bacon pan then add 1 tablespoon of coconut or olive oil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then set aside.
  4. Add another tablespoon of coconut or olive oil and do the same with the sliced apple until golden and softened but still holding its shape. Set aside.
  5. Blanch the turnip or parsnip cubes in boiling water for 5 minutes until tender, then add to the large frying pan with a pinch of salt. While the turnips are crisping, poach your eggs in the pan of simmering water with the apple cider vinegar.
  6. Add the sprouts and apples back to the pan with the turnip and cook for another minute or two until warmed through. Serve with the crisp bacon and poached egg.

I love this dish. The different combinations of flavours compliment each other well and leave you feeling full and satisfied. Give it a try.

Have a great week everyone.

A cold without sugar

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re all having a better week than I am right now. I thought last Sunday would be my greatest challenge when abstaining from sugar. It was hard finding the strength and will power to resist the ‘dessert’ temptation. And then on Tuesday night, I came down with the mother of all colds. Right now, I feel absolutely awful. My nose is bunged up one minute then streaming the next. I have a persistent headache because of my bunged up nose and my muscles are screaming they ache so much. And the one thing I’ve always turned to for comfort when I feel like this is chocolate chip cookies…and I can’t have them.

It’s strange how I’ve always turned to food, especially sweet foods, when I’m feeling ill or upset. It’s just something I’ve always done and wasn’t taught any different. It’s not hard to understand why I’m addicted to sugar: whenever I’ve felt poorly, I’ve eaten cookies. If I’ve accomplished something, I’ve celebrated with a big lavish dinner. If something bad has happened, I’ve bought copious bars of chocolate and devoured them, hoping that by doing so my problems will somehow go away or sort themselves out. Obviously, this never happens and they are still there the next day along with a few extra pounds from the chocolate.

My goal was to give up sugar for Lent. If I can get through this cold without reaching for the chocolate chip cookies then I’m 100% certain I’ll make 40 days. After all, it’s already been 17 days. But maybe I should be thinking about long term goals regarding sugar. The thought of giving up sugar entirely sends my brain into meltdown and part of the reason I think I’m coping is that I know abstaining is for a fixed period of time. The problem is, when the fixed period is over, what will I do then?

It’s a difficult problem and one I’m sure I’ll be considering throughout the next few weeks.  So, instead of munching on chocolate chip cookies as I’ve programmed myself to do when I’m ill, I’m sat drinking raspberry and echinacea tea and berry smoothies to try and get as much vitamin C as possible. I’ve missed a lot of training this week too, owing to my cold, but did manage to get a gym and swim session done early in the week. Below is my gym session and it is a killer arm workout. It was given to me by a trainer at my local gym and I can still feel the ache in my arms:

Warm-up with 5 minute bike – easy spin

2 x 8kg kettle bells holding them in each hand with the weight resting on your forearm, arms level with shoulder, 4 sets of 25 squats.

3 sets of 60kg tyre pulls backward over 100 metres

Battle ropes – I’d never done anything with battle ropes before and I found this the hardest part of the workout.

4 sets of battle rope slams for 30 seconds

4 sets of battle rope waves for 30 seconds

4 sets of 10 pull ups (assisted)

4 sets of 10 tricep dips

4 sets of 8kg kettle bell raises with any movement in the hips – arms only.

Stretching to finish

My arms felt like spaghetti after this workout and were burning for some time after. A good workout nevertheless. Fingers crossed my cold will be gone and training can resume on Monday.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Withstanding temptation

Hi there!

It’s now been thirteen days since I gave up added sugar for Lent. I had my toughest challenge to date when my family and I went out for Sunday dinner. It’s hard enough when I cook dinner at home and then my daughter asks “what’s for pudding?”. Spooning out some ice cream knowing I can’t have any for myself is hard. What’s even harder is going out for food and watching both my husband and my daughter eat pudding, especially when both of them gave me the green light to have my own dessert. How I did it I don’t know, but I abstained. I think it had something to do with the silent promise I made to myself to have that exact same dessert they had when Lent is over.

There are two things I’ve learned so far since I’ve stopped having added sugar. The first is that I feel hungry a lot of the time. I don’t think my body is hungry as I’m having four meals a day but I’m certainly craving sugary foods. The second is that I truly believe I’m a sugar addict. It sounds ludicrous that someone could be addicted to sugar but having gone thirteen days without it, I can say for certain that I’m addicted to it. And why wouldn’t I be? Sugar is in everything!

I was feeling ravenous after a particularly hard training session last week and was on my way to collecting my daughter from school. There is a Marks & Spencer’s store close to the school so my plan was to pick up something healthy on the way. I knew I couldn’t have most of the food in there but I thought I’d be okay with having some cooked chicken. I was wrong. There’s even sugar in chicken!

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Can you believe that? A sugar marinade! Why? Why coat chicken in sugar? It didn’t make any sense to me so, being incredibly picky and frustrated, I left the store hungry and collected my daughter from school. I was infuriated that something you think would be healthy turns out to have added sugar in it. After I’d eaten and felt more clear headed, I looked up why sugar would be added to chicken, apart from being a marinade.

It turns out that sugar is used as a preservative. Sugar causes bacteria to lose water. Without enough water, bacteria can’t grow or divide and, therefore, can no longer survive. Combined with salt, another preservative, sugar reduces contaminating bacteria in your food. When used in this way and for this purpose, it’s good. However, if you’re trying to avoid added sugar like I am, you have to cook your own chicken. It was a hard lesson to learn as I was famished, but an important one. I never would have expected there to be sugar in chicken and it makes me wonder how many other foods have added sugar without consumers being aware of it. Would you have expected sugar to be in the packet of chicken shown above? I know I wouldn’t have unless I’d checked.

Anyway, that’s enough talk about sugar. Here is the gym session I completed today and I loved it. It was hard session and my muscles are aching a lot now but it was worth it.

Warm up – 5 minute bike

AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) 10 minutes non-stop of the following:

  • 5 pull ups
  • 10 push ups
  • 15 air squats

This is a CrossFit workout called “CINDY”. A lot of the workouts in CrossFit are named and this one is a particular favourite of mine. It’s hard but that’s the point. I only managed 7 rounds in 10 minutes but it’s a good start.

Next, 5 rounds of the following straight through without rest:

  • 250m row
  • 10 sit ups with 6kg med ball
  • 10 russian twists with 6kg med ball
  • 20 walking lunges

I like the mix of cardio and core in this part of the workout. I followed this with 4 rounds of:

  • 10 deadlifts with 20kg bar
  • 10 wall balls with 8 kg med ball

In the last part of my workout, I lifted a few weights but I was pretty much beat by then.     3 sets each of the following:

  • dumbbell (DB) bicep curl, 8 reps of 8kg
  • DB bench press, 10 reps of 10kg
  • DB pull over, 10 reps of 10kg
  • lat pull down, 10 reps 35kg
  • cable tricep pull, 10 reps 17.5kg

Have a great week everyone!

 

Day 6 without sugar

Hi everyone!

Biscuits. That’s all I can think about – biscuits, biscuits and more biscuits. I never really eat biscuits and yet, since giving up sugar, it’s the food I’ve craved most. Despite the cravings, I have not succumbed to the temptation of the white stuff. It’s hard though, harder than I would have ever thought possible. After my disastrous swimming session on Friday where I had no energy and couldn’t lift my arms out of the water, I thought I’d need sugar to get me through the weekend. Instead I found a substitute, though I don’t think it’s a healthy one.

I train Monday through to Friday, basically when my daughter is in school. I drop her off in the morning then head straight to the gym or the pool and get my session done. I much prefer to do my sessions in the morning when I’ve got the most energy and it fits in perfectly with the school run. The weekend is my time with family and to catch up on the household chores that get pushed back during the week. Sometimes this feels like a training session in itself. However, without having the distraction and priority of training to keep my focussed, the weekend is when I struggle the most to resist temptation.

Saturday evenings are hard when we’re sitting down in the evening and watching a film together. Even before the film has started, I’m craving food, unhealthy food. The problem is, this need for food with a film has been drummed into us from an early age – when you’re a child you’re taken to the cinema and before you even get to the seats to watch the film, there are huge glass vats filled with popcorn and chocolates and sweets underneath bright spotlights begging to be eaten. So now, when we sit down to watch something, I automatically think of eating while watching.

However, this isn’t the worst time of the weekend for me. I struggled the most on Sunday afternoon. We’d just eaten roast dinner and both my husband and my daughter had pudding – a chocolate profiterole pudding! I couldn’t sit and watch them eat it so I had to go upstairs away from alluring smell of chocolate.

Instead of munching on chocolates and sweets and puddings, I turned to fruit bread and cheese. Not exactly the healthiest option I know, and certainly not one to have late in the evening, but it’s better than chowing down on a few chocolate bars. Fruit toast with butter, a few slices of cheese and a cup of tea worked wonders at reducing my cravings over the weekend. My plan for this week is to avoid having a lot of bread and cheese so late at night and to have eggs with veggies instead. I’m always hungry in the evening so I’m hoping that the protein and low carbs will help stave off the hunger pangs but not cause me to put on too much weight.

Speaking of which, I weighed yesterday and I’m now 11 stone and 11 pounds. The weight is slowly creeping down while my fitness levels are slowly creeping up. Consistency, determination and a positive attitude are the keys to success and I am constantly striving to continue with these.

To start the week off well, I went to the gym this morning. It wasn’t a long session (just under an hour) but it was a hard one, working on core, shoulders and quads.

Warm up – 5 minutes on stationary bike

Core

  • elbows to knees crunches – bringing up both elbows to meet both knees and then returning to a flat position. 4 sets of 20 crunches.
  • kettle bell oblique side bends – one arm is holding the kettle bell while the other is up with your hand at you ear. 4 sets of 15 oblique bends on each side.
  • kettle bell swing raises – where your legs and hips don’t move, allowing the work o be done with shoulders and upper abs. 4 sets of 12 swing raises.

Rower sprints – this was fun yet surprisingly exhausting considering how little rowing is involved. 4 sets of 300m rows, sprinting, all out effort for 300m. To start with, I felt as though I’d row 300m in 30 seconds and then once I hit 150m, I was done. My legs started aching and my lungs were burning. I took a lot of rest after the sprints, probably around 2-3 minutes before starting the sprints again. My times were 1.06, 1.09, 1.09, and 1.12. As you can see, the last one nearly finished me off!

Finished with some Vipr presses, 4 sets of 15 presses, followed by lots of stretching.

I loved this workout as it incorporated high intensity training with the sprint rows along with core work and a little strength training for my shoulders.

That’s all for now. Have a great week everyone!

 

 

Day 3 without sugar

Hi guys!

Oh my, oh my, oh my. That’s how I feel since giving up sugar. When I first said I’d give up sugar for Lent, I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t think it would be this taxing on my body. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that giving up smoking was easier than giving up sugar, and that was hard enough. I should point out that although I’ve given up sugar, I’m still having wholemeal bread and mayonnaise, both of which contain a small amount of added sugar, but even these are limited to small amounts. Everything else has gone – chocolate, sweets, cookies and biscuits, pasta and curry sauces, processed meals and hot chocolate on the weekend.

I was shocked when I discovered the number of food items that contain added sugar. It’s this added sugar that has caused myself and many other Britons like me to become addicted to it. In fact, The Independent reported that the average American consumed 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day and it has even been suggested that the average Briton consumes up to 238 teaspoons of added sugar in a single week! That’s frightening considering the recommended allowance for added sugar is 6 teaspoons a day. So giving up sugar for Lent, I told myself, though challenging would ensure I adhere to this recommended amount.

On the first day I felt incredibly optimistic. I didn’t crave any sugary foods and, because I planned to have cheese and crackers as my after-dinner pudding, I felt fine. I watched the CrossFit Games to help keep me focussed on my goals, despite a nagging headache behind my eyes, and went to bed feeling proud.

I slept fitfully that first night and, on waking, my body seemed to ache more than usual. I went to the gym and found I was lacking energy. I got through the session I’d planned but something seemed ‘off’. By the afternoon I had another headache, this one more severe than on the first day, so much so that I took paracetamol. This helped but didn’t fully rid me of the headache. I suffer from migraines and, though this certainly wasn’t a migraine, the pain of the headache wasn’t far off. And I was exhausted. By 8 o’clock I was unable to keep my eyes open and fell fast asleep on the sofa for an hour. After waking up and going to bed, another fitful night ensued.

Normally on Friday mornings, both myself and my daughter tuck into a bowl of Special K followed by half a blueberry bagel. But both contain added sugar! So as not to cause my daughter too much distress and force her to have porridge again, she had half a wholemeal bagel with some organic strawberry jam while I had scrambled eggs.

And then I went swimming.

I’ve never run a marathon so have only heard stories of how people ‘hit the wall’ after about 20 miles, but that was exactly how I felt during my swimming session. I was fine during the warm-up, though my muscles were aching a lot but I just put that down to yesterday’s gym session. By the time I got to my main set, I was cooked. No kidding, I was done. I had no energy at all. My arms felt so heavy and, no matter how much extra rest I gave myself, once I started swimming my muscles just couldn’t work any harder. I’ve never had that feeling before…ever! Let me tell you, it is not a nice feeling.

I never thought giving up sugar would have such a dramatic effect on my body. When I came home after my swim, I looked up the withdrawal symptoms of giving up sugar and they are as follows:

  • anxiety and depression
  • low energy levels
  • headaches
  • hunger and cravings
  • muscle aches and pains
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • strange dreams
  • gas and bloating
  • chills or sweats

I am definitely suffering from a few of these, the most prevalent of which are headaches, low energy and increased hunger and cravings. Even as I’m typing this I’ve got a craving for biscuits – any biscuits would do at this point. What’s worse is that these symptoms can last for up to 6 weeks! By the time I get over the withdrawal symptoms, Lent will be over.

So is it worth putting my body through all of this? I’m sure it is but my body isn’t convinced…yet. But this isn’t really a plan just for Lent. Once the withdrawal from the white stuff has abated, I don’t want to go through this again which means not going back to unhealthy habits.

I’ll update you on my progress on day 6 – fingers crossed I have more energy.

Have a great weekend everyone!