Another One For The Ladies

Following on from my earlier blog this week I thought I’d re post an old blog about foods that may help with PMS and some which you may want to avoid.

Now a) I’m not a nutritionist, this is all from general research I’ve done on a subject that affects me and b) I’m not saying these will stop period pain or that you should never have the things on the avoid list – just that theoretically there may be some foods you want to try and eat and others less so if you suffer from cramps etc.

Here’s the re post…

When I’m on my period I literally crave fatty, sugary, salty foods.  When you spend a lot of time trying to eat well this is pretty annoying so I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time looking into why and what I can do to try and make myself feel better (because I suffer from horrible cramps most months and bloat enough to feel like I may actually be pregnant with a baby Elephant) without giving into eating 10,000 calories of pure fat and sugar a day.

Just before and during our periods our Serotonin levels lower (less feel good hormones), our stress hormones spike (not helping in the feeling good department) and our bodies use more calories making us feel hungry more often.  It’s therefore not hugely surprising we want to comfort eat- but apart from eating too much of the crap stuff affecting your body shape aims (I won’t say weight!) eating too much sugar will also cause a spike followed by a crash and burn which also doesn’t make you feel good in the long run.

I’ve therefore been making an effort to read up on what foods will help make me feel better without having a negative affect on looking after myself in general to try and implement them more into my diet .

Foods To Eat:

  1. Water – Not really food but hydrating well helps keep skin clear, prevent bloating (the better hydrated you are the less likely you will retain water) and reduce cramps.
  2. Almonds – also sesame seeds / flax seeds- these have calcium in them and calcium (but not dairy) can help reduce cramps.
  3. Dark chocolate – A little dark chocolate can help relax muscles and so reduce cramps, it will also help release some happy hormones.
  4. Celery – Full of water but not full of calories so a good option if you feel the need to constantly graze!
  5. Hummus- This one may be a bit controversial. I have read that chickpea’s can help you sleep better and also help improve mood. I have also read however that they can be classed as a Legume and cause bloating so perhaps eat in moderation.
  6. Pineapple – Help relax muscles (less cramps) and reduce bloating
  7. Bananas – Helps relax muscles (reduce cramping) also contains Vitamin B6 which can help improve your mood. Banana’s are also good at helping to regulate the digestive system, which some women can have problems with during this time.
  8. Tea – Yes it has caffeine in it, but it’s apparently better for you than coffee (which can increase anxiety levels and cause you to and retain water). Other types of tea can also help: Green tea for instance provides a little caffine still, peppermint tea can help soothe an upset stomach, Chamomile tea is relaxing and can help reduce anxiety.
  9. Spinach / Kale- These foods have Calcium in them which assists in alleviating cramps. They are also Iron rich (our iron levels can drop whilst we are on our period hence why we crave iron rich foods).
  10. Salmon – This is full of omega 3 and Vitamin D. If you can eat it the week before you are due on it may have an anti – inflammatory effect.
  11. Oranges – Provide Calcium which can help relax cramping muscles and Vitamin D (can help regulate your mood).
  12. Brocolli – Full of Magnesium, potassium, Calcium, Vitamins A, C, B6, E – Good for improving your general mood and fighting fatigue.

Foods To Avoid:

  1. Fizzy drnks – Can cause bloating.
  2. Processed foods – Tend to be high sodium – can cause bloating. Making food from scratch can reduces salt intake.
  3. Fried foods – Can elevate estrogen levels.
  4. Legumes (I mentioned this before – some things I’ve read say hummus can help, others say avoid) e.g Kidney beans, blackbeans et.c due to their bloating effect.
  5. Refined grains – refined foods can interfere with blood sugar levels and regular control of appetite, so whole grains are a better option than cookies, white bread etc.
  6. High fat foods – Can affect hormone activity and contribute to inflammation (and cramps)
  7. Coffee – Can increase anxiety / stress levels and contribute to water retention.

Really, this list is not too different to the type of foods I’d want to eat more of / avoid at any other time of the month but if you tend to feel a bit rubbish at certain points in your cycle knowing how you can help manage those symptoms (painkillers and hot water bottles aside) thinking about your diet isn’t a bad starting point.

Note- I’m not a trained nutritionists this is simply based on my own research about something that affects me- I would always recommend you see a qualified dietitian should you need advice!

Fitness Instructors and Periods

The menstrual cycle is less of a taboo subject these days.

Women and some men find it a lot easier to talk openly about periods and the various side effects, which is without doubt a good thing.

And I’m about to talk about it some more.

One thing I often (when I say often I mean every month) wonder is how other female fitness instructors feel about teaching classes during their time of the month.

Me personally, I find my period is the thing out of everything that affects how I feel when teaching the most.  More than fatigue, early starts, multiple classes in a day, DOMs from training sessions, being hungry, eating too soon before a class – all those things we generally accept will have an impact on how we teach.  None of those things affect my teaching as much as my period does.

I don’t know if that makes me odd or if other female instructors feel the same – mainly because it’s not really something that often comes up in discussion.

I find that odd in a way because I’d talk to people about how their period affects their eating habits or their training in the gym – and I think a lot more fitness professional discuss these things with clients now.  Yet generally, whilst I always note how for one week of the month I struggle with classes more, I rarely give it much more than a passing thought.

I have quite long periods (five days average) and they are pretty heavy for around two of those days (normally days 2-3).  I tend to get bad cramps for he first couple of days and breast tenderness pretty much all the way through.  I hate almost everyone for those five days, am somewhat irrational at times and will cry at almost anything.

So actually when you think about that you can kind of appreciate why I think teaching during your period is harder than at other times.

We all know exercise can help cramps, and I do always know I’ll feel better afterwards, but sometimes standing up in front of people and smiling when you feel like someone is punching you repeatedly in the stomach is tough, even when you know that once you get started it will get better.

Even the best sports bra doesn’t help much when you are jumping about with sore boobs – and when you’re taking the class dropping the intensity a bit to stay comfortable isn’t really an option.

The moods and the tears.  Now classes for me can make this so much better.  A good class can cheer you up, fill you with feel good hormones and improve your day.  Make a mistake, or get a complaint and all the hormones make it feel so much worse – suddenly things you would normally shrug off make you feel terrible.

I also find I muck up more.  I’m more forgetful and clumsy (yes even more than normal).  These are not things that help when teaching an hours worth of choreography to music!

And the worst feeling when it comes to periods.  That feeling when you’re not quite sure if you’ve leaked. No women like this feeling.  The attempt to check if you have or not without anyone seeing.  Not really any way of doing that when you’re up front in a class so when it happens you have to just have faith that it hasn’t happened.

Put all that together and it kind of makes sense why I find teaching on my period more stressful than at any other time.  I still enjoy it once I’m started but it’s a harder because there’s added factors affecting how I feel and move.

So my question am I just odd or do other female group exercise instructors feel the same way?  What do you do to get over these feelings or do you just ‘man up’ and get on with it?

Three Reasons to Ditch the Scales

1) Your weight fluctuates. A lot.

The time of day, time of the month, how much water you have drunk, how much alcohol you have drunk, when you last had a poo, your hormones.  They will all affect the number on the scale so it’s not the most effective way to track your progress and using weighing yourself alone can be inaccurate and disheartening.

2) A number on the scales won’t make you happy.

Being comfortable in your body won’t automatically happen when you hit a certain number on the scales.  Everybody has some body hand ups regardless of their weight or size. Focusing on feeling strong and healthy will help you feel more positive about yourself in a way a number can’t and help prevent an all or nothing kind of outlook on your fitness journey, where how well you week went depends on one number.

3) Your weight isn’t an indication of your health or fitness level.

Have you ever seen one of those line ups of several women who all weight 60kg.  You could weight the same as someone else and have a totally different body shape.  Someone who is a size 10 could weigh the same as someone who wears a size 14.  Height, muscle, body type – how we ‘wear’ a certain weight is different from person to person, and, unless you are medically obese, how fit or healthy you are has little to do with the number on the scale.

Just a note – muscle doesn’t weight more than fat.  A pound of muscle weights a pound and a pound of fat weighs a pound.  However muscle is less dense, so if you reduce body fat and build muscle you might not weigh less but you will look leaner.

 

Possibly the most girly post I will even write – Re blog

A re-post of an old blog. Still one of the most common barriers I hear about so…

Most days I train three times a day: before work, lunchtime and after work. This means twice a day I shower and get ready for work in a gym changing room. I normally have 10- 20 minutes do do this so I’m pretty used to getting dressed fast (and I’m probably at the low maintenance end of low maintenance to be honest – if you’ve met me you have probably seen me without make up on and almost definitely on a day when I haven’t brushed my hair).

So when someone said they couldn’t train at lunchtime because they wouldn’t have time to shower etc. afterwards it got me thinking who else is put off by this and I decided to list my tips for a quick no frills routine which might help anyone who wants to train around work but is put off by the post sweat grooming issue!

  • Pack your bag the night before so you know you won’t forget anything. When I forget my bra or one shoe it’s always because I’ve packed in a rush that morning.
  • Buy a camping towel- a) they are lightweight and fold up small b) They dry quickly and don’t retain water so don’t make your gym bag wet and heavy after use
  • Pack a wash bag with all the things you will need and it leave in your gym bag at all times – this is less than you think: shower gel (or not – some gyms have those little shower gel dispensers in the showers), shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – anything else just adds unnecessary time
  • Minimise your routine as much as you can – quick shower, 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner – if you have to wash your hair (I’m not so much of a tomboy that I’d go as far as suggesting combined body and hair wash but to be fair it is an option)
  • Baby oil is great as moisturiser – makes your skin super soft but much quicker than a lotion as you can put it on whilst your skin is still wet
  • Baby wipes and dry shower gel (it exists- try Boots) are great cheats if you didn’t do too much cardio – you will know if you can get away with this or not on any given day (more often than not the answer is no but they are useful for emergencies none the less)
  • Dry shampoo is also your friend. As are high pony tails/ the scraped back / Croydon Facelift pony tail.
  • You actually need to wash your hair less often than you think even after training. Give it twenty minutes and it will dry out and won’t actually smell – I wash my hair maybe 2/3 times a week max.
  • Don’t waste time doing the towel dance. All women know what the towel dance is and quite frankly it’s a waste of time. A) Nobody is looking at you and b) you normally end up being naked and more exposed for longer whilst trying to put your knickers on balancing on one leg and holding a towel round you than if you just got dressed.
  • Whilst I’m at it – do not be one of those people who gets dressed in the shower- you will get your clothes wet and you are holding up the people waiting.
  • Pack clothes which don’t crease – I’m fond of lycra.
  • If you can get away with not wearing tights you will save at least five minutes- putting on tights when you’ve just exercised is almost as much exercise as taking your sports bra off after a session.
  • You don’t need to put on lots of makeup after a workout- keep it minimal and take advantage of the natural glow your skin will now have to speed up the process of putting on your make up
  • Get your eyebrows and eyelashes tinted if having a bare face isn’t an option – this will save valuable drawing on yourself time!
  • Work out what your gym has in the way of hairdryers – if they have them don’t pack one! I personally don’t blow dry my hair as it dries by itself in about 15 minutes but I’m led to believe that’s not usual.
  • Do you actually need to straighten your hair?

Getting ready for work is dull and should take as little time as possible anyway – don’t let it stop you from getting a workout in – life is too short.

Note: This is a bit of a blog for the girls really- I’m going to assume most men are pretty much wash and go anyway but if not please re-read the above!

One for the Ladies

Solidly aimed at 50% of the population this one.  Sorry.

When I’m on my period I literally crave fatty, sugary, salty foods.  When you spend a lot of time trying to eat well this is pretty annoying so I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time looking into why and what I can do to try and make myself feel better (because I suffer from horrible cramps most months and bloat enough to feel like I may actually be pregnant with a baby Elephant) without giving into eating 10,000 calories of pure fat and sugar a day.

Just before and during our periods our Serotonin levels lower (less feel good hormones), our stress hormones spike (not helping in the feeling good department) and our bodies use more calories making us feel hungry more often.  It’s therefore not hugely surprising we want to comfort eat- but apart from eating too much of the crap stuff affecting your body shape aims (I won’t say weight!) eating too much sugar will also cause a spike followed by a crash and burn which also doesn’t make you feel good in the long run.

I’ve therefore been making an effort to read up on what foods will help make me feel better without having a negative affect on looking after myself in general to try and implement them more into my diet .

Foods To Eat:

  1. Water – Not really food but hydrating well helps keep skin clear, prevent bloating (the better hydrated you are the les likely you will retain water) and reduce cramps.
  2. Almonds – also sesame seeds / flax seeds- these have calcium in them and calcium (but not dairy) can help reduce cramps.
  3. Dark chocolate – A little dark chocolate can help relax muscles and so reduce cramps, it will also help release some happy hormones.
  4. Celery – Full of water but not full of calories so a good option if you feel the need to constantly graze!
  5. Hummus- This one may be a bit controversial. I have read that chickpea’s can help you sleep better and also help improve mood. I have also read however that they can be classed as a Legume and cause bloating so perhaps eat in moderation.
  6. Pineapple – Help relax muscles (less cramps) and reduce bloating
  7. Bananas – Helps relax muscles (reduce cramping) also contains Vitamin B6 which can help improve your mood. Banana’s are also good at helping to regulate the digestive system, which some women can have problems with during this time.
  8. Tea – Yes it has caffeine in it, but it’s apparently better for you than coffee (which can increase anxiety levels and cause you to and retain water). Other types of tea can also help: Green tea for instance provides a little caffine still, peppermint tea can help soothe an upset stomach, Chamomile tea is relaxing and can help reduce anxiety.
  9. Spinach / Kale- These Superfoods have Calcium in them which assists in alleviating cramps. They are also Iron rich (our iron levels can drop whilst we are on our period hence why we crave iron rich foods).
  10. Salmon – This is full of omega 3 and Vitamin D. If you can eat it the week before you are due on it can have an anti – inflammatory effect.
  11. Oranges – Provide Calcium which can help relax cramping muscles and Vitamin D (can help regulate your mood).
  12. Brocolli – Full of Magnesium, potassium, Calcium, Vitamins A, C, B6, E – Good for improving your general mood and fighting fatigue.

Foods To Avoid:

  1. Fizzy drnks – Can cause bloating, plus sugary.
  2. Processed foods – Tend to be high sodium – sodium boats. Making food from scratch can reduces salt intake).
  3. Fried foods – Can elevate estrogen levels.
  4. Legumes( – I mentioned this before – some things I’ve read say hummus can help, others say avoid Kidney beans, blackbeans et.c due to their bloating effect.
  5. Refined grains (- refined foods can interfere with blood sugar levels and regular control of appetite, so whole grains are a better option than cookies, white bread etc.
  6. High fat foods – Can affect hormone activity and contribute to inflammation (and cramps)
  7. Coffee – Can increase anxiety / stress levels and contribute to water retention.

Really, this list is not too different to the type of foods I’d want to eat more of / avoid at any other time of the month but if you tend to feel a bit rubbish at certain points in your cycle knowing how you can help manage those symptoms (painkillers and hot water bottles aside) thinking about your diet isn’t a bad starting point.

Note- I’m not a trained nutritionists this is simply based on my own research about something that affects me- I would always recommend you see a qualified dietitian should you need advice!

My Personal 10 Commandments for a Healthy Life

  1. Aim to hit a 20% calorie deficit across the week. Find a system for doing this and stick to it- don’t be swayed by new fads. My system is to eat to Paleo principles (not strict Paleo) 4 days a week and then allow myself three days where I can enjoy treats (read cake).
  2. Start your calorie week on a Friday. You are more likely to have a calorie surpluss at the weekend – this allows you Monday to Thursday to pull back and still hit that 20% weekly calorie deficit if that does happen and stops you feeeling like you are being overly restricted.
  3. Eat at least 2g protein per kg body weight every day (for me 160g). This will make you feel full, help your body recover from training and means Carbs and Fat will look after themselves.
  4. Drink 3.5 litres water a day (this is based on based on 30ml water per kg of body weight plus 500 ml for every hour of exercise – I just average out based on my normal training week).
  5. Drink a max of 3 coffees per day.
  6. Take a multi vitamin and fish oil supplement every day.
  7. Have a little bit of dark chocolate each day when on your period if you suffer with cramps (magnesium can help relax muscles reducing cramps, and sugar can boost your serotonin levels which can drop – hence feeling like you want to cry). I believe Kale can also help reduce cramping but for some reason doesn’t hold the same appeal as chocolate!
  8. Train in a way that suits your life and your week. I don’t lift as heavy as many and my sessions are shorter than most people I know – but they fit into my working life allowing me to stay consistent enough to see results. If it’s going to be tough one week to fit in your training – adjust your plans to feel successful.
  9. Stretch every day.
  10. Get up 30 minutes early and develop a morning routine that helps set you up for the day. I like to get some day light, drink a large glass of water and read a chapter of a book (as I don’t get much ‘me’ time during the rest of he day).

Credit – Ricky Long, who bullied me into most of these things – but they work!

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Fat Shaming – a Real Life Story

A couple weeks ago I was walking down the street at lunch time (on my way to buy an icecream… errrr… I mean an apple …) and a man called me fatty.  Literally. A stranger.  Just called me fat.

Now I’m not skinny but I’m not fat by any means. I’m quite strong and reasonably defined – but not overweight.

I am also apparently quite thin skinned because this throw away comment really ate away at me all day and knocked my confidence a lot.

I’d not had the best week food wise (and was on my way to get icecream) so it fed into all my negative perceptions of myself, because I already felt a little bit out of sorts.

I mulled it over several times in my head and with people before I felt better about it.  I wanted to write about it at the time but to be honest it actually knocked my confidence too much to commit it to paper.

A few weeks later and with some perspective, I want to make two observations about this comment.

First, for your own mental wellbeing learning when not to give a shit matters.  I lost so much of my day being upset about the opinion of someone I’ve never met.  More to the point it wasn’t even an accurate comment because I’m not fat – would I have been so upset if he’d have said today is Tuesday (when it was in fact Thursday), an equally inaccurate comment? Of course not.   Even more importantly – if I was fat his opinion on the subject still wouldn’t matter.

I’m healthy and fit – what anyone else thinks of my choices surrounding my body or lifestyle are irrelevant as long as I am happy with what I’m doing.

Second, setting aside point 1, we should all be careful with our words.  I’m almost positive that man thought nothing more of that throw away line.  I mean yes, it was unnecessary and mean, but he probably never gave it a second thought.  Yet it affected me for hours- knocked my confidence, bought up insecurities.  If he had thought about that would he have still said it? Perhaps… but I think he was probably just a dick to be honest.

What we say without thinking and see as insignificant may mean more to and affect the person we are talking to in a much bigger way.  That doesn’t mean we should never speak our mind- sometimes people get too easily offended- and we can’t be held responsible for how others interpret our words and their meaning.  But.  If we know something could be taken negatively (calling someone fat for instance- a pretty sure bet) and there isn’t an actual need to say it – why do it?  Even if you think it’s not a big deal- it could be to the person you are talking to.  It’s just spiteful.  Be a nice person not a prat.

So the next time someone decides to shout an insult at me in the street (I’m sure it will happen some people are just idiots) I shall ignore them and be happier for it knowing I’m more in control of my own feelings that I was just a few weeks ago.

So really the man did me a favour.