Dear New Girl at the Gym

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This blog post is a re-blog from Erica Millard called “Dear New Girl at the Gym”. This post really resonated with me because I remember what it’s like to start your own fitness journey. So many girls pick up their teeny tiny dumbbells and take them into the small circuit room round the corner, performing their workout where less people are likely to see them. I know this because I used to do that all the time, when I was embarrassed at being painfully skinny and trying to lift weights. I figured I looked pathetic and wanted to train without being seen. Anything involving upper body weights I would hide in the side room, feeling so embarrassed doing bicep curls next to the ‘big boys’ and experienced gym goers when you could hardly even see there was a muscle there to be used!

Well how times have changed for me now. I have no hesitation in going up to the roided-up gym junkie and asking to jump in between his sets. Looking back, I realise that there was no reason to be embarrassed by the size of my weights or the size of my muscles (or lack thereof). Everyone has to start somewhere. The fact that you are there, in the gym, trying to do something about it is the biggest thing. Whether you’re doing it wrong, lifting little weights, or your fat is bouncing around on the beginning of your weight loss journey – no one at the gym is judging you. Hell, I admire those people in the gym. I honestly look at them and think good on you for getting started, because that is honestly the hardest part. Never be embarrassed by what the gym junkies think of you – trust me, they are far too focused on their own workout and checking themselves out in the mirror to judge (or even notice) you.

Check out Erica’s letter below:

Dear New Girl at the Gym,

You stand across from me in boot camp or on the treadmill next to me or a few bikes over in spin. I have never seen you before, but here you are. I can tell by the look on your face you are embarrassed. Embarrassed that you can’t do a pushup or don’t know how to adjust your bike or that you walk on the treadmill when the girl on the other side of you runs for a full hour at the speed of a cheetah. You look around and wonder what on earth you are doing here. You glance at me and I smile, but you look away pretending you didn’t see, because that would mean I noticed you. Maybe you are discouraged. Maybe you tell yourself this was a huge mistake and you’re going to ask for your money back. Maybe you wonder if I’m judging you.

I am not.

I want you to know how proud I am of you. You see, even though it might not seem like it, none of us are judging you. Why? Because so many of us were just like you. We know what it is like. We know how hard it is, especially in the beginning. Really we do. Maybe you woke up one day weighing forty pounds more than you did five years ago. I have been there. Maybe you stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office, had the nurse cluck her tongue, and then had the doctor say something like, “Now let’s talk about your weight.” I have been there. Maybe you recently had a baby, and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you don’t have to tuck your stomach into your pants. I have been there. Maybe you get half way through the warm up in a group fitness class and wonder if you are this out of breath now, is a full hour going to kill you? I have been there. Maybe money and time are tight and the idea of spending $30-$70 a month and an hour a day on yourself feels awfully selfish. I have been there. So many of us have.

You see us running or biking or lifting weights, and may feel discouraged or that we are judging you. Please, please, PLEASE know that we are not, because so many of us have been in your same shoes. You see us for what we are now, but many of us started out just like you, on a journey to find our best selves.

Please come back. I know it is hard, but it will get better, I promise.

And then you will wake up one day and wonder when you became that person. You know that person who can jog a few miles or do a whole spin class or even do boot camp without being sore the next day. And you will be the one, standing across the room, smiling at the new girl hoping she knows how lovely and wonderful and brave she is. Hoping she knows she is worth all the work. Because you are. You are so worth it. You deserve to be your healthiest self.

Now there might come a time and a place where someone will judge you, even someone at the gym. Maybe they make rude comments or give you that look. Maybe they have never known what it feels like to struggle with their weight. Maybe they have low self-esteem. Maybe they have never eaten an entire pan of brownies by themselves (I have) or an entire bag of Halloween candy before a single trick or treater came to their door (I have). Maybe they forgot what it was like to be the new girl. Please, don’t waste your time on them. You are on a journey to be your best self, and they don’t belong on your journey. Find people and a place where you can begin where you are.

Come back. You are so worth it.

http://ericamillard.com/?p=1566

Image: instagram.com/kayla_itsines

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Dishing up the dirt on clean desserts

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One thing I hate about the health and fitness industry is when brands take advantage of the innocent consumer and market products as ‘healthy’ when in fact they aren’t. By using marketing ploys such as ‘low carb’, ‘sugar free’, ‘low fat’, ‘natural’, ‘made from real fruit’, many companies deceive the consumer into thinking that what they are consuming is either good for them or conducive to weight loss.

Although I am passionate about choosing more natural and clean foods most of the time, a big issue I’m seeing is consumers thinking that just because a food is ‘clean’ means that it will help them in their bid to lose body fat.

One of the latest clean eating fads are ‘raw desserts’, which are generally made from an abundance of fruit and nuts. Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly benefits of choosing a raw dessert over the processed kind (I will touch on that later), but the problem is that people think that because the dessert is raw, natural, and free from artificial additives it means they can eat as much as they like, or that it doesn’t count as a ‘cheat’ meal. Fruit and nuts are healthy right?!
Fruits such as dates and bananas, and nuts such as cashews, almonds and coconut seem to form the basis of most raw desserts. Maple syrup, honey or agave are often added to provide more sweetness. Albeit these are natural ingredients, what people forget to consider is that the actual macronutrient value of the dessert may not be all that different from the ‘dirty’ alternative. Macronutrients refer to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When it comes down to clean dessert alternatives, just because the sugar is from fruit or the fat is from nuts doesn’t change the fact that it’s calories being consumed by your body. A sugar provides 4 calories per gram regardless of whether it’s from fruit or table sugar, and a fat provides 9 calories per gram whether it’s from a nut or cream and butter.

Take raw caramel slice as an example. You may find this blog post ironic in fact, because I posted a recipe for my raw caramel slice not long ago. However you will notice that my recipe came along with a warning that it should still be consumed in moderation.  This is because even though it’s a clean alternative, it is still an extremely calorie dense dessert. If you’ve ever made a raw dessert yourself or even some raw protein balls, you will know just how much dried fruit and nuts go into these health-ified treats.

Given that weight/fat loss is ultimately just an equation of calories in vs calories out, whether you have a clean dessert or a ‘dirty’ dessert may not make too much difference to your ultimate goal (assuming the portion sizes contain roughly the same amount of calories). In that respect, I feel that sometimes it’s worth enjoying the ‘naughty’ version when it comes time to have your treat meal – life is about balance after all!

In saying that raw/clean desserts are obviously more beneficial for your health in that they are less processed (or in the case of raw desserts, unprocessed) and don’t contain artificial flavours and preservatives. They are also likely to contain a higher percentage of good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than bad fats like trans fat.  However looking from a purely weight or fat loss perspective, they are likely to sit relatively on par.

So although I still enjoy raw desserts and experimenting with making them, I think it’s important that they are not misunderstood to be able to be consumed in larger quantities than ordinary desserts. Nor should they be included as part of an eating plan for weight or fat loss. Just because they are ‘clean’ or ‘raw’ doesn’t mean they are any less of a treat.

With love,

B.xx

Image: the-fit-foodie.com

Raw Salted Caramel Slice

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After much anticipation, here is the recipe for my raw salted caramel slice!

This rich caramel treat is made from clean ingredients and is a healthier alternative to the original.

However given it is made from nuts, dried fruit and maple syrup, it is still quite high in natural sugars and healthy fats, so I suggest it be consumed in moderation 😉

Ingredients

For the base:
1.5 cups almonds
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp melted coconut oil

For the caramel:
1 cup dates
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1.5 tbsp unhulled tahini
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup cashews (soaked for 6+ hours until soft)
A pinch of pink sea salt

For the chocolate:
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup raw cacao
2 tbsp du chocolat powder
A pinch of pink sea salt

Method
1. Line a tray with baking paper
2. Process the ingredients for the base in a food processor or blender until it forms a kind of crumb. Transfer it into the tray and knead it together, pressing it tightly so that it will stick. Set this layer in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
3. Process the ingredients for the caramel in a food processor or blender until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency. You will probably need to give it a few stirs, and maybe add a little water to help it blend, but you want it to be relatively thick.
4. Pour the caramel on top of the set base layer and smooth it over. Return to the freezer until the caramel is set (approx one hour).
5. Mix the ingredients for the chocolate layer in a bowl. Pour on top of the set caramel layer. Quickly smooth it over- it will set quite quickly because of the coldness of the caramel layer.
6. Return to freezer for another 15 minutes or so until chocolate is set, then slice.

Note: store in the freezer for best results.

The Perfect Pancake

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I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but these are by far the best clean pancakes I have ever tasted! They are the perfect combination of fluffy, moist, and sweet (but not too sweet!). They are also a blessing to cook – they don’t take too long, don’t stick to the pan, and were nice and easy to flip! Made from simple ingredients, these are a great breakfast that feels like a cheat but isn’t! Happy tummy, happy thighs 😉
Ingredients (Makes approx 3 pancakes; serves one)

40g rolled oats (note for a lower carb version you could substitute for almond meal)

14g coconut flour

2 egg whites

60 ml unsweetened almond milk

50g mashed banana (the riper the better)

a pinch of bi-carb soda

Toppings

50g Chobani 0% Greek Yoghurt

75g blueberries

10ml sugarfree maple syrup
Macros (not including the toppings) – Cals: 229 P:17g F:5g C:46g

Method:
1. Blend the oats and coconut flour in a blender or food processor for a few seconds until it forms a powder.

  1. Transfer dry ingredients to a bowl and add the almond milk, egg whites, mashed banana and a pinch of bi-carb soda, stirring until well combined.
  2. Heat a little bit of organic butter or coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
  3. Add 1/3 of the mixture at a time to the pan, using a spoon to ensure it is spread evenly.
  4. Cook for approx 2-3 minutes or until the underside of the pancake has firmed, then flip and cook for a further 1 minute.
  5. Transfer pancake to a plate and repeat with the remainder of the mixture.
    TIP: Keep cooked pancakes covered with a plate or aluminum foil to keep them warm while making the rest of the pancakes.
  6. Top pancakes with greek yoghurt, blueberries and sugar free maple syrup or toppings of your own choice.
  7. Enjoy! 🙂

Banana, Peanut Butter and Maple Porridge

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This porridge is a delicious, nutritious and filling way to start the day! The surprise mouthfuls of peanut butter that you get are absolutely divine! I prefer this porridge cold the next morning, but it can also be enjoyed warm.

It’s an ideal pre or post workout breakfast as it contains a combination of protein, carbs and good fats. It’s quite calorie dense and filling, so I love to have this breakfast after a morning training session or as a weekend treat. 🙂

Recipe serves one (or more, depends how much food you can eat in one sitting 😉 )

Ingredients

48g Brookfarms ‘Gluten Free Porrij’ (you can also use oats, but the nuts in the porridge really complement the peanut butter flavour perfectly!)

½ cup grated zucchini (optional – for added goodness!)

2 egg whites

12g PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter

½ – 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (or for a sweet treat, try White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter by Peanut Butter & Co)

50-100g banana slices

10ml Sugarfree Maple Syrup

1 tbsp cinnamon

Stevia to taste

Method

  1. Add zucchini and porridge/oats to a saucepan with 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp of cinnamon and stevia to your liking.
  2. Cover and bring to the boil.
  3. Once boiling, turn down to a gentle simmer and remove lid. Allow to simmer until most of the excess water has evaporated
  4. Add the egg whites and stir quickly for about 20 seconds until eggs are cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat and stir through the PB2.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and stir through the peanut butter into the hot porridge.
  7. Leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top with banana and sugarfree maple syrup.

Note: For a lower calorie option, combine some more PB2 with water to make a ‘sauce’ to drizzle over your porridge instead of mixing in the peanut butter.

Stress, Cortisol and your Stubborn Belly Fat: How to lose fat from your abdominal region!

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Everybody wants to know how to lose that stubborn belly fat. For so many people it seems that no matter how many crunches or HIIT circuits they do, that little bit of fat on their stomach won’t budge. Why is this fat so stubborn and difficult to lose?! If you’re eating right and training hard but can’t lose stomach fat, the answer may lie at a hormonal level. Let me introduce you to a little demon called cortisol…

Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’, and is released in your body in response to different types of stress. Cortisol has an important role to play in regulating the body, but prolonged elevation of cortisol can cause a number of negative effects such as sleep disruption, decreased muscle mass, lowered immune response and an increase in abdominal fat storage… (no thanks!). People who have high stress levels (myself included) and/or put their body under a lot of physical stress are likely to have elevated cortisol, which could result in any or all of the aforementioned problems.

The kinds of stress that causes release of cortisol is probably much broader than what you imagine. Stress can be mental, physical, emotional or chemical. Below I explain the different types of stress on the body and how you can manage them to help reduce your cortisol level.

Physical stress – refers to intense training and/or overtraining (overtraining is training in excess and not recovering adequately). Training at a high intensity is certainly still a good thing, provided you aren’t overtraining. However you can help reduce the spike in cortisol after an intense workout by taking the following supplements within 30 minutes of finishing a workout.

  • Vitamin C:
    You can get vitamin C through food like oranges, capsicum, berries and dark leafy greens like kale and spinach or you can take it in supplement form.
  • L-Glutamine:
    Glutamine is an amino acid than manages cortisol levels in the muscles. It can be found in foods like cheeses, or taken in supplement form ideally as a post workout to reduce cortisol that is produced in response to a tough training session. Add it to your post workout shake!
  • Essential Amino Acids:
    Some studies have suggested that taking an essential amino acid supplement (rather than BCAA’s which just contains the branch chain amino acids) after a workout can reduce the negative effects of cortisol and increase protein synthesis. Although I’m not sure how conclusive these studies relating to cortisol are, but taking an EAA shake post workout can improve protein synthesis, glycogen synthesis and muscle recovery so it has a number of positive benefits that should help to counter the negative effects of cortisol regardless.

 

 

Mental stress – when you are overwhelmed by tasks such as assignments, exams or work that is causing you to feel pressured or under the pump.

  • Sleep more – some studies show that when you sleep for six hours instead of the recommended eight you will have 50% more cortisol in your blood stream. So work out when you need to get to bed to get the eight hours you need and make sure you do it! I also take a melatonin supplement to help me sleep because getting an unbroken nights sleep has long been an issue for me, but for most people it’s just about making sure they get to bed at a reasonable time.
  • Meditation – meditation can help you relax and therefore help to reduce your cortisol levels. There are some great guided meditations online if you are new to meditating and want to get started! They talk you through every step and help you to learn how to switch off your mind, which can be difficult for a lot of people.
  • Go for a walk or read a book – anything that helps you to relax can have a positive impact on your cortisol levels. Everyone is different, so just indulge in an activity that helps YOU to de-stress!

Emotional stress – There are many causes of emotional stress – sadness, depression, anxiety or relationship breakdowns to name a few.

  • More Green Tea, less Coffee!
    Green Tea contains L-Theanine, a nutrient that causes relaxation. Although caffeine usually increases cortisol levels, because of the l-theanine in green tea it has been found to actually reduce cortisol! So try switching your coffee for green tea. (Note that I’m still struggling with this one! :P)
  • Again meditation, walking, reading or other relaxing activities will be of benefit to anyone who is experiencing emotional stress.

Chemical stress – when your body is exposed to toxins present in both what you’re eating and the environment. Although it’s not completely avoidable given the world we live in, it can certainly be minimized.

  • Eat your greens!
    Eating lots of green vegetables helps to detoxify your body. You can even get some great “Supergreens” shakes now to increase your intake of greens. Although real food is always the preferred alternative, these shakes can help you make sure you are meeting your nutrient requirements, and you can get some with little to no artificial additives.
  • Avoid packaged foods
    The less artificial crap you put in your body, the less your body has to work to try and detox from them. Eat a variety of whole foods like meat and vegetables cooked yourself instead of packet options.
  • Avoid BPA plastics and microwaving your food in them
    Water bottles and Tupperware can leach BPA into your food. Drink from glass water bottles and avoid microwaving your food in plastic – put it in a bowl first!
  • Avoid parabens and harsh chemicals on your skin
    Switch to natural and/or paraben free products that are more gentle on your body.
  • Avoid alcohol
    We all know alcohol is toxic to the body, so it’s just an added chemical stress that your body doesn’t need! Cut out or at least try and reduce your alcohol consumption.

Since taking all of the above steps to try and reduce my cortisol I have been able to see a dramatic drop in my abdominal fat storage. I’ve always trained hard and eaten healthy food, but struggled to reduce the fat on my stomach region. Since making an effort to reduce my stress levels and associated elevated cortisol, I finally have some visible abs!

If you feel like you’re doing everything else right but not getting the results you’re after in terms of abdominal fat loss, then give some of the above tips a go – it may just be what your body needs to finally strip that abdominal fat away!

And remember – stress less gorgeous! 🙂

With love,
B.xx

Clean Prawn Fried Rice

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This recipe is one of my favourites. I love this as a post workout meal as it has a good balance of protein, carbs and greens.

Ingredients: (serves one)

100g green prawn meat

1/3 cup cooked white basmati rice

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup carrots (cubed)

1/2 cup green beans (cubed)

1/2 cup broccoli

1 tsp chilli paste (I use the Galiko brand as it only contains chilli and vinegar)

1 tsp minced ginger (again I use the Galiko brand)

1/4 cup brown onion

2 tsp organic tamari

Method:

1. Chop all the veggies into small pieces

2. Cook the onions and prawns in a little bit of coconut oil. Once the prawns are almost cooked through, add the ginger and chilli and stir through.

3. In a wok, stir fry the veggies in a small about of coconut oil until cooked through.

4. Add the prawn and onion into the veggies, and toss through the cooked rice and the tamari.

5. Devour 🙂