Jillian Michaels: #30DayShred

Ok, so a little while back I told you all I wanted to lose some weight, but what I also wanted to do was tone up – big time. Aside from being a little bigger than I’d like I was 100% wobblier and I think having been a lot more toned this time last year after 6 months of BMF, I missed it all the more. You can certainly carry a lot more weight when it’s in a solid package!

Anyway, I digress. My motivation is Jess’s wedding at the end of August – I’m going to be a bridesmaid and who wants to look bad in those photo’s for all of eternity? As my arms are the only bit of me that will be on show I thought I would get some weights, then remembered this DVD being recommended by some of you before and thought I’d have a go. A few of you have been doing the 30 Day Shred along with me on Twitter and so I thought I’d do a little mid-point review (and maybe get some more of you on board!?) before discussing the real results when it’s over. My short term aim was to get slimmer and more toned for the hen do which is in 3 days time and I’m pleased with the results so far.

So what is it?
Basically it’s circuits of resistance, strength and cardio work that lasts about 25 minutes. The DVD follows a basic pattern of 3 levels, each with 3 sets of circuits that comprise 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of abs with a brief warm up and cool down. I had never watched The Biggest Loser, which is Jillian’s most well known project, but I knew it was going to be tough as she seems pretty no-nonsense. The video doesn’t actually make it clear but as there are three levels and 30 days I’d assume you do 10 days of each, although you might want to move up sooner if you’re bored or even mix them up for a more balanced work out.

Do I need anything?
Jillian uses a mat and some hand weights. For some reason my mat has disappeared into the ether so I’ve been doing without, and I didn’t want to invest in weights until I was sure I liked it so I started off on my carpeted floor with 2 tins of tomatoes. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method as you really won’t get the most out of the exercises, but if you have never worked with weights before it might be a good start and easier on those arms.

Is it hard?
This is a hard question! The type of strength and resistance exercises Jillian demonstrates are the kind I used leading up to my wedding in the gym then again at BMF and I think there was still some muscle memory there for me so I didn’t find Level 1 that bad. That said, when I stared using 1.5kg weights (In the gym I would normally use 2-3kg) it killed me!

Is it fun?
Actually yes. I’m enjoying it. For me the biggest bonus is that even as busy as I am, it’s unlikely that I can’t make time for 25 minutes of exercise. Most nights I have done it late at night straight before bed, after simply running out of time in the day but not wanting to miss one. So far 14 days in I have done it 12 times, taking one Saturday off that was just too busy and choosing a brisk dog walk on another glorious evening that was too sunny to spend bouncing around in the living room. I like Jillians attitude – ‘If you want to work out for 20 minutes a day, you have to WORK OUT.’ and the exercises and whole thing are done before you can think twice. I did get a little bored with level one but there’s no time for that with Level 2. The music is better, Jillian and her girls look like they are working as hard as you (and loving it,) and she seems a little more fun and personable. And I’m happy to report 3 days in to Level 2 after panting non-stop through the first time, I’m already finding it easier.

In another 2 weeks when I have completed the shred I’ll get back to you with a diary of how I found it and my results – I’ve measured myself and weighed myself. No holds barred.

I’d love to hear if I can tempt you to join us or if you are already doing it (or have done) and what results you got. Every bit of motivation is required to keep me away from those Cronuts!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

#JanuaryJoy – Family Planning

A while back, following one of the medical posts I have written, a reader who shall remain nameless ;) wrote to me and asked me to do a pre-conception post. I think a lot of women skip that pre-natal trip to the GP to ask advice before they get pregnant as so much is freely available on the internet and they feel they might be wasting our time. In fact nothing is more important than staying healthy and never more so than when creating a new life.


Image Credit: Baby Space

This isn’t intended to freak anybody out, nor to make those who simply got on with it and got pregnant feel bad. I figured that 2013 might well be the year that many of you have decided will be the year you’ll try to get pregnant, so thought this might be useful to stash away and read when the time comes. I won’t be covering getting pregnant as if you’re struggling that’s definitely one for your GP, and if you’re not then, well, I guess you knew what to do ;)

So here’s my check list of things to think about both from a health and sensible point of view.

1. Take Folic Acid
Number One on any pre-conception list has to be Folic Acid. Taking 400mcg of Folic Acid daily from the day you decide to start trying (all pregnancy vitamins contain the correct amount, or you can buy it alone,) will help prevent neural tube defects, or Spina Bifida. You might not think it’s important, but Scotland saw a nasty rise in Spina Bifida births in recent years when folic acid usage took a dip. The neural tube is the part of the baby that forms the spinal cord and surrounding structures and as the foetus develops it arises from the cells folding around the developing cord. This takes place from conception to 12 weeks, and if it doesn’t happen properly can cause problems below the level of the defect (with the bladder, bowels or legs for example) and babies born with deformities in their back. All these things can often be corrected but prevention is better than cure, especially as most people don’t know they’re pregnant until 4-6 weeks. It’s never too late to start taking folic acid if you find out you’re pregnant and haven’t been taking it, but it’s better even if you think there’s an outside chance of an accident happening to be covered all the same. (NB! Women with some conditions such as epilepsy are recommended to take a higher dose of 5mg daily – check with your GP if you are unsure.)

Now we have covered my number one issue, onto the other stuff.

2. Get in shape.
To give yourself the best possible chance of pregnancy you need to be fit and healthy, which also gives you a head start on enjoying your pregnancy. If you’re overweight, think about trying to shift a few pounds as obesity makes a pregnancy higher risk and can affect your chances of getting pregnant in the first place too. Whether you stop drinking entirely is up to you, but reducing your alcohol intake to an occasional glass won’t hurt and if you smoke it goes without saying, just stop.

3. Review your medications.
Plenty of medications are fine to take in pregnancy and often we have to weigh up the pro’s of mum being happy and healthy against the possible risks to the baby, but some are not, including anti-depressants, anti-epileptics and acne treatments. Unsurprisingly there is always a lack of evidence for drug use in pregnancy as nobody tests drugs on pregnant women, so the advice will often be to stop if you can. In the case of essential drugs however like anti-epileptics, it’s often just a matter of switching to a baby friendly variety in good time before you get pregnant. Diabetics should also see their GP prior to trying to concieve.

4. Get your cervical smear.
You can’t have a smear early, (and don’t forget you’re due one every three years from the age of 25,) but you also can’t have one when you’re pregnant, or for 3 months after having a baby as the cells the test samples are different due to the hormones of pregnancy. If you’re trying and a reminder comes through, don’t delay!

5. Lastly, check you are up to date with your jabs.
Once pregnant you will be offered (correct at time of posting, Jan 2013,) a flu jab and whooping cough vaccine. However your immune system is slightly suppressed whilst pregnant and catching some diseases like rubella or measles can seriously damage an unborn baby. We’re seeing a big risk in incidence of these diseases due to the fear over MMR vaccines some years ago now. If you aren’t sure if you have been vaccinated, check with your GP and get up to date.

One last thing. You may not be ready to try for a baby yet but if it’s on the cards in the next few years you might want to re-think your contraceptive choices. Especially if you’re a little older, it pays to be able to start trying as soon as possible from when you discontinue your chosen contraceptive, so you want one that’s immediately reversible rather than taking ages for your fertility to return. The main one to watch out for is the Depo Provera contraceptive injection. This can take several months to fully leave the system before your fertility comes back and you start ovulating again, so I don’t recommend it for women thinking of having a family in the next 12-24 months, or even between babies, unless you’re happy to deal with a long wait. When coming off the pill your periods can take a few months to settle into a normal pattern but it’s not a widely recognised problem. The coil, Mirena or IUS and implant are all immediately reversible.

Do let me know if this was useful and of course, remember, reading this is no substitute for a chat with your GP – we really enjoy seeing people for chats like this – it’s our job! Now I’d love to hear if any of you have been thinking about getting ready for trying, or if you’re already a mum or pregnant, how did you prepare? (Feel free to write anonymously if you want to stay private.)

Happy weekend readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Dukan did…

Today’s post is a big one. Big in the realisations it contains. It started off as a post on my first week on the Dukan Diet and turned into a complex examination of my relationship with food and the reasons we eat. It’s lead to some really deep thinking, on my behalf anyway, so I’d love to hear what you think.


Jennifer Aniston

I planned to start the Dukan for 2 reasons. The first, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t the main one, was my forthcoming holiday and the threat of being pool side in America, land of the botoxed brow, filled cheek and cosmetically enhanced (other) cheek. I don’t normally feel uncomfortable in a bikini, but being in mine next to others in theirs around a hotel pool seemed suddenly daunting. Secondly, although a previous fan of Weight Watchers, I have come to the realisation that trying to eat in moderation, or healthily, just seemed beyond my will power these days. I have always had a sweet tooth, but where I usually don’t have anything in the house that could be eaten in moments of temptation, first Christmas, then Easter brought piles and piles of chocolate into the house which I steadily consumed nibble by nibble mouthful. I had to face the fact that just one block of chocolate was never enough, and I ended up grazing. I needed a diet that was going to cut through the crap, that clearly defined what I could and couldn’t eat, and I needed results fast. So Dukan it was then. I won’t cover the ins and outs of the diet itself, you can read more here in the Daily Mail’s article and the ones that follow, but I started on what is the initial ‘attack’ phase, which consists of pure protein and 0% fat dairy products only.

I honestly debated sharing this. On the one hand, I (rather optimistically) thought that if I turned up on these very pages significantly smaller, I was going to have to come clean and why not share something that I thought would benefit you guys? The other part of me was horrified at the thought that people reading may take away the wrong message, that I would encourage women to feel the way I did, that slim-ish isn’t quite enough. I hold my hands up now and say that I would never recommend this as a doctor, but like you all, I’m only human.

So here goes…

Day 1 – Starting weight unknown, but three days earlier I was 10st 3lbs.
Breakfast: 2 eggs, scrambled, with smoked salmon.
Lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet with a dollop of cottage cheese.
Dinner: Surf and turf! Steak with a prawn skewer.
Water: 1.5L
Exercise: The prescribed 20 minute walk (part of the diet plan).

Day one, and I am already wondering what all the fuss is about. I was at work and didn’t have any more difficulty concentrating than I would during any other Friday(!) and the only unusual effect I had was a niggling headache. When I thought about it, not only was I forgoing carbs, but any form of sugar plus my usual caffeine intake, so it’s no wonder there’s some real effects to be felt.


Unknown source

Day 2 – Weight 9st 13lbs
Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled, and smoked salmon
Late lunch: Smoked mackerel fillet and cottage cheese followed by 0% yogurt with oat bran mixed in.
Dinner: (out with friends) seared scallops in sweet chilli sauce, sea bass on tomatopurée and wilted spinach, with dauphinoise potatoes (which I ate a few mouthfuls of) and then the big cave, warm chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream.
Exercise: My usual Saturday morning BMF class.

Today we were already booked for dinner with friends and but when I decided to try the Dukan, there was always an excuse not to. Instead I decided to extend the recommended 2 days of the ‘attack’ phase for my weight to three days and just consider Saturday night a write off. I chose high protein dishes at dinner, tried to avoid the carbs and chose wine instead of sugar packed cocktails. I was too embarrassed to tell the people we were out with what I was doing which lead to me eating the dauphinoise in an effort to reduce its conspicuous presence on my plate and go on to have desert. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the ever-present headache just before we went out for dinner.

I also got my hands on some Oat Bran. This is a non-negotiable part of the diet which is included for its (medically proven) ability to increase satiety and to cling onto fats and transport them through the bowel to be excreted. I wasn’t going to turn down something that resembled carbs although there was no cereal-like sweetness to satisfy my craving for sugar.

Day 3 – Weight 10st
Breakfast: Oat bran mixed with 0% yogurt.
Lunch: A tin of tuna (in brine) drained with some smoked salmon and cottage cheese
Dinner: 2 Chicken Fillets

After getting weighed this morning, I wasn’t too disheartened to see the increase on the scales. I have always retained water the morning after drinking so expected something and I’m now waiting with bated breath to see if I can rectify it with another protein packed day.
As of yet, I haven’t been to the toilet, (to, you know…) so I took a laxative and carried on glugging the water.

As day 3 went on I felt more and more depressed. It was the bank holiday Sunday. Everyone was out having a good time. Normally, I’d be dragging Pete out for cake, or lunch, or both and I started to realised how ingrained my happiness is in food.To me, food means socialising, friends, chatter and laughter. In an effort to take my mind off things, we went to the cinema and literally everywhere I turned, it seemed there were adverts for treat bags of chocolate and Ben and Jerrys. The final straw was sitting down next to a man tucking into an ice cream sundae. I felt truly miserable and all day the headache was there taunting me.

Day 4 – Weight 9st 13lbs

Last night I lay in bed thinking about the Dukan, my diet. I was completely listless at the thought of another day without any enjoyment in the form of food. Bank Holiday Monday and no nice lunch out or dinner out, no baking, no time spent with friends doing either of those things. I began to think about caving, giving up. I had pinpointed my problem, I was desperate for sugar. Perhaps like some people say, it takes days of abstinence to quit the habit but every time Pete had asked me what I wanted yesterday the answer had been to eat cake or ice cream!

I started to think about my upcoming holiday and the effect suddenly going back to carbs would have on my body, or weight. Unfortunately, the bikini part of my holiday is coming at the end of a 7 days stretch of travelling (and eating more than likely,) none of it in clothes that will remind me to watch what I eat. I worried about undoing the progress I had made already by the time I got to bikini o’clock. I started to think about going back to ‘normal’ food and felt wracked with guilt, a failure and even more depressed. The strongest feeling however was that never had I felt more miserable, for such an insignificant reason. Was being a few pounds heavier that I would like worth feeling like this?

The diet had made me feel all these things and I decided to stop. I don’t consider it quitting, or failing, it was the right decision. It wasn’t sustainable, healthy or right for me.


Neon sign

It has made me think long and hard about my relationship with food though. I doubt I’ll ever extricate my personal happiness from the social pleasures of eating. What I’ve come to realise is that I need to address the internal monologue of ‘you’ve worked hard today, you deserve that glass of wine/piece of chocolate/dessert.‘ or ‘what a rubbish day, let’s have pizza‘. I need to stop putting food in my mouth when I’m not thinking about it or savouring it and I need to start thinking about what my body needs as opposed to what my mind tells me it needs or deserves. I need to take the time to shop properly and make healthy choices, to make sure I have appropriate snacks and I probably need to cut the sugar down. But for now anyway, I’m going to stop focusing on my weight and I’m going to focus on my health instead. Things I’m taking away from my attempt at the Dukan will be the daily 20-30 minute walks – something I always found boosted my efforts at Weight Watchers, and trying to have a drink of water first when I feel hungry, not immediately reaching for a snack. Of course, I hope these small changes will make a small difference and help me lose a couple of pounds pre-holiday but what is most important to me is being happy, not losing a few pounds or the number staring at me when I step on the scales.

The feelings of self doubt I had over the last few days were horrible to experience and hard to share too, I even felt ashamed to admit that I wanted to even try a diet, that I wasn’t strong enough to rise above the pressure I put on myself to be the perfect size. (I hasten to add that the definition of perfect was entirely self imposed… why as women are we so hard on ourselves?) However I’m sure there isn’t a woman reading who can’t identify with the feelings I’ve described at some point in this post. I wrote about it all because I don’t ever want people to look at my what to wear posts and feel inadequate, or think there is some super-humanly confident person staring back at them. I wrote it because I know there are women who through self confidence issues or mental illness would never be able to step back and choose happiness over weight loss rather than equating weight loss with happiness and I wish I could change that.

As ever, please let me know if this post has made you think, if you have had a similar experience, or if I’ve struck a chord today. It’s an emotive subject and I look forward to hearing your opinions…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Burning off the Bundt

Well, it’s time to check in on January health and fitness plans with you all and update you on my efforts. This week I thought I would focus on the exercise aspect of what I’ve been doing after we talked weight loss methods and food last week.

I’m a bit militant when it comes to exercise once I start doing it and I also think that dieting alone is a really counter-productive way to lose weight. It can also ruin your metabolism by starving your body and encouraging it to store fat as soon as it gets its hands on excess calories again, because it’s in feast or famine mode.

You might remember me saying that I love food and I love both eating and drinking socially – its just not practical for me to say that I will forever be careful, not have that extra drink, or refuse the cake on offer with coffee. It’s never going to happen. Although I’d like to make my healthier diet a long term change, moderation, not denial is key.

With that in mind I needed to find a new method of exercise. Pete and I cancelled our gym membership with a three month notice period and it finished on the 31st of Dec. We must have been the only people cancelling at this time of year! The membership had gone up and up and up and we weren’t going anymore as It wasn’t as convenient for my new job.


BritMilFit.com

Thinking back, my favourite exercise ever was a circuits class I attended there, loosely based on military fitness by the instructor and a mix of cardio and weights or strength work for toning. I was physically exhausted after every session but saw fast results and it was addictive. I wanted to replicate that and was also aware that exercise doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m fortunate in that despite living in Manchester, I live ten minutes from a vast stretch of waterpark with miles of running tracks through woodland, around lakes and fresh air that feels miles from the city. So I wanted to get back to outdoor exercising too.


BritMilFit.com

All that lead me to British Military Fitness. I’d known of the classes for a while but never been and I won’t deny being nervous. The classes are based upon the kind of training the military use and particularly rely on when they’re out on tours of duty. They have to maintain their fitness without equipment and sometimes in limited space so the exercises are an intense combination of cardio (sprints and short runs) interspersed with all manner of total body exercises ranging from star jumps and air boxing to the dreaded burpees and more traditional sit ups, push ups, tricep dips and squats. They do all this in parks or open spaces all over the country and for a bargain price. it’s £35 to join and the class I attend is £28 for 1 class a week or £36 for as many as you like, at any location in the country. (I know that it’s higher in the South East and London – Gemma C-S has confirmed she paid £50 per month for unlimited classes in Hyde Park, but she agrees it’s worth it even at that price)


BritMilFit.com

I admit I couldn’t face it in the dark during the first week of January when the gales were blowing and rain lashing, but I got to my first on on Saturday the 7th, anticipating a gruelling session due to my miserably diminished fitness levels.

Was it hard? Yes. Definitely.

Will I be going back? Without a shadow of a doubt. (I’ve done three sessions since writing this and am now wandering round under a black cloud as due to work commitments I can’t attend until Thursday, it’s that good!)

It was great fun, the instructors were unfailingly supportive and encouraging and the sense of achievement at the end was fabulous. Even better, you can expect to burn around 500 cals an hour and I immediately recognised that it was going to make a massive difference to both my cardiovascular fitness and general strength and tone. I joined at Sale Water park and you can try your first class free by downloading a voucher on the BMF site.

Get Fit with Florence!
I have a had a thought for those of you who are more goal orientated and looking for a fitness aim for 2012 to motivate you. There are still a few places for the Manchester 10K which I have done a couple of times before and will be doing again. It’s a fantastic atmosphere on the day and I can highly recommend the sense of achievement you gain from completing it. I could even be persuaded to arrange a mini-meet up for lunch after the race if anyone is interested?

Just drop a comment in the box below :)

So, have you done BMF? Will you be giving it a go now? Do share what your exercise goals are and how you’re going to get there, team sports or head clearing runs, I’d love to hear more.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

*Credit to Glitter Guide for the title phrase, a rather affectionate way I thought, of referring to the extra pounds we’re all working on shifting post-Christmas!

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