Things Women Should Know are Normal

  1. It’s normal to poo more when you’re on your period- prostaglandins are chemicals which simulate the muscle in your uterus to help it contract and shed it’s lining (hello cramps) – the increase of prostaglandins can have a similar effect of other muscles such as your bowel, hence the need to poo more often during your time of the month.
  2. Period stigma is still a thing but shouldn’t be.  As much as we live in a much more open society these days (at least in the UK) it’s normal for people to refer to periods by euphemisms, hide taking a tampon or towel to the toilet and keep the symptoms to themselves, largely because we’ve all had the ‘time of the month’ or ‘too much information’ comments and generally people can still feel uncomfortable talking about them. Yet most people don’t react with horror if you do bring the subject up.
  3. When you have your smear test you can ask for them to use a smaller speculum, which may be more comfortable (especially if you get tense during smears due to nerves).  The option isn’t normally offered in my experience, but the nurse is normally fine with it if you ask.
  4. Detoxing isn’t a thing.  Your liver does a pretty good job at helping your body detoxing and beats any juice, pill or fast out there.  Of course not over eating, smoking or drinking too much can help the body maintain it’s best condition.
  5. Loose skin and stretch marks are normal.  Whilst most of us know that having a baby or dramatic weight loss can cause stretch marks and loose skin, in actual fact most of us have stretch marks and as we get older and skin loses a bit of elasticity looser skin is also quite common, even though most of us feel like we’re the only one when we look at others (we always tend to judge ourselves more harshly).

Ways to help your mental health

Some of my favourite things to do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve my mental health and help manage depression and anxiety that might also help you:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed (with caution) or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when I eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better than turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Hardest one on this list for me! Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself fell more positive.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hard to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do an hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxed by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

A different side to panic attacks

I had an anxiety attack. When you hear this you maybe think breathing into a paper bag and feeling like you’re having a heart attack? Thats certainly what a panic attack can be like but anxiety attacks can also be a little different.

Where a panic attack might last a few minutes anxiety attacks can last hours, and can build for even longer (even days) and because they’re less dramatic in appearance you can almost go through the day in some king of foggy trance without anyone realising, and even if you realise yourself at the time what can you do? You can’t exactly just say I need to go home can you. Most work places don’t have the policies to recognise this sort of thing or allow for staff to easily say things aren’t right and I need to take time out.

Nothing specific caused it, (it was a little ptsd trigger related I think), a general feeling of being unsettled and over sensitive to noise for a few days became feeling red hot like my skin was on fire, irritable, my heart beating faster and hearing every little noise. As the day went on I felt restless, a bit foggy and like I could cry at the drop of a hat and my skin felt itchy.

As it eased I started to feel almost hungover, tired, a bit sick. Like all my senses had been heightened and as a result I was drained. i couldn’t sleep though.

The annoying thing is I knew I didn’t feel great in the days leading up to it and I’ve had anxiety for a long time. I know why and how to help keep it h see control but sometimes you just can’t. But it’s a weird thing because it’s kind of hidden, you might think someone was a bit ‘off’ but it’s not so obvious that they’re laying there with a broken leg so you don’t know they’re struggling. They might be so distressed at that moment but just come across as having a bad day.

Anxiety Disorder is more than just being a bit of a worrier and people can have anxiety and be totally fine for long periods of time but then have an attack when it is concentratedly worse. Attacks are also more than just being short of breath like you see in films. I don’t think I knew this even when I first started being treated for depression / anxiety and I’m not everyone understands this, but the more people do the easier it might be for people to deal with it.

Back to Basics

As I’ve written recently I’m looking at going back to basics to get back into a routine.

Over the last week my training has been more consistent, my NEAT has been decent and I’m drinking plenty of water and nailing a few other habits. There’s two things I’ve struggled with though have been my nutrition and getting up in the morning.

I’ve not eaten terribly but I’ve not eaten what I’ve planned and as such have ended up going over my calorie goal. The reason? Stress.

It’s been a stressful week, work and personal stuff combined has meant I’ve been anxious at times and just generally strung out at others, feeling a bit like I was never going to fit everything into each day.

I wish I was one of those people who lost their appetite under stress. I am however a person who turns to sugar instead. Between snacking on sweet stuff and then opting to not eat the nice balanced meals I’d prepared and instead eat more carb based high calorie meals has meant that my nutrition just hasn’t gone to plan.

In reaction to this though I’m not going to do anything drastic. I’ve got food planned for the coming week and I’m hoping for a quieter week so I won’t be as tempted to reach for a high sugar stress release.

The key here I think is to not beat yourself out when the week doesn’t quite go to plan, not react by going on some drastic campaign to make up for it and just focus on starting again the next day.

So I’m taking the same approach to my mornings too. Last week I snoozed my alarm a lot, this week I’m reverting back to a cheap old school alarm in the next room so I have to get up to turn it off. A few bad mornings last week don’t need to define the coming week and other than trying to make a few small adjustments to improve my morning routine I don’t need to do anything crazy.

Dear Diary

I’ve been a bit of a cross road recently.

I’m not where I was fitness or physique wise pre Covid. I’ve written about this a little in previous blogs and I’m not kicking myself over it, but at the same time it’s really hard.

Honestly, pre Covid I thought I was out of shape. I felt like I wanted to lose a few pounds and up my training. Since then though, well. Obviously Lockdown hit and gyms closed, then I went back to teaching but my 14 classes a week became five which meant I was just moving a lot less (but eating the same because, well, I like food). I started taking antidepressants again (including some new medication with which weight gain is pretty common), which have always affected my weight. My dad became ill and mentally holding down both a job and a teaching schedule wasn’t what I needed so I took a break from teaching which meant I was moving way less. Then, a couple of days after he passed away I ended up with second degree burns across both legs (long story) which meant I couldn’t walk for a while and then couldn’t train. So overall I ended last summer about 10kg heavier than before, barely able to run and being able to lift around 50% of what I could.

The hardest thing I found was my own pride. I felt like, as a fitness instructor I should a) have not got myself to this point and b) should be able to just spring back. But I couldn’t, I didn’t want to do any quick fixes or fads, cut foods out or go on and all out mad period where the only thing in my life was training. I tried to be sensible, eat a little bit of everything, train at the level I was at and just build up. I tried to do it quietly, slowly and steadily, but I’ve been frustrated with progress and feel like I’m two steps forward, three steps back. I felt like I couldn’t talk openly about the struggle I felt because it wouldn’t send the right message out or sound positive enough, because of that I’ve held back from trying certain things for fear of looking weak as a fit pro and because of all this I’ve kind of ended up with limited structure and a feeling that I’m not really getting anywhere.

Of course I don’t actually have anywhere I ‘have’ to be. I don’t need to be a certain weight or size (although I can’t really afford a whole new wardrobe so being my old dress size would be useful!), I don’t have to lift a certain amount or run a certain speed and I’m fit enough to teach my classes so I could in theory just be as I am. Except I don’t feel good where I am, I feel less confident and less in love with my body (I did like the way my body looked – like honestly, I looked good naked!), I am signed up for a half marathon in a few months and right now I really don’t know if I can do it, and the idea of doing 100kg deadlift is currently laughable. So I want to lose weight, I want to feel fitter, I want to lift more because I know these things will make me feel better in my skin, stronger, more confident. I want to be at the start line of my half marathon and be excited not filled with dread.

So I’ve decided I need to separate current me from fit pro me a little bit. I know what I need to do and what others could d to progress, I have the knowledge and me currently being in a bit of a slump doesn’t mean I’m rubbish at my job. Equally, knowing alone won’t help me fix where I am right now, so I need to lose any ego and be a beginner, let myself struggle at something, fail in the gym and if people want to judge me, let them. My aim is by October (my birthday) I want to be at a size / shape and fitness level I’m happy with, where I’m confident and love going to the gym again, so running plan is in place, lifting in the gym starts now and eating less like an unsupervised kid in a candy store begins here.

Patience

One of the hardest things about starting out on a new goal is not seeing immediate results.

Due to a mixture of lockdowns, personal events, medication and injuries I’ve put on a lot of weight in the last two years, more than that my body has changed shape with it.  You know that point when you look at old photos you took as ‘before’ photos and you think wow I’d be happy with that now?  That.

But I’ve made positive changes recently, I’m training and eating better.  The thing is that at the moment it’s not showing much difference when I look in the mirror.  The truth is I know I need to be consistent for a few more weeks before it will.  It’s hard to be consistent though, when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  It’s that age old catch 22, where if I saw changes I’d feel more motivated to keep it up but I won’t until I have kept it up for a while. 

I guess this is why some coaches and plans start people off with a bit of a crash diet.  That way you see a quick loss and feel motivated to continue.  Starting steady means visible results take a bit longer and that means keeping faith for a while.  If you can however it will invariably bring much better and more sustainable results.

Remember that with fitness and nutrition, genuine results are not immediate.  If you put weight on over the weekend, that’s not true weight, it’s a fluctuation.  In the same way if you want to lose weight it’s not going to happen overnight or with one super good week.  Start thinking longer term and be patient.   

Do the basic things really well

How are you feeling about your nutrition right now?

It’s really tempting when you aren’t feeling on top of things to look for radical solutions. But what we really want to do at times like that are revisit the basics.

If you’re currently feeling a bit lost think about

– Your TDEE

– Macros / proteins

– Your calorie deficit

– Your habits and anchors that make you feel better

Remind yourself of the most important principles.

You don’t need to drastically cut calories or change what you’re eating just remind yourself of the basics. Once they are in place you can think about more in depth aspects of your nutrition, but until then you will likely be sabotaging your own results by ignoring the foundations in an attempt to build the house quicker.

The top of the Pyramid

My last two posts have focused on the Nutrition Pyramid. Here’s a little one on the rest of the Pyramid.

1) Micro Nutrients

2) Meal Timings

3) Supplements

These are the things you can start to look at once you’ve nailed the basics at the bottom of the pyramid. They can help you tweak your energy levels but looking at any of these in isolation when you haven’t got a hold of energy in v energy out will not bring you great results.

One of the most most common questions asked around these topics is what protein shake should I use?

Put simply, shakes are not a necessity – they may help you top up the protein that you are getting from food and can be simple and quick but if you hate the taste and prefer to get all your protein from food you aren’t missing out on anything! What brand should you use? The one that you like the taste of ideally!

Nutrition Pyramid – Macros

Yesterdays blog talked about the foundation of the nutrition pyramid, the next element of the nutrition pyramid once you’ve mastered the energy balance is macros. In particular if you master one thing here, master your protein intake.

You want to eat protein, carbs and fat every day even on a high protein diet such as Paleo for instance you would not be looking to cut out carbs.

But aiming for a certain macro split can be tedious and mean always thinking about what to eat and trying to balance hings out.

However, a good hack is to know that if you aim to eat enough protein each day and don’t go into a calorie surplus you will generally find that your carb and fat splits take care of themselves. .

With your Protein intake we want to aim for between 1.5 and 2g protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg you will want between 120 -160g protein per day.

There’s 4 calories per g of protein so 120-160g would make up between 480 and 640 calories per day (there is 4 calories per g of carbohydrate and 9 calories per g fat).

Ultimately to achieve fat loss you need to be in a calorie deficit – regardless of how you split your macros

And one more thing, should you have protein shakes? Ideally we want to get as much protein as possible from food but shakes are good for topping up your protein especially when you are on the go. Best brand? The one you like the taste of as they do vary.

Finally, a hack to hit your protein intake: Try to eat 50% of your protein goal before lunch.

The Nutrition Pyramid: Energy In v Energy Out

The one aspect of your diet to master before you look at anything else. You want these two things to be equal (to maintain your current weight) or for Energy Out to exceed Energy In (to lose weight).

Whether you eat nothing but crisps or nothing but vegetables if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight – regardless of what you eat, when you eat it or how you eat it.

Your Objective:

Understand how many calories you should be eating, how to work that out and why that’s important.

To workout how many calories to eat you need to know your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). This gives you an idea of roughly how many calories you burn in a day INCLUDING your normal activity… this means that you don’t need to add on exercise calories to this number. That’s important because who has time to work out a different daily calorie expenditure? You want an overall figure you can use every day.

The equation is

M24/F22 X Bodyweight in KG = BMR

e.g.

24 X 90kg = 2160 calories per day.

This is the BMR – Base Metabolic Rate. The absolute minimum calories the body needs to wake up, do nothing all day except for breathe.

To find how many calories you should eat for your activity levels multiply this figure by 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4

1.1 – lightly active – moderate exercise but sedentary job

1.2 – moderately – active intense exercise but sedentary job

1.3 – Very Active – Moderate exercise and active job

1.4 – Extra Active – intense exercise and active job

e.g.

2160 X 1.3 = 2808 calories per day

Now…If you are here for fat loss you need to get in a calorie deficit by around 10- 20% the sweet spot!

e.g.

2800 calories X 7 = 19,600 calories per week!

80% of this is 15680 calories per week OR 2240 calories per day.

If you want to lose weight this is the absolute foundation of doing so. Without this anything else you do is a bit pointless as the foundations just aren’t there to support it.